Friday, July 22, 2011

B90 Day 12, July 22nd

Though there have been verses that have caught my attention since my Day 3 post, timing just hasn't been right to sit down and blog about them.  

Some of my favorites (mostly just making a list so I can go back later and really soak them in):

Exodus 14:13 & 14---"Don't be afraid.  Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today.  The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again.  The LORD himself will fight for you.  Just stay calm."  (Those are some powerful words that spoke directly to my heart as I'm struggling to stay calm in some situations and needing rescue! I'm NOT good at being still.  However, the battles we are currently facing are requiring me to just STAND still and let God do HIS work, because I can't do it.)

Exodus 15:2---"The LORD is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.  This is my God, and I will praise him---my father's God, and I will exalt him!"  (This one really touched me on so many levels.   It's beautiful.  Praise God---He IS my strength and my song.  He has given victory!  He is always worthy of praise.  It also has been so touching because of Dad.  He was my father's God and He did provide Dad with victory.  It wasn't the victory we had hoped for because of our selfish natures, but it was the most beautiful victory.  This verse just means so much now!)

Exodus 15:26---"He said,  If you will listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying His commands and keeping his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians for I am the Lord who heals you." (That is some powerful advice that just really sums up life in general.  Listen carefully to the voice of God and do what He says.  Obey his commands and keep his decrees.  No wiggle room.  No partial obedience (which is disobedience!).  Though He offers grace and forgiveness when we fail (which we WILL do often!), our lives are just much simpler when we obey!)

Exodus 17:  Just rereading the story of the fight against the Amalekites and how Aaron and Hur held up the arms of Moses when he was too tired was quite emotional for me.  Being the text that was used at Dad's funeral and because of the blog I had written right after his diagnosis (here and here, too), it was just emotional.  Beautiful, but emotional.

Exodus 33:12b-13a  "You have told me, "I know you by name, and I look favorably on you.  If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor."  (Aren't those incredible words?  That is the cry of my own heart. )

Numbers 6:24-26  "May the LORD bless you and protect you.  May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you.  May the LORD show you his favor and give you his peace."  (What a blessing to pour over everyone that means so much to us.  I'm currently searching and studying about praying Blessings and this obviously jumped out as one of the more popular ones we hear said.  It's a topic that definitely has my interest right now!)

Numbers 14: 14, 17  "I can't carry all these people by myself!  The load is far too heavy! ....I will come take some of the Spirit that is upon you, and I will put the Spirit upon them also.  They will bear the burden of the people along with you, so you will no have to carry it alone."   (Moses is one of the most remarkable men of the Bible, yet he told God that the burden was too heavy.  God agreed and provided him with help in sharing it.  My husband and I have been specifically talking about this lately.  There are situations going on right now that are too heavy for me.  We have been asking God specifically for ways to make it "less heavy"---whether that be someone to help carry it, letting go of some of it, or trusting Him more.  Regardless of what the answer will be, I'm reminded of how important it is to have someone "share" our burdens.)

All of these bring me to today's current reading.  Though other verses obviously meant something to me, those were the ones that spoke the loudest. 

Today's reading literally ran all over me.  Perhaps it was because I had the rare moments of reading in REAL peace since I had finally been able to sleep soundly and woke up before the kids (even before the energizer bunny woke up!!!).  I've had a ROUGH battle with insomnia for about 10 days, so being blessed with REAL sleep has been amazing for clearing out my foggy brain!

Today's reading really talked often about how we can't do anything outside of God's will SUCCESSFULLY.  Sure, we can rebel.  We can go on our own way.  He gives us that free will.  However, it is absolutely fruitless.  Our driving desire should be to be walking in God's will.  Sometimes it may feel inconvenient, it may feel radical, it may feel lonely, and it may feel counter-cultural.  That's OK.  Being in His will it what matters. 

In the second half of Numbers 22 vs 18 says, "I would be powerless to do anything against the will of the LORD my God."  Though the conversation was taking place between Balak and Balaam, the words are still powerful.  "Tracye is powerless to do anything against the will of the LORD her God."  Making that verse personal absolutely moved me.  Outside of the will of God, I am powerless.  How many times has that been true?  Too many to count. 

Continuing in that same chapter to read about Balaam and the talking donkey really made me stop and reread and LISTEN.  Though kids love to hear the story about the donkey that talked, I found that today when I read it, I saw it in a whole new light.  Three times God had used the donkey to change Balaam's direction, but he didn't listen.  Instead, he beat the donkey.  When God allowed the donkey to talk and then opened Balaam's eyes to see what the donkey was seeing (the angels), it all became clear to Balaam.  It made me stop and think about the times that God has tried to turn my direction by putting obstacles in my way or by placing people in my path that I needed to listen to.  The donkey asked Balaam, "But I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life.  Have I ever done anything like this before?"  He was acting out of character and Balaam didn't recognize it for what it meant.  How many times has that happened in my own life?  More than a few.  My prayer is that my own eyes will be open to see and my own ears open to hear the "speaking" donkeys in my own life.  Which obstacles are being placed to prevent me from going down the wrong path?  What voices speaking in my heart are being ignored because of my own selfish desires or disobedience? 

Two more verses spoke to me in today's reading.  Numbers 23: 19:  (God is not a man, so he does not lie.  He is not human, so he does not change his mind.  Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?"  Knowing this to be true, why in the world do I continue to fail to trust at times?  Definitely something to think about. 

Finally, 32:23 says "But if you fail to keep your word, then you will have sinned against the Lord, and you may be sure that your sin will find you out."  Yes, there is no hiding from God.  No need to try and hide our sinful actions and thoughts.  He already knows.  We end up spending so much effort trying to hide our faults and sins from the "world', but yet God already knows.  If we (especially including myself!) just would put that much effort into avoiding our sinfulness and turning away from it as much as we do hiding it, how the world would change.  Instead of hiding the sin, if we were instead seeking counsel and accountability with others, our lives would change dramatically.  It takes energy to hide sin.  Putting that same energy into doing good instead....that would make radical differences!

So, this is much more lengthy than even I expected....but if for no other reason, I have it all in one place to refer back to as needed.  Perhaps, maybe next time I won't get so far behind! 

What a blessing this round of B90 has been so far.  Yes, it's incredible to be meeting and sharing with the ladies in group 62 and it's a blessing to be part of my larger mentor group.  Having had the choice to just mentor or mentor AND read, I'm so thankful I chose the reading part.  Though this is the 3rd time I've started this challenge in the last year, it is amazing.  Each and every time, I learn more.  I become more vulnerable and open to what the word says.  New understanding.  New blessings.  New faithfulness.  New growth.  Unbelievably amazing!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Needed Reminder...Perfect Timing

With so much going on and being pulled in so many directions, it is VERY easy to lose focus.  I admit that the last few days, particularly the last 24 hours have been hard.   I'm doing everything in my power and praying for God to fill every crevice of my heart to help me get back the balance of my emotions.  Though I'm a basket case at the moment, my heart is still full of joy.  The welcoming of a much anticipated birth helped put things quickly back on track.  Having prayed for this little family almost daily for months and for God to use me as I will be spending a few days a week with her while her mommy continues her church ministry, just soothed my heart to have a reminder of how amazing God is.

