Sweet, Simple Life

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I am thankful for the small graces in my every day.

Sometimes, it seems as if a whole host of things can go wrong at the same time.  You know, you’ve had it happen to you.   You’re busy running around marking off your to-do list, trying to go out of town and the lawnmower and trimmer break down and the yard police are watching.  The equipment is new, mind you!  Or maybe your child (or as they blame the sibling) has lost their phone.  Thorough searching has gone on without success, but it is imperative for the child to have one, since they are going on a trip without you.  So, the race is on to find a replacement that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. (Because, of course, the child is not due for an upgrade.)

Sometimes, there is just so much to do.  Just do the normal day to day responsibilities, but throw in some hiccups and you feel up to your eyeballs trying to squeeze it all in.  But, I’m thankful.

I’ll be candid with you.  I deal with some anxiety issues.  I’m well aware of what it feels like for me and some of my triggers.  So, today, amid all the running and preparing for the five of us to travel, and make sure our four-legged fur baby is taken care of, I was feeling the effects of anxiety.  I usually call my husband and clue him in on my anxiety.  Instead of trying to ignore it, hoping it will go away, I recognize it at the start and have learned to handle it head on, right at the beginning.  I knew he would pray for me.

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I also had to remind myself that this life is beautiful.  While the responsibilities sometimes feel overwhelming, compared to what others are facing, this is simply life.  One important lesson I learned in counseling is to learn the difference between a crisis and everyday glitches in life.

Broken lawnmowers and lost phones aren’t crises, just life to be managed.  I’m blessed to have a family of my own to care for and nurture.  I remind myself these days are truly short.  While I taxi and run errands, I am caring for my family.  All of this is life.  Beautiful life.

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It takes careful mindfulness to control our thoughts and harness them for power.  I’m learning to not spin into sidewise energy, by not focusing on the glitches and hiccups along the way.  Yikes!  I am not always so good, so I am talking to me today, too.  But, amid the shopping and working through my list of to-do’s, my anxiety disappeared.  (I also think my Honey’s prayers made a difference, too.)  About an hour later, my husband called to check in on me, and I realized my anxiety was gone.  I didn’t let it derail me or steal my joy.

Here are a few ideas for dealing with anxiety:

  1. Stop and look for the source of the anxiety.  See if there is any merit to it. 
  2. Invite someone you trust into your moment.
  3. Pray.
  4. Remind yourself to slow down and enjoy the process.
  5. Be mindful of your thoughts and words.

Life runs at breakneck speeds and sometimes we just need to remind ourselves that all is well.  Remember what is truly a crisis and what is an annoyance or mere, every day stuff.  This is what life is about.  It isn’t all the big, splashy moments.  Most of our days are made up of ordinary life stuff.

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I am learning to appreciate the simpleness of everyday living.   At this point in my life, I am thankful to  just live normal, everyday life.  It is beautiful–complete with bumps and hiccups.  Finding beauty in the simple, and even in the middle of challenging annoyances, is the key to living more fully and peacefully in the everyday.

 

 

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Who Do You Trust?

 

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I can remember sitting on the edge of the bed with each of my children.  Or sometimes it was sitting with them curled up next to me on the sofa.  We were having one of our many heart to heart talks.  To me, those are some of my most treasured moments.  As they poured out their concerns or dreams from their tender hearts, I intently listened.  Sometimes, I didn’t have an answer; lots of times I did.  The one thing I remember teaching them is this,

“If it matters to you then it matters to God.”

Sometimes, their concern was over a lost toy or an unfortunate situation.  Other times, their concern was the bigger-than-life dreams they were dreaming.  Either way, I often brought them back to this one thought.

If it matters to you then it matters to God.

In this life we need hope.  Not a misguided and misplaced hope, but a hope rooted in the strength and care of God.  This isn’t a false hope.  It was never promised that God was our genie in a bottle looking to grant every wish.  They understood that.  We might not get the response we want, but God gives the very best He knows we need.

God looks at our hearts with care.  He sees all the things in future days we can not see.  He sees where our choices lead.  He knows what we need.  But, the really cool thing is God cares about the things we care about.  He created us and knows us.

This is a great comfort for my soul.  Our desires are not petty or insignificant. In fact, if He knew us before we were ever in our mother’s womb, wouldn’t that include what our desires and interests would be?  We are not created out of chance.

