Happy Easter

Happy Easter everyone. I hope that you have had a wonderful day celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection. 

I woke up early this morning so I could lay out our traditional Easter Breakfast before the kids came downstairs. We don’t do Easter baskets, but I usually buy a little treat and some Easter candy and put it by everyone’s plates to find when they come down for breakfast. 

We had the normal whirlwind of making sure each child was dressed, had their shoes on, had brushed their hair. And then serving a special breakfast and getting everyone to the table at the same time. Finally everyone was sitting and I handed my husband the Bible so he could read the accounting of Jesus rising up from the dead. I make him read because I get all choked up every time and can’t finish. 

He is Risen. Just like he said. Death is conquered. We have been rescued. 

I looked around the table at my children while my husband read. Some of them were listening. The youngest were barely listening. If they were listening at all. Some were focused on what was being said and others looked like they were tuned out a bit. I wasn’t too worried about that. They are young. I am discovering that each year Easter means more to me than the year before. You stack that up over a lifetime and of course my kids aren’t going to react to this story the same way their 40s mom is going to react. But I find that encouraging. It makes me wonder how Easter will affect me even farther down the road. It is a wonderful thing to be in a relationship with Jesus that simply grows deeper and deeper every year. 

This past week was really rough. Children’s Services showed up on my doorstep because someone had called in a complaint about me. The social worker was apologetic. The claim was frivolous and did not merit any attention, but they had to do their job and investigate. They spoke to the child in question and found a happy child who had no complaints. They said I had done nothing wrong, apologized for having to bother me. This was all tied up with our foster child and was over and done with very quickly. Small hiccup. Except that the whole encounter left me shaking for several hours and emotionally numb for several days. Some emails and texts were exchanged with the person who initiated all this and we ended the week on peaceful terms once again. Though I’m still feeling bruised and battered by the whole thing. 

Life is hard. This feels like a cliche and I tell it to my kids all the time. And they shrug and ignore it. But it really is hard. Really Really Hard. And I don’t want to convey to them just how true that saying is because I don’t want to scare them or overwhelm them. I want them to feel hopeful and excited about the future. But it’s hard. 

And what I really need them to know is this life is downright impossible or maybe just pointless without Jesus. I cannot fathom trying to handle everything that has come my way without Jesus by my side giving me strength, peace, wisdom, safety, hope, joy. Without a future with him to look forward to, I would be bogged down with despair. He is a daily, constant presence in my life. My confidante. My best friend who understands everything I go through and knows how to correct and encourage as needed. 

Easter is the best day of the year. The day we celebrate not only Jesus coming back to life, but opening the door to bring us back to life as well. 

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved! Ephesians 2:4-5

Jesus took the punishment for all our sins and made a way for us to be with him forever. And today we celebrate that. 

My prayer is that each year this day will mean a little bit more to my children as they go farther and farther on this journey called life with Jesus by their side. And they learn for themselves about his faithfulness and great love for them. 

Happy Easter everybody! 

When You Least Expect It

I stopped writing for a little bit. I have pondered just stopping completely. Just walk away. Reasons? I don’t have anything positive to say. No sense in dragging people down with my negativity. I have a lot of stress in my life that is tied into other people and their stories, and I have no freedom to share their stories and so I can’t talk about and explore all the reasons their stories are stressing me out. And probably the most honest, I feel myself in a deep dark place of depression and why would I want to share that with the world? 

Depression is a weird thing. I can stand back and be analytical. Yeah, the times that I get depressed are when I am emotionally stretched too thin. Too much on my plate. I’m overwhelmed. But then, there have been plenty of times that I have been in that position and not fallen into deep depression. So what’s the difference? How do I stop it from descending on me? I’ve tried hard to practice Self-care. I’ve tried very hard to keep my load at a bearable weight. I’ve tried very hard to be proactive about keeping depression at bay. And then there is a “Last Straw” moment and I feel myself sliding down into a pit. 

