Thursday, January 25, 2018

Bird in a Barren Bush

A few days ago, I found myself sitting in Walgreens parking lot. I was there picking up a prescription for my daughter who was just diagnosed with strep and of course, meds weren't ready. Instead of driving home, I found a cozy parking spot, put my van in park, and closed my eyes. Silence. Quiet. Escape. Breather. It was a crazy couple of weeks with sick kiddos and mine and my husband's work schedules and it was nice to just stop.
After a few minutes, I opened my eyes. I was parked where I could see traffic going in and out and to my right were three bushes. They were brown and barren like most of the trees and and surrounding bushes. Something about these bushes caught my eye though and drew me in. In these bushes, there were birds. I started looking closer and there were birds in all of the bushes, hopping around. They started chirping loudly in unison. The chirping went on for a couple of minutes then came to a complete stop. No one would ever know these birds were in these bushes unless they were as close to them as I was. They were camouflaged by the color of the sticks. These little guys must have been seeking shelter from the cold wind that day. I remember being out in the wind taking my daughter into the doctor and covering our faces because the air was so frigid. Maybe that was it. They were trying to get far enough down into the bush to cover themselves from the fierce wind. Maybe they were looking for a bush that had leaves on it, maybe they were trying to get sticks to take to some other place to form a nest. Maybe they didn't know why they were in the bush, they just saw a fellow bird, and started flying behind them and that's where they landed. Maybe they heard the chirping and wanted to join in.

On the way home, I kept thinking about those birds in the barren bushes. Now I know it's probably common practice for birds to gather like that. I'm no bird expert. I couldn't help but see something familiar here, something close to home, something I've seen before. I've seen this scenario played out in my friend's lives, in the lives of family members, in people's lives I've never met, and I've seen it in myself. I think the obvious comparison we want to jump to is the bird. So, let's be the bird for a moment, the bird in the bush. Have you ever felt like you wanted to hide? Like you wanted to cover up something? That you needed shelter? A safe place? That your cries were drowned out by someone else's cries or not heard at all? We are a society that loves to hide. We find comfort in knowing we'll never be seen for who we are. In fact, we go great lengths in safeguarding ourselves so no one will ever be allowed to REALLY see what's going on in our world, our homes, or our lives. Even at surface level authenticity, we are really on the struggle bus. What's the first thing we as women do when we're getting ready for the day? We cover up. We pull out the concealer, the foundation, the powder, the contour stick, ALL THE COSMETICS, and we blend and rub and cover. What about those lines that are on my neck? Nope, not showing those today. What about my dark circles? They won't ever know I have them. And forget about showing any trace of acne or blemish. Sephora has my back. Now listen, I am a hairstylist and have been in an industry for 10 plus years that centers around making women feel more confident in their looks and I love me some makeup and I love hair color, but it is in fact, covering your God given natural assets. Just like hair color can take away those grays in about 30 minutes for 5 more weeks, we so quickly want to cover what we see in the mirror from head to toe. If you can't tone it, tan it. Wear four shirts to cover up the jiggle. Never show your legs because they look like a roadmap of varicose veins. Cover, layer, and put it away.
How does that translate emotionally? Mentally? At work? In relationships? With your spouse? As a parent? As a Christian? As a human being? We cling to social media in ways that are detrimental to our well being on so many levels. We fuel passive aggression by posting memes and statuses that don't mention names but we have it out there for certain people to read in hopes that they'll get offended or insecure or will be upset. Passive aggression is one of the most attractive ways to keep hiding because it keeps everyone and everything in the dark. We hunker down behind our screens and shoot out missiles without any purpose other than to hurt. But hurt who? Hurt people hurt people. We want to prove a point, shine a light on someone else, point the finger, and cast the blame. Why? Because they deserve it Because they hurt me. Because I'm so offended by X, Y, and Z. What does it look like to gather those missiles and turn that pointer finger around? What kind of hard work does it take to look in the mirror, accept what you see, and work on it from there without lashing out? What if our selfies were less about the angle of the camera and more about a straight picture of the heart?

