Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Having it All Doesn't Look Like I Thought it Would...

This afternoon I laid my girls down for their naps and was straightening the house and felt the Lord download something into me with such force that in all truth I had to sit down and pray right then and there. And now I am here, to share it with you, in hopes that you will find it as encouraging as I did.

Our oldest daughter, Olivia, just turned 5 this summer. She is bright, beautiful, sweet, and loves life in general, finding no greater joy than in the happiness of those around her, and in the Lord. Lately, she has hit some pretty big milestones, one of them being voluntary assistance around the house. She likes to set the table, help put away the dishes, make the beds, fold the towels when they come out of the dryer, all these things and many more. Being 5, her joy and willingness to do this is still more on her terms and timing than ours, but we're learning to work with it, and 'take advantage' of and encourage her in it when presented.

This being said, my home is starting to look a bit different than the pottery barn catalog picture I'd prefer it to resemble after a day of cleaning. Here is where I got hit today. The girls spent part of the morning folding the towels, but I hadn't gotten a chance to put them away yet, so after laying them all down, it was my first 'to-do' on the list. Let me tell you, every part of me looked at them and wanted to refold them. Not because I didn't appreciate the time and effort that had been put into them at all, but because my knee-jerk reaction to things is to 'fix' them to fit into my little control freakish preferences and appearances. I started to do just that, justifying my actions by telling myself how much nicer they'd all fit into our limited linen closet space, and things like that. But I was WRONG. Just as I picked up a stack to 'fix,' I really felt the Lord ask me what the point of having my daughter help was if I was just going to show her that her efforts weren't good enough?

OUCH. But, very true. How often do we encourage our little ones to help, but then tell them that it wasn't help enough? When they're older, there is a definite refining of skill that should come, but at this age, no way. Either I want to train my daughter to joyfully serve the members of her household or I don't. Either I will teach her that even the slightest efforts can be greatly appreciated or I won't. They are so tender, so impressionable, so fragile at this age, and they're hanging on every word of discouragement or affirmation that we give them.

When I had Olivia, right then I knew that my goal now was to aim toward being that Proverbs 31 wife not only for my {and my husband's} sake, but for hers as well. Because she would be watching me, learning from me - learning to serve joyfully or begrudgingly - or not at all. Then God gave us 2 more daughters and that desire only increased. I want my daughters to learn to be women who serve and care for their households willingly and JOYFULLY, and that starts here, now.

With a changed heart, I now peer into my linen closet rejoicing over folded towels that don't look like they came from a hotel housekeeping closet, but rather were pridefully presented by the hands of my tender-hearted 5 year old little girl who was beaming at the opportunity to help, and I beam just as brightly with pride. I look at their beds, made by my daughter, at the blankets laying nicely, but not tucked in, and rather than wish I could just get in there and 'fix' them, I also notice the loving way she arranged her dolls and lovies, and her sisters as well. Already taking so much pride in her efforts, already so willing to serve - who am I to discard that as nothing? As a mom, it is EVERYTHING.

Sometimes 'having it all' doesn't look like we thought it would, sometimes we have to look a bit harder and with adjusted vision to see that we've really arrived at one of those moments. But the peace and joy that comes with such a realization is so incredible, amazing, and motivating. I know there are so many things to come - lessons to learn and trials to face - but in this moment, right here and now, I feel like I have it all, and it feels awesome.

Until next time, I'll still be laughing,

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Legacy of a Father...From a Daughter

Right now it is just after one in the morning, making us officially an hour into Father's Day. And just a few hours ago, it had been officially been 6 weeks since my father, my daddy, left us and went to be with our Heavenly Father. 6 of the shortest, as well as longest, weeks of my life. To be honest, it's a lot to deal with sometimes, even now. And yet, as I sit here in this moment, I'm not overcome with tears and grief, but rather with peace; even more so, with a certain thankfulness in my heart that cannot be explained, and definitely cannot be removed.

I've been wondering for the last couple of weeks about this first Father's Day without my daddy - how it would feel, how I would do. And of course it will be different a bit I'm sure, as I go to bed, wake up, and actually start the day. But for now, I'm good, and I'm glad.

