Friday, November 21, 2014

Facing Reality

There has been a theme pounding in my head for many days in a row.  MANY. 

Blaring.
Screaming.
Staring.
Demanding attention.

REALITY!

Face reality. Deal with reality. 

It's like those crazy numbers on the ceiling at night.  Kevin's vision has declined greatly over the years and mine is heading that way as well, so last Christmas I bought one of those atomic clocks that projects the time and temperature on the ceiling in large enough numbers that Kev doesn't have to scramble around to find his glasses to check the time on the normal display or on his phone.  In other words, lots less things get knocked off the nightstand now!

They stare at me with reality.

I hate winter.  I hate winter.  OK----I was taught not to say I *hate* anything.  So, I have a very great, exceedingly abundant disdain for the frigid, brutal months that are stretching out before us that have started earlier than normal.  Who am I kidding?  I hate winter.  I sometimes wonder what in the world Kevin must have done to convince me that we needed to move north when our requests with his headhunter had been to stay in TN or move further south when job searching.  Yep, God must have been laughing when that phone call came through that started the ball rolling to move us...north.  Now, I will admit that this time of year DOES have its perks (snuggles, fireplace, hot tea and hot chocolate, hoodies, blankets, and LOTS more snuggling).  I even do enjoy a BIT of the snow---it's beautiful when it's falling from the sky and when it blankets the world in a fresh new innocence.  It has its moments of joy and memories.  But....I still....hate it.  Sorry, Teresa, I'll rephrase that more apprioriately----I strongly dislike it. 

The numbers on the ceiling have been reminding me of reality.  Waking up and seeing that flash of 8, 10, 20....or whatever the way too cold numbers have already been early in November has been a HUGE dose of reality.

I want to hide from it. 

I want to unplug the clock so I don't see those projections. 

But....it's reality.

I can pull up another blanket or find another still warm spot on Kevin and wiggle in closer.  But...

Reality is still there. 

It's cold. 
It's going to be cold.
It's going to get colder.  Much colder.

This week as I've seen those numbers, God has been at work in my heart.

Reminding me that reality is sometimes hard, shocking, or not necessarily what we planned or hoped for, but it's reality and it has to be dealt with.

We've had some medical scares and wake up calls in recent months.
We've had the very vivid reality face us that time is moving on at lightning speed. 

We've seen multiple families facing extreme medical crisis in recent weeks.  We've seen countless friends be faced with heart-wrenching situations that are pulling apart their homes, marriages, and lives.

Yesterday, we got a phone call that a very precious family member is facing a very scary medical crisis.  A very vivid reminder once again of how very far away home feels when crisis hits.  A reminder of how important it is to make sure you love well, love deeply, and love without hesitation.  Just a realignment of priorities, focus, and a gut check of faith.  Reality that, once again, things are changing.

We've recently had to deal with some marriages ending with family members---and learning to navigate how that changes things and what our new roles will be, how to support and encourage all parties, etc...  New territory.  In other cases, some relationships have ended and in some others, new ones have started.  Shifting and changing.

Wednesday, after 13+ years of home education, our daughter completed her last final.  She's finished.  Reality is here.  There are more posts to come on that topic when my mind can wrap around the feelings I have about that! :)  But reality is this:  it's a new season.  It's going to be a beautiful and AMAZING season, but that doesn't negate the reality of the closure of another one.

The list of different "big" things going on could continue....

But instead of looking at those, I want to focus on what reality brings.

Truth.

Reality is facing truth.

THAT situation is here for a reason.  God is good and HE can be trusted.  I may not understand or like it---but there is no doubt that He has a plan and a purpose.  My limited vision just can't always see what that is.

THAT person may NEVER show the love and acceptance I desire (or support, or ask for forgiveness, or any number of things....).  Reality is this:  I am responsible for how I react and my own heart.  Not his/hers/theirs.  THAT person is responsible for his/her actions and truth is, many times they are clueless to hurt they are inflicting on others.  They are too wrapped up in their own pain, walking their own path, and are oblivious.  Reality may be that I will never measure up to that person, my choices will never make them happy, or I may never find acceptance.  Reality is this:  it's THEIR problem.  My reality is how I respond.  What I do with that hurt.  What I do with my reactions. 

THAT relationship may NEVER be fulfilling or meet the needs that we feel like we deserve to be met.  BUT...HE is the only one that can EVER meet every need and fill in every gap of our heart. Our spouse can't.  Our friends can't. Our parents can't.  Hurt is real.  Scars are deep.  Yet, He is the healer.  He is the strength.  He is the one that can hold a broken heart together with hope, acceptance, grace, mercy and UNCONDITIONAL love. He is the only one that can complete us.  Reality is accepting that. Looking elsewhere for that full completion puts way too much pressure on another individual and sets them up for failure.

