Love and Marriage

There is only one true definition of love, and it doesn’t come from the lyrics of a song, a romance novel, and most definitely not from Disney movies!  The true definition of love is found in the Bible.  God has a lot to say about love, the most important being that He IS love (1 John 4:8.)  But like everyone, I needed to learn and grown in God’s type of love, not what I thought love was.

This part of my story is difficult to write.  Not because it’s painful or difficult, but because my husband is not as okay with openness as I am, and I want to honor and respect that.  So, I’m going to try to keep to just the facts, and the parts I played in them.

The year was 1992.  It was August.   The family I was living with and I were attending a church that had a singles group.  I started going to the singles functions, and getting to know the people in the group.  There was one guy who I ended up talking to frequently, but we had nothing in common, and we would even get into arguments from time to time.  Our tastes in music were completely different (still are.)  He loved sports, and I couldn’t be bothered (still true.)  He was steadfast and disciplined about life, and I was a flighty, hot mess (I’m getting better, he hasn’t changed at all.)  He was 29, and I was 19.  The only thing we had in common was our love of God, and our church.  So, of course by December we were dating, because that made total sense.   By February we were engaged, with a wedding date of May 8th set.   I loved him for his stability and strength of godly character, which isn’t very romantic, but holds true to this day.  He already had a solid job at the mill, a house, a Camaro (complete with one of those fancy, huge car phones), and a motorcycle.  Let’s look at that timeline again; met and married in ten months time, none of which was during softball season (this will be important later.)

By our first anniversary I was three months pregnant with our first child, and as with all newly married couples we had gone through a lot of adjusting to married life.  One adjustment was the man’s love of softball.  He was on multiple summer and fall leagues; because he was good at the game.  Remember my view on sports?  Yeah…it was an adjustment.  Which in all honesty I did not handle well.  At all.  See, I was looking for my husband to fulfill me, and when I felt he fell short in that department (which was never his job in the first place), it created tension.  I look back with great regret on the unobtainable expectations I put on him.  I should have been looking to Jesus Christ to fulfill me, because He’s the only one who can.  Not only that, He wants to!

I don’t recommend this as being the way one should go about courtship and marriage.  I like the- date-for-a-year, marry, wait-at-least-a-year-to-get-pregnant route, but that was not the plan God had for us.  And His plan is always good, and always best.  We recently celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary, and as with any marriage, there have been ups and downs through the years.  The important take-away from our story is that no matter how different you are, no matter how hard times get, if Jesus is the center of your lives (individually and as a couple), it can work.  Romantic love is a nice feeling, but real love is a choice.  Jesus demonstrated this when He died on the cross for us; in our place.  That’s true love.  Love that has depth to it.

For those of you reading this who know us personally, I’m sure you can attest to the fact that we are not a huggy-lovey-touchy-feely, romantic couple.   However, if you spend more time getting to know us, hopefully you would see there is a deep, foundational love between us with God at the center.    And to us, that’s what’s most important.

Next up: Parenthood.  Not the show, our real life story.

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This Is My Story, This Is My Song

Most of you are familiar with the hymn from which those words come.  If not, go watch this new take on it, and then come right back 🙂  I’m not going anywhere.  I’ll wait, but be warned: grab your tissue box.

Are you crying now?  I am.  I’ve had that Big Daddy Weave song for at least a year and never watched that video.  God does not play!  When He tells me to do something and it gets hard, like wading through the past to write my story, He always gives me just what I need at just the right time to keep me moving forward.  So, onward!

At age eighteen, about a month after graduating high school, I moved from Pennsylvania to Indiana with my youth pastors and their three young kids.  In my mind I would be helping them out with their kids, but the reality was, they became my family and took care of me.  It wasn’t until years later that I really appreciated the enormity of what they had done for me.  It still blows my mind.   It was also a bit of a difficult adjustment.  I went from pretty much having no rules and being autonomous, to bunking (in literal bunk beds) with their eight year old (I think she was eight at the time…the memory you know, it’s not so great), to sharing a station wagon with the family, and having a curfew.  I need to publicly apologize to them for the moody, mess of a teenager I was, and thank them for their love and care of me!

This next part is the most important part of my whole story, but it does require a little backstory that I purposely skipped over.  I have one other memory of my early years.  I remember my dad leading me in prayer to accept Jesus as my Savior and King at the age of five.  We were part of a church family until my early teen years.  I have no idea why we stopped going.  I believe something happened, possibly a church split, and we never found a new church home.  That’s their story to tell, and I don’t have many memories of that time anyway.  As with most kids raised in the church, my faith was that of my parents.  Meaning, I believed the gospel to the best of my young ability and tried to walk it out as my parents did.  I call it “faith mimicry” (I just totally made that up) which is based on observational learning theory.   That’s how we teach and train our children though.  They learn by doing what we do.  Good or bad.

