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.

The Journey

  • The other day I was physically reminded about gratitude once again. I had been in the car for a while, and anytime I stand or sit for a bit; stiffness and pain settle into my joints so intensely. I'm slow to get moving again right after. I got out of my car to go into Starbucks to pass some time while waiting for Drew. The minute I stepped out, the pain was piercing and hardcore. I winced and immediately thought UGH! It was only a second later that my eyes met the woman's, who was sitting on the patio in her wheelchair. I instantly felt that nudge towards gratitude for my body...ailing and all! I walked into Starbucks and my eyes went right to the amputee sitting at his table reading the paper and drinking his tea. I thought to myself, "God I hear ya! I do! And I'm thankful for my body, even though it's so far from perfectly working." Every now and again, I feel myself getting into the pit of being consumed with the negatives instead of the positives; and almost always God nudges me towards the positives. He reminds me that this earthly life is a journey but not the destination! Glory to God!! 
  • “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James‬ ‭1:2-4‬
  • "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  Romans 8:18
  •  "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16

Friday, August 4, 2017

Shy Is Okay



I've always struggled with self image....physically and socially.  I use to be way too concerned about what people thought of me.  My self image and worth were always in question.  Did I offend them?  Will they forgive me?  Did I hurt their feelings?  Why didn't they reply?  Why wasn't I invited?  As a child, I was painfully shy.  It has taken and still takes work and intentionality on my part to work through that.  When I started writing this post, I though I would never say I have overcome it; but then I looked up the definition of "overcome".
o·ver·come
ˌōvərˈkəm/
verb
  1. succeed in dealing with (a problem or difficulty).

    "she worked hard to overcome her paralyzing shyness"
    synonyms:get the better of, prevail over, control, get/bring under control, masterconquerdefeatbeatMore
    • defeat (an opponent); prevail.

      "without firing a shot they overcame the guards"
      synonyms:defeatbeatconquertrouncethrashroutvanquishoverwhelmoverpower, get the better of, triumph over, prevail over, win over/against, outdooutclassworstcrush;More
    • (of an emotion) overpower or overwhelm.

      "she was obviously overcome with excitement"
      synonyms:overwhelmed, emotional, moved, affectedspeechless
      "I was overcome"

I have "overcome" it as far as gaining some control and addressing it.  I'll never defeat it, and as I've gotten older; I realize I don't need to.  It's part of who I am.  Being shy use to be considered as a negative attribute and honestly it still is by many.  I remember always feeling less because of it.  Over the last few years, I've started believing it's not negative unless you allow it to be...just like most things.  There were times when my shyness would have caused me to miss out on something I really wanted to be part of which was my main motivator for addressing it.  In the past, some thought I was rude or unsocial as well.  This made things even more challenging.
It wasn't until I was well into my forties that I realized being shy shouldn't be considered something negative.  One of my daughters is painfully shy, just like I was as a child.  I could never get her to try much of anything new or step outside her comfort zone.  She also suffers from sever anxiety, something I never knew much about until recent years.  Even now it's difficult for her.  I always wanted for her to not feel the things I had felt for being so shy.  I wanted her to know she was not less because of it.  For summers as long as I can remember, she has attended a summer day camp with one of her best friends.  She LOVED it and looked forward to it every summer.  In fact, she works there now.  One of the things they do during the week is give the kids a bible verse to memorize.  The goal is for the campers to recite it on Friday.  One day many summers ago, I was helping her memorize the verse:
Psalm 139:14
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; our works are wonderful.  I know that full well.
Each day as she recited it, I corrected and encouraged; but I didn't really listen to the words until years later.  I had heard that verse a ton of times previously, but I didn't really listen.  One day I asked all of my kids what their favorite verse was. Without hesitation, she recited it to me perfectly.  This time I really listened to the words, and I immediately know why she had chosen that scripture.  Those words meant more to her than a treat for memorizing a verse at the end of camp.  They described her to Her Father.  They validated her as a person.  They told her that it was okay to be shy.  They meant she was loved as a shy, anxious little girl.  She had understood that verse better than I had.
A few weeks ago, she was working at camp and was assigned to assist the nurse.  A very shy child came into the nurse's office one day who wasn't feeling well.  The nurse was busy, so she asked my daughter to call the little girl's mom.  When she was talking to the mom, the mom told her that her daughter was very shy and suffered from anxiety and stress (this sweet little bitty girl).  It sometimes manifested itself as illness.  My girl knew immediately what she meant and could relate to this little lady so well.  She hung up with the mom and approached the child.  She began telling her all about herself and her own struggle with shyness, stress and anxiety.  The little girl listened carefully and then began to engage in conversation with my girl....something that had not happened when she first came in.  When she was telling me about this later in the day, I knew (and so did she) that was a God moment.  God knew that my girl could offer comfort and encouragement to this child....HIS CHILD! One of the ways He used her shyness for good.   One of the ways that she was able to help someone else know that she was fearfully and wonderfully made.  One of the ways that He could reiterate again that she was enough.  One of the ways that she could share His love and adoration with someone else. He knows what He's doing, doesn't He?  He doesn't make mistakes.  I love it when He orchestrates situations, so we can see Him at work.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Love Is Hard

