Didn’t See That Coming…

“On this day…the first day of 2019, I am reminding myself that it doesn’t matter how much planning, preparing, or prioritizing I do…365 more days are going to pass by, and they will hold moments I could never see coming.”

Those are words I typed on January 1st of this year…turns out it was true.

On January 9th, I woke up with a sickness that has had me out of commission for almost six weeks. Nope. Didn’t see that coming.

We certainly didn’t kick off 2019 the way I thought we would. Instead of jumping back into life full steam ahead…everything slowed to a screeching halt.

I never thought statements like, “I made my own toast today!” or “I brushed my own hair this morning!” would make me so happy. But they do!

There were no big accomplishments…unless you count being able to wash your own hair, feed yourself, and write with a pen again as a big accomplishment. Things I took for granted and rarely gave any thought to have become the biggest deal and the most celebrated moments of my day!

After weeks of debilitating joint pain and swelling caused by this virus, I am finally turning the corner and able to do more again…I’m so thankful.

I am reminded, once again, that nothing we ever go through is a waste. God will use each and every season we are walking through. He will teach, challenge, encourage, prune, and shape us in some way if we let him. These weeks have taught me so much…

  • We never know what’s right around the corner. I never expected to wake up on the 9th of January with pain in every joint. I never expected to spend six weeks unable to do “normal” life. But, in the midst of the unexpected, HE is there. He knew what was coming even though I didn’t.
  • Stillness and quietness are not the enemy. Through the constant blur of activity and cacophony of noise in our lives, we sometimes forget what it’s like to simply be present in the stillness and the quietness. However, when you can’t hold a phone in your hand, you can’t type on a computer, you can’t flip the pages of a book…you find yourself just sitting. Just being. And that’s okay. Not only is it okay, but it’s good. I was reminded how important it is to have time without the noise. Turn it off. Unplug. With this slower and quieter pace, you begin to see and hear things you’ve been missing. The busy and loud tends to overpower and drown out what’s most important.
  • Our children are stronger and more resilient than we can possibly imagine. Day in and day out they have tirelessly served and helped me. When I felt sad for them because they had to “miss out” on things we had planned, they didn’t mind. And even on days when they crashed and were tired, ready for “normal,” I watched them pull up and walk with peace and joy. It inspired me to do the same.
  • It’s okay to let people help you. If you’re like me, it’s not always easy to let others serve you, but when you suddenly can’t even get a drink of water without someone’s help…you have to get over that. It’s hard to need help. I found myself growing frustrated because I had to ask, “Can you bring me water? Can you squeeze my toothpaste? Can you brush my hair? Can you pull the covers up?” There was always something. One night Casey said, “When you ask for something…instead of feeling bad about it, just say, ‘thank you.'” If you, like me, find yourself on the receiving end of help right now…just say, “Thank you.” Trust me. It goes a long way both for your own heart and for the hearts of those helping and serving you.
  • Empathy and Perspective. I know there are people who have lifelong debilitating illnesses, and my heart goes out to you. I have only tasted a small portion of what you are experiencing, and I have a newfound perspective and empathy for those of you who are living that life every. single. day. I know, in some small way, what you are walking through, and I have great compassion and respect for you.
  • Gratitude. A thankful heart changes everything. The worst days…the days when I was discouraged, frustrated, irritated, and just ready to be past this…those were the days it was most important to find things to be thankful for. Thankfulness changes your perspective. Gratitude shifts your heart. “No, I couldn’t go upstairs and kiss my girls good night tonight, but I was able to wash my own hair today.” Learning to focus on how far I’d come instead of how far there still was to go is important. Finding joy in the little things brought greater joy to my heart.

Maybe, like us, you’ve found yourself in the middle of an unexpected season. I pray that you will be able to find Him right there with you. These seasons may take us by surprise but He saw it coming. He knows exactly where you are and what you’re going through. He’s not surprised. He’s sovereign.

I pray that you would be able to find Him in the middle of your unexpected. Hold on to truth. Embrace the season and discover what God wants to do in and through you during the process. In the middle of it all we can rest in Him, and trust the goodness of our Father’s heart.