There comes a point in any person’s walk of faith where they have to decide to make what they’ve been practicing, faith, their own.  Every person on earth has to make this choice at some time.  Will you put your faith in God, or keep trusting that you can do it all on your own?  That point came for me in August of 1992.  The family I was now part of found a church home, and we went every time the doors were open.  After a few weeks of being reminded of how much God loved me, and how the emptiness I felt was because of sin, and that I needed Jesus to bridge the gap between me and His Father, I made my choice.  Best. Decision. Ever.

Life did not immediately get better.  It was still hard.  None of my circumstances had changed, and I didn’t start making the right choices right away.  It was, and still is, a process of growing in God’s grace.  But this was the turning point.  A pivotal moment.  Clarity didn’t come right away, but looking back from where I sit today, I can see that it was God that led me to leave Pennsylvania, through an unlikely situation.  Much like what it says in Genesis 50 as Joseph (the one with the colorful coat) is speaking to his brothers who sold him into slavery, “what was meant for evil, God intended for good.”  I may have thought I was running away from my past, but I was really running toward my Heavenly Father.  I just didn’t know it at that time.

There aren’t adequate words to impress upon you the importance of that ultimate decision.  To accept what Jesus has done for us in taking our sinful nature, and in doing that, allowing us to have a relationship with God.  If you’ve never heard the gospel, which means ‘good news’, I can’t say it any more plainly than Amanda Jenkins does on page 156 in her book, confessions of a raging perfectionist:

“God created life to be perfect…Eden was perfect.  God gave Adam and Eve the choice (in the form of a tree) to believe Him or to not believe Him.  From the first moment Adam and Eve chose to go their own way, guilt, shame, and brokenness were the result.  With defiance came consequences, including that Adam and Eve were removed from the garden. But not because God was angry– quite the contrary.  When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their relationship with God had been broken.  They couldn’t be permitted to also eat from the tree of life because if they did, they would have lived forever in their broken, cursed state. And so, to protect them from spending eternity in the mess they’d made, God drove them out and set a guard at the tree.

God made clothes [for them], which is an easy part of the story to overlook, but it reveal something extraordinary.  In the midst of this tragic moment, when relationship with God had been broken, God saw that Adam and Eve were embarrassed to be naked and were struggling to cover themselves–so He clothed them.  He loved them and showed them mercy, even in their disbelief.  He covered their sin and shame–a precursor to the cross.”

When Jesus died on the cross, He got rid of the internal mess we’d made–our sin.  We’re stuck with the external consequences until He comes back, but the other good news is that if we accept His help, we’re not alone in it.  It’s not my job, or anyone who claims to follow Jesus, to convince you that this is true.  Our job is to tell you our stories, introduce you to our good God and His story, and then let you decide for yourself.  Choose wisely.

In the next chapter: why getting married at 19 is not the best idea.

Middle School Is Kind To No One

Now that I’ve made the decision to take math in the fall, I suddenly have time again.  The pile of books I want to read has been accumulating, and as anyone who has taken a college course knows, required reading can kill a love of reading in general.   I refuse to let that happen!  I’ve continued to read for pleasure, but it takes me forever to finish a book when all I can manage is a chapter before I fall asleep.  Being sick and having time led me to pick up a book a friend gave me, “confessions of a raging perfectionist,” by Amanda Jenkins.  Our stories might be different, but I’d swear she was reading my mind.  She even writes like I think and speak.  This book helped push me into starting to share my story.  Yesterday I read the first four chapters, then immediately wrote and posted the first part.  It was really a God thing.  It was like I had to do it.  So I did.  And I’m really glad I did.

Today I read another few chapters in the book and in the chapter on testimony, Amanda writes, “transparency is the necessary starting place for testimony, not to mention relationship…”   There it is.  Another reason I need to continue sharing my story.  I’m telling you, if you are open to hearing what God is saying to you, you will hear Him everywhere. My testimony is my story, and it needs to be told, if only for my own benefit.

Relationships are hard for me.  I have a tendency to ache for close, honest relationships with people, but not trust them to not hurt me, so I hold people at arms length, which is counter productive.  We learn about relationships early on, but the practice of forming relationships comes into play in a big way during our teenage and young adult years.  That would be the hell known as middle and high school.  These were not good years for me.  Although, I don’t think middle school is kind to anyone. I don’t have many specific memories of those years, but rather an impression of being anxious and unhappy a lot of the time.  There was the normal teasing in middle school (one boy gave me the nickname of fish lips…I have no recollection why, just that I hated that name.)  Now, looking back, this photo is proof that I probably deserved some sort of teasing.  Those glasses?!? That hair?!?

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7th Grade

Seriously, middle school is just awful.  The best thing that came out of middle school is that I met my best friend.  Up until 6th grade I had been pretty sheltered in private school.  All of the sudden I was thrust into the big, bad world of public school and it’s mean, name-calling kids.  This next part really dates me, and proves my nerdy status even back then.  I would listen to Amy Grant on my Walkman on the bus with my headphones on to drown out the drama.  One day a girl was bold enough to ask me what I was listening to.  I told her, and she said she was a Christian and listened to Amy Grant too, and the rest is best-friend history.  Barb and I are still great friends to this day! I do have some good memories of times with her in Spring City, Pennsylvania, and she was my rock through our years at Spring-Ford High.

