December 30, 2015

Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016

I don't think I've ever been more happy to say goodbye to a year than I am right now. I am ready for 2015 to be a thing of the past. I'm not so sure I am ready for 2016, but 2015 has felt like a long, hard winter and I am ready for spring! I still feel pretty numb-passionless and directionless-but I pray that 2016 will bring the thaw my heart so desperately needs. Andrew Peterson's song The Rain Keeps Falling is pretty much a perfect description of what 2015 was like for our family. The phrase "I'm dying to live but I'm learning to wait..." is a perfect description of the last year. It's been hard, lonely, scary, confusing, eye opening, full of tears, and a reminder of what the true Church is really supposed to be. There were times when I just wanted to pick up and move and never look back (Hawaii would be nice, right!?!?) There were times when I could barely breathe through the tears and pain. Thankfully, there were more times when I felt the arms of God around me through the smiles, love, food, gifts, and encouragement of my brothers and sisters in Christ who truly understand that the only way to live this Christian life is to love God and love others. And they loved our family well. They continue to love our family well.

For about the last month I have been reading and praying through the Psalms. This morning as I was reading the Lord gave me a prayer for our household for 2016. It's found in Psalm 90:12-17:

Teach us to number our days,

    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Relent, Lord! How long will it be?

    Have compassion on your servants.
 
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
    that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
 
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    for as many years as we have seen trouble.
 
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
    your splendor to their children.

May the favor[a] of the Lord our God rest on us;

    establish the work of our hands for us—
    yes, establish the work of our hands.

December 20, 2015

2016 is Just Around the Corner

If you've been reading my blog for very long, then you know that each year for the last few years I've chosen a word that I want to be the theme for the coming year. I can't believe it's that time again! It seems like just yesterday I was writing about choosing the word "content." (You can read that post HERE.)

Boy, did the Lord teach me about being in content, regardless of circumstance, last year. If I am going to really be honest, I'd say I would have preferred not to learn that lesson. Or, at least to have learned it in some other way. An easier way. A faster way. A way with less tears, frustration, confusion, grief, and suffering. But, also being honest, without those things I don't think I would have learned the lesson at all.

As I look ahead to 2016 I am hesitant to even ask God what word I need to focus on for the year because I am not sure I can handle any more lessons and changes in my life. Yet, I still feel the pull to ask Him what my word is for 2016. As I have been praying and thinking about it, three words keep popping into my mind: brave, joy, present. I want all three of these things for my life. I want the bravery to follow Christ in all things at all times no matter the cost (and for this to be seen by my children and used to draw them to Christ.) I want the joy that only Christ can offer, regardless of the circumstance. I want to be more present at all times-with my husband, my children, my family, my friends. But, three words just seemed like too much. It was overwhelming to me. Then I read the book Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together. I loved this book and I now had a phrase that put my three words together: JUST SHOW UP.

So, my phrase for 2016 is JUST SHOW UP.  

For my family: I want to spend more time laughing, playing, learning, read the Word, serving, serving alongside my husband and my children than I do checking Facebook and Instagram. This will require me setting aside my selfishness, my wants, my desires in order to spend more time with them. In order to love and serve them as Christ loves and serves me.

For my friends/church family: This is the part that take bravery for me. I was so convicted, yet also encouraged, by the part of the book that stated we can't do it all. We aren't all great cooks, fabulous letter writers, or natural encouragers. But, God has made all of us good at something. I'm not that great at making dinner, but I can pick up some one's favorite lunch, have their kids over for a play date, swing by the store and pick up what they need. I can do all of those things, yet I haven't been doing them. These are simple actions that take little time and cost me very little. There's no reason I can't show up and do them.

For me:  I know this sounds selfish, and it was hard to type because it felt selfish, but this one is much needed in order for the other two to be accomplished. I want to be intentional about showing up every day for time in prayer and the Word. Not just a few thoughtless minutes here and there, but for true, deep time in each of those. At the beginning of the day. Before the worries and schedule and to do list take over my day. This allows me to focus on Him at the start of it all, hand it all over to Him, and go about my day with peace and trust in God alone.

Lord, lead and guide me as I head into 2016. Give me the courage and strength to see You first in all things. Lord, help me to JUST SHOW UP, for You, for others, for this amazing life You've given me.

December 07, 2015

Something I've never done....

So, I feel like I should make this post, yet I feel totally awkward making it, all at the same time. So, bear with me.

From the very first time I heard the Natalie Grant song "Clean" I could not get it out of my head. It brings me to tears and brings joy and laughter at the same time. The truth is so needed, in my life and the lives of so many I know. I actually broke down and bought the accompaniment track to this because, well, there's just something about singing such powerful words and hearing your own voice louder than anything else. Hearing yourself preaching truth to yourself can be so powerful. And it's just what my weary soul needed. I needed the reminder that it didn't matter what I have done, what I do tomorrow, or what I do ten years from now, Christ's blood makes me clean when I turn that wrong choice, those harsh words, that rebellion, that sin over to Him. And there is NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING that can separate you from His love when you are His child. If you aren't His child, there is NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING that you've ever done that would keep Him from offering His grace, mercy, love, and salvation to you every day. And trust me, no matter what sin you have committed, no matter how big or horrible it is in your eyes, you are not alone. The Bible tells us in Romans 3:23 that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." Everyone has been where you've been. Even those who are His children now. We didn't start out that way! The joy of John 3:16-17 as it declares "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him." That's the joy of what we celebrate at Christmas: that Jesus, the God-Man, came to earth in a lowly manger, but didn't stay in that manger. He grew to be the One and Only sacrifice for every sin we ever commit in our entire lives! One sacrifice for all.

