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I was talking with a friend about writing.  “It’s a craft,” she said, “something we have to practice and hone.”  To me, writing is like breathing. I can’t live without it. It gives a voice to my story.

She knows I am an avid journaller and she’s been privy to many of the revelations I’ve received through journalling over the years. A few days after our talk, she texted and asked me about my thoughts on journalling, on sharing journal entries and more. What is to follow is a conversation between she and I; her questions, my response:

“Over the last 20+ years I’ve always had two journals. One was my happy God stops and reflections, the other was my heart journal where I didn’t hold much back. I didn’t want one to contaminate the other, sometimes I’ve discarded journals or quit them for that reason…obviously no one should read those ones. Yet after our talk about writing, I’m not so sure now. Is it wrong for me not to want my kids or anyone else to read my journals?”

I used to do that too, have more than one journal. It felt very disjointed to me as well. When I got serious about journalling, I wanted my life to flow and I wanted it to be real and true to myself, and to God. I needed ONE journal where I could spend my heart and tell my story. Now having said that, I do have an ugly journal – it’s my healing journal. I started it back in 2010 when I really began my healing journey. It has forgiveness letters, confession letters, letters to God, angry questions that are literally only between God and myself. I will burn that journal when it’s done. If I am done (gone) before that journal is done, I’ve ask Mr. Handsome to burn it. The purpose for that journal is to have a safe place where I can spend my deep, deep hurts and feelings that I can’t handle…that I don’t know what what to do with.  I write in that journal quite rarely (less and less as I become more and more healthy). I don’t feel it represents my story, it’s an ongoing, personal discussion between God and I, and is meant for His eyes only. I do not go back and read that journal. EVER. … That brings me to something else about journalling, I often do go back and re-read my journals.  It helps me to see the many ways and times when God was gentle with me, when He answered my prayers, when He spoke to me, when He just tenderly held me, and it helps me to be grateful for the journey.

I made a commitment to myself to be real, vulnerable, honest and raw in my journals – no shame – just me being right where I’m at!  However, I don’t write things I might regret later.  If Mr. Handsome and I just had a disagreement and I’m full of emotion, I do not write details. I will still be honest and say, “God you know my heart. You know the situation. You know I’m outright angry and slightly irrational!  Give me a clear mind, a heart to seek truth and until I can be logical, put a gate over my lips.” I know God well enough to know that He cares not about the details of the disagreement, what He cares about is putting His finger on something within me that He wants to flush out, break apart, and heal. I can safely say this for every situation…

His eyes are always on the heart, not the circumstance!

In regard to your question about showing others (she knows that I save all of my journals and intend to gift them to my children when I’m gone)…I don’t typically write with the thought that anyone will read my journals – if I did, I could never be real, honest or vulnerable.  I never began my journalling journey with the consideration that ANYONE would read my journals. It’s a thought that has grown as I have grown and as I’ve come to realize that I am a storyteller. I have a story to tell.  There are things in my earlier journals that make me cringe – I’ll be embarrassed when my kids read them; very selfish and immature. But it was real. It was where I was at the time I wrote them. My kids (and grandkids, and great grandkids) could never appreciate the woman I am without knowing the woman I was. So here are my thoughts on leaving my journals to my kiddos: my journals are full of things that I cannot share now…they may be inappropriate for the age they are at or some other reasons. They are a part of me. They are my story. My faith journey. My legacy. My truth. They are a love story between me and God.  I want my kids to keep getting to know me after I’m gone, the real me. I want them to see my struggles, my fears, my victories. I want them to know I’m not perfect. Faith is not easy. I want them to learn that they can make mistakes. They can cry. And scream. I do.  I want them to fall in love with me (all over again and in a new way) through my journey – long after I’m gone. Stories are life. They are sacred. Words only dance when spoken and written. Otherwise they are nothing but suffocating restraint!  Sometimes they stomp out. Sometimes they are mixed with blood. Sometimes they are light as a butterfly and extraordinarily beautiful…but what they are NOT (when written as a sacrifice to the King) is trapped alone in darkness.