I had a minor breakdown in Target the other day, while looking through the Father's Day cards. My sister and I were picking them up and putting them down, reading the funny ones, and looking for the right one to give someone in our life who has been like a second father to us - both in our own daddy's living as well as his passing, and then I saw it - "Happy Father's Day Papa!" It was a card meant to be from grandchildren, and it recognized 'Papa' as being the nut who started the family tree. The wording of the card sounded so much like my daughters' own conversations, and the term for grandpa being the one they had landed on at some point years ago...that was all I took. I had to put the card down and walk away. So many thoughts and emotions, pain and loss, memories and the disappointment that there wouldn't be any more to be made - all these rolling through my heart and mind at once - but then came the quiet, "be still" command to my heart from my Father God, and the peace came rushing in.

With that peace came the importance of that card's message. "You're the nut that started us all!" Something to that effect, anyway. And it's true, my family has the imprint of my daddy on us, something that will never change. It shows in the men my brothers are growing up to be, it will show in how they raise their children, and also - and this is where I'm focusing on tonight - it shows in where my sister and I have our standards in regards to relationships.

When a son grows up, his relationship with his father is vital. The validation that helps him become a man can only come from a man. He learns how to be a leader, a husband, a provider, and so on. This is a relationship that is reflected on frequently, and I'm glad. However, it is not really a process or perspective I can really dwell on, and so I choose not to try.

What I can talk about, and what I have been meditating on, and what has calmed my heart so much this week leading up to Father's Day, is the relationship a daughter has with her father, with her daddy. For this, too, is essential to her future. At least it was to mine. After all, it was because of what I saw in my daddy that drew me to the man I married - the man who would eventually be the daddy of three little girls of his own.

My daddy was my HERO. I had him on a pedestal from day one to my memory, and probably before. Although there were disappointments here and there for silly, material things, he never let me down when it mattered most. I grew up knowing a father who would work to the bone to support his family, doing whatever job he needed to. He would be exhausted, and sometimes days off were few and far between, but he never said no to tickle fights, playing basketball with his klutzy, asthmatic daughter, or simply rocking in a recliner together before bedtime. I was so blessed to never know anything but love. Yes, there was often discipline {REALLY often in my case at times} involved, but in that correction I also felt love and protection. As I grew into my teenage years I had a very open relationship with my dad, because I trusted him, and he never took advantage of that to manipulate me into obedience. In those conversations there still came the correction, the discipline, and sometimes the expressions of disappointment, but again it was always brought around full circle to love, protection, and the encouragement not just that I could, but that I WOULD do better. In my relationship with my dad is where I learned a lot of confidence in who God was forming me to be, and the gift package He had designed uniquely for me. In my relationship with my daddy is where I learned how a man ought to be a father to his children. God's law/standard first, ruled gently but firmly, in love, and always as much fun as possible.

I grew up watching very closely my dad being a husband to my mom. As a child/preteen I would look for the 'signs of trouble' at times, as a lot of my friends' parents split up during those years. If there were ever any in my parents' relationship I never saw them. Again, very blessed I know, I honestly can't remember a time where my parents ever fought in front of us. Not that I was naive enough to think that they didn't argue - because let's face it, when "the look" is given followed by the FIRM shutting of a door and mildly raised voices all happens in a short amount of time, you know there is some discussing going on. :) But he was always kind in his words to her, never threatening, never mean or cruel, never degrading. I never once doubted my dad's love for my mom. She was his best friend, his wife, his partner for life.

In fact - and this was a lesson that I remember as plainly as it was yesterday, it was that impacting - one time my brother and I got caught in the act of 'pitting' one parent against the other, and boy did my daddy get upset at that one. I can still feel the emotion and uncertainty of waiting on the couch, ready for whatever consequences were to come, and my dad - my big, 6'4" father - coming into the family room. There were words, punishments, etc, and then he said something I'll never forget when the subject came round to going behind one parent to ask the other, and putting them in that position.

"I love you, and you're my kids, and nothing will ever change that. But one day, you'll grow up, move out, get married, and have families and lives of your own. Your mother and I, however, we're in this for life. She is my wife, my partner. After you're gone, she will still be here, doing life with me. Don't ever make me choose her over you like that again, because I can almost guarantee you, it's going to be her."

This rattled me to my core. Actually, at first I was kind of put out. But then, even though I was pretty young, I realized just how important this was - just how amazing a gift this was. The security imparted to me at that moment was indescribable, as was the picture of what a godly husband should be like. In my relationship with my father, I learned who I needed to marry - not necessarily the exact person, but the kind of man he would need to be.

