Monday, October 27, 2014

On the Sidelines

I've always been an introvert. 
I've always been HIGHLY observant. 
I thrive just sitting back and soaking in what's around me. 

I sometimes get more joy just watching than actually participating in many activities. 

I  kept thinking about how true that was this weekend.  We spent the weekend away as a family celebrating my husband's 50th birthday.  We have decided that as much as possible, physical gifts aren't on our "list" and that we'd rather make memories instead of collecting more "stuff".  With that in mind, I planned a trip that I knew would create lots of opportunities to make memories with him and as a family.  The weekend was CRAM packed full of fun adventure that was definitely *their* thing---the craziest water slides, go carts, lazer tag, trying to ride the biggest wave in the wave pool, mini golf, ropes courses, bumper boats, arcades, and MORE and MORE water slides.  Though few things on that list were *my* kind of thing---I completely enjoyed nearly every second of our trip.  Not once did I want to hold them back from their adventures, even if it wasn't *my* thing.  Kev kept almost apologizing every time he and one of the kids would run off for "just one more" turn on a thrill ride.  I kept telling him to go that I was TRULY ok waiting and watching. 

I really was.

I was in MY element.  People watching, observing, and soaking in each of my family members thoroughly unwinding and having fun. 

I didn't feel on the sideline or pushed aside.  If it was something I wanted to do with them, I did...and if I didn't, I loved watching them.

That's me.

I THRIVE on watching and observing. 

I love to people watch and I love to soak in the details of everything around me. 

I've recently learned that many of my *quirks* and things that make me---me.....are actually not just personality traits but are also part of my actual intellectual make-up.  I've known for many years that I don't read normally.  I love reading with a passion, that's an absolute.  However, the actual reading process is different in my brain.  It's not normal to read a full size novel in an hour or two.  It wasn't until college that it was actually pointed out that my brain was seeing and processing an entire line of print (or at the least a half line if the font is smaller), where most people see one word.  I'm not speed reading or reading so fast that I don't comprehend.  In "my" head, I'm just reading at a normal pace, it just happens to be a line at a time.  That's also a large part of the reason that reading out loud always freaked me out---I always tripped over my words making it seem as if I wasn't reading well.  In reality, my brain had already seen and "read" much more than my voice could spit out.  It's why I was able to learn to easily type at such a high speed, I can see the whole line of what's needing to be typed and hold it in "memory" without looking back down. It's also why I LOATHE being read to---if I'm handed a document or an outline of some type, it gets completely under my skin to have it read back to me because in actuality, within a few seconds, I've read it.  It's why my husband and I can't read the same book side by side.  When we are doing couple's studies, we have to read at different times and discuss it together later because I go insane if we try to do it elbow to elbow.  It isn't that he's a slow reader.  He's normal.  I'm not.  (Hey, Sweets,  you can forget I just said that.  I don't want that to come back to haunt me in a future conversation. HA!!!!)

I'm also VERY observant.  I remember details and see details that people might miss.  I LOVE logic games and "smart games" as my son calls them.  I've always found myself easily overwhelmed in large crowds and in new environments.  For hours after the fact, and even days and months, I will remember things about a situation that most people wouldn't have even noticed to begin with.

My husband has always said that this is actually a gift.  It's what makes me so intuitive and it's where a great level of my empathy comes from.  I'm known for guessing when a friend is pregnant, well before they've announced it just because I notice the little things.  I'm one of those that sees beyond the smile that someone might be giving and know there's something else going on because of body language, tone of voice, or just the little intricacies.  All of this "noticing" didn't just come from being taught in social work and psychology classes in college to look for details and red flags, it's just who I am. 

It's me. 

As if I'm not already being vulnerable and transparent as it is, I'm going to go even deeper because I am going somewhere with this train of thought.

Sometimes this *me* can get hurt VERY easily and the hurt feels DEEPER than it should.  Because I see and feel so much more, it's harder to shut out.  My brain really does run with many more tabs open than the average.  Because I see below the surface so many times, I DO overthink.  Because I notice so many details, I do tend to struggle with perfectionism.  I do try to control too many variables and have struggled for many years with just "letting go".  I do get easily aggravated on the inside (even if I wouldn't dare show it on the outside) when people think they are "pulling a fast one"---because I do remember details.  I do unintentionally keep records in my head.  This often gets overwhelming in our world of social media. It's one of those things that causes me to get so aggravated when someone says one thing and does another. 

These *quirks* have often kept me from participating in multiple things.  For so long, I really thought that I must be the introvert of all introverts. 

But then....

I read something recently that described me as if there was a person inside my head taking notes.  Notes of thoughts I didn't dare voice.  Even thoughts I wouldn't even write, even just in a journal for only me to see.

I learned these things that make me---me.....aren't so strange after all.  It may be rare.  It may be awkward.  It may be difficult to navigate at times.

But not strange...

It's actually part of something considered normal---in an abnormal way.

It goes back to my reading.  Not that I have insatiable desire to read, but in HOW I read.  The way I see the words on the page.  The way I see the world. 

It's all about sensory and how the brain is processing all aspects of everything that enters in.

It's me.

The study I was reading even included something I've said OFTEN----I may sing a song in worship countless times, but it will feel like an entirely new song when I see it on the screen with words.  It suddenly has REAL meaning---just because I have read those words and my brain has processed it in such a way that it finally clicks.

It described my way of thinking so perfectly.  Even down to how I process a new situation, even going into a new store.  Even describing many of my fears, idiosyncrasies and quirks, PERECTLY.

It's me.

Everything on this study was like a breath of fresh air entering my heart because I realized that though I may not be normal, I am normal.  :)

Here's my REAL vulnerability showing through----for so long I thought there was something "wrong" with how I think and feel.  A family member not so kindly once pointed out (ok---more than once) that I was just a social phobia freak.  She jokingly said those words----honestly joking---but it stuck with me and hurt.  Because I do feel different and I do process things around me differently, I thought it was a curse.  I thought something was WRONG with me.  My husband has always graciously told me it's something he loves about me because I do always notice the details and those details allow me to see when something isn't right, when someone is hurting and it gives me a level of empathy that many people overlook.  It also allows me to multitask and accomplish things more quickly (but can also be a trap of doing too many things at once and not seeing the PERSON in front of me!).

BUT...

Finally seeing there is something that explains the me that makes me--me.....was absolutely FREEING like I can't describe. 

But here is where I'm going with this.....

FINALLY.....

How often do we sell someone short because we think they are different?  How many times do we sell OURSELVES short? How many times do we sell GOD short?

Yep....

That's where I'm going.

"No, God----I can't do that. Surely, you aren't calling me to THAT.  That's out of my comfort zone."

Or...

"God, are you sure you want HER to do that task? Don't you know that she's .........fill in the blank with that or the other..........? "

We judge.  WE really do.

We say we don't because that's not how we are supposed to act, but in reality we do.

We look at the outside and make assumptions about people.  We can see what a person is incapable of doing, but fail to see what they are capable of doing.  We can get caught up in our limitations and not see our capabilities.  We can see our weaknesses and not see our strengths.  We can see our strengths and not see our weaknesses. 

