Friday, September 22, 2017

Seasons of Hard! Seasons of Wonderful!

Two of my girls struggle with mental health.  My oldest, Addi,  has been fighting her way through major depression and anxiety for the last few years.  My smack dab in the middle child, Drew, suffers from severe anxiety.  When we realized that Addi was in the deep pit of depression and anxiety, she was in college.  I knew that she had been sad for a while, since my mom died and then Neil's mom died 9 months later; but I never saw this coming.  Addi is an introvert but not shy. She is extremely creative, kind, generous and laid back.  I mean this girl is laaaaaiiiiiidddd back.  Never in a million years would I have ever expected that depression and anxiety would have such an impact on her health.  I guess they're not picky about who they attack.  After a lot of intervention, which is still continuing, she has climbed her way out of that pit.  There are seasons when she dips her toes back in, but she is finally learning to use the tools she's been given to fight through it.  It's still very challenging at times, and she is still in a battle; but it seems like it's not always constant like it was for a while.  Drew, on the other hand, has been anxious her whole life.  She is an introvert and very very shy.  She is extremely creative, kind, generous and a very deep thinker.  I mean this girl is deeeepppppp.  As a child, her anxiety would manifest itself in anger and reactiveness.  She would often go from happy as a clam to screaming at the top of her lungs in a fit of rage.  I didn't really understand that this was anxiety until she was about 10.  I always thought she was a hot head, like me and her Papa (my dad).  Like Addi, Drew has seasons where the anxiety is high.  It has affected her ability to move forward with many things in her life, and it oftentimes leaves her in a state of paralysis; because she can't do anything but feel like she needs to climb out of her own skin.  She too is learning ways to cope and in the middle of treatment to help her regain her quality of life. I have never really experienced anxiety except when one of my children is in its tight grip, and then I feel it for about half a second.  It isn't something I know, but I'm starting to understand it as I try to help them navigate through it.  One of the things I've been thinking about in this season of hard is just that.....life can be so hard, for no other reason than it just is.  As humans we have some of the most wonderful gifts in our emotions, but sometimes things get out of whack; and we can't manage them appropriately.  It doesn't make you any less or loved, it just is what it is.  The most important thing is to recognize it for what it is and seek out the best way for you to address it in hopes of regaining your life....the life God intended for you.   Last night I had to sleep with Drew, because she was so very anxious.  Night time can be really hard....it's when your brain starts to think about everything from the day.  We didn't really talk, but I could see her relax a little just because I was there.  As I lay there in her bed watching her do her homework, I was thinking about how hard it had been; but I was also thinking about how good it had been.  Both of my girls have a light that shines brightly within themselves.  They have given so much of themselves to others and to their family.  They love JESUS, and they will use these times for good, this I know.  In fact, we have already seen the good in many circumstances from their struggles.  If you're struggling or battling something, remember that life can be hard and wonderful all at once.  Sometimes there's more hard, and sometimes there's more wonderful.  It may feel nearly impossible to survive the hard, so we pray for God to bring us through it.  And sometimes we are glowing in the wonderful, so we pray for God to let it continue.  Just keep praying....no matter the season.  And when you don't have the words to pray, remember that He already knows.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

THE LIGHT

I'm drawn to light.  Maybe that's one reason why I love being a photographer, because I love the light.  When I was 19, I was in a terrible car accident.  Thankfully the seatbelt laws had just been passed, or I would have probably died.  When I was unconscious in the car, I remember seeing a bright light.  It was what I would consider a near death experience.  I saw a light, but I didn't see Jesus.  The light was peaceful and calm.
It had been a hard few years for me, and I was drowning; but my soul was healed that day.  I remember thanking God for my life as the fireman was pulling me out of my mom's mangled car.  And at that moment, I knew that light was going to change me forever.
I have always been a christian, but I didn't always trust Jesus.  During those dark days in my late teens, I was losing my way.  God used that accident to help me find it again.  It was still several years later before I realized what Jesus wanted from me...he wanted me to want Him.  He wanted me to trust Him, to love Him, to love others.  He wanted me to love myself the way He loves me, so that I could always fight my way out of the darkness.  The light still draws me in, and I find myself lost in it most days.  And when I can't find it with my eyes, I know where to find it in my heart.  That day all those years ago, I saw a light; but I never saw Jesus, or maybe I did.
                            