The bird is no longer in that bush. It came out, flew out, went about its way to a warmer bush, maybe still a barren one with it being winter. But the bird knows there are blue skies, green grass, lavish bushes, and plenty of twigs coming in Spring. So the bird makes due until then. In this scenario, lets not overlook the barren bush. The barren bush is not seen. It's brown, naked, and really can't even claim it's worth looking at. It's feeble attempt in keeping the birds warm is sad. Raise your hand if you see yourself in the bush. Hello, there I am! I go through seasons of feeling vibrant, full of life, and beaming with the sunshine and bearing yummy fruit. And all too often, I feel like that barren bush. Weathered by the storm, feeling cold and naked, longing for someone to take shelter beneath my leaves but I have none to offer. Something I've learned over the years is I can't protect all the ones I love. I see those birds in that bush still shivering, still longing for shelter from the cold. I've always wanted to protect and preserve. To uphold, encourage, and edify when needed. But I have also learned we can absolutely be depleted of those things and be left feeling like a pile of dry sticks with nothing to give at all. I have carried that burden and will carry it for years to come I imagine. But the Lord has been gracious in reminding me it's not my job to uphold, to fulfill someone else's emotional needs, or to protect everyone from harm at all times. If I stay in that space, I am liable to self destruct in a way. Then I will have nothing to show for, nothing to produce, and nothing to offer.

My favorite part of this scene is the part that hadn't happened yet, not while I was watching anyway. The part when the wind got a little warmer, the birds got a little braver, and they all came up out of that barren bush, spread their wings, and took off. Shivering, I'm sure. Flying maybe a little wobbly from being perched in that bush for a little while. But the wings are open, the sights are set, and while destination may be unknown, the bird is breaking free and soaring. No greenery around yet, not much on the ground to make a nest out of, but there he goes. Vulnerable, bare, showing everyone what he's got. Not a bald eagle making it's flight across a majestic ocean, but a little shivering bird, freely flying to whatever's next.

What's got your wings tied friend? What are you hiding from or trying to cover up in your barren bush? Or are you trying to be someone else's safe harbor only to find yourself barren and unable to fulfill? Truth, authenticity, and transparency are hard things, but my God, when we embrace them, we are sure to be flying. It doesn't come without hard work, raw emotions, and real conversations, but start somewhere. Wipe off the makeup, take off the Spanx, come out from behind the screen and do the hard things. The creator of the world says we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Even if you can't stand the sight of yourself, or others for that matter, just think about that. The same God that formed the mountains and gave light to the stars also made you and says you, says they, are wonderfully made. Look up, take a deep breath, and spread your wings!

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Van Years

I can't ever remember a time when I wanted to drive a van. I distinctly recall telling myself I would NEVER drive a van. I would be the cool mom in the SUV with the automatic doors. The mom with the Thirty-One bins, monogrammed in matching colors of course, neatly stacked on top of each other in the back of that SUV. Those sitting next to a nice travel system for the baby and that's it. Each child having their own little mesh hanging thing attached to the back of the driver and passenger seats, filled with a couple of their favorite coloring books and some crayons. Oh and I knew I wanted a dvd player in that SUV because how could we travel anywhere without a movie playing?? Black in color, maybe red even. Shiny and pretty and not a dent or smudge of bird poop to be found.

We purchased our first van when we had one child. ONE CHILD. I was only 27 and I felt like my years of youth were taken away from me. Like I was sacrificing my idea of what I thought was a cool mom right at the altar of mom shaming. It was all very spontaneous really. I came home with my baby, who was I don't know, under a year old, and said, "We've got to get a bigger car." The car seat, the diaper bag, the purse, and having the stroller took up about every inch in our car. I had to break my back to bend over to put the car seat in and out with an ever growing baby in it. "We NEED more room." So we hopped on the internet and before I knew it we were on our way to Etown to get us a van. We traded in our car, along with our dignity, and rode home feeling awkward. Aren't we too young to be driving this big thing?? How can you even see what's behind there? I wasn't even 30 yet, and here I was, riding high in the mom machine. The next morning I woke up and looked out in my driveway startled thinking, "Someone's here!" Nope. That was in fact my van parked at my house bought in our name.

Man if I could only go back and tell my hesitant self how awesome the van life would be. How there's so much ROOM! No more breaking of the back or squeezing everyone and everything in this little box. No, no. Now we have a rectangle on wheels! And we really know how to be fruitful in 5 years. Two more kiddos later and we are about to outgrow this van. I have really come to love our van. With a deep love. That thing has had so much life in and out of it. It has housed some wonderful memories as it's taken us to and fro. We've also invested a lot of money in this thing. It's had it's visits to the repair shop on a few occasions that left us grimacing as we wrote out a big check. But probably one of my most favorite things about our van is IT'S PAID OFF. That's right, no more payments for the beast, we just get to enjoy it until it craps out, and that we will.