Brene Brown says that vulnerability is the key to creativity!  What does it mean to be vulnerable with the ones we love the most?

What does it mean to be vulnerable with God?

What’s your art?
What legacy do you want to leave behind?

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Faith Journey

I could tell something had been coming for a while now. Something was changing.  These things are always visible to a Mama’s eye.  We were on a long walk, talking, and with every word, he became more animated and the tone of voice began to fill with contempt. I noticed within too, that my own heart began to tighten and anxiousness rose in my throat like a scream fighting to escape. The stench of fear permeated the air and stung my nostrils. He was questioning faith, questioning God and questioning me.  As I listened I had to force myself to be quiet. I remembered Zephaniah 3:7 and asked the Lord to quiet me with His love.  Every now and again I would interject with a question to direct his thoughts or clear a path for something else I knew needed to come out. By now he was angry, I could feel his anger rush over me in waves.  We walked and talked for hours.  He hugged me and thanked me for listening. Heavy hearted I retreated to my sanctuary to lay it all at the foot of the cross. I won’t lie. I was scared. I cried. I thought about when he was a baby and his questions used to be about bugs and butterflies. I mourned the innocence that was lost and I got on my knees and stormed the gates for my man-child and his journey. I went to my husband who held me and whispered assurances in my ears and reminded me that our 16 year old was talking! My heart slowed as he whispered and together we began to celebrate that he’s talking and sharing his heart.

Months passed but I never stopped praying.  In the dim light of the night I prayed for him. This is what it is to be a Mama.  I think this is part of the meaning of sacrificial love.  This is one of the ways that the Father teaches me the meaning of His love for me as His child and what He has sacrificed for me.

…Deep in thought I can see, he comes to me again.  Now I have prepared my heart, girded my mind with the Word and with His promises for my beloved son. He brings up some huge points, hard questions. I can see him wrestling with his faith. “Mom sometimes I’m so angry at the injustice of how Christians treat others and the lies they often spew, lies that break the hearts of the young people and turn them away from God…sometimes I’m so angry it scares me. I know it’s wrong. I just don’t know what to do with it!  I don’t know if I can do this whole faith thing if this is what faith looks like!”  Oh that one stung. The old stench of fear began to rise up again…and my throat closed…and I gasped for air! We are not made with a spirit of fear…be still and know that I am God…my heart slowed. I took a breath. I quietly prayed. I listened. I could almost see his body tremble with anger and confusion as all of this battled truth.

I said, “Son this is all normal. It’s part of your faith journey.  Let’s look at this way: say you and I live together on a beautiful island sanctuary. We are free to go anywhere together. Then one day while you are exploring, you notice a crack in the ground. It appears to be growing day by day.  As a boy you love the challenge of jumping across it just to see if you can.  As you grow, you see that crack is growing too.  At one point you put a log across and you can still get to the other side, if you balance yourself right.  As the crack grows into a chasm you have had to come up with a new bridge of sticks and rope. Now you notice that you are on one side and I am on the other.  We can’t be together in the same ways we have always been able to. You’ll have to decide now if that bridge is trustworthy. Will it be enough to just come to the opening of the bridge and wave at me every day or will you cross it and embrace me? The only way you will be able to truly trust that bridge is to test it. You can believe it will hold you but until you test it, you won’t know for sure. Believing isn’t enough. You’ll have to take action. That is what faith is, it’s action on what you believe. It’s ok to wrestle with God. Your dad and I raised you to ask questions. We raised you to stand up for what is right and to be a voice to those who have none. We raised you not to follow someone just because they’re leading. I have had questions, I’ve doubted. I’ll be honest, there have been times when I’ve been really confused. I have had times when the struggle to trust almost overwhelmed me in my faith journey….we all have.  This is part of your journey in choosing faith for yourself, walking out from under the shelter of my faith and into the boldness of your own!!! God can take your questions. He can even take your anger!  Nothing you do or don’t do will change God’s love for you.  He already knows your heart so no matter what you share with Him, it won’t surprise or scare Him…and it won’t make Him reject you.”

