Category Archives: Grace

Series: College Life | Firsts…

I’m in my last semester of college for my BA in English. I have five, yes five, English courses this semester…and a husband, three kids, and a dog. And four of those classes have long book lists so needless to say, I have little time for anything.

With all that said, I miss being here. I am trying to make time to blog but honestly, I’m exhausted. Physically and emotionally. Especially since my last blog which told of another huge loss I’m dealing with. It’s still hard. It’s going to be hard. It’s life. Anyway, a professor from one of my writing classes gave us a writing exercise in class a couple days ago and I wanted to share it all with you…

The exercise: Write about a first or firsts…

“It was ice cold and stark white in the delivery room. Even though I hadn’t started pushing yet, I was already exhausted. It’s indescribable how those sharp, stabbing pains in my stomach and back had stolen any umph I could muster up. It was all I could do just to breathe through them.

Speaking of breathing, I hate that word. I hate focusing on breathing. There was a time in my life when holding my breathe was normal. It was safe. Here was this doctor standing beside me telling me to breathe. Frankly, I wanted to rip his lungs out and say, ‘You try breathing!’

Not to mention my husband standing there with an empathetic look. All I could think was he’d gotten me into this mess — he better figure out a way to get me through it. I wanted to stab him every time the knots got tighter inside. I felt like my body was attacking me, which I’d felt many times before, only this time, it wasn’t my body. It was this strange creature growing inside my body causing this crazy whirlwind of physical and emotional feelings.

I screamed at the doctor, ‘Just get him out!’

I was twenty-two. I wondered what God was thinking letting me have a kid. Didn’t He know how screwed up I was? Why would He trust me with an innocent little kid. I couldn’t even keep a cactus alive, but God expected me to keep a baby alive?

‘Push…’ I hear the nurses say, ‘You can do it…breathe, just breathe.’ I swore if I heard one more person say breathe I was going to smother them all with the extra pillows they’d stuffed behind me.

And then…

I saw these tiny red toes and heard this wimpy, pitiful cry. It was the first time I’d given birth…the first time I’d really known what love was…the first time I had a reason to breathe.”

So there you have it. That’s my creative story of firsts. Though portions of the story may be somewhat exaggerated, when I write, I write from my heart. So yes, that little creature that turned my world upside down…he gave me purpose. He gave me a reason to fight. We’ve had our moments. I’ve had my really crappy mom moments and he’s had his drive me crazy moments. He’s seventeen now. He’s a senior in high school. He’s a volunteer firefighter. He’s training to be an EMT. He’s a good boy. I’m thankful, but still surprised God trusted me to raise this kid…and his two siblings.

Through all the hard in life, in marriage, in parenting, in loss, in grief, in darkness…through it all, I depend on beauty like this to help me breathe again.

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Grace: Mom Grace…

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That kid…she’s pretty cool…most days (we all have our moments, right?!)

She calls me mom.
We call her Olivia, Livi, Liv, Livi Grace, and “The Giggler.”

She’s almost always smiling.
Everyone comments about her giggle (hence the nickname “The Giggler”)

She loves school.
She loves to read.
She loves that she can tie her shoes.
She loves her teacher.
She loves getting on purple (the best behavior color).
She LOVES art.

She loves to color, draw, paint, craft, use scissors, make messes, and not clean up!

She loves her brothers (aka “Stinky” and “Smelly”) sometimes.
She loves her friends.
She loves soccer.

She has her own “style.”
She loves bags, paper, pens, stickers (she gets that from me!).

That kid is full of energy, joy, and fun. She makes me laugh daily. And best of all, she calls me mom.

But some days, I let myself go there…you know the place…that ugly place where I feel sorry for her that she *has* to call me mom. That place where I think she got “the short end of the stick,” “the raw end of the deal,” etc.

Why do I do that?
Why do we, as moms, do that?
Why do we beat ourselves up when we don’t feel we are up to par?

That picture up there…that was from last week. The kids had silly hat day and together, Olivia and I came up with a crown, covered in shiny owls, shamrocks, gold washi tape, and more. She loved it! She called herself the “Cloverleaf Queen.” And of course, we captured the moment with a photo. I was the best mom ever!

For weeks now, all I have heard her talk about is Letterland day. She had this grand plan to be “Golden Girl.” She was excited, I was excited…but being me, human that is, I completely forgot about Letterland day. I even had a reminder from a friend just a few days ago, and still, this morning my little sunshine, my “Golden Girl,” headed off to school in her normal “style” without a pretty “G” or anything fancy and “golden” going on.

