Saturday, December 25, 2010

(last Christmas 2009...Great Papa Wally who passed away this summer and Great Gram Adeline with all of the great grandchildren)

Merry Christmas 2010!

Falling on my knees and so grateful that "...His law is love and his gospel is peace...and in His name all oppression shall cease..."

Jonah was up from 3 til 5 am. He couldn't sleep because he was so excited. I remember those days just like it was yesterday!!

Today I am thanking God for my precious blessings! How very grateful I am to have such a full life.

One day I am going to miss all of the chaos I'm sure!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tickled Pink

I have the most wonderful next door neighbors. They are so giving and gracious. "Mr. Nice Neighbor" has been blowing our leaves in the front yard since they started to fall a few weeks ago on a regular basis. Tonight as I was walking through the family room I glanced out the window and noticed him in the back, mowing the lawn and piling up the leaves. Immediately I was filled with embarrassment and humility. Embarrassed because we haven't made time to take care of our property and humbled just because he told me that he was-and I quote- "tickled pink to do it"

I wish that I could be just as "tickled pink" myself and happy to have such an amazing neighbor. Instead I am wracking my brain trying to figure out what I can do to make up for his sacrificed time and hard work.

In the same way I constantly try to "make it up" spiritually speaking. I have the hardest time accepting the grace that God has bestowed upon me. I feel as though I constantly need to pay Christ back for what He did on the cross for me. Whether it be through worship, obedience, sacrifice, etc. I really do believe that it becomes a vicious cycle like a hamster spinning in his little wheel that just leads nowhere but wastes a lot of time.

I will never ever be able to pay our God back for the ultimate sacrifice ever made. My pride, my humanity yearns to even up the score. Jesus assures me that the game has already been won and He has already done all of the work. The whole game has been played out and He has lead us, all of us who believe, into a triumphant victory.

So tonight I'm chewing on that in silence. I'm trying to swallow my competitive nature a bit and enjoy the freedom that He has granted me. And maybe, just maybe I'll become a little "tickled pink"!

Friday, November 5, 2010


Yesterday morning I woke up a few minutes early and took some time to pray and put the day in God's hands. I really felt a calming peace throughout my testing day. My mom and I along with Ayla hit the highway to a mall about 45 minutes away. Ayla was abnormally quiet and has had a little cold so I figured she was sleepy. About 10 minutes from our destination, she threw up all over her coat that was on her lap. This isn't the first time she has gotten car sick, poor baby. She was totally fine after that and thankfully the mess was only on her jean jacket and not on her. After our quick trip to the mall we had a nice lunch but it was filled with garlic. On our way home, my stomach started gurgling. Ayla fell asleep and by the time we pulled up in my driveway I really had to go! Jonah likes to call what happened next in my pants a "Hershey squirt". Needless to say I had a pretty crappy, pukey day! Yet throughout it all I felt God's hand holding mine and reassuring me that He was in control of all of the messes not only in my day but also in my life.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Change of Seasons

Autumn has been filled with much change. The leaves have slowly turned from bright greens into vibrant rusts, reds and golden amber tones. Every fall I sense a time of change not only with the seasons but with myself as well. For me, it's a time to reflect on where I've been and where I'm going.

Sorrow has encompassed my soul these last couple of weeks. My 89 year old grandma passed away. She had been inflicted with Alzheimer's disease the last 10 years or so of her life but was able to live at home because my single uncle stayed with her and helped care for her. This loss is the closest one I've ever experienced. My gram and I were pretty close. I grew up three doors down the street from her and being that she was a widow, I was able to spend the night and visit whenever I wanted. She always had the best food and sweets galore. She filled my visits with stories of her life. She grew up in Eastern Kentucky on a farm. I loved listening to her talk about her childhood. I have missed her for the last 10 years but now I will miss seeing her precious smile and holding her red-weathered hands. I loved her so much and know that she loved me deeply. I was so fortunate to have known her.

Grandma had a life filled with tragedy. She lost her firstborn when he was 4 to Spinal Meningitis. He died in his room at home with my great-grandmother next to his side. Another son was killed in the Vietnam War. My dad still remembers the Marine officers who came knocking on the door while my grandma was carrying a load of clothes. She immediately dropped the laundry basket and started to weep, knowing what they were coming to tell her, the worst news she could imagine. She somehow managed to continue on, taking care of the rest of her children, caring for them and raising them, all 7. My grandfather was hit and killed by a train on his way to the local automobile plant where he worked when he was only 54 years old. Gram told me that the night before he died, he was changing a light bulb in the kitchen and he asked her,

"What would you do without me around here Esta?"

I'm sure she never dreamed that she would have to live out the answer to that simple question.

My uncle and his three boys moved in with my Gram when they were young for about a year or so. Six years later my cousin who was 16 at the time ran his car off of the road and into a tree. He died later that night at the hospital. Grandma had to bury another loved one who was much too young to die.

