Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Last Night was Date Night

For Christmas Nathan and I gave the children "A Year of Dates".  This is a manila envelope with instructions on the outside.  Each manila envelope contains 12 legal sized, numbered envelopes with 12 different dates (one per month).  On the first of the month each child gets to choose an envelope.  They can take them in chronological order or can randomly choose.  Then after all have chosen we schedule the dates for sometime that month that cohesively works with the family master schedule.  Each child can be accompanied on their "date" by mom or dad and if possible...both.

Last night was James "date".  He chose the envelope that said "I'm sure there is something that you need.  Let's go shopping and buy it indeed!  Clothes, shoes, school supplies...We will do our best to provide.  Mom and Dad care so much about you."  So the two of us left in the cold wind headed to Target.  James needed a long sleeved shirt and some new crew socks for basketball.  He also had $15 birthday money that he wanted to spend.  We planned on eating at the Target cafe so James could get a slushie.  It was a great plan.

The van ride was filled with precious, uninterrupted conversation.  James asked so many questions. We talked about the sunset and God's wonderful creation.  He said "something changed in me when it got dark momma, and when I'm alone I ask such good questions.  Are these good words?".  I can't tell you how sweet that little voice was.   James anxiously watched the clock.  We had estimated we would be there at 6:16 but didn't arrive until 6:21.  As we were walking into the store he said "I think our next date should be at the beach!"  When we got into the store he had to use the restroom right away and then we noticed that the cafe was closed.  He wasn't too bummed when I told him we could choose another place for dinner.  We had a lovely time shopping for his items.  He was so cooperative and said "I love shopping at Target because it's just so quiet.  Not like our house".  I could tell that his life is inundated with noise.  It's true.  Our house often rivals a three-ringed circus.  So...crew socks, a shirt and a box of hot chocolate were his choices and then we went to the toy section to use his birthday money.  He chose wisely and when we were checking out he so sweetly told the cashier our entire story as he was paying with his own money.  He relayed the fact the we were on an adventure and that it was just the two of us.  The woman behind us in line said "This is the best idea ever." James was literally beaming.  On the way out of the store he jumped over each and every one of those big read balls outside "like a ninja".  

When we got in the car he saw the time on the clock and said "Mom we won't have time for dinner will we?".  I said "Oh yes baby we will".  He requested a cheeseburger, fries, ranch and Dr. Pepper.  He said "Mom wouldn't it be fun if we chose a restaurant that everyone else thought was stinky, but we didn't and when we got there we were the only two eating?"  I just about cried.  This boy was literally SCREAMING how much he needed some one on one time and that he just wanted QUIET.  I'm so grateful that the Lord prompted me to make this gift and that he is using Nathan to provide the funds for these adventures.  Keep praying sweet friend that all the details fall into place for these 59 remaining "dates".  I decided that Chili's might be a good option because we were so close.  We haven't eaten there in a long time.  The menu had changed drastically and they had these really fun game devices on the table.  For $1.99 there was unlimited play and so James and I talked and laughed as we played LIFE while eating.  Normally I'm opposed to phones/devices/video games during a meal, but this was special we played math games, practiced our Spanish and played LIFE.  James got the meal of his choice and I had a very yummy mango chili chicken for under 600 calories with black beans and steamed broccoli.  I ordered a piece of molten lava chocolate cake to bring home for James to have today because we did stay out past his bedtime.  James provides a soundtrack to his life.  Literally this boy sings all the time.  He's happy and makes the best faces.  It was a joy to be with my youngest.  He is generous and has a grateful heart.  He said "please and thank you" without being prompted and made good eye contact with people.  He's a great mix of shy and social and give great hugs.  He was so polite to the waitress Melissa and told her all about our evening.  He talked in detail of his family.  It made me so proud of him, but there was a twinge of sadness as he described his older siblings.  He told the waitress that Joseph is always mean and says "shut up" a lot.  I asked James what Joseph has.  He told the waitress about autism and the waitress kindly shared some things with James.  He related the ages of his siblings, the fact that there are two sets of twins in our family and that he didn't have to share his cake with anyone because it was from our date.  I have pics and videos that I'm going to try and attach to this post.  