THAT new situation may be scary.  It may be TOTALLY not what we expected.  Yet, He is there to walk the path with us. Leading. Guiding. 

THAT old situation may be frustrating and HARD.  Yet, He has never abandoned.  He never has failed.  He has never left us alone. 

THAT situation may require us to step out in faith, make some hard changes, or require some things that terrify---but HE is there with an outstretched hand if our eyes are FIXED on HIM.

THAT situation may be brought on by our own sin, our own mistakes, or our own poor choices.  His forgiveness, grace, and mercy wash us clean.  Yet, we still have to walk in the consequences.  But...we don't walk alone and the things He teaches along the way are powerful.

THAT situation may be a result of refining.  Refining, chiseling, reshaping, purifying---they aren't easy places to be.  BUT---reality is that the final product is beyond our wildest dreams. 

THAT situation may leave us feeling alone, abandoned, or ostracized from the "world".  Yet, reality is that those situations are the ones that bring us closest to Him.

THAT situation may require some changes in us.  We may have to make choices for our physical or emotional health that aren't comfortable.  They may require us to do things that go against bad habits that we don't think we can break.  I saw a facebook or instagram picture this week that said: "The first step to getting anywhere is deciding you're no longer willing to stay where you are."  We're finding ourselves in THAT place on multiple levels right now and are beginning to take those steps.  Whether it be health related, something in relationships, or something on an emotional level. 

Reality is this...

Life causes us to have to confront some things we don't necessarily want to. 

I don't want to confront the winter that has arrived much too early. I don't want to see those negative numbers on my ceiling.  I don't want to deal with the brutal wind, the depressing gray days (yes, Dad----I'll be hitting up the Vitamin D supplements as I promised!), the inconveniences, the travel nightmares, the heating bills, etc....  BUT----I don't want to miss out on the beautiful things in life while I wait for the spring to come.  Life is going to happen around me whether I am buried under the covers or whether I'm fully engaged in life around me. 

Life ,with its situations and tough times, is the same thing.  Bury under or engage?  Let life pass by and hide....or face it square on with the power of heaven behind me? 

Many times I've taken the duck and cover approach.  I've slid into the darkness of despair or the chains of bitterness. 

The result...

Missed blessings. Missed opportunities. Missed moments of being at the feet of Jesus.  Many missed moments with being fully engaged and present in the lives of my children/husband. 

That's no way to live.  Because that's not living. 

So, I'm bundling up.  Turning up the heat (after all, I did concede and turn it on before my yearly quest to make it to Thanksgiving due to my frugalness---what choice did I have when the house was consistently below 60!).  Adding layers of warmth.  Just being brave.  :)

Time to do that with "life" as well. 

Digging into Scripture and His promises.  Surrounding myself with those that speak hope and truth into my life.  Allowing Him to work in my heart and chisel---even though painful.  Learning to trust more.  Seeking Him more. Trusting more.  Shutting out the negative voices.  Trusting Him more.  (Are you seeing a pattern....apparently I have trust issues...ha!) 

Facing reality.  Not hiding under the  covers figuratively speaking (though literally speaking, this is being typed from underneath a mound of blankets!).  Maybe I'll even venture out IN THE SNOW this year for more than just 2.2 seconds at a time.  Maybe.  Just maybe. 



Sunday, November 16, 2014

Loss Brings Gain

THIS is the week that four years ago began what I now mark in time as BD and AD---before diagnosis and after diagnosis.  Earlier this week was the day that I got the message that something significant was wrong with my dad's health and tomorrow marks the day that we had the somber conversation of knowing just how advanced and how significant this battle was going to be.  Though from the first initial moment, God prepared my heart for the reality that Dad's healing very likely would only come in the form of heavenly wholeness---I was in no shape, form or fashion prepared for how quickly that would progress. 

Today, I still find myself very introspective as these days and "anniversaries" roll around.  Though the pain and emptiness has changed shape with time, it still is an ongoing struggle at times. Our family has changed dramatically in these years.  We've been blessed to add a new family member as my brother got married just over a year ago.  It's heart wrenching to know that in just this short year, she's also lost her own father to the same beast of a disease.  Daddy never got the gift of getting to know her or experiencing the joy of seeing my brother fall in love, marry, and start a life together.  In just a couple of weeks our daughter will officially be finished with her high school education and my niece will also graduate in a few months.  Grandpa won't be here to celebrate such a big milestone.  For me, I looked forward to the day of him seeing that we followed through with our home education plans from start to finish.  He wasn't quite sure about *this* way of school in the beginning (though he was supportive), but as time went along, he saw the difference it was making for our family.  In just over a week, I turn 40 and for some reason this milestone feels a bit empty without him around.  I think part of me always felt that at 40, I'd finally be a grown-up! Ha! 

Each one of us as siblings live in completely different states and very rarely ever find ourselves home together at the same time.  With different jobs and responsibilities, traveling at the holidays just hasn't been as easy as hopping up and going home. 

