Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I'm a planner. Obviously Moses wasn't. {Lessons to be learned}

I have a goal of writing more each year than I did the previous year.

This post marks one more post than I did in 2012.

Made my goal by the skin of my teeth.

I thought about writing those three sentences as my post and leaving 2013 with it.

Then I decided I want to leave 2013 with hope and encouragement for 2014.

As I was ending 2012 I thought that the following year was the beginning of good things.

And it was.

Just not how I had envisioned those good things.

Part of me is afraid to hope for good things in 2014.

I'm not sure if I can handle another year filled with the 'good things' that 2013 brought me.

Then I found an article printed from a website lying on a friend's counter.

The title 'Can God Provide the Things You Need?' screamed up at me.

I struggle with this idea.

I like to think that I hold my future wrapped tightly in my fist.

I glanced over it, not having time to actually read it.  It is about Moses and the Children of Israel in the desert.  God provided all their needs.  The article shows how big their need was.

I jotted down the website so I could take the time to read it and let it all soak in.

I'm not going to share the article in its entirety.  Just a few brief points that stood out to me.


  • Moses needed 1500 tons of food each day.   We aren't talking a small snack here. 
  • To bring that much food to the desert, they would need two freight trains each a mile long. Thankfully, God doesn't need trains.  The wilderness is rather lacking in tracks. 
  • To cook the food they would need 4000 tons of firewood each day.  And I don't think there is an abundance of forests in the desert.  
  • Of course, water was needed.  If they used water sparingly, they would need 11,000,000 gallons of water.  Imagine if they were like spoiled Americans and demanded bottled water?
  • If they crossed two by two like all of the Children's Bible stories like to paint, it would have taken them 35 days and nights and the line would be 800 miles long.  Next time you are in line at an amusement park, imagine waiting to cross the Red Sea and being last in line.  Your line won't seem so long anymore. 
  • Because they needed to cross in one night, they went across (not two by two) but in rows of 5000.  I can't get my three kids to walk side by side.  Imagine getting that many people, who were scared and tired, to cross. 
  • Every time they camped for the night, it was like turning almost the whole state of Rhode Island into a giant campground. Their camp covered 750 sq. miles. 
What struck me most about the article was the comment at the end of the mind blowing facts.  It says: "Do you think Moses figured it all out before he left Egypt?  I think not."

I.think.not. 

Why do I think I need to figure it all out before I am willing to step out in faith?  

If God can provide for that many in the wilderness, He can easily provide for my small family of four.  


***
This past year I have had so many kind words said, beautiful letters sent, and wonderful emails written to me about this blog.  Thank you so much for each bit of encouragement.  I love hearing from all my readers across the globe.  I have had mentioned that some would like to comment, but don't want it published.  The comments are moderated by myself so if you would like to leave a comment, but want it unpublished just say so in the comment and I won't publish it for others to read.  Thanks again for the kindness that has been shown to my children and I.  Blessings in 2014.  I can't wait to see what it brings!  xoxo-j  

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Best Year {2013}

2013 was...well...was quite the year. 

In some ways the most eventful year of my life. 

I've had years where there was a big event.  Happen in singular form. 

This year just so happened to bring me big events...in plural form. 

I'm quite tired after living this year.  And at one point would have accused 2013 of being a bad year.  

Then I came across this quote:

I believe that if I'm living my life the way I should, the best year of my life will always be the last one that I lived. "Best year" doesn't mean that all of my hopes and dreams have come true. And a year where all of my hopes and dreams have come true wouldn't necessarily be my best, but perhaps just be my most unexpected one.” 
–Eli McCann

After pondering on what he meant; I realized that in some ways I could say that 2013 was my 'best year'.  

I grew in 2013.

I was 

Molded.  

Pruned.  

Shaped.  

Taught.  

Broken. 

However you want to describe it.  It happened. 

In Decembers past while reminiscing; I have said the same thing about those years.  That those were the years I grew the most.

Little did I know what this year would be. 

2013 was the year where I had to prove to myself that I was tough enough, that I could trust enough, that I was willing to grow enough, that I would fight for what I wanted. 

***

January was the finalizing of the kids' name change...  My name was changed the previous October, but the final court hearing for the kids' name wasn't until January.  A year later I'm still speechless when I try and describe the good that has come from pursuing this. 

February I finished classes.  Four years of essays, projects, and classroom discussions.  

Spring: Started networking on a more serious level.  

