You Moved

Last night… You Moved.

That unmistakable feeling, more than flutters.

A sign of life.

A sign of health.

A sign of fight.

 

The future holds unknowns.

Watching. Waiting. Worries beyond our control.

But you? You Moved.

 

Perhaps as a sign. Perhaps for peace.

Few things are known of the weeks to come.

But right now, today, you’re here.

 

I’ll live in this moment.

Hold on. Remember. Smile.

Bound to you by truth beyond words.

For no matter what, you moved.

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Funny How Time Works.

The other day, we had the kids at an amusement park.

It was hot, crowded and everyone was tired.

You let me sit; giving me the opportunity to just watch.

Giving me the chance to think. To reflect.

 

You waited in line with our boys, to buy milkshakes that were ridiculously overfilled, over “sugared” and overpriced.

I saw you laughing with them, building memories from small moments that will last forever.

I’ve watched you reading to them. Teaching them to play card games. Playing paddle ball. Throwing baseballs.

Disciplining when things go too far. Turning experiences into lessons.

Teaching them how to grow.

Teaching them to laugh.

Teaching them how to hold onto every little moment.

 

And I thought.

I thought back to our own childhoods, that by God’s good plan somehow merged together.

I remember bike-rides around that curve that felt more dangerous than it was.

I remember camping trips, telling stories around fires, hiking up hills that felt like mountains, laughing.

I remember a childhood that still brings a smile to my face.

All the while having no idea that these memories of ours would grow into more.

 

That this path we were on would entwine.

That you would be the one to teach my children how childhood should go.

That you’d let them “help” you build things, while building them up.

That the boy who was part of my “best friends” would become my life partner.

That we’d fight arguments that only couples understand.

That we’d walk through fire to come out stronger.

That you’d become someone who loved Jesus first, making all life decisions from that centering point.

 

That you’d become the man who’d help my boys become men.

 

Those thoughts are random. Maybe they only make sense to me. But, as I watched John with our oldest two the other day, while I sat with our twins, hiding out from the sun, I started thinking about what a blessing it is to marry your friend. There are growing pains that make it a challenge that others maybe don’t experience, having sorted their lives out and figured themselves out before finding each other. But, being able to see the boy my husband was, in the boys that our children are, somehow brings things full circle. It made me think, and it made me smile. Life is crazy, confusing and difficult sometimes, but there’s a plan that’s so much more than any of us could imagine. What a blessing!

The Best Laid Plans: Trusting in the Better One!

 

I feel like I spend more time focusing on why I haven’t been writing, then taking the time to reflect on what I have been doing during that time. This time the why is more important – on a personal level – then perhaps it has been in the past.

When I last wrote, we were facing more dead ends as a family than we thought we could handle sometimes, and it was time for a refresh…to step back from the things that we were focused on, to focus on what mattered most. Stick with me, it’ll make sense in a few.

You see. We felt like we were facing our own personal crisis as a family. We thought God us brought us back to PA for a specific purpose…then that purpose seemed to be slowly slipping away. Our kids were facing troubles at school. John’s job that brought us here was literally going away (quicker than originally planned), and we were frustrated. Instead of looking forward and leaning on God’s perfect plan, it was easier to look with longing back on where we came from, when things seemed easier. Instead of trusting and dwelling forward, I – personally – was dwelling on the mountain views and friendships we left, on when it seemed easier to follow God’s plan, to live missionally and to focus without “distractions.” I began longing for what was, instead of trusting in what was meant to be.

I needed a reset, and that reset took longer than I’d like to admit, and more bending and softening of my heart that was becoming harder than I’d like to think was possible.

I needed to dig into the promises of Scripture and of past lessons God had taught me. I needed to paste those scriptural truths around my house so I couldn’t avoid them or put them in the back of my mind. I needed to go back to the basics, to spend time with the creator who loves me more than I can imagine, and to beg him to align my heart, my will and my dreams with his. I had to listen to sermons and how they applied to my own life, instead of thinking of others I thought might benefit from the words being shared on Sunday mornings. I like to think this would have happened even if the dead ends didn’t, but, I think we’re more resistant to change than we like to think sometimes.

Anyway, this process was painful and took time, but maybe it never should have gotten to that point. I’ve realized it should never have ended in the first place. We should live in that place continually, because otherwise our own desires come to the surface far too easily. My longing for my own far off country (if you’re unfamiliar with this concept, check out what C.S. Lewis had to share) doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but, I need to frame it in God’s eyes, not allow it to distract me from what’s important.

Throughout it all, God’s purpose and plan has prevailed. Our friendships have deepened. The open door we prayed for for John’s job came and he jumped on it, without any down time or unemployment whatsoever. God has pointed out a new direction for our family (No. We aren’t leaving!) and we are trusting him with excitement as we watch it play out.

