Saturday, October 31, 2015

October: a month in pictures

this has been a month of foggy mornings...
at the park

in the back yard

in the little park around the corner


at the mall

came into my room to find this!!!!
Grayson & Eli
at the library
at the "big park"
driveway silliness
Grayson with his Grammy
Untitled UntitledUntitledUntitled
Grayson hanging out with Emma while she works on her science project
Beth started drawing on index cards with sharpie & colored pencils
she has been making these for all of her friends
Josiah wrote this one night this month
it was bandana day at school!! 
Josiah dressed up as Captain America for superhero day at school
Katie-Abigail let Emma dress her up! 
all of my kids (most of them) dressed up for trick or treating 

31 Days of Brave: Day 31

Can you believe it? We made it all the way to Day 31!! I didn't know if I could publish something for 31 Days strait but I did it!!! I have such a renewed appreciation for blogging and a deeper love for writing. If you are visiting my blog from the #write31days project PLEASE leave a link to you blog in the comments so I can return the visit!! Okay, that is alltogether too many exclamation points in one paragraph but writing every day for an entire month deserves it. If you have a hard time leaving a comment here (sorry!!) you can also leave a comment on my blog's Facebook page or on my Instagram

We tend to think of brave as being big, loud, up front, on stage, bold, dramatic.
But God is calling me to love with the basin and towel.
He is calling me to go slowly and quietly.
He is reminding me that he is with me in the mud
every bit as much as he is with me on the mountaintop.
He is calling me to display his miracle in the mundane.
He is with me in the calm and in the storm,
He is with me in the middle of the fire.
He is inviting me to find our brave together.
Whether serving up front or in back and everywhere in between,
God is inviting me to be brave,
in neediness, vulnerability, honesty and openness.
To be honest about my pain and my grief
I want my story to be a story of brave.every bit
A story of staying when I needed to stay
and going when I needed to go.
I want my story to be a story of above everything else a story of love.  
The only point in being brave is to be brave with my love.

Friday, October 30, 2015

31 Days of Brave: Day 30 - brave with my future

I am someone who tends to be oriented towards the future. It's pretty natural for me to be dreaming and making plans, hoping for good things to come. But the reality is also that the present has sucker-punched me a couple of times, so it's easy to adopt a new attitude towards the future. One of fear.

I do not want to operate in fear. Not ever. I don't want to make decisions out of fear. I don't want to respond to other people in fear. Fear is the opposite of love and I want to choose love. Every time. That means I have to un-choose fear. Ugh. I totally struggle with that. Fear pops up all over the place, like mushrooms after a long rain. There they are. I have to see it, and choose something else. Choose love.

Another attitude I sometimes have about my future is one of status quo. Now that I'm in my thirties I feel a little bit like I'm on a fast track and can't get off. I feel like now that this life track has started there's no going back... I feel like I have no choice. I feel like I'm locked in. Sometimes this is kind of awesome. My oldest will be going to high school soon. There's a lot that I want to have in place for her. I don't want to move while she's in high school. I want her to have a shot at getting into a good college.  Sometimes I feel like my life now simply one of inertia - an object in motion tends to stay in motion and all that jazz.

I forget that I'm in the middle of my story. I don't know what God is doing or where He is leading or when He will interrupt. I want to be willing. I want to be ready. I don't ever want to be so entrenched in my own expectations that I can't hear Him leading me somewhere new or see the door opening in front of me.

He has been dropping all kinds of dreams into my heart. Sometimes when I'm worn out from everyday life and forget to water those dream-seeds I feel like those things are just wishful thinking.  I hold these dreams close to my heart. It's hard to even say them out loud because that way it won't be so heartbreaking when they never happen. Brave whispers not to give up hope and to have faith in the middle-places. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

31 Days of Brave: Day 29 - brave about my past

I totally had something else in mind to write today. It some something much more safe. I'm sure I'll write those thoughts down soon, it can be like a "bonus material" post after this series is done... today I have to write about being brave with my past.

I think there are a few different ways we respond in fear about our pasts: One is that we allow our past to define us. Maybe it's something awesome about your past, maybe it's something tragic, but whenever we allow anything other than what God says about us to define us we are in for trouble. I get all tangled up in myself when I allow my past to define me. "I was X type of person in my past so I could never do Y." That's a total lie. Yes, the things that have happened to me have shaped me, but they don't define me.

Another way we respond to our pasts is that we hide in fear of our past. I think it's pretty common to have a fear of being exposed. I have often felt like if people really knew me then they wouldn't like me anymore. If they saw me at my meanest, if they knew my real struggles, if they found out what I've really said and done and thought and struggled with. Look, this is also a lie. When I found the right friends and opened up about all of these things I thought I had to hide, the response was love, compassion and in some cases a "me too." It was the most freeing thing ever and in the right moment sharing my past and letting someone else see the broken places in my past can help someone who is struggling. 

One more unhealthy way we sometimes respond to our pasts is that we sit in unforgiveness. This is something I find that creeps in on me when I'm not looking and suddenly there it is: bitterness in all it's ugliness and I find I have to practice forgiveness all over again. This is the thing I still struggle with the most. I don't have any kind of big dramatic story - I just have regular, ordinary, everyday hurts but they come back up now and then and I have to choose to keep moving and not sit in the unforgivenness. 