It was a mom fail.
Fail #2,345,678 or something like that.
The two boys ahead of her racked in most of those mom fails.

Being blessing #3 has it’s ups and downs. The fact that she is THE GIRL, gets her bonus points…especially after two boys. I never cared much for pink and purple until I was sooooooo tired of blue and red. That girl…yep, her room is PINK AND PURPLE (and I love it)!

And being THE GIRL who also loves art and crafty stuff gets her more bonus points with me because I love those things too! We work on our planners together. We color together. She crafts while I draw or read. It’s a wonderful life. Ahh, bliss!

Then there’s the part where I’m so over the whole mom thing, like PTO/PTA, classroom helper, snack provider, etc. See the boys got the best of it. Actually blessing #1 got the most because way back then, I was even on the PTA with a title and all (don’t remember my title now…I’ve blocked those memories…or they were just that long ago, LOL!). Blessing #2 got a few classroom party visits from mom, a couple of birthday lunches here and there, and the occasional cool points for dress up days. Blessing #3…well, I thought that because she’s THE GIRL and the fact there’s no babies on her heels, I’d be the coolest mom with her…you know, the one that’s always around, always helping, always seen, always available, always perfect?!

Well, guess what…that perfect mom DOES NOT EXIST!

You can argue with me on that, but I am 99.9% sure that mom is nowhere to be found. If you are her, then come give me lessons! Otherwise, stand back, smile, and give me grace! I’ll do the same for you!

Grace is a hot topic in this house lately. See I’m teaching a Bible study on Grace…but you know what? I think it’s really the other way around. It’s teaching me…God’s teaching me. God knows I’m stubborn…so stubborn. And He has to drill things home for me to get them. He knows I’m much more likely to teach others than to teach myself but by teaching others, He teaches me way more than I ever imagined I needed to know. So, He’s teaching me grace.

And today, I’m giving myself “Mom Grace.”

My girl was not “Golden Girl.”
I slept in (and enjoyed it).
It didn’t even cross my mind.
She will survive.
I’ll tell her, “You’ll always be my golden girl.”

And I’ll tell her, “I’m sorry.”
I’ll tell her, “I love you!”
I’ll ask her to extend grace.

And when I see other mom fails, I’ll remember this day…and I’ll extend “Mom Grace” to them!

Take it easy on you…this whole being a mom thing is tough. Don’t compare because there’s not a single other mother out there doing a better job than you! Just ask your kiddos! (but catch them on a good day and preferably not during puberty or the teenage years…because their brains don’t function properly at that point and you most likely will not get the right answer. Catch them before they’re a tween or after they’ve got their own kids!).

Grace, people. Grace! Today, extend mom grace!

 

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Word of the Year…

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Word of the year…

Perhaps the word of the year has become the new hype instead of resolutions we often fail at. I hear a lot of people these days choosing a word and focusing on that word throughout the year. Focus and Intentional seem to be what I’ve heard the most lately.

I’d never really chosen a word of the year…until last year. Even then, I didn’t choose the word; it chose me.

Hope.

I’m a part of a beautiful group of ladies along with a dear friend, Suzie Eller. In this group, we were asked to share a word. Honestly, at the time I didn’t even put much thought to it. I just knew the word I was supposed to use was hope. I shared a little story about what hope meant to me at the time and this picture…

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I wouldn’t know at that point just how much the word hope would come to mean. By February of last year, I had lost all hope…Not hope in a God that loved me or would save me, but in a life on this earth filled with peace. I was ready to be with God. I had been for a while. On the night of February 20th, after an evening of laughs with our closest friends, I attempted to take my own life (check posts from February and March 2015 to go back and read about that time). When my attempt failed, admittedly, I was quite disappointed.

Rather than losing hope, I was suddenly forced to find hope. I was still here. I was alive. I didn’t really feel alive, but by definition, I was alive. That wasn’t a part of my plan but that’s where I was.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

I had to find something to help me get through each day. This required effort. It hasn’t been easy by any means.

Hope.

It began with just having enough hope to open my eyes in the morning, eventually leading to hoping I could wake up and get out of bed. Slowly other things came…

Hoping I could look at my kids again.
Hoping I could put together a rational thought.
Hoping I could make it through an hour without wanting to die.
Hoping I could make it through a day, a week.