God knows us best.  God knows FAR BEYOND our limited vision what we can do if given the chance or if we would just step forward in faith. 

What if we would just offer hope to one person?  What if we just rallied behind one person and helped them develop their strengths, encourage them through hard times in ACTION (not just after the fact by saying....oh....I was praying for you or thinking of you), or walked beside someone that we know is struggling and help them carry the load on their shoulders?

What if....

What if, today we decided the things that make us different from the person sitting next to us might not be a curse or something wrong with us----that it might actually be a gift.  What if took that difference and found a way to use it for a positive?

What if we walked with ours back straight and heads held high and truly embraced those things that make us different?

What if....

What if we asked God to allow us to see through HIS eyes.

HIS eyes that see what others can't see or refuse to see.
HIS eyes that see our differences is what makes us capable of accomplishing more than we can conceive.
HIS eyes that can see below the surface and can reveal a need.
HIS eyes that can see our value when we are blinded to it.
HIS eyes that can see the direction He wants us to go because He has a purpose and a plan.

What if we JUST kept our eyes on Him?

What if? 

Quickly: back to this weekend. 

It was in my observant, people watching comfort zone that I noticed.  I noticed the broken.  I found the moments to just offer a little bit of a helping hand to the struggling mom.  I saw through the fa├žade of the smile and saw the hurting woman whose husband would look at every woman walking by, except look at her.  I saw the parents that kept buying and buying for their children, but all the child wanted was the attention of the parent. I saw the ones that kept refilling and refilling their cocktail hoping to find what they were searching for in the bottom of the glass.  I saw the little child that slipped away from his distracted parents (easy to do in such an environment) and watched every move he made from upstairs while waiting for a staff member to put in place protocols to reunite parent and child. 

Perhaps, it was most profound for me in my watching stage to see things that I often miss in the rush.  I saw just what a true gift it was to have a happy, healthy, intact family THRIVING.  I saw what a gift it was to have a husband that I TRULY enjoy being around.  Not just two individuals coexisting---but ones that cherish togetherness.  I saw my youngest tackle fears one by one, even if he didn't tackle as many as his older siblings wanted him to.  I saw how much my children had grown physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I saw areas that are still greatly lacking and need chances to mature or to change.  I saw my own issues---places I'm thriving, ones I'm failing in, and ones that I just need to surrender to Him. I saw their joy.  I saw their adventure.  I saw memories in the making.  I saw countless moments to treasure.

Sometimes it's wonderful to jump in and be active.  Life IS about living.

But there's something also very special....

about just sitting back and watching.
Learning.
Observing.
Looking.

And.....waiting.



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Who are Your Aaron and Hur?

The Bible story in Exodus of Moses, Aaron, and Hur came alive to me during Dad's illness and death.  I blogged before about how some friends had gathered around me and became like Aaron and Hur in my life during that time period and also how in Dad's final moments he had his hands stretched towards heaven and needed our physical help to keep them there.  THOSE were some of the most priceless moments in my memory.  Even in the darkest moments, the ones that ripped my heart wide open in ways that I didn't know were possible, I saw the glory of God.  His Word came alive more powerful than I even knew possible, even through the most painful moments. 

Recently, I've been experiencing those same type of Aaron and Hur moments in life again, just in a different situation on a different level.  Still VERY powerful and heart changing.

When Moses held his hands up, Israel would be winning the battle.  When his hands came down, the Amalekites would begin to defeat them.

I'm feeling that same struggle. 

When my hands are up and my eyes are fully focused on Him, I feel like we are winning.  We are victorious.  We can handle anything.

But then...

My arms are tired.  I lose focus.  My arms drop.

Defeat sets in.

Everything starts to crash down and I feel like I don't have the strength to put my hands back up to win the battle.

Moses got tired.  His arms couldn't remain in the air.  Without that strength, defeat was around the corner.

Enter in Aaron and Hur. 

They held Moses' arms up when he could no longer do it.

In Chapter 17, it says the put a stone under Moses so he could sit and on either side of him they stood.  Each holding one arm in the air so that the victory could be won--and Moses' hands remained steady until sunset and the victory was official.  He couldn't do it on his own.  They provided what was needed.

I have been feeling that in my own life.

I've been physically battling many things in recent weeks and months.  The incredible gains I've felt physically have been slipping away and daily there has been a return to struggling with the basic things.  Plain and simple, I'm just tired.  Overwhelmed.  Somewhat defeated on many days.

Along with the physical, I'm also honest enough to admit that emotionally it's been a struggle as well.  For no apparent reason, I've been experiencing anxiety attacks and teetering on and off with depression. It's been many years since anxiety attacks have had a grip on me.  However, I'm still happy and full of joy.  So though it's been a struggle, I've not fallen into that pit of feeling defeated and hopeless.  It instead feels like just a time of waiting to see where God is leading, what I'm needing to learn, and a time of seeking.  A time of struggle---but with a purpose. 

IF....

My hands remain in the air. 

It feels as if my "Aaron" is His Word.  Digging in and reading, studying, writing, and just being immersed in scripture has been a REAL source of strength.  With that strength, the victory remains in sight.  As soon as I drop that hand, it's almost immediate the defeat.

It feel as if my "Hur" has been an incredibly supportive husband that continues to lift my other hand in the air to keep us on track for victory.  We are human and some days we can do things that hurt each other's feelings or cause a division----and those days DEFINITELY don't feel like a victory.  When my hand drops, defeat is just around the corner.  However, we've learned many things through the years about what it means to support and encourage.  I'm thankful, so very thankful, for my husband and all he does to support.  He seems to be truly digging in and making sure that I know he's on my side---whether that's encouraging me, physically helping do things around the house or for me, praying with and for me. Countless little things that provide strength. Meeting me in my brokenness and not running the other direction.  It has been very apparent to me in recent days just how much he does hold my hand in the air when my own strength is weak.  A couple of friends fulfill that role for me as well because no matter what, they point my heart back to HIM and I know that at any moment I could ask for help and they will drop everything and pray or say JUST the right thing----even though they are miles away! Those ladies have an incredible value---one that they may not even realize that they provide.  However, the day to day provision of strength that points me to Christ that my husband provides is something that becomes more valuable every day.  Just the sound of his voice in the most recent days when my emotions have overtaken or anxiety has grasped has been such a valuable source.  I used to try and hide my weakest moments and emotions, but now, to know that someone can come right in to the middle of the "ugly" and see you in your brokenness and not turn the other way....is a gift. 

I'm thankful for the strength.  I'm thankful for all of the Aaron and Hur moments in my life and those that have the provided the strength, but.....

I find myself being introspective and asking a question.

Who am I being an Aaron or Hur for?

Am I finding those individuals that need just an extra bit of strength to keep their arms up in the middle of their battle and providing that support?

Am I willing to help them until sunset so that their ultimate victory is won?

Who can I stop long enough today and provide encouragement to?  Who can I reach across the miles or around the corner and pray for---REALLY pray for? Who can I reach out to and offer a smile, a note of encouragemet, or a whispered word of support?

Am I doing it?

Or am I too caught up in my own struggles and needs?

What about you?  Who could you help today----even in a very small way.  It may be small to you, but you may not have a clue what that "small" thing may feel like to someone that is weary from their battle.

