Encouragement, My Story, Uncategorized

Daily Bible Reading Really Matters.

IMG_6259Does God really have a plan for me?  How does he communicate with me?  What is my next step?  The questions were many and and I always felt the answer I would get was “are you reading your bible?”  It honestly discouraged me.  Yes.  I do!  I read it.  But I rarely feel like I am truly hearing from God when I read.  At least not clearly.

I was constantly wanting more than what I had.  I prayed, I did bible studies, devotionals.  I felt like I was doing what I was suppose to, but what was missing?

A little over a year ago I was told our church was starting discipleship groups.  These would be small groups of women/men, 3-5 in each group and they would commit to meeting weekly for a year while reading through the bible together.  I was in.  I didn’t even need more info, I was just in.  I knew I wanted and needed more in my spiritual life.   What I didn’t know is how much the year would transform the way I thought about the bible and deepen my relationship with God.

The reading was assigned each week and was structured to be done 5 days a week.  Along with reading, we also were to journal our thoughts.  Sometimes I journaled lots of questions that arose from the reading and then would dig deeper to find answers.  When we came together each week, we would discuss what we read and what we got out of it.

I had never read the bible from cover to cover because it seemed so daunting.  Even when I had attempted it before, I never stuck with it.  I use to feel “less spiritual” because it took the accountability of a group to get me to consistently read my bible, however all throughout the bible, community is encouraged.  I know God didn’t intend this life to be be done alone and I am so encouraged to have the accountability of others who are seeking the same thing.  Growth.

If it takes the accountability of a group of other women, meeting for a year, to get me in the word daily and to make it a habit, I can’t imagine God is shaking His head at me saying “well I can’t believe that is what it took.” Nope.  He is just excited that our relationship is deepening.

I quickly realized that God was communicating to me through the assigned reading of His Word- something I was somewhat skeptical about.  Could God really speak to me when someone else was telling me what to read AND the group was all reading the same thing?  How could He speak specifically to me this way?  But, I would pray about things going on in life and then read my bible and there were the answers.  For the first time, I realized that consistently reading the bible daily was how God was moving, answering prayers, and speaking to me.  Affirmation after affirmation, I would see whatever I was praying about in my reading.  God was moving in my heart and I experienced how powerful being in God’s word is.  Transformation happens here.

There were times I would be struggling with my self worth and the reading would reassure me of how loved I am by God.  We made several big life decisions last year and throughout the process of making those,  I felt God encouraging me as I read His word.  God also gave me insight into parts of my life I needed to work on.  I was able to see Gods character more clearly when I was reading the ALL of the story and not just part of it.  The commitment of daily bible reading has helped me grow spiritually and deepened my faith and trust in God.

If you have ever been stuck feeling like you don’t hear from God, I am giving you the advice I was always given but with a little encouragement.  Read your bible, but don’t read your bible randomly.  Be consistent.  If you know you need accountability, find a friend or group and go through it together.  There is power in accountability and community.  Not only did I learn so much from the bible, but I also learned from the others in the group and experienced community.

Don’t let fear or pride keep you from growth.  It is ok to need help in this journey.  I just started year 2 of this Discipleship journey with a new group of women and I am enthusiastically excited to see how God moves in each of our lives this year and in our group as a whole!

Celebrate Recovery, Encouragement, Family, My Story, Uncategorized

This is grief…

dad.jpg Fall is by far my favorite season.  Temperatures are suppose to be cooling off (we are in AR though!), pumpkins are everywhere, sweaters are a staple and apple cider is served at all the parties.  But in the midst of my favorite season is October 4th.  4 years ago this day started having a significance in my life.  It is the day my dad died.

If you have followed my blog  you know that it was a tragic day.  My dad ended his own life a few months shy of his 60th birthday.

Grief.  If you haven’t ever experienced it, there is no way to truly understand it and it certainly looks different for everyone.  I didn’t understand it before my dads death.  I thought I understood it- there are 7 stages to it.  I am sure you just work your way through each stage. That is what I thought.  I couldn’t have told you the stages or anything about it.  Grief was sad, I knew that much.  It seemed like some people struggled with grief more than others but I never had taken time to really understand.

