7.15.2017

Singing His Praise

The town we moved to almost a year ago is beautiful. I love where it is, I love the people and I am so grateful to live here.  Nearly all of the friends I've made here also have a relationship with Jesus, which I love, and most (if not all) of them go to church.  That is a big difference from where I lived before, where probably not even half of my friends went to church regularly.

Because of this church-centered community I've moved into, I have felt some of my old issues with the church cropping up. Mostly feelings of shame, not belonging and guilt.

It just so happened that a few months ago there was an event I wanted to attend one evening at a church here in town. There was going to be a speaker I wanted to hear and so I made plans (begged) for Josh to watch the kids so I could go.  The evening came and while I was nervous to be in a church again, I really wanted to hear the speaker, so I forced myself to be brave.

***

Senior Homecoming
A little backstory:
When Josh and I met and began dating during our junior year of high school, my church was against it. It was preached that we (“Christians”) were not supposed to even be close friends with Mormons, let alone date them.  And so I received quite a bit of flack for dating Josh, who was raised Mormon.  After our first few dates, before we became an official couple, I spent a day at the beach with my family.  The timing was perfect as I was trying to figure out just what I was going to do about the predicament I found myself in.  So I spent that sunny spring day sitting on a piece of drift wood at my favorite beach, watching the tide come in and out, contemplating what future I wanted.  (Very cliche, I know, but true nonetheless.)  I prayed, with an open and honest heart for God to reveal His plan to me.  The answer was clear.  I was meant to be with Josh.  He was the one.  Once I had the all clear from Him, I had to deal with everyone else.  My parents were easy, they liked Josh and completely trusted my judgment. My grandparents were also easy.  Grandpa told me that he didn't like the religious animosity that was being preached to me, and Grandma felt that if I had prayed and God had answered, that was good enough for her.

The church, however… well, the church was a different story.  What happened with the church is the most painful event of my young life.  The church and I tried, I will give us that.  I kept attending, stayed involved, but slowly, things changed.  I was turned away when I volunteered for vacation bible school, among other things.  Things I had done for years.  I was no longer called to baby-sit for families I had grown up watching.  It was a slow kind of heartbreak.  I didn't want to leave, but I knew I couldn't stay.  Josh had become a very important part of my life.  I managed to continue attending until fall 2001, just after my senior year had ended.  We had been together a year and half, and I knew Josh wasn't going anywhere.  I had tried, on several occasions, to bring him to the church, to involve him there, where I had grown, and loved, and learned about the Lord.  But somehow it always ended disastrously.  He didn't feel welcome there.  Honestly, by that point, neither did I.

Eventually my mom decided to take things into her own hands.  She couldn't believe some of the things they had been teaching us, and decided to confirm with the pastor that this was our church’s stance on Mormons, whom my mom had always admired as moral, upstanding, family-oriented people.  I begged her not to go. 
 
She talked to the pastor and said to him, “But Shelly prayed. And God told her yes.”  
His response? “Well, that may be.  But we told her no.” 

And so it was that ten years of memories, adventures & friendship ended, breaking my heart and ruining my ability to trust in organized religion.

***

Back to current day-- I did well, but I will admit, walking into a church completely alone and not knowing a face in the crowd was a bit daunting after all these years.  But I persevered.  We gathered in the sanctuary, and the evening began with some praise songs. Almost immediately as everyone around me began to sing, my throat got tight, tears welled in my eyes, and I had to force myself to blink rapidly to keep from losing my composure.

I didn't know any of the words.

That was it. I didn't know the worship songs.

And that undid me.

When I attended church (from ages 8 to 18) I always knew all the songs. Worship music was my thing, and my voice was the gift God gave me.  So to come and stand in a pew, watching the words flash by on the screen and not know the tune or the next verse, felt like I was in a foreign land instead of at home as I should have felt.

Honestly, I started to get angry.  I could have become a worship leader. I could be using my voice for Christ. I could have been a Children's ministry leader, teaching songs about Jesus to children.  I could be standing here, singing with the boldest voice among the crowd.  And instead, I was fumbling, awkward and nearly crying.

Anger, luckily, is not a feeling I am comfortable with.  So I thought, and wrestled with it a bit, and came to the conclusion that being angry is not how I want to feel.

