The One Where I Write About Things I Would Never Normally Write About For You

The vet called to check on Mocha again. This was the second call in a week where I was asked about her poop habits. This is not a comfortable thing for me to talk about EVER, but it is necessary because she was definitely not ok when we took her in a week ago. She had been having diarrhea for a week and since she can’t tell us what’s wrong we had to intervene and find someone who could interpret her symptoms and give us a plan to help her get better. After nearly a week’s worth of antibiotics, probiotics, and special food we are happy to see our twelve year old lab showing signs of improvement.

A couple weeks ago I had a follow-up appointment with my new gastroenterologist where we discussed my personal bathroom habits for what seemed like an eternity. This was after the upper endoscopy and colonoscopy tests I had a few days before Christmas. I don’t normally talk to ANYONE about these things, but my severe gluten intolerance issues have forced me to discuss things with a stranger I would never have a few years ago. My doctor actually pulled up a graphic of different kinds of poop on his computer screen and asked me to point out the stuff that looked like mine so he could better assess my condition and come up with a plan to help me feel better. I wished the earth would have opened up and swallowed me in that moment, but it didn’t. As humiliating as all of that poop talk has been I am ever so thankful that there are people who go to medical school to study the gross things so I can feel better.

Where in the world would we be without people willing to ask questions and talk about the awful things we encounter as humans? I honestly have a hard time looking my gastroenterologist in the eye after he tells me about the five colonoscopies he performed earlier in the day. If not for the severity of my symptoms I would never darken the doors of his office because it’s just too embarrassing to be vulnerable in that way. It’s a last resort because if I don’t address my symptoms my life could be cut short over something that could have been caught earlier if I had just pushed through the embarrassing stuff. That’s irresponsible and my family deserves more than that.

Why am I even writing about poop? I guess because I’m super grateful for those people who are willing, dare I say even a little eager, to wade into our yucky stuff and help us feel better. I feel that way about the spiritual and emotional stuff too. I have been a recipient of generous healers whenever I have surrendered to the process of being vulnerable. We don’t have to keep suffering in silence. There are people who have been gifted by God with a desire to help us.

What comes out of you (not just physically!) is a pretty good indicator of what’s going on inside of you. If you have been wondering if it’s time to seek counseling or make a doctor’s appointment and are looking for some kind of sign…THIS IS YOUR SIGN. Make the phone call. Do it. Stop waiting. You are worth it.

**I originally wrote this back in February 2019 and felt very strongly that I should finally post it. Mocha has since passed away. We miss her every single day.**

Gratitude Push-ups

While flipping through an old notebook I discovered several gratitude lists I made during our Daring Adventure transition at the request of my counselor. Her assignment was this: Write down five things you are grateful/thankful for, five things you are thankful for that haven’t happened yet, and five things you are giving to God. I had to write down the five things that hadn’t happened yet as though they had already happened.

My lists felt pretty silly to me. These were not the kinds of things that displayed some kind of deep spirituality in me. Nope. These lists were written from a place of survival.

This one is from February 13th, 2018
I’m thankful for…

  1. Another ride in the car with all four of us.
  2. Ice cream.
  3. My husband.
  4. A place to live while we’re looking.
  5. Prayer.

Things I’m thankful for as though they have already happened…

  1. I’m thankful we found the right home.
  2. I’m thankful I don’t feel overwhelmed.
  3. I’m thankful Mackenzie is thriving in Scotland.
  4. I’m thankful Markus has a job.
  5. I’m thankful we found a church.

Things I’m giving to God…

  1. House hunting and the disappointment I feel.
  2. My aching heart.
  3. Anxiety for the future.

Today as I read this list I wiped tears away and whispered THANK YOU because nearly every single one of those things that hadn’t happened yet have become reality. Now I have pages of answered not yets to look back over and remember how faithful our Heavenly Father has been to us.

When I made these lists I didn’t feel very grateful. I felt forgotten. I had to keep writing down some of the same things to give to God multiple times. Life is hard and so is exercising our faith when our circumstances feel hopeless.

My wise counselor didn’t tell me to do all of this because it would make me feel better immediately. She knew better. She had me to it because she knew it would shift my focus to something other than what was right in front of me. Now I hold in my hands the treasure of seeing how my faithful Heavenly Father never forgot me.

