Unpacking

Unpacking

I am sitting on my bed in my favorite fluffy robe, coffee beside me, listening to the rain and thunder. I have a busy day ahead, but for now, I am soaking up the slowness of the morning.

I feel rested and at peace. I’ve been carrying around a big ole’ trunk full of emotions that I had been putting off unpacking. The other morning I was praying and I told the Lord that I was ready. I don’t want to be weighed down anymore. The trunk lid has been opened and the unpacking has begun.

Truthfully, I was afraid of what I would find in that box! There are about a million tears that I didn’t shed over the past year and a half. I kept stuffing away my own emotions so that I could be strong for the people around me. I was afraid that all those tears were going to come rushing, like a swollen creek after a storm. But the process has been gentle and I sense the kindness of my Heavenly Father through it all. The biggest bundle has been dealt with. I had to let go of some hurt that was on the verge of turning into bitterness. I already feel lighter. I can take deep, cleansing breaths once again. The stuff left to unpack doesn’t feel nearly as daunting.

I am happy. Like, if there wasn’t lightning, I’d run out in the rain and splash in the puddles, kind of happy. I have chosen joy throughout all that this season of life has brought. I have seen God’s goodness and I have been thankful through it all. However, I can’t say that I felt happy. I’d like to stay here and bask in this for a while! I hope this is a new season that sticks around for a while.

What are you carrying around that you don’t need to? What burdens do you need to unpack? You don’t have to do it alone. Your Heavenly Father loves you. He is kind and compassionate and He knows you. He knows the things you need to let go of. He knows where you need to be healed. Ask Him to help you. I know He will.

A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life

   

    I thought it would be fun to write about a typical day in the life of my family. I always enjoy reading about other peoples’ typical days, and I think this is something that I will enjoy looking back on. Right now all seven of my kids are living at home, but those days are coming to an end, as my oldest daughter is getting married in a little over three weeks.

  So, this morning, like every morning, I automatically woke up at 6:00. My rooster and I are on the same schedule because within minutes of me waking up, he starts to crow. I feel rested this morning. My husband often has trouble sleeping, and I naturally wake up when he does. But, we went to bed early last night and managed to sleep all night.

    I got up to make coffee. My daughter was already up and filling out her marriage license paperwork in the kitchen. We chatted for a few minutes while the coffee was brewing. It occurred to me how much I am going to miss waking up to her in the kitchen! I wonder how our relationship will change after she’s married. Will we still talk every day? I know some things will change and I am okay with that. I know that it’s part of the natural process. I do love her soon-to-be husband and I am excited to see the life that they build together. 

    After the coffee was brewed and poured, I carried it into the bedroom. My husband and I have a morning routine of drinking our coffee in bed and talking before he goes to work. We had a fairly deep conversation this morning, as we often do. We have been through some big changes lately and the tone of the conversation was thankfulness for where we’ve been and for where we are going. We discussed our plans for the day and the things that need to be done. Then he got up and got ready for work. 

   My younger daughter came downstairs all ready for her third day at her new job. He older sister is going to drop her off on her way into work. I guess that’s another reason why I’m going to miss her when she moves out! 

   My seventeen year old son was also milling around, getting ready for work. He was talking about tractors and mowers and making himself an iced coffee. He works as a farmhand down the road, so he hopped in the Polaris and drove off a few minutes ago.

    The younger kids are early risers and are up and talking in the kitchen. My eight year old reminded me to make an orthodontist appointment. She lost a tooth yesterday, but it’s wired into her mouth by her braces. A spinning tooth is kind of a cool trick, but we are going in later this morning.

     I had a conversation with my thirteen year old about our baby chicks. I had a broody hen and we decided to make all of her dreams come true a few weeks ago. We gave her seven babies to raise. She is a happy and devoted mother. The babies are starting to want to roam around though, and it seems like it might be time to let them out of the coop. We discussed a plan to block up any holes and let them out. It’s a scary moment for any mom, letting your babies out of the coop!

    My eleven year old son, who is always hungry is cooking something. I hear the skillet sizzling. He is ever the peacemaker and I can hear him rebuking his sisters for a miniature “riff” over doing the dishes.