Today I sat in my chair in my room, opened the curtains so the sun would shine straight in my face. I sat there with my eyes closed and thought about Hope. 

Hope is such an elusive thing. I don’t know how to summon it up when I am at my lowest. But somehow, it has a way of wafting past my face when I am least expecting it. Today, as my eyes saw bright spots against my eyelids and the light warmed me up, I felt a stirring of hope. I realized that all my thoughts about God and his love for me and my inability to accept that on some fundamental level, all of that angst was not something I had to solve today. Today I could just focus on being thankful and praising God and that was enough for now. 

I decided to cancel my membership with the personal trainer app I’ve been using the past year. Not because they weren’t awesome and super helpful to me, but because I realized I needed to move forward with something different to fit where I am now, a year later. And instead of failure, it felt hopeful to start looking for something new.

Today I have decided that all the other myriad problems that are weighing me down can get fixed another day. Or never at all. Just deal with the problems that are right in front of me at this very moment. Cliche. But still true. Story of my life, trying to remember that and walk in it. 

Hope showed up with some sunshine today. I don’t know why. But I’ll take it. I don’t know how long it will last, but I’ll take what I can get. And on the days when hope doesn’t show up, I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other. Seek out the light. Trust that it will show up when I least expect it.  

Fat Fridays: Mental Health Check In

Happy Friday everyone. 

It’s 8:45am and I’ve already had a busy morning. Made homemade muffins for the kids for breakfast. I’ve got a big batch of yeast bread started, sitting in a bowl on the mantel to rise. Walked around picking up all the winter clothing that was left on the floor yesterday after we had a small batch of snow (only happens a couple times a year for us). Lit all the candles in the house in an attempt to chase off the gloom from this cold gray morning. I’ve cleaned up several messes from my son’s puppy that we are babysitting during the day while he’s at work. And also let my cats in and out the door about 5,000 times. 

And I’ve been trying really hard to not be snappy at my kids. This is their second snow day home and in my current mood, I’ve found it challenging to have to deal with arguments, fussing, and just a bunch of energetic kids bouncing around the house. (Stop throwing playing cards at my candles, No, we are NOT playing basketball in the house, yes, we ARE going to clean your room, No, we are NOT going to do a science experiment that involves setting paper on fire.) 

I am struggling a lot with depression and irritability. I’ve been working on getting back to healthy eating, cutting out sugar and processed foods again, and my body is in shock and not happy as it is deprived of all it’s junk again. I know I’m making progress, I’m starting to crave healthy food again and I haven’t had a hard time staying away from the bad suff, but it always puts me in a bad mood when I come off sugar and junk. I have a feeling a lot of that is just physical things happening in my body. 

I’m coming off the High of the Holidays and feeling a predictable blah-ness from resuming normal life again. 

The last two years have been pretty traumatic and so I find myself facing this new year with a lot of hesitancy. What craziness is going to happen this year? 

We’ve got an upcoming court date for our foster daughter and I’m having to face a lot of inner-demons as I resolve to make my voice heard instead of staying quiet. 

I imagine everyone has a list of reasons for why their mental health is not doing so great right now. 

What am I doing about it? 

Well, I’ve been really focused on keeping my home in a constant state of tidiness and order and coziness. It is calming to me to sit in a clean room with candles lit and some pretty things to look at. I tend to be very comfortable with clutter and chaos, but lately I’ve been going the opposite direction and needing everything orderly and in its place. 

I’ve gotten back into daily Bible reading. I have a 12 month Read the BIble in Year. Each day has a date and a passage from the Old Testament, the New Testament, a Psalm and a Proverb. I have decided to start in the month of December and work my way backwards, cause that just feels more doable for me. I am finding this reading time to be a time of calm and peace. 