If you're drowning in sin, don't know where to turn, and feel like you wandered too far for God to ever rescue you, I promise, He loves you and He's got His hand out ready to pull you to safety and salvation. Call His name. He will answer! Oh Christian, have you strayed? Has the world gotten the better of you? Have you forgotten the One whose name you bear in the midst of the hustle and bustle? Call His name. He will answer. No matter who you are, where you're from, or what you've done, His blood has paid the price for your every sin. When you ask His forgiveness, He'll wipe every stain away. He trades our dirty, filthy rags for His righteousness and glorious robes. He took our sin on that old Roman cross and gave us His heavenly garments. Amen! It's not too late. While you have breath in your lungs, it's not too late. Call His name. Shout it with all your might. Whisper it with what little strength you have left after a long, hard battle. Cry it out like you have been every day for the last year. He hears. He sees. He knows. He washes clean.

So, I want to share this song, "Clean", with you in my own voice so you can hear the truth from my lips. This song is true of my life and the life of every person who has given their lives over to Christ. The details may be different for each person, but the outline of the story is the same: we sinned, He paid the price, He offers His blood in the place of our sins, we receive forgiveness and eternal life. I don't have the best voice for this song and I definitely hit a few sour notes here and there (it was hard to sing without blubbering like an idiot. Crying is my gift, after all!) I know you can look up Natalie Grant's version or hear it in any church done much more beautifully, but I am leaving this here in hopes that someone who needs this truth will hear it and turn their lives over to God to be Lord and Master of their life. It doesn't matter what walk of life you are in, how much or little money you have, how many times you've been married, how many times you've been in jail, how jealous you are of your next door neighbor, how many of His gifts you overlooked today, or how much time you spent gossiping about others this week. He offers His gift of salvation, His cleansing blood, for every stain, every sin, every person. I pray that you will be flooded with joy as you realize what Christ has done on your behalf!



August 25, 2015

Confessions of a Mediocre (at best) Homeschooling Mom

I hope this post will make you smile, take a deep breath, and see that things aren't as scary or as overwhelming as they may first seem when taking on the task of homeschooling your children. If this is your first year, know that there are many ups and downs, but if I can do it and keep my kids alive, so can you! If you're a veteran, you've probably lived all this and more! Sit back, enjoy reading, have a few laughs, and start a list of all the things you can praise God for, even if today was the worst school day you've ever had!

--My kids make their own breakfasts probably 4 days a week. Once, maybe twice, a week I make them a nice, homemade breakfast (which they usually don't want to eat), but other than that it's cereal, pop tarts, toast, and frozen waffles. This used to really stress me out (and still does at times), but I was wearing myself ragged trying to come up with the perfect, healthy breakfast for my kids and I just couldn't do it. I hope to one day be a little more prepared and get things together the night before and give them stellar breakfasts, but today is not that day. For today, we're striving for all being at the breakfast table at the same time, enjoying the independence of my kids being able to make their own food, laughing at the creativity of my kids as we chat during breakfast, and reading the Bible together while we eat our Pop Tarts and waffles.

--I don't set an alarm for my kids. Unless we have to be somewhere in the morning, I don't even wake them up in the mornings, I just wait for them to wake up. My kids are grumpy if you have to wake them up and that's just not a battle I want to fight right now. I know this will need to change one day as their future employers will expect them to be at work on time and most likely before 10 a.m., but I choose to worry about that another day. Today I am enjoying a few quiet moments in the morning without having to be awake at the crack of dawn, sneaking snuggles, and even sleeping in myself some days!

--I have no lesson plan. I don't look at the school year, plan out what we're doing when, and then carry it out. I tried that. We were all miserable. I had a schedule that was color-coded and timed. And we hated it. We were slaves to it. It had to go. Admittedly, I may have swung too far to the other end and we now have no schedule at all. We have a few routines that we usually do each morning, but they aren't set in stone. We actually do three subjects during breakfast. While they are eating. And I have no idea if they are even paying attention. But, they're pretty smart, so I think we're OK! I usually sit down on Saturday or Sunday evening and copy the pages I'd like to get done for the week (thank goodness my curriculum all has some kind of lesson plans built into them.) I don't write down any assignments until they have actually been completed because, well, why write it and then have to erase it later when we didn't get it, right? It sounds purely chaotic, but for today, it's working for us. Every day is different from the one before and the kids never have any idea what is next. It's the closest thing I get to surprising them!

--To you veteran homeschoolers this will be no surprise, but some days, I don't enjoy homeschooling! Some days I would much rather send them off to school and then head off to a job outside of my house. It just sounds easier. But deep down, I know this isn't true. But sometimes I just crave time to myself, even if it's in my car for just 10 minutes so I can listen to music, sing loudly, and pretend that I sound just like Christy Nockels while I'm belting out Let It Be Jesus.  There have been weeks at a time that it takes everything in me not to just shut down completely, let them watch movies all day, and I take naps and read blogs all day. I mean, a real struggle. It's a wonder we've gotten any school done at all. But, then I remember how fun it has been to be there for some of their biggest moments: learning how to read, getting a math problem they really struggled with, creating silly art pieces, reading their Bible alone for the first time, and so much more. It's so worth it (and teachers, I hope that those moments of victory in your classrooms outweigh the moments of frustration and defeat.)

--My kids watch movies. The Magic School Bus counts as science. Mr. Peabody and Sherman counts as history. Pretty much all the PBS shows have some kind of math in them. Some days, I just have to. Some days I cannot "school" anymore. It also means that when the teacher is sick, we can still get some school hours in. Or, when the students are sick, we can still get some school hours in. Most days, I feel so guilty about this. I feel like a total bum and loser when I add up the hours I let my kids watch TV or play a game on their tabs. But on days like yesterday, I'm thankful for them. The kids pretty much taught the entire science lesson yesterday on the different ocean zones because of an episode of Wild Kratts they watched the week before. Seriously! They really are learning from their TV shows!

