Monday, December 31, 2012

Farewell, 2012 ... Welcome, 2013

Life can be so hard.

2012 challenged and stretched me in ways I never thought possible.

In the span of one year, I said goodbye to my mother-in-love after a painful battle with cancer. I nursed my husband through a difficult job change and a nasty bout of pneumonia, on top of the ache of losing his mom. I limped through the end of our first home school year, and barely started a new one. I had a painful disagreement with a dear friend. I watched as my dad struggled with a debilitating illness that has left him in the hospital for 4 months (and counting).

And that is just what I experienced personally.

I was also a spectator to the families who had to bury loved ones after multiple, tragic shootings. I've watched as our collective liberties are being stripped away and our faith in Jesus Christ is attacked. I've grieved the apathy of the church and the ugliness of people in general.

My heart hurts.

But ... life can be so good.

I have grown closer to my husband as we have navigated huge challenges and incredible pain. He has stepped up to provide for our family in ways that have stretched him greatly but have made me fall in love with him all over again. He is a good, hard-working, godly man. He makes me want to be a better person. I am incredibly blessed by him.

This year marked the first FULL year of my being a stay-at-home mommy, something that I have wanted since childhood but could only dream about for so many years. I had the great privilege of watching my children get another year older and wiser without having to get the information second-hand. I saw my son come to faith in Jesus Christ at the ripe age of 4, and my 2-year-old recite scripture she learned in Sunday school. I have watched my 10-year-old daughter mature and grow in Christ, and have come to know her more this year than ever before.

I have grown closer to my dad through his struggles and have seen a strength in him that I never knew was there. I have also grown closer to my brother as we have leaned on each other through the ups and downs of Dad's illness.

I have deepened relationships with old friends and developed relationships with new ones. I have seen our church grow and have been honored to be part of the minstry that is happening there.

My heart is so full of love and joy.

In Christ, our hardships and blessings in this life happen simultaneously. We endure much. Our faith in Christ grows. He blesses us with more, but promises that more hardships will surely come. But so will more blessings. And the cycle continues, until that glorious day when God calls us home and we receive our ultimate reward.

But let us not forget that the blessings He gives - right here, today - are deep and rich and beautiful. Yes, there are difficulties. But for those who are living their lives for Him, who are knowing Him and making Him known, the hard times bring character & Christ-likeness and the good times are full of His glory, provision and joy.

Here's to an amazing 2013! I can't wait to see what it brings ...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My husband is one of the rare and precious gifts that God has given me in this life. While not perfect, he is an exceptional companion, husband, servant, and friend.

I became his wife at the tender age of 17. We were both very different people back then.

We have been through a lot together in fourteen years.

He knows me better than anyone in this world. He is the safe place that I run to in all of life's situations. He deals with all of my quirks without making me feel ashamed of who I am. He never yells at me or demeans me, ever.

He does dishes. And laundry. And changes diapers. He has never once complained about helping around the house. He loves our children and tells them so. He is a great dad.

And most important, he loves God.

In recent days I went through an unexplainable funk that I could not climb out of. Life is just hard sometimes, and when it is I tend to feel sorry for myself and forget about how truly blessed I am. Sad, but true. He knew it without me saying a word. It bothered him. He hates to see me down.

As we went to bed, he asked me to snuggle up close. He held me tight and sang to me, something that he used to do often when we were first married. Love songs. But he didn't stop there. He got out his iPod and picked out a dozen more songs that expressed his love for me. He knew that I needed to know how much I am loved.

You see, I struggle greatly with believing that I am loved. Our enemy has used my feelings of insecurity and inadequacy for as long as I can remember to make me feel unworthy, inferior, and unloveable.

And that's why Aron is such a gift.

He has shown me the love of Jesus. He loves me with an unending, unconditional love that I don't deserve. He is crazy about me. No, really. Crazy. About. Me. He shows me in a hundred different ways every day.

I don't understand it, but I'm finally starting to believe it.

Today I am taking the time to thank God for my husband. I don't nearly often enough. God is the one who brought us together, and He is the one who has changed our character and our hearts over these years. It is only by His grace that our relationship has survived and now thrives the way it does. He is faithful, and He loves me.

If I need a reminder, all I have to do is look at my husband.

Monday, April 2, 2012

One of THOSE days ...

Today has been a challenging day for me as a mom.

After a nearly sleepless night up with a feverish baby (103.5, to be exact!), I was trudging through the morning. Things were actually looking up a little as Ava's fever had gone down and she seemed to be feeling better. Having finished lunch, the kids were playing happily and for a moment it was quiet.

And then, the drama.

I had just taken the second bite of my highly nutritious mac 'n' cheese and peas when there was screaming from the back of the house. I jumped up from the table and ran to the hallway. Ari and Aidan were squalking about something, and it took me a moment to assess the situation.

Finally, I realized that Ava must not have been feeling as well as I thought she was. She had had diahrrea, which had leaked out of her diaper onto the floor. Make that poured. But wait, there's more. It had puddled at her feet so every step she took was tracking it all over the carpet. All Ari was concerned with was that it might get on her precious Pet Shops, and Aidan just couldn't stop saying, "Ewww! Gross! That's disgusting!" at the top of his lungs.

I just stared. Who's in charge here? Oh, that's right.

I jumped into mom mode and grabbed the baby. I got her changing pad and diapering supplies, laid her down, and began the task of cleaning her up enough to get her in a bath. I was near tears. The stress of not only today's events but those of the last several months came pouring over me like a tsunami. I miss my mother-in-law. Money is tight. My house is too small. My one car is on its last leg. I'm not everything that I should be as a wife, mom, Christian. I have a lot of messes.

