Thursday, April 19, 2018

Linger Longer

It's almost been a month now that Kevin and I have been able to embrace mornings together.  Those 18 or more years of him leaving in the dark and returning in the dark have temporarily been replaced with leaving in the daylight and now, particularly with the time change, coming home before dusk. Obviously that's incredibly good for a body that was living like a vampire with very little access to daylight. It wasn't until this morning that it hit me that he's sleeping better, snoring less and is less likely to get punched for kicking me all night. Ok, I don't really punch him, but I've threatened more than a few times.  Some unexpected benefits that I'll gladly accept. :)

Instead of him leaving a zombie wife behind that would mumble a few mostly incoherent words at 4 am, we're enjoying a couple of hours of mostly uninterrupted time. Instead of sleeping in, we're choosing to get up before our crew and focusing on our relationship and our spiritual relationships, both together and individually. God is getting our best, instead of our leftovers. Some seasons He barely got a nod. Because of this, we're seeing it renew and transform us in countless ways. We've always been deeply bonded, but because of our spiritual intimacy that's growing, we're seeing it bringing a new awakening. A new thirst for Him and a renewed connection with each other.  We're getting each other's best, instead of an empty tank with nothing left to give. Communication is easier and deeper, much less likely to be misunderstood or unheard. There's a joy in being kind to each other and recognizing and remembering how impactful little things are. There's just a greater awareness of each other's needs. Little time is wasted. Laughter is much more often. The hard days more bearable. We're back to being able to communicate with just a look, no words necessary and on the same wavelength of thought more and more.

Now, there's a point to all this. Now that you're most likely gagging at the sappy, sugary description of the joys our mornings have brought...

There's been a few off days he's had to go in early again to be able to conference call with Italy and the time difference or to cover someone's absence. Yesterday, I never made it out of bed because a lupus flare flattened me.

Those lost mornings left me feeling a bit empty, less productive, whiny, short tempered, easily irritated, not as emotionally engaging. Maybe not all at once, and at various different degrees, but there was a definite shift in my day and mindset. It even affected my self esteem and my "inner thoughts" because there's just something about taking the time to be fully dressed and "made up" and to walk out and see him off for the day instead of frumpy and grumpy.

This morning I sat down to spend some more time in Bible study. We do a few things together before he leaves, but I still do my deeper studies and engage in groups and check in with friends, social media, etc. throughout the day. As I sat down to journal through my #wordbeforeworld challenge, I began to think about how different I feel today versus yesterday. I'm not physically 100% by far, but we did enjoy a full morning together and I got up and about. My whole demeanor is better and though I know today's physically challenging, I'm mentally prepared. I was thinking how different my emotions are today versus yesterday.

And He nudged my heart. His voice of gentle conviction rolled over me.

His Spirit reminded me of that very vivid difference I'm feeling in comparison of my days, is what He feels when I give Him all of me or when I give Him my leftovers. All those noticeable positives I feel when Kevin and I are purposeful with our time, are the same positives when I give Him my best.  He longs for my focused connected time with Him.  Our intimacy grows. I'm more attuned to hear His voice. My eyes look for Him and my ears are perked in expectation. I walk with greater purpose and my heart is changed. Just as I feel more alive spending quality time with my husband, I am more radiant when I sit at His feet. When I linger, I glow.

"Those that look to Him are radiant..." Psalm 34:5

"When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty." Jeremiah 15:16

The emptiness I feel when I don't get quality time with Kevin and how I ache for that, my Saviour desires of me. He doesn't want a check mark of devotion. He wants my heart in worship and adoration. Wants me to just "be with" Him because I desire to BE THERE. With no one else or nowhere else.  Sometimes the best moments of marriage are the precious memories you two share behind the scenes and how they are "just yours" (and they don't necessarily have to be good, some of our most cherished came in HARD times).  There is a special contentment to just sit and share in those together. Just being together is a treasure. That is what He longs for with my heart as well. Don't you feel like a chosen gift when someone loves you for YOU and not just for what they can get from you?

His gentle reminder this morning draws me to linger. To just sit in His presence. To enjoy Him for who He is, not just for what He can do. It reminds me of how I feel when connected intricately with my husband is a treasure, how much more of a priceless gift is time with Him. To feel the vivid, stark difference is now imprinted in my heart.

Linger.
A bit longer.
Purposefully at His feet.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Fraud Prevention

Yesterday, I did something rare (for me) on social media. I started a post with, "Monday, you suck." You see, I am a drill sergeant when it comes to foul language. It has no place coming from the mouth of a Christian, though others will disagree. And though that word isn't on many radars as foul, I've considered it questionable and not been a fan of hearing it. But some days, honestly speaking, that word applies.