Who do we each need to stop and say thank you to for being our Aaron and Hur?  Maybe in the process of saying thank you, it may be an Aaron and Hur moment in THEIR life.  Sometimes we don't know just how much someone is struggling on the inside, even though on the outside they seem like they have it all together.  A simple thank you to them for the inspiration they've provided us may actually be a life-line to them. 

I'm praying today that He opens my eyes to see someone I can provide strength to and praying that I recognize when someone is offering strength to me. 

I keep seeing the statement lately that He blesses us so that we can bless others. 

I'm believing that more every day. 



Friday, October 17, 2014

Unsubscribe

Letting go (in multiple aspects) has been a huge topic of discussion in our home lately.

So has saying "no" so that we can give our best yes to what matters most. 

Redefining priorities.  Placing our focus on specific areas.  Learning to balance and give our best in ways that are best for us.

It's also about "unsubscribing".

I know I've written about this before, but it's been back heavy on my heart in recent days again.

My inbox quickly gets overwhelming.  My mailbox overflows with junk mail.  The phone can ring off the hook with telemarketers and scams. 

Unwanted and unnecessary.

So, I have to take the time to physically unsubscribe from various sources.  Have our numbers removed from phone lists.  Hit that little link in the corner or bottom of the email that says "unsubscribe".  Remove our address from marketing lists. 

It's a constant battle that has to be dealt with fairly often.  It's not a one time deal due to the rapid pace that communication comes at us these days in a technology driven society.

If I am not proactive, I get overwhelmed QUICKLY.

I also have to make choices and unsubscribe even from good things.  It's great to have unlimited sources of encouragement, ideas, and inspiration that the internet can provide whether related to motherhood, home education, things I use with our Littles, marriage, spiritual growth, crafts, DIY, Bible studies, recipes, etc...  However, even those good things can build up to the point that it's taking too much of my time, causing my brain to be on overload, or just TOO much.  Just like in the world of pinterest, even too much of seeing great ideas and "perfection" can leave me feeling lacking, wanting things I don't need, or just that ugly feeling of jealousy.

I have to unsubscribe.

Clear out the clutter.

Refocus.

I'm struck most deeply today by the other things that I need to unsubscribe from.

I have to unsubscribe from the world and draw into HIM.  I can't do that if I'm trying to walk with one foot in worldliness and one not in and of the world.  There's no sitting on the fence.  There's no being "luke warm" or cold.  Indifference doesn't work.  A little bit sold out for him----and a lot of doing things my own way is.....dangerous.

I also have to unsubscribe from you. 

Let me explain:

I care too much what you think.  I care too much about your opinion of me.  I care too much about how you see me.  I fear what you think when you know the REAL me.  I worry too much about your perceptions.  I just care too much....

Unsubscribe.

I also need to unsubscribe from myself. 

Yes, me.

We are driven by a me-me society.  It's ALL about us.  It's all about what we want and need.  How we can get ahead.  How this or that affects me.

Me.
Me.
Me.

If I truly want to be a follower of Christ, fully devoted...

Then I have to unsubscribe to me.

I can't have more of Him if I'm too full of me.

And I am.

I'm me driven more than I want to honestly admit.

Being filled more and more with Him, means there has to be less of me. 

I can't grow in Him if I don't give Him room to work. 

It may mean letting go and unsubscribing to specific relationships or activities.  It may mean saying no to something I want to do or I feel I need to do because my attitude in doing it is wrong, He has a different direction, or because it doesn't line up with His word or His plan at this point in my life.  It may be saying yes to something I want to say no to.  It may be He's calling me out of my comfort zone to do something specific.  It may be he's telling me something I NEED to do, but don't want to do because it's inconvenient, HARD, or even painful (like forgiveness, releasing bitterness, not walking in jealousy).  I may have to let go of relationships that are toxic, even ones that seem vital. It may mean having to say yes to other relationships that have fallen off the importance list because He has a reason to go deeper with that individual.  It may mean having to be vulnerable and admitting that I need help in certain areas or offer help to someone else.  It may mean looking foolish to the "world".  It may mean being unpopular and freaky! :)

I have to unsubscribe.

Clear out the clutter.

Clear out the clutter of me getting in my own way.

Clear out the clutter of anything causing a wedge that prevents my growth in Christ.

Unsubscribing and letting go isn't always easy. 

Many times it's quite painful.

Yet....

The results.

Make all the difference.

The difference  in being effective and the difference in being or holding back from what matters most. 

Uncluttered of filth.
Uncluttered of junk.
Uncluttered of negativity.
Uncluttered of selfishness.

Uncluttered.

With room to grow in Him.

To walk in grace and offer grace.
To walk in love and give love.
To grow and change, to be chiseled and shaped.

To be filled with Him and less of me.

Oh....how this woman....needs to unsubscribe.







Thursday, October 16, 2014

Counting Moments or Counting Days?

Life can feel like a whirlwind.  A hurricane.  A tornado.  The seas may be calm and the clouds may not look stormy, but we may still feel like we are wrapped up and spinning out of control.  I often picture myself looking like the cartoon character Taz.  Spinning around in circles, kicking up a cloud of dirt, but not necessarily getting anywhere.

We are busy.
Life throws curve balls.

We've bought into the lie that we have to do and be more.  The new norm is talking about how busy we are, almost like it's a badge of honor.  We somehow *think* that if we can tick off this list of all the things going on and how busy we are that we *look* good to someone else.  A "one-up" kind of game. 

It's dangerous. 

It's devastating to ourselves, our marriages, our children, and our homes. It's devastating to our spiritual health and even physical health.

We've lost the true value of the concept that less is more. 

I'm not saying you have to give up EVERYTHING physically and live a life of complete simplicity and without modern conveniences.  Granted, that works for some people really well.

I'm not saying you have to give up EVERY activity, EVERY hobby, EVERY ministry opportunity, EVERY single thing. 

BUT...

There is a balance.  A much needed balance.  My balance may look much differently than yours.  You may can handle much less on your plate than I can or I may not be able to juggle a third of the balls you keep in the air and not drop them all. 

But here's the reality....

What are we missing? 

When we are counting the days, the activities, the "have-to's" on our list....

What MOMENTS are we missing.

When we are rushing around, working harder and longer, feeling frazzled....what are we missing?

I know for myself what I begin to miss.  I miss opportunities to minister to my children's hearts.  I miss the chance to just sit and be----whether alone or with someone who needs a listening ear.  I miss the moments that I could encourage my husband's heart.  I miss countless things, but for me, what I miss the most is the ability to HEAR.  HEAR what's on their heart DEEP down, HEAR what God is teaching and showing, and the NOISE blocks out the nudges of the Holy Spirit.

I feel like I've missed COUNTLESS moments and opportunities. 

I'm proactively saying NO more often than I ever have.  I'm guarding our time and what we say "yes" to....

But I'm still counting days it seems. 

Instead, I want my heart to focus on the moments.  See them.  Acknowledge them.  LIVE in them.  Seek them out.  Cherish them.  Guard them. 

 
Seeing this picture today really spoke volumes to my heart today.  VOLUMES. 
 
