Monday, May 20, 2024

Letting Go Of The Past To Embrace The Present


If any of you have ever been to our home, or even our little "small town bright future" space on the map for that matter, you may have noticed a HUGE change over the past year or two. LOTS of construction and change. We have the perfect location. Directly behind our property and all around to the right were open fields used for fort building, pretend camping and anything else the imagination could conjure up as our kids grew up. The fields weren’t ever ours though. We’ve been in this house nearly 15 years and the property had been for sale even longer than that. We knew eventually the day would come that the fields would be bought up and building of some sort would begin. A couple years ago that day came when we saw people with clipboards walking around the field. And then we saw them again. And again. We were soon informed that a private youth volleyball league had bought the 3 lots surrounding our home and would be building a gym, parking lots and beach volleyball courts. As you can imagine we were devastated to see the hills being leveled, our favorite tree cut down and the field slowly turn from grass to pavement.


Yes, there were actual tears shed at this loss.


We’ve had to grieve the loss of what was.

We’ve had to reckon with what we wish we still had.


This may seem pretty trivial but I have noticed this pattern with other circumstances in my own life and maybe you can begin seeing it in your own as well.


As you know we have 5 kids. A High School graduate, another well on his way to adulthood, two in High School and one bringing up the rear as a 12-year-old middle schooler. We are in the trenches of full time jobs, part time jobs, some kids driving themselves to activities, sports and other extracurriculars and friends coming and going. Where we used to pick up a child, place them in their carseat and head off to wherever WE had planned to go we are left trying to match schedules and activities to get at least the majority of us together for an outing or even holiday. This season has left me feeling disoriented as the idea of family time is rapidly shifting.


I have had to grieve the loss of what was.

And I’m having to reckon with what I wish we still had.


Or how about this example.


Friendships sometimes have a way of slowly finding themselves to be in completely different seasons of life that have a tendency to leave little to no time for the friendship. I have had the hardest time with these gaping friendship voids in different seasons of my life, and I'm typically not great with change anyway, so when I find myself here I feel stuck and alone. I remember calling my mom in tears on more than one occasion in college as I transitioned from home to school.


I have had to grieve the loss of what was.

I’ve had to reckon with what I wish I still had.


Maybe none of these examples have hit close to home yet.


But what if I circled back to 2020?


COVID rocked us ALL. Many of us suffered great loss. Whether it was the loss of a job, a relationship (gosh, the tension and hatred that was birthed in this season has left such deep wounds), or even the loss of a loved one. Or maybe it was as simple as a loss in routine and what used to be “normal”, or as complicated as a fallout causing deep hurt and relational betrayal. 2020 was not biased. This season left no-one unscathed. That period of time is such a fog for pretty much all of us. It’s as if we lost nearly two years of our lives in respect.


For Josh and I, this season turned into one of the hardest, darkest seasons of our lives and our entire family felt the ripple effects of the aftermath which went deep and wide.


We had to grieve the loss of what was.

And we were faced with reckoning with what we wish we still had.

On top of fear of the unknown of what was going to be.


But you know what?  After I look back at these specific examples (and I’m sure we could all come up with dozens more) I was reminded of something.  When I get stuck longing for what WAS I neglect the blessings in the what IS.


Yes, grieve what was. That is an important part of the healing process. In fact, God even tells us to look back in remembrance. To recall what He HAS done. But if we get stuck in the past or quickly try to push through to the future, it becomes nearly impossible to see the now.


When I find myself in the backyard with yet another car shining their headlights into our living room I can really quickly find myself going into a negative place. But I have a choice. I can stay here and fall deeper and deeper into that hole, as I long for what used to be, affecting everyone that is around me with my negativity, or I can choose to get out. At this point I try to remind myself of what COULD have been built behind our house, like a building complex, busy business, or condos, and I am quickly brought back to the reality of the amazing space God has allowed us to have. A big yard, plenty of parking for the non-stop flow of people that come in and out of the front door, the places that our kids can walk, the park trails directly beside us that open themselves up to miles of running potential or to hours of conversation as we process life. And thank goodness the gym is not directly behind us so we can still see our beautiful sunsets!


I have to be present in order to see God’s good for us here.


