Tag Archives: christianity

Re-Entry

On September 21st, I went to Africa with a team of 6 other women, through Africa New Life Ministries, a non-profit organization. Africa New Life is an organization created by Rwandans to help the Rwandan people empower themselves through education and employment.

An overview of ANLM taken from their website:

“Since 2001, Africa New Life has shared the Gospel using two hands: the hand of compassion and the hand of evangelism. Our goal is to see lives transformed through meeting basic needs, to give hope for the future for those living in poverty in Rwanda, and to share the freedom and hope found in Christ. At the heart of our model for breaking cycles of poverty is educational sponsorship. With a high school education, or a vocational equivalent, children in Rwanda have hope for the future.”

AFNLM believes in caring for the “whole child”. While educational sponsorship is at the core of their work, they believe children need other key factors to succeed such as a growing faith, community development, and a healthy body.

Their mission statement, powerful and simple, drew me in immediately:

Africa New Life exists to transform lives and communities through preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and acts of compassion.”

Our days in Kigali were filled with activity. Being a team of women, ANLM asked if we would consider focusing our trip around spending time in relationship with women and children, offering encouragement and support. We were thrilled to have that opportunity, so on our trip we completed 15 home visits. Eleven of these visits included meeting children that are sponsored through monthly donations by various team members. The sponsorship program provides education and medical assistance. Sponsored children also attend a monthly Christian day camp and a four-day bible camp each fall. We were able to touch the sweet faces of children that we had only known on paper previously. A powerful experience that I will write about another day. The other four home visits were to women enrolled in a sewing program through ANLM’s Women’s Vocational Center. In between visits, our days were packed with a full on Rwanda experience. We attended a Christian women’s conference. We lived a day in the life of a local woman, right down to cultivating land and gathering water. We gave presentations on business skills, and health and wellness to women in sewing and cosmetology programs. We walked through a genocide memorial museum. And we spent even more time connecting with our sponsored children outside of their homes.

There is so much I want to express about my time in Africa. It will forever be one of the most important and joyful times of my life. I cannot wait to share my thoughts on education, local culture, short-term mission trips, the genocide, post genocide healing and reconciliation, worship, values, and sponsorship.  

But for today, I want to discuss re-entry. Sunday we returned from Rwanda, and we are elated to be home. But coming home brings a big bag of mixed emotions. And as someone who has always been a deep feeler, re-entering the life I left less than 2 weeks ago has been plain hard. Previous service experiences and mission trips have left me well versed on the internal struggle that occurs when you leave a life changing experience, so during the trip I began bracing myself for impact. Processing the emotions involved in re-entry is important and is an essential and necessary step for personal growth, but it is hard work.

Africa New Life Ministries scheduled a debriefing session with Pastor Fred, their executive director, for the day we left. During it, he addressed re-emersion. Looking straight at us, laughing knowingly, he said gently, “Now, when you go home…PLEASE…do not sit around your home feeling bad about what you have. Enjoy your life! Just don’t forget about us. Don’t forget what you learned. Go home and be an ambassador for Africa New Life.” This was a gift. By addressing the internal struggle he knew was imminent he normalized our feelings in advance. It made me tear up. Pastor Fred genuinely hoped we would heed his advice.

I have had a hard time heeding.

I feel disoriented. It is as if someone put a mask over my eyes, spun me around, then took the mask off and told me to walk.

Last Tuesday, while getting ready to start my day and chaperone a field trip, I noticed I was still washing off the red stain of the soil we walked on while visiting homes in Kigali. A few days ago I was delivering food to starving families and talking to people with HIV. Now I was preparing to shepherd first graders through a fire station to learn about safety. This felt bewildering. I went to the field trip in a fog.

I want to be able to share meaningful things when asked about Rwanda, but I am overwhelmed by trying to find words that properly capture joy, sadness, hope and despair all at once. Instead, out come words like “good” and “amazing”, which feel lame and weak.  

I want to accurately express to my husband how my heart broke at the exact same time that my soul was lifted. But words fall short, so I find myself staying silent…nothing depicts the whole picture, so I just don’t.

I want to hide in my house, as if I am experiencing some sort of grief, instead of rejoining the world.

When I open my stocked pantry, I feel shame and guilt. Every family we visited received a bag of maize flour, sugar, rice, beans, peanuts and salt. Enough food for a month, and they will likely attempt to stretch it much further. We have a full pantry and will probably still run to the store this week.

I want to be a different, better person. And I find myself thinking about it while staring blankly in a Starbucks line, the irony hitting me like a ton of bricks.

I wish that my children could grasp the sweet hand they were dealt.

Then I think about how my children are just like me. I slept on a bed in a mosquito net, while the families I visited that day slept on dirt.

Before we left, I wrote this on our team Facebook page:

“God has always been at work in Rwanda, and the Rwandan people are making incredible things happen for themselves, as it should be…Pray we remain humble, remembering that God has been at work in Rwanda for a very long time, using Rwandans…We will get to see His work and participate in their journey, but they have got this.”

Why is maintaining this perspective so difficult?

Why do I put this burden on myself when they have God?

I believe that God’s plan involved equipping me to help. So I will straighten myself out and mobilize. Rather than wringing my hands, I will listen to Pastor Fred’s advice and here is what I will do:

I will not focus on what I cannot fix, instead I will encourage and support the ongoing efforts of Rwanda and Africa New Life Ministries. 

Instead of standing at the sink obsessing over why I get to have water, I will smile thinking back to the day we waited for our turn at the water pump. The time spent waiting for water provided women a rare pause from constant manual labor and multitasking. If it has not rained the spout only trickles, so people wait. We witnessed how this small pause made space for community. The ladies chatted and laughed. No doubt they laughed about us… I hope they did. It was one of my favorite moments of the trip. Lamenting that we have easily accessible water while they do not is useless. So, I will put my resources and time towards providing accessible clean water for others. (Pssst…Living Water International)

Instead of hiding, I will rejoin my community. Rwandans value community. Rwanda’s emphasis on relational living has no doubt played a large role in their ability to move forward post genocide. My team and I will honor that by returning to our own communities. These are people who supported our dream to travel to Africa, made it possible, and then cared for our families while we were gone. These same people will be there to help us process our experience and to encourage us to apply what we have learned here.

I will appreciate my families access to education and medical care. If I mope and spin my wheels about why I get to have those things, it takes from the energy I could use to make those things accessible through sponsorship and sharing the mission of ANLM.

