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It's interesting to look at your life, past to present, and think: "It has all led up to this...." And then wonder where it will lead to next.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Starting Over

The new year began and progressed, but already my goals lay flat, unused, untampered, just flat and dusty in the corner of my mind. The most important goal, the unsaid, but always underlying goal took precedence and consumed all else. Survival. I have been in a mindset of survival the last few months. I want more. I want to thrive, but one must survive in order to thrive. As I find myself coming out of this somewhat comatose state of survival, I find myself reaching out once again for life. A full life. A pale blue, shriveled lung, finding it's life source, turning pink and plump again, sucking in sweet oxygen, just as importantly pushing out carbon dioxide, only to bring in fresh oxygen once again. The process is not only necessary but rejuvenating. To thrive is a most beautiful existence.

My goals lie flat, unused, untampered. Just a flat dusty list in the corner of my mind. My goals are survival mechanisms. My goals aren't what make me thrive. Making goals, even achieving them, they are nothing without the purpose behind them. The force that pushes me to grasp for more, more, more. When you reach the place so low, so destitute, so basic that even a breath requires a plea of help, you find yourself asking-- what is that force? What pushes me forward when I don't want to go on? What is this that makes me ask for more, no matter how basic or complex it may be?

I met up with a friend who is waiting to hear if she's been accepted into the same nursing program I was planning on applying to. She also has two young children, just about the same ages as my boys. Her husband owns his own tree company. I thought, If she can, why can't I? Now that I feel like I can breathe again, I feel so much more capable. We discussed schedules, childcare, how doable it all really was. I felt the desire burning in me again. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can... I began making plans. I do love plans.

Then I sought God. I held my list out: Here Lord, bless these please? And if I add a few more, bless those as well? On the chance that you don't approve of these plans, can you let me in on the meeting where we can make new plans together? Just so I can can approve... you know, make sure you know what I really want.

I am back at square one. God knows I'll make plans. I really don't think making plans is so wrong in and of itself, but I want to be more willing to let them go. I want to be more willing to learn His plans. To follow His lead. This doesn't mean that I won't accomplish any of the goals I set for this year, it simply means I am not tying myself to them. They will not take precedence. They are subject to change.

This brings me to where I am now. Back at square one. To begin this new year with no plan but to seek God, and let Him do the leading. Now that I know better, it really doesn't sound so simple.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Clash of Callings

I'm not going to lie, I am not the least bit political, or even interested in politics. I will even admit that I did not vote the last go round (I had moved a lot that year and wasn't registered, although in the end it really didn't matter). There are a lot of reasons I don't talk politics: 1) I don't research it enough to feel competent enough to have a worthwhile discussion, 2) talking about politicians these days much more resembles gossip than interesting/educational conversation, 3) I don't even care enough to think up a third reason.

The only reason I bring this up is that presidential campaigning really discourages me. It makes me want to get as far away from politics as possible and leave the country so I don't feel the least bit responsible (I know, there is no real escape, and it wouldn't solve anything anyway). I know this isn't "good" or "right" or whatever. I know as a citizen I should take an interest, be involved as best I can, and help make this country better. Don't worry, I have been slightly more in-tune this time around, and I do intend to vote-- I just don't want to. So far there is no one running who I think, "Yeah he's a good'n!" Or even, "That'll do pig..." I'm pretty disgusted by all the campaign adds and all the lies and dirty tactics politicians use not only to one-up each other but to completely tear down their opponents. I mean, is it possible to run for president without becoming a spiteful middle schooler with insecurity issues? I didn't grow up in the states, so this is only the second presidential race I have witnessed. I really don't like it.

I've mentioned in previous posts that I struggle to feel "American." (Perhaps "struggle" is the wrong word, I just don't feel American.) I really don't feel obligated to make America the best country in the world. I feel just as comfortable/uncomfortable here as I did in China, although in China I was constantly reminded I was a foreigner, I experience just as much culture shock here as I have any other place I've been. America isn't "home" to me. But neither is anywhere else. I'm coming to the realization that that's ok, and maybe even irrelevant. I am not apposed to patriotism (although Aaron, knowing me as he does, might disagree with that statement), I just don't think it's my "Christian" obligation to love my country more than any other country. I don't believe America is more blessed by God than other countries (debt is a clever disguise though). Or that America should be blessed because it is "more Christian" (more churches does not necessarily mean more followers of Christ).

