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  • There’s No Impossible With You…

    On Saturday Dominic and I will celebrate 23 years of marriage. Sometimes it is incredible to me that I could be THAT old to be married so long! ha! But the reality is, it is a miracle that we are celebrating that many years at all.

    I know that I have shared parts of our story here before. Not all of it…maybe some day. Honestly it would take too long, there are so many things that would speak to the truth that we should not be able to claim 23 years of marriage.

    We were both incredibly selfish people. We freely admit that…well I didn’t for YEARS, let’s be honest, but today I can admit that. We focused on what WE wanted and what WE thought WE needed, we hurt each other with our words and our actions time and time again.

    When we share parts of our story with others sometimes they can’t believe all that we walked through. A happy marriage was impossible, a family grounded in faith in God was impossible, joy and freedom from sinful behaviors was impossible. We just couldn’t do it.

    But God.

    Those have been and remain two of my most favorite words in the Bible. Because when you read it you know that something incredible is coming. Because WITH GOD nothing is impossible, if it is in His will.

    There is a song I heard recently from I Am They called “No Impossible with You.” I will link a video below. It is such a good song. I will listen to it over and over again because it feels like an anthem to my life. Here is some of the chorus…

    “There’s no heart You can’t rescue
    No war You can’t win
    No story so over, it can’t start again
    No pain You won’t use
    No wall You won’t break through
    It might be too much for me
    But there is no impossible with You”

    I find so often in Christian circles that people will say “God won’t give me more than I can handle…” Heck I think in years past I wanted to believe that for myself. But today I call BS on that statement! (Sorry but I do!)

    Where in the Bible does it say that God won’t give us more than WE can handle? The Bible does say that we will have troubles. And throughout we see story after story of impossible situations that are too much for man but WITH GOD’S HELP, become possible.

    You see, I am prideful.

    I would like to tell you that I am not, but I am. When I allow myself to take credit for the good in my life, I stop giving God the praise for EVERYTHING He has done to redeem my story. It is an internal battle that I face daily.

    Without God my life is a mess. Dominic and I spent YEARS in a self-centered cycle of bitterness, anger, fighting and more. We were terrible people. I am not kidding. I am not saying that so you will say “you are so awesome…blah blah blah.” NO! Filthy rags, that was who we were.

    Today, because of God’s intervention, our marriage and our family have been redeemed. We still struggle. Heck THIS VERY MORNING I was so irritated at Dominic because he was taking too long to pray over our family before we had to leave for school and we were running late.

    Who am I? Getting irritated at my husband for praying over my family?! WHAT?! But you see THAT is the reality of who I am. Without God’s daily presence in my life there are walls and wars and struggles and lots of impossibles.

    But with God there is hope and freedom and JOY, so much joy.

    Today my husband works with other men who find themselves in difficult situations, he shares his experience and the hope he has and lives are being changed. I am so proud of the man he is. In 2006 I took active steps to start the process to seriously move forward with a divorce. I was done.

    If it were up to me and my plans…we wouldn’t be married today. But God stepped in and when we became willing to let Him work in our hearts, things started to change.

    “Your name is greater
    Your love is stronger
    Your ways are higher
    There’s nothing that You can’t do
    ‘Cause there’s no impossible with You “

    So on our wedding anniversary we don’t celebrate US but instead celebrate all that God has done through us. Our marriage is His, our story is His, our impossibles were made possible because of Him and I remain ever grateful.

    https://youtu.be/sbxKBPU-TN4
  • On Forgiveness

    We have talked about forgiveness a lot this week at home. It started with a conversation about a horrific event that happened at the Mall of America to a young boy last week. Evil is everywhere in this world, we are not exempt from it and honestly when we hear stories, especially stories about children getting hurt, we are outraged.

    Our youngest son was visibly upset upon hearing what had happened to this innocent boy. He spoke angry words of revenge at what should happen to the man who committed the crime. I get it, I do. But I said to him that revenge wasn’t the answer. Yes this man would have to pay for his crime, we have a legal system set up to manage that…but ultimately we are called to have hearts of forgiveness.