Life is just different. 

BD and AD.

I see now how amazing our lives were before BD.  We just didn't know it until AD. 

For my personal little family unit, our lives are good.  We're happy.  We're relatively healthy as a whole.  We've had incredible joys and our togetherness has grown exponentially. 

Life had to go on AD.  Life even had to go on when the holidays were completely changed and haven't returned to "normal".  Can Christmas ever really be normal again when it becomes wrapped in the memory of making final arrangements on Christmas Eve, standing around in a funeral home on Christmas Day, and burial on the day after Christmas...instead of our normal holiday traditions?  So far it hasn't, but we are purposely seeking to bring that true joy back to this season this year. 

It's time. 

After you've been through loss or dramatic change (AD)---you realize just how beautiful and amazing life WAS.  We sometimes just don't realize how great it was until it's ripped away. 

I think every single one of us fails to see how greatly blessed we are.  We have more than we could ever say thank you for, but we fail to walk in the paths of sincere gratitude.  We fail to say the words we should have said.  We fail to see what material and non-material gifts we have sitting before us.  We take those around us for granted.  We're selfish and self-seeking.

Loss teaches you that. 

I think in some ways, I'm just now beginning to see the beauty of loss.  Though that sounds strange to type and strange to think about, loss did bring about some beauty in our lives.  Though the loss of Dad and the roller coaster of his illness and the picking up the pieces after he was gone was HARD and some days is still harder than I expected, I can see now the gifts that came with it. 

Loss teaches you to look at life differently----even if it takes awhile to get to that point because grief is a journey that takes you through some anger, bitterness, and depression.  Though I still fail many days to see how fleeting life is, I do have the lens of knowing it to be true.  I try to take each day with a new perspective that wouldn't have come had I not been forced to go through the valley. 

Loss can teach you about your own frailties, weaknesses and rough edges.  The ugly shows up.  No doubt about it. 

Loss can also teach you about the strength of faith, the support of family and friends, and can reveal a side of God you just couldn't really grasp until the valley has swallowed you whole. 

Would I rewrite history if I could and keep Dad here?  My heart would say yes some days, but the reality is my answer would be no.  God knows best.  Heaven is a reward.  Dad received the ultimate gift. It isn't an ending.  It's just the beginning.

That doesn't take away the fact that we feel his loss and I wish I had been able to have more "adult" conversations with him and gleaned from his unique wisdom.  I wish my children had been more able to etch him in their memories and experience countless things with him.  However, they have learned things through loss that are invaluable.  Conversations that we may have never had with them or not have had so deeply---pointing them to Christ, heaven, and faith---have been priceless. They've seen first hand how God can heal broken hearts through the deepest pain.  They've seen the hope of heaven. 

Though I still don't understand what God's plan was and how *this* fits in---I've learned a deeper level of trust and my faith has grown.  Though my heart broke, it also grew.  Though my heart has an empty place, it has filled in other areas that I didn't know possible. 

Thinking back over those days at this point now leaves me with great memories.  Some of the *harder* things have lost some of their sting as the BEAUTY has replaced some of the crippling sadness.  God really did reveal Himself to us many times during those days.  We saw glimpses of heaven that still just leave me breathless.  I find it a blessing like no other to see how my Dad responded to everything thrown at him and his final days/hours were evidence of his faith. 

Time sure doesn't heal all wounds.  (That's a lie!)  Time DOES give us a different perspective. 

I'm thankful today most especially for those final days.  Those days that allowed for some VERY meaningful conversations.  Times for God to show us Himself in ways we'd never experienced. 

Today, I miss my Dad and I think of the journey that we've all been on and how our lives are different.  I do think of what could have been and what I hoped for----but I walk in a deeper trust that God's plan is far beyond mine. 

Today, I'm thankful.

I'm thankful that loss does bring gain.

It brings us a deeper longing for heaven.  It brings us greater gratitude for what we had and for what we currently have each day.  It brings a greater perspective.  It brings the reminder of what we're living life for.  It brings us the reality of knowing just how much we need God in our lives and just how much of a gift His sacrifice was for us. 

Loss brings heavenly focus. 

For that, I'm grateful. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A New Look

New weather season. 
New seasons of life.
Changes going on all around.

New season on the blog.


Thought it was WAY past time to give the blog an update! 

My Choice

I eat *that* food knowing it's going to make me sick, but I just HAVE to have it occasionally.
I eat *that* food knowing it's not going to provide the nutrients I need, but instead drag me down physically and emotionally (and tip the scale in the wrong direction.)
I let *that* excuse keep me from getting up and moving and using exercise to improve my health.

I let *that* person's comment penetrate deeper than I know it should.
I let *that* person's attitude sour mine.
I let *that* person's lack of response shake my self worth.
I let *that* person's compliment wrongly inflate my pride.