Now, can't say much about the looks of it. Like I said, it's been in the repair shops here and there. The other day my co worker and great friend looked outside and said, "Felicia.." (hesitiates) "..your van." Yes, my van. My van is filthy from the inside out. The backseat is where the unknown is. I venture back there only when there's a spill I know of or a smell I can't figure out. My five year old has taken a crayon to the speakers and has put stickers on the back of the seat. Back in the summer, I used an entire can of Clorox wipes to scrub the melted, gooey, crayon, candy nastiness out of the cup holder. Kids are foul. The trunk of the van is probably worse. Under the stroller and whatever other toys Callie has thrown back there is candy/food wrappers, all kinds of little pieces of scrap paper that's been torn up, and some stale fries. The front bumper is slightly hanging off on one side, which we're reminded of when we park somewhere and it scrapes along the cement block. Oh, and my favorite, we now have a HUGE dent in the side of it as of recent because the mail lady ran into me. Busted rim all over the road, big scratch and dent and the cop says "They're not filing, so I wouldn't either." Gotta love Kentucky and their no fault law. Eye roll. So the long and short of it...this van is an eye sore. No, this van is ugly. A little busted up and the kids' hand prints in the dirt on the back of it is another reminder that I can't remember the last time I drove it through a car wash.

"Yeah, I know..." I said back to my friend. Sometimes when I'm walking towards it during lunch hour at work, I think how dirty it is or how ridiculous it looks. I think about how nice it would be to have a newer van with automatic sliding doors and one that's darker in color, because in case you're unaware, white shows everything. EVERYTHING. Ohhh or maybe one that has automatic start, wouldn't that be nice? I really only think about those things every now and then. Because what I think about the most when I see the beast isn't the dent. It's isn't the dirt and it isn't the bumper hanging on by a thread. I get in that van every morning after buckling three children in to the back of it. I see toys on the floor. I hear giggles and singing. I see beautiful little faces smiling back at me in the rearview mirror. When they aren't with me, I see three carseats and am reminded of the precious cargo this van carries day in and day out. I see my baby's sippy cup rolling around that she threw again. I see hair bows in the cup holders. I hear their favorite CD playing and I turn up the music.

How very much are we like my sorry looking van? Especially as mommas. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and think "Yikes, hope I have time to put on makeup today" or "Man my hair is a mess" or the thing all of us women say most often, "I really need to lose that belly." Sometimes I feel like a walking tornado. My next thought is already ending before I can spout out the first one. I lay in bed each night and look at my reminders list- some things I got done, some were forgotten. I am constantly running on E in and out of the van. We have no groceries in my house. I have stopped at Mcdonalds one too many times this week just so my kids can get some breakfast because this work week has not allowed momma anytime to make it to the store. I have a stack of adoption papers that have been glaring at me for weeks sitting on my nightstand, begging me to fill them out and they keep getting covered by something else. I turned in my daughter's pizza fundraiser a day late because I refused to send her with nothing. Whoever has all their ducks in row all the time must be really close to losing their sanity. For the love of God, I don't even have ducks. I have two chihuahuas who need to be groomed and one keeps getting out of the fence. Sigh.

Just like my van, I can only see the chaotic at times. The unattractive. The mal-functioning. The hanging on by a thread parts of myself. The messy, the broken, the undesired. Just like I know someone else drives a nice car than me, I also know that someone else must be doing better than me at this mom thing. This wife thing. This employee thing. This homemaker (or home undoer) thing. This Jesus loving, faith living out thing. This everything. On a good day, when I feel on top of my game, I still would only give myself a C. But how I am reminded from our good God that there is beauty in the ashes. God takes my mess and makes is His mission. He uses my uselessness for His good. He see my weariness and reminds me it's ok to ask for help, a break, a breather. He reminds me that while I see a very unhinged mother in the mirror, that He's sees his child who is doing a great job.