When I get stuck sulking over the lack of family time and let’s face it, the things I used to feel like I had control over, I miss the amazing season we are in with the kids. The independence they have in this season is truly freeing. The friendships I am forging with the oldest ones gives me a glimpse into what I hope to have with all my kids as they get older. Watching our kids friend and work and learn boundaries and navigate relationships and begin thinking for themselves…it’s all so beautiful, and exhausting, but beautiful. I really wouldn’t trade it for anything, except maybe a little more time when we are all together, lol.


I have to come back to the present to see God’s good for us here.


Oh the friendships I have had to grieve over the years. It’s hard to see friendships change over time. Grieving the way a friendship used to be is ok, but I cannot stay there. I have to stop trying to fit that friendship into a space it no longer fits so that it can find where it DOES belong now. Just because a friendship looks different doesn't mean that it isn't still a beautiful thing. This also opens my heart up to the people that are right next to me right now. And God is so gracious to give us just what we need.


I have to be present to appreciate God’s good in my friendships, whatever season I might find them in.


But what about when it comes to the gut-wrenching hard things? When we find ourselves on a merry-go-round that just keeps spinning out of control?


There is no magic formula that has worked for me here, and I bet you would say the same. But our God is in that too. We wake up, we pray, we release it all to Him, we put one foot in front of the other.  We cry, and try to find SOMEthing to bring joy and laughter, and then we do it all again the next day and the next. The living in the now is hard, but as we pull from the deep well of faithfully walking with God we get glimmers of grace along the way.


We have to be present to appreciate God's constant grace in the chaos as we wait patiently for the season to pass. Joy and chaos can coexist. 


So, for whatever it’s worth, I invite you to walk with me today, to see what God is up to right now. Not as if the past didn’t happen, or that the future doesn’t matter, but today is the only thing we are called to worry about, for tomorrow will have enough troubles of its own. 


Dedicated to the New Sandy Creek Saints 

who have walked with us through so many seasons of life.

You are a blessing in our NOW! 

I am thankful for the opportunity to have shared these words with you last week. 

It was truly an honor to be with you all. 

Thank you for being a shining example of Christ's bride.

(adapted for public audience) 

Monday, May 13, 2024

April

As we look back in the rearview mirror of april we see an end to Cai's track season, Jude's last soccer game, beautiful sunsets, and Rainy's Earth Day Festival gig, as we welcome lazy Sabbath days coming back into view!








 

Spartan Super

 


Last year I got the Spartan bug.
Josh talked me into running the Spartan Sprint: a 5K race with 20 obstacles.
I felt so amped up after that race that I felt like I could jump back in and run it again.

So this year I signed up for the Spartan Super: 10K with 25 obstacles.
It was SO much fun!
And I'm on the verge of feeling like I want to try for the Beast next year, but maybe I'm just crazy!

We joined Josh's dad and sister and BIL again and we rocked that race together.

Josh had already run a couple of Sprint's, and Beast's but this was his first Super.
And as if that weren't enough, we finished our race, he jumped out, rinsed off, grabbed a clean pair of clothes and hopped back in line just in time to run a Sprint. The trifecta was his goal this year, and in one day he knocked out 2 of the 3 races required. In just four weeks he would complete the beast and be a trifecta holder!

Spartan makes you pay for the race pictures now, so that's kinda sad, so this is all we got, ha!







2024 Solar Eclipse - No Fancy Glasses Needed

I was so excited for the Solar Eclipse.
The only problem is that I didn't have the proper glasses, but we did what we always do in these kinds of situations...we improvised!

First, we scavenged around the house to find as many pairs of sunglasses as we could.

Then we looked up how to make a pinhole projector out of a cereal box see the reflection of the eclipse.

Another way we viewed the eclipse, which was actually our favorite way, was to fill up a bucket of water. That's it. All you have to do is find the reflection of the sun in the water and wait for the wind to stop and you can clearly see the progression of the moon over the sun!

The last thing we tried was pushing the tip of a pencil through a paper plate and holding it up to the sun. The sun shines through and then you can see it on the ground, another paper plate, or other surface.












 ***SIDE NOTE***
We later found our eclipse glasses from 2017 in our memory jar, 
so now we have them ready for the next one!

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Things That Are Saving My Life Right Now

 I've listened to Emily P. Freeman's Podcast rendition of this idea from Barbara Brown Taylor. The idea is to name the things that are currently life giving. To take notice of the things that you love. It can be however many things you want. Your list can have a product, a food, a routine. Literally anything!