--Time to be honest: I've learned that the only way I get a quiet time in is by forcing my children to have a quiet time at the same time. Oh, how I pray this doesn't make them hate reading God's word. I've done my best to make it exciting and fun for them, but for 30 minutes every morning we each go to our own rooms with our own Bibles and have quiet time. Until I started doing this there was no consistency at all with my quiet times. I hope to work up to a longer time at some point, but today, I am thankful for the 30 minutes it's giving me each day in the Word by doing things this way.

--I love to read. I love books. I have two children home with me all day and can hardly find 5 free minutes for reading. Enter read alone time for 30 minutes each afternoon. Each of us go to our own room and read, whatever we want, for 30 minutes. This is genius! Why didn't I think of this before! I look so forward to this time every day. Sometimes it doesn't happen until almost dinner time, but it's still one of my favorite parts of the day!

--One of the hardest things for me, though, has nothing to do with homeschooling. I am sure many of you out there have this trouble: putting your kids in God's hands and leaving them there, trusting that He loves them more than I do and wants only the best for them. Trusting that, as much I ache for their salvation, it doesn't compare to God's desire to see them come to Him. There's nothing better that I can do for them than teach them Jesus, live Jesus in front of them, make God and His Word as real as possible to them, and trust that God will do what only God can do, change their hearts and lives.

Father, help me to be the wife, mother, and teacher You would have me to be. Help me to point my children to You at all times. Give me wisdom and grace for each day. Remind me that there's no such thing as perfection, which means that I must trust in and lean on You alone. Father, help me to see the joy, laughter, and gift of each day You give me. Help me to breathe deeply of You love, mercy, and grace that I may then breathe that out into my house as I seek to serve my family and You. Oh, Father, do great things in my house, in our school, and in our lives!

July 30, 2015

Bleh...

That's sort of how I feel right now. I know it's summer, but it's been a long, hard winter. (West Wing fans, did you hear that with a beautiful Russian accent and a "Mr. President" after it. I did!) The last 6 months or so have been the hardest (though I am seeing the blessings and growth that resulted and know it wouldn't have come without the hard) of my life. I was faced with decisions I never thought I'd have to make. I'm still not 100% confident I always made the right choice, but I am grateful God used my choices to bring Himself glory, regardless of whether they were "perfect" or not. Life will never be the same. And that's good. But it's left me tired, anxious, fearful, cautious, directionless, and passionless. I.am.weary. Bone tired. Don't get me wrong, I am rejoicing over the amazing miracles, provision, and mighty works I have seen, just in my own home, in the last 3 months, but there are still all these other things, too. And sometimes, they win. Sometimes, that's all I can see. I know that I have skills and gifts that the Lord has given to me, but when I think about using them, it makes me tired. I just want to say no and crawl back in bed. There's no longer anything that just makes me want to run out and get it, work for it, spread the news, light a fire in others about it. Part of it is probably that I have such a hard time putting into words all that God has done in the last few months, that it makes it hard to see sometimes. A big part of it is still constantly comparing myself, my family, my children, my school days, everything with other people. That will always wear you down and leave you feeling empty.

So today...today, I want to truly feel Christ "burn away the winter of my cold and weary heart" (yeah, those are totally lyrics to a Rend Collective song. Check it out: Finally Free.) So, I am going to practice eucharisteo, to give thanks in all circumstances, to see His hand in all things: His timing is perfect (even when that means missing a dress rehearsal or performance, a friend moves away, a friend comes to visit, an urge to pray just won't go away), His provision is perfect (even when it means leaving loved ones behind, packing an entire year's worth of school for both kids in one box, a room full of people who want nothing to do with God showing you God's hand in the most unexpected ways), He brings us JOY (in the form of my children's laughter, the irony of a conversation with my pastor on using our gifts even when we don't feel passion on a day I feel most passionless, an Irish dance company performance in the midst of some of my darkest times, friendships that won't spoil or fade even if they do change with time).

Oh Father, help me to see with Your eyes, love with Your hands, hear with Your ears, and serve with Your heart. Push back the dark clouds that threaten to hide Your face from my weary eyes. Give me strength to focus on You alone. Remind me of Your love, joy, and faithfulness all day long! Don't let me forget in the light what You taught me in the darkness!

July 21, 2015

90 Days

90 days. 3 months. In the light of eternity, it's such a tiny amount of time, yet, so much can happen in that short amount of time. In the last 90 days our family has: cried many ugly tears, been completely bewildered, tried to give up, fought hard to stay alive and together, cried out in anguished "old testament hosanna" prayers (desperate cries for rescue before the waves crash over our heads), briefly  declared "some days, for better or worse really sucks", spent many sleepless nights, tried not to give into fear, struggled to praise God with every breath, searched hard to find God in the midst of the mess, let thousands of silent tears slip down our face, looked to the future with fear and uncertainty, seen tears turn to laughter, hugged each other a little tighter, learned to face life one day at a time, leaned heavily on sweet friends, seen "old testament hosannas" turn to "modern day hosannas" (desperate pleas for help becoming loud declarations that our Salvation is already here), learned just how much we don't know about the human brain, seen God's hand of healing, felt God's hand of grace, been given God's peace, been thankful that our plans to give up were thwarted by a God who loves us more than we can imagine, heard God whisper to us through our children, watched God change (every so slightly) our children's hearts toward others and prayer, been given a deeper understanding of God's sovereignty, learned a lot more about truly living eucharisteo every day (giving thanks with JOY), deepened our love for one another, had our appreciation and love for "for better or worse" increased, had our faith and trust in the only One who can see and provide increased, had our prayer lives drastically increased and blessed, and are now looking to the future with hope and joy!