So mommas, daddies, wives, husbands, friends, employers and employees, I want to pass along the same reminder. While you may resonate with my van and feel like you've been drug through the mud most days or have seen your share of repair shops, remember that God sees you as something great and has big plans for you. Even in your valleys, even in the dark, even in the mundane. You are doing a great job, despite feeling like you're drowning in check lists and school projects. So ride proud in that momma machine, with your head held high, knowing these are our years. The years we'll want back. One day I'll look into my rearview mirror and see an empty back seat, no toys and no sippys. Everything will smell clean and there will be no more candy wrappers on the floor. And I will probably cry, longing for these days right here. Let's ride in our beaten up, messy vans for as long as we can.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Getting out of Comfortable

"But God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through."
-Francis Chan

I would say I have a comfortable life. We have bills like everyone else and owe our debts, but we are able to have extras and fulfill some of our wants. Christmas was two days ago and I can look around this house and see that my children are immeasurably blessed. They didn't ask for anything extravagant...a couple of dolls for my oldest and a Beauty and the Beast tea cart for my 3 year old. We tried to cut down the list of toys this year for family members too. We requested they buy activities for them, art supplies, practical things, etc over toys. For the love of more toys! I cannot wait to give the toys away to the masses. My girls had a great Christmas and I am thankful they did. I can't help but think about my three year old's response after opening all of her gifts. It wasn't from a place of gratitude, thankfulness, or appreciation. It was coming from a place of wanting more and not being satisfied. When my five year old still had two more gifts to open, my three year old,  after she had already opened all of hers, said "Mommy, I want to open more gifts!! That's not fair!" She then bursts into tears.
I had to restrain myself from yelling out crazy things to her. Of course my first thought was "How dare you?!" with a very dramatic gasp. But it makes sense with the way our finite, human minds and longings work. Even a three year old thinks if I get more and more, I'll be happy and more happy. Oh my child, if only it worked that way. If I'm being honest, I wanted to sack up every new toy sitting around her on the floor and take it straight to good will in that moment. But in retrospect, it seems like a reflection of her surroundings. Something that is in us naturally. I have never once taught her to demand more things or if she has more of something, she'll be more happy or content. Children want toys. And they want other kids' toys. They want the loudest, coolest, most colorful, most technologically advanced, most hard to wire, most impossible to get toy. They want that toy with all of their being and with every Santa visit, they beam with joy as they rattle off their wishlist. And Christmas morning, when that gift is opened, it's pure joy for our momma hearts to see our children get what they were wanting so badly.
But a couple days after Christmas...where is that deeply desired tea cart now? It's lying on the floor next to the tub of toys that haven't been played with for months. Where is that longing they had for that toy? It's completely diminished and a new desire for a different toy has taken it's place. Where is the joy they displayed when that gift was opened? It was but a fleeting moment and just like a gust of wind, it's gone too.
Isn't this just like the way we adults operate too? We demand and teach our children to be happy with what they have, that having things isn't important and that people and relationships are. We often say "you get what you get and you don't throw a fit." Yet, how often do we throw righteous adult fits when something goes array? Don't we stomp our feet and throw our hands in the air when someone doesn't fit the mold of our expectation of them? What about when someone does better than you or gets promoted over you or overlooks you altogether? I can hear the inner crying now.
Being comfortable in your life does not equal peace. Just because my daughter was given what she wanted, she was still restless. Still angry that she didn't get to open more gifts. Jealous that her sister had more to open and then disappointed when she didn't have any left to. We often equate joy and peace with a comfortable life. Comfortable financially. Comfortable in our routines. Comfortable in our relationships. Comfortable in our jobs. Comfortable in sitting out of charity work. Comfortable in knowing someone else will do it.
I would argue being comfortable, or society's definition of it, isn't peaceful at all. Comfortable makes me think of lukewarm or stagnant water. Just sitting. Not nurturing anything. Not being useful in any way. Just sitting there in a warm glass that someone has forgotten about on the bedside table. Comfortable is a black and white painting, a richly routined life with no room for things outside of the norm, especially not the things of God or His calling. Because if we were obedient to that calling, we would be pushed way outside of our comfort zones.

