There’s No Place Like Home

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Our family is moving to Denver.

It’s been in the works for some time now, as the job offer was presented to Jay six months ago. We spent months in prayer, in depression, in arguments, in anxiousness, in excitement, in faith. We traveled there, looking at neighborhoods and trying to decide if it felt like a good fit for our family. We talked to people, did some research. Prayed a LOT… and finally realized that for many different reasons it was the right move for our family.

More accurately, that this was without an ounce of doubt God’s plan for us.

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We’ve struggled with an incredible amount of emotions along the way. South Florida been my home for over 35 years; I don’t think a week has gone by in those six months that I haven’t cried at the thought of leaving all that I love. The list is endless: the humidity, the crazy thunderstorms, the rough-around-the-edges people, the alligators, the colorful vibe, the palm trees, the diversity, the traffic, the year-round vegetation, the heat. I even love the hurricanes. I am a true Floridian, heart and soul, to the core.

There’s the people we are leaving. My parents and brother. Jay’s parents and his grandmother. My best friend, Sanne, who I only met 7 years ago but has become the sister I never had. Kim, the girl who’s been my best friend since we were 6 years old and has been with me through every major stage in life. Christine, my roommate from college who has seen me at my absolute worst and has chosen to love me through it anyway. Tina, the friend who more than anyone has taught me how to love and accept myself. Leanette, who has never stopped encouraging me to move forward and not be afraid to face my fears. Jen, who has become my favorite running partner and motivates me to never quit. And the countless others in my life that have shown me the best and worst things about myself and have never given up on me as I’ve worked to be the best me I can be.

And then there’s our church. We fell in love with the community vibe of our church immediately, and felt like we’d finally found a place we could grow in our faith. And grow we did. Jay and I went through many seasons during our years at Crossway – our struggle with infertility, Emily starting school, job changes, marital struggles, and now this move. And although our church isn’t perfect and there have been bumps and hurt feelings along the way, we have always felt God’s presence while there. God has used the people in our church to shape us and prepare our hearts, very likely for this move, and their loving prayers have been an incredible force in this journey.

But to be honest, this whole thing sucks.

It’s so ridiculously hard to fall so deeply in love with a place and an entire family of friends and then feel called to leave. It breaks my heart. I don’t understand it one bit. Everything around me holds a memory. I can’t look at a palm tree without getting a tear in my eye. I can’t drive down the street without thinking of the roads ahead. I can’t think about saying goodbye without choking up. I just can’t.

I love having connections to people. And when I make that connection, no matter how silly or small or insignificant, that person has officially found their place in my heart. Do you have a brother named Kevin? You’re already cooler. Do you have a fondness for banana sandwiches? You’re awesome. Do you love Criminal Minds and jigsaw puzzles and ironing? Well hey there, new friend. That’s how I roll. I can’t not feel something for you once that connection is there. Because I seek out those connections, I find them. And as a result, I end up loving everyone. I just can’t help it. Yes, there are some people who have gone beyond that surface connection and reached the depths of my undying loyalty and love, and others who have rubbed me wrong, but if you’re in my life and there’s any sort of link between us, I’m happy you’re there and I genuinely mean that.

Yesterday a whole bunch of those fabulously awesome people in my life came together at a local park to say goodbye. Some were those deep-soul people, others I’ve only known a few months. We ate together, cried together, played together, and prayed together. And I left feeling more emotions than I think I’ve ever felt at once in my whole life. I’m overwhelmed with joy and sadness and excitement and pain and nervousness and eagerness and expectations and hurt and gratitude and peace. But the one thing I’m feeling more than anything is love. It’s smothering absolutely every other emotion.

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I look at Jay, who has been so loving and supportive through this whole process, always letting me feel whatever I need to feel. I look at Emily, who has been so encouraging on my worst days – yes, my 9 year old is telling me it’s going to be okay. I look at Julia, who’s just a total bubble of excitement now that she knows moving to Denver doesn’t mean we will miss Christmas. I look to my friends, who have cried with me and made time to be with me before we go and are already planning their trips to come see me. I look at our church, who has prayed with us and encouraged us and loved us through it all. And I gratefully look to God, who has blessed us with absolute peace every step of the way.

So we look forward to our new adventure. We are confidant that God is the Maker of our path, and that His will in our life is what’s best for our family… even if that means His will lies 2,038 miles away.