What of those moments am I missing?
 
Am I having those ALL IMPORTANT conversations and making deposits of encouragement...
 
Or in the RUSH...
 
Am I missing them?
 
I don't want to miss them.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life's Hard by Kara Tippetts REVIEW and GIVE-A-WAY

Last week I finished a book that was...well...

Breathtaking and life-giving.

Seriously an incredible book. 

It's not one that's going to leave you laughing or one that's light-hearted entertainment.

It's a tough one.

But...

an ABSOLUTE treasure of a book. 

A must read. 




Many may have read or heard about the young woman that has made the decision to end her life on a specific day coming up soon rather than face her last days going through THE HARD PLACES of cancer. Many may have also heard or read Kara's response to that on the radio or in social media in recent days.  Kara has made a different choice: to walk in dignity and hope in Christ NO MATTER how hard the journey. This is book is written by the same Kara and it's one that will change your life if you let it. 

Her story is definitely about being in the HARD place.  The hardest place.  Yet, she writes with such life giving hope and inspiration.  It's been quite awhile since I've chosen to participate in product or book reviews and I'm so very glad that I chose this one as the "jump back in." 

I'm not going to lie:  it wasn't easy to read. It was raw and real. So very honest and vulnerable. I found myself heartbroken for a family I do not know, but yet so very thankful for a family that is facing such hard situations with such hope in Christ.  I know without a doubt that this woman and her family are living examples of "well done good and faithful servant." 

Aside from the fact that this book is written by a beautiful mother facing final stages of cancer that has ruthlessly ravaged her body and spread and chronicles different times throughout this journey, it's about FAR more than just the cancer journey.  It's about the true peace that comes from a life in Christ---the peace that comes even when you're kicking and screaming for a different outcome or in a very fearful, uncertain place.  It's a book that can change EACH and EVERY one of us, despite what "our" hard place may be.  It's a book that can change your parenting, your role as a spouse, and most importantly can draw you CLOSER to Christ.  

When you write from those raw and vulnerable places as she has BEAUTIFULLY done, you draw others in to looking for that same peace.  As the title suggests:  THE HARDEST PEACE---grace in the midst of life's hard.

The book may leave you with many moments of tears and rawness, but it will also fill you with a hope that can't be described.  I started jotting down page numbers of mentionable quotes that I found great lessons in and I soon found my page full of notes.  Though I initially read for the purpose of review and to "find out more" about this beautiful women currently on christian radio programs and sprinkled throughout social media, I now find myself ready to go back and read again with wanting to grasp deeper and deeper the many truths about facing life and it's hard places.  This book is FILLED with them. 

One reader of my blog will be chosen at random to receive a copy of this book.  To enter, just simply comment on THIS blog post  (or the facebook link)  that you would like to be entered.  Just PLEASE be sure to leave an email so that I may contact you for shipping information should you be chosen as the winner.  Winner will be chosen on 10/21/2014 and entries will be counted until noon CST that day.  

Below you will find information from the publisher about the book and the "fine print" details of the rules and required disclosures/notices.  

Kara’s Blog: mundanefaithfulness.com

Follow her on Instagram: http://instagram.com/tippetts

Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mother_to_many

About the book:
Kara Tippetts knows the ordinary days of mothering four kids, the joy of watching her children grow…and the devastating reality of stage-IV cancer. 

In The Hardest Peace, Kara invites readers to see the grace of the everyday in all seasons of life and to live well even when the living is hard. This book is an invitation to join her in moving away from fear and control and toward peace and grace. Just as the thousands of people who read her blog know, Tippetts explores the hardest questions of life with rare beauty and honesty. Most of all, she draws them back to the God who is present, in the ordinary and the suffering, and shapes every life into the best story of all.

About Kara:
Kara Tippetts and her husband, Jason, have four children and are planting a church in Colorado Springs, CO. Cancer is only part of Kara’s story. Her real fight is to truly live while facing a crushing reality. She blogs faithfully at mundanefaithfulness.com.

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many  thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Deceiving Packaing

On my kitchen counter is a vase of white spider mums that were splashed with various colors of paint, giving me a second of a smile from their explosion of color, most especially on these dark, gray days!  Though they are definitely a smile maker, it's their lesson that strikes me every time I walk by.

Kevin almost didn't buy them.  He was afraid to take a chance on them since they were only a whopping 50 cents for 3, making my entire bouquet $2.  We grabbed them at an Amish grocery store several miles from home and he just wasn't sure if they would last long enough to get home.

THAT was a month ago.

They still have life...

and continue to bring smiles and reminders of bright days.

They may not be as vivid and full as they were, but they are still hanging on a month later.



The packaging wasn't very appealing.  They were already marked down from their original price.  We were afraid they were already past their prime.

But...

Looks can be deceiving.

That shiny package may actually contain something you really don't need.
That plain package may actually contain a real treasure.

They were tightly wrapped up in mesh netting so it really wasn't until we released them from their packaging that we saw how beautiful they were.

We originally considered them fragile, but realized they were quite hardy.  Several other bouquets of flowers have come and gone from my kitchen table in the same time period, only having lasted a couple of days before they were dropping petals and leaves.

Each time I see them, I'm again reminded of the message we are currently teaching our boys (and myself!) about discerning truth.  Our eyes can lie. Our minds can be deceived.  The world can easily lead us astray.  We have an enemy seeking to destroy by any means possible.

What we may think looks like something we want or need, can actually be a trap.  Multiple verses remind us that we can be lead astray EASILY.  We just can't be drawn to something "shiny" on the outside without realizing there are consequences. Our society wants more and more, quickly throwing out the door contentment and simplicity. Many are working longer hours and adding to their daily stress JUST to provide more THINGS for their kids, without realizing that perhaps their children just need more time with them.  Many are being pulled astray in their marriages because they think the "packaging" of their spouse is fading and that other person may fulfill a specific unmet need.  Many are thinking a bigger house, better car, more experiences, more purchasing, etc... is going to fill a gap in their lives.

Shiny packages may deceive.

On the other hand, sometimes you open a package and can just be really amazed and awestruck with the treasure inside.

Sometimes we overlook someone's value and worth because they look or act different than we do.  Sometimes we may be hesitant to give someone a chance because they've hurt or failed us in the past.  (*ouch*)

Sometimes that "plain" packaging may be "us".  We don't realize our own strength.  We don't realize that with Him our weaknesses are the places He can work the most.  Maybe we've spent too long listening to other people's opinion of us and shy away from letting others see our hidden value.  Maybe it's our own opinions that are wrong.  Maybe we've listened to our own negative self-talk for so long that we forget what we have to offer.  Sometimes we just don't know what potential we have just waiting to be unwrapped. Sometimes we've just never allowed ourselves the chance to bloom.

Yes---just a simple $2 bouquet of flowers has been causing my own heart to look beyond the outward packaging/outward appearance and has me wondering where I'm selling myself short, where I'm selling others short, and where I'm being wrongly drawn to the deception of "shiny" packaging in my own life.

Hope these flowers hang around a few more days.  I sure am enjoying their splash of color AND the work it's doing in my heart.



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

THAT day!

This homeschooling journey is a gift.  It truly is.

