Goodbye Summer

Summer was such a sweet season for our family. I’m sad to see it go. It was a season mixed with downtime, travel, and exciting adventures. We braved the Florida heat and visited Disney World with friends and family. I cleaned out my kids’ rooms, yes, I was almost as excited about this as one … Continue reading “Goodbye Summer”

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Summer was such a sweet season for our family. I’m sad to see it go.

It was a season mixed with downtime, travel, and exciting adventures.

We braved the Florida heat and visited Disney World with friends and family.

I cleaned out my kids’ rooms, yes, I was almost as excited about this as one of our summer adventures!

 

We enjoyed the outdoors and tried new adventures.

 

We savored lazy summer mornings.

My husband and I helped out my in-laws’ family restaurant; this took me back to our days of being engaged where we worked together.

We started a small group in our home for young adults. They keep us young and teach us a lot.

 

I served at our church youth camp and youth conference.

This summer was good for my soul. It was incredible for our family.

img_1538And now we say goodbye to summer.

School is back in session, and my full-time job outside our home begins again.

As I reflect on this season, I remember how opposite I felt when school let out a few months before. I was exhausted, burned-out, and lonely.

I went into the last school year with my own set of expectations; which is never a good idea. I had high hopes for myself and others. Most of which I didn’t even realize.

I thought because last year was my second year at the same job I’d have more things figured out, but I still had quite a bit of learning to do.

I expected my eighth-grader to have a smoother year than his past two in middle school. But, he had similar academic challenges and struggled with responsibility. I wasn’t prepared for his group of friends shrinking and seeing him on the outside of his friend group.

I was entirely caught off guard when my third grader, who never has a rough day at school, began having quite a few rough days at home. His time at home became filled with emotional outbursts, sadness, and anxiety. I couldn’t comprehend how our bright and sweet boy was growing sad and stressed.

I was ill-equipped to handle my daughter going into school crying because she didn’t like her hair, her uniform, or the fact that her best friend yesterday wasn’t speaking to her this week. She was in kindergarten.

Maybe it’s my age, perhaps its selective memory, but I don’t remember middle school, third grade, or kindergarten being this difficult! We did survive the 2018-19 school year, and all grew in many ways. But I welcomed summer break like never before.

“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:”        Ecclesiastes 3:1

There was also the challenge of carving out time with my husband amidst our opposite schedules. I had to accept the heartache of dwindling relationships with friends and family without understanding why.

What I did know was: I didn’t feel like I was enough, in any area of my life, and that felt awful!

It was at the end of “my rope” that God began to refresh me with His Word, with friendships that were growing, with sweet time early in the morning sitting at His feet.

And I mean early.

Groggily, I’d peek at my phone to check the time. Most mornings, I’d pray/beg the Lord to let me sleep a little longer. After tossing and turning I’d realize that wasn’t an option. I’d head out to the living room and find my cozy spot on the couch. I’d open my bible or devotion book and wait for the Lord to reveal something.

I’d long for Him to remind me:

· I am not alone.

· Your plans are good, even if I don’t feel like they are.

· I can keep going.

Most days throughout the past school year, I did start my day in my bible. I listened to worship music on my way to work. I enjoyed sweet conversations with my kids (most of the time). I was grateful for the many blessings in my life. But I still felt this heaviness and sadness that weighed me down. I became so physically exhausted; I ended up going to my doctor. I found out I have something wrong with my thyroid, nothing serious at this time, but it is something to watch.

I also realized I had something wrong, spiritually. I was going through the motions and not being filled with Jesus. I was trying, in my strength and my set of expectations to take care of everything/everyone in this season. I don’t have to be Jesus; I have to lean on Jesus.

 I don’t have to be Jesus; I have to lean on Jesus.

I began changing my thinking and reminding myself:

o God is always with me, ‘I’m never alone. Deut 31:8

o I trust Your good plans for my family and me. Jer 29:11

o I don’t have to keep going in my strength; I can persevere with Jesus. Phil 4:13

1280x1280-1I also began realizing Jesus wanted me to know Him as my friend. I sang many times in church, “I’m a friend of God.” I never fully grasped this.  If I hadn’t felt so isolated this past year, I would’ve missed out on knowing my Savior in a new way.

There are times now when I’m hurt, upset, or scared that I stop and pray instead of picking up the phone to call a friend. God has also shown me the importance of having friends in my life to ask to pray and speak into my life.

He’s challenged me to make time for intentional moments with friends. I need to be surrounded by women who have the freedom to speak truth into my life during this season. Because of my busy schedule working full-time, I don’t have as many friendships as other seasons. But I do have deeper friendships during this season. One of the sweetest times since being back at work is the lunch breaks I’ve scheduled with friends. They have been life-giving to me. I’ve learned I’m not alone and to extend the benefit of the doubt; we are all walking through something.

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One reason I felt so alone is that I was focusing on my difficulties and believing no-one else was struggling. That’s not true, this is a fallen world filled with broken people, and we all need Jesus.

I’ve sensed God refreshing me this summer. He is reviving me with His Word. Jesus has brought reconciliation to strained relationships, which are stronger than before. He is renewing my relationships with my kids and leading me as I meet them in their seasons. He’s restoring our marriage as we navigate this busy season. I feel like I’ve been through a renovation this past year. I see “new” rising in many areas of my life. Newness I would’ve missed out on if I hadn’t walked a lonely road of being overwhelmed for a season.

1280x1280Jesus continues to meet me in my expectations, emotions, stubbornness, and weaknesses. And He will meet you too. I’m thankful for this crazy, challenging, blessed life and the undeserving grace of Jesus that gets me through.

