Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hillsongs - Still w/ lyrics

Earlier I saw these words on a sweet friend's facebook status:

"When the oceans rise and thunders roar,
I will soar with You above the storm,
Father you are King over the flood,
I will be still and know You are God."

I read those words and my heart just immediately clung to them. She and I have both been struggling with situations that have left us clinging to the words: "Be still and know that I am God."

When I realized the words were from a song and that it was Hillsong, I HAD to find it on youtube. I am pretty well-versed in Christian music, but for some reason I had NEVER heard this one. IT floored me! IT has run all over my soul like I can't explain. Just beautiful. Sitting still and soaking it in.

Can't Do it All---Goals For the Week (1)

UGH!  ARGH! EEK!  HELP ME!...............that seems to be what my thoughts have been the last several weeks.  Stressing over decisions, balancing needs, and being impatient as I've waited for God to answer some prayers.  Overwhelmed pretty much sums it up. 

I've come to the realization that I can't do it all.  OK, so I've known that all along.  NOW, I'm just ready to admit it.  My prayers recently made a switch to help me prioritize and help me have clarity in making decisions.   I admit it takes me out of my comfort zone.  Leaving some things undone completely or less than "perfectly" is terrifying to me.  As a perfectionist trying to "reform"---it is HARD! This feeling reminds me of a picture Kevin took of me during our camping trip.

What you don't see is that I was a little  nervous  terrified.   I was on a rock edge that was NOT on the ground.  My feet couldn't fully fit so they had to be turned as I crept along.  I WISH the picture was panned out further so you could really take in the moment.  Kev did the best he could to "capture" the moment while balancing Bradlee and the dog.  I'm sure he was laughing in his head at me the entire time.  He and the kids have a MUCH MUCH bigger dose of dare-devil in them!

I was born a klutz.  I have survived life this far as a klutz.  I will die someday a klutz.  FACT of life!  The above photo shows one of those moments of stepping out of my comfort zone.  I would have PREFERRED to have stayed on solid ground so that if I tripped and fell I would only end up with scratches and bruises.  Instead, I had no choice but to walk on the edge and pray I didn't fall.  A fall would have been broken bones at the least.  For someone that wasn't blessed with confidence in her own two was unnerving.  Yet, I did it.  I may have been wee bit nervous (umm....a nervous wreck!), but as you can tell....I lived!   (It makes me wonder how on earth Adriana was blessed with the ability to work magic on a balance beam.  You should have seen my eyes the first time she successfully flipped on one!)

Stepping out of comfort zones is NOT easy.  God is asking me to do that on MANY different levels right now.  Just as I had to trust my feet on that hike, I have to trust God right now, RIGHT where I am.  I'm placing my confidence in Him as I take those steps.  No matter how small the task or how monumental it is, when trying something new that is against the "norm" is difficult.  Though stepping out of my comfort zone and not doing EVERYTHING is not the biggest on my list right now in regards to faith and life-changing aspects, it is still nerve wracking. 

I was inspired by a few other blog posts, but most especially Gretchen to take all of the things on my list and just choose a certain number to focus on.  Write out those goals and focus on THEM for the week.   I LOVED this approach, but for the past couple of weeks I struggled with just DECIDING what those goals would be.  Just choosing was stressing me out.  Then I began to pray for God to not give me super power to get it ALL done, but instead to show me which things I needed to focus on RIGHT now.  What things to place in priority so that others things fall into place or what things were needed  that allowed me to have the right focus.  My own eyes were stuck on the sheer volume of tasks.  I couldn't do it. 

However, in the middle of the night I woke up with a list swirling through my head.  It was VERY evident that these were my focus tasks. I lacked no clarity.  It was definitive.  No wavering.  VERY specific.  After some "lost" blog posts that came to my heart in the middle of the night, I now have learned to immediately write down what comes to me.  So, at 2:30 this morning this is the list I scribbled.  These are my focus points, the things I am considering my "have to" list for this week.  Yes, I still have all of the other basics and essentials to do...but these are the extra.  JUST having this list to look at this morning has lifted an INCREDIBLE weight from my shoulders.  Yes, I still have to do the work.  However, having a focus changes everything.  It becomes do-able.  It has become less of a mountain!

So for this week Wednesday the 31st through Tuesday the 6th my Goals (in Gretchen format!)  It just so happens that my list had 12 goals.  Coincidence?  Nah.  Don't believe in coincidence.

Personal Goals
  1. Morning walk 5 days (no clear cut goals on time or distance) and Weight training/toning 3 days
  2. Memorize first 7 verses of Psalm 86.  Maintain "pace" with B90 challenge and continue on track.
  3. Read one chapter in 5 of my books on "my" list.  I have since added 3 more books to my "must" read stack and I don't know which direction to go.  Choosing and focusing on 5 this week will make it a more manageable task.
  4. Write the letter to Kevin I've been planning in my brain.  Get it done.  Enough said.  (Just some things I've been wanting to say that don't get said when being pulled in so many directions!)
Home Management Goals
  1. Restore sanity to our master bedroom closet.  Oh my. 
  2. Gather all items for OWB consignment sale.  Hang.  Start entering in computer....but can finish the remainder NEXT week.
  3. Get this round of Busy Bags out of my house!  (This mostly depends on the last 6 packages arriving!) Pray about whether to participate or not in the K-2nd reading/math swap and whether or not to coordinate. 
Home Educating Goals
  1. From family laptop: print any documents needed from last school year (Adriana), remove any 2010 SOS programs, load PEYTON'S 2011 Language Arts and Math SOS programs
  2. Plan 10 full days of lessons for Peyton's non-computer based curriculum (Expedition Earth, First Course in American History, Chemistry, Human Body Unit Study, Easy Grammar Plus, Bible, "workbooks", Handwriting, extra spelling (beyond what is in SOS since this is a current weak area), God's World News (News Flash)
  3. Plan 10 days of Bradlee's workboxes (9 drawers=90 focused activities).  Make sure that 10 days worth of Bible/Phonics program are printed and supplies gathered.  Be sure that any "other" activities correlate with the letter or skill in focus. 
Ministry/"Service" Goals
  1. Send personal emails to B90 participants that are still actively participating.  NOT a group email this week. 
  2. Send a minimum of 4 encouragement cards.  Cards are already chosen, just need to take the time to write and mail. 
(Also, I noted that NEXT week will include choosing and making Peyton's birthday cake and completing my 30 day praying for husband journal notes.  Currently on day 22. )

There we have it.  Stepping out of my comfort zone in many areas, but specifically today in regards to not attempting EVERYTHING and getting NOWHERE!  My list is ready.  My focus is set.  Get ready.  Get set. Go.  (Let God handle the rest!)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Our family camping trip was fantastic.  It was just what we needed to give us all a chance to reconnect and get away from life's demands.  However, it wasn't very relaxing!  Camping is hard work!  GEEZ....all that work to relax doesn't really leave much time to relax. 

Kids constantly wanted to be on the go.  Hiking.  More hiking.  And then even more hiking.  Take me to the park.  Take me to the park again, please.  Can you go with me so I can ride my bike around the loop?  Can I ride again?  Starting a fire.  Keeping that fire going.  Cooking on that fire without it going back out.  Cleaning up after cooking.  Storing all the food and essentials that just took an hour to drag out to keep the relentless raccoons out of it.  Trying to keep all the dirt from hiking and being in the woods out of the tent and out of the bedding.  Time to already start cooking for the next meal.  Oh wait, there is another dog walking by....control Baxter so he doesn't bark.  Get everything gathered for 5 people to get showers and by gosh MAKE SURE NOTHING touches the floor!!!  Don't get your clean clothes wet and keep the shower shoes on!  What?  You are hungry again.  Oh we go again....drag back out the food boxes.  Start the process all over again. 

Get the point? Camping with a family is not very relaxing, but it is WHAT we do to relax.  We enjoy it.  We treasure it.  Though it may be exhausting, it is calming.  There is just something about being that close to nature and the peace it brings.  Granted, getting that close to nature requires vigilance to not get so close to unwanted creatures and plants.  :)

Those few days away helped give us a chance to bond and recharge a bit before school starts next week.  Kevin needed the time away from work.  Let's just say work has been....umm....challenging at best. 