Friday, September 15, 2017

Hard Stuff

Life has been tough lately, but I keep on smiling.  I'm always telling myself, "it could be worse"; and it could.  I'm always clinging to the good and what to be grateful for, and it's a lot; but I recently realized that sometimes you just need to sit in the tough spots for a bit.  You have to let them sink in real good, so you can feel everything about them and then figure out how to get through them.  Your hard may be very different from someone else's hard, but that doesn't mean it's not hard.  Comparing your struggles to someone else's is not healthy or honest.  I know some struggles are much harder than others, and believe me I've experienced all realms of difficulty when it comes to hard stuff.  But I am just starting to see that when you're in the thick of it, you just have to be in the thick of it to actually sort through it.  You don't know other people's hard, and they don't know yours.  The most important thing to remember is God is there.  He may be silent, but He's there.  And sometimes He may reveal Himself to you in ways you would never expect, but you are so grateful He did.

Last night, I had a dream.  I was searching everywhere for the parents of a family.  I couldn't find them, but I knew I needed to desperately.  I walked into the living room and saw Neil standing there, and I vaguely remember thinking to myself "Thank Goodness...there is the dad".  I looked into the kitchen for "the mom", but she wasn't there.  I asked him where she was, and at first I think he just stared at me.  The clearest part of this dream (which was actually reality) was the look of confusion and sadness on his face as I kept asking him, "Where is my mom?"  He answered with, "She's gone." I got agitated and continued to ask him over and over until he finally said, "She passed away a few years ago."  I said something like, "I'm talking about Sandy" and then I walked back into my room and went to sleep.  I've been missing my mom hard lately.  As this dream became more clear, I started thinking about how I wish she was here to help me with life.  She was my confidant, the one I told everything to.  She was the one who guided me with unconditional love, even if it was with discipline or things I didn't want to hear.  She was my biggest fan.  I trusted her with every aspect of myself, and I miss her.  She wasn't perfect, but she advised me as best as she could.  This morning, I was wishing I could have seen her in that dream.  But I then started wondering if maybe I did, and it was me looking for myself trying to be the mother she was.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.  John 16:33


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Forgiveness

I've recently learned about some things that have happened that have been hurtful.  The most hurtful part is that a few of my children have been affected by these actions.  Although they don't really even know about these things yet, I know it will make them sad when they do.  The craziest part is I'm not sure why these things happened or even what really happened.  I reached out several times to try to make things right but to no avail.  In my 50 years of life, I've learned a lot and experienced a lot; but I still don't understand a lot.  One of the things I've decided I really need to focus on is forgiveness.  There have been so many hurts, some intentional and some not, and I need to move past them.  Some of these things will only be addressed in my mind as they are too painful to speak about to anyone else.  Some of these things are consequences of my own actions as well.  I understand forgiveness and all of its definitions.  I understand that unforgiveness makes you a prisoner to your feelings, not to the person that hurt you, but to your own feelings.  I understand that true forgiveness breaks those chains.  I understand that you don't have to forget, condone or even speak to the person who hurt you ever again to truly forgive them.  What I don't understand is how to get there.  I have forgiven many things and many people, but there are some that I still cling to with tightly closed fists.  I want to release those fists and free myself of these chains that bind me, because I want to be free.  I guarantee you those who have done hurtful things haven't thought twice about it.  On the flip side, I am sure I have done hurtful things to people as well.  I would never try to intentionally hurt someone, and it is so confusing when people are upset; and I have no idea why.  It takes its toll on my heart, but I have to trust in the Lord that maybe there is some reason for this and that something good will come of it.  I wonder if sometimes it's a form or protection or redirection as well.  I admit that I'm a sensitive person, and I internalize a lot.  I've been working on this for the last few years, but it's not easy to change those parts of yourself...it's part of who you are.  The other day I listened to a podcast on forgiveness, and I realized that I don't have to change the sensitive part of me.  What I really need to work on is the insecure part of myself. The part that worries too much about what others think.  I also realized that a huge part of forgiveness is forgiving yourself....WHOA!  What?  If I'm living my life in the light, or at least doing my best to, then I think I'm giving it my best; and that's what matters.  Jesus sees you....the real you.  Maybe the first step in forgiveness is forgiving myself...whew!  I remember years ago, someone told me that if you hold on to your mistakes and continually ask God to forgive you for the same ones over and over; then the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins was all in vain. Working on accepting His grace and forgiveness has been tough...especially when you don't feel worthy.  I know I'm not worthy, but I also know that He loves me....oh how He loves me.  The more I delve into myself and into His word, the more I am able to accept all that He has to offer.  And soon enough forgiveness of myself will come, and that's a great big gigantic step.

Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.[1][2] Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), pardoning (granted for an acknowledged offense by a representative of society, such as a judge), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship).[

Friday, September 8, 2017

JOY

I've been thinking a lot about joy lately.  A few months ago, a friend of mine asked me to share my thoughts on joy; and I've been praying about it and thinking about it every day since then.  I'm a deep thinker, and I wear my heart on my sleeve.  I am moved to tears just about every day for various reasons, sometimes it's as simple as a song on the radio. And sometimes it's more complex, like memories of my parents.  I am deeply affected by things I read and watch and let enter my brain, so I guard it carefully.  The goodness of the world and the not so goodness of the world overwhelm my spirit and heart in such a way that I oftentimes find myself consumed by it.  I lay awake often wondering how I can make a difference and sometimes I lay awake paralyzed by thoughts and hurts.  I pray continuously for people I love, it's always on my heart.  Sometimes fear of things to come or things that have been will start trying to creep in, and then I pray for peace.   I have become so sad or angry at a situation driven by fear, and I have to sit back and ask God to help me navigate through that.  I'll be honest when I say that I don't always sit back and wait, sometimes I react immediately; and it never turns out good.  I'm a worrier by nature (working on this daily), but I love and trust my Lord.  As I grow in my relationship and faith with Him, I see that anger or sadness driven by fear may be the most difficult emotion for me to navigate.  But every single morning, and even in the depths of darkness; I have joy in my heart.  It's there beside the holes of hurt and grief and despair.  It doesn't fill the holes, but it fills me and gives me hope.  It doesn't come because of circumstances or by choice.  It doesn't come just when I need it or when things are going good.  It's always there, because it's from Jesus.  I believe that happiness is a choice we make.  In the midst of good times and bad, we make a choice to be happy or not.  Sometimes our circumstances can attribute to this choice too, but with joy of Jesus....we don't have to choose, it lives in your heart.  Even in the deepest pits of grief or pain, I find joy.  I imagine things, which are straight from Jesus, to always remind me that it's there.  When my mom died, I was devastated.  The pain was so so deep, and the grief so so strong.  God kept putting visions in my mind of her dancing with my daddy.  She had not been able to walk in a very very long time, but before she was wheelchair bound; she was in love with dancing.  I see that in my head, when I think of my mom and dad; and the joy is there.  It doesn't erase the pain or the grief, but it reminds me of of how much I am loved and what's to come.   The Bible says, our tears will be wiped away (Revelation 21:4). All of our conflicts and pain are of this world, they will not exist in heaven.  Have you ever thought of it like that?  The arguing, cruelty, disrespect, evil and hurt will be passed away.  We will live with Jesus in a sinless place, and it will be more grand than we can even imagine.
I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart!!  Praise The Lord!!


"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Tears In Heaven

I have wondered if you will ever be sad when you get to heaven.  I think God gets sad sometimes when He sees things going on in our lives that are cruel, unjust, heartbreaking or just sad; but He's God.   I have often found myself wondering if my mama and daddy ever get sad when they look down on us and see things happening that make us sad.  The Bible says, God will wipe away our tears; and there will be no more.  We will be living with Jesus in a sinless place, and the former things will have passed away.  I really don't believe we will be sad in heaven. I guess what I'm really thinking is how much I wish I had them here with me to talk to when things are sad.  They were both such good listeners.  I imagine their reactions to certain things in order to try to help me figure out how to react too.  After I sit on my sadness or disappointment for a while, I like to think of them together with Jesus smiling and thinking....someday none of this will matter, for these things don't exist in heaven.  Your tears will be wiped away, and God will be glorified as you enter.  Your heart will not hurt again.  Praise The Lord!!
"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

First Kiss

Our girls are not allowed to date until they're 16.  I'll admit this decision was made hastily one day when our oldest, who was a few days short of being 16, was asked out on a date....by a very nice boy.  When she asked, NPayne and I looked at each other pretending like we had a solid plan when it came to dating; but we had NO plan at all.  There hadn't been a need for one, and it wasn't one we had given much thought to.  I think I remember whispering about it that night, after everyone was in bed (as if they could hear us).  We made a plan that evening and decided they could go on a date when they turned 16, but there were other requirements too.  We had to have met the young man, and he had to get out of his car and come to the door to get her.  He had to tell us the plan for the evening, and he needed to know and respect that she had a curfew.  We also needed to know if the plans changed at anytime during the evening.  If we weren't comfortable with the boy, the plan or anything else; the date was off.  As I was recently thinking this through again, since now I have another 16 year old daughter and one who is almost 14; I started thinking about my first date with their dad.  We met one night in March and ended up spending a lot of time together over the next several months.  We became the best of friends in a short amount of time and eventually were spending every day together.  The butterflies weren't immediate, but were a process.  Our relationship grew over those few months, but it grew quickly.  I thought he was about the funniest and kindest boy I had ever known, and my feelings for him hit me hard.  I remember our first date well.  It was in October of that same year.  It was sweet.  The thing I remember the most was the kiss.  Although we had both shared our very first kiss with someone else previously, this one felt like how the first kiss should feel.  It was gentle, genuine and thoughtful.   He never rushed things or pressured, but he waited until it felt right for both of us.  I remember meeting him at the back of the car as we both got out to switch sides...he had been driving my car.  He gently grabbed my waist and pulled me close and held my face in his hands so sweetly before giving me the sweetest kiss I had ever had.  It was something I'll always remember.  So boys, who want to date my girls, just know we have high expectations!