Life has been hard. It's had it's ups and downs. BUT GOD! He's been there every step of the way. He led, guided, comforted, and provided. Father, thank You! Thank You for holding us and getting us through. Thank you for being our hope and salvation. Thank you for redemption and restoration. Continue to lead us, guide us, strengthen us, and keep us focused on You at all times. The days are brighter, but the struggles will always come and go. Help us to be content in You alone and trust You alone. Help us not to waiver in our faith when the hard times come. Let our lives declare You boldly. Let that speak loudly to our children. Use this crazy, messy, ugly beautiful mess of our lives to draw our children and others to You.

June 24, 2015

Scriptures

 Some scriptures that have meant a lot to me in the last few months:





















June 12, 2015

One Day at a Time....

This is how God is teaching me to live right now. One.day.at.a.time. Oh, my! If you know me, you know how nearly impossible this is for me. I need a plan. I need a script. As I often say, "I do not improv well, on stage or in life." This is one of the hardest things for me in whatever season of life it is God has me in right now.

I like to plan. I like to know what's happening tomorrow, this weekend, next week, next month. I like to have things lined out and ready to go. I don't like surprises. Boy, is God using this to teach me about who is really in control, trusting Him, and waiting patiently on God. I'll be honest. I don't like it. Each day is full of little mini panic attacks as suddenly everything about life is overwhelming to me. Making breakfast, lunch, dinner, getting ready for the pool, doing laundry, so many ordinary things now hold anxiety for me. Some days it takes all of my energy to leave the bed and start the day. Some days I take an extra shower just for a chance to cry. I'm not totally sure why, other than the fact that everything feels so out of control and out of my hands. Of course, none of it was ever in my control or in my hands, I just thought it was! Now that I see how little control I really have, it's frightening!

Yet, at the same time, there is so much comfort in knowing that I am not in control. The world doesn't rely on or revolve around me. Amen! What a world of hurt we would all be in if that was not true. I am so thankful that the God who created the world is the one in charge of it. I am so thankful that the God who has infinite love, wisdom, grace, mercy, justice, compassion, and so much more, is the one in control. He knows all, sees all, and provides all. All of which I could never do!

Before our life blew up about 2 months ago, there was little true reliance on God for anything. Now, I can't make it through the day without stopping over and over again to whisper a prayer for peace or grace or rest or a myriad of other things. Little by little, day by day, He is teaching me how to truly trust him IN all things and FOR all things. It's the ugly beautiful, the messy, the brutiful of life. It's the reason I can praise Him in this storm. I can shout with joy that He's not finished with me, yet!

Oh, Father, mold me and shape me each day. Make me more like You. Gently lead and guide me and show me what it means to trust in and rely on You. Help me see the need for You alone to be in control. Mold my heart into one that is a joyful, obedient follower, that my children may see You in all I say and do.

June 03, 2015

Where (My) Feet May Fail, Part 2

So, HERE is the link to the first blog post with this title. When I wrote this, I had no idea the craziness that was about to happen in my home. I had no idea how true that blog post would turn out to be. Our home was soon to feel like a war zone and I had two choices, give up and walk away, or fight for the family God has given me. I won't lie, many times, I wanted to just give up. It would have been so much easier, but I knew that wasn't what God wanted. Following God is hard. It's costly. It's uncomfortable. But, it's always the best option, no matter what the earthly outcome is.

The past month and a half has been the hardest of my life. BUT GOD. God was there each step of the way. He led and guided and directed and loved and gave grace like I have never seen or felt before. He provided family and friends to love us in our mess (if you haven't read Jen Hatmaker's newest blog, please do. I apologize for the small amount of language that is there, but it's all so true!). He provided meals, money, places to sleep, clothes to wear, fun times to distract us, a safe place to cry, and the courage to wake up each morning and do it all again. He reigned in the crazy, gave clarity when needed, even provided some laughs along the way. He reminded me that no matter how bad things seemed at the time, it was still so much better than it could be. He gave me compassion for others when I didn't think I had any compassion left. He opened my eyes to a new group of people who desperately need His love, mercy, grace and Truth. He dramatically increased my prayer life and proved to me His faithfulness in answering prayer in ways I never even dreamed were possible.

I know I posted this song about a gazillion times over the last several weeks, but listen to it again. Already All I Need by Chirsty Nockels was on constant repeat on my phone and in the car. It was a reminder of so many things: He's always there, I just have to look; not a thing happens without passing first through His hand; He cares for the lilies that neither toil or spin, so He'll take care of me, too; I serve a God who IS all I need, He doesn't have to BECOME what I need; every gift that comes my way comes first through His hand and is designed perfectly just for me (and if I believe all His gives and does is for my good, that means all my trials are also designed perfectly just for me); I love the promise that He has overcome, but He also promises that in this world we will have trouble--this promise is what makes the other promise so beautiful; He alone offers forgiveness and true freedom.

We're all back home and under one roof. There is so much more I could say, but most of it isn't my story to share. Some day, Kevin and I will share together all that the Lord has done in our family in the last 6 weeks or so. Today is not that day, but we do rejoice that we are all together and God is healing hearts and minds. You may see us and not know what to say. That's OK. A simple "We've missed you" or "How are you today" is enough. But please know, we may not be ready to just bust out our whole story for you, so please be OK with an answer of nothing more than "Ok" or "I've had better days" or "It's been rough, but we're making it" without any other explanation. (If you read the Jen Hatmaker blog, then you understand the ring idea and if you aren't in those first few closest rings, it may be awhile before you hear the whole story, but one day...one day.)