It was already highly stressful in our minds because we had an appointment on the calendar to get the results from some serious and pressing medical testing. Sleep was hard to come by. Easter Sunday  evening ended with a dumping of snow and then early morning ice. Before dawn we heard a loud crash, but we honestly ignored it. It sounded like a trash truck, snow plow, or construction materials being unloaded across the street. We've become pretty used to those sounds. About 15 minutes later, we jumped out of our skin because the doorbell rang. Before sunrise. Kev threw on shorts and went to the door. Baxter goes berserk at the door and though I tried to keep him from getting out of the bedroom, he followed Kev out. At the door stood a policeman and Baxter got out the front door. Can you picture this? Like one of those family comedy movie scenes. Kev came back to our room, with a recaptured dog, and starting getting fully dressed and looked for his glasses, to which we both can't see without them. "Hey, babe, that's a cop at the door. The snowplow hit Adriana's car." We've been thoroughly embracing these few mornings together watching the sun rise, but looking out the window to that scene, wasn't so serene. By the time the police report was done, the city plow driver and his supervisor gone, the debris cleaned up, we were running late. It was a scramble to get cars moved, 6 or more inches of snow and ice removed from cars, one child out the door to work... and then Kevin fell on the ice. Yep. Where was the video crew for the crazy adventure of Goad life? We made it to the appointment. The news was good in regards that it was a relief on one hand, but not so good in others. Not the worst scenario, but not a "you're good to go" scenario either. Lots to absorb at once. On a crazy day. (Maybe at another time I'll share more, but today's not that day. Please respect that.) We sent one Goad off one way, grabbed another from a waiting area.  Then we sat in the car and looked at each other and collectively took a breath. Now it was a race home to deal with the crashed car. She'd gone on to work in one of ours, but that was only a temporary solution. It took 8 phone calls before we ever got connected to the "right" person at the right time.  Some of those calls weren't so pretty and required some force we aren't accustomed to using. Finally got approval for a rental car, but because she's only 20 that was even complicated. After getting that, Kevin finally went into work.  I tried to get some sanity restored and we still had school to do. It was already 2:00. Then there were more phone calls, adjustor visit, and more calls. More chaos. A date night that wasn't so great because we both were beat, overwhelmed and stressed. We ended the day finally plopping in bed, sharing one look, and dissolving in laughter. What else can you do on such a day? We both just said, really? Really? Did this day really happen this way?

If you've read this far, let me FINALLY get to the point.

We can sometimes be guilty of "prettying up" our faith. Honesty is where we all connect and grow together. If we only paint the picture of the good stuff, never our failures, fears, shortcomings....we are frauds.

Yesterday wasn't pretty. Today isn't either. We're going through some hard things. Our handling of it all isn't always the best. Our faith is our lifeline, but sometimes it takes a beating. Some days it takes the encouragement of others to support us and remind us to cling tighter. We are that support many days to others; others we are or need to be on the receiving end.

Some days what's under the surface is damaged and needs fixing. It may not be completely visible. It may look ok. That friend may look like they have it all together. They don't. Trust me, we're all a mess. We all are in some despair or brokenness. Joy is real, sustaining, and life giving. That doesn't mean there isn't hurt.

Her car is an example. Yes, there's visible damage.  Like a missing mirror. Some of the damage you don't see until you get a foot away.  Like dents and scrapes. Some damage isn't visible until you try to use it. Like a door that won't open and engine noise because of broken motor mounts. But the real damage isn't on the surface that you see just driving by. It's underneath. It's the warped alignment, the bent wheel, and suspension issues. That car, honestly, at first glance doesn't look so horribly bad, but it's our understanding it's most likely going to be considered totaled. (Which creates a whole other level of stress. Of course the last two weekends had dozens of hours and hundreds of dollars of work done on it by Kevin to keep it tip top shape. Timing. Sigh.)

Our faith can look and feel like that. I admitted to someone dear this morning that I feel like a fraud at times. Do hard seasons make you feel that way? You TRUST God with your whole being, you serve Him, love others, etc... but in the deep places you're angry, hurt, weak, confused, tired, or just uncertain. Does Satan use that time to twist you up in knots, convince you that God can't be trusted, or make your faith feel weak?

Here's what I'm reminded of, it's not being a fraud to struggle. Faith doesn't require perfection. It's sometimes messy. It's sometimes a wrestling.

