That Duggar Post: A Follow Up

Holy cow.  You all are awesome. Your love for my post on Friday regarding the Josh Duggar situation and my personal take on it caused it to take off.  The feedback I received was filled with grace and encouragement (eh, for the most part), and I thank you all for that.  That said, I feel like I need to clarify a few things.

When I wrote that post, I knew that it would get **some** additional traffic, due to the timeliness of the material and the incredibly personal nature of it.  But I wrote it for my usual audience, most of whom know me personally and know my heart and my mind on many of these topics.  However, I had no idea how much additional traffic it would get.  Had I known that, I may have been clearer about a few more things.  And because of that, I want to be clear: in absolutely no way am I condoning Josh Duggar’s behavior or (entirely) how his parents handled the situation.  As I stated in my original post, I have not read the police report for very specific reasons, but what I have read leads me to believe that the family dealt with the situation in a way that seemed best to them at the time. Does this mean that it truly was the “best way” or that everything was done that needed to be done?  Not necessarily.  Does that mean that airing the Duggars dirty laundry on Facebook, Twitter, and all the media outlets is the best way to promote healing for a family that is deeply troubled and hurting?  Absolutely not.

And that was the point of my post.  Not that Josh didn’t do anything wrong.  He did!  And not that his parents shouldn’t have handled it differently.  Maybe they should have.  (and their health and healing today.  And my point was that we are broken, scarred people – all of us – in desperate need of grace and love from one another and in desperate need of a Savior.  Even those of us that claim the cross daily live with the consequences of our choices, big and small.  And we all make terrible, sinful choices that affect others. And others around us make choices that affect us.  Hope and healing come when we speak honestly about those things rather than masquerading perfection.  When we live real, others can find their own hope and healing too.

I know this post won’t get the traffic the other one did.  But at least it’s out there.  And maybe it clears some of the questions up, maybe it doesn’t.  But I again call for us to show grace upon grace upon grace.  To each other.  It is up to the Duggar girls whether or not they will forgive Josh and / or their parents.  It is not our sin to forgive or judge.  But we win the most when we show love.

Mercy and forgiveness must be free and unmerited to the wrongdoer. If the wrongdoer has to do something to merit it, then it isn’t mercy, but forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting the forgiveness.

Tim Keller

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For His Glory ~

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Grace We Don’t Deserve

I have words today, lots of them.  But I have even more emotions that I can’t seem to sort through.  The news of Josh Duggar and his crimes against young girls have my heart breaking and my head in a dark place today and I’m struggling to make sense of it all.

You see, I was molested by a teenage boy when I was a young girl.  This is a part of my story I’ve never told here.  It’s never seemed appropriate or relevant or something I could put words to anyway, so I didn’t share.  I’ve shared openly in other forums, just never here.

And so this story strikes close to home for me and my family and I feel ill, physically ill, and my heart absolutely breaks for the whole Duggar family.

I’ll admit, I’ve not read the police report, and I’ve only read a couple of the news reports.  I really don’t want or need to know details and I’m protecting my own mind from going places it doesn’t need to go in light of my own background.  But, from what I’ve read, it seems that Josh confessed what he did, repented, it was dealt with with the proper authorities, and the family has tried to heal and move on from unspeakable tragedy and shame happening under their own roof.  Even before this all went public, the Duggar family was sentenced to carrying this shame forever, secretly or publicly.  They could never forget.  JimBob and Michelle cannot and will not ever probably forgive themselves for what happened under their own roof, under their watch.  Josh will forever live with the guilt and shame of what he did to those girls.  And those girls, they are forever scarred and will carry the shame of a sin they did not commit for the rest of their lives.

But now it’s all public.  Very public. The whole world knew them already but now the world knows more than it ever should have.  Not only were these girls robbed of their dignity by someone they should have been able to trust to protect them, now they’ve lost the veil of secrecy that they had from the world.  This was their story to tell and that has been stolen from them too.

And when we hash this out on social media and berate Josh Duggar and/or his parents or the faith they grew up in, we abuse these girls all over again, but publicly now.  Their dignity, their shame, is the price of admission for the world to express their hatred for the Duggar family.  And it needs to stop.  Those girls, Josh’s family, JimBob and Michelle, they all need time and space and grace to heal.

Sometimes I love social media, but it’s times like this I hate it.  We do not sit in the judgment seat – either temporally or eternally.  So let’s choose grace upon grace and even more grace.  Because we are all broken, we are all sinners, and though your sin may not seem as big as someone else’s, we’re all filled with darkness and desperately in need of light and grace and hope.  Let’s show some today.

For His Glory ~

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Weeks in Review: 2015 {March & April}

**In the interest of getting this published before June, the photos in this post are in completely random order.  They may or may not have anything to do with the content that surrounds them.  This may cause some anxiety for my OCD friends.  

Oh, hey there, mid-May!  How’d you get here so fast?