Perhaps you’re in a tough place today and need to do some gratitude push-ups like I did. It might feel like a silly waste of time if you’re new at this. That’s ok. Start where you are, I promise you won’t stay there. Those faith muscles will get stronger whether you can feel them or not. Your Heavenly Father loves you so much. And for today that is more than enough.

Let me know in the comments if you do Gratitude Push-ups or if you plan on giving this a try. Thanks for stopping by.

So What’s Next?

My firstborn turned 21 the other day. While he was celebrating his birthday on the other side of the globe I was home alone reliving his childhood through scrapbooks. (Cue the violins.) Wiping away a few tears I offered a prayer thanking God for allowing me to be his mama and buckets of mercy along the way. Then I cooked one of his favorite meals and we ate it without him. Ha!

I’ve been trying to remember who I was before taking that pregnancy test 22 years ago. There’s a fuzzy memory of splurging on a keyboard so I could work on my dream of becoming a singer-songwriter like Amy Grant. Within a few short weeks my plans were directed away from creating music to surviving eight months of morning, noon, and night sickness and preparing to be a mom.

For the most part I’ve always done whatever was asked of me, whether it was homeschooling or working part-time at the church. Raising a couple of boys may not have been at the top of my dream job list, but as I think back over the last couple of decades it is the thing I’m most proud to have on my resume.

These days nobody’s asking me for much other than what’s for dinner and I’m not quite sure what to do about it. It’s not like I went to school for a specific career, took time off to raise a family, and can now go back to that career. My dreams of becoming a singer-songwriter are long gone. Heck, I’m not even the same person I was 22 years ago and that’s a very good thing. So what’s next?

I believe one of the greatest gifts as parents we can give our children is the gift of moving forward and continuing to grow as our kids move forward and outgrow us. I’m not entirely sure what that looks like for our family, but I’m committed to doing whatever it takes to find out.

I may not know exactly what I want to be when I grow up yet, but here’s what I do know: I want my sons to love God with all their hearts, souls, and minds. I want them to go where he says to go and do what He says to do. Period. Full stop.

I want that for me too.

Lord, this is my prayer. Show me the path forward. I don’t want to keep looking behind when new life is waiting for me up ahead. Give me courage to go forward even if it’s the wrong direction knowing you will redirect me along the way. I can trust you because you have never ever failed me. In Jesus’ name.

But I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way, who can’t see where they’re going. I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don’t fall into the ditch. These are the things I’ll be doing for them—sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute.”
{Isaiah 42:16 The Message}

Kayak Lessons

Mocha and I like to walk out to the edge of the dock where my father-in-law keeps his boat on Lake Sammamish. There’s a white picnic table where I can sit facing the water. We often spot eagles, cranes, or seagulls out there. We always see ducks bobbing in and out of the water. Once in awhile we spot playful otters, muskrats, and frogs splashing in and out of the lilies. Out here it’s easy to forget about bumper to bumper traffic and the fact that nothing feels like home.

It’s not unusual for me to talk to God out on the dock when no one else is around. Here I feel safe to confess my shame in how I don’t see how any of this is going to work out and  can’t see him in any of this. I tell him I’m sorry for being so weak and for thinking I could see this through. I miss my friends and the security of regular deposits into our checking account. In this moment I wonder if he regrets this adventure as much as I do.

Off in the distance I hear a faint high pitched squeal. I turn toward the sound thinking it’s coming from a kayak. (I also hear drums and wonder if this is confirmation I have officially lost my mind.) A few minutes later a kayaker paddles in our direction, then stops. He’s close enough I can see him launching some kind of toy into the air. It soars and squeals before plopping into the lake. He bangs his paddle on his boat a few times and says a few words I can’t understand before digging his paddle into the water toward the floating toy. This process repeats until he’s nearly straight out in front of the dock.

Remember, I just poured out my heart to God about needing to see him in this mess a few minutes ago. I don’t know if this kayaker is training for a race or what he’s up to, but he’s got my attention. I watch him make a game out of dividing the distance of the lake into shorter lengths.

