Category Archives: A Look Back

When Your “One Word” Challenges You

Depend

How is it possible that another year has passed? I can’t even remember where December went and am still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that it is New Year’s Eve tonight. I haven’t written a lot in the past few months but felt like I needed to pen my thoughts on my “one word” for 2015.

I wish I could wrap it up in a pretty red bow and tell you that I finally picked a word for the year and mastered it in my life.

Unfortunately, I find myself at that place once again where I feel like my hopes for what my word was going to be are instead a reflection of my failures of not following through.

I read back through my post last January and remember the challenge I was placing before me. Depend on God in everything. Look to Him as my source of comfort and hope. Could I place my dependence on Him in every aspect of my life?

The answer, quite frankly, is no.

Could I….yes.

Did I? No.

The reality is that I am a Type A person to the core. I like things my way, I want to manage my circumstances and the outcome. I don’t like the unknown. And I certainly don’t like making mistakes or being wrong.

So while I found myself at the beginning of 2015 in a place where I was eager to give up that control and depend on God instead, somewhere along the way…and I am guessing rather quickly, I decided that I could speed things up and manage my life (and others) well enough on my own.

Can’t you just see my head growing with ego and pride!?

And don’t you sometimes wonder what God must be thinking when we put ourselves in places like this? I imagine He laughs a little and then steps back, like we do with our own kids when they are trying to exert some independence and thinks…go ahead, give it a try and I will be right here when you are ready for my guidance again…

He was always there with me, but for the majority of 2015 I worked pretty hard at trying to keep my life all under control on my own. The difference this year from years past is that when things went wrong I didn’t blame God. It has never been that He wasn’t there to guide me…I just stopped asking for His help.

So while I find myself at a place I hoped I wouldn’t be, I am trying to see this as a challenge instead of a failure.

You see, I am a work in progress.

And in many areas of my life I can be a slow learner. Thankfully I have a God that is patient and long suffering. I am not perfect (while I so desperately wish I were) and I am very slowly seeing the benefits of letting go of the things I can’t control and trusting God through it all.

I don’t have full dependence on God mastered at the end of 2015 and I am beginning to believe that this will be something I will continue to work on for the rest of my life.

Today I am ok with that.

Friends as we watch the final hours of this year tick away can we try and focus on the small steps forward instead of the seemingly big failures? Let’s start the new year grateful for the challenges of the past and hold onto hope in our continued growth in the future.

It has been a blessing to walk this past year with you – Happy New Year!

The First Song


VHS

Dominic discovered our wedding videos several months ago, the old VHS tapes that have been stored and saved and unwatched for years. He thought it might be fun to convert them to a DVD so that we could watch them again and found someone that could do that as a surprise for me.

A few nights ago we sat down together to watch it. It was something that we both really needed to see again. I can’t remember the last time we watched it…maybe 10 years ago? We are coming up on 20 years of marriage and it is sad how much about that day I have forgotten.

Seeing family and friends that we haven’t seen in years, some now gone from our lives…it was bittersweet hearing their voices and seeing their smiles.

It was interesting to see the events of the day through a different lens. Apparently there were 2 cameras set up, one at the back of the church and another at the front. Wear, time, maybe heat exposure had damaged the VHS of one of the views. It was distorted and blurry. Thankfully the view from the front was still in tact.

One thing that I remembered from the wedding was that my sister sang a song for us. We were married young (21) and my sister was just 16. She was always involved in show choir or music of some sort and had a powerful voice for a young girl. And the bravery it took to sing in front of that many people, at that age…is amazing.

We have talked about that song over the years because she had a hard time getting through it. I hadn’t remembered the specific details, but knew she cried during the song and she was so upset afterwards because she thought she had ruined my wedding. (She didn’t)

I never felt that way….I remember being touched that she was emotional about my wedding. I wasn’t the best sister…no strike that, I probably would have gotten an F for sister kindness. She was young enough that I didn’t really take the time to get to know her. We didn’t have this wonderful sister bond growing up…so knowing she was crying over me was really special.

As we watched the video I can see why it was hard for her. The song came right after we had lit the unity candle. We then walked down so that we could present roses to both of our parents. So as she started to sing, she also had to watch as we hugged our parents. It was an emotional moment, and completely understandable that she might have been crying watching that.

But here is what I had long forgotten about that day.

There was another song. A first one actually. A song that she sang at the very beginning of the wedding after we all walked into the church. It was strong and beautiful, and yet I had forgotten. How could I forget that bravery…why had we remembered the struggle and not the beauty?

As I was thinking about that this morning I realized that I do this in so many ways.

