The Paths We’ve Traveled.

As the time is ticking down, I can’t help but feel this huge rush of different emotions.  The 40 week wait is almost over!

As I was sitting in our game room talking with Shane, there was one question that I asked him:  “How the heck did we get here?!”

For those of you who know us or that have followed or story on here, you know that 4 years ago, we were both on very different paths.  Paths paved by the broken pieces of who we once were, the plans we had made for ourselves, and any type of feelings and emotions that were anything other than the feeling of being numb.  Paths that eventually led to one another but not without some hiccups in the road.

I couldn’t help but look around at everything that has happened in the last 4 years and just be humbled.

As I looked down at my fully inflated belly, I got chills.  I’m 40 weeks pregnant with a child I was told that I would possibly never have.  I’m 40 weeks pregnant with the son that I had only thought that I would get to meet in my dreams.

Then I look over at Shane who is just taking it all in.  He’s looking around at the wife he felt for so long he didn’t deserve, at the house that he’s put blood, sweat, and tears in order to make it our own, and my growing belly at another son that is soon to make his debut.

Seriously.  How the heck did we get here!?

In a sense, the answer is so simple while in the same breath so complex.  With everything that has happened, all aspects of our lives had to have been in the perfect place at the right time.  There is only one answer as to how this happened – both when we were on separate paths and on the path that we are on now.  God’s plan was bigger and the story is told with our shoes.

God’s plan for us was bigger than any called off wedding plans.  Bigger than bone scans, blood work, and x-rays.  Bigger than any doctor diagnosis based off of nothing more than ‘science’.  Bigger than the legal “one bedroom” house that we were trying to raise a family in.  Bigger than anything that we could have ever  imagined and planned for ourselves.

It’s just such an odd mix of emotions to be sitting in this chair and feeling all of these feelings: excitement, anticipation, fear, joy, nervousness, happiness, anxiousness, calm, and the list goes on.

Truth of the matter is that within the next week or so, I will have a tiny babe laying next to me.  Well, he will probably be in his bassinet or rocker and I’ll be staring down at him just in awe that my “slim chances” is laying right in front of me.

The picture of our shoes tells the story of our family.  We have a daughter who is so shy and so quiet.  But she slips on those shoes and walks across a stage and transforms into numerous characters while telling a story for judges and peers.  We have a son that puts on his drill masters and marches across football fields and performs marching shows that he has put countless hours of practice into.  I click my way across the floor at the dealership to work with my salesmen and their customers to help provide a good life for the two children we have.  Shane puts on his boots daily and labors in extreme heat, extreme cold, and everything in between to be sure that all of us are well provided for and taken care of.  Elijah’s shoes have yet to be worn.  Those shoes will soon be the cause of the pitter-patter sounds running across the floor followed by the excited squeal of a toddler running away from his hard working father, his expressive sister, or his determined brother.  It just seems so surreal…

How?!  Just, how?

God is so good.  If you give Him the chance, He works such miracles.  His plan is bigger than yours.  He will bring you places that you never thought you would go.

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I just love this picture!  Our lives have been so serious in preparation for our little guy that we needed a good laugh tonight!  ❤

The Art of ‘Perfection’

This morning, I saw something from my past that really brought the last couple of years of my life into a new perspective.

My TimeHop said that 4 years ago, I wrote a status that read:
“It’s not about having a ‘perfect’ relationship. It’s about finding someone who will be there through everything without giving up.”

No.  Joke.

It’s been almost 3 years since Shane and I began this crazy journey that we are on.  Sometimes, I just sit back and think about all that has happened and think “It’s only been 3 years?”  Other times, I sit back and think “That 3 years has gone by so quickly.”

I look back on all of the church events, school events, family trips, lazy evenings at home, and other events that have been such blessings in our lives.  We’ve gained friends, we’ve lost friends, we’ve changed jobs, we’ve had really positive experiences, and we’ve had some not so positive experiences.

But I keep going back to one thing; all of these experiences would have had a completely different impact if it was anyone other than Shane standing by my side.  (Side note:   None of these probably would have happened if Shane wasn’t by my side because my life would have been completely different.)

One of the most exciting things we’ve been through thus far is finding out that our family was growing by 2 little feet.  I found out back in May while Shane was in California that we were expecting a new bundle of joy!  He had his suspicions before he left but anything can happen in those early weeks!  Since he was at training, I was unable to call him so I wrote him a letter and sent him a picture of the “6 week”ultrasound to let him know that he was going to be a dad again!  We battled a lot of sickness and some health scares with this pregnancy but thankfully, through a lot of prayers, we found out at our 20 week appointment that our little BOY was strong, stubborn, and most of all; healthy.  After looking at the few ultrasounds that we have, I’ve decided that the little bugger has my nose and Shane’s mouth.  He is the cutest little thing but of course, my opinion is biased.