It’s here at the edge of the dock I begin to see God response to my confession and questions:

“You’re overthinking our adventure again. You can’t see that far ahead. It’s too far for you. It’s ok to break our adventure into smaller pieces. One day at a time is better than nothing and before you know it you’ll look back and see how far you’ve really come. I’m going to show you how. Eyes on Me.”

The kayaker doesn’t seem to notice or care if anyone’s watching. His strategy is simple; release, paddle, retrieve, rest, repeat. It’s ok if he needs to stop and take a break—he’s still moving forward. This isn’t a race; he’s not competing against anyone else. He’s simply doing what it takes for him to go the distance.

I cannot pretend not to be freaked out by all of the change when it feels like I’ve landed on another planet. (Why oh why do I always seem to forget that my personality does not handle change as well I would like?!) It’s ok to feel. It’s ok to rest. It’s ok to take a break. It’s ok to grieve and ask questions. God knows this adventure is NOT a competition. All that’s required is to keep paddling forward even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone watching.

Family Ferry Photo Fun

All I wanted was a family photo of the four of us on the Seattle ferry. The last time we did this Mackenzie was in Scotland. It was dark and I knew it was going to be a challenge to get anything decent with my phone, but I didn’t care. I wanted my picture!

My father-in-law offered to take the picture. In hindsight I should have said no, no thank you, heck no, just no. Instead I handed over my Seattle family ferry photo dream to a 77 year old man who uses a $20 flip-phone because he believes technology is stupid. What could possibly go wrong?

Take 1.

 

 

 

 

 

We didn’t see the flash. Try again.

Take 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s try one more time.

Take 3.

It’s been a long day. Maybe we should just take a selfie.

Take 4.

At least we saw the flash this time.

Take 5.

DON’T. COVER. THE. FLASH. WITH. YOUR. HAND! DON’T!

Take 6.

Jesus is testing us again.

Take 7.

Pretty sure this isn’t worth it. Maybe I should photoshop Mackenzie into the pictures we took without him the last time we were here.

Take 8.

Someone throw me overboard. I can’t take anymore. Fix it, Jesus!

Take 9.

Nailed it.

The end.

Real Life in Real Time

Sometimes our Daring Adventure rattles me more than I’d like to admit. Like at bedtime when I hug my teenager. I ask if he’s ok. He tells me he just wants to go home, but we don’t have one. Or when my YWAMer tells me he’s not going to be sticking around when he comes back to the US as long as I hoped.

Sometimes our hearts are bruised and everything hurts because we can’t tie this thing up with a pretty bow and roll the credits. This isn’t an episode of Fixer Upper where all the demo and renovations take place in an hour. There are no edits, no retakes. This is real life being lived out in real time.

Then there are reminders of the past reading like an encyclopedia of all the times things didn’t turn out the way we hoped they would. We don’t like to repeat mistakes. This is where we have to make the decision to step over the facts and invite God into our hurts and frustrations. It’s not our normal. Our normal looks more like me hiding in a bedroom with my journal and a box of Kleenex while he flips between Food Network and HGTV. Normal hasn’t been getting us anywhere so it’s time to try something new.

On this particular day we drove out to the church where we were married twenty-one and a half years ago. Parking in the hundred degree shade next to the cemetery where my grandparents are buried I opened my bible to read a few scriptures from Isaiah about God leading his people and making all things new. Let’s be real, I have no idea how to do what we’re doing but I find comfort knowing we’re not the first people to feel this way.

Once upon a Christmas Eve eve we made promises to each other here. We were courageous adventurous dreamers. Everything was possible. Our poor parents must have thought we were out of our minds for packing up and moving all the way to east Texas a few weeks after our wedding. Knowing what I know now, they were right! Let’s just say our Texas adventure didn’t go anything like we hoped it would and in many ways we’ve been playing it safe ever since.

Sitting in the car together we invited Jesus to sit with us. I recounted our wedding day to him (as if he needed a replay) and asked for that kind of courage again. Confessing fear and doubt, I expressed how my heart was hurting for my sons. It was quiet for a few minutes, then it was Matthew’s turn. Raw, honest, vulnerable, desperate cries from desperate people.

So now we wait. We rest in HIS goodness and HIS faithfulness because HIS track record is way better than ours. Our hearts and our lives are in good hands.