Happy New Year

Some of us may be wondering how it’s even possible that it’s January 1st …others of us are wondering what in the world took it so long to get here.

Each of us experienced 2018 in a unique way.

Most likely, the year brought laughter and tears. It held dreams that became a reality and dreams that crumbled into pieces.

We saw wonder in the eyes of a new Mama as she held her baby for the first time. And we saw the tenacious way a heart holds onto memories as we let go of loved ones. We witnessed the miracle of life…both beginning and the end.

We saw adventure and we saw mundane.

We watched children learn, grow, and accomplish incredible milestones…and then we reminded them to say “thank you,” pick up their socks, and throw the trash away at least 2,728 times.

We looked at our spouse with all the love and devotion in our hearts and thought, “How blessed am I?” And other times we rolled our eyes and with frustration in our hearts, thought, “Seriously?”

We’ve had days that felt like a walk in the park…and days we’ve felt walked over.

The 365 days that made up 2018 have come and gone. And the one thing I am certain of is that your 365 days probably didn’t go exactly as planned. There were beautiful, unexpected moments and there were messy, unwelcomed interruptions.

On this day…the first day of 2019, I am reminding myself that it doesn’t matter how much planning, preparing, or prioritizing I do…365 more days are going to pass by, and they will hold moments I could never see coming.

In the face of a new year, when my tendency is to plan, create strategies, map out the year, put my ideas on paper, schedule, and make lists...instead I’m reminding myself that I have a good Shepherd.

And I have noticed something about Him. He likes us to lean in. He likes to keep us relying on Him…each and every day.

His new mercies…they are new every morning. He gives us our daily bread. The manna is just enough for this day.

This is a time of year when some of us feel energized and motivated ready to tackle the year like a freight train going a million miles an hour, full steam ahead. Yet others of us feel like pulling the covers back over our heads hoping we can just hide out and ignore life just a few (or 75) days more.

In all honesty, I’ve been on both ends of that spectrum. This year I’m not trying to be the freight train or the hermit.

This year I just want to find Him and follow Him…day-by-day…moment-by-moment.

Let’s be present. Let’s trust Him in the moment. Let’s look to Him for the grace and mercy we desperately need for the 24hours we’re in.

We’re only kidding ourselves if we think we can stay motivated through positive self-talk for 365 days. I don’t need the voice of a cheer leader in my head…I need a Savior. I need a Shepherd.

There will be a day we crash, but it doesn’t have to all come crashing down. There will be a day we fail, but we don’t have to believe we’re a failure.

The best planning in the world won’t sustain my soul. But He will.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve made lists and have spent plenty of time with my 2019 planner in front of me, but my hope for the new year isn’t in the lists or the plan but the very One who holds the world together.

And He holds your world too.

He will be present and near each and every moment over the next 365 days…let’s find Him there.



Perspective

Thanksgiving.

“Because a thankful heart is a happy heart. I’m glad for what I’ve have, that’s an easy way to start…”

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Does anyone else hear that VeggieTales song ringing in their ears this time of year? I seem to start humming that little tune every November…#momlife. Leftovers from the toddler years.

Such a simple phrase but so true. A thankful heart is a happy heart.

Thankfulness is the remedy to discontentment, and gratitude will fight off self-pity every time. 

As parents, we have the beautiful responsibility of teaching our children what it means to overflow with thankfulness. We get to help them see the world through a lens of gratitude. Yet, as usual, it has to start with us. (Oh, joy.)

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Are we looking for opportunities to be full of thanks? Do we live thankful? Are we daring enough to manage a “thank you” not only in times of joy but through the tears and in the midst of pain?

If we aren’t challenging ourselves to live a life of gratitude, we certainly won’t raise  children who learn to live a life of thanks.

We must both practice and teach thanksgiving. 

Let “thank you” flow easily and quickly from your lips. Look for the unexpected…in both the little joys throughout the day and the unexpected gifts that come through hardships.