Matthew 22:36-40

  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”


1 Corinthians 16:14

  Do everything in love.


For as long as I can remember, love has been overflowing in my life.  My parents loved a lot.  My grandparents loved a lot.  My extended family loves a lot.  My friends love a lot.  My kids love a lot.  My husband loves a lot.  I have always felt the love.  Of course there have been times when I have not, but I've never thought love was a difficult thing.  I've never thought of it as a sacrifice or a burden or anything other than wonderful.  I've never thought it as hard.  In fact, I oftentimes find myself bewildered and in a complete state of confusion at the hate that exists.  Then Saturday, I went to a funeral.  Every time I attend a funeral, I learn something or hear something in a different way.  At this particular service, there was much shared about love and acceptance and kindness given from the amazing woman who has passed; but there was one statement that stuck out to me.  It's one I've heard many times before and have even stated myself, but for some reason; it hit me differently this time.  As her grandson spoke so tenderly about his grandmother, he shared his truth.  He shared that grief was the debt we pay for love.  He shared that at some point, he would be able to celebrate the victory his granny had won; but it was not today....the pain was too much.  I know that feeling, I know it well.  The honesty in his words rang true and pierced my heart, but it mostly made me think.  Love is not always easy.  Sometimes loving people is very hard, and yes the grief we feel as a result of loss is the debt we pay for love.  As I thought about his words over the next few days, I realized that this is true in any sort of loss of relationship...whether it be by death, divorce, disagreement, gossip, abuse, etc.  I started thinking about relationships that have ended and exploring my feelings for the people involved.  And although I have forgiven many who have hurt me, I had to honestly ask myself if I loved them.  Although I do wish them well and would treat any of them kindly,  I honestly had to come to the realization that there are some that I do not feel any sort of love towards.  In fact, there are some that I would be okay never associating with again, and there are some that I no longer associate; and I've been okay with that.  So today I start asking God to soften my heart and to allow me to genuinely and unconditionally show, not only kindness, but also love to relationships that are lost....even those I may never see again. A truth for me is that it may be easier to show love to someone I've just met than to someone who has hurt me in the past.  I guess that takes more work than I realized, and I guess love is not as easy as I thought; but I know God will be working. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Life Ever After

Sunday I had to dig through some stuff and find a death certificate for my mom.  When I pulled it out of the envelope and saw that it was one of two left, I had this weird feeling of not wanting to let it go.  I read it over a few times and found myself saying "Three years, already?" On May 5th, my mom will have been gone from this earth for 3 years.  Sometimes it seems like a lot longer but usually it just feels like a few days ago.  I still have such vivid memories of her last few months alive.  It's such an odd feeling not having my parents here with me.  Although I'm surrounded by people who love me, I oftentimes find myself feeling very alone.  God always reassures me, but I guess it's that empty place in my heart that leaves me feeling that way.  Things come along, like Mother's Day or Father's Day or Grandparents' Day; and life is bittersweet.  My children don't have any of their grandparents living, and that breaks my heart every time I think about it.  My grandparents were such instrumental and encouraging people in my life, and so were my children's; but they aren't here.  I believe that they are watching and are present in spirit, and that is what brings me comfort.  Sometimes I have to talk to myself and remind myself how wonderful it is that they are in heaven.  I don't doubt for one second that it is wonderful and that is where the peace comes from.  The grief and pain are always there....always....but they are more manageable when I am reminded of this life after earth, this life ever after, this life with Jesus!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Behold how He loved him!


