Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Come To The Well

 I was driving this past weekend when this song came on a cd (yes, a van is super old school.  I even have a tape deck!!!!) I was listening to.

Springtime always brings me such sweet memories of when I met my husband. 

It was about a month before Mother's Day 18 years ago when I began to feel God pull at my heart.  A yearning back to Him.  A Sunday in April, I found myself sitting in a little white church with my grandmother.  And it was just peaceful.  God was drawing me back.  I spent years trying to do it on my own.  I spent years being good, believing it would be enough.

Then God did something and had the path of a Pastor's kid cross with this girl yearning for something more.  It was Mother's Day which always falls on a Sunday.  And he was a PK.  I could tell right away that there was something different about him.  It drew me in.  We talked about weighty subjects that first day we met.  I sat and listened as he talked about selfless love.  He talked about unborn babies and how they had the right to life.  And he talked about how Jesus has called us to love each other when loving was hard.  He talked about Jesus. 

I was walking to the well.  And this PK was telling me about this drink that...
 "all who thirst will thirst no more,
And all who search will find what their souls long for,
The world will try, but it can never fill,
So leave it all behind, and come to the well."

 It was a few months later when I let my heart rest in His hands.  I love the second part of the chorus of "The Well".  It says, 
"So bring me your heart
No matter how broken,
Just come as you are,
When your last prayer is spoken,
Just rest in my arms a while,
You'll feel the change my child,
When you come to the well"

18 years ago this summer I laid down my own desires and started following His.  I went to the Well.   I love the sweet reminder that spring brings.  Something about dead things coming alive.  The ground being cultivated for the harvest.  Seeds being planted.  Water coming from the Well.  

And these days, I find myself sitting at the Well more often.  Longing for it more.  Bringing others with me to sit at the Well.  Ah, yes.  As years pass by as I journey in my walk with Him on this side of Heaven, I find myself yearning for more of Him.  

It's so good.  He is so good.  To sit in His presence, letting His love wash over me.  His love for His children, how He seeks after us.  How He wants to know the desires of our hearts.  He is so good.  So so so good.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Don't Put God in a Box!

I've been teaching in Children's Church about praying big prayers, and expecting big answers from God.  I want this stuff to be real to our kiddos NOW, in their youth.  God hears their prayers just as much as any adult. 

Well, it has also challenged me to pray big prayers.  Ones that can seem not safe and maybe a little scary.  And this morning as I watch God answer a big prayer that left me shaking and trembling wondering that maybe I had out did myself... It caused my mind to start rolling about how I got so terrified to pray these big prayers. 

For years I felt boxed, incredibly uncomfortable in the quest of being comfortable.  Always feeling like there was something more than a list of rules and checklists (somewhat self imposed) that I had to follow. If I do this, or follow this, or dress like this then maybe I'll fit in.  I imagine I felt little bit of what the Israelite's felt under The Law. 

I had always felt like I had to set up the parameters for God's box in my life.  I could make the rules, keep Him fairly contained so I could live happily.  And then I could invite Him in to my box. I could keep it comfortable and controlled.  I felt like I was on a hamster wheel.  Never succeeding, yet never failing... so I kept on running.

Then something happened.  And I knew I had no box for God.  God began to tear down the box.  The same idea as Peter getting out of the boat and walking on water.  If I never got out of my box (or for Peter, the boat) then I would never know all that God has for me.  And I want all that He has for me.  For the last couple of years God has been gently asking me to let Him lead, even if it makes me uncomfortable.  Giving more and more control over to Him.  Letting Him set the parameters. 

Walking under the umbrella of grace rather than in the law.  With God not in a box, but instead gently leading His children.  God is big.  Oh so big, and His grace covers. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

In the Valley Together

A few years ago I taught a study on friendships throughout the Bible (Nathan got his name from that study!)  With each new adventure (ie, place we have moved), I have prayed that God would bring deep friendships in my life.  Friendships that brought me closer to the Lord.  Friends that really meant, "How are you?"  And weren't freaked out when I said, "Not good."  Or friends that see me venturing down a path that wasn't of the Lord and weren't afraid to say, "Uh, April... you need to think about this."  Friends that I could laugh with till my sides hurt and my cheeks ached.  Friends that shed tears together.  Friends that walked hard roads and deep valleys together.  You know, life can get messy.  Life can get hard and valleys can be deep.  Then deep friendships took on a different meaning.  When the valleys are deep and despair you feel is real.  That is when these friendships really grow, when they deepen and the cement cures.  It’s when they see your ugly and they keep right on walking alongside you.  And you wonder why, because my mess is really ugly.  It is when friends walk alongside you in the hard, and they cover you and they carry you.  It’s when they stand in the gap because you can’t.   