I have memories from certain situations or circumstances, and so often I only remember the negative parts…even when there is beauty interwoven throughout, I forget that.

Why do we do this? Why do I do this?

I look through life with a distorted lens.

I see the hurt or the embarrassment, the shame I felt, or the anger.  Those become my core memories and all the good, all the happy moments, become less and less. It isn’t that they aren’t there…but I am not allowing myself to see them.

I want to start to see my life through a new lens.

I want to look back at my life and see that yes, there were times of hurt or pain, but they were also filled with beauty and hope. And I need to spend more time focusing on the good than how I felt about the bad.

So many of my memories are wrapped around how I felt at that particular moment. If I didn’t feel good….then I allow that feeling to take over, to become the predominant memory I have.

Pretty soon I am unable to see the good, my vision is clouded and blurred…it is distorted.

Thankfully I know today that I can make a choice to try and see the whole picture, to remember everything and then choose to have a right focus. To see opportunities for growth, to see bravery that wasn’t acknowledged before, to seek out the positive and let that be my focus.

It’s always been there, but I haven’t been willing or able to see it.

Today I am choosing to see, to remember the first song and be grateful that. I am walking forward today with a new hope. I have seen how God has taken my broken pieces and made them whole again…yet I stumble through life with the baggage of my mistakes, unwilling and unable to let them go.

Yes, I am still a broken woman. There are still hurts that I need healing from, and pain I have caused that needs forgiveness…but I don’t have to define my life by my struggle. Instead I am bringing all of me to my God and asking Him to use each part, each moment for His glory.

And I am hopeful that the song that will come from the good and the bad, will be beautiful.

A Man Deserving of Honor

grandpa and grandma

I knew when I heard my dad’s message that something was wrong, I could hear it in his voice. I didn’t expect to hear the news I did though. Grandpa had collapsed, he is in the ER and it doesn’t look good.

Just a few hours earlier grandpa had commented on a photo I had posted on Facebook. Can I just tell you how much I loved that my 88 year old grandpa was on Facebook?! It just didn’t seem possible that this was happening.

I went home and told the kids that we needed to pray. My Elijah was so upset. He asked if he could write a letter to his great grandpa and then he drew him a picture of the two of them together. He was worried about great grandma because she would be alone.

At 7:25pm on Monday September 21st, my grandpa Paul left this world for the arms of Jesus. His legacy remains on in his family, but we are heartbroken and shocked and hurting right now.

It still seems impossible really as I write this. Knowing that inevitably this day would come for all of us, doesn’t make it any easier. How do you possibly honor a man than has made such an impact in our lives?

I am not sure that I can do it justice, but I want to try.

Trips to Chicago City were a highlight of my childhood. While the drive was LONG, the reward at the end was going up the long driveway to the big blue house that grandpa and grandma lived in.

If it were early enough we would run down the hill to go fishing off the dock. Grandpa would go with us out into the wooded area by the boat house and help us dig for earth worms. And when we would haul the stuffed pail back up the hill, grandpa would get out his filet knife and cutting board and set up shop over the washing machine and set to work.

He was meticulous about cleaning the fish and would describe what he was doing. I remember the skill with which he took care of the fish, I have even tried to replicate it…but no one could clean fish like grandpa.

Often my siblings and I would stay for a week or more without our parents. During the work week grandpa would get up early and was all dressed up in his dress shirt and tie and walk down the driveway to meet his carpool ride. Can I just talk a minute about the ties…oh the ties he had. He had more ties than I have shoes! 🙂 In his room and even in the closet in the basement. I loved looking at all of those ties when we would visit.

In the evenings we would run down to wait for him to be dropped back off and escort him home. Grandpa always had a story to tell us about his day and we felt special to just be a part of it.

Christmas brought the tradition of opening gifts and the reading of the Christmas story. Grandpa would let us open 1 present each, in order of our age. As a young child that was torture…waiting our turn especially when grandpa’s turn came because it meant he would get out his pocket knife and carefully open the present, saving the paper for a future use. It took him a lifetime to open one gift! 🙂

And then once presents were done he would get out his bible and read us the Christmas story from Luke. Grandpa had a strong faith and while I don’t think I recognized it or appreciated it as a child…I am so grateful for that today. What I wouldn’t give right now to have a recording of him reading the Christmas story.

Grandpa was a writer and I like to think that my love of writing comes in part from him. About 3 1/2 years ago grandpa and I started communicating more and more. Through emails we kept in touch in ways that we hadn’t in the past.

