Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Homeless Get My Leftovers

The past two years have been a whirl wind. I've had the opportunity to see so much of the beauty across the western part of the U.S.  My absolute FAVORITE part of all of the amazing scenery were the unbelievable, gargantuan mountains. 

The Rockies, Cascades, and Sierra Nevada Mountain ranges are the most breath taking thing I have ever laid eyes on. Just ask my children because as we were driving near these glorious beauties I never stopped shouting, "Look, look over there!  Do you see that?!? Are you looking?!? I don't think you're looking. Stop reading, stop looking at your iPad and look!!! You might not ever see this again!!"

And don't get me started on snow covered mountains. When we lived in Eugene, Oregon I would drive to the top of Skinner's Butte several times a week during the winter to see if I could catch a glimpse of The Sisters when they were covered with snow. It always made my heart skip a beat.
Every. Single. Time.

It was always awe inspiring. Something that my eyes just couldn't quite grasp, and my brain would try to process that it was real. I wasn't looking at a painting. I was really there.  

Just below Skinner's Butte was the Whitaker neighborhood. It was the "rough" part of Eugene, although it was making a major transformation. Many eclectic restaurants and breweries were making their new homes there. It was was becoming a really cool place to go for lunch or dinner. 

College kids, hipsters, middle aged adults, and beyond had begun to frequent this part of town for the unique cuisine and funky northwest atmosphere that only a neighborhood like "The Whit" in Eugene, Oregon could provide.
What made this area even more interesting was that while it was experiencing this new growth, it was also a home to the homeless. This is where most of the transient wanderers would gather, sleep, and spend their time. The parks where children would play were often where the homeless made their beds.

I've lived a very sheltered life in small town Alabama. This was a new experience for me. I didn't know how to handle seeing the homeless man sitting on a park bench, reading the newspaper that he had gotten from the trash can. Then watching as he patiently waited for people to finish their lunches. As they put their discarded leftovers in the trash and then left the park, he would go to the trash can and take their scraps and make that his meal. 

Over the summer my children and I frequented the park where a particular homeless man spent his time. I watched him. He stayed back. Away from the children and the parents or caregivers. As if he knew that his presence would be off putting. No one seemed to notice him. He waited patiently for his meals to come on the heels of what others found as refuse. 

It was hard to watch. Here I was with four children. There wasn't really anything I could do. I was scared. What if I tried to talk to him? What would I say? Was he dangerous?  Was he so drunk or drugged or just mentally unstable that it would even make a difference if I spoke to him?  So, I did the only thing I could think of. As he disappeared into the public restroom, I walked over to where he had his pile of blankets, newspapers, and other personal belongings, and I gave him our leftovers. 

I gave him what we didn't want to eat. What we had left. I didn't give him our best but just what we could spare. I had every intention of coming back the next day and leaving him a real meal. But I didn't. Life got in the way and I put him out of my mind. I know. I have a family to take care of. Children to feed and I shouldn't cause myself grief for not feeding a homeless man the best that I could but that's not what we are called to do. While we are not called to shame ourselves, we should show love. 

I learned much more about love than I think I even realized from my experience in the northwest. I learned that it's love that we desire when we are hurting. It's love that we need when we are angry. Love is the only thing that can diffuse a tense situation. Love is what we need but yet it's the hardest thing to put into action. 

My time in the northwest was primarily filled with just trying to wrap my mind around the transition. Trying to adjust to my new life. Trying to help my children adjust to their new lives. I was an observer most of the time that I was there. But those observations changed me.

Had I not gone to the northwest I might never had attended a Bible study with a transgendered teen. He was homeless. One of the ladies who attended the Bible study also volunteered at the homeless shelter for youth. She worked her shift and offered to bring some of the girls with her to the study. He wanted to come along too. 

This was one of the only times I had ever made it to the ladies Bible study. I'm not going to make it sound like I was involved and leading studies. I wasn't. Like I said, the transition and adjustment rocked my world. I had a nursing baby when we moved to Eugene, then I became pregnant 6 months after being there. It was a crazy hormonal time for me. 

Nevertheless, this was one of my first "stepping out of my comfort zone" experiences. I realized after listening to the young, homeless, transgender teen talk that he just needed to know he was loved. He talked about being rejected by his parents, grandparents, and step-parents. He talked about being treated like trash and used for the amusement and pleasure of others. 

Not once did he talk about a time that he ever felt accepted and loved unconditionally. Not once did he say that he had someone who told him that no matter what, they would always love him, regardless of his life choices. He felt a harsh judgment by people of the church due to his experience with family members and others. 

Isn't that a common thread that we all grab a hold of from time to time in our lives? Attributing who God is to experiences that we've had with people who go to church or hold high positions in the church. I know it's something I have held onto. I have had a bad taste in my mouth for church or anything to do with it because of people. I've distance myself from God because of people. I've also been one of the people who has caused someone else to steer away from church and God because of my actions. 