March and April were busy, hard, beautiful months.  I’ll try to catch us up to the beginning of May and then do a May-recap at the end of this month.

March was in like a lion, out like a lamb with more than just the weather.  God and I hit rock bottom that first week of March and I nearly thought that the demons that haunted me all winter were in one final push to kill me.  I think I was right.  But we did (I think…I hope!) hit bottom and things are slowly looking up and it’s two steps forward, one and half steps back, or sometimes three.  But more forward than back these days.  That season changed how I view God, though, and we continue to wrestle, though I’m so tired of wrestling and want simply to rest in Him, but that’s another post for another day.

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Amania’s 8th birthday (March)

March was also MAACS competitions for the girls.  They all worked hard; Emma and Ellie earned some medals, they all earned more of my admiration.  These girls have so many gifts.  Between weekends of MAACS, there was testing week and pushing through all of that.  Normally a bit of a break for us, we kept going on school with the promise of a vacation at the end of the month keeping us going.

March also began a journey of pursuing other educational options for the girls.  Matt and I both felt very much on the same page that we needed to do something different next year, so we scheduled tours and asked questions and kept on praying.  We visited the local private schools and our public school options and we kept on praying, but chose not to discuss it until we finished the tours.  But in the meantime God gave me the gift of others speaking life and hope and truth into my leadership of our school and He began to work healing in my heart in that area and opening my mind and heart to trying again.  And by the time we finished touring, I knew that we needed to keep everyone at home again, with some staffing changes for next year, but with the reassurance that we are doing a good thing and everything will be okay.

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Sunny bunnies (March)

At the end of March we took a family trip to Lost Valley Ranch, our favorite family vacation spot.  It was definitely a different trip.  Our marriage remained in a very raw, fragile place from the winter.  And Influenza A made a valiant run through the girls the week up to leaving, leaving Amania to get sick last, right before we left.  She was “off” the whole trip and we’re still sorting out the why (aside from being sick).  But that’s also another post for another day.

April was soccer for three and school for all of us and my continued renewed enjoyment of running.  April was also endlessly cloudy and cool, which got old fast, but it brought us daily closer to the end of the semester and the school year.

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Pike’s Peak (March)

April was also Easter and the most sickeningly sugary (but cute!) cake I’ve ever made. We also enjoyed the second annual art show for our local home school organization. Such a fun event!

It occurred to me recently that I haven’t counted gifts here all year.  So, settle in or prepare to skim….

Chandler + Balanced Rock, Garden of the Gods (March)

3113.  a quiet New Year with those I love most

3114. a blank page, a fresh start

Amania, Garden of the Gods (March)

3115.  a bunny for Emma

3116.  Monday – back to school, back to reality, praying for the joy to come

Ellie + Balanced Rock, Garden of the Gods (March)

3117.  days in the dark, overwhelming sadness, trusting that faith grows here

3118.  time alone, away, to think, rest, reflect, renew

My people, Lost Valley Ranch (March)

3119.  sun shining outside, the Son shining in my heart and mind today

3120.  dinner, transparency, prayer – the body of Christ at work

Matt + Ellie, Garden of the Gods (March)

3121.  enrolled!

3122.  laughing with my girls at the dinner table

Heading out to ride, Lost Valley (March)

3123.  sleep, real sleep

3124.  time in the Word

Lost Valley (March)

3125.  warmer days, stunning sunsets

3126.  68* and a walk to the park in January

Morning Run, Lost Valley (March)

3127.  back to school – first day nerves, confidence found

3128.  the oldest one – driving my car, trying on my clothes – this hard, beautiful age – wanting to freeze time with this one, knowing it rushes on

Emma’s Monochromatic, MAACS (March)

3129.  candles and early morning quiet – the start of a new week

3130.  warm winter days

Chandler + Ellie, MAACS (March)

3131.  laughter with my people

3132.  trusting the Lord to provide all I need

Three blondes, MAACS (March)

3133.  weekend, snow, the Super Bowl with friends

3134.  permission to chase a dream; freedom from guilt for the cost

A cupcake of compassion (March)

3135.  snow skiing & knee injuries & educated friends who give free advice

3136.  a husband who hears and helps

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(March)

3137.  sunshine and February beauty

3138.  IF: Gathering and leaving strong and filled and known

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My kids think they’re funny (March)

3139.  hitting bottom (or so I thought)

3140.  seeking help

Sunset (March)

3141.  flowers that remind of new life and new hope

3142.  snow fall and birdsong

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(March)

3143.  lunch, laughter, and connection

3144.  time with my second-born

(March)

3145.  quiet evenings

3146.  a full schedule

(March)

3147.  dirty counters and floors – signs of a full, messy life

3148.  slow weekends, long date nights

(March)

3149.  snow

3150.  morning skies

(March)