Our boy has given me permission to share this story…which touches my heart pretty deeply.  His willingness to share his struggles may give courage to others who struggles this way too (1 Peter 5:9)…when we’re willing to bring light into darkness/struggle – the Kingdom of God is glorified!  Sharing it will let others know they aren’t alone.  His courage inspires me and brings me to my knees.

There have been times when I’ve stood at the opening to that bridge – and I was too scared to test it. In the same way that it breaks my heart to watch my son struggle in his journey – God’s heart has broken to watch me struggle in my own.  God is impacted by my struggle, by the journey of faith I’ve chosen. When we share in that journey it becomes a celebration.

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Paint and Teenagers

Painting

I know, I’ve been pretty silent these past weeks.  You will recall we’re building an addition onto our home.  Well, we’re on the homestretch.  The drywallers have come and gone and we’ve been painting.  We got our colors chosen but it’s that first swipe of the brush, it’s still a bit of a mystery…will it turn out like the chip? Will we like it? How will the colors go together? We have never taken on a project of this size before. The great news, we were doing it together!

Have we done enough? Are we ready?

Painting 1200 sq. feet, I had a lot of time to think.  The first day was agonizing…but I think I’ve learned something about painting and at the same time, teenagers.  You know how when you first put the paint on, it doesn’t look like you thought it would?!  You start to fret –  but what is done is done, nothing you can do but wait. At first we were moving from drying paint to bare canvas, it took awhile to learn that we should start in the new territory and move backwards over what has already been done.  The two would meet in harmony.  It’s sort of the same with teenagers, we have to meet them where they’re at and always take them back to what they know as truth. THIS is what gets us through the fears and anxieties that go along with uncertainty.

I have learned that painting is a two man job.  Sure, it can be done by oneself but it sure makes life easier if there are two.  This is where I can rest in the knowledge that I don’t have to do this teenager thing by myself, Mr. Handsome is with me all the way! What a blessing.

Some of the rooms were wonderful and so rewarding.  I loved them right away and they only looked better once they began to cure. Life with teenagers is the same way. We have lots of  wonderful moments where we’re certain we’ve done the right thing and it just gets better as we go!

Then we did the hallway.

As I started to apply the paint, I got a knot in my stomach. Oh boy, I don’t know if I like this…this is nothing like I expected!  There have been times like this in parenting too. When we finished the hall and living room, I sat back entirely unhappy with the direction I felt this was going. Would I have to redo it?  After all of the time and money we had invested, would it end up all wrong?  I was exhausted, I dropped into bed thinking the sun would shine again tomorrow…and when I awoke, just as always – the sun began to rise in the east and with it, a new perspective.  The color had calmed down over night, the light had changed its appearance and things weren’t so bad after all. 😉

In the end, it’s all about the journey.   I think about the many years of careful saving. I think back to last year when we began to plan this project.  I think of all the hours Mr. Handsome and I sat and talked about our dreams.  I think about the many times we changed our plans, adjusted our measurements and re-measured to fit things in unexpectedly; about the first steps, scary and exciting all at once.  I think about the many hours Mr. Handsome and I worked together on the foundation; and the day the floor went up and he and I danced in the moonlit summers night.  I think about the blessing of our neighbors who came to help us raise the walls; and new friends who help us set on the roof trusses.  Then, if you can recall I blogged about the rain; oh the many nights I lay there worrying about the foundation as the rain poured down – the hours of vacuuming up water from the wood floor, only to do it again the next day!  Then the excitement of “close up”…the long talks in the unfinished skeleton of what would be our home.  I think about what seemed like forever waiting for the next step, for things to finally move forward and then just how fast things moved from then on!  Now here we are working so hard that we scarcely have time to enjoy it…but we remind one another to take a break, hold hands, have coffee and look at what we’ve done with the help of a village.  All of the saving, all of the waiting, all of the uncertainty, the trials, the triumphs – they are all part of the journey and blessing that is ours!