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Barb and I at Tech School Graduation

 

When I got to high school, things really started to change in regards to relationships.  I got a boyfriend who was much older than I was, and since I already thought I was “damaged goods” you can imagine how that all played out.  He placed a high value on how I looked and acted, and constantly told me I needed to watch my weight.  Being young and dumb, I believed him.  Which led to me spending the bulk of my high school years, even after he was history, counting every fat gram and calorie I consumed.  I was very proud of myself for staying under 10 grams of fat a day most of my entire senior year.  I was committed.  I was thin, sick a lot, but still saw myself as fat when I looked in the mirror.  I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder.  I didn’t binge and purge like some friends with bulimia did, and I didn’t truly starve myself so I wasn’t anorexic, but my unhealthy eating habits have taken their toll on my health, both physically and psychologically.

Throughout high school I had four steady boyfriends, not at the same time mind you.  Things pretty much went the same in each relationship, because until you change, you are doomed to repeat the mistakes you bring to the table.  Instead of finding my identity in Christ, I found my identity in what I was good at (working with kids), and who I was dating.  When I dated a hockey player, I learned to play hockey and wear goalie gear and have pucks shot at me.  When I dated a BMX biker/skate boarder who was into Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, and the Cure, I shaved the back of my head and hung out on the hood of the car and watched for cops so he and his buddies could do their tricks in the parking lots of closed businesses.  I was still a pretty good kid though.  No drugs or alcohol for me, which is only by God’s grace, because with all my issues, I’m a prime candidate for that sort of thing.  I’ve never even smoked a cigarette.  Mostly because with my allergies and asthma (which I forgot to mention yesterday, I’ve been dealing with since the age of five) it most likely would have landed me in the ER.  To sum up; my philosophy in high school was, life sucks and then you die.  If you listen to enough punk rock lyrics and believe their lies, you might come to the same conclusion.  To further demonstrate the inward turmoil of my teenage years, my other favorite music style was 1950’s doo wop music.  Go figure. Oldies 98 out of Philadelphia was an awesome radio station!  Further proof I’ve always been weird and complicated, swinging from one end of the pendulum to the other; from depression to hope.

Midway through my senior year, my parents split up.  Since it’s not only my story to tell, I will leave out the details, but let me just say it was soap opera worthy and rocked my world.  Shortly after I graduated I had a really hard decision to make.  Stay with what I perceived as my broken family or leave with friends who offered to let me move with them to Indiana and be their live-in nanny.  I chose to leave Pennsylvania and the familiar in the hopes of outrunning the pain I wasn’t ready to face.  Again, all your baggage goes with you unless you leave it at the cross for Jesus take care of.

And that’s it for today.  I’m tired.  I have another sinus infection and all I’ve been good for these past few days is sleeping, watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix, reading, and writing my story.  And I’m totally okay with that.  I’ll leave you with my senior picture, which when I look at it all I can think is I want my young neck back!  I’m not sure why our school did this, but all the girls had to wear this drapey, off-the-shoulder black thing in the yearbook photo, so other than the size of our hair and our choice of jewelry, we all looked alike.  You can’t tell with that perm blocking your view, but the back of my head was shaved too.  I was just that cool in 1992 😉   FullSizeRender(2)

 

Scabs and Scars

It’s time to tell my story.  I was actually supposed to do this years ago when I went through the Celebrate Recovery program at my church.  At that time it was for myself, but I wasn’t ready to commit it to paper.  Now I feel it’s time to not only write these words for myself, but to share them with others.  You’ll have to excuse any sarcasm and television references.  My hope is that someone might learn something that helps them not do a lot of the dumb stuff I did.  So much pain in our lives is caused by our own choices.  How we react to the things we are faced with is even our own choice.  I have chosen poorly more times than I care to remember.  Which brings me to my chosen title: scabs and scars. Which is really a terrible title.

Scabs are gross and if you mess with them too much, you have to start the healing process again, and scars can form.  I have seen kids in the classes I substitute teach pick scabs off so they could go to the nurse.  Why?  Why do they do this?  In their case it’s because they want to avoid another worksheet.  If you don’t want a wound to scar, you need to do two things; keep the scar well moisturized and leave it alone.  I have scars all over the place.  I have trouble with leaving things alone.  This is not only true of our external skin, but our souls as well.  As often as I sing, “It Is Well With My Soul,” which is the absolute truth of it, if you had the ability to see a picture of my soul, you would see the scars, and it would not look well.   This thought came to me as a I watched Arrow the other night. Yes, I watch Arrow.  And The Flash.  I do have enough self-respect to avoid the ridiculousness that is Super Girl.  And no, I don’t watch Arrow just for Stephen Amell‘s abs, although he does spend a good portion of each episode shirtless.  Back to the scars.  The character of the Green Arrow is covered in scars from bullet wounds, knife fights, torture, and generally abusing his body to save Star City, and it almost hurts to look at all of them.  I’m flying my nerd flag high in this post.  The point is when we pick at scabs and don’t allow God to work on them in His timing, we cause the scarring to be worse.