I know I didn’t save all of them, but I went through them and found that I had saved over 150 different conversations. Sometimes he had encouragement to offer, other times an inspiring story and at times well thought out, detailed advice to consider following. 😉

I came across a post he had sent some of our family back in 2013. It was a story about his own father. He shared the challenges his father faced but also the unique ways that those challenges shaped his life. The blessings that came from them.

He ended the email with this…”I see the hand of God in all of this. We can never fully understand His plans for us or for our lives. Instead we must trust that He will always be with us, even during those times that give us cause to question.”

This faith, this hope, was something that was such an encouragement to Dominic and I when we started Dominic’s business. Grandpa and grandma offered their prayers and support in so many ways during that time. Grandpa believed 100% that Dominic would be successful if he just got things going.

He came to us with an offer of a loan. We typed up a promissory note and made it official. He sent emails asking about the business and had ideas for marketing and a website. He loved hearing about how things were going and was one of our biggest cheerleaders.

If I were discouraged, he would encourage me to trust God and have hope. He believed God had a plan for us and he trusted in it. He told me that he prayed for me daily. I hope that my faith life always reflects such faith and hope and a commitment to prayer for those I love.

I am grateful that grandpa and grandma were able to celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary last week. That they got to visit their church and reminisce over all God had done in their family over the years. There were pictures taken and good food enjoyed and memories made.

I don’t know why grandpa’s life had to end this way, this unexpectedly. I am heartbroken for grandma and my mom and aunts and uncle. I want to fix it, make it better and I can’t.

I want to wrap this up with some wonderful words of wisdom that will make everyone feel better…I just don’t know that I can do that. But I believe, just like grandpa did, that God is with us.

Grandpa loved his bride and his family and would want us to celebrate the fact that he is now with Jesus. His strong faith in God promised that for those who placed their trust in God as he did, death was not the end.

So I celebrate my grandpa today. I thank God for the blessing he was to so many and the light and laughter he brought into my life. And in his own words I end with this…

I see the hand of God in all of this. We can never fully understand His plans for us and for our lives. Instead we must trust that He will always be with us, even during times that give us cause to question.

My prayer for everyone in our family would be that we would feel God’s covering of peace during this time, that we would love and encourage one another and that we would celebrate the life of a man worthy of honor.

Grandpa you loved well and are loved. You will be remembered through laughter and tears and while your physical presence will be missed your impact and legacy will always remain.

The Spoon

Spoon 2

A few weeks ago I picked Karlena up from daycare and as we were driving home I noticed that she had a toy in her hand. When I asked her what it was she tried to hide it behind her back.

A pretty clear sign to me that she had taken something that wasn’t hers.

When we got home I told her to show me what she had. It was a small toy horse. She LOVES horses right now and it was obviously something she didn’t already have at home. But I knew it wasn’t hers.

She reluctantly admitted to me that it was Markel’s. When I asked her how she got it outside without either of us seeing it she said she hid it in her shorts! In the waist band to be exact! Can you even believe that?!

We had a long conversation about taking things that aren’t ours and the next morning we brought it back to daycare and she told Markel the truth and apologized for taking something she shouldn’t have.

This isn’t the first time that one of my kids have done something like this. Last year it was Elijah and some shiny treasures from preschool. I might have cause to be worried but the reality is don’t we all covet what we don’t have?

___________________________________

I don’t remember how old I was but I do remember the tea set.

We lived on a hill and there was a family that lived down the hill from us that had 2 girls just a few years younger than me. Sarah and I became friends and often played together. Her dad also had a red corvette and every once and awhile he would take us out in the “cool car” to McDonalds for an ice cream cone. That was always such a treat!

At some point Sarah got a brand new, huge white tea set for a birthday or Christmas present.

Oh how I wanted that tea set. I loved playing with it and wanted to have one at my house. But I didn’t. It wasn’t enough that Sarah was generous in sharing it with me during our play time…no I needed to have one myself.

And when I couldn’t have it, I didn’t want her to have one either.

Why is it that we do that?

When someone has something nice/fun/new why do we feel jealousy, why do we covet what they have? Why can’t we be genuinely happy for others and their blessings?!

I didn’t want Sarah to have something so wonderful, so one day when we were playing I stole a tea spoon. I hid it in my pocket and took it home with me. Stuffed under pairs of socks, it sat like a dirty little secret in my drawer.

It isn’t much fun to play with one spoon.

It really isn’t fun to play with one spoon that is a constant reminder of stealing…of a lie. I would take out that spoon and feel guilty. I knew that I should give it back. That Sarah wanted her full tea set together….that it wasn’t mine and I didn’t have any right to take it.

I honestly can’t remember if I returned the spoon or not. I hope that I did.

