Wednesday, November 4, 2015

the one with all the resolutions

To my Friends friends --

One of the best episodes. Am I right? I mean, do you realize how many classic Friends references come from this one episode? Phoebe trying to teach Joey to play the guitar. Ross getting stuck in the leather pants. Rachel desperately trying not to gossip... which eventually explodes in the legendary THEY DON'T KNOW THAT WE KNOW THEY KNOW WE KNOW! (Which comes up in my life more than any other Friends reference. Ever.) But my favorite resolution is Chandler's commitment to not make fun of his friends for the entire year--which is ridiculously impossible and the very reason why he is the best character on the show. No, really, he is.

I like New Year's resolutions. (I am aware that it's November.) Come January one, my social media will be split between all my "I-declare-this-new-year-to-be" friends and my "resolutions-are-for-the-birds" friends. I'm here to tell you that I'm on the pro-resolutions side of the fence. (But I still love all of you folks who want to call it something else or debunk it altogether.) I'm just a sucker for the idea of a fresh start and a new goal. And I don't care if some cheesy tradition is the root of it.
Shortly after we rang in 2015, I had one of those moments when I realized God had been putting something in front of my face a bajillion times and it was FOR A REASON. I kept hearing people in my church worlds refer to the resolution concept as something like, "In what areas of your life are you waiting for a breakthrough?" BREAKTHROUGH. I can't even recount the times this word came up during the first weeks of the year. Okay, God. Got it.

So I wrote down a few things. A few things that have bothered me for years. A few things that I have often resigned to living with for the rest of my life. A few things that can make me feel broken. A few things that can suffocate. A few things that I have never completely relinquished to God.

This is what I've learned:
  • "Breakthrough" does not come easily. The very word tells you that something will break. I don't really like to break. It's uncomfortable. 
  • When you ask God to change something, you have to allow it to happen on His terms. I'm a planner. I love to orchestrate how something comes to be. Not gonna happen here.
  • There will be interference. Let's call it what it is - when I ask God to work on something in me and plan to give Him the credit, the devil will try to destroy it. You can count on that.
When I began this post, I wanted to write about how I have truly seen breakthrough in these areas of my life. That was three weeks ago. Weeks. I wrote the first part and then needed to leave to get somewhere on time. (Or a few minutes late. Let's be real.) And I never came back to it.

Because my second "breakthrough" undid itself. WHAT. And I have been so frustrated. SO frustrated. And, to be honest, I let myself fall apart for a little bit. I fell into school stress and busyness and self-defeat. And it was easy to do because OCTOBER. I love October, but October is when the newness of the school routine has come and gone. Report cards, parent conferences, real things to grade, testing--and that's just my end of it. My Mady Jane is in the thick of it now, too, which means KEEPING UP WITH 1ST GRADE. (Don't get me wrong - she's a rockstar. I just hold on tight.) And the holiday season begins without you even knowing it. Costumes, parties, field trips, projects, birthdays. Yay. And I just lost it. It was so not pretty. And I apologize to those innocent bystanders who felt the effects of it. But I'm over it. I began this post to give glory to God for the changes in my life this year. And even through this hiccup, the year is not over and I'm refocusing to find the breakthrough. Don't be surprised if you hear me coaching myself over the next few weeks: Hold on. Shake through the distractions. Break   through.

Friday, October 2, 2015

the one with all the excuses

Well hello, stranger.

This odd thing happens to me when I haven't been writing--I am completely bombarded with ideas I want to write about first. So much so, that I will continue to put off writing because I don't know where to begin. And the ridiculous problem snowballs.

In my mind, I've written 27.5 posts since May. (Just a little factoid about me: I also do this with emails and text messages. I respond in my head and forget, sometimes for days or even weeks, that I never actually responded. It's the most pitiful thing. I'm so sorry for my victims.)