I want to drink in every moment.
It turns out painting isn’t that bad, after all!

Be all there, where ever you are!

From my heart to yours, with love.

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I’ve been noticing that as my young men grow and change, certain struggles keep rearing up.  I’ve been praying about it and the word ‘choices’ seems to infuse all of my prayers. His choices, yes, but mine also.  When one is part of a family, all of the choices made intertwine with one another’s and these become the foundation and the heart of your family. I’ve been trying to respond to my children, rather than react.  Sometimes I think about how much easier this must be for Moms who send their children away to school – but then I realize what a lie that is and that

the grass is green where ever you choose to nurture it!

Last week our middle boy and I were working on an assignment in school and his heart was becoming more and more sour. I tried to respond, not react.  I encouraged him to press on but to no avail – we were spiraling downwards and fast!  His lesson took eons and in the end he received a grade of 52%.  In Mama’s grades, this is a fail. So I sat him down for a good heart to heart.  I asked him if he thought the mark was a true reflection of the hour or so I’d spent teaching him the concept; of my hard work and of his?  Of course he could not say yes. I asked him to redo the assignment. He went to bed early, the next morning we took 3 or 4 minutes to review the concept, he rewrote it and got 91%.  We discussed how when he chooses to stay in a certain unhealthy, negative frame of mind, his work is likely to reflect that.

“You really only have 2 choices. You can choose to stay in that poor frame of mind and therefore throw away your grade, wasting your time and mine. OR you can choose to do what ever it takes to change your state of mind and start fresh!”  I asked him what has worked for him in the past.

He said, “Well going outside to check eggs seems to help.  It helps when I go for a jog around the house or down the driveway. It helps sometimes when I have a small break, get a drink or a snack…” Now his mind was rolling and all kinds of ideas came up!

This week we were doing math and he was yawning.  He was lethargic. He was taking several minutes to move onto the next step and even answer questions like ‘what is 8 minus 5 then?’  I could feel my own frustration rising!!   I took a deep breath and ask him how he thought he was feeling at this moment.  “Hmmm.” Ah HA! I could see the light come on. He knew!

“What are your options?”

“Well, I could take the test tomorrow!” He replied, with a devious grin.

“Well, when your boss expects something out of you, it is your job to get it done in a timely fashion or you’ll be fired….”
I answered with my own devious grin.

“….OR I could go take a shower and change my state of mind!” 😀

Off he went and when he came back, all refreshed, we reviewed and he moved forward. His mark then reflected his hard work.

I want to use every teachable moment I have to get my kids thinking about what has worked before and how to make it work again.  Where have they succeeded and where have they failed – and how can they make positive changes?  Failure is just as important as success. I’ve said this before, we need both to keep moving forward!  This also reminds me of the importance of my choices.  When I choose to respond rather than react – to offer encouragement rather than frustration – this reflects my true heart for my son.

I once had a wise and godly Titus woman tell me that the temperature in my home was controlled by my personal thermostat.  Ohhhhhh, so hard to hear.  Yet it has been a constant reminder to me (and at times convicting me) that as the heart of my home, as Wife and Mama, I really need to remember that the choices I make affect this house!

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

You might like this post I made 2 1/2 years ago, I Love You, Even When You Fail. It’s more of our successes!~
May He bless you richly as you walk in your own!

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I am a contributing writer for Evangel Chapel’s website, you can find this post – and many other great reads – there also. 

