Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A Full Heart

As always, another year has blown by and I have to admit that I am sad to see 2017 end.  This year was filled with love, memories, and growth.  We have learned to cherish those closest to us and cling to every precious moment we have with those we love.  It wasn't so long ago that I used to balk at the sweet older women who would tell me to "enjoy every minute of motherhood because it goes by so quickly".  Those words would often come at times when my patience was running thin or I was stressed beyond words.  However, as it turns out, those sweet women were the wisest of all.

Our family is now bracing for transition as Victoria is in search of the perfect school.  That girl has done some amazing things this year!  After turning 17, she got her first car, her first job, and began her last year as a high school student.  This summer, while we vacationed in New Hampshire, she spent her time on the lake studying for a Future Business Leaders of America national competition that was to be held in California.  Her time was well spent as she competed and was named National Champion in Business Communication.  Did I mention this was her first year participating in FBLA and that she had never taken a business class?  She has really learned to spread her wings and embrace all that life has to offer.  She is coaching her 3rd year of Upward basketball with Mike, spends hours volunteering around our community, and maintains her 4.1 GPA.  As I have said time and again, this girl is going to do great things, not simply because of her brilliance, but because she has a heart of gold and loves with all her being.  She loves people, loves challenges, and is not afraid to reach for the stars!  I am beyond thankful to call her my girl.

Ethan is enjoying the perks of being 16.  He gets more freedom, later nights, and time in the driver's seat.  This boy stays busy and understands the value of hard work and determination.  He was fortunate enough to go on several church retreats with the youth group this year; these retreats foster friendship, encourage leadership, and dive deep into God's Word.  I am so thankful for these ministries and the passion it evokes in my children.  Ethan had a pretty big year with athletics; he ran varsity track, varsity cross country, and is on the HOCO basketball team.  He has managed to do this all while maintaining A's in all his classes.  I absolutely love his determination!  Even though track and cross country were not his favorite sports, he honored his commitment and improved at every race.  Ethan decided this year that after high school he wants to head north and attend the Naval Academy.  The thought of another child growing up and leaving the proverbial nest makes my stomach tighten, but knowing the amazing things my son is capable of has me beaming!  Wherever he goes, I know that God has big plans for him!

My sweet Christian has now entered his teenage years and is thriving!  This was his first year playing football for his school and he killed it!  On top of keeping straight A's and being an athletic beast, he's started a pet-sitting job on the side.  As it turns out, taking care of pets is quite a lucrative job; he's learning the benefits of hard work, money management, and the sweet rewards of dedication.  For his birthday, he got his first acoustic guitar.  He began teaching himself how to play and is now rocking out on a regular basis.  My boy is strong, smart, devoted, and above all has a pure heart.  He went on several trips with our church this year that have deepened his faith tremendously.  When Christian was 10, he told me he wanted to serve as a missionary one day.  Now, at 13, he is talking to his youth pastor and looking ahead to when he can actually fulfill that dream.  He has a heart for people and love for God that goes beyond what many teenagers have.  He's a keeper for sure!

My not-so-littles celebrated their 9th birthday this year!  I don't think I'll ever be able to look at them and not think of them as my "littles".  This year, they started 3rd grade, which meant transitioning into the big kid school (3rd-5th grades).  They are loving being part of different clubs and participating in school activities.  However, the real fun began when the girls realized a harder grade required more discipline with schoolwork.  That's been great fun...ha!

Addie remains the family's ultimate crafter and lover of any challenge, whether it be a race or an argument, she likes to win.  She is not often satisfied with basic answers; she likes to ask questions and understand every detail of what she is being taught.  I just love that about her!  She loves reading, writing, playing basketball, and gymnastics.  When asked what she wants to do when she grows up, she replies with "everything".  Our sweet girl loves fiercely, hurts deeply, and wants everything in life to make sense.

My little Kaitlyn continues to be my snuggle bug; she considers it a personal challenge to see just how close she can get.  I could NOT love that any more.  She is passionate about all things sporty!  When she was smaller, Mike and I were sure she was going to be our "girly-girl" who loved twirly dresses and big bows...not so much.  This gal likes her comfy clothes, gymnastics, and basketball.  She loves math, science, and is meticulous about everything being in order.  Her toys are all organized, her bed is almost always made, and her book bag is kept neat.  She may be just one of my most responsible children, even if she is my youngest (by a minute).