I let *that* social media infection into my heart and rob me of my own joy and peace about my choices.
I let *that* pinterest infection interfere with my contentment.


I let *that* parenting issue shake my confidence.
I let *that* marriage issue drag up trust issues or resolved issues.

I let....

I let...

I let.....

It is a choice.

I let *that* insecurity cause me to not walk in obedience to something He has asked of me.
I let *that* slow to resolve situation rock my faith that God is in control.

I let....

I've made a choice.

I have the freedom to choose.  I make the choice of how I use my time.  Wasting it on things that are trivial and rob time from other things is my choice.  The food I put in my mouth is my choice. The way I react to situations is my choice.  I may not can control situations that happen in life, but I choose how I respond.  I have the choice to grow or stay the same, or even backtrack.  I have the choice to embrace joy or embody resentment.

I have the choice to drink alcohol or not.
I have the choice to watch movies that include immorality, inappropriate language, nudity, violence, etc...or to watch only things that are free from the previous list.
I have the choice to read a variety of countless books.
I have the choice to dress modestly or immodestly.
I have the choice to listen to song lyrics that are worldly or those that uplift the name of Christ.
I have the choice to put my priorities in proper order or not.

I have the choice to walk in forgiveness or bitterness.
I have the choice to reject His leading in my life or accept it.
I have the choice to respond to my children with grace and patience or anger and frustration.
I have the choice to encourage. lift up, and respect my husband or to cause division.
I have the choice to spend money selfishly or give generously.
I have the choice to listen to the truth of Christ or the lies of satan.

Oh, how the list can go on and on.

I have a choice.

1 Corinthians 10:23 is a vital verse in my life and in my spiritual growth.

"I have the right to do anything," you say--but not everything is beneficial. "I have the right to do anything," you say---but not everything is constructive.  

Yes, I can do most anything....but....

Is it beneficial?
Is it constructive?

I am free to make a choice, but I'm not free from the consequences of those choices.

Is that choice I make going to benefit and contribute to my growth or destruction? Is it going to draw me to Christ or is it going to cause me to be distracted or drawn from Him? Is it going to build up or break down?

Taking that verse a step deeper in study, I looked it up in different versions (mine is quoted from NIV) to see what other ways it was presented.

Words such as permissible, lawful, legal are used to describe the "freedom" of choice.  Not much of significance in those words beyond my initial reading in NIV.  All in all, they bring freedom.  They say "go for it". Life your life.

However, the other words are the ones that remarkable change the way I look at the choices I make.  Other versions say not everything is:

  • good for you
  • helpful
  • builds up
  • profitable
  • edifies
  • expedient
  • advantageous
  • encourages growth
  • builds others up
Those words change everything.  

Verse 24 goes on to say: 
"No one should seek their own good, but the good of others."

Backing up to chapter 6:12, it says the same basic thing, that "I have the right to do anything", but I will not be mastered by anything.

Do the choices I make lead to addictions of any kind? on any unhealthy level? 

Addictions don't have to be illegal to be wrong and not beneficial! Addictions can be in countless forms. 

It all comes down to this: 

Today, I will make COUNTLESS choices.  Those choices are either going to build someone up or bring someone down. It may happen slowly or quickly.  That person may be me.  That person may be my child, a friend, my husband, or a stranger.  But one way or another, my choices either build or destroy. 

My choices are either going to bring me better health or take away from it.  Not necessarily 100% talking only about physical health. 

My choices today will bring me closer to Christ and allow me to hear and see Him more clearly.  Or my choices will cloud my vision and distract.  

My choices today will either allow Christ to radiate from me---or not. 

My choices matter. 

Each day brings about many failures in making the best choices. I may have failed in my own weaknesses and flesh, flat out walked in sin/disobedience, or just not measured up. Thank you JESUS for grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  Each day brings about countless opportunities to grow, even if by the smallest little step.  Each day brings about an opportunity to start fresh and try again. Thank you Jesus, for loving me in the middle of my mess,but loving me enough to not leaving me there.  

My choice is to follow hard after Him.  Even when I fail.  Even when it's hard.  Even when it doesn't feel as if it's making a difference.  Even when it's hard to find Him in the chaos.  



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Janice--A Quiet Servant

It's no secret that I'm getting more sentimental, introspective, and memory driven as of late.  I'm a sap.  There I said it.  It's out in the open.  As if that's a great shock.  :)

Today, I find myself lost in memories once again.  Thinking of what was and what a gift I had.

Today marks the 11th anniversary of Kevin's mom's heavenly homecoming. My mother-in-law for too short of years.  I like to rephrase that to say, mother-in-love.  I like those words much better.  It wasn't until a couple of years that I began to hear that term of endearment and I believe Janice lived that out.

Though Kevin and I have had to face countless struggles and obstacles throughout our 20 years of being together, perhaps the most bonding to us has been the loss of parents that had great impacts on our lives.  It's not the path one wants to take to find deeper bonds, but none-the-less, it's reality.