 Despite the days I've felt like I've literally lost my mind through the years.  The days that frustration shot through every vein like a poison.  The days that I've found myself LITERALLY on my face before God or the days my husband has come home to a woman that is a shell of the one he fell in love with because she's just SPENT.  The days that I've had more questions than answers.  More doubts than faith.

Those are the bad days.

They are VERY real.  VERY much reality.

But then...

There are the days...

That you feel like heaven has come down and kissed you with just a glimpse of what joy awaits.

Really.

The days THEY get it.  The days you see something click.  The days you just are wrapped up in the family togetherness, the love of learning, and countless other joys. Even just the ordinary days that are neither grand nor awful.

The days you get to be and do as God designed you.

Those days.

ARE a gift.

When they come, you hold them close to heart and soak them in!

As our days are RAPIDLY coming to a close with our oldest, I can't help but reflect on where we've been together over the last 13 years of education. It's definitely enough to get this mom VERY emotional.  But that will wait for another day....another post....

Today, I'm thankful for what we hold as the most valuable gift to us in our choice to home educate:  the ability to openly share our faith (closely followed by the flexibility to tailor each child's education to fit their learning styles and needs).

Last week, there was a moment that I was just overwhelmed with gratitude.  Not only gratitude, but gravity and responsibility.

Leading our children to Christ.

Our science curriculum choice the last two years is very thorough in regards to education (top notch), but completely and unashamedly professes faith throughout the pages.  As we were beginning a lesson on the intricacies and power-house of blood, the gospel was presented and the blood of Christ was discussed.  In those moments, it was very overwhelming to me to share in those moments, around my kitchen table with my children.  No compromise.  No hiding our faith or having to be politically correct.

Though we always have our children's spiritual growth at the forefront of our minds and daily try to live out life in such a way that we are pointing them to Christ, it was in those moments that I was reminded of what a GIFT it is to be a parent and shepherd a child's heart.  To see them come to faith as their own.

Neither of our boys have made that personal profession of faith at this point.  Though we constantly pray for that moment and make sure there are multiple opportunities to see their faith grow, the seeds have only been planted.  We can do ALL we can to plant seeds, cultivate the soil, and provide the proper nutrients...BUT only HE can make them grow.  Only He can officially change the heart.  We want nothing more to know that our children walk in the truth (3 John 1:4).  However, we can't rush that day.  We can't force that moment.

I've often felt the "sting" of judgment from well meaning others in the church, in our circle of friends, and especially throughout the "internet" world of christian moms with similar values we hold dear because our kids haven't yet professed their own personal faith in Christ.  Being honest, many times in the past,  I've wondered where we are failing as parents, where we aren't doing enough or where we are failing them.

But...

Again.  WE plant the seeds.  HE makes them grow. We can bring them to the foot of the cross, but that's as far as we can take them.

We want nothing more than to see our children love God with their entire beings.  To embrace their faith as their own, not just to mimic ours.  Otherwise, it's a faith that won't last when storms hit. It won't withstand the "real" world.  We want their hearts to be sold out to HIM because they have embraced salvation on their own out of recognition of their own sinfulness and need of a savior.

For now, we will pray for them and with them.  For now, we will give plenty of opportunities to grow and mature at THEIR pace.  For now, we will do our best to show the grace and mercy of the cross and show our own personal needs of a Savior.  For now, we will continue to rejoice in the moments that we can openly share our faith with them.  For now, we will continue to be THANKFUL for moments around the table that education and faith can intersect.  For now, we will worship together and let them see how much we value living out a Christian life.

Because some day...

Maybe today.

Maybe tomorrow.

Maybe next year.

Maybe not for awhile.

BUT....

Some day.....

Those seeds that have been planted will be harvested.

Their parent's faith will be their own.

They will change the world for Him because THEY WILL understand first hand how GREAT He is and how much in need of Him they are.

They won't just repeat the memory verses back just by word, but by heart.  By a heart that has been changed.

They won't just sing the words of a song, but they will be humbly bowing down in worship.

They won't just be giving the "right" answers to the questions because it's what they've been taught from birth, but they'll have the answers because they've experienced the change in their own hearts.

That day....

Oh that day!


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Snoozing?

We all have our little buttons that push us over the edge and little things that rub each other the wrong way.  Things that aggravate us and things we do to aggravate others.  It's called being human.

In marriage, these little things either have to be overlooked or they can light a fire of discord faster than lightning!

One little thing that has ALWAYS bugged me and has been a point of discord in our marriage (and even before that while in college, trips away from home, etc...) for me has been that little button on the alarm clock or little flick of the finger on our phones...

The darn snooze button.

My husband is of the life-style of hit it at least four or five times.  He sets alarm after alarm, knowing he's NOT going to get up on any of the first several ones.

I'm of the camp that you set the clock for the time you need to get up and you get up, perhaps hitting snooze ONCE if at all.

It's always aggravated me to hear that alarm of his going off....over and over....and over.  Back up to the back up of the back up.....of the back up. My theory has been turn those first ones off and sleep WELL for that extra amount of time instead of constantly being in and out of sleep for thirty to forty five minutes.  Sometimes, he *may* get a not so gentle nudge to turn that thing off and get up.  Just maybe.

Lately, I've noticed that I've started hitting snooze more and more often.  Just not ready to face the day.  Just wanting to grab a few more minutes of head on the pillow.  Avoidance.  Even though I know it's going to make me have to rush around and start the day stressed, I've been hitting it.

In the last several days of sliding that button on my phone over to the ZZZZZZ's instead of the eye icon showing "I'm awake", I've been feeling a nudge from the Holy Spirit about the way that has trickled down in my life.

Now, I'll first step in here and say there's absolutely nothing wrong with hitting the snooze button to get up in the morning.  It's a matter of preference.  It's a matter of personality.

The nudge has been coming from a deeper place. The pit of my soul.

"Are you snoozing or are you getting up?"  seems to be the question in my life right now.

Am I up facing the day or hiding under the covers?

Am I letting life pass me by or am I hitting it full steam ahead?

Am I being purposeful or letting it slip by?

Am I waiting for someone else to solve a problem, take care of a need, etc... or am I the one willing to do it?

Am I being proactive in going to Him or am I just hoping He'll step in and rescue me at the last minute when I find myself in a mess?

Am I making the changes in my life that I need to make or am I still doing things the same way and getting nowhere?

Am I encouraging that friend, praying that prayer, helping out that neighbor immediately or am I putting it on my "list" for later and letting the moment slip away?

Am I listening to the Holy Spirit and acting in obedience or am waiting to see if I hear that message again before I act?

Well, honesty admits....

There's been too much snoozing lately.

Much too much.

Even though Kevin and I just returned from a weekend getaway, he decided it was still prudent that we take our scheduled Monday night date night last night.  We knew we needed to talk about multiple things that we began discussing during our trip and making progress on goals and such.  One of the many things we discussed is that we BOTH are feeling a sense of urgency.  A wake up call.  A let's stop stalling and start moving forward.  A feeling of we aren't content with just floating through life right now, we want to be actively pursuing the path that He has for us.  Actively pursuing connection and growth.  Actively make decisions that draw us closer to God.  Actively in connection to Him and to others.