    He was shocked by what I said and asked me an incredibly difficult question. “So if he had done that to me mom, would you forgive him?”

    Ugh. That’s some reality right there. It is easy for me to say we need to forgive, but could I really do it if it happened to me? I was honest and told him that I hoped that I was never put in a situation where I was called to that kind of radical forgiveness. But what I did know was that when we live with resentment against someone else, it is like a poison. Often times our hatred towards the “enemy” only ends up hurting us more than the intended person.

    I have heard it said that forgiveness isn’t letting someone off the hook for what they have done, rather letting go of the bitterness/hatred you are feeling so that you can move forward.

    And then I told Elijah that if this man, who had committed this heinous act, at some point came to a true repentance of his actions and asked God for forgiveness, that I believed God would forgive him.

    “No way!” he said…

    It doesn’t make sense does it? So I used that time to tell him about a man named Paul, a mighty disciple of God who at one time was named Saul and spent his days persecuting and murdering Christians for their faith. Yes, for centuries God has been using sinners and radically transforming them for His glory.

    That night we did one of our Bible lessons and it was part of the story of David. The lesson before had told of his mighty defeat of Goliath. How God had called him and anointed him. But this evenings story looked at the sinful side of David’s heart. How he longed for Bathsheba, took her for his own, got her pregnant and then had her husband killed at war so he wouldn’t be found out.

    “But I thought he was a hero?” our daughter said.

    From hero to murderer….

    And yet, because of David’s willingness to repent and ask for forgiveness, God forgave him, blessed him and used him in amazing ways. And while many of us won’t find ourselves on either end of that extreme spectrum, hero nor murderer, we all fall somewhere in between don’t we?

    To illustrate further, Dominic drew this picture of a ladder, and wrote the word “fib” at the very bottom rung and “murder” at the very top. He filled it in with other things, ways we sin and hurt others in varying intensity. And we talked about how we like to rate our sin. We like to say that my sin isn’t as bad as that sin. But on the other side of the page he drew the word God at the top and the word sin at the bottom. Telling the kids that to God, sin was sin. Then he drew a cross extending the entire page and we talked about how Jesus’ death on the cross covered our sins.

    It was powerful.

    Look I probably sound like a broken record because I say this time and time again. I don’t know that I can fully grasp the unconditional love and forgiveness that God has offered to me. The weightiness of it, especially during this season is ever present. I am more aware of my own sinfulness and the incredible gift of forgiveness that God has offered to me.

    So as we enter into the next few days, let us reflect on what God has done for us. If there are things we need to repent for, be swift about it. If there are things we need to be forgiving of, for the sake of our hearts, let us try with God’s help and example to be forgiving. The body of Jesus was broken beyond recognition for us, let us not forget that sacrifice. May the overwhelming nature of that gift draw us ever closer to seeking to know God more.

  • I Want to Be…..

    I have a quiet morning here at the office. Dominic is travelling out of town for the day and while I have a mountain of work that needs to be done, I wanted to take a moment to share how God has been moving in my heart.

    I had a rare opportunity to make a short trip to Sioux Falls (my old hometown and the neighboring “big city”) on Sunday afternoon. I had several returns that I needed to make that I didn’t want to mail back and I wanted to make a run to Costco. We don’t get there often, but when we do we stock up on all the things. Since we had the threat (now likelihood) of an impending blizzard in the forecast, a supply run seemed appropriate.

    I love time in the car alone by myself. I can crank up the music and sing LOUD. I don’t have a lot of time in the car without kids to do that and so these trips always feel like a gift to me.

    Earlier that day one of our VBS coordinators from church had given me the CD with all the newest songs. I help lead the music and dancing portion of the evening during VBS and it is one of the highlights of my summer. It brings me SO MUCH JOY! I am NOT a dancer by nature. Erin (an actual dancer) creates all the moves and then about a week or so before VBS starts she teaches me and I do my best. But I find it easiest to get the dance moves down when I already have the lyrics memorized.