So often we get bogged down in all that isn't and we get stuck in the things that drain us. But taking time to sit and actually document things that are "saving my life right now" is already proving to be a great practice.

So what IS saving my life right now?

1 - Family Charging Station - We have seen these around for years and Josh in particular has always wanted one so I found this one on sale and snagged it up for his birthday and We.Love.It. I love having a central location for all of our tech stuff without the mess of cords and multiple chargers all over the floor taking turns charging. And I must say, I (almost) always know where my phone is now because I find that I keep it on the dock even if it isn't charging. This has helped my screen time decrease which is an added win! And my favorite thing is looking over and seeing it filled up during Sabbath while we put all of our devices away for 24 hours together.

2 - My garden. It isn't super luscious...yet (I've got hope though) and it isn't the most beautiful thing to drive by (it's in the front yard). But it is one of my happy places. I love walking around and watering every area. I love going out and seeing the process, even if it is ever so slow (or minimal). I love the bright pop of color from the flowers and all the green from last year's lettuce that finally decided to bring us its presence. My favorite thing is the little solar fairy lights that Laithy told me would look great out there. And you know what? They do. It's my little fairy garden and it makes me smile every time I see it out my window.




3 - My dry erase calendar I bought at FIVE BELOW. I keep it in the kitchen for my meal matrix (thank you The Lazy Genius). It allows me to look at a whole month for meal planning. There are a few days of the week that are repeat meals every week, like FFY (fend for yourself) Sunday, Taco Tuesday, Pizza Friday and Dad's Yum Saturday (Josh typically cooks on Saturday nights).  Simply filling in those days helps me feel lighter and less overwhelmed about what I'm going to feed this family all day every day. Usually sometime on Thursday I think through the next week and fill in the missing blocks as I begin getting my weekly grocery list together. And one more added bonus...my kids can look at the calendar to see what's for dinner and only ask me about 3 times versus the average 17,000 times what the dinner plan is. Ya'll, this has and is saving my life. 


4 - MudWater - Ok, this stuff does NOT taste great by itself. And I don't like to add sweetener to my coffee, tea and drinks so I usually put a scoop of this in my protein shake in the mornings and it does my body SO good. I can actually feel the grounding and an overall calming inside. My anxiety thanks me when I remember to drink it.

5 - Front porch swing - We lost our carport during our renovation and traded it in for an extra bedroom which we are SO thankful for. But we are outside people and we miss the hours of carport time we've lost sitting and reading or watching thunderstorms or rain fall in the carport. We do have our back porch which is super nice but it isn't covered so rain storm watching out there is out of the question. And the sun takes over right after lunch time and can get pretty sizzle-y. So we have been utilizing our front porch swing so much more lately. After the morning sun moves to the back we can shift out to the front porch and swing to our hearts content. In fact, I'm out there writing this right now.

6 - Thursday Night Date Nights - This is one of the things I most look forward to in the week. After our kids got older and they began staying up later than we did, the "we'll catch up after the kids go to bed" era disappeared for me and Josh. And I'm not quite sure how it morphed into this built-in at-home date night on Thursday nights, but it has stuck and I'm so glad. It's late, since sometimes we don't get home until well after 9pm on Thursday nights because of rehearsal nights at our church, but it doesn't matter because this night brings in our Sabbath so we get to sleep in and it is fabulous.

7 - Blogging again - I don't have much to say about this one except that it brings life to be able to type out my thoughts again. *happy sigh*

8 - Soccer games - It is nearing the end of the soccer seasons which is life-giving because that clears up the calendar, but that's not why I put it on the list. I have thoroughly enjoyed grabbing my camping chair, pulling it up to the field to just sit with my feet in the grass and watch the boys. An hour and a half where I HAVE to sit still outside (sometimes watching the sunset) and not do anything? I'm here for it!


That's it. Those are the things that are saving my life right now.

I invite you to make your own list and then thank God for the glimpses of good that are all around us! 

What is saving YOUR life right now?


Monday, May 6, 2024

March and April Book Reviews


 These book reviews are going to be short-ish and sweet. One, because there are quite a few of them to cover, and two, most of these are sensitive issues, and while I don't want to shy away from what I believe to be truth based on God's word, I have no desire for internet debates over these topics.