Just look at what He’s done for us here in South Florida.

We are truly blessed. ❤

Re-Bloom

It wanted to be dead, I was sure of it.

No matter what I did, the dumb thing always looked like it was begging me to stop watering it so that it would finally be put out of its misery. I’d tried watering it more and watering it less. I’d tried fertilizer and different soil. At one point I was convinced it was depressed because it thought the aqua pot I originally had it in clashed with its orange petals, so I moved it to a boring black one.

But nothing helped. The spunky little plant I’d bought to cheer up my backyard with its vivid colors just looked like it wanted life to be over.

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Believe me when I tell you these pictures make it look like it had a chance. It got much, much worse after I took these. 😦

It broke my heart. I’m no green thumb, but I’d at least thought maybe there was a little plant-loving color in my hands somewhere. I don’t care about tending plants to their full potential (gardening’s just not my thing), but I don’t mind babysitting them and making sure they don’t wither away unnoticed. I’ll even put up a fight for one that looks like it has a chance. But this guy wasn’t having it. What started out as a vibrant eye-catcher dwindled away little by little. First the bright petals withered and fell. Then some of the larger leaves dropped off. The leaves that stayed began to appear yellowed and were more widely spaced, giving the plant an overall “I give up” feel to it. Eventually the tips of the stems browned a little and even seemed slightly shriveled.

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I have no idea why I didn’t throw it away, but thankfully I didn’t because it never actually died. Those few scraggly leaves held on, and while they never regained their original deep shade of green, they also didn’t turn brown or fall off. The bottoms of the stems remained green too, and so I let the plant sit outside to enjoy whatever was left of its life in peace. I stopped watching it, convinced it was on its way out.

And then one day I happened to look out the window expecting to see an obviously dead plant – and was surprised to see that in fact, it was quite the opposite. It was blooming! The beautiful and dainty orange petals were back, and there were bunches of them! I couldn’t believe it. Somehow this plant had fought to stay alive and had bounced back.

It’s happened again and again, without any real rhyme or reason to the time of year, weather, or temperature. One year it started blooming again in the summer, and another year in the fall.  I’ve come to learn that it will seem to “die” again, but that I need to trust that whatever keeps it going is still holding on tightly, and that when it’s ready it will begin to blossom again.

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This little plant has become such a metaphor for my faith.

Sometimes I go through stages in my life where I just don’t feel like my walk with Christ is blooming. I feel I’ve got nothing beautiful to offer Him, so I start to wither. I become disconnected from my church, from prayer, from the Word, from God. I know that He’s always there for me, but for whatever reason I just feel like I’m less than I know I’m capable of being. I become aware that, like my plant,  I’m shriveling up and haven’t got as much to offer as I have in the past.

But in the same way my plant has something inside that refuses to give up on it – something inside that knows the beauty is in there and fights until that beauty is shared with the world – I have that same something inside of me. I remember seeing a painting once of Jesus knocking on the outside of a door without a doorknob. A man was on the other side, looking up at the door… and his side had the knob. The point of the painting was that Jesus is patiently knocking and waiting for us to open it up – He’s just not one to force Himself in.

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Just like my plant has its down days, I’m going to have mine. Just like it doesn’t give up and is willing to bloom again, I must be the same way. Jesus is ready for me to blossom anytime I am. And He won’t throw me out just because I’m struggling.

When I think of this plant, I’m convicted to stay strong in my faith – to read my Bible more, to pray more, to listen for His direction more. And to not for one second believe that my faith has died. I’ve blossomed before, and I know without a doubt – with His help – I can do it again. ❤

Who’s Driving?

Inside Out had only been out for 24 hours and I’d already seen it twice. In addition to the trip we took to the movie theater to see it with my best friend and her three boys. And it may sound crazy, but I’m convinced that this is by far the deepest and most insightful children’s movie I’ve ever seen. If you haven’t seen it, please go. Now. Seriously, stop reading and don’t come back until you’ve seen it. But just in case you haven’t, no worries, I promise not to give away any spoilers. 🙂

11009135_10204323113749973_7157234629957383461_n_2The premise of the movie is that we are driven by 5 main emotions: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. These 5 emotions live inside our head, pushing buttons and twisting knobs on a giant console table. They direct how we feel about things, they are responsible for the way we react to things, they are responsible for how we perceive things. And the feelings we emote externally are a direct result of who’s at the helm. If Joy is in control, we are happy. If Fear is in control, we are afraid. You get the idea. The one who sits in the middle chair is the one calling the shots.