Little by little over the next year, those thoughts of hope have grown. I won’t say my thoughts have completely changed from the plan to end my life. I still struggle to find hope and peace with life here on this earth but I think one thing I learned was I was searching for something that can’t be found.

I will never be the person I was before that night. It didn’t change my thoughts but it did change me.

It’s strange how the darkest, scariest, loneliest, and most painful place can somehow become the greatest. My memories from that time are some of the worst and best of my life. I was searching for peace that can only come through knowing to Whom and where I belong. I now know the answer to both of those. Knowing that is peace.

Peace.

I still struggle to find hope and peace with life here on this earth but I think one thing I learned was I was searching for something that can’t be found.  While in this life, I won’t find peace from suffering, I have found the peace I was meant to find. This journey has not been without reward.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

With that said, peace was added to my word list. By the end of 2015, one more word had been added.

Joy.

Through the darkness of my depression and somehow stumbling back into His light, I learned what true joy is.

True joy.

It’s not happiness.

Happiness is eating a Big Mac without worrying that it will add pounds or a stomach ache.
Happiness is pouring water over your head on a hot summer day.
Happiness is having a few hours to myself when the kids are in school.

Happiness is based on circumstances and things.

Joy goes much deeper into the core of who we are. You have to search for it (again requiring an active part from us) and when you find it, there’s no denying it. You know you’ve found it. Joy is possible in both the best of circumstances and the worst.

As odd as it may sound, I found joy through my suicide attempt and because I have joy, true joy, I can share the good and the bad with you. I learned so much in the past year and in a lifetime of hurt and pain and honestly, I wouldn’t trade it for anything because it has taught me what hope means, how to have joy through anything life throws at me, and that peace is attainable when you search for the right kind.

So, that sums up last year. Hope, peace, and joy will always have a special place in my heart. I will embrace them and the joy I found through the lowest point of my life. And, I look forward to learning new things about them in the days, months, and years to come.

I can’t wait to see what words 2016 brings. For now, I already have two words.

Faith.

Faith is the word that I’ve chosen, but really, like hope, I think it actually chose me. I plan to focus a lot of faith, growing in faith, trusting the faithfulness of God and those He has placed by my side, and sharing the gift of faith. I’m sure there will be many posts on faith. Along with faith, is grace, extending grace because we all need it. Many stood by me last year in my darkest moment and showed me how to truly love someone. Part of that love was by extending grace. I want to offer the same to others.

Right now…

My faith is stronger than ever before.
My faith is in Him.

Lessons learned last year…

Find hope.
When all hope seems lost, His love still remains.
Joy is possible…in all circumstances.
Peace is found in knowing to Whom and where you belong.

And…

“Faith isn’t faith until Jesus is all you are holding on to!”

I don’t know where I heard the above quote but it has stuck with me. On the night of February 20th, 2015, nothing else mattered. Not my husband. Not my children. Not my friends. Nothing. I simply wanted to go and be with God. And that next night, as I sat alone in my bare, cold hospital room, striped of everything shy of the air in my lungs, He was all I needed and He was there.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Have you considered choosing a word for 2016? If you have, what’s your word? I’d love to hear from you all on your thoughts and stories!

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31 Days of Grace | Day 1 – My Grace

It’s that time of year again!

What time is that, you ask?

Why it’s Nester time of course ;)  Last year, I attempted my first run at 31 Days of blogging encouraged by The Nester.  I made about 17 days.  You can find them here.

This year, I’m trying again.  A quick little prayer from you all might help a girl who sometimes often fails to follow through with long term commitments.  Yes, I do consider 31 days long term when it’s every.single.day ;)

Moving right along, The Nester encourages bloggers to choose one topic and write about it every day for the 31 days of October.  This year, I hope you’ll join me through the month of October.  My choice topic this year is … Grace!

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I’ll add the links here on this page as I post them :)
[Scroll to the bottom of this post to view the links for all the 2013 days]

And for my first post in this series, I want to share with you, my Grace…

She’s a little over three feet tall, and barely tips the scale above thirty pounds.  She’s beautiful inside and out.  She’s full of spirit, joy and spunk.

Her name is Olivia Grace.