And that is exactly where I want to be.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sitting Graveside

I went and sat at my dad's grave the other day after work. I really had no intention of ending up there. I was exhausted after standing all day and wanted nothing more than to get home to see my babies and hubs. But there I went, driving towards the funeral home, passing it and heading in to the cemetery. It used to be I could enter from the other side right after he passed. I was 16 then. I spent a lot of time there that year. I would drive up there late at night even. Sometimes I'd go with my mom, but mostly I went alone. My sister and I processed his death very differently and she didn't go for years to visit. She still rarely goes. And really, is there a need to? We know he's not lying in that coffin. We know his soul resides with Jesus. I know he hears me talking to him whether I'm standing in my kitchen or by his grave. So why do we visit graves anyway? What's the purpose in visiting a body that is 6 feet in the ground with no life left in them? I know good and well my dad would tell me to stop coming there. He would tell me there's no need, that I can look up and talk to him anytime I wanted. My grandmother would say the same. Well, maybe she'd want to make sure her flower arrangements were looking good. And my mother keeps them looking beautiful.
But what drove me there yesterday was desperation. Desperation to make sense of this life. Desperation to figure something out that I haven't quite yet. Desperation for answers. For something. I will tell you this...if you need some calm, if you need some reflection, some evaluation, go sit in a cemetery. Walk around and read the stones. Reflect on the lives that are no longer present around you and tell me if that doesn't reel your emotions in a bit. Or maybe it would send them over the edge. For  me, it was sobering. It's always something that is good for me. To be reminded that this life is in fact temporary. That one day I will breathe my last breath and my family and friends will be left to mourn without me. As my sister and I were left to mourn my dad's death at the ages of 16 and 14. My dad died when he was 42. I'll be 32 in a few short months. 42 is not far away for me.
It was all I could do to get out of my van quick enough. I left the windows cracked and walked towards the tombstone. I sat on the ground right in front of his name. "Danny Ray Casey, Born June 22, 1958 - Died April 17, 2001". I stared for a long time at the stone. I stared off into the sky. I listened to the bugs chirping around. I talked to him, asked him if he ever dealt with some of the things we are. I asked how he handled it if so and just thought of what he might say if he were here today. I reflected on the day of his funeral. I was in my darkest place of grief that day. I didn't even know how to process a loss so great at such a young age. I relied heavily on my friends to pull me through. I remember collapsing in their arms when they were lowering him into the ground.
I sat and cried and talked a little more. I told him how much he would love my babies and how proud he'd be of Victoria. I longed for his freedom. His freedom from his sickness, his freedom from this world. His freedom from this life. We can't imagine that type of freedom just yet. We're not made to experience that until we meet Jesus face to face but man do I ever long for heaven some days. For those streets of gold and being reunited with all of our lost loved ones. Where there's no ugliness, darkness, gossip, lies, temptations, and sin. Where all is right and nothing is wrong. Where hesitations and fears are no more and saints are free to love and worship forever. What a day that will be!
Until then, I want to know that I am living as freely as possible in the time I have left on earth. That I am showering others with grace and love, even in the darkness. That my daughters see that I am not perfect, but I'm clinging to my Jesus who is. That I'm giving myself freedom to fail, learn, and grow in the process. That I'm freeing myself up from expectations of others and expectations I put on myself. That I'm refusing to put back on the chains of bondage of anger, frustration, and bitterness that ruled me for too long. Sometimes we live as if this life goes on forever, that we get chance after chance, that we will never perish. While I know where my soul will reside after this life is over, I want to know that the life I'm living today isn't full of things I'll regret. And I can't do this in my own strength. Selfishly, I want to throw my arms up in the air and give up. Give up on people. Give up on humanity. Give up on there being any good in this world. I want to point my finger in their face and tell them that's not how you do it, not what you say, not how you treat people, not how your life should go.....and the list goes on. We are a culture of fixers aren't we? We try to take someone else's life and circumstances and give them a prescription. A prescription for everything they're not doing right. We could do it better. We would never do what they're doing. We would never struggle with that sin, temptation, addiction, etc. You must not be doing what the Lord wants you to do. You must be reaping what you've sown in your wild days. You must be getting what you deserve.
But what if that's not it at all? This is so contrary to what we are called to live like as Christ followers. What we deserve is certainly not what we've been given. And how do we live out that gratitude to our Jesus? By withholding that same grace and forgiveness towards others? By hiding behind our computer screens and phones and posting scriptures, laced with guilt trips. By turning encouragement into something that has to be earned. By only loving those who love you and give you something in return. By turning God's Word into a pastor said it best, Christianity is not a la carte. There's no choosing here. Love is a command. What restrictions and stipulations are you putting on your love? What would it look like if those restrictions were lifted? If you love without hesitation, reservations, or qualifications? If you loved your family member addicted to drugs, served your friend in their darkest hour, gave to the homeless man on the corner who has nothing to give in return.
Wouldn't that love be freeing? Wouldn't that kind of shocking love change your life? That's the life I'm longing for. Where my hands are open and my heart is ready to serve. God help remind us that this life isn't forever, but the way we love others can be eternally impacting.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Raising Up Storm Chasers