I could share COUNTLESS memories of Janice or write pages about what an impact she had on many individuals and what she meant in our lives, but there is one specific I want to focus on.

Today, November 12---is a Wednesday.

Wednesday doesn't mean much to many people, but it makes Kevin and I remember her more often than any other day of the week.

I think Kevin and I have moved over 13+, but honestly we've lost count and stopped counting.  However, there were a few months of time that we were blessed with literally living across the street from his parents.  We had just moved home from Arkansas and I was just a couple of weeks away from the birth of Peyton.  Having lived away for a couple of years meant that we were enjoying being able to have family around when he was born and having everyone catch up on quantity and quality time with Adriana.

But...

It was a hard time.  I was physically struggling.  We were financially in some of our darkest times. We were facing battles and obstacles from multiple directions.  Every aspect of our lives were struggles.  My pregnancy with Peyton was difficult since it was my first one after having my lupus diagnosis.  It was uncertain and it was scary. The last six weeks, including the time period we moved, I had only about 25% of my hearing due to an infection that we couldn't treat effectively until after delivery.  Delivery itself went well, but my recovery took longer because of the drastic flare up that came immediately upon delivery and massive amounts of medications they had me on.  At that time, the learning curve of treating different aspects of lupus and pregnancy were still being experimented with.  All in all....it was a TOUGH time.  It was happy because of new life, being back home, and such....but oh so hard!

But...

Wednesday nights brought relief.  They brought connection.  They brought memories that become more priceless than ever.

For us it always has and continues to be that Wednesday nights are the hardest to balance as a family and church.  We have ALWAYS valued Wednesday night Bible study and children's programs as vital to our family's spiritual growth.  We've felt that is where the best relationships have grown and the deepest study of scripture has taken place.  It's where the biggest impact has been made on our children.  But....  to get out the door is WAY harder than a Sunday morning and the person that wrote "easy like Sunday morning" was obviously not a parent or didn't attend church! :)  At that time, our drive to church was 30+ minutes and that made the time crunch even greater.

Back to Janice.

We were always welcome in their home.  Always. However, she decided to provide dinner to us EVERY Wednesday night.  That meant, all I had to do was walk across the street.  No meal planning.  No cooking.  No cleaning.  Just get myself and the kids dressed and across the street.  That's it.  (Granted, that did seem hard and overwhelming many days.  Moms of newborns understand that!).  We often had other meals together on weekends with the rest of the family, but Wednesdays it was just us.

It was a line of sanity.

See, if you aren't from the South you may not understand what the power a meal brings.  Yes, food is important everywhere and it can be considered a universal language.  BUT....there's a whole other level of dimension in the south! It's a love language! Really.

That time spent around the kitchen table in just those 30-45 minutes felt like they packed in MUCH more time.

You see, she was a quiet servant.

She wasn't a bold woman that screamed "look at me", "look what I'm doing", or "recognize me."

I mean that in a way of honor---not in a derogatory way.

She was His servant.

She served Christ by taking care of others.  That is the number one trait she passed along to her son in abundance (and perhaps moving slow----he picked that one up too----ha---sorry Kevin---had to throw that one in!). She took care of her family's needs and those in the community, quietly without fanfare.

I believe that is exactly one of the ways the Bible teaches us to serve.  From the heart.  Without drawing attention.  Without expectation of recognition.

It may to her have simply just been an excuse to have company, to see the kids, to spend more time with her son that had been hundreds of miles away for the last several years as we lived in multiple states.

But...

It was more.

It was a life-line to THIS broken mom.  This mom holding on by the thinnest thread.  This mom that was ready to throw in the towel on multiple levels.

Sitting around that table, over a simple but amazing bowl of chili or stew, brought hope.  It brought enough motivation that to just "simply" get my little family across the street to open the door for taking another step and another step.  Returning back to normal.  Getting back to myself.  It was a chance to sit and talk, to hear Kevin's Dad offer prayer over the meal and our lives, it was a time of connection.

Though my memories and thoughts are wrapped up in her today, it also reminds me that we have more power to make a difference in someone's life than we realize.  It was a  SIMPLE meal.  It wasn't an elaborate gesture,  Yet, it made a greater impact than just providing nutrients.  We sometimes forget that our little gestures can have a great impact on others.  What we see as no big deal at all in the scheme of "big" things may actually hold more power than we realize.  We may have friends going through VERY trying times physically, emotionally, and financially  We may not can alleviate the big picture problems, but we don't need to discount how a small gesture may have a bigger impact than our eyes can see.

Go ahead and send that card.
Go ahead and make that phone call.
Go ahead and make that meal or cookies.
Go ahead and drop off that small little token of "your're in my thoughts".
Go ahead and leave that anonymous $10 even though the need may be 1,000s of times greater.
Go ahead and do that little task behind the scenes that you never get credit for (my daughter is GREAT at that).