I am not making excuses for or trying to justify my lack of passion for the political world, just trying to figure out how what I believe should look in my life. I'm trying to distinguish between God's calling and America's calling. What I struggle with most is living out what I believe without being considered a "crazy fanatic." That should not be my focus, but it is what holds me back from living completely for God. The desire to fit in, not stand out-- not be considered weird. Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems like American Christians are more concerned with molding Christianity to our culture's values, than living a life truly sold out for Christ. I am guilty of this! My Christian beliefs and my American beliefs clash. This clash confuses me, holds me back, and quite honestly creates this "luke warm" faith I so often succumb to. Have you ever noticed that the most common question in the American church about the gospel is: "Now, how does that look in an every day life?" We shouldn't be living every day, normal lives, should we? If we're out to convince ourselves and others that we can live for God and still be normal, are we not lying through our teeth?? This contradicts Christ's very gospel!

Some words from someone much wiser and less hypocritical than I:

"You see, I believe Jesus Christ alone is the answer for the ills of the world. Communism is not the answer, but neither is democracy. It is God's will that must rule, and His kingdom that must reign on earth as it is in heaven. Democracy may be good in many ways, but it is a concept not supported in Scripture. If democracy was the rule of law in God's kingdom, then Moses would never have led Israel out of Egypt, for the majority of Israelites grumbled against Moses and even wanted him put to death. If they listened to the voice of democracy, Caleb and Joshua would have been overruled, for those two men went against the advice of all the other spies who returned from the Promised Land. When God commanded me to stand up and walk out of prison in 1997, there was no need to hold a meeting to discuss it with the other believers. When the Almighty speaks, all other voices fall silent." 

"...I was shocked to discover that many [Western] Christians and churches have very little spiritual warmth left in them. They may have just a few embers remaining on the fire of God's alter, but I have good news for you: even those little embers of coal can reignite when the wind of the Holy Spirit blows upon you!"

"My friend, are you tired from years of living your Christian life in your own strength? Do you make your plans and ask God to bless them, rather than seeking out His plans and obeying them? Jesus desires to set you free. He wants you to take off your old grave clothes and exchange them for robes of righteousness.
Your faith may have grown stale and dry, but God wants streams of living water to flow from within you! He wants you to renew your first love and to walk in obedience to Him, realizing He is not only the God of the past and the future, but the God of today."

"I encourage you to kneel down and pour out your heart before the Lord. Allow Him to set you free from your secret sins that have bound you and held you back in chains. If someone have wronged you and you have not forgiven them, now is the time to forgive them from your heart. Unforgiveness and bitterness will cause you to die inside.
It doesn't matter if people reject you and say you are worthless. All that matters is that Jesus loves you, and He wants to be your best friend. Our Lord said:

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. 
John 15:13-17

You who are loved by Jesus, come out!"
- Living Water (Brother Yun)

To steal a quote from a friend:

"I don't aim to be disrespectful, but when we were praying for God to come, our prayers were like, 'Here kitty, kitty, kitty, and ROOAAAARRRRR, the Lion of Judah showed up.' He was so much stronger and fiercer than the tamed, controllable 'kitty' we were expecting. We pray for the Holy Spirit to come, but when He does, the first thing we tell HIm is, "Now sit down on the back seat and behave Yourself.'"

I am praying for a raging fire. In my heart and yours! Let's invite God to transform our lives, instead of transforming Him to fit into ours!

I may or may not know what I am getting myself into, but... Come Holy Spirit! Come!

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Sometimes I have a hard time believing I live in a place where people love their dogs more than other people's children.

Where schools close on days too cold because there are children who can't afford warm coats, while I see countless dogs don down jackets (with fur-lined trim).

Where abortion is considered a contraception, but undying efforts are being made to make humane societies "no-kill".

Where animal-testing is a sin to be abhorred, but we gladly buy products that are made using slave-labor.