If you need some new music to listen to, I have 4 CDs that I have been playing non-stop. Check out this awesome music: The Art of Celebration by The Rend Collective Experiment, Let It Be Jesus by Christy Nockels, Welcome to the New by Mercy Me, and Into the Glorious by Christy Nockels. These songs were declaring my heart for much of the last 2 months. I wish I could just sing them all to you all day long (but, trust me, nobody wants that!)

Just wanted to leave you with some things I've learned during this time of walking where we had to live by faith alone:

-Prayer works. Prayer is the work. Prayer changes you. Prayer changes others. Don't stop praying. Pray hard. Pray long. Pray all day. Write down those prayers so that you can hold them up as a remembrance of what God has done. Share those prayers with others so they can see what God has done. (Oh, how I cannot wait to share our amazing prayer story with you!)
-Remember: BUT GOD. Things may seem impossible, BUT GOD. Things may seem hopeless, BUT GOD. Life may seem over, BUT GOD.
-Let others in. We were not made to live this life alone. I know that it's hard to admit that you need help, but DO IT! Some days you just have to be honest and say, "I just can't do this today." Call a friend. Send a text. Drop an email. Ask for prayer. Get someone to take the kids. It will bless you, bless others, and all of you will grow in Christ if you will let others serve you in your time of need.
-Sometimes God answers our prayers in the craziest of ways (in our eyes), but His answers are perfect. For over a year now my heart has been restless, aching for more of God, a stronger faith, and a closer walk. Boy, did God answer that prayer! I wanted it answered with a trip to serve orphans in South Africa, He answered it right in my own home.
-Cry. It's good for you. But, cry out to God. Be honest with Him. Tell Him what you are really thinking and feeling (He already knows, anyway, so way lie!?) Get real with God and I promise you'll be amazed with how much He will work in your heart and life to draw you closer to Him.
-When we let Him "pry our fingers from the earthly" (totally words from another awesome Christy Nockels song), He will fill our hands with things that are so much better: His hope, His peace, His mercy, His compassion, His grace, His rest, His love.
-If you're still breathing, He's not finished with you, yet! He who began a good work in you will carry it out to completion. Hallelujah!

May 29, 2015

It's Been Awhile

Tired. Worn out. Overwhelmed. Fearful. Confused. Hopeful. Grateful.

It's been a long few months. Though there were times I didn't think it possible, we all survived. Hopefully we're stronger and more faithful on this side of things.

I know that our school suffered this year because of my inability to handle stress, and I feel so guilty about it. We at least finished all the hours that we are required to finish. We did finish our history book and Ethan finished math, but nothing else was finished. It's driving me crazy that we didn't finish!! I feel so far behind. I have our material for next year and I have no idea where to start between the old and the new. Do we do some school over the summer to try and get things finished up before we officially start again in the fall? Or, do we just wait and start where we left off when we start this fall? Oh, I am so overwhelmed. Lord, give me guidance!

I feel like I was so stressed the last few months that I haven't taken time to love on or enjoy our kids. When I get stressed I just sort of shut down and don't want to do anything. So, the house is a mess, the laundry has been piled up, and the kids have been ignored quite a bit. I am hoping to take this summer to say "yes" more often, enjoy making some fun messes, slow down, and just enjoy their smiles, laughter, and crazy creativeness.

I'm really looking forward to some time to dream with and heal alongside the amazing husband the Lord has given me. We've both had a long, hard last few years, but we're both feeling better and ready to tackle the long road ahead together. I look forward to date nights, family walks, roasting marshmallows, and just enjoying a slow summer together.

Father, help me to make this the summer of rest. A whole summer of enjoying the moment and seeing the gifts that God gives. Calm my heart, my mind, and my spirit. Lord, use this summer to teach me true Sabbath rest as I refocus on You. Teach me how to use this Sabbath rest to share Your love and grace with others as You command in Isaiah 58. Show me how to use this Sabbath rest to love my family more than I ever have before. Oh, Lord, renew and refresh me!

March 25, 2015

FEAR: It's Eating Me for Lunch...and Breakfast...and Dinner

I would have to say that, normally, I am not a fearful person. I'm not brave, but not fearful, either.

Man, oh, man, has the enemy been having a blast these last few weeks filling my heart and mind with fear. Many of the fears are irrational and have no basis. I know this. Yet, I still find myself giving in to these fears.

Fear that I am not the wife that my husband needs.
Fear that I am not the mother my kids need.
Fear that I am not teaching my kids all they need to know.
Fear that other people's kids will be better prepared for life than mine.
Fear that by choosing to be a wife and mom I may have missed out on some amazing opportunities to see the world, serve God, and do some really cool things I would have really loved.
Fear that my husband will die first and I will have to live on without him.
Fear that I will have to watch my children die.
Fear that people will notice I am not nearly as brave or put together as I want them to think I am.
Fear that by choosing to give up working outside the home I am becoming more and more useless and unnecessary with each passing day.
Fear that I am the weakest link everywhere I go.
Fear that I'll never get caught up on the laundry.
Fear that the dust bunnies will soon take over the house.
Fear that the kids will one day hate me for the chicken nuggets and PBJ sandwiches they ate when I was too lazy to fix a real meal.
Fear that my kids will never learn to serve others before themselves.
Fear that my kids will not love God and His word.
Fear that, when death comes, I will do it badly.
Fear that I've somehow wasted this life.