But all of that is a work in progress.

My heart is still grieving the imbalance in this world.  And my soul is also filled with gratitude over experiencing a beautiful new culture and country. But I know I will find a new normal. And that knowledge is in part why I am holding on tight to the tension of feeling shaken and hopeful. I want the part of me that broke to stay broken, but I know that it will heal.

I’m praying for a solid scar.

Rules! Rules! Rules!

The car door opened courtesy of tiny familiar hands that I love so much.  I arrived at the carpool line extra early excitedly waiting to get the run down.  My two little elementary school ladies stepped inside the vehicle and I began the peppering of questions.  The first day of school was officially over.  I maturely squealed, “MY GIRLS!!!!  HIIIII!!!  HOW WAS YOUR DAYYYYYY?”  

They left my house 8 hours earlier completely prepared for greatness.  They sported unstained clothing THAT I IRONED, brushed teeth, combed and styled hair, healthy lunches with handwritten notes, full water bottles, filled out mandatory forms, and they received a hug and kiss from both parents.  For some, this is the norm.  In our home, this lasts maybe five days before I start justifying the smacking of the snooze button.  I tell myself that 5 more minutes will not cause us to rush too much (lies) and that frozen pb&j’s do contain protein and thaw by lunch.  And as for the iron, well, it makes a better collector of dust most days than a releaser of wrinkles.  But on the first day, I like to give the teachers false hope that these children belong to parents that will sign all the notes all year long and read all the newsletters sent home.  I usually wait until October to begin the tour of disappointment.  

So, when the response I received from my elementary school daughter started off with an incredibly deep and dramatic inhale, along with an even longer and louder exhale, complete with eyes rolled to the tippy top of her lids, I braced myself for the response.  She said, “UGGGGHHHHH!!!!  IT WAS AWWWWFUL!!!!”  I asked her why and she immediately responded with one word, three times over, “RULES!! RULES!! RULES!!!!”

She went on to explain to me that her entire day was made up learning rules.  In her opinion, school is a place for reading, learning and tests, NOT spending days going over RULES.  At this point, I asked her to smile for my phone so I could show her daddy her thoughts on the first day.  She did not smile. I might need to work on my compassion-when-kids-are-venting button.

Not only did she learn rules in her classroom, she learned rules in the cafeteria, and there were rules on the playground, and the library was not even open yet but if it had been you can bet there would have been rules there too.  Plus they had to write about rules, read about rules, repeat the rules, and she might have even come home with a new tattoo on her back that said, “RULES.”  Fine, no physical tattoo was made but a mental one was ingrained into her soul obviously.

Honestly, I do not blame her.  And I do not blame the teachers.  Clear cut expectations are so important.  Can you even imagine if the teachers had to explain these rules to every child individually?  We would have no teachers. I do not even like asking my dogs to “sit” and “stay” more than once because…..well…..all the verbalizing is just draining. So, to me, it seems logical that the first week of school would be a time for group rule smackdowns.  How many times can one adult explain the process of dumping lunch trays?  At some point, I would not blame these teachers if they just zombie walked out of the building.  They would be blankly walking with their arms straight out, eyes bulging, and repeating in a monotone voice “please tilt your tray this way and tap it on the end of the trash can in order to dump all the food you just stirred in a circle 5,000 times and mixed with the jello and vegetable medley mush.  Then please stack it on top of the last tray that our classroom friend dumped.”  Teacher’s mental survival depends upon all our little offspring knowing what to do.  

And I don’t blame my girl either.  No one likes to sit and hear how their daily discipline is going up 1,000% after summer.  And it isn’t because she is from a generation of electronic kids that have no respect or attention span.  I’m tired of hearing that from people.  I, personally, have seen scores upon scores of kids intentionally practicing kindness in this generation.  And know what group of people plays a big role in positive character development?  TEACHERS.  But to sit and listen to this information does not mean it is enjoyable.  

I, for one, have no desire to sit and convince her to love the rules.  Let’s be honest, they really aren’t fun sometimes.  In the Old Testament, the term “law” is the translated word for the Hebrew term, Torah, or “instruction.”  The people of Israel needed guidance from God.  Humans have always needed instruction.  And instruction is good.  One way God provided it was through the Mosaic Law.   It guided people morally, socially and ceremonially by having over 600 commands that covered all aspects of life.  And it gave Israel the recipe for ways to receive blessings. My point is that laws and rules have been around FOR A LONG TIME.  And my daughter is not the first person to have that feeling of “me no likey.”

Someday, she will grow up and will not have to sit and almost suffocate from listening to adults read rules out loud.  However, I do hope teachers and this family can burn certain instructions into her brain and heart for daily living.  I want her to respect others and herself, to listen before she speaks, to be able to learn and speak truth and to love others well, to make sure her binder gets signed every time she needs to go potty….  And I hope she practices applying grace to herself and to others.  Because that’s what Christ did for us. Once God sent Jesus to this earth, Christians were no longer bound to the Mosaic Law.  And thank goodness because over 600 commands are impossible to keep.  We now have the Holy Spirit in us as believers.  And we are recipients of grace by no doing of our own.  And this is great news…..for believers, for children who hate rules, for teachers who are faithfully serving children (THANK YOU JESUS), for parents who are trying their hardest to raise their family, and possibly for dog owners that find their new pair of shoes with teeth marks all in them.

Grace House

She has taught me so much in the past few months and I hope I have helped her some too.

She is trustworthy, kind, humble, and gentle in spirit.  The first day I met her, she felt the need to tell me all about herself and did not keep any secrets.  At times she talked quite fast due to her nerves and the pain attached to exposing her past, but she forced herself to trust me.  She divulged past regrets, but rested in the fact that her past had allowed her to land in a safe place.  She inquired about my life, always looking me in the eye when I spoke to show she was engaged.  She sought out my advice on handling conflict with peers because it felt uncomfortable yet unavoidable at times.  She still smiles often even though parts of her future are uncertain.  And she has asked me if I will still want to be her friend in the upcoming months.  I have assured her that I do.

About 7 months ago, I met her.  I had been feeling a tug at my heart to get involved in something outside of my “bubble” so I sent an email to an organization I had heard of through our church.  Our bubbles are funny, aren’t they?  Most of us work towards creating an environment with our families that provide safety and security.  We yearn for stability.  A place where memories are made and children have freedom without parents fearing their every move.  I wonder if, as humans, we are wired to seek these things?  I’m not sure I’ve ever run into someone who has said “hey, I’m looking for a home where I could put my family at risk.  You seen one?”