My grandma knew sorrow. She was all too familiar with loss. She was the strongest woman I have ever known who faced each day filled with a faith that I could only dream of ever attaining. When asked how she could endure so much tragedy in one lifetime, Gram would always reply,

"If it wasn't for the Lord, I don't know what I'd do."

God granted her with a peace that was unexplainable yet undeniable.

Often times, I try to replace emptiness with peace. Lately I realize that just because I feel empty or lonely doesn't mean that I am without peace. As a matter of fact when I am completely emptied and alone is when God's peace can most abound. This is when I can embrace his grace-filled hand and cling on because I have no where else to turn or look but upward.

I have been so blessed to be surrounded by so much love from wonderful friends and family these last few weeks. Different souls who I cherish dearly, have given up precious time with their families and just been there for me. For that I am extremely grateful and have been reminded of how important it is to love unselfishly at all times. Because isn't that what it's all about? Loving like God loved us? Sacrificing precious time in my little comfortable world for those around me. Because if I can't display love to those I call beloved how can I even begin to love the unlovely?

As winter approaches and change is in the air, I hope to turn around some areas of my life that are in dire need of changing. Just as the leaves begin to brown and wither and drift to the ground I hope to die to my old selfish ways. As the wind blows each leaf from every tree, I pray that God's breath will blow through my soul and empty it of everything that is inhibiting me from displaying His love to those around me. Because only when I am completely empty can God's Spirit move in and beautifully quench the dryness of my thirsty soul.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Not So Pretty Presents

Our family has been on the run and in dire need of a day off with no obligations. Today we missed church but had a little devotional time around our kitchen counter instead. I asked the boys to write down three things that they were thankful to God for.

Micah's list was:

1. Mom
2. Dad
3. Grandma

I asked him to consolidate the three into one since we all are "family" so the final draft read:

1. Family
2. Shoes
3. Love


"I'm thankful for myself. I'm thankful for my friends. I'm thankful for my family and Jesus and shelter."

Naturally like my boys I tend to thank God for the good in my life (and Micah happens to LOVE shoes like his mommy). Rarely do I thank Him for adversity or hardships. Of course I call out to Him in the midst of troubled times but how often do I actually praise Him in the storm?

Today I shared from James 1:2-3 with my little ones,
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (NIV)

The Message states the same couple of verses,
"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way."

I memorized part of James when I was ten years old and in bible quizzing. I have had these verses tucked away in my mind for 22 years but today I was reminded of them in a whole new way. So often I want to weasel my way out of hardships or pray them out of my life. But maybe God is maturing and developing my faith in certain situations and He is not done using them to refine my faith to a deeper level. Maybe I should start to look at the pressures of life and trials that come my way as big shiny packages tied up with beautiful ribbons instead of burdens that weigh me down and hinder me. Like a competitive athlete who wants to succeed and win the game I could begin to have the attitude of "Bring It On!"

"...If God is for me, who can be against me?" Romans 8:31

Not only do I want God's will for my life, I want to do life with God. Sometimes His presents aren't so pretty. Nevertheless I am told to be joyful and thankful for enduring and persevering through rough waters. Thankfully I am not alone while wading through the waves. The hand of my Savior is grasping my scared, shaking hand and God's peaceful Spirit is calming my every fear each step of the way.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Quality Time

Seems as though summer has flown by as usual. I've been trying to play catch-up on my days off and have become consumed with getting the laundry done and picking up the house instead of enjoying the beautiful weather and quality time with my precious kiddies. So the last few days I have decided to rebel against an orderly house and just enjoy our time together for the rest of the summer. Last week we went swimming two days in a row and yesterday we took a trip to the zoo. (I lost my camera battery so I had to take pictures on my phone. Hopefully I'll figure out how to load them on the computer.) The temperature was high and filled with humidity so the animals were mostly napping. However the kids still loved it and I have to admit that I did too!

Summer has been good to us. Micah is learning to ride a two wheeler even though he does not want to and reminded me when I made him that it was a free country, you know! We have a short two weeks off between baseball and hockey. Joe and I don't know what to do with ourselves. It's been nice though. The boys have enjoyed fishing with their daddy. As a matter of fact they are going tonight.

All three of my children love spending time with us at this point in their lives. I know it won't always be that way but constantly each one of them is willing and ready to do anything with either Joe or me. Lately Ayla has been wanting to dance with "Prince Charming" otherwise known as "daddy". She begs him to twirl, dip and hold her. When daddy is done she pleads, "more, more!" Micah is pretty self-sufficient but loves to play baseball out back and wants us to pitch to him. Joe is giving guitar lessons to Jonah and the lesson is never ever long enough. I can't remember a time when any of my kids were wanting to stop an activity with me before I do.