I was so heartbroken when God moved us to Gouverneur 7 1/2 years ago.  I had a group of friends that meant this to me.  And when God asked us to move, I dug my heals in deep because I thought for sure I'd never find that again.  And today I was thinking back to that study that I had taught after that move and this picture popped up in my mind.  These friends are the ones that I didn't think I'd find again.  And here I am.  God heard the desires of my heart and answered my prayers.  I recently walked through a really deep dark valley.  It was hard and painful, but these friends carried me and covered me.  I remember one hard day I sent a message to my friend and just said, "Stand in my gap and pray."  I never dreamed that I’d be living with such examples of friendship.  These girls shine Jesus in their lives.  When life is hard, it is Him who they go to… and sometimes on my behalf.  I am so blessed, and so undeserving of their love and friendship.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

21 Day Fix

Yes, I started this 4 days ago.  Sam is convinced I bought into an infomercial.  I've seen the results in my friends.  But I have been against "diets" or anything that makes me eat differently than my family.

My joints ached.  I was constantly feeling tired.  I went to the doctor and had blood work for everything under the sun.  When it all came back clear, I knew I had to make a change.  First I started making and drinking Kombucha which helped tremendously with my joints.  Honestly, I had really hoped I could just take some medication and continue on with my life.  That wasn't the case.  But I still felt exhausted every morning when I woke up.  Then I pulled out my summer clothes, and I was really sad at how snug they were.  They fit, but they were snug.  I had a million excuses why I couldn't work out.  I had no desire to run, which is very unlike me.

I loved the idea of being challenged to do this.  I loved how it prepped you to make long term changes and it wasn't unreasonable.  I have seen my friend apply this concept to the long term.  I was hesitant to spend the money.  I really was.  I spent a week mulling it over.

Then I did it.  I bought it.  And I told Sam he was doing it too.  He had every criticism under the sun.  He claims he was just picking on me.  But he didn't flat our refuse to go along with me for 21 days.  He jokingly called it his "21 Day Fast".  Which isn't true at all since he doesn't even eat everything that he can have.  It is true, I mourned that first day going to the grocery store.  I passed the chips and part of me wanted to cry.  As I walked down the aisles really thinking about the food we were going to eat, I longed for the stuff I rarely bought anyway!  What was wrong with me?!?  I knew this was good, I knew choosing to put wholesome foods in my good was right.  But how I wanted the foods that I couldn't have.  Then I was faced with a heart issue.  That is a post for another time.  God was opening my eyes to a few things.  I came home and texted my friend about my mourning as I walked through the aisles.  She encouraged me, having already been through this before knowing how awesome I'd feel. 

For me, this isn't about losing weight.  People look at me like I'm a little crazy when I say I am doing this.  "Why do you have to do this?"  This is about me finding my fitness groove again.  This is about me making choices that are healthy.  I knew I needed a challenge.  I needed to do this with someone else, to push me when I just wanted to fall on the sofa and be lazy.  I love a good challenge, especially when I am competing against me. 

Today is day 4.  I have drank more water than I can even imagine.  Yesterday I joked that it was the 21 Day Cleanse.  Every day is about making better choices.  And hopefully by the end of 21 days my family will be more on board than feeling like I am dragging them with me. ;)  Because I refuse to make a different meal! 

Friday, January 16, 2015

My Transformation Pictures

This won't be your normal transformation post.  You know, the one where I have lost x number of pounds.  Instead, I have gained 15 pounds and so much more than just a number.  My heart aches when I hear someone say, "If I could only lose x more pounds."

I posted this back in August when I was heading to the doctors.  I shared my fear in the scale.  At that appointment they found a cyst in my breast, so now I go in every 6 months for what I call a "boob check."  A thing a like a lump in your boob doesn't come lightly when your Momma had breast cancer before she was 40.  So, here I am.  Sitting here getting ready to go to my appointment.  Knowing I have to get on the scale.  And the fear creeps up.  The fear of my worth being put back in that number.  I haven't weighed myself in 6 months.  I have worked out, lifted heavy weights, played with my kids, celebrated holidays with family, moved into our first house, had coffee and cookies with really good friends... basically I have lived life.  A happy one.  One rooted in Christ, living as His daughter.