I have a feeling that I would have been the only likely “suspect” and maybe the truth came out…but if I didn’t, I want to apologize Sarah for taking that spoon!

_____________________________

I was thinking about that story this morning as I was laying in bed. I am not sure what brought it to mind really but I find that as memories like this happen, I process them best at the keyboard.

I have been pretty silent here lately. There are some things that I do plan on writing about, but I am still working through them. Some ugly, icky parts of myself, and my past that God is healing and restoring.

It isn’t fun. Let’s be honest I am the type of person that would really like to skate around the difficult. I don’t like wading through the muck of my life. I want a quick fix to any and all faults/problems and I am finding again and again that God isn’t going to give me restoration on my time.

I am learning to savor the journey even if it means it is a slow, arduous process. (<====Click to Tweet)

If the end result is freedom from the things that are bondage in my life…well it is worth it.

One of the things that I want to find freedom in is this need to want what I don’t have.

It has been with me since I was young and started with the smallest of items, a tea spoon. It grew as I aged and became jealous of friends that had better, name brand clothes than I did. Maybe someone was smarter or prettier than I was. The cheerleader and the homecoming queen….I was never “enough”

As a wife and a mother I see all that you can do, and feel inadequate in my own family. I start to wish that I could go on the trips, or have the super romantic relationship with my husband that I see in other couples. Or the most well behaved children in church. 😉

It is never enough. What I have is just never enough. But the reality is that it IS enough.

I have more than I could ever hope or imagine. SO many blessings in my life. No it isn’t always easy…but they are blessings none the less.

And I don’t want to paint a picture of someone that I am not.

I don’t have it all together. My children will mess up, but heck so do I – ALL.THE.TIME! I am not the perfect women/mother/spouse and it is ok! Thank God for grace.

A part of this walking into freedom is recognizing that I am who God made me. Yes there are flaws and imperfections but there are beautiful things too.

I don’t know if jealousy or envy is something you have struggled with, but if it is you are not alone! Let’s do something together and stop comparing, stop coveting, and start giving thanks for the very place that God has each of us.

It is going to look different for you than it is me. Let’s embrace the difference, there is beauty in that! And let’s start walking out of bondage and into freedom.

One spoon at a time.

Photo Credit: partycja

When You Don’t Have a Romantic “Proposal Story”, and Why it is OK.

Proposal

Dominic was at a small group the other day with some men from church. At some point the leader asked everyone to go around the room and share their “proposal story.” These types of prompts can be difficult for us because the reality is we don’t have one.

I have shared here before a little about the path we started out on. It wasn’t easy. When we share our story our hope is that others will see how God used us, even in our sin, for His glory.

We were selfish and self-centered and made adult choices that had big consequences. We were in the camp of “that won’t ever happen to me”…so it was a complete shock when I found out I was pregnant my junior year of college.

The day I found out I called Dominic and we had a conversation. He told me that the best choice was that we get married and take care of our new responsibility.

That was it. No roses or romantic dinner out, no shopping for rings and no down-on-one-knee proposal. We had a conversation and based on our situation made a choice, made a commitment to one another.

But every girl dreams of that romantic proposal, don’t they?

I can’t say I feel cheated necessarily, but I do feel sad that because of our choices, we didn’t get to do it the “right” way. Even Dominic said that he wished that things could have been done differently.

Sin does that though, it robs us of what is best for us.  And while a lasting marriage isn’t contingent on the proposal, it is a fun story that is shared over and over.

And as a girl who loves a good story…well it is frustrating that I don’t have one to share in this area.

As I was thinking about it the other night though I recognized that I did have a proposal story. It isn’t what one typically shares at bridal showers, but it is beautiful and romantic in its own way. And it is a proposal that I continue to live out day after day.

Jesus said “Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us…” 1 John 3:16

In one of the most amazing acts of courtship, Christ came to woo each of us to Him. (<====Click to Tweet)

He called us by name, He showed us what true, unconditional love looks like. And then instead of getting down on one knee, He stretched His arms out wide, bore nails in his wrists, and died for each and every sin that we would commit.

All He asks is that we believe in Him, put our faith in Him…and we are promised eternal life.

All too often I am looking at Dominic to be my Jesus.

I want him to fulfill every need that I have. Meet my unrealistic expectations and act perfectly. Things he can’t possibly do. None of us can.

If my happiness is based on Dominic meeting some impossible standard that I have set for him, then I will likely find myself bitter and resentful. The same could be said for him as well. We are human, we fail each other all the time!

God knew we couldn’t be perfect, we couldn’t do it all…and He knew I wasn’t capable of unconditional love.