My friend that I described above?  Well, about 9 months ago, she was sitting in prison.  And she was thinking prison was going to be her home for quite some time for personal choices made which did not agree with the law.  In addition to legal violations, she was also struggling to overcome addiction.  On paper, she was not the type of person I would have ever put myself around, nor my children, because she was living a life that was so different from mine.

But God had another plan for her life.  She was told she would be given the opportunity to go to a rehab type facility, but there was no guarantee she was done serving time.  Soon after she learned this, the founders of an organization called Grace House happened to be visiting the prison and handed her an application.  

The mission of Grace House “is to give women at risk the opportunity to overcome destructive life-styles of addiction, incarceration and poverty.  We provide a protected environment, both physically and spiritually, so that women may grow and mature in their faith and be transformed by the power of God.”  The women adhere to strict routines and participate in daily bible studies.  In addition, they enhance their learning through classes and listening to speakers.  The nine month program covers a variety of topics such as addiction recovery, money management, parenting skills, healthy relationships, nutrition instruction, productive lifestyle skills, music and art, and physical fitness.  In addition, the women also volunteer and serve others in the community.  And, they are assigned a personal mentor.

This is where God intersected my story with my new friend.  I would love to tell you that going into this experience, I was confident in my ability to serve at Grace House.  When I first met with the director, I was really hoping she would recommend that I either tutor some of the women with their school work or that I would teach a class.  I preferred this because it would allow me to “help” but would also keep me somewhat distant and in my comfort zone.  She didn’t.  She asked me to be a mentor and had my specific friend in mind.  She then asked me if I had any questions or concerns.  I did.  Some I voiced and some I kept to myself.  One of my thoughts went like this, “Well, I haven’t quite been in prison before, nor struggled with addiction.  Wait that’s not true….I am a 39-year-old nail biter who probably loves Diet Coke a little too much, but I haven’t struggled with addictions that could land me in jail!  Is she even going to like me?  Will she relate to me?  Will she honestly want advice from someone who has not walked the type of path she has?”  But I decided to trust the director, and with that, I ended up busting right out of my safe little bubble.

Shortly after meeting, we discovered that she and I connect easily.  We both enjoy going to the movies together.  We also like to explore the city and visit historical sites.  We speak the language of motherhood and have found that a mother’s love transcends all divides.  I know her kids’ names and can describe their personalities and she can do the same with mine.  We are both drawn to exercise, because without this healthy outlet we both find ourselves struggling.  Also, she has learned to tolerate my weekly driving debacles due to my nonexistent sense of direction mixed with my inability to accurately follow all the GPS instructions.  Not only has it been easier than expected to spend time with her, I have thoroughly ENJOYED it.  I look forward to our weekly adventures and conversations.  I love that before we eat, she reaches out for my hand, grasps it, and prays with a genuine heart.

And so, I am rewiring my thinking about my bubble.  Yes, I want safety and security and stability.  But as a Christian, it is not my job to try to create that environment for myself nor my family.  In fact, it is impossible to have that type of control in this life because suffering and human uncertainty will always exist.  But we can be assured, that as believers, NOTHING can separate us from the love of God. Paul tells us, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35; 37-39, New International Version).

So if you have possibly wanted to bust out of your bubble but struggle with the “I’m not sure I will relate” or “it freaks me out” or “will I have enough time” or “what if I hate it”, I would like to encourage you.  I GET IT.  Oh, and also….DO IT.  Take your feelings of doubt and insecurity and slap them down.  Step out.  Be bold.  Be uncomfortable and courageous.  Spread the Good News of the security given to us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  He provides us with the best bubble in which to live.

In one short month, she will graduate from Grace House.  And she will not be returning to prison.  Her parole officer informed her that he was impressed by the changes within her.  He recommended to the court that she not be incarcerated and the courts agreed!  I am so incredibly proud of her and I’m also in awe of the strength she has.  She recently told me that she never knew that there was a light in this world because she had always felt a darkness covering her.  But now that she’s tasted and seen the sweetness that Jesus is, she cannot wait to go home and raise her kids. She wants them to grow up knowing what it is to have hope.  Her goals are to be with her children as much as she can, go to work, read her bible, exercise and attend weekly Celebrate Recovery meetings.  Her plan is simple and focused.  Personally, I cannot wait to meet up with my new friend in the community we both belong to because she is a blessing and inspiration to me.

If you would like to learn more about or donate to Grace House, please visit http://gracehousesa.org  

My Bible

Several years ago I attended a weekend Pine Cove camp with good friends. While there, it came out that I did not own a personal Bible. Days after we left the camp they presented me with an engraved study Bible. Inside, each friend had written a personal note and highlighted their favorite verse.

 

 

 

 

Now when I stumble upon the highlighted verses, I am reminded how important community is and how often I fight against it. My pride tells me that shouldering it alone means I am strong. And that is when things tend to go very poorly for me, because it is not about strong versus weak. God created us to be in community with one another.

 

 

 

 

A spiritual community, when authentic, provides a place to share joy, hold space, and carry each other’s burdens. It is where we can quietly learn or stand up and teach. It is a safe spot for imperfect people to mess up, regroup, and try again. It should be full of messy, unconditional love.

 

 

 

 

This Bible and every other Bible serves as a powerful reminder that we can experience God’s grace and message through others and that through community we have the opportunity to experience a bit of Kingdom living right here on earth.

 

 

“Nice Girls Don’t Change the World”

I ordered the book “Nice Girls Don’t Change The World” last week thinking that I would add it to my stack of books I’d like to read someday.  It arrived the day before my husband and I were heading out of town for a weekend away.  And in typical fashion, I was throwing my airplane bag together approximately 16 seconds before walking out the door (note: when I’m 40, I’m so going to pack at least 1 hour before I leave….#grownupgoals).  When I realized the book’s petite size, it instantly found its way into the bag and it met all my requirements. The book was small.  The lines were double spaced.  And, there were pictures.  Folks, this was going to be a quick read and I love a quick read. Waiting on the tarmac, I opened it up and realized good things were in store for me. By the end of the first page it was clear Hybel was going to give me a glimpse into her life, personal thoughts and emotions. Cue Happy Katie in an airplane.