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As I was watching it the other day, something occurred to me. It’s clear that the little girl in the movie is being primarily driven by Joy, and even though the other emotions get to take control here and there, Joy is the one at the wheel. She (Joy) doesn’t like any of the other emotions to take over too long, and is eager to be back in charge when it’s her turn again. The result is that overall, the little girl is a very happy child. But although the film focuses on one main character and her emotions, occasionally you get a glimpse into the minds of some of the other characters. And what I noticed is that they are not all driven by Joy. Some are driven by Anger. Some Sadness or Disgust. And some are even driven by Fear. There are even a couple of characters that don’t seem to be strongly driven by any one emotion – there’s just a sort of odd balance to them, even if it means they are all equally calm or equally freaking out. But the thing is, not everyone is driven by Joy.

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I find this to be incredibly profound, because isn’t it the reality of life? Isn’t it true that some people seem to be wired to smile and laugh their cares away, while others explode or panic at the slightest inconvenience? I’m sure this might get me into trouble, but I could name good friends that default to each of these emotions. Friends that are driven – but not defined – by Fear, Joy, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness. And I love every single one of them, no matter which emotion is at the wheel. I say it all the time: it takes all kinds of people to make the world go ’round.

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We are all dealing with the same emotions, we just deal with them differently. I’m just the same – I find myself struggling to fight off Disgust, Anger, Fear, and Sadness on a daily basis. And most of the time, I’m successful. But not without constant prayers to God to help me see Joy. Not without relying on His strength to help me push aside the other emotions that can so easily slip back in charge. I’m well aware that more often than not I’m in need of grace, both from God and from my fellow man. Grace that I don’t deserve from any of them, but I’m completely humbled and grateful to receive.

And I guess that’s the lesson in this: we all need grace, so we should all show grace. You don’t know which emotion is at the wheel in the minds of those you come across everyday. Got a brash waiter serving your lunch? Maybe Anger is in charge because he just dealt with a rude customer. Show grace. You don’t like the way that guy is driving his car? Maybe he’s headed to his sick wife and Sadness is the one at the wheel. Show grace. Having a hard time getting your child to be honest? Maybe Fear is in control of their words.

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The thing is, you really don’t know the struggles going on in someone else’s head. They may very well be trying to let Joy take over and just can’t seem to figure out how to make it happen. So show grace, the same as Jesus does for us when we aren’t shining beams of light and rainbow-y smiles. I know the emotional war for the middle chair in my head, the thoughts that go through my mind – even when everyone else sees the smile – and I’m well aware that I don’t deserve His grace. Which, to me, is all the more reason to demonstrate it to others.

I’m learning to be okay with who I am – emotional mistakes and all – and to give myself grace for those emotional mistakes that extend beyond my own head out to others. I’m learning to keep relying on God to keep my heart and attitude positive, to extend the same grace to others that He extends to me, and to take the wheel from my emotions and hand it over to Jesus. He’s a much better driver anyway. 🙂

How a Song Changed my Feelings on Temptation

Temptation pisses me off.

I have struggled with accepting the idea of temptation’s existence my entire life. I’m not talking about being tempted to eat a glazed donut when you know you should eat a banana or being tempted to buy a cute pair of fringed boots when you know you’ve got to pay the electric bill.

I’m talking purely about the temptation to stray while in a committed relationship.

I have no idea why this has been such a hangup of mine, but ever since I was a kid I’ve found myself ridiculously angered whenever I’ve heard that someone has been unfaithful to the one they swore to be faithful to. I’ve never considered myself a romantic or one to have “fairy-tale dreams” about living happily ever after, but I do believe – very strongly – that if you vow to spend the rest of your life loving someone then you darn well better keep that vow – and not put yourself into situations where you’ll be tempted to be unfaithful.

Now, I understand that people sometimes fall out of love. And I’ve watched enough Lifetime movies to know that feelings for another person can sneak up on you and develop without you ever seeking them out – especially if things are not well in your primary relationship. I know that people change, tragedies happen, mistakes are easily made, and the day-to-day monotony of life can make you crave something more exciting.

But I still can’t stand the thought of someone actually going through with it.