Once I get over my mind games and actually sit down to write, I enter the next stage: remorse. I always feel I should apologize when I go MIA from writing. I'm not sure why. I mean, to whom would I be apologizing? I'm quite sure no one was offended by my blogging absence. But excuse-making is always the first thing that comes to mind when I sit down to write again--as if I must tell you why, exactly, I've gone missing.You'll never guess.

Busyness. Life changed a little and my writing habit (and time) went with it! There. That's my excuse. Let's move on...

Actually. Let's hover here for a moment.

I went back to teaching. For those who aren't around me daily, you're probably wondering what happened since that "life-changing" decision when I left teaching to stay home. Remember that post? If I'm being honest, I worry quite often that people question my sincerity. Why would I leave in such a "this-is-what-I-have-to-do" way only to return a year later? It was, for sure, a huge moment for me. What I did not realize (or acknowledge) at the time was that it was a moment. Just a moment. One very important moment, but still just one moment in a lifetime of them. I now see it was the beginning of a paradigm shift. I learned SO MUCH last year... mostly concerning my identity. I learned more about who I am supposed to be as a Christ-follower, as a wife, as a mom (in that order, in fact) and even as a teacher. I'm still learning. And truly understanding that God's molding is a continual process.

Just to clarify, I went back part-time. I was approached with the idea last spring and got to just watch it unfold for a few months having no clue if it would ever be a thing. And then it happened. And it is BEAUTIFUL. I feel spoiled. I have the best of both worlds and wish everyone could work this way. Especially teachers. But I do know, without any doubt in my mind, that I would not be able to take the approach I have with my job if it had not been for taking off last year. My purpose shifted in a huge way, and I'm not really even sure how or when it happened. But I know His purpose is greater.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth." Ephesians 1:3-10

Monday, May 18, 2015

the one with the writing on the walls

Sometimes I feel as though this past year has been a dream. I could not have predicted any of it. I still don't understand most of it. I am eternally grateful for all of it. (And I'm trying like crazy to not skip over that last part.)

And I just realized this was the topic of my last post. But do you see how prevalent it is for me?

One of the many lessons I've been learning this year is to take the Bible literally. I heard a speaker talk about doing this with Deuteronomy 6 -

 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."

Her talk was more about verse 7 - to impress these commandments on your children when you sit, walk, lie down, and get up. But I also loved the idea of writing them on the doorframes. I mean, what's not to love? I'm a happy girl with a sharpie pen in hand.

So write we did! We have been unquestionably blessed by this house we are building. And we had some fresh doorframes waiting to be covered...
"And you must love the LORD your God
with all your heart, all your soul, and
all your strength." Deuteronomy 6:5 
"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you;
he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid;
do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8 

"You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty
that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle
and quiet spirit, which is precious to God." I Peter 3:4
"Be on your guard. Stand firm in the faith.
Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything
with love." I Corinthians 16:13-14

"'Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be
food in My house, and test Me now in this,' says the Lord of
hosts, 'if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and 
pour out for you a blessing until if overflows.'" Malachi 3:10
"Wherever you go, I will go;
wherever you live, I will live.
 Your people will be my
people, and your
God will be my God."
Ruth 1:16

Lord, let this home be filled with You.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

the one with all the magic

If you know me--especially if you follow me on any social media, you probably know where we spent spring break.


Well, for a day anyway. I think that's technically just The Magic Kingdom's tagline. But "the happiest place on earth" doesn't go with my story. Hang with me.

Our trip truly was magical. It deserves its own post (and will get one soon), but today I just need to tell you about all that has unfolded in the past month... week... even just days! We spent a week in Florida experiencing the magic--the shows, the characters, the rides, the parades, the fun. The imagination involved in Disney World is something that always amazes me. I think I had several experiences, or watched my kids have them, that could only be described as "magical." There's a wonder to it all. It's like watching their minds discover things beyond their dreams.

That's how I feel about our life right now--"Beyond our dreams." I cannot believe the way things have unfolded for us. "Magical" might be a funny way to describe it. "Miraculous" is closer. Definitely God-designed. This also amazes me.