He fell asleep on the way home and then proceeded upon arrival home to carry his things inside the house and place them under his pillow for the night.  He wore his new shirt and socks to school and has already played with his toy.  His new Minecraft figure is hooked to his backpack.  I would say that this date was a SUCCESS!  So...one down and 11 to go!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Day I Decided to Go Gray

Actually this wasn't all decided in a day.  It's been a process, an experience, an realization, but ultimately there is a day...one day when someone, anyone says....."Okay.  No more coloring.  No more hiding my roots.  No more covering or denying that I'm aging.  It's time.".  My day was earlier this month as I visited my tried and true hairdresser and friend Danielle.  I've been discussing the decision with Nathan off and on for years since I've been going gray since the age of 32.  I think the final push in this process was seeing a picture that was just taken of my friend Alysia and me.  I've known Alysia since college and she still sings, looks and loves like an angel.  The evening was glorious but I had a very distinct line in my hair.  Although it was a flattering hairstyle....honestly the color looked like a skunk.  It's probably not as noticeable to you, but it was to me, and frankly....it's my hair ;-).  

I've written earlier that I am excited to be 40.  I am.  I'm excited to be more comfortable in my own skin, to embrace life fully and to become more mindful in all of my interactions, relationships and communications.  Really...it's just hair.  Long, short, brown, gray or highlighted....it doesn't matter.  It doesn't make me...ME.  So...seriously in the words of the over-played song from Frozen..."Let it Go"...gray that is.  So...I'm still hoping to achieve more, do more, become more and it's going to be done with graying hair.  There isn't just a few strands...it's gray.  In fact by the time my next drivers license pic is made the color will be changed both in actually and in writing.  That day will be fun.

April 9th I went to my scheduled appointment not exactly sure what was going to happen, but a strong feeling that I was ready to go short again with my hair style and to just allow it to gray naturally.  After discussing this with Danielle she was super supportive as usual and did exactly what I asked her to do.  I'm not exactly sure how long the process will take.  A year, two, ten...but I'm ready to go gray.  

So from today until....that day when I'm all gray I'm going to enjoy every moment.  Well at least I'll try.  So..no more covering up, coloring or dying.  You know what.  I think I'll try that in other areas of my life.  If I'm not going to stop the process of aging in terms of my hair pigmentation and I want to "mature" in my life.  Let's go for it.  Even God's Word has something encouraging to say about gray hair.  Proverbs 16:31 says "Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life."  I'm going to pursue a godly, righteous life.  That means being vulnerable, uncovered and transparent with God, myself and others.  I'm going to stop covering up or hiding behind fear, anxiety, past accomplishments, labels, goals, dreams or my family. Life is short, like my new hair, and it's meant to be lived abundantly.  So....the day I decided to go gray was really the day I decided to live by pursuing freedom and to allow you to experience it with me.  40 really is fabulous....and going gray....not as painful as I had been told.  Oh and to confirm my decision I'm posting another pic with another fabulous friend from college...the beautiful and talented Jeanne Jolly.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Purposeful Prayer

Today I started a new practice.  I'm calling it "Purposeful Prayer".  I'm going to use a resource that I purchased years ago entitled "While They Were Sleeping".  It is a book that contains 12 character traits for moms to pray over their children.  It's broken down into 5 day segments per topic.  I decided that I will pray a characteristic per month over each child.  I'll pray over them in chronological order and I'll pray the entire 5 days over each child, condensed into one day.  So Monday I'll pray Days 1-5 over Joseph.  Tuesday Days 1-5 over Jesse and so on and so forth.  I will repeat the pattern each week of the month.

This month is Teachability.  I tell you it couldn't come at a more opportune time.  I am dealing with stubbornness and rebellion in two of my five consistently and the other three have been known to exhibit negative behaviors in this area from time to time.  Here is a great quote "Teachability helps our children prepare their hearts to be faithful to God."  The Scriptures included in the teachability chapter are Psalm 143:10, Psalm 25:5b, Psalm 78:7-8, Daniel 1:8, and many other Psalms and Proverbs.  An example of a prayer "Father, it is Your own Spirit that teaches us through Your Word.  I pray __________ will yield to Your instruction.  Please protect ___________ from developing a stubborn or rebellious spirit.  May he/she be a spiritual sponge, soaking up Your truth."  I'm excited about this opportunity.  It will focus me, intentionally on the goodness of God and His magnitude and not the grandeur of my problems or the issues my children face.  It will allow me to see my children through the lens of Christ's love.

On Saturdays I'll focus on praying specifically for my marriage and that God will bless, protect and strengthen Nathan and me as individuals and as a couple.  I will pray these characteristics over us as well.  Now realize I pray for my marriage and my kids more than one day a week.  This is just a tool. On Sundays I'll pray for my leaders, spiritual, local, state and national.  I'm hoping Nathan will join me, but regardless I'm going to pray.