Today Elliot read me the story of Lazarus in the book of John.  I've heard this story many many times before.  I've studied Mary and Martha.  I've even studied the book of John several times as it is one of my favorites.  But today as she read, I took notice of some words that I don't remember before..."Behold how He loved him!"  Jesus wept, not because of Lazarus's death; because He knew He was going to raise Lazarus back to the living.  He wept, because of the mourning and heartbreak of those who loved Lazarus....particularly his sisters, Mary and Martha.  I have thought about those two words, "Jesus wept", often as I've contemplated Jesus feeling sadness for us which I believe He does.  But I've never paid close attention to the words that followed, "Behold how He loved him!"  The Jews believed that Jesus was weeping, because Lazarus was dead which as I mentioned above was not the case.  They believed his weeping was a sign of his love for Lazarus, and yes Jesus did love Lazarus; but he also knew Lazarus would be raised.  As I read those words, I was reminded how death whether it be actual physical or by broken relationship or illness or any other way; and the grief we feel as a result is also a result of the love we shared.  "Behold how He loved him!"  Words like these have been in my heart several times as I've lost people I love so very much, yet I am just now noticing them for the first time in The Bible.  I've been thinking about and missing my parents so much, and isn't it awesome how God orchestrated this time on this day for me to take notice of these words?  These words that are a peaceful reminder of love.

Friday, March 24, 2017

FIVE CHILDREN



I have five children.  Although there are times when that feels like a lot of people, in all honesty I don't think five children is a lot.  I don't think a family of 7 is ginormous unless you are waiting to use the one tiny downstairs bathroom in the house.  If you think about it, five is one more than four and two more than three.  Now ten....that's a lot!!  When they were all little, it looked like a lot of people when we would go somewhere; and we would get all sorts of comments...some kind, some not.  Now that they are big, it looks like I'm hanging out with a bunch of friends and one 10 year old. Yes I know the average cost of raising a child is in the several hundred thousands, yes that's true; so one or two additional may have a profound financial impact.  In fact, I know it does.  For example, we have never flown anywhere all together.  In fact, Addi is the only Payne child who has ever been on a plane. We have a difficult time finding affordable places to stay that allow five children, going out to an "inexpensive" dinner is usually not really that "inexpensive", buying good tennis shoes for five is pricey, compact car is not an option, and I could go on; but there are also other profound impacts of having a house full of children.  They always have someone to hang out with, chores can be done much faster, car ride is never boring, they learn so much from each other, lots of stuff to share, many people to laugh with and cry with, but mostly so much love given and received.  Of course they don't always get along, but that's true in most families whether there's 2 or 10.  One thing I believe is this:  if you're thinking about adding another to your family, do it....you may always regret not adding one, but I bet you will never regret it if you do.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

To Love Like That

Last week was our spring break, and I was home for about 48 hours total for the entire week.  I did a lot of driving.  I took my 16 year old, Drew, and her friend Riley to Asheville North Carolina to visit their friend Ruby.  Asheville is like being in another world.  It was very different than Grapevine Texas.  Their adorable little house is in the mountains, and their adorable little town is quirky and endearing.  There are many homeless people in Asheville, and there are equally as many or more people there who come to their aid.  Every day that we walked by the park in the middle of the city, there was some sort of gathering where homeless people were being ministered to, through food or music or words.  It was heartwarming.  We visited the most adorable bookstore a few times, and I think I might go there every day if I lived there.  And then the dogs....dogs are welcome everywhere, and I mean every single place you go....even church.  We attended a church service unlike any I've ever attended before.  It was enlightening and uncomfortable at the same time.  There were many different types of people (and dogs) in attendance, and it was nice to be in a place where everyone was welcomed by everyone.  From the moment we sat down, I noticed this sweet little family.  I watched and listened to them nearly the entire service.  There was an expectant mother,  a teenage girl and another woman all who were white; and an adorable little boy who was black.  He was about 6 years old and very active.  His mama kept looking back at him as he lay in the aisle coloring to ensure that he wasn't misbehaving.  At first his focus seemed to jump from place to place and so did he, but after about 10 minutes; he settled into his coloring.  I kept finding myself staring at him in his bright yellow sweater and rain boots.  His skin was perfect and so was his beautiful curly hair.  As I watched him color, the sweetest thing happened.  He gently took the hand of the teenage girl, who was sitting in a chair beside him, and stroked his cheek with her hand.  Then he just held it gently to his cheek with his eyes closed and savored her touch.  She had been journaling and noticed his gesture with a sweet smile and then she reached down and tenderly kissed the top of his head.  No words were spoken, but their love was strong and so very evident.  There were no color barriers or age barriers or gender barriers, there was just love.  It was pure and whole and just like Jesus's love. Someday I pray our entire world will have a love like that.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Lent