    So I figured that my car time was the perfect time to rock out to some Roar VBS tunes! The music is so fun this year. The theme is “Life is Wild, God is Good.” And all of the music speaks to that message. Life can be hard and crazy and ever changing but God is good and He is present and always there for us.

    Each year it seems like the music, the themes in our VBS lessons meet MY spirit in a way that I need so deeply. Last year our theme was Shipwrecked and the idea that God was our rescue. 2018 was a hard year for several reasons and especially in the late spring, early summer. As much joy as that week of VBS brought me, I found myself almost in tears over the worship music. Crying out to God to rescue me. Be my strength Lord because I can’t do this on my own…

    And as I was listening to the music for this year I realized that it was such a celebration of God’s goodness. One of the songs is called Thankful. The lyrics spoke to me and described exactly how I want to live my life.

    “I like to think about the goodness of the Lord. He gives me everything I need and so much more. And I just want to life my hands, and say that I love him, I just want to lift my heart in praise. I want to be thankful, I want to be grateful. I want to remember everything that the Lord has done. I want to be thankful, I want to be grateful, I want to be, I want to be, I want to be….”

    This season we are in right now, while so very busy and filled with its own challenges, is a gift. I am SO very grateful for all the things God has done in and through me and for my family. I know the heartache we were experiencing a year ago and praise God for His faithfulness as He walked us through that season.

    I just don’t want to forget. Because I know that be it another year, or two, maybe even a month or two from now we could be walking through another difficult season. (It is inevitable…we live in a fallen world) And God’s goodness WILL still remain. Yes there are times that we may only be able to cry out for rescue, but God is there and He is faithful. And in those times of great struggle we need to remember everything the Lord has done.

    And sharing our stories of hope can be an encouragement to someone else who is hurting. Knowing that we are not alone in this journey is comforting, so that is one reason I feel called to write here….I want you to know that I understand the overwhelming darkness but have also danced in the light of God’s goodness. One thing that I know for sure is that God continues to supply me with everything I need and even in the darkest of times, His peace is felt.

    Take some time today and make a list of all the ways God has been faithful to you. Write them down, keep them in a place that you can see them so you won’t forget. So in those dark moments you can cling to the reminder that God has been faithful, He has redeemed your broken places and trust that He will again.

    I want to be thankful.

    I want to be grateful.

    I want to be…..

  • The God of Hope…

    It has been a minute since I have written. I haven’t been diligent about taking the time to sit down and write when I need to. And while there is a large painting project waiting on me right now and cleaning and laundry that needs to be taken care of, there are times that I NEED to write and today is one of those times.

    As few weeks ago I found an old CD of a recorded talk that I gave back in 2009. I was asked to speak at a conference and share my story, my experience, strength and hope. At the time Dominic and I were just days (9 to be exact) away from delivering our 3rd son Elijah. I have said it here before, but our marriage and our story is a reflection of the great work of God’s grace and mercy.

    Listening to that CD, hearing some of the details that I did share….the things we could laugh about at that point. Knowing all of the things that were just to painful to vocalize, wondering again how we possibly survived. Our selfishness and self-centeredness was like a viscous beast in our home and it created rifts in the very fabric of our marriage. We should not have survived the trauma we inflicted on one another.

    But God, in His great mercy rescued us. He sent people in our path that guided us back to Him. We learned to love again, to trust Him. And we learned how to trust one another. It is a miracle, our story. But when I hear myself in 2009 I realize how very child-like I still was in my faith. Believing that if we just did things the “right way” that God would reward us.

    Seeing all the years of hurt between us as a punishment as sorts from God…here we were “behaving” so maybe God will answer our prayers the way we want, things won’t be difficult anymore. You know, life on easy street.

    If you have been reading here any length of time you will know that our life since 2009 has been anything but easy street. There have been more challenges than I expected, heartbreak that I didn’t think I could bear, deep pits of depression and also (of course) many, many blessings.