    I checked my email and saw an invitation to lunch with some ladies from my new church, for later this week. I am excited about that! Last week we did vacation church school, and I volunteered to be a kid wrangler. I confess that I came home and had a mini meltdown after the first day. The voluminous changes of the past six months just seemed to hit all at once. I am in a completely new church, with new people and worshipping a new way. It is beautiful. I love it. It is very much where I want to be. But, it’s hard. I was in the same church for 30 years. I knew everybody. I knew the routines. I knew what to expect. In some ways, I am grieving what I lost. It hit me hard that day. The next day I was very honest with a couple of the ladies and they were kind and helpful and encouraging. Another day last week I was at a store across the street from the church and the bells started to ring. My heart leapt. I love those bells! I love that church. I’m glad to be there and I’m glad to be making new friends.

Now it is time to take a shower, get dressed and spend some time in prayer. On the agenda today is the orthodontist, picking up my daughter at work, a stop at the pool store to replace a neighbor’s toy that we broke, and maybe some swimming. Maybe I will update this post throughout the day. Someday I’ll look back on this writing and remember these sweet and crazy days. I am truly blessed.

Update: I know I said a few weeks ago that I was done with dieting. What I meant was, I’m done eating only certain foods on a list. I have however started tracking calories and I realize that this is what works for me. I eat what I want, but I control the portions. I actually got a wellness coach through our health insurance. It has been very helpful. I ordered my mother of the bride dress one size too small, and it fits now. But it’s tight! I think that if I keep counting those calories and taking my walks it will be just right on the wedding day. I thought of all of this while drinking my morning smoothie. Does anyone have a favorite plant based protein powder? I’m not crazy about the one I am using right now.

Early Summer Ramblings

Early Summer Ramblings

I had a wonderful vacation with my family last week, and now I am ready to get down to the business of summer. It’s going to be an exciting summer for us. My husband and I are celebrating 25 years of marriage, and we have vacation church school, new jobs, and a kid learning to drive. We are in all kinds of stages of life over here, and it’s never boring.

I am most excited that my first born, my daughter, is getting married! A few years ago she described her ideal husband to me, and I was worried that this guy didn’t exist, But, it turns out that he does exist and she already knew him. I have loved having a front row seat, watching these two go from friendship to head over heels. I think they are going to do unique and amazing things together, especially for the special needs community. I cannot wait to celebrate their marriage and see the life they build together.

I’ve made some personal goals for the summer. First, I made a decision. I am never going on another diet! I’ve come to the conclusion that diets have been counter productive. I’m reading a book on intuitive eating, and it’s been very eye opening. I am working on being intentional about what I eat. I am going to eat healthy, whole and unprocessed food and I’m going to control my portions. I am also going to walk for an hour six days a week and I’m going to throw in some HIIT a few times a week. My daughter tried to show me some exercises yesterday and I thought I was going to die, but I’ve got down three things that I can manage for now. I’ll add things in as I am able. My goal used to be to wear a size 6 again. Now my goal is to be healthy and strong, to be a good example to my children and to feel comfortable in my own skin.

Other summer goals include daily journaling and creative writing. I am looking for a writing community to be a part of. I also want to study and learn all that I can about Eastern Orthodoxy. I’m keeping my garden simple this summer, but one goal is to tend to it daily and keep it tidy. I am doing a little bit of summer school with the kids, getting them ready for a big change in the fall. I’ve been a homeschooler for 18 years, but we have decided to enroll the kids in a small private school next year. So, a big goal is getting us all ready for that transition. Last, a constant goal is to read more. At the moment I am reading about three different books. I need to finish them up and then, maybe focus on one at a time.

I am on a journey right now, and the above goals tie into it. I’m learning that self-care isn’t selfish. I see the importance of prioritizing taking care of me, so that I am able to take care of others. I’m learning to be kind and gentle with the girl in the mirror. Somehow, as I become less critical of myself, I find myself becoming less critical of the people around me. As I realize that God loves me in spite of my imperfections, and as I come to understand the depths of His mercy towards me, I find myself becoming more merciful towards others. This process is gradual, and maybe nobody else even notices, but I feel my heart changing. I am extremely thankful for this season of life. It’s beautiful and joyous and I feel freer than I have ever felt.

I suppose I should get on with the day. I pray that somehow the ramblings of my heart bless you. Thank you for reading.

A Mother’s Day Post- Bloom and Grow

A Mother’s Day Post- Bloom and Grow

My daughter has been telling me for years that someday I need to write a book and call it, “I Was Almost a Writer”. I’m not good at many things. I struggled through school, especially anything that had to do with math or science. However, I loved to read, and I dreamed of being an author some day, just like Judy Blume or Beverly Cleary. When I was young, I took any and every opportunity to write and it was the one thing that people told me I was good at.