So He sent a bridegroom that was.

Each and every day I am grateful for that proposal. His gift of grace allows me to live my life with grace for others. I don’t do it perfectly, ever. But I don’t have to.

There is freedom in that isn’t there?!

So while I won’t ever have the fairy-tale “worldly” proposal to share at bridal showers….I know that I am a part of a much bigger, romantic story. Written in the pages of the Bible. And for that I am truly grateful.

Photo Credit: mikecogh

Why I Blog

Why I Blog

Recently, as a part of some God-sized Dream team building, we were asked by one in the group to share our “why I blog” story. It has been awhile since I have written about that so I thought it would be fun to revisit it today!

I started blogging in 2008. Honestly as I type that I can’t believe that it has been that long. We lived in SD and had dial-up internet. Writing a post took forever, uploading a single picture was 30 minutes at least! It is a wonder that I stuck with it for several years with those conditions! 😉

I have always loved sharing stories and writing.

When I was young I had a journal, the Type A personality in me also had a clothing log. In my great efforts to become popular (it didn’t work btw) I would record in spiral notebooks my outfit of the day. Had there been blogging in the late 80’s early 90’s…OOTD may have been cool. But this was my sad attempt at making sure that I didn’t wear the same thing in a 2 week period. Yes even then I had problems!

For a time I had a prayer journal and would write out all things I wanted to do or change in my life. And then for many years the writing stopped completely.

Life got HARD. I was unable and unwilling to see any good in my life and so I shut down. If I had a blog then I would have called it “Let Me Count the Ways My Life Stinks”…catchy huh?! At that point I didn’t believe God could really make a change in my life. I had prayed for it, begged even and He hadn’t answered my prayers…(or maybe I wasn’t listening…)

In 2006 God grabbed a hold of my heart in a BIG way. I could see clearly my desperate need for a Savior. I couldn’t keep living the way I had and became willing to do whatever I needed to find peace.

It was 2008 when I first heard the word blog. I had tickets to attend a concert with Point of Grace and Selah. Selah had to cancel our concert because the lead singer, Todd Smith’s wife, was pregnant with a baby who was “incompatible with life” and she was due to deliver any day. The radio station that hosted the concert asked for prayers and directed us to Angie’s blog where she had been documenting her journey.

My heart was instantly grieved for this woman I hadn’t ever met. In February, just a few short months earlier, I had lost a pregnancy as well. One that I was so excited about, one we had prayed about…a pregnancy that had felt like a “reward” for finally being on the right track with God.

So when I had a miscarriage I couldn’t understand why God would allow this to happen. Weren’t we doing everything right? My heart hardened towards God and the relationship that I had been building over the past 2 years began to crumble.

But every morning I would go and read Angie’s words.

Filled with heartache and pain, but yet hope, she shared about her God. A God that was the same yesterday as He was today…regardless of the circumstances happening around her. Her transparency was remarkable. Of course she was heartbroken, she wanted a different outcome for her daughter, but she never stopped trusting God with all of it.

Her words, her story, gave me hope. (<====Click to Tweet)

I began to ask myself if her faith can stand firm in that situation…then why not me as well? How could I sit with my hardened heart, cursing God for not saving my pregnancy and Angie was praising God even in the storm? How do you get to that place of complete surrender and full faith?

I wanted what she had, a faith like that. A hope in Christ in ALL things.

And so I started a blog of my own. A place where I could work out this shaky-knees faith. A home that I could share my hurts and my pain and hopefully one day share the hope I had in Jesus.

It didn’t come easily at first. I can say that in the beginning the words may have just been that, words. I wrote what I wanted to feel but didn’t truly believe them for my own life.

But God has a funny way of working on our heart and over time I started to see the blessings.

In late 2012 I started this blog. I probably should have called it KristinSmith.com, because according to people who tell you how to blog best…that is the way to go. But the reality for me really was this, it isn’t about me. This space, my ability to write and share stories, is all God. (<====Click to Tweet)

God gives me the words. And by trusting in God and working through some difficult life experiences, I have a chance to be a light here. To share with someone who is hurting the hope that is found in Him. My life isn’t without problems today. But because of Christ I am lavished in love, riches that are beyond my understanding.

Oh it is my honest prayer that maybe just one person might rest here for a moment and find hope.  And that is why I blog!

Do you have a blog? I’d love to read your “why” story…would you share a link below?!

Photo Credit: JeanbaptisteM

Roadblocks

Roadblock 2

Recently I got an email from a sweet reader B asking about roadblocks. I have written several times about the various ways in which our family faced difficult times, changes in our plan etc. She is facing a roadblock of her own and she wanted to know they whys…and what to do about it.

