My Birthday with My People

This past weekend  Last October, I celebrated my birthday! (This post got tucked away and never published, so here it is.)  I absolutely love birthdays and look forward to my own all year long.  After the year I’ve had, I was especially excited about my birthday.  This year has felt like more of an accomplishment than most years have and I could hardly wait to celebrate it and begin a new year.  
Well, life happened and my people weren’t able to celebrate with me for a variety of reasons.  I was pretty bummed and, I’ll admit, grumpy and unkind.  A lady from church heard that I didn’t have anything planned for my birthday and decided to get a group together to celebrate with me.  I was hesitant, not sure what to expect of a thrown-together-the-night-before birthday gathering, but I was really just glad to have something to do.  
The day consisted of eight other ladies and two sweet littles.  We chatted, drank tea, walked around town, went into some cute shops, and laughed.  It was such a sweet time with people that I just love.  Most of the ladies that came had walked with me through this past year in different ways and it was so precious to me that it was this specific group of ladies that gathered around me and loved me well on my birthday.  These people are my people, they are the ones I cry with, laugh with, cook with, clean with, they are the friends whose homes I show up at late at night, early in the morning, or unannounced, they are the friends that make time to love me in tangible ways and let me know them and share their lives with them.  I’m so grateful for these people that just overflowed my cup on my birthday.  They are my favorites! 

It’s been a while

It’s been a while since I’ve put words to my thoughts.  Sometimes that task just feels too hard.  Sometimes I feel like if I jump into the biggest of hard places, I’ll never find my way back out.  These are just feelings though because I know that if I dig down deep I’ll find the strength to face the hardest parts and I know that the strength I find will not be my own, but will be that of my mighty Savior.  He can trudge through my mess and pull me along to the other side, no matter how far away that may be

In the hardest hard places of life there is hope.  My sweetest friend in college would challenge me to find God’s tangible love in each day.  This friend was remarkably gifted at asking questions and when she asked me each week how God tangibly loved me, I felt like she was asking to know me in the deepest way.  I’ll be honest, I have not looked for God’s graces in this way in so long.  If she asked me today how I’ve seen God tangibly love me, I would be ashamed to admit that instead I have chosen the scavenger hunt of despair.  I have spent more days than not the last several months picking out the worst parts of my hard to complain about and wallow in.  This week though, I was reminded of the importance of finding the gifts, the graces, the tangible loving of my God.

Here are some joys:
-The sweet hugs from my guy
-My guy asking for a back-scratch or head-scratch (he told a friend this summer that he likes back-scratches even more than chocolate…this is huge for my sweet-tooth of a husband)
-God’s timing in bringing us friends in this stage of life, incredible lifer friends
-Encouraging words from others at the perfect moments
-Venues like this, my journal, crafting, and chatting that are therapeutic for my heart
-Littles, watching sweet littles run around make my heart happy
-A new-found love of reading
-Dairy-free baked goods that taste great
-Colorado Sunsets

Beggars can’t be Choosers

Lord, Soften my heart, change my attitude, and grow me in the grace and knowledge of you.  Help me to respond to frustrating situations with a soft answer and to not stir up wrath.  Give me a forgiving spirit and a heart that follows hard after you.  Teach me and mature me through your word.  Help me to believe true things and live the truths that you teach me.  I want to act justly, I want to love mercy, and Jesus, I want to walk humbly with you.

Have you ever asked for something only to be dissapointed with the way that you received what you asked for?  That’s where I’ve been, as of late.  I’ll ask for patience, but I hate the situations God gives me to grow more patient.  I’ll ask for a forgiving spirit, but try to ignore God’s tug on my heart to forgive those that are hard to forgive.  I’ll even start to wonder why I continue encountering situations that force me to stretch myself, and then I remember that these situations are gifts and graces from my precious Savior.  He hears the cries of my heart and answers.  He wants me to grow in the grace and knowledge of Him and like most growth, it is accompanied with growing pains.

Today, I pulled up the next Adventures in Odyssey episode, and almost decided to skip it because the topic felt convicting.  The Holy Spirit tugged on my heart until I prayed for a soft, teachable spirit and began the adventure.  My heart is not soft yet, but I can tell that God is chipping away at the tough, hardened mess that is my heart right now.

It all reminds me of when I helped demo the youth house at church.  There were random fireplaces and built-in brick planters throughout the house.  It took hours of chipping away at the brick and stone until it was comletely gone.  God is swinging the sledge-hammer at my heart until it is cleaned out and softened.  As I worked with my clay this evening, I had pieces that are a few years old and I also had brand new clay.  The older the ball of clay, the harder it is to mold and shape.  My Jesus is my potter and I am His clay.  The longer I hold on to my sin and my hurt, the harder my heart becomes.  I am ready for my Potter to begin softening this clay so that it becomes easier to be shaped by Him.

Jesus, Thank you for the work that you are doing in my life.  I pray that You will continue to chip away at my heart and soften this clay of Yours.  Forgive my stubborness and help me to not complain for the ways that you choose to grow me.  I want to accept the gifts you give me, especially the hard gifts that are answers to my pleas.  Thank you for answering my begs and pleas and for the gifts you give to help me grow.