It's a relief to know that people are just people and regardless of their church position or affiliation, they are not God. People are going to make a mess of things but not God. That's why it's so imperative that we try to keep His love on the forefront of our minds. 

When we are feeling alone and rejected, we need to be loved. When I am feeling like I've screwed everything up, including my kids, I need to be loved. When my children have screwed up, instead of screaming at them (my automatic response), they need to be loved. The people who look like they don't want anything to do with love, look like the hardest to love, or reject love, need it the most. 

No matter what we've done God is always looking for us. He wants to be with us. People might reject us and tell us we have to live a certain way or look a certain way to earn love, but that's not God. He wants our time and he wants our hearts.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

15 years of marriage

I've been excited about our 15th anniversary all year. I've thought about how we should celebrate. Should we renew our vows? Should we go away for the weekend? What awesome, incrediblely thoughtful gift am I going to get Erik that finally trumps all of the sweet gifts he has planned for me over the past 16 years?

This was going to be epic!  The day has come!  It's November 19th! We've been married 15 years! And guess what? I've got nothing. I mean I am completely and totally a major failure when it comes to gift giving. We are always operating on very little funds so a big expensive gift just isn't going to happen until all of our children have jobs (and I get a job too). 

Somehow asking him to give me the money he has worked for so that I can go buy him a gift feels less than fabulous. I should save up for things like this over the course of the year but life happens. Cars breakdown (or I run into things or other cars), moves across the country happen for the second time in two years, a new to us home needs to be purchased that while suits our style and uniqueness, needs some t.l.c. which causes major fund dispersion. 

That's just life or our life anyway. And then there is just normal life with kids. 3 of us have pink eye, 5 of us have a cold, 1 is injured, it just goes on and on because that's life with kids. It's unpredictable and completely predictable all at the same time.

The mess, pain, and heartache that occurs because we are human just happens. And for some reason it always takes us by surprise because we want to think that our lives should run smoothly and undisrupted by the natural occurrences of life. 

don't deal with life well on most occasions. Especially during pregnancy and probably for the year or so after. It just rattles me and crazy hormones don't help. But when I can't handle life, which is a lot, my husband is there. He's unshaken even though I cause a lot of tremors or straight up earthquakes. He stays. 

He doesn't let me give up and he doesn't give up on me. Even though I can be irrational, shocking I know, and unreasonable. Even though I can scream and hurt with my words because I'm just so tired of the daily struggles sometimes. He doesn't leave. He's helped me hang on the past few years when I really didn't see what I could hang on to. 

He would say I did the same for him in the past and it's just time for him to return the favor but I know the truth. He's been the glue. Even though we've both made mistakes I'm the one who flounders. I'm the one who wants to throw in the towel but not him. He digs in his heels even though he may not know what to do, he stands firm. He keeps us together. He keeps our family pressing forward. 

I don't know how he carries us all. We are an unbearably heavy load. I hope that as we press on that I'll feel strong enough to bear the load so he doesn't have to all the time. But I am so thankful that he continues to carry us so that our family can get stronger. 

Maybe my epic gift failure can turn into a victory. Maybe just for this one day I can help bear the load. Maybe I can show him how much I appreciate how he has kept us together, kept us afloat, and kept me going. 

15 years of marriage makes me excited because I'm not naive enough to think that a marriage is unbreakable simply because you say you will always stay together. The for better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness and in health is really a lot more complicated than it sounds.  

Life happens and we all have our own burdens and struggles. We aren't immune to it all. We haven't done it all right and we never will but I'm thankful that we can look back on these bumpy 15 years and celebrate that we've hung on and I hope we cling to each other for the next 50+. 

Reflecting on Veteran's Day

I am so very thankful for the men and women who have protected us. The men and women who have laid down their lives, left their families, their homes, their country to go to a foreign land where they are unsure of the dangers that may await them. Places where they are hated for who they are and what they do. They sacrifice everything to bring safety to others. Those who have served and are serving are to be commended for their bravery. 

While thinking about Veteran's Day and how thankful I am that there are those who serve our country, I began to think what if there were no need for any soldiers in the world? What if each and every human began to think of each and every other human in this world as worthy? What if we all saw each other as vital and important?

You see the evil and hurt in the world begin when life isn't viewed as precious. The degradation of life begins when we see others as less than ourselves and begin using them for our pleasure or hurting them for our gain. When we think that our view is so right that others should be treated as dirt or trash who do not share the same view. When people are killed and their lives thought of as expendable due to furthering a cause or furthering an extremist religion. 

We are all capable of this hate. There is not one of us who is so inherently good that they could not be capable of destroying another. Hate is passed down through families. It is taught. It is modeled. Hate is also forced upon children by others. They are forced or indoctrinated into these destructive beliefs. 