But the biggest fear lately, that my children will never know God's salvation. Though it's offered to all, not all will follow in obedience. Not all will live for Him. Not all will love Him. Not all will know new life with Christ as their Lord and Master. Fear that no matter what I do, they will choose to live life for themselves, ignore God, and spend eternity separated from Him (and me.) It's almost paralyzing. It keeps me up at nights. The tears drench my pillow. I have no control over the state of their souls. All I can do is obey the command to love them, teach them His word, display a godly life before them, and pray diligently for their souls. The rest is out of my hands. I fear that which I cannot control.

Father, remind me that fear is not from You. Remind me that Your perfect love casts out fear. Remind me that You do not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and sound mind (good judgment, instruction, self-discipline, etc). Remind me that You love my kids and my husband and my friends more than I ever could. Remind me that You are evident in everything around me..and around my kids. Remind me to run to You, the source of all love and power, when I am doubt and fear. Remind me that Satan is the father of lies and You alone are truth. Remind me that praying for my kids changes me, whether they are ever changed or not. Father, mold me, shape me, enbolden me to become more like You every day!

March 08, 2015

What I am Learning from Lent This Year

I know that Lent isn't something that Southern Baptists generally do. And I'll admit that I haven't studied the history and dug into all that is Lent. However, I have still chosen to participate in Lent the last few years. For me, it's a great way to spend some time focusing on the gift and sacrifice of the cross, as well as prepare to rejoice and celebrate the truth of the resurrection. For me, it's not so much about denying myself, but refocusing and living for more than myself.

This year I decided to drink only water during Lent and donate money to the well project that our church is doing (find out more here: Water for Africa) I am also taking specific time once a day to pray for the persecuted church. I did something similar last year, but this time it has been different. Maybe it's because I'm at a different place in my life, maybe because I have been sick for the last week, I'm not sure, but it's definitely been different this year.

For one thing, I keep finding myself wanting to sneak little sips here and there of other things. I mean, it's just a sip, not a full gulp (or glass), so what's the harm, right? Then, WHAM! God really hit me with the thought that I am the same way about sin. Just a little sin can't hurt, right? I mean, if I live well most of the time, one little sin can't hurt. WRONG! Sin will always be the wrong choice for the believer and no matter how good it feels at the time, it will always bring guilt and shame. Praise the Lord that He offers forgiveness when we make the wrong choice!

Another thing I have found is that sometimes I forgot this fast doesn't include food. I start to eat something then think, "Oh, wait! It's Lent. Oh wait, I'm fasting from all drinks but water, not food! What am I doing?!?!" It's like my brain thinks that means I can't have anything. How crazy is that? But don't we sometimes make our Christian lives about our list of don'ts instead of the freedoms we have in Christ? It's like we think that because there are some things that God has commanded we not do, that it means we can't do anything that might be considered fun to the rest of the world. We build this bubble and keep ourselves in it and don't ever see the joy and life in the freedom of living under Christ.

I think the prayer portion is teaching me the value and importance of persistence in prayer. There are a few things that I feel like I've been praying about forever and I had pretty much just given up praying for them. I had no more words and it seemed I was getting no answers, so why bother. In praying for the persecuted church every day I am finding that God provides the words. He is softening my heart to pray for those persecuting Christians, as well as those they are persecuting. I have been reminded many times of the parable of the widow who continued to go to the judge day after day until he ruled in favor of what she wanted. She knew the judge had the power to do what she was asking and she persisted, day after day, until he used that power. You know what, my God has the power to do all I ask. I can pour out my heart, day after day, even with the same requests, and He will hear every cry. He can heal each heart, wound, ache. He can protect lives and open hearts to His salvation. He is I AM! Oh Father, help me to believe in all You can do, ask You to show Yourself mighty in my life and the lives of others, and still choose to praise and rejoice when You choose not to answer in the way that I hope You will!

I know that Lent isn't in the Bible (of course, neither is Christmas), but over and over His people are commanded to remember Him. Remember what He's done. Draw near to Him, focus on Him, and rejoice in Him. Lent is really helping me do that this year. The Sundays during Lent are feast days. They are days to rest from the self-discipline you've been practicing all week, stop looking at the gravity of the cross, and rejoice in the glory and triumph of the risen Lord. I have found Sundays so much sweeter during this season. They truly have been feasts and celebrations (though not overdone!)  Lord, continue to soften and change my heart. Make me one who is bold in Your name. Help me to love all I see with You love.

March 02, 2015

...To those who only see the Pinterest perfect FaceBook mom they'll never be-we speak God's Truth to You...

I wrote those words last week as part of a script for our Mother's Day service at church this year. I cried when I wrote them. My heart was screaming them. Well, the first part, anyway. But it wasn't until today I realized how much I need the last part. I need His truth to overwhelm and renew my mind DAILY. Today I am tired and I don't feel well, which only leads to comparison and bitterness and loneliness and the list could go on and on and on and on! It's not healthy and it's not from God. I am so thankful I have friends who will pray for me, text me scripture, and speak encouraging words to me.