I needed the time to just put so many other things out of my mind for awhile.  I'm going to be honest.  I'm a bit discouraged with a list of things right now.  I'm not feeling like "me" and I get nervous when I'm off-balance.  God isn't answering some prayers the way I want or in the time frame I need.  It doesn't mean He isn't listening or He doesn't care.  It just means He has different plans or His time isn't the same as mine.  I believe He has my best interest at heart, I'm just in a hurry and He is saying wait.  It's frustrating.  I'm in hurry up mode and NEED answers and when they aren't coming immediately, I get "lost" and overwhelmed.  Though I'm learning that He is ALWAYS faithful and ALWAYS on time, I still struggle in the waiting zone.

Being away those few days helped me find a bit of courage to keep waiting.  Being in such beautiful settings how can you not acknowledge God's existence and power?  It gave the needed boost to hold on just a bit longer.  Problems aren't solved.  Actually, knew ones "pop" up constantly before I've got a grip on the previous one.  Answers haven't been clearly given in situations.  Yet, I'm confident that they will. 

During the few times I had to TRULY relax, I kept coming back to the thought of how much my body and soul craved that.  It made me think about how God CRAVES that time with us as much as we need it with Him.  It is SO VERY easy to get caught up in running here and there and being constantly on the go.  Even doing good things and being involved in ministry related activities can be overwhelming and pull us away.  Sometimes God wants us to JUST BE STILL.  

Be still.  I thought about that many times over the last several days and then this morning, a daily devotion said the same thing.  Coincidence?  I don't think so.  Just the Holy Spirit STILL trying to pound it in my head and heart so that I listen. 

"Our relationship with God can also get misconstrued as we grow in Christ. We forget that God is more concerned about being with us than our concern of doing things for Him. We hurry from one worthwhile ministry to the next and fill our lives with noble schedules for winning the lost or discipling new believers. However, even as Mary chose to worship and sit at the Master's feet, we also must step back and rediscover the simple joy of being with Jesus. No schedules, no events, no projects — just quietly loving our Lord and relishing His presence."

It doesn't mean be lazy.  It doesn't mean stop doing things for others.  It mostly definitely doesn't mean stop serving. 

What it does mean is that there are times that we I am guilty of "doing" for others and forgetting to just stop and soak in God for who He is and that he wants JUST ME---not my acts of service.  Yes, I spend time in His word daily and I'm in constant prayer.  Yet, how often do I just stop to be in His presence and soak it in? 

There was a point in the weekend that Bradlee wanted me to snuggle him because he was homesick.  After we snuggled and sang a few lullabies in the tent while the older kids were getting showers, his little body relaxed and he had the sweetest expression.  He said, "Mommy, I just wanted you.".  I woke up with him in our bed around 3:30 this morning.  I told him he needed to go get back in HIS bed, but he said "Mommy, I just want to snuggle with you" in the most pitiful, little, heart-wrenching voice. 

God wants me to crave JUST being with Him the same way.  Put aside the things I need to do for my family or in service of Him.  Put aside EVERYTHING....all the heavy things and all the concerns.  Just rest in Him.  Just crave being with Him just because of who He is.  NOT just because of what I NEED from Him. 

"Be still and know that I am God".   (First portion of Psalm 46:10).  JUST be Still. 

It's about finding the right balance between being Mary and Martha.  (Some of the most powerful verses in the Bible when it comes to balancing "everything".  Luke 10: 38-42).  Sometimes it's about serving.  Other times it is about SITTING AT HIS FEET!

It really comes down to "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  That MUST really be important because it's in the Bible more than one time.  (Matthew 6:21 and Luke 12:34).

P.S.  (On a side note:  made it through 4 days of camping with only one mosquito bite.  Come home and spend time outside for a couple of hours last night with the kids and get eatin' alive.  So much for "city" life. Ironic!)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Break Time!

By this time tomorrow night, we hope to be enjoying some amazing family time under the bright stars.  Taking a break from the "world" and just focusing on each other on a camping adventure.  It usually ends up being one of our greatest times for family memories and togetherness.  A SLOW down from the chaos!  PEACE and quiet in God's perfect nature.  Adventures around every corner.  We tend to get lost along the hiking trails (purposely).  The boys usually accidentally on purpose fall into the creeks.  Every other time we've gone, we've been caught in torrential downpours and flooding, but this time there is NO rain in the forecast.  Could it be possible?  Last year was so bad that the tent had to be thrown away in the dumpster on the way out of the state park (just a yard sale find that was SO not water proof!!!).   Finally going to use the new tent we bought for Kevin's Father's Day gift. 

It's our time to recharge and reconnect before another school year begins.  A chance to think about the direction our family is going and if we want to steer in a different direction or keep on the same path.  A chance to just BE STILL!  Countless laughs!  Numerous games of Phase 10, apples to apples, and bananagrams! 

It's a time to "unplug"!  Though we will have our phones and have coverage except on some of the hiking trails, we still plan to limit ourselves.  NOT even packing the computer!  Wahoo!!!  I usually feel a little odd for about the first few hours and after that there is a calm that comes from turning off the outside world. 

So, good bye blogging world for the next few days.  Hope to see you on Monday with stories to tell and hopefully with renewed energy and reconnected hearts with those I cherish most! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Simple Solution---Right in Front of My Face

I have literally been laughing at myself all morning.  Sometimes I can really be smart and efficient, other times I can't see a solution even if it is looking at me straight in the eye and screaming at me. 

The problem?  Finding time to put myself on the list as a priority.  For the most part that means I need time to exercise AND have a few minutes of silence.  Granted, I do need other things, but those two are the most important right now at this point in my life. 

I always wanted to get up and exercise early in the morning and our neighborhood leaves limitless places to walk and enjoy being outside.  I love it.  The treadmill and I have a love hate kind of relationship.  It just doesn't soothe my soul the way being outside does.  It doesn't motivate me.  However, there are only two times of day outside that bring me peace.  Late in the evening and early in the morning.  Late in the evening infringes on family time and is hard to fit in the schedule on a regular basis. 

Getting up and going in the morning doesn't work because I can't leave the kids.  We've talked for years about me going before Kevin leaves for work.  That doesn't work because he leaves at 4:30 and I'm not committed enough to get up and going out at 3:45 to be back before he leaves.  NOT happening.

Finally last night, I had this DUH moment.  The light bulb went off and I couldn't help but laugh at myself.  The can't go in the morning reason has expired.  My kids are finally old enough to be left now and I just forgot about it!  We leave them with Adriana in charge for date night, but I had totally forgotten about being able to slip out in the morning with them still in bed!  Even with Bradlee being an early riser, he can entertain himself for those few minutes with Adriana available for an emergency.  Besides that, I'm still in the neighborhood and I have this amazing thing called a cell phone! 

So, this morning I woke up a few minutes before Bradlee and slipped out the door.  I had a VERY enjoyable walk which gave me some MUCH needed time alone.  Exercise for the body, peace for my brain, and some uninterrupted time to have some one-on-one time with God.  When I got back home, he was sitting on the couch watching a pre-selected TV show with the pillow and blanket I had left him.  Yes, I did miss our early morning snuggle time that is precious to me, but we still had a few minutes to sit and talk and I still got my hugs and kisses.  A few minutes later the big kids and Baxter were up ready to go.  I was already MUCH better prepared to face the day.  I had already had some ME time AND some God time.  Priceless!

The funny thing is this:  I could have started this months ago.  I've been sitting here trying to make it fit in my schedule.  STRESSING out over trying to make it work.  Feeling overwhelmed because I couldn't get it to fit in the regular day. The solution was basically just looking at me in the face, waving this big flag for attention.  I didn't see it. 

Isn't that how it works at times?  That can't see the forest for the trees mentality?  It bites me in the tail and blinds me at times.  I get so overwhelmed looking at the big picture, trying to fit in all the little details that I sometimes miss the EASY solutions. 