"Bitterness, resentment and anger 
have no place in a heart as beautiful as yours." 
-Lysa TerKeurst 


I finished reading Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst just days before this church event.  This quote really hit home as I stood pondering my predicament with the church's rejection: "If their absence was caused by death, you would grieve their loss.  But when their absence was caused by rejection, you not only grieve their loss but you also have to wrestle through the fact that they wanted this." 

Wow.

That is so powerful and so accurate.  I couldn't just be sad that I lost people whom I had considered family, I also had to face the fact that our separation was exactly what they sought.  TerKeurst follows that truth with this one, "Grace given when it feels least deserved is the only antidote for bitter rot."

So as much as anger and resentment and bitterness tried to well up inside me, I knew, and I've always known, that being bitter is not what will make me feel better.  Grace & forgiveness, gratitude for the years we did have together, and a big deep breath are the only things I can offer this situation that will make it palatable.

I have to admit that I have told myself for years that I deserved to be rejected by my old church when really I didn't.  Thinking I deserved it made it hurt less than knowing I did nothing wrong. Thankfully God's promise to me is that He will draw near to the one who has had her heart shattered and deliver her from exposed grief to victory. Psalm 34:18

So here I am, sixteen years, two big moves, and four kids later, living in victory with my amazing husband by my side.  From these experiences, I've learned there are many ways to serve God and I don't have to attend church to be of value to Him.  I can live this life, singing his praises, even if I don't know the words.

***

7.14.2017

Around Here: Week 28








She's not sad... She's just tying really hard to make different animal sounds












Receiving... a Kindle Paperwhite as a gift from a friend, and I can already tell it's going to change my reading LIFE!  I can read in bed without bothering Josh; I can read while I'm nursing without distracting Carly; and I can read outside in the direct sunlight without straining my eyes. It's so exciting!

Celebrating... that Josh was born July 13th all those years ago.  He's the best thing that's ever happened in my life, and I'm so grateful for him.

Reading... Bold Spirit by Linda Lawrence Hunt and Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst.  Bold Spirit is the (almost) lost story of Helga Estby, who walked across America from Washington State to save her family farm.  I am only a few chapters in, but it had me at "pioneer" and I am loving it.

Made to Crave is about how to turn to God instead of food for comfort.  Thus far I have been working on watching when I want to eat (mostly I turn to food as a reward for adulting & parenting, hah!) and trying to make healthier choices for meal times.
I definitely use food as a means of dealing with tough emotions, although I am trying very hard to let the sadness/anger/disappointment come, wash over me, and go, instead of numbing with food.  I am also rediscovering old hobbies (like card making & letter writing) in hopes that those can fill the space of the bored eating I often do in the afternoons or evenings.

Following... Allison Kimmey on instagram. Seriously. You have to check her out. She is an average size American girl, loving her body and not apologizing for her size or the space she takes up in this world.  My favorite part of her message is "People HAVE fat, they are NOT fat," which is something I have shared with my kids.

Rereading... One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and The Island by Elin Hildebrand.  One Thousand Gifts is such a beautiful reminder of who God is and all the gifts He's blessed us with; and The Island is such a fun, relaxing summer read. They are both perfectly hitting the spot.

Listening to... Freakonomics by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner, which is absolutely fascinating.  I would recommend this for anyone who is fascinated by people and why we do what we do.

Watching... Passengers, which was good, but I felt like it should have been a mini series as I would have loved a little more backstory and more about life after the couple woke up.
Hidden Figures, which was very moving and reminded me of Bold Spirit in that it covered a story that had been buried in history.
Table 19, which was a cute love story wrapped up in a romantic comedy.

Getting... dental work done. I am really proud of myself cause I had an awful experience getting my wisdom teeth out a few years ago, and since then, dental work has been really off putting.  But I knew it would be easier to get it done this summer, while Josh is available to watch the kids, so I went for it.

Fighting... fevers & sickness with Carly and Logan.  Thankfully everyone seems to be on the mend again, but there were definitely some sleepless nights and worry-filled days.

Going... to the science show at our local library.  Since then, Wyatt is dying to do all the experiments: poking pencils through a baggie full of water; adding baking soda to some vinegar inside a sealed plastic bag (leading to a nice little KABOOM!) and making our own elephant toothpaste, which we haven't tried yet.