I want to do the same for you. I keep typing words and erasing them, trying to find just the right thing to say. It's been a long year, full of so many ups and downs in our house. We've battled disobedient children, health issues, depression, frustration, bitterness, laziness, pride, and so much more (sounds like your year, too, huh?) I am tired. I am weary of the fight. This winter is lasting forever and many days I can't see spring at the end. Some days are so full of joy and laughter I could burst and some days are so full of tears and despair I don't want to get out of bed. I want to wallow in despair, crying "Poor me!" I want to act like nothing bad ever happens to anyone else and I am the only victim in this world. There have been days I've cried to God, "Why can't I just send my kids to public school so I can go back to bed and ignore this day?!?" (I am not implying that is what moms with kiddos in public school do, just what I would like to do some days!) I've had days full of praise for being able to spend so much time with my kids and being able to watch them learn and grow. I've had days when all I can do is go through the motions and hope the kids don't see me crying. I've had other days that were so full of laughter and hugs that I can't hardly stand it! I've had days where I've been paralyzed by fear and doubt. Other days I have been bold and courageous.Haven't we all? Isn't this just life? There will always be good days and bad days. But, no matter how many good days there are, my mind always wanders to the bad ones. I linger on the hard days. I pull out the negative and set up camp. Rather than resting in the loving arms of my Savior, I choose to dwell in the pit of the Father of Lies. I don't want to do that anymore. I want to remember His truth, cling to His promises, and serve Him with all that I have, regardless of my circumstance. I no longer want to be held captive by my feelings. Oh, Father, speak Your truth to me every day! Give me a hunger for Your word that surpasses any whim I may have for anything else. Help me to memorize Your word so that I can have it with me at all times. Lord, help me dwell on Your word, regardless of the circumstance. Here are just a few of the verses bringing me encouragement, comfort, and the reminder to to turn everything back to Him in praise:

Psalm 30:5 His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life. Weeping may endure for the night, but JOY* comes in the morning.
Lamentations 3:24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him."
Psalm 42:5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.
Psalm 43:3-4 Send me Your light and Your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You dwell. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise You with the lyre, oh God my God.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.
Psalm 20:7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

What verses are an encouragement to you on the hard days? Let's share some encouragement with one another today! Let's speak God's truth to one another and whisper songs of God's JOY* and love to each other today!

February 08, 2015

Where (My) Feet May Fail

We sang Oceans in church today. It hit me today like never before. Like many people I know, this last years has been long, hard, and draining. There have been many times this past year that I felt like I was sinking in an ocean. My eyes were definitely not above the waves. My focus was on me and my circumstance, not on the sovereign God who was holding me in His arms through it all.

God brought something else to my attention this morning, too. You see, I have this ache to leave these US borders and head out on mission to...well...anywhere but here. I want to be in Africa getting my feet dirty as I serve the orphan there. I want to be in Romania handing out glasses and God's word to people who have no doctor and no Bible. I want to be in Haiti serving some of the poorest children in the world. For so long I convinced myself that my "trust without borders" and "where feet may fail" would happen far from here. But today. Oh, today. Though there was no audible voice, I clearly felt God tell me that sometimes, those places are right here in our own homes. For me, the place that is hardest to be, hardest to see or feel His hand, the place where my feet don't want to tread, is the home I live in doing the everyday, ordinary things. Did I miss it? Did I refuse to hear what God was really saying? Could it possibly be that, when I cried out, "Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith would be made stronger, in the presence of my Savior" that he Lord answered that prayer by NOT sending me anywhere else? Did He answer that prayer with homeschooling, where I've had to learn to pray and rely on God more each day to be able to answer in obedience. Did He answer that prayer when my children weren't saved at the same time all the other kids are getting saved, causing me to lay my children at His feet and trust that their lives are in His hands? Did He answer that prayer with health problems for my husband that have forced us both to our knees more in the last year than we ever have been? Did He answer that prayer by putting two sweet, young kids into our family for Family Quest every week where He challenged our faith and knowledge with questions our kids have never asked before? Did He answer that prayer with 2 families who are moving to the mission field while I stay home so that I could learn to truly be content in any and all circumstances and learn how to truly love on and cheer for others? Have I been missing it?

Oh, Lord, forgive me. Forgive me for missing out on the many ways You answer my prayers and I refuse to see it because it wasn't the way I wanted the prayer to be answered. Lord, open my eyes and my heart to see more than what is just visible to my earthly eyes. Oh, Father, help me to see all that You are doing here, in the everyday, ordinary, crazy, amazing, blessed life You have given me. Oh, Father, take me deeper in You, even if I never leave my home. Lord, move. Move in me. Move in my family.

February 04, 2015

Something They Never Tell You Before Getting Married or Having Children

People give you lots of advice before getting married and having children. They also give you LOTS of warnings. You know what no one ever really told me about? The lack of time to yourself once you're married. And that gets even less when children enter the picture. For some, this is really not that big of a deal. I am not one of those people. I can only handle so much of my time being spent with others. Then, I need time alone to regroup, rest, and, well, breathe! 

You get married and suddenly there is another person around ALL.THE.TIME. The one time you can really look forward to time alone is the commute to work (if your spouse isn't going to the same place.) The best part of working in college admissions? All the time spent in the car on my own. Listening to whatever music I wanted. Singing to said music at the top of my lungs. Making random pit stops just because you want to. Oh, those were the days.

Then, the kids come along and those glorious, all alone driving moments are virtually non-existent. You live for the random trip to the store alone or those 5 minutes it takes to get from dropping the kids off to your office. I'll admit, I force reading on my kids each afternoon just so I can have time to myself. 

I can feel it, too, when I've gone too long without time to myself. I can literally feel my blood pressure rising, I get very short-tempered, and even more irrational and high maintenance than usual. I become a very hard person to be around. But, I am so thankful that the Lord has blessed me with a husband that understands this. He knows when it's time to take the kids to the store, to play at the park, or to go see Grandma because I've had all I can take. I know, however, this is an area that I need to turn over to God on a daily basis. I have started getting to this point almost daily, and that is not good! Every morning I need to turn my day over to God and submit my plans and pride to Him. Every afternoon as I feel the onset of anxiety mounting I remember that I haven't asked God to help me with this yet today. That I haven't laid this area of my life at His feet today. 