I made a counseling appointment within days of my dads death.  I knew I needed it, even though at that time, I had no idea how much.  I remember being shocked when my amazing counselor explained that the stages of grief didn’t happen in a particular order  and it wasn’t like you work through one stage and then you are done with it.  Sometimes you bounce around several times, through several stages, over several months, potentially years.  He said on average, the initial grief lasts 12-18 months.  DO WHAT?  No way!  This was not what I wanted to hear.  You see, I am a tell me what I need to do to overcome this and I will do it kind of girl.  Grief seemed to have no real rules, guidelines, boundaries, OR a step by step guide.  I was discouraged knowing it wasn’t going to be over quick.  That he wasn’t going to hand me an outline that I could neatly work through.

I am so thankful that my counselor explained grief to me.  It allowed me to have grace for myself in the process and not get so hung up “doing it right” or feeling like it wasn’t going as fast as I thought it should.  I tend to place expectations on myself that are fairly high (working on this!) and I know without his guidance, navigating grief would have left me a bigger hot mess.

It has been 4 years and there is still grief.  I still experience all the stages at times.  I honestly don’t know if it will ever go away completely,  it is a major loss.  But grief today looks so different compared to grief the first year.  At first, I was a roller coaster of emotions and EVERYTHING reminded me of my dad.  I worked hard to get past the initial PTSD responses I had.  We found my dad, the day was very traumatic.  It left a lot to work through.  Once I was past that, every time we ate a food he liked, drove past a place he enjoyed, or really anything- I would either cry devastating tears that my dad wasn’t here to experience it or I would laugh and smile recounting the memories we shared.  It was  fairly constant up and down emotion.  When I say EVERYTHING reminded me of him, I  mean it.

Suicide probably complicates grief a little because there are so many what if’s.  The what if’s are so difficult and it took me a long time to let it go. I put in lots of work, trusting my counselor in the process and now the what if’s don’t consume me.  They creep up from time to time, but I remind myself of truth and move on.

4 years later….. I still think about my dad and wish he was still here so there would be a chance our complex, not traditional father/daughter relationship, could have a opportunity to heal.  I think about my dad often and usually I process the emotions that come, and go on. I still get sad he never met our 5th baby or that he is missing out on so many amazing things my kids are doing.  I can’t go eat BBQ or catfish without thinking about how much he would be enjoying it right now.  We think about good times and good memories- like the way he ate 1/2 a peanut butter sandwich with a glass of OJ every morning, like clock work, and never missed his Irish Breakfast hot tea. The library is such a fond memory too, because as long as he could get there, he went daily.  He loved to read and remembering him reading to my kids is the best.

But sometimes, I am overwhelmed by a rush of grief over his death, that takes me by surprise, leaves me breathless, with a face dripping wet in tears.  Sometimes the what if’s flood my mind and cause me to be angry.  There are times that I just don’t understand and none of it seems real.  At times, I have found myself smack dab in the middle of grief, 4 years later.

“Don’t worry, it gets easier with time.”  This is something people say to comfort others.  I often wonder if those people have experienced grief.  I guess maybe easier is an ok way to say it, but I just think it gets different.  I am never going to not be sad my dad died.  Honestly, that is just a weird thought.  I think saying it gets easier potentially puts expectations on grief.  Loosing someone you love is never easy.  Time doesn’t make it easy.  Time has made it different.  Grief over my dad will probably always be here, but I am thankful there is peace.  I am thankful I have healed so much.  And I am thankful there is grace- even when the grief creeps in and I am crying crocodile tears.

If you are struggling with grief and haven’t seen a counselor, I highly recommend it.  Give yourself grace, but also allow yourself to process and heal.  It is truly a process and I for one, haven’t given it an end date.  Grief hasn’t kept me stuck, but I have accepted that it hasn’t fully left and maybe it never will.

{I am not a counselor or professional.  These are my opinions, thoughts, and experiences that I am sharing simply to encourage others.}

For more on this topic see these posts:

My Truths about Suicide & Depression

Suicide Still Hurts

When God Fulfills His Promises

 

 

 

 

Encouragement, Family, My Story, Uncategorized

Do you struggle well?