I am working hard on getting our whole family eating healthy again, and one of the things I’m focusing on is baking our own whole-grain bread again. I used to do this a lot, years ago, and then stopped. I find that I need to bake about every two days in order to keep up with the kids. There is something very soothing about making bread. It makes me feel grounded and connected to the earth. Weird? I don’t know. I just know that I am enjoying it and find it soothing. 

The last thing is I am trying to keep life as simple as possible. I’ve had to hit pause on keeping up with community events and concerns, what’s happening in our country, and just focus in on my home. 

And even doing all that, it’s still been a struggle. But, I’m hopeful. My body is going to adjust to the healthier diet again, we’ll get past our court date, spring will come again. Life keeps moving. We just have to take it one day at a time. 

And Peace on Earth

It is early in the morning. I am the only one awake. I’m sitting out in my living room, all the lights off except my Christmas Tree which is glowing softly. I had been lying in bed, wide awake, my mind fretting on a million things, so I finally decided to just get up. 

Right now I have one of the pieces from Handel’s Messiah running through my head. “Glory to God, Glory to God, Glory to God in the Highest…….And Peace, On earth……Good will toward men, toward men, Good will toward men, toward men…” which of course comes straight from Luke 2:14. 

Thinking back, this year has been insane. We have weathered some really hard things. I think about the violence our neighborhood and schools have seen this year. I think about the crazy ups and downs we’ve had with our foster daughter. I think about the stressful medical situations we’ve gone through with different family members. Loved ones who passed away. A lot of uncertainty in our country and the news always blasting gloom and hopelessness. 

It’s been a hard year. 

1 Thessolonians 4:13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

This verse talks about grieving death. But I think it is appropriate to say that we don’t grieve, in general, without hope. Whether it is over the death of a loved one, over loss, over enduring trauma, or anything else that hits us hard. We don’t grieve without hope. 

The next verses in Thessolonians 4 go on to say that Jesus died on the cross for us and he will return one day and take all of us up to be with him. And so we know that this time on earth is just a chapter. Not the final credits. The story is just beginning. We look forward to eternity with Jesus. And that is our hope. 

And this brings me back to the angels singing Glory to God in the Highest and Peace on Earth, Good will toward men. 

It’s been a hard year. I’m sitting up early because my mind is worried about a lot of things. But, I don’t worry or grieve or live life as someone without hope. I know that I am at peace with God. Jesus made the way for me to be at peace with God. Before Jesus, all my sins made it impossible for me to come close to God at all. After Jesus, well here I am. I’ve endured a crazy year. I am looking at more craziness right now. But I have peace. I feel God’s good will toward me. I feel surrounded by his blessings and mercy. I am overwhelmed with thankfulness. 

I’m not sure how to spell this out clearly enough. I could make you a giant list of things I’m worried about. Legitimate things. Legal issues we have to look into concerning our foster child. Problems with the inner city schools our children are attending. Financial worries. The normal worries of, “Are my kids going to turn out ok??” The everyday worries, “This family is eating way too much junk over the holidays, how do we get back to eating healthy again??” Nagging worries like, “It’s only ten days to Christmas and I haven’t bought any Christmas gifts yet.” So many things that try to steal our peace. And yet, I am at peace. And Jesus is the one that did that for me. 

And so I sit up early and hum to myself, “Glory to God in the Highest”, and I hand my worries back over to God, get ready for another busy day, and know that I have Peace. 

“A 48 hr Personal Growth Experience”

This past weekend I attended a retreat called “A 48hr Personal Growth Experience”. It was a pilot retreat run by my good friend Francie Brown and the ministry she does with her husband called LOOK INSIDE. I’ve done other retreats with Francie so I was really excited about this one. 

As always, the timing was all God. This past month I have been floundering. New schedules, new routines. I fell off my diet wagon. I have felt like everything needed over-hauling but I had no direction or purpose. Why am I doing this?? So, the thought of going to a retreat where I might get a download of my “call” and “purpose” sounded great. 