I took this picture at the beginning of this week during a pretty cool rain storm. The girls were so mesmerized by the wind and the rain and they wanted a front row seat. They opened the glass door and pulled closed the screen so they could hear and smell everything. At certain times, Callie would pull back the screen and stick out her hand and laugh and giggle as the rain sprinkled her hand. Before it became too heavy, she hopped right out in it and twirled around in the wind. She spun and danced on our deck without a care in the world. Eyes closed, arms outstretched, hands dancing along the currents of the breeze. When I ushered her back in, they both went and grabbed their blankets and plopped down on the kitchen floor as if they were watching Disney's newest movie on the big screen. They sat and chatted. They yelled out when the thunder started and would laugh here and there when the rain blew toward the screen drizzling them a bit. But they were safe and dry. They watched from inside our home. They watched not worried about being caught in it, knowing I would make sure they kept the door closed and stayed safe. They carried on with their normal playing after 15 minutes or so of observing. They walked away and went about their merry way.

I've been thinking about this picture and their little storm experience all week. I've been pulling up this picture and thinking about all of the parallels in our own lives. Unbeknownst to me, the Lord was showing me something that morning. Something I want my kids to be a part of, not to just be a spectator of.  While I'm so thankful my children were under my care during the storm and inside, safe and dry, it's far from what I want for my children in the grand scheme of things. In the grand scheme of life, relationships, and in society...I want my kids to be fearless. I want them to abandon their safety for the sake of someone else. I want them to run out, get wet, stand with a friend and feel the storm with them. I want them to take a risk to show love and support in the eye of the hurricane. 
The joyous scene for my girls certainly would have changed if one of their little friends or cousins were standing in our yard getting soaked and crying from fear of the thunder and lightening. No doubt in my mind, Callie would have thrown back the door, yelled for her friend or would have gone out to help her get her to safety as quick as possible. 

Would we, as adults, do the same?

Adults who have experienced many more years of life than little ones. Adults who have taken root in their pride, fear, judgment, anxiety, and finger pointing. Those of us who can tell you what you're doing right and wrong, but don't offer an ounce of love or grace to the suffering. Kids need to be taught how to act, how to speak, what to believe, who to love. Who are they taught to love? And HOW are they being taught to love? WE are their teachers, parents. WE are their mentors, their how to's, their eyes, their ears, and what comes out of those little mouths. It's all a reflection of us and what they are taught. Through word and deed, through accident or observance or a direct lesson or lecture. And I want to push my kids out the door. I want to urge them to pull back the screen and go running out with umbrellas, lifeboats, food, water, pure and undefiled love. Love that hasn't been tainted by the world, society's bantering, people group's segregations, or Satan's lies. I want them to hover around the one that the rain is beating down on. I want them to hold their hand and share in their fear and worry. I want them to be the ones to offer a word of kindness, a prayer for healing, a look of concern. I want them to give life to Jesus' commands to love they neighbor.

I want them to also know that running out in the storm means getting caught in the storm themselves at times. I want to caution them and I want to prep them. Praying for my storm chasers everyday. Filling their minds and hearts with God's Word will fuel them and strengthen them for ministry work. Befriending the excluded, sticking out their neck for the undeserving, and loving those who are unloving is no light task. No light task for any of us. There is risk for rejection, miscommunication, even being struck by lightening. But when the rain stops and the clouds break for the sunshine, I want them to know at the end of each day, they weren't dictated by fear. They were bold in loving others for Jesus. That they looked at someone and saw them and their need and did what they could to meet that need or love that person in need. I want them to lie down each night, exhausted from being used up for the kingdom, ready and willing to grab their life jackets on the way out the door the next day. 