Once I became a stay-at-home mom, I saw that as my chance to really throw myself into writing for publication. I got accepted into an MFA for creative writing program. I sent out some manuscripts and got feedback from a publisher, inviting me to send her more. I signed a contract to have my first poem published. Then, I don’t really know what happened. I guess I felt like writing was going to take me away from being a mom. I said no to the MFA and I never sent that publisher more manuscripts. I focused solely on being a mom, which I definitely don’t regret, but the truth is, I look back now and think, “I could have done it. I could have been a mom AND a writer.”

A few years later, another opportunity came along. I became the religion writer for our local newspaper. I wrote a weekly column and a monthly church of the month article. I loved it. I felt alive when I was writing. I was waking up at 4:00 in the morning to get it done. I wasn’t making a ton of money, but I was making just enough to pay a housekeeper to come in and clean every couple of weeks. It wasn’t that I was lazy and did not want to clean my house. On top of writing, I was homeschooling, caring for my family and serving my church. Getting someone else to do the deep cleaning gave me just enough time to get everything done.

Then, somebody that I respected very much, indicated that I was not fulfilling my duties as a wife and mom, because I was not cleaning my own house. They said that I had a responsibility to teach my daughters to be keepers of their home. I remember going home and sobbing, and shortly thereafter I gave up my writing job. My husband tried to be the voice of reason. He told me that was just that person’s opinion and that he didn’t want me to stop writing. He was so supportive, but I couldn’t hear him. All I could hear was the voice telling me that I had to choose between being a good mom or being a writer. Maybe they didn’t know how their words impacted me. Maybe they didn’t mean them the way that they came out, but that’s the way that I interpreted it and I walked away from writing once again.

I did manage to write a play for our homeschool co-op a couple of years after that, and seeing it come to life was one of the happiest times in my life. That poem I wrote many years ago was finally illustrated and published, and I screamed and jumped up and down and wept tears of joy when it arrived in the mail. I’ve blogged here and there, but my dream of ever being published again was put to rest years ago.

Writing fills me with joy! Working with others to create something beautiful is amazing, and there is nothing like seeing somebody enjoy what has been created. I love to tell stories, and my heart floods with gladness when someone tells me that a story I shared touched their heart. For a long time I worried that the feeling of elation that I felt in those moments was pride, and of course, we aren’t supposed to be prideful. Right? So, instead of enjoying writing and the moments that come with it, I have felt guilty.

But, I’ve learned a lot in the past year and a half. The biggest thing I have learned is that it’s okay to be happy. (I will write about that one of these days.) It’s okay to be good at something and to enjoy sharing it with others. I’ve learned that using my talent actually makes me a better mom. I want my daughters to know that God has given them talents and put things inside of them, and when they share those things, they bless others. I’ve learned that getting outside help does not make me a failure. I used to try to live up to the standard of the Proverbs 31 woman. One day I was reading it and it hit me that one reason she was able to be so successful was because she had help! So, I am learning not to feel guilty when I have to prioritize and hand over some of my responsibilities so that I can write.

Dear moms, what has God put inside of you? What is your talent? I pray that whatever it is will bloom and grow. I pray that you will bless the people around you as you share your gift with the world. Yes, you may have to take breaks from time to time, and that’s okay. Yes, you have to prioritize. Your main responsibility is caring for your family, but you also have a responsibility to use those talents. So, dig up those buried treasures inside of you and rejoice as you bless the world!

A Promise

A Promise

Lent has ended, and it was a surprisingly beautiful season. I did not know what to expect since I had never done it before, and I have no idea if my experience is typical. It was a time of simplicity. I found myself desperate to remove physical clutter, mental clutter and heart clutter from my life. My home has been purged and cleaned. I’ve chased away negative thoughts. I have brought hurt and disappointment to my Lord, asked Him to reveal any unforgiveness, and to take away any bitterness or hardness that had taken root my heart. At the end of it, I feel light, free and full of joy.

I also prayed a lot about writing. I was waiting on a sign from Heaven that said, “Keep writing!” I didn’t see it written in the clouds. However, I’ve heard from several people who have asked me to keep writing, and to do it more. Also, a few opportunities have come along. Most of all, I do have a sense in my heart that God has given me a story to tell, and I want to tell it. So, here I am, sitting at my uncluttered desk, committing myself be faithful to write.

So, you will be hearing more from me very soon. I promise!