In my last update, I wrote about needing to bring in extra money before we close on our house this summer. Here's what's happened since then:

  • March 21-24 -- Moved out of our townhouse with the help of wonderful friends and family. We did not have to rent a truck or storage space - thanks to my super-generous parents and their attic!
  • March 25-April 1 --Had an incredible trip and didn't spend a dime out of our monthly budget. 
  • April 2 -- Closed on the sale of our townhouse. THANK YOU, JESUS!!
  • April 10-11 -- Held a very successful garage sale at my parents' house. Made much more than we expected and got rid of all our junk!
And here's the biggest turn of events: I'm going back to work. (WHAT!?) We have been searching for ways to make this thing happen, and I truly believe God placed this in our laps. He has worked it out perfectly. They called last week from the school I taught at for the past 7 years and asked me if I would take an interim for the last 6 weeks of school for a teacher who is leaving. The last 6 weeks of school? The best part of the whole year? You mean, I get to review for state testing? My favorite thing? (No really, it is. I know I'm strange.) No new curriculum? No big assignments to grade? Only 2 weeks until testing and then I am home free?  I AM IN!

I started on Thursday. (I told you it was quick!) Let's look at life right now - We are living with friends. I'm back at work. Darin's picking up on-call shifts in west TN on the weekends (and we go with him). We might be just a tad bit scattered right now! But we are having fun and hanging on to the temporary craziness and thanking God for the opportunities and watching Him piece together this whole plan miraculously. It's magical - in the best way possible. Beyond anything we imagined.

Monday, March 16, 2015

the one where I need patience

"So what's going on with your house? You haven't put anything on your blog!"

Oops. :)

I apologize for putting our story out there and then disappearing for a while. I think I've been really feeling the uncertainty of the selling process and have been hesitant to talk about it... or even let myself get excited about it. But God is still working. I should still be sharing.

So the update: 

I believe I last left you at, "We lost our buyer." We lost the house we put a contract on to buy, too. Sad. It was the perfect house on the perfect lot for us. Last lot in the neighborhood. If I'm being honest, it was pretty difficult for me to go from feeling like God was laying out all of these ideal plans for us to it all falling through. 

BUT a few weeks later, we had a new buyer! We began to look for a new house again, as well, but we were really struggling with the options. We had been told they could build the house we were originally going to buy in two other neighborhoods in town, but we didn't feel like we liked those areas as well as the original. After searching through our options, we gave in and went to visit one of the lots. AND. WE. LIKED. IT. Who knew?

With a new buyer and a new need to leave, we decided to buy a lot and build the same floor plan as the house we were originally set to buy. The best part? We get to make design selections! Dreamy. 

So now? We pack! And pack and pack and pack. And pray we get through closing. 

We are set to close on our sale in the beginning of April. Here's where I'm starting to see God's timing...

Our appraisal on our townhouse did not exactly go well. After closing on this house, we won't have the amount of money we thought we would for the down payment on our new house. But because our new house is a build instead of the one already built that we were going to buy, there's a 10-week period between closings where we will be homeless. Or houseless. But God has provided some great friends for us to stay with which will allow us to save what we need during that time. Provision.

Slowly but surely it is beginning to unfold. So we wait. And watch. (And pack.) Expectantly.

Monday, January 26, 2015

the one where the end was the beginning

Remember in my last post when I said, "It has been a whirlwind of a 'two weeks,' my friends"? Well. That was precious.

In the six days since, it seems a million new things have entered our lives. Most of all, we had our appraisal on Thursday morning and lost our buyer on Friday morning. (Not because of the appraisal. We're not really sure why.) The end.

I mean, not really, but sort of. We're back to square one, which, oddly enough, was a place we were totally content with being just 3 weeks ago. I keep trying to remind myself of that contentment.