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This thought always seemed to comfort my children.  And, in the the process, I was aiming for a deep heart connection with the One who created them.  I know they take this thought with them even now.  Now, they are older.  The stakes are quite a bit higher.  Just the other day my oldest needed a reminder.  I think we all need to be reminded at points along the journey.  When the cost is higher or the dream is bigger and when we aren’t talking about lost childhood trinkets, we need to remember.  Now, we are talking about which paths to walk, which choices to make, which dreams to dream.  Or, maybe it is about provision in the real world—having real needs in this real world.  But, perhaps, it is something you think is small and insignificant, and doesn’t even warrant an audience with God.

If it matters to you then it matters to God.

Fear need not rule the day.  Our Father hears and knows.  He’s got us.  Who do you trust?  I mean, REALLY trust.  Are you trusting in yourself to get things done and to make it happen?  Do you have dreams and desires and believe you are the only one to get it done?  Maybe that is your life track record–“If it is to be then it’s up to me!”  No one ever sat with you and really listened to what was burdening your soul.  Well, I’m here today to tell you it matters.  It all matters.

Does it matter to you?  Then it matters to God. 

He’s not a magic genie looking to grant you three wishes.  But, He does care about what keeps you up at night and aches in your heart.  Trusting only in ourselves leads to a weary and worn soul.

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Things haven’t turned out quite how you wanted?  Things don’t really look like what you dreamed of in your heart?  He cares.  And, what’s even best, He sees the right answer for every situation.  Scripture teaches us to cast our burden on Him because He cares for us.  I’m amazed at all of the times God has revealed Himself to my children.  Children.  He has proven Himself over and over to them.  And, even though they are children, they have experienced some tough stuff.  And so, they are learning He can be trusted.

You may not be a child anymore, but He is waiting to listen.  If He will reveal Himself to a child, He will reveal Himself to you.  What is it that matters to you?  What is aching in your soul?

 If it matters to you then it matters to Him!

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Where Is Your Life?

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It’s been a really great summer.  Sleeping in (my favorite!), road tripping around the area, reconnecting with friends, reading, watching my boy play ball, and playing taxi.  Pretty much loving life and feeling grateful.  We enjoyed a great day for our anniversary.  We kept it simple and relaxing.  And I am so thankful.  My kids are pursuing their passions, living life and having a good time doing it.  God is blessing their lives and you can see His love for us.

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In the last few years, I haven’t always been able to say that.  Maybe that’s you, too.  We’ve experienced financial reversal, faced rejection, suffered at the hands of people and felt like we were going through hell.  I realize that isn’t the warm and fuzzy thing to say.  Suffering depression, anxiety and PTSD was never on the order list we sent up.  When 4 out of 5 in your family have to be medicated just to handle daily life, I’m telling you, that’s not what you order up.  Who does?

But, it happens.  Life happens.  I remember a couple of years ago, living life with a teenager and   just being thankful we were dealing with normal teenager stuff.  We had come a long way.  Moving from constant crisis mode to dealing with everyday issues was such a relief.  I even found some much needed humor in that.

A few years ago, I was walking the neighborhood, thinking life would never get back to normal.  I just wanted it to so desperately.  Whatever that was supposed to be.  What I thought was normal life, happened to be a private hell for someone most dear to me.  That was an eye opening thought.  A paradigm shift.

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Life changes—often on a dime.  We had more stuff going wrong and our lives turned upside than I had ever thought possible.  But, following dreams and doing big things, often stirs up the waters.  We weren’t living the status quo; life threw not-status-quo stuff back at us.

But, here we are a few years out and life has smoothed out just fine.  In the heat of it, when your neck is being scorched by the fire and heat, life looks pretty much like it is never again going to smooth out.  That seems like a very distant memory.  I got you on that one.  We are looking eyeball to eyeball, and I say, I know it.  It hurts.  It really hurts.

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I was reading some Scripture today and wanted to share it with you.  My heart skipped a beat when I read it.  Yes!  I felt it!  I knew it!  Psalm 16 is a great chapter.  Take a look at it with me.

Keep me safe, my God,

for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;

apart from you I have no good thing.”

I say of the holy people who are in the land,

“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”

Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.

I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods

or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;

you make my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;

even at night my heart instructs me.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.

With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

my body also will rest secure,

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because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,

nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.

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You make known to me the path of life;

you will fill me with joy in your presence,

with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

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Verses 5 and 6 really lit up for me.  Go ahead! Check those out again!  Many of the first years of living in Virginia were beyond hard.  It has been a challenge testing everything we were made of and then some!  But, we’ve come out on the other side.  We’ve fought hard and won!  We trusted in Him and depended on Him to get us through.  We took refuge in Christ.  We kept our eyes on Christ.  I really don’t know where we would have ended up if we hadn’t had Christ.  People will disappoint you;  people will betray and reject you.  Christ is forever the one where our hearts find peace.