Later this morning, Baxter started his crazy barking and insanity when the postal worker knocked on the door to let us know she had left some packages.  In one of those packages was a little device that I had ordered that I didn't know existed.  I'm not so up-to-date with technology.  This little thing called Picture Keeper has just brought me such joy that I think I might could shout.  Our laptop that we used for several years, most specifically the first 3 of Bradlee's life, crashed well over a year ago.  We didn't have the financial resources to have someone try and recover the pictures.  At that time, we didn't have the people connections to ask someone to do it for us.  I've kept the laptop, which is so broken physically that it is literally held together with duct tape and shipping tape, in a Rubbermaid tote just hoping that someday we could do something with the pictures on it.  Though I had printed many of them, there were others that I had not been able to do yet.  Not to mention not having the files themselves (especially organized in folders) was heartbreaking.

Enter Picture Keeper.  I wasn't even sure it would work on our outdated operating system.  I purchased it anyway knowing that I could use it on our current computers if nothing else.  I plugged it in, had to do some file searching and maneuvering (auto run and auto play weren't working) and then all of a tells me "Backing up 9,867 Pictures!".  You should see how overwhelmed with joy that made me!  It automatically scans your entire computer drives for any picture related files.  You don't go searching for them yourself!  That was the selling point for me based on the condition of the computer.  I just HOPED it would be able to do it and to see that message pop up was greater than winning the lottery. 

As I've sat here the last hour or so, I've been reminded of such amazing things.  Besides the gratitude of the recovery, I'm just floored with thankfulness.   As these images flash through in order, I'm getting glimpses of how much my kids have grown and changed.  Of course watching Bradlee from the days of me being pregnant and on bed rest, his birth, and growing and changing through the months and years has been priceless.  It's the OTHERS that have shocked me.  Adriana went from a little girl to a young woman right before my eyes.  I didn't realize how remarkable the changes were.  Peyton went from a little boy that could be Bradlee's current twin to the handsome young man he is.  It's just been priceless to watch that at hyper-speed.

However, as much as that has made me thankful., something else happened to my heart.  Seeing our lives, which I took pictures of VERY often (almost daily at points), flash by that quickly moved me in a way I wasn't prepared for.  Those years were years of struggle emotionally as I battled deep depression.  At times, I don't remember the joyful times of those years.  They were years of struggle in so many ways.  We moved away from all of our family and friends and had zero connections here.  Seeing these pictures reminded me of the journey we've been on and HOW AMAZING it has been.  I've watched friendships form from these images.  What started out as strangers are now some of our closest relationships.  I've seen the kids blossom right before my eyes in their confidence and watched their personalities develop. 

The most remarkable thing is the reminder of the life we've been blessed with and how it developed along the way.  What I have been able to look back and see is that while I was in my darkest times, God still made sure that we made family memories of a lifetime.  Even in my sadness, I somehow still managed to make sure that the kids were a top priority.  Hundreds of pictures of ordinary days now soothe my heart to know that we were still a family and those days were treasured.  I've had the visual reminder of the extraordinary days and the days when we were blessed to take trips or take part in other activities.  So many things I've forgotten, but yet they were there.  Beautiful smiles and laughter.  They REALLY did happen. 

God gave me a visual reminder that the guilt I carry for so much of that time is of my OWN doing and NOT of Him.  You would be hard pressed to see a more involved family life than the pictures show.  We truly did have joy in our home and our kids are blessed with fantastic memories, I just lost track of it.  I'm so thankful to not only have these pictures to preserve and back up, but just for the healing that has instantly started by seeing what REALITY was of those years.  Especially as a stay at home mom, it's easy to get lost in the ordinary days and overwhelmed with balancing everyone's needs.  These pictures remind me that though I am far from perfect and things were VERY difficult at times, God still was in control and our home WAS a happy one.  It's time I stop beating myself up over so many of my own failures and focus on the things that truly matter.   Who would have thought that so much could come from a tiny little device that looks like a thumb drive and is smaller than a stick of gum??  I'm so thankful that not only did God answer my prayers for recovery of my pictures, but He also restored a large piece of a broken heart. 

I thought my little device would be enough to back up ALL of our pictures, but it didn't even cover the "crashed" computer.  That in itself shows me how full our lives have been.  I'm incredibly grateful for the 5,455 pictures that I've recovered.  I will repack this "broken" laptop today, look at seeing when I can purchase another Picture Keeper, and can't wait until I can watch the next portion of the "show". 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fall Apart (Slideshow with Lyrics)

When I went out to pick up Peyton this afternoon from Fellowship of Christian Athletes day camp, this song came on and it was the first time I heard it. God absolutely knew what He was thinking when he put it in my path today.

Today has been a hard day. One of those when you don't understand why God is adding more to your plate when you don't even think you have enough of a balance of what he has already given. I feel like it's too soon for my heart to be dealing with "hard" issues. I'm still struggling daily with picking up the pieces from so many losses as it is.

My husband and I often talk about how it seems that when we are on the edge of a spiritual breakthrough, we get slammed. It never fails that something "big" goes wrong when we start a prayer challenge, a Bible reading challenge, or take a big step out in faith. Today is that day. Though there are some AMAZING blessings being poured out today, our hearts are also breaking over things that I'm just not at liberty to discuss openly at this point. I'm thankful beyond words for those blessings, but my heart is just heavy over other things. One specific blessing is just warming my heart & I can't wait to share that joy!

Then, just as I'm driving down the road already trying to hold tears back and giving everything I have to not have a breakdown.... I hear this song and it BREAKS me. However, it breaks me in the way of God. It reminds me of so much that God needs me to remember. It's when my whole world is falling apart that I do feel God's presence the most. The "outside" world gets stripped away and my focus becomes solely on Him. When I do come to the end of me, when I'm absolutely at the bottom with nothing left to give, I find that is where I find Him the most. When I do fall apart, it's when I find Him right there with me. Right where He has been all along. I do just want to know Him more and more and sometimes it IS pain that brings that. It is UNCERTAINTY that brings about authentic faith. Praising Him in the easier times is well....easy. It's continuing to praise him authentically during the difficult times that shows the maturity of our faith. I am falling apart right now and I'm struggling, but yet in those struggles I will find the greatest peace that only God can provide.

Josh Wilson

Why in the world did I think I could

Only get to know You when my life was good?

When everything just falls in place

The easiest thing is to give You praise

Now it all seems upside down

‘Cause my whole world is caving in

But I feel You now more than I did then

How can I come to the end of me

And somehow still have all I need

God, I want to know You more

Maybe this is how it starts

I find You when I fall apart

Blessed are the ones who understand

We got nothing to bring but empty hands, yeah

Nothing to hide and nothing to prove, yeah

Our heartbreak brings us back to You, oh

And it all seems upside down

‘Cause my whole world is caving in

But I feel You now more than I did then

How can I come to the end of me

And somehow still have all I need

God, I want to know You more

Maybe this is how it starts

I find You when I fall apart

God, I want to know You more

Maybe this is how it starts

I find You when I fall apart, yeah

I don’t know how long this will last

I’m praying for the pain to pass

But maybe this is the best thing

That has ever happened to me

‘Cause my whole world is caving in

But I feel You now more than I did then

How can I come to the end of me

And somehow still have all I need

God, I want to know You more

Maybe this is how it starts

I find You when I fall apart

I fall apart

Friday, July 15, 2011

If God Had a Refrigerator...