Don't Give Up On Each Other

The world is an amazing and terrifying place.  Last week, we all came together to focus on the eclipse.  It was a time when people were united by one miraculous event and even had to look up to see it.  It was light in the darkness.  This week, we are coming together to aid the thousands and thousands of people who are injured, displaced and lost due to Hurricane Harvey.  It's not cool and lovely like the eclipse, but it still feels kind of like a miracle.  The world has been hurting and lost, and although there is plenty of good left; we tend not to focus on that part.  Two very different, unique and uncontrollable events are bringing people together....one was brief and good and one is not.  I think God wants us to work together during good times and bad.  He wants us to love our neighbors during good times and bad.  He wants us to be His hands and feet during good times and bad.  I think God is saddened and broken hearted by many things that have happened in the last several years, but I think he is happy to see people working together and not giving up on each other. It's much easier to work together than apart.  It's a way for light to shine in the darkness.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up....
Ecclesisastes 4:9-10



Thursday, August 24, 2017

Worry...It's for the Birds

I'm a worrier by nature, and I use to worry a lot.  Sometimes I worried about the present, depending on what was going on, but mostly I worried about the future.  Over the last few years, I've had plenty of things to worry about...believe me...you have no idea.  One day, about 2 years ago, I was so consumed in worry and trying to figure out how to control the situations I was worrying about, that I was as stressed as I've ever been.  I fell to the floor and held out my hands and said, "God take this from me.  I am laying it at your feet."  I felt my shoulders relax and my head clear in a matter of moments, as I relinquished it all to Him. I still prayed about it daily and still do even now that things have been better, and sometimes I can feel myself starting to get consumed with worry again. But then I look up and say, "This is yours.  You are in control.  Guide me in the right direction." Then my shoulders relax and my head clears, and I wait to hear from Him.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippine 4:6-7

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

"Just Be A Kid"

I've been thinking about my kids a lot, not that I don't always, but more about them each as individuals.  They are similar but different in many ways.  One thing I've really been mulling over is the pressure society, parents, friends, school, church, family put on them to be "the best" or to "fit in".   If you're a parent, or even if you're not, you probably can relate to this post on some level.  I was talking with my middle schooler the other day about her extra curricular life, and I had to break the news that soon she would have to choose one thing to focus on and participate in.  Some of this is due to finances and some due to time but most is due to expectations.  I had to tell her that even though many of her teachers and coaches would lead her to believe she can participate in a multitude of things, the reality is she can't.  The pressure to be the best, in most cases, outweighs the need to be well rounded or enjoy many different things once you get to be a certain age.  And it seems like that age is getting younger and younger.  It makes me sad that because a few of my kids chose to "just be a kid" when they were younger and elected not to be involved in some sort of organized activity, they are now not able to participate in anything; because they aren't "good enough".  I am not sure how this is positive for most, but for my children it is not.  They aren't allowed to join sports, choirs, bands, classes, etc.;  because they don't have the experience or knowledge that they needed to learn when they were little bitty.  Instead they were busy building mud pies, playing make believe, going on adventures and reading books.  I chose to allow them to do those things and not force them into anything, and now they aren't welcomed into much of anything.  How are they suppose to learn if the door is shut so early?  I know it's about balance, but it seems to me that the scale tips very heavily in one direction.  Although my girls can read music, play an instrument, write amazing stories, paint, sing, and many other things;  their lack of "experience" oftentimes keeps them out.  Believe me they have experience, it just might not be with an organized team or group.  And even if they do have experience with an organized team or group, which a few do, it never seems good enough.  More hours, more money, more time away from family and no time for anything else.  I do greatly appreciate the leaders, who are upfront and tell you from the start, what the time and financial commitment will be.  But it still makes me sad that there are oftentimes no options for children to participate, if you don't have the money or don't want them to spend 90% of their time away from home.  I don't know the answer, but I wish I did.  I do know that I don't regret letting my kids "just be kids", and I hope they don't either.