What if it all didn't exist? What if children were not taught to hate through abuse, anger, and judgement? What if we could raise a generation who sees the good in all people? 

There would be no more hate groups. No more terrorists. No more power hungry leaders who will kill to further their nation. No more kids who think the only solution is pick up a gun and stop the pain. No more drugs and violence. 

It all sounds so utopian and like a dream that will never happen. But I can't help to think that the Gospel calls us to this. It doesn't call us to hate. It doesn't call us to judge. It doesn't call us to kill. It calls for grace. It calls for love. It calls for mercy. 

Jesus asked His Heavenly Father to forgive those who violently murdered Him because they didn't know what they were doing. I can't help but to think that He looks at all mankind this way. We don't know what we are doing. We hold all of the keys to a world full of good things. A world full of people achieving the best that they can, being the best version of themselves that they can be. Jesus laid it all out for us. He lived the life. He walked the walk. He was our example. 

So on this Veteran's Day while I am so thankful for those who have served us, I pray that one day our soldiers wouldn't have to put their lives on the line. That all over the world people could recognize this short, precious gift we've been given, that is life. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Writing Towards Sanity

I desperately want to write. I want to have something to do that I enjoy. Life is short. What am I good at? What gets my blood pumping? What am I passionate about?

I am passionate about my children and being a mom. But I have found myself losing the excitement of being a stay at home homeschool mom. (As glamorous and exciting as the job sounds :). I crave some sort of creative outlet. Creating with paint or other materials is too exhausting a job with a 3 year-old and a baby running/crawling around (plus I'm not really good at that). All I can seem to find time to do while nursing the baby, or lying extremely still beside them so they will nap, is write. 

Writing is my outlet. My husband, my biggest cheerleader and fan, tells me that I am an artist and I need to create. What?  No. Not me. I've never been artsy or creative. Everything I touch or try to create turns into a big mess or it looks really great for kindergarten art. 

I have to use my words. I need a release. We all do. Life is fleeting. We need to enjoy it. That's not an excuse to do whatever we want and whatever makes us "feel"good at the expense of our health or at the expense of others. However, we need to enjoy life. 

Do things that invigorate us. Do things that make us smile and make us laugh. Do those things that seem too hard or out of reach.

Travel. Experience new places and cultures. See the world from a different viewpoint so that maybe we can understand or sympathize. So that our minds aren't so closed and our hearts aren't so hard. 

Breathe. Relax. Smile. Laugh. Cry. Love. Sympathize. Understand. See the Beauty in Life and Living. Write Your Story. 

"Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion." Truvy (Dolly Parton) Steel Magnolias

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dear God....Are You There?

There seems to be this underlying tone in our Christian societies and churches that makes us feel that it's wrong to question. What if someone were to be really honest in Sunday school or small group and just come right out and say, "I'm not really sure that I believe in all of this. In Jesus being the son of God, in the existence of God, in the validity of the Bible. Can someone please tell me why I should believe?"

What would we do?  I would like to think that our Christian gatherings are warm, welcome places. That people's jaws wouldn't drop to the floor. That the person who is searching for answers wouldn't then be gossiped about for needing prayer because they aren't "saved".

I would love to think that but I know I have been the person that in my longing to help this questioning person, has turned them into a project. A person that I need to help "save" and I was also afraid of them.  If they aren't sure that they believe then they aren't a Christian and satan must have a hold on them and they aren't "safe".

But in my brutal honesty I will admit that over the past few years I have become the searcher. I question God's existence. Is He really there?  Have we as people made all of this up to make ourselves feel better and help society have a stronger moral code to live by?

I haven't dared to utter these words aloud to my Christian friends out of fear of being a major disappointment. If I have a good spiritual life I couldn't doubt, could I?  I would become a complete and total let down and be looked at as a fraud.

Well, I don't have all the answers and I think it's ok to question. No doubt my deep sense of despair and questioning has come through trying times. Through transition, through the birth of babies, through the loss of jobs, money, and things, through the loss of stability at times, it left me feeling hopeless.

When in years past I would dig in my heals and cry out to God during trying times, I began to falter. I would cry out, "God, if you're really there please just show me. Give me a sign."  And even though He was holding my hand, I couldn't feel Him. Even though there were signs of His faithfulness, I couldn't see them. I don't think God put me in a pit of despair but I think I have learned more from being in pits than I will ever learn when I am high on top of a mountain.

I've learned that it's ok to not have all the answers. Although, I would love to know more about God's word and who He really is, no one knows it all. The Gospel is a mystery. I have to put in the hard work to study and work on my relationship with God but, I will never know it all and some things are unexplainable. There is more gray than black and white and that is ok.

We don't have to have all of the answers and anyone who claims to have them is a fraud. We do have to put forth the effort to study His word. That is easier said than done because honestly when I have some quiet time away from the kids I want to sit in peace and watch TV. I have to put forth the effort to find the answers to my questions. No one can find them for me. Although there are some great preachers, teachers, and speakers out there, they can't answer all of my questions and they can't make my relationship with God stronger. Only I can do that.