I wasn’t able to get to church yesterday, which was particularly disappointing because the city was doing a pulpit swap.  Our pastor was speaking at the Baptist Church and we had a visiting pastor as well.  For this reason, I was interceding for both “houses” as well as the churches in the rest of the city. This is SO exciting to me, to see our city in unity and working together! As an intercessor I am thinking about what it means to be part of a body within our own church, which reaches out the city and into the nations…

Being part of a body though, really starts with my husband, myself and our children.  I love a recent post our pastor made on how to do church with a young family (it will open in another window) because he really talks about the importance of EVERY single part of the body. Even the baby toe is important!

Today I’m looking back reflectively about my family and the year we’ve had. It’s been a year of challenges, of change and of growth. I pray I can say that every year! What have my young men, specifically, learned through the last year? In moments that may have looked like tormenting scholastic struggles, they have learned perseverance. One can’t quit or give up when things get hard! They have learned the value of determination and hard work. They have succeeded and they have failed. They will need both of these in life when circumstance moves them to stand with courage in the face of fiercity. They will be able to look back and see how God was there for them, and know with certainty He will be there for them again.

This reminds me of the butterfly and Chrysalis.

BlueButterfly

Did you know that if a butterfly does not fight and struggle to be free, when it bursts from its cocoon, it can’t fly. It’s not strong enough.  I think about my young men, about our year and it dawns on me…the difference between a teenager and a young man is that the teenager fights against God and against their parents for independence. A young man (or woman) fights with God, with his/her parents for freedom.  As the cocoon of childhood becomes restraining, so tight that it threatens to smother them, they will struggle to break from it and in doing so, they will embark on an adventure with their new wings.

We’ve experienced many of the usual things parents go through with young men/woman as they choose the path to follow. Yet along with those moments, we’ve also experienced moments of grace, mercy, and always moments of gratefulness as we watch God shape our young men (and our little lady as she grows).  Again, like the butterfly struggling to find its freedom, my young men are struggling to move from living out of my faith, and walking in their own faith!  From the uncertainty of being responsible for their faith and spiritual growth, they are finding freedom.

This is terrifying and exciting all at once, for us – as parents. It’s as much a journey for us as it is for them. We’re on the same ship, being tossed to and fro with the troubled waters and swells of this new season.  It’s not true that Christians never experience storms, nor that they somehow levitate as not to be harmed by the raging seas. Let’s be real. However, we do have God to fight for us and with us…He meets us where we are.  My prayer – and let me tell you that my knees have scars from spending so much time on them – my prayer is that as our children are with us, and us with them, they will see my love for God in all we do (and don’t do).  Our children need to see us serve, see us laugh, see us cry, see our faith FIRST HAND!  My prayer is that our young men (and growing young lady) will see the strong, godly leader my husband is (even when, in our unequal-yoking, my husband may not recognize this in himself YET) and that the choices we make will inspire and encourage them.  As they fight for freedom I know that they know that we are FOR them, WITH them, beside them, behind them and in front of them; and that every step of the way is covered in prayer!

Maybe you are here with us dear friends, in the midst of a season change.  If you are being tossed about, and there is no discerning the teenager from the young man/woman, find someone to walk along side you.  Get on your knees. Change your perspective. Remember there is more to the lemon than meets the eye! My heart walks with yours, in prayer.

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My Mama read that book to me as a child, Henny Penny, The Sky Is Falling. I used to wonder what on earth Henny Penny was so worried about!  Now I’m a mama and I think poor Henny Penny just had so much on her plate…

We came home from 4-H days to find that a hen had been laying on eggs in a hidey spot in the bale yard.  Sure enough, she hatched out 6 little chicks. 

The children have nicknamed her Savage – because she is one FIERCE mama!  Normally when we have a hen that is broody, we put her in the nursery to raise her chicks but Savage was a force to be reckoned with so she was happy enough to be on her own in the barnyard.  I was worried the cats might eat her chicks but on day two Garfield got too close and Mama Savage laid a licken on him!  For weeks she clucked about teaching her little peepers lessons, like any good mama does.