3151.  girls – all five – who voluntarily play together on a Sunday night

3152.  friends who stop and pray right now

“You must put your soul in one position and keep it there.  You must anchor yourself steadfastly upon the Lord.” (April)

3153.  Winter Jam with my three bigs

3154.  sitting at the bottom of the pit

(April)

3155.  hard conversations and moving forward

3156.  tears, so many tears – all in His bottle

(April)

3157.  trepidatious hope

3158.  good days

Lunchtime for bunnies (April)

3159.  hitting bottom again

3160.  breakthrough and relief

Coffee love (April)

3161.  waking with a happy heart

3162.  testing week and tired kiddos

Art Show (April)

3163.  MAACS wins and losses – girls made stronger through it all

3164.  our last 8 year old

Dinner with dear friends (April)

3165.  vacation and time away

3166.  Colorado Rockies, Garden of the Gods, Lost Valley

Chandler’s Easter hair and Easter hare (haha) (April)

3167.  rich food and deep laughter at the table

3168.  horses and mountain trails and deck reading

Cake win! (April)

3169. spoken words that give strength, hope, life

3170.  good date nights

Cousins (April)

3171.  good work days and fun family nights

3172.  Easter and resurrection hope

PinFail vs PinWin – the first one still makes me laugh (April)

3173.  laughter with friends from far away

3174.  conferences and words that strengthen heart, mind, and soul

A drawing by Emma, given as a gift to our youth pastor and his wife when they moved away (April)

3175.  long weeks, tearful nights, and wilderness seasons that seem unending

3176.  prayers that echo and hearts that feel broken

Gracelaced art – I just love her stuff

3177.  hard decisions made and being on the same page

3178.  new roads for sweet friends; a tearful farewell

Christine Caine’s words (these and others) have ministered to me repeatedly the past few months (April)

3179.  weeks of searching that bring us closer

3180.  unexpected words that bring life

Another Gracelaced piece.  I don’t own this one, but I love it (April)

3181.  the sea, sun, and sand

3182.  deep conversations, tearful nights, hope restored again

(April)

3183.  the daily wrestling

3184.  a missed flight and a near-miraculous journey home

Cease endlessly striving for what you want to do, and learn to love what must be done.  Hanging where I can see it all day every day from my “desk” in the dining room.  (April)

That’s it, friends.  Not gonna lie, that “gifts” list was painful to walk back through.  It was a hard winter.  I’m daily learning to lean into and trust God again.  It’s a strange place to be, this wrestling, not trusting.  I’m not used to it.  It’s a growth season following the darkness of winter.  Perhaps beauty will burst forth soon.

Still Always For His Glory ~

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Eight

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Two weeks ago, this sweet girl turned eight.  And as I wrote yesterday, our relationship is unique and her heart is a mystery.  But God is writing the story and one day we will know the secrets she holds as He unfolds her heart.

Regardless of where our relationship is, she is our daughter, our family, and forever one of us.  And while God knits our hearts and joins our worlds, we wait for the redemption that is coming.

Happy birthday, my beautiful, mysterious girl.  I am thankful for you and for the privilege of being your mama.  I know one day we will dance naturally together.
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I love you,

Mama

Adoption: Two Years Later

She came home two years ago on March 29.  It was Good Friday.  And something that we prayed and labored for for two years came to a sort of completion but something we would pray and labor over the rest of our lives began.  A new daughter, a new life, a new story to weave into our own.

It started almost right after she came home.  I just called it a sort of “baby blues”.  My heart and mind were tired from the sudden upheaval of adding a new member (no matter how long the wait, it always comes suddenly).  I was emotionally drained from the years of waiting.  It would pass with time.  That’s what I told myself.

But as time went on, it really didn’t get better.  She seemed to be attaching well to everyone in the family except me.  The world around us acted as though she hung the moon.  My heart felt cold.

Time went on and she became one of us, as though she had always been here.  Sort of.  Her relationship with family and friends was normal.  Her relationship with her sisters was healthy and strong.  Her relationship with Matt was beautiful and unbreakable.  But she and I, we kept each other at arm’s length.  I, resentful and lacking confidence and more fully aware than ever of my short comings as a mother.  She holding back from me, guarded, untrusting.

The past two years we have danced this way, more of a line dance, side-by-side, than a slow dance, face-to-face.  Occasionally we will turn and draw closer and it will feel almost normal, almost natural.  Most days it’s an awkward relationship and feels like I’m forever babysitting someone else’s child.  An unnatural mother with my natural children, I don’t know how to reach out to connect with this one not born of my body who brings a six year long story I was not part of.  My four biological girls, I can look at their face, listen to the tone of their voice, and instinctively know so much of what is going on inside each of them without a word being said.  This littlest one holds secrets I may never know.  Her face and tone often betray something deeper, but she holds it all tight inside.  Only she holds the key.