Not that I don't believe in taking care of animals (I really like animals and I would love for humane societies to be no-kill)... but perhaps we have our priorities a little mixed up?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Please pray for my family. It feels like the closer Aaron's departure to Haiti comes, the more discouraged and anxious we both get. Not about the trip to Haiti, but life in general. I feel like satan is trying to distract and discombobulate us. I am tired of wanting to give up on life, and I can see Aaron struggling with the weight of trying to keep us both afloat. I want something BIG to happen while Aaron is in Haiti. But I also don't want to get my hopes up that life will really change. And I keep asking myself, is this big change something that happens to us? Or something we choose to make happen? And do I want something big simply because I am not patient enough to work through the small things?

I have been having a rough few days. I've found that the "bad" days are not so much related to the crap that goes on in my life, as much as the crap that goes on in my heart. I love and hate this. I love it because it serves as a constant reminder that it is God who satisfies and quenches, not my things and life style. I hate it because if it were up to me there would be no bad days. I would always be loving, patient, and understanding. I would always have my priorities straight and nothing would stress me because I would trust that God is good and be able to rest in that.

I could blame my bad days on several things...

I am tired, I have not slept good in over two months (or 4 years?), and the last three nights have been even worse. Gabriel, who was sleeping through the night at 2 months, decided at 6 months he would start waking up every two hours. The pattern has yet to change. Aiden started waking in the night too. Then Gypsy (our dog) decided she would come whining to be let out every few hours the last few nights. Last night Gabriel settled for waking up 5 times in a two hour period, then every hour after that. Now he is sleeping soundly. I am on my second cup of coffee.

After a couple weeks of slow and quiet recuperation from 2011, Aaron's work has revived and there are no signs of things slowing down any time soon. This is really good in the financial sense. Winters are always hard for us. November and December invoices are always returned much later than usual (and this year has been the worse yet), and we don't really make enough in the year yet to keep our slow winters comfortable. It also never fails that our car dies right around Christmas and we have to get a "new" one. This winter was no different... until the phone started ringing. And didn't stop. So like I said before, this is good. But I wasn't ready to lose my husband again. Do you know how wonderful it is after months of no breaks, to suddenly having some time to yourself and then coming home to a clean kitchen? Or how nice it is to have dinner cooked for you? And how especially wonderful it is to see your husband in the middle of the day! It was like a winter vacation. Usually I get a job in the winter to make up for the slow flow of work. It's nice because Aaron gets more time with the kids, and I get some time away. But something held me back this year (oh yeah, depression). Now I am glad I didn't go and get a job because I'd be stuck without anyone to watch the kids. I am also a little sad. I kind of look forward to having a few months in the "working world." However, I must take paying bills efficiently over having a break of routine.

I had been in a fairly peaceful place the last week or so. Agitations still existed, but I felt at terms with my limitations and trust in God's omnipotence. So I guess the combination of lack of sleep and the adjusting to less help and company around the house have played their parts in bringing me down. But I also know it's more than that. I am feeling under attack. I have been having stressful dreams. In one I was responsible for finding a murderer and making sure he didn't hurt anyone. I was working along side paid professionals with guns, but we were bound to get separated. I was given a kitchen knife to defend myself. The other dream there was another murderer loose (the genius-psychotic type), but I was simply trying to avoid him. I made sure all my doors were locked and my children were close. Somehow I kept finding windows and doors open, and I would see him sitting calmly on my front porch just staring at me. My children got separated. He got to gabriel before I could. I begged him to let him go. He did, but then he had someone follow me wherever I went so I couldn't tell anyone he was there. I couldn't protect anyone else from him. I was still trapped despite my apparent freedom.

I feel trapped in a mindset of anxiety and helplessness. I have been struggling with Dr. King's call to dissatisfaction. Well, no, dissatisfaction comes easily. It's more so his call to take action. I get overwhelmed with the needs of our fellow people of this world, mostly because I already feel overwhelmed with my own little world. It makes me want to hide myself in a fictional story and lose myself there. Of course, when summoned to reality it's only that much harder to face. Sometimes I feel like talking or writing will make it feel better. But mostly it doesn't.

Friday, January 13, 2012

It Is Well... With My Soul.

Do you ever find your contentment resting on a collection of "ifs" and "whens"?

