August 18, 2017

Year 7

On August 21 we'll be starting our seventh year of homeschooling. We started this journey, rather unexpectedly and having no idea what we were doing, when Sophie started kindergarten. I really didn't think we'd still be here all these years later.

I feel just as ill-prepared this year as I did that first year. And much more tired. And much more overwhelmed. And much more worried about whether or not I am getting any of this right. Because now their needing to get into college/or get a real job one day feels so much closer than it did seven years ago, all the little things of each day seem so much more important. Every decision feels huge! The last two years feel like a bit of a waste because, well, there were many days when not much got done. It makes me thankful that the Lord can do a lot even when all we can give is a little!

Believe it or not, though I ended up with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts and a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communication, I actually started out as a Secondary Education History major. This major was chosen based on two things: I love history and, at the time, it made sense that it was a job I could wear a costume for every day. Clearly, no one was surprised when, barely halfway through the first semester (and without having taken even one education class), I switched my major.

So I was probably the most surprised when God whispered homeschooling into my ear. I have no training at all in education. I had barely even ever taught a Sunday School class, let alone being in charge of the entire education of a child! But, the Lord has been gracious to us. He has surrounded us with many who are ahead of us on this journey and can offer us wisdom. We have a great Co-Op that fills in a lot of gaps and makes school lots of fun.

I wish that I was more creative when it came to teaching, but we've made it, one year at a time, so far. We did lots of fun stuff when she was younger, but I find that harder and harder to do as she gets older. And is learning things I barely understood when I was in school. See why I am a little worried for their future? Oh my!

In the seven years we've been on this journey we have yet to repeat a daily schedule. We just kind of go with the flow and change things around when needed. In the last year or two I've realized they actually do better with doing some lessons in the evening after dinner. Family devotion works best at breakfast. Just little things that I've switched around here and there. This year will be the same way, trying things until we find what works. I am trying an entirely new curriculum for Ethan (other than math) this year. This makes me nervous, but I am hoping it goes well. He needed a change. I hope this is the right one!

I am praying that this is our best year yet! Father, fill all three of us with a love for learning. Give us eyes to see how our lessons and subjects teach us more about God and who He is, as well as how they equip us to tell others about Him. Lord, lead and guide each day. Give me wisdom to know what needs to get done and what needs to be dropped from the schedule each day. Give me a sensitive spirit to know just what each of my children need, day by day. Oh, Father, draw us to You as we spend time learning about the people and the world You created! Use this gift of homeschooling to draw us together. Grant us sweet memories, laughter, and a year of knowing You more!

August 09, 2017

518 Days

I didn't really count days until May 2015. That's when we started counting how many days Kevin had survived without fentanyl. Since March 10, 2016, I've been counting (some days trying not to count) the days we've lived without Kevin. It's 518, by the way.

Part of me feels like a bad Christian that I look at it, most of the time, as the number of days I have lived without him. Shouldn't I be looking at it as the number of days he's been healed, whole, and living with his Savior? Some days, that's what I think. But honestly? More often than not it's the number of days I have survived without him.

Without him here to speak logic to my drama. Without him here to clean the kitchen. Without him here to lead our family devotions. Without him here to deal with insurance companies. Without him here to prepare Sophie for middle school and the youth group. Without him here to teach Ethan how to be a loving, godly man. Without him here to take out the trash on those really cold nights. Without him here to watch The West Wing with over and over. Without him here to wipe away the tears of insecurity and worry and fear. Without him beside me for year 7 of homeschooling.Without him beside me to laugh and rejoice and fight with and fight for and grow old with over the years. Without him. Without him. Without him.

And it sucks. Most days involve tears at some point. Some are tears of frustration. Some of loneliness. Some of fear. Some of confusion. Some just because I don't know what else to do. I shed more tears than my kids will ever know. I am sure they shed more tears than I know. His absence is felt in every moment, whether in that moment or when replaying that moment later. The regrets are piled high. The guilt and shame follow me everywhere I go. Most days it's a fight to find a silver lining and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

It's hard not to compare my life with the lives of those around me. It's hard not to be jealous that other daughters and sons get to have their daddies around. Hard not to be bitter that others around me get to grow old with the love of their lives and I don't. It's hard not to wish I was sitting in a hospital room taking care of my man, regardless of why he's there, because that would at least mean he was still with us. It's hard to see why others can walk away and leave addiction behind but it plagued Kevin until the day he died. Did I not pray enough? Trust enough? Fight hard enough?