As a mom, I have such pride in my children.  Seldom am I ever without pictures or stories to share.  Their drawings and crafts are priceless treasures.  Their pictures cover our walls, refrigerator and just about every available space.  When you see me walking down the street, it's obvious I'm a mother.  My love for them is immeasurable.

I woke up this morning with a great reminder of that love.  Though MY plans included sleeping in and getting a much slower start to the day since my body needed it and my brain need some slowing down, Bradlee wasn't quite on that same page.  Not only does he normally get up earlier than I would like since he is an early riser and I'm a NIGHT OWL, but this morning he got up even earlier than his normal.  He just wanted ME.  He just wanted the mommy time he is used to having.  Being so busy this week and running totally off our typical schedule, he was craving the snuggles and one-one-one that he so typically enjoys.  Though I'm zapped beyond imagination (yet, fortunately my body DID not go into a full flare up this week---praise the LORD!), I also needed that time with him.  Though I can barely keep my eyes open since I've been averaging 4 hours of sleep this week (and don't handle it as well as Kevin does!), I completely treasure that time with him.

Those minutes this morning reminded me of the words of Max Lucado:

If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it.

If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it.

He sends you flowers every spring.

He sends you a sunrise every morning.

Whenever you want to talk, He listens.

He can live anywhere in the universe, yet He chooses your heart.

Face it, friend–He is crazy about you!
God loves us NOT just as much as we love our children.  He loves us MUCH more than that.  Knowing how much I love my own children and how much I give of myself to them doesn't even compare to the love of God.  Even when I give my full capacity, it doesn't compare.  What a treasure!  Even when we doubt ourselves, when people betray us or disappoint us, or when we feel absolutely unlovable there is someone in our corner.  He loves us so much that our picture would be on his refrigerator.  He "gushes" over us with pride.  He is crazy about us!  He's never too busy.  Though He may at times correct us (just like a parent), His love is far from conditional. 
Just some words to grasp on to today.  Though my house may be showing signs of neglect and begging for me to find energy to restore it today, though my mind is still on overload trying to wind down from a busy week and balance the other demands still going on, though I have things in my own heart that God is convicting me about and asking me to change, and though my heart is heavy for so many people battling some hard things right now.....I am completely, absolutely, FULLY loved and treasured.  My friend, so are you!  Wrap yourself in those words today.  What a gift we have in the treasure of Christ!

Ordinary Days: Photo Journey (2)

What an incredible week it has been! VBS is just about to wrap up after MANY months of planning. It has been another fantastic year. Watching well over 400 kids come through our doors each night learning about how God is Wild About Them is priceless. It may be an exhausting week that definitely takes a toll on the body and creates havoc (leaving my house in utter chaos!), but it is absolutely one of our greatest highlights of our entire year. Though I didn't have a real chance to take pictures of Bradlee (especially since our church is so large that we have to divide 3 year olds through Kindergarten from the 1st-5th grade departments and I was involved with the older kids), we did get a few chances to peek in as we were in and out. Here are some of my favorites:

Hopefully, the photographer that took tons of pictures through our week will have snagged some of Bradlee that I can copy and use in his scrapbooks. 

Though VBS has overtaken our home this week and in the weeks prior of prep work, we still managed to have some family time.  We enjoyed meeting up and eating as a family in Oasis (the Jr. high and high school section of our church that is set up like a diner).  It gave us a chance to have a few minutes of reconnection with Kevin before we were all running in different directions. 

We also enjoyed a free outdoor concert hosted by our UNBELIEVABLY amazing Christian radio station WBGL.  Chris August entertained us with his CORNY jokes and BEAUTIFUL music.  He was just named Male Vocalist of the Year and New Artist of the Year at the Dove Awards in April.  It was a super night to just sit back, relax, and listen to fantastic music.  He ended the night with "Starry Night", which is one of our favorites. 

I also was able to turn over my dresses to the sweet lady that is going to Ghana in just over a week.  It felt so strange to hand over something that was such a big part of me for the last months, but it was also an unbelievable feeling as well. 

I've jumped right into another project that is going to keep my busy for the next several weeks.  I'm coordinating 90 Moms (3 groups of 30 ) in busy bag swaps.  We basically make 30 of one activity to keep our children busy and learning (we used to call them centers) and then divide them up so each Mom has 30 different activities.  I only have 5 assignments left to make for this 1st swap and it will be full speed ahead.  I wonder how much our postal carrier is going to like us after delivering 90 large priority boxes over the next month?  OK---so it's only 87 since 3 of those will belong to me.  I also wonder if the post office counter worker will looking at me strange when I come in with the boxes to ship back out!  Hmm.....  So worth the effort and I've already been blessed by meeting some fantastic moms!

B90 Challenge kicked off this week (reading the Bible cover to cover in 90 days with 1200 other women!).  My heart has already been touched by not only what I'm reading, but by the heart of the women in my mentor group.  It's only beginning and I already feel tremendously blessed.  I can only begin to imagine what is going to happen in the coming weeks!

Though I've not had the energy to take the kids to the waterpark and fight the crowds and extreme heat this week, we've had some very much needed downtime at home.  Lots of reading, Wii playing, crafting, and just normal "kid" stuff has been going on.  However, my favorite moment came yesterday when I saw Bradlee playing something unusual.  Peyton helped him turn one of his dump trucks into a "Storm Chasing" vehicle.  They gathered up laptops, old PDAs and cell phones and ALL things technology and ran around the house for a good TWO hours!  It was priceless. 

It's been quite a week, but what a special one it has been!  We have VBS Family Finale tonight, a couple of days of FCA sports camp at the beginning of the week and then "our" official summer begins.  Up until this point it has been focused on VBS and other service projects, now the switch to family time is just ahead.  I haven't set our school start date at this point, but I absolutely plan to make sure we have some good time together reconnecting as a family without the demands of school and everything else before we jump back in.  Even though we are together as a family 24/7, we need the time to just BE US and create bonds and memories that don't center around ministry, school, household responsibilities, or work.  I need the chance to just be a mom and wife for a bit! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

B90 Day 3, July 13th

Today's reading was familiar since a large part of it reinforced those Sunday school lessons taught through the years and growing up in church.  It was nice to read the scriptures that told the stories of some of my favorite Bible "characters".   Though it was familiar, I made sure to read it word for word and not "skip" over any parts.  I'm glad I didn't because a certain passage of scripture came to life for me in a new way and I'm certain I would have missed it if I weren't really paying attention.