As for Mike and I, 2017 has been a great year!  With our kiddos being older, we've been able to get away more often.  We've been to see the Avett Brothers in concert, the Impractical Jokers, and had countless date nights.  Keeping a marriage strong is difficult if you allow life to get in the way.  Let's face it, life has a funny way of distracting us from what's most important.  I am so thankful that we have both worked very hard toward being intentional and making each other a priority.  We are thankful for another year without a deployment!  I'm sure there is another on the horizon, but for now we're enjoying being together and living in the present.  On a personal note, I will be finishing my degree this year and preparing to enter the workforce.  I am so, so, so excited!

While this year has been one of the best for our family, 2018 will undoubtedly bring with it new hopes, new opportunities, and even more room for growth.  So I'm ready... bring it on 2018!


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I've been missing my blog.  Although my mind races with thoughts, I have not been able to pause and get a single one down.  I've been second guessing myself and my ability to get my thoughts across.  I want to be upbeat about life and encouraging about all circumstances.  Sometimes, I'm just not feeling it.  Truth be told, sometimes I'm just trying to survive.  Not necessarily because something terrible is currently going on, but because I fall victim to the little voice in my head that tells me I have nothing to offer.  It's true my education is limited; my work experience is modest, but I have lived.  I have many life experiences under my belt.  Right now, past experiences are warning me that life is about to get real.  My daughter's going to be a junior.  My oldest son will be a freshman.  My youngest son is starting middle school and my daughters are entering the 2nd grade.  Our relaxing and carefree summer is about to end and in it's place will be early mornings, full schedules, and tired children.  I'm thankful for the time we've had together.  Although we've still been busy doing things, it seems as though things slowed down just enough for us to appreciate the little things.  Mike and I have taken several trips together.  We are being very intentional with our relationship.  Things have changed and for that I am thankful.  My boys have played basketball, run track, gone to camps.  My oldest has worked, gone to camp, and started studying for her 4 upcoming AP classes.  My littles have gone to their first camps also...gymnastics and winshape.  Their little personalities are showing themselves a little more every day (that can be both good and bad).  I think the most important lesson I will take from this summer is...to be intentional.  Things in life don't just happen; schedules don't just open up and time just doesn't magically appear.  We have to put in some type of effort to make things happen...good or bad.  Personally, I'm striving for the good.

Jekyll Island

Lord Huron Concert in Athens, GA

 New Hampshire

Pool Time at Jekyll
Folly Beach in South Carolina

Gam time in South Carolina

Guy time at Jekyll Island

The tooth fairy came to visit Miss Kaitlyn

 This shirt...it's a real possibility.    
Christian at Mercer Basketball Camp

Ethan, just doing his thing.

All in all, it's been a great summer.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Once Upon A Time

There was once a most handsome young man.  He was a skilled basketball player.  On the court he was calm, decisive, and unafraid.  Off the court he was kind, funny, humble, and had muscles that went on for days.  Their beginning was a simple one.  After ogling him from afar the girl, who had been his cheerleader, decided it was time for them to meet.  Of course she was too shy to just walk up and introduce herself, but not so shy she couldn't recruit the help of a friend to make the introduction.  To her sheer delight the cute guy was also interested.

Their connection was immediate and undeniable.  There were many dates, late night phone calls, and snuggles on the couch.  He was passionate about basketball and his future with the sport.  She was passionate about him.  He wanted 1 maybe 2 children.  She wanted 5.  He loved living up north and all the snow.  She really loved the sunny days of the south.  He wasn't sure what direction he would go after college.  She was sure she wanted to go into the field of psychology.  He was carefree and open to try anything.  She liked to play it safe having some control of potential outcomes.  He was a spender.  She was a saver.  The attraction was impenetrable.

Graduation day came and decisions for the future were imminent.  He decided to join the military.  She...just didn't know what that would mean.  They had fallen in love, but neither knew what was to come of it.  She needed a new car to suit growing needs.  She liked the Focus.  He liked the Taurus. She looked at the affordability.  He looked at the safety.  They decided to test drive them together.  On that ride, the young man looks at the young lady and says, "We should just get married."  With no other thoughts in her mind, the young lady responded with a simple, yet confident "ok."

