Saturday, April 23, 2016

Life Is Messy

It was a warm October morning and I stood on the cross country field with soggy shoes. It had rained several days before so while the air was warm there was quite a bit of mud and it didn't take long for my feet and shoes to feel the effects. I have a strange affection for cross country meets. I love watching the runners; their endurance inspires me. There is just so much emotion from both the runners and the coaches, parents and spectators cheering on their special runner. I won't lie, I get pretty, how shall I say this, loud! I not only like to cheer on my runner, but I find great responsibility to cheer every runner that comes by. Another thing I like is that there is a secondary race that goes on at one of these meets. The crowd follows the runners and as soon as your runner goes by you migrate to the "next important" spot to cheer all over again. Coaches especially have an incredible system of tracking their runners with stop watches and clipboards to determine what their current mile time is at that very moment. It really is exciting to watch all of the various aspects that emerge at a cross country meet.

 On this particular October day the meet was the last of the season, the district meet. This was the meet where the top winners would advance to state finals. My runner is not usually in the front of the pack so while we weren't looking for one of those top three, spots we always run for what runners call their PR, personal record. So, I've learned to cheer for everyone to PR. This day was no exception. I mentioned before that I rarely hold back when I am cheering on my runner. I actually wonder if it's too much sometimes. There's a fine line between encouragement and embarrassment. That crisp fall morning was no exception. But, before she headed to the start line she looked at me and said, "I need you to make sure you are at two parts of the race." She went on to explain and share the two hardest parts to maintain momentum and basically gave me full permission to yell my head off. Having been on this course now for the third time she knew exactly where the tough parts were and when she would need some cheering on. As the race began I watched her warm up at the starting line and carefully surveyed the course thinking about how I would get to the two spots she had pointed out to me before the race. I waited with great anticipation for the first group of runners to pass knowing she would be following close behind that pack. Names of runners were being shouted all around me along with declared times by the handful of coaches who spread throughout the course. I saw my runner and began yelling my usual, "push hard" "you got this" "do not give up". The moment is fleeting as it only lasts for the brief moment she passes me. But, it fills me with great emotion and passion. As soon as her pack passed I began to head to the next point.

The area she informed me was the " If you only get to one spot, get here!" kind of spot. These races only last 20-25 minutes so you only have so much time to get to each point to see the runners. Timing is everything. I immediately headed over to the important spot and stopped dead in my tracks. What separated me from the area was a four foot ditch, rather deep in nature. At first I couldn't understand WHY I had seen people sprinting in the other direction. I soon realized they were heading towards the route that allowed you to pass on land and not trudge through a ditch. I was not alone. A crowd of people were gathering and had decided to just cheer safely from the other side of the ditch. I surveyed the situation and realized that I had a choice to make.I was either going to cheer safely from a distance or I could brave the ditch and get to where she specifically asked me to be earlier that day. Now remember, it had rained several days before this so there was nothing dry about this ditch. If I chose this route I would have to jump down and climb up the other side. Out of the corner of my eye I saw several young boys head to the ditch without thinking. I threw caution to the wind, and jumped down. I landed without falling (barely) and then studied them pulling up on the branches to get out of the ditch. Now I probably had at least 40 pounds on them but I said a quick prayer and pulled myself out of the ditch with some mud-stained knees as souvenirs. In my decision making I had missed the first pack of 10-15 runners and the field had cleared. Not many people come to cheer on the second pack. Most of the fuss and attention (understandably) is for WHO is going to get the top three spots. I had just a moment to brush my self off when in the distance I saw the bobbing ponytail of my favorite runner. She was at the head of the second pack. Unashamedly I began to yell my head off. Cheering her and telling her to not give up. It gave me a feeling of parental success. I had been somewhere when my kid needed me and followed through.

