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

Therapy Sessions

I’ve been spending a lot of time in therapy lately–physical therapy–with my hubby watching his body pushed beyond its physical and mental limits. Some days I wonder how much more he can take. It’s not easy to watch someone you love struggle, even when it’s for their own good.

Two surgeries after dislocating his right shoulder and fracturing the humerus, my man is working hard to regain strength and range of motion in his dominant arm. I can see pain and determination on his face as he tries to do simple tasks like walk his fingers up a wall. Sometimes I sing the itsy bitsy spider song while he does his wall walks. He does not think I’m funny when he’s in pain. Pain pushes him to his limits every single day and I wonder how much more it will take for him to recover.

The therapy process is slow because the injury was severe. I’ll never forget watching the therapist move his arm gently and slowly those first few weeks. Muscle and soft tissue damage in addition to the fracture had restricted him to passive motion only. He wore an immobilizer to strap his arm to his side. Movement was a big no-no because his body needed time to heal.

I listened one afternoon on our drive home from a therapy session as he vented frustrations about how it seemed like nothing productive was happening. The therapist had spent the entire 45 minutes stretching and massaging his arm. It felt like a huge waste of time. How was he ever going to get back to normal when he wasn’t even able to lift his own arm? He was completely dependent on others to bathe, get dressed, tie his shoes, and even cut his own food. He was so over it. He wanted to be independent and back at work. Truth be told, we both wanted those things. I tried to explain that if he did more than his body was ready for too soon that he could re-injure his arm and do more damage than good. I told him that we had to trust that the therapist knows what he’s doing and that in time he would regain some independence. Please, Lord, let the man be able to scrub his own armpit. Amen.

My husband’s body had been broken. Overnight our lives had been turned upside down and we were living in what I call a haze of grace. There was a lot of HGTV, Food Network, and series binging on Amazon Prime. I ordered take out, made ice packs and tried to keep up with laundry. Oh and then there are the medical bills. We survived on the prayers of our family and friends and several pints of Haagen-Dazs ice cream. But it wasn’t enough. I was falling apart. Again. My world had been rocked and I thought I could pretend that it was all just fine.
The trouble was that I didn’t have time to fall apart. This was not a good time for a breakdown. People needed me and I found myself reverting to a lot of old thought patterns because that’s what I do when I’m in crisis mode. I do what I know, even when it doesn’t help. Basically this looked a lot like beating myself over the head with a baseball bat for not being super woman every moment of every day. I wasn’t a good enough wife. I was the fattest person in the room all of the time. I wasn’t a good enough mom. I wasn’t a good enough Christian because if I were good enough probably none of this crap would have happened in the first place. Jesus was counting on me to suck it up and be a good example of mercy for heaven’s sake!!! I found myself wallowing in a pit of shame for not being enough for this crisis.

Welcome to my pity party. One night I climbed the stairs to my bed after tucking my husband into his recliner, crawled into bed, grabbed my journal and wrote,
“The pain is really bad today. My pain—emotional pain. My brain is so fuzzy I can barely function. There are so many hoops to jump through on any given day. I don’t have the will to jump today. I’m sleepy. I just want to cry and let it all out. The trouble is that I’m not sure I can. I look at my mental list of things that should be done to make it all better and it’s like a wave of depression crashes over me and drags me down–way way down. It’s no wonder people don’t want to continue to live like this day after day. I wish I could just sleep it all off and wake up to everything being better. God, why does this keep happening to me? What can I do to make it never happen again? I wish there was a reset button I could hit on my life. So many mistakes. So many things I wish I could un-do. If only I could make peace with my messy life. But I can’t. I hate it…
I’m feeling terrible—I couldn’t feel worse. Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember? When I told my story, you responded. Train me well in your deep wisdom. Help me understand these things inside and out so I can ponder your miracle wonders. My sad life’s dilapidated, a falling-down barn; build me up again by your word. {Psalm 119:25-28 The Message}

If this was a song I’d play it over and over again. It’s the cry of my heart tonight.
Jesus, help me understand these things inside and out so I can ponder your miracle wonders. Build me up by the power of your Holy Spirit and your living breathing word. Thank you.”