   * * * * * 

It has been 16 years since I said "ok".  Our romantic journey has had a little bit of everything in it.  It hasn't always been a fairy tale story, but it's our story.  The beauty of relationships is that they're all different and they all have potential.  They have the potential to be whatever we want them to be.  Don't settle and don't give up.  

 The day I said, "ok."

The day I said, "I do."

 The day I said, "I will."


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Gamboling with grief.

It is defined as extreme mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss;
sharp sorrow; painful regret.

Grief has to be one of the most keen emotions a person can feel.  The tremendous pain takes root in your very soul and attaches itself to everything you once thought was safe.  For most of my life, I believed this feeling only happened when a loved one passed away.  I figured an emotion of this magnitude could only be felt in those extreme circumstances.  As it turns out, grief is experienced any time something that is considered a great loss occurs...even if the loss is something you choose to give up (smoking, drinking, etc).

Sadness is not a feeling I welcome with open arms.  Instead, I will do everything in my power to avoid it.  I will clean, paint walls, do yard work...anything to busy my mind.  The unfortunate reality is, that sadness it inescapable.  The only way to get to the other side is to trudge through the abyss and allow the natural stages of the pain to happen.

What I have found to be helpful is educating myself on stages of grief.  I realize this could sound hokey to some, but being aware of myself and what's going on has been a key to my survival.  Once I accepted the truth that I would not be first to bypass my sadness, I was (reluctantly) able to move forward.

This is where we will all start. "This can't be true."  "This isn't happening." "I won't accept this."  Those are just three examples of thoughts and declarations that will go through your mind.  We will all entertain fantasies how how we really want/ed things to be and how we see/saw things working out.  It's against our better judgement, but many hours will be spent here.

"Why me?" "Why did God let this happen?"  Many of us are uncomfortable with anger because of preconceived ideas we have about it; it's bad...it's unchristian...definitely unbecoming.  But hear me...anger is not a bad thing.  Anger can allow us to feel strong and provide some temporary structure in the midst of our loss.  It may sound strange, but channeling anger gives us something to hold on to; something to own.  The feeling can provide some sense of stability...even if it is only temporary.  Obviously, it can develop a life of it's own, if allowed to go too far.  Here though, I am talking about healthy anger.

This can take on several different faces and it often goes hand in hand with denial.  We can negotiate with God.  We can make deals with those who have hurt us.  We can even accept fault for what is simply not ours to accept.  We want to look for any possible way to escape the situation we're in.  The feels of desperation are more evident than ever.  It is most helpful to have a special someone walk with you through this time.  They are better equipped to recognize what you're doing and help you refocus. 

This is the most hopeless and debilitating stage of all.  Depression can suck any light left right out of you.  It leads us to believe that things will never change.  We will always feel the way we do right now.  It's the pervasive hopelessness that convinces us nothing will ever work out for us.  All I can say, is hold on. 

One day it happens.  The tears will slow.  We can take a deep breath and realize this is our truth.  
This is now a part of my story.  This will/will not define me.  

Accepting where you are can bring comfort, but it can sometimes lead to confusion.  I wish these 5 steps were always in order and once experienced they could be checked off.  Unfortunately that is simply not so.  There are no time limits to grief, nor are there exact rules.  I've heard it be compared to digestion; there is nothing that can be done to hurry it along.  Eventually it will pass.  You will be able to let go and embrace your new normal.  You will be able to live again.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Lord, save me!

 It was high tide at Jekyll.  Mike decided to take the girls down to the beach and show them how high the ocean was.  It was a beautiful sight.  The littles could not believe their eyes.  The way the water rose up to the steps, it looked as if we could just step out onto the waves.  They were amazed, as just the afternoon before there was rocks, shells and plenty of sand to play in!  The beautify of the high tide was amazing.  The thought of the ever-changing tides was even more so.