I have very few childhood memories.  The earliest memory I have is playing school with my stuffed animals in the front room of my grandparents house.  My Nan (what we called my grandmother) would let me use one of the rooster mugs to pretend I was drinking coffee, because my five-year-old self believed all teachers drank coffee.  Truth! I tried to find a pic of those mugs, but there aren’t any on the internet.  They must be worth something, or just so ugly no one cares!  That’s the only memory I really have.  My other memories are sketchy, even up through my high school years.  I’m told it’s because of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  A few years after that memory some bad stuff happened to me, and my brain decided it was less painful to remember anything; good or bad.  I don’t think childhood molestation was any less prevalent in the early 80’s than it is now, I just think it wasn’t talked about as much back then, and certainly not exposed in the media like it is today.  I’ve had years of prayer, Bible study, and therapy that make it possible for me to discuss this and honestly have no anxiety, fear, or shame over that situation anymore; however, it’s something that I allowed to define me and be used as the lens through which I made decisions for far too long.

My story is not at all unique and when you get to deep, heart level sharing with people, you find many of them have some sort of trauma in their past; physical, sexual, mental, or emotional abuse.  The point: we are not alone in this struggle.  I am not alone.  As I said, by the grace of God and a specific type of psychotherapy, I’ve moved past that.  The memories haven’t returned, but I’m no longer haunted by the fact that I can’t remember.  Recently I’ve been working through how my childhood experiences have affected, and still do, affect me.  Just because you move past something it doesn’t mean the ripples are not felt from time to time.   I did get an A in Into to Psychology.  That course was at least good for something.  Algebra, however, is not.

My recent realization that many of the choices I made in the past have hurt others, thanks to this season of Arrow for helping to push that point home, is what I’m working through now.  At times I would blame God, “How could He let that happen?” I blamed my parents, “Why were they not protecting me?”  As we all know, in the blame game no one wins.  All it did was put a relational wedge, of my own making, between my parents and I, and worse still, made me keep my Father God at arms length.  Back to the whole scabs and scars thing; it occurred to me the other day that what used to be a scab I constantly picked at and re-opened, has now become a scar.  The healing part is done.  That knowledge has given me the clarity to look around and see that I have caused pain to those I love most as I lived all those years making decisions out of fear and my own pain.   I’m trying to make amends, to work on other areas that need attention.  My prayer is, “Moisturize me, Lord!”  That was a total Doctor Who reference, right there!  Ephesians talks about how God gave Himself up for the church and cleanses her by the washing of water with the word.   That’s Bible talk for Jesus dying to offer us the chance to get clean from the sin we all have.  When I invite Him to wash my wounded soul and cover up my wounds,  as Psalm 147 says,  then healing can take place.  Without Christ there is no healing.  There just isn’t.  Jesus bears scars on His body because of me and my sin.  The very least I can do is tell others what He did on my behalf, and that He did it for them as well.

These words got away from me and this first installment feels way heavier than I wanted it to, but there it is.  I’m going to keep writing throughout the summer, now that math is no longer on the table.  Thanks be to God!

 

 

And…done

I hit submit and all my hopes flew away with my document into the invisible world of the internet to my invisible college, and essentially invisible professor.  I just submitted the first draft of my first writing project in my first English Comp college class. Ever.  I am exhausted.  When I say that this essay (yes, just an essay) has consumed the last three days of my life, I am not kidding.  I was near a full-on panic attack Thursday night thinking about paraphrasing, quoting, and accidentally plagiarizing.  My type A personality, with a dash of perfectionism, OCD, and sensory issues thrown in for good measure, had me freaking out over how to write this paper.  I had two other college students tell me I shouldn’t be sweating this assignment.  That it wasn’t a big deal.  It’s ALL a big deal to me, people!  ALL OF IT!  (they just looked at me with pity and let me be)  But it’s over.  I did it.  Now for the grading and next week’s assignments.  Whaaaaaaa!  That’s me wailing and wondering what in the world have I done?!?  I wanted this?!?  PAID for this?!?

Phew!  Sorry about that.  I feel better now.  Some “stress away” from Young Living (see how I gave them due credit there…uh huh…I’m learning stuff) is making me feel better.   I do find it hilarious that the first thing I do after spending my entire day reading and writing words is come here to do the same.   But it’s different.  Very different.  This is my space where I can write whatever I want to and not have to follow anyone’s prescribed form or style.

And what I want to do is tell you about my lunch.  Really the rhetorical context for this piece is my fellow Trim Healthy Mamas (shout out to all you ladies that stopped by) (and forgive me for flaunting my knowledge of the genre of academic writing…I’m probably doing it all wrong anyway;)  Haha! I’m done.