But, at the end of the day, it comes down to the fact that His ways are higher than my ways. I cannot know the plans or reasons of the Lord here on earth. Once in Heaven, I am not sure those ways or reasons will matter all that much. There is a time and a season for everything, whether I understand or ever know the reason that accompanies the season. Still, I must trust. Can I say, as Job did, even with a broken heart (as I am sure Job had), "You give and take away, blessed be the name of the Lord?" Do I sin by charging God with wrongdoing or do I let go of my agenda and need for control and trust that He knows best? Do I believe that Psalm 147:3 (He heals the brokenhearted, He binds up their wounds) is true? Do I believe Psalm 139 when it says that He knows all about me and has seen every one of my days already? Do I believe that He is with me, has left His perfect peace within me, and leads and guides me in every moment?

If I am honest, I don't always. I spend a lot of time whining and complaining and throwing temper tantrums because this life has not turned out the way I wanted it. I question God's wisdom and decisions. (Why let me get married when You knew I would be left here without him? Why allow us to have kids when you knew the heartbreak they would face living this life fatherless? Why give me dreams and hopes for my marriage and family when you knew both would be torn apart?) I want everything to be back to normal right now. I want renewed energy right now. I want life to be happy and easy and nothing but joy. Right now. But this is a broken world filled with sin, so that is not possible.

On the days that I am intentional to start the day in the Word and prayer, I find myself to be more productive, more joyful, and less bitter. Yet, I still, far too often, choose laying in bed and letting myself wallow over choosing what I know is best for me. As it says in Romans 7:15-20, 24-25 "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do--this I keep doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it...What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord."  Oh, how desperately I want to stay close to the Lord, to trust Him with everything on this crazy planet, and to live my life in a way that brings Him glory and points others to Him. But I also want to stay in bed all day and not be a parent. I want to hide away from the world that often now feels foreign, harsh, and cold. I don't want to reach for my Bible. I'd rather just sit and cry and throw myself a pity party. It's so much easier to be a slave to all the emotions.

That is not what God wants for me. John 10:10 assures us that Christ came to give life. Not just the surviving by the skin of your teeth, holding on with white knuckles hoping to make to the end of the day, kind of life. He came to give full life. Abundant life. But I can't have that life if I leave Him out of the equation. No matter how easy it is to forget about Him. To walk away from Him and toward the grief and despair.

So, yes, it's another 10th of the month. And another 10th that happens to be a Thursday (he died on a 10th that was a Thursday). Yet, today can be a day of hope. Peace. Trust. Rest. Being rooted in the only One that enables me to grow and find joy. In just about a month I will be speaking to a group of precious women and the Lord has had a word in my mind for months as a theme: Rooted. Oh, how I wanted to be rooted in Christ. To be rooted in Christ I must be rooted in the Word, in prayer, and in community that will point me to Him at all times. Man, it's hard when He makes you live out the words He asks you to speak!

Oh, Father, fill me with Your hope today. Let this be a day of sweet memories of days gone by, sweet memories made in the moment with my kiddos, and of choosing celebration for Your gifts of forgiveness, healing, and an eternal home with You. Fill this day with Divine energy. Divine motivation. Divine grace. Oh, Father, give me abundant life through You. Remind me of Your promises and all the ways You have filled them.

August 02, 2017

One Little Picture

It's amazing to me how powerful pictures are. When I was in college we didn't have cell phones (I know, I am old) or digital cameras, so taking pictures was actually a bit of a chore. I didn't take very many pictures. I wish I had taken more just so I could remember more of that fun, life-changing time.

Thanks to time and the many seasons of life I have lived, I now value pictures much more than I ever thought I would. I take more pictures than I know what to do with most days. Of course, I take pretty much every picture on my phone and print very few of them. But, thanks to technology and Google Photos, I can pull up those pictures anytime.