Not hitting the snooze button.

Getting up and getting going.  Moving forward.  Actively pursuing Him.

Not just letting life fly by.

*(Even though I'm sure tomorrow morning his long list of alarms will go off and I'll love him anyway.  I'll even try to be nice and not "accidentally" kick him when it's gone off too many times or for too long.  Try.)*


Monday, October 6, 2014

My Lighthouse

Spending this past weekend on a getaway with my husband was an absolute treasure.  There's nothing like temporarily letting go of everything else and giving 100% focus to the marriage relationship. It doesn't take long as parents to realize that there just isn't enough of you to go around ALL THE TIME, so stepping away and renewing, rekindling, refocusing, and rediscovering is VITAL.  We'll be the first to tell you that we didn't take advantage of those opportunities AT ALL for the first 10 plus years of our marriage and WE SUFFERED greatly for it.  (And yes, our house was still standing and the kids still breathing when we returned.  Our daughter keep everyone on track and alive!  Just a mountain of laundry to catch up on!).

At one point, we looked at each other and just smiled over the SIMPLICITY of it all.  It wasn't about the bells and whistles, it was just about each other. It didn't take a drop of alcohol, a movie or TV show with questionable values or immodesty, it didn't take spending lavishly or shopping with money we didn't have, it didn't take fancy meals (though our dinner at Clementine's was off the chart...but we were also content with our dollar menu from Wendy's!), etc...  It was just simply about us....just solely connected and focused.  That's when we realized:  we definitely have something special.  A friendship.  An intimate connection on countless levels.  A growing love of each other as we grow deeper in relationship with Christ.  Something to thank God for more every day.

I've always been obsessed with lighthouses.  Their beauty.  Their purpose.  Their setting. Their history. Just all things about them.

A couple of years ago, we took our first trip to see multiple ones and for me it was a DREAM come true.  Though I want to visit more and more, the trip was amazing to me.  We had planned to visit another section (coast of Wisconsin this time) as our family vacation that we had to cancel when life took some turns this summer.  Wanting to just revisit some of the closer ones, drew us back to Michigan this weekend for a short, economically friendly late anniversary trip.  It was FRIGID and a brutal reminder of the winter that is TOO rapidly approaching, but the sleet and windburn was well worth it.  We did get in a beautiful day before we left, even though it was still a bit on the chilly side and winds that could still pick you up and carry you away!

Last night, as I was looking through pictures and loving the memories that Kevin and I made together and feeding my love of lighthouses---a question popped in my spirit that hasn't let go.









"Who is guiding you?"

Over and over, situation after situation, seeped in my heart begging to ask me to look deeper.

A lighthouse has a distinct purpose.  It's to guide sailors safely to shore, specifically in storms.  The beacon of light is to highlight the way, while pointing out dangers.

Life is stormy.  Oh, is it ever.  Many times we can feel like we are being tossed at sea, not knowing if we will be able to survive the waves.  Some days we feel as if we are being crushed and broken.

But....

We have an anchor in the storm.
We have a guide.

We have a lighthouse.

But...

Are we following His lead? Are we seeing His light and looking the other way in disobedience? Are we seeing His light, but still refusing to let go of our own way of doing things?

I don't like the honest answer I'd have to give more times than a few.

Where am I looking for guidance?

Am I looking for Him above all things, FIRST, and whole-heartedly?
Am I listening to Him or am I caught up in listening to my own voice, my own fears, or to others instead of Him? (*ouch, ouch, OUCH!!!!!!!*)

Am I keeping my eyes on Him or am I too focused on the waves?

Again, some tough questions and some painful answers.

The kids and I are currently talking about TRUTH and how to discern what is true in our Biblical studies.  How easy it is to be misled, even by our own hearts and even by those that we trust.  There are those that purposely try to persuade us down wrong paths, but there is also those that are much more subtle.  The only TRUTH we can be sure of is GOD and HIS WORD.

It's the light.
He's the lighthouse.

He's our guide.

But are we seeking Him.  Anchored to Him.  Keeping our eyes fixed on nothing else?

Soaking in that message in my heart today and also listening to and really focusing on the lyrics from Rend Collective's "My Lighthouse".

"My Lighthouse"

In my wrestling and in my doubts
In my failures You won't walk out
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea
You are the peace in my troubled sea

In the silence, You won't let go
In my questions, Your truth will hold
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea
You are the peace in my troubled sea

My Lighthouse, my lighthouse
Shining in the darkness, I will follow You
My Lighthouse, my Lighthouse
I will trust the promise, 
You will carry me safe to shore 
Safe to shore 
Safe to shore

I won't fear what tomorrow brings
With each morning I'll rise and sing
My God's love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea
You are the peace in my troubled sea

Fire before us, You're the brightest
You will lead us through the storms





Friday, October 3, 2014

Burning the Past

If you're around little girls or little children for that matter very much, you may instantly have a specific song immediately go through your head as soon as you hear someone say, "Let it go." Who am I kidding, forget LITTLE kids---I've probably watched Frozen or listened to the soundtrack just as many times as the "littles" that come in and out my door!

Though it's just from a cute movie with catchy songs,  we've talked often about those three little words in the last several months. Because...well.... that's exactly what we've needed to do on many levels and many times recently. 

Letting go of physical stuff---clutter, too much of too many things. Letting excess go.
Letting go of too many activities, responsibilities, or things that rob us of too much precious time.
Letting go of lies, bitterness, and countless negative emotions. 

The list can go on quite a bit longer, but one specific area has been coming back into our conversations often.

Letting go of the past.

Isn't that so much harder to do than we want to admit? For me, it definitely has been. 

Kevin and I celebrated 19 years of marriage a little less than two weeks ago.  For some reason, this year seemed BIG to us.  It wasn't a big milestone like a 10th, 20th, 25th, etc...  It's just a random number with no particular significance so to speak, but to us it was huge.  Maybe it was because the previous few months had been so hard and we were thankful to take a moment out of the ordinary days and celebrate.  Maybe it was because we have heavy hearts as we have seen so many important marriages fall apart around us (immediate family, mentors in our lives, dear friends, etc...). Maybe it was because we are growing and changing in our marriage and we are just so beyond thankful to be in this place. 

Whatever it was...

19 felt big.  Worth celebrating. 

In the few days leading up to our anniversary, I found myself wanting to go through a big box of cards and letters that I had kept.  For the most part, this box contained everything from our year of dating, the first year of marriage, and then several letters/cards from sporadic times through the years that really belonged in a different box but for some reason were in this particular one. It was PRICELESS to go back through and see our "falling in love" season so vividly.  It was actually amazing.  Amazing to remember it, to see how certain things had turned out, to see where God had provided different things, to rekindle so many precious moments. 


But....

Some of it was HARD to read.  Some of it contained so much of our sharing with each other our backgrounds, our failures, our HARD STUFF.  The stuff that was necessary to understand about each other in order to continue on with getting to know each other and marry.  It was just FULL of the past.  Lots of hurt.  Lots of raw emotion.  Lots of immaturity. :)  Lots of just...baggage.