The story was about Joseph.  I've taught the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors so many times or I've read the kids a book about it countless times.  Craft after craft has been made to depict his colorful coat.  I already know how the story turns out.  I know that his interpretation of dreams comes true.  I know about his time in prison after being wrongfully accused of inappropriate relations with Potiphar's wife.  I know about the forgiveness he shows his brothers and how their family is restored.

It was the portion of reading about Joseph in prison that really caught my attention and spoke to my heart.  Joseph KNEW he was destined for great things.  Joseph had ALREADY spent a life of heartache and betrayal.  His jealous brothers plotted to kill him, but instead sold him into slavery.  They told his father he was dead.  To say his life has been harsh is an understatement.  He was "more" than innocent in the accusations against him by Potiphar's wife.  He purposely rejected her advances and attempted to be above reproach.  He was an honorable man.  However, instead of being rewarded for that honor, he found himself in prison. 

His scars had to run deep.  He had to have asked God, "why?".  Surely, he didn't understand why he of all people was facing the battles before him.  He turned his back on God and God left him alone, right?  WRONG!

Vs. 21 of Chapter 39 says "But the LORD was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love."  FAITHFUL love!  Even in those darkest moments, God was with him.  Joseph's heart was still open despite his heartache.  God never left him.  EVEN when our situations seem bleak, God is with us.  The second half of verse 23 says:  "The LORD was with him and caused everything he did to succeed."

I'm so thankful I didn't miss those verses this morning.  They've brought such comfort and encouragement.  Right now, no matter what is going on....God is with me.  Even through the times that have caused the scars to run deep, God is with me and His faithful love never fails.  Though I may feel abandoned, betrayed, or hopeless....GOD IS WITH ME!  He never leaves us.  No matter how alone we may feel, we are truly never alone.  Even trapped in the cells of prison (even the figurative ones we find ourselves in), God is with us and still at work.  He may not immediately release us (we know that he didn't rescue Joseph immediately either), but yet He is still at work.  Even in our darkest times when we can't even begin to find the purpose for what we are going through, God is at work in us and for us.  Today's heartaches TRULY may be the stepping stones of tomorrow's blessings.  When we don't have understanding of why we are facing situations, we CAN cling to the promise that God is faithful and He is with us.  We are limited in what our own eyes and heart can see, but He is omniscient.  Today's stumbling blocks may just be the stepping stones that put us directly on the path that He has planned for us all along.  The pain that seems completely without purpose, may just be shaping our hearts and preparing us for our true calling.

Joseph remained faithful to God.  I think about the times I've dealt with harsh circumstances and think about how my own faith has taken dings.  Did I completely without hesitation put my trust in God?  Unfortunately, I can't always answer yes.  Fortunately, His mercy and grace held me right in His arms until my heart was ready to accept the fact that He was there all along.  His faithful love never fails and He is always with us. 

So very thankful I took the time to slow down this morning and not zip through the reading to just get it checked off the list for today.  So thankful that I decided to not just mentor this session, but that I also wanted to read along.  If my heart is already being touched so profoundly these first 3 days, I can't do anything but look ahead to the next 87 days with anticipation and excitement. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

B90 Day 2, July 12

Many of you know that I've talked about the Bible in 90 days challenge many times.  It has been such a tremendous time of growth and never has God been more "real" to me during those times.  When I was given the opportunity to be a mentor for an accountability group for this session, I was absolutely certain that this was something I wanted to do.  I'm extremely passionate about it and I love seeing others being blessed along their journeys. 

Yesterday began our session.  Though there have been some technical difficulties on the main website that are being worked on, the kick off has been great.  So far, I've only not heard from two of our group and I'm THRILLED that everyone has started off with such enthusiasm.  For those of you that are reading that are participating----GREAT start!!!! 

Though this is a READING only plan, many post blogs along the way about what they are learning and how God is speaking to them.  Most follow along with the SOAP plan.  Though I do greatly enjoy and benefit from the SOAP format, I just like to "write" as it comes!  Though I don't anticipate writing every day or at any set times, I do plan on writing my thoughts about the passages when God lays them on my heart!

Today, several different verses jumped out at me.  EVERY single time I do this challenge, I'm amazed at how DIFFERENT verses "speak" to me.  I obviously have my favorite verses that are frequently quoted by many people, but it's the "other" verses that surprise me with how they speak to me differently each time. 

Day 2:  Genesis 17:1 through Genesis 28:19  (I'm reading from the NLT version again this session.)

  • "I have singled him out so that he will direct his sons and their families to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just."  18:19a  
    • This verse caught my attention because though the verse is in reference to Abraham it encourages me in the calling that has been placed on me as a mother.  God has placed in me a very deep desire to raise my children in a different way than what is often considered "normal".  At times, my husband and I feel singled out because we often don't fit in with those around us because of our choices.  Though we know that we aren't seeking to be popular and that we are raising our children for HEAVEN---it does at times get a bit hard when we often feel alone.  This verse encourages me that we are EXACTLY where God wants us.  We want nothing more than our sons and daughters (and THEIR families) to keep the way of the LORD as they grow older.
  • In Chapter 19 (story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah), a couple of things caught my attention more than before.  Vs. 16 talks about when Lot hesitated in leaving the city at the urging of the angels.  The Bible says that the angels "seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city, for the LORD WAS MERCIFUL."  Sometimes I am guilty of hesitating when God tells me to do something.  I think of so many times that He STILL protected me, used me to fulfill His purpose despite my reluctance, or still blessed me.   Why would He do that?  Because HE IS A MERCIFUL God.  Though he wants my full obedience, immediately and completely...He still provides His grace and doesn't GIVE UP on me! 
  • Also in Chapter 19, vs. 26 spoke to me.  Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back.  God had warned them to NOT look back and she was disobedient.  This particular verse caught my attention in two ways:  one...God DOES expect our obedience and sometimes there are very REAL consequences for not listening!  Two:  She looked back.  Had she not looked back, she would have made it to safety with her family.  How many times have I looked back?  How many times have I not kept my eyes forward?  I get stuck in the past.  I failed then, so I'll probably fail again---type of attitude.  What about the times I've just not trusted fully and held to tightly to the past?  Ouch.  Guilty!
  • Chapter 21:  vs. 2 and 6.   At this point we are reading about the birth of Isaac as God has promised Sarah and Abraham.  In vs. 2, Sarah had given birth "at just the time God had said it would".  God's timing!  God's circumstances.  What Sarah herself doubted and what medically seemed impossible worked perfectly in God's timing.  I often get wrapped up in MY timing with so many different circumstances and forget that GOD'S timing is PERFECT.  Even though I may have immediate needs or desires, His timing is ALWAYS perfect even when it doesn't line up with MY timing.  He sees the full picture and I have just a limited view!  In vs. 6, Sarah declared "God has brought me laughter!".  Isn't that amazing!  God gives us joy and He truly wants us happy.  I imagine that he delights in hearing us laugh!  Oh how often I take life too seriously!
  • Chapter 22:  If ever asked what is the greatest example of stepping out and acting in faith in the Bible, my immediate answer would have to be the testing of Abraham's faith in Chapter 22.  Abraham proved his devotion to God and his belief that he would provide a sacrifice other than his son.  Vs. 8---he doesn't waver in telling his son that God will provide. Vs. 12--"You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son".  He was willing to give God everything, but believed in faith that He would provide.  What incredible faith!  In vs. 14, Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh which means "the Lord will provide".  He believed it from the beginning and didn't allow doubts to enter in.  Faith in action doesn't get much better than that!
  • Chapter 24:67  "And Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah's tent, and she became his wife.  He loved her deeply, and she was a special comfort to him after the death of his mother."  Beautiful!  That is a beautiful picture of marriage.  He loved her deeply and she was a comfort to him.  I'm thankful for the relationship I have with my husband.  He has been THAT comfort to me as well at many times through difficulties, but especially during times of loss.  There is nothing more amazing than to be married to your best friend, to grow together in Christ, and to have someone that is always by your side through the good and the bad. 
Though B90 is a reading plan that is NOT slow paced by any means, it never fails to speak to me and touch my heart.  For those of you reading along, I pray that God finds you in verses and speaks to your heart as well.  I'm excited for each of you----I KNOW He is going to bless your obedience in ways you never imagined! 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Blessing to the Heart or Drain to the Soul?