So Mamas, here’s my lunch backstory.  I’ve been eating too many heavy S meals (see cheese, cheese, and more cheese.) (Also some stress eating SkinnyPop…which does not count as an E meal!)    I knew I needed to throw some real E meals in today, but they are not my favorite.  I’m gluten intolerant and that makes E’s difficult for me to maneuver without really planning them out.  Which if you’ve stuck with me so far in this post, you’ve probably surmised that planning food hasn’t happened.  I did go to Costco yesterday!  And now finally to my lunch…

These are the four ingredients that rocked my E world today.  I used a 9×13 food storage container and filled it with the greens.  I opened the quinoa portion of the meal and dumped it on the greens. I spiced it up with salt, pepper, and cayenne and stirred that mess around. Then I cut the white meat breast off the rotisserie chicken, chopped it up, and threw it in there too.  In a little bowl I spooned maybe 2-3 TBSP of the Greek yogurt (I usually don’t measure anything unless I’m baking) then opened the other part of the quinoa meal: the artichokes and peppers mixture.  I poured only HALF in with the yogurt and mixed it all up.  Voila!  Creamy salad dressing that stays in E territory.  I took a few bites to gauge the flavor, and it was missing something.  I’m still not sure what would have made it perfect (I’m thinking cheese, but that’s what got me into this rut!) so I sprinkled some nutritional yeast on top and got to chowing down.  And there you have it folks, my really easy E lunch!  I know I could’ve zazzed it up with more non-starchy veggies…oh wait! I did.  I also added a cut-up Roma tomato when I was trying to figure out the missing ingredient.    I seriously just remembered what I typed “non-starchy veggies”.  Pray for my brain.

I guess this meal won’t work for you non-Costco members or you puristy-I-only-cook-my-own-chicken-and-quinoa-and-make-my-own-yogurt-and-grow-my-own-greens-types.  I mean, it’ll work for you, but it’ll take a whole growing season and a few days 😉

Love to all the THM-ers!

(PS- I am not even going to proofread this!!!)

 

Pushing Through The Feels

I got the reminder email last night.  The “don’t forget you signed up for this meeting and R.S.V.P.’d that you’d be there” email.  I really didn’t feel like getting up on a Saturday morning.  It was an informational meeting.  Not like I was actually agreeing to any sort of commitment by showing up.  I could skip it.  I literally prayed this before I fell asleep, “I’m not setting an alarm.  God, if you want me there you’ll have to wake me up.”   How’s that for a fleece?  (If you don’t get that obscure old testament reference, it’s all good.  It’s in a story about a guy named Gideon in Judges 6:36-40.)

I woke up around five minutes before I would have set an alarm for.  Well then.  I threw down another fleece.  “If I don’t fall right back to sleep, I guess You want me to go after all.”  I didn’t fall back to sleep.  I had to pee.  Bad in fact.  You see, I’ve slacked off in my water consumption and the past few days I’ve upped my ounces to around one-fifty a day.  That takes its toll on ones bladder.

Needless to say, I got up.  At that point I just felt like crap.  Honestly, my head hurt (stupid allergies and stupid sinuses!!) and I just wanted to stay in my frumpy pjs and watch Netflix on my couch for the whole day.  Then I decided to do what, as of late, I haven’t been forcing myself to do.  I pushed through “The Feels.”  If you’re not hip to the urban dictionary (clearly I’m not either with that statement, I just remember seeing a meme that was funny) it means strong feelings or emotions.  Whatever.  The point was I’ve let my feelings dictate too much of what happens in my life lately.  I showered, ate, and left.

Breakfast was served a half hour before the actual start time of the meeting and since I’m so high-maintenance when it comes to food, I ate at home and arrived promptly at 9am.  I sat down at a table where they were just finishing up an ice breaker game, filling in the name of the cereal mascot by the cereal name.  Breakfast meeting.  Cereal.  It was cute.  The ladies at the table had four blanks left that they were stuck on.  I told them three of the answers (only two turned out to be right.)  And who has even heard of Big Mixx?!?  Anyway, our table had the most points in the end.  Yeah…let’s start the meeting and get this over with.  The speaker came back to our table and handed something to one lady and said, “Everyone at this table, take one.”  They were gift cards.  To STARBUCKS.  The joy!! I felt like I didn’t deserve one but the kind ladies said I helped so I should take one.  I didn’t even really look at it.  I just shoved it in my purse and grabbed a pen, ready to take some notes.  I was starting to feel a little better about this meeting.

Turns out it was a great meeting!  Very informative in a fun, engaging way.  Refreshing.  In the end I did commit to something I’ve been on the fence about.  It’s a good thing.  It will be a good thing.  For me and hopefully for others.  On the way home I decided to stop at Starbucks for an Americano to celebrate leaving the house when no one was making me.    People, there was ten dollars on that gift card!  I was thinking there would be five at the most.  This is a big deal because I’ve been refraining from getting coffee out because of the whole “being unemployed” thing.  I’ve gotten pretty good at making a decent pour-over, but nothing beats good coffee made by someone else.