Hybel opens by describing herself as a nice girl for the first half of her life.  Her self description included being a people pleaser, a hard worker, a rule follower and someone always pressuring herself to be better.  This is when I checked the front cover to make sure I had not authored the book.

When Hybel turned 39, coincidentally the same age I am now, she ran out of steam.  Her internal and external selves were not in sync and she sought help.  She discovered:

The opposite of a nice girl, I learned, is a “good woman.”  Being a good woman means trading the safe, passive, people-pleasing behavior of niceness for the dynamic power of true goodness.  It means moving from the weakness and immaturity of girlhood toward the strength and maturity of womanhood.

She began to recognize how God wants us to see ourselves and our responsibilities versus the false assumptions we make about God and unknowingly live out.  And she uncovered the force of fear and all its debilitating power.  Ultimately she saw through the muck of her actions and thoughts, finally getting to the core of her purpose.

As soon as I finished the book, I mentally added this to my list of books I’d like to pass on to my daughters someday.  First I love that it is written by a woman in a different stage of life than me.  She is able to reflect and offer wisdom through her own experiences.  Reading her story and seeing how God used her struggles gives hope.  Second, life is hard.  And sometimes our own struggles seem to dominate our thoughts.  Or worse, we believe the lie that we are the only people who might be suffering because the world likes us to think that perfection is attainable.  And perfection and suffering do not exist together.  Reading about another person’s troubles helps people connect on a genuine human level and inspires us to better ourselves and help those around us.  And third, Hybel is vulnerable enough to share that when she was in pain, she reached out for help.  And at some point in my children’s lives, chances are they will need support.  I have repeatedly talked with my girls about the importance of healthy relationships and how there are professionals able to help in times of distress.  Oftentimes, we humans react by keeping pain bottled up rather than reaching out for assistance which can provide relief and guidance.  Reading stories about others who have received help lessens the stigma associated with seeking professional assistance from mental pain.

I recommend adding this book to your reading list.  Or even better, purchasing it, reading it and then passing it along as a gift of inspiration to another woman you know that could use encouragement as she navigates life.  Plus, my favorite part of the book was towards the end.  Hybel does not end her story by being content with her knowledge of what comprises a good woman.  She takes this truth, mixes in some passion and energy and describes her transformation into a downright dangerous woman.  And this is the type of woman I hope to be someday and I that I wish for my girls too.

Here is the link to the book if you are interested!

https://www.amazon.com/Nice-Girls-Dont-Change-World/dp/0310272319/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1423024101&sr=1-1&keywords=nice+girls+don%27t+change+the+world

 

40 Bags in 40 Days

Over the next 40 days, our families will be participating in a decluttering project designed by our friends over at White House Black Shutters. The challenge begins March 1 and extends through April 15.  It coincides with the 40 days of Lent, which makes it extra meaningful for any Christian participants looking for a spiritual exercise to practice this Lenten season.

According to upperroom.org, the season of Lent is a time to return to God and refocus our lives to be more like Jesus.  It is 40 days where we can change our lifestyle and allow God to do a work in our heart as we prepare for Easter. We want to pare down excess and free our minds to focus on life as God intended. For these reasons, this Lent our families will be participating in the 40 Bags in 40 Days DeCluttering Challenge.

The idea is to declutter an area in your house by filling up one bag per day. However, you can change that to meet individual family needs and goals. The website provides links to printables, ideas for decluttering both stuff and “non-stuff,” a Facebook page for support and a daily email course.

Click here for all the information and here to join the official group Facebook page.

We would love if you joined us in this challenge, whether you participate in Lent or not. Please let us know if you decide to partake. We will update the blog as we go. We expect there will be ups and downs. And by “ups and downs” we mean we are going to start out strong and then probably there will be some crying.

-Amanda and Katie

Eye Of The Storm

While showering the other day, I decided to play some music to start my day off right.  And then I heard the lyrics from Ryan Stevenson’s song “Eye of the Storm.”  In it, he references God maintaining control, protecting us, and being our anchor when life is spinning.  I immediately felt tears well up inside of me and did the most therapeutic thing possible.  I took over as lead vocalist for Ryan and let my inner Celine shine.  Within 5 seconds, Millie discovered how to throw her 7 pound body into the bathroom doors and bust out of there as if her life depended on it.  And once again, I was left alone. This time by the puppy whom, for weeks, I have been patiently letting use my house as her personal potty training zone.

The tears came unexpectedly, yet right on time.  I have been in the throes of a storm as of late.  And when Mr. Anger knocks on my door and brings his jerk friends Loneliness, Heartache, Doubt and Frustration, I typically attempt to politely introduce myself and quickly figure out why they have arrived all while simultaneously turning around and high-tailing it out of there. Only this time, I didn’t escape them. And they stuck around and put on a display that could rival Disney World fireworks. Except it was the opposite of anything magical.

It’s so gut-wrenchingly hard to watch your kids struggle.  They are no longer in my protected cocoon while at home with me all day. Those early years may have been physically hard as a momma, but these years are a new kind of difficult on the emotions.  I want so badly to make everything ok for them.  I want to put a little bitty earpiece in their cute auditory canal every morning, so I can whisper truth to them when some other kid is a turd or when I see them shouldering self-doubt or internalizing the weight of their world.  But more than wanting to protect them, I want them to stand up for themselves with confidence and to believe in themselves.  And to get there requires them learning to overcome adversity.  My head gets it.  My heart, though….fuh-get about it, it just hurts.

And balancing work-life and family-life and engaging in quality-time-with-each-other-life while being individuals who have our unique-interests-life is a constant challenge.  It reminds me a bit of a game of bowling.  There are lots of pins to take care of to win.  You try to line your life up right.  Sometimes you’re covering it all well and bowling strikes, and sometimes, well, you’re in the gutter.  And recently, I kind of feel like I let the ball go too early, tried to chase it down the alley, slipped in the lane and slid head first into the pin-clearing bar.  

And once I feel like I’m failing in one area of life, I tend to spiral and feel like a failure as a mom and wife too.  And why stop there when my brain can continue the dogpile and tell me how alone I am, and that everyone seems to be getting things right except for me and that it’s never going to get better.  Who’s having fun reading this yet?  

I debated writing this because, for real, who wants to read an article from Debbie Downer?  But then Amanda reminded me that we promised ourselves we would be authentic and honest along with our light-hearted stuff.  I hope you can relate to this moment of struggle; it is just not a part of life we like to show to each other.