 My climb back down and up the ditch was slightly uneventful, powered mostly by adrenaline and mom-emotion. In prior months, really since the beginning of that school year, I had really been struggling as a parent; feeling powerless, not having much success, seemingly making mistakes, butting heads. I felt like everything I knew that I was supposed to be doing was thrown back in my face as inadequate. I felt as if being a good parent was just not in my cards.So this feeling of victory and accomplishment was a welcome emotion. I had to sprint to the next spot and as I did the Lord gave me a beautiful word picture. I ran with dirt stained knees and soggy shoes and He quietly spoke to me and said, "You are not failing. You have to realize that life is messy sometimes and you just have to be willing to get down in the ditch. Don't be afraid to get dirty." It was beautiful and it gave me a whole new outlook. As a perfectionist I naturally seek for perfection. If I don't see it I begin to measure my self worth and my success as a complete failure. I was reminded that day that perfect parenting basically does not exist. I just need to continue to be willing to climb down in the ditches when necessary and not be afraid to get dirty. I need to be cheering them on (most importantly) when they are struggling, or not at the head of the pack. I need to be willing to be a support when others have left them behind.

 In recent days the Lord has stirred up this story in my mind. Not in relation to parenting but rather in my relationship with Him. He has gently reminded me He is present in MY MESS! This past year, more than any, I have realized that life is NEVER going to be perfect. Relationships are NEVER going to be perfect. But HE is enough.  He is ever-present in my mess.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hilarious, Kind, Forgiving, Wise, Brave
These are just a handful of words to describe my dear friend and sister in Christ, Tricia. Not to mention, she has the most infectious laugh. To strangers it might seem like more of a cackle. But to those who knew her well, it was a sign that she was just getting started. It was today that I realized I actually don't really remember NOT knowing her. Our parents were friends so my childhood is filled with memories of being with her: Camp, church, school, VBS, Friday nights at The Fold, and the Jersey shore were just some of the settings where our lives meshed and our relationship grew. Our friendship mostly centered around laughter, being extremely goofy, and just enjoying the simplicity of our small town life. Graduation and college separated our ways somewhat, and with my family moving away from my hometown our visits became few. However, we always seemed to stay connected either through Christmas cards, our parents, or an occasional visit back to my hometown. Then came marriage, kids, and life. While we spent less time with face to face visits we did manage through the invention of social media to continue to keep in touch.
When cancer hit her life I remember distinctly the first time we spoke. I was amazed by her attitude; It was that of a hero. She was determined to fight, and just as determined to turn her suffering into praise. Her tenacity amazed me. Her willingness to live life as an open book encouraged me. She never stopped living. Ever. About 6 years ago our family moved to the Midwest and our yearly visits to the east coast allowed me the opportunity to squeeze in lunch dates each time I visited. I always left encouraged by her presence. We would exchange stories of our children, parenting struggles, and always... ALWAYS would turn our conversation to the goodness of our Lord and Savior. You'd never feel judged in her presence. She had an uncanny way of speaking truth while demonstrating the gift of both grace and mercy. I remember one time at a Cracker Barrel as we caught up on each other's lives and talked about how God was working in our individual families; she stopped me mid-conversation and touched my hand and with teary eyes said, "I just love how GOOD GOD IS... He is so GOOD to us" I feel so fortunate over the past three years to have been able to meet with her each time I visited. Being joined by our dear friend, Sarah, allowed us all three of us to share our hearts and connect as only sisters in Christ can connect. Of course, we did spend some of our time reminiscing about our childhood days and how it seemed that time was speeding up rapidly. Those lunches and times together always left me feeling so grateful to have these special friendships in my life. These past few visits, it was her spirit of thankfulness that seemed to resonate even louder to me. Physical infirmities plagued her body, yet His praises flowed quickly and easily from her lips.
This past weekend I received the news that her physical condition drastically (and what seemed like suddenly)worsened. It seems that her brave and amazing fight was coming to an end. Sunday morning, I left for church with an extremely heavy heart; waffling between being sad and being angry. The song we entered into worship with proclaimed these words, "I will enter His gates with Thanksgiving in my heart, I will enter His courts with praise. I will say this is the day that the Lord has made I WILL rejoice for He has made me GLAD!" The Lord gave me the most beautiful picture. Tricia was singing this song with a restored body and that iconic smile that always seems to adorn her sweet face. It was a beautiful image. God's peace flooded my soul. I don't want her to go, yet this image reminded me of the victory she will have in Jesus, and the restoration she will experience once she meets our Savior. When we meet again, I know she will greet me in the very same way she has over my lifetime; With her happy laugh, a heart that is turned towards our heavenly father and lips that speak of His unending praise.
Her life has made a difference. I am a better person because she was my friend.
Hilarious, Kind, Forgiving, Wise, Brave,
These are just a few words that describe my dear friend and sister in Christ, Tricia.