This picture was taken almost 5 years ago, when I was a tad neurotic about my weight.  Ok, maybe more than a tad.  I kept a food journal.  Logged calories.  Ran.  Weighed myself 3 times a day. 
There was more wrong than my being consumed with what I weighed.  But that is a story for another time.  I am thankful for my family and friends, that loved me even when I was quite unlovable. 

So this is the NOW picture.  I have very few pictures of me since I'm always behind the camera.  15 pounds heavier.  (give or take, since I rarely weigh myself now) 

See that cake?  I ate a piece.  And guess what?  I didn't work out to negate the calories I ate.

This is my before and after.  While I pray every time I face this fear that God would just take it from me, He hasn't chosen to do that yet.  So this is my journey. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Past the 3R's

Welcome to our home, our family!
I am proud of this.  It makes my Momma heart beam with joy.  I also debated on posting it because my 3rd grader wrote this on our chalkboard that everyone sees when they come into our house.  I debated because he isn't where a 3rd grader should be academically.  He struggles with learning.  Even with homeschooling, daily learning is hard for him.  I was fearful of being judged, because I can't get him to where he *should* be.  I feel the pressure  of his struggles.  And I felt terrible, when he called me out so happy about what he had written, when my stomach twisted when I only saw all the spelling errors.  The things we have went over and over and over and over...

Then I stopped myself.  Because sometimes I get so wrapped up in my children learning the academics that I miss the real life stuff.  I like to call them lessons for the heart.  When the academics are long gone when they are done with high school or higher level learning... it is what will remain.  It is the weight on my shoulders that I feel the most.  The weight that causes me to my knees and pray.  Pray for guidance and direction from the Heavenly Father on raising these precious babies for His glory... not mine. 

I stop myself and look at the beauty in this.  This is my son, his heart of hospitality.  His heart to serve and love.  Where addition makes so sense because it doesn't matter.  He is an incredibly hard worker.  He will work with his Dad for hours doing work that would tire any adult.  He has such a gift of hard work and love and care.  He is so special to his Daddy and me. 

So I am leaving this up, as is.  And I am praising God for my precious child who has taught me so much about serving God. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Our weekend as Civil War Reenactors

Let me set the stage for you.  By nature, we do not devour history in great volumes.  We do not watch history documentaries just for fun.  Yes, we home school our children but we just don't dive into history how some people do, especially people who do reenactments.  We have a son who enjoys history to this level.  We have a friend who is a civil war reenactor.  Therefore, this crazy weekend has become a memory in our lives.  Yes, we took 4 kids into something that we had never seen or done before... and we lived to tell about it.  Barely.

Well, I barely survived.  But now that I have fully recovered I can tell you that it was a great experience.  One that our family will never forget.  So I'm going to write it all here, so we never forget.  Even though I may want too.  Kidding, again.  Kinda.  From me, it was a tough weekend.  If you  haven't meant our 2 year old, Nathan...then you probably don't understand.  If you have then you know my total and utter exhaustion.  Well because, you see, there were no strollers during the civil war era.  It was tough for Sam because he knew it was tough for me and he was off at war fighting in battles.

We weren't sure what to pack.  We seriously had never even been to a reenactment before.  Ok, stop laughing.  Or crying.  We are crazy.  We know this.  We knew that we would be sleeping in a small canvas tent.  Yes, like the ones here...
The boys were supposed to sleep in the one with no sides.  We put it up and when the time came, Isaiah couldn't do it.  The big boys slept in our friends tent.  The other 4 of us shared an air mattress (shhhh! I know I know! We weren't supposed to have one! But don't tell!).  Sam and I were amazed at how easily it went up compared to our tent which is at least 4 times larger.  5 minutes and it was up!  When we got to the museum, we were given a packet of information.  Ahh yes, the do's and don'ts that we had no idea about!  I may have started to hyperventilate as I read the list that we were not going to be in compliance with.  I hate being in trouble, I'm a people pleaser and when I read that the museum staff will be checking I may have panicked.  I was assured we would be fine.  I wasn't sure.  (We were fine!)  We arrived Friday in the evening, set up our tent, packed it with our air mattress, cooler and bag of clothes.  The big boys and Sam were given their clothing for the weekend.  We are so very grateful for the unit that we went with!  They really went above and beyond to make us feeling included and dressed us well.  It was a rough night.  Nathan was wired, and didn't fall asleep until after 11pm.  I didn't sleep well.  And when I did fall asleep finally...