I am thankful for my pit because I no longer fear the unbeliever because I have been the unbeliever. The person who is scared of the judgment of the church or that they will always be labeled a sinner, I am that person. And I will still continue to battle that gossiper who places judgment on others. She likes to creep up too. I will still continue to wrestle with both sides because I am human. I'm not afraid to admit it.

I will let others down and myself because I am not perfect and I never will be but I have to believe there is a God who is and He wants to love us and know us more. He doesn't want to rain down hell, fire, and damnation on us for our questions or unbelief or wandering. He wants to welcome us home with a wonderful party.

Luke 15:11-32

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mommy Wars...Welcome to the Cage Fight!

Stay at home mom vs. working mom. 
Public school vs. homeschool vs. private school vs. charter school.....Oy Vey!!!! Can't we all just get along?!?!?

We've all seen the "Mommy Wars" played out online through blogs, comments, and articles. I've been in the trenches in this battle as a participator and as a spectator. 

I've participated in both sides of the condescending and degrading comments such as..."What does she have to do all day?" Referring to the stay at home mom and then of course there is....."Well, if all I had to do was sit at home all day I would......" Fill in the rest of that sentence with whatever judgement fits the circumstance. And....."She just doesn't want to work." Implying that the stay at home mom is lazy. 

Then there's the judgment of the working mom. "Well, she just drops her kids off with someone else all day long. She has to make that money so she can pay for that lifestyle."  Blah, blah and so on.  

And Where do I even begin with what others say about homeschooling moms? We are freaks of nature. Our kids can't possibly go to college (even though they do and often times before completing high school just as they can in public school) or function normally in society. 

All homeschooling parents must think public school is the devil. (Which we don't. I think each family and child has a unique set of circumstances. Sometimes homeschooling is best, sometimes public, sometimes private, and even though I would be chastised in Montgomery, AL, sometimes charter schools.....gasp! Why don't we figure out how states that have thriving public and public charter schools do it? I don't know, I'm just a crazy homeschooler.)

I've been on ALL sides of this battle. I admired and was envious of stay at home moms when I was a working mother and now I admire and am envious of working moms now that I am a mean...stay at home mom. (Jokes and sarcasm intended)

So here's the point. We all want what we don't have. It's human nature. Someone else's life always looks more enticing than our own. "The grass is always greener" but then when you get over to that "grass" you see (and smell) all of the fertilizer, and it doesn't smell like scentsy or essential oils.  (In case you were wondering, it's poop. I believe I may have written these same words before, but it's a never ending battle and could stand to be reiterated.)

I've heard it said time and time again, we have to water our own grass. If our grass is dying, then we have to do something about it. Sometimes that requires stinky fertilizer, (which is a metaphor for hard work.) 

What we shouldn't do is start lashing out at the person or people who appear to have what we want. (And by "we" I mean "me",  preaching to myself) Or the ones who appear happier than we are because 99% of the time they are fighting their own battle that we know nothing about.  As my husband put it most of us are "like a duck on the water, it looks calm and peaceful from above but underneath it is moving it's feet as fast as it can."  

Before we moved to Eugene I was terrified of raising my children on the "liberal" west coast. That was my view of it because I had never lived out of the south. I was terrified of the unknown. I felt like I didn't belong there but I grew to love it, while still feeling like an outsider. 

However, I feel like an outsider in the south too. I love it but I've never felt like I belong here either. I know that's probably all of my own psychological issues. (Someone needs to crack open the DSM and diagnose me. I'm just kidding. Please don't. :)

I think in all of this transition and change I have gained some insight.  I haven't figured anything out or gotten any answers necessarily, but I realized that we are all just people. 

We are all just trying to live our lives. We are all trying to figure it all out and it gets messy and we make mistakes (sometimes big, sometimes small). In the end we are all just trying to make it through. 

The south has some great qualities and so does the west. Stay at home moms have some great perks but so do working moms. For the most part we are all just people trying to do the best we can with what we have. I don't think there is a perfect answer or a perfect place, at least not here on Earth in this life. 

So for me while I try to figure out what will work best for my family....While I try to navigate homeschool vs. public school vs. private school vs. working mom vs. stay at home mom....I am challenging myself to stay in a healthy mind set. To not offer judgement to those who do things differently than I do and to not covet what they have or envy them. 

I have my own unique circumstances and my own unique children. I'll probably get this wrong more than I will get it right but I will keep trying. 

Now if I could just figure out how to turn writing my thoughts into making money then I would be a stay at home mom/working mom. I'm sure that would offer it's own set of issues which would require it's own blog. I would just settle for a writing seminar with Jen Hatmaker and Ann Voskamp. Let's make that happen!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Going Home

As the saying goes, "You can't go home again."  I guess that's quotation mark worthy. Not really sure who gets the credit, but I think they might be wrong. 