I have always been an insecure person, and I spent the first 8 or 9 years of my marriage convinced that one day Jay was going to find someone better than me and decide he’d rather be with her. Someone kinder (I can be quite snippy), someone more beautiful (I still get huge ugly pimples), someone cleaner (always barefoot = dirty feet), someone smarter (I taught Kindergarteners… not an easy job, but not exactly the same intelligence level as a neurosurgeon). I know now what a stupid thing that was to let myself dwell on. Feeling like I wasn’t worth his love began to heighten my awareness of the physical temptations that are absolutely everywhere: miniskirts, high heels, perfect skin, big boobs. Jay finally told me that it hurt him that I didn’t see myself the way he did, that I thought so little of him that I didn’t think he was capable of keeping his commitment to love and be faithful to only me for the rest of our lives. Seeing how my fears were hurting him, I decided to let them go.

But it’s still hard to not be afraid from time to time when temptation is everywhere, and enjoying its presence in our everyday lives is completely normal: movies… TV shows… songs… books… checking out and enjoying someone else while in a committed relationship is inarguably prevalent in our society, and it’s more abnormal than not to consider the potential consequences for indulging in temptation… even if nothing is “actually” done.

Please don’t misunderstand, I am completely aware of human nature, of how men are “wired,” and that women have emotional needs that sometimes men just have no idea how to fill. But it’s hard for me to believe that we can face sexual temptation over and over and somehow manage to never cave. The Bible teaches us to lean on God to help us fight temptation, to pray for the strength to turn away. But it also points out that the flesh is weak. I was starting to feel like everywhere I looked I saw more examples of weak flesh than strength in action. When you see friends, celebrities, and pastors cheat or be cheated on, it’s even harder to believe that any of us has the strength to say no.

So here’s where the song comes in.

Lately I’ve been hearing Andy Grammer’s new song, “Honey I’m Good,” on the radio a lot. Catchy lyrics, a kind of hoe-down-y beat – I found myself singing along almost immediately. The song is about a guy who’s out at night, having a drink or two and noticing the girls in the bar around him. He notices their legs, their nice tushies, and even acknowledges that they would probably be a lot of fun to spend the night with. But, unfailingly, he chooses to go home to the love of his life.

I struggled with the message behind this song for a while (though I was always singing along). Even though he remains faithful to his girl, I hated that he even mentioned the pleasing appearance of the other women there. I didn’t understand why he would even allow himself to be somewhere – drinking almost to the point of giving in to temptation – if he loved his girl so much. In my eyes, if he really loved her he wouldn’t be there in the first place. I really wanted to see the good in this song, but I couldn’t tell if it was about him being faithful to his wife or wishing he didn’t have to be.

Then I saw the video.

And I get it now. At least, I think I do.

I can’t keep allowing myself to notice and focus on the failings of others. Their lack of resistance to temptation is no reflection of my marriage or Jay’s commitment to me. Despite the fact that I’ve always known this (I wouldn’t have married a man I didn’t trust my heart with), seeing this video gave me the visual I needed. Made me realize that there are still lots of people out there who are determined to remain true. Dedicated. Loyal.

Faithful.

It’s not that they’ve been faithful because they were never tempted and it was easy. No. These couples made a choice – a choice to fight temptation and maintain their commitment. And they aren’t upset that the temptations exist, because the truth is, they do exist. And all we can do is make sure we don’t give in. For Jay and I, that means leaning on Christ to help us remain forever loyal to one another.

Which we have. And will continue to do. Hopefully until we can hold up a sign saying we’ve been married for 71 years… or longer. ❤

Speak to Me

There are a LOT of quotes out there. Happy quotes. Inspiring quotes. Snarky quotes. Encouraging quotes. I’m-frustrated-so-take-THAT quotes. These catchy phrases can be a great way to summarize how you feel about anything, and because we can all relate to so many of them they spread like wildfire. I have a few friends that post quotes so aligned with their mood that you can tell what kind of day they’ve had without ever asking them.

To be honest, half the time I don’t even really read quotes. But every once in a while I run across one that speaks to me. And almost every time a quote touches me, I’m able to see it as a reminder of how much God loves me and how much I need to lean on Him to get through life.

For example, here is my favorite quote of all time:Screen Shot 2015-07-04 at 10.12.33 PM

I’ve loved this quote for as long as I can remember. It makes me take pride in who God has created me to be, and as a result I want to give my best in whatever I’m doing. This quote reminds me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), and that I need to take pride in who He has created me to be and reflect my best for Him.