The 6am wake up call began.  With the drum and fife.  I wanted to stick my head out of the tent and tell, "We have kids!  And one was up way to late and I am tired!!!"  But, we are at war people!  There were drills to do, gun powder to roll, etc.  And really, it made the experience quite authentic.  I can say this now.  Not then, not even the first week after.  I almost wouldn't mind my alarm clock to be the drum and fife.  Unfortunately, today it is a 2 year old boy who usually doesn't wait till 6am. 

Nathan walking by the mess tent. 
So Saturday.  Saturday at 6am.  We still aren't sure at all what we are doing.  I just see that I am one of the two or three still in my 'normal' clothes.  Sam dresses in his and I try not to laugh.  I do, because he is just as uncomfortable as me.  This whole experience is pushing us to limits that we didn't know existed.  Then we realize it is breakfast.  The unit we were with was awesome, have I said that?  Can I call them our unit? SO, our unit had breakfast ready.  I worried about Isaiah who eats nothing that looks a little out of the ordinary.  We were living very unordinary this weekend.  I had packed food he likes, like plain crackers.  Hey!  Guess what?  We were the reenactors, so we ate how they ate...lived how they lived.  Guess what?  No paper plates.  No plastic silver ware.  Learning curve.  The sweetest lady ever gave us tin plates and tin cups (ready... no sippy cups.) and forks.  Isaiah gave a huge sigh of relief when we walked to the mess tent and there were plain bagels!! 

After breakfast, we were still walking around a bit aimlessly.  Sam and the boys are fully dressed, ready to go off for drill.  Myself and the littles are still in our 'modern' day clothing, feeling like the odd men out.  Let me tell you, reenacting is serious stuff.  A serious hobby.  I am so thankful that our unit was so gracious to us newbies.  Can you believe they asked us if we were coming back?  We didn't scare them off from us permanently.  Anyway, back to the guys getting ready for drill.  We have no guns at our house.  We aren't hunters.  Sam and I have never been.  Other than firing a bb gun we are fairly certain Sam had never fired a gun before.  Before they left for drill our friend gave Sam a crash course in the orders that Sam would hear and what they meant, how to hold is gun in formation.  All that good stuff. 
Sam getting ready to go to drill in the morning. 

While Sam was gone, we got dressed.  We needed to be ready by 9am for when the museum opened and the public would come in.  I was nervous.  I didn't want them to ask me questions!  Thankfully the cute kids dressed in civil war era clothing didn't bring many questions, I'm guessing the people were awe struck at the adorable kids.  I chased Nathan and watched him climb anything and everything. 

There were so many fences to climb.

The guys came back from drill and reassembled to line up for the first battle.  We weren't supposed to wear watches so I am not sure how we knew what time it was but they lined up roughly an hour before the battles.  This time the boy were able to go and participate.  Isaiah was a runner to carry messages between the units and Turner was an ice angel that helped with the medical team to attend to wounded soldiers on the field. 
Turner loved every moment.  We knew he would, he was looking forward to living this experience more than the rest of us combined.  Isaiah was feeling more like the rest of us.  Crazy nervous because we had no idea what was going on!  Isaiah did not enjoy the first battle, and would hang back with me for the rest of the weekend.  We aren't sure why, maybe because he saw the reality of it?  That real people fight in war?  Maybe it was the noise? Once the guys left, Hannah had overheard a couple of the ladies talking about doing their hair.  She didn't miss the opportunity to ask if she could have her hair done too!

She sat so well for the whole time!  Her hair looked adorable!  She felt like a princess! 

Once the men came back from the battle, lunch was fruit!  Lots of watermelon.  My kiddos were so happy with that!  I can't remember for certain, but I think Sam had to clean his gun after every battle.  It was no easy task!  He had roughly an hour before he needed to line up for the second battle of the day.  The second battle would take place in the village.  He was still learning the ropes of how this all works!  He was amazed at the number of people that were there.  Both reenactors and watching the battles.  In the meantime... I begged and pleaded with Nathan to take a nap.  He was up really late the night before and then he was up really early with the wake up call.  There was too much to do, too much to see.

"I promise Mom, I am not tired."
When Sam was at camp between the battles he must've notice the look of desperation on my face and kept an eye on the older 3 while I layed down with Nathan in our tent.  I was battling a killer headache.  And battling a rowdy toddler!  We both fell asleep, I woke up to Sam nudging me that it was time for him to go.   Nathan slept through the entire battle through the village.  There were lots of loud noises and he slept through it all.  I sat.  And didn't chase.  See...