Go ahead and humbly serve.

It makes a difference.
You may not see it today. You may not see it tomorrow.  You may not realize your impact until you are standing before Christ.

But the impact is there.

Be a quiet servant.

I know our lives were significantly blessed by a MIGHTY one that we greatly miss.  (Extra tid bit: I've always found it quite beautiful that she also shared her birthday with the day we celebrate Christ's birth! Pretty neat birthday for a precious lady.)



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Single Letter

As a homeschool mom of more than one, with many years under my belt at this point, I've now had the pure joy of teaching each one of my children to read.  I'm currently enjoying sharing the earliest foundations with my "littles" that I care for.  Though it will be a few more years before they really start putting it together, I'm thoroughly enjoying partnering in setting the stage for a love of reading and learning (and their parents are phenomenal at it as well!).

One of the many stages of learning to read includes word families.  Building fluency through showing how words relate by just changing one letter.  If you can read cat, you can read bat, hat, mat, etc..  A much later progression of that is how changing a single letter can drastically change a word.  We talk about that often in prefixes and word meanings.  Just adding an s to a word takes it from a singular to plural. We also talk about how just the reversal of  single letters can completely change a word. 

A single letter. 

It can change everything. 

My heart has been soaking in for several days now a very popular word this season and changing just one single letter.  I've been a bit in a whirlwind in the last couple of weeks and "off track" so I've not had as much time to read my favorite inspirational and spiritual blogs as often, but I do continuously see this "new" word pop up and seeing it is what has sparked my heart to really be soaking it in.  I've not had time to sit down and read to see how the "single letter" change has been described amongst those blog writers, but it's still had my wheels turning. 

Thanksgiving. 

It's this month. 
It's this season (though it seems to get lost in between Halloween and Christmas more and more every single year). 

It's a holiday.
It's a day.

Yet, it's more than JUST a day if we allow our hearts to meditate on the COUNTLESS gifts God gives us on a daily basis.  I GREATLY focus as a parent to foster gratitude in our children and try to steer them away from the DISEASE of this world: expectation and lack of gratitude.  I seek to make sure that my own heart operates in a state of thankfulness.  Let's face it:  we could begin to write out things to be thankful for and if we are honest, the ink should run out of our pens before we could finish.  Many post throughout the month of November a daily thankful status of one thing they are grateful for. (However, I'd venture to say that in comparison to last year, I am only seeing less than 10% participating.)

Thanksgiving. 

What if? 

What if we changed a single letter. 

What if we exchanged that first G for an L?

Instead of just thanksGiving we instead were thanksLiving.

ThanksLiving.

Living thanks.

Would it change us?

Giving thanks is important.  It's vital.  It can change our hearts in such a way that makes an impact.  It changes us in powerful ways. 

But...

What if that single letter changes everything.

Instead of just saying we are thankful, we lived out our thanks. 

What if we SHOW our thanks.
What if we WALK in thanks.
What if we BREATHE thanks.

What if?

What if we LIVE thanks.

Thanksliving.

What that looks like for you may look totally different than what that looks like for someone else, but what if?

What if instead of just saying we have gratitude, we truly ACT like we are grateful.  I've often said "actions speak louder than words". 

You see, I think we  I am guilty of saying things with my words, but not actually living it out as often as I should. 

I say I'm grateful for ________, but do I treat that something, someone, blessing, gift, etc... as if I am?

If you are truly thankful for something don't you treasure it? Don't you take care of it? Don't you not take it for granted?

Ouch.
Ouch.
Ouch again.

It's easy to say we are thankful, but to LIVE thankful is very different. 

I think sometimes we can be pretty petty with our gratitude.  Hang with me, don't tune me out.  I'm speaking to myself just as much as anyone that might be reading.  We can attempt to be trendy with our "thankfulness".  Our thankfulness is too often centered on trivial things.  I may say I'm thankful for my chocolate (and my family may be thankful on the days that it sure changes Momma's mood!).  You may say you're thankful for your Starbucks or some other "fancy" drink I know nothing about.  We may say we are thankful for a specific item or brag about our frugal deal.  We may say we are thankful for a parking place, for not being late to appointment, etc...

But...

Isn't that just really petty and trivial?

It's almost a flippant use of the word.

Our "thankfulness" too often tends to be directed to so many things that really aren't of importance. 

We are shallow. 

We say we're thankful for our homes, jobs, etc..

But...

Do we live that out?

Ouch.

Just the simple exchange of one letter changes everything.

What if we made the switch and truly began to live it out?

How would our lives look or be different?

I think it would bring our focus away from worldliness and more to a spiritual level.  I think it would allow God to flow more freely in our hearts.  I think we'd be less worried about what others have that we don't.  I think we'd be less dissatisfied and finally truly become grateful.  We'd stop being discontent. We'd truly value EVERY day as a gift.