You CAN go home again. I should know. My family and I have done it in the past and we are about to embark on the adventure of returning home once more. 

Oregon has been amazing in so many ways. It's beauty is absolutely breath taking. The people have been so kind. We have learned and grown so much as a family. We have leaned on each other like never before. We have welcomed a new member of our family. It has been an unforgettable experience. 

While it has been unforgettable and amazing, I would be lying if I didn't say that it has also been challenging. We have been stretched like never before, although I am well aware that even in our trying times we still have had it really good. Our family has so many things to be thankful for. 

We have learned even more about ourselves and sometimes it's been ugly, but I suspect that most of the time growth is painful and not very pretty. 

Erik and I have prayed for a long time for guidance and direction for our family. I truly feel that we were guided here for a season to learn and grow. Now we feel that we are being guided to Albertville, Alabama. 

This was in no way a decision that was made without falling on our face before God and begging for His direction. Well, I'll be honest because I am honest to a fault (that's for sure). I've screamed and cried like a baby. Not because I don't want to return to Alabama, but because I don't want to go anywhere that God isn't leading, and I have found that KNOWING for sure where He is leading is not exactly crystal clear many times.

 More times than not we just have to pray, see where the doors are opening and where they are closing, and step out on faith. I found this to be true two years ago when we embarked on this westward adventure and I still find it to be true today as we are about to embark on a trip southward. 

Sometimes I picture that God might grow tired of my endless questions, which primarily have been consumed with need for direction lately.  In my mind I picture Him she is again! Screaming like a baby asking for direction. Could she just settle down a little? 

I think of all of the mothers who have children dying of starvation, diseases, being murdered or sold into slavery, and here I am crying over what type of education I should give my children or what privileged area of the United States I am going to raise them in? Really? I just need to get over myself.

HOWEVER, our God loves us more than we can ever imagine (even though I question Him, ask Him to prove He is really there and really listening to my whinny self) Despite all of my short comings (and there are too many to count) He loves me. Why? I don't know. But I do know that His word tells us that He loves us and He wants to give us good things. 

"If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Matthew 7:11 NIV 

While we will greatly miss Oregon and the people here, we are looking forward to a new chapter. We hope that we are returning home with a new vision, a new direction in our lives, AND we can't wait to spend time with family and worship and grow once again with our friends at Lifepoint. 

Oh.....and we hope to introduce Sand Mountain to a little thing called lacrosse :)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Does God Love Immigrant Children and Muslims?

It happens. And it can be humiliating. Your child, there in a public place, screaming and crying. You feel the stares, the judgement. As if that isn't enough to make you want to sit down and cry, someone decides to offer their judgement and condemnation aloud about the fact that you have "so many kids" and that you can't control them. 

That's it. My day feels deflated. I feel like a total loser who in the words of many (which use to include myself) obviously just breeds and lives off the government. Or, I am a mindless woman who thinks that all she can do in life is be barefoot and pregnant. 

I know to many these seem like harsh statements coming from a place of hurt and hatred but this is how many women in our society feel. Why?  Why do we do this to each other?

I'll be the first to admit I am quick to judge. This is something that I feel like God has been dealing with me over the past couple of years. I pray almost daily for God to make my heart and mind more like His, even though I am light years away from that, I think by bringing me to my knees, my mind and heart have started to change. 

Our family has faced many hardships over the past few years. Many times due to our own mistakes but at other times due to unforeseeable circumstances. 

In my mind, the only way I was capable of showing love and compassion to "the least of these" was to be "above them".  Not having "too many kids", having plenty of money and resources, these were some of the qualifications in my mind for helping others. How could I offer anything if I don't have enough myself?

In reality, I have more than enough. My family does not go hungry. We have transportation, healthcare, clean water, good housing. When I start running down the list of these basic things that many in our world live without, then I am rich. 

So as an election year approaches I ask the question.....Can we stop pledging our allegiance to being liberal, conservative, democrat, or republican, libertarian, or whatever we might consider ourselves? Why don't we just start being human?  

Why don't we reach out and help that poor struggling mother in the grocery store?  Why don't we offer a hand or a smile, instead of judging her purchases and life choices as she uses her food stamp card?

Even though I might be struggling too, why don't I reach out with a "I feel your pain and you're doing a good job Mommy. Even though you may feel like you are drowning right now, just keep treading water. You'll soon see the shore and it will be beautiful."

If someone chooses to have "a lot of kids" or no children. Why should we judge?  If someone chooses to marry or not, work or stay home, homeschool their children or choose public school, or private school, why should any of this matter?  

Can we just cheer each other on?  Can we offer a helping hand and a kind uplifting word?  Can we stop thinking maybe they "deserve it" if they are struggling or dealing with misfortune? 

What if we all started looking at each other through God's eyes?  We are ALL His children. He loves us ALL. 