Guess what? He gets that. He understands that. He doesn't run from our honesty. He doesn't even turn His back on us when we make our own messes even messier. I don't even think He looks down in shame at me when I admit the day sucks. Maybe He wishes I'd express it differently (me too), but He's most likely whispering, "I know it does. Just keep holding on to me through this stormy season."

Perhaps the best fraud prevention IS honesty. Because without honesty, that's where fraud develops.

After a complete breakdown earlier today, I was reading a verse I often cling to. Today it jumped off the pages and spoke directly and deeply.

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, CONTINUE to live in him, ROOTED and BUILT up in him, STRENGTHENED in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with THANKFULNESS." Colossians 2: 6-7

The key to not being a fraud, the keys to surviving through dark seasons and "hidden damage" below the surface, is found in that short passage.

Continue.
Rooted and Built up.
Strengthened.
Overflowing with Thankfulness.

It really changes everything. Sustains. And gives you the courage to cling to what matters on those most difficult days and seasons. Even when YOU feel like you've been totaled.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

She Laughs

Today has been a day like no other day.

It's been still and quiet.

It started in the most amazing way.  An ordinary morning so remarkably different. To others it would mean very little, but to my heart it was a gift.

For the majority of our marriage, at least the last 18 years, my husband has left for work around 4 AM. For a large portion of the year, he leaves in the dark and returns in the dark and with the exception of lunch, he is in an area without windows. Darkness.

Since I'm a night owl, I'm typically going to sleep only an hour or two before he gets up. Most of those years it was out of necessity. I had to wait until our kids were asleep to tackle housework, budget and meal plan, prepare the next day's schoolwork, Bible study, read... and breathe. Because of the difference in schedules, he typically only got a quick kiss, "I love you, be careful", and a groggy prayer partner. He's not even out of the driveway before I've taken over the entire bed and back asleep to grab another 2 or 3 hours.

By the time he gets home, he's not very talkative or energetic. Understandably! It's immediately time for dinner and straight to taking care of family needs and go -go-go. Not the most conducive time for deep conversations and connecting.

I'd always ached for mornings together. For years we've lived in various suburban subdivisions and I'd see other families and couples coming and going. I dreamed of just those few minutes. It may not matter to many, but it mattered to me. 

Today, we got that chance. For the next several weeks or longer, his work schedule has shifted and he is leaving several hours later. That means he sees the sun and actually gains two hours of sleep. It does mean some adjusting to schedules and activities with a later arrival home, but we'll figure it out.  It means that I didn't wake up to an empty bed when my alarm went off. I had someone to share in Bible study time, was alert and engaged as he prayed over our day, able to cook a quick breakfast to share together, and we had time to connect, laugh, and have conversation while at our best. Instead of while zombies. It was a gift to my soul. It's not forever, but I'm embracing each day as a treasured gift.

After he left, because all three of our kids are involved in service projects while it's spring break (boys local, daughter 16 hours away), I found myself alone.

In the stillness and quiet. For 10 hours straight.

It started out blissful. This introvert  (to the extreme) loved it.

The quiet and no schedule just let me BREATHE.  God reminded me of many blessings, either in facebook reminders, conversations, in study, and in WORSHIP. COMPLETELY GRAND. He and I had a great time.

But then....

The silence got so LOUD. Even over my music it got louder and louder.

I spent the day cleaning like a maniac. Completely enjoyed having so much productivity (and it was a great day in regards to lupus).

But as the afternoon rolled around and I really had very little left on my list, I panicked.

Literally.

Is this what my life is going to be like in just a few more short years? For 21 years I've been at home, devoting every waking minute to our family. Our kids never spent one day on a school bus. My life has always been about marriage, kids, and home. I've had years of in home childcare. I've had years of  being extremely active in youth ministry and serving opportunities.

I've tried to begin to make sure my identity is about more than my roles as wife and mother. Making sure that as they leave the nest, I still have plenty to give, learn, explore and embrace. I am working towards that, but...

Today was still and silent.

Satan began to invade my thoughts with doubts, fears, panic, anxiety, and countless other less than "healthy" emotions. I fought back with worship and preaching truth to myself. Pulling from the arsenal and weapons of having spent time in His Word and personal relationship. I went to Him.

And He listened.

He reminded me of how I've been learning to trust, to take the next step even when I can't see the whole path, and that my worth and value is in Him. He reminded me that I don't need every answer, especially what's next and what if...I just need to cling to Him and let Him guide. No panic needed when looking at the future. Not in trying to see what's next or while waiting on some specific answers in more immediate concerns.

As the calm settled back in my heart, though still in an eerily quiet house, I heard the mail truck.