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We’ve also been through some not so fun stuff.  I won’t go into detail because while we were able to make our way through it, some of it is better off not shared.  But I will say this on it:

I am really glad that Shane and I have our faith to lean on when things begin to go sideways in our lives.  There has been numerous times throughout the last five months that we have been put in a position where all we could do is pray and lean on His word.  In short, the passage of
“…Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave your or forsake you.  Therefore, we may boldly say:  The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me? … Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” ~Hebrews 13:5-6, 8
is nothing short true.  Man can sit and try to throw things at us to tear us apart, but in the end, we have a mighty warrior on our side who will never abandon us because of all the “junk” in our lives.

But all that being said, my relationship with Shane has not faltered.  Have we had moments of weakness?  Sure.  But never once have I questioned my decision to be with him.  The only questions I ever held were for the outside sources who thought they pulled one over on us.  He has been my rock and my supporter from day one.  We may not have the ‘perfect’ relationship to those who may look at us, but for us, I couldn’t have asked for a better fit.

The same goes for my relationship with Christ.  I am human.  There have been times/are times where I go against what He has commanded me to do and how I should live.  But He doesn’t turn his cheek on me when the going gets tough.  Instead, He stretches out his arms and loves me unconditionally no matter the bumps and bruises that I’ve gathered along the way.

In reality, no one will ever have that ‘perfect’ relationship.  There will be trials.  There will be stress.  There will be outside opinions.  But if you can look at the other person at the end of the day, take a deep breath and say “I love you” and mean every word of it, that’s when you know that you are in the ‘perfect’ relationship.

That Special Feeling.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I can’t help but notice the amount of stuffed animals, flowers, candy, and special plans that are listed out on my Facebook, Instagram, and other social media feeds.

I was going through and enjoying what I was seeing.  I am happy that people get flowers, candy, and other gifts for Valentine’s Day.  But as I was going through and seeing all this, I felt like I got hit by a bus:

If your man or woman only does special things for you or makes plans for you one day out of the year, they are failing the other 364 days.

…that means that you feel special 0.0027% of the year.

I was just having a conversation with Shane yesterday about how I felt like I wasn’t good enough for him.  That I was a failure.  That he deserved better.  It was one of those days that was looking like I was going to have a late/no lunch break.  I let him know and found out that he had planned something special for us.  Being the supportive man he is, he found a way to make it OK.  But that didn’t change the little seed of doubt that started.

I failed him.  I failed to be able to schedule the day where I was able to take a decent lunch break and allow him to carry out this plan he had…but the car business is unpredictable so we have to work around it.

But as soon as that little seed was planted, I realized not only had I failed to take a decent lunch break, I also didn’t get dishes put away from the night before, I forgot to switch over the laundry, I was distracted with getting the kids to school and the dogs outside that I didn’t get the bed made, I hadn’t swept the floor, vacuumed the rug, dusted the shelves, and I forgot to pull bread out of the freezer for supper.  As you can imagine, the list continued to grow throughout the day.

After a long night of letting my mind spin on these things, we sent the kids off to bed and sat in silence.  I apologized.  For what?

For not getting anything done while getting everything else done, for encouraging M in her speech practices while coming down on her for neglecting her responsibilities to practice before 24 hours before her first competition, for guiding M and giving him room to grow while getting upset that he’s ‘wasting time’ and ‘procrastinating’ when we need some speed in the routine, for loving Shane with everything that I have but still not being enough for him.

As I opened up to him, he just sat and listened.  No judgement, a few laughs, and a few shakes of the head.

But when he asked me if there were things that had been done that made me feel like I was good enough, it was almost overwhelming.

Yes; you planned a special dinner for us, you’ve planned an anniversary weekend event, you’ve demonstrated patience, you’ve been understanding, you built us a bed frame with your hands while I was in Texas, you’ve lost sleep to make sure I was OK, you’ve taken leaps of faith with me, you’ve supported me, you’ve blessed me with M&M, you’ve encouraged me when I’ve lost any type of luster to continue, you’ve built me up when I’ve been knocked down, you’ve allowed me to grow, you’ve loved me through every trial and tribulation, you’ve gone out of your way to make sure I’m comfortable and feeling loved, and the list can go on.

He makes me feel like this every day of the year.  I never go to bed wondering if I’m loved or cared about.  I never question if he is being honest and faithful.

So why, the day before Valentine’s, are all these women raving over feeling ‘special’?  Do you not feel loved every other day of the year?  Do you not receive the respect that you deserve from your someone special?

When it comes to love, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is the ‘go to’ verse.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

I once read, to know if you have the love that you deserve, replace some of the words with the name:
Shane is patient and kind; Shane does not envy or boast; Shane is not arrogant or rude. Shane does not insist on his own way; Shane is not irritable or resentful; Shane does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

If you replace those words with the name and you cannot say that is 100% accurate in your life, maybe it’s time to reevaluate some things.  I’ve been in situations where every single statement was false.  I didn’t have patience or kindness, I was surrounded by envy, boastfulness, rudeness, arrogance, resistance to compromise, irritation, resentfulness, and someone who celebrated wrongs instead of doing what was right.