Peter and the other disciples boarded their boat to cross the sea.  They were no sign of a storm, but shortly after their departure the waves got higher and the skies opened.  They were no doubt afraid, as it was so sudden.  I can only imagine their relief and total awe when they saw Jesus was walking on the waters toward them and the bewilderment when Jesus asked Peter to step out of the boat onto the choppy waters.  I cant fathom the questions and doubt as this sight unfolded before the disciples eyes.  The first steps Peter took, he was totally focused on Jesus.  He had faith.  However, the moment his eyes took in his surroundings he got scared and began to doubt.  Peter lost his focus...he took his eyes off of Christ.  I know as the doubt took hold, the fear and anxiety took over.  With his faith in Christ shaken due to the howling winds, he took his focus off of Jesus.  When we take our eyes off of the only one who can not only calm the storms, but walk us through them, we will inevitably sink.  Those are the moments that this crazy life we live gains control;  when deep sadness, loneliness, desperation, and uncertainty set in.  Thankfully, just as Peter did, we have the opportunity to call out for help.  It's one of the shortest prayers in the Bible, but definitely one of the most powerful.  Peter said in Matthew 14:30, "Lord, save me!"  It is because of faith in Jesus Christ that we are empowered to do the impossible.  Thankfully, Jesus is the perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:2).  We just have to ask for it and believe that He will provide it!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Makes perfect sense

 I purchased these bracelets in January.  It was during a much needed shopping break that I came across these.  I loved the compass because it is a reminder to keep my eyes straight ahead and striving to stay on the right path; God's path.  The other one, for some reason I just liked it. I wish I could say it was purchased for some profound reason; that I was "feeling it" at the time, but that's simply not the case.  It was during Sunday morning worship, not long after I got them, that I was reminded of the fact I am to praise God through it all.  I am to "celebrate my path" even if/when it is not the one I chose/wanted to be on.  Eventually, when I would the bracelets would jingle and move I would remind myself to be thankful; although there were many, many times I wasn't "feeling it."

I doubt it will come as a surprise for me to say...it's been a rough year.  It's probably my least favorite for a number of reasons.  It may go down as one of my least favorite years.  I don't know.  Anyhow, with that being said, time is a definite healer.  So I am feeling better and am continuing to gain perspective regarding different things. Yesterday evening, as I was walking in my room, I noticed my Bible was in the middle of my bedroom floor.  It was odd because I definitely didn't put it there, but I figured one of my littles had hopefully been reading it.  they were either reading, or reorganizing my room.  Regardless, it dawned on me that I sure had not read anything that day.  I picked it up and decided to just open it and start reading, with no plan.  I flipped to Roman chapter 5.

"...we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."
Romans 5:3-5

I could not believe what I was reading...my bracelet!  I am a believer that nothing happens by chance.  There is a reason and a purpose for everything.  By finding that bracelet and wearing it religiously, God was very subtly remind me to trust Him; to be thankful for where I was currently was in life.  While there were times I had to think hard and dig deep to be thankful (grief can unfortunately really suck the life and hope right out of you), I would do it.  Now, as I am emerging from the dark clouds that surrounded me for so long, my eyes are wide open and I see it!  I see that gentle reminder God was giving me.  I was to have faith in Him and believe that he would see me through despite where I was at that time.  He is faithful and for that reason alone, I can celebrate my path!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

I love to write.  It helps me sort through the thoughts that swirl around in my head.  It helps me put some of the pieces to my unfinished puzzle together.  Another reason I blog is because I want to be real.  I want someone...anyone to be able to read my words and realize they are not alone.  They are not the only ones who stress over life, who cry over meaningless things, or get overwhelmed to the point they question God's purpose and his capabilities to use everything for good.

Mike and I celebrated our 15th anniversary on Sunday.  That is quite an accomplishment in my mind.  If I allow myself to "go there", sometimes I'm amazed we've made it this far.  Believe me I love my husband very much, but to be honest, I don't always like him.  That's an interesting concept if you actually let yourself marinate on it for a while.   How is it possible to love, but not like at the same time.  I've done a good bit of thinking on that lately and then yesterday while reading in Ecclesiastes chapter 3 the answer was given to me.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Solomon, while pursuing life's meaning, explains it perfectly.  There are going to be many different seasons of life; some of which we will welcome with a smile and others that we will grit our teeth and bare it.  No one enjoys the hard times.  Who wants to mourn?  Feel like giving up?  Hate?  Those are terrible feeling/situations we all find ourselves in at times.  However, Solomon, while pursuing  the meaning of life, goes on to explain to us something very inspiring:

What do people really get for all their hard work?  I have seen the burden God has placed on us all.  Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.
Ecclesiastes 3:11-13

Keep the faith friends.  God is not finished with us yet.


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