As always, I ended up being surprised. Instead of looking for some outside source to give me direction, what we ended up doing was taking a really close look at what we already had in our lives. Let’s look at our incentives for change. Let’s look at the tools we have used in the past and that we are using right now. Let’s solidify our vision, based on what we already hope and dream about. Let’s look at our connections we already have in life and assess the health of those connections. And then, let’s figure out how to use the tools that are readily available to come up with an action plan that supports healthy connections and pursuing our vision. 

Very simple. But profound as we looked at each aspect of our life and made judgement on whether these things were good, bad, redeemable? Let’s figure out how to make the good better, contain the bad so it isn’t draining us, and either walk away from or redeem the mediocre in hopes of turning it into good. 

I walked away feeling hope. And also feeling like I had tangible steps I could make towards pursuing my vision. 

I’m going to share my Vision with you. But, first, a caveat. My vision is kind of like envisioning Heaven. This is perfection. This is what the ideal abundant life would look like. I am under no illusion that I am going to accomplish this vision perfectly or ever get as close to it as I wish. But, it’s the path I want to be on. The direction I want to be heading. 

My vision is in three parts. Relational: hopes and dreams for my relationships. Tangible: hopes and dreams for my circumstances and environment. God: my desires for my relationship with God. 

Here goes. 

I want my relationships to be authentic, mutual, and vulnerable. I want to grow my community. I want health and healing in my relationships. 

I want to thrive instead of survive. I want tangible plans for our finances and home/family management. I want to serve others with my gifts and talents. I want to have a healthy body/mind/emotions. 

I want to walk in deeper understanding of God’s love and grace. I want to make God the true center of my life and be purposeful about being in his presence. 

So, that all sounds really lofty. But in reality, what it looks like is making a TO DO list. Revamping my old home management systems. Inviting friends over for supper. Buying a book. Setting a timer on my FB so I don’t waste all my time in a mediocre environment. Just a bunch of small, doable steps. 

I’m feeling hopeful and thankful, ready to go conquer the world, one small step at a time. 

Fat Fridays: Progress and Setting New Goals

Happy Fat Friday, that wonderful time of the week when we ponder on all things weightloss and health. I’m sorry I missed last week. To be honest I thought about writing all day, but my brain was so dead I just couldn’t do it. We were finishing up our last days of quarantining and the stress was buildling up. The school had told me the kids could return that Friday, then on Thursday, after further consultation, they said, sorry, next Tuesday instead. And my heart faltered and I think I mostly just stared into space all day while kids careened around the house crazily and I counted down the hours before we could get back into a good routine again. 

So, kids are finally back in school and I finally got my house back in order and am feeling like I might have my life back in control again. Part of getting my life back in control this week was sorting through all the clothes in my closet. I gave away three garbage bags of clothes this week. All clothes that are now too big for me, or clothes my size that I had been saving, but now that I’m this size, I realize that these clothes simply aren’t flattering. They don’t make me happy. So they’re gone. Yay! My closet feels so much nicer now! And it’s pretty fun to get rid of clothes that are too big. 

I have to say, it was a step of faith to get rid of my summer clothes that I just wore this summer. The nagging thought of, What if you don’t lose weight between now and next summer?  You’ll wish you had these clothes! But I was firm. No. These clothes are NOT going to fit me next summer because I’m going to continue working hard and I’m going to continue to lose weight. No going backwards!! I ditched the clothes. 

I started this weight loss journey somewhere around January 20th of this year. I have now lost 50 pounds. And I had a goal to be a size 16 by my birthday and I’ve hit my goal. So, now it’s time to set some new goals. Small ones that I can reach quickly. I really want to lose another 13 pounds. I’d really love to have that off by Christmas. I’m not sure if I can do it or not, but it’s worth a try. I’d also like to plan to go on a big hike sometime soon. Work on increasing my stamina with my workouts so the hike will be fun instead of grueling. We’ll see. I think the main thing for me is looking forward, having something to hope for. I really need that. 