Friday, June 12, 2015

From the Mouth of Babes

Have you ever just had your kids say or do something that just cuts right deep to your soul? I have said since this child's conception, her purpose in my life is to be a vessel of messages, lessons, rebukes, challenges and encouragements from God. So often He speaks to me through her and this morning was no exception. I have been trying to get in the habit of praying before my feet hit the floor each morning. I have really enjoyed the slower pace of my summer schedule because it has allowed me to do this more regularly. I love not being rushed in the mornings. Lately I have really been struggling with some areas of my life. I have been fighting discouragement and finding myself losing hope for anything positive to emerge with the things I have been praying about. This morning I came to the Lord with a defeated spirit and with just shreds of hope. I asked. I pleaded. I begged for Him to please give me some kind of guidance to know what to do, say, act. ANYTHING! I actually prayed, "I am going to need you to shout it to me, Lord, because I have given up!"
I mentioned that I have enjoyed my leisurely mornings... OK well let me change that to I LOVE MY LEISURELY mornings. Ellie and I, being solo most days, have gotten into a wonderful routine of getting up, eating breakfast, and playing cards! I absolutely love it. This morning as we were playing she had a song in her head. No, she had three lines of a song in her head that kept escaping from her lips as we played each round of our game. She was singing it in a variety of tempos and a variety of voices. Anyone who knows Ellie knows that it was quite dramatic. Well she was closing one of her "singings" with the LOUD operatic version. I was about to ask her to at least lower her volume when it hit me. What she was singing over and over again... her last LOUD version... made me stop dead in my tracks. It was my answer. It was God, once again, pouring Himself through my little 11 year old vessel.
"Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord, as we wait upon the Lord. Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord, as we wait upon the Lord. Our God you reign forever Our Hope Our Strong Deliverer"
It was my answer and I will stick to it. Of course, it took me seven rounds of Phase10 to pick up on it. But that's OK because by then the lines were in my mind and I too have been singing it to myself all morning! #hcc4jesus

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Books I Could Have Written.... But Didn't

Something that many may not know about me is that I have a deep down desire, a bucket list item you might say, to author a book.... some day. I don't even have a specific kind of book in mind; I just love to write. So while I haven't made the time (yet) I have decided that if I HAD written a book about this past year, it may have been one of titles below.
2014 list of Books I Could Have Written...But Didn't (and their subtitles)
1. "There's An Oil For That You Know"
Finding real solutions for rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, and more.
2. "Making Your Child Mind Without Losing Yours"
Realizing everything I thought I knew,I didn't; and other revelations of incredible proportions
3. "Pushing on a Pull Door"
Lessons God teaches me over and over and over (and over..) Will I ever learn?
4. "Unemployment Stinks"
Stretching dollars,growing my faith... One.Day.At.A.Time
5. "8 Miles Of Prayer and Praise and Problem Solving"
My daily time on Highway 2 and back home again ... then back down Highway 2... and... Well, you get the picture
6. "Letting Go But Still Holding On"
Preparing your first to fly the nest
7. "My Three Girls"
Enjoying the journey, embracing the moments, loving this time
8. "Blessed Beyond Measure"
Loving what you do and the people who make it that way
9. "Someone Stop The Ride; I Want To Get Off"
My incessant quest to find balance at home, work and life
10. "He Loves Me Still"
Twenty years and he loves me still
While you may not ever see these titles on a book stand near you or at your local Barnes and Noble they do sum up my year. God has been good, my life has been blessed, and I look forward to seeing what books I (might) write in 2015.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Persevering In Praise

"Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever." Psalm 145:2
I drove to meet an old friend for lunch today and found myself thinking, praying, asking and seeking how I could work on living out this verse, particularly the EVERYDAY part. It takes little effort for me, and praise seems to flow quickly from my lips in the good times;when it is easy. I am quick to acknowledge His work when He brings all things together and life seems "good". But this verse tells me that it is also very important for me to praise him when it is difficult. To praise Him when I don't know what is going on. To praise Him when it seems like things will just not work out. To praise Him because that is what I am to do..... for ever and ever! There is a song by Matt Redman that says:
"Every step we are breathing in Your grace Evermore we'll be breathing out Your praise."
It wasn't that I was questioning the Lord in unbelief today as I was praying. But I asked Him to help me to breath out His praise NOW when I am unsure, anxious and uncertain about my future... and to do it everyday! As I prayed He visibly brought to my mind, like a movie trailer, just how faithful He has been to me. With each event of my life that the Lord conjured up into my thoughts I was reminded of His presence every time and He spoke softly to me and said.... "That was Me!" I was overwhelmed and a peace invaded my car. I was able to reflect as these scenes passed through my mind and it reminded me that I DO have reason to praise His name for ever and ever.... everyday! He has never taken me anywhere without purpose or reason. I am confident as I focus on giving praise... EVERYDAY that I will continue to see His work in my life. He is so faithful to care for us like none other, to love us unconditionally, and to never leave us to ourselves. As I grow in my love for Him I want to also grow in praising and extolling His name for ever and ever. As my friend and I had lunch together I was encouraged and we were recounting God's goodness in both of our lives. At one point with tears she enthusiastically said... "I just love how God works!" Indeed.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Nutty Buddies, Blessings and A Lesson on Contentment

I think the older I get the more nostalic I become. I was thinking recently of a special memory that I had of my grandmother, Claire Solberg, who we affectionately referred to as Nana Solberg. She would come to our house for extended stays twice a year. Once was always around Christmas and then she would return again during the summer. I always looked forward to her coming to our house because, looking back, I realize this was the only time that I really got to see her. Well ok, I also looked forward to her coming because I always had to give up my room when she came. Which in the end was a sweet deal for me because (unknown to my brothers) she paid me everytime she came for, as she would put it, "letting her use my boudoir"- which she taught me was a fancy word for bedroom! She always made me feel like the giving up of my bedroom was such a sacrifice and that it was only proper for her to pay me. Of course, it was always some outrageous amount too.
Another special memory with my Nana was that whenever she was with us around Christmas she always came to our school concerts and then treated us to ice-cream on the way home. Of course we had to go to the local creamery for the very best made onsite ice-cream around. However,I didn't look forward to the fresh churned homemade ice-cream. No, I looked forward to being able to get a Nutty Buddy from the freezer that contained the frozen ice-cream novelties - like you can get from an ice-cream truck. Crazy, but it was a highlight for me. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that after every concert we would head to the ice cream place in town, and that I was going to be able to get a nutty buddy from the freezer that sat right inside the door of the ice cream shop. Recently I was thinking about the predictability of that Nutty Buddy and how much I loved going there after each concert or school function. It was something I anticipated, looked forward to, could count on. I really do not remember a concert that Nana Solberg went to with us that was not followed by this very routine.
It is so easy for me to wish for simpler days. It is even easier for me to wish that everything would be carefree, safe, and well.... predictable. If I dwell on that I become discontent when things seem anything but carefree, safe.... or predictable. It is then that I find myself trying to convince my heart that I want my life to be easier to figure out, I want my life to be like going to the ice-cream store with my Nana.... the Nutty Buddy is always there!
I was kind of spiraling down that road last week, not wanting a Nutty Buddy:), but I was allowing myself to be so frustrated with life's current circumstances. I was allowing discontentment to brew inspite of the promises that I have already been given. Promises that far outweigh simple problem-free days or a life of predictability. These promises bring true contentment to last through all of my days... whether they are predictable or not! I could try to list them all but I most surely would fail, there are so many. In Ephesians 1:3 Paul tells us that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms.
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ".
It doesn't say some of the spiritual blessings,or a few of them but rather EVERY single one of them. I have access to the heavenly father who will meet every single need I have. Such a simple lesson, and yet it seems to be one I must learn over and over again. I don't need to long to be problem free or have my days filled with predictability. My heavenly father is capable of meeting my every need and He allows me to see it is not an easy life that I should desire because those just bring temporary satisfaction. But rather contentment in my life is what I should seek. That can only come through my relationship with Jesus Christ. It will never come from the events or people in my life. It can only come from Him. His work in my life creates the contentment I need.
Ephesians 3:20 "Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes"