Baseball/Softball starts

Visited Hartford and personally met a network contact who introduced me to more.  Started a wild and crazy week filled with interviews.  

Beginning of summer break :-)


Football for the boys begin

August/September:  Both positions that were offered to me were closed by HR.  Fiscal year end/budget issues. 

I start a new job at a local hospital. 
Rhianna turns nine. 


We move from our little apartment to a small ranch home. 


Riley turns eleven, Reagan turns eight. 


***

I'm ready to take on 2014.

A little apprehensive...as it seems like each year gets more and more adventurous.  

Maybe 2014 will just be my most unexpected year.

Where all my dreams come true. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas Sunshine Box

Christmastime can be hard.

Hearing others talk, I realize I'm not the only one.

The nostalgic times of childhood memories come back and it makes me remember people that are gone.

I miss my dad everyday; but Christmastime is always worse.

I struggle with being single; but Christmastime is always worse.

I don't know why.

Maybe I'm abnormal,

But I think I'm more normal that what I give myself credit for.

Anyhow.

This Christmas we had so many surprises.

An envelope in the mail full of gift certificates for the kids and I.

We had so much fun shopping and finding treasures.

And eating out for dinner.

I have no idea who sent those gift certificates.

If you are reading this: thank you.

Thank you so very much.

You made our family very, very happy.

***

One night after working 2nd shift I found a bag of wrapped gifts on my front porch.

A card tucked inside that said "open a gift or two every day from now until Christmas...nothing exciting, just a little something for you."

We had so much fun taking turns each opening a gift.

There were fun straws, Oreos, pretzels, and other fun things.

It reminded me that it doesn't take anything big to bring a big smile to someones face.

I'm hoping to do this for someone next year.

To find someone who is having a hard time or just lonely.

Give them a Sunshine box to get them through Christmas.

To remind them that there are people who love them.

***

I don't know who gave us these gifts.  I can't thank them in person.  So I'm thanking them here and asking (once again) that my readers not forget the single moms that they know.

I have a church family who does so much for me.  I have tremendously generous friends and family who take care of me so well.

I am well aware that I am spoiled rotten.

It makes me feel guilty.

I know that there are other single parents who are truly doing it alone.

These people work in your grocery stores, they are your servers at your favorite restaurant.  They are your nurses, your school teachers, your children's friends parents.

Its so easy to point a finger and say that their decisions put them there.  Maybe so, maybe not.

Doesn't matter.

Doesn't have to be a box of gifts.

Just a smile.

Or a helping hand.

Or a bit of encouragement when they think they can't do another day.

Don't point fingers and please don't judge.

We do enough judging of ourselves.  We point our own fingers inwardly.

Giving a little sunshine goes a long way.  

Friday, December 27, 2013

And then there were two...

The pet store told us that a shipment of guinea pigs would come in on Friday.

I had off work on Thursday so I decided to call around to other stores in their chain to see if they had guinea pigs in stock.

We found one nearby and headed off to get Reagan's guinea pig.

You could feel the excitement in the air.

There were only 2 to pick from.  A brownish/blackish white one that was quite hyper and a black and white one that was quiet.

Reagan picked the black and white one.

He already had a name picked out.  Nolan.  After his best friend.

So now we have two...

Timber and Nolan.







I'm going to apologize for the poor picture quality.  My camera is bi-polar...sometimes its great and sometimes its not.  I'm sure it has more to do with the operator being clueless when it comes to taking pictures, but its easier to blame the equipment.  These pictures show the reason why I rarely post pictures on my blog...its easier for me to paint a picture with words than to post a bad picture. :-)  

***

I had to laugh when I wrote the title: "And then there were two"  

A year ago we had no plans of having a pet.  Then we had Chinchie .  After Chinchie died, I said I would consider getting the kids another chinchilla for Christmas if they still wanted a pet.  

How did I end up with TWO guinea pigs??  

Reagan wanted a female guinea pig so that we could start a guinea pig farm. 

They only have 20 babies a year, Mom. 

Thankfully, the pet store only sells males.  

There will not be a guinea pig farm at our house in 2014.  Or ever. :-)

***

The kids love their pets.  We are just getting to know Nolan, but Timber is quite the character.  He gets so excited when I get home from work, squeaking and hopping and jumping.  He sticks his little nose up to the edge of the cage wanting to talk to me.  

I admit... I go over and talk to him and it makes the empty house seem not so empty. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Missing Guinea Pigs

Rhianna saved her birthday money for months to get a guinea pig {more on that later}

Reagan decided he wanted one for himself.