There is no doubt that I have absolutely LOVED our sermon series at church these last six weeks on Song of Songs/Marriage.  With so many marriage crumbling, the relevancy is unparalleled.  Though we wrapped up yesterday, I wish we had many more weeks of it! 

Though our pastor made many valid, crucial points each week (some of which I've already written about and a few which I imagine will make their way in future posts), there is one specific one that I've not been able to shake.  He talked about it some last week and I thought about it almost daily and then when he brought it up yesterday, I decided it was absolutely worth writing about.

We all come into marriage and immediately start making mistakes.  We could ask many different couples who have been married for many years what they thought was their biggest mistakes and the answers would be vastly different.  All of their answers are valid, but yet the list is so long that you can't wrap it up into just "one" mistake that everyone should avoid.  Many are important.  However, there is one that I admit I have been guilty of making over and over again. 

Don't expect your spouse to meet EVERYONE of your needs!  I have MANY times made the mistake of thinking that because ALL of my different needs weren't being met meant that Kevin didn't love me enough, I didn't love him enough, or our marriage wasn't meant to succeed.  Fortunately, I have finally been released of that lie.  When it FINALLY sank in and I began to release him from those expectations is when our marriage began to truly change and started it down the path to this amazing thing that it is now. 

Yes, I absolutely want Kevin to treat me in certain ways.  I do have expectations, desires, hopes and wishes of how our relationship should look.  However, it is impossible for him to meet each and every one of those needs.  After all, women are VERY complicated.  About the time our husbands figure us out, we go and change on them! 

The only person that can fill EVERY need is Christ.  There is no way around it.  When we are searching for something in life and being "needy", it isn't our husbands that fill us.  Christ is the only one that can reach in and fill each and every part of hearts that is needing something.  We have to release our spouses from that responsibility.  We have to stop falling prey to the lie of Satan that says "he doesn't love me" because he doesn't fill this or that desire/need.  It's destroying so many of our marriages.  Truth is, no matter how amazing my marriage is becoming and how much greater I anticipate it getting day after day...Kevin will NEVER meet all of my needs.  Even if he were home 24/7 and gave me 110% of his attention, it is impossible! 

With that said, it is our job to do the best we can to fulfill our spouses needs and desires.  JP gave an illustration two weeks in a row that I really loved.

Picture a cup.  We are the cup.  God fills us to capacity when we allow him.  Our spouse doesn't fill it.  I don't fill Kevin's cup.  We have to be living our lives so that God has full access to our hearts and that we are in constant communion with Him.  God is the ONLY way that our cup can be full. 

Where do our spouses come in?  They either cause the cup to overflow or they cause it to drain.  I can either add to Kevin in such a way that his cup overflows or I can splash him out so that he is drained.  He either causes my cup to overflow or he drains it.

The question is this:  what do you do to your spouses cup?  Obviously I want my husband to be in a constant mode that is making my cup overflow so much that no matter what is going on in my life, that the cup continues to overflow.  What is most important is to think about how we are affecting our spouse. 

As women our husbands can be such a blessing to use that we are constantly overflowing.  They can also drain our cups spiritually by their treatment of us.  We all have different things that drain us and fill us.  Our husbands need to understand how to make sure that our cups are overflowing, but they can't read our minds!    As wives, we need to be feeding our husbands desires.  Do we do it in such a way that just barely keeps him on life support or do we do it in a way that is abundant and complete? 

I love the question that was asked yesterday.  It's one that I'm striving to think about often so that I keep my priorities in check.  Am I a blessing to the heart of my husband or am I a drain to his soul?  I admit, I don't always like the answer I would have to give.  Taking it a step deeper, we can also ask that of many other relationships we are involved in on a daily basis.  I'm choosing to resolve to make sure that my answer is blessing MUCH more often than a drain.  I hope that at the end of almost every day that his cup is overflowing and that I've not done things to splash out and drain him.  On those days that I've failed, I pray that God quickly redirects me and shows me ways to refill and overflow.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Project Complete!

Whew!  A major project has been completed.  When I started machine sewing for the first time as an adult earlier this spring, I had no idea how my "little" project would escalate into something larger.  In the beginning, I just wanted to get over my intimidation of the sewing machine.  Though I had been taught a few basics as a child, those "skills" seemed to be long forgotten.  Everything involving sewing I did by hand no matter how long it took.  In the early weeks after Dad's death, I needed a project to throw myself into to help me get over those initial hurdles.  I started out making a few bibs that I had purchased pre-cut on etsy.  I realized that it was a bit less intimidating than I remembered and looked for the next project.  I had ALWAYS been in love with pillowcase dresses and granddaughter number 2 had just been born.  I set out to make a matching/coordinating set for both of our granddaughters. 

Just a week or so after I finished, I heard about a friend of ours going to Africa and that she had hoped to take some with her.  Just a few months prior, ladies in our church had made hundreds for another orphanage project.  I had no idea how to make them at that point, so this was my "chance" to contribute.  I committed to just making a couple.  Then I decided I would push myself and make 25.  God didn't let it end there.....

Project Complete!  EIGHTY-TWO dresses are ready to go!

Today when I finished, I cried like a baby.  I've become so emotionally attached to this project.  It became such a healing place for me to sit down at the sewing machine.  In the beginning, I wanted to get over my "fear" just to feel a bit more in control of my life when it was spiraling out of control with everything involved in losing Dad.   Then it became so much more.  My heart aches for the orphan.  My arms ache to hold a little girl in my arms and to provide a forever home for her.  It isn't to be, but yet my desire to serve in another capacity hasn't ended.  For now, this is MY part.  This is how I give of myself to something much larger than my own little world.  We've truly tried to instill in the kids a volunteering spirit and the best way to teach is by example.  It is JUST some fabric ( and some memories attached to many of the fabrics, lace, and ribbon), but it become much more to me along the way.  I think along the way, I found a bit more of me.  It's so easy to lose yourself when you completely throw yourself into motherhood, and especially a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom.  It's really easy to lose your identity.  I think this "little" project helped me to start to find myself again.  The "me" I had forgotten was buried under the responsibilities of "balancing" life. 