Saturday, June 8, 2013

...and yet I am the one who's changed.

One of the many things I considered to be a part of God's plan for moving me the "whole way out to Missouri" was the possibility of reconnecting with and restoring a relationship with my estranged brother. The last time we had spoken was in 2005 and to say that we parted on bad terms would be putting it lightly. But I was sure that somehow being 8 hours closer to him would afford me the opportunity to at least re-establish contact. At first I mostly just prayed about it. But weeks turned into months and months into a couple of years and I remember thinking (after hearing that he wasn't doing too great) that maybe Eric and I could possibly help him in some way. Of course praying that seemed cuh-razy! How would I be able to do anything? What, did God want me to high-tail it up to the city and bring him back with me? But none the less, I believe a seed was planted as I prayed, ""Lord if you want him to come here, make a way!" There have been times over the last year where the Lord has brought my brother to my mind. He has directly made me think of him, had my kids ask about him, had someone preach about our "lost" brothers and sisters, etc. On a Thanksgiving in 2011 I remember specifically sharing with my church family of my burden that I had for my brother and that I knew that God would provide a way for me to reconnect and that somehow he would see his need for the Lord. Again, weeks turned into months and months into a year and once again hearing about my brother's deep peril I inadvertantly shot him a text. Now, I will tell you, I had up until this time attempted on many occassions to contact him, but never heard anything back from him. So, I really didn't expect anything but followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit to text him. Within minutes my phone rang, not because he was wanting to "talk to me" but because he didn't know who the text was from. It was a great way, however, to break the ice and catch up on our lives. I soon found out that indeed he was experiencing great peril and it was a time of crisis. About a month after this conversation our church encouraged members to select something to place on a prayer card that we would commit to praying for along with the prayer team at church. We all agreed that we would place my brother's name on the card. Over the next three months the contact I had with my brother increased. We texted and talked on the phone quite often. He told me that he had a "job" in Missouri and thought that he would try and come see us or maybe we could come see him. His job ended up being about 5 hours from where we lived so we began planning a weekend trip to go and see him. As the time grew nearer and our conversations increased it was clear to me that this "job" he had was just a temporary thing and that when it was done (2 weeks) he really didn't know what he was going to do and he asked if he could just come see us. My anxiety level increased. My plan... you know the one I so carefully and quickly had calculated in my mind of how things would work out... just crumbled before my eyes. He texted me on a Monday evening to let me know he would be coming that Friday. I was paralyzed with many different emotions. I really felt like I was in over my head. I remembered that cuh-razy prayer I prayed three years ago...."If you want him to come here, provide a way!" What was I thinking! I couldn't sleep so I sat in my living room and began to pray. I gave my anxiety over to the Lord and asked him to please, please, please tell me what I was supposed to do. Suddenly, my phone alert went off. I looked at my phone and saw that my daily verse had come through. Here is what it said: "He who loves his brother remains in the light." I John 2:10. Of course my fears melted away and I knew this was what I was to do; Not judge, Not criticize, Not vent, Not accuse.... BUT JUST LOVE! Who knew that God actually texted! I had no idea that this time of loving my brohter would last for 9 weeks. But as the Lord orchestrated each and every detail it amazed me at how omniscient and powerful God really is as His plan unfolds. Of course I already knew all of this, but I will say that this experience has deepened my understanding of the character and awesomeoness of God. My attempt here to capture all of the ways God worked most likely will not do Him justice but I will try. I was first humbled by the reaction of my children to their uncle. LOVE oozed from