Between getting the cage, house, toys, bedding, the piggie itself; it was the majority of his Christmas presents.

This morning I ran him to the pet store to get his new little guinea pig with the gift card I had wrapped.

He was so excited.

I wish I could write how his eyes twinkled and how he grinned his cute little crooked grin.

We walked in to the pet store and he went right to the guinea pig cages.

Only to be met with a sign that said "CURRENTLY OUT OF STOCK"

His little face fell and the look of disappointment was heart wrenching.

We went to the counter to find out when more would come in.

~Friday~

On the way home Rhianna was almost in tears.

I was almost in tears.

I told Reagan what someone tells me when I face disappointments.

'Have a good cry, and then move on'

He said "I'm okay Mom.  I don't need to cry.  I'm just really disappointed"

I am so proud of how he reacted.

He reacted so maturely.  

He has been waiting for months for this little pet.

I know that he knows that he will get one in just a few days but it was still so disappointing.




Technically its Tuesday

It is our family tradition to open gifts on Christmas Eve.

It started when I was a child.

Christmas Day was always so hectic that it just made sense.

It was always planned that we open Christmas morning but we would beg and beg to open 'just one' on Christmas Eve.

Just one soon turned into all of them.

Looking back I wonder if that was part of my dad's plan.  To tease us into thinking we were getting away with something special...when in reality it was always planned to open all of them.

***

I have to work second shift Christmas Eve this year.

Putting a damper on our 'opening gifts Christmas Eve night' plans.

I figured we could make a special day of it, getting up to a special breakfast and then opening gifts.

But when Riley suggested opening gifts tonight after I got off work because 'technically its Tuesday' I couldn't say no.

Because who am I kidding?

Like we would get up early and open gifts in the morning.

We will celebrate like the night owls that we are and open gifts promptly at 12:01 am Christmas Eve.

***

The night went exactly like I thought it would.

First a fight.

Then tears.

A lot of tears.

Me yelling and threatening unrealistically outrageous threats.

(Such as "you can all go to bed and we can open gifts next week if you don't quit the tears")

Then they all settled down and we opened gifts.

The boys seemed surprised and excited by the shared basketball arcade game.

Rhianna was so surprised and excited by the new CD player.

The best was when Riley said "Mom. I can't believe you would actually get me Madden.  Why would you go to all that trouble to find it??  I love it!"

Reagan can't wait to spend his gift card and pick out his guinea pig.

***

I think the night was a success.

It was a small Christmas in comparison to some.

But it was a huge Christmas in comparison to so many.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Reality Check {Hiking to Jerusalem}

This December marks ten year that I was baptized.

Ten years ago, I thought I knew what the Christian walk was all about.

I knew I had a lot of growing to do, but I didn't realize how much.

I assumed in ten years I would have it figured out.

Reality is ten years later I think I know less than what I knew then.

Or maybe that is growth.

The realization of how little we know.

Realizing how little we are.

Knowing that we are weak and tire easily.

***

The past few months, finishing up the roller coaster ride that 2013 brought, I felt like I was failing in my Christian walk.  And in many ways I was.  It felt that because things weren't falling into place and I wasn't feeling the warm feelings I thought I should be feeling that must mean I was doing something wrong.  Right?

It wasn't until I read Lynn Austin's book Pilgrimage that I realized that sometimes as Christians we struggle because of our mistakes but other times we go through a rocky time simply because we are Christians.

She writes about her journey to Israel.  {Seriously, get this book.  Not just at the library for a quick read, but as a highlight-make notes in the margin-read over and over-type of book.  Seriously!! Get it.}

I could try and describe what she wrote, but I would fail for sure.  Instead I'm going to share a small part that spoke loudly screamed to me:

When I look at this rugged terrain and the steep, breathless climb to Jerusalem, I wonder why we have tried to make the Christian life a comfortable one.  Why are we tempted to make our faith experiences all about "arriving", finding a great parking spot, resting on our achievements, building monuments and settling down?  I was guilty of doing just that....I'm learning that the spiritual life is all about change-moving forward and going steadily upward, growing closer and closer to God.  Its about sacrificing my will and my plans to His.

She describes the walk up to Jerusalem from the Jordan River as a difficult rocky climb.  How the city literally sits high on a rocky cliff-like hill.  How going up to Jerusalem on foot would require stamina.  How if we are truly on the road to the new Jerusalem it will require stamina.  We will tire, we might stumble, it will be hard.  