Women (and men too); listen to me:

You DO deserve patience and kindness and endurance.
You DO NOT deserve any type of envy or boastfulness.
You DO NOT deserve arrogance or rudeness.
You DO NOT deserve someone who is resistant to compromise.
You DO NOT deserve someone who is irritable or resentful.
You DO NOT deserve someone who rejoices in wrongs.

While I am truly elated that you have been able to receive flowers, candy, and other things, please keep in mind that you deserve more than 0.0027% happiness and love throughout the year.  You deserve to be 100% happy, 100% loved, and 100% special 100% of the year.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Nothing But A Memory.

As I’ve gotten older, trying to find the perfect gift to buy my loved ones has become harder.  It’s also become harder for me to decide what I would like to receive as a gift.

Last night Shane and I began discussing things that we have put off for ourselves; things that would make Christmas gift ideas.  I got to thinking and my list was a pencil sharpener, a travel coffee mug, a stamped mothers ring, a hair cut, and a few other small things that just aren’t necessities.

Same with Shane.  He’s been wanting things such as a mider saw, a drill press, a chop saw, wood clamps, U-clamps, and other things that can help with woodworking crafts.

As a couple, things like a bathroom renovation, an over-the-stove microwave and a new mattress/frame for our bed that was damaged in the move became the topic of conversation.

However, since these things aren’t necessary, we put them off.  We save the money and later put it toward something for the kids, gas in the vehicles, or food on the table.

But as I’ve been sitting behind my desk at work, I can’t help but think of how greedy people have become.  We sit in our homes the last Thursday in November every year giving thanks for the things we have, the people in our lives, the experiences we had over the year, and so on.  But within 24 hours, people are standing in obnoxiously long lines chomping at the bit to get the best deals on big screen TV’s, video games, clothes, shoes, toys, home decor, and more.

Why?

Why do we feel the need to buy a large amount of gifts for those in our lives in order to celebrate a holiday that has nothing to do with material items?  So we can “buy” the love of those around us?  So we can “flaunt” the money in which we may (or may not) have had?  So that we can try to out-do one another?

As we crawled into bed, I heard Hugo walking around downstairs followed by the jingle of his tags laying down on the floor, I heard Marley curl up on his bed next to my bedside table, and I knew the kids were fast asleep.  I began thinking about the next couple of days.

One more day of work before a day off, a trip up to visit my sister and brother-in-law and parents over Thanksgiving day,  and another day of work rewarded by an annual tradition that evening.  I couldn’t help but smile a little bit.

Because through all of the hustle and bustle that has become our lives, we still strive to make memories, we still find joy in the little things going on in our lives, we strive to carry on traditions and throughout it all, actively practice our faith and give honor, praise and glory to Him for all that he has blessed us with.

We treasure the memories over the material items.  We would rather build a foundation on Him than functionality of expensive goods.

Just after having 12 hours to think it all over, straighten it all out in my cluttered little brain, I have finally finalized by Christmas wish list:

Nothing, but a memory.

No Sweat.

Competition is so ugly.  Tempers flare, nasty words are exchanged, and actions are taken that wouldn’t have been done under “normal” circumstances.  But, it gets uglier when it is between people.

I may not be “old” by many standards of those friends, family, and others around me, but I’ve been around long enough to see competition between different areas of people – most often, family.

When you lose contact or when life gets away on you, people who you were once somewhat close with start to feel as if they were put on the backburner.  They begin to read into actions and words and begin to draw conclusions where conclusions should not be drawn.  From there, jealousy begins to boil.  It begins to overtake all aspects of your life.  You can’t enjoy getting together with friends and/or family because you are too focused on what you believe to be true – not what IS true.  You start to play out scenarios that may never be.

It becomes the main focal point in your life and you are determined to “fix it” by walking away – because you fell “victim”.  You don’t take into consideration all aspects because truth doesn’t matter to you and you feel you don’t have to “deal” with the consequences of your actions because as long as you are happy, that’s all that matters.

Does this sound familiar to you?

Sadly, I have been in this position one too many times and so has my husband and kids.

The largest contributor?  Social media.

It has become so large,  so ugly, and so misunderstood.  It has become an outlet for things such as this blog, sharing pictures of growing children with family miles away, finding little quotes here and there that strike a cord with what you are going through.  So, naturally, this get shared onto your Facebook Timeline, your Twitter feed, your Instagram feed, and other outlets that you may have used.