    And with each trial, each roadblock, each blessing…my faith grows. My hope in the God that has walked me through each moment increases. I know that God is faithful because I have seen His faithfulness time and time again. But can I be honest with you? I still struggle when things get hard! I still question God and ask Him why. Some days I yell and scream and beg Him to make it all better because the weight is too much to bear…

    But the difference between the me pre-2009 and the me today is that I keep wrestling with this faith walk. I think more than not I am running towards God instead of running away. For many years I shut Him out of my life. I was angry and bitter and felt like He wasn’t listening to me anyways…so I stopped praying.

    Today I don’t know any other response than TO run to Him. To cry out when it is too much, to sing praises when I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all He has done. To keep praying, over and over, even if it is the same prayer that I have said for 100 days in a row.

    I helped lead worship today at church. I love to sing but leading terrifies me. My heart races every time and I feel a little sick. I was talking with a friend before the service and she knows this is an area of struggle for me and I shared with her something my best friend and I discussed in the past.

    For us, no matter how often we lead (or speak) we feel overcome with nerves. We have prayed about it but it doesn’t get better. And we have both come to realize that maybe that is something we will always struggle with because it keeps us closer to God. Our natural prideful nature would get the best of us if we didn’t have to fully rely on God to get us through.

    Today as we were singing No Longer Slaves, I looked out and saw Gail’s daughter Jazzi singing. If you want to read more about Gail and how she is recovering after her stroke you can read more at her CaringBridge site. Here was this young woman singing out “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God” while her mom is slowly recovering from a life altering stroke. It was all I could do to stop myself from breaking down right there.

    THAT is such a picture of faith isn’t it? Worshiping God in the midst of the biggest trial their family has faced. There have been days in the last 8 years where I have sat in church unable to sing. My heart was so overcome with fear and worry, or anger and sin that I had to sit in silence. But oh to be filled with HOPE from the God that gives us hope, to find JOY in worship and PEACE in His presence. Such a powerful gift that was for me today.

    I don’t know where you are today. In the middle of a struggle, overwhelmed by fear, stuck in a cycle of despair? Can I encourage you to bring it all to the Father? I can’t promise that your situation will immediately change, but I can promise that as you continue to put your trust in a God that can redeem the broken, you will find Hope and Joy and Peace that only comes from fellowship with Him. Rest in that truth today.

  • That Time I Left Hobby Lobby Empty-Handed and other Musings

    I wrote this post last week but then didn’t have an opportunity to share it…so I am doing it today. Since I am now in the final month of my discretionary spending freeze I thought I should recap a bit how February went!

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    Happy Friday friends! Can I just tell you how glad I am that it is Friday?! It feels like it has been another LONG week. Maybe it is the constant snow, or the unseasonably cold temps or the beautiful sunset pics my mom sent me from California….but I am longing for sunshine, warmer temps and some time away.

    I shared last week that I was disappointed when plans that I wanted to make with Dominic to get away for even a weekend seemed to be falling through. Seeing people share their vacation pics and wallowing in my own self-pity about not being able to go anywhere is a dangerous place for someone like me.

    It is so easy to get focused on what I don’t have, to miss ALL the blessings I do have. But even knowing this it is easy for me to get sucked into the desire to want to do something to make me feel better about my present situation.

    I had to go to Sioux Falls yesterday for a Dr’s appointment and a hair appointment. I was supposed to see my Dr the month prior but a snowstorm forced me to reschedule. Thankfully I was able to make plans on the same day as my hair appointment and make a day trip out of it.

    As a little side note can I just say that I adore my OB/GYN. Years ago, in an emergency situation, she saved my life (and my ability to have 3 more children) in a surgery when a large cyst on my ovary exploded and I bled internally for 8+ hours. She is someone that I fully trust. She comes into the exam room and sits down and says tell me all about your family, what’s happening with your business…she doesn’t rush through the appointment, she takes time to talk through any concerns and I couldn’t be more grateful for her.