Some of the other topics covered in the book are Kindness, Humility, Forgiveness, Obedience, Discernment, Purity, Responsibility, Courage, Servant hood, Contentment, and Endurance.  I'm prayerfully expecting great things for our family this next 12 months.  Purposeful praying, intentional listening, cultivating community, searching out opportunities to connect and looking for joy/gifts to be grateful for daily are things that I'm adopting into my daily practices/routine.  I'm also going to journal these next few months about how prayers are being answered and how God is changing us all through this tool.  I'll keep you posted.  Thanks as always for reading.

*"While They Were Sleeping" by Anne Arkins and Gary Harrell*

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Life of Thanksgiving

In 2013 I was given the opportunity to borrow a book from my friend Donna.  One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp was a great read.  In fact after reading it twice I've decided it's finally time to download it for my Kindle.  I read the book twice but didn't fully participate in the Joy Dare. So....this is the year I'm going to practice looking for joy in everyday.  When we lived in WA for a short period of time I wrote my 3 daily "gifts" on our bathroom mirror so I could meditate on them.  I think I'm going to adopt this practice again as well as journaling my daily entries and participating in the FB community.

If you haven't read the book in my opinion you should.  It has been very transformative and has encouraged me to really come out of the fog of my apathy by pressing in to gratitude.  The last few months have been very rocky and full of hurt, unmet expectations, change and grief.  Truly I've felt hemmed in by a fog and that this haze has kept me from engaging in life fully.  I'm coming out of this season because of God's hand of mercy.  However, I know that part of my journey forward is momentum caused by gratitude.

Another tool that I am utilizing is the 100HappyDays challenge on FB/Instagram.  Each day I share a picture and a brief synopsis of the happiness associated with that image.  I'm currently on day 52 and it has been so much fun.  Also I've had two people in my life specifically mention that my sharing has impacted them.  That's pretty cool.  I've shared moments with my children, successes in my weight loss journey, a snippet about Nathan, pictures from our Christmas celebration and even a picture of my Joy Dare list for January.  Taking time each day to by mindful, pause and realize my blessings and spend time thanking God for them has been freeing.  It also has encouraged me to engage with those in my world and tell them how much they are loved.  I share with them what they have done, what they are that brings joy to my world.  The dynamic of our house is changing and I'm feeling a renewed sense of hope.  It's a blessing.

Part of my true embracing of gratitude has been the realization that there are things in my life that are hard, painful and challenging that bring growth, strength and mercy.  Things that others might not look at as lovely, helpful or beautiful have caused me to experience a strange warming in my soul. I'm becoming increasingly more thankful for the things in my life that don't happen, the "no's" of my life and the disappointments.  The words of the serenity prayer are ringing true..."hardship as a pathway to peace...".  It sounds crazy, but I am grateful, truly humbled by the things that have been taken from me because they are bringing  a greater sense of dependence upon Christ and a deeper relationship with each of my family members and also myself.

I dare say today that I'm grateful for autism.  I venture out of my comfort zone to say that I'm thankful for a marriage that has grown from depression, hurt, withdrawal and pain.  Being challenged with five kids, two sets of twins and financial hardship sure is building character.  The gift of devastation as by friend Bette calls it, is truly that....a gift.  Stepping out in faith, moving across the country and facing circumstances that precipitated a move back to NC...not an accident.  These temporary storms have cause my roots to grow deep and I'm praying for a heart that displays the glory and splendor of God.  I'm not grateful for the things in my life so I can brag about them.  I want to be a mirror that reflects Christ.  I want to be a clear window that transparently allows people to see the pain in my life and the healing that occurs through the work of Jesus.  Paul says in 2 Cor. 11:30 "If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness."

So today I revel in the brokenness, the piece of my life have been shattered so that God could put them back together to make a stained glass window.  I'm so glad he knows the story of my life and is continuing to write it in my heart and mind.  I'm grateful, so grateful and may my life be a living sacrifice of praise as I flesh out real gratitude....a life filled with thanksgiving.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Gloriously Ruined

That was my prayer for 2014.  Those were the words that I had spoken and meditated upon.  What WAS I thinking? You wouldn't know about my 2014 because I didn't blog once.  Not ONCE on this blog.  There were posts on my other project, but here I was silent.  So...tonight I break the silence and am choosing to share with you a bit of last year and it's depth, breadth and scope.  