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Philippians 4:6-7 The Message



The Things We Left Behind

How does a family move a household from Marion, Iowa to only God knows where somewhere out west? Just typing that question makes my head hurt like one of those algebra problems I could never solve on my own no matter how many times the teacher explained it to me. Good thing I married a math guy. After talking through different scenarios Matthew decided that utilizing a container service like PODs would be best for our situation.

We filled the largest POD container they offer with household items. Anything that wouldn’t fit in the POD stayed behind. This meant selling or donating as much furniture as we could part with. Furniture, lawn equipment, freezers, electronics, books, clothing, you name it…nothing was off limits. I cried over My dining and living room furniture even though I knew they needed to go. No matter how many cuts we made we still couldn’t fit it all in the POD. I’m sure there are more things we could have let go, but as time went on fear of the unknown tightened my grip even as Matthew’s seemed to loosen. I still can’t believe he sold his big TV.

When the time came to drive away the POD was stuffed to capacity yet there were things that wouldn’t fit. Some friends said they would take care of what was left so we could finally leave. I took pictures, left instructions and some cash for a dump haul and drove away for the last time.

As we drove away from the city I glanced in the backseat behind the driver’s seat where Mackenzie would normally sit. His seat was filled with all manner of gluten free road trip snacks, bottled water and vitamins. Mackenzie wasn’t there and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. My chest tightened and I began to weep. Matthew asked if I was ok. “He should be with us.” is all I could say. Instead he’s in Scotland doing exactly what God ordained for him to do during this time.

We moved to Cedar Rapids from Arizona 18 years ago in rented a U-Haul truck with an 18 month old Mackenzie and a blue parakeet. We moved away from Iowa towing a utility trailer behind my Honda Pilot, an almost 17 year old Markus, and a 10 year old chocolate lab. Leaving without him hurt this mama’s heart more than I expected. I thought I was tougher than that; I’m not. One of these days I hope to understand the timing of all of this.

All of the pain and the grief of leaving Iowa attached itself to Mackenzie’s seat. Whenever I looked behind I would feel it crash over me all over again. Eventually I had to stop looking behind because it hurt too much. I had to find something in front of me to focus on so that I could help the rest of my family. They were hurting too. Just like there came a point when I had to be ok with the pile of stuff that wouldn’t fit in the POD. I had to let go. I have to keep letting go in order to embrace the Daring Adventure ahead.

This morning I awoke to a text with a new picture of Mackenzie now that he’s returned from his outreach in Glasgow. Once again I’m surprised by instant tears and an aching heart. Emotions are tricky little suckers.

I don’t know of an easy way to wrap this up because it’s not finished. There will be more pictures and more heartache just as I know there will be more joy and laughter in the days and months to come. Letting go and hanging on. Holding tightly and holding loosely to the things and the people who I have to surrender to God daily. It’s all part of the adventure and we are in it for the long haul.

Thank you, friends, for believing with us. It means more than you know.

 

No More Bullies on the Playground

Matthew and I went for a drive down memory lane the other day, back to the neighborhood where my family lived three years before we met. I had just turned 11 when we moved here. Sixth grade was hell. I know of no other way to put it. I was bullied almost daily at my new elementary school. For an entire year a select group of kids made it their mission to destroy me. They almost succeeded.

I decided to go back and revisit a place of desolation to remember and acknowledge how much God has healed. Because there’s something about remembering the faithfulness of God that strengthens my weary faith. His faithfulness has zero to do with me and everything to do with him. It’s who and what he is. This Daring Adventure demands we not forget where we’ve been and how he’s brought us through. His faithfulness is everything.

Through tears I looked around the sixth grade schoolyard trying not to throw up. My body remembered all these years later. It remembered the cruel jokes, the name calling. Abuse doesn’t forget, it cements itself to a little girl’s identity. It follows her to new schools, into friendships and marriage. I don’t know if a person can ever completely remove the cement of abuse, but I know that the love of God longs to chisel away the ugliness and make something beautiful out of what was meant to destroy. His faithfulness demands nothing less. That’s exactly what he’s done for me.
The old school isn’t as big as I thought it was. My bullies are all grown up now. The playground was empty. My wounds have healed and even though scars remain I am clothed with strength and dignity by the one who has loved me all along. He was there then and he was there today to help me see how far he has brought this girl.