Waiting in the mailbox was direct confirmation of what my heart had just settled on.
I order OFTEN from Mandy of Whimsiedots for myself and for others and she's always been thoughtful and generous in packaging and customer service. Multiple times she's included an extra that has been very meaningful and treasured. Today it was Holy Spirit driven and given. This necklace was hand stamped with "She Laughs" and Proverbs 31:25. It's always been a favorite verse (passage) and has been a driving force in my life.

Today it was a tangible reminder to KNOW deep in my heart that though I'm entering unknown new seasons with rapid changes, I can embrace the future with strength, dignity... and laughter.  And her timing was heaven sent.  Thanks, Mandy. Thanks, God, for listening and hearing me.

Maybe God was actually laughing at me a bit in my panic attack.  He knew I already had a message from Him, through the hands of one on His obedient hearts. A message to remind me that though life is changing, it's still full of grand adventures, times to make a difference, and , yes,  even laughter.

She Laughs.




Sunday, December 31, 2017

In Pursuit

Regardless how I feel about an outgoing year and a new one coming, whether the outgoing one has been a season of joy or one of difficulty,  something that I take seriously is the choosing of my yearly word focus. That simple word is far from simple. I prayerfully and thoughtfully consider it for weeks or even months. Last year was "abide" and it was the perfect fit for the direction I wanted my heart to go. Sometimes the word comes quickly and definitively and others I have had to really wrestle with it.

This year was a wrestling year, but at almost the last moment He clearly put it in my heart.

For the last two months, "radiate" was the word that came to heart time and time again. Actually, quite obsessively in ways. I want to live such a life that I radiate Him in all I do. Certainly THAT was going to be THE word to steer my heart this year. It kept standing out and showing up.  It seemed perfect and expressed my direction well, but there was just a little something that just held me back from claiming it.

Earlier today, I was praying again for direction, just in general about the upcoming year. Not specifically for "my" word, but about some things on my heart.  A new year makes me excited and anxious at the same time. We're in a season of constant change and that's sometimes a bit difficult to navigate. 2017 was incredible in many ways and extremely difficult in others. I have mixed feelings about letting it go and embracing the next.

But in those quiet moments, a word was put so deep in my spirit, unexpectedly. I instantly knew it was right and from Him.

PURSUE

Hello, #my2018oneword , nice to finally meet you!

Because of how certain and unexpected that hit my spirit, and my knowing it was directly from the Holy Spirit, I spent some time doing a word study in various commentaries, dictionaries, and study apps. If PURSUE is such a message intentionally spoken to my heart, I immediately wondered exactly why He was sending me that message.

To pursue: seek, follow, to go after in a like fashion, proceed without following another, to continue, to imitate, to strive to reach or gain

A focus to pursue Him: relentlessly, whole heartedly, unabashedly, and without reserve.

I'm certain that is a beautiful focus for 2018.

HE pursued me. He constantly draws me back to Him when I get off track. His pursuit of me was with such uncompromising and unconditional love that He willingly died for me.  I was recently reminded in a study of how He CHOSE to make that sacrifice. No one took His life, He willingly gave it.

Knowing that changes everything.

PURSUE Him
Reminded of these verses:

  •  Ask, Seek, Knock (Luke 11:9-10)--- active and relentlessly, persistence 
  • He detests the way of wicked, but loves those who pursue righteousness (Proverbs 15:9)
  • Follow the way of love and pursue spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1)
  • Pursue love, faith, righteousness, gentleness, godliness, peace  (1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:22)
  • You'll find Me when you seek me with your whole heart (Jeremiah 29:13)
  • Seek FIRST His kingdom (Matthew 6:33)
Pursue. 

Him first. 

Nothing else matters. 

Though my word has obvious deep spiritual meaning/ impact and I look forward to more time digging into Scripture, walking in faith, and earnestly seeking Him...

I also want to pursue in 2018:

  • My dreams again: those I've put aside while raising our kids, the ones I've failed or quit, the ones I didn't have enough faith for, the ones others snuffed out, and even ones I've yet to discover
  • My health: feeling stronger, healthier, and back on track as a priority; controlling my lupus symptoms more than they control me,  balancing hormones, managing stress
  • My ministry with more focus: I've been reminded of the value of happy mail and encouraging the overlooked and broken hearted, Satan had been lying to me and making me think it wasn't beneficial
  • My relationships: focusing on my roles, priorities, getting out of my box and stepping outside my deep rooted comfort zones at times, pursuing community, spending more one on one time making others feel valued
  • My goals: getting back to what matters most in our home, our homeschool, and our family
  • My husband: keeping things fresh, special, laughter filled and connected even after these 22 years of marriage, it's incredible to be pursued but also such value in doing the pursuing, pursuing our lives together in new seasons
  • Joy 
  • Contentment
  • Authenticity & Vulnerability
  • Gratitude
  • Discernment
  • Wisdom
  • Being present fully in the moment
  • Word before World, in all aspects
I may have started the day with ambivalence, a bit of restrained hope, and a bit of trepidation as I thought of the coming year...