In the meantime, I will continue on this messy journey called life where nothing is ever perfect, things never quite match up the way you want it, and progress is a series of ups and downs. Talk to you all next week. 

Giving Testimony in the Messiness

A friend recently exhorted in his writing that we should give our testimony often. And it’s funny, because I had something good happen, and I thought, I should give testimony about that! But, then that something good twisted and ended up not being so great. And my desire to share kind of faded away. Because it didn’t turn out all smooth and neat the way I was hoping. It’s still messy. Still incomplete. Still a work in progress. But there is so much to give testimony about, especially in the messiness! 

Once again, it’s been a rough week. At one point in time, I felt like I had walked to the very edge of the abyss and was looking down at the sure promise of great sorrow and anguish. And I had no words to pray. I found my mind just repeating over and over again, Mercy Lord. Have Mercy. And the analytical side of my brain chimed in, “Why are you saying that over and over again?” and the parable that Jesus told about the widow who nagged the Judge for justice came to mind. I will nag and nag and nag until I get justice simply because the judge is tired of my nagging. Except it wasn’t justice I wanted. Just mercy. 

And God was merciful. In small measures. 

The situation is not resolved. I don’t have a tidy neat package where I can point and say, Look, a miracle! Isn’t God good! 

Instead I have the testimony that I am alive and moving. My children are alive and moving. Hope still reigns. I am still determinedly putting one foot in front of the other. The world is still turning. Night and Day are still happening. There is beauty in each day, along with sorrow. God’s word is still true. His promises still stand. 

And so I stand in the Assembly and give my testimony of God’s goodness to me today. My eternity is secure. I am not alone. And each day I move an inch or two closer to knowing more about God and his goodness. 

Growing My Faith

I got good news this morning. My dad is doing a little better. Clear head. Breathing a bit deeper. Still on oxygen, still has a ways to go, but hopefully we have turned the corner! My mom is slowly gaining her strength at home also. Relief is a small word to describe how I feel. 

This has been a hard week. I feel like I’m living in a overdramatic soap opera that just never stops throwing crazy curveballs at my head. 

This week has been about living with the fear that your loved one might die. And how do you respond? How do you live? I don’t have a pat answer. I know for myself I have spent a lot of time on my face before God. And I have found it to be a place of surrender. A place of trust. God, I don’t want my father to die. Our family needs him. We aren’t ready for this. But at the same time, hands open, not grasping. You love him, you know the plans you have for him. And they are good plans. I trust your plans. 

That sounds like it was something simple. It wasn’t. It was a battle of the mind to be in that place and stay in that place. I’m exhausted. Last night I climbed into bed at seven and checked out for the rest of the evening. 

But this morning I woke up with a praise song running through my head. Hopeful. 

It makes me wonder about faith. The bible says that without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Why? (This is not going to be a doctrinal/theologically complete answer, just my thoughts.)

I think about my marriage. How important trust was at the beginning of our relationship. We both felt like we knew the essence of who the other person was. And we trusted that person. When we first got married I did not have the long history and deep knowledge of my husband that I have now. But I chose to trust him. And over our almost twenty-two years of marriage, he has proved to me that yes, he is trustworthy. I didn’t make a mistake to trust him. But at the beginning, I had no way of knowing what the future held. I just trusted him. Because I loved him. And that trust was tangible proof to him of my love for him. 

Maybe it’s the same with God? We sing songs about how much God loves us, but how do we show that we love God? Maybe by trusting him? Saying, I believe you are who the Bible says you are. And I love you. And I prove that to you by trusting you. Having faith. 

I don’t know. It’s a thought. 

I do know that going through these hard situations grows my faith. My trust deepens. And it’s not that I trust that God is going to turn everything out the way I want it. It’s that he proves over and over again that his Presence is enough. His Grace is sufficient. He is truly all that I need. 