Standing near my classroom door I whispered “Thank you, God. Thank you that this place no longer defines me. Thank you for healing and restoring me. Thank you.”

Wiping tears away I walked back to the car with my head held high, my man beside me, and left it behind. It’s time to see what’s ahead.

…I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate.
Ezekiel 36:36

Why Are You Moving?

If you were to stumble upon my journals for the last ten years or so you would begin to recognize a common theme: I miss my family.

You would find page after tear stained page with scribbled prayers asking him to allow us to move closer. There have been too many close-call health scares, babies born, missed funerals, and celebrations to count. We have missed so much in the two decades we have been gone. Holidays have been downright lonely at times.

Most of our vacations were planned in a way that included meeting up with family on either side. Our boys adore their cousins and have become good friends over the years. I hope somehow those relationships can grow and deepen as we close some distance. Beyond that, we consider our siblings to be some of our best friends. Isn’t every parent’s dream to raise kids who actually want to spend time together when they grow up? Good job, parents! You made some good people.

Matthew had a blessed career at Rockwell Collins. He loved his co-workers and the satisfaction that came with an often high pressure position. The paycheck was nice too. His decision to leave all of that behind hasn’t come easily, but that’s his story to tell. All I know is that when he told me he was ready to let go I couldn’t imagine how quickly things would happen.

The timing of this move has me asking more questions than anyone has answers for today. My heart hurts as I think of dear friends we left behind. God gave me some amazing girlfriends who became sisters of my heart. One of them is having her baby tomorrow. I never imagined I wouldn’t be there to hold him and witness her miracle. Jesus, hold our hearts.

I woke up a few days ago with a picture of a dandelion in my mind, its seeds floating away on a breeze doing exactly what the Creator designed it to do. This hearty weed preferred by sweet little boys to give their mamas is as wild as the One who scatters seeds where he pleases. He’s doing that with us too. We don’t have to try and manage his methods. We simply choose to let him carry us where he wants to plant us. New life is coming. After all, this is spring and all things are new on this Daring Adventure.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) seeds blowing in the wind

Where Are You Moving?

So where are you moving?

This is a question we’ve been trying to answer for months. It doesn’t matter who asks, the answer always sounds foolish coming out of our mouths.

We’re not exactly sure…

I have wanted to make up something that sounds responsible and concrete in order to save my pride, something that makes sense. But then I remember that lies are lies no matter how I may feel in the moment.

It’s in those moments that I remember stories from the Bible about what happened to people who told seemingly harmless fibs to make things easier for themselves. It never ever worked out the way they hoped. Not ever. Abram and Sarai ring a bell? Genesis 12 tells us that God took them on an adventure too. Along the way there was a severe famine so they went to Egypt. Abram (later became Abraham) was worried the Egyptians were going to kill him and decided his beautiful wife might be the solution to saving his life. He told Sarai (later Sarah) to tell people she was his sister. What the what? Next thing she knew she was taken as some Egyptian pharaoh’s wife and ick. Scripture tells us the Lord inflicted serious diseases on the Pharaoh and his household because of this lie. All because Abraham wanted to avoid a sticky situation.

Now I know we’re not even near the realm of that kind of crazy, but I hope I have enough healthy fear of the Lord to keep speaking the truth even if it makes me sound stupid. He’ll cover me because he teaches that when I honor him above my own comfort he won’t let me be put to shame. I need that more than temporary embarrassment.

We don’t have a final destination in mind yet. For now I can tell you we are going to visit and stay with family in the Seattle area first. From there we’ll drive down to Quincy CA. That’s what we know today. We’re praying and believing God to show us the way to go in all of this. It sounds a little crazy…maybe a lot crazy, but we’re not the first people to do this. We won’t be the last.

It’s tempting to wait until I know how our adventure ends before sharing the details with you. However, I believe God is inviting me to risk sharing our story with you as it unfolds mistakes and all. We are messy imperfect people. We are bound to have a few days I’d rather not tell you about, but that’s real life. Who knows, maybe we’ll encourage one another along the way and one Daring Adventure might lead to another. Maybe even yours.