The shame and guilt of being the mother who can’t attach has worn on me.  When you adopt, you read and prepare endlessly for the child who struggles to attach.  You walk into it with the awareness that the child may never be able to form healthy bonds if they were never formed in the first place.  But no one talks about when a parent struggles to attach, especially the mother.  Because mother-love is supposed to be instinctive and strong and deep and easy, that’s what the whispers in the dark tell me.  And what mother spends countless hours preparing paperwork and endless nights of tear-filled prayers longing to hold a child she did not carry and then builds walls around her heart once the child is home?  Satan assured me I was the only one and that I was the very worst mother possible.

A few weeks ago, in a post-adoption group that I am on in Facebook but don’t participate much in so it rarely shows up on my feed but this day it did, God gave me a grace-gift in the form of a woman sharing my story, except it was hers.  How she couldn’t attach or connect and the shame she felt and that her child had been home over two years and it was just finally starting click.  And a glimmer of hope flickered in my heart.  Not that Amania and I will connect soon; I dare not hope for that.  But hope that I am not alone in this painful place, just as I am not alone in the other dark areas of my life.

I do hope that Amania and I will one day have a natural, comfortable relationship.  That she will no longer look at me like there’s a story she cannot tell, but that our story will be written together.  I do not know when that will come or how long it will take or how hard we will have to work to get there.  But I find no small significance that our story starts on Good Friday – that day that Satan thought he won the victory, but God wasn’t finished.  Friday was dark and hopeless and terrifying.  But God was writing redemption and restoration and hope and beauty.

God’s still writing.  And in some parts of my heart and in parts of Amania’s heart it’s still Friday.  But Sunday’s coming….

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For His Glory ~

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When God Feels Like an Enemy: An Update on the Past Six Months

In casual, everyday conversation, depression serves as a good synonym for sadness.  In this sense, it’s simply a mood state we all experience from time to time, typically after we’ve brushed up against one of life’s inevitable setbacks or disappointments.  For example, I’ve heard people say they were depressed after watching their favorite team lose a big game, or even after ripping a hole in a good pair of blue jeans.  Such “depression” doesn’t last for long, and it rarely affects our ability to function.

In a clinical context, however, the word has a radically different meaning.  It refers to a profoundly debilitating form of mental illness.  (The precise diagnostic label is major depressive disorder, but most clinicians simply call it depression for short.)  It’s a syndrome that deprives people of their energy, sleep, concentration, joy, confidence, memory, sex drive – their ability to love and work and play.  It can even rob them of their will to live.  Over time, depression damages the brain and wreaks havoc on the body.  It’s a treacherous illness – a shudder-inducing foe that no one in their right mind would ever take lightly, certainly not if they understood the disorder’s capacity to destroy life.

Stephen Ilardi, The Depression Cure

I’ve carried depression as part of my story for twenty years now, beginning with a major depressive episode, then settling into  predictable seasonal sadness.  I’ve skirted around a significant depression for almost two years, managing with oils and supplements and just believing that eventually life would settle a bit and my mind would find normal again.  I wondered when that would come, when it would happen, but found a place where I was content to just wait and keep on plodding along.  And then November came and I was pushed, emotionally, off of some great cliff into a darkness that still escapes description or explanation.  And I wrestled for weeks, months, to grasp hold of something, anything to make sense of it all.

Mysteriously and in ways that are totally remote from normal experience, the gray drizzle of horror induced by depression takes on the quality of physical pain.  But it is not an immediately identifiable pain, like that of a broken limb. It may be more accurate to say that despair, owing to some evil trick played upon the sick brain by the inhabiting psyche, comes to resemble the diabolical discomfort of being imprisoned in a fiercely overheated room.  And because no breeze stirs this caldron, because there is no escape from the smothering confinement, it is entirely natural that the victim begins to think ceaselessly of oblivion.

William Styron, Darkness Visible

And that’s where I found myself as February wrapped up and March entered in.  Every time I thought I was making progress, gaining a foothold, getting on top of the wave that was this drowning depression, it was as if someone would come and physically shove me back under, to the bottom.  Until I could fight no more.

I felt like a pawn in someone else’s game.  I had prayed with no response.  I had asked God to show me what sin or error might have put me here.  Silence.  I asked others to pray for me.  Relief, then back under.  So finally I surrendered.  I was going to sit in that pit until God came back to get me. I had enough faith left to believe that He would.  Eventually.  When He was finished with whatever chapter of this story He was writing.  And so I would sit.  Because I couldn’t strive anymore.

It is not trying that is ever going to bring us home.  All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, “You must do this.  I can’t.”

C.S. Lewis

I was angry with God.  So angry.  I was empty and defeated.  I had no kind words to say to Him or about Him.  I felt completely abandoned.  I felt like He had turned His back on me.  I truly didn’t know if I could continue to trust a God who played people like chess pieces, who allowed broken hearts and broken lives.  Who allowed devastation around the world and in my own home.  It was all too much to bear.