Gifts:

The Holy Spirit and His convicting nudges on my heart

The way that God allows a truth I need to learn to seep into my heart from a variety of sources

A forgiving Savior to model

A forgiving husband to lead me in the lifestyle of grace and forgiveness

Worship music to praise His name and to cry out to Him

Encouraging women to give life to my soul

Sweet littles to cuddle and hold

Special birthday blessings, treats, and surprises

Each day I get with the ones I love most

Digital Date Nights with Lovey

Clean Laundry

Braided Hair

Painted Nails

Pinterest Inspiration

Adventures in Odyssey Episodes online for free

The Anticipation of Exciting things to come

The opportunities for my sweet husband following graduation and the opportunity to support him and sacrifice my desires for him

Cuddles with my sweet Lovey and a relaxing birthday weekend

Our Church Family that we’ve grown up around

Creativity

Chick-fil-a dates for nearly free with our first 100 passes

Painting

Christmas Music

Playing Games

Warm, Snuggly Blankets on Crisp, Snowy Mornings

Chilly, Snowy October days mixed in with Warm, Sunny afternoons and the occasional, ‘typical’ fall day in the 60’s with a little sun and crisp air

Our amazing wedding video that captures our day so well that I re-watch ALL the time

A best friend and kindred spirit

Getting to see my husband every day of the week for a while \?

What-if?

As we plan our future together, we are filled with so many emotions. I, for one, am filled with mixed emotions, but what’s new? Ha! I am overwhelmed with excitement while at the same time consumed with fear. We are considering the military right now and many of my fears are rooted in very real, scary possibilities. However, God is calling me to follow him in faith and NOT in fear. I can dwell on the frightening ‘what-ifs,’ or I can choose to walk in faith that God is calling me to a life of forward motion trusting in His promise to never leave me nor forsake me. Today I heard an encouraging word from a friend regarding fear vs. faith; she talked about how fear and faith are 180 degrees away from each other. When you walk in faith, you have your back turned on fear (and the same is true vice a versa) and you cannot move forward in fear and in faith at the same time. I have a choice to make every moment of every day. I have to take every fearful thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and choose to walk in faithful obediance to Christ.

These thoughts of fear and faith have swirled through my mind on and off all day, but didn’t penetrate my heart until this evening. In the midst of researching this career path, I was met with even more fear, worry, anxiety, and discouragement. I started to play out all sorts of unlikely ‘what-if’ situations in my mind and even called my sweet husband at the height (or low point) of my emotional downward spiral. I felt distraught and out of control. He lovingly encouraged me and I started to become rational again. I hung up the phone calmer, but no more at peace with the situation than when I had dialed. It was then that I turned to facebook (what can possibly be more encouraging than seeing a glorified, filtered version of the lives of your 500 closest friends?). Fortunately I happened upon a post from one of my oldest and dearest friends who had just shared scripture that I read in a new light (Psalm 139: 7-12). As the Psalmist asks, ‘What-if I ascend to heaven?’ I see the Lord answering, “I am there.” and another fear ‘But what-if I dwell in the lowest parts of the sea?’ followed by another reassuring “I am there.” So steady. So true. I read it again and begin my prayer with my everpresent savior. “God, What if I can’t reach my husband? What-if my sweet guy doesn’t come home? What-if I’m lonely? What-if I have to sit at the funeral of my precious hero?” I pause. I know the answer, but my heart is afraid. I turn away from the fear and move forward in faith. My heart meditates on His answer repeatedly. Less shakily each time. I hear His voice, “I am there.” “Lord, thank you that whatever ‘what-if’ situation, my fearful soul can contrive, your answer will never change… You are there.

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.” Psalm 139: 7-12

Check out this song from one of my favorite, encouraging artists (I NEVER leave Your hands):

Gifts:
-The way God used multipe social media outlets to minister to my heart
-Dreams of a future with my sweet K
-Encouragement through Song
-Encouragement through Scripture
-Old, dear friends
-Facebook’s ability to keep hearts connected when distance separates
-Cake date night with my sweet K despite the distance between us
-God’s everpresent help and comfort
-The bigger picture that only He can see
-His ability to help me take every thought captive
-Psalms

Grateful

While there are many stressors associated with moving (especially moving in with your in-laws), I am choosing to take time away from my to-do lists (which always seem to be growing) to work on my gratitude list (which rarely seems to grow…but I’m changing that). Everything is a gift, not all gifts are easy to be grateful for, but it is all gifts. Listing gifts changes my perspective; my natural response is to keep track of all the rough things, the things that don’t go my way, and the things that I could complain about, but I am retraining my brain to see everything as a gift. My in-laws call it an upgrade; everything is an upgrade from God. I am truly blessed and trying to live a life full of constant gratitude.

Some of my gifts this last week:
-The peace and quiet that comes with living in the forest
-The simplifying of life that comes without cell phone service
-The companionship found in pets
-The allergy relief found in outdoor-only pets 🙂
-The sweet, crisp smell after the rain
-Learning to Garden
-Watching the Hummingbirds out the kitchen window
-The way my husband turns me around and puts his arm on me to point out the window
-Watching the magpies chase a hawk
-Going for walks in my new yard
-Learning about animal tracks and spotting all sorts on our walks
-The way the sun comes through the sliding glass door and warms the dining room
-The reminder to have fun from over a dozen magpies playing in the yard
-Feeling more and more at home (the more we settle our things)
-Watching my husband enjoy brother time
-The fellowship at church
-Watching the magpies eat the worms that the rain unearthed
-The gift of face-time to spend time with family far away
-The warm sunshine after a chilly, dreary day