Taste and See

Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him! Psalm 34:8
IMG_2066I was at the deli counter on my weekly grocery shopping trip. I ordered the usual items and out of the corner of my eye I noticed a new type of cheese. I immediately knew I wanted to try it. I basically talked myself into asking the nice gentleman behind the counter if I could try a piece. Confession time – I don’t like small talk! It makes me anxious. My mind turns to mush, and words just don’t form. I began this awkward conversation with myself:
“Why was it so hard for you to ask about the cheese?”
“It’s his job.”
“It’s only cheese!”
After some time contemplating the cheese, I realized I didn’t want to inconvenience him. What if I tasted the cheese and didn’t like it? Then I’d have to say “No, thank you. I’ve decided not to buy any.” All this after putting him to the trouble of cutting me a piece of cheese in the first place!
I’d love to say this comes from my consideration of others. But that’s completely false! It usually comes from me not liking to be bothered. So I assume no one else does either. There’s another reason. It’s also the anxiety of making small talk, the insecurity of having nothing to say, and the fear of looking like a fool. This time around, it had nothing to do with me bothering the kind gentleman doing his job. Instead, it had everything to do with my anxiety issues!
What’s it for you? Maybe small talk comes easy and if you want to try something at the deli, you just ask with no thought. If it’s not something as simple as this, I’m pretty sure there’s something else that makes you anxious, fearful, or insecure. We are made of flesh and bones and all lack confidence in certain areas of life. What’s that “thing” that keeps you from enjoying life deeper? Maybe you have an uncontrollable fear that even keeps you from leaving the house. Or perhaps its fear of people seeing the real you – instead of avoiding small talk, you fill every conversation with some type of surface talk. Whatever “it” is, God wants to walk you through it. I know because He’s walking me through my issues, and believe me this is only one! Also, His word tells us:
“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].”  John 10:10 AMP
I want this live life to the fullest approach….. which is pretty cool, because my key word for 2017 is Abundantly!
So guess what? I actually did ask that nice gentleman at the deli counter for a sample of cheese. I can hardly believe I set aside my anxieties and tasted the Italian herb cheese. And do you know what? I loved it! I ended up ordering that cheese, picked up some fresh tomatoes, basil, and bread. What a yummy lunch those sandwiches made, complete with balsamic drizzle. Would my day have been horrible if I didn’t try the cheese? Probably not. But I would’ve beat myself up a little for chickening out on asking for something I really wanted to try – AGAIN! It takes work to conquer these little things that can keep us from enjoying this life in the day-to-day. It also takes work to enjoy life during the really tough days.
On January 4, 2017, my dad

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#daddysgirl

would’ve turned 63. This particular birthday was very difficult. On that morning, my husband and I didn’t have a lot on our “to do” list. The only thing on our plate was to take our daughter to school. And then we were going to walk before he left for work. But our youngest son left his lunch at home. We couldn’t even call and make arrangements for him to buy lunch that day. His class was having a picnic, and if he didn’t have a bag lunch, he wouldn’t be able to go. We don’t live close to the boys’ school and driving up there meant no time for our walk. IMG_0831

 

I already mentioned how much I love interruptions – NOT! This took my gloomy day and made it worse. We drove pretty much in silence. About half way to the school my husband pointed out a rainbow. I saw it beautifully peeking out from the clouds. I don’t think we would’ve seen it had we gone on our walk. I knew the Lord had placed it there just for me. My husband knew I needed to see that rainbow too. And of course, he knew the next thing I’d want is a picture. I LOVE taking pictures. The problem was I couldn’t see it without looking out his window. He carefully took my phone, steadied it, and drove as slow as he could to grab the shot. Did that moment take all the sadness and grief away? Nope. But it did give me the choice to see what God had done. It reminded me to focus on the good things I have. The rainbow prompted me to be thankful that my dad’s not suffering any longer, to remember him whole now, and the cancer is gone! It brought new perspective into my day and helped me be grateful for the memories I have of and with my dad.

He was a remarkable man – a wonderful husband, incredible dad to me and my husband, and a terrific grandfather to our kids. On January 15th, the 3rd anniversary of my dad going to be with Jesus, my mom and I took the kids to Disney Springs in Orlando. It’s a perk of living a few hours away we can just drive up and enjoy a brief trip. We filled the day with fun things Grandpa would’ve loved.

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#choosingjoy

We went bowling, toured the coca-cola factory, and had lunch at a down home fresh cooking place. My dad was from Illinois and loved home cooking meals.  That day we chose joy! We have a choice each day to taste and see God’s goodness, it’s there for us to reach out and grab. Most days I really believe I just miss a lot of it. I live in my bubble, behind my to-do list, and often am onto the next task before I’ve completed the current one. This year I desire to savor more moments. A dear friend of mine’s focus word for this year is “Savor.” Although it’s not my word for the year, I am grateful for the reminder to Savor more Jesus moments! This year has been BUSY and I haven’t had as much time to savor the beautiful messy everyday moments as I’d like. With Spring upon us, it’s time for me to stop and smell the flowers. I know all to well life is short and I still manage to get up in the craziness that’s called life.

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My husband taught at church last week and one of his points was – Slow Down! Oh how I needed that reminder. I don’t know where you are in this season, but if it’s a busy one, slow down and smell the roses! Find the beauty in God’s creation and those He’s placed in your life. Have a picnic, take a walk, rest, breathe, and savor!

Thank you Jesus that You love us even though we live in our own little circles, missing much of the beauty around us. May we remember in the midst of the trials, pain, and hardships this world offers, we can find beauty in You. Help us to let go of those things IMG_2070that keep us from tasting and seeing Your goodness. Let us savor more of your goodness each day. Help us slow down, sit at your feet, and open our eyes and our hearts to the
abundant living only You provide! Let us be free to embrace the messy moments around us that You make beautiful.  – Amen!