Laughing... at Carly trying to make animals noises.  The donkey's "Eee Aww" and a goose's "Honk Honk" proved most difficult, and most hilarious.

Spending... oodles of time at the pool, enjoying this hot weather and all this free time we have together before work training starts for Josh in August.  It's been the best summer and I'm so grateful to have spent so much of it together in the sunshine.

***

7.09.2017

How I Blog

I've had a few people ask about how I stay consistent with blogging.  Which is really nice to say because sometimes I feel anything but consistent. That said, there are periods of time when I am consistent, and I know what leads to that. 

When we moved into this house last year, I bought a blank calendar that I hung on the wall in our office.  It's my blog calendar.  I use it to map out each month, giving every Friday an "Around Here" post, planning Carly's monthly update on the 24th, and scheduling any other special events (ie birthdays, holidays, etc.) that need to be penciled in before I can get creative. 

Once I've scheduled the regular stuff, I pull up my Dashboard on Blogger on the computer (where all my Drafts sit) and see what ideas are on the docket. I sort through, see what feels inspiring, and try to choose publish dates for them all.  

I write on the calendar in pencil until the post has been published. Then I go over it in pen. Just that little thing, writing in pencil and going over it in pen once I've accomplished it, inspires me to get posts published.

Between this month-to-month planning, when I'm just living life and coming across random inspiration I use two tools for harnessing ideas.  The first is my Notes app on my phone-- I use this to jot down quotes, concepts & post ideas that I've come across.  Later, once I'm home, the second thing I use is my actual blog.  Maybe once or twice a month I make an attempt to transfer those ideas from my Notes app to actual blog post drafts on my Dashboard.  

Probably once a week I upload pictures from my phone and camera, picking & choosing what pictures will go into each post and get them into the drafts so that when I have a minute to gather my thoughts and finish a post, the photographs are already ready to go.  That way I can just focus on the words. 

So this is what I have found works for me.  It's not a perfect system, but I have found myself blogging pretty consistently since I started using it.  Whatever you do choose to do, don't aim for perfection.  Your readers just want honesty.  They just want your truth. Remember what I tell myself, "Published is better than perfect!"  (Oh, and it doesn't hurt to have a few people you know will read and let you know if there are any grammatical errors! Thanks Roxanne!)

"You're going to feel like hell 
if you wake up someday 
and you never wrote the stuff 
that is tugging on the sleeves of your heart: 
your stories, memories, 
visions and songs 
-your truth, your version of things- 
in your own voice.  
That's really all you have to offer us, 
and that's also why you were born."
-Anne Lamott

***

7.07.2017

Around Here: Week 27














Celebrating... the fourth of July with extended family over the weekend.  We went to Grand Coulee Dam & saw the laser light show plus firework display.  It was an awesome way to spend the day.  We were so happy to have Uncle Samuel, Aunt Tiffanie, Nanny, Papa, Aunt Roxanne and Cousins Isaiah, Ferris, Milo & Annie with us.

Working... outside in the mornings doing our summer school work on the picnic table in the backyard. It makes me so happy to be out there with the birds everyday before it gets hot.

 Reaping... what we've sown in the garden and flowerbeds.  It feels so good to be getting some payout for the constant work that (mostly Josh) has been putting in to the yard. There are peas that everyone is eating right off the vine; there are roses (both red and, my favorite, pink) as well as lillies & marigolds.  And our grass is absolutely gorgeous & so lush!

Enjoying... the beautiful pink roses our front yard produced that Josh cut & brought in the house for me. He's been bringing in red roses, too, for my bedside table and it makes me so happy!!!

Finding... $200 cash on the ground at Safeway (a local grocery store) Thursday.  I picked it up and immediately turned it in, thinking of the poor person who was later going to discover they lost two $100 dollar bills.  Jack was with me (everyone else was at home) and he asked why I didn't just keep it. It made me grateful that I did the right thing, and I explained to him that it wasn't mine, and I would feel awful if I lost money and someone took it instead of turning it in.

Thankful... my migraines seem to have taken a hike!  That was a terrible, terrible way to spend the last two weeks of June.  I am being careful to get enough sleep and stay relaxed, though, just in case they try to reappear.