I’m not saying that every time you push through negative emotions, you’ll get free coffee on the other side, but today was a reminder that I am not alone.  God knows my hurts, my bad-habits, my hang-ups and the issues in life.  And He love me anyway.  Sometimes He gives us these reminders so that we don’t throw in the towel or in my case throw a baby-pouting-tantrum and hide in my house.  On the way home this song came on and while you might find me rolling with the windows down singing my heart out, the lyrics made me laugh out loud this time with their timeliness:

Love Feels Like
I am tired, I am drained
But the fight in me remains
I am weary, I am worn
Like I’ve never been before
This is harder than I thought
Harder than I thought it’d be
Harder than I thought
Takin’ every part of me
Harder than I thought
So much harder than I thought it’d be
But empty’s never felt so full
This is what love (this is what love)
This is what love
Feels like
This is what love (this is what love)
This is what love
Feels like
Poured out, used up, still givin’,
Stretching me out to the end of my limits
This is what love (this is what love)
This is what real love
Feels like
This is what love feels like poured out,
Used up still willin’ to fight for it
This is what love feels like
Yeah, this is what it feels like

 

Tending the Garden

Yesterday I told you how I had a mind-blowing, yet very ordinary come-to-Jesus moment on my deck.  In reality I’m writing this post minutes after posting that last one because to be honest…tomorrow I may feel like a fool for sharing any of this with anyone.

The truth I learned from Matthew 8:26 is that my faith is little (or weak) because I am fearful.  Now to be clear, I get the whole “fear the Lord” thing.  That’s not the same fear I struggle with.  In that case “fear” is being used as respect or awe.  I do fear the Lord in that way.  I’m talking about fearing things that are not God.  That’s wrong.

The analogy I got while looking at the neighbor’s garden is that my faith-life is a garden.   The Bible is full of gardening references!   In Genesis 1:8 it says, “The Lord God planted a garden..”  This is a real garden, not an allegory, and gardens need tending to.  In verse 15 it says, “And the Lord God took the man (Adam) and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.”  So basically, God not only provided the seed, but did the work to plant the garden and was expecting Adam to look after it.

In that I see that faith is like the seeds.  God’s given them to me, and when I believed in His son Jesus, the Holy Spirit did the work of planting those faith seeds in the garden of my heart.  He may have had to break up some really hard clumps of dirt to get those seeds planted in the good soil.  Now comes the tending.  The looking after.

I just have to pause here in my typing to share the daily verse text I just got!   It’s Proverbs 2:3-5; “If you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.”  God speaks to us…sends rain to our dry faith-gardens.  And it just started pouring rain here in Indiana.  Not. Kidding. These are the moments when I know God sees me.  He hears me.  And most of all He cares about me.  He cares about you.

So back to the tending.  What do gardeners do to tend their gardens?  They make sure the ground is watered (read the Word of God daily, go to church, spend time with people of like-faith, read what others have learned about God.)  Sometimes God sends unexpected rains (like that text 🙂 ) to water your faith-garden and other times you have to seek out that Living Water yourself (like spending time on my deck reading scripture.)  In looking after your garden you have to pull the weeds.  I could write a BOOK on just pulling weeds from our faith-gardens!  Recognize the weeds for what they are (fear, anger. pride) and pull them out.  If you need help, seek out the Master Gardener or accept help from people He might send your way.

Now to what I saw yesterday from the cucumber plants.  The cucumbers that grow on those plants can be used as food to sustain the ones who planted them (my neighbors) and others (me.)  If I in my lethargy or rebellion, I choose not to pick the cucumbers, what happens to them?  They start to shrivel up and die. They’re no longer tasty veggies I want to eat for lunch.  Now they’re ugly, mushy, gross things on their way to drying up.  If I realize what’s happening I can salvage the seeds to be planted.  Get it?!?  God doesn’t waste even our wastefulness.  Even this “dry spell” I’m suffering through because of my own lack of tending to my garden, He will use!

I could write so much more.  If you only knew how many books I’ve written in my head!  I’m working on the fear of what would happen if I actually got them out of there and they became a reality.  (SQUIRREL!) Now I’m thinking about who would do the art work, publishers, the time and work involved.  Afraid its not worth trying for fear of failing.  Clearly I’m a work (or should I say garden) in progress.  As we all are.

To sum up: tend your garden.  When you don’t know what to do to help your plants grow, ask the Master Gardener.  When you let your garden go, don’t throw in the trowel! (hahaha…I just had to)  Plant something new, water it, and watch it grow.