We knew her middle name would be Grace long before we ever knew she’d even be a part of our lives.  We knew over nine years ago, when we found out were were pregnant with our second child.  We had decided if it was a boy, he’d be Caleb James.  If it was a girl, she’d be Sarah Grace.  Caleb James joined our family that year in September.  Our hearts were instantly in love with that precious little boy.  His big brother, Noah, gleamed at the sight of his new baby brother.  He was proud.  Life was good.

It wasn’t long though before I knew our family was still incomplete.  We had struggled with infertility already so this time, we were determined to try again right away for a third child.  After a year, sadness set in.  After two years, hope was almost gone.  After three years, I had given up.  I moved on.  Still, a part of me ached for the missing piece in our puzzle.

One night, I had a dream, one of those so real you can’t believe it was a dream.  It will filled with emotions and love.  In the dream, I gave birth to a baby girl who came with a name, Olivia.  Later in the dream, she aged right along with my boys.  I saw her riding in a shopping cart with the cutest little pigtails and the boys were walking along side her.  When I woke up and told the hubby about this dream, he said, “Well, that settles it, when we have our little girl, we’ll call her Olivia Grace.”

There was never a question of her name, only of when we’d finally get to meet her.  Many times I cried out to God that if we weren’t meant to have another child, he would take away those desires.  I begged Him to give me peace with it all but those prayers weren’t answered.  Now I realize it’s because He wasn’t done with our family but it was in His time that we would meet our precious little girl.  Five years and two months after we were blessed with Caleb, Olivia Grace entered our world.

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I write more about her than the boys, probably because I have done the most growing since our family has been complete (or perhaps it’s because she’s the baby of the family, or because she’s the only girl).  In the past few years, God has completely changed my world.  I definitely have peace now that our family is complete.  I am able to see the many ways God has orchestrated things in my life, for good, for His glory.

As I mentioned, we chose Olivia because of the dream I had.  Some might say it was just a dream, but in my heart, I believe that was God’s way of telling me that someday, I would meet that little girl and that was her name.  Grace was Tony’s grandmothers name.  We chose Grace because of her.  As I have grown closer in my relationship with Christ, Olivia Grace’s name carries even more meaning.  She’s a reminder to me of the grace God has given me.  She is my Grace but I can’t wait to share with you, 31 days of God’s grace!

31 Days 2013 | 31 Days of Grace

Day 1 | My Grace
Day 2 | Confident Grace
Day 3 | Grace, I Need You
Day 4 | Wrapped in Grace
Day 5 | What If Grace
Day 6 | Redeemed by Grace
Day 7 | Blessings of Grace
Day 8 | Extending Grace
Day 9 | Unchanging Grace
Day 10 | Grace Like Rain
Day 11 | Justified by Grace
Day 12 | Your Grace is Enough
Day 13 | Humble Grace
Day 14 | Sufficient Grace
Day 15 | Full of Grace
Day 16 | Grace Quotes {Part 1}
Day 17 | Grace & Choice
Day 18 | Grace Quotes {Part 2}
Day 19 | Grace with Purpose
Day 20 | His Grace is Bigger
Day 21 | How Sweet the Sound: Amazing Grace
Day 22 | Grace Quotes {Part 3}
Day 23 | God’s Grace
Day 24 | Blessed by Grace
Day 25 | Your Grace Finds Me
Day 26 | Accepting Grace
Day 27 | Songs of Grace
Day 28 | Words of Grace
Day 29 | Verses on Grace
Day 30 | Sisters with Grace
Day 31 | Daughters by Grace

 

Beautifully Stained…

BeautifullyStained

This morning, I sat listening to the Rhett Walker Band “All I Need is You”.  At one point in the song, he says…

“Wash my eyes to see you
Wash the stains away
Give me faith to trust You
‘Cause You’re the rising day

So let the rain keep falling down
As the waters flood this town
On my knees
I’ll be found

All I need
All I need is You.”

What caught my attention was “wash the stains away”.

I thought about my husband.  He is forever dripping things on his shirts and most often, they leave a small stain.  He may wipe the spot immediately or it may sit a while.  He may spray it with some sort of stain remover but many of his shirts still carry these small stains.

I think of my life.  I think of all the stains that have been smeared into the years of my life.  How many times have I tried to wipe them away on my own?  How often have I used something to try and remove them or cover them?  And yet many of them are still there.

When you look at my husband in one of his shirts, you probably won’t notice the stains (except, now that I pointed it out, you might, lol), but he knows they are there and I know they are there.