Trustworthy

To say that I’ve had a hard week would kind of be like saying the ocean has a lot of water. Perhaps just a little bit of an understatement. 

I was thinking about it last night, and I was thinking, none of these things stressing me out are actually my problems. This is just me, trying to help other people through their problems. Their junk. Not mine. But then I had this niggling thought of, is that really true? Because actually, when we help other people deal with their junk, it inevitably stirs up some of our own. 

I am realizing that this week, I’ve had some serious doubts and worries about the Goodness of God and being able to trust him. I think, when I say that I “trust” God, what I’m actually saying is, “I’m really confident that God is going to work out everything the way that I want it.” And this week I’ve had to face the stark fear that Maybe, God is not going to work things out the way I want in my loved ones’ lives. Maybe the happy ending that I’ve been praying for, isn’t going to actually happen. Maybe God isn’t going to answer my prayer and keep all harm far, far away. 

That has been hard for me to accept. Again, an understatement. 

I feel helpless. And the power of prayer doesn’t feel as strong when there are no guarantees that we will get the answer we want. 

Yesterday I had to walk away from someone I loved, leaving their problems in someone else’s hands. I started walking back to my car. Tears running down my cheeks. I sat in my car and sobbed for a minute. My brain numb. And I felt the Holy Spirit whisper into my soul the word, Trustworthy. 

And as I sit and think about that word, I realize that I have been guilty of creating God in my own image. I know how I want things to work out, I know how I want God to move in these situations, and so I create a God in my mind that does everything that I want him to do. And then, when crisis comes, it feels like God is not being God. Except that he is being God. Just not my little image of him that I’ve created. He is being God: Omnipotent, Sovereign. And, as he reminded me yesterday, Trustworthy. 

I think what the word Trustworthy means is, God is who he says He is. He can do what he says He can do. (To quote an old Beth Moore Bible Study). My knowledge of who He is and what He can do comes from the Bible, not from my imagination. And when my ideas get shaken up, I’ve got to return to that firm foundation. 

And so I find myself on new ground. Perhaps it’s Holy ground. It feels really unstable, but I think that’s just because my legs are weak, not because the ground is shaky. It’s a place of saying, Your will be done, not mine. I’m sacrificing my preconceived ideas, and instead am going to walk into the unknown, clinging to the truth that you are good. Your love is wider and deeper than mine. You are Trustworthy. 

But Jesus

Easter = Hope

Imagine a life without hope. 

You’ve got an addiction? Sucks to be you. Guess it will kill you in the end. 

Family dysfunction? Guess you got unlucky. Too bad. 

Fear is ruining  your ability to live a normal life? Oh well. 

You’ve got wounds from past trauma? That’s life. 

Incurable sickness? It was nice knowing you. 

Going to die soon? I guess that’s the end of your brief existence. 

There are two words in the Bible that one of our preachers pointed out was the most beautiful thing ever written…

But, Christ….

Lord. Savior. Messiah. Emmanuel…Jesus. But Jesus.

[Jesus] went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read,  and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

    because he has anointed me

    to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

    and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free, 

    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:16-19

But, Jesus. 

I was stuck in my sin. Dead, unable to help myself in any way. But Jesus. 

I was damaged goods. But Jesus. 

I was lost. But Jesus. 

I was alone. But Jesus. 

My eternal soul was sentenced to hell. But Jesus.

Surely he took up our pain

    and bore our suffering,

yet we considered him punished by God,

    stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,

    he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

    and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

    each of us has turned to our own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

    the iniquity of us all. 

Isaiah 53: 4-6

As we enter this Easter weekend may the Hope of the Lord fill your life. 

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10: 9-13

But Jesus. 

I was lost, but now I am found. I was dead. But now I am alive. I was depressed, anxious, alone, broken. Now, I am healed. Part of a heavenly family. Secure. 

But Jesus. 

Happy Easter everybody.