Monday, May 4, 2015

What Healing Sometimes Looks Like

Recently my friend and I were sharing with each other how we get through the hard parts of life. How healing plays out in our lives. Our conversation inspired me to write this…


We have all been there. 

Disappointed. Discouraged. Facing uncertainties. Gripped by fear.


You experience a loss. A relationship is broken. Life’s monotony suffocates. Your career doesn’t turn out the way you want it to. Everyone else seems to have things figured out, but not you. Health problems refuse to go away. Timing is terrible. The challenges too big or too many. Anxiety grips. Depression settles in. You wonder when your self-confidence disappeared. Or how God could ever use your life for something good. Despair shows up differently for each one of us


Yet in the struggle, despite the pain…we feel something….   It is deep inside of us…small and pulsating. Rhythmically, its tempo is quiet, but still we can feel it. It’s persistent. It captures our attention.  


Hope.


Hope is faint. It might even leave. But it is tenacious, its rhythmic beat always comes back. Hope begins to speak to our hearts. It whispers ever-so-quietly God’s truths: we are loved; God has a plan for our lives; and He is in control, even when we feel like He is not.


We decide to stop focusing on what to do about our situation and just focus on the hope. Hope tells us that our joy is not rooted in our situation. Hope tell us we are not alone; Jesus will never leave us.


We test hope. We reflect on our lives to see if God really has always been there. In the past, has He worked things for His good? Even if He has not changed the situation, has He changed us? Given us a better perspective? Given us peace, even in the middle of the storm? Have we felt joy again, despite walking through pain? We see that God has always shown up. Consistently shown up.


Reflection helps us make sense of some of the challenges of the past and take a second look at our current state of defeat. Even though we are standing in the middle of a new challenge and might feel confused again, we choose to believe God’s words. We also choose to believe the uplifting words from the people who love us.


We start to heal. We heal just enough so that the fog in our brain from the pain begins to lift and we can think a little straighter, a little more logical. Our brain tells us to keep focusing on the healing. What to do next about our tough situation will come later…


Hope slowly grows. The pain might still be there, but God is healing it. This process can’t be rushed. It takes time.


Hope continues to expand. We feel Jesus walking with us. We let ourselves be encouraged by our family and friends. We let God’s truths feed our soul. We still might not know how things are going to work out in our life, but all of a sudden we are okay with it. We know God loves us, is in control, and will show us the next step when the timing is right.


Time passes, healing continues and then…


We can look into the eyes of despair with renewed confidence. We can say: no matter what, you can’t steal our inner joy. You can’t change that we are loved. Despite you, God still has a plan for our lives. He can still use us, because He created us exactly as He wanted us to be. You can’t hide God’s goodness. You can’t overshadow the beautiful people in our lives who so persistently love us. You might be hanging out around us, despair, but ultimately you won’t overtake us…


…because, we always have hope. And hope reminds us of its source - Jesus. Hope reminds us that the powerful and intentional God who created the whole world in all His glory, finds us important enough to walk right next to us.  


We still might not have all the answers, but things feel different. Despite the challenge, our soul begins to feel peace. Real peace. Deep peace. The kind that doesn’t depend on a perfect situation rather on God, who created us, loves us and is holding us in the storm. 


Despair begins to dissipate. Hope does that. God does that.


And then we know that no matter what - we are going to be okay.

I took this photo on a bright and sunny day, but darkened it with this free Nightmare Photoshop Action from Shutter Pulse. They will give you a sample of 20 free Photoshop Actions from their collection if you subscribe to their email. It is worth it. Their actions are super cool.

My Huffington Post Article

My second article made it on to the Huffington Post. If you haven't had a chance to read it, it would be my honor if you would check it out.

I am a mother of three boys. No daughters. Just three wonderful sons. So, I have always heard comments like:

Are you going to try for your girl?

Three boys... whoa... you must be tired.

Three boys. (Light-hearted laugh.) Man, I feel sorry for you.

Or that awful saying that goes something like this:

A son is your son until he takes him a wife. A daughter is your daughter for the rest of your life.

I love being a mom of boys and I know people aren't trying to be mean, so these kind of comments don't normally bother me. (Well, maybe except for the last one... who wants to ever think their child will go off and never return? What a horrible thought.) But the remarks aren't exactly encouraging or uplifting either.