Thanksgiving – it’s giving thanks. It takes effort. It’s a lifestyle. It’s about our perspective. 

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I have had many opportunities in the last few weeks to challenge my daughter’s perspective…chances to help her see the other side.

There are nights when our youngest will lay in bed and begin to replay all the “lows” from her day. I am there to tuck her in, pray over her, and assure her that she is a gift to our family. But she’s got her mental list ready, and before I can do any of those things, she’s already berating herself for things she got wrong that day.

I have two choices. Coddle her and tell her how sorry I am for the hard parts of her day. Or, tell her how I saw the day…give her my perspective.

I found myself saying, “Yes, you’re right. Those things did happen today. But do you realize what also happened today?” I proceeded to go through the scenarios but through my filter.

She saw failure. I saw perseverance as I watched her get up and try again.

She saw selfishness. I saw growth as I watched her repent and then prefer her sister.

She saw fear. I saw courage as she stepped out to do it anyway.

She saw careless. I saw responsibility as she cleaned up the broken pieces.

Perspective changes everything.

In order to give her a different perspective, I had to have a different perspective. (Truthfully, if my perspective isn’t in the right place, there are nights I might be inclined to agree with her list and could even add to it.) I had to be looking at the day through the right lens in order to guide her to do the same.

How many times is the Lord there to comfort us, to speak words of life over us, to assure us of His love and we’re sitting there with our mental list ready to go. We start spouting off our opinions and how we see things, convinced that our perspective is the accurate one…and He’s waiting on us to just zip it so He can give us His.

Thanksgiving changes our perspective, and changing our perspective produces thanksgiving. 

Let’s be faithful to ask the Father for His perspective. Let gratitude cleanse our souls and clear our filter so that we can see our lives from His vantage point.

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Change…

I’ve actually always disliked that word … “change”.

I have vivid memories of being a child, teenager, and young adult experiencing great unsettledness when there was change. I appreciated consistency, routines, and schedules. (In fact, that’s still fairly accurate.)

If life is going a long just fine, why do things have to change anyway? Maybe things can stay the same if I hold on tightly enough?

I’ve been thinking a lot about change this past week. Seasons are about to change. We’re in those last few weeks of summer, and fall is just around the corner. It’s time for change. The weather will change. The leaves with change.

This morning I was reflecting on how the Lord is gracious to give us seasons. Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. Like a merry-go-round … over and over we repeat the seasons. Round and round we go. The earth continually spinning, the days coming and going, and we cycle through the seasons we’ve come to know so well.

If I’m honest, the seasons are bit like a security blanket. I’ve come to rely on them.

Spring … the fragrant blooms, the color of green canvasing the skyline again, the sound of birds chirping, the warmer days and new life.

Summer … longer daylight hours, the sound of the girls’ giggles when they swim, afternoon storms, the break from school, the sense of adventure.

Fall … the vibrant colors of the leaves, the cool air, opening the windows and feeling the breeze, sweaters and boots, the consistency of routine.

Winter … bundling up, cozy evenings by a fire, hot chocolate and good books, game nights inside as a family, snow days, the joy of celebrating Christmas.

The truth is, each season is beautifully unique. Each season brings with it features and characteristics that we don’t experience unless we are in that season.

I could just as easily list off several things I dislike about each season as well. With every season, we are certain to experience both likes and dislikes. There are things about it that we take joy in and things we wish weren’t a reality.

The seasons mark change. They mark transition.