Yesterday, I found a picture that rang very true for Shane and I.  We have had so many toxic people in our lives and even have had some in our lives as a couple.  To which, we have weeded them out.  Toxic people make for a toxic life – a life full of pessimism, anger, and drama.  The picture quoted this: “I do not HAVE to allow anyone in the lives of my children.  I don’t care if you’re blood.  If you’re toxic to me, you are toxic to my children!”

I shared it.

Of course there’s going to be that one (or two) people who see it that feel it was posted against them.  Well, it wasn’t.  It was shared because it was something I agreed with and something that Shane and I have dealt with.  We are not strangers to burning bridges with those people who do not do good to us or for us – individuals from past relationships, friends that had used us for everything we had, old managers/employees/co-workers that thought it would be hilarious to put the kids’ safety in danger.

It was in no way directed at anyone in particular on my page.

But, if the shoe fits, lace it up!

Our friend circle has greatly decreased and it’s been a blessing.  We have very few close friends.  Personally, I have two women I would consider myself really close to.  Katelyn has been by my side since college and has literally seen me at my highest highs and my lowest of lows.  She healed me in times of hurt and she encouraged me to go after the things that made me happy.

Holly has also become someone very close to me.  Our men work together and are in the guards together.  I’ve been able to talk to her about things that no one else would understand unless they have been through it.  What makes it even better is that most of the time, we are going through it together.

There are a few other women here and there that I have been getting close with and who I am able to talk to.  Especially the ladies I work with.  They have been so supportive and so understanding of the things that have happened.

Shane has a few men that he can lean on for support.  Men that he has served this country with and men who he has grown close with from church.

Aside from that, we don’t interact with many people for this reason.

The well-being of the children come before our social needs/desires.

So, all of that being said:

You feel it’s best to step away because you feel that you were considered one of the toxic ones?  That decision is on you.  We offered our peace and we offered a sense of genuine reconciliation, but it wasn’t good enough for you – I’ve never been good enough for you.

But that’s ok with me.  I married Shane and as long as I’m good enough for him, that’s all that matters.

I pray that you find a sense of peace.  I pray that you strengthen your relationship in Christ because when He is left in control, wonderful things begin to happen.  He will open your eyes to the things that you are not able to see.  Maybe then you will understand that everything we have said and done has been out of love and has been an extension of God’s love for us.

“God is love.  Therefore, love.  Without distinction, without calculation, without procrastination, love.” ~ Henry Drummond

I Owe You.

Entitlement is such an ugly thing that has become all too popular among children as of late.  They feel they are owed everything they could ever want “just because”.

I can’t even go to the grocery store without hearing a fit or two from children who were denied candy or something of the sorts.  They will scream all the way up and down the aisle until suddenly, mom or dad gives in.  Right there, children are learning that if they scream and cry, they can get what they want.  And so it begins…

M&M are beginning to learn that hard work pays off.  With them getting older, they want to do more things, go more places, and buy more stuff.  But, Shane and I were not handed anything growing up and we didn’t want the kids to begin to think that if they beg and plead, they will get what they want.

We had tried a couple of different things; chore calendars, chore lists, verbally telling them what needs to get done, etc.  But nothing ever got through to them.  We got the famous “I forgot…” or “I didn’t realize you wanted the ENITRE bathroom cleaned…” or “I did do (insert chore here), but I forgot this part and this part and this part…”

The list of excuses was getting extensive and some-what hilarious.  However, it didn’t get them out of re-doing the job if it wasn’t done right or even doing it in the first place if it was forgot.  What we were really teaching them was work ethic.  Let’s face it, once Shane and I are done with them, they enter the working world.  If they don’t have good work ethic and integrity, no one will want to have them (or keep them) as an employee.

They really got a shock when we offered (well… I offered and then told the rest of the family later) to pick rock for my dad out on the farm.  I forewarned the kids it was A LOT of physical work.  To my surprise, both of them got on the hayrack and worked until they couldn’t work anymore.

Then, we come up on this big move.  The house needed a lot of work done on the inside before we were able to move in – refinishing floors, painting, cleaning, etc.  So, we approached the kids and asked for help – we needed as much as we could get!

They were at the new house every afternoon for the two weeks they were with their mom and then the last week of prep they were with us so they were stuck with it anyway.  Then, it was time to move on to the rental house.  We needed to pack, clean, re-paint, and patch the lawn.  It was a lot that needed to be done in a short amount of time and they really stepped up to make our dream home happen.

Watching them grow in their work ethic and their enthusiasm to help with big projects is a lot like how I view my relationship with Christ.  I can be so forgetful when it comes to what I should be doing – praying, reading, discipleship, and being a Godly wife and mother.  But when I do any of those, I am so excited to do them to the full extent that I can!

I’ve seen people who feel like God owes them.  Whether it be due to someone close to them passing, a battle with a disease, a battle with a handicap, or something else that triggers everyday struggle.  They feel that because God has blessed them differently than someone else, He owes them something more than His life that he gave on the cross for full forgiveness of all our sins.