Usually when a quote sticks with me it’s because it draws attention to an area of my life that I’m struggling with and leaves me with a nugget of quirky wisdom:

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I definitely struggle with expectations I put on myself. Is my house clean enough? Are my children behaving enough? Do I look good enough? But exactly when – and why – did I decide what my life is supposed to look like in the first place? When I set these expectations of “supposed to,” the only one ruining my happiness is ME. I love how this quote puts it in perspective – my life is already awesome, as long as I learn to love it for exactly what it is! ❤

Once in a while a few simple words reveal things about myself that I was never even aware of:

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This quote is 100% me. I’m constantly getting disappointed when I don’t feel the same level of commitment that I give being returned, and I never realized why it bothered me so much until I read this. It makes me remember Psalm 46:1: that God is my refuge and strength. Not people. I can’t let myself get depressed or frustrated when others aren’t being exactly what I need them to be, because I know He promises to never fail me.

Quotes also have a way of reaffirming something I’ve already been learning somewhere else in life:

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Last year our church held a women’s Bible study by Kay Warren called Choose Joy. It was during a time when for some crazy reason I was insisting on being miserable instead of choosing to be happy. These quotes popped up on my Instagram feed in one day from two different people and instantly reminded me the importance of the choices we make. along with this one, which not only helps me to evaluate the current choices I’ve been making but also helps me realize that if I want something to have greater importance in my life, I need to find a way to make it happen.Screen Shot 2015-07-04 at 9.55.28 PMI keep all the images of these quotes in a folder on my computer, and occasionally I’ll take a look at them and remind myself to focus on what’s important: my faith, my family, my friends, and myself. These quotes, along with the Biblical truths that back them up, help pull me out of whatever funk I’m in at the moment.

And this one helps too, of course. Words to live by. 😉

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Be Real

Sometimes I feel like I am drowning. I’m frantically trying to keep my head above the water, but it’s just too hard. There are worries tied to my ankles; insecurities that make it impossible for me to stay afloat for long. My girls are nearby – watching everything I do – so I try to stay strong and put on a brave face for them so they won’t see me struggle. I know they would help if they could, but they are just too little and have no experience in matters of the heart. Dry land is just too far away to reach by myself. I need help, and quickly.

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When I start to go under, I do three things: I wallow in self-pity and misery (obviously a really dumb first step), I find a friend to confide in, and then I pray.

As a believer in Christ, I know that the prayer should come first. But to be completely open and honest, I don’t always feel like I deserve God’s help. I feel alone in the world, and it’s difficult to imagine that God wants anything to do with me when I’m moping about. And I don’t always know how to go about it either – it just feels selfish to ask God to do anything for me, especially when I have so successfully convinced myself that I deserve whatever trial I’m going through at the moment.

That’s when I know I’ve hit bottom, and I need to talk to someone. But talking to someone requires being real. It means opening up and risking being “that friend” that always seems to be unhappy about life. It means moving into a glass house, where all of my problems are laid out plain as day. It means risking judgement and pity… and it also means giving up my pride. But it also means that I might start healing. I might find out that someone shares my pain. I might learn ways to get past it. I might start to tread water more easily.

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My faith in Christ is what gives me the strength to fight the weights that are pulling me under, and, if I let it, my faith is what unties the knots on those weights. And my friends – all of whom I consider to be a blessing in my life and a gift from God – are my life preservers. They listen to me, love me, encourage me, and set me straight. They aren’t afraid to tell me what might hurt, and always do it offering their full support when I need it. They tell me when I’m wrong. They tell me when I need to let it go. And sometimes they even offer to watch the girls for a few hours, just to give me the space I need to feel however I need to feel… to cry as hard as I want to… to pray in peace.

But the trick is to be real with them. I’ve learned that giving fragmented information in an effort to save myself from embarrassment doesn’t result in the same level of advice, support, or compassion from my friends. They’ve all got their own insecurities, their own struggles. They understand, because there is no “perfect.”

But the key to true healing is to pray. Pray and pray and pray some more. Anytime I feel like I’m going under again, I need to pray. Anytime that drowning sensation begins to return, I need to pray. When I feel my burdens are impacting my daughters and my husband and the people around me, I need to pray. When I don’t think I need to pray, I need to pray.