Those immigrant moms, dads, sons, and daughters who are scared, hungry, and sick at our borders. He loves them. 

Those Muslim extremists who are beheading the weak and innocent. He loves them. He wants them to come to Him and know Him and change their hearts. 

The person who is dying of a horrible communicable disease that the world is terrified of. He loves them. 

I believe what God wants is for us to show love to each other right where we are. Sure, there are risks involved. There are many who won't accept His love. They won't allow it to penetrate their cold, unwilling hearts. They have been trained to hate since birth. Their mind can't leave that place. It's all they know. 

That's why it is even more important for those of us who have felt God's grace and love to show it and give it freely and train our children to do the same. We may be the only light some may see. Our smile and caring gesture may touch their hearts. It might just keep them from the edge. To know that someone cares or that there is actually a kind heart in this world just might stop a bullet. It might save a life. 

You never know what one act of kindness might spark. When we stop looking at each other through economic, political, religious, cultural and racial stereotypes, with our predispositions and misconceptions then maybe....just maybe...there will be room for God's love, grace, kindness and mercy. 

What would our world look like then?

Monday, April 21, 2014

A New Easter

Easter and it's traditions have changed for us since we have moved to Oregon. No fancy new clothes. No large family gatherings. Things are different here. 

I miss a lot of our old traditions, but I have realized that I need to make new ones. 

(These are my children hunting eggs in very non-traditional, southern Easter attire.)

I started thinking about making new traditions when we first moved here and it overwhelmed me. How do I let go of the past and embrace the present?

I have found that this move has been refining me. Hopefully, it's a process of sanctification, if I will allow it. 

I have had to focus on the REAL meaning of the holidays. Not that I didn't before, but in my search for what should be emphasized in my family, I found that I had to get real with myself. 

That is absolutely terrifying and disgustingly ugly. You know what I found....I'm not really a nice person. 

I desire to focus on God and His love for us and how he sent his one and only son to die a horrible, humiliating death for us. And Jesus did all of that then He rose again. He beat death!!!

Not only did He do ALL OF THAT, he taught us so many things in His short time on this earth. He taught us to love everyone. Not judge and condemn (that's not our job) but love, help, and invest. 

I have a hard time with that. Loving others is messy. It takes time. I will probably say and/or do something stupid or offensive and mess it all up. Why put myself out there like that?

But.....if I REALLY BELIEVE then I will. I will put my money where my mouth is and try to know people and love them. 

That has become EXTREMELY hard for me. I don't like the risk that relationships involve.  There inevitably will be a goodbye involved and I am terrible at saying goodbye. I would rather chew my own arm off than say goodbye to someone I may or may not see again. 

However, that is the price of love. I imagine that Jesus felt the same sadness of goodbye, even though He knew the outcome, He understands our feelings. I imagine that Jesus' mother was distraught as well as His disciples. 

Understanding that I have to live out the gospel, love others, and invest in them no matter where I am is tough. Risk is always involved. Someone may want to take more than I can give or I may be a total let down to anyone who gets to know me, but the effort must be given in order to have life and have it more abundantly. 

That's the new tradition that I desire for my family. A tradition of discipleship, really knowing and studying the Gospels and prophecy in the Bible, serving and loving all of those around us. No matter the differences or the risk of investment. 

"Love alone is worth the fight."

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Save the drama for your mama....oh wait, please don't!!!!

My two year-old is a drama queen with a capital D!!  Most days start off with crying drama the minute she wakes up. Her sister walked out of the bedroom before her, she doesn't want a diaper change (Even though her diaper is bursting and leaking all over her.), she wants to watch T.V., etc.  Poor Zoe can have an emotional break down over ANYTHING at ANYTIME.

While her constant roller coaster of drama can make me feel as though I am trapped inside a glass case of emotion, believe it or not...... I get bored.  How on earth I could ever find the time to be board is a complete mystery, but somehow I do.

It is the monotony of the everyday. Being a stay at home mom can be so rewarding and fulfilling however, when I know exactly how the day will unfold, and I may not even make it out of the house (depending on the day's schedule), it can bring a person to tears.

In this boredom/monotony, I can find myself cycling into a doubt. I get stuck in a rut so I get down and when I get down I can doubt that God is even there. (I know not another depression blog but stick with me :)

Don't get me wrong, I truly believe that He is there and I have believed in His power since I was a child.

It is only recently since I started reading (and re-reading) Beth Moore's, "Believing God" that I realized the cycle that has played out through out my life.

I get distraught or disillusioned with life therefore, I spiral into making decisions that may not be the best for me or my family. This comes from my boredom with seeking God and not feeling as though I am receiving instant gratification from my submissiveness to His calling and His will for me.

The bad decisions I make may not seem life changing at the time. It may be simply to talk to God less or study His word less. This results in a bad attitude toward my husband and children and the role that I play in my family. (And less control over my tongue which could be an entire blog post on its own.)