I can’t understand why people would feel like He would owe them more than that.  Have I lost someone I loved? Yes.  Do I personally know people battling with cancer?  Yes.  Do I personally know someone battling a physical or mental disability?  Yes and yes.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m mad at God for putting these blessings in disguise on people in my life.  Are there days I’m saddened about it?  Sure.  But you can’t go on being mad about something you can’t change; and honestly, there is probably a lesson behind it that only the people fighting these things are aware of.  Maybe it’s strengthened their faith, maybe it’s solidified their faith, maybe it’s allowed them to find faith.

If anything, we owe it to Him to continue to spread His great story, to bring others to him.

He has blessed us with His truth, His mercy, and His eternal grace.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses.  You are saved by grace!” ~ Ephesians 2:4-5 (HCSB)

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In Good Times And In Bad.

Over the last few weeks, we have been on our roller coaster of life.  We’ve had some really good times and we’ve had some not so good times.

We knew as soon as we got engaged, our lives were going to be busy busy busy for the following months, but nothing could have prepared us for this whirlwind we’ve been caught up in for the last 6 months.

We went from engaged to married in 29 days, we had events with kids come up, we had personal events come up, but nothing could have prepared us for the last two events we have experienced; which, ironically, kind of work together in a sense.

A couple of months ago, we were beginning the hunt for a new home.  The one we were in was cozy…a little too cozy.  All four of us were crammed in to a two bedroom (legally 1 bedroom), with a cat and two large dogs.  It was a single level home with a loft style upstairs and a semi-finished basement.  The bathroom was only accessed through the master bedroom.  Needless to say, our not-so-little family had outgrown the house and we were starting to feel it.

So, our search began.  We learned quickly that the housing market where we live is either one extreme or the other with little to no in-between.  You have mansion style homes that are $150,000+ or you have run down houses for $30,000-$90,000.  The few that we did see that fit our needs square footage wise failed us in the amount of rooms we needed.  So, we did what we always do in times like these; we began to pray.

I’m one of those people who knows that everything is done in God’s time, not mine, but I tend to forget that He knows when the time is best for us.  So while we were strikeing out on houses, He was planning something great for our family.

I had hit discouragement but I continued to pray.  One day after work, Shane found our “dream home” on his way to the post office.  He read the sign and read the number and recognized it as someone who attended our church.  He ran the idea past me and I immediately agreed that we needed to call on it.  From the outside, he could tell that there was more than enough room for our family with room to grow, God willing.

We met up with the owner and we were able to go in and take a look around.  We made it three rooms into the house and we both just knew that this was our home.  It was warm, it had character, it was open, and there was plenty of room for the four of us and our three fur babies.

So, we began the process of funding and finalizing closing on the house.  The process was moving quickly; as in, about 4 weeks from beginning to end fast. But, while we were giving thanks to God and enjoying the moments of pure joy, relief, and happiness, there were outsiders planting seeds of doubt in others about our family.

I thought I had heard all of the rumors about us that I could hear.  We got married shortly after our engagement because I was pregnant.  There were bouts of unfaithfulness.  But the last one we heard was nothing short of astonishing.  I won’t get into much detail but I will tell you this; it was big enough that it caused us to stumble backwards a bit and put some aspects of our lives on hold.  We had thought that all rumors had been addressed, forgiveness was expressed on the parties that were affected (or at least acceptance, healing, and moving forward), and that we were on our way to a very happy next couple of months.

I’m not sure what hurt worse, the rumor that we were approached with or the fact that some individuals who know us inside and out believed it to a point.  (Let’s be honest, if they 100% didn’t believe it, they wouldn’t have approached us the way they did and they would have been able to put the rumors to rest right then and there.)

I wrestled with the fact that this was supposed to be a time of joy, a time of Thanksgiving.  God had given us this beautiful home, but we were having a hard time enjoying it because we were so focused on clearing up rumors, helping one another through it, and trying to find a way to move forward.

After a lot (and I mean A LOT) of prayer, we have finally reached a spot where we have accepted what trials God has given us and we are trying to find the lesson within it.  The lesson I took:  There are always going to be people (no matter how friendly, how loving, how supportive, how sacrificial you are) who will always try to bring you, your family, and your happiness/satisfaction with life down to their level.  We vowed to one another that we would stand by each other in the good times and the bad times.  This marriage isn’t just for the good times.  Who would want a flawless marriage?

I’m also not one to pass judgment on the individuals who first started these rumors.  Instead, all I have to say is that I’m praying for you.  I’m praying that God will give you the courage to face whatever issues need to be faced.  I pray that He will allow you to see the truth and give you the ability to celebrate it.  I pray that He will show you love and compassion in ways that you have never felt before and that you are able to find peace in Him.