So, back to the present.  Life is good.  Life is beautiful.  When you taste the bitter, the sweet is so much sweeter!  When you walk through the darkness, the light is that much brighter!  When you lose things precious, the blessings are that much more treasured.  You have to experience the sad to appreciate the joy.

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Such is life.  My life boundaries are falling in pleasant places.  That makes me happy.  We are doing life.  It’s not perfect, but what is?  But, it sure is beautiful!

A Letter To My Loves

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To Our Loves,

As your Dad and I celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary, I hope you have witnessed a growing, deep love.  It’s hard to believe we are at 24…..next year is 25 and we will be celebrating in fine style!  But until then….

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Your Dad and I met in 1988.  I know it seems so very long ago.  We married in 1991 while we were young and full of dreams.  I suggest you marry when your heart is full of love and bright with dreams.  Young love can be challenging, and I often say older is probably better.  But, here’s what I know, your dreams grow together and you figure out life with someone close by your side when you start out younger.  Life is good in pairs.  That may not work out for you exactly like that, but if your heart is open, your head is solidly on your shoulders and feet are firmly planted on the ground, run through this life together.  You won’t have all the money you need (and money is really good!), but God will provide if you listen closely to Him.

You will never find the “perfect” Mr. or Mrs. Right.  Everyone has flaws.  You have to decide what you can live with and what is non-negotiable.  Nobody you love will be perfect.  Absolutely nobody.  So, if you find love and depth of character, decide whether you can live this life without them.  Some flaws are obviously worse than others.  Run!  Run, like the wind!  But, you know I have taught you, they need to love Jesus, serve Him and love their family.  Of course, each of you have things you love and desire and things that won’t fly.  Listen to your heart!  My sweet girl, if you can find someone like your Daddy, you will be a woman most blessed.  My strong men, I hope in some way I have shown you what a Jesus-loving wife should represent.

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Love hits bumps and gets bruises.  The real beauty comes from walking out whatever life has to throw at you.  Not running away.  It’s the living out grace and faith through the rough patches.  It isn’t always pretty or easy, but marriage isn’t just about you.  The other person doesn’t complete you—you are whole just as you are.  One goal of marriage is to help your Love fulfill their dreams.  And together, if you both do that, you will achieve more than you ever could on your own.

As you journey together, you will change and grow.  So will the Love of your life.  That is good.  When you are Jesus followers, He will change you and grow you.  So, encourage them to grow.  Life is a journey; and, no, you will not know what you or your Love will look like 24 years from the day you walk down the aisle.  But, if you open your hearts and journey together, you come out on the other side even better than when you started out.

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Our journey has been filled with so much fun!  Trips to Walt Disney World, the Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyon.  Trips to the ocean and visits to opposite coasts.  Trips to other countries and close to home.  So many fabulous memories!  Life is what you make it.  Marriage is too.  Don’t wait for the golden years or someday to live life.  Do what you can, when you can.  You aren’t promised those yonder days.  Make the most of now.  It may mean you have to do it with some financial finesse, but do it nonetheless.

Remember, the children don’t run the corner office!  Teach them there is something out there bigger than them.  They can’t survive without that!  And, that, my dears, starts at home.  Your marriage is first.  Your Love is first.  Yes, there are seasons in which the children’s activities will dominate the schedule.  But, remember your love comes first.  Do what you can, when you can!  Date nights and time and moments have to be taken.  Learn your Love’s love language and do what you can to meet it.  It may be a stretch for you to think outside the box of your own idea of love, but do it.  Try hard!  Give it all you’ve got!  Children need to see their parents in love.  That is when they are most secure.  Oh, they will complain and be grossed out—gross them out anyway!

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Many times, you will be called upon to sacrifice.  That is life.  Sometimes you will have to give more than you think you have to give.  Many times you will have to set yourself aside for the moment and give out of yourself so your Love can have what they need.  And they will have to do the same.  I know this flies against the current culture.  Often times you will find a godly marriage will.  Many times, a godly marriage will have to go counter-culture to survive and grow.  In fact, I will say, most of the time you will find yourself needing to live counter-culture to protect your family.  Do it!  Make the sacrifice!  Your home, your family and all that is to come will depend on it.

There is so much more to say that comes from 24 years of marriage.  But, I’m sure that will come in time.  I wouldn’t change it for the world!  Yes, I wish I had done some things differently.  I wish I had loved better and understood more. But life and love is a journey.  Your Dad is a great example of loving—many times I feel he has done it better than I.  But, we are in it for the distance!  We’ve been through a lot, but we’ve also experienced so much laughter, joy and love.  I wouldn’t do this journey with anybody else.FullSizeRender

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Choose wisely, my Loves!  But don’t be afraid!  Love and marriage aren’t perfect, but definitely worth the effort!