Then I doubted whether or not I should share it, as I am well aware of people struggling with more challenging and even tragic situations. And once I start comparing, I end up believing I should just suck it up.  But then I remembered reading what Brené Brown wrote in Rising Strong about comparing our sufferings with others.  

Falling down, screwing up, and facing hurt often lead to bouts of second-guessing our judgement, our self-trust, and even our worthiness.  I am enough can slowly turn into Am I really enough?  If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past decade, it’s that fear and scarcity immediately trigger comparison, and even pain and hurt are not immune to being assessed and ranked…. Yes, perspective is critical.  But I’m a firm believer that complaining is okay as long as we piss and moan with a little perspective.  Hurt is hurt, and every time we honor our own struggle and the struggles of others by responding with empathy and compassion, the healing that results affects all of us.

So if you’re struggling, I want you to know that I am so sorry.  And also, that I am with you. I want a quick fix for you and me because that makes me feel good, but there are no guarantees for that on this earth. This was part of the reason that Fear got an invite to my party too. Not having the ability to solve our loved ones’ problems or get the upper hand on proper “balance” (whatever that maybe) or ensure the safety and security of the future isn’t likely either.  And it is scary to have no control over these things.

But you know what I am doing?  I’m committed to waking up every day and trying my best.  That does not mean I will be the best, but I’ll give whatever I can that day.  And I want to be brave.  And I want to be courageous.  And I want to be vulnerable.  Brown also states, “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.  Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”  It’s true that coming out of my deepest valleys have led to my most significant areas of emotional growth.  But that doesn’t mean that the new struggles give me instant perspective or feel any less horrible.  All valleys stink.

But our loved ones don’t stink.  They will support us.  And God definitely has our back.  We need a foundation to go to when we spiral.  And we have One.  The book of Matthew tells us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30 NIV).  He will comfort us, protect us, guard us and love us through the storms.  And I know I am so thankful that my heavy times are not hopeless times.

http://www.kimberlygeswein.com

The Stocking

This Monday marked the beginning of the last week of school before Christmas break.  This means there are still Advent calendars to follow, shelfy elfs to move, business parties to attend, school parties to brave, Christmas cards to send out, sugary things to bake, wintry decor to put up (it was 65 degrees outside today so inside we pretend that this season occurs during non-sweaty temps) and gifts to gather for family, friends, teachers, co-workers, pet fish, and bus drivers.  And since Amazon came out with Prime, we should ALL be doing something for the poor souls that deliver all the cardboard boxes in all the world.  Without a doubt, we are smack dab in the midst of the holiday season.  It brings an energy that is palpable in my family and I do not take it for granted that these are precious years we will not see again.  

I love this time of year.  My kids love it too because their most favorite family tradition happens during the Christmas season.  On the day following Thanksgiving, they start begging to go to the store for their annual ornament.  A long time ago, we started a tradition where they pick an ornament representing something they love.  It could be something as simple as a TV show or movie they enjoyed that year, a sport they played, or just a piece they think is extra pretty.  Then we label the box with their name, year and age and add it to their collection.  So when it comes time to put the tree up each year, they literally jump up and down (ok, my little two do, the middle schooler likes doing it but definitely stays calm, cool and collected at all times) when their stack of ornaments comes out and they get to relive each one they have chosen since they were around 2 years old.  

We look forward to digging out ornaments like this….

Because everyone knows that cowgirl M&M’s holding guns help to make the season bright.

I remember when our tree was full of blank spaces, filler stuff, and reindeer ornaments made from glued wooden sticks adorned with twisted pipe cleaners and red pom-pom noses.  I still have all of those items.  But as this family ages, the tree has become a representation of a life of three little girls growing up into older little ladies.  Sure, I have seen trees prettier than ours because there are two kinds of people in this world. Those that take a regular tree full of sticks and pokey needles, and transform it into a sea of garland and ribbon and ornaments in complementary colors. And then there are people like me. The kind that buy a fake tree pre-wrapped in lights that still work when you bust a few bulbs putting it up.  And my version of fancy means we sprung for the $5 switch thingie that allows you to turn the lights with a tap of your foot. We slap up ornaments that have family pictures on them along with ones that document our travels.  And of course M&M’s holding guns.  Side note:  My mom use to let us put tinsel on the tree growing up and I LOVED IT.  I’d throw that stuff up there by the handful.  I also remember watching her take down all the tinsel after the holidays as I would be darting out the door to play.   And then when I’d be exhausted and come inside for a break, she’d STILL be pulling the silvery strands off the tree.  Therefore, my mother was a saint.  I will never ever be that mom.  To all you mothers who allow their children to do this, I salute you.

And as much as I love this time of year, I also struggle.  When I look at things logically, my brain tells me I should not feel anything but energy, smiles, and the sugar coursing through me from all the whipped cream cheese frosting inside pumpkin rolls and on top of ooey gooey cookies. Plus, we are celebrating the birth of Christ, which is a celebration of hope and joy arriving to our world.  And for many, many years, I only felt the joy of the season.  But starting about 8 years ago, my life went through a major transformation.  I lost my mom to cancer two days after Christmas.  And it was a brutal disease that took my vibrant and devoted mother and left her gasping for air at times.  Watching her physical body deteriorate while her mental spirit stayed strong and wanted to desperately stay on this earth permanently scarred me.  It broke a piece of my heart for my dad, my daughters who lost their grandma way too early, for myself and for the multitude of other friends and family members that loved her too.  And though I truly do love the Christmas season, there’s a darker range of emotions I also experience that go from life feeling heavy, to a sadness in my soul, to an exhaustion that isn’t from a lack of sleep.  Do I feel this every second of every day?  Nope.  Do these emotions control my mental state?  Nope.  But I do recognize that they creep up on me around this time of year and rather than deny that they exist, I’ve learned to live with them.

Once I experienced the death of my mom, my eyes were opened to another level of life.  I know I am not alone in my grief.  I have friends that have lost spouses, parents, friends and even their own precious children.  And at some point, if you are continuing to live and breathe, you will also experience loss and grief.  

There are a few things that I have learned to lean towards for comfort during this season.  First off is my faith.  And I love what Paul has to say in 2 Corinthians:  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Cor 1:3-4)  First off, we aren’t alone.  Ever.  God is where compassion and comfort come from and He is there during our struggles.  He knows what you are going through.  He isn’t surprised.  Secondly, He uses our pain.  He comforts us and then allows us to help others.  He forms us into people who can take our own trials and provide hope to others when they go through it.  Even though our lives here on earth will never be problem free, we can provide love and comfort, show compassion and give hope to each other.  For me, this is living out the meaning of Christmas.