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“I wish I knew how to struggle well.  I know everyone struggles, but I think there is a better way” a friend said to me one day.  I have thought so much about this and have often wondered why we assume others struggle better than we do.

Almost 4 weeks ago we moved out of our house that we sold and since then we have been staying with friends, while the shop we will be living in is finished (we will live in the shop while the next house is built).  Some people think that what we are doing is crazy, if you are one of those people, you are right! For the last 3 weeks or so of this, we have been waiting on electricity- shop is ready, we just need electricity.  The Electric company told us a timeline, we made our choices based on that timeline, but needless to say, the timeline was way off.

We have 7 people in our family so being displaced for several weeks is no small feat.  I have several suitcases and bags packed with all the things we need regularly.  We brought no toys or activities, just the necessities, and still our van is at max capacity.   It takes us several trips to and from the car each time we go to a new spot.  Normal people don’t have space for 7 extra people, but we have been blessed with friends who shift their families and make room for us.  I can’t even begin to tell you how thankful we are for the friends who have welcomed us and treated us like family.  Made us feel right at home and as if all the extra chaos was no big deal.

but…….

It has been tough.  difficult.  trying.  exhausting.  emotional.

We had a timeline.  We were planning 7-10 days, but I had said 2 weeks to be safe.

I decided to write this today because we are still waiting.  I am still in the struggle.  I thought I would blog about our journey staying with friends once we were in the shop, but I decided I was going to write this in the struggle.  You see, it is easy to assume people struggle well when we see them or hear about the struggle AFTER the struggle.  How often do people invite us into the struggle while it is happening?  I know for me, the number of times this has happened is very very few.

So here I am, 4 weeks later.  After countless dates that the electric would be on, today we were given another one.  I want to believe that we will have electricity Wednesday which is when they said they plan to be there now, but I know that it is out of my control and I just don’t know.  Unglued, hot mess, not ok.  This is me, tonight.  I am exhausted from packing up our stuff loading the car, then doing it all again in a few days.  I am frustrated that we are still displaced much longer than we anticipated.   I  have cried a lot.  My kids have seen my mess.  I wish my emotions were all sunshine and rainbows and full of joy and looking on the bright side- but they aren’t.  Each time we are told a new date, further away,  I become a mess.

Maybe to some, this seems completely irrational.  Maybe you are really worrying about me.  Or maybe you are like oh man, I know how it feels to be emotionally and physically drained and unable to handle or process one.more.thing.

I am writing this today, not for sympathy, but in hopes that I can be a little more real.  That maybe me writing this during the struggle will help someone else.  I (we) tend to fear that if people knew how ugly our struggle was, that we would be judged, talked about, or even that people might think we are crazy, but I think the reality is, we all have ugly struggles that most people don’t see.  If we are brave enough to admit we are struggling, we will find that there is support, love, and people who are willing to love us through all the yucky feelings we have.

We live in a culture where it isn’t really acceptable to feel pain or to admit we struggle.  We are suppose to mask it and cover it up and pretend its not there.  But the reality is, we need to face the pain and the reason it is present.  Allow ourselves to feel pain long enough to process it.  Hiding it or pushing it away only causes deeper wounds.

Struggling stinks.  Struggling alone is torture.  So find someone who you trust enough to struggle with.  Then remember, we have all been there, even if we haven’t been brave enough to share it.

Today I am here, in the struggle.  Not on the other side.  Not full of joy.  Not trying to make the best of it.  Right now, I am just here.

But, I won’t stay here.  That is the key.  Figuring out how to not stay stuck in the struggle. There are lots of ways I do this.  Praying, journaling, seeing a counselor, seeking a trusted friend to help me process out loud.   This season of life comes with struggles often, but I try to start each day fresh, with a good perspective.  Sometimes I don’t though.  Sometimes I just struggle.  And guess what, thats ok.

 

Camper Living, Encouragement, Family, home sweet home, My Story, Uncategorized

Welcome to our adventure

IMG_2418.JPGWelcome to our adventure- seemed extra fitting for not only a door hanger for our next “home” but our life in general.