Recently though, I heard a comment about my boys that I continually turned around in my head until it seeped deep into my heart. It made me feel like I could not possibly be blessed more than by being a mother of three sons. My family and I were eating breakfast at my grandmother's senior living center. It was normal family mayhem. My husband and I helped our kids through the buffet. ("No you cannot pile only donuts on your plate.") We were up and down during the meal refilling plates. We cleaned up an orange juice spill. Then our chaos was interrupted...

...to read more head over to The Huffington Post: To the Mother of All Boys

Sunday, April 19, 2015

When Mama Knows Best

This weekend, we headed out of town to visit friends.
 
Packing for a trip involves me being a perfectionist. (Meaning, I drive myself and everyone else a little crazy.) I needed this trip to be relaxing, so I decided…no stress, including packing stress. Besides, it was only for one night. If we forgot something, no big deal. So I declared that I was going to be laidback (gasp) and let everyone pack themselves. I even packed my bag in under 10 minutes.
 
Here is what we forgot to... bring: a hairbrush, a toothbrush, one kid’s pajamas, another kid’s shirts, socks, my tennis shoes, flip-flops, floaties and a swimsuit. (But my oldest son who forgot to pack even one shirt to wear brought his trophy for Best Craftsmanship from his Stockade Derby Competition. He set it on the nightstand so it would be near him while he slept. Priorities, I guess.) We made do and had a great time, but it would have been nice if we could have all combed our hair. And I missed my tennis shoes.
 
My conclusion: you know those mama-knows-best-so-I-am-going-to-be-a-perfectionist-even-if-it-drives-my-family-a-little-crazy type of moments we as moms have? I think that it’s sometimes okay. Especially when it is for the greater good. (Which it usually is.) ;)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Reading, 3rd Grade and What God Reminded Me

My oldest son cried every day for 2 years about it.  Every day.  

It was horrific. I started to dread it…

…the 20 minutes every day his teacher said he must do it...

Read.

All through kindergarten reading time, he cried. By the middle of first grade, I started to cry too. Oh, we had our good moments.  Like, when we snuggled together and started a book without crying. But somewhere in the middle of Sam I Am not wanting any green eggs and ham, my son teared up and it had nothing to do with the food. He hated to read. It was painful. So painful, I began wondering if this reading thing was just a fad. Could we wait it out? Would cave man drawings come back into style? He could do stick figures.

But during parent-teacher conferences at the end of 1st grade, his teacher gave us the kind but stern talking to that our son needed to learn to read. His reading scores were low. Like, his cousin had similar reading scores before he even entered kindergarten.

Ugh. When the teacher told us it was urgent we get our son back on track, I knew it had gotten serious. School will always be incredibly hard for him if he couldn’t even do the basics – read.

Stress. Prayer. Encouraging. Talking to. Practice. And more reading. My son finally caught on. By 3rd grade, he loved it and was reading chapter books on his own.

Then we got the letter.

This time, it wasn’t the letter showing his below average reading scores, but an invitation – to be in the gifted program for reading at school.

I almost fainted. What the what???

I thought maybe it was really for the smart little neighbor girl across the street, but it said my son’s name. It had to be for him.

Look. I am not the type of parent who thinks my kid needs to be honors everything or really anything. (I teach high school and I know regular courses are rigorous enough.) It’s not about that. It’s about the fact that for two long years success in reading seemed hopeless. Painfully hopeless. I thought he would always be behind. I couldn’t see that maybe it would still click for him, just later than I hoped.

But God is gracious. He answered my prayers and gave my son a love of reading. But God didn’t stop there. Because He is good...because He likes to knock my socks off...as a result of that struggle, God showed me big love by speaking His truths to my heart.

God reminded me He is worthy of my trust. Because, He always has a plan. So often - especially in parenting – I can go from calm to panic in about 1.75 seconds. But, do I really need to? When I reflect on my life, God has always showed up. No, He hasn’t always changed my situation. Sometimes my situation stays the same, but God changes me. He gives me renewed perspective and deep peace through difficult moments. I better learn to: “Trust in Him at all times” (Psalm 62:8, NIV). 

God also reminded me that our weaknesses cannot stop Him from moving. Our weaknesses are nothing to God. So what should weaknesses be to us? How about a place to look for Jesus to show His power in our lives. Because we know on our own, we fall short.  So when we find victory in our struggle, who the victory comes from seems obvious. We can better understand: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me" (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV).