 

Fits and Starts

 

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Life comes in seasons.

Dreams and their fulfilling often come in fits and starts.

It feels like taking two steps forward and one step backward.

Sometimes, it might even feel as if nothing is happening at all.

Or, maybe it even feels like your dreams are unraveling before your eyes.

I continue to come across this quote,

“Sometimes when things are falling apart they may actually be falling into place.”

I like it.

I’ve often found this to be true in my life.

Maybe the waiting and wanting isn’t the problem.

Maybe that’s all part of the plan.

Sometimes, I get this picture in my mind of God sitting and watching and chuckling.  Maybe He even looks at us and gives a wink. He watches us, you know.  He didn’t just throw us out and leaving us flailing and falling, hoping we would find our wings and catch the wind.  No, He is much more benevolent and kind.  I imagine He must wonder at times why we take so long.  Circling the same mountain over and over and over again.  All the while, He is ready to reveal something super amazing!

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We have to get out of our heads and out of the way.

So, on this, maybe I finally have.

My season of focusing solely on my family is slightly shifting.  Nothing extreme or world shattering. Just a slight shift.  Ever subtle, but it is enough to teach me something.  For a while, I realized I didn’t have any dreams.  Maybe life or crises or anxiety or depression does that.  But, I found myself in that place.  I found it nearly debilitating.  It made me freeze in fear.  How can I not have a dream?

I’m an “all in” kind of person. If I do something, it requires me to be all in. 100% full throttle in.  So, that is how I mother and support my husband.  A husband, three kids and a dog.  Big life changes came with our firstborn stepping into college.  So many things to keep up with and love and do.  Thinking up a dream wasn’t really on the “To Do List”.

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But, all the while I knew God had something for me to do in addition to my love of home.  I kept circling and circling the mountain of purpose.  It just led to discontent and sadness.  It came in cycles and started coming with more and more frequency.  It was just enough to unnerve and unsettle me and knock me from a place of contentment.

It’s cool how these moments force you to make the next step.  It is almost like walking up a staircase…with the constant bumping into the step above you, but never able to rise up to it.  

This is where I had found myself in the last couple of years.

But, life and dreams work slowly.

It isn’t a fast journey.

It takes collecting experiences and learning what is needed.

It is stopping and starting.

It is waiting and walking.

It is leaning in and pushing away.

And, if you are wrapped up in Christ, He is right in the middle of it all.  Right there.

Watching and speaking.

Calling and loving.

Gently coaxing, and calmly pulling us back.

It all feels frustrating at times and even discouraging if we are honest.

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The fits and starts and the collecting of experience—painful and beautiful alike. 

It all serves to bring us to the place we need to be.

Slowly by slowly, the edges soften and light begins to shine through.  Maybe not much at first.  Perhaps, so faint you are afraid it will disappear if you turn away.  But, oh, how journeying through the desert and circling the mountain teaches you so much!

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I’ve learned a good deal about myself in all of this.

I’ve collected memories and thoughts and, most of all, some wisdom along the way.  So, here I am.  Seeing a very faint but distinct shimmer.  I sit and listen quietly, searching and looking for signs and signals, hearing the wind blow and stir.  My heart knows.  New days and paths are leading me to what lies ahead.  My heart knows nothing is wasted or useless.  My heart knows its priority and first love.  Even when circling a mountain I had grown entirely too familiar with, God was watching…and waiting.  He was listening and shaping.

It doesn’t matter how hard you scream for your dream. 

If it isn’t time for the dawning of the dream, it isn’t going to happen.  God knows you.  He knows your dream.  He knows His dream for you.  You are far too important to prematurely birth your dream.  And besides, the birthing in and of itself is a long process.  From the first glimpse of shimmer to full blown reality is often longer still.

But, keep this in mind.  It. Is. Coming.

So, journey around the mountain.  Listen and call.  Watch and seek.  Learn and release.  And, wait.  But, just do something to prepare for your dream.  Waiting doesn’t mean being idle.  Waiting is work.  Wait and seek.  Only He knows the real outcome for your dream.

I’m sure I will circle more mountains on my way.  One dream is maybe not enough for my one, magnificent life.  Here, though, is the lesson I am learning on the way.

I am doing great things with my life…even now.  I may not be notable or noteworthy, but I am doing what I should be doing.  And, as the time comes I will be ready to step into the dreams I am now dreaming.  It’s time for me to dream.  I think I’m getting it…and I think He is chuckling.

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