If I get the job...
When I get in shape...
If I find the right person...
When I start a family...
If I ever get a proper night's sleep...
When I get out of debt...
If we buy a house...
When we sell this house...
If we move to a new place...
When we settle and get comfortable...

The list is endless.

There are all kinds of things to hold us back, and all kinds of things to work toward. There is this idea that if we work hard enough, try, try, and try again, we will reach our goals and then true happiness will be ours for the taking. If we can just get to that point, whatever that point may be, we'll be content, fulfilled, happy, satisfied. It's a nice dream, isn't it?

Let's say we do get there. Let's say we get the job, the girl/guy, the car, the house, are free of debt, and sleep like a baby each night (most ironic saying ever)...

But then, what if we lose one of those things? What if we lose it all? Or worse, what if we just want more? Where does that leave us? Where would that leave you?

I often base my heart on ifs and whens. Most of the time really. I think some where along the way, the American dream and the Christian walk got intertwined and all mixed up. Do you ever find yourself thinking that if you are struggling financially that you must not be in the will of God? I have felt that way at times. Especially when it's really hard. We often marvel at how those with so little are capable of such joy, and act confused if we are not happy when we have so much. When I stop and think about those who have devoted their whole selves to following Christ, those that seem to really "get it", that genuinely live love, they praise God when He gives, they praise God when He takes away. They sing "it is well with my soul" no matter their circumstances, and mean it. Not because they don't struggle, not because things aren't hard, but because they live in the truth that no matter how life may change, God doesn't. I have always wanted to be one of those people who can trust God like that, yet when life is difficult, and it often is, I tend to get upset and wallow in self-pity.

I have realized a lot of really ugly things about myself this past year. It's hard to wake up and realize you are not who you thought you would be. But it's also really freeing to let go of your expectations of yourself. Put the mirror down, release your ugliness to God, and instead focus on His beauty. Not that it's easy. It's hard to ask God to transform you, and even harder to trust that He will follow through. It's painful to be stripped of your arrogance. It's agonizing to accept how weak you really are. It's humbling to ask for help. But if we refuse Christ's grace, we have missed what a relationship with God is about. We can not offer grace if we ourselves do not accept it. We can not cling to His grace until we have dropped all other things we set our hopes on. It all sounds so "christian" and "cliche", but I feel like I am finally learning what it means to find healing and wholeness in pain and brokenness. It feels so different than I ever thought it would.

The Sleepless Years

If you find yourself wakened by tiny hands pinching your face and an excited voice asking for lollipops for breakfast, your head pounding, your eyes heavier than should be possible, and an aching body, you may have woken into my life. No you did not go partying last night, this is not a nasty hang over, this is just your typical morning. Don't worry, if you just push through the pain and fog, get a pot of coffee on, and feed the blurry little monkeys hanging on your arms and legs, you've made it past the biggest hurdle. You know the caffeine has kicked in when the little monkeys transform into two little boys. Your boys. Yes, that's right, you have kids. This fact never goes unnoticed, but most days it still surprises you. There will be many more normal everyday surprises throughout each day. In fact, you may be smelling one right now. Yeah that smell coming from the cute little chubby one? That's your responsibility. Don't worry, these things no longer phase you.

Each day you are reminded how desperately you need to get to bed earlier, so that despite the many times you are woken in the night, you are still able to get out of bed before your children. There are many reasons for this: 1) It's easier to get up as a sane person when you have time to adjust to the conscious world without a little boy talking to you a million words per minute, asking for 10 things at a time, while you are trying not to trip over him on your way to change your 7 month old, whose wet diaper has once again leaked through his PJs, is hungry, and wants to be held. 2) It is much more convenient to be up in time to say "No cookies for breakfast" before your 3 year old helps himself to 3 large ones, is covered in crumbs, and bouncing off the walls in a sugar high (the sugar crash is even more fun). 3) Coffee is much more enjoyable when you are actually able to drink it, and if the caffeine kicks in before the little ones get up, that's a bonus-- add some reading and meditation and you've accomplished half your goals for the day already! Of course it would be a lot easier to go to bed early if your 7 month old would go to bed before 10:30, and if you didn't require time with your husband or to yourself (now wouldn't that make raising kids a whole lot easier?).

