Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thankful on a Thursday

The munchkins are finally asleep and the house is quiet except for the sound of my fingers hitting the keys. It's been a busy week and I welcome these quiet, relaxing nights. It feels peaceful and I am content.  

As I enjoy these moments of rest amidst otherwise busy days, I am reminded of the many blessings this week has brought and all that I am thankful for on this final Thursday of April:
  1. Spending the evening catching up with one of my very best friends over a delicious dinner.  We have known each other for nearly two decades and we've seen each other through the ups and downs of life: new found love and heart wrenching break ups; marriages and divorce; new life and death. We've laughed so hard we've cried and we've cried so hard we thought we might not stop. Her friendship is truly a blessing and I'm really thankful for the time we get to spend together.
    [Germany, June '05 - We've come along way since those beer stein days :-)] 
  2. Sunday family dinner. My dad, sister and I spent time in the kitchen together, catching up on the week and sharing the good and the bad. We laugh with each other and at each other, but it's always in the safety of knowing we are each loved exactly as we are. And no matter where we live, it always feels like home. 
  3. My dad has made a point of bringing us together just about every week and I'm thankful that he is so committed to our family. I couldn't ask for a more supportive and loving father.
  4. A very successful work meeting that left me feeling confident and ready to tackle another task!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

An Extraordinary Destiny

Learning to trust the Lord in all things, the good and the difficult, requires a conscious and continuous act of faith. It is recognizing that He is using every circumstance; every beginning, every ending, every moment of joy and every moment of pain to bring about His plan for our life. In trusting we can be filled with the hope of knowing that in our brokenness, God can prepare us for more than we ever thought possible. He is shaping us for an "extraordinary destiny."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Light in the Darkness (Thankful for So Much this Thursday)

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” 
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

What do you do when something happens that reminds you that you have no control, that terrifying things happen in our world everyday, that you can't protect your children or your loved ones from everything?

It seems that more and more we are reminded we are living in a fallen world. A world where bombs go off in our streets, people take the lives of innocent children, explosions devastate a quiet farming town and foreign leaders threaten war. I rarely watch the news because one, I don't want to expose my little ones to that fear and two, I don't want to expose myself to the constant negativity. However, I can't bury my head in the sand and pretend that terrible things don't happen all around, especially with things like those that have occurred recently.

So what do we do when faced with the sometimes scary reality of the world we live in today?  For me, I pray. I pray for restoration of our fallen world, I pray for protection over my loved ones, I pray for comfort and peace for those who've experienced unspeakable pain, I pray for courage, and I pray that God will be my strength when the tough times come.

I also remind myself to be thankful. When I watch my little ones sleeping peacefully, I thank God that they are safe in their beds. I thank God as I smell the scent of baby shampoo in the soft wisps of hair as my little girl snuggles in my lap. I thank Him as I watch the concentration on my son's face as we sit side by side working through his homework. I thank God for each new day that I'm given when so many haven't.

Finally, I'm asking God to use me to be a light shining His love in the darkness.  Because there are bad things happening every day, but there are also good things and I am called to be a part of that good.  I have been called to tell a different story than what the world does; to tell a story of hope, redemption and love.  I am committing to choose joy and hope even in the dark times, and in doing so, I will seek out ways to bring joy and hope to others.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Friendship. . ."That in Itself is a Tremendous Thing"

“Why did you do all this for me?' he asked. 'I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you.' 'You have been my friend,' replied Charlotte. 'That in itself is a tremendous thing.” 
~ E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

I have been so enjoying the warmer weather the last few weeks. It has allowed us to have evenings that include the kids playing in the breezeway with the neighbors. The older ones get excited as everyone pulls up from their days of school, work, etc. and they can't wait to run around like crazies until dinner time.

Last week my little miss, youngest of the bunch, approached the neighbor boy and quietly asked with a big grin on her face, "want to play?" Soon they were running back and forth, chasing the older ones. Their delighted laughter floated through the air, bringing a smile to my face.

As I watched my youngest ask for and make a friend, it had me thinking about how much simpler it would be if, as adults, we still approached making friends as we did when we were kids. When we were young, it seemed that we felt so much freer to be ourselves; to walk right up to someone and ask for a friend and for time together. No game playing, no what ifs, no bargaining - just the simple and open offer of ourselves, our time and our friendship.

At what age do we begin to lose that? When do we start second guessing ourselves or begin believing that offering just simply who we are as people isn't enough?  It can be far too easy to buy into the lie that to be accepted and loved we need to look a certain way, own the coolest gadgets, wear the right clothes, have the best job, have the nicest house, and the list can go on and on. 

I know that what draws me closer to my friends has nothing to do with what they own, wear or look like. It is the time we spend together, the ability to be myself with them, their honest acceptance of me and the knowledge that I'm doing the same in return.  I know that these are the things I dearly love about my friendships, yet I still at times find myself falling into the trap. 

I can let these mistruths fill my head with the belief that I have to pick out the perfect gift, have the perfect home or have the most well behaved children to be good enough.  Or I can ground myself in what I know to be true - that my identity is not wrapped up in where I work, what I look like or what I own. My identity is found in me being a beloved, chosen and intentionally designed daughter of God.