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Things will get better, I know they will. I know that being a believer doesn’t mean that I won’t struggle or have difficulties in life. But hiding behind my problems or putting on a smile to help me pretend they don’t exist won’t make anything any better. Being real and prayer – LOTS of prayer – will. ❤

4:00am

It’s 4:00am.

I’m quietly awoken by the sound of the bathroom light being flicked off. The not-so-silent shuffle of shoes on the carpet. A carry-on being set down on the floor. A gentle kiss on my forehead.

Jay is heading off to the airport.

Half-asleep, I pull myself up onto my knees and wrap my arms around his neck. I tell him I love him… to stay safe… to call me – even though I know he’ll be two time zones away and that he’s not likely to get more than five minutes away from work. Then I fall back into my pillow and pretend to be asleep again so that he won’t feel guilty for waking me.

He says goodbye, softly, then I hear his feet on the stairs, his keys leaving the metal tray on our aqua table, and the front door opens and closes. Locks. An engine, acorns crushed under tires, then silence.

I open my eyes and begin to pray.

Lord, thank you for my husband.

Thank you for this man who loves to sleep in, yet wakes at 3:30am on a Sunday morning to catch a 4:30am flight. Thank you for blessing my life with a man who believes in hard work. Who believes that me being a stay-at-home-mom is the best thing for our family right now. Who takes flight after flight and endures the hassles that go along with such a job – layovers… redeyes… missed connections… then turns around and does it again and again. Thank you for a man who visits new and sometimes exciting cities and countries and comes home and tells me he wants to take me there… that he wished I could have been there with him. 

That he missed me.

That he’s happy to be home.

Be with him, Lord. Protect him from harm. From temptation. From failure. 

Be with me, Lord. Protect me from jealousy. From suspicion. From failure.

Develop a sense of understanding in us both while he’s away and when he returns. Help me to realize that he’s working hard for our family, and that he’s going to be tired and very likely stressed about the next big project at work. Help him to realize that I’ve been working hard for our family, and that I’m going to be tired and very likely stressed about the never ending list of projects around the house.

But mostly, God, help us to remember that You are in control. You have blessed us beyond measure – all we have is because of You and all we have is Yours. Thank you.

In your name I pray,
Amen.

And then, once my brain begins to settle again, I drift off to sleep. When I wake, he will be gone and it will be days until I see him again. The girls and I will carry on with our day-to-day, and we will say a nightly prayer for his safe return.

Over the next few days he and I will most certainly have difficulty connecting. I’ll fall asleep at night before he returns to his hotel room, and he’ll be in meetings when I’m in the pickup line with time to talk. He’ll get wrapped up in his work and forget to text, and I’ll get jealous of his jet-setting adventures… which, of course, is how they appear to me since I’m at home every day. There’s a good chance we will both become frustrated at the lack of understanding between us – it’s happened before. Probably more so on my side of things than his.

It’s not easy to say goodbye so often, especially at odd hours of the night. It’s not easy to go days without talking more than a few minutes at a time. It’s not easy to go to family events and activities without him. It’s not easy knowing that many of my friends’ husbands are home by 6:30pm for dinner. That they can help with bedtime. That they have predictable (and local) schedules.

It’s not easy feeling like a single mom when I know I’m not.

It’s really hard not wishing things were different.

But that 4:00am departure – that’s when I reflect on how much I absolutely love my husband. How grateful I am for him. How blessed I feel to care for him while I’m home… even if he isn’t here with me.

This is the life God has given to us, and I have all that I need – even if it isn’t all that I want. Praying for Jay and our relationship right when he leaves us is what helps me keep all that in perspective while he’s gone. It makes it just a little easier.

I love you, baby. ❤

A Groovy Kind of Love

One of my favorite memories of the months that Jay and I dated was when he told me that he would be willing to dance to “Groovy Kind of Love” at our wedding.  As dumb as it sounds, this song was important to me, and I believe that God knew this was a way to clue me into a potential lifetime of happiness with Jay. I like to joke that the moment Jay said “yes” to that song, I knew I’d found my perfect man.

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a big Phil Collins fan.  I was teased for it at one point – loving this “balding old guy’s” music when everyone else was into New Kids on the Block.  But I didn’t care.  I remained loyal.  By the time I was in high school it was common knowledge that I was into his music, and a former boss even scored a signed photo with the inscription “To Susie: Happy Birthday” on it for me. Woohoo!