Yesterday I asked a dear friend what she was giving up for Lent.  She said, "Oh I don't give anything up, because I can never stick to it.  I always take something on."  I have done both in the past....given up and taken on, and I had decided to do both simultaneously this year.  I have been contemplating what to give up, because I wanted it to be something hard.  I had almost decided on giving up all sugar, but since yesterday I've been rethinking that decision.  I have thought a lot about my friend's answer, because she is truly one of the most selfless and serving people I've ever met.  I respect her 110%, and I know her decision is from a place of purity and honesty and knowing her strengths.  After meditating on this and praying, I've decided not to give up sugar.  Some people may think this is a cop out.  Deep down I know that I wouldn't stick to this wholeheartedly, and it wouldn't be hard in a "growing closer to Jesus kind of way" but more of in an "irritating and annoyed kind of way"; so I changed my mind.  Instead I'm taking more on.  My family had already decided some things we were taking on together and individually, as well as, some thing we were giving up; but I'm taking on more in my own way as well.  It will be something small every day, something medium every week and something large a several times over the next 40 days.  When we were discussing this tonight after church,  I felt the fire burning inside my spirit; and the longing for Jesus even more.  I think this is the goal for the Lenten season and really for all of our seasons....a burning inside and longing for Jesus!

Friday, March 3, 2017

March 3rd....The Best Day of 1997!!

Happy TWENTIETH Birthday to my first born, Addison Jo Payne! You were the one who started it all, my wonderful journey into motherhood. Life changed so much the minute you were born, and I've felt it all: hard, easy, happy, sad, best, worst, success, failure, confused, confident; but most of all a love like I had never known and so much joy. I remember holding you in my arms and weeping as I stared at your face for weeks after you were born. How could I love someone so much it literally brought me to tears. I remember calling my own mother and saying, "WOW!! YOU LOVE ME A LOT!" I really had no idea how much I was loved until you came into my life. You are quiet, hysterically funny, witty, smart, creative, generous....oh so generous, wise beyond your years, understanding, patient, kind and beautiful. Your heart is good. Your soul is good. Your spirit is good. You are good! You make my life better, and I'm glad God has let me borrow you for these past 20 years. Your pain is my pain. Your joy is my joy. Your sorrow is my sorrow. Your happiness is my happiness. I adore you to infinity and beyond! TWENTY....wow....I still can't believe it!!! What in the world? ;) Now let's party like it's 1999, or 1997 or 2017!!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Be In The Moment!


I was sitting in my car waiting for E to get out of her class today when this mama and her 2 young daughters pulled up next to me. I had the windows rolled down, so I could hear them talking as they got out of their car. The oldest little girl hurried out with her supplies in tow while her little sister (maybe 4 years old) lingered. Their mama was a little exasperated, I could tell it had been one of those days. She was rushing the littlest girl out of the car. When the sweet little thing got out, she was smiling and cuddling her baby doll. The oldest little girl turned to her sister and in a very irritated tone said, "Where's your stuff?" The little sister's smile started to fade. Then the mama harshly said, "You mean you didn't bring your stuff?" She had a scowl and a very irritated look on her face as well. The youngest sister hugged her baby doll close and started to quietly cry. 
As I watched this scene, it took me back. That season of a lot of littles was tiring and exasperating and hurried. I don't mean as in "in a hurry" (although that was true too), but instead I'm referring to it went by so fast. There were days when I hurried everything along just to get to the end. I remember times I lost my temper because we were running late or someone forgot their soccer cleats or underwear (true story), or didn't want to stop playing and had a tantrum. I remember going to bed many nights feeling like I failed hard that day.
Then one night, while rocking my 3rd baby, when she was a few months old; I made the conscious decision to be in the moment...the hard, the exhausted, the exasperated, the hurried, whatever it was...I wanted to savor it all. I'll be the first to admit that I am not a friendly person when someone wakes me in the middle of the night. In fact, once my kids figured this out; they would walk right past me to their ever so calm and patient daddy to help them get back to sleep. But this night, this sweet night; I remember looking at her sweet newborn face and thinking how grateful I was to have these treasured moments alone, even being exhausted out of my mind. Being the third, moments alone with her didn't happen often and were hard to come by. That night I realized that she too would soon be a toddler like her big brother and sister. 
From that night forward, I have made it a priority to find something every day to be grateful for. I get up daily and thank God for another wake up, and I give it my best effort to be in the moment. I still fail at this on a regular basis, but I am also very aware when I fail because of that decision I made that sweet night 16 years ago. When I'm failing, that decision helps me say, "I'm sorry I got upset with you. I'm sorry I lost my temper." That decision helps me tune in and really listen when I ask how their day was, and they actually say something besides "Fine." That decision helped me to slow down and let them play a little longer and give them grace when we showed up to dance class late with no tap shoes. That decision helped me to think before over reacting. That decision led me to walking with them instead of just walking beside them. As my children have grown and are growing, I still fail at being in the moment. I still fail at being grateful. I still fail as a mama, but I am acutely aware when I do. And because I learned to give them grace and look them in the eyes and tell them they are forgiven, they always do the same for me; and then we move forward and try again.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