All that is left is to heat-seal the ribbons and pack them up.  They will be ready to deliver to my friend on Sunday.  This project is over.  However, I'll be continuing to pray for those going on the mission trip and most especially for all of the lives they will come in contact with.  As I made each dress, I prayed for the little life that it would come in contact with.  I'll also be praying for direction in finding which project I will tackle next.  For now, my focus is VBS this week and the kick-off to the Bible in 90 days challenge.  I'm relieved to have this done, because I began to doubt that I would be able to pull off this large amount as time quickly started slipping away.  I'm going to miss it because it has definitely given me a positive focus.  However, for now, I think I will wait before adding more to my full plate!  Besides that, I'm sure my husband and family would like to see our kitchen/dining room combo returned to normal instead of being a sewing room with everyone constantly stepping on thread, fabric, and ribbon and tracking it through the house.  For now, I also think a good nap is in order!!!! 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Warning: Contents Under Pressure

I'm sure all of us have probably seen the warning label:  "Contents Under Pressure".  In other words, you best be careful because they might explode if not properly handled. 

I unfortunately played lead role in one of those such scenes earlier today.  Let me paint a word picture (mostly so you ALL can get a good laugh!).  There happens to be a certain mom that gave up soda, most specifically a near gallon a day habit of diet coke.  Though I without a doubt think purging my body of aspartame has been one of the smartest (yet, WELL over due!) tasks I've accomplished, I still have cravings for something besides water at times.  Today, I also happened to have one of those days that random thoughts of Dad filled my heart and well...I miss him.  Bradlee came up from the basement with a 2-liter of Grape Nehi that I had long forgotten was down in our "grocery store" (stockpile).  It was too early in the day for him to have any, but I had promised that he could have a small amount after lunch.  He wasn't about to let me forget that promise.  Since Nehi reminds me so much of Dad and growing up (read about it here), I thought I might join in and have a glass.  Little did I think ahead to see if Bradlee had shaken it.  I was even thinking it might have been down there so long that it might not even have any fizz.  I guess you can see where this is going!  Yes, it exploded and covered my almost clean kitchen.  It dripped down into drawers that were cracked and inside cabinets as it dripped behind doors.  It showered me from head to toe.  My light colored tshirt is sporting some beautiful purple streaks of large proportions.  My hair is mighty fruity at the moment. My kitchen is also doubling at the moment as my sewing room.  My kitchen also is the home of several ongoing projects.  Yes, can't you see the seemingly never-ending fountain of sticky grape soda erupting ALL THE WAY to the ceiling!  Ahhh.....

I didn't scream.  I didn't cry.  I didn't sulk.  I didn't pitch a hissy fit or throw a tantrum.  I didn't even yell at Bradlee. 

Instead, I laughed.  I completely laughed at myself and the situation.  I'm standing there dripping with gooey, fruit smelling liquid and faced with a massive mess to clean up that I truly don't want to deal with and I laugh.

No, I haven't lost it.  I haven't finally crossed from almost insane to true insanity.  It was just a realization of in this moment, I have to choose.  When our plates are full and we are overwhelmed, when our own contents have us under pressure and we explode....we have to choose what direction that explosion leads.  Do we overflow with joy and go with the "flow" and accept Murphy's law type attitude?  Do we explode in a wave of negativity and hurtfulness.  Do we say things that are hurtful to those that are closest to us?  Do we speak negativity to ourselves and berate ourselves for failing?  Do we react in anger? 

Today, I was successful in choosing the right "explosion".  However, I admit that many more times that has not been the case.  My reaction today taught me that it IS possible to be in control of our emotions EVEN when we are feeling out of control.  I'm overwhelmed right now with responsibilities and projects I'm working on, I'm battling countless personal battles, I'm wrapped up in some tough situations that others are facing and trying to help and uplift them, etc..  My plate is VERY full right now and my "contents are under pressure".   It would be easier to do something stupid (like lash out at my kids or attack my husband over an inconsequential issue as soon as he walks in the door) and then use the excuse "I was under stress" or "I was overwhelmed".  THAT is the easy way.  THAT is the cowards way.  We do have the ability to control how we react EVEN when we feel like walls are caving in on us. 

I'm not sure when the switch took place.  I'm certain I will probably fail at making the right choice when "explosions" happen more than I will succeed.  However, making an effort is worth it.  Keeping emotions in check when things are "hot" is important.  Finding ways to put myself first when I feel stress rising is essential.  Taking time out to stay connected to my husband is absolutely necessary even if it means something else on the need to do list doesn't get done.  Spending one-on-one time with God for no other purpose than to just be WITH HIM is life-sustaining. 

We all get wrapped up in life and our contents are under pressure and sometimes just one little mishandling can cause us to explode.  We may not can control the situations that push our buttons, but we certainly can practice learning how to control our reactions. 

For now, I guess it's back to the purple jungle to do another round of wiping down cabinets and floors.  Though I've cleaned up the initial mess, I'm sure I'm going to find more stickiness to deal with.  Perhaps, God wanted to see me learn a lesson through that sticky mess and if nothing else, I'm sure I gave Him a good laugh as He watched me trying to protect myself from the geyser eruption.  Good grief---it erupted as much as our science experiments with mentos in coke!!!!  Surely you can admit that you are laughing right along with me!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Whirlwind, Thinking Big, and Gratitude

Life has me a bit spinning in circles at the moment.  I don't often know whether I'm coming or going and stopping to slow down just really isn't on the schedule at the moment.  However, I NEED it.  I'm craving it.  I need some God time....which I'm working on in snippets and hope to have MUCH more in the coming days.  I also need some one-on-one husband time, which will happen tomorrow night----DATE night!!!!

Life is FULL speed ahead with the insanity that comes with VBS.  It's unbelievable how much work it takes to pull off a super-charged VBS for 500+ kids.  I'm just speechless many nights when I get home from meetings or work sessions and I see how dedicated all of the directors are and how thankful I am for the 200+ volunteers that will be working alongside of us.   Though I feel like I'm in over my head right now as these last days of prep are here and kick off is just around the corner, I've never been more blessed than I am right now.  The hearts of these women are amazing and they are inspiring me to NEVER settle for second best.  Though we have struggled with finding "our" place in regards to a church home, I've never been more thankful than for the relationships he has blessed us with in our church.  It has been a life-line like no other!