At the beginning of the year, my BFF, Laura, shared that she was going to do Beth Moore's scripture memory challenge and that I should join her. So I did! The basic concept is to memorize 2 new verses a month -- 24 total for the year. You pick whichever scripture you want and enter it on Beth Moore's blog on the 1st and 15th of each month. Next January, there will be a celebration for those who complete the challenge, and we plan to go! :) 

SO my first verse to memorize was 2 Corinthians 12:9...

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

I cannot tell you how many times this verse has come into play since January 1st. It's unbelievable, really. I mean, I can start with the obvious -- "My grace is sufficient." Sufficient. As in, all I could possibly need. No beautiful new house could fill us in the same way. No relationships (sorry, friends). No amount of financial security. No job. No perfectly behaved children. Nothing. Not that these things aren't noble pursuits. But they cannot be THE pursuit. Not one of those things will ultimately satisfy.

And then there's THE WEAKNESS. You know my weakness? "Trust and obey." Control. Structure. Order. Providing these things for my kids. So here I am -- trying to boast in my weakness. This part has really stuck out to me. I need you to know that I am SO NOT CAPABLE of trusting and obeying -- of letting go of control completely. This struggle is oh-so-real in my life. It is my weakness. THEREFORE, I will boast in it so that His power can fill those places and be sufficient. 

I know the things in our life right now are insignificant compared to the struggles of many. I promise I know that. But it feels a bit chaotic for my need-to-control self. Vulnerable. So I'm trying to keep it all in perspective and allow Him to do that for me. I heard this song on the radio last Wednesday and it just overwhelmed me. I first thought of 3 friends, specifically, in 3 very different situations who just weighed heavy on my heart when I heard it. But I've been listening to it over and over and feel I probably needed to hear it, too. It speaks of the "glorious unfolding" that will come if we wait and see what God has for us. I love it. And I can't wait to see what unfolds for us.

If you can't see the video, go here --->

The song is "Glorious Unfolding" by Steven Curtis Chapman. So good.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

the one with the old church song

   Later on God tested Abraham's faith and obedience. "Abraham!" God called. "Yes," he replied. "Here I am."
   "Take your son, your only son -- yes, Isaac, whom you love so much -- and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will point out to you."
   The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son Isaac. Then he chopped wood to build a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place where God had told him to go...  {Genesis 22}

Crazy Abraham with his blind faith. I mean, the man is not perfect. There are definitely parts of his story that serve as a lesson of what NOT to do. But in this moment he was so very willing to trust God and obey him completely. Bravo, Abraham. That is not always easily done.

Trust and obey. There's an old church song for you -- one that has been playing over and over (and over) in my mind for the past two weeks. And it has been a whirlwind of a "two weeks," my friends. I've been told I'm kind of wordy, so I'll lay this out in bullet form to try to save some verbiage.
  • Wed, Dec 31 - Got a call to show our house. Slightly annoying on NYE, but okay. Part of the process.
  • Sat, Jan 3 - Call for another showing. Extra annoying because we're getting ready to have Jackson's birthday party, but it works.
  • Sun, Jan 4 - Yet another showing. (Someone's interested!) This makes it less annoying.
  • Mon, Jan 5 - Our realtor calls to say WE HAVE AN OFFER ON OUR TOWNHOUSE. A good offer. (For those of you who are unaware, we were not in a good place to sell. Our asking price was sort of a dream. Or a miracle. Definitely a miracle.) We counter-offer, nervously.
  • Tues, Jan 6 - Our counter-offer is accepted. Boom. Closing date set for Feb 6th.
  • Thurs, Jan 8 - We start looking at houses because, well, see above.
  • Fri, Jan 9 - Inspection on our townhouse. Anxious.
  • Sat, Jan 10 - Find two houses we love. Make a million lists to compare.
Let's pause here. I can't stick to bullets for long without feeling it needs a little narration. The two houses we were comparing were across the street from each other. Both new construction (the last two lots left in the area they were developing). Darin has a dream of living outside of the city limits. I don't necessarily share his passion in this area, but I'm not against. So because of my desire to have a happy marriage, I lean towards this goal of his by default. I do, however, have a limit of how far out I truly want to be. Distance to things we drive to often is something to consider... Mady's school, our church, Darin's office, the YMCA, family and friends. But these houses were the perfect mix. Outside city limits, decent lot (which has proven difficult to find in our area at our price range), still in a neighborhood, field behind the yard to not ever be developed, pretty country drive to get there, yet only added ten minutes at most to any regular drive we make. Perfect compromise. The difference in the two was a bonus room, an extra half bath, and about $200 a month. Ouch. I spent all day Sunday convinced it was smarter in the long run to get the bigger house. I didn't want to feel like we'd grown out of the smaller one after a year or so. I told Darin my thoughts and everything on his face said he just wanted me to be happy. (He's a good one. Also, I think he knew he got his yard and country either way!)