Since the beginning, Joel and I have done things anything but normal.  We started out way too young, having a baby when we were still kids ourselves.  We worked hard, made mistakes, and opted to never give up no matter what.  I remember buying our first house at 18 years old.  We barely consulted anyone and just decided we wanted to make our own way, knowing we would mess up at times.  That was before we had whole heartedly put our trust in Jesus but rather whole heartedly tried to do it all on our own.  (spoiler alert, God is better at it than we are!)

Somewhere along the way things changed,  Jesus swept in and helped shake things up for us!  We started looking more at a big picture and evaluating our hearts and the paths we were on.  Did they take us where we were trying to go?  Nope!  We realized priorities needed to change and so everything in our life started shifting.  This is when we started making choices that people didn’t understand.  We got lots of questions all the time about the direction change we had made.

You see, we made a lot of choices in the beginning that set us on paths we didn’t want to be on.  The world would see these choices as normal, but as time went on, we realized we wanted on a different path because the one we had put ourselves on wasn’t taking us where we wanted to go.  Getting there hasn’t been easy, but we are trying hard to correct, move forward, and not get back on path full of debt and in the moment choices.

2 years ago we bought a piece of land.  A month later we had our 5th child.  10 days after she was born, our family of 7 moved into a camper.  Yep!  We lived in the camper for 7 months until the house was far enough along that we could move in.  We lived without cabinets or sinks for a while, but got use to using the bathtub for everything!

We fell in love with our house quickly!  Every detail was done with our family in mind.  From the  layout to the finishes, this was ours!  We have a heart for hosting and loving on others and when we built the house that was one of the things we kept in mind.  It didn’t take long before we were ready to utilize the perfect entertaining space and we started hosting people before we had cabinets!  The house was wonderful and we loved it all.

After living in the house 8 months something happened.  We realized that selling our house, the one we poured our hearts into and loved so much, would help us stay on the path that lead us where we wanted to go.  After praying a ton and having lots of conversations weighing the decision, we decided we were going to sell.  It was a hard choice but one we felt good about.

2 years after buying our property, we sold our house.  Bittersweet for sure.  It wasn’t our original plan but we see God’s hand in every single detail.  (one day maybe I will share it all here!)

So what is next.  That is what we get asked daily.  Where are you moving?  What are you doing?  Are you living in the camper again?

We are building a shop.  The shop will be our home while we build the next house.  We are use to unusual and we tend to think that if we made it in the camper, we can probably live about anywhere!  The shop will be a lot more room than the camper was and we all know it is temporary.  We plan to do lots of adventures soon and maybe, just maybe I will get better at regularly writing about them all!

Here is to adventure!  May you find it in your own way, enjoy it, and learn from it!

Celebrate Recovery, Encouragement, Family, My Story, Uncategorized

The roadblocks in life

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My sweet 6 year old was playing quietly in her room with the doll house her daddy built her for Christmas.  I told her it was time for lunch and she quickly said “I am going to eat and come right back in here to play, ok?”  I reminded her that her little sister would need to take a nap as soon as lunch was over.  She was upset and asked if I would please move the doll house out of there.  It is solid wood and not the lightest thing but I loved that she wanted to play so I moved it.

At rest time, I allow our 4 & 6 year old to watch a few shows.  We don’t do TV other than this block of time, unless it is family movie night or something.  I had moved the doll house into the living room so she could play.  After I started the show, my daughter said “can you mute it?  I am too distracted to play with my doll house and really want to play!”  I thought about turning off the TV, but selfishly  I knew I needed our sweet boy to stay still for an hour so I could get stuff done, so I left the TV on and moved the doll house again, this time into my room.

“Mom, I really want to play with my doll house so bad but I just keep getting distracted with the TV!”   Even when she wasn’t in the same room as the TV, it was distracting her.

My 6 year old has a desire to do something, but the TV being on overpowers her desires and keeps her distracted from what she is trying to do.

Wake up call.  She is 6.  If this doesn’t get my attention, I don’t know what will.

I feel we are mindful about electronics.  We have kids who are 13 & 15 and they do not have personal cell phones.  No one has unlimited access to video games, iPads, computers, or television. But the fact that the TV is this distracting to our 6 year old and keeping her from doing something she wanted to do, really alarmed me.