Roasting... in these central Washington temps!!! It's been over 100 every day this week.  Whew!  Thank goodness for our pool pass!  Josh and I were talking yesterday about how we feel like we've acclimated pretty well to the constant sunshine, lack of humidity & high temperatures, which is awesome. It just feels like the perfect summer.  (Except when I burn my legs on our leather car seats. Ha!)

Finishing... The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve.  Oh, I just devoured this book.  I adore Shreve's writing, her characters, the settings and the real life events she draws inspiration from.  This book was no different.

Reading... The Island (again) by Elin Hilderbrand and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to the twins.

Starting... The Hate U Give on Audiobook from Overdrive (yay for free library books!) and The Blue Bistro (an oldie from Elin Hilderbrand that I've not read yet!) that my sister loaned me.

Planning... to reread a few other summer favorites-- Fortune's Rocks and Sea Glass by Anita Shreve, and Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand.  It makes me happy to imagine revisiting these fantastic books.

Watching... Me Before You and remembering that the book is much (much!) better than the movie.

Dealing with... more random fevers from Carly. I'm trying not to worry too much, but I don't know what they are from. Teething maybe? She has been a bit more drooly than usual.

Planning... for a successful week next week some meal planning, some goal setting & some to-do-list accomplishing. I hate it while I'm doing it, but I'm always so glad when it's done!


***

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7.06.2017

Celebrating with Family

Last weekend my parents, my nephew, my sister & her kids, as well as Josh's brother & his wife all came to visit.  Friday afternoon Josh, my dad, my nephew (he's 18) and I were in charge of all 7 littles while my sister (with my mom) house hunted in Wenatchee (where they will be LIVING come fall, only an hour and a half away.  To say I'm excited is an understatement!!!)

These two were so happy to be reunited!

Jack, inspired after watching my nephew Isaiah do it, passed the swim test (go from one side of the pool to the other without touching!) and jumped off both the low and high dives!!!

Chasing 2 one-year-olds took me back to the days the twins were little!  People even asked if they were twins.  Little cuties!

"The boys"
Logan, Jack, Milo, Wyatt & Ferris

***

Oh this girl!
I love capturing her!





After the pool, we headed back to our house where we ordered pizza and watched the Lego Batman movie.  When my mom and sister got back from Wenatchee, Carly reached for my mom and then held to her like nothing I've ever seen.




***

The next day we gathered together and packed up our cars for the drive to Grand Coulee Dam.  Before we left I put Carly down for a nap, and sweet Annie put herself down for a nap. Ha!









The drive to Grand Coulee was beautiful.  I am a total rock geek, so I thoroughly enjoyed it.








Obligatory "all the grandkids are together" shot for Nanny!
Milo, Wyatt, Ferris, Jack holding Annie, Logan holding Carly, Isaiah








Once we arrived the boys played football and later we got food.
















We're always trying to get a good picture of the baby girls together.
Annie wanted to see Carly's belly button.








My sister & her crew



{I included all the good ones so my sister can choose which she wants!}

Milo got a splinter & we had to do a little triage.





Elephant ears are my FAVORITE!
Before we knew it the fireworks started!



{Ferris & Jack}
The laser lights show was okay, but the fireworks show was the best I have ever seen.  It took my breath away, and the finale was fantastic!  Logan & Jack's favorite part of the WHOLE weekend of cousins was watching the fireworks show.  It was that good.

We got home & in bed very, very late (I kissed Wyatt goodnight at 1:00am!), but those memories will last a lifetime!

***

The next morning my mom, sister and I took the kids to see Cars 3.  The boys loved the movie, and us adults only closed our eyes in exhaustion a few times. wink! wink!

(While we were at the movies, Josh kept the baby girls, along with the help of my dad, nephew, sister and brother-in-law.)


After the movie Jack used his own money to get coins so that each cousin could have a turn at a video game.  It was so thoughtful and generous of him.


***

After the movie we decided to beat the heat and head to the pool again.  We were only able to stay a few hours (everyone wanted to get back on the road to head home before it got too late) but we squeezed as much fun into those few hours as we could!
{Our crazy crew in the parking lot!}

Lazy River!

Logan body boarding!

My three (tough) fish!

 I am so grateful (again. still.) that we live where we do, and are within driving distance of family.  Spending time together (with whoever it is) means so much to me and my kids.

We closed out the weekend feeling very blessed & loved.

***