God knows the stains we carry.  God aches for us, for the burdens we hang onto, the pain we hold so tight and yet he waits for us to hand it over to him.

We spend so much time and energy trying to hide our stains, trying to cover them up or wipe them away.  Those stains are a part of us.  Those stains have made us who we are.  Sometimes that picture of who we are may not be a pretty one but when we choose to walk with God, it doesn’t matter how pretty or clean our shirts are.  He meets us right where we are.  He gives us time to grow, guides us along the way and picks us up when we fall.

I admit, my heart is often very heavy with the stains I carry but I am learning to let Him carry me.  Someday, maybe I’ll be able to hand it all to him and just simply walk beside him.  For today, I’m just gonna wear my stains, knowing they don’t define me, they don’t make me ugly, that with Him, I am beautifully stained!

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Who Made This Mess?

MotherhoodMessy

Motherhood is messy.

Goldfish in the bottom of your purse.
Army men in the toilet.
Snot on your shoulder and maybe in your hair.
Toilet paper on the floor and none to be found on the roll.
Dog hair in YOUR brush.
Bubble gum on their shoe, and yours.
Up the back diapers – you know what I’m talking about?!
Scribbles on your checkbook, your wall, and that one of a kind painting.
Splashes from bath time all over the floor.

Did I mention motherhood is messy?

Not only do we face sticky situations like the ones I mentioned above, but we also face challenges with knowing what to teach our kids, how to teach them well and how to help grow them into responsible, intelligent, compassionate adults.

Having an unstable family growing up, I never really felt mothered like I imagined it was suppose to be.  When I became a mom, I had no idea what that meant, how I was suppose to act or treat this little person, other than to simply love him and even that came with difficulties.

I didn’t really understand love.  I had never really felt loved.  I knew in my head that my grandpa loved me with all his heart.  There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that he loved me.  He was always there when I needed someone.  He was the one decent father figure I had after one had abandoned me and the other abused me.  He was always kind.  He was my best friend.  But, he was all I really knew about love.

What I thought I knew about love had been all wrong.  Every.single.person shy of my grandpa, that I thought loved me, had hurt me tremendously.  Love meant they left me, hurt me, used me, made fun of me.  Most of what I thought I knew about love was painful, hurtful and lonely.

So here was this new little baby boy, beautiful, innocent and fragile.  He needing nothing more than protection, nurturing and love but I didn’t know how to give him that.  I had not been protected.  I had not been nurtured.  I felt unloved.  How could I give him what I knew nothing about?

My role as a mother became hell.  I felt myself growing further and further from him.  While I knew in my heart that I loved him so dearly, I did not know how to show that or accept his unconditional love for me.  I pulled away, distanced myself.  I sunk into a horrible, deep, dark depression.  I spent my first mother’s day, alone.

It took a long time to move past that.  It took giving up, not on life, but on controlling my life.  It took a breaking point, a vision of the own abuse I had suffered through, to change me.  In a moment of sheer desperation, I cried out to God. 

“I can’t do this anymore.
I can’t do this alone.
I don’t know how to love.
I don’t know how to be a good mom.
I don’t want to hurt him like I was hurt.
He deserves more than that.
He deserves a good mom.
He deserves to feel loved.”

And in that moment, I let go of the reigns and gave them to God.

Things didn’t change over night.  In fact, if you talked to that little boy today, who is now a thirteen year old teenager, he would probably say I’m an okay mom but I’ve had my moments and many of them at that.  He would say, “Yeah, she’s okay.” or “Yeah, she yells a lot.”  But I’m pretty sure he knows that I love him.  And there’s no doubt in my mind that I would do absolutely everything in my power to protect him, to show him love and to make sure he knows that I am here for him, through anything.

So, this whole mom thing is pretty messy.  Much of this mess, I created myself.  Add in two other kiddos and there’s a whole world more of messiness around here, LOL!

The thing is, it’s good messy.  It’s fun, it’s happy, it’s hopeful.  And while there are still times of frustration, while there are still times when I fail horribly, I have learned to accept my faults and to apologize.  I have looked at my children, after yelling at them over something silly, realizing my anger was really from my own issues and not theirs, and had to apologize.  Learning to apologize for our shortcomings and our faults is not easy, especially to the people we want to respect and obey us, but it is so importantThey need to know that it’s okay to make mistakes and it’s even better when we can admit them.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.  Ephesians 2:8

That’s my messy mom stories for today.  What’s yours?

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