Last night, I was walking with the boys riding their bikes.  I was just amazed at how great it felt to be out doing that and how wonderful it would be to have a few minutes like that for myself.  I had been enjoying our time at the pool the days we went MOSTLY because those first 30 minutes were so quiet (just pass holders---not general public yet).  I would float along the lazy river while Adriana entertained Bradlee in the regular pool.  I spent those 30 minutes relaxing and having an uninterrupted time to talk with God.  It was remarkable.  I immediately began to stress when those moments ended because summer was winding down and the pool closed during the weekdays.  Right in front of me, I had the same solution.  Just couldn't see it.   As I was walking last night, I was asking God to show me how to find those same minutes of solitude.  When I got home last night and Kevin and I were finally winding down for some alone time and talking about our upcoming date night, it hit me.  DUH!  Why hadn't I seen it before?  I couldn't help but laugh. 

So many times we are just stuck in the same way of doing things.  We easily get overwhelmed with life's demands and forget that though not everything has a simple solution, some things DO!  I work so hard to simplify and organize our day and I miss some easy solutions.  I'm good at making things too hard at times.  I'm so thankful that as soon as I prayed for a solution, God handed it right to me.  You know what?  He was probably laughing and smiling at me.  He had probably been waiting forever for me to just ask!  I'd been praying for clarity, direction, and managing priorities.  I just needed to ask Him for specifics.  Duh!!!!  Maybe I need to ask Him for MORE specifics in other areas.  Maybe He is just sitting there with HIS list of solutions to MANY of my needs and is just waiting to hand them over when I ask!  

What Can You Learn from a Laminator?

Now that I have the 200th post out of the way, I can write what is really on my heart tonight.  I'm breaking technology curfew again, but I just couldn't sleep until I wrote what I've really been thinking about the past 24 hours or so.

This weekend I had an emotional breakdown.  I physically was in pain more than I've been in a long time and because those times have become fewer between, it emotionally hit me hard.  I guess because I was used to dealing with pain that my tolerance level was higher and as my health has GREATLY improved, that tolerance level had come down greatly.  It just hit hard.  On top of that, I'll be honest and admit my hormones were insane and I was as moody and emotional as I can remember being in a long time.  Add to that the overwhelmed feelings I had been experiencing the last week or so and it was a recipe for disaster. 

Enter in a little marital conflict that should have been an easy fix.  One of those little things that could have been discussed calmly, hurts feelings soothed, forgiveness granted and life restored to normal.  Well, it didn't quite happen that way.  My physical state and my emotional state definitely made a mountain out of a molehill.  Surely, that has NEVER happened to any of you!  Surely, none of you know what I'm talking about.  HAHA, right?  We all can point to times like that.  We as women are just emotional basket cases at times and are VERY complicated creatures.  If our husbands could just magically recognize those moments of a tiny bit  MEGA amount of insanity rising and have a magic pill to restore order immediately, life would be great.  Well, unfortunately sometimes their moments of not thinking clearly happen to coincide with our emotional neediness and POOF it's an explosion.  Yes, that is what happened. 

Well, I'm happy to report that though things were quite tense and emotional for a day (give or take a few hours, but who is counting...LOL!), sanity has now prevailed and balance has been restored.  Forgiveness has been granted.  The slate is wiped clean.  Love and laughter are in the air again and no one has to duck from flying objects.  OK----throwing of objects really didn't happen, but I might or might not admit to thinking about it. 

In the midst of that storm which can be contributed to stress from both sides and miscommunication, there was a moment that God really spoke to me.  At that point, my heart had already been turned back towards my husband and we were already beginning to find our way back to common ground even though my emotions were still a bit tender.  We were in the early stages of "making up".  You know that point where you may still be feeling hurt and emotional, but you realize that your spouse isn't the enemy?  That is where we were.  The point where you recognize that you are at fault just as much as the other person and you just want a fresh start and to come to an agreement. 

I was still physically struggling and had spent the best part of two days in bed.  At this point I was finally wanting to be productive and get some things off my "list", but wasn't up to running around the house or to being out and about.  I decided I would get the laminator out and start working on 30 dozen chocolate chip cookies cut out of paper that I needed to laminate for a busy bag swap.   It was a tedious task.  It was mundane.  It just so happens that THOSE are the moments that God usually finds me the easiest.  He can reach my heart in those times because I've slowed down and focused on just one or two things instead of bouncing all over the place with my mind running in countless directions. 

As I began to fill pouch after pouch of cookies and send them through the machine, I noticed something.  I got a glimpse of our married life and it changed EVERYTHING I was feeling in those moments.  I even took the risk of asking Kevin to come in and listen to me tell him what God had made me realize.  It left me a bit vulnerable because I wasn't quite ready to let go of my hurt and anger at that moment.  I also didn't want him to laugh at me.  (Which for the record, he did NOT!  Though we both admitted to the strange ways God gets my attention.  It usually happens when I'm doing laundry, but this was the first it had happened so profoundly in front of a little gray machine with a heat dial!!!). 

Here is what I saw.  The laminating pouch was like two people.  For those of you that haven't used a pouch laminator, it is basically a piece of plastic that folds over on top of itself.  For simplicity, it opens like a card.  It has two sides when it is open.  I saw those two sides as two people.  Kevin and I.  Two separate people.  Two VERY different people with different needs, expectations, and ways of doing things. 

As I began to lay the cookies on the page, I thought about all of the stress and things that we were facing that had brought us to that moment of disagreement.  I saw the cookies as the burdens we were facing.  Each cookie I added was the different means of stress that were causing us to pull apart.  I saw them as all of the responsibilities we had and the things that were overwhelming each of us.  As I piled on the cookies, I thought of all of that was piling up on us. 

Marriage.  It's about two becoming one.  When hard times come, you have two options.  You can remember that on the day you married, you TRULY became one and make choices that allow you to stay connected as one.  Or, you can live separate lives and allow hard times to pull you apart more every day. 

After the one side of the pouch is loaded with what you are wanting to laminate, you simply just pull the opposite side over it and close it.  Those two separate pages are now one. 

However, they can easily come right back apart.  Give it a little shake and everything falls apart.  Rough up the pouch a little bit and they slip right open.  They are flimsy and easily torn or crumpled. They've not been sealed.  It takes the going through the heat to make that happen. 

I sent a pouch through the machine and showed him that when it came out, there was nothing I could do to make those pages come back apart.  They had literally melted into each other and there was no way to tell one side from the other.  No longer is there a top or bottom sheet.  It's all one. 

THAT is what a marriage based on Christ looks like.  That is what happens when two become one.  (As referenced at various times in scripture:  Mark 10:8, Ephesians 5:31, Matthew 19:5, 1 Corinthians 6:16, Genesis 2:24, etc...).  THAT is normally what our marriage looks like because we've worked HARD at getting it to that point.  However, in those previous hours we weren't quite living up to it. 

We had forgotten something very important.  There is something essential for a pouch laminator to work.  It needs the "carrier".  It needs the envelope/folder that you slip the pouch inside before you send it through the machine.  If you send the pouch alone into the heat, it will just melt.  It will just get stuck on the heat bar and melt and ruin the machine and the items you are trying to create. 

That is what was happening to us.  We were fighting each other instead of the enemy.  We had lost sight of what the real issue at hand was.  We hadn't put our pouch in the carrier for protection.  The carrier insulates from the heat and allows JUST the right amount of melting to take place.  It allows what needs to melt to melt and what needs to be protected, safe.  We had allowed our stress and being overwhelmed to not be put in the arms of God.  He is our protector.  He is what seals us together and protects us from the outside world that wants to pull us apart.  When we go through life's storms (and sometimes there are MANY and they are relentless!!!) with His arms around us, we come out together.  That is where we had failed and that is why we couldn't get back on the same page.  As soon as we put our relationship back under his protection we were immediately able to pass back under that heat bar and come out completely melted together and on the same page.  Yes, there are still issues to work through and the initial stressors aren't gone----but we are back to getting there together. 