But Monday came. Monday always brings a dose of reality, doesn't it? I had some serious quiet time on Monday and felt certain God was directing me. He reminded me how much he cares for me. He reminded me of the promise he had given us a year ago when he told me to quit my job. (My what has happened in a year!) He reminded me that he is the Provider - not just necessities, but sometimes even the specific desires of our hearts. Do you know what my desire has always been for our house? I bet some people could quote me saying, "I love our house. I just want another bedroom, a yard, a garage, and our own four walls."

And the smaller house had EXACTLY that. I've always loved the features of our townhouse. It has great storage. It has great space. It has the makings of a thoughtful builder. This house had all the same things that I love PLUS a bedroom, a yard, a garage, and its own four walls. And, here's the kicker -- We could live in it for almost the exact same amount we pay monthly now. WHAT? That's provision. Specific provision.

So I cried a little, prayed a bunch, and called Darin. We made an offer. Back to the bullets...

  • Mon, Jan 12 - Offer made.
  • Tues, Jan 13 - Counter-offer received, offer ACCEPTED. We have a house! Set to close on February 24!
  • Wed, Jan 14 - Inspection report requests on our townhouse received. Nothing big! Easy. Now all we lack to hold our breath through is the appraisal.
  • Thurs, Jan 15 - late night. Our realtor calls to let us know it's possible our buyer's funding is about to fall through. WHAT.
  • Fri, Jan 16 - waiting...
  • Sat, Jan 17 - waiting...
  • Sun, Jan 18 - waiting...
We felt confused. That's the only way I can think to describe it. I think I've only covered half of the things so far that we were sure God had orchestrated. You guys. It had been unbelievable. Thing after thing after thing. For it to all fall through? 

But God answered. Not necessarily the answer we were hoping for, but he answered. He asked us to be quiet. To wait patiently. To trust and obey. And he asked us this over and over from Thursday to Sunday. It showed up on a friend's social media first... --->

Then in prayer. In Sunday school. In every verse we read or song we heard or encouraging post we saw. Wait. 

So we're waiting. Right now we believe the closing date on our townhouse will not be lost, but extended by more than two months. It's very possible that once we get the final word on that and ask to extend the closing date on our new house to match that they will say no. I have no idea. But we are waiting. And praying. And trying very hard to just trust and obey. Because this - 

   When they arrived at the place where God had told Abraham to go, he built an altar over the wood. And Abraham took the knife and lifted it up to kill his son as a sacrifice to the Lord. At that moment the angel of the Lord shouted to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"
   "Yes," he answered. "I'm listening."
   "Lay down the knife," the angel said. "Do not hurt the boy in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld even your beloved son from me."
   Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering on the altar in place of his son. Abraham named the place "The Lord Will Provide." This name has now become a proverb: "On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided."
   Then the angel of the Lord called again to Abraham from heaven, "This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your beloved son, I swear by my own self that I will bless you richly..." 

What are you trusting God for?