Friday, December 25, 2020

2021 Is Coming

 At the end of 2019 I chose the word Stand to be my word for 2020 with my final thought being "I want to be found standing in 2020". I thought it would be a year of resting; of getting our feet under us and preparing to move forward.

 I was oh so wrong. It was a year of constantly adjusting and readjusting to what seemed like constant challenges and ever changing situations. Covid came and closed our foster care license. Nathalie and Rachel moved back home. Samantha moved to Kansas. We were presented an opportunity to be house parents in Alabama. And then that was retracted. 

2020 had more curveballs than a world series, but I am still standing. I rolled with the punches and found allies who stood with me. True friends who wouldn't tell me what I wanted to hear, but spoke the truth with grace and love. I found again the grace God has for all of us and the balanced perspective that that grace gives. Too many years of being told that I had to do more to earn God's favor and love were replaced with the understanding that because of who I am (His child),  I am already favored by Him. He favors me because He knows me, not because I behave perfectly all the time. And because I gained this inner balance, I was able to stand strong when everything around me seemed unbalanced.

My word for 2021 is "BEHOLD". 

In the King James Version of the Bible, “behold” is used as the translation of the Hebrew word "hinneh" in the Old Testament and the Greek word "idou" in the New Testament. There is no word in English which conveys perfectly what these words communicate. They might be defined as “Pay careful attention to what is to follow; it is very important!” It is an imperative command to pay attention. To behold something is to focus your attention upon it. I want to remember in 2021 to be alert to how God is moving, directing , and leading me. 

Webster's dictionary defines behold as "to perceive through sight or apprehension" and "to gaze upon" or "observe". If I am going to perceive, I need to be observing. This means I need to focus and see the whole picture. I often get tunnel vision and concentrate only on reaching the goal, losing sight of the experiences at hand in the process. God in 2020 certainly slowed me down and I am learning to be in the moment more often. I can make better decisions when I behold the whole picture.

While mulling over this word, it occurred to me that the past tense is BEHELD. I'll take some artistic license with that word and change it to "Be Held". I want to be held by and to hold loved ones. Covid has limited physical interactions and I want to savor each one when they happen.

Being held means being secure. I want to know God's presence and to rest in the knowledge that He holds me in the palm of His hand. In 2021 I want to remember that I am forever held by God's grace and take courage in that knowledge, so I can step in faith whatever direction He leads. 

2021 is a blank slate; wide open with possibilities and challenges. I want to remember to behold the whole picture, pay attention to the scenery, and slow down enough to perceive God's opportunities. I also want to remember that I will always be held by the Creator of the Universe and I can face the future with confidence.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

What Is It About the Ocean?

 I love the ocean and was able to go there two days in a row this week! 

Yesterday, for my second visit, Sam watched as I stood in the waves shin deep. He’d rather be in a boat fishing than standing on the shore.

As we walked back to the car, he asked me why I loved the beach so much? He said, “You get giddy when I tell you our date is going to the beach. You walk barefoot to the waves, stand in them never deeper than your knees, with your face into the wind. All your goofiness is gone and you are just still. Why?”

I. Don’t. Know. 

There is something so deep within me that is affected and I cannot express it. I can only feel it. But I tried to explain it:

It’s the smell. How do you describe ocean air? That smack of salt mixed with “fishy”. I breathe deeper when I’m at the ocean.

It’s the sound. The whoosh of water as it rushes over itself onto the shore. Even a calm sea is rhythmic and loud and an angry ocean does something to my soul that I just can’t explain. I can’t do anything to change the waves, I just experience them as they come and that settles me somehow. 

It’s the feel. Sand under my feet giving way as I walk or as it is pulled away by a retreating wave. Small smooth stones and the occasional sharp shell under my bare feet. The water lapping against my legs, or crashing into me if it’s a rough sea. 

It’s the sight. Experiencing my insignificance in the expansiveness of a horizon that seems to go for eternity is centering. It’s the visualization that there is a whole lot more than me out there. I could disappear and the ocean wouldn’t change. 

There is a verse in the Bible that talks about heaven having no seas. It has always bothered me because the ocean is where I am most at peace. It’s where I feel like I can get my bearings, my footing, and find my balance. There is a connection there for me that is so very spiritual and I don’t understand it at all. How could heaven be heaven with no ocean, if the beach feels like what heaven should be?