Oh, Lord, help me to rise each morning ready and willing to turn my whole life over to You. Give me the strength to leave it there. Father, as I feel the anxiety and irritation mounting, remind me to stop, take my worries and stress to You, and keep breathing. Help me to remember that the only way to make it through this life is with You by my side. Oh, Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!!!

January 28, 2015

Confessions of a Stay at Home, Homeschooling Mom of 2 Who Isn't as Extroverted as You Think


  • I am not the perfect wife and mother by a long shot. I'm not good at keeping the kitchen or the bathroom clean. Clean laundry sits in baskets for weeks. I can't even tell you the last time I actually mopped the floors. We were home from Christmas break for two weeks before I turned on a vacuum. My sink is usually full of dishes (and I have a dishwasher.) But, I must remember that, even though I fail at many things, my home is warm, there is food on the table, and clothes on our backs. Oh, Lord, help me to get better in my areas of weakness and use those weaknesses to draw me closer to You.
  • School around here isn't perfect. There are days we don't ever even get to "actual" school work. Some days we are just barely eking by to get through to the end of the day. Some days, I live for bedtime. But, I must remember that most days, I can't wait to dig into history and science. I can't wait to hear my kids quoting scripture and see the creative things they draw. Many times they learn more in those every day moments than they'll ever learn in books and worksheets. Oh, Father, help me to see the joy in each moment. Give me an excitement for school as it leads us closer to You by studying the world You've given us. Let each day be one that is full of the wonder of You!
  • Being really honest, there are days I just wish I could go to work. To spend a day with adults doing real things that make a real difference right in the moment. I want to have moments of my day focused on something other than housework or things I don't do well. I want that satisfaction of knowing others are counting on me and need me to get things done. (Selfish, much?!?!?!?) To be known as someone other than "Sophie and Ethan's mom." But, then I remember that this dull, long, ordinary work I do in my home does make a difference, even if I never see it. I am reminded that there are many parents who grieve not being able to spend more time with their children, so I must be grateful for the time I have with them. Oh, Lord, help me to see the joy, beauty, and importance of the ordinary, every day tasks You've given me right here in my home. Help me to find my identity in You, not in what I do, where I go, or the people I am around. 
  • As many theatre and music people (at least that I know) are, I am nowhere near as confident in real life as I may appear on the stage (which is why I am so much better at playing lower-level, shy characters.) I would stay in my house at all times and never leave if at all possible (and if Gran Rio would deliver.) It takes all of my energy and effort to mingle and be part of a crowd. I love that so many conferences are now streaming live so I can watch them at home and not have to sit in a crowd of thousands of people in order to participate. But, then I realize how much I am missing out on not diving into relationships with people. What joy and excitement I am missing. Oh, Lord, give me Your strength to overcome fears and doubts so I can build genuine, meaningful relationships with those around me. Help me to be able to be a viable part of community that takes care of each other, loves each other, and strives to share You with all we meet.
Oh, Heavenly Father. Mold me into Your image. Change my heart and mind. Give me a hunger for Your word and for time with You that can't be quenched or overshadowed by other things. Father, help me to see the joy and importance of each moment that I consider ordinary and You call ordained. Oh, Lord, help me to be content with You and You alone.

January 18, 2015

Thoughts on Cruising

We just spent a week on a cruise in the Caribbean. It was glorious. Fun. Exciting. Breath-taking. Heart-breaking. Guilt inducing. Eye opening. So many things.

While I missed my sweet kiddos, it was so mice to have that week with my husband. We rarely get that much time together without children (as most parents.) Since we homeschool and Kevin works at home, we spend LOTS of time together. It was nice to pull away and just be the two of us for awhile. What a gift I've been given in my husband. He is a hard worker and loves me even when I know I'm very hard to love. We had fun this week laughing, relaxing, and enjoying this beautiful planter God has made. He pushed me to keep going on a difficult obstacle course that included walking on several high wires, climbing in trees, and zip lining (I so wish I had pictures to prove I did this, but none of us really had any free hands to do that, so you'll just have to trust me!) I really wanted to just quit and wait for everyone else to finish, but he kept encouraging me and I made it (and I didn't even fall!)

It was also fun to spend time with family. There was lots of laughter, and even some ugly crying (that's what the Hazelwood family does best!) Supper times were truly a time of fellowship, testimony sharing, and just getting to know each other better. It was so fun.

It was also more scheduled that I imagined it would be. We were up early every morning to be able to do all that we wanted. There was no sleeping in on this cruise! Totally not expecting that!

This trip was also heart-breaking and guilt inducing as my eyes were opened to just how privileged and wealthy I am. The crew and staff on that boat work so hard and long, every day, spend months separated from family, and barely make enough ti send back to their families. I know there were times I should have asked to pray for them or tried to serve them in some way, but I didn't. It was difficult to realize at each port that we were living it up and just a few miles away whole families were going to bed hungry for lack of food and money. All the while, I was doing nothing to serve them, love them, or help them.

On the plane ride home we had about 15 or so current or former Cardinals baseball players with us (including Ozzie Smith.) I am embarrassed at the at the "fan girl" I became for a group of people I don't even know and, for the most part, had never even seen before that trip, simply because other people say their are special. It reminded me of a quote I read in Wherever the River Runs by Kelly Minter. She talked about being captivated by the grand and bug without even knowing it. That's totally what I was doing. Oh, Father, forgive me for the times that I choose the big, bold, and worldly over the humble and godly. Help me to dwell on that which is noble, pure, and right. Lord, draw me to You. Give me a hunger for You, Your word, and Your people. Help me to declare You to my children and all I meet. Lord, keep my eyes, heart, and mind focused on You alone. Use that focus to make me the wife, mother, friend, church member, and human You desire me to be.