Be careful what you ask for. God just might be listening and just might answer your hearts desires. Which is where I find myself these days. For 12+ years I sat on my kids rope swing that I somehow managed to affix to the large oak tree in our backyard. I miss it more than the house if I am honest. Tears were shed on that swing, prayers were whispered on that swing, desires poured out to God on that swing, babies were lulled on that swing, and laughter was shared on that swing. Whenever I am feeling overwhelmed, day-dreamy, or want to feel close to God, I think back to that old swing. Fall afternoons leaning back staring up into the newly changing leaves, listening as they gently fall to the ground, warm summer evenings swaying back and forth hoping for some sort of breeze, crisp,spring mornings swaying about staring at the white blossoms on the old dogwood tree . It was my refuge from the days worries , a safe place to think, and a familiar old friend that God comforted me through in life's ups and downs. How many requests to Him were given in that space. And day by day, little by little, He answered them. We transformed that house into a home and God transformed our family into something beautiful as well. Then one day the biggest request was finally answered. And when God answers a prayer He goes all the way. We sold our home for asking price in 3 weeks. The 3rd family to look at it made an offer. And within 1 month we were offered 3 jobs in San Antonio . So off we went. All 7 of us and the our beloved dog Redd. We packed the whole house ourselves, sold everything that was not worth moving, loaded up 3 cars and the truck and headed off for our new adventure. We didn't even have a home to live in , or know what schools the kids would go to, or what the future held. But we knew one thing, if God was able to get us this far why even bother worrying . Would He start us on a journey and then leave us in the dust? I learned to completely let go and never doubt what He was capable of, as long as it was in His will and His plan and His timing. We had tried things our way and that usually did not end up well. So yes waiting 12+ years was extremely hard, and letting go of control was hard, and learning to have hope again was hard but when I look back it was actually the easiest thing ever. So now I find myself starting all over again. New state, new city, new environment, new neighbors, new schools, new weather, new home, new church, new job, new circumstances, new blessings. This is where we have been planted and there is where we will blossom. To say I am a little overwhelmed would be an understatement. A whole new house to make a "home" again. Am I up to the task? I am not as young as I was , entering into my 40's has been an adventure all on its own. New obstacles, new demands, lots and lots of changes. But isn't that what life is about? Always evolving, always changing, always the ability to start fresh each and every single day, to continuously "become" new. More blessings than you can count on all your fingers and toes. Watching my children become something beautiful as well. and rediscovering my husband can and is my best-friend. Someone to experience all that life has and all these new adventures together. What can I say about starting over, but that it is yet another new chapter to capture and document. Never forgetting where we started and how much more there is to experience. So maybe its time to put up a new swing in our new backyard, and create new memories. Never be afraid to start over and never be afraid to ask for more. But through it all never forget to be thankful and enjoy the starting over.
Lets face it. We all love a good "before and after". Seeing something ugly, disorganized, and chaotic turned into a beautiful thing. But what does it take to get to that point? How much hard work will it be? Is it worth it in the end? Will I even like the end result? For me it was simply letting go. Letting go of controlling and maintain my mess, my chaos, my dysfunction, my control over things I really never had control over in the first place. I had to allow God to step in. To take stock of all that I had held onto, to clear it all out, to separate truths from falsities, to throw away what was trash, to clean up and organize what was treasure, and begin to heal the broken pieces. Those pieces of thoughts and feelings and gifts and talents that have been muddled, wasted, disregarded, or unknown all these years. It's true we are born with certain character traits and dispositions, but that does not have to define us completely. We have the ability each and every day to renew our minds and be that person we so longingly strive to become. Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. Old things have passed away, and look, all things are becoming new. Are you becoming new every day? Are we truly allowing Gods truths to permeate every aspect of our lives in order to become an "after"? A beautiful re-do, a glorious renovation, a sought after "before and after"? What is your "before and after"? What legacy will you leave behind and what message do you have to share with others? As I am attempting this new chapter in life of blogging, Instagram, tweeting, etc. what message do I have to share? Is there value in any of it? Is there a purpose? Will I impact even ones persons day and encourage them to dig deeper? Fight the good fight, run the race, do the hard work, but in it all letting God be in complete control. So at the end of each day He receives the praise and we can hear Him say. "Job well done, good and faithful servant". Happy Friday everyone, now go and show the world your "after".