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus." Phillippians 2:3-5

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Worst Anniversary Ever

This has been all in the last week: last Monday (a week ago), my oldest daughter came and got me after seeing blood in the toilet. We then ended up in the ER with her for half of the day ruling out possible scenarios, malfunctions, etc. While we are still in the process of getting her better, we were thankful to leave the hospital knowing what wasn't wrong with her. That night I was up all night with her after she had four accidents throughout the night- once in her bed, three in ours. She's almost 5, but with the frequent bladder issues, her muscles have become very weak and when she gets another infection, she can hardly get to the bathroom quick enough. The next night, my 2 year old ended up in bed with us and started throwing up. Adam then ended up sleeping in the living room floor with her where she threw up once more. The next day we sent Callie to school, having been on antibiotics for a few days. Her school called to let us know she was bleeding once more and was in intense pain and needed to be picked up. Her follow up with the pediatrician was that day where we were told she would for sure need a procedure done to further investigate her ongoing issues and would have to be sedated. Also we had to switch her to a stronger antibiotic because the one she was on wasn't doing anything. Saturday was set aside for us to go out to eat for our anniversary. I took off work and was really excited to get away with Adam after our crazy week. As irony would have it, I became pretty sick that evening and we had to cut our mediocre dinner short. I was able to rest up Sunday and in the middle of the night Adam started throwing up. He violently threw up all night into this morning and stayed home from work. I saw him briefly as I brought him more water and was switching out the laundry. Today is our 7th anniversary.
Whoa. I mean, I can't even digest what this week has thrown at us.
So in the midst of fear, stress, exhaustion, and worry, I'm now frustrated because my weekend didn't go as planned. Our plans of a night out was cut short and we only spoke today when I was ushering the girls out of our room to keep him quarantined. He even said to me in passing today, "This is the worst anniversary ever."
Yep, can't say I disagreed with that statement. But in retrospect maybe I do disagree. No, we didn't get to have our big dinner and stay out as long as we wanted. Heck just to have him in the same room with me without running to the toilet would've been great. Reality is, life is hard. Life doesn't care what you have planned or what you're feeling, it just has a way of sucking sometimes. But this week, we gave life to these vows.

"to have and to hold, from this day forward
for better, for worse
for richer, for poorer
in sickness, and in health
to love and to cherish
til death do us part
according to God's holy law
and this is my solemn vow."

These weren't our exact vows, but very similar. Let's be honest. When you have children, it's nearly impossible to hold each other. Our arms are full with little girls and garbage bags, and laundry baskets. Even when we're walking somewhere together, we're herding sheep. Making sure no one gets hit by a car and carrying 14 bags plus an infant seat. The best time to hold one another is in bed I suppose, but he'd have to get past my pillow and our two children who climb in between us almost nightly. He's started this thing saying, "Do you need 20 seconds?" He read somewhere that hugging for 20 seconds releases endorphins and puts you in better spirits. So he'll grab me as I'm running to get a bottle or to get Maci out of the sink. I usually try to keep walking but he usually wins. And let me tell you, it works. For 20 seconds, I have time to remember that I'm a wife. His wife. I can embrace this man and tell him I love him in the midst of chaos. I have the opportunity to show my girls how much I love their daddy.
This week has been more worse than better and more sick than healthy. Sleep deprivation and long work hours thrown in with everything else has made this week purely survival mode. Bathe, eat, brush teeth, get to where you have to go, pay bills. We've been robot parents and robot spouses.  We communicate through text on our work days if possible and even after getting off work, we're counting the minutes until we can fall into our bed. You can see where this vicious cycle would take it's toll on us. After this week, it could be very easy for us to be at each other's throats. But by the grace of God, we have stayed unified. I don't say that in a way that's implying our marriage is some great teacher to other marriages. But I say that to give glory to our Lord for helping us to keep each other priority in the midst of the ugly stuff.
We love each other, we cherish each other, and we have each other. When I walked down the aisle in front of all of our family and friends 7 years ago, I made a life long commitment. I had no idea what that commitment would look like or how much work would go into it, but it's hard work, let me tell you. I wake up every morning and choose to love him. I choose to put his needs above my own. I choose to encourage him even with a simple text or a quick prayer on the way to work. He wakes up and chooses to love me. He puts my needs above his own. He encourages and strengthens me. There are no boundaries, no white elephants, no secrets, and no hiding. Everything is on the table at all times. If I need to be called out, he does it. If he needs to be more sensitive, I tell him to put his phone down and look at me when I'm talking to him. "I need your eyes" is something else he says to me when I'm distracted or half listening. Our honesty and transparency is the the lifeblood of this marriage. The Lord brought us together. He is my most precious gift and I am his. So while we are still figuring things out, have many more hurdles to jump, and many mountains to climb, I know that I'm never alone. He is the love of my life, the father of my children, the holder of my heart. He serves me and cares for me. He leads me and doesn't skirt around hard issues. We laugh. Man, do we ever laugh. My face has more lines in it than I had wanted at 31, but I can't regret them, because I know most are from laughing at my crazy husband.
Happy 7th Anniversary my love. Let's keep having and holding and cherishing and loving. Our life wasn't promised to be easy or full of sunshine and rainbows, but we can walk through the rain hand in hand and keep our family before the Lord. Here's to many more!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