I have read articles, studies, blog posts, and listened to podcasts about technology and all of the negative effects.  I have read warnings from other parents.  I have examined my own negative habits.  I have taken a break from social media for an extended period of time.  I feel informed and aware but something about this didn’t sit well.  It just felt like maybe what we were doing to protect our family wasn’t enough.

I had been reading in Romans a few days before this happened.  Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind”.  In my notes on this section I wrote “The world is loud!  It seems to always be drawing me in and distracting me.”

A few chapters later in Romans 14:13-23, it is talking about being careful not to cause others to stumble.  As I read this, I thought about what causes me to stumble.  My main questions were: What keeps me distracted from what I want to do? From what I value?  From what I know God is calling me to do? Does my time spent on technology aline with my priorities?  When I started answering these questions, I realized my phone is probably what trips me up the most.  Even when I take a break from social media, I still struggle with wanting to be on my phone.

Technology is addicting.  I don’t want to admit that, I know a lot of us don’t, but it is the unfortunate reality.   When there is an addiction to something, the obvious first step would be to remove it from your life.  After realizing just how much technology is effecting my family, even with boundaries, we are currently rethinking what is healthy for us.  The Bible is fairly clear and says if something is causing you to sin, you should remove it. We live in a world that runs on technology so it feels very tricky to navigate this topic.

All I know is that I don’t want to wake up one day and realize all I have missed or lost by allowing the distractions of this world to create a roadblock to the life I want to live.  I don’t have all the answers but felt I needed to share my heart on this.  To start a conversation.  Maybe you are here too.  Looking at life and seeing that there are things that are keeping you from living your best life.  Keeping you from what is most important to you.

Maybe today you need to ask yourself some hard questions and then come up with a plan to remove things from your life that are causing you to stumble.  Maybe it isn’t technology.  Maybe there is something else in your life that has a strong hold on you.  Whatever it is, know that we all have something and if you are struggling, you are not alone!

One of the best things I ever did for myself was attending Celebrate Recovery.  Going through the steps helped me learn how to identify things in my life that needed work.  I always like to give CR a plug because I truly believe it is impactful and incredibly helpful!  If you need more info please let me know and I will be happy to point you in the right direction.  CR is for anyone with hurts, habits, or hangups (in case you didn’t know, that is all of us!).

So for now, this is just an encouragement to take a step for yourself and your family to see if there are any roadblocks keeping you from your best life.  Today, our family is taking a good look at the technology we allow in our home.  Tomorrow, I will probably become aware of something new….. One day at a time friends!

 

Encouragement, My Story, Uncategorized

Break my heart for what breaks Yours.

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This has been my prayer.  Heal my heart Lord.  Open my eyes to things I don’t see.  Show me how to love like you do.  Break my heart for what breaks yours.

Has anyone ever told you to be careful what you pray for?  Praying to have eyes to see things the way God does and for your heart to hurt for what His hurts for- it can be a really emotional, difficult ride.

As I have prayed this and really desired for God to change my heart, I have seen how over the years my experiences have helped me to see people more.  To see them differently.  To love them better.  To understand their heart.  God can use our own experiences to see others.  But God can also use those situations to help others see too.  By sharing our experiences, our journey, our passions, our heart, we can help others see too.

At 17, I found out I was pregnant.  Over the years I have been able to have conversations with people and help them to understand what it is like to experience pregnancy as a young girl.  This is a scary and difficult time.  Others who are facing this need love, grace, acceptance but often, that is not what they receive.

My dad took his life almost 3 years ago.  Before I had to walk through loosing someone to suicide, I thought suicide was sad, but I honestly hadn’t really thought much about it.  My thoughts about the topic are deep now.  My view of suicide and all of those affected by it are now full of grace and compassion.  Sharing my experience with others has helped other people shift their view too.

On a regular basis I see people who are so passionate about something I know nothing about.  You know what has changed me, wrecked me, and opened my eyes to the world as God sees it?  Taking time to hear others sharing the passions that God has laid on their life.  There is nothing quite like sitting down with someone and listening to them explain why they fighting for a cause, a person, a country.  I have walked away from conversations with a new perspective and appreciation for others in a way I never have before.