I've heard it said over and over that girls wind up with guys that are just like their dad - usually in a negative context. For me, that was absolutely true. My daddy showed me not how to be a man, but what to look for in a man - more importantly, what to PRAY for. He showed me that a husband should be a best friend, married to his wife not his job, providing financially yes, but more importantly leading spiritually and making sure there is life and fun in the house as well. He showed me that a husband and a wife only work successfully when they are a team, with the husband leading and the wife being in agreement. He showed me that God needed to be the center focus of both of them in order for this team thing to be successful. My daddy showed me what a daddy should be, how he should teach his children right from wrong, correct them when necessary, and encourage them constantly. He showed me that a daddy can be a parent and a friend, as long as the latter relationship was secondary. All this and more, my daddy showed me not through numerous wise teachings - although we had many late night conversations that I will always treasure - but simply through his living this out. By being, he showed me how to be.

And so today, on Father's Day, I am missing my daddy terribly. Most of that aching, however, is in that I never told him thank you for teaching me all of this. Because if he hadn't, I wouldn't have married Andrew - my best friend, my partner, my leader, and an AMAZING daddy to our daughters. My dad said at our wedding reception that if it had been his choice of who I'd marry, it would have been Andrew. To me, that was the greatest form of encouragement and blessing on my marriage I could have ever received. Now almost 8 years later, I can see why he said that. Life isn't perfect, and neither are we. We have our ups and downs in dealing with things, and we are human. But this Father's Day I am at peace in many ways because I get to help my daughters celebrate the day with their daddy, who is a better man than he knows.

And this, is the legacy of a father, from his daughter's perspective. I pray that it encourages all who read it.

Until next time, I'll still be laughing,

 My daddy and me. 

 Highschool Graduation

 Father-Daughter Dance

 The toast. :)

 Our whole family, March this year.

My amazing husband and daughters, our little family. I am truly blessed. <3

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Letter to my Daddy

As the clock stuck twelve tonight and the date became the 4th of June, so came with it the one month mark since my father, my hero, my daddy, finished his battle with cancer and went to be with The Lord. I still, most of the time, cannot believe it's really true. Some days I feel like I'm really moving on, moving forward, healing somewhat. Other days I'm a wreck. Every last thing reminds me of him and I can hardly function because of how much I miss him. I'm so grateful for the undercurrent of peace that is constantly flowing in my life - the one that rushes in behind the waves of grief and helps to calm and soothe my aching heart. I know that God has a plan, and my faith in Him is unwavering, but I am still hurting, plain and simple. And so, one month later, I offer you a piece of my heart. I hope that soon, the ravings and musings you read on this blog will be filled with hilarity that I really do get to experience every day with my amazing family, but for now I must also be genuine, and right now I genuinely need to pour my heart out once more. 

I'm so ready for my heart to stop hurting this badly. Maybe then I can sleep soundly once more. I miss you Daddy, so much it's hard to breathe. I can't believe it's been a month since you looked me in the eye, and without words communicated everything and not enough all at once. I'm proud to be your daughter, to be raising your granddaughters, but it hurts that you're not here to see me do it, to have a hand in it, to have to have the conversations with them that I do about you, because you're the one I would usually get advice from on how to handle it. I've come to a place where I can have a 'conversation' with you in my head, Lord knows we've had enough of them over the years that I can usually guess what you'll say, or at least the easy way in which you would recommend assessing and processing the situation at hand. But what about those times when I don't know what you'd say? What then? What about those times when I just need to crawl into your lap and cry, like I have so many times, even as an adult? 

I'm trying so hard to keep my chin up, to walk through the grief but not drown in sorrow. I'm so SO thankful that you taught me to turn to the Word and worship during hard times, for they are my constant source of comfort, but even so, I wish you were here, to counsel without passing judgement, to love without strings attached, to remind me Who we lean on, because to be honest, at times it's hard to remember. I know you're healed, but I can't lie and say that I'm 100% comforted in the way which the healing came, because I'm not. But it's not my will, and it wasn't your will, but Gods will be done, and I meant it every step of the way, and still do now

Thank you for raising me in the house of God, so that I am constantly surrounded by a cloud of support and open arms, thank you for teaching me how to admit both to myself and to God when I feel like I'm failing, so that He can hold me up, and show me the things I need to do, reminding me that He never leaves me. Thank you for being such an amazing example of a father, teaching me wise and patient, loving and firm parenting. Because of you and mom I know that not only do I have the ability to help guide my daughters in the right directions, but also that I can be their parent first, and eventually their friend as well, because that's what you were (and mom is) to me. 