 

 

Fear and Gardening

Cucumber-in-garden2This morning I woke up to the realization that I am afraid.   I’m afraid that if I use too much water while doing the dishes I will wreck the ecosystem irreparably.  I’m afraid of taking the wrong job and being miserable for a whole school year. I’m afraid I’ll forget about the meat I left to thaw in the fridge and it will go bad and I’ll waste our money and we’ll end up on the streets homeless.  I’m afraid if I don’t recycle everything possible the earth will fall apart on my watch.  I’m afraid I won’t be able to figure out how to use blackboard for my online classes and I’ll fail at this college thing.  I’m afraid I’ve failed my family too many times and I’ll lose them because of it.  I could go on, but you get the point.  I worry about little things and big things and just about everything. I don’t speak these fears lest that give them credence, but I think them, and it’s quite exhausting.

Welcome to an inside look into the brain of someone who suffers from anxiety.  And this is on medication!  It’s a lifelong battle for me, and one I’m clearly losing in this moment.

My first thoughts this morning were worry filled.  I’ve not been sleeping well because even then, my brain is still stressing out.  I’ve had enough.  I told God as much this morning.  It was as I uttered those silent words to Him I remembered His Words to us.  To me.  And then it clicked.  I haven’t been taking the first part of my day and spending it with Him.  I’ve been lazy about that and I’m paying the price for it.

I grabbed my Bible and coffee and headed to the deck.  My sanctuary.  The one place in my house where I can (usually) relax enough to shut down my racing thoughts and hear Him speak peace to me.  I started out in Matthew, chapter 8 verse 26  and it was all I got through.  One verse.  “But He (Jesus) said to them (His disciples), “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” I know the rest of the story though.  Jesus told a stormy weather system to calm down, and it did.

From that one verse my whole perspective on this fear I’ve been throwing blind punches at changed.  Jesus wasn’t asking them, “Why?” like we ask.  With sarcasm or frustration.  He knew why.  He was pointing out to them why they were fearful.  It was because of their little faith.  As I pondered how my faith, which I would have said is normally sort-of on the strong side was so weak and now little.  How does that happen?  I was thinking of faith as one thing that grows.  Like a child grows into an adult.  But that analogy fell flat for me when I thought about how our faith ebbs and flows.  Grows and then seemingly shrinks.

I then was distracted (SQUIRREL!) by our neighbors garden and my brain did it’s thing.  I was worried they would be disappointed because I hadn’t checked the fence line to see if any of their cucumbers were growing on our side.  They want us to take whatever we want from their garden, which is pretty awesome, but especially to pick the cucumbers that grow through the fence onto our side.  I realized what I was doing and read the verse again, asking God to calm my stormy thoughts.

“Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then my brain exploded with words, analogies, even a whole children’s book I could write, on the things God was showing me while I stared at that overgrown garden.  Sometimes my hamster-on-a-wheel brain can get it together (with God’s help) and run in the right direction.

This post has gotten entirely too long to share everything I got this morning out of that verse and the garden , so I’ll save it for tomorrow.   Just know this…no matter what our struggles are, God has something to say about it.  Go grab your Bible and find out what it is!

 

Too Much

Words.  I have lots of them.  Way too many to actually make sense of.  I’ll try.

Last week I had an upper endoscopy done which, contrary to what anyone tells me, I’m convinced gave me an ear infection.  Before the test: I was fine.  After the test: my ear hurts.  Oh, and I spend a good portion of my day feeling like either I’m spinning or the room is.  It’s really not awesome.   How people who suffer vertigo keep functioning is beyond me.  Tomorrow I will call the doctor, because already having three other appointments this week, well, that’s not enough.

Why all the medical issues you ask?  For forever my life has revolved around the school-year calendar.  All those pesky things like seeing the dentist, physicals, and other yearly fun get put off until summer.  In my case I’ve put some of these things off for years.  So, this summer was to be the summer of traveling to see family and friends, and catching up on all those yearly annoyances.  No lecturing please, I’ve had quite enough of that from the healthcare practitioners I’ve seen.

Suffice it to say, I’m a mess.  A hot one, really.  It would take way too long to list my aches, pains, and diagnosed problems, and in all honesty I’d need a doctor like Gregory House or Hank Lawson to figure out what’s REALLY wrong with me and fix it.  And sadly, those are fictional characters.  (That last sentence speaks to how much Netflix I’ve been watching while I sit and let the world spin by.)  I need to get this fixed though because I’m embarking on a new journey.  College!

It’s kind of a big deal for me.  For those of you who don’t know me and my story I’ll try to sum it up.  After I graduated high school my mom’s boyfriend and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on pretty much anything, so I moved in with my youth pastors to do some thinking.  I didn’t think fast enough and they found out their job was transferring them from Pennsylvania to Indiana.  I decided to go along.  I got a job in a daycare, and helped take care of their three kids.  Within our first year in Indiana, I met my husband (at church) and we got married.  I don’t recommend this as a life-plan, but as you’ll see, God was in ALL of it for me.