It wasn't until after Kevin died that I really felt the power of pictures. Even one single, simple picture can make years seem to melt away and drastically change my mood to match the mood of the day captured in a picture. I can't explain it, but just looking at a picture of Kevin makes it seem so surreal that he's no longer with us. It tricks my mind into thinking he's just out on a job and he'll come through that door any minute. It makes the years of addiction and pain melt away to look at a picture of him before addiction. Happy. Young. The man I married.

In a rare burst of energy the other day I decided to clean out the junk drawer in the kitchen. That's when I found this picture:

I remember this picture. It was the summer of 2001. I had just graduated from college and I was spending the summer traveling with a few other members of Praise Song to do a camp at Windermere. Our group was with the 6th graders and we were leading worship for them. (I promise, I was doing actions for the song "Ain't No Rock" when this picture was taken. "Ain't no bird, gonna flap it's feathers...") Kevin and I had only been dating since February, but I already knew he was the one. There was not a doubt in my mind. I fell even more in love with him on this trip. He was such a gifted worship leader. I know those that only knew him in the last 4 years wouldn't believe he was much more than a good guitar player with lots of issues, but believe me, he loved the Lord. He loved using his gift of music to point others to Christ. He was a natural worship leader, despite his numerous other faults. I wish more of the people I now know and love could have known the Kevin from this picture.

But when I found this picture (which I am fairly sure had been on the driver's side sun visor of his truck for years), I noticed something I had never noticed before and it quickly became my favorite picture. He's looking at me. Really looking at me. And he's proud of me. And he loves me. And because honesty seems to be my thing, it felt like he hadn't looked at me, really looked at me, in years. Addiction got in the way.

He knew I was there. He didn't doubt my love or support, but he didn't look at me. Didn't see me. And, honestly, it felt like that meant he didn't really care about me. Need me. Want me. Because that's what the enemy does. He lies. He is the father of lies. Every nightmare and bad dream I have had about Kevin since his death, and even before, have been rooted in this: he didn't see me. He didn't love me. I was nothing to him. He's not even on this earth anymore and the enemy is still using that fear and doubt to lie to me and make me question everything about Kevin, his life, our marriage, and our family.

And it's the same thing the enemy does in our relationship with God. Satan convinces us that, because life is hard and not what we envisioned, that God doesn't see us. Doesn't care about us. Doesn't need us. Doesn't want us. He never did and never will. And that makes it easier to walk away. Easier to choose anything but Christ. Anything but joy.

Please believe me, no matter your scars, poor choices, or hard circumstances, God loves you! He sees you. He knows you. He works things for His glory and your good. Dear brother or sister, listen to the words of life those who love you speak over You. He has not left you. He has not forsaken you. He has much more love in his eyes for you than Kevin has in this picture. There's no comparison. He wants you to grow and know Him more deeply. Sometimes that means a change in jobs. A change in relationships. A change in homes. A change in marital status. A change in continents. A change in family number. Sometimes it doesn't feel good. That's when satan swoops in and begins to plant those lies.

Please believe me when I say that I've had lots of moments of doubt in the last few years. I've done my best to be open and honest, but I don't share everything. I don't share the temper tantrums I throw at God. I don't share the times I shout at Him for leaving me here on my own or crying over not being seen. I don't share the complaints of having to be the one to deal with insurance, take out the trash, and kill all the bugs. He hadn't done most of that in at least two years (a loving God graciously preparing me for what He already knew was ahead in the picture of my earthly life), so I've been complaining about those things for a long time. I get it. I know your hurt. Here's what I want to say: scream. Shout. Tell God how you really feel. He can take it. He's so much bigger than we even realize. Your questions and doubts and misunderstanding Him won't change Him or make him smaller.

But, when you've exhausted your words and your energy is spent, sit. Be still. Listen for Him to declare His love to you. It could come through His word, a sweet friend, a card in the mail, someone at work who doesn't even know God. Be still. Let Him speak. Let Him move. He'll prove that He sees you. Every.time.

Oh, Father, remove the lies. Show Your love and care for us each day. Fill our minds with Your truth so when satan's lies come our way we can recognize them immediately. Break through the darkness of our circumstances with the light of Your truth.