If you want to start seeing the world like God does, to love like He does, start talking to people.  God calls us all differently, uniquely, but He calls us all to love.  We aren’t all going to travel to another country, adopt children, speak from a stage, or mentor someone who needs guidance, but we all can love and support others who are doing those things.  (Encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.  1 Thessalonians 5:10)

I can’t even explain to you how different I feel about things after hearing someones heart.  Talking to a missionary doesn’t mean that I am going to feel like I have to uproot my family and go- but sometimes I think we shy away from learning because we are afraid that through learning, we might have to do something we don’t want to.  Ignorance may be bliss, but theres also lots to miss and we shouldn’t let fear of what God might ask us to do keep us from this.

Recently I had a conversation with a missionary and learned that one of the biggest needs of full time missionaries, are visits from people outside of the mission field that allow them to connect, relax, feel loved and supported.  I was surprised!  Listening to her tell me about her experiences was so eye opening.  I don’t feel God called me to leave this country and be a full time missionary, but my heart was stirred to use the gifting and calling God has placed on my life in the mission field.  She helped me to see that some of the things I had thought, weren’t really true and then shared with me so I could understand what it is really like.  My heart is now stirred different because I now understand how I can be useful in a situation I thought I had no place in before.

I’ve learned that a lot of times I discount myself because I don’t feel qualified to do what others are doing and the truth is, a lot of times I am not!  But the more I learn, the more I see that Gods unique calling on my life, and the gifting He has given me can often be used in ways I didn’t see before.  It doesn’t always look like what I think it should, but that is the beauty in it!

Listening to others stories can often help us to see the world differently.  If you want to God to stir your heart, be in prayer, and then ask and listen to others as they share their hearts!  Remember that the unique journey He has taken you on can also be a source of life for others too.  I love hearing others stories so if you want to share, lets grab coffee soon!  If you decide you would like to share in a more public way, I would love to be able to share others passions on my blog too!

 

Encouragement, Family, My Story, Uncategorized

Just give me the field

DSC_5094bwA few weeks ago I bought a cheap $3 lavender seed kit from the amazing everything use to be a dollar bin at Target.  Y’all I have bought these kits before and let my kids mess with them- total hands off project.  Nothing ever happens for us.  More than likely it is because we don’t actually water them or give them sunlight.  But I LOVE lavender so I was determined to make this one the exception to the rule.

I added water to the soil and planted the seeds per instructions.  Well kind of, I added all the seeds in the package instead of the 4-6 it suggested.  Rebel, I know.  Any way, I stuck it on the table where it would get sunlight and then actually watered it daily.  My kids helped remind me when the plant was dry and they would water it too.

“MOM, MOM, MOM!!!  This is growing” my kids were yelling in excitement.  Something growing that we planted- it wasn’t normal.  I enthusiastically said “I see!” as I tried to get as excited as they were.  But reality- I just want a lavender field.  Those sprouts are just the beginning but I want the finished product.  I know that the little progress I see, means we have a long way to go.

I watched as each of my kids looked at the tiny little pot with the tiny little sprouts and how they all were filled with such excitement and expectation.  They were excited and expecting of what was to come.

When God is growing us we need to be reminded that the growth is often slow.  It starts under the soil where we don’t actually see the growth.  Then the sprouts come up.  Those sprouts still need water and light.  They need patience and consistency.  Eventually we will have a lavender field that we get to harvest but even then, that field will always need tending.

DSC_5106ccI want to be like my kids watching those sprouts when God is growing me.  I want to be excited and expectant.  I want to marvel at the growth, no matter how small.  I want to keep watering the soil even when I don’t see the growth.  I tend to just want the lavender field.  I want to skip the waiting, the growing, the pruning.  I just want the pretty purple, fragrant field that I can harvest and enjoy.  But that is not reality.

God does His best work in the growing process.  I can get really discouraged when I know I am working but see very little progress.  But progress is progress, no matter how small.  Lets be excited when we see little sprouts of progress in our lives!  Celebrate them, get excited!  If you see a little sprout in your friend, celebrate with her!  Today I just want to encourage you to see the sprouts, thank God for how he is working beneath the soil, and be overjoyed at the progress!