their very being. No judging, no questions, nothing but genuine LOVE! It challenged my walk with the Lord as I saw their concern for the salvation of this family member and had NO RESERVATIONS about our decision for him to be with us. As the days turned into weeks I knew that there would have to be serious conversations about what he was going to do next. I was amazed at how the timing and the calmness that pervaded my spirit each time these conversations occurred. Some were heated, but were always productive. The prayers of my youngest each night as we prayed around the table always included that "everyone would come to know You, Lord." and you would invariably see her stare at her uncle as she uttered these prayers. His visit changed our family in ways that words can not express. Many know the testimony of my husband and how the Lord brought him from a very reckless lifestyle. The Lord used his testimony in so many powerful ways. He spent many nights talking with my brother and giving of his time and was so very patient. He included him in various projects around the house, etc. He was every bit of what you would hope your husband would be when your brother comes to live with you for what seems an indefinate period of time. He went out of his way to accomodate and make my brother feel welcome and accepted. I was blessed by his testimony of LOVE. With each week that passed I saw that the Lord was softening my brother. He seemed less defensive and actually open to looking at his own life and decisions he has made. One of his regrets was "missing out" on family things. During his stay here he was able to witness 3 concerts,an art show, a play, 6 volleyball practices and 6 volleyball games, 5 softball games, and even an 8th grade graduation. I was so grateful for our active schedule that allowed him to see the girls perform, play and compete. He was their biggest fan! After one night of a very exhausting conversation I laid in bed and talked with Eric about needing to find some place for him to go. We prayed specifically that "we could find out about a place like Teen Challenge". It is really the only kind of rehab place I knew about. I went to work the next morning and in casual conversation a lady that I work with started to tell me that in a few days she was going to a graduation at TEEN CHALLENGE. She was wondering if I had ever heard of it. Well, of course I almost started crying as she talked because I knew that this was a direct answer. While her husband secured an application for me it ended up being a place for younger individuals but this encounter led to a discussion with my brother about whether or not he would be interested in going to a place like this, if it accomodated someone his age. He was so open to it instead of going to bed I spent the next three hours combing the internet looking for some place that we could afford and that seemed like a good fit. We narrowed it down to three and as we talked to him it seemed like "Heartland's Men Recovery" in LaBelle, Missouri was a perfect opportunity to shed some things in his life. At first we thought that the process would be quick, fast and simple. Not that it was hard, but it didn't go as quickly as "my plans" suggested. (Are you catching on that every time I had a plan it didn't work.... then God's plan did.. Yeah.. me too!) However, months prior to my brother's arrival my mom had purchased plane tickets to come out to see us. As you guessed it, she arrived just in time to be here before he left. We both had the opportunity to take him to the recovery center, see where he will be, and most importantly pray for him before we left. That moment was extremely emotional as I sensed his thankfulness and brokeness like never before. The nine weeks melted away and I knew this was the answer to my prayer three years ago, "Lord if you want him to come here, make a way!" I do not want to lead you to believe that this whole process was rosy and perfect. There were plenty of times I wanted to scream, pull my hair out, judge, criticize and then I was reminded of that verse and was prompted to LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! I still can't believe it all happened. I know there will stil be more to the story. The program he entered is 18 months so only time will tell. But I rest assured and with the hope that can only be found in Christ that God's got it all under control. I took my brother to rehab, and yet I'm the one who's changed... sounds like a God thing to me!