PEACE

Life feels heavy and hard, and I've had a headache for three weeks.  I can't decide if it's due to allergies, the crazy Texas weather, too much sugar, lack of sleep or worse.  I saw my doctor this week, and thankfully all my tests seemed to have improved. However he did mention a few times that I have a vascular disease and how imperative it is that I stay on my medication, so the thought of another stroke is always in the back of my mind. UGH!! I begrudgingly agreed to try another medication for arthritis pain as well.  I'm not a fan of medication and have tried to avoid it as much as possible, but the pain is winning....I'm becoming defeated by it which may be another cause of the lingering headache.
I know that stress plays a large part in the headaches and even the pain.  Seasons of stress come and go, and I usually let it get the best of me when there are many heavy things happening; and right now...there are. 
I'm out of place where I am, and I keep trying to force myself to fit.  Sometimes I can maneuver and force my piece into the puzzle but more often than not, I just cannot make myself fit.  When this happens, I look around and take note.  I plead with God to guide me, give me peace where I am, to be gentle with others, to keep His light shining within me; and to be in the moment.  But oftentimes I fail, but especially when life feels heavy and hard. Then comes the guilt of taking things for granted, of not being as grateful as I should when there are people all over the world suffering things that I cannot even imagine.  The terrible things that are happening to people all over the world.  The suffering that is going on in my own neighborhood. This is a paralyzing state for me, and I feel helpless.  Why is my heart so heavy when my life is good?
Last night I lay awake in the middle of the night thinking about the world...the beautiful world that God created, the beautiful people that God created, my life and choice to be a christian.  Then I think about the arguing and ugliness over things I cannot grasp. I don't understand the arguing, the name calling and disrespect when there are people dying of starvation, people being sold into sex trafficking, people suffering terrible terrible loss.
In this beautiful world, where we are suppose to love each other as Jesus loved us (or at least try to); why are we acting this way? Why aren't we embracing each other?  Why can't I fit my piece into the puzzle?  As I lay there with my face buried in my pillow sobbing, I realized maybe not fitting in is a good thing?  Maybe I need to stop trying to force myself into a society I don't often understand? Maybe it's okay that I don't fit?  Maybe it's okay if I don't have the answers in my head and heart?  Maybe instead of being paralyzed by not solving it all, I should do what I've always done and just do something? One thing?  A few things?  That's what Jesus is for...He has all the answers.  He always shows me the way if I take the time to listen.  And then it came....peace!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

February 5th....The Best Day of 2001!