I wish I could tell you that I woke up the next morning and everything made perfect sense. It didn’t. But somehow along the way I began to see that I was broken too. I didn’t have the physical injury that my husband had, but I was just as in need of healing. Overnight our lives had been turned upside down and I needed to give this crisis the respect it deserved in my own life as well as my husband’s body. There wasn’t a single thing I could do to make it better. In fact, all of my trying to be better was just making it worse. I needed to trust the Therapist and let Him do his job. I had to stop trying so hard.

For my recovery I’ve been reading encouraging books written by people who dare to use their pain to help people like me see that my messy imperfect life is covered by more love and grace than I will ever be able to sort through in this lifetime. I’ve started praying more than reading my Bible. I’m allowing Jesus to tend to my broken heart and I stopped beating myself up for not being good enough when he is more than good enough. I sleep more. Sleep is good, like really good. I watch Jimmy Fallon YouTube videos and laugh a lot more. People are alive because of Jimmy Fallon. Finally, I told that mean bossy B in my head to leave and never come back and she did. We are all the better for it.

Some wonderful crazy things happened when I stopped trying so hard to be good enough. Joy returned. It had been a couple of years since I’d had any joy. Anxiety was the front and center drama queen demanding ALL of my attention. The slightest misstep would send me into a full blown meltdown. Something as annoying as being late for an appointment took days to recover from. Perfectionism once again had its hooks deep in my soul. I felt hopeless that I could ever get free. Guess what? Anxiety is not front and center any longer. I’m a total freaking mess AND IT’S OK. I’m not doing a single thing I thought I’d be doing at this moment in life AND IT’S OK. It’s really ok. I have peace again, and man, I have missed it. I stopped clinging to the HaagenDazs life raft and have embraced healthy food again. It’s so much easier to love people when peace and joy are actually welcome in my heart and mind…and I’m not jacked up on caffeine and sugar 24/7.

I wonder what our lives would look like if we truly believed how much God really loves us. What if we simply rested in believing that he is enough and we are loved?

Sometimes we have to stop trying so hard and let the Therapist do his job. It might not feel like much is being accomplished, but when we allow for rest and healing to take place in our brokenness we will be stronger for the people and the plans God has for our lives. The Therapist knows what He’s doing. He really does. After all, my man has started to do planks at his physical therapy sessions. His muscles are shaky and it hurts like heck, but I’m beginning to think anything is possible.

Thank you for praying for us. Your prayers are powerful. Don’t ever forget it. Thanks for stopping by.

God’s Faithfulness in the Hard Places

**Hello! Last summer I had the privilege of  sharing this post as a 5 minute talk in a speaker evaluation group at the She Speaks conference. Today I thought that maybe since it’s like the 432nd day of winter where I live that someone out there could use a little encouragement. I’m saying a prayer for you today. Hang in there. He’s faithful.**

A couple of years ago my husband and I took our two teenage sons to Disney World where we met up with my brother and his family from California.

Like most people, we needed to escape the crazy routine at home. Things like putting our house up for sale, laundry, chores, homework, jobs, bills, dogs, sports. As hard as I tried to put on a brave face every day, I was exhausted and didn’t know how to keep up with my own life. I was sinking.

While we were on vacation, my brother and his wife took us to a wine tasting event at Epcot during their Food and Wine Festival. I’ll be honest, I was pretty intimidated. I didn’t know anything about wine other than whether it tasted good or not.

We sampled a Spanish wine called Las Rocas which means ‘The Rocks’. Since we couldn’t go to Spain, the vineyard rep showed us pictures of where the grapes are grown. What we saw looked more like an Arizona desert than a Spanish vineyard. Then she began to describe the extreme climate…hot summers and very cold winters. She showed us close-up pictures of the soil…pictures that looked like they had been taken on Mars of vines surrounded by slate and red dirt. 

the-rocks-vineyard

I thought to myself, NOTHING SHOULD GROW IN THOSE CONDITIONS.

Based on these conditions, the wine should have tasted like some sandy concoction my boys would have made a few years ago. But it didn’t. It was actually very good.