Some of it was written during some of our darker times, times that our marriage didn't seem like it was possible to be saved. 

Some of it was written during very HARD times with situations that affected us deeply.  Crushing times. We've been through countless valleys in our lives. 

It caused some bubbling up of raw emotions to resurface as we either read together or I read alone. 

I realized I had a choice to make.  Let those dark moments reenter my thinking and cause doubts, frustration, and stress.  Being honest, that's WAY too easy for me to do since I overthink, feel DEEPLY, etc...

Or...

Let it go.

We chose to let it go.  We chose to thank God for those hard times.  The times of our past before we met each other were times to teach us countless things.  The times during our dating that we were learning about each other shaped us and had value.  The memories of GREAT struggles in those darkest times throughout our marriage between the two of us or in situations from others that hurt us, allowed us to see where God stepped in, either in the situation or in our own hearts. 

But...

We let it go. 

Literally. 

We burned them. We read them and then physically burned them.  I'm a visual person.  It's why I surround myself with pictures, scriptures, notes, and beautiful things as reminders.  I'm also a symbolic person.  I love to choose and receive gifts that symbolize something specific or evoke a specific emotion.  I'm a romantic at heart so I grasp on to the "little" things and hold them special in my heart (which is why I have over 300 cards and letters between Kev and I and countless ones from mentors and friends over the years).

I wanted to make a symbolic gesture that said:

Redeemed.
Restored.
Renewed.
Lessons learned.
Prayers answered.
Wounds healed.

It didn't mean those times didn't hurt.  It doesn't mean that there are times that Satan brings them to mind.  (This can be a daily battle at times!)

But...

They needed to go.

They needed to go up in flames.



 
 
On our next date night, we planned a relaxing and connecting night (we actually enjoyed our first EVER massages!) and then went to one of our favorite date spots at a local park.  A place where we've spent LOTS of time talking, praying, dreaming, and working through countless situations. A place where we realized that dates don't need lots of money:  just two people sharing their hearts.
 
And we let it go.
 
Up in flames!
 
It's not a matter of hiding the past (though we do agree that some things were best to not be read by someone some day when we are gone from this earth).  It's not about pretending things didn't happen or that hard times don't come to everyone. It's not about only remembering the good times and pretending the bad times didn't happen or didn't exist.  They most certainly come and can come often!
 
But...
 
It's the fact that we've been through the fire together.  Fires that were from our own doing---our own selfishness and disobedience.  Fires that we were forced to walk through again and again that we didn't heap on ourselves but had to walk through regardless.
 
It's a moment of symbolizing that we've gone through the fire and come out together.  It's symbolizing there will be more fires in the days and years to come, but we have the confidence to know that we can come through together with HIM as our guide.  It's a moment of symbolizing that hurt leaves scars, but the wounds can heal.
 
It's about just letting it go.
 
Letting go of the past and its damage.  Embracing the healing, renewal, redemption and restoration that comes through a life in Christ.  Embracing the fact that we can learn and move on.
 
That's what we've done.
That's what we'll continue to do. 
 
Learning from the ashes.

 
 



Thursday, October 2, 2014

I'm Forgetting

Earlier this week would have been my Daddy's 70th birthday.  I think of him practically every day, but the days leading up to and the day of, he was HEAVILY on my mind.  I am often surprised at how I feel the hole of him gone getting bigger because I so often need his wisdom and unique take on life, but at the same time the pain of his loss has begun to change.  I can't say that time heals all wounds.  I can't say that "you get over it".  I CAN say that healing does take place a bit at a time as you celebrate what he GAINED and not what we LOST. Heaven is a celebration.

Bradlee got up that morning and when he saw me wearing a t-shirt from a car show that was dedicated in Dad's honor at his home church, he ran back upstairs and came down wearing a hat dad had bought him.

It was precious.  Made my heart smile.

But then...

In a soft voice, he said, "Mom, I'm forgetting."

After asking him to explain what he was thinking, I found out that he has very few memories of Grandpa now.  My heart shattered into a few more pieces than I realized it could at that moment.  Then I realized it's not forgetting---it's just not remembering.  Little guy was only 4.  He can't have a vault of memories to pull from and he was so young.  It makes perfect sense for that to happen.  I told him that I would always do my best to make sure he doesn't forget what memories he does have and I will always be happy to tell him stories and share our memories.  I reminded him of a few things.  I talked to my Sweet T (step-mother) and we all agreed that we would rack our brains searching for memories to make sure we shared with him.

As the day progressed, that same message kept pulsating in my own heart.  Throbbing over and over. Louder and louder.

"You're forgetting."

It was no longer about my earthly father, but rather my heavenly father.

I'm forgetting.

I'm forgetting to stop and seek Him like I know I should.  I'm forgetting to go to Him first, instead of waiting until I've exhausted multiple other remedies or ideas first.  I'm forgetting to SOAK in His word or failing to sit still long enough to listen for His response.

As much as my heart never wants to forget my earthly Dad and I most definitely want to make sure my children remember as many things as possible about him, it's VITAL that I'm remembering what should always be first in my life.  When life gets messy, hard, busy and overwhelming....it's easy to forget.

But just as I'm making a proactive choice to remind Bradlee of those memories, I also have to make a proactive choice to make sure I'm seeking my Heavenly Father above all.  The Bible doesn't say "seek" whenever....seek when you have no other choice...seek when you have time.  It says, multiple times, "SEEK FIRST".  I began a word search today of the ways "seek" is used in the Bible and I was shocked to see that it occurs over 350 times.  Seek is to be active, not passive.  LOOK for me.  REMEMBER me.  RUN after me.  It doesn't say, just wait around and hang out when you feel like it.  It's a word of purpose.

Today, just as I committed to my son to not let him forget his memories, I also commit to putting back as a priority to not forget what is most important.  To actively SEEK.  To not forget.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ready

Looking down at the time-stamp of my last post literally shocked me.  It CAN'T have been that long.  No way.  No way it has been two and a half months since my last entry.  

Some dear friends have been asking, "Where have you been?" and "did you give up blogging?" A few have wondered aloud wondering if I'm OK.  

Short answer.  

Yes, very much OK. 

Long answer....

It's been a ROAD of many unexpected loops and struggles recently, but some AMAZING mountaintops.  

I've been wanting to write, but the words haven't come.  

You see, my goal is to write for Him.  It's to write and share my heart to encourage someone else on this journey of life, even if it's just an audience of one.  It really only has to matter to that ONE person.  It really only matters that I'm sharing my heart....for Him.  It's to be honest about struggles, so we all know that we aren't alone.  It's to share in the victories.  It's to admit weakness.  It's to find strength and relationship based on loving and serving Him. 

I've been waiting and seeking Him.  Wondering when He was going to put something on my heart to share.  The words didn't come in the form of writing and blogging.  But...

It did come as He has been working in my own heart. Just reaching in and shaping, chiseling, and molding.  Not for the world to see. Just Him and me.  Reconnecting.  Seeking and finding. Weeding out some tough things.

And then...

These last few days He has just been pouring it out.  If time and focus had allowed, I think I could have pre-written posts to last for weeks or months! 