On our first anniversary I was 3 months pregnant.  I was 21 when I had our first daughter.  Seventeen months later I had our second.  Six and a half years in and I had our third and last child.  Three girls.  Fast forward to today.  My husband and I have been married for 23 years, and our kids are grown.  Well, the last has one more year of high school, but the end is in sight.  For 30 years I have been working with kids in one way or another.  Babysitting, daycare, teaching, RAISING them.  In all of that I know without a doubt teaching young children is what God has gifted me to do.

For two years I got to do what I most love: teach full-day Kindergarten.  It was a stressful work environment though and after being at that private school teaching preschool, PreK, then Kindergarten for a total of 13 years, I knew it was time to part ways.  It was truly the hardest and most painful decision I’ve ever had to make.  I still believe it was the right one though.

I started applying and looking for other teaching positions only to find that NOBODY, and I mean that, cares how much experience you’ve had, or how many children you’ve taught to read, or even how good you are at what you do.  All they care about is your college degree.  I never went to college.  In the state of Indiana, as absurd as this sounds, Kindergarten is not required.  As such, private schools don’t need licensed teachers to teach K or below.  Because of my natural ability and God’s grace I was able to do what I love for a long time.  And as a side note anyone whose child I taught will tell you they never even KNEW I didn’t have a teaching degree unless they asked and I told them or I offered that information.

I did land at a small preschool last year, and it was not a great fit.  I stuck it out to the end of the school year but here I am again looking for work.  Back to square one.  So I made the huge decision to take online classes at Ivy Tech Community College to get a degree in Early Childhood Education.  I haven’t had to do anything for a grade (unless cooking and having your family rate it on a scale from 1-5 counts. NOT my idea btw) for 23 years.  That, my friends, is scary.  The good news is I have daughters that still live here who can (and will have to) tutor me in all things math related.  Oh, and blackboard.  I’m going to need help figuring that out for sure!  I also need to find a part-time job.  Good times.

That was probably way too much sharing on my part, but those are the words I needed to get out.  Free therapy.  It’s how I roll these days.  The most awesome thing in my whole story is how I see God’s hand moving through it the whole time.  Someday maybe I’ll write more specific examples, but trust me, without Him leading me, my life not look as beautiful (in all its messiness) as it does now.  I know He’s got this next phase of life in His sovereign hand, so I’m going to trust Him to see me through it.

Let me know you stopped by (um….that means leave a comment below;) ) I like to know I’m not alone in all the crazy.

Have a great week!

On the Sunny, Sunny Side of the Beach

Clearly I have issues when it comes to sticking with things.  Like this blog for instance.  This is actually my second blog.  I let the other one lapse for so long, that when I went back to look at it I was so thoroughly embarrassed by my immaturity and ridiculousness I just deleted the whole thing and started fresh here.  I’m not exactly the sentimental type.  And here we are again.  It’s been over a year since I’ve even looked at this space. I was very tempted to just shut this one down and start over.  Again.  That seems to be my default.  Try something new; stick with it a little while; forget about it (because it’s too hard, life is too busy, I don’t feel like it, and on and on…), then dump it and start over.  The only things sacred to me are my relationships with God and my husband.  Those I don’t mess with.

Instead of starting from scratch I changed the name.  Do you like my play on words?  Sunny Side of the BEACH?!?  The beach is my happy place.  So cliche, but truth in this case.  I am at my happiest, calmest, most relaxed, and least crazy self when the sun is shining, my toes are in the sand, and the waves are within reach.  Sadly, I live in Indiana.  We do have Lake Michigan nearby, but hello…it’s not salty!  I did have a good time there with friends last week, but it’s still a lake…a murky one at that.  So, that’s the reason behind the name.  It’s weird. It’s me.  Whatever.

I refuse to look back at previous posts lest I change my mind about deleting them, but I did notice the last thing I wrote was about Trim Healthy Mama.  Guess what?!?  I stuck with something.  For a WHOLE year!  The Trim Healthy Mama community has become a sub-culture of sorts with all kinds of acronyms and it’s own special language.  Most people are lost when they first join the “club”.  I won’t bore you with all the info (though I’ve become quite the expert at sharing the plan with people.)  (I even have visual aids and graphs 🙂 )  Back to me sticking with it.  Yesterday I celebrated what we Mama’s like to call our “Trimaversary”, the anniversary of the day you started following the plan.

For some it’s a big deal because of the weight and inches they lost and the health they gained.  That happened for me for sure, but the real reason I made such a big deal about my Trimaversary was because I stuck with it.  I actually set a goal to get healthier last year by eating whole foods in a specific way, and I did it. I did it!  And I didn’t die.   Admittedly I did not reach my goal weight, but that’s not important to me anymore.  Numbers do not define me, and I am healthier…so there!

Today is day one of my next year.  I have a lot of big things going down in this next year, but my personal goal in all of this is to get stronger.  If it takes me an entire year to be able to do 10 real push-ups then so be it, but I will gain strength this year.  Physically in my body, and as I have come to learn this past year, when you work on something and allow God to work on you through it, everything else changes too!

Here’s to hoping it doesn’t take me another year to write more here.

beforeafter

July 2015/July 2016