How in the world can rocks, hot summers and cold winters produce fruit that can be made into a beautiful, rich tasting wine that people all over the world enjoy?

Psalm 89:8 says

O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you.

The vineyard rep explained to us that it’s the rocky, nutrient-poor soil that is the key to the grapes that grow there. She said that as the vines struggle to survive in these extreme conditions, they concentrate their energy into fewer berry clusters, to produce grapes with rich flavor.

She explained how the rocks are porous…retaining rainwater and heat so that they deliver just enough water to the vines during the hot summers, and then protect them with just enough heat from the harsh winters.

The rocks give this wine its signature flavor found nowhere else in the world.

About the time I thought my brain would shut down from a science lesson, the Holy Spirit whispered:

I know you don’t see how anything good can come from the conditions you find yourself in right now.

You see rocks everywhere.

You feel alone and exposed.

You long for deeper things than you dare to admit.

You don’t know how you’re going to make it.

But I can grow something rich and beautiful in you because of these conditions.

You need Me more than ever.

Your roots are growing deeper because the deeper soil is full of the nutrients you need to thrive.

You can’t produce anything good without Me. Trust Me to make something beautiful out of this.

His faithfulness surrounds Him.

If God can be faithful to some grapes in a Spanish desert, surely He will be faithful to you and me.

He’s not asking us to trust our track record. He’s asking us to trust His. He has a long history of being faithful to His people even though we don’t have a long history of being faithful to Him.

My circumstances haven’t changed much. My house is still for sale. I’m exhausted. My family needs way more from me than I have to give. I’m still in a hard place, but it’s in this hard place that I am learning to thrive because of a faithful God who has what I need every single day. He gives me His Word. He puts people in my life to pray for me and encourage me and then He asks me to trust Him even when I don’t feel like it because His faithfulness surrounds Him!

The One who turns water into wine is faithful. Even now He is making something rich and beautiful out of your hard places. You may not be able to see or taste it yet, but you can trust Him because His faithfulness surrounds you.

**I think it’s incredibly helpful for others to hear stories of God’s faithfulness to His people. If you would like to share something like that, please leave a comment. Thanks for stopping by!

Why Is This So Hard?

Why is this so hard?

This is a question I ask at least once a day, sometimes much more.

Why is mothering so hard?

Why is selling our house so hard?

Why is being married so hard?

Why is managing money so hard?

Why is taking care of my body so hard?

Why is keeping my house clean so hard?

Why is thinking up something to eat for dinner so hard?

Why is connecting with friends so hard?

And the list goes on and on.  

You see, I’m one of those girls raised in church that loves Jesus. I try hard to follow God’s commands and love people the way God loves me. I’m trying hard to DO what God says.

So why is this so hard?

There’s a guy named Moses who tried really hard to do what God told him to do and he got pretty frustrated. He went to Pharaoh (just like God told him to) and told him to let his people go, but Pharaoh refused to do just that. Instead, Pharaoh made their lives even harder. So Moses had a chat with God…

O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all. Exodus 5:22-23 NIV

Last summer, after praying about it, my husband and I put our house on the market. Yesterday we bought a new water heater. I love buying water heaters. Said no one ever. We need a new roof because of hail damage. Our insurance company denied the claim. It seems like the moment we started the process to sell our house things have gotten harder. Why is that? I thought being obedient to God would open up some Skittle rainbow that we would use to slide onto our little promised land, but no. It’s hard and it doesn’t make any sense.

I’ve been having a few chats with God lately myself. He didn’t zap me with lightning for asking, “Why is this so hard?” He didn’t send any plagues. He told me the same thing He told Moses.

Now you will see what I will do…Exodus 6:1

If it wasn’t this hard, I probably wouldn’t know it was Him. I might be tempted to think it was because of (gulp) me and that will never work because if it’s up to me, I will mess it up and we’ll be right back where we started.

So we wait. We wait to see what He will do.

What is it that you find hard right now? It’s OK to have a chat with God about it. He loves you. He really does. Pull up a seat right next to me and we’ll watch to see what He will do.

(I love to read your comments and consider it an honor to pray for you if you’d like.)

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