As God's child am I that interested in yearning for quality time like that with Him? Do I beg my Heavenly Father to hold me in his arms and keep me there? Or am I too distracted with earthly things that I want Him to let me down? All too often I forget that God is so unlike me as a parent. He never puts a time limit on our encounters. He is constantly there waiting with arms wide open for me to run into. How thankful I am that God is ever faithful to me when I am not to Him. What a good reminder of how I should be more like my children are with me, to my God. And how I should strive to be more like God is with me, to my children.

Forgive me Lord for life's distractions causing my eyes to wander from you. Thank you for never letting me go even when I want to wiggle away. Help me yearn to dwell with you alone. Amen

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Second Journey

Where does the time go?

I can't believe that today was the last day of 1st and 3rd grades for my boys. An array of emotions have rushed through me throughout the last several hours. I am so happy that summer has begun and just plain astonished that the boys are growing so fast.

I don't know how the last few months have gotten away with me! Hockey is over and baseball has begun! The boys also had their very first piano recital last week. They both did amazing! Micah played "Singing In the Rain" and Jonah played "Rock Around the Clock". Both of them walked right up to the piano, sat down and knocked it out, no qualms about it! I sat back and soaked it all in. They made me a proud mama.

My children never cease to astound me. They fill up my heart with such joy. I am thrilled and excited to have them home for the summer.

We leave for our annual vacation the day after tomorrow. I am reminded of when I started writing this blog almost two years ago when my husband wasn't able to come with us. I am so thankful that we are all able to go as a family together this year. So easily I forget how grateful I should be for that!

As I prepare for this vacation I am reminded of my spiritual trek. Recently I have learned that a lot of people come to a fork in the road between the ages of 30 and 60 where they realize that everything they have been working towards in life just returns void. Whether it be success, material goods, happiness or a perfect little family that was the goal, when achieved the satisfaction was just not quite there. Some people refer to what happens as a "mid-life crisis". What follows is referred to in a book I'm reading as the "Second Journey" in life.

Circumstances and spiritual awakenings in my soul have prompted me to this time in my own life. I feel like God is calling me to begin a new walk with Him. As I take the first steps I feel Him asking me to throw off all of the garbage that has been crippling my walk and weighing me down. I hear His gentle voice urging me to cast all of my baggage upon Him. He whispers to me,

"Remember I suffered for this. I bled for all of it. Every inch of your sin. I died for it, remember? It's mine, not yours. I paid the price, over 2000 years ago. Why are you holding onto any bit of it and lugging it around like it's yours to carry? Don't you remember? I defeated death and rose on the third day, all for you and your sin. Because your Father in Heaven loved you more than you'll ever fathom. How can you lug around this burden, this guilt? Don't you trust me? Don't you feel my love? My grace? My victory over death? I didn't die in vain so why are you treating me like I did? Let it go. Cast all of your cares upon me, that's what I died for!"

And so it begins, this second journey we'll call it. Today I take the first step of faith toward my all forgiving, mercy abounding Jesus who calls me God's adopted daughter. I will trust that He will not let go of my hand as I reach up.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

His Rescue

On this Easter weekend I have been reminded that Christ who is my complete pardon and access to the Father died on a cross to allow me and all of creation a chance to completely die to ALL of my sin!! Through his resurrection I have been rescued and made ALIVE in him. He came so that I might have life and have it more ABUNDANTLY!! His grace is unfathomable and the freedom that I have in my precious redeeming Savior is what I cling to.

I will never ever be good enough on my own, how thankful I am for God's amazing grace!!

When the enemy throws guilt in my face-I think of my one true love's blood soaked face from the razor sharp thorn of crowns that he wore.

And he did it...all for me.

When the proud and arrogant scoff at me-I think of the rowdy crowd mocking him, insulting and degrading him.

And he did it...all for me.

When shame and embarrassment engulf me-I think of his stripped-down body that was whipped and ripped apart.

And he let them do it...all for me.

When this thorn in my side attacks my life-I think of the knife that was jabbed into his side slowly shutting down each of his vital organs.

And he let them do it...all for me.

When shouts of anger spew from my tongue-I think of a whisper uttered from his lips, "It is finished".

And he said it...all for me.

He denied the grave, victoriously he rose again to allow me complete freedom from anything that would separate me from my Heavenly Father.

Once again I will shout,
How thankful I am for God's amazing grace!!! Without Jesus and his ransom that he paid for my very soul I would and will NEVER EVER be good enough!!