The other thing that helps me during this season is being able to look back on the traditions my mom established during my childhood.  On Christmas Eve each year, she would gather all of us in the family room, pour glasses of eggnog, bring out a variety of homemade Christmas cookies on a platter, turn off all the bright overhead lights and TV and we would sit as a family with Christmas music in the background with the tree lit.  She would then start a conversation and ask us purposeful questions .  What was your favorite part of the past year?  What is something you are looking forward to next year?  I counted on having that 30 minutes every year.  It felt peaceful.  And let’s be honest, I loved cookies and eggnog too.  My own family does not continue that same tradition, but it did show me the importance of setting aside time to just BE together.  And I loved the sense of stability it gave me as a child to know that I could count on my family doing the same thing together every single year.

Along with the childhood traditions my mom established, she also left me a lasting Christmas gift.  I did not even realize how precious it would be to me when she began making them.  When I got married, she decided to needlepoint us our own Christmas stocking.  For years, I watched her pull out her bag of yarn and work on them slowly but surely.  I am certain this is where Hailey gets her love of sewing because it did NOT come from her mother.  With every new grand baby, she would select a new stocking to begin so we could add it to our mantle for the following Christmas.  

My sweet Landry was born about 6 weeks after my mom died.  And my mom was sick my entire pregnancy with her.  My mom selected her stocking and started it, but was not able to finish it on her own.  Completing this piece was important to her.  And so she received some earthly help.  Various friends of my mom took the stocking and completed different sections of it until it was done.  When I was given the stocking by my mom’s friend after my mom had died, I became overwhelmed.  Landry received a stocking that was not only made for her with the hands of her grandmother that would never be able to hold her, but also with the loving supportive hands of her grandmother’s friends.  These women lifted her grandmother up and comforted her when she needed it most.  And that is not only a lasting gift my girls have but an ultimate lesson in friendship, compassion and loyalty.

I am not sure how the Christmas season feels to you.  Oftentimes society, social media and commercials put weighty expectations solely on happiness.  It is as if anything less than pure joy means failure.  And I hope the season is a time of joy and celebration.  But please remember the Christmas story itself was full of mixed emotions. The time leading up to the birth of Jesus being born in a manger was complicated. So much that happens in life is out of our control.  I encourage you to take advantage of the abilities God has given you.  Start a new tradition for your family or your friends or for others in need that blesses them.  If you are suffering this season, allow others to come in and comfort you.  For me,  I’ll spend some time looking at all the stockings hanging on my mantel.  And there’s one in particular I’ll look at a little longer.  The one that represents a story of love, joy, comfort, hope, compassion and above all else, grace.  And those are all the emotions I will embrace this Christmas.

Charlie. Steps in Glue Traps. The End.

You know how you tell someone a story, and in the moment it is not funny and you don’t know why you are telling them?  Except that you are going nutty inside so you share to get it out? But in spite of your own feelings, that person’s reaction begins to reveal that it might be a bit funny? That is how our first blog post came to light.

Amanda and I had trudged through the mucky process of sorting out blogolicious words like platform, web hosting and domain. Then, WordPress maliciously pushed us harder and demanded we create a sample post. Amanda, being a good friend, naturally thought it would be hysterical to reference a day of Smith chaos.  It was, indeed, an insane one, chock-full of my children’s shenanigans.  Trey was out-of-town and I was busy preparing for house guests when our teeny new kitten stepped in a large glue trap I had left under a bed to catch scorpions. Oh, hey, DID I MENTION WE HAD SCORPIONS WHEN WE MOVED HERE? Also, do you know what it’s like when a kitten is covered in a glue trap?

Amanda responded with a comforting HAHAHAHA. And, soon afterward, when I went to read our first official post, I saw this and started to HAHAHAHA myself.

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-9-26-18-pm

This whole debacle started years ago when our children started asking us if they could have a cat. This was an easy answer for us. N-to-the-O. Trey and I are N-to-the-OT cat people. We are d-to-the-og people. Side note:  I have learned that there are varying degrees of dog people and Trey and I represent both ends of the spectrum. Trey thinks our golden retriever, Tucker, is a happy, loyal canine and he enjoys petting him as he walks in the door from work. I tend to be the type of dog person that smushes my face into Tuckie Wuckie’s grill multiple times a day while using a sickeningly sweet saccharine voice to ask him questions about his day. And sometimes I pretend as if he has answered me and I continue conversing with him about his pretend answers. That’s not weird…at all. Look, even Mark Twain said, “Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.” And so, long ago, it was established that Trey and I were officially dog people. The end.

And then we had children.  And the children would see little kittens when we were out and about.  And the children’s eyes would become googly and they would ask if we could have one.  This did not fall in line with what Trey and I had decided for our family.  We are DOG people.  So our answer was firm.  We had it down.  It went like this, “you can get a cat when you’re 30….the same year you can start to think about dating.  We don’t like cats.  We are not getting one.”  I mean, have you ever noticed that they have CLAWS?

But the children persisted.  So we told them our lines over and over and added words like “absolutely not” and “never.”  You know, the serious words that drive the point home and help you stand firm in your beliefs.  I mean, have you ever seen how UNPREDICTABLE cats are?  In fact, they are so bad that they have a bacterial infection with a fever named after them.  

In time we got the children to stop asking about the kitties.  We came to understand that they were wanting a pet they could be responsible for and call their own.  Let’s be honest, Tucker sleeps with me every single night.  He has no desire to pretend as if he’s their best friend.  That boy knows who feeds him, who lets him ride shotgun in the car, and who gets him this sweet hairdo worthy of landing him the coveted January spot in Golden Retrievers of San Antonio calendar.

img_4282

Hubba-hubba…

So, we solved the cat controversy by giving the kids….FISH!!!!  First came Lloyd, then came Berry.  Two itty bitty beta fish that were cute, colorful, AND smart.  My trio still insists they have taught them tricks.  Of course, these sweet things are in separate tanks because they are actually Siamese fighting fish named after an ancient clan of warriors.  And if you put them together they’ll peck at each other until one murders the other….but that’s neither here nor there, WE SOLVED THE CAT PROBLEM!  I mean, cats have litter boxes….who has time to clean up a box filled with littered cat thingies?!  Not this family.  We only have time for fish full of such venom and hatred that they must live out their lives in solitary confinement.