It started raining during the second battle.  Well, not full out rain.  But the rain that barely falls and just lingers in the air leaving everything damp.  I tried to not feel discouraged but trying to keep everyone dry so we can wear our clothing another day and in a very small tent.... insanity.  Sam was really so helpful during dinner time.  Ever heard the term unglued?  I was feeling quite unglued at this point.  There were only flaps on our tent, no zippers so kiddos would be playing on the air mattress and suddenly a sleeping bag would be pushed out and getting wet.  I tried so hard not to lose it, because I really do want my kids to remember the awesomeness that this weekend was.  So maybe I should delete this section of the post???  Anyway... Sam needed to clean his gun.  I laid on the air  mattress that at this point became a bounce thingamajig.  I just closed my eyes and prayed.  Prayed for the rain to stop, the head ache to disappear and just peace to rest in the tent.  Here I am in this makeshift bounce house, sleeping bags flying out of the tent, kids flying every which way... me saying "this isn't our test! stay away from the walls! don't break it!"  And then I start this conversation in my mind.  Yes, I know.  I am crazy.  While it is not officially confirmed... if you know would agree!  So I start thinking how I just need to get to the van.  I need to turn it on and have power.  I need to plug in my phone, call my Mumma kinda power.  The rain has picked up, it is to a dull roar now.  And I am no longer able to contain the children to this small space.  Sam is off cleaning his gun.  And I suddenly just start throwing what I can in my rather large Thirty-One purse.  My destination?  The van.  Then a hotel.  Somewhere other than the tent, which was one rather stuffy with all the bounce house shenanigans going on.  It is ok to laugh.  I am too.  Now.   Now that I can reflect.  In the moment I may have been crying.  But now, laughing.  So I start walking to the van with 4 kids in tow, I am not sure where Sam is.  But as this point, all I can think about is my rusty old mini-van.  Comfort.  Familiarity.  My van.  By the grace of God, Sam intercepts me on my 1/2 mile hike to I wasn't sure where.  I didn't park the van, Sam did.  I had no idea where it was.  He said the glorious words, "Stop! I am going to get the van, we are going to stay here."  I didn't care where. Even if it was to an awesome home of people we had just met.  So the kids and I hid out in this house on the museum grounds while we waited for my rusty van to pull up.  I have no pictures, but you will never know if I was crying because of the rain or else.  I can't even tell you how well I slept that night.  And the house we stayed?  I felt like I knew her for years.  We talked so effortlessly.  And when my kids were at their breaking point, and she saw them not at their finest.... it was ok.  We waited through the rain the next morning.  Sam and the other guys headed back to camp while we remained at the house.  Once it was just after lunch time and my T-man just couldn't wait another minute to get back to the craziness... we headed back for the last battle of the weekend.  Nathan absolutely protested about even entering the tent once we arrived back at camp.  There was NO way he was getting dressed.  By the time I had even made it back to the tent, Turner had already changed and was on his way to the battle.  The other three and I went and watched, in our 'normal' clothing.  Nathan wanted to run, as usual.  And the noises were intense.  At the end of the battle we stood around the band and listened to them play.  Then headed back to camp to begin the packing up.  Thankfully we packed light so packing wasn't too difficult.  Someone in our unit asked if we would be doing this again while we were taking down tents.  At the time I said, "NO WAY! I am going to go home and drink some wine to distress from this!"  In my defense, we brought 4 kids.  One of which is on the wild side.  I woke up Monday morning thinking I would go from a run to not being able to move from holding/wresting him all weekend!!

Ok.  So now we are a few weekends out.  I've had time to fully recuperate.  I think.

It was a wonderful experience.  We met awesome people.  We learned things we would've never learned had we not been thrown into that environment.  I now have a board on pinterest labeled "civil war" for sewing our own things.  I find myself looking in consignment shops looking for material or whatever I can use IF, a big "IF" we were to do this again.  I may even have some material stored up.  But don't tell.  Because then I'd have to admit I liked the experience and I still feel a little crazy from it all.  It was a great experience!  I totally forgot to write about how my boys had a very hard time being with the Confederates when we live in the north.  Maybe for another day!  And I think living during the Civil War for a weekend counts as history for a semester!

I'm attaching a few pictures of Sam in battles that a totally awesome lovely woman in our unit took!  I never really made it to the battles to watch, so I am so grateful for these pictures!  And I am so thankful for Sam, so really had to learn so much.  What a fun experience!! 
Nathan playing the drums!!

 There are not enough words I can write about the unit we were with.  They took care of us so well, we were safely tucked under their wings for this whole experience!  It was awesome.  Amazing. We are so grateful!!!