When I shared with Kevin what I had realized by simply watching those pouches go through during those mindless hours, he immediately understood where I was going with it and what I was wanting to say.  Our hearts were immediately back on the same page.  He, being the very logical and intelligent man he is, was able to take it a step deeper.  He reminded me of two things I didn't see the first time.  One, for those two sides of the pouch two melt together it HAD to go under the heat.  Sometimes we HAVE to go through fire and testing.  Sometimes we HAVE to go through the struggles to truly find each other.  It is the heat that melts us together.  Two, he reminded me that the carrier has a few more purposes than just insulating and protecting.  It provides pressure.  It is what guides the individual pieces together and keeps them lined up as they pass through.  God is our compass.  He keeps us lined up.  When we take our eyes off of him, we lose our way.  It is NEVER intentional.  Life just happens at times in ways that is completely about dividing.  It's Satan's greatest tool.  We have to ALWAYS keep our eyes focused on God or we will immediately lose our way.  We have to be proactive!  Just a tiny slip out of the pouch and we get burned in a way that may not be able to be repaired, but tucked safely in and being guided keeps everything on track. 

Perhaps his last statement during those moments is what has stuck with me the most.  He reminded me that not only did the pouches need the heat to melt into one, it also need the pressure.  If the heat bar wasn't close enough, it wouldn't have provided enough heat.  The pressure put it close enough to the heat to do what it needed to do.  Pressure he reminded me is how diamonds are made.  The pressure I'm feeling right now and the pressure he is feeling right now from different issues is maybe necessary.  Maybe it is just the process of turning each of us into diamonds and turning our marriage into one as well.  Maybe.  Just maybe. 

Yep, I may find my greatest lessons while looking into the washing machine, while folding clothes, or even when looking at a tube of toothpaste.  Looks like this time, the lesson came in the form of one of the greatest tools to a homeschool mom......a laminator!  Speaking of, I need to get to bed so I can pull that tool out tomorrow and get some more laminating done.  Stacks of Bradlee's activities are waiting to be done before we start school on the 8th (if not sooner).  I bet when I use that machine tomorrow, I'll be looking at in a much different way.  I'll be reminded of how it helped to restore a marriage to it's extraordinary state!

Monday, August 22, 2011

200th Post

I kept thinking all day about what I wanted to write or do special for this post.  It's number 200!  That's about 195 more than I expected to write.  I decided I really didn't want to do anything specific. No bells and whistles. 

Though I NEVER dreamed I would still be here sharing at this point and I definitely had NO idea the impact it would have on my own life (much less anyone else!), God had a plan well before my fingers touched the keyboard that first time.  Though I don't know which direction I'm heading in the future or how God is going to use me, I know this:  I AM absolutely grateful.  At first it was just about writing for myself, to have an outlet to get the thoughts that were stuck in my head OUT!  Then it became about connecting with my husband because he was able to see exactly what I was thinking.  Though I may find it easy to write what I am thinking, I have not always been the greatest about vocally communicating as well.  OK---so I admit that is still a HUGE struggle! 

Though those things are still important, it has became so much more.  It has connected me to family and friends in a way I wasn't expecting.  It has also become a source of great friendships, ministry, and a place of accountability.  In a nutshell, I've found myself and my voice.  Though it has become more than I ever dreamed, I know the doors are just beginning to open and I can't wait to see where they lead!  I've had a few glimpses of how it has impacted others in ways I never dreamed and I pray that more of those opportunities open up with each day.  It's no longer about me.  It's my place to touch the hearts of others (especially woman) and let God use me.  Sometimes that scares me and makes me a wee bit very nervous.  Yet, I've committed myself to Him and committed my words to Him to be used in His way.  As long as I'm seeking Him first, I should have no fear and trepidation of where He is leading.  Bucking in.  Holding on tight.  Ready to go.  Ready for the next 200 and excited to see who I met along the journey!  Thanks for taking this journey with me!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cracks in the Armor

I've been thinking constantly about how to write *this* post for many days.  I want to write it because I've said all along I  believe in honesty and transparency.  Those were the requirements I had set for myself when I began blogging (1 post away from 200!---where has the time gone?).  However, I didn't want this post to come across as whining, complaining, or seem like I'm deep in depression.  So, I had kept putting it off.  I wasn't sure I could write the words and still get the meaning across.  I'm still not sure I will accomplish that, but I am absolutely still certain I'm meant to write it because each day the pulling of the Holy Spirit is stronger and stronger to do so.  This morning, I received just the right message of confirmation.

A few people had shared the same link on facebook and my father-in-law had posted it last.  I know that if he posts a video it must mean that he really likes it or that it has a significantly deep meaning to it.  Though I was still a bit groggy (had to take Tylenol PM late last night to manage some pain I'm dealing with at the moment), I clicked on the link.  I knew it would be emotional because the song was "I Can Only Imagine".  I've long been a fan of MercyMe and we got that CD the day it came out.  It became a song that meant so much to us as a family and then a few months later when Kevin's mother passed away, it became that MUCH more.  Adriana was adamant that it be played because she had already made such a connection to that song at age six.  She had a VERY wise soul, even when she was young. 

I watched the video this morning because I LOVE the song and I've always loved Wynnona.  I'm not much of a country music listener anymore, but she's always been one of my favorites.  Knowing she has had such a roller coaster life, I watched the video just to see how well she did with the song.  You can watch it here.

What I wasn't prepared for was the very emotional testimony she gave before she sang her version of the song with such pure emotion.  It was in her words that my heart found so much comfort.  When speaking of her roller coaster ride of life and her broken heartedness, she said her mother had told her this:

"Honey, let them see the brokenness.  Let them see the cracks in your armor.  That's how the light gets out."

She also talked about how there are times in our lives that we "know how to work, know how to get up in the morning.  But when the quiet stillness of the night comes you kind of sit there and go well, is this what it's all about." 

I admit that is where I have been so much lately.  I've been in that mode for quite awhile now.  I know how to get done each day what needs to get done to keep our family together and thriving, yet in those quiet times at night when the house is finally quiet and I can actually complete a thought process is when it is hard. 

Though I'm extremely open with my emotions when I blog, I admit that I REALLY hold back when things are going wrong or when I'm in those moments of doubt and struggle.  I don't want to come across as a "downer" so many times I just go silent.  That is what has happened on and off the last month or so.  I also don't want people to think I've slipped back into that depression that I fought so hard to come out of several years ago.  That's not it.  There is a HUGE difference between being emotionally overwhelmed and depressed. 

I constantly hear from people how they are amazed with how strong I am or how I've managed to keep going these last months, most especially from those that we've allowed to peak in at "everything".  What everyone else doesn't see is the rawness of emotions that I've been experiencing.  Granted, losing Dad has played a tremendous part in those emotions.  Yet, there is so much more.  My heart is very heavy and it seems to get more so every day. 

Between the different projects I'm working on and "ministry" opportunities lately, I've been exposed to such heavy burdens that people I care about are facing.  Family after family is being torn apart and stretched beyond belief as they are beginning to face cancer battles and medical battles.  Even a very dear family member has had such a scare.  Though hers was taken care of somewhat easily and her outcome is excellent, others we know are engaging in HUGE battles.  Battles that you can only understand when you've witnessed it first hand.  Though I can't discuss many of the very real battles going on right now, they are numerous and they are "heavy".  A dear friend of mine is being hit from every direction with heartache after just returning from a mission trip where she served God in very practical ways.  She then was hit with her own medical emergency that shook so many of us with deep worry.  We are facing some very uncertain times in our lives with some issues that I don't have permission to share out of privacy.  Many different ones.  More each day.  The weight is crushing.

It's just a very hard time right now.  I'm emotionally overwhelmed.  My armor is breaking and cracking.  I've done my best to hide it, but I've felt lately that I'm doing a disservice by doing so.  Hurt is REAL.  Loss hits deep and in ways we can't always imagine.  Abandonment and not measuring up creates scars that are hard to heal.  Marriages are crumbling every which direction I turn.  Those I love are turning their backs on the only real source of strength they know because they too have reached the point of hurt just taking too much out of them. 