I think understanding my true identity allows me to approach my friendships knowing that offering myself is enough.  And when I know this, I believe that it allows me to be a better friend.

Because in the end, isn't that what most of us are looking for anyways? Someone who is willing to give of themselves as we do the same; the person to connect with, the people that know us.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thankful on a Thursday

Counting a few of my blessings this second Thursday of April:
  1. A relaxing and really enjoyable lunch time break spent with awesome company.
  2. A night out with great friends, filled with  delicious appetizers, margaritas, yummy desserts, catching up on life's happenings, and laughing so hard my side hurts.
  3. Yesterday was National Sibling Day and I am so thankful and appreciative of my amazing sister. Her friendship and support has been a lifeline during difficult times. Her fun-loving spirit has taken me on many adventures and great experiences in the last nearly three decades. Her intelligence and abilities are inspiring. The list could go on and on. I will never be able to say enough how thankful I am for her. God has blessed me with a sister who is also my best friend.
  4. The witty and comic words of other writers. This blog post had me laughing so hard that tears were rolling down my face, I honestly cannot remember the last time a story has made me laugh so hard. I'm very appreciative of the ability to laugh. It cannot be understated how great it can be during an otherwise stressful day!
  5. Beautiful, summer-like weather in the middle of April. It makes me want to run barefoot through the sprinklers with the sun on my back.  


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

You Are Here

I received an email newsletter this morning from the writer of one of my favorite blogs, Chatting at the Sky. Her blog is so encouraging and actually part of what motivated me to start my own. Today's newsletter focused on being courageous by admitting where you are at right now.

She writes, "when I'm honest about where I am, it loosens me up to receive grace and in turn, to give it." That Emily is one smart woman!

So I've been thinking a lot on this today; letting it sit, resonate and sink in. Where am I at right now?

I feel like I've been in a place of transition for a long time. At times I feel like I am in between identities; learning to let go of who I once was and not yet sure who I will become.

But I'm learning instead of trying to figure out who I will be one day or where this is all headed, I need to embrace who I am and where I am at today. I need to delight in what God is doing in me right now.  I need to find rest and courage in the knowledge that He purposefully designed me with qualities and quirks that will be used for His glory.

And maybe I even need to offer myself a bit of grace for not yet knowing how that will all look in the end and for making a few mistakes along the way.

I don't know what lies ahead or what I may encounter along the way. But I'm learning that is okay, because I am loved deeply by the One who is in control and does know how this all turns out. 

Where are you at today?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Conquering the Day Together

She's so excited he got to go with her to daycare this week; she adores her big brother.

We pull up outside and I help her out of the car first. As he climbs out the curb side she looks up and says, "do you need me to help you down?" Nevermind the fact he's twice her size and would probably smoosh her, she just knows that she loves him and she wants to help.

They hold hands while we cross the street. Her little girl hand in his big brother one. Together they are ready to conquer the world. I know that at times they will bicker, fight and drive each other crazy and in doing so, also drive me crazy.

But right now they're the best of friends. The world begins and ends with her big brother, and for him, he is her protector and buddy. He helps her into her shoes this morning and says to me with a smile, "I love being a big brother." My boy with a heart full of love and kindness.

I cherish these moments. I also make sure to get photo evidence. Because one day down the road when he's yelling at her to get out of his room or she's rolling her eyes at him, I'll call out "you know, you two do love each other. I know because I have proof!" :-)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Endings and Beginnings

I stand with my back to the door now closed, both in anticipation of what lies ahead and a final goodbye to what once was.  I am thankful that in and through all things God is working. I trust that God is good and I know that he loves me. And even when I don't understand what he is doing, he patiently and lovingly understands my questions and doubts, allowing me to lay them at his feet.

I don't know what the future holds, but I do know that as I enter each new chapter of my life, I am doing it in the arms of the one who "can do immeasurably more than I could ever ask or imagine."

"Look not mournfully into the past. It comes not back again. 
Wisely improve the present. It is thine.
Go forth to meet the shadowy future, without fear."
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Monday After

Easter quietly ended with children sleeping soundly in bed and the sound of rain hitting the windows. Before the little man fell asleep, he sadly said, "I don't want Easter to be over already." He had enjoyed the celebration so much he wasn't ready for it to end. Maybe we too can relate to that feeling, not yet willing to say goodbye to the day of celebration and triumphant victory over death.

So where do we go after the most holy of holy days; how do we carry the joy of Easter into the everyday?

For me on this Monday following resurrection Sunday, this first day of a new month and this morning washed clean by a night of rain – I will continue to celebrate the empty tomb and the peace it promises.

I will carry it forth by fearlessly living with the hope born out of this scandalous grace He so freely gives. Easter wasn't the end of the story, it was only the beginning. And because of that I can find comfort and strength in knowing:

When we feel we’ve fallen too far; God restores us to new heights.

When we feel weary and devoid of strength; God breathes new life into our dry bones.

When we feel like all is lost; God is a savior who makes all things found.

When we feel prisoners to our past regrets and mistakes; God breaks every chain and whispers promises of freedom.

When we mourn our shattered dreams; God is weaving together even bigger dreams for our lives than we can imagine.

When we feel broken beyond repair; God is making us whole.