 I learned once that the wife/mother plays the role of the Holy Spirit for her family. Don't get me wrong, we ladies are NOT THE HOLY SPIRIT, however, we were designed by God to have deeper feelings and somewhat greater intuition into the thoughts and feelings of others.

If I lose touch with God and His Holy Spirit in my life, then I lose touch with my family and in turn lose for us all.

The children of Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years as a result of their lack of faith. They became disillusioned. They forgot all that God had done for them. Things hadn't worked out EXACTLY how they thought it should or in the time frame that they wish it would have. Therefore, their Promised Land was delayed.

How many times in this instant gratification world that we live in do we get bored? How many times do we lose sight of who God is through our wavering faithfulness?

I desire to be faithful to God because I want to dwell in the Promised Land that He has for me and my family. Only by dwelling in Him can I remain faithful. That is the cycle that I want to remain in. A cycle of faith not doubt. I desire to leave a legacy of faith for my children and grandchildren.

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, March 28, 2014

How Fear Suffocates Life

Fear is griping, controlling, and ominous. It can dictate our paths and leave us as a crippled spectator in the game of life. 

There are many times I have stepped out regardless of fear and felt victorious. While there are other times I have stepped out, facing my fears and chasing my dreams, and fell flat on my face. 

Something inside of me only remembers the failures. Failing makes me want to give up and play it safe. When you are playing it safe you can't get hurt. There is no danger. However, there is no room for joy. 

Every time I have found out that I was expecting, I was scared to death. I could not figure out how I could be a mom or go through pregnancy. It never made sense. No matter that each time the circumstances were different. Sometimes better and sometimes worse. I was frightened. 

Had I let my fear dictate my life I would have missed out. Yes, children can be excruciatingly difficult but they can also bring excruciating joy. Joy that can be painful because it feels like your heart might explode. 

The book of Joshua keeps popping up in my life lately. God continuously tells Joshua not to be afraid. One might think Joshua had such strong faith that he would never fear. However, something tells me if God had to continue to remind him not to be afraid that he must have been scared to death. 

Maybe I'm not alone. Maybe being afraid doesn't mean my faith is lacking to the point that God can't use me. Maybe it is lacking to the point that he can pick me up and carry me when I don't have the strength and I can't see how things will turn out in the end. Maybe that can be used for His glory. 

They are the reason that I shouldn't fear. They are looking to me to teach them how to live life.  How to live it to the fullest and find happiness and joy in every moment. How to be an encourager and how to look for encouragement. 

I never want them to settle for a life less than all the adventures God has planned for them. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

It's hard to breathe with my head in my rear

It doesn't matter how many times you fall down. What matters is how you get back up. 

I just recently read an article on disappointment and it hit the nail on the head. I have struggled with disappointment all of my life. I have said before that I am a perfectionist. 

So what happens when a perfectionist is faced with the reality that she nor her life is perfect? 


It looms. It hangs over me like the gray northwest clouds. 

I get disappointed that I can't make everyone happy. I would so love to live in the land of make believe where I can be all things to all people  but you know what I realized?

That would make me god. And that is putting myself in a place that I  was never intended to be. People are imperfect. That's why we need a perfect God. 

And He is there. Waiting for me to get up and out of my funk. 

In the past several years I have experienced some disappointments. Very much brought on by my decision not to align my heart with God's calling or desire for my life.

I have tried to fulfill my life with my children, their education, my husband and his attention, a career, my abilities, and even religion and checking all the boxes for a good  "Christian". None of these things have brought complete fulfillment. 

When the object of my worship becomes anything other than God, disappointment sets in. 

With my extreme personality, I either want to save the world or hide from it. There is no in between. 

I can do an extremely good job of hiding when I have a baby. I take the job of keeping them well very personally and seriously. Having a two year old and a newborn has let me put myself in this hiding place for over two years now. 

In this place I can't do what God has called me to. I am not a good mother, wife, daughter, or friend.

I become absorbed with my failures. 

Well, I have decided that it is time to get my head out of my rear (for lack of better words) and quit wallowing in all of my mistakes.

You know what. I've screwed up. We all have and do everyday. It's time to hit the restart button and become what God intended me to be. 

It will be messy and ugly and never ever perfect........that is ok. 

I keep running across this song by Switchfoot. 
"Belief over misery. I've seen the enemy. And I won't go back. Back to how it was. And I got my heart set on what happens next. I've got my eyes wide it's not over yet. We are miracles and we're not alone."
This is home. 

Home can be and is a physical place but it can also be a place your mind lives. I want my mind to live in a place where belief trumps misery. I don't want to go back to how it was. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Recap of 2013

Recap of 2013

Yes, it's February of 2014 but I was kind of busy bringing a person into the world in December. Better late than never, right?