 

The funniest thing has happened – there is another hen in the barnyard, named Percher – who has stolen some of Savage’s babes! 

I’ve never seen anything like this! 

At first she just followed Savage around, but soon enough she was cozied right up next to Savage with her chicks beneath her in the box at night…before long Percher had taken some of those chicks beneath her wings!  NOW everywhere Savage goes, Percher goes…always trying to steel chicks from her.  For the most part, she’s managed to take one white one and one black one.

The other was a bit of a challenge with my own chicks…after school was out I decided to go for a walk.  I was praying for Booker, Monkey and Sonbird and I asked God to show me clearly, in a way I could understand, just what was REALLY going on! 

Quite frankly I was beginning to feel like the sky was falling!

As I walked I thought about my job as a parent – to guard the hearts of my chicks.  What does that really mean?  I like the part where my babes are safe beneath my wing, snuggled in and happy. Savage’s chicks were easy to guard and care for when they were tiny, fuzzy little things. They were too scared to get far from Mama.  Once they got a little bit older, they wanted some independence.  It’s a lot harder to keep track of 6 babies who want to be individuals and go their own way. When I had little peeps, they were all consuming – yet they were also entirely under my wing (and control).  I loved that stage of life as well as this one…Now my peepers are getting older, they are more independent. It is much harder to keep them in one spot!  We go somewhere and they all want to scatter!  I love their independence and the fact that they are their own little (and not so little) persons – but I also love it when they come back home at night, under Mama’s wing for snuggles and love.

The above picture of Savage with her babes beneath her wings reminded me of Psalm 91:4 He shall cover you with His feathers and under His wings you shall take refuge.  It also reminded me that sometimes as an independent child of God, I want to scatter and do my own thing…how God must love it when I return to Him and snuggle in and tell Him about my day.

What about that, I asked God – thinking of my own three chicks now…

I don’t know that we honestly put enough thought into the HUGE spiritual battle that goes on in regards to the hearts of our children!  Sure we’re fierce Mama’s and we jealously guard their hearts on earth – but are we thinking about guarding their spiritual lives too? 

Everywhere I go – Satan goes.

…he just follows me around trying to get me to trip so he can steel one of my peepers.  He’s patient, he’s happy to wait. His plan for my little babes is huge – and it doesn’t include them having a heart that seeks after the King of Kings!

My kids laugh and tease me because I’m always saying when someone hurts my babes,

“You do NOT want to see Mama Bear come out.” 

My kids always say – “She’s right, you don’t!” …but they know I’ll protect them, stand up for them.  I have to be willing to stand for them spiritually too.  That means being an intersessor, getting on my knees!  That means when I want to be independent and go my own way – I need to remember how important it is for ME to rest beneath the shelter of my Father’s wings. I have to take time away from the STUFF the world offers (even ministering sometimes) to rest there and when I am rested beneath HIS wings, my babes are safe to rest beneath mine…because I’m clothed with Christ through and through!

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I have many gifts, but great blog titles is not one of them…as you can see.

Tomorrow Booker comes home from being in the mountains for two weeks, wrangling horses.  I handled the first week ok, but by the second week, I was so so boy-sick I could barely make it!  I just sat in his room one day and prayed for him. I really, really and I exclaim

REALLY miss him! 

We’ve never ever been away from one another for two weeks without having any contact!  I did call the first night they arrived at the mountain lodge. He said there is a pack-rat in their lodge and he can hear it scuttle down the wall in his room and THUD! on the floor somewhere in the pitch black of night!  He woke up the first night to the rat running on the piano!  I can’t wait to hear all about his adventures! 

Yesterday was really bad – with boy-sickness.  Today, I can barely stand myself – I’m so excited for his return tomorrow! …and he’ll dive right in because we’re having a family reunion this weekend here at our house so we’ll be a-buss with activity!

As for my lame blog title – I doubt I could be more fond of Booker…but distance sure has made me excited to have that boy back in my arms!

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