Thoughts on Turning 50

Thoughts on Turning 50

I woke up this morning and thought, Whoa! I’m 50!” Then I decided what I’m going to do with the second half of my life. (I probably don’t have 50 years left, but just maybe I have 40.) First, I’m going to keep on loving God and learning about His character and I’m going to do my best to live a life that pleases Him. I want to love myself less and others more with each passing day. I’m not going to dwell on past mistakes. I’m going to take the lessons that I’ve learned, and move forward. I’m going to live a healthy lifestyle. There’s still so much that I want to do and I don’t want this body to hold me back. I want to learn when to speak up and when to be quiet. I’m going to own less and give more. And I’ve decided that I’m going to start writing those books that I’ve dreamed of writing. It’s not too late! I’m definitely not going to spend this second half of my life worrying about what people think. I’m going to be who I was created to be. I know that hard times will come, so I am determined to tell my people that I love them and make beautiful memories while I can. I’m going to leave behind unnecessary baggage and find joy in every step of the journey that lies ahead.

Taking a Break

Taking a Break

You won’t be hearing from me for a while. I’m getting ready to start Lent and I have been praying about that a lot. There are some things that I want to lay at the feet of Jesus, and writing is one of those things. I don’t want my writing to ever be about myself. I want it to always be something that points people towards Jesus. I am going to be praying about if I should continue to write, and in what form or fashion.

New Things

New Things

I am sitting on my pack porch enjoying a sunny day. It’s crazy to think that on Sunday we had a few inches of ice on the ground, and today it’s 60 degrees! But, that’s Kentucky for ya! We had multiple days of being stuck at home and I hoped that would give me a chance to write. I tried, but mostly I stared at a blank computer screen. The struggle with writer’s block is real right now. It’s not a shortage of thoughts. It’s a major traffic jam! Read on if you dare. This is purely me trying to get unstuck.

I alluded to a life changing decision a few weeks ago. After many months of praying and waiting, we made that decision. My husband and I decided to leave the church that we have been a part of for 30 years. It’s a great church. It’s where we cut our teeth as baby Christians. It’s where we fell in love, got married and built our family. It’s where all of our friends are! It’s been our social life, our kids’ school and our compass. But, over the past couple of years we have felt increasingly like square pegs trying to fit into a round hole, and we knew it was time to go. It was terrifying and sad, but I can honestly say that I am so relieved now that the decision has been made. I know that we did the right thing for our family.

I confess I’m rather surprised at the place where God has us right now. We have been visiting the Russian Orthodox Church in our town. I first learned about this church years ago when I wrote an article about it for our local newspaper. It was so different than anything that I had ever known. I was intrigued, but the thought that I might someday be a part of that church never crossed my mind. Then my sister-in-law, who is from Russia, moved here and was looking for a church. Of course I told her that I knew of a really great one, and she has been going there ever since. She invited us to come a few times, but since it met at the same time as our church, I never made it. Then, a few months ago my son started attending there. I saw the young man, who I had been dragging to church for several years, suddenly be excited about going to church. He got himself up on Sunday mornings, dressed up, went to church, stayed late for coffee hour and then came home excitedly talking about it. This got my attention! When we decided to part ways with our old church, we decided this was where we would visit and see if maybe God was calling us to Eastern Orthodoxy.

While the services are still so foreign to me, I actually love them. Worship is all encompassing and beautiful. I love the sense of unity that I feel when I realize that Christians all over the world are singing the same songs, listening to the same liturgy and lifting up intercessory prayers together. I am amazed at the emphasis on readying oneself for communion. I thought that I might walk away from something so different than what I am used to with a lot of questions, but to my own surprise, I find myself walking away with answers to questions that I have always had. I also find safety in the fact that this church has not given way to whims and trends, but has remained the same for a couple thousand years. And I also like the safety of the hierarchy. I still have a lot to learn, and we are still seeking the Lord about where He would place us, but at this point I can honestly say, I hope it is here.

I am anticipating some joyous occasions in the coming months! I will tell you about them as they unfold, but where 2020 was a year of mourning and adjusting, 2021 looks to be a year of celebrating. The Lord is good! Over the past weeks I have marveled at how the Lord always goes before us and always prepares us for what He is about to do. I was talking to a woman yesterday and she said, “You seem like the kind of person who has a lot of amazing stories to tell.” I just laughed. Our Heavenly Father is amazing!

Well, maybe I have successfully cleared the traffic jam. A big question that I’m asking myself right now is, “Why do I write?” And, “Where do I go from here?” I would appreciate your prayers as I try to answer these questions.