While I am at times an expert in living with the roadblock, I unfortunately don’t always deal with them well. In looking back at some of the major setbacks we have faced, I can see more clearly. I can see why God has us walk another path…why we needed to go through the difficulty.

But honestly, in the moment, all I can see is pain and frustration.

Dominic and I were talking again yesterday about how God answered a very simple prayer with a seemingly difficult answer. Almost 5 years ago Dominic started praying that God would bring him someone that would teach him another area of law…give him a chance to learn and thrive.

When we got that call from a head hunter about a position in MN, we did everything “right”. We researched the area, the type of law he would be doing, the man he was being interviewed by. We got down on our knees every morning and prayed together that God would clearly open or shut doors so we knew we were making wise decisions.

We didn’t want to make a choice based on money alone, and while the salary increase is what we needed financially at the time…we didn’t want to have dollar figures rule us. At the end of several months of interviews that resulted in a job offer, we took it excited to face the adventure ahead.

Dominic and I are the type that are comfortable in sameness. We don’t go out  much, we are homebodies and do well with routine. Living apart for the following 8 months, he in MN and the rest of us in SD, was one of the hardest things we have been through.

On top of the difficulty of living apart, his position at the new firm quickly turned to a hostile one. The environment there was awful, to say the least, and Dominic was under so much stress he was wearing it on the outside.

Why would God lead us to this place that was so toxic?

We pushed forward though, prayed about selling our house which sold after 1 viewing, in 4 days. An open door to make a move to MN to all be together.

And then, as I have shared before, months later we both found ourselves unemployed. How did this happen? How could God let this happen?! Those were the thoughts that went through my mind each day.

That year on my birthday my sister gave me a plaque with the following saying on it. “Sometimes God doesn’t give you what you think you want, not because you don’t deserve it, but because you deserve so much more.”

At the time I couldn’t see the truth in all of it.

I was bitter and angry at God and just wanted to be done with all the struggle. Have you ever found yourself there? Just wanting life, everything to come easy?!

But as you know, those dark times led to big steps of faith. Those steps led to the opening of our own business, my transferring to the office to work with Dominic…and today a successful business.

It isn’t easy. We are busy and often stressed at the workload, but it is a good stress. One that we are grateful for because we know that God’s hand was in the entire situation. God answered Dominic’s humble prayer so many years ago.

He provided someone that would teach him the basics of this new area of law, and while we had anticipated that he would be working there for a very long time…God had bigger plans for Dominic. Ones that we couldn’t have thought or imagined at the time.

Yes we had to face roadblocks and setbacks through the process, but ultimately our prayer was answered with a result that is far better than we could have hoped.

I don’t know what roadblock you may be facing today. And like I told B, I wish that I could tell her the “whys”, and the “what nows.” I don’t have all the answers, and honestly as I walked through my own I didn’t do it with a lot of grace.

So instead maybe learn what not to do from me! 🙂

Today I try and spend some time in the Bible each morning. I pray that God will guide our every step. And I try to remember all the ways that He has been faithful to us throughout the years, so when I face another roadblock (and oh they WILL come) I am prepared with my arsenal of faith stories to get me through in a positive light.

If you are facing a seemingly impossible situation today, would you leave a comment and let me know. You don’t have to give details if you don’t want, but I would love to pray for you!

Photo Credit: B4bees

Finding the Wonder and Magic of Christmas

Merry Christmas

I dreamt about their house last night. It has been years since we have been there, but the walls and halls of my grandparent’s old home in Chicago City, MN filled my dreams.

We spent many years at their home for Christmas. It was a long drive, but my parents always made it fun. We would rent tapes from the public library and sing and listen to songs from Sesame Street….”C is for cookie, that’s good enough for me…”

Those were days filled with great excitement.

Grandpa and grandma’s house was huge and in it’s backyard, a massive lake….at least it seemed massive to me at the time. In the summers we would run down the big hill, dig earthworms out of a small wooded area behind the boat house, grab our wooden poles and fish off the dock. We would haul in sunfish by the bucket loads and haul them back up the hill where grandpa would come and filet the fish on an old board over the washer.

In the winter the hill was the perfect hill for sledding. Bundled up, we would head out and get out the tobbogan and go cruising down the hill. Snow angels covered the snow in the places we didn’t sled. They are magical memories.

The house was decorated for Christmas and grandma was always in the kitchen preparing something. In the summers she would stand over the stove and fry the bite size fish filets that grandpa had just prepared and we would feast.  On the holidays there were Christmas goodies and treats galore, cranberries and ham or turkey. Potatoes and fresh rolls….everything smelled so good.