Oh, 2013 what a year full of ups and downs.  Honestly, the start of a new year in Oregon can be kind of dreary. This lasts for quite sometime with no signs of letting up.  2013 was our first winter/spring in Oregon. If I said it was easy then I would be lying. 

We were trying our first attempt at homeschool/charter school with Isaac and Mallory. Zoe was walking and in to everything. Then we unexpectedly found out we were expecting.  Whew!

Deciding to stay at home and homeschool wasn't easy. One income is hard. One income and 4 kids.....harder. One income, 4 kids, new state/part of the country, homeschooling, toddlers, infants.....It was all overwhelming in my mind. 

Then right before summer officially started Isaac officially became a teenager!!  Erik and I came to grips with the fact that we are old and we will have a teenager and a newborn. Mind. blown.

Mallory also turned 8 and then in October Zoe turned 2!! She hit the terrible twos with full force and hasn't let up yet. 

To close the year Levi Kohen Emanuel came into the world. He is beautiful. 

I prayed through all of 2013 that God would provide Erik a job in Eugene. Since we have lived here he has worked out of town. After experiencing the dreariness of winter and spring and realizing that I was about to homeschool a teenager, an eight year-old, have a two year-old, and an infant, I knew I needed him to be closer to home. 

I am impatient. I prayed this prayer for over a year with nothing. I prayed that if God led us here that he wouldn't leave me here to drown in the day to day without Erik's help. Nothing. 

I became discouraged. I questioned. I gave up. I thought I needed Erik here in Eugene before Levi was born. It didn't happen. What was going to happen? What were we going to do?
Dramatic. I know. 

You know what happened? We survived. I gave birth in a foreign land (Eugene is pretty much like a different country compared to what I knew growing up in the South :). We had great help from my sister-in-law and brother and many meals brought from our church. 

Then just when I knew Erik would never be in Eugene everyday and I just needed to put on my big girl undies and get on with life, it happened!  He got a job offer here in Eugene and medical insurance!! Hallelujah!!  

I am too impatient. I worry. I give up. But God never gives up on us. He knew WHEN we needed this job. He heard my prayers which included insurance. 

Did it all happen when I thought it should?

Did it happen when it needed to? 

Will we be millionaires who can take our children for vacations around the world or heck, who am I kidding, even just a trip to Disneyland?

Are we learning to be patient?

Is it easy?
&$@@ NO!!!

Are we growing?
I sure hope so. 

Is it painful?

Does a job complete our lives? No, but it is an answer to prayer. I feel like God is constantly telling me to be still and wait. Waiting is hard and listening is harder. 

What will 2014 bring?  Who knows?  We made it for a year, across the country from what was familiar, and we brought a new life into the world in 2013. 

In 2014 we will celebrate 15 years of marriage (and only like the first 15 were hard :)!! I don't know what else 2014 has in store but I am pretty sure it can't get much better than that!!!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The disease of perfection

Critical, harsh, unforgiving, self loathing these are all words I would use to describe my personality on most days. Wow! That's sunny and chipper, right? I know. Imagine living with that 24/7. Some of you can because you have the same tendency, while others may live with someone who has these same joyful personality traits. It's maddening. 

Complaining actually puts your brain in a bad funk. It's true. I heard there was a study on it. Look it up. 

My brain replays every sin that I can recall well, there are too many so maybe just the "highlights", daily. I am always trying to improve but I am constantly reminded of the horrible mistakes I made yesterday as well as many, many years ago. 

If feel like God is probably saying, "Seriously, you're going to bring up this again. I told you it's done. It's over. Move on!!" But thank goodness he has more patience with me than that. Although, I can't understand why. I would have been done with me long ago but he never gives up on us. 

I am also thankful that my husband never gives up on me. Unfortunately, this personality trait I have unleashes itself on those closest to me as well. No one likes to be reminded of their faults, failures, and everything they have said or done wrong continuously.  Love holds no record of wrongs.  

I expect my husband to know how to handle me and do what is best for me all the time. I expect him to speak gently, to calm me when I get in my type A craziness. Many times he does but he isn't perfect. He can't be my therapist and know how to "talk me down" from the ledge all the time. It is unfair of me to put that burden on him. 

God is the only one who can fulfill my needs of perfection. He is perfect. I never will be. When I am lost in my whirlwind of needing to be perfect and needing everyone else to be perfect, only He can calm my storm.  

I have to allow Him to soothe me. I can insist on intrinsically picking myself apart or picking my family apart or I can extrinsically reach out to God and reach out to others to be helpful instead of hurtful. I can enjoy instead of destroy. (That last part got a little charismatic preacher there.)

I don't share my shortcomings to air my dirty laundry or so that others might say "bless her heart". I share my faults so that maybe others who are struggling with perfection, which leads to depression, might know that they aren't alone or crazy. I know when I find that other people feel the same way I do or struggle with the same issues, it gives me comfort. 

We find God in the struggle.