I'm also overwhelmed as I am in the last days before I start school year number 10.  Some people say that is my own fault....just put the kids in "real" school and  I won't have that stress.  NOT HAPPENING.  God called me to this and I'm not going to back down when hit with a stressful time.  With Him, I am  capable of making another school year work and thrive.  It's just VERY overwhelming right now trying to balance everyone's needs and making countless decisions about how to proceed.  Once we get going and have some of the kinks worked out in regards to timing, that stress will reduce greatly. 

All in all, I'm just overwhelmed.  I'm in some very emotional times right now and I'm feeling daily breaks in that armor.  It's quite alarming to be honest.  I feel some of that strength that some of you talk about I have slipping.  It's terrifying. 

I'm confident that I will manage because I have no choice.  I will manage because I have a God that is stronger than any force coming against us. He is ahead of me fighting each and every battle.  I will manage because I have a support system that reaches in and picks me up when I'm at the point of not going on.  We all know people that say they care about you and we have those people that REALLY show it.  I'm thankful that God has blessed me with those that know how to show and reach me in places sometimes that I really didn't even know I needed. 

Though being in a place of armor cracking is uncomfortable, it's necessary.  It's necessary because this is where I'm finding where my strength ends and where God's begins.  That is the beautiful place.  It's the place where the sadness doesn't lead to depression.  It's where the sadness leads to healing.  It's the place where I have to surrender my will to His.  It's the place where I have to place my trust in everything He is leading us on and say I'm willing.  I'm willing to be the vessel with the cracked places.  It's those cracked places that bring me closer to Him.  It takes me out of my self and into His arms.  I'm not in my comfort zone right now and though it's very unnerving, it's also the best place to be.  I can't be molded into what He wants when I'm so "strong" and capable. 

Cracks in the armor may be painful.  Cracks in the armor may make us look less than perfect to the outside world.  Yet, to the one that matters most and the ones that know us and accept us unconditionally, they are beautiful.  It is in the cracks that light comes through.  It's where I'm finding who I really am, who I want to be and most importantly a step closer each day to the one I love the most.  I just might look a little frazzled these days, be a bit more emotional than normal, and might have the deer in the headlights look on my face.  It's OK.  Because I've learned when my strength ends, His begins.  Cracks in the armor just mean that I'm more willing to be fixed by the REAL potter and not a quick fix from whomever offers.  Though I may have puffy eyes these days and emotionally zapped, I do know where to turn!  I hope you have that same comfort when the storms of life shake you and put cracks in your armor! 

Just remember that we never really know what another person is facing.  They may exhibit incredible strength but be weighed down so heavily.  That person you encounter every day with the huge smile, may be breaking inside in ways we can't imagine.  I'm seeing that more every day with those I'm being blessed to minister with, especially through B90.  Just take the time to smile, pray and encourage.  We just truly never know how big of a difference it may make.  Their armor may be so cracked that it will break beyond repair if someone doesn't stop and show love.  We never know what happens to a person when we offer even the smallest gesture of hope.  I know it has meant so much to me when someone has done something "small" for me.  Even in very recent days, I received a card in the mail from a dear friend.   She will  never understand how much of a life-line that "simple" gesture was.  We never know what our heartfelt words can do for a person. 

Speaking of....I think I have a few cards of my own that need to be written.  I do believe I know what my next task today will be!  Not going to put if off any longer!  What about you?  Is there someone you need to encourage?  Don't delay!!!! 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Calculated Risk

Though it has been several days since we read through Esther in our B90 challenge, I keep finding myself thinking about her life.   Having studied that book thoroughly in college (Ruth, Esther, and Lamentations with Carolyn Baker who also wrote the Beginners Bible Tales of Virtue) and a great devotional in my devotional Bible, it really made me stop and think about what a truly amazing story Esther provides us. 

Perhaps a good label for Esther would be "Calculated Risk".  For Esther to save her people (the Jews) from Haman's plot, she literally risked everything.  Had her plan failed, she would have literally been at risking of losing her life.  She didn't just take a little risk.  By going before King Xerxes without being summoned by him could have literally been a death sentence. 

However, she didn't just take that risk without first preparing for it.  She planned and prayed for direction from God.  She asked her fellow Jews to fast and pray with her.  Though she had to step out in faith and risk everything, she didn't blindly do it.  She prepared her heart and she gathered support around her by asking others to join her in praying.  She also just didn't "run" right straight to her husband the king and tell him everything that was going on and demand that he fix it.  She knew her husband well enough to know that it would backfire.  Esther absolutely had courage.  She is one of the most courageous individuals in the Bible---man or woman.  However, we know from reading "her" book----courage is vital, yet it also requires planning at times.  We can't always just fly by the seat of our pants so to speak.  (Is that just a southern phrase?  I know I get laughed at many times for popping off some of them and half the time I don't know which are "normal" and which are my southern roots!)  I know I am OFTEN guilty of running in full speed ahead and not stopping to WAIT.  Even if what I'm trying to accomplish is God led, I end up letting it be Tracye led and end up falling on my face.  Sometimes it is excitement other times I'm just absolutely impatient and want to see His results NOW instead of waiting on His timing.  Oh boy---I have that problem often!  Good intentions?  Absolutely.  Not waiting for God to work out His details FIRST?  Often.  Result? Ending flat on my face.  OUCH!

We also have such a power waiting just around the corner when we call our fellow believers around us when we are in need.  Yet, sometimes out of pride or even embarrassment we keep it to ourselves.  There is so much power that we are failing to tap into by joining together with other believers by asking them to pray for us about certain situations.  It isn't a sign of weakness or that our faith is too weak when we ask.  It's actually a sign that we are TRULY wanting to be in God's will because we are passionate about wanting His direction and are willing to ask our friends to help us reach that goal. 

We  I can especially learn so much from Esther's willingness to risk everything.  Serving God many times involves risk.  If we want to TRULY serve God and be used in HIS way, it MANY times will take us out of our comfort zones.  His call on our lives may not be a direction that we are used to.  It may require us to step out of our own security zone and step out in faith with uncertain steps.  Yet, how many times do we deny doing what the Holy Spirit is asking of us because we aren't willing to take that risk.  We are willing to serve God until He really asks something of us.  Ouch.  I know I've been guilty many more times than once.

Another remarkable thing about Esther's story is that God had a specific plan for her WELL before she ever had a clue.  Her plan didn't begin the day that she heard Haman's plan to kill Mordecai and annihilate the Jews.  Everything up to that point in her life hadn't been a waste.  EVERY SINGLE step along the way was in someway preparing her for that very moment.  The months of preparation before she was presented to the king the very first time weren't coincidence.  Neither is the learning and growing times in our own lives.  No matter where we are right now, no matter what we are facing, it is important.  God is preparing our hearts in some small or big way to help us be prepared for whatever path we are on.  He had a plan for each of our lives before we were born.  Even the days that we feel like we don't "exist", matter.  When I am feeling like I don't matter or that I'm so insignificant, God knows better.  Each day spent doing the mundane tasks of taking care of repetitive but basic needs of my family that feels like it is just a waste are ANYTHING but important, is all a part of His plan.  What I don't necessarily see at that moment is what He is preparing me for.  My vision is also limited and unable to see exactly what is happening in the hearts and lives of my children and husband.   Though the results of each of our lives may not result in the saving of an entire nation, it absolutely does matter. 