They had a large dining room and we would gather there to eat, often the kids had their own little table, I remember being so excited when I was probably 12 and FINALLY old enough to join the grown-ups at the big table. Once dinner was done the dishes had to be cleared AND washed. Oh the washing drove us nuts!! As kids we just wanted to get to the presents already! 🙂 But as soon as every last piece of good silver was put away we would gather in a circle and hand out gifts.

Some years it was oldest to youngest and others the reverse. Each taking a turn, sharing their gift. It was painful to wait our turn, but we shared and laughed as a family. I think of those times today and long for the wonder of it all.

Family pictures would be taken sitting on the fireplace hearth and then we would head out to the church down the street. Every year there would be a very large tree at the front of the church covered with white decorations. It was beautiful. The choir would sing and we would join them in the more traditional hymns. Candles were passed and we would light each others as the flame was passed down the row.

Silent Night, Holy Night….

Then we would head home for some more Christmas cookies and off to bed to dream of Santa coming. It was magical and each year we would be certain that we had heard the sound of the reindeer stomping on the roof.

I woke this morning longing for that magic back. It feels like it has long since been lost. Packed away, or smothered by the demands of life, parenting….It hardly feels like Christmas most days.

Sure our house is filled with the sights and sounds of Christmas, but for me the wonder of it all seems hidden.

I am a gift giver by nature. I love searching for, finding the bests gifts for my family and friends. I do love that part of Christmas. I hope that when my kids look back on their time with family, that maybe they felt a bit of the magic as well.

But my heart seeks for more.

A slowing, time with family and friends. Enjoying the smiles on the faces of our kids when they see what is inside all of those packages. A reading of the Christmas story from Luke just like my grandpa would do each year.  As a child I don’t think I appreciated it like I would today.  We don’t get to celebrate with my grandparents like we used to, but boy would I love to hear his voice reading that story to my kids….“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered….”

I am so grateful for the memories we have in that house together. And while its walls and halls are now filled by new families, I seek to find that magic and wonder with my own.

Sometimes it is hard to grow up isn’t it?! As a mother myself I can now appreciate all that went into preparing for these few special days. I might not have done the advent readings like I had hoped this year, or been patient with my kids like I should have been…but in the next several days we will be sneaking away for time with family. Time to gather and laugh and make new memories and I will cherish them all.

Friends, I wish you Merry Christmas from our family and pray that you will find time to celebrate with your family, to laugh and find the wonder of the season. Always remembering the greatest gift we were given in the Christ child.

 

Photo Credit: freeloosedirt

Always A Warm Welcome

Parker FBC

When Dominic and I were first married, church wasn’t top on our priority list. Even though we were both raised in church and had Isaac, we were both stubborn and selfish and didn’t feel like we “fit” in any of the churches we visited. It was just easy to stay away.

Besides I was pretty sure that everyone was judging us anyways…

For years we made excuses. The more we made, the easier it was. 

Then one weekend sometime in 2002, Dominic’s mom called and invited us to come to a family lunch on Sunday afternoon and invited us to come to church as well. We figured we could handle that and so we drove the 45 miles from our home to their community and went to church.

At that time the church was located in an old building but they were working on their new location (pictured above). Dominic’s dad helped with some of the projects that got that new church completed. His parents were one of several that were very active in the church. And when we would visit we were always made to feel welcome.

And so a “habit” was born. Dominic’s mom would call and invite us to dinner and if we were coming, why not church as well?! 🙂

We came to a place, after much struggle and difficulty…and our 2nd son on the way that we realized we really wanted to have a better foundation for our kids. While we had failed early on with Isaac, we could start making some changes and become a part of a church family.

It just made sense to join First Baptist in Parker because we were already attending most Sundays…and when we did visit other churches closer to home we never felt the welcome that we did at FBC. It very quickly began to feel like home.

Our church family walked us through more dark times. Times when others might have walked away, the families at FBC surrounded us. They offered encouragement and prayer, shared their stories and kept telling us to get involved and keep coming back.

In 2011 when we started to talk about the possibility of moving, our church was one of the big reasons we had to stay where we were. How could family like that be replaced?

But during those months of decision making, they prayed with us and reminded us that we were always welcome back…we would still be a part of the FBC family.

This past weekend we went back to Parker for a visit after months and months away.

We arrived late (because of course) 😉 and Pastor Aaron was just getting ready to start the service and called out a welcome to us from the podium. Hugs and handshakes, smiles and “we will catch you after the service”…once again we were home.