The dictionary defines season as: “each of the four divisions of the year (spring, summer, autumn, and winter) marked by particular weather patterns and daylight hours, resulting from the earth’s changing position with regard to the sun.”
Just as we experience the change of seasons throughout the year, we also experience the changing seasons in our lives.
We will go through seasons marked by particular patterns resulting from our changing position with regard to Jesus, the Son.
Just as the earth revolves around the sun, our lives should revolve around the Son.
We can’t stay in Spring forever. We don’t get to hang on to Summer. For our own good and health, we need the seasons. We don’t get the choice of staying where we are, but the beautiful thing about it is this: the Son is unchanging and unwavering. In every season and through every change, He is our fixed point.
The changing seasons of our life are, in fact, extremely beautiful. Let’s have a perspective that can see the joy in the season we’re in.
Don’t wish for more Summer when it’s time to move on to Fall. When the last of the leaves have hit the ground and Winter is creeping in, be ready to embrace it.
If you are in the season of babies, bottles, sleepless nights, and endless diapers … be in that season.
If you’re chasing toddlers, fixing lunches, wiping noses, and answering the question, “why” a million times over right now … be in that season.
Or perhaps your kiddos are older and you’ve realized that you haven’t had to make lunches in quite some time. In fact, the kids are helping cook, and they are driving themselves to activities, and suddenly you have kids who are quickly becoming your friends … be in that season.
Maybe you’re marriage is thriving … maybe you’re fighting for your marriage … whatever season you are in … be in that season.
Just as there are likes and dislikes that accompany each season of the year, there will be both great joy and pain that comes with each season in life. Somehow that’s what makes it so beautiful.
We will miss the beauty of our current season if we’re mourning the loss of the last season, or filled with anxiety over the season that’s just around the corner.
No matter how much I disliked change, it seemed to happen anyway. We will grow through the change if we learn to embrace it and not fear it. If we learn to stay fixed on the Son along the way, we will become more aware of the strengths He’s instilling in us through each and every season of life.
We must open our hands. When we hold our hands open, we cannot only let go, but we can also receive.
Life moves in seasons. Know your season. Be in your season.
Let your favorite season be the one you’re in right now.

The Process of Parenting …

Eleven years ago yesterday I was “nesting.” I remember folding laundry, cleaning up around   the house, and organizing baby clothes. I spent all day wondering when we would finally be holding Victoria in our arms.

Seems like those last few weeks of pregnancy that’s what I was always wondering! I would walk in and out of her nursery a million times … trying to imagine what life would look like when we brought our little miss home.

How would it feel? What would it be like? What would she be like?

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I dreamt of all the perfect moments with our sweet girl, and I asked the Lord to give us wisdom and knowledge so that we would raise our daughter to love Him with her whole heart. I wanted to raise a daughter who would stand with Christ at all costs.

Casey and I often joke that we knew the most about parenting before we had children! On that day eleven years ago we knew a lot …

Little did I know that the very next day, on August 27, 2007 Victoria Marie would finally be in our arms. That’s the day when the journey really began.

 

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We could never have predicted what the years would hold … the joys or the challenges, the amazingly beautiful moments, or the incredibly desperate ones.

In some ways, this journey of parenting has been what I thought it would be … in other ways, its absolutely nothing like I expected. It’s amazing how life works like that isn’t it?

Today, I am thankful for the many lessons learned along the way. I’m thankful for good ideas and theories that got turned upside down and flipped inside out. I’m thankful for a journey that taught us lessons we didn’t know we needed to learn.

While I am thankful for the lessons of the past eleven years, I am also preparing my heart for the many more to come.

God will use our children to shape and teach us. He will use the gift of raising our children to create, in us, a dependence on Him.

We can choose to be refined in the process, or we can choose to resent the process. No matter how we choose to go through it, the process is happening.

Refinement or resentment? It’s up to us. 

With the right attitude and perspective, the Father can, and will, use this journey of parenting to make us more like Him … which, in the end, is what we all really need.

I need to be more like Him. My kids need me to be more like Him. And so do yours.

We need to stop wishing for a perfect parenting journey and, instead, let the journey of parenting perfect us. 

This morning that’s what I’m thankful for. I am thankful for a journey that didn’t let us stay where we were. A journey that caused us to lean into Jesus more and more each day.

Parents, let’s embrace what God is doing in our hearts as we raise the children He’s entrusted to us.

May we have the patience and the discipline to choose refinement over resentment as we allow the process of parenting to do a perfecting work in us.

I’m thankful that this journey is still leading us straight to the feet of Jesus … because, ultimately, that’s where I pray our daughter’s journey will continually lead her as well. 

 

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