I am also not upset with those who addressed the rumors.  I’m praying for you as well.  I’m praying that God gives you a sense of clarity and understanding.  I’m praying that you are able to understand and forgive all aspects of the situation.  I am also praying that you are able to help and encourage us to heal through this situation.

But, in the mean time, I’m going to embrace my family, I’m going to take time to enjoy being a wife and a mom, and I am going to enjoy being a homeowner.  I’m going to continue to grow in His word and I am going to continue to cling to Him when times get rough.  I am grateful for all that God has given us and all that He has allowed us to see within the past year.  He has blessed me with the best.

Our first home!
Our first home!

Pray Or Be Prey

It’s been a while since I’ve last written something!  Over the last few weeks, I have found myself (once again) in the middle of this whirlwind of life.  How I was ever able to write once a day is beyond me.  The schedule of a full-time wife, full-time mom, full-time student, full-time employee, and full-time individual becomes a lot of chaos when one thing trips you up.

My absence started with a low.  I honestly can’t even tell you what triggered it but I found myself in a spot in my life where I felt like I was stuck.  I felt like I was at a place where I felt that what I had was as good as it was going to get.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m overjoyed with my life.  But something changes when you realize that there’s not much left to change – it’s the daily grind. Get up, go to work, come home, do housework, go to bed.

But, not long after I found myself at that point, I found a way to reconnect to real life – and not necessarily in a good way; but not in a bad way either.  A way that was able to grow my faith and the faith of the kids.

See, M has taken a liking to shows that deal with spiritual practices.  I’m not talking prayer and worship songs – I’m talking chants, Ouija boards, spells, etc., etc., etc.  Now, at first when it was limited to the show Super Natural, I didn’t think much of it.  But then she let it slip that her mom has taught her how to read palms – or “tell the future”.  She has also started the habit of throwing salt on her brother when he was “annoying” or “irritating” or anything of that nature.  There were also small things happening that were just throwing red flags that we needed to address and see what was going on.

Now, I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with any of these things, I just personally do not believe in them.  I have sat down and watched shows like this and had zero issues and even done research on things like the Ouija board and other things but it was more for education or understanding than to form a belief or adapt to a practice.  However, when you are not spiritually mature and you begin to dabble in these things and you start to practice some of these rituals, you begin to open yourself up to a world that you know nothing (or very little) about.

When I heard some of these things come from M’s mouth, I was shocked.  I knew her mother is known for saying “I’m not religious; I’m spiritual.” but I never thought that she would try to push her daughter to become the same.

M&M have been raised in faith.  They have attended Sunday School and church with us, and they chose to be re-baptized since they understand what it is and what it signifies.  They are no strangers to these conversations and they know what these types of things can lead to – or at least we thought they did.  It becomes almost surreal when you see these types of things coming from a child… your child – and they don’t even realize how much it goes against what we know they believe.  How do you sit them down and tell them “This is not what Christ wants for you.” without giving them the impression that their mother is full of “it”?  (I don’t agree with her beliefs and I personally do not feel they are “right” but I cannot judge and I cannot force her to believe.  She is entitled to believe and practice what she wants)

We sat M down one night before supper and asked her a few questions.  After some discussion, we realized that what she was doing was more-so out of curiosity (because she saw it on TV) than for “practice”.  We explained to her about the dangers of opening herself up to things like that.  She began to see quite quickly that “spirits” and “angels and demons” are nothing to mess with.  She didn’t realize that what she was doing was something her mother wanted her to do; it wasn’t what she believed and what she wanted.

Ephesians 6:10-12 tells us “Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.  For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in hearts.” That’s really what it has come down to.

But it’s not just M that struggles with this, it’s me too, it’s probably Shane as well.  I get so wrapped up in things going on in my life that prayer and daily readings seem to be a chore more than they seem like a pleasure.

There was a time during my valley where I wasn’t praying.  Not because I didn’t want to, but because in that moment, I didn’t know how.  But it became quite clear (and quite fast) that if I didn’t pray, I was prey.

My Armor of God became weak without prayer.  I felt myself being tested in ways that only those evil forces would test me.  They put the blinders on and make it feel like God was testing me instead.  I had become the prey of all that could be considered “evil”.  Satan knew that my armor was cracked and he managed to find a way in.  He was as sly as the fox.  My faith became a little unstable and my view of Him became foggy for a brief moment in time.  But He didn’t turn away from me.  Instead, He guided me back to where my vision became clear, my mind was put at ease, and my armor was repaired.

I never realized how much I prayed until I didn’t.  A day or two had passed where not much prayer had been said.  But, one morning, Shane woke me up about 3:30AM telling me that he was on his way out the door for work.  He leaned down for a hug and immediately I wrapped my arms around him, my hands interlocked and I began to pray “Dear Lord, thank-you for blessing me with this man.  Thank you for blessing our marriage.  Please lead us and keep us on a path that is only pleasing to you.  In your name I pray, Amen.”