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But back to the song.  I’d decided when I was 12 or so that “Groovy Kind of Love” would be the first song I would dance to at my wedding.  Any guy that had a problem with that just wasn’t for me.  Whenever I dated a guy, at some point I’d casually bring it up and wait for his reaction.  Most of them brushed it off with some comment about how old he was or how lame the song was.  Now granted, it wasn’t fair to judge a 15-year old teenage boy on his future wedding song, but I did.  And if they didn’t love the idea then they weren’t the one for me.  I loved the song, and anyone who loved me wouldn’t have a problem with it. I even had the DJ play the song for me at a homecoming dance that happened to fall on my birthday.  It was definitely not anything the kids in my high school listened to, and I think my date was actually embarrassed as he danced with me.  So, naturally, he was out.

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Jay and I started dating our last year of college.  We had only been together a few months when I mentioned the song to him.  Every fiber in my soul told me that this was the guy for me, that we were meant to be together, that this was it.  I’d prayed and prayed and put our relationship in God’s hands. But I was still scared that he wouldn’t pass my wedding song test.  I knew it was silly, but I was still scared that if he didn’t like the song it would be hard to see past such a flaw, and then what was I supposed to do?

But it wasn’t even an issue.  He already knew the song.  Already liked the song.  And, since we were already discussing our future at that point, was already okay with that being our first dance at our wedding. I knew then I’d found my man.

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I realize that the whole thing was completely absurd. But to me, it’s just one of the hundreds of ways that God has had His hand in our relationship. As ridiculous as it is to put that kind of weight on something that really has no bearing on future marital success, I know that God knew it mattered to me.  He knew that it would be hard for me to feel loved by someone who wouldn’t give in on something so trivial. That we would have enough that we would differ on over the years, we didn’t need to start off with our wedding song. God knew that it was incredibly hard for me to risk having my heart broken again, and that this might be the gentle nudge I needed to move forward and say, “I do.” And that in my shallow mindset I might miss out on the man He’d chosen for me.

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God knew the desires of my heart, and granted me something that I’d wanted for so long: a man who would dance with me to the most romantic song ever written.  My God cares about me completely – even the silly things – because He loves me.

We just celebrated 12 years of marriage, and I’m happy to say that our love has only gotten groovier.

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Happy Anniversary baby.  I love you. ❤

 

 

 

 

My 100th Post!

I decided to celebrate by giving my blog a makeover… yay!

And while this blog is primarily for me and my girls, I just want to say a HUMONGOUS thank you to those of you who read my blog and take the time to comment about my posts, whether it be here or in person.  It’s extremely encouraging, and helps keep me going (mainly because my girls are too young to read any of this yet or even care that I’m writing it). 🙂

Now, onto that 100th post!

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I started this blog in September 2012.  After being home with Julia for a year I finally went back to teaching.  Unfortunately, things were much more difficult for me than I had anticipated – my new school provided challenges I’d never faced before, and being away from my beauties was absolute torture, which I’m sure made my work situation seem even worse than it really was.

I was depressed.  Eternally bummed.  I started to see myself as a horrible mother, because I couldn’t be there for my girls the way I wanted to.  I felt like a horrible teacher, because my desire to return to being a stay-at-home mom was clearly effecting my attitudes towards my students.  I felt like a horrible friend because all I wanted to do was vent all the time.  And I felt like a horrible wife because I couldn’t seem to be happy no matter what Jay did to try to cheer me up.

I started this blog the at the suggestion of my hubby and my good friend Leanette (of Teach Me 2 Save fame) as a way to dump all the thoughts running through my head.  I was going through a really rough time, and I was having a hard time finding the small joys that I knew were still happening in my life… the things that are always around me, yet were so hard to see through my misery-colored glasses.  I wanted to create a safe place to log all of my thoughts, fears, faults, joys, successes, and failures.  I wanted my beauties to be able read the things going through my head, especially when they feel like they don’t know me at all (which I’m sure they will one day).  I wanted to document my running experiences.  My recipes.  My craft & DIY projects.  The changes I make to my home.  I wanted to write down the things in my head, no matter how random.  Or dumb.  Or long.  Or boring.

I wanted to start noticing the joys in life again.