I've mentioned before, and I will mention again, not every book I read is a book I agree with 100%. In fact, there are some authors I completely DISagree with, but that doesn't mean that I can't learn from them and gain some helpful knowledge from their perspectives.

So, without further ado...

The Secular Creed by Rebecca McLaughlin is a book "engaging five contemporary claims". I appreciated her concise feedback and I believe she accurately covered the truth and the lies in each one. I would for sure give this to my kids to read to help us engage in conversation together as it will certainly bring thought-provoking questions that can lead us back to scripture (which is always the goal!). 

Try Softer by Aundi Kolber. Aundi is a licensed therapist. She couples her own life story and events with therapeutic practices and examples to help us stop white-knuckling through life. She gives us practical tools and language to help us offer ourselves and others grace in our life journey. While this book was very helpful, I'm going to give a gentle warning. This book was HARD for me to get through. I believe these kinds of books can work as a tool for your therapist to use as they work WITH you, but simply as a helpful read for someone, ESPECIALLY with trauma in their past, this book can be triggering. I wanted to read it and get as much out of it as I could, but I also felt the need to try to finish it as quickly as I could so I could give me emotions and brain a break. Maybe it's just me, so take it or leave it, but I would suggest at least reading this WITH someone to help you process what begins stirring inside.

Does the Bible Support Same-Sex Marriage? by Preston Sprinkle. Now some of you saw the author and have already labeled me a heretic simply because I'm posting about his book. But because of this, I probably read this book more critically than any other. Now, while I am very aware of the controversy around his name, I think Preston has used this book to make a solid case for Biblical marriage being exclusively between a man and a woman. The author dives into the top 21 conversations he finds himself having with others who believe otherwise. He sets up each conversation with the summary of a specific argument FOR same-sex marriage and AGAINST different-sex marriage. He follows each summary with what he appreciates or can see within that argument, and then finally he very humbly but honestly breaks down blindspots in the argument. I appreciate his tone and humility. This is another book I would love for my kids to read in order to bring conversation back to Josh and I with questions and personal investigation.

Habits of the Household by Justin Whitmel Earley. Ok, this was the lighter read of the bunch. (I needed one of those!) I'm all about being reminded of the importance of fighting for intentional "everyday family rhythms". The book is formatted to walk you through an average day beginning with the time when you wake up and ending with bedtime. Earley introduces us to his own family liturgies he has created and invites us to make up our own. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes:

"Our best parenting comes when we think less about being parents of children and more about being children of God."

"Communing, not consuming, is the household's center of gravity."

"Don Everts and the Barna Group found in their study of Christian households that the families who were 'spiritually vibrant' shared one amazing thing in common - they had loud tables." (We've certainly got the loud table part down, ha!)

"In the American story, limits are bad. They get in the way of our freedom, which means we need to get rid of all limits to be happy. But in the story of God, limits are the way to the good life, even the way to happiness."

Talking Back to Purity Culture by Rachel Joy Welcher. Ok, this one hit some nerves. I found this book equally eye-opening, irritating, angering and helpful. What I appreciated about the book was the glimpses into some of the hurt that was caused by this movement. I honestly cannot believe some of the things that were/are actually taught and said. Some things you can tell were out of well meaning and ignorance (not that it makes these things right, just offering perspective), but some things are literally ANTI-biblical and wrong. 

What I found to be most frustrating though, was the blanket statements that the author uses as support to her claim that it was all toxic and bad. And so the pendulum continues to swing wide. Josh and I have spoken about this topic a lot together. We were personally catching the birth of this movement in our late teens, with the wake of momentum hitting our younger siblings. We have friends that were very hurt by this movement, mostly by the ultra-strict, very legalistic parents and/or leaders. On the other hand, we also see so much good that came/comes from it as a response to the raging sexual atmosphere of our age. Did the movement miss the mark in some areas? Absolutely. Could there have a been a better way to teach some things? Without a doubt. Was there anything good that we could grab ahold of and even perhaps pass on to our own kids? For sure! Again, it was good for me to read this perspective. It was NOT all roses and it is right to call out the bad and to be reminded to always, ALWAYS be in constant conversation with our kids as we bring resources to them to "help". 

On a side note, another frustration to me was that I found several contradictions within, leading me to internally ask the author, "So which is it?" And many of the examples given in the book were based on what those individuals FELT like, versus what was actually taught to them.  All that said, I did find some good takeaways as well. 