We're not home yet

"When it rains, it pours."
Familiar with that phrase? Lived it? Ever felt like you were drowning in some kind of rainstorm without a trace of an umbrella, lifeboat, or break of sunshine in sight? too.
I'm just gonna get straight to sucks. Life is hard. Life is not fun. Life is unfair. Life is stressful. Life is unpredictable. I am convinced the older I get, the more difficult life becomes. The past year has been an uphill climb for me with lots of debris hitting me in the face, no safety harness attached, and a 300 lb man latched to my back. But before I loose everyone to all of the negativity this blog has opened with, I must clarify.
My life would be considered good. Been married to my high school sweetheart for 7 years, have 3 beautiful, healthy daughters, a nice home, great friends, family and we are a part of an amazing church. My husband and I are both really happy in our jobs and are doing our best to live a life reflective of Christ. We've had our fair share of grief, heartache, and pain too. But the Lord has been faithful to us in those times and delivered us time and time again. So overall, I am incredibly happy about my lot in life at this very moment. I am blessed beyond measure with all the goodness our God has poured out. But that could change in the blink of an eye.
There has been so much pain around us this year. People hurting everywhere. People suffering in silence or masking their deepest wounds for fear of judgement. Tears at every corner. Grief on the hunt like a starving bloodhound. Temptation dangling in front of lonely souls. Fingers being pointed and relationships divided. Trust has sizzled where it once thrived and unconditional love has been overshadowed by selfishness. Manipulation is at it's best while authenticity has taken a back seat. Gossip rings in my ears (literally..I work at a salon) and encouraging words are long gone. Pain and darkness seem to be overtaking humanity and we are all guilty of sitting back and watching our loved ones drown in it one by one. Or maybe you are the one crying out for help, loosing grip of your rope, and everyone is stand around watching you. If we're honest, I think at some point we have all felt like a lamb thrown into a pack of wolves.
How do we make the pain go away? When will life improve? When will people stop getting sick and dying? When will evil disappear forever? When will everyone be genuinely happy and frolic around holding hands running through a glorious field under the canopy of a blue sky with perfect white clouds?
We need to wake up. We need to realize the reality and severity of our world and the pain that exists within it.
GREAT news is we can control our reaction to such pain. Our actions when someone else is hurting. Our response to a loved one who is dying. Our words when their is division. Our care when it is needed. Our love to give when someone is deprived of it. There are beautiful gifts of ourselves to give if we only open up. If we put others' needs before our own. If we see the good in people and aren't constantly blinded or stopped at the bad. If we stop trying to prove our skills and compare ourselves to others by how well we do this or that and instead come alongside each other and lift one another up. There is a lot of bad but there can be a lot of good too.
In frustration and sheer exhaustion from a personal struggle, I lifted up my hands and yelled to my husband, "Why is life so hard?" His words were simple and life giving, "We're not home yet babe."
I felt like the Lord smacked me across the face with my sweet husband's reminder. We were not promised an easy life. Many people question things about God when a loss or death happens. Or a lost job. Or a divorce. Or a family feud. "Why would a good God allow His people to suffer?" My response...what kind of person would I be without having gone through suffering at all? I don't know that I want to know that kind of person. For my fellow believers out there, we can be encouraged in Romans 5, "...but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope..." What kind of person would I be or anyone be without endurance, character, and hope?
So the next time you hear of someone suffering, offer an encouraging word or prayer. If you are suffering, don't hide in it alone. Reach out and get help. There are many things friends of mine, clients, and people I don't even know are experiencing right now that I may never experience but that doesn't exempt me from the pain. We are called to carry each others' burdens and I intend to do that as best as I can for those who need or want their load shared. My dark days were always a little better with someone, anyone, shining the smallest glimmer of light.