Nothing like waking up one morning and realizing that half of what you have decorated your home with just isn't you anymore. Was it ever ? Was I going with the crowd? What was popular or trending? Was I trying to fit into the home and environment we lived in at the time? Or am I finally figuring out what makes me "me"? How easy it is to forget how far God has brought me and my family. He we are in a wonderful city , in a wonderful state, in a wonderful community, and in a wonderful home. The fact that I was even minutely upset really got to me and I had to sit back and reassess my attitude and the whole situation. It is uniquely human nature to move forward in our lives, as we strive for more, to forget where we once were. Our very first apartment was in San Diego. My husband was in school in the navy. I was fresh, and I mean fresh, out of high school. My husband already had debt and I had not a clue what to do with finances. Our apartment was so bare bones that we didn't even own a couch or dining room table. All I had was my bedroom furniture from home. We used big moving boxes draped with fabric for tables. How funny looking back at that time. I didn't even care. We were always out at the beach or driving around the vineyards of California. We were just too young and carefree to really care. Then we got pregnant, fairly quickly I might add, and new orders to move back to Virginia. So we said goodbye to that little place and started our new family adventure all the way on the other side of the country. We rented a 2 bedroom duplex and the "nesting" began. Slip covers on moms old love seat hand me down, wallpaper borders and sponge painted walls, vain attempts of various crafting ideas, and a gazillion trips to thrift stores and garage sales. Then my husband had the bright idea that we should move to his hometown for a spell. Fast forward2 years after living there and I found myself having a garage sale, in his mothers driveway, only able to keep my personal items and photos, because we just couldn't make it there. I gave away everything. It was one of the hardest and best lessons I had ever learned. Things are replaceable but memories and people are not. We started all over again back in Virginia. I cleaned house for a woman dying of cancer who lived in absolute filth and bought new "used furniture" and found a little home to rent. I poured my heart into that house. Fixing up the bathroom and kitchen, painting every square inch of every wall, and creating a "home" for my ever growing family. Then the opportunity to buy our first home happened. And it was a fixer uppers dream. The really awful house, with really awesome potential, in the really good neighborhood that you didn't think you could really afford. Oh but if we only knew what we had gotten ourselves into. 12 years of our lives were absorbed into that home. Everything, and I mean everything, had to be replaced , re-figured, reworked, refit, restructured, etc. We learned so much during that time. We grew in ways I never imagined we could. And through it all I was never truly happy there. Nor were my kids or my husband. But when the time was right and our thoughts and attitudes were right the opportunities opened up. And now I find myself once again in a new house. Ready to take it head on and make it a "home". So what if nothing is exactly right, so what if I have finally figured out what works best for me and have to start from scratch, so what if there's a long list of to-dos. When am I going to realize that this is all part of the journey. This is part of growing. This is all part of the fun. This is where all the new memories are made in this chapter. God sees my desire to make beautiful spaces and has gifted me with a whole new project. One that will fill days, weeks, months, and years. So its not all about 3 day renovations on steroids. It a process. A joy. A delight. A journey. An adventure. If I just change my heart and attitude and learn to live within the story.