    Her exam revealed a small (likely not concerning, benign feeling) lump in one of my breasts. I had a mammogram in October and they didn’t find anything then, so hopefully it is nothing. We are going to do a recheck in 8 weeks and if it hasn’t changed (or it has) we will do further diagnostics as needed. I can’t even feel it myself, but it was a reminder to me why taking time to have an annual physical is so important. I am not allowing myself the head space to worry about this at this time…but rather am grateful that I made me and my physical health a priority.

    So I share this to encourage you. If you need – make that annual appointment if you haven’t had one recently!

    So I had about 2 1/2 hours in between my Dr’s appointment and my hair appointment. I only get to Sioux Falls about every 3 months, so I was excited to do a little running around…but very aware that I was still on my discretionary spending freeze.

    I had voxed my best friend on the way to town. I had a few things that I was going to be looking for. Dominic and I had talked about it – we have this space on our bedroom wall above a dresser that needs some artwork and I wanted a couple of new throw blankets for the living room.

    BUT I also knew how I was feeling inside. It has been almost 2 months. And after these past few weeks the “desire’ to spend was strong. I knew that I had been given the ok to look (and buy) something but I didn’t want to buy JUST to buy.

    Hobby Lobby was my first stop and while I took a few pictures of things and sent them to Dominic, I just didn’t find anything that I absolutely LOVED. I ALWAYS find something at Hobby Lobby, but that day I just didn’t. I couldn’t believe it myself when I walked out the doors empty handed! The same thing happened at Home Goods and Kirklands.

    And you know what? It felt good!

    And the fact that your best friend gets it and celebrates with me…even better!

    Next was a trip to Costco where admittedly I spent a pretty penny on a cart full of grocery items. I also bought a new pack of socks for both Dominic and I. But I stayed away from all the other things, the areas that held items that had a habit of jumping into my cart when I didn’t need them.

    I continued my Excel tracking for the month of February and was again shocked at how much we spend on food. Apparently the amount we spend is fairly typical for a family our size. Buying fresher foods costs more. We rarely eat out, we have leftovers most days for lunch. I think overall, even though the amount is higher than I thought it would be, it is for something good for our family.

    I am also tracking our clothing expenses, our medical expenses (which we had a bunch of in February with an ER visit, follow up appointment and a large dentist bill for the family), and all the “extras.” So I have a main spreadsheet with every expenditure, and then additional spreadsheets that track those specific items. Yes it is extra work but it helps me break it out and see it for what it is.

    At the end of my tracking time I want to be able to see how much we spent on “extra” things. Things like books orders from school, school yearbooks, and a new rug for our living room that Dominic and I agreed together to blow the discretionary spending freeze and order for our living room. These are those items that IF I needed to cut something from our budget, these could be the first things that would go.

    I was talking to Dominic yesterday about a purchase I was going to make for a couple of clothing items I needed to order for the kids. Everything was on a great sale, I have always tried to shop frugally. It felt silly calling him over to my desk to show him what I was going to order to “get his permission.” I have always done the shopping for everyone and overall I typically only buy for the kids when they need something.

    But I had to remember that the reason I am walking through this season is because I built some really bad habits. I spent when I shouldn’t have, and worse…I hid things and was dishonest more often than I would care to admit. I told him that I was trying to build a new “muscle.” One that included more honesty and certainly more pause when it came to spending.

    This month continued to be a challenge for me. I added items into a cart at Old Navy and Evy’s Tree only to later close and cancel those transactions before I made the purchases. I promise you, I can justify just about anything. I found the CUTEST casual dress at Old Navy and it was only $12! But it is WINTER here and right now I just don’t need it. And who knows if I would even still love it come summer! I can’t just buy something because I can, or because I want to feel better. This process has helped me slowly see that I need to turn those impulses over to God and ask Him to help refine me in the areas that I struggle.

    And I don’t want to run right out on April 1st back into my old bad habits. I want this time to be transformative, I am praying that God will continue to change me and am grateful for all that I have learned in the process!