I'm just about to wrap up "my" project that I started late spring.  I've finished 77 pillowcase dresses and have 6-8 to finish this week and they will be ready for a friend to take on her mission trip to Ghana.  Though I originally had planned to just make a FEW, it grew because I felt that was what God was calling me to do.  I have such a heart for the orphan.  Though our dreams of adopting can't be fulfilled because of my medical exclusion, my heart just couldn't turn off the desire.  Making these dresses has filled such a hole in my heart.  Maybe someday God will open another avenue that will allow us the opportunity to open our hearts and home to a child in need, but for now this is where I can help.  I also LOVE the fact that many of the dresses have been made with fabric or lace that has been in our families for years.  It's been such a connection to those that we love and cherish, some which are no longer with us.  I used lace and material from dresses that Kevin's mom had used to make for Adriana and 25+ dresses have lace that Kevin's aunt, Lucy, had purchased years ago.  Both of those ladies are no longer with us and I know they would be honored to know that some little princess in Africa will be wearing it!  Many pieces were made from material Teresa made MANY of my dresses growing up and many of Adriana's as well.  It has been great to walk down memory lane and think of them!  Though I am JUST beginning to learn to sew and my work is NO where near the quality any of those ladies would make, I'm still happy to know that the time has been well spent.  It has been VERY soothing to my soul MANY nights!  It has been such an avenue of blessing.  (I just hope no one looks closely at my handiwork!!!) :)

This week has been tremendous as I'm preparing to mentor a group of women that will be participating in the Bible in 90 days challenge that starts the 11th. I'm a bit overwhelmed right now.  I truly want God to use me in such a huge capacity during this time.  I'm SO not taking this responsibility lightly!  I'm already praying over the names as they are assigned and can't wait to open the doors of communication with them once I get the go ahead that the assignments are complete.  Today, I also started receiving numerous emails from the other mentors that are in my group.  I don't know exactly how God is going to use us, but I'm absolutely certain that it is a time to "Think Big".  I'm often reminded of those two words when I visit my sweet friend who is our Elementary Children's Minister.  Tonight, I was working in and out of her office on VBS and those words kept "looking" at me from her wall.  It was a reminder to "Think Big" because we so often put God in a box and put a limit on his power.  I'm just going to "Think Big", open my heart, and let God lead.  I can't imagine how lives are going to change----including my own!

Today, He showed me just a bit of how much He looks out for us and just a glimpse of the power He has.  Just a few minutes after getting up this morning, I had a facebook message pop up from my husband and then an immediate phone call followed from him.  Basically, he had a fire at work this morning but because of his quick thinking and CALM nature he was able to contain it and no one got hurt.  I was immediately struck by how easily it could have been NOT good news.  Listening to the adrenaline in his voice that is normally calm was a vivid reminder of how God had protected him.  Later in the day, I noticed something I hadn't really noticed earlier in the morning.  We have a suction cup hook with Bible verses hanging on our bathroom mirror (and a set in my van).  This morning the verse was showing Psalm 91:11.  "For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways."  Coincidence?  Not in my opinion.  Kevin also reminded me of how God had protected me yesterday.  My tire valve stem has a sensor that connects with the computer system that alerts when a tire is low.  That stem completely broke off and the tire went instantly PANCAKE flat.  Had it happened while we were on the road, an accident would have HIGHLY been likely.  Not only did it not happen on the road, it happened sitting in our driveway with Kevin home.  Though I'm stuck with a spare for a few days, I believe that is MUCH better than what could have happened!  It also is one of those things that has taken a chunk out of the budget, but I'm thankful that Kevin searched around until he found a replacement cheaper than the dealer and it should arrive even sooner than it would have to the dealer.  God was watching out for us in more ways than one!

Though I'm in a whirlwind and life is on HYPERSPEED, though not every situation is perfect, and I'm still struggling with many issues-----I couldn't be any happier.  God is reaching me deep down in ways I've never imagined.  Those months (even years) of struggle to find THIS contentment and connection to Him is really paying off.  I don't know where we are going, I don't know what is ahead----but I'm buckled in, holding on, and ready for the ride!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Defining Moments & Broken Paths

For starters:  I am pretty much an open book when I write.  People that know me well, know that I'm not generally as open (with the exception of very few people) when actually talking.  I generally tell it like it is when I write a blog post, but at times I do hold back.  Believe it or not!  I either don't want to be even more vulnerable, don't want to offend or hurt someone, and sometimes it's out of protection of others feelings or privacy.  I preface this post with a warning so to speak:  I don't mean to step on toes and I don't necessarily feel comfortable with sharing "this" much of me....but yet, God has been laying it on my heart consistently in the past days and I'm learning that it's futile to resist. 

I'm not exactly sure what I intend for this post to actually say, it's one of those that I just have to write and let whatever comes out come out.  I do know this, someone reading it is in NEED of it.  I know there are two main points I'm wanting to make.  One:  God can use you.  Your past doesn't matter.  It doesn't matter how far gone you think you are.  Two:  Hang on tighter and fight stronger for your marriage.  It is worth it.  Unbelievably worth it.

Here goes:

Think back.  Think back and see if there has been a moment in your life that you had to make a choice.  The choice about knowing your life is going to change one way or another.  Either you are going to trust God and jump in or you are going to continue running the other direction.  Even for those of us that basically were born in the church and really knew no other way of living, there definitely are still defining moments.  The moments that something happens and you have to make a distinctive choice.  There may actually be many of those times or it may be a single one, but you've had them. 

Though there have been other moments that I've had to make that choice (especially in recent months!), the one that forever changed my life happened this exact weekend 18 years ago.  The exact half way point of my life thus far.  This weekend marks a milestone of sort.  At the time, I thought my life was ending but a life-time later...I know it was only beginning.

You see, up until that point I though life had been tough.  I just didn't know how easy it was.  I thought the drama of middle school and high school was excruciating.  Keeping up with expectations of who I was expected to become and balancing all of the demands of being the perfect student and chasing scholarships was tough.  Being a teenager and trying to assert independence in a household that greatly frowned upon it.  Hard.  Maneuvering the uncertain waters of having divorced/remarried parents was difficult to say the very least.  Trying to move beyond the faith of my family and making sure it was my OWN was a struggle.  Death of my best friend.  Preparing to move into adulthood.  We all remember how difficult those days were!  I thought life had been very tough and I didn't realize that I didn't have a clue about the realities of the "real" world.  I think we can all look back and say that now!

However, life did get very difficult.  Everything I believed up to that point came into question in my own heart.  Eighteen years ago my life changed because of some poor decisions I made.  I didn't listen to God's Holy Spirit warn me I was quickly walking down the wrong path.  Though He gave me MANY warnings, I still didn't heed his advice.  I thought I was strong enough to walk my own path.  In the end, not listening cost me tremendously.  Without being too explicit or sharing beyond my comfort zone, I will just say this:  I paid dearly with having my "innocence" ripped away.  Part of me was stolen in a way that I thought I would never heal from.  I thought God would NEVER be able to use me again.  I thought everything I had believed up until that point was gone.  I thought I was too damaged to love.  I thought I no longer had anything worth giving.  My plans for what God was going to use me in could no longer happen because the poor decisions I made had made me lose my testimony/ministry hopes (in my opinion!!!).  Even though I KNEW that what I went through wasn't something I deserved and God had not used it as a punishment, it still changed me.  The broken vessel I became broke God's heart.  Though He could see beyond that moment, the moment that someone took something from me that didn't belong to them, and could recognize that He was still at work in me...I couldn't.  Because I carried such guilt because I made decisions that left me vulnerable and because I had a sense of shame on OVERDRIVE ( I had yet learned the concept of GRACE!), that day became MY MOMENT.