Reading what she wrote made me realize that while I haven't made the progress I thought I would have made in ten years, reality is, I've made great progress.  

I'm walking the rough, rugged terrain UP to Jerusalem.  

We're not supposed to be grazing in the green pastures.  

At least, not yet. 


Friday, December 6, 2013

O, Christmas Tree

It really wasn't a special occasion.

Commonplace; rather ordinary.

But to us it is was rather extraordinary.

We went and got a live tree for Christmas this year.

Why is this so special?

We've never had one.

And this one, we cut down ourselves.

I was a little apprehensive about doing this.  I didn't really know what I was doing.  I've never cut down a tree before and wasn't sure what all was involved.

We made it to the tree farm with 25 minutes before closing.  The men who helped us get our saw gave us a funny smirk.  I know exactly what they were thinking.  They thought I was crazy for taking three kids out to cut down a tree.  They thought we couldn't do it.  I had to laugh to myself. They obviously had never encountered us before.

We walked back through the field.  All the way to the furthest corner.  We occasionally stopped and inspected a tree, but we couldn't find one that quite measured up.  I kept reminding the kids that we had to get a little one because we had to get it in the Jetta's trunk.  I was secretly a little nervous about how I would ever make this happen.



After tramping through most of the field, we stopped and found the perfect tree.  The kids thought it was a little small, but it would do.

Riley started sawing.


And made it look easy.

Rhianna took a turn.

Reagan, determined, sawed some as well.



I didn't think we were making quick enough progress, so I said I would take a turn. I'm embarrassed to admit that I could hardly do it.  It was HARD!  I had to surrender the saw to Riley and tell him to keep working at it.

I was starting to panic.  It was getting dark, fast.  We were still sawing away and the end was no where in sight.  I was really getting nervous I was going to have to tramp back through the field and ask the guys to finish it off for me.

I didn't see it coming.  Riley, fed up from sawing, decided to hit it like a linebacker.  He ran a few steps, put his shoulder down, and knocked into it.

The tree came down.



My boy is becoming a man right before my eyes.

We loaded the tree onto the sled and started back.


We went in and paid while the men wrapped it tightly in twine.

When I came out of the shop, I noticed that there was a drive to pull around and have them load up your tree.  The line of cars was rather long and I was cold, tired, and starving.  I didn't feel like waiting to have them load up the tree for me.

I told Riley: "Let's carry the tree together and load it in the car."

He replied with: "I'll just carry it myself."

He picked the 6 1/2 foot tree up, flung it over his shoulders and carried it the quarter mile to the car.

I hope those guys who laughed at us earlier saw him.

It was a proud mama moment.

I know that a lot of people cut down their own tree every year.  I know that this isn't that exciting or special.  It's not getting the tree that was the achievement.  It was seeing my kids determined to get something they wanted.  To see them work together.  To see them get creative and find ways to solve a problem.  To hear them say "we won't give up".  If there is one thing I want my children to know from me, it is to never give up on your dreams.   Even if it is as simple as cutting down your own Christmas tree.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Total Trust

This past summer/fall was a hard time for me.

Things just weren't going as I planned and with that other things happened.

I found myself in a difficult place.  One I didn't know how to get out of.

I went to someone I have total trust in for advice.

They told me what they thought I should do.

And even though it was impossibly hard.  I did it.  I followed their advice.
***
One evening I was sharing this with a friend.  She asked how I could just not question things and just do what they told me {she agreed it was good advice...just hard to follow}.

I told her that I knew this person loved me.  I knew this person has only my best interest in mind.  I knew this person would only give me the absolute best possible guidance.  Yes, it was indescribably difficult, I knew that for things to turn out good I had to follow their advice.
***
In sharing this conversation with another friend, she said "Isn't that how we should be with God?
Just trust that no matter what He has the best intent for us."

It hit me that I don't have that.  Deep down, I don't have that total, unwavering trust.

I have a teeny-tiny bit of faith.

I know it in my mind.  I could probably recite multiple verses about it.

But I don't know it in my heart.  Right now, I'm not feeling the warm feelings of total trust.

I realize I have some work to do.

I want to get back to the point where I feel it in my heart.

Am I alone in this?

Or does anyone else question things?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Reality

Every year I dream of having a picture perfect evening of decorating for the holidays.

Making hot chocolate, Christmas music softly playing in the background, kids sweetly hanging stockings, and putting memorable ornaments on the tree while I'm snapping beautiful photos that will someday be put into a scrapbook.

Something kinda like this:


Then reality smacks me in face.