Who said that the ordinary isn’t extraordinary? That God can’t speak to us in the middle of life’s moments? Do you ever think this?  I have, but it’s not true. Like the wind through the trees, his Holy Spirit moves among us and speaks to our hearts. Beautiful lessons are taught and re-taught through life's everyday moments and challenges. God spoke to me through turning tears over Green Eggs and Ham into an invitation for the gifted program in reading. What has God taught you lately?

Friday, March 20, 2015

photography - winter pictures

Sometimes, I can let one critical comment or tough moment overshadow the one million good things about my day. I hate when I do that. Oh, to have the will power to not let words get me down. But, I don't always have that kind of strength. Sometimes positive thinking just ain't' enough and my heart gets buried underneath life's stress. It stinks. Somebody throw me a life line because these feelings of defeat need to set sail.  Like, hours ago.

Thank goodness for photography. Who knew I would love photography so much? Who knew that photography could help conquer discouraging moments and reduce stress? God knew. Just like He knows what moves all of us. He knows what to use in this life here on earth to speak directly to our hearts.  

For me, God knows that looking at my photography and especially playing with my pictures on Photoshop moves me. Playing with light, composition, exposure, and color is therapeutic. As I sort through my pictures - the good ones and even the bad ones - I see Jesus in my life. I see love, hope, joy, family, smiles, laughter, beauty and kindness. God so clearly points out my everyday blessings that I cannot deny His daily presence. The negative thoughts don't always completely go away, but they fade. In the quietness of working on my photography, God gently helps me gain perspective. I feel more gratitude. I love when God uses the ordinary to guide our hearts back home to Him.

I finally have had a chance to play with some of my winter photos. I was pretty proud of myself for figuring out how to add snow to a few on my pictures in Photoshop using  this fabulous tutorial. 

Look at all those beautiful people who my husband and I get to call our children. See ya life's stresses. You can keep coming back for me, but you will never overshadow these blessings. God always wins.

What about you?  What is your stress reliever?



















 

Monday, March 9, 2015

You are Inspirational - My Guest Post on Moms Magazine


I love reading a good blog post, a good book, hearing an inspirational speech or watching an inspiring movie.

But most often those moments pass and I forget what I learned or what moved my heart.
Inspiration that sticks with me is what – or who – I see daily.

Like, my mom friend who meets me each week at the pool. We sit with our feet dangling in the water, admiring how much our kids have improved at swimming. We chat and laugh and declare each other the funniest people ever. Because we are.

Or the mom I sit with as we watch our sons play football. When my son gets hit in the face with a football and is weepy the rest of practice, she empathizes with me as I debate if I should pull him off the field or let him tough it out.

The mom who shares her real thoughts with me. Things that are hard about life...
...to read the rest, it would be my honor if you would check out my post over on Moms Magazine.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Porch Remodel

About 4 1/2 years ago, we redid our porch. I wish I had some before pictures, but I wasn't a blogger then and we just didn't take any. The before was sad. The biggest issue was that the porch had settled on one side, so it was crooked. 

Here is what we did to make this place one of our favorite spaces to hang out:

1.  Raised the sagging side of the porch with a carjack and added supports to make it even.
2.  Reframed the porch and tightened the screens. 
3. Tore off the old roof and put a new one on.
4.  New outdoor carpet.  (To keep the mosquitoes from coming in underneath.)
5.  Paint.  (This is my favorite story. The weekend before we were going to have our youngest son, we weren't quite done with the porch. We still needed to paint and lay the carpet. So, my husband's family came in full force and helped us paint inside and outside of this porch. Painting that ceiling was tedious and it was so hot out. God bless them. I remember being 6 days away from having my baby and wiping down all the wood so it was clean and ready for them to paint. Oh my goodness.  What we do to get things done. But, it was wonderful to sit on that beautiful porch and rock my baby and watch my older two boys play. Such small joys create such defining memories.)

Here is what we did for furniture:
1.  Table - bought off of Craig's list for $40. I put about 10 coats of black paint on it.
2.  The rocker was my husband's grandmas. I painted that as well. (Then rocked her great-grandbaby in her chair. Sniff. Love that.)
2.  The bench is from Target.
3.  The rug we already had. (Target)
4.  I recovered old pillows with new material.
5.  The wicker chairs are from a garage sale. We already had the other two chairs.
6.  The side tables, I got for free from a neighbor who put them at the end of his driveway for anyone to take. A lucky find for me. I painted the bottom part white and sanded and stained the tops. 

Here are some pictures:
Linked to: Remodelaholic