We moved to WA in March 2013 with dreams, goals and hopes.  In our 17 months there we learned a lot, met a lot of wonderful people and made some great memories.  We also were challenged beyond what I could have dreamed, faced thoughts, feelings and emotions that I wasn't prepared for and accrued more debt than we would have chosen.  Our family was stretched physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually.  Although at the time I couldn't see it, but it is becoming clear to me that my prayer was being answered.  God was gloriously ruining me.  

I could go on and on and really expand but although it's MY story to share I don't want to hurt anyone or give more info than my hubby wants me to do...so here are the bullet points.  You'll still be able to see why I say I'm being "ruined".

  • We accrued a pretty significant amount of debt in 17 months.
  • The church we went to be a part of and help start a Celebrate Recovery program...closed it's doors and merged with another faith family.  Although this ISN'T a bad thing it still brings a bit of sadness, disappointment and unmet expectation.
  • Such intense change affected our family in positive and negative ways.  Joseph's distress signals were flashing.  He began to run away regularly and became violent (verbally and physically aggressive).
  • Relationships at every level are in the process of being repaired and trust is being rebuilt. Basic emotional safety has been damaged due to many factors and it's a tough thing to fix.
  • Jesse withdrew emotionally and physically over the last year.  He was and is exhibiting symptoms of depression.
  • James and Jonathan are emotionally charged, a bit whiny and very aggressive towards each other.  They seem a bit too rough and I am concerned.  
  • JoyAnn took on a role that wasn't hers to embrace and she's tried too hard to grow up too quickly.  
  • We lived in two states in one year.  
  • We currently live in a rental (that is out of our price range) until August.  We really want to be back in our home.  
  • I had to give up a dream, a family goal of homeschooling our children.  The older three are all in public school.  Once again...hear me NOT bad, just different than planned.
  • Currently we are a part of an intensive, in-home intervention to avoid Joseph being removed from the home and to repair damaged relationships.  This involves individual, couples work, sibling to sibling and parent to child interactions. 2-3 2-hr. sessions per week.  It's good, but hard and exhausting.
  • My husband who is a fine singer (in my opinion) has lost his song.  He hasn't sung a note since July of last year.  
  • I'm home, but I'm not home.  Things don't seem to fit the way they did before and a general feeling of disconnect has caused quite a bit of emotional discomfort.
I could go on, but I think this covers most of it.  All of this discomfort, pain, unmet expectation, fear, doubt, anger, hurt, change...it's all part of God's plan. Being broken isn't punishment.  It's a gift really, and I'm seeing it. 

Recently I was introduced to a song by Bethel Music entitled "We Dance".  It is ministering to me in a deep and special way.  The fog of my anxiety, depression and state of being "stuck" has slowly been lifting and I was reminded of an experience I had in Sept. of last year. as I literally danced before my Savior in the stillness of the night in my living room in honor of the living and dying of Kara Tippetts at Mundane Faithfulness. It is an odd place to be when you feel like everything you've ever been is dead and gone and there is no purpose for you as a person and that your family is floundering, drowning and dangling from a cliff. Knowing the Sovereignty of God and trusting it are two different things. Yes, I'm different. My season has changed. My old dreams have faded, and I'm learning again to sing, to live, to love, to partner with a man that is different than he has been for the last 19 years, to see, really see EACH of my five children and my plans for home schooling, parenting, home making have been forced to change. It's all scary. It's all uncomfortable. It's all.....in GOD'S Hands AND he's holding me...leading me, whispering to me as WE DANCE!!! Be blessed today and thank you for praying for this fledgling songbird. I can hear the song...in the distance and it won't be long until I'm the one singing. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Happy New Year

Well it's January 15th.  Why would you be wishing me a "Happy New Year" today?  Well I believe that everyday is a chance to start again, anew and to learn, grow and change.  I told you that my 2015 "Word" is BRAVE. Part of being brave and my ‪#‎2015ThemeSong‬ word for the year includes not looking back to the past except to use it to learn, grow and change.