Happy 16th Birthday to Drew Michelle Payne aka Drewby Lou. My smack dab in the middle, quiet, brilliant, vegetarian, thrifty, organic, deep thinker. The girl, who declared herself, "a tomboy who likes to wear dresses" when she was 4. The girl, who use to sit out under our tree, with handpicked flowers thinking about how to make the world a better place. The girl, who loves sleep, and asked me after her first full week of kindergarten; "You mean I have to go back? I'm exhausted." The girl who stays true to herself and has one of the kindest hearts I know. My observant, shy child who doesn't like any attention...even when it is well deserved. You are the child, who taught me about being in the moment and loving the simple life. When you were five I asked you what extra curricular activity you wanted to do, and you looked down at me (from that tree you had just climbed) and replied; "I just wanna be a kid."
You are a fantastic artist and a gifted writer. Hopefully someday you will share these beautiful gifts with others, because I promise you someone will benefit greatly from them. Being a teenager is hard, and you are doing it very thoughtfully and with integrity. Keep loving animals, music, nature, books, coffee, thrift stores, art, writing giving all the glory to GOD; and you will be a-okay! You're a world changer Drew Payne, and I adore you!













Sunday, January 22, 2017

Between Yesterday and Tomorrow

I went to a funeral this past week.  It was for an 18 year old young man.  It was tender and sad and beautiful.  There was pain and rejoicing all at the same time.
You might think I'm kind of a weirdo, because I don't hate funerals.  I hate that they are the result of someone dying, and that people suffer due to the loss of life of someone they love.  I hate that someone might have suffered great physical or emotional pain before they died.  I hate that families are torn apart because of death.  I hate the emptiness that will remain, but I don't hate funerals. Every funeral I've been to has taught me something.  Some have been hard hard lessons, some have been gentle reminders. Sometimes it's learning more about the person that passed, but I always learn something.  It's the one time all my feelings overlap.  This particular funeral reminded me of this:  yesterday is gone, tomorrow hasn't happened; so concentrate on the in between.  So much can happen between yesterday and tomorrow.  I talk about this often in my writing, speaking, in common conversation....LIVE IN THE MOMENT.  I tend to find peace and clarity in the mundane and ordinary moments, oftentimes forcing myself to re-evaluate something I'm complaining about or unhappy with; or finding the utmost joy in the simplest of things like sitting outside in the sun with my dog.  Gratitude in every day, even the hard ones. Every single moment of life is a gift, and a life lost leaves a hole or a lot of holes somewhere.  But a very wise man once said, the pain you are experiencing is a result of the love that is felt.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

How Do You Know?

How do you know when God is leading you towards something or away from something?  How do you know it's not just your thoughts?  How do you know it's not just someone else's thoughts?  How do you know?  There have been many times when God has led me to or away from something or someone, and I knew it without a doubt.  I just did.  But then there have been times....especially over the last couple of years....where I felt led, but I was not sure if it's God.  Years ago, one of my lifelong friends told me that she knows it's God when it's something uncomfortable.  I would have to agree with that as well.  But what if you feel pretty certain that it's God leading, because it's something uncomfortable, situations have arisen that clearly show you that it's Him, and you also have a huge sense of peace about it; BUT....the other people involved do not feel led?  Then what?  This is the situation I have found myself in over the last few years.  I use to pray that God would intervene on my behalf.  In other words, I would ask Him to show them my ways.  It was such a huge struggle in my head and heart when He wasn't doing that, and they weren't coming around to my way of thinking.  In the last few months, I have started praying differently.  And although I still feel the nudge and the struggle, I also feel peace when the answer is still WAIT!  How did my prayers change?  Instead of praying for God to change other people's minds and hearts, I asked Him to change mine.  I also asked Him to make sure that I am still acutely aware of this calling that I have felt, and that I do not dismiss it; but instead understand that it is a time of waiting.  I've asked God to allow all involved to feel this nudge if it was His will.  Honestly at first, there was no change at all.  But slowly I can see it, and slowly we are making our way towards it.  It's still a time of waiting, but the signs that this calling is from God is becoming more and more evident to all of us involved.  I know that He doesn't want me to embark on this journey alone, so I will continue to pray that we all feel it and are obedient...especially when it's hard and uncomfortable and while we wait. Thanks Be To God!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Grieving Someone I Don't Know

Is it odd to deeply grieve for someone you don't really know?  Is it odd to feel such a sadness for someone's family?  A family, that I've never formally met, is grieving the loss of their son.  He was 18, and he had been battling cancer....it was a hard and painful battle.  It was one he fought hard against, so hard in fact, that his nickname became Warrior.  From all I know of him, through others including 2 of my daughters, he was a true warrior with one of the gentlest and purest hearts around.  I read his mother's comments this morning "As I told him he could go, my heart was screaming come back.  After always making sure he was with someone...there is nothing that prepares you to walk away from your child and leave him with strangers".  This resonated so deeply in my heart and head, and although I honestly have no idea what that pain is like; I grieve deeply for this boy whom I never met.  Praying for his family as they search for peace and comfort.  It's comforting to know that they are believers and know that their boy is with His King.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Opinions