My moment---I had to make a decision to turn and run away or turn and run towards a savior that sees beyond the sins we've committed, the sins committed against us, and every hidden secret pain.  In that moment, I had to either decide if I was going to just float along in the faith of my parents (which I felt DEEPLY) or if I was going to embrace it because I TRULY felt it now that life had certainly taken a big bite out of it.  I chose to run towards Him.  I wish I can say I never looked back.  I wish I could say that the doubts disappeared.  I wish I could say that forgiveness of others was instant.  I wish I could say that I didn't struggle with forgiving myself.  I wish I could say that I searched for healing in the right places. 

I can't say any of those things.  It has been an ongoing process.  It has taken MUCH longer than I ever dreamed.  It has affected me in ways I never imagined possible, both in good and bad ways. 

What I can say is this:  my moment of choice was the best choice I have ever made in my life.  It opened the door for AUTHENTIC faith.  It opened the door for REAL, UNCONDITIONAL love.  It opened the door for amazing mentors to step in and walk me through some painful growing and healing.  A couple of you that follow along and read my blog, KNOW you are on that list (especially BJK)----and I thank you.  I thank you for the way you sent my life in a new direction.  It opened the door for me to finally (though EVER slowly!) embrace forgiveness.  Today, I can 100% say I have finally forgiven completely and thoroughly those involved.  I can say that MOST days I have forgiven myself and the other days are days that I have to rely on God's grace.  It opened the door for the beginning stages of God's DEEP, REAL transformation.  It began the shaping of who He wanted me to be and started the foundation of the refining that continues to take place now.

What it also did was open a door of trust.  When you are so broken and are literally at rock bottom, you HAVE no place but to look up.  Those days are when I began to be able to see that my true strength came from one source.  Learning to trust SOMEONE again and trust GOD again is a very hard thing to do.  However, when you take that step....LIFE never is the same! 

You see, out of broken dreams and broken circumstances comes the real path God chooses for us.  My broken path brought me to the man I have given my life to.  The day he walked in to my life was absolutely NOT the right timing.  His set of circumstances that made him who he was and my set of circumstances that made me who I was at the time did NOT match.  He was not what I needed at the time.  God knew differently.  He made sure and let us know that what we thought and what others thought about our relationship was NOT what He was seeing.  We soon found that He had a big plan for me by bringing Kevin into my life.  He came in at the wrong time, but yet at the PERFECT time.  We came in together with VERY big loads of baggage and heartache.  From the outside looking in, we were an impossible pair.  However, from the very first second God let us know that He had put us on the same path for a reason.  To borrow words from such a powerful, popular song: "God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you" and "But you just smile and take my hand. You've been there, you understand, it's all part of a grander plan that is coming true."  We soon found that there were reasons we had been down broken paths.  God was never more vocal on our lives and we knew without a doubt that our lives were designed for each other----flaws and brokenness included.

However, no matter how much we KNEW God put us together, we still found ourselves in the position of throwing it away.  No matter how CLEAR we knew God was in bringing us together for a reason and how clear we were in understanding that we had made a life-time commitment, we found ourselves ready to turn our back on that knowledge. 

What I know is this:  no matter how strong your love is or how much you know God absolutely has a plan for you, marriage is still VERY hard.  It is MUCH easier to walk away at times than it is to stay and fight for what you know is right.  We've had some VERY big obstacles to deal with, many of which would have been the ticket that would have justified either of us walking away and not looking back.  Hurt is real.  Scars run deep.  However, commitment runs DEEPER.  I believe God did "send angels to guard the door" (just like Warren Barfield writes/sings in Love is Not a Fight).  In a world that sees marriage as a piece of paper (as Gretchen talks about in her blog today----perfect timing!), it is so easy to just toss it away. 

I'm here to tell you and adamantly implore you----don't believe marriage is a piece of paper.  Few people start out a marriage not believing they are marrying the right person (I know some may, but in general).  You didn't stand before God, family, and friends thinking that the person you were marrying was just OK.  You married that person because he/she was THE one.  THE one you are with today is STILL "THE" one.  Granted , there are a FEW situations that don't line up with that due to huge issues of abuse/adultery, but let's face it----most of the crumbling marriages don't fall in that category.  Your spouse is still "the" one for you, you just have to rediscover that and let it grow beyond greater than anything you dreamed possible.  I without a doubt understand how difficult that task is, but I also know that it is worth EACH and EVERY second when you come to the point and realize you have rediscovered that person and he/she has rediscovered you.

Back to "the" defining moment----though this milestone of sorts could bring about in me a downward spiral of haunting memories, it no longer does.  Healing of wounds didn't happen over night and really took practically half of my life.  What I know is this, and this is the part I want to make sure gets heard, there is NO situation that can separate you from the love of God.  There is no circumstances of your own doing or that someone else thrust upon you that God can not use for His good.  In those moments, reach out to Him.  He won't leave you empty handed.  Though your healing may seem like it takes FOREVER and it may feel like you are getting NOWHERE, you are!!!!  Don't give up.  Don't turn your back on God.  There WILL come a time that you will realize that your wounds are just faint scars.  You WILL see that God was right along with you every step of the way.  He was angry when someone hurt you (physically, emotionally, verbally).  He cried along with you.  Even when you made mistakes, EVEN HUGE ones----even outright blatant sin----He forgives.  He truly remembers your sins no more when you ask for forgiveness with a truly repentant heart and they are as far as the east is from the west.  It is never too late to let a defining moment in your life be turned into something good.  My defining moment opened the door for my heart to love completely and for me to learn to accept love.  It set my life on a different path, but looking back it was the path God had for me all along.  I just took a few million detours.  Your life is no different---you just have to make sure to run to God in those moments and NOT away from Him. 

In conclusion, as I've thought about this milestone in recent days I have noticed a SUPER shift in my heart.  I know that I'm finally healed from the scars.  It just didn't happen as quickly as I hoped and there were more scars that happened to develop in the process.  It was worth it.  I remember specifically  a letter that someone important in my life wrote me as I was going through my "storm".  I still have it packaged away and run across it every once in awhile.  She quoted Romans 8:28 (And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.)  Though MANY people will quote that verse as a "quick" answer to something you are going through and it may "rub" you the wrong way at the time because it feels like a brush off, I KNOW the heart of the woman that wrote it.  She believed it with all she had in her.  She said that though my heart was too bruised at the moment to actually fully embrace the verse, she wanted me to anyway.  She wanted me to claim it as my own even though my healing was just starting.  GJ---I have never forgotten those words.  I have never forgotten how you knew that I would come out of that time with an even deeper, authentic love of Christ.  I can honestly say that those words are deeply embedded in my heart these days, and you were right all along!  I also want to say thank you for also pointing me in the direction of the man that has become my best friend and not just my husband.  I'm so thankful you could see what the world couldn't see and you knew that I just need to TRUST!  You probably didn't realize how important your words were at the time, but I'm thankful God used you the way He did.