This very well could have been my only goal for the year (sleep). If reached it would make me just as satisfied as all other goals combined. Also might make reaching other goals more possible.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy 2012: Some things never change (change being one of them)

New years eve, Aaron and I decided if we could just get our kids in bed at a decent enough hour to have some quality hang out time, that would be good enough for us. (By the way, how do people even find babysitters on news years eve?) No fire works or partying for us. Just a movie, some Bailey's, and each other's company. It was a magnificent way to ring in the new year if you ask me. We danced to the credits, laughed till we were afraid we'd wake the kids, and finally made our way to bed around 3 a.m. (we're wild things). It's pretty cool when even after almost 4 years of marriage, two kids, and a lot of life, we're still fun enough for each other to throw our own personal new years eve party and really have a great time.

By the January 1st, my goals for the year were already stressing me out. Not because I was afraid I couldn't accomplish them, but because I started to realized, maybe I didn't want to accomplish all of them. At least not this year. I spent a couple days going over it in my head, a little frustrated that I had already "locked in" my goals for the year. Then I realized... I can change them! The thing that has been bothering me the most is nursing school. I really, really, really want to be a nurse (eventually nurse-midwife). I know I could pursue it now and we could make it work. Part of me has been paranoid that if I don't pursue it now, I never will. The other part of me knows I am determined, and unless God clearly calls me in a different direction, I am pretty confident that this is at least part of what he has in store for me. The thing is that within the first year of our marriage, Aaron and I had a baby, moved 3 times, and started a business. In the 3 years following we moved again, I went back to school, had another baby, moved again. We've never really had any period of consistency. I know that's life, but I also feel a little exhausted by it all. Life has felt so chaotic, I kind of want to get things in order, settle, start family traditions, get good at some things. Things are already so crazy for our family, I just don't know that adding one more big thing like this is what is right for this time in my life. It's taken a lot for me to say it, but even though I really want this, I don't know that I want it right now. Surprisingly to me, I felt relieved after resolving to revamp my goals. Instead of pursuing an associates degree in nursing now, I've thought about finishing my bachelors part-time over the next few years and then getting my BSN when I feel comfortable being in school full-time. Don't hold me to this. Things always change. :)

New Goals:
- Start family traditions
This is the first year that we even celebrated Christmas as our own little family. We've been in survival mode for so long, we hardly have a steady routine, much less family traditions. I hope we can start a few this year.
- Learn to enjoy cooking/baking (and do it well)
If I have to do it anyway, I might as well get good at it. I like eating good food, so I'd like to enjoy making it. I tend to rush through recipes, or worse, wing them. I'm not a bad cook, but I'm definitely not a really good one. I'd like to be though.
- Learn to change out a tire
This was a goal of mine when I bought my first car--then I realized Aaron could do it for me. BUT I'd still like to learn to do it.
- Teach Aiden to swim
I am really excited about this! Not only does it imply that summer will come once again, but I remember first learning to swim, how scary, exhilarating, and freeing it was. I can't believe I get to teach my kid now!
- Get involved with local ministry
Not sure doing what. Preferably something I could do with my kids. Gotta look into it.
- Look into Bachelor degrees
I've always been interested in three things: nursing, nutrition, and journalism. I want to look into getting my Bachelors in either Nutrition or Journalism. See what it would look like if I pursued them part time, and go from there.
- Take a class in the fall
Either a pre-req I need for nursing, or if I decide to pursue another degree first, a class for that.
- Read history
There are a lot of historic events I want to know more about. I would like to read more about them.

The rest remains the same...

- CNA certification
- Quote journal/letters to the boys
- Make running a part of my life again
- Write at least one fictional story
- Start and keep a prayer journal
- Get Christmas gifts done before Thanksgiving
- Try a new trail once a month
- Print pictures
- Have a cleaning schedule, and stick to it
- Date with my sexy husband once a week (even if just a walk!)
- One-on-one mother-son dates each month
- Limit TV to twice a week
- Limit desert to once a week

Perhaps it's slightly narcissistic to assume you'd want to know all this. But then again, all blogging is rather narcissistic if you think about it.