JJ Heller has ministered to me for years. I quoted her just a few days ago on my Facebook page. Here new song "This Year" is catchy, singable and full of truth.  I love the line in the chorus that says "Let's fight a good fight....train our eyes to see the light and make this year the BEST one yet."  There's also a line in the last verse that says "...to feel alive instead of feeling numb".  These two things go hand in hand for me.  I've felt numb for the last several months because I've been focusing on the wrong things.  The weight of my life, my reality, the grandness of our situation, the urgency of our family dynamic all of this has created a spiritual, mental and emotional haze that has hindered my vision.  As the dust is settling, the fog is lifting I'm seeing the beauty all around me.  I believe that gratitude is what is helping the clouds to part.  I want to see the light.  The light in me, the light in others, the light all around.  Beauty, grace, mercy and goodness are everywhere.  I want to be present in the moment and have eyes to see it.

I'll be sharing some goals, dreams and hopes for this year later.  Tonight I just wanted to share this song. Be blessed....embrace the moment, go for it, dream BIG and live life to the full. May 2015 be the BEST YEAR YET! Happy New Year....https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAsouPV8F-g
— listening to JJ Heller.

Less than a week old, "This Year (Happy New Year)" is uploaded and pending approval from the iTunes store! We expect it to be available later today - 1/6/15)...
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Wednesday, January 14, 2015


This year I was encouraged by a friend to name my year.  I've read of other people using this practice.  Last year I even prayed to be "gloriously ruined". WOW!  That's another post.  As you can see it was a loaded year.  I only blogged once.  So...on to THIS post.

BRAVE.  Here's my 2015 Theme Song.  I'm going to be brave, not because I have the strength to do so, but because of the Spirit that lives within me.  Why brave?  Why not peace?  I sure could use some peace.  For those of you that might be new to my blog or even a friend that needs a refresher...I'm a wife to Nathan (almost 20 years), mother to Joseph (13), Jesse (10), JoyAnn (10), Jonathan (5) and James (5).  Yes you read correctly...five kids and two sets of twins.  There are lots of things that you didn't read in those last sentences.  Things that can't be described in words or would take many blog entries.  Depression, anxiety, autism, fear, joy, chaos, struggle, change.....all just in those last sentences.  So...peace would have been a GREAT word.  What about joy, love, change, or happiness?  All wonderful words.  My word though is BRAVE. 

Being brave is so much more than conquering a fear such as heights, the dark or public speaking. Being brave involves asking for help, being vulnerable, having a teachable spirit and learning even at 40.  Bravery is letting go of the the hold that the past has had and stepping into a glorious future even though the way hasn't been revealed.  This past Sunday we sang It is Well by Bethel (if you haven't listened to it you should) and my friend Amy sang lead.  I shared about the importance of this song to me back in October of last year.  Here is the post from my FB page.  

There's a day coming....soon when my heart and flesh will boldly be able to stand and sing "It is Well". This song has been spreading around FB. I heard it weeks ago and I couldn't stop listening. JoyAnn even asked me if I was o.k. No, that day is not today. However, when this songbird finds her new song it will be stronger, sweeter, deeper and more passionate than before. Grateful...so grateful for purposeful, pruning, powerful pain that is urging me on to seek more of Jesus. Even if it's in my bathroom.....I will sing this someday as a a sacrifice of praise, proclaiming the healing of my shattered soul, broken heart and wounded mind. This song is worth the wait!!!  

As we sang this song, and I shared in the passion by adding a high harmony, I was moved to tears.  A friend of mine sent me this message the next day...."Yesterday during worship you lead with your heart. I could see each word loving on your heart. I don't know what you're going through. But it was beautiful. I wanted to find you after church and say hello and give you a hug. I'm sorry I didn't find you. But thank you for being authentic in your worship."
Standing there on stage and allowing myself to be vulnerable was my brave.  To sing with all of my heart, soul and voice as my faith family held me up with their prayers and my own family sat in the congregation carrying weights and burdens of their own, I was brave.  

Brave means not being fake, false or disengaged.  Brave is facing pride, false belief, fear, depression, stinking thinking and unmet expectation and rebuilding a life on the TRUTH.  Brave is continuing to work towards change even when you don't see or feel results.  Brave is believing the best and hoping for the best even when there is no evidence this is possible.  Brave is walking every step by faith, literally taking every breath in hope and expectation that you are being HELD by something, someone greater than you.  Brave is living life fully, without regret and being willing to fail, to try, to be detoured and directed down a different path.  

This is my prayer for 2015.  So much change.  So much new, but it's all so exciting.  Really it is and I can't wait to share this year with you.  Thanks as always for reading.  Leave some love and let me know what's going on in your life.  Perhaps you would come along and name YOUR year???  

~Learning to be BRAVE......