But now...

It's with a true excitement to see what it brings. No need to have one foot in the past and one in the future. I just need to be present right where my feet currently are, walking in pursuit of Him.

After all, these last couple of months have reignited a belief in miracles and deepened the role of prayer and the strength of His Spirit. With that knowledge, 2018, you're welcome here. 

In pursuit of Him,

Tracye. 


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Make GRATITUDE Home in Your Heart

Today the calendar rolled around to a very special day for us. Today marked exactly one year of being HOME in the little green fixer upper house at the edge of the cul-de-sac. About an hour ago this time last year, we unlocked the door with OUR keys and 90 minutes later started painting bedrooms and ripping out bathrooms! It was completely cheesy, but we had a fun meal and made a birthday cake to celebrate the day.

One year of countless big and little DIY projects to renovate a neglected 70s diamond in the rough. We're far from finished, but it shines so bright to us. We lived here in IL a decade before God gave us the clear message of "now" instead of "wait" on buying a home.  This year has given us roots, joy, ownership, renewed faith and satisfaction. REDEEMED is boldly and ENORMOUSLY displayed to be the first thing you see when walking in, because that's the theme of our lives and our home.

Life is lived here.
Love is lived here.
Grace is lived out here.
Mistakes are made here.
Forgiveness is offered here.
Joy overflows here.
HE lives here.

But, one other great thing lives here more than ever.

Gratitude.

In our home and in our hearts above all else...

Not just one day. But an attitude from deep within.

This year is rapidly coming to a close on the calendar as well and today as I reflect about HOME in the little green house, I began to think of so many great things He's done in our lives this year.

Not a full list, but some of the astounding, most precious things:


  • turning house into home
  • neighbors we love and that give us a true sense of community, from various walks of life
  • a new grandson that has a smile that lights up a room
  • our youngest giving his life to Christ and making a public declaration through baptism 
  • a daughter about to begin her last semester of college with honors and paramedic licensing that is excelling while working multiple jobs and serving constantly
  • a son that has matured in countless ways this year and uses his multiple talents to serve at church
  • a marriage of 22 years that has reached the place of being a rare treasure and brings so much daily joy as we live out "stronger together, anchored in Christ"
  • Though it looked different than expected or initially how we wanted, some changes at work have greatly reduced the heavy stress on my husband. Still difficult, but much more manageable
  • seeing both of Kevin's sons and their families IN PERSON, a true rarity and special gift this year since they live on opposite ends of the map
  • bringing my younger brother back multiple times from the brink of death and through two unexpected heart surgeries and providing their needs time and time again
  • though we could never share details publicly, a dear loved one protected in some very volatile, dangerous situations thousands of miles away
  • HEALING of some deep wounds and some needed broken chains
  • RENEWAL of the belief of power in prayer
  • some amazing, priceless opportunities on multiple book launch teams that strengthened my faith in deep ways
  • news of a family member soon to be home together long term with his family after many, many months apart multiple times
  • multiple situations where God protected, healed or provided in dear ones' lives
  • a priceless gift of time in person after many years apart with my dearest mentor
  • multiple renewed relationships or development of new ones through Bible study groups
That list may be some of the big things, but there are countless others both big and small. This year was hard in so many ways and some days of doubt hung on with a death grip. Even with all the goodness of this year, we are still in the midst of some changes and uncertainties that can only be managed through Him.

However, one thing is for certain...

Gratitude lives here. 
Hope outshines every darkness. 
He's trustworthy and sovereign. 

Nothing else matters. 



Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words "They" Say

They say a picture is worth a thousand words...

Though I definitely agree that a picture can speak volumes, I sometimes think the greatest stories are in the words untold.  The behind the scenes.  The rest of the story.

We've recently been talking in different Bible study groups, online book discussions, and in ministry/relationships about the affect of seeing everyone else's "perfect" life on social media. How it traps us in the comparison game and we walk away often feeling less than.  We try to caution others, especially us women, to be careful not to compare our behind the scenes with someone's highlight reels.  Scrolling through someone's newsfeed doesn't give the FULL picture.  Though a picture may show they have it all together, we don't see what's outside the frame.  We don't see the rest of the story.