It occurred to me this morning as I was mulling these things (what else does one do when wide awake at 3am?), that perhaps in heaven there are no seas, because God is there. I won’t need to stand in waves, or breathe deeply, or look to the far horizon, to connect with my soul. In His presence eternally, I will feel like I am at the ocean all the time. And with that thought I long for heaven even more.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Firewives

Sam and I just spent a weekend participating in an online conference for couples in the fire service. The purpose of this conference is to strengthen marriages in a demographic that has historically high rates of separation, divorce, addictions, and suicide.

It was encouraging for me, to speak with women from around the country who know the lingo. Who can commiserate about the stressors that surround our husbands and our marriages. Who don't judge when we admit that day after shift is hard. Sam also was able to connect with guys as they got honest about PTSD and how it has impacted their marriages. These men were open about their addictions and recoveries and encouraged each other to make getting their marriages back on track a priority.

We spent time asking some really tough questions. We practiced active listening skills while hearing some really hard answers. I'll be the first to admit that our marriage is not all unicorns and rainbows. We have fallen into some really deep pitfalls along our journey. The last three years have been filled with a million challenges, changes, and adjustments. Some we weathered well, others we struggled and required outside help.

This group reassured us that asking for help isn't a bad thing and showed us that we are not alone. Firefighter marriages across the country are under siege, but now we have new resources to access and some new skills to practice. Best of all we have a new "tribe" that welcomed us into their place of camaraderie and support.

If you are in need of firefighter marriage resources check out https://firefighterwife.com/


We had a date night at an outdoor restaurant.

ZOOM meeting with 65+ firefighter families across the country was amazing!

For the first time ever in 28 years of being together, I put on Sam's gear and I have a new appreciation for what he does.

Part of the event included cooking our own dinner together with everyone else via  ZOOM.
Creamy Chicken with Mashed potatoes and Bacon wrapped asparagus.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Standing on the Promises

I find it interesting that the word I chose in January for 2020 was “Standing”.  For the last few weeks I have been challenged to stand in the face of some very real cares and worries.

It occurred to me that standing against adversity requires you to plant your feet and square your shoulders. While your stance is important, your foundation plays an even greater role. Planting your feet on marbles is not nearly as effective as solid ground.

The foundation for my mental and emotional stance always comes back to God’s promises. So after a particularly difficult day recently, I focused my bible study on what God says he will always be. I found four promises that resonated with me in our current situation and the resulting ways I can stand firm in His foundation.

1) God will always be with me.
          God says so many times that he will never leave nor forsake me. He is forever at my side, fighting with and for me. He doesn’t say I will never experience hard things, but that in them He is with me and will bring me through them. In the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, God didn’t extinguish the furnace. He stood in the furnace with them.
Joshua 1:9
Isaiah 43:2
Deuteronomy 31:8
              Because of this I can stand and not despair.

2) God will always be in control.
          While there isn’t one bible verse that says this truth in a simple quotable way, there are many times when God has demonstrated his power. Nothing happens that he hasn’t decided needed to happen. He is sovereign and our finite minds can not even grasp the enormity of what that means.
Isaiah 14:24
Proverbs 19:21
Daniel 2:21
            Because of this I can stand and not fear.

3) God will always be good.
            This promise is so hard for us to believe because oftentimes what is happening to us doesn’t feel good. It feels hard, sorrowful, painful, and to us those are an indication of a break. Broken equals bad in our mindset. Broken is good to God because He knows the end of the story. Mended is so much more beautiful to Him.
1 Chronicles 16:34
Psalm 34:8
Nahum 1:7
          Because of this I can stand and not doubt.

4) God will always be victorious.
          I love this promise! In the end, when all is said and done, God is the winner! He has all the power and all the authority because He created it all.
Romans 8:37-39
John 16:33
1 John 5:4
         Because of this I can stand and I will not fail.

So many more promises of God are in the bible. I would encourage you to seek them out and discover your own way to stand in Him.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Hard Times

I'm not going to lie. The last few weeks have been really hard. Covid has changed so much for everyone I know. Sam's job as a first responder in what is now the second hardest hit city in the state, has certainly shaken up our world. 