I could honestly ramble on forever, because that's how much I miss you, and that's how long you're gone for.  I just want to know when this raw pain ends. I will never forget you. When I'm working in the kitchen and my daughters are asking me when they get to help, I'll apply the same rules you did for me when I was the little underfoot wanting so badly to help cook with you. When I'm working on my next book I'll think of how hard you pushed me to finish my first book, and how amazing the feeling of accomplishment was, especially sharing it with you, because you had finished your first book too. It will hurt to not be able to show you everything else I'm going to write, but you better believe I'm determined to see it through because I promised you I would, and you promised you believed I could. Every time I get up to lead worship I will think of you and miss you, wishing you were there on bass, but I will be thankful you worked with me through so many things to get me to the point where that dream was realized - you knew it was my dream long before I did. 

What can I say? How can I encapsulate everything I'm feeling into a small letter? I can't. I'm sure of that. But this helps to ease the pain a little bit. 
I miss you so so so much Daddy, love, 
Your Boo Bear

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Who's going to talk me down?

My children didn't nap today. Not in the "we just got too busy so it didn't happen" sort of way, but in the bold-faced, toddler-defiant sort of way. And it happens sometimes, to anyone who has a toddler, but today it hurt. A lot.

Because a year ago, I was having the same sort of day, my older two (then a year younger) were giving me a good, hard time during the day and then refusing to nap and going CRAZY and I was at my wits end, texting my mom and not sure what to do because as a pregnant, newly "at-home" mom, this was foreign to me. And my daddy called me, to "talk me down from the ledge" and reassure me that even the best parents have hard days. I cried and cried but he was so soothing and loving that I knew it was going to be okay, and even if my schedule didn't run perfectly for that one day it didn't mean I was going on the list of bad moms.

Last Saturday, my daddy passed away, ending a 14-month very long, very hard, very valiant battle with pancreatic cancer. He departed a warrior, and although it was so very hard to have him go, I was so proud of him just the same. He left in a cloud of peace, among his very best friends and most of his family, and just that fact alone has helped so much in dealing with the pain of the loss.

Until today, when my children didn't nap. When they wouldn't listen. When I needed my daddy to talk me off the ledge once more, but I knew he couldn't do that anymore.

I've been trying to figure out how to put into words this loss. I told a friend a few days ago that I'm sort of afraid to because turning the emotions on and typing them out scares me as I'm afraid they won't stop. My heart is broken. I miss my daddy. He was my hero, my protector, my comforter, my confidant, and even, to an extent, my best friend. He could make things seem right and okay even when they weren't. Situations like these. You can't just put this kind of thing into words, but I am, over the next few days, months, years, going to try, because I know he would want me to. "You don't stop life for life." is what he told us last year when his diagnosis came.

Life will go on, and take me with it. Only I can choose whether I'm being dragged along or keeping the cadence myself. Through God I hope to do the latter. He has sustained me over the last year, even more so over the last week, and I know He can and will take this brokenness and emptiness and recreate it to be something even more beautiful and amazing than I can imagine. While I don't look forward to the coming waves of realization of the loss, I do look forward to the works God is doing through it, for all glory goes to Him, and will go to Him. Healing will come with time, and thank God for the amazing support He has given me by way of family and friends. I could not do it without Him and them.

I have had good days, and not-so-good days. And today, with my children not napping, I miss my daddy.

In my weakness, God is faithful, and He is strong, and I will lean on Him to get me through this.
And doing so, I'll still be laughing,


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Concerning Faith...

Boy, when God decides to download, He really downloads! Yesterday morning during my reading and devotion time He was revealing to me regarding level of faith, and the action on His part that comes accordingly. Last night, He struck an entirely different and yet completely related chord concerning faith, and what the surrender involved really involves. {does that make any sense? I hope so!}

The Bible is filled with stories and testimony in regards to this subject. I'd like to focus on just a few. Because what I feel like God showed me, and very "loudly" reminded me of is this:

Truly walking in faith means surrendering not only the circumstance you're in...but the outcome as well. It's not just trusting God right now, it's trusting God then, too.

Abraham comes to mind when being challenged in the area of faith, and total surrender. In Genesis we are given the account of when God instructed him to prove his faithfulness to Him and take his only son, his beloved son, the promised son he had waited 100 years to have - and sacrifice him on an altar. Um, WOW. I can't even imagine. Whether or not Abraham had those thoughts we'll never know, but what we do know is that he obeyed, and took his son up the mountain, built the altar, reassuring his son, "God will provide the lamb," and was willing to obey to the point of ultimate sacrifice. He put his TOTAL trust in the Lord, even if that meant the outcome was the heartbreaking sacrifice of his son. {thankfully, it didn't!}

Hebrews 11 explains this act a bit. Verse 19 says in the NLT "Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again."