This morning I opened up my newsfeed and, as it often happens, the first thing that I saw was something that facebook chose as a memory to remind me of. It typically randomly chooses one photo from this day of things I've posted over the last 10 years or so.  I'm not sure what parameters and algorithms it uses to decide on the "one", but today's stopped me and just caused me such pause.
It goes right along with the conversation that's come up time and time again recently. The rest of the story is perhaps the greatest story.

When it was posted 7 years ago on Facebook, it comes across as just a cute, cherished family picture at Kevin's annual family reunion.  Our happy little family. All of us together and "almost" looking at the camera. Our sweet kids.  Our restored marriage.

The rest of the story...

No one knew, aside from Kevin, that at that very moment, it took all I had to physically stand up, gather my family, and smile for the picture.  The picture speaks a thousand words about a family, but it also speaks thousands others unsaid.

Just a few hours prior to leaving to make that 2.5 hour trip, I suffered a miscarriage.  Though it was a very early one, it was still a loss of life, especially for those of us that fully believe life begins at conception. We had barely even wrapped our minds around the concept of child number 4 and we'd not told a single person at that point. We wanted to make and get through some initial appointments and get a feel of what was expected for this pregnancy.  Though I GREATLY, almost OBSESSIVELY wanted a fourth, Kevin was VERY hesitant to make that choice. After Adriana was born and I was diagnosed with lupus, I was told absolutely no more children. It would either be very difficult to conceive and if so it could be dangerous. I didn't like that answer and my faith that God had a larger family in mind for us, baby #2 easily came. Though he was considered high risk and that entire pregnancy was driving two hours each way every week to be monitored at a specialty clinic, everything went well.  That gave us confidence for #3 and though he was born healthy, some complications left me on complete bedrest for over half my pregnancy.  Getting through that season was HARD, harder than even our closest family knew. Hard in general, but harder still when your husband's work commute was an hour and half each way and trying to maintain homeschool with the oldest and a bouncy 4 year old.  Eek.  Because of that season and how progressively harder it was on my body, Kev just wouldn't jump on board with us having another child, no matter how much I wanted or begged.  Eventually (a very long path) I came to the same conclusion as he did and we were on the same page. So to say we were surprised the day that stick had two lines (and repeated a second time) was a major understatement. But, the shock was instantly replaced with joy and acceptance.  No "oh no"or "ugh" about it.  It was considered a gift and our faith knew that whatever was ahead, we'd handle.  We figured if God had allowed us to conceive, it was meant to be. But, that news was gone in a flash and quickly replaced with deep sorrow and questioning. Still belief that God's plan was perfect and He was in control, just not the path we expected.

But at that moment, as we stood there for that family picture...

No one knew the heartache.

No one knew the "secret" still playing out.

Even Kevin didn't realize how hard it was going to hit me emotionally and for years to come.

No one knew the physical struggles taking place or the ones to immediately come as my body was about to go through a season of flare up that nearly broke me in countless ways. No one even knew in the coming days, other than a couple of close friends that jumped into help with my kids as that flare overtook and I couldn't keep up. We decided we'd share our news when we felt the time was right and to who we wanted to. A decision made together.

Everyone around at that moment just thought I was physically fighting a flare and we just left it at that.  It wasn't like I was going to shout from the rooftop what was actually going on! We needed time to process in our hearts the roller coaster of emotions.  Even though I was barely 6 weeks and we had yet to share our news, our hearts embraced that child. Even now, I find it very difficult this time of year, as I think of what was, what life would be like, and how different things might have been. I often even find it very difficult to attend his family reunion because of my emotional baggage that hangs around that time and place. Going back the next year was just almost too much for my heart to handle and since then it's been a "war zone" on my emotions, many times resulting in me staying home even if I could have gone.  (Though this year none of us could go for multiple other reasons as well.)

That picture also showed no indication of what was to come.  It would be just a few weeks later that we would get the news of my Dad's cancer diagnosis and that whirlwind.  It was then that I knew partly why God had walked us down that path, though this side of heaven we won't have the full answers.  I do know that had my pregnancy progressed, I would not have been able to spend that time with Dad and my family. A very difficult time as it was, would have been exponentially more difficult.  There's no way my body and mind could have handled being in both places, most especially if I'd ended up on anticipated bedrest again. It was in sharing those thoughts of how God sometimes does things in His timing and His way because we can't see the whole picture that He does, created a whole other realm of heartache.  Certain individuals didn't like how and when we decided to share our news of the loss we'd experienced.  As a result, it was a catalyst that resulted in some that are no longer even in our lives because of their reaction and believing that Kevin and I didn't have the right to share on our terms.