Three weeks ago Sam moved into a dorm provided by a local university. They had set up rooms for first responders and health care workers who had concerns about going home after their shifts. At the same time a camper was parked on our property for me to live in so that the girls could go back to work in their "essential employee" positions. 


Three weeks of no physical contact with another human being makes you realize that perhaps you aren't the isolationist you thought you were! 


This separation has changed my relationship with Sam. Talking via video feeds and the occasional face to face visit (maintaining at least 6 feet of separation) has bettered our conversational skills. We've always been good at managing and coordinating family life with distancing; it's just part of being a firefighter family. Now though, it's Sam who is managing the house, and I am the one giving input from the outside. I have had to give up a LOT of control and those that know me, know that is no small feat! 

We are currently attempting to construct what the next steps will look like. We need to find the balance between safety and quality of life. The measures we have taken certainly mitigate the immediate threat, but do not set us up for a long term solution to, what appears to be, a long term problem. This virus that is unprecedented and has a lot of variables, is one that necessitates creativity. I am grateful that our current solution has awarded us the time we need to think things through and make a calculated plan. 

Time is certainly something I have a lot of these days. A blessing and a curse. One thing I have developed over the last three weeks is the habit of taking a breath. When a problem comes up, I am teaching myself to breathe and let the situation sit before responding. It is a very new way of approaching things for me. The downside is I have time OVERthink! I am teaching myself to mentally set thoughts aside and then focus on all the things I can control. Practice makes perfect and I'm getting a ton of practice these days!

Good things come out of times of struggle. Taking the time to recognize them and remember them will help us get through this. That and a mug of whipped coffee! 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

It’s been a while since I did a “By the Numbers” post!

As of today:

                      5 Daughters
     
 2 Sons-in-law            

                         2 Granddaughters 
                 
                2 dogs    

          2 cups of coffee consumed (so far this morning! 😳)

4 chickens    
                                           Married for 9,812 days

                      1 Turtle

1 day until our weekend getaway

                                40 days until our anniversary vacation 

                   3 sewing machines

202 days until my birthday🎁🎉

                   28 miles hiked/walked

    9 states and 1 country checked off our bucket list

                                    90 items in my Etsy shop

2 items on my grocery list 

                     1 AMAZING LIFE


                         
                         


Wednesday, March 4, 2020

If Those Two Could See Us Now

Sam and I are going to a marriage conference this weekend. They asked us to send in a picture from our wedding day. After YEARS of being missing, my wedding album was found when we moved to the new house. It will be 27 years of marriage in April. We have shared the details of our marriage struggles with very few people, because marriage is sacred and needs to be protected. But perhaps by showing some vulnerability, we can encourage someone else.

Like the album, our marriage relationship got lost in the day-to-day struggles of babies, homeschooling, jobs, teenagers, farm, and general life. About a year ago, through a series of “only-God-could-do-that” events, Sam and I fell in love with each other again.

Falling in love sounds so easy, but it took real effort: conscious and deliberate work. It required humility, grace, and mercy from both of us as little by little, like peeling the layers of an onion, we unwrapped years of hurt and unmet expectations.

Marriage is hard. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or fooling themselves (or selling you something). The idea of two flawed, imperfect people attempting to coexist in the stressful environment of “life” is challenging enough, but asking them to thrive and live abundantly, is monumentally difficult! It is a task that requires deliberateness and intentionality. For Sam and I, it required God. Only in surrendering our intentions and desires to Him were we able to gain the necessary humbleness. By accepting His grace and mercy for our individual failures, we were equipped to demonstrate grace and mercy for the other’s failings.

Can every marriage recover from a nosedive into lethargy and apathy? No. Sometimes the answer is to walk away from the burning wreckage assured that you did everything you could to survive.
Do I have the magic recipe for healing trauma and deep hurts? Can I say, “If you do thus and so, you will see positive results”? Nope again. I can only share what worked for us and believe me, we made many wrong turns and poor decisions along the way.

Twenty-seven years is a long time, especially in today’s environment. I am thankful that we pulled out of our ditch in time to spend another 30 years together. If the last year is any indication, the next 30 will be epic!

“Better than our promises, is the day we got to keep them. I wish those two could see us now. They never would believe how there are different kinds of happy” ~Sara Groves “Different Kinds of Happy”

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