Most importantly – from my view – life seems simpler again. I’m not caught up in the “what could be’s,” and the “what I want’s.” Instead, I’m living day to day with a prayer that our lives and our path as a family aligns with God’s will and his plan, his perfect plan that includes what’s best for us, even if it’s not exactly the way we would have dreamed it on our own.

Has God used times of dead ends to reset your heart, your dreams and your purpose?

Closures and Detours

 

 

 

It’s funny. I had a completely different post scheduled to go out tomorrow. Maybe not completely different, but, with a different direction, a different outcome, even though the theme was the same. It had a beautiful shot of the mountains, and a message that was uplifting and gratitude centered; maybe I’ll share it sometime! In either case, it clearly wasn’t what it was supposed to be after the events that followed my writing it. That image up top? It’s actually completely fitting.

It’s hard to know where to start sometimes, to figure out who knows what, and what needs to be shared, so now? Now I’m just writing what comes to mind.

In my last post, I wrote a lot about where we’ve found ourselves this year. That the (appealing!) offer to move out west wasn’t where we felt led and that the waiting continues; that is still true. Only lately, I’ve started to wonder if maybe we’re waiting wrong…if we’ve still been waiting “conditionally,” even if that’s the opposite of what we’re trying to do. Isn’t life complicated sometimes?

Let me explain.

This year, we have had more “no’s” than “yes’s!” We’ve had health issues as a family and scares that we didn’t expect (see my last Facebook post. Many of you have and left amazing message, both private and public after I shared it! Thank you!). We’ve also been blessed through each of them, we’ve had both literal and figurative “mountain tops,” but, often, they’ve been mixed in with the hard things. With confusion, with fear, with pain and with other things we wouldn’t have exactly planned for ourselves.

Through it all, we have known and still know very clearly that God is a part of this process. That nothing happens that is out of his sight, out of his plan or out of his control. With that knowledge comes a great deal of comfort and acknowledgement of blessings! So, we’ve continued to give it to him. Or, so we thought.

Today, out of the blue, after picking up items purchased during a recent shopping spree, the transmission on our car blew. I’m talking stop you in the middle of the road, what do I do now, all my kids are in the car and I’m on a conference call, blew. My first reaction was frustration (as it would be for most people!).

As I sat there slightly panicked (I was turning in the middle of an intersection), a song that John and I had just been discussing on the way back from NC this weekend, started playing – “Control” by Tenth Avenue North. In case you’re not familiar, a few of the lyrics include:

Here I am
All my intentions
All my obsessions
I want to lay them all down
In Your hands
Only Your love is vital
Though I’m not entitled
Still You call me Your child

I’ve had plans
Shattered and broken
Things I have hoped in
Fall through my hands
You have plans
To redeem and restore me
You’re behind and before me
Oh, help me believe

God You don’t need me
But somehow You want me
Oh, how You love me
Somehow that frees me
To take my hands off of my life
And the way it should go
God You don’t need me
But somehow You want me
Oh, how You love me
Somehow that frees me
To open my hands up
And give You control
I give You control

(I know I use song lyrics a lot; but, I have found that they often speak to me more than other things.)

Anyway. As the song played, two guys in a pick up happened to show up in the middle of nowhere intersection to push me off to the side. My parents, who happen to have a spare minivan that fits our family, showed up. We were able to call AAA and we’ll figure out the options later. It worked out perfectly, almost too perfectly.

Which got me thinking.

Have we been praying for closed doors in order to more clearly see the open ones? Yes. Have we been noticing the little things a little more lately, and staying grateful constantly? Absolutely. But…has there been a little more to it? Sure thing.

I think our prayers and desires have still been filled with our own hopes and our own desires for what we consider success. Things that might not align with the hearts we’re supposed to have, or, the plans that we’ve claimed to trust in that are bigger than our own. They’re still ours, even if we don’t want to all them that.

I’m not saying our own hopes and dreams are wrong, or that we aren’t supposed to find success. Maybe we are, who knows! But, when our prayers are twinged with those things, and filled with “buts,” are we really praying for hearts that are bigger than our own could ever be? I don’t think so. Are we really giving God room to work? Or still trusting in our own means of finding success? You be the judge, but, I think through all of it, I’m starting to see where I stand.

So what’s next? I have no clue. But, I am determined to truly give over control, trust and hopes until they better align with the plan that was put in place long before I was ever a thought to anyone in this world, because only then can true blessings become clear…the fact that we don’t have to have it together or have a plan can be freeing…it doesn’t need to be terrifying.