And then last summer happened.  Our oldest was turning twelve and entering middle school.  She has a heart of gold and is incredibly responsible.  Her love language is not “stuff,” but she has always treasured meaningful gifts.  She’s our less-is-more gal.  And at the top of her birthday list was….a cat.  She came to me and said, “Mom, is there really no way that we can ever have a cat?  The neighbors all have them live outside during the day and in their garage at night.  They keep all the snakes and critters away.  Do you think that if maybe I put together a Powerpoint presentation for you and daddy about why cats are a good thing, then maybe you would think about it?”  And it happened, my heart started to crack.  I mean, cats are terrible, but are they THAT terrible?  

And honestly, as someone who has personally pledged to help my kids live life to the fullest, I’m pretty sure basing our decisions on the rationale of “because that’s the way we have always been” and “we don’t feel like it, so no,” isn’t the wisest. And so, after talking with multiple friends who we trust and who have all loved having a cat at one time or another, we revamped our thinking. Hailey woke up on her birthday in August and received a letter stating that she was going to get to pick out a kitty to rescue. She’s typically our most reserved child, but on this day there was no doubt from her reaction that we had hit one out of the park for her.

img_5145

A few days later we hit the local shelters.  All the girls got to pick out the kitten, but Hailey had final say.  She found a 1 pound ball of love that had been abandoned in a storm drain, but socialized well with humans.  She looked at me, said, “this is the one, Mom!!!  I want her.”  She named her Charlie and we brought our newest girl home.  I had no earthly idea what to do with her and her claws and the engine like noise that she made when someone held her, but my girls naturally began loving the heck out of her.

img_5155

You would think this could be the end of this lovely story.  But nope.  Approximately two weeks after having her home, I heard desperate pleas and screams coming from upstairs and for me to come quick because there was an EMERGENCY!!!  I dropped everything in a panic and ran and heard all kinds of wails coming from Hailey’s room.  Two of my kids had their heads buried under covers yelling, “WE CAN’T WATCH!!! HELLLLLLLP!!!”  Hailey was jumping up and down saying, “MOM!!!  MOM!!!!  GET HER!!!  OH NOOOO!!!!” on repeat.  And Charlie, well, Charlie was a hot mess.  She had gone exploring in Hailey’s room, made it under her bed, and had found the long forgotten glue trap.  She wasn’t so happy that she had touched this piece of plastic and it didn’t let go of her.  To remove the trap, she instinctively put her other paw in it, followed by a third, followed by her nose, and she rounded out the misery by twisting her back flat onto the sticky plate.  My girls were not the only ones shrieking either.  I received my introduction to the cat scream.  And the cat scream is deep, serious, and totally freaky scary coming out of a 1 pound body.

In the end, she survived, but I am sure she still has kitty nightmares.  Not only did I quickly learn how to hold her, I realized I truly loved that furry little thing.  We scrubbed vegetable oil over her entire body while pulling long strings of glue out of her fur over and over and over again.  She stopped fighting us and just became this little pathetic, sad, sticky kitty.  We shampooed her and she smelled so yummy.  We toweled her off and she just wanted to cuddle and I’ll be darned if I didn’t assign her a new ridiculous voice that I use only when I am holding her.  I mean, cats are so appreciative of being rescued, who wouldn’t love a cat?

The experience of adding Charlie to our family has taught me some lessons.   First, we all have certain ideas and thoughts drilled into our heads that we have accepted as our personal truths.  Sometimes, it’s healthy to revisit those and ask ourselves why we believe what we believe.  Why do I think this way?  When did I decide I would never own a cat?  And more importantly, WHY?  This also goes so far beyond adding an animal to a family.  

img_5274

We’ve got the holidays quickly approaching my friends.  And the holidays can be full of joy…..and stress.  We can quickly revert into old family roles and patterns. It is easy to fall back into, “I do it this way because that’s how it has always been done.” And this can place stress on our marriages and children.  Meaning, the people who were not around when we originally developed these thought patterns.  If your answer is something like “because I said so and that’s that” or “I don’t even KNOW” or “that’s how we have always lived so we have to keep doing it” then it might be time to reevaluate.  Maybe something new could be in the works for you!  Or maybe you’ll find that the answers to your questions are clear and easy to answer.  Oftentimes when my answers are grounded in my faith and are backed up by Scripture that I hold so dearly for my decision-making, I know that I am choosing what is healthy for me and my family.  Taking time to think about our personal opinions and decisions is time well spent.

And, I will admit. It turns out that all the things I thought I would hate about a cat became my favorite. Charlie is moody, odd and she wigs out unpredictably.  She has the ability to make her fur puff straight out and I swear she jumps straight sideways sometimes.  And don’t even get me started on how INSANE she is when the sun goes down and she starts hunting our toes. She can sweetly purr on my lap one second and then chomp down on something random like my earlobe the next.  Turns out, this is the perfect contrast to our Tucker and to our fighting warrior fish. I love Charlie. But Trey…well…Trey still really likes Tucker.

img_5365

Altering Our Technique

Is it appropriate to send flowers to the Walgreens immunization-trained health care professional that saw my youngest two children? I really do hope her hearing returns by 2017.  We experienced a “minor” (MAJOR) freak out there a few days ago.  

The day started off lovely.  My little two slept in a bit because they had doctor appointments that morning and taking them to school for only an hour before having to pick them up seemed, well….like so much effort, especially for this non-morning person Mama.  We high-fived the extra hour of sleep instead.  We went to meet a new pediatrician.  Over a year has passed since moving to a new Texas town, so it was time to officially fill out all the paperwork in all the land and switch over all the doctors.  This also meant that my hand felt the beginning stages of carpal tunnel.  

Anyways, I was a good mom.  I prepared the children.  I set appropriate expectations.  Being that they are 7 and 9 I figured they could handle this.  I told them they would be getting a flu shot.  That went over fine because, you know…..they had always chosen to snort the live virus and forego the eensy teeny tiny needle.  So then I over prepared the children by telling them that the flu mist wasn’t available and that the only option was the shot.  They knew of this information approximately a week before the visit.