It was the first heartfelt prayer I had said in 48 hours.  It happened so quickly that it almost felt as if it wasn’t me doing it.  That day was a really good day.  My head was clear and my heart wasn’t heavy.

On Sunday, we heard a sermon that revolved around the power of prayer and how everyone has a story behind them but we are forgiven by His death and resurrection.

Because of that experience, I now remind myself “Pray or be prey.” I have so much to thank Him for and have so much to be happy and excited about – He deserves ALL the glory; in prayer and in conversation/blogs/etc.

I will not be prey.

Photo Credit:  Google Images
Photo Credit: Google Images

Ohana.

It has become apparent in today’s society that the word “family” doesn’t hold as much significance as it did 30-40 years ago.  Back then, the word family meant parents and children living together in a household and interacting with one another.  Now, the word family means you share genes, you share a last name, and if you are lucky, you eat a meal or two together during the week.

Since being married (and even before that), I have been a terrible friend.  Why?  Because I tend to cleave to my family.  I’m an active part in the kids’ lives when it comes to running errands, making appointments, attending sporting events, etc.  I make it a point to build their trust while doing things that a “normal” mom would do.  But, doing so tends to fill my schedule and not allow much time for myself or for others outside of the home.  Does this mean I don’t appreciate or don’t miss my friends?  No.  But I don’t expect Shane to run the house by himself and we don’t expect anyone else to have a hand in raising M&M and any future baby Pete’s.

When we do get time to ourselves, we have every intention of doing things with others, but you realize that you miss your spouse.  Even though you have been by their side through the hectic schedule that is life, you haven’t had an in-depth conversation for 13 days, you haven’t watched a movie with them for a month or two.  You can’t remember the last time your date night consisted of anything other than dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, meal planning, and bill paying.  Or there are times you decide to sit on the couch for a moment or stretch out on the bed to relax and before you know it, four hours have passed and you completely wasted the day away.

We don’t visit our families nearly as often as we wished we could.  We would love to be around our nieces, nephew, our parents and siblings more.  But the time that we have is limited and we can’t always make an escape for a day. But this weekend we are headed up to my parents to spend a day there.  We can’t remember the last time we went to their house just to visit.  (And that’s sad.)

Shane and I have had the conversation multiple times where we feel that if we can’t do something as a family, we aren’t doing it.  All four of us hold a special place in our family and without one of us, our family is incomplete.

We love the movie Lilo and Stitch.  For those of you who haven’t seen it, you should.  One of the quotes from the movie is “Ohana means family.  Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”  But all too often, we see the opposite.

So friends, I’m sorry I’m a flaky friend.  I promise to converse with you, I promise to send you ridiculous SnapChats, and I promise to keep you up to date with everything going on in my life.  But I can’t promise that I will be able to take time away from the home to go out to the bars on a Thursday/Friday/Saturday night for a couple of drinks, sit and have a meal with you, or to spend an entire day shopping.  As much as a “get-away” sounds fun, my family needs me; I need them.  I’m not leaving them behind to fulfill selfish desires.  I love you and I thank you for understanding and continuing to be by my side (mentally and emotionally).

Ohana.

Golden Hearts

When they say a child is the product of their environment, it holds so true.

When we look at children in society today, we can see quite a few rude, disrespectful, and unruly ones.  The ones who cause trouble, start fights, and degrade others around them.

I witness children throwing fits while I’m working because their parents won’t allow them to have pop or a cookie.  I hear screams in the grocery store because they aren’t allowed to get snacks that are chalked full of sugar.  I see silent fits thrown if the word “No” is used more than once in a 10 minute span.

On the other hand, you see the children who are quiet, reserved, respectful children who don’t want to cause a disruption.  The ones who say please and thank-you, the ones who offer to help, and those who go out of their way to make others happy.

M&M are the “perfect mix” between the two.  In public, they mind their manners and they are respectful to those around them.  But, at home, they don’t like the word “No”, they like to defy, and they don’t like to work for what they want (not need).

Over the last few days, these two have definitely shown me that they have their father’s heart of gold on them.  On Saturday M (daughter) and I took a road trip together.  We spent the day shopping, talking, and just being girls.  We were in Target getting excited over a new line of cleaning products (we are lame like that) when she asked if we could go volunteer some time at the shelter; take some dogs out for a walk, play with the cats, etc.  This was one of the few days I didn’t have a time limit, so I agreed.  What better way to spend a Saturday?

While we were in the midst of all these activities, her and I were talking about how life at her mom’s had been lately.  She kind of shrugged her shoulders and said “Well, mom finally let me have S over to spend the night.”  I sat kind of speechless.  Her mom had let her have a friend over and she totally ditched her to come to Sioux Falls with me.  I asked her about it and said that she could have invited her with and she shook her head and said that S and her step-sister were pretty good friends so she would be OK.