Here is the truth about our pasts: God is doing something beautiful and he is constantly turning our wilderness into an oasis, he makes beauty out of ashes, he takes our shame and redeems it. Being brave about my past means that I don't hide it, or allow it to define me, or weigh me down in bitterness. I give it to Him, and watch Him redeem it. He is really really good at this and I honestly can't wait to see what He is about.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

31 Days of Brave: Day 28 - brave in the pain

when the only way out is through

Over the weekend I took the kids to go buy some ice cream at the grocery store. We have one right around the corner but they wanted to get out of the house for a little longer so we went to a store further away. About three quarters of the way there I was regretting my choice, tired of driving (during the ten minutes that it took to get there!) and wanting to be back home. In this moment I was reminded that sometimes you have to just keep moving forward.

Over the past year there have been a lot of "just keep moving forward" moments. The only way out of the discomfort of pregnancy was through the delivery. The only way out of the pain of labor was through it. Usually the emotional pain in my life is the same way. The only way out is through. My reflex is to try to avoid the pain, or just cope with it. Pretend it's not there. Smile and say "everything is fine, how are you?"  Or I'm looking for the nearest off-ramp - how can I get out of the uncomfortable situation? 

It's important for me to look fear in the face. It's hard, I want to run away from these feelings, so desperately want to run, but I have found that the best way to deal with pain and fear is to work through it. To look it in the face and say "what is going on?" usually my first answer is "I don't know" but I'm learning, slowly, one baby step at a time, to not be afraid and keep digging for answers.

Daniel & I have been married for fourteen years and I am just now finally learning that just smoothing things over with my husband usually means that the dam breaks down the road. I read a great quote on Jess Connolley's Instagram the other day about how good marriages take good fighting, or something like that, and I could not agree more.

I am fantastic at avoiding difficult conversations, smoothing everything over with a smile and something nice and trivial to say. I can swallow my pain and my pride like nobodies business, unfortunately I'm very likely to vomit it up again on the nearest person who is least likely to hurt me back, most likely my kids. There have been so many moments when I have had to say to my kids "I'm so sorry for the grumpy way I have been behaving towards y'all. I promise, it's not you. I'm upset about something else and I took it out on you."

It's so much easier for me to be angry than hurt. It's so much easier to blame someone else for making me feel this way than to actually look the pain in the face and try to see what is happening. It's easier for me to gloss things over and avoid that hard places then to dive in and risk hurting more on the way through.

Avoiding the things that I fear will cause me pain has usually caused me more pain at the end of the day. It's so much harder to have that difficult conversation when the the inciting incident happened weeks ago and neither one of us can really remember any of the details we just know that we feel distant and locked in what BrenĂ© Brown calls "cold war maneuvers" (I love that! So true.)

I have been learning that just coping with pain, fear, disappointment etc. is not the same thing as endurance, patience or perseverance. Coping usually means looking away from the thing that is causing me emotional discomfort and becoming passive but to be patient during a season of suffering means that I am actively seeking God. I am actively seeking God's perspective on my situation. I am actively surrendering my will to God in worship. I am leaning hard into God's provision and standing in faith that God is going to work something good. I'm not just holding my breath or clenching my jaw until this is over, I'm letting go of my expectations for how this thing is supposed to feel and how I want things to resolve and I let this season do it's work in my life.

I've written a lot here about how important it is to me to let a difficult situation or season do it's work in me. I believe that there is so much power in ceasing the fight against hurt and pain and simply let the difficult thing do it's work - to open my eyes to places in my life where fear is ruling my decisions and responses, to soften these hard corners, to learn compassion for myself and others.

During seasons of intense struggle over the last year or two I've learned to let my guard down, to reach for the phone and say "I need some help and perspective" to speak more openly about the things I'm struggling with. In the moments I've felt like I was drowning I was able to be open instead of hide behind my "everything is fine, I don't want to burden you with my mess" mask that I feel comfortable hiding behind.

I've learned that pain, when I let it, opens my heart towards others and softens my heart towards God and He begins to do what only He can do. Giving me patience and perspective, giving me hope and endurance and love when I am feeling, in my own strength, nothing but hurt and offense.

I'm learning more and more that the best way out of pain is to walk through it. To face it, to feel it, to let it do what it needs to do.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

31 Days of Brave: Day 27 - brave together

Can you believe we have made it to the last week of this writing challenge? I am totally flying by the seat of my pants at this point, trying to snatch little bits of time to write. Right now I'm sitting at the end of a tough day, two days into a week that feels oppressive, not just because it's been raining non-stop, but just everything feels like it is just a little bit overwhelming. But I know that the rain will pass and the sun will come out again, and I am trying to practice the habit of listing blessings instead of everything that has gone wrong so far today... 

Sometimes when we think of being brave we think of it as a solitary thing. Me, on my own, doing my thing, by myself. But the reality, in my life anyway, is that I am able to do brave best together. 

I need friends (especially girlfriends) who are willing to be brave with me. Brave in our mess, brave in the middle, brave in the struggle. We hold each other up and point each other to our true source of strength.

I have found so much power in being able to speak openly and honestly about the things that are driving me crazy, that I want to keep hidden. There is so much strength in putting a voice behind my fears and frustrations. Out loud, in the light of day, fears aren't quite as big or terrible as they feel in my mind.

This doesn't look the way I thought it would. Right now it's a lot of texts, it's time spent together at Chickfila while our kids play, it's doing small group together, I have a new group of mommy-friends/walking buddies. I have online friends who encourage and inspire me, even just as I watch them live out their brave. I am really happy with the relationships in my life right now. They're not perfect, they're not all the same - but they give life, and they don't look like something out of a book. My best friendships took a lot of time to grow. It took intentionality and reciprocity, and it has been so worth it.

Grayson - 2 weeks

Theses photos were taken while Grayson was in the hospital  by my sister Abigail on September 19

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