In essence Esther was a nobody.  She was insignificant.  Yet because she was faithful and risked everything to follow what God had put in place many years before, she saved a nation.  She changed history.   She didn't have a clue.  Sometimes we don't have a clue why God has placed us in certain situations or why we are going through some battles.  Sometimes situations feel like they are going to rip us apart and we can't for the life of us figure out why God is asking us to walk along a certain path.  In those times, we just need to hold on the tightest.  He has a plan and it's for our good.  We just have to remain faithful no matter how painful.  One of the last deep conversations I had with my dad was during the weekend we spent with him before they began telling everyone  besides immediate family (being just my siblings and our families at that point) about the severity of his diagnosis.  My daughter and I had crawled up in the bed between him and my stepmother and we were talking about what all of "this" meant.  Many important and very special words were exchanged during those minutes.  One such statement was him telling Adriana that He didn't began to understand why God was asking him to walk down that path and what He was wanting to accomplish.  Yet what he said will forever be seared in my mind.  "Who am I to deny what God wants?  This is what He is asking and this is what I am giving.  We each just have to trust Him in that, no matter the cost."    He had a big ole dose of  Esther's determination and courage. 

I hope I can learn to exhibit those same qualities every time God is asking something of me that I don't understand, that I think is too costly, or when I'm having to wait longer than I want for something I'm needing from Him.  I hope I learn to approach life with an attitude of "calculated risk".  Doing what God asks, but doing it in a spirit of waiting to see how and when He wants me to do it.  Not doing something by operating in my own power or jumping into quickly without waiting to hear ALL of the directions first.  Remaining faithful when I can't see the big picture.  Holding onto hope when I don't feel like I'm accomplishing anything while I'm stuck in a rut of just taking care of my family.   Every single thing matters.  No matter how big or small it feels.  No matter how little or big the sacrifice.  He uses all of it.  I just can't always see it in my limited vision.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Bit of Encouragement for Discouraged Moms

I can check another book off of my reading list.  I received the newest Duggar book "A Love That Multiplies" yesterday afternoon and I ended up reading it through the night until it was finished.  I enjoyed it THAT much.   It was a GREAT comfort to read while I was waiting to hear about the condition of a precious friend that had been taken to the ER late in the night.  By 3 AM, I had finished the book and had heard that she was in a much more stable condition.

Though many don't agree with the large number of children that Michelle & Jim Bob Duggar have or think they are too ultra-conservative, I like them.  Though I admit to not agreeing 100% with their views, I can't deny that you are hard pressed to find a more loving, more God-centered family in today's society.  I had ordered the book mostly because I wanted to read more about how she structures her day and how she instills such a strong faith in her children.  Truth be told:  I also wanted to know how on earth she can have such a sweet disposition with that many children.  My goodness!  She always seems to answer with such praise and a soft voice. 

I'm not quite that way, yet I long to be more so!  Just last night, I reached my limit over some issues and ran away.  LITERALLY!  I dropped what I was in the middle of doing (cooking dinner) and literally put my shoes on, grabbed my keys and purse and walked out the door.  It was one of "those" days that I just couldn't handle another single second without exploding and causing damage to my children's or husband's emotions.  Nothing really was THE thing that pushed me over the edge.  It was just one of those days.  I think many of you moms (especially stay at home and homeschool moms) understand.  No matter how much we value and love our family, cherish them and devote EVERYTHING.....we just reach the limit.  In that moment, I had two choices: say or do something that would be hard to erase or just walk away and cool down.  I chose the later.  Maybe it wasn't the right way to handle my frustration or maybe it was. 

Last night as I read her book, so many things popped out about the way I want to raise our family.  LOTS of practical tips.  Here is the thing:  NONE of them were quick answers.  Every tactic she offers requires commitment and consistency.  An excellent book.  Looking for ways to really make scripture come alive and be fun?  It's in the book.  Want to have that "soft" voice she is famous for? It's in the book.  Need homeschooling advice on structure?  It's in the book.  Want ways to commit to debt free living in practical situations?  It's in the book.  Want to know how to raise children with manners and mission-mindedness? It's in the book. 

I was really surprised to find out that her house wasn't spotless.  I had that misconception from the years we watched the show (this is one show we miss from no longer having regular or cable TV).  She tried that for so long and finally gave up.  She made this statement and I am finding such freedom in it.   "If you're coming to see US, come anytime.  If you're coming to see the HOUSE, please give us two week's notice."  I'm struggling with finding that balance.  I'm a perfectionist and have trouble feeling comfortable when ours is in less than 100% company ready shape.  I'm not winning as much at that battle as I need and I'm learning more daily about finding the balance between perfection and acceptance. 

Though they have more children than I can dream of having, I identify with their family.  I love what they stand for.  I love her heart as a mother.  I love the way their children are independent, well mannered, intelligent and using their God-given talents.  They are EACH uniquely different.  Despite the fact that they may seem old-fashioned, they are on the right track in my opinion.   Critics say they've never had to struggle with real life and heartache.  Read the book.  You'll find that is absolutely not the truth. 

Perhaps the biggest encouragement I found in the entire book is the main point I wanted to share.  It's a poem that touched me so deeply.  It's very easy to get discouraged and overwhelmed when your "just" a stay at home mother.  I won't get into all of that.  Anyone that knows me or reads my blog very often, knows where my heart is on that issue.  Even though I believe it is without a doubt a ministry and calling, it IS discouraging.  Some people can quickly harm you with their words.  Even family---the ones that you feel like should be the last to hurt you.  Satan is the author of lies and when we aren't careful our hearts can begin to listen.  For those of you that are feeling some of that same discouragement, let me leave you with this beautiful poem that Michelle shared by Roy Lessin.  Though I have several plagues in our home that display  his words, I had never heard this one.  It touched me so deeply.  Hope it encourages your heart as well.


A woman fretted over the usefulness of her life.
She feared she was wasting her potential being a devoted wife and mother.
She wondered if the time and energy she invested in her husband and children would make a difference.
At times she got discouraged because so much of what she did seemed to go unnoticed and unappreciated.
"Is it worth it?" she often wondered. "Is there something better that I could be doing with my time?"
It was during one of these moments of questioning she heard the still, small voice of her Heavenly Father speak to her heart.
"You are a wife and mother because that is what I called you to be.
Much of what you do is hidden from the public eye, but I notice.
Most of what you give is done without remuneration.
Your husband cannot be the man I have called him to be without your support. 
Your influence upon him is greater than you think and more powerful than you will ever know.
I bless him through your service and honor him through your love.
Your children are precious to me.
Even more precious than they are to you.
I have entrusted them to your care to raise for Me.
What you invest in them is an offering to Me.
You may never be in the public spotlight, but your obedience shines as a bright light for Me.
Continue on.  Remember you are my servant.
Do all to please me."

Absolutely changes everything when you read that.  Doubts fade away.   That overwhelming exhaustion finds a boost of energy.  Uncertainty finds stability.  Lack of focus suddenly finds perspective and priorities.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Making Media Choices

I admit upfront that this post is going to offend some people.  I realize it's going to rub some others the wrong way. Others are going to brush it off as "who is she" to tell me this.  That's OK.  I'm still going to speak the truth. 

However, please know that I'm speaking truth in love.  I'm not being judgmental.  I'm not looking down on ones that are making poor choices.  I just want you to pause and think.  Think about the issue at hand.  Let it work its way into the deepest hidden parts of your heart and let it sit.  When it sits in that quiet place, the place that the Holy Spirit can reach you the most....what happens?  Do you feel at peace or do you feel twinges of guilt?  That is where only you can decide if the issue at hand is something that is telling you to make changes.  I can't make that choice for you.  That is truly between you and God.  It's not up to me to decide.

The issue?  Media.  Specifically TV choices and movie choices. 

Our family often feels VERY lonely in our strictness in deciding what is appropriate for us to watch as a family and what is appropriate for Kevin and I as adults to watch. 

Forget going by the ratings the government has set.  Have you ever stopped to look at what is in a PG-13 movie?  Did you know that a PG movie can now contain profanity, violence and brief nudity.  If those things are allowed in a PG movie, have you REALLY stopped to look at the themes presented in a PG-13 movie?  Yet, knowing many parents are regularly letting their teenagers watch such movies without giving it a second thought? Even more alarming is the number of parents that will take a MUCH younger child to a movie that the "world" says should not be watched before the age of 13.  How many parents are really stopping to think about what they are doing?