As I was rushing home in the borrowed minivan to beat my oldest’s bus to the bus stop, I came to this sign…on the road that had been open and fine a few hours before that. It came full circle and I laughed/cried/a-little-bit-of-every-emotioned. This is the road we prayed for, and while the road closed signs seem awfully frequent right now, there’s always been a detour. And sometimes, I think that’s where the blessings happen. What a beautiful picture (the hypothetical one…not the one I snapped on my phone before the car behind me started honking!).

What detours have you experienced lately? What blessings have you found through them?

 

Grateful for My People

Have you ever sat back and just reviewed the things happening in your life and around you, and thought, “Wow. This is wild.”

I have had a lot of those moments lately. The most recent one (and not the first time it’s happened) was this morning.

Let me back up. I’m not a people person. To those who know me well, this is a surprise. But, as every personality test in the history of personality tests has indicated, along with what I know to be true, I’m an introvert. Once I get to know someone my walls come down and I feel comfortable enough to just be. But, until then, I feel awkward and never quite know what to say. I worry that the words I did say came across wrong or I find something else to dwell on. In this, I know I’m far from alone, though I’m pretty sure not enough people talk about it.

ANYWAY.

God has used this trait to show me his goodness, especially lately. Through our family’s moves and various experiences – from corporate careers to freelance lifestyles to wherever I’m at right now that’s a little bit of both, some really amazing people have come into our lives. The best part? Many of them have stuck.

I’m surrounded by people who give me the opportunity to experience things in life that I never would before. To laugh with. To tell stories with. To run to when I am not even sure how to sort out whatever situation I’ve found myself in. To work on big projects with that are so every exciting. To grieve with over life situations that don’t make sense on this side of heaven. To get counsel that I can trust. To live with. To experience with. To grow.

We aren’t meant to be alone.

As much as I’d tell you that I’d rather spend my time with my face in a book sitting on a porch swing or hiding in a remote coffee shop, I’m not sure how true that is any more. Do I need alone time to recharge? Absolutely. Would I rather hang out with a few good friends than run out to a big event the next town over or to a (cringe) “networking” event? Absolutely.

But, this morning, as I reflected, I got to thinking that the people that I’ve (not so randomly) crossed paths with have shown me that there’s more joy when we’re in it together. I feel filled to the brim with blessings right now, and most of those focus on the people I get to do life with. Those who I am stuck sending desperate “I MISS YOU when can we get together” texts to, who understand when life happens and I completely forget that we’re double booked, to those I embark on new business opportunities with and those who can drop in from somewhere within walking distance to catch up over tea. Even those who have become long-distance friends whose Facebook photos make me smile and reminisce.

I’m blessed beyond measure. I’m bettered by those who have been placed in my path and I’m grateful for each of you. Carry on 🙂

When Blessings Become Focus-Central

If you’ve spent any time around me, AT ALL, you know I’m a planner.

When I say that…it’s more than a word. I remember being so excited for syllabus week during each college semester. I’d come home with my new semester plans for each class, hand write them in my big giant planner and schedule library time to start serious research sessions for each paper (I was a writing major) that was due over the following weeks. At home? I can’t do clutter…my mind can’t keep up. I spend a solid chunk of every day making sure there are no piles of “stuff,” that the crumbs are off the floor – there are a LOT of crumbs! ha – and that family events, from meals to events and vacations are organized and written in the calendar. Planning is an integral piece of who I am, organization and order often rank top and center.

In recent years, especially since kids, this has started to change. I think our God has a sense of humor, and that it manifests in the fact that I have four kids fairly close in age. Sometimes, chaos reigns supreme and we’re forced to just go with the flow. I’ve learned to accept it, even seeing it as a welcome break from my standard plan-controlled life.

But in other areas, I’m not so easy going.

Over the past year, Johns and my professional lives have been busy, to say the least. From his international travels, crazy work hours and pursuit of an MBA, it’s been interesting, to say the least. But then, things started changing for me as well. A regular opportunity became more of a full time opportunity. I’ve begun work on my own book. I’m taking part in another writing project that I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of. I have a little passion project that I get to be a part of.

Through all of it, I’ve tried to keep part of my focus on anticipating my kids’ needs, spending one-on-one time with them, building it up and ensuring they get to chase the dreams that they’re starting to develop on their own – which is amazing to watch, by the way!

When life feels “crazy,” it’s easy for me to snap. I think a lot of you can probably relate. While it’s my goal to stay level headed and to keep a sense of order in our home, when I feel like things are “out of control,” I start to spin. I become short tempered. I feel like the water is moving in and it’s a downward spiral from there.

I think, though, that through this season in life, that there’s a specific lesson that I’m supposed to be learning. Once I caught wind of it, things started to change in big ways.