Abraham's faith wasn't in God to meet him in one circumstance or another, it was in God. Period, end of story, that's it. God had promised Abraham a nation through Isaac, and that settled it. He not only surrendered the now, he surrendered the future.

I think sometimes when praying, we can get to that point where we truly believe that God can bring us through something, but we often spend time scripting what that outcome looks like in our minds. Not because we're trying to pretend we're God, but because we're emotional, fleshly driven control freaks. {Or at least I am!} And this, my friends, is an incorrect way of thinking, and as a result,  of praying. 

This isn't a correction or criticism, but rather an exhortation and reminder to continue to press on and pray on, standing in faith when storms come, and remember that we're surrendering not just the storm, but the aftermath to God, trusting in Him to 'provide the lamb' when all else seems hopeless. Remember, when Jesus commanded Peter to walk on water, and Peter believed that through Him he could, he did. It was only when he quit trusting that he started to drown. Take the step of faith, even if you're only shown the next few feet ahead, and trust that God is there to meet you at the end, whatever that may be.

I'll be doing the same.
And until then, I'll be laughing.


Monday, April 22, 2013

According to...

Something I've discovered I love about reading through the entire Bible every year is the fresh revelation brought out in passages I must have seen a hundred times before. This morning it was a simple sentence, read in Matthew 9:29 "Then He touched their eyes and said, "Because of your faith, it will happen."" (NLT)

Did the light of heaven shine down with a heavenly chorus just then? For me, it did. I honestly don't even want to guess how many times I've read "your faith has made you well" in my life, because I know it's a lot, but also because it's kind of embarrassing to admit that my life does not reflect the knowledge and fruit that it should if this is truly written on my heart.

How many times do you feel God has promised something - whether it be a miracle of healing or provision, or a calling you feel He's placed on your life that you're waiting for the door to open to - and yet it's just not happening? You feel almost as if you're in some sort of limbo, unsure of where to go, what to do or say, balancing precariously on the line of the seen and the unseen. If you're at this spot of waiting, please allow me to ask a simple, yet difficult question. Where is your faith at in regards to this? Not faith in God, or in Jesus as savior, so to speak, but in the power of God regardless of the circumstance. The New Testament is filled with miracles, and lots of them are tagged with phrases that indicate that the parties in need got out of the way so Jesus could take care of business - according to their faith, because of their faith...

God meets us at our points of need, and His power is able to work in our lives according to the level of faith we have in Him. We don't serve a somewhat powerful God, we serve THE ALL POWERFUL GOD. There is literally nothing He cannot do, if we're willing to truly walk in faith - fully surrender ourselves and our situations {and that means the results too!} - and trust that He will move on our behalf!

We have to get out of the way, and we need to get our unbelief out of the way, so our God can move, work, and above all look at us and say, "Because of YOUR faith, it WILL happen."

And I truly believe that it will. I myself am standing on a promise that I believe with my whole heart God has spoken. But it's not my job to solve it, fix it, or say exactly what God's will for the situation is. It is simply my job to trust Him, and to turn up my level of faith so that it meets the level of action needed, and to get out of the way and let God be God. Because at the end of the day, that is the one thing that never changes.

Until next time, I'll still be laughing,

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pay It Forward

Luke 22:32  "But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers."

Jesus KNEW Peter was going to mess up. He doesn't say here that His prayer was that Peter wouldn't have an imperfect moment or action, but that his faith wouldn't fail when he did. That way, not only would he return to Him, but be better equipped to aid the other followers of Christ in their walks.

This got me to thinking - as Christians, we fail. Sometimes a little, sometimes MISERABLY, but we fail just the same. So what is our reaction when this occurs? Do we run back to the way we were before Christ, counting it all as a waste? Do we repent and try not to mess up again, all the while secretly sulking in embarrassment that we are human and erred? Or do we embrace the mistake along with the grace and forgiveness He gives, make the determination to change, and take what we learned to those around us? More than likely, they need it too. They need the reminder that even when they mess up, they're still loved by the King; they need the reminder that they're saved by God's grace, not by works; and most importantly they need to remember that the important thing is to get back on the horse and press on.

It's simple, really. Not in execution, maybe, but that's more our fault than His.

When you mess up, fall, fail, however you want to put it, repent. Turn. Change. Accept God's grace and forgiveness. And then pay it forward to those around you. It's a ripple effect, and when you stand back, it produces an amazing and beautiful result.