Maybe finding Reese in the fetal position in her bed crying the night before the appointment should have been my first clue that my “good momming” was not going to have the outcome I had hoped.  I comforted her.  I assured her that even though so-and-so told her that the shot absolutely is the worst pain EVER and lasted for WEEKS that this was not true and the ear piercings she experienced months before were WAY worse than this shot.  Of course, she replied, “MOM!  IT WAS SO PAINFUL TO PIERCE MY EARS!  THIS DOES NOT HELP!”  Look, I tried.  I am not always the human form of a big bowl of mac-and-cheese comfort food.

But no worries, because Landry the 7-year-old, had been announcing to the entire family as many times as possible, “YOU GUYS….HOW IS IT THAT I AM THE BABY OF THE FAMILY AND I AM THE ONLY ONE NOT FREAKED OUT ABOUT THIS?”  I don’t know, but YOU GO little caboose.

We arrived.  We received the call to go back, they weighed, they measured height, they swiped forehead temperatures, the children were winning this appointment by answering the nurses questions about their ages and where they attended school and then she left the room.  And then, like a storm that comes from out of nowhere, I looked and Reese went down!  Tears flowed freely and her voice exponentially upped some levels.  And then….mmm hmmm…..my youngest folded like a wet napkin and she joined the newly formed Choir of Agony led by Reese.  As you can imagine, I knew at that moment that I was not going to be awarded Mom of the Day by this physician’s practice.

However, hope returned!  The nurse returned to deliver the news that they were totally out of flu shots!  There was NO WAY they would even be getting a shot…..until the shipment arrived and I brought them back after school.  I said, “Girlies!  Great news!  NO SHOTS!!! YAYYY!!!!  You can stop crying because you aren’t getting them now!”  Sweet relief.  Except they started crying harder and let me know that they were going to think about the shot allllll dayyyyyyy because they just knew I’d bring them back for the arm amputation that afternoon.  They finally did simmer down and finish out the appointment like only semi traumatized kids.

So when we left, I dug into my mental mom bag.  I altered my technique.  

Me:  Hey girls, before I drop you off at school, I need to go to Walgreens.  LET’S GO!

Girls:  YAY!!!  NO SCHOOL YET!!!

Landry:  Why are you in the line for the medicine person Mommy?

Me:  I have to ask them a question.  Hey, you two, have a seat over there in that little kind of office section.

Landry:  Why are we still sitting here?  And I heard you tell them my birthday, why were you doing that?

Reese: Can I play Pokemon Go?  ←- much easier child to deal with when oblivious to impending situation.

Me:  Hey look in this magazine, did you see these funky shoes?  AREN’T THOSE CRAZY????

Shot Lady:  Landry….Reese…..come on back!

*******TENSION EXUDING FROM CHILDREN*******

Girls:  WHY ARE WE IN HERE?  MOM…..ARE YOU MAKING US GET THE SHOT NOWWWW???????

I cannot appropriately express with typed words the level of screams, the attempted hiding in corners while assuming the fetal position, the amount of tears and the flashing of future therapy sessions in my mind that occurred over the next 3 minutes.  It was ugly.  There was no reasoning.  There were no words to ease this blaring meltdown.  The technician quickly felt the interior of her brain suddenly go from “happy morning” to “ferocious migraine”….sorry bout that.  And three minutes later…

Reese: MOMMMM!!!!!  IT’S GOING TO BE THE WORRRSTTTT PAINNNNNN EE…

*****shot goes in***

Reese: ver.  (starts laughing) Hey!  That didn’t even hurt.  OH MY GOSH THAT DIDN’T EVEN HURT!  HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  Cool Bandaid!

Landry:  NOOOO! IT WILLLLL HURRRRTTTT M….

****shot goes in****

Landry: ..e.  HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!  THAT WAS SO EASY AND I BARELY FELT ANYTHING!!! SO FUNNY, RIGHT REESE?!

We exited to an entire line of adults standing at the pharmacy line staring at us.  They were expecting at least 1,000 kids smushed in the room to leave with the noise level we exhibited and were waiting to see painful, gaping, open wounds which would justify the screams.  When they saw the girls, almost all of them started sympathetically chuckling and telling the girls that they did a good job.   

We left.  I took them to an early lunch.  They were so light on their feet as we went for food.  Weights had been lifted off their shoulders and they told me they were SO GLAD they didn’t wait until after school to go back to the doctor because they had been so overcome with worry.  They started giggling so hard they snorted reliving their past hour and half.  Deep belly laughs were heard all throughout that sandwich shop as they felt the sweet relief of their fears not coming to fruition.

It got me to thinking, how many times do we, as adults, mentally freak out over thoughts we build up in our mind?  Fear can be such a jerk.  It can overtake our emotions like a flood and hijack our rational thoughts.  

So often, we assume and prepare for the worst possible impending wound, when in actuality we might have a minor poke coming our way.  Or just maybe that “wound” could even be FOR US….to protect us or end up being a blessing.  

So today I encourage you to think of parts of your life where fear might be holding you back.  Maybe your brain is whispering things like “what if.”  I use to suffer from the “what ifs” quite often.  I’ve gotten better about it through talking with Trey.  He always has the same response to this anxiety and fear filled question.  It goes like this…

Me:  Trey, but WHAT IF this ends up happening?  

Trey:  What if?

Me:  Trey, but WHAT IF people think ____?

Trey:  What if?

Me:  Trey, but WHAT IF I ruin ____?

Trey:  What if?

And he’s right.  His response is so simple, yet always so true.  WHAT IF?  What if we fail?  What if people think blahhhh about us or our choices?  

The Bible has something to say about us and our choices when we make them with intentions and desire to honor and glorify God.  Things like:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Does He promise things will go smoothly?  Nope.  Does He promise everything will work out just how we want?  Nope.  But you will never be alone.  You are infinitely loved.  There is no mental freak out that He cannot handle or behavior that surprises Him.  He is our steady in the chaos.

Sometimes we have to fight our fears.  We have to lean towards the uncomfortable rather than letting fear paralyze us and hold us back.  We have to alter our technique.

My girls did.  Albeit, they did it while sitting on my lap and me so “gently” holding them down and whispering in their ear that it was going to be okay.  They were stuck with me helping them….sorry about that girls.  But we all have God….the ultimate comforter.

And do you know who else should get to experience God being the ultimate comforter to these little ladies next year?  Trey.  As his wife, I am deeply invested in his spiritual life and will not let him miss out on a religious experience. So, next year, it will be flu church for the entire family.

Have a great day everyone.  We can do hard things.