I don't have time for scrapbooking...

Not to mention:

One kid is crying on the couch and I have NO idea why.

The other kid is mad because their siblings have 3 homemade ornaments on the tree and she only has 2.

Another kid walks around with a nerf rifle shooting his siblings and refusing to stop until they are crying.

They tell me our house is boring and that all the houses are boring and that the only houses that are fun are the houses they have never been to.

They are grumping while they are helping me wrap the garland around the porch because they want to help but THIS JOB is not fun...they want to help doing a FUN job.

Another one starts crying and yet again, I have no idea why.   Something about having a horrible/awful life.

Nerf bullets still zing through the air.


I wonder to myself...is this normal?  Or am I simply failing at creating warm holiday memories with my kids?

Next week I was planning on getting a live tree instead of setting up the scraggly fake one.

We've never had a live tree before.

And after today I'm not sure if I want to get one.

It will be an adventure...that is for sure.

I told my kids that after their pathetic behavior today I might cancel Christmas.


I may or may not have been a bit over dramatic.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Playing Pickle with a Beast

The Babe: You in some kind of pickle…right?

Benny: Yea....

The Babe: A baseball, with my John Hancock on it, went over a fence and you can’t get it back. Right?

Benny: Yea. Right!

The Babe: Then just hop over there and get it.

Benny: Wait! Wait. I can’t.

The Babe: Can’t what?

Benny: I can’t go in that backyard.

The Babe: Why not?

Benny: There’s a beast back there.

The Babe: What kind?

Benny: A giant gorilla dog thing.  That ate one kid already.

The Babe:  Is that a fact?  Sit down kid.  Sit down. I’ll tell you something kid.  Everybody gets one chance to do something great.  Most people never take the chance.  Either its cuz they're too scared or they don’t recognize it when it spits on their shoes.  This is your big chance.  And you shouldn't let it go by. I mean, remember when you busted the guts out of the ball the other day?  Someone’s telling you something and if I were you, I’d listen.

Benny: Yea. But what


The Babe: Hahaha. You’re the one with rubber legs…figure it out. 
***
The Sandlot was an old favorite of mine.  My dad and I loved anything baseball, including this.  

I love this scene.  A priceless baseball, signed by Babe Ruth himself, was hit over the fence into the yard controlled by The Beast.  A giant dog that was made mammoth-like in the imaginations of the boys. 

After countless attempts to save it, they all but gave up. 

In this scene, Babe Ruth comes to life and challenges Benny to simply face his fears and 'jump the fence'. 

***

This makes me think of how I am fighting life.  I have goals.  I have dreams. I know what I want out of life.  I know what I need out of life.  Benny knew what he wanted and what he needed.  He needed to get that ball back.  But there was the beast standing in his way. 

What is your beast?  What stands in the way of your dreams?  

My beast is my lack of self-confidence. My fear of failure.  My expectation of perfection at all times. 

I know what I want, I'm just sometimes terrified to go after it.  I'm afraid to go after what I need in fear that I will fail.  I'm afraid to go after what I want in fear that I won't have the stamina to make it to the finish line.  

I need to face my beast. I need to stand up to it and defeat it.  I need to know that in reality the only failure I can face is if I don't try at all.  If I give up before attempting.  

The success is not finishing the race, but running it.  

The success is not winning the fight, but not giving up.  

The success is in the journey, not the end. 

So, I'm going to do what Benny does.  

He jumps the fence and plays pickle with the beast.  

And wins. 


Maybe I'll invest in some PF Flyers first :-)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

His 8 Year Old Hands

The other day Reagan slipped his hand into mine.

I was taken aback at how it fit.

It felt strange, almost foreign.

It felt larger than I remembered.  He is getting to the age where holding mom's hand just isn't as necessary as it was at one time.

Today (actually yesterday...I'm a bit slow on getting this written).... Reagan turned 8.


I can't believe my baby is eight.  I vividly remember being eight, so how can my youngest be this old.



Reagan is my sweet, funny little man.  I hope the world never knocks him down and changes him. He can make anyone laugh and always has a little grin on his face.  Last year his teacher gave him the 'funny man' award.  She told me that no matter how bad her day was, she could always count on Reagan to make her laugh.  I hope he never loses that ability.

This year Reagan played tackle football for the first year.  It was tough and after the first week he wanted to quit.  I almost let him, afraid that he might get hurt.  But he decided to tough it out and I'm so glad he did.  I've seen amazing changes and growth in him