I think if we were living out thankfulness---we'd begin to change our marriages, our families, our communities and our world.

Because to SAY we are thankful---to simply offer thanks---though important, isn't quite enough.

If we are thankful for homes and the amenities that we take for granted, we'd be more concerned for those without if we were living out thankfulness.

If we are living out thankfulness, we'd wrap our arms around the hurting, the ones in need, and the ones that are broken or alone.

I believe that if we switch from thanksgiving to thanksliving---that we will DO something with our gratitude. 

And...

That is to be truly grateful. 

Today, what can YOU do to live out thanks?

What is God calling you to do that you've been afraid of, pushed off, or run from?
What is God nudging in your Spirit?
What gift has He given you that you aren't living out?

Who do you need to wrap your arms around and say let me walk with you on this journey?
Who do you need to stop and TRULY say thank you to?  Not just a "thanks", but a heartfelt, heart-given thanks.

If we are living out thanks, I think it becomes harder to hold grudges, anger, and bitterness. I think it causes us to value grace and mercy. I think it becomes harder to focus on self.  I think it draws us closer to God and opens our eyes to see Him and our ears to hear Him.  I think it stirs our hearts to get up and DO SOMETHING. 

I think it takes our focus from ourselves. 

Isn't that what thanksgiving is about.  Whether we are giving thanks or living thanks---it should be about Him.  He gives us more than we can ever say thank you for----so our lives should be a reflection of our gratitude.  Giving or living thanks. 



 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Master the Motion

Though a few areas currently in our homeschooling are needing a bit of refocus, different approaches and new life breathed in to them (as in Mom needs to get her own attitude adjusted!), as a whole things are progressing really well for us at this point. 

Though my older two are mostly or significantly independent, I'm greatly enjoying the one-on-one stage of side by side work with my third grader (and LOVE teaching tot school to the 1 yr old and 2 yr old that I care for in the afternoons).  I LOVE seeing the light bulb go on as actual learning takes place, not just mimicking back of facts.  Third grade is an incredible year for that as concepts really transition from memory to LEARNING, especially in math and language.  Most days my little guy is eager, mostly because he thrives on the attention.  Some days, I want to pull my hair out because he is like a squirrel that is allover the place! :)  He's actually very intelligent and a FAST learner, but he struggles greatly with focus and fine motor skills.  Part of that is due to being left-handed, having visual issues, and just all in all----clumsy and lacking coordination like his Mom.  Some of us were just never meant to be athletes! Ha! Part of the issue is well---he's just an energetic boy learning the ropes of putting that energy into the right places and needs LOTS of teaching on how to do that.

For him, one of our struggles is handwriting.  We are making HUGE strides...HUGE....but it's slower than I expected.  Though cursive writing is not being taught in many circles these days, I'm VERY much supportive of teaching it and wish perhaps I had taught it earlier on. 

Teaching him is a joy.  Teaching all of my children has been a blessing in countless ways. 

Perhaps, though, without a doubt, it's what they teach me. 

Parenting has a way of forcing you to face your own flaws HEAD ON and often.  It has a way of making you see your weaknesses, brings attention quickly and often to your own sins, and forces you to walk in and offer grace. 

Teaching at home also teaches me more than I think I teach them on countless days. 

Today was one such day.

As we were working on that handwriting, little guy just wasn't quite "present" in the process.  He was just not really interested, frustrated, and just wanted it over with.  He didn't want to go through the learning process.  He wanted the quick results.  Thanks to an incredible teacher, my handwriting is often commented on as being beautiful---and he said he'd never write anything like me.  While that might be true, I told him he still had to do the best for him and that when learning something new it takes time and practice.

Uh oh....

Tracye, are you listening to yourself? 

Clue the music. Turn on the lightbulb. 

As soon as something like that comes out of a parent's mouth, you better believe there are going to be countless times practice what you preach. 

My head immediately started spinning and my heart started stirring.  Oh my. How I need my own advice!

As my guy started settling in and making progress,  TRULY focusing and trying, he did write a word that looked nearly like mine.  I looked down and pointed it out and told him that if I didn't know better, I would have thought I had written it.

He looked up at me with his chocolate brown eyes and said something that jolted my heart...

"So, I just need to learn to master the motion and not be so shaky?"

Granted, he was most definitely talking about the mechanics of cursive writing, but my heart heard an entirely different messages.

"Tracye, just learn to master the motion and stop being so shaky!"