It’s no secret that ever since our move to NC, and the following move back to PA, complete with added children and many unknowns, God has been working in our lives. He’s been working on opening our eyes and making sure that we are open to following his plan…even if it feels “crazy” on this end.

See…these opportunities that I’ve been presented with, they all center on something I LOVE to do, something God has blessed me with: writing…creating. Even better, these opportunities are with good people, people I truly love spending time with, learning from, creating with and growing with. I find that instead of feeling bogged down or tired after a trip for work or a day filled with more work hours than planning, I feel invigorated, I feel proud and I feel ready to keep pushing through.

Maybe this is standard for some of you. But, for me, as a planner who likes anticipating what’s around the corner and maintaining a sense of “peace,” this is new to me.

I think for me, it has a lot to do with this ongoing initiative to look for and appreciate blessings. I think we, as a culture, are trained from a young age to find stress in what surrounds us. We inherently look for and focus on the negative, not because we’re negative people, but because that’s what we are trained to do. After busy workdays on television shows, most of the characters meet at a bar, or pop open a beer with the need to put there feet up and unwind themselves from a day that has wound them tighter than they think they should go.

Are there days, situations and ongoing life events, losses, illnesses and dire situations that warrant this kind of unwinding? Absolutely; I want to be clear that I’m in NO way undercutting this. I don’t think, however, that that’s supposed to be our norm, or that those are the situations that tend to consume most of our thoughts. I don’t think we’re supposed to live in that space.

I think that, when we can focus on what and who we’re designed to be, and the gifts, abilities and other positives that stem from that, and when we purposefully remain open to whatever lies ahead and thankful for all of it, that those “stresses” can instead be re-framed as blessings, things to be grateful for.

I don’t know what that looks like for you. For me, it means that when the whirlwind inside seems to start picking up speed, I stop, I shut my eyes and I  remind myself that I’m surrounded by things I’m passionate about: my family, work that I get to love, beauty outside, the ability to remain active and more. I also remind myself that it’s okay to break the bigger picture down into smaller chunks, and to work slowly toward end goals, that I don’t need to have it all wrapped up tomorrow.

This life is a journey. One filled with highs, lows and lots of in-betweens. But, I think that when we focus on the stress, on the harder parts, that they become our focus. I think we’re made for more than that.

 

Putting Down Roots

(Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/jwhitmanphotography/)

Our family has been blessed by adventure over the past few years. Many of you have followed our journey. But, as quick snapshot…

John and I got married in college. Living between John’s roommates and my still great friend/roommate was an adventure of it’s own (ha!). But, from there, we came home and started exploring next steps. We found an apartment in Hershey…but it was short lived.

The opportunity to purchase a home presented itself! We bought our first home, knowing it wasn’t our forever home. But, we poured our time into it, made it our own and loved it! As we started exploring what was next, we were given the opportunity to move to Asheville, NC. Our house sold quickly and we moved in with my parents over the holidays (with two children in tow) until we left Pennsylvania and headed south!

We knew Asheville wouldn’t be our forever home, but we thought it would be home for longer than it was. We developed amazing friendships, traveled back to PA for as many holidays as we could, doubled our family and tried to enjoy one day at a time.

Almost two years in, the calls we’d waited on came and we learned we’d head back to PA. So we did. We lived in a hotel for three months (this time with four kids and a dog in tow) and waited until our home in NC sold, to move into our new home in PA.

Now…here we are.

It feels strange in some ways. There’s nothing “new” right beyond the horizon. We have no more plans for children (though we are hoping to begin a foster journey in the near future). Our kids have started a school that we see them in for the long term.

We’ve begun to talk about our house as though it might be where we actually stay. We talk about projects, we invested in landscaping, and we talk about what we might want to do (gasp) a few years in the future.

We’ve settled into a church that is starting to feel “home.” Our kids are developing friendships and we’re meeting their families. We are making a targeted effort to get to know our neighbors (which is a little different in the Northeast!).

We are planning for our first holiday season in our own home in five years…no travel required!

This weekend, we took another big step – at least it was for me. I started to literally put down roots. I planted bulbs, laid grass seed, and purchased bushes and trees that have started to go into the ground.

Given our past 9 years, it feels strange to think ahead a few years – let alone to spring – as though we may still be in the same place without any life-changing moves or changes in store. It feels hopeful.

Yet…we remain open. I never want my “roots” to prevent us from following where we are lead. We feel strongly that this life is not meant to be a product of our plans…but instead, that we are supposed to be part of a bigger plan…our lives are not our own.

Even so…roots feel strangely comforting for this stage in life! For that, I will be grateful. One moment at a time! Here’s to the journey!