Now that's something to talk about!!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Showing Up

I rented "The Soloist" the other night On-Demand. First of all, what an amazing movie! I love watching movies based on true events and I did a little researching of my own and came to realize that the movie was very accurate. Mr. Nathaniel Anthony Ayers is a paranoid schizophrenic living on the streets of Los Angeles. Mr. Steven Lopez is a columnist for the LA Times who happens to come across Nathaniel playing the violin in the park. Always looking for a good story, Steve is intrigued by Mr. Ayers who obviously is homeless and a virtuoso all at the same time. Steve finds out that Nathaniel studied at The Julliard School in 1970 but dropped out. Mr. Lopez not only begins a column on Nathaniel but he also begins a friendship with him as well. A friendship that he later will refer to as

"the most meaningful friendship of my life, the one that I've learned the most from..."

Lopez tries to help Ayers. He gives him new instruments to play. music lessons and tries to get him to live in an apartment instead of the streets. But Mr. Ayers doesn't want to change. Unfortunately his illness keeps him from living a normal life and when his life as he knew it was compromised, he couldn't handle it. In the movie Nathaniel becomes physically violent with Steve at times and flies off the handle with fits of rage. Lopez receives some very good advice that I haven't been able to get out of my mind. His colleague who happens to be his ex-wife says to him,

"You can't heal Nathaniel, just be his friend and show up!"

There were many references to grace in the movie. I couldn't help but be saddened and emotionally drained as I watched the homeless people living in the streets. So many of them are mentally-ill. In researching the real-life Nathaniel I found out that he went through electric-shock therapy at a young age and refuses any type of medication now.

Sometimes there are people in my life who I feel need to be "healed". It could be a number of different things that I think they need delivered from but nonetheless they need to be changed in my opinion. And when the chips are down and everything is all out on the table and all parties have heard my opinions and know what I believe and why I believe it, sometimes I think God is calling me to,

" a friend and show up!"

because I am not going to heal anyone.

There was only one healer and his name is Jesus Christ.

As a follower of Christ I am called to love the loveless.

Show hope to the hopeless.

Be a friend to the friendless.

Be there when somebody needs you, even if you know that you're not going to "change" or "heal" them.

In other words,


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Presence in the Panic

The summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school I decided to sign up for the diving team. My cousin, Andrea, who was more like a sister urged me to join her in this new venture. Always loving gymnastics and the Summer Olympics I agreed to give it a whirl and while most of our friends were snoozing we would wake up early every weekday morning in the chilly Michigan air and practice up at our local pool with one of the swimming coaches. Beginning a sport at the age of sixteen is definitely a challenge but with great effort I got through the season and surprisingly learned all of the different dives that were required to earn a varsity letter. Some dives were a little nerve-wracking but I found it fun and rewarding. The following year,when I became a senior, is when everything changed.

We started practice in August and quite a few months had passed since I stepped foot on the board so getting back into the groove was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated. But I was determined and muddled through for about a month.

And then one late, dark September night the phone rang and from the other end came horrible news. My cousin, Jason, had been driving home from work and ran off the road right into a tree, totaling his car he had to be pulled out by the jaws of life. He was on life-support but brain dead and his dad told us that he was going to pull the plug. Jason passed away leaving behind two siblings, both brothers, one his twin. We went to a heart-wrenching funeral and buried my sixteen year old cousin. This horrific event triggered a fear inside of me that I had never experienced prior.

Every time I would get up on the diving board to do practically any of the eleven different dives that I practiced, all I could see in my mind was my forehead banking off of the hard board. I pictured blood pouring out of me and could actually see myself floating in the water. Panic and fear would rip through my whole being. My heart felt like it was pounding out of my chest and my stomach had butterflies fluttering around a million miles per minute. This was the first of many panic-attacks to come throughout my life.

Just the other day my mom asked me if she thinks that I could ever dive again. I told her that I could absolutely NOT!!! I would be so scared!! We talked about it and that very night I had a dream that I was a senior in high school and back at practice. It was one of those dreams that seemed so real. My coach was there and my friends. I even told Joe about it when I woke up.

The next evening my mom and I, Jonah and Ayla were having dinner out at our favorite restaurant and the head coach of the Swimming and Diving team happened to walk in with his wife. I hadn't seen him for a number of years. I went over to him and said hello and told him about my crazy dream.

With Christmas this past month my anxiety level has been through the roof to a new place that I didn't even know existed.

Furthermore, I think God is trying to convey something to me. He has helped me to recollect the very first time I felt out of control and washed over with fear and He is reminding me that He was right there with me holding my hand just as He is right now. He hasn't let go and He won't! When I am out of control, He is in control. I don't believe that He allowed and allows me to suffer through this without a purpose. Maybe I will always struggle with this anxiety and panic.

But I won't live through it alone and helpless.

I have an ever-present, omnipotent, all-knowing, all-loving, never-turning, life-breathing, mercy-showing, , unfailing, tear-washing, always restoring, ever-faithful in His redeeming GOD at my side!!!!

Psalm 91:1&2
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, "He is my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."