Walking Through Unfamiliar Territory

It has been months since I have made a blog post, three and a half months to be exact. I miss not blogging, but for those of us that live our lives know, that sometimes the day to day can bog us down. I wanted to write but, I was tired. I wanted to share but, I was busy. I thought about typing but, duties called. Now finally, I have a few minutes on a sunny September afternoon to post on what I am thinking at this moment in time.

Life is hard.

This statement probably doesn’t come as a surprise to many. You know. You feel it too. I’m currently fifty-one years old. Most days in my own head I feel younger, like I don’t belong in a body that has already lived through five decades. The truth is, I thought when I was in my fifties life would be easier. Young enough to still enjoy life, wise enough to appreciate it. But, it isn’t easier.

Kids grow up. They make their own decisions. It doesn’t matter whether I agree or disagree with choices being made. Sometimes the thought of that is freeing and at other times it hurts. Anyone that has grown, twenty-something children probably understands what I am saying. I have to accept that when I look at my children, I am looking into the faces of adults. Adults who are making their own way, in their own time, and I pray for wisdom for us all.

Family members who are facing difficult situations. Decisions that are stressful, diagnoses that debilitate, and an understanding that change is happening. Change. I hate that word right now. When the doctor gives the news it seems so unfair. So wrong. I try not to dwell on things, but the thoughts are always in the back of my mind tearing away at memories.

At times I am strong and fierce. I know myself and understand my role. At other times I am weak from the tears and the longing for what once was. On some days I am fine, happy, and all is well. I feel in control. Other days not so much. That is the thing. I am not in control. I never was. The thought of having control over my life is just a flimsy facade. On days when I let this realization take hold I am so very grateful that I know the ONE who is in control. The ONE who is not chained to calendars and clocks, who is not phased by the movement of time. He who knows each of us intimately and is never surprised by the doctor’s diagnoses, or children’s decisions. Jesus who never leaves me nor forsakes me, who said there is nothing that can keep us apart.

Thank you, Jesus.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… <my words: or doctor’s diagnoses, or growing up children, or autoimmune disease, or mistakes, or misunderstandings or…..anything>

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35, 37-39 ESV

It Has Been Far Too Long

Today marks exactly four months since I have posted. That is far too long.

I just celebrated my 51st birthday this past week. I am still not quite sure how I feel about being 51, not that I have much choice about my age. The saying about time not stopping for anyone is true. Although some of my days have seemed long, the years have moved swiftly.

There are things that I am passionate about, and other things that mean very little to me. Over the years I’ve learned to be more mindful of what I say and do in my daily life. I actually attempt to slow down and ask myself, “Is this important? Is is relevant to me? Will it make a positive difference?” And yes, long before I ever heard of Marie Kondo, I’d ask if this action is bringing me joy? With that being said, I am going to share some of those parts of my life that matter.

  1. People matter. Relationships. Talking with my husband. Cards from my mom. Texts from my sister that make me laugh. Watching my kids as young adults, making decisions. Grandchildren that I would do anything for. Coffee with a friend. Smiles from complete strangers. Listening to other’s stories. Responding to people. Hearing them. Really seeing them. This network of people that hold the strings of life together.
  2. Time is valuable. What do I choose to spend my time on? Finally realizing after all these years that it is okay to take time for me, to relax. To be quiet. To read. To just breathe. It is not a waste of time to do nothing in particular. Some days that is the best way to spend valuable minutes.
  3. My relationship with Jesus. Not just a church icon. Not the Sunday School picture version of Jesus. Not church ritual or a holiday necessity. Jesus, the only Son of the living God. The One who knows me by name and sees me in both my good and my bad and loves me. I am reminded of what it means to be a follower of Christ. It is not always easy, in fact most times it is not easy. People laugh. They shake their heads. I want to see them as Christ does, people drowning in their own selves, not even aware of their need for a Savior, but loving them anyway. Years ago I was that person. In a broken world, full of hurting people, I need to be light in the darkness.
  4. Do my passions align with my time is valuable? Relationships are important? Following Jesus? I don’t want to waste myself on things that don’t really matter. I give my time to advocacy for those with disabilities, bringing awareness to human trafficking/sex trafficking especially of minors, education and research on vaccines and medical freedom, and teaching children how to be lifelong learners. I will never be rich from my passions, but these things definitely light up my spirit. What things make you a warrior?

No matter your age, what are some things that make your life better?

Enjoying The Moments

Winter has come early. Last Friday it snowed, and today we have a coating of freezing rain. The school district wisely closed for the day because things are pretty slick out there. I still got up at my regular time of 5:30am because I enjoy my morning quiet, it is my time before the rest of my family begins to stir. 