Do you ever feel judged by the way you parent?  Most of the time, I can say that I do not feel judgement regarding my parenting.  Of course this may be because I'm oblivious to it, or honestly just don't concern myself with it.  On the flip side, I truly hate to admit this....I really do, but I do care what people think about certain things.  I hate admitting that, and it's been a real struggle for me to learn to not overanalyze every little thing that people say, do, don't say, don't do.  Honestly most people could care less what I say or do unless it directly affects them.  I lived so much of my life wondering if I had offended that person, because they didn't wave to me in the hall.  Or what I did to upset that person, because they didn't reply to my email.  Or why that person never invites me to his/her get togethers.  I have gotten past so much of those feelings of insecurity and not being good enough, but it is something I have to work on constantly.  I think a lot of this progress in overcoming those feelings has come with age.   I have realized I am truly doing my best (most of the time), and if that's not good enough for people...then so be it.  I also know that the only opinion that matters is God's.  Although I know this, it is still difficult not to worry about others' opinions as well.  As I said, much of the change in me has come with age, experience and the lack of concern or obliviousness of people's opinions regarding my life and choices.  As long as I'm doing the best I can to live the way God is leading, then I have to just know that is good enough.  One area where I still get confused glances or an occasional snide comment is with my children and their extra curricular activities or lack thereof in most cases.  I am not a fan of busyness....yes you've heard this time and time again....and I will forever say it, because I'M NOT!  There are things that I strongly encourage force upon my kids, but only if I think it will benefit their body, mind, soul, spirit.  If they try it, and it truly is not a good fit; then that's that.  I don't believe in signing my kids up for every single available activity there is.  Honestly I would be in a horrible mood if all of our time was taken up with practices, rehearsals, performances, games, meetings, classes, etc.  It has been hard to find a balance in this area, because my people are so different.  I have a few, who would be happy in their rooms with a good book and good tunes, all day long.  I have one, who loves to go and go and go and go and go, and doesn't mind having something every single day.  I have a few, who are somewhere in between.  When I was a first time mommy, I remember thinking we needed to do all the "good" stuff; and there is a lot of "good" stuff.  My firstborn was one who easily acclimated to about anything and didn't mind going and going and going. It wasn't until the the 5th came along, and my 3rd child was about five; that she enlightened me that we didn't have to sign up for everything offered. When I asked my smack dab in the middle child what she wanted to sign up to do outside of school, she thought about it for a while and replied with...."I just wanna be a kid".  I remember the feeling of relief that came over me, because I was exhausted from being on the go. But also there was a tad bit of guilt, because most of her friends were involved in something outside of school.  She had no interest in doing anything "extra", because she wanted time to read, climb our tree, play outside, draw and rest.  Because she is exactly like I was as a child, I completely understood this desire; and we allowed her to "just be a kid".  However, I did find myself concerned with her not being involved in something that would help grow her passions.  Even still, I have done my best to be very intentional about what we sign up to do.  If they want to try it, and it's too expensive or too time consuming; we just explain this.  And you know what, they get it.  We made a decision a few years ago, that we would not sign up for anything that took up our entire weekends, so we could be spontaneous; and that has been a huge blessing.  We have been able to do road trips and adventuring and play games and just be together.  We have also been able to rest which is extremely important in our house.  We are a group that needs rest and most of us require quite a bit of downtime too.  Last year was the first time in a few years that we took something on on Saturdays.  We signed Cal up for baseball through the Miracle League.  Neil Payne read about the commitment involved, the opportunities, etc. beforehand.  Cal LOVES baseball, but he has never played due to his special needs.  This was an opportunity we could not pass up for him, so we let him try it.  His game is over by noon and lasts one hour max, and the whole family LOVES LOVES LOVES watching him.  It's one time, we don't have to battle the alarm for ourselves or the girls. We may slowly take on more activities on the weekends and weekdays, but for now; we are content.  The main thing I want to give my children and my husband is time devoted to just them. So when people ask me what my homeschooling child does for socialization, I say...she plays with her friends and spends time with her family; and that's good enough for us.