With all that said, today, I see that picture that says one thing and to the world may reveal another.  I look at the picture with joy because it always does something to a Momma's heart to see pictures of her children a few years back.  To be reminded of how sweet they were and how "little".  I do see a happy family.

But, now....

I see a family that has weathered many more storms and that has come through many battles, some the world saw and many more they didn't.

I see a Mom that held it all together when it was falling apart. I see a mom that learned to dig deep and get through some hard days. Many.

I see a new depth of faith that came about from the storms that were about to be unleashed. You sometimes don't know how deep your roots are until the storm hits.

I see a husband and wife that had already been through the deepest battles and had been restored and redeemed through some dark seasons (which is why REDEEMED remains prominently displayed the moment you walk into our house), being prepared for more storms.  The rocky past and lessons learned carried us through the next hard seasons.

I see joy and hope about to resurface, even though not quite visible at that time.

And...I see short boys.  :)  Those no longer exist.  One now towers far over us and we aren't short...and the other isn't far behind!

Though it did leave a catch in my throat this morning to see that picture and the emotions wrapped up in it (as the last few days have also been), I do look at it with joy. It reminds that when roots are deep and anchored in Him, they sustain.  Had our faith been shallow, we would have been blown away.

No matter what you see on social media, don't fall into the comparison game. A picture never shows the full picture.  Someone may have a big smile or look like life is wonderful, but can be falling apart on the inside.  You may see their travels to exotic places and just a one tank trip a few hours away may be all that you can afford.  You may see well-behaved kids or outstanding athletes, and you might pay the one pulling yours off the shelves at the grocery store or have children with zero athletic ability.  Their house may look pinterest perfect or their meals may be straight off a magazine cover and you may not be able to step over the mountain of laundry and gourmet to you may be another box of Hamburger Helper.  At the end of the day, you must just feel like you don't measure up. Remember: they may have had to take a hundred pictures to get that ONE, they may be so in debt to afford that lifestyle or have to sacrifice somewhere you aren't wiling to compromise.  For every pinterest success, there are dozens and dozen of fails.  That well behaved child in today's picture, may have been the grocery shelf climber yesterday or tomorrow.  That spotless looking picture, may just be cropped of all the clutter behind it. No one has it together ALL the time.  WE ALL have our strengths and weaknesses.  And, I guranatee, YOU have something that THEY are looking at and saying, "I wish I had."

Pictures do speak a thousand words.  But they also have many many stories untold.

Just like mine that showed up today.....






Thursday, August 10, 2017

In the Green House

In the green house at the end of the cul-de-sac...

It's where we've found HOME.
It's where we've found COMMUNITY.
It's where we've found HOPE.
It's where we've found GRACE.
It's where we've found JOY.
It's where we've found FAMILY.
It's where we've found PEACE.
It's where we've found LAUGHTER.
It's where we've found REDEMPTION.

Today marks 8 months exactly of waking up in the green house.  The place that instantly became home instead of house.

That first morning living here we woke up in the floor because our bed wasn't moved in and put together.  This morning we again woke up on a mattress in the floor because after about 20 years our bed bit the dust. As in broke and done for. We literally bought it in the middle of our first big move. Stopped in Nashville and loaded it on the U-Haul as we were headed to live several years in Arkansas. It served us well.  We did everything possible to get more days out of it because I just didn't want to let it go.  Lots of memories wrapped up in that bed.  (Yes, "those" memories matter, but I'm really referring to memories as a family. :)  All of my babies shared this bed for a time.  Our family grew up together on it.  Gosh, I spent 4.5 months of not being able to get out of it while on bedrest with #3.)  I had grown quite sentimental to it. However, Kev just couldn't find anymore places to screw in more support boards or hold it together with bolts, zip ties, and nails. Every single time you moved you wondered if you would fall to the ground. THAT day came.  Kaput.  Plus, SOME of us had grown quite out of love with its sleigh design and wanted more contemporary (that "some" was not me and I was in the definite minority!).

But today, though we find ourselves sleeping just on a mattress, I'd rather be sleeping nowhere but here. We see countless projects left to be done and a bank account pretty much empty for awhile and we are determined to not add debt so we can't get as many done as we want. WE are ecstatic with all that we HAVE accomplished and restored.  We know the rest just has to wait. While we wait, we know we are HOME. It's been an adventure, but honestly seldom stressful.  Isn't that crazy? We literally have had to rip apart something in every room and have worked tirelessly to clean up landscaping.  Even just last week we had a bathroom flood a SECOND time.  Every single day there seems to be something else added to the "list" of need to.  But we just smile.  Because we're home.  In the little green house at the end of the cul-de-sac.