The Courage to Stand by Russell Moore. I'd never read any of Moore's books but I appreciate his wisdom and insight into politics and cultural movements that I have followed over the years. This book walks through Elijah's life as an example for how the Lord provides for us when we feel at the end of ourselves and how God's strength is what gives us courage to stand. This book had me at the introduction.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Honduras 2024 Recap

 Over the past several years Josh has stepped into worship pastor at our church on top of his other roles. He LOVES it here. Part of that job is staying connected with our ministry partners across the world and every once in a while  I get to partner with him as he travels.


April brought us to Honduras. We have two global partners in Honduras. It was my first time to Honduras and I was actually surprised about a couple things. The electricity has the same outlets. I've never been out of the country where the electrical outlets were the same as America. I was also surprised that they drive on the same side of the car AND the road as us. Just some interesting facts if you were wondering.

Our first stop was with Fernando and his family in La Ceiba. Fernando and his family work with the Garifuna People. He grew up in one of the Garifuna villages about 6 hours outside of La Ceiba and found himself working with Wycliffe to translate the Bible into his own language so he could share it with his people. Currently he is working on a discipleship curriculum in his own language to share with others who speak and work with that people group. It was so cool to listen to him speak about the history of the Garifuna people. I had no concept of that people group or any of its history before coming. And meeting his wife and family was one of my favorite parts!







The next missionaries we visited were Stephen and Erica Switzer. Stephen was our former High School Student pastor and he and his wife moved to Honduras and began a ministry called Embraced International. They work with the Honduran Government to reunify children with the families that they have been taken away from, specifically because of poverty. They come alongside the families and bring support and empowerment to find the job, the home, or the proper surroundings for the government to give their children back to them. It was so good to hear the stories and so beautiful to meet a couple of the families that have recently gotten their kids back. 

The first family was so resourceful. That mama was amazing. She made a storefront at her home so she could make money AND support her kids.  She has chickens to provide eggs and meat. She has handmade weights to stay in shape. Her work ethic is so admirable. And her love for her kids is evident.  (I didn't have a phone to take pictures, hence all of the pictures of me, ha!)





The second family had me at coconut (since you remember my own story with coconuts, lol). This family had a vision and plan for a coconut business and the Embraced team helped empower them to make it happen. 




We could not be more proud of what the Switzer's are doing. And I have a new friend in Lesbi (their psychologist). We connected right away and became instant friends!



Friday, April 12, 2024

T W E N T Y T W O

 

Josh and I were in Honduras during our twenty two year anniversary. And it just so happened that we had a two day period between visiting our missionaries so we decided to take advantage of the time and spend a few days together on the beach outside of La Ceiba. We are always a year or two behind the big years (like 15 and 20 year celebrations) but we'd been saving up for just the right time. So our 20-year get-away on our 22 year anniversary sounded perfect, lol.

It was GORGEOUS! We practically had the beach to ourselves. Our hotel room had mountains on one side and beach on the other. We had no agenda. We slept a lot. We read a lot. And enjoyed the tropical sunshine.

Oh, and we got matching tattoos! Don't worry, it was friend recommended and she even went with us. We made new friends that night as we watched a huge futbol game and got inked! Josh found the coordinates of the building where we first met on our college campus that we tattooed on our arms. Nothing says Happy Anniversary like spontaneous, matching tattoos!












United 2024



United is a gathering of many student ministries in the area. They come together for a weekend of worship, serving and discipleship. Josh and I were invited to lead with some of our new friends, The McCray Brothers, for the worship segments and it was amazing. This was the ninth year for United, but the first year Josh and I have participated. We loved getting to see, and be a small part, of something our kids have been a part of over the years. Rainy came and helped with the merch table and Zeke, Alethia and Cai participated. Jude will be there next year which is crazy! 

This year was hosted at Southeastern. 27 different churches were represented within the over 750 students present. The energy was electric, the Holy Spirit was moving and I pray that lives were changed forever. What an honor it was to be able to worship together. Music is such a gift. And to be able to share it with other brothers and sisters in Christ, whether in the band with us, or joining with their voices all around a room, is priceless. If your student ministry is looking to unite with other churches I encourage you to look into joining United next year!











Photo credit goes to one of our friends who is by far one of the best photographers we personally know! If you need photos taken for your own family or event you need to check him out! Tyler Sales Creative