Betrayed. My stomach turns at the word. I remember vividly when someone I loved dearly and deeply turned into an enemy. There was a proverbial knife in my back and I was hurt, angry, and aching. I wonder how many of you have walked through betrayal. It is awful. You’re powerless to stop the pain and you keep wishing in vain that it could somehow be a different story.

Jesus wished it could be a different story, too. Just before this scene in Mark where He is betrayed by Judas and arrested, He was in a garden on his knees in deep distress, begging His Father to take the cup (Mark 14:35). Jesus knew what was coming and that it would feel unbearable. He’d asked His three dearest friends on earth to pray for Him, too—but three times, He comes to find them asleep. In His deepest hour of need, dreading what lies before Him, His friends can’t even keep their eyes open.

Son of Man, Son of God, Living Word—betrayed for our sake. He drinks the cup of death that we deserve, so that our cups might overflow.

He was arrested so we could be set free. 

He was deserted so we could know we’re never alone.

He was betrayed so we could be held in the arms of Love.

Ellie Holcomb, She Reads Truth

And while I sat in that pit, Jesus was writing a different story, a deeper story.  He was writing the only thing He knows to write – redemption.  While I wrestled and strived with God, Jesus began a miracle work of healing and restoration.  Because He knows what it is to have God turn His back on you.  As He prayed in the Garden and all His friends slept, and then ran away.  As He hung on that cross and God turned His own broken heart away for the sin Christ bore…..Jesus knew what it was to be completely alone in the darkest place imaginable.

Restoration is not complete.  While I can see the daylight now and I sit on warmer ground, I still sit. And I can see that pit not too far behind me.  I spend every minute of every day literally “taking every thought captive”, practicing the things I’m learning to prevent the downward spiral that seems to be second nature right now.  I know one hard shove is all it will take to land back at the bottom.  And it terrifies me.  So I guard my heart and my thoughts with all vigilance.

Sometimes we don’t understand the things that happen to us.  Sometimes the hard things in our life are part of a story God is writing in someone else’s life.  But sometimes He gives us the opportunity to choose the direction the story will go.  I thought this winter would cost me everything – my mind, my marriage, my family, my faith.  I had nothing to hold on to. God allowed that.  And that’s still hard to rest in.  But God has allowed other dark seasons in my life, seasons that I also thought would cost me everything – right down to my life.  But He wasn’t finished writing.  And He isn’t still.  As a writer, I understand that stories often take unexpected and painful turns, and if our characters were humans with free will, they would no doubt rail against the author in anger and confusion.  And while human authors write countless different stories with good and bad endings, my God only writes one kind of ending in the lives of His children – restoration and redemption.  Truth, beauty, and hope.  He will restore what the locust has eaten. He will redeem.  He will make all things new.

I’ve always been fairly transparent about my battle with depression because it’s part of my story.  To hide it would be to hide what God is doing in my life.  And to hide it would give it more power.  Speaking it makes it less terrifying and gives freedom and courage to others who need to tell their story too.

God is big and mysterious and His ways are higher, and often harder, than our ways.  And sometimes that’s scary and confusing and hard to swallow.  But He is good.  And He is true.  And when I had lost almost all faith, that is what I clung to.  I knew He had a better plan, no matter what this plan cost me, this was not all He had for my life.  And no matter where you are today, God’s not finished.  And, yes, that sounds so cliche and I’m so weary of Christian cliches and you are too, but some are true.  And when you are in that pit, truth, real truth, God’s truth, is what must be held to, even when it seems dead and untrue and you feel completely forsaken.  You are not alone.  Somewhere, somehow, Jesus is writing redemption.  Just sit down and wait.  He will come for you.

For His Glory ~

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2015: Weeks in Review {January and February}

And just like that it’s the end of February.  Things have been quiet here because life has been full and my heart and mind continue to linger long in the dark.

This year that started off ambiguous and unknown has started to take shape.  New things are finding where they fit in the schedule and we’re learning again what we are capable of.  Many things still seem formless and uncertain, but we know God is already there.

January started with my mental health retreat that I shared about here.  We have continued to struggle and wrestle through the shadows, and I find myself often still feeling emotionally fragile, but God is good and Matt has been faithful to walk with me and even help carry me through those times.

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our favorite little used bookstore in Lawrence.  the girls and I could live here.

january gave us some amazing sunsets

and beautiful blue skies

and days mercifully warm enough for sandals

On January 20th I went back to school for the first time in over eleven years.  I’m taking a Basic Digital Imaging class simply because it sounded fun.  I have a fairly nice DSLR that has sat in a cabinet for most of the past two or three years, untouched, because my phone camera became my go to and I basically forgot how to use Photoshop Elements.  So I’m breaking my camera back out and facing one of  my fears – Photoshop CS6.  😉  So far the class has been a lot of fun but more stressful than I expected, simply because the work takes me out of my normal “box”.  It’s a good thing.