But noticing the months that I posted after starting this journey I can see that my plan actually didn’t work.  This blog didn’t actually start to become the outlet that I’d hoped it would be until May of last year, which was about a month after we learned that Jay had a new job that would allow me to return to stay-at-home mom status.  To be more clear, I couldn’t write about those everyday happy moments until then – because I couldn’t see them.  At least, not until things were going my way.

It’s easy to find joy when you’re happy.  It’s much more difficult to do when you’re not.  When I’m happy my food tastes better, jokes are funnier, and I feel beautiful.  When I’m depressed the same meals are bland… the same jokes are annoying… and the same outfit makes me feel fat.

I was guilty of forgetting something: that God was in control.  I was so focused on what I wanted and how I wasn’t getting what I wanted that I forgot to let go.  It was easy to trust God when all my little fuzzy duckies were lining up neatly, but as soon as that line got askew I lost faith.  I wasn’t giving my worries and cares to Him, knowing that He cares for me.  I was holding onto all of them myself, and it was eating me up from the inside out.  I definitely tried, but I’m willing to bet that if I’d truly given it all to Him then I wouldn’t have struggled so hard to be happy.

I started this blog for me, but I love that God used it to show me an area of my faith that I need to work on.  He’s cool like that.

With Some Rice, Rice Here and Some Rice, Rice There…

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This past Saturday my best friend Sanne invited Emily and me to join her and her son Benjamin at a Stop Hunger Now event.  The event was being held at the church preschool where her older two sons attended and her youngest currently does. We were both thrilled that they allowed kids ages 6+ to participate, and signed up to help!

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The church had signed up to host the event, and had set a goal of packaging 40,000 – 45,000 meals in 2 hours.  They raised $.29 a meal, and the Stop Hunger Now relief agency came with all the supplies necessary to pack the meals.  Each meal serves 6 people and contains rice, soy, and a flavor mix of vitamins and minerals.  The job was simple: fill the bags with the ingredients, seal them, and box them up for delivery.

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Sanne, Benjamin, Emily and I were stationed at a long table with blue bins, scales, containers of rice, spoons, and white baskets.  Across from those (at the same tables) were bag sealers with white buckets on the floor beside each seat. Benjamin and Sanne sat at sealing stations, while Emily and I started off at the scales.  Behind us were more tables, which had huge bins of rice, soy, and the vitamin packets, as well as clear bins (like the blue bins on our tables) and the bags to put the meals into.

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The process was very smooth and easy to understand.  The volunteers at the table behind us would fill the bag with the vitamin packet, soy, and a scoop of rice.  Then those bags would be put into the clear bins, and volunteers would bring those clear bins over to our table.  The volunteers at the scales would then take a meal bag and place it in the white basket on the scale.  The meal bag needed to weigh between 389-394 grams, so we would use the spoons and our small containers of rice to put more rice in (or remove rice) so that it weighed the right amount.  Then we would place the weighed bags into the blue bins, and the volunteers seated at the sealers would seal the bags shut and place them in the buckets on the floor.  Other volunteers would come and remove the sealed bags from the buckets and take them to still another table, where they would be placed in boxes for shipping.

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Someone would ring a gong every time we had boxed up 1,000 meals.  We assumed that since one bag feeds 6 people, each bag was counted as 6 meals, equating to roughly 167 bags filled every time the gong sounded.  They didn’t explain it explicitly, but based on how frequently they rang the gong it’s the only logical explanation.  Our final total? 49,500 meals!

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It was really quite a lot of fun, and there was rice EVERYWHERE.  The four of us switched jobs off and on, so each of us had a chance to be the weighers and the sealers.  Benjamin and Emily did really well, although they definitely were starting to get tired of the repetitiveness of the work about an hour and a half in.  It really proved to be a bit of an educational experience for them too, as they had to measure, determine if the weight was accurate, and follow a multi-step process.  And of course, there was the knowledge that our meals were going to be delivered to families in a less-fortunate country.

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I’m definitely going to keep my ears open for another opportunity to serve as a volunteer for one of these events.  Emily enjoyed it, and I love that she had a safe and age-appropriate way to demonstrate God’s love for others, as well as the experience of sacrificing her time and fun for someone less fortunate.  We’ll be praying for the families who will be receiving these meals over the next week as a way to extend the experience a little further.

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For more information on this organization, visit http://www.stophungernow.org/