After the service people came up to visit with us for just a moment, the kids had been long sent to the car and yet we remained. One of the last people to leave, we were surrounded by love.

It is a church that practices hospitality on every level.

It isn’t like an old job where people forget your name 6 months after you leave and blame you for all the mistakes they find…no this community at FBC is one that welcomes you in with open arms, no matter the time in-between visits.

As we walked to our van Dominic said “Always a warm welcome when we come here….”

It is a legacy that church is leaving in its community.

You don’t have to be perfect to walk through the doors, or have it all together. No, FBC is filled with believers that seek Christ, work to be a light and pray for and encourage one another regardless of where you are at in your faith walk.

We spent 7 years as members at FBC and our marriage, our family, are forever changed because of it.

It was a reminder to me again that we need to be welcoming…even the little things can make a big difference.

I thank God for allowing us to be a part of such an amazing community of believers. I hope that at our new church Dominic and I can seek and find ways to offer that same hospitality to others that come through the doors.

Because we want those that leave to say that they always get a warm welcome, don’t we?!

18 Years and Counting…

Anniversary

18 years ago, on June 1st, Dominic and I stood before a group of our family and friends and vowed to God and one another that we would keep the sacred bond of marriage. The picture above was always a favorite of mine because it was the first picture taken as we walked out of the church as husband and wife.

When my dad gave me away in the ceremony, he took both of our hands and said that he had just one piece of advice for us. “Never, never, never give up.”

It was beautiful and I was sure that we would do just that. Divorce wasn’t a word that had been spoken in our families, so it wasn’t a concern.

But if you would have asked me 10 years ago if we would be this close to celebrating a 20 year anniversary, I would have probably said that you were crazy. What started out as excitement, joy and a bit of nervousness turned quickly into high and often unmet expectations, frustration, bitterness and resentment for both of us.

Marriage is tough isn’t it?!

Marriage can be difficult even when you do things the “right” way…you know courtship, down-on-one-knee proposal, wedding and then kids. But when you enter into marriage in a more, ahem, unconventional way…pregnancy and then marriage – well let’s just say that it isn’t an easy way to start.

I have said before that we were ill-equipped to be parents much less husband and wife. We just had no idea how much grace and forgiveness, how much release of selfishness would be needed to make a marriage successful!

There were times that I was certain that even God couldn’t fix the hurt we had heaped onto one another. And while the idea to “never give up” seemed like the wise choice, I can say that I wanted to run at the first sign of trouble.

I didn’t know how to handle the conflict we faced and divorce became a common threat used in my vocabulary. Because threatening people with an ultimatum and not following through time and time again is a wonderful way to build trust and closeness isn’t it?!

Sigh…

For years we struggled. We didn’t communicate well and I became angry and bitter. Disrespectful is a mild description of the way and manner that I treated Dominic on most days. It really is a miracle that we are still married today…

But God

Oh how I love the stories that have a But God moment in them, don’t you?!

All those years that I thought God had abandoned us, He was right there. We were the ones that had turned from Him!

And about 8 years ago we both came to that breaking point. That place where one is finally willing to let go and let God work – to do whatever it would take to see change happen.

And God showed up in a BIG way.

Hearts softened, forgiveness was given and received, selfishness was put aside and things began to change. (<==== Click to Tweet)

This change was slow and painful at times. Someone once told me that it takes years to cause the damage and we can’t expect that just because we become willing to change, that our lives will be roses from that moment on.

And it is true!

But God was there in the smallest details. He put people in our lives to support and encourage us. We had people praying for us, others that would listen to us complain and justify and then gently help us see a Godly perspective of how marriage and relationship should be.

It was, and continues to be, hard work.

But I have found that it is in those difficult times that I am seeking God more, relying on Him for strength, and I desire to give Him the praise and the glory for any transformation that occurs.

On Sunday we had the amazing opportunity to share some of our story with our congregation at church. I couldn’t help thinking the entire time that it was all God. The reason we could even be up on that stage was His doing.

He made the change possible. God’s grace towards us is the reason that we have learned how to give grace to one another. His forgiveness of our sins the example we use to forgive each other.

Today we celebrate 18 years. While they haven’t always been “easy”…ok they haven’t ever been easy! 🙂  But we have grown and matured, we have found in the last 8 years a personal relationship with a God that has blessed us time and time again. And we are teaching our kids that God is God even when life isn’t perfect. And He is worthy to be praised!

I am so grateful for Dominic, for his patience and love on all of the days that I am not very lovable. I am thankful  that God has transformed our marriage, allowing us to work together and raise a family. We are blessed.

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