Motherhood for me has been my saving grace. I was, quite simply, a mess. But the moment I ushered in that new life all my focus, attention, and energy finally had an outlet. Of course I didn't have a clue about what I was doing, but the journey was enjoyable and learning was the fun part. Just when I was familiar with and completely enamored with my first child we were pregnant again. I'll never forget asking myself, "how on earth will I have enough love for another human? Will I love them just as much as the first?" And then the day comes and never again are those thoughts pondered or those words spoken. Each and every little life just as awesome as the the one before. I could not understand how I was honored with such a gift. To raise these sweet babies into functioning, loving, God honoring individuals. To mold and form their hearts and minds is such a weighty task. Who am I to mess that up? To not take the task seriously? To not allow it to be priority number one from the day they entered this world . In me was the responsibility to set the foundations, place the boundaries, mold their character, and then set them free. God, what task have you set before me? Will I look back on my life and see that all of the heartache, all of the worry, the prayers, the long talks before bed, the tears poured out in the quiet of my bedroom, all of the laughter and silly games played, sponge bob and veggies tales videos watched till were blue in the face, play dough smeared into the carpet, puzzles made and video games played for hours on end, bicycle rides and water park slides, late night school projects being finished, cups of coffee and hot chocolate fulled conversations, chicken nugget fast food trips, summer camp drop offs, Sunday morning worship and intimate talks about the love of God poured out for them will all be worth it? Can the love of a parent even be contained or rightly expressed? Am I coming close to touching the tip of the ice burg of expressing it accurately? Will I take each and every day and moment to add to their life in a positive way? Will they look back and see my heart poured out for them? Will they know all I want it to see them prosper in this life? To live! To fulfill their God given desires and destiny. To experience all that life has to offer and not take one day for granted. What a monumental feat set before us as parents. What a stark reminder that God feels exactly the same way towards us as we do towards our children. If we love this much , then how much more does He love us?
So for years I was pining and dreaming and planing about starting life anew somewhere, anywhere, besides Norfolk,Va. We had finished that chapter of our life living there. I didn't think I could stand another day or second there. I was grateful to God for all we had gone through and learned while we were there. Having been a Christian my whole life but never really getting to know the depth of God until I was stuck. Stuck in a home that was never quite right, stuck in a community that was never quite right, stuck in a school system that was never quite right. I mean even the weather was depressing. I often refer to that time as my "Babylon". God had me there for a reason and protected me and nurtured me through it but I always knew it was temporary. Or so I prayed that it was. Always wanting the easy road to travel, He taught me some of the hardest and most precious life lessons ever in that house. Lessons that shaped me, molded me, and changed me (for the better I believe) forever. I'll never forget the day I was upstairs, in the middle of resurfacing every single wall with plaster, and I heard in my spirit a word from Him. As I smeared layer after layer of plaster and then came back to sand every single imperfection, He shed light on my future. You see, if you angle the light just right on a plaster wall it can look beautiful, seamless, and without imperfection. But change the angle and intensity of the light and all the imperfections become just too obvious. And isn't that how we are? If we angle the light just right in our lives and minds and manipulate our surroundings, everything can look pretty good. But turn up the brightness and change our direction towards God and allow Him to shed His light on us and you will soon discover every scar, crack, unfinished seem and places of emptiness. So, the sanding (which we all hate if we are honest) began, and as I took my light and placed it close to every flawed area, I was able to re-patch it , smooth it out, and sand down the lumps and bumps. He whispered ever so softly, in that way that He only can, that while I am in the process of patching up these walls and my life there are areas that He still needed to work on, smooth over, and unfortunately sand . And so He did. Some of the most painful and joy-filled years of my life, my husbands life, and my children's life happened under that little roofed house. The one with only 1 bathroom for 7 people. The one that was always freezing in the cold Virginia winters and sweltering in the muggy, humid, dog days of summer. The one that never seemed to allow for a beautiful yard because of the awful condition of the soil. The one with the smallest kitchen and bathroom ever put into a home. The one with awful floors that never looked fresh and new. Then, as if by a miracle, all that changed. As I began to change , my family began to change, and our little home with all its imperfections began to change. And one by one and day by day our plans and dreams fell into place. All our hard work was was producing fruit. Never underestimate the power of healing and progression that God can produce in your life. Even when you think you are a finished work, He can take you places you only dared to dream about. Allow Him to shed His light on you.