Choose Joy

Choose Joy

About thirty years ago I read a beautiful allegory called, “Hinds Feet on High Places” by Hannah Hurnard. You know that a book is a good one when it burns an impression in your mind that stays with you for the rest of your life. There is one scene that has stuck with me all these years and I have seen it again in my mind many times. The main character, Much Afraid, is on a journey and in this particular scene she finds herself in a barren land. The ground is dry and brown, with no signs of life. But, Much Afraid comes to an old pipe and looks down to see a lovely, tiny, yellow flower blooming where a drop of water occasionally falls. Much Afraid asks the flower its name and it sweetly exclaims, “Behold, me. I am acceptance with joy.”

Have you ever come upon dry and barren places in your own journey? I have. I’ve been alive for close to fifty years now and I’ve suffered enough to know that not every leg of the journey leads to happy trails. In fact, I hate to be brash, but, sometimes, life sucks. When I was younger and still very optimistic, those moments when my visions of rainbows and sunshine didn’t pan out, were like a punch in the gut. But I have learned that even in the midst of those sucky, painful and gut wrenching moments, just like that tiny flower in the wilderness, I can choose joy.

How can we choose joy in the midst of suffering? I think that in order to have true joy we need to turn our eyes toward heaven and remember that God is good and he knows our suffering. If we choose to abide in him, he will abide with us. (John 15:4). Life isn’t always so great. Sometimes we suffer. We face disappointment. We may make choices that result in unpleasant consequences. In those seasons of life we may not feel happy, but we can choose to put our hope in God and trust that, “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) Putting our hope in God and abiding in him may not result in giddiness or walking on sunshine, but it can result in something much deeper, which is joy.

I think that we have to guard our joy, because it can be stolen. Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I agree with this statement. Comparison generally doesn’t lead to gratitude. It can lead to discontentedness and even bitterness. Your life might not look like so and so’s, and that’s okay. I wish I was a couple of inches taller, but I never will be. I can compare myself to the tall girls and feel sorry for myself because I have to ask for help to get something off of the shelf, or I can accept that this is the way God made me. We are all different and we all have unique situations in our lives. This is where acceptance with joy comes in to play. Bloom where you are planted and rejoice.

Do not let people steal your joy. Just like life sucks sometimes, so do people. (Me included.) People can be selfish, gossips, know-it-alls, controlling and sometimes just downright mean. Don’t you be a victim! Don’t you let them steal your joy! If they are hurting you, get to a safe place and get help. If they are messing with your mojo, you stand up to them and tell them no. Above all, don’t allow them to continue stealing your joy by holding on to bitterness or unforgiveness. These two things are the biggest thieves of all.

Last but not least, control your thoughts. Don’t dwell on the unpleasant things. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.” If you choose to dwell on the good things, this is choosing joy.

I pray for everyone reading this today. I pray that today you will draw near to God, who loves you and longs to abide with you. May he bless you and keep you and give you the strength to choose joy. Amen.

Thoughts on the New Year

Thoughts on the New Year

Life is a journey, and this past year it has taken quite a few unexpected turns. Last year at this time I was thinking that 2020 was going to be an ordinary year. 2020 was anything but ordinary! I think it was ten years wrapped into one. That leg of the journey brought so many friends; old friends, new friends and it exposed the true friends. I have been amazed at the kindness and generosity of people. I learned that hope isn’t what I thought it was. 2020 brought miracles. It brought amazing gifts, joy and miraculous transformations. 2020 also brought pain, grief and disappointment. There were moments of anxiety like I’ve never experienced. Oh, there was also a pandemic. And riots. But let me tell you, I experienced the goodness of the Lord like never before. He has answered my cries for help. He has comforted me. He has answered prayers in the most unique ways. Sometimes I try to process it all, and I can’t. How is it possible that so much happened in 12 months time?

What does 2021 hold? My family already had our first major plot twist. We have made some decisions that are kind of turning our world upside down. We also have multiple celebrations to look forward to and I’m full of joyful anticipation. But, I’m also very conflicted. Last night I started crying in the kitchen. It’s only January and I have already felt all the emotions that there are to feel.

In the midst of it all, I know that God holds those who love him close. In the scary moments, we can cling to him. In the sad moments, he weeps with us. He rejoices with us in our celebrations. He loves us always and will never leave us or forsake us.

The Lord has put a verse on my heart that I think will be my theme for 2021. “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91:4

I don’t know what this year will bring, but I know that my Heavenly Father is in control. So, c’mon 2021! Bring it on!