As I grabbed the wipes and set to scrubbing Ava's feet, God spoke to me. Or more accurately, he showed me something. I got the most beautiful picture in my mind. It was Jesus, as he was when he washed the feet of his disciples. According to scripture, he had a towel around his waist and a basin. He was on his knees, a position of service, just as I was at that moment. The disciples feet were dirty. Not just dirty y'all - grimy. Disgusting. Smelly. But in my mind's picture, Jesus was not washing the disciples' feet - he was washing mine. I had "stepped in it" again. And he was patiently, lovingly cleaning me up. Just like he's done a hundred times before. Just like he'll do a hundred times more. But there was no resentment, no impatience, no bitterness in his eyes. Only love.

In that moment, I remembered two things.

Number one, this life is not about me. I am called to live like Jesus, and Jesus served. He gave it all without complaint. So should I. I am not promised a bed of roses in any area of my life, and that's okay because it was good enough for him.

Number two, I am loved. And it is not based on my performance or how well I "measure up" (thank God). It is a love that died for me when I was a filthy sinner. It is a love that works in His time to bring about His will for His glory. And for my good. He doesn't mind washing my feet, because He loves me.

So now all is calm, the floor is clean(ish), Ava is bathed and freshly dressed and the older children are playing and reading quietly. And I have a better perspective. It's funny that God chooses THOSE moments to speak to me. Well, now it's funny.

Monday, February 6, 2012

On Death and Dying

Two people who are very dear to me are in the process of dying.

The first is my precious mother-in-law. Vibrant and full of life, about a year and a half ago she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. After undergoing surgery and an initial round of chemotherapy treaments, she was doing beautifully and it looked as though all was well. Then 4 months after her last treatment, her symptoms returned. The cancer had spread to her stomach and abdomen. Although she endured more chemo treatments and fought bravely, she is now in the end stages of cancer. It is very difficult for me to see her in her current state after knowing the person that she was. I will always remember her serving others, putting her own special signature on everything that she did, loving her husband, sons, grandkids, and her "adopted" daughter - me. She was and is an amazing woman.

The second is me. Through this process of watching my mother-in-law lose her life, I have realized that God requires me to die to myself a little more each day - to my sin and to myself. (1 Peter 2:24) Every day I love this world a little less. Every day heaven becomes more of a reality. Every day I come to understand more that this life is not about me and what I can do for myself, but it is about serving others and making the most of every day God has given me. We never know when we will take our last breath. I am taking the time to hug my children a few seconds longer these days. I'm taking time to sit with my husband, to talk and laugh and grieve. I say the things that God puts on my heart that the people around me need to hear. I spend time with family and good friends. And I place my life, my future, my eternity in God's hands daily, knowing that whatever He has for me is good. He promised. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Death, however hard it is to accept and go through, is our only avenue into eternity and the presence of God - that is, until Jesus returns to take the remaining saints home. My prayer for myself and every believer is that we would come to a place where we can see death for what it truly is ... our stepping stone into our loving Heavenly Father's arms, to spend forever with Him.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Home School!

I am in full new-home-school-mom mode right now! My days are filled pouring over curriculum guides and examining scope & sequence. It can be maddening, especially to someone like me who has to have every detail of a new endeavor planned out months before it ever happens! The one thing I do know is that I am SO EXCITED to be embarking on this new adventure. Aron & I are 99% sure we have chosen the curriculum we like, and it intertwines the Bible throughout every subject. I tear up a little thinking that my kids will have a creation-based, Biblically sound education as opposed to what I grew up with. I went to "good" schools with "good" teachers, but public school could not HOPE to prepare me to be a Christian adult. One of the great things about home school is that you are getting your academics, but at the same time you are learning about Christ, relationships, manners, morals, values ... the list goes on and on. And all the things aside from academics are what this life is really about. Those are the things that will last into eternity. And while I want Ariana to be able to multiply and Aidan to read, even more than that I want them to have a thriving relationship with the Savior. Pray for me as I start this new chapter ... and pray for my family. :)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Overheard by Aidan

While driving home this morning from dropping Ari off at a dance clinic, Aron & I heard Aidan singing from the backseat ...

"To me, I am so wonderful!
To me, I am so wonderful!"

We frequently change the words to "Oh, How I Love Jesus" by replacing our kids names and changing the lines (i.e. "Oh, how I love Ava, because she is so sweet"). They think it is funny and soothes them when they are grumpy. I guess Aidan was feeling a little left out because we had been singing to Ava, so he decided to sing to himself! But I heard God speaking to me in that moment as well. How many times do I sing that song by my actions? Many days, I am the most important person in my life. I make decisions and take actions that do not benefit anyone but me. I forget to be the servant that God has called me to be, especially to my family. Lord, help me to remember the real lyrics to that old song and realize that in your great love for me, you accepted me even in my sin and are continuing to sanctify me by your grace.

And still, Aidan was very cute singing his little song ... :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Change is never easy!

I sent a mass email today to the people in the school district that I have worked with over the past 5 years letting them know of my "big change" to stay-at-home mommy and thanking them for their help. A little unexpectedly, I received the kindest, most genuine responses from these people that I have only communicated with by email or over the phone. I don't even know what most of them look like, yet they gave heart-felt congratulations and expressed sadness at not working with me after this year. It is times like these that I remember how much I dislike change. Although I am SO EXCITED to be staying home, there is still a tinge of sadness at the thought of leaving behind so many relationships that I have made. I wish that I could still talk to my co-workers and know what is going on in their lives, but alas that is not how life works.. There are few people in our lives that remain constant through the years. But times like these also make me thankful for those that God has put into my life that do remain - family members and friends that will be with me until the end - and my husband and children definitely fall into that category! I am making this change in obedience to God, but also as a gesture to Aron, Ariana, Aidan, and Ava that they are the most important people in my life. And THAT thought makes change wonderful!