I have my hot coffee (with dairy-free almond milk vanilla creamer). I have a load of laundry going, fed all the pets and let them out to take care of business. Now, I get to sit and just enjoy… for the moment.

The front window is covered in icy freezing rain so the world looks distorted as I gaze out onto the side yard. The smaller kitchen window, protected by the deck roof gives a better view. The sky is a cold gray, smoky smudges on the outside pallet. The wind gauge is quickly spinning around telling me the breeze is going to be cold this morning on my walk over to the barn. The grass looks crunchy coated in the coolness of ice. 

Thanksgiving is just a week away. Time is quickly slipping through the hourglass, and I don’t feel ready. I haven’t shopped for the big meal yet. (How long does a turkey have to thaw again?) Anyone that knows me, knows Christmas truly is my most wonderful time of the year. I love to decorate! With that said, I also love Thanksgiving. For me, it is a time to ponder and think about the year past and all the things big and small that I am thankful for. I don’t want to forget thankfulness….gratefulness….blessings in the midst of the frantic and hectic holiday season. 

So thankful for: 

*family *a loving husband that I genuinely enjoy hanging with *my young adult children–they are good kids *my grandchildren–there is nothing better than being a grandparent *a warm house that God blessed us with 9 years ago *Warm blankets *furry friends *a full refrigerator *hot drinks *colorful socks *a comfy bed *yummy dairy-free ice cream (it doesn’t matter how cold it is, ice cream always) *friends, old and new *plans with my peeps *Christmas shopping *my mom, who is my biggest encourager and without whom I would not be the woman I am today *my sister whose funny texts keep me laughing *my master’s degree *my students that make me smile, and their families that make me feel like part of the family *

My cup runneth over…

Where God Will Take Him

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He had already been through so much before I even met him. This dark-haired teenager (who was already sporting a beard)  who loved teasing and joking around was to be my new student. This young man had heart surgery just hours after his entrance into this world. He had neurological, skeletal, cardiac and breathing issues. The doctors told his parents their son might never run and might only walk with an odd gait. They said he might talk in a way only those close to him would be able to understand. Over the three years I worked with him, he was in the hospital, had to have respiratory therapy, seen heart doctors, and struggled with academics.

It would be so easy for him to give up. He could have become angry at his lot in life… defiant due to his disabilities. But, that is not my friend, Keith’s, story. He is choosing how his life is going to play out. At twenty-six years old, he is an overcomer. He is not defeated, he is delivered. He has not given up, he has grabbed hold. He does not seek pity, he only wants to push himself.

Keith does not know a stranger. His social life is more exciting then most, and if you want to see him you need to make sure you get on his calendar. He is one busy young man! Keith is not afraid to ask people if they “know Jesus”. His heart might not be typical for one his age, but it is big. His heart is big because he loves people. His sweet innocent spirit is refreshing in what can sometimes be viewed, by most, to be a cynical and difficult world.

A couple of years ago, Keith got involved in adaptive climbing. He has conquered competitive climbing, winning in national competitions, and is now on his way to represent the USA in the World Paraclimbing Championship in Innsbruck, Austria in about a week and a half. I am praying for Keith as he travels from Ohio, USA, half way around the world to compete. I am proud of him.

God often times will expand our horizons beyond what we seek. A couple of years ago, Keith had no idea where God would take him. The same goes for each of us. No matter where you might find yourself right now, even if you are in a seemingly impossible spot, God can make a way when there seems to be no way. All things are possible with God.

This is one of my favorite verses, and a wonderful reminder for us all.

For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37 ESV

 

Another Classmate Gone

I am on an alumni site for my high school in Maryland, class of ’86. Yesterday a friend posted that another one of our classmates had passed away, there have been several. Looking at his high school senior picture, I was reminded that we are not here forever. Oh, most of us live like we are going to be here for a long time, and then expect to die peacefully in our sleep when we are one hundred one.

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Life is short, whether we live to be a centenarian or only take a few short breaths at birth. It is all short in the scope of eternity. This verse comes to mind,
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes”. (James 4:14)

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I pray for Mrs. Tia Coleman, the woman who recently lost nine of her family members in the duck boat accident in Branson, Missouri, including her husband and children. From a sweet family picture before their adventure to a horrible storm and tragedy that is changing her life forever.

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I don’t know about you, but I find myself getting caught up in stuff on a daily basis that doesn’t really matter. My perspective gets skewed, and I worry too much. I waste my days on this and that, robbing myself of the joy of this life. I need to be more mindful of my moments, my memories, even my mundane.

Life is a wonderful gift.