"In other words, TRUST ME.  Don't waver in faith.  Don't go back and forth with sitting on the fence of things you know are FROM ME and OF ME.  If I've shown you something in the light, don't doubt me in the dark.  If a good day is followed by a bad day, it doesn't negate the good.  It just means that we still have work to do together.  Just like teaching your son to practice a new skill, you have to do the same. When you give something to ME, leave it there.  Don't just keep picking it back up because it feels so hard to release it.  Don't keep picking it back up because results aren't happening as quick as you think they should.  Don't keep picking it back up because your emotions haven't caught up with the trust factor yet.  Keep practicing.  Don't be so shaky.  Master the motion of TRUSTING in me.  When you get that motion, you'll see the beautiful progress just like your son's progress today."

So---that may have not been an audible voice, but it's exactly what filled my innermost being. 

Teaching and learning.

Sometimes, the lessons come from the youngest.  Sometimes, we just have to be still and listen. Sometimes it's just about practicing and not giving up when something is too hard or takes more than one time to get it right!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Cloudy Vision

This morning I literally woke up singing and so overwhelmed with the His goodness. 

It wasn't just a gradual thing as I was waking up and getting going.

It was overwhelming.

I also woke up with energy and overflowing joy that just hasn't been as present in my life the last few months as I have wanted.

With this unexpected feeling of vitality, I was up and fully dressed---as in I could walk out the door to church instead of just being in whatever I could find close by comfortable and then hit the floor running.  I had bedding stripped and in the washer, mattresses flipped and vacuumed, and even was cleaning blinds well before I'd normal even finally give in to the reality that I HAD to get up and going. 

When I got the boys going on their school work and while supervising math lessons of the day, I decided to get REALLY crazy and clean our windows. 

That's when God reached in and grabbed my heart yet again and taught me some valuable lessons.

I've been living in cloudy vision. I've been settling for the cloudy and not reaching for the clarity.

I knew our windows, specifically our bedroom windows, were needing to be cleaned because not only was it overdue but the large cornfields nearby had just been harvested and everything is a bit hazy.  I KNEW the outsides were filthy.  What I didn't realize was just how dirty they were from the inside.  They looked a bit dirty, not quite so sparkly, but they just didn't look "that bad".

Until I took that first swipe across one and saw the EXTREME difference.

By the time I had finished, it was as if I was seeing things clearly for the first time in a long time.

My heart is feeling that same way today.

I've been in a fog for months it seems.  Just not quite myself, though not miserable by any means.  Just a little bit hazy like those windows.  Partly it was from just the physical aspects of a HARD few months and a flare up that just wouldn't completely go away.  Partly it was just the HEAVINESS of multiple situations going on that have left me dinged, weary, walking in uncertainty and worry.  Just multiple things that I felt weighing me down and distracting me from the me I know He's called me to be.  Partly it was from being unwilling to let go of some hurt, holding onto some unforgiveness, bitterness and jealousy. Seasons of life can be like that!

But this morning....

I felt that weight lift almost in a physical sense. 

It began yesterday during worship at church.  Our sermon was on the glory of God---all things to His glory.  Worship was top notch and it felt as if the roof literally might lift off as song after song was sung from the heart about His greatness. My husband had warned me that I best hum along and not actually sing because of my recent oral surgery, but it was impossible.  I literally popped some of my sutures because I couldn't  NOT sing.  I figure that if you're going to accidentally break a few, there's no better way to do it than in worship. Right? :)

Then it continued at home as we worked together as a family and as a couple catching up on some things needing to be done.  My eyes kept being opened to the countless blessings around me that I've let get lost under the weight of life. 

Walls breaking.
Vision clearing.

Kevin and I spent quite a bit of time talking, reading through A LIFELONG LOVE (DON'T forget to enter the give-a-way!), reading and discussing Scripture, working on a couple of lessons in our "The Song" couple's Bible study of Song of Solomon  (Kyle Idleman). I was able to get school lessons plans pulled together and caught up/rearranged after missing a few days of school this last week.  Then we had a quite enjoyable, deep conversation with our daughter after she came in from church. 

It was a GREAT day. 

I was coming alive and I could feel it. 

Before going to bed, my husband began praying and it was one of those kind of prayers that broke walls and opened up the doors of heaven.  It was one of those that reminded me of why I fell in love with him in the beginning.

Then this morning...

I literally awakened with a song in my heart and weight off my shoulders.  I could feel Him closer than in a long time. 

My vision not so cloudy.
My heart more receptive.

My clearer vision has allowed me to see where I've been settling with "just ok".  Where I've let some things slide and need to reaffirm.  It's letting me see the cause of some of why my heart has been feeling distance and calloused and how I need to begin going about growing and changing in the right direction again. 

It's been a very busy and productive day and I just feel overjoyed, energized, and hopeful.  Even though I know that I have some not so easy changes to make (especially in my own attitudes and surrendering areas to Him), I feel it's time to step out in that direction of faith. 

Now that I can see through less clouded vision.

Sparkling windows remind me that it's far more than just the outside that may be filthy.  It may be the inside needing the most work. 

Cleaning windows.
Cleaning Hearts.

Clarity of vision.