This MOM is.  Does that mean that we never allow our 14 year old daughter to watch a PG-13 movie.  No.  There are definite times that we've allowed it.  It is NEVER without  researching the movie first and it always includes checking out the reviews at Plugged In

Just today, I looked up about a dozen very popular, current PG-13 movies.  The average amount of inappropriate words in them is over 30! 

What  about sexuality?  Is there any wonder that marriages are crumbling before they get a chance to start?  Thanks to the media and OUR ACCEPTANCE of this as "normal" by our sitting down and watching TV shows and movies that show complete disregard to the sanctity of marriage and the gift of sex as being for man and wife.  We as a culture have allowed such images to flood our brains so much that we are desensitized to what we are really watching.  Nudity is normal.  Sexual innuendos are no longer innuendos...they are just there for the eyes to see and ears to hear.  A very popular movie that is currently being talked about as "so good" amongst young teens, happens to have this quote to describe the sexuality presented. 

"If sexual entendres and jokes were melons, this film could keep a herd of hippopotami well fed for a month." I will refrain from going into specifics, but we will just say that the movie leaves little to the imagination.  Every aspect of sexuality is twisted, distorted, and joked about. 

The point is this:  have you become desensitized to what your children are watching.  What about YOU?  Do you REALLY see what is on the TV or movie screen.  Do your ears no longer perk up when God's name is taken in vain?  Can a "mild" curse word be said and you not even hear it anymore?  Even the harsher words are becoming so "normal" that eyebrows aren't even raised. 

Yet, as a society we hand $20 our kids and let them walk in and be exposed to it.  As adults, we flip on a TV show and don't give it second thought. 

I know how it is.  We made the decision to do away with regular and cable TV in our homes because WE were falling into the world's trap.  It is unbelievable how much more at peace we are in our home by getting rid of that garbage.  We still watch some things but they are carefully screened and generally only come through Netflix streaming.  We specifically choose each show that comes into our home.  Gone are the days of just flipping on the TV and watching whatever is popular and is playing on network TV.   Some days it may only be Andy Griffith or Cosby Show that make the cut.  Some days we are able to find other things as well. 

Though this may step on toes, I say it with love.  I can say it with love because I HAVE been there.  Take some of the most current popular shows.  Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, Bachelor/Bachelorette, Big Brother, etc...  I don't even know what the latest shows are anymore except for how they are talked about so often on facebook.  I admit I used to set the clock by when many of them came on.  My DVR recorded hours and hours of similar programming that we would watch at night.   However, God did a HUGE work in our hearts and made us REALLY stop and see what we were watching.  He made us take a deep look at where our lines of black and white had turned to gray and truth is, I was ashamed and appalled.  As a Christian, as a mom, and as someone that is seeking to be used by God----I was throwing my ministry out the door by filling my mind with GARBAGE.  That's right---it is GARBAGE! 

Take a minute to look at the shows.  They promote homosexuality.  They take sexuality and turn it into a game.  God given sexuality is anything but a game----it's a treasure and a joy.  Romance is distorted.  Finding a mate is a game where if you are lucky enough to make the final cut---you are given the key to the fantasy suite.  Yes, that's are "lucky" enough to get to test drive your relationship with the bachelor/bachelorette.  However, the next night someone else is in that same position.  Other shows are about lying and cheating to get ahead.  We watch with our eyes glued to the screen as alliances are made and broken all for the benefit of "winning".

Here is the TRUTH.  Many think those things are harmless.  WE aren't acting like that.  WE know better than to behave in such ways.  "It's just a movie."  "It's just a mindless TV show."  It isn't.  When we sit and watch something either as individuals, as a couple, or as a family we are in effect saying "We agree".  When we turn it off, we are saying it isn't for us or we need to spend our time a different way. 

A good rule of thumb when watching a show or movie (aside from checking reviews online) is to ask this question.  Is what I'm watching in line with what I want my life to show?  Is this show uplifting?  Is this show bringing glory to God and His values?  Is it biblical?  Is what is happening on the screen a way I want to act or is it a way I want my children to act when they are older?  Unfortunately, 99% of the time the answer is going to be no if we are honest with ourselves.  Take away every justification of "it's just pretend" or "it really doesn't matter".  Strip away every excuse.  Take off the gray glasses and look only at the black and white.  It doesn't take long to start feeling those twinges of "maybe this isn't right for us".  It doesn't take long for the Holy Spirit to lead in different directions. 

Just take a few minutes and REALLY look at the choices you are making in regards to what you are watching.  What does it promote?  Does it promote Christian and family values?  TV and movies are no longer just about entertainment.  It is about making a decision.  Are you with the world or are you walking against what the world says is normal?  It's hard.  It's very hard at times.  Yet, the rewards are immeasurable.  We may go weeks or months at a time between being able to watch a current movie that meets the standards we are choosing to follow.  It does feel lonely at times because so few of us are TRULY standing up for NEW standards.  Yet, we will never turn back.  Doing what is right may not always be the easy path, but it is worth it.  

Most importantly, if we want to teach our children to make good choices as they get older they MUST witness us making them at home.  If we want our children to move beyond having faith JUST because we have faith, we need to give them opportunities to see us stepping out in faith and making decisions that don't conflict with what we say.  Walk the walk, don't just talk the talk.  Nothing we do should compromise our faith.  YES, that is VERY hard to uphold.  It's a goal I fail at on daily basis, even minute to minute.  Yet, God knows the direction of my heart.  He sees when I'm attempting to walk in His ways even if I stumble.  He also sees when I'm willfully submitting myself to things that are against His word.

I admit I "sat" in that disobedience for too long.  I didn't immediately turn off the TV even though for months I knew what I was watching wasn't pleasing.  I justified.  I became desensitized.  Yet, now....I could never go back. 

I hope that just one single person reading this post stops and thinks.  One person can then lead another person to redefining what is appropriate for their family.  Let's start a positive trend.  A trend that brings families back to the REAL basics.  The real truth.  To what REALLY matters.  Forget what the world say is normal. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Year Ago...

It's amazing the difference a year makes.  Good changes.  Heart break.  All rolled into one!

A year ago today, Kevin and I returned from our first trip away from the kids.  We took a weekend trip to Gatlinburg to celebrate our 15th anniversary a bit early.  It was WELL overdue.  It was an amazing time for us to reconnect and focus on US.  It also paved the way for us to put our marriage back FIRST and began us taking regular dates.  For the first 13 years of being parents, we didn't have that opportunity.  Now, we do our best to do something "simple" on a weekly basis.  It may not be grand dates by any means, but our time together is PRICELESS.  The rewards have been immeasurable. 

A year ago today, we topped off our weekend trip by having a large family cook-out.  It was an amazing time together.  The kids had spent the week with my dad and Teresa.  They made incredible memories together.  Since we live so far away from family, those times are TREASURED.  Since Dad had officially retired, he was able to spend so much time doing things with the boys.  The loved every second of it. 

Little did we know.....

Little did we know that sitting here a year later he would not be with us.  We had no idea how big of a hole our lives were going to have.  We didn't know that when we all gathered around eating, laughing, swimming, and treasuring family that it wouldn't happen that way again.  The "Grill Master" was in fine form that night!  It was an absolute treasure.  Such a bittersweet memory!

Little did we know that a year later we would be on such a roller-coaster.  Walking the walk of faith that we always "talked".  Leaning on God for strength when we don't have enough.   Though the roller-coaster is far from over and some recent days have been harder than ever, I am making it.  God is still God and God is STILL GOOD!  New focus.  New priorities.  Empty places---absolutely!  Yet, growing and changing every day.  It's a refining process for sure.

A look in pictures of a year ago.  What priceless memories!

Grandpa was working in the garden on his tractor and discovered a family of rabbits.  He brought them over to the boys to hold.  Now when we see rabbits in our own backyard (which is daily even though we are in the "city"), they think Grandpa is watching over them!

What an amazing time reconnecting!

The "Grill Master" working his MAGIC!
Checking out Grandpa's PRIDE & JOY!