We continued talking but I felt bad that M had just left her friend sit at her mom’s house.  Somehow the conversation came full circle again and she looked me square in the face and said “Really.  It’s ok that she stayed home.  You are more important to me anyway.”  My heart melted into a huge puddle.

The day continued on and when I looked at the time, it was almost 4:00PM and we still have the drive home.  She asked where we were going as we left the shelter and I told her home.  I could see the disappointment on her face.  I tried to comfort her as much as I could but I could tell no amount of words was going to make her want to go back to her mom’s.

The next morning, my parents drove down to attend church with M (daughter) and I.  That was a really nice surprise!  When I asked M if she wanted to go, without hesitation, she said yes.  So, we went to church together with my parents and then went out to eat afterwards.  She kept engaged in conversation and  minded her manners the whole time (which is pretty impressive if you know her!).  Typically, the kids go back to their mom’s after church but M wanted to join us for lunch after church. (Would have been the potluck, but we figured we would go somewhere that we could sit down as a family and talk)  But, she gave M the ok to go eat with us.  The service was slower and the time for M’s (son) last band concert was quickly approaching.  I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get her to her mom’s in time before she left so I had M see if I could just bring her to the concert and she could meet up with her mom there.  Reluctantly, her mom agreed but that didn’t deter M.  She was more than happy to come to our house and sit with my parents and I.

After a while, we took off to the concert and witnessed M perform his final jazz band and concert band concert as well as get awarded his certificate for a superior rating in contest.  During intermission, he walked up to where my family, M and I were sitting full of grins.  He showed my parents his critique and sat and visited for a while.  After the concert, M (daughter) came to my car to get her Bible and a couple of other things out before she went back to her mom’s.  She was about to run off to meet her mom when she stopped on a dime and gave me a huge hug.

After the concert, the kids went back home with their mom.  There I sat at home with the dogs.  So I decided to work on homework, dishes, and a few other things that I had neglected to do.  Staying busy is key.  The nights get pretty lonely but I try to hold my chin up.

Monday came and I had this feeling it was going to be a hard day.  I went to bed missing Shane and woke up missing him even more.  I forced myself out of bed, drug myself through the shower, and tried to encourage myself to pick my mood up so work wouldn’t be so long.  You can only fake it so long before you just wear yourself out.

Over lunch, I had decided that my night was going to consist of homework, Dancing With The Stars and The Bachelorette and praying for a call from Shane.  I returned to work to finish my shift and ended up staying late to try to fix some errors.  Punching out frustrated, I decided I may as well do a little grocery shopping while I was out and then go home.  While I was out, I ran into one of our church families and was able to talk with them for a while.  Being able to talk to them helped pick me up out of the slump I was in.  At that moment, I was thanking God for leading us to Cornerstone.  He provided us with a church family who cares for one another, a church family who looks out for one another, and a family who supports one another.

I got home, put groceries away and noticed a bright orange piece of paper sitting on the table next to my Bible and the flowers and pieces of paper from a scavenger hunt Shane put together.  It said:

“Figuring it out yet?  You probably know what the first word is.  Anyway, I came after school hoping to find you, but I didn’t.  I did grab my Bible and bike and rode off to mom’s house.  Made some coffee and wrote this note.  Anyway, see ya later!”

My eyes welled up with tears.  Something so simple had hit my heart.  M (son) had made a trip to our house after school just to check in.  I texted him and thanked him for the note and the coffee (which was much appreciated yesterday since it was 37* here!) and he said that he would be by in the morning to have coffee with me.  I immediately showed Shane what his son had done.  I couldn’t help it!  My night had gone from a dreaded one to one where I was excited for the phone call from Shane because I finally had something positive to say.

This morning, I bounced out of bed, made sure the coffee was on and that I was in and out of the shower before M (son) was over.  Around 7:20AM, I heard the dogs get excited and start jumping around.  M came through the door, poured himself a cup of coffee and plopped down on the couch next to me.  We discussed the last two weeks of school for him and watched Impractical Jokers.

Before I knew it, it was time for him to go to school.  He stood at the divider of the living room and the kitchen and said “I’m going to come the rest of the week too.  But I really need to get going now…well, more like 5 minutes ago.”  Again, the amount of happiness I felt just from that little moment is more than I can even try to explain to you.

It’s hard not having Shane here.  But knowing that I have two wonderful children checking in on me, a church family supporting me, and a best friend just being there for me is making it easier to deal with.  Any doubt that I’ve ever had about my “skills” as a step-mom have been wiped away by these two over the last few days.

I see so much of their father in them.  These moments are ones that make getting through the days easier.  I’m sure if I didn’t have them, I would be going insane right about now.

They will never know just how much those small things have meant to me. (Unless they read this… and then they may figure it out!)