It's here that we truly know we are home.  We've LOVED living in Central IL (aside from HARSH winters!).  The town gave us the roots we desperately needed and were searching for when we moved here almost 11 years ago.  Living in one place was not something that had ever happened in our marriage, so to finally be able to do so was a priceless gift.

Don't get me wrong, we LOVED a few of our neighbors in our old neighborhood and MISS seeing them on a regular basis.  However, from the first moment we moved here we knew it was HOME. Yes, it has partly to do with ownership versus renting, but it goes FAR beyond that. We waited MANY long years for God to say "NOW" instead of the "NOT NOW" we'd been hearing over and over.  When that day came, EVERYTHING fell into place and in so many ways we know that it was PURELY His hand. Admittedly, we weren't so patient in those waiting years and our faith was shaken quite often, but we stayed obedient and waited for His timing.

One of the most remarkable feelings of home has been the building of community. As much as we loved where we lived previously and had no complaints, we just didn't fit.  We struggled to find our place.  Honestly, many times we felt less than.  I felt frowned upon for being home with our children instead of pursuing a career.  Many of our belongings didn't "measure up" because we refused to buy bigger and better on credit. Living on one income, buying second hand, or re-purposing something old into new just wasn't the "typical".  We felt like life was a rat-race and we never got on the spinning wheel.  It was about keeping up with the Joneses, but we never wanted to be a Jones so to speak.  We've always lived differently and nothing about that was going to change.  What we observed with many (VERY much a generalization, so please don't take offense!) was that marriage was a chore and raising children an inconvenience and if you could pay someone to do something for you instead of doing it yourself you did. We just didn't fit with that mentality.

Here---feels like home in every capacity. We're surrounded by EVERY background and yet it feels like true community.  We're building relationship with neighbors and are enjoying doing so.  (Even though this introvert still has to be purposeful about not 100% hiding out!).  I know that I can call one of many with a need and they'd jump right in.  Ok, that should probably say TEXT a neighbor since I still refuse to talk on the phone and I've come to notice I'm not the only one! :) We've recently been experiencing a great spree of home and car break-ins and individuals wandering around on private property.  Yes, that has been unsettling and we're hyper aware, BUT I don't have fear or anxiety because I know that we're surrounded by a great group of people keeping on eye on each other.

In very recent days we had new neighbors, immediately behind us sharing part of our backyard, move in. That brought some temporary anxiety as we waited and wondered if they'd be good neighbors or "challenging".  As soon as the sweet older couple put their for sale sign in the yard I began to pray. Though we've had limited personal contact so far, the conversations and observations can only be described as "But God." Today, I witnessed a sweet moment that really touched my heart.  It was seemingly ordinary to most passerbys, but for my heart it was a direct confirmation.  I shared with Kev and he agreed that it was definitely a God nudge.

Besides each around us "just" being neighborly and courteous, each particular one seems to bring something special about them to the table.  Something our hearts were needing or something our hearts can offer.

In the green house at the end of the cul-de-sac, we've found many great things.  Hope has been restored in multiple ways, laughter seems to be more free flowing, we feel redeemed in so many ways as we feel He has been restoring the years that the locust had eaten (in reference to Joel 2), and joy in the simplest things. The kids are happy and feel the decision was great on countless levels which brings peace (except they still fight like cats and dogs). They love (and SO DO I) the freedom to walk to church,McDonald's, or to meet up with friends. Our family unit as a whole is growing and thriving. This home has also been a place of grace.  We've needed lots of it and had to give lots of it, but it's been free flowing.

It's HOME.

The green house at the end of the cul-de-sac.

*Well, as I reflect on this being home I suddenly realize there is one thing that has been missing that needs a remedy.  Fast. Dancing has to return to this kitchen.  We've more space than ever before with its layout, but yet, we've not taken advantage enough. We used to dance around the kitchen and living room OFTEN. It was commented on more than once that someone would drive by and later tell us that they saw us dancing. The to-do lists got longer as the projects were many and that became our focus.  Time to change that.  Time to get back to embracing the little things that matter.  Get back to hearing the kids say, "Ugh, there they go again". Besides that, they're gone more than ever anyway.  Plus, they need to be reminded of the beauty of marriage and not the picture that the world tries to paint. They need to know that even after 21 years and counting, that love still grows and matters. Yep. Kevin---that's your reminder, not a hint. I'll get back to my obsession of lighting candles and make our home a haven---you get back to taking your wife on a spin around the kitchen.*