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Whitewater And Time

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I don’t know if it is the fact that I am older, (not ancient mind you, but wiser…that is my story and I am sticking to it) but time seems to be roaring through the weeks much like a raft on whitewater rapids. I’ve been white water rafting before and ended up flying off the raft when we hit exceptionally rough water. I was completely disoriented as the water went over my head, and the roar of the water filled my ears. Thankfully, I was able to right myself and get back in the raft. I was soaking wet but safe. So, yes. That is how I feel about time right now. Time is fast. So fast. No slowing down. No turning back. Once this day is gone, it’s gone.

Even though that is true, I want to remember the days. I want to cherish the moments, and that is difficult to do when one feels the spray hit her face and feels herself being pulled under into the churning basin of time. Why do I always feel like I have to rush when my heart’s desire is to just slow down?!

Stay awake. Stay afloat. Keep my head above the water. Enjoy the minutes.

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A reminder to open my eyes and really see what each day brings. Let’s face it, some days are going to be better than others. I’ll admit there are days when I am glad it is time for bed because I am exhausted and just want the day to be done. But, most of the time I don’t want to check the minutes and hours. I want to hold them a little longer. Laugh harder. Smile more. Cry if I need too. I want to hold hands and hold hearts. I want to admire the sunset, pet the dogs and cats, write the email. I want to smell dinner cooking, look out the window, get tan and be barefoot. I want a little more time. I can’t change the clock, but I can change my attitude so that those moments seem longer and fuller.

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It’s Complicated…

Life.

Just when I think I’m in for some smooth sailing, something happens. It never fails. As it goes, people are always just coming out of a trial, about to go into a trial or find themselves smack dab in the middle. In the middle of the mess and muck. Sometimes it isn’t even your fault. You had nothing to do with it, and yet…..there you are.

I am the type of personality that does not enjoy confrontation. I am not a drama mama. Just give me my front porch, a super cold iced tea, and a good view. I find myself wishing life was that uncomplicated and easy, but alas, it is not. Oh, sure. There are “seasons” of easy, some smooth sailing, but the storm is always on the horizon. Something is looming…..ready to steal my peace. We all live in a broken, sin-cursed world. Sometimes the pieces of broken are jagged and hard.

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From my own personal experience, I have found it to be true that it is indeed the hard, choppy waters that grow me and make me strong. The big waves that threaten, lead me to call out to the One who can calm any storm. The wind and the waves hear His voice and obey. I listen for Him and He reminds me that He is the Prince of Peace, the Great I AM, and the Beginning and the End. There are no surprises with God. He’s got me covered.

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I know in my own life, when my (late) husband was first diagnosed with an incurable heart condition at age 32 (and I had just turned 31, and our son was 5), he could no longer work, he was declining into a black hole of depression because of this…..my life felt out of control. A tsunami of doubt and fear of the unknown was looming over me and I was scared. Scared I was going under. Smack dab in the middle of this horrible time, God met me. People, I will admit, it wasn’t easy. Part of me was in denial, and the other part was terrified. I was young, my husband was young, our son was young……and as my husband was looking death in the face, I was brought to my knees. Crumpled. Begging. Crying. I was drowning. God brought me through this time in my life. It will be 18 years ago this November that my husband went home to Jesus. Looking back, I can honestly say, I know things now, I can relate to others that are hurting, in ways I never would have been able to before. I tell my friends, I am an “empathetic free-cryer”. My heart aches along with theirs. When you have walked through the valley of the shadow of death, you know Jesus in ways others cannot understand unless they have also been through it. He carried me on the days I could not walk.

Several years later I remarried to a man who had also lost his spouse when he was in his thirties. In the first five years of our marriage, we sold both our homes, built another home out of state, and moved. Right smack dab in the middle of building our dream farmhouse in what once used to be a cornfield in rural Ohio, my husband lost his job. It was in January 2009 when the economy took a nose-dive and a myriad number of people were getting laid off. The loss of a job is always a hard thing, especially when it wasn’t expected, and especially when one is already committed to building a house! There were a lot of tears, fear of the unknown, and worry about losing everything we had already sunk into our dream house. The huge tidal wave was approaching fast and I was scared it would take us all, my husband, our children, and me, under. It was hard to breathe, as the waves pummeled us. I remember one night in particular when my husband and I prayed and cried……. We were reminded that no matter what happened, even if we lost everything, God was still good and He would not leave us nor forsake us. We would come out of this situation one way or another. It is one thing to say you trust God, quite another to actually live that out. It was our time to show God we trusted Him.

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Life is complicated. It doesn’t always work out the way we had hoped. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes good things happen to bad people. In the midst of all the ups and downs, tears and laughter, mountain tops and valleys…God is there. You cannot go wrong by placing your trust in Him in whatever circumstance(s) you find yourself in the middle of.

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