I’m also taking a nutrition class, which allows me to get my feet wet in the nursing department.  I’m in this weird place…..I’m basically twelve to fifteen hours from completing a social work degree, but science and medicine have always been my first love (I wanted to be a doctor from the time I was five).  As I was going through school the first time, I knew medical school wasn’t where God wanted me and I switched to social work – a field where I could still help people, but in a different way.  A wedding, three years, and three babies later, I had to press pause on my academic goals.  And while I fully intend to finish my social work degree (because 12 hours?!?!), an advisor recently suggested Nurse Practitioner and a light went on in my head.  So we’re praying and talking to advisors and others and waiting to see how things go this semester, and we’ll see what God has planned.

January rounded out with our local fine arts competition to see what would go on to Kansas City.  The girls have many pieces going, but one that didn’t make it, that I’m still so proud of (and the girl that painted it), was Grace’s acrylic.  I’d hang it in our entry if she would let me.

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We also celebrated Emma’s 13th birthday with friends.  No pictures to share, because I have strange, camera-averse teens.  She and some friends enjoyed pizza, junk food, movies, and staying up late.

On February 2nd, we went over to Kansas City with the older three girls and went skiing at Snow Creek.  It was the girls’ first time and only our third or so.  It was fun, (as fun as cold and snow can be), and the girls had a great time.  Matt, however, trashed his knee on his last run.  😦  He saw an orthopedist this past week and, thankfully, it was only severely sprained and will heal on its own in time.

snow creek:  also known as ice hill

having an athletic trainer in the family can be pretty handy

A couple of weekends ago I was able to attend IF: Gathering.  I loved it last year, have anxiously been awaiting this year, and was not disappointed.  I love it when God uses the same message to speak directly to women (and men) in many different places. For me, the theme of facing fear, having faith, being confident….it spoke to me deeply and reminded me that I am not alone in this strange place of depression and anxiety.

Last weekend was a retreat with most of the married couples from Matt’s family.  It was an enjoyable time of learning more about leadership both in and out of the home and connecting with these people we love in a setting away from normal life and noisy kids.

meanwhile, one of the girls thought the bunny needed a ride in my hoodie

hope of new life and new starts

more bunny adoreableness

sometimes you have to laugh at yourself and your own brand of crazy

this book – read it; it’s quick and easy and full of hope, and you will smile and laugh and be inspired to live a fuller life

That’s pretty much it for us right now.  January flew by and February was some sort of weird, slow motion crawl .  At least five times the past two weeks I’ve thought it was March, because it feels like it should be (until I walk outside….brrrr).  Snow is forecasted this weekend and then March springs with all her hope for warmth and beauty and the last nine weeks of school.

today….taking time to breathe and nurture my soul

Have a great weekend, friends, and may you find joy and hope and life where God has planted you.

For His Glory ~

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Looking Ahead: 2015 Goals

I really hadn’t planned on setting many goals for 2015.  At the beginning of 2014 I had about a 35-point list of things I wanted to accomplish.  And it was perfect for 2014 that felt full of hope and potential and promise.  I probably only accomplished half to two-thirds of those goals, but it got me motivated, spurred me on, and gave me at least a small sense of accomplishment at the end of the year.  But 2015 came in with a different vibe.  So much felt unknown and hazy.  I felt (and still feel) big changes on the horizon, but nothing concrete.  Setting a couple dozen firm, ambitious goals felt wrong somehow.

But my friend Chelsea posted about her own goal-setting time and it inspired me.  Hers weren’t lose 10 pounds or eat more real food or read to the kids more.  They were about living well, living full, and I realized that’s part of what I want for the coming year.  Ending 2014 feeling small and hollow created a deep desire to make 2015 a year to live life courageously and abundantly.

And so I pondered my own answers to the Eric Liddell quote she shared: When I _____, I feel God’s pleasure.  What makes me feel closest to the Lord?  What makes me feel alive in Him?  What desires and passions did He place deep within me, flames that still burn like embers, quiet but ready to fan to flame?  And I came up with my list:

  • Run (more accurately, finishing a run; but in order to do that, I have to get out and run)
  • Dance.  I have always always always loved to dance.  It makes my soul happy.  It makes my body happy.  I don’t do it nearly often enough.  I want to fix that this year.
  • Write truth and beauty.  Writing is a balm for me.  It’s how I process life and relate to God and the world.  Words are one of my great loves and stringing them together is, I believe, one of my gifts. Words are also incredibly powerful. I want the words I write to bless those who read them and please my Savior.
  • Laugh easy.  I love to laugh.  But I don’t do it nearly often enough.  I take life too seriously sometimes and in my effort to just have peace and order in the home, I can stifle my own laughter and be too stuffy.  And, seriously, who wants to live that way?  Life is hard enough – I might as well laugh when I can, which is a lot more than I do.  And stop taking myself so darn seriously.
  • Soak up the sun.  Sunshine warm on bare skin – it keeps me going through the cold winter months.  Last summer got a little crazy.  Part of that is the season of life.  But we bought a house with a pool to enjoy it – because Matt knows how alive and at peace the sun makes me feel.  Once the mercury breaks above 70 again, I want to be in the sun as much as I possibly can.  Or even days like today, when I can sit in a sunny window and enjoy the warmth soaking in.
  • Travel.  I love to travel.  Go places, see new and old things, visit friends, share the world with Matt and with my girls.  I would love to take a couple of road trips this year, if the Lord wills, along with a couple of our “standard” get aways.
  • Learn.  Oh goodness, I love to learn.  I think God placed in me that drive to be a lifelong student.  I love (or at least used to love) the classroom environment.  I thrived there.  So, one of the things I’m most excited about for this year is a return to school.  Lord willing, I will start taking classes at the local university again as of next week.  I have no idea what I’m doing or what direction this is going to go or honestly how this is going to fit in our already full lives, but I’m almost beside myself with excitement and nervousness.
  • Create.  I don’t always feel like I’m a creative person, but I know deep down I am. I need to create beauty from time to time.  Whether it’s spray painting a piece of furniture or garage sale frame, creating photobooks to chronicle our lives, decorating a room in our home, or making a gallery wall of art and photos, I feel so much joy and satisfaction creating beauty in my home.
  • Open the doors.  This not only refers to my insatiable need to open every door and window in our house as soon as the temperature breaks above 60 and until it’s so hot outside everyone is sweating inside the house and cranky at me, but also to how much I’ve come to realize I love hosting people in our home.  I’m not a great cook / entertainer / hostess, but I still love having people over.  I may serve the same menu of chicken tacos / guacamole / Summer Brew every time you visit, but we will laugh and relax and hopefully you will walk away feeling loved and cherished.
  • Be brave.  My word of the year – Brave.  Staring down a year that felt (feels) so nebulous and undefined, with scary adventures like returning to school and the real life truth of kids growing up and preparing them for the world, Brave is my theme.  To face the anxiety that bubbles just under the surface, to take on the fear that I can’t do this (whatever this may be at the time), to confront the lies that Satan whispers in the dark.  Brave is my theme and my challenge, but He makes me brave.

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What about you?  What goals do you have for this year – big or small?  How can we spur one another on in this journey of life?

For His Glory ~

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A Mental Reset

Matt sent me away for overnight last Friday.  He reserved a hotel room here in town and told me I was to go, read my Bible, drink some wine, write, and pray.  I was in need of a serious attitude adjustment and only extended time alone was going to cure it.

I’ve wanted to do something like this for years, but either the timing was never right or I felt selfish spending the money that way.  But I came away as refreshed and renewed as I always imagined I would.  It may become a regular thing.  My “mental health retreat.”

As I sat in my hotel room Friday night and Saturday morning, I worked on a couple of mindless projects and watched a mindless movie.  But I also spent some significant time in prayer and in the Word.  My depression has hit hard this year.  Some marriage issues in November and December knocked me off my feet and really opened the door for Satan to slither in and fill my head and my heart with lies.  Already feeling weak and insecure, I quickly bought all he was selling until I found myself in an emotional vortex that had nothing to do with weather or grey skies and everything to do with my identity.

But I came home on Saturday with a renewed understanding of God’s love for me, His truth, His promises, and His overcoming, overwhelming grace.  Below is a short list of the “Lies I’ve Believed and the Truth I’m Clinging To”:

  • What I do doesn’t matter / isn’t important enough.
    • I think this is a big one for us as women.  And I want to say it’s bigger for us SAHM’s, but I don’t know if that’s really true.  The world has convinced us that we can have it all and do it all and we (and life) can be awesome all the time.  And that’s just not true.  Working moms wrestle with feeling like they’ve let their family down by not always “being there”.  SAHMs feel like they’ve let the world (and God) down because we’re not out there “using our gifts”.  (<—- That one has been on repeat in my mind for years.)  The truth is, we can’t have it all or do it all.  Some of us can handle / juggle more than others, but we all have to make choices and sacrifices.  And those choices and sacrifices are personal and real and should not be trivialized.  And we’re all using our gifts, or growing in new areas, and most likely both.  Nothing is wasted with God.  Nothing.
  • I’m not using my gifts by being a home school mom.
    • This may be true (haha).  In a lot of ways I don’t feel like I’m using my gifts.  Teaching is **not** one of my gifts.  And, honestly, that’s okay.  There are days I don’t love home schooling.  Sometimes those days will string together into weeks, maybe months. I’m thankful for the privilege and the freedom it offers, but it’s honestly the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  It’s exhausting and challenging and only occasionally rewarding in this season.  I do it because I honestly believe it is what God wants us doing; I have all along.  That is the only way I could have persevered all these years.  I also believe that the rewards will come.  Someday.  When my children have their own children.  Hopefully.  All of these things do not make me a bad home schooling mom.  I care passionately about my children.  I care passionately about their education and I make sure it happens, even if it’s not in the form of me doing science projects in the kitchen or tacking up historical figures all over my house or writing impressive blog posts about what we’re learning at home.  My diligent concern for my children and their education is what makes me a good homeschooling mom.
  • There are a limited number of good things available in the world.
    • This one is a fairly new struggle for me.  I don’t recall typically being a jealous person.  But I realized this weekend that over the past year or so I have begun to believe the lie that something good happening for someone else means there’s less good in the world for me.  As if God could run out of good gifts to give!  And so when I would see someone else doing something I wished I could be doing (going back to school, for example; or writing a book) I would find myself all knotted up inside, trying to be happy for them but simultaneously feeling like I had missed my chance at that life dream.  And so, I am choosing to remember that my God is the giver of ALL good gifts and He cannot run out of good things to give.  And the things I may think I want most may not be the best for me, at least not right now.  And I have to trust Him for that.
  • I will never be enough.
    • This one is actually true.  But that’s okay, because it’s true for everyone the world over.  Only God is enough for any of us.  And there is awesome freedom in that.
  • Depression is destroying my life and the lives of those I love.
    • The past ten weeks or so have been really, really hard.  My mind has grown increasingly dark and desperate.  As soon as I thought I was making forward progress a new wave of lies would crash over me and I would be drowning again.  The lowest point came as I laid in bed one night and honestly thought, My family would all be better off if I just left.  Moved away.  Started over.  They would be free from depressed me and everyone could start again. This is obviously a lie from the pit of hell, but it rang so true in my head that night.  And I knew something had to change.  Depression doesn’t write the story.  God does.  And the story isn’t over yet.  He has used depression to write beauty in my life before.  He can (and will) do it again.  And He can make my darkness something beautiful in the girls’ lives too.  (<——  please note – I am not going anywhere!  This is not a “cry for help”.  It’s just me sharing honestly.  My head is on much straighter than it was the night I had those thoughts.  All is well.  Everyone is stuck with me for a very long time again.  😉 )
  • I’m not valuable / talented / significant.
    • In an effort to keep things real in a social media world where everyone is trying to put their best face forward at all times, I know that I can often highlight my weaknesses / struggles / failures more than my strengths / talents / victories.  I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, as I regularly have someone walk up to me and thank me for keeping life real here and on Facebook.  But, again, somewhere in the past 12 to 18 months, I started believing that was all I had – I can’t bake, I’m not a great cook, I’m not a teacher, I can’t keep my kids’ schedules straight, I sleep through half marathons, and generally am pretty lame.  And that’s not true.  I do have gifts and talents and skills and strengths.  God gave them to me.  And while it is healthy for me in some ways to be fully aware of how not-perfect I am and put that side out there for the world to see, it’s also okay and glorifying to Him to recognize my gifts and talents and enjoy them and, without being obnoxious, maybe even share them with the world.

God is so good, my friends.  He is our healer, restorer, defender, and redeemer.  This week has been a refreshing change from the past several.  It hasn’t hurt that the sun has been out almost daily, but I know that the true change has come from the restoration of Truth to my heart and mind.  Thank you to the friends and family that have prayed so diligently for me these past couple of months.  Your love and concern were a candle that kept light in my world when everything was so dark. Depression is part of my story.  Oils help.  Sunlight and warm weather help.  Proper nutrition helps.  But I’m coming to realize more and more that it’s part of the story God is writing in my life.  And as I said above, depression doesn’t write the story, God does.  And His story is always redemption, restoration, healing, wholeness.  Maybe not here, but one day.  And so I can rejoice because He lets me see His glory and bring Him glory in my brokenness here and now.  And because I will one day live in whole, restored glory with Him forever.

For His Glory ~

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When You’re Afraid to Really Fly – My Word for the Year

You don’t think of yourself as fearful. You have faced big things and overcome. You have put up a fight and don’t back down. You are stronger for what you’ve been through. You do not cower or run.

A fearful person is someone who sleeps with a gun under their pillow or freaks out over your kid with a head cold. A fearful person is someone who watches too much Fox News and has countless buckets of freeze dried food in their basement. You are not that person.

But then you wake up and realize it is fear that is paralyzing you. Fear of the future and change and every good thing. Fear of letting others in. Fear of being let down or being a let down. You find yourself riddled with fear and you find yourself captive to it. Your heart walled in by a prison you built to protect yourself.  And you know that you were not made for captivity, but for freedom. Not for fear, but to be brave. And so you claim Brave as your word for 2015. You choose to step out and do brave things. You risk falling. You risk failure. You choose to tear those walls back down, brick by ugly brick, until your heart can see the sun, the Son, again, and feel it shining warm and free.  And on His wings, you will fly.

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For His Glory ~

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