The end of summer didn't shape up to be ANYTHING like we expected.  We had vacation plans.  We had lists of things we wanted to accomplish.  We just had this whole LIST of how we thought we'd spend the time. 

Then it happened. 

Life veered off course and we had to do some reevaluating, changing, accepting, and CLINGING.  

Medical scares can do that.  They can cause you to instantly re-evaluate EVERY single thing in your life.  Every thing you do.  Every thing you believe.  Every thing you rely on.  Every little and big decision.  

Fortunately,  THANK YOU Jesus----this scare was not as drastic as we originally expected.  Though it brought us to our knees as we waited and wondered.  Fortunately, Kevin only needed surgery and a change in life-style---basically a wake-up call.  I say "only" surgery because when you've watched people suffer through cancer and other major medical issues, your scope of reference of what is hard changes.  There is hard.  Then there is excruciating.  We've experienced both. 

It was the hardest weeks leading up to, during,  and after surgery that we've been through with each other.  We've faced harder than hard situations with extended family, but we weren't prepared for how hard this was going to shake us.  With the stress leading up to surgery, we were both admitting we were ready for it to just be done and over. We just didn't know what that was going to be like! (Famous last words! I usually open my mouth and then regret things almost instantly!). 

I was unprepared.  He was unprepared.  The surgeon even said he was unprepared, but was fortunately capable and skilled.  When he came out to find me on the waiting room, all he had to say was, "Mrs. Goad.  It's going to be he-- during recovery!"  And it was.

I've never felt more helpless.  Never stretched more thin, broken, or alone.  Literally carrying your husband and taking care of EVERY single need while he was in excruciating pain and psychotic from meds----is not something I wish on anyone. Trying to also do that and still maintain a home, care for our three kids, and carry on as much of our normal responsibilities as possible----absolutely took more than I had to give.

BUT...

It happens.  Every moment I gave him, I couldn't help but think....  someone else is doing this and their results aren't going to improve in a few days.  They are going to give of themselves and watch their loved one suffer and die.  Not suffer for a short time and then be healed on earth.  I felt lucky.  I felt blessed.  In the midst of it all, I knew we just had to hang on. Just a little longer.

We've been there.  Many of us have watched our dearest ones ravaged by the cancer beast or major illnesses. We aren't alone in that. 

I was angry.  I was bitter.  I was alone.  No family to help.  No one offered to help care for our kids in our weakest moments. Three families did provide us with meals after several days and let me tell you---that was HEAVENLY relief.  I had a couple of very precious mentors and dear friends that I could LITERALLY feel praying for me across the miles.  Their support was VITAL and life-giving.

I gave until my own body was broken.  As he began to heal, I was falling apart.  The physical stress and emotional stress were devastating to my health.  My lupus came out with claws.  Even now, we still feel like I'm trying to get back to the healthy point I was.  I lost about half of my hair and the only way to slow that loss was to cut it off even though I was growing it back out to donate again in honor of my Dad. I had finally had enough good health to be losing weight, getting physically stronger, and emotionally thriving.  Now---I'm getting back there, but slower than I want. 

All of this to say----

It was hard.
It broke us. 

Bitterness and anger tried to really take root. 
Helplessness and loneliness overtook our hearts deeper than we expected.

But....

HE WAS THERE.  

He showed up in the middle of our mess.  Smack dab in the weakness.  There were moments I would do what needed to be done, then step away and sob, wipe away my own tears, and then go right back to him to care for him with another ounce of strength that somehow showed up.  On the second day after surgery, Kev literally passed out as I was trying to physically carry him to the bathroom.  Both of us will tell you that moment was a moment that God was in our midst.  We can NOT explain how as he fell, his body twisted in such a way that he landed completely in such a way that it was as if God picked him up, arranged his body so that it didn't hit anything around us, and softly let him land.  It took 45 minutes to get him back on his feet and physical strength that there is no way I was able to provide.  

Sitting completely alone in the hospital during surgery, despite my normal panic attacks upon entering medical facilities (most especially after our battle with Peyton as a toddler and haunting memories of Dad's journey)----I had a surreal calm.  The sweet little volunteer lady that managed the phone and desk looked and acted like Kevin's mom.  It was as if God gave me a little nudge to remind me that even though I felt completely alone in those hours, worried and uncertain, that He was making sure I knew He was there.  

We found ourselves facing a MOUNTAIN of unexpected medical expenses, time off work, and issues that we had no idea would be in our laps.  Yet, even up to this moment, He has provided.  He has taken away our worry of how to pay this or that and every time I've sat down to pay a bill---the money has been there.  It hasn't fallen from the sky, but it's worked out and continues to every single time we get a new statement.  We gave up our vacation and used that money to cover basic expenses while he was out of work, but it has worked out that we've been able to do little things with little to no cost and still make GREAT family memories.  It's just worked.  He has provided. 

Countless times during the first week, my heart broke at the memories and similarities of things I had experienced with Dad...and well...it hurt.  It broke places that I thought were healed over and opened up areas of grief that I thought I was over. BUT----it was a gift.  It was a gift to serve and offer love to my Dad and it was most definitely the same with caring for my husband. It was a GIFT to remember those times of giving love to my Dad because it was the reminder of how when we give of ourselves, beyond our own capacity, we are truly SERVING Him. 

It's amazing what all of this has done for our marriage.  We've had some rough days.  No doubt about it.  I don't sugar coat that it's been hard.  Yet, this roller coaster brought us to each other and connected us in ways we didn't know possible.  You can't go through the Refiner's Fire together without it bonding you together.  We had the chance to re-evaluate life, priorities, and reconnect on new levels.  It wasn't without pain (physical, spiritual, and emotional), but it had great value.  Life-changing value. 

Above all, the greatest gift of the struggle has been our faith.  

It tested it.  
It stretched us.  

We went through same valleys that began to pull us away from Him because it WAS HARD.  We lost sight or some important lessons we already thought we'd learned. We thought we needed more support from MULTIPLE levels and our disappointments rocked us.  

But...

He brought us back into focus.  

Showed us what mattered most. 
Let us see that all we needed was already right in front of our faces.

Helped us to release the hurt.
Let our bodies begin to heal. 
Replaced fears with faith. 

We've been spending the last couple of weeks at church with a sermon series on "Unbreakable".  We've been talking quite extensively about our weaknesses being our strength.  How hard times shape us.  

We're learning and growing.  Growing together as a couple.  Growing as a family.  Our hearts are seeing more clearly what He needs us to see.  

Our eyes are back on Him.

And...

We're excited.  

Last week we celebrated 19 years of marriage and we are about to take a short trip away to reconnect. It's not the trip we anticipated or hoped for originally---we can't splurge like we intended.  Yet, we are so beyond excited to just have this time together to look at where we've been, pray about where we are going, and make goals to go in the direction He has for us.  

Ready to face the future with His strength. Ready to move mountains in our family.  Ready to share His love and grow together.  Ready to see more wounds healed, more bridges built and faith renewed in ways we never imagined.  Ready to move forward each day as physically healing continues for both of us.  

We're just ready. 

I'm ready.  I'm ready to see where He is about to lead me.  I'm ready because I want to be the woman HE designed me to be, walking on the path of HIS design.  Oh....I'm ready!