Never a shortage of pool fun...
Never a shortage of food and friends...
Never a shortage of cousins/playmates...
Never a shortage of love....
Never a shortage of laughter...
(Notice Dad in the corner eyeballing the Key Lime Cake! )
And well...just never a shortage of cuteness!  :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Photographs of the Heart

Believe it or not, I have a post to write that I can't find the words for.   So, I just leave you with pictures of the heart.  Can't even begin to write the words to go with them. 

For those of you that have followed along with my blog for any amount of time or on facebook, you know that I spent a large part of spring and early summer focusing on a project.  The project was to "help" others.  Yet, the person that was changed was me. 

I'm so grateful for Jenn and Mark for providing these priceless pictures for me.  Words can't begin to describe what I was feeling looking at them.  Can't begin to describe what it does for my heart and what it means for our future.  God hasn't revealed that yet, but I know one thing....we are moved.  Jenn and Mark talk about how they will never be the same and I BELIEVE that.  However, the ripple of changing hearts doesn't just end with those that made the trip.  It's affecting others as well.  Plans for a return trip are in the future and I know for certain that I absolutely plan to be on that plane!  Unless God provides a way for it sooner!  :)

(You can read about why I started this project here, but for now I leave you with these pictures). 

 Jenn tying the ribbons on one of my dresses.  I ended up sending 82. Something about this picture just stirs me in such a way I've never experienced. 
 a sampling of the dresses and shorts
(Karen, the first little girl in the front row is wearing a dress that used your mom's lace.  The tallest girl in the 2nd row is wearing the dress that we called our favorite (out of the non-sentimental materials) and I LOVE her expression!)
Royal Seed Home
Accra, Ghana West Africa
(table shows the dresses and shorts that were donated, something like 220 dresses and 160 shorts for the boys)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Parallel Living or Intertwined?

Post 3 of the day.  Trying to catch up.  :)

Let's talk about marriage.  Most of you know it's a topic I'm passionate about.  I'm sick of hearing story after story of marriages falling apart and the enemy winning.  Marriage is one of God's greatest blessings IF we work hard at making it a priority. 

One of the biggest battles in marriage is parallel living.  He is focused on his roles.  She is focused on her roles.  He becomes provider.  She becomes mother (this is ESPECIALLY true for moms of young children and stay at home moms).  I'm not even talking about time spent apart enjoying your own hobbies.  I'm just talking about daily living.  

Especially in regards to stay at home moms and homeschool families, it is VERY EASY to slip into the role of mother and teacher and forget that you are wife FIRST.  It's extremely hard to balance the needs of everyone.  There never seems to be enough hours in a day to get everything done!  Even moms that work outside the home battle this same issue.  They spent their days focused on being an employee, come home and try to give their children full attention, work on homework, prepare dinner, etc...  It's EXTREMELY easy to fall into a rhythm that puts EVERYTHING ahead of the marriage. 

Even though husband and wife might be on the same page and working towards the same goals, they are running parallel.  We end up going along in our daily lives so much that we lose sight of what is REALLY going on in the life of the one that should matter the most to us.  We lose sight of the "heart".  It happens gradually.  How many couples have you heard of the end up getting divorced after their kids are grown because they just really didn't know their spouse anymore?  Strangers living together. 

We are designed by God to have different roles in life.  There are some things that I am best at and there are many things that Kevin is better at.  It's partly gender roles and it's partly the gifts and talents God has given us.  While we are designed to have different roles, we have to purposely intersect our lines so that they we don't continue to go in opposite directions as we focus on those roles.  PURPOSELY.  It just doesn't happen.

The opposite of parallel living is being intertwined.  I've always said that without Christ as the center of a marriage, it's impossible.  You can NOT convince me that a marriage lacking Christ as the center is a happy, fulfilled marriage.  Even if you think it is, you just really don't realize what you are missing.  God designed marriage to be "three strands".

Ecclesiastes 4:12 describes that concept.  "A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken."

Alone, I can easily break.  Alone, Kevin can easily break.  Together we are strong enough to withstand many things, but not all.  Our third strand, Christ, binds us together in a way that just can't be broken. 

For marriages to succeed, we  have to move from parallel living to that of an intertwined three stranded cord.  The closer we individually come to Christ, the closer we come as a couple.  The stronger we are together. 

It takes purposefully connecting with each other.  It means stopping and focusing fully on the other person.  It means letting your children know that though your love for them is immeasurable, your relationship with your spouse is top priority.  THAT isn't always easy, but it is necessary.  It means being intimately connected---both physically and spiritually.  No way around it.

Don't settle for parallel.  It's a slow fade.

Good! She's Asleep!

I'm getting somewhat nervous because God has laid a STACK of blog posts on my heart in the last couple of days.  Not nervous about the topics, but nervous about getting them done while they are so fresh on my heart and being an open vessel to be used HIS way.  When He changed my attitude and direction about my blog as a ministry, I thought maybe He would let me "ease" into it.  Guess not!  :)

Here we go.  Hang on tight, Tracye!

I have this problem.  It plagues me.  I know I'm not the only one that deals with it because I've had part of this conversation with so many people.  Here is the problem: turning something over to God and letting it GO!  Placing 100% faith in Him to handle the situation.  Believing and trusting in Him no matter how difficult.  Believing in Him even when situations aren't turning out just as we think they should.

Instead, I'm more like this.  Here, God.  Take it.  I can't handle this anymore.  I am trusting you to work out all the details.  YOU are in control.  I surrender to you.

Sounds great doesn't it?  But here is the rest of the story.  Less than five minutes later, days later, or when the "trusting" gets tough it may sound something like this:  OH, not THAT!  You want me to do WHAT?  I said yes, but maybe I meant it only partially.  Here, let me just take that back from you.  I probably know more of what I need and I want things to work my way. 

Or, what about this scenario?  Here, you take it.  No, wait give it back.  Oh, here God I can't handle it.  Yet I take it back. 

Sound familiar?

Today, I read something remarkable that REALLY put that into perspective.  It touched me deep and I want to share it with you. 

Picture this.  You wake up early and you don't stop running the entire day.  You are constantly wiping noses, breaking up arguments, cleaning up spills, picking up toys that you know you picked up five minutes ago, you're carpooling so much you don't know whether you are coming or going.  You can't find the time or privacy to spend three minutes alone in the bathroom without someone knocking on the door with an "emergency".  They are bickering again.  Someone let the dog out.  One child needs help with algebra, one child needs help with sentence diagramming, and the other child is begging for attention at the same time.  Wait....did I feed them lunch?  One child is so upset because he can't find that ONE car in the box of 100.  You step on another Lego.  Mommy, my tummy hurts.  Husband walks in the door and deserves your full attention that you so desire to give him.  Oh wait, is that the oven timer going off or is that the washing machine timer? 

You get the picture. 

There is this magic time that finally happens.  For some (how blessed you are!) it may be 8.  For others, it may be 10.  Whenever it is or however it happens, they go to sleep!  For those first few seconds there is probably an audible sound of relief that comes out of your mouth.  (BEFORE you start thinking about the other things you need to do, before you start preparing for the next day, and before the youngest comes back down because he had a bad dream or before one of the others comes down for a drink!!!)  It's that sublime moment you realize they are all asleep.  It's magical.  The day has ended and they've drifted off into sweet slumber.

God also has that moment with us!  When we've given something our very best, it's important to LEAVE it in the hands of God.  We have to learn to stop taking it back. 

Here is the beauty:

"God is as glad to have you go to bed at night as you are to have your children fall asleep.  He says the same thing about you that you say about your children!  Good!  She's asleep.  Now I can FINALLY get something done!"

WE I need to learn to truly leave things in His hands.  He is WELL beyond capable of handing each and every thing that I can't.  He usually is just waiting for me to give Him that full surrender.  So many times I look back and see that if I had only given Him that surrender earlier, the details would have worked out sooner.  I cause myself senseless worry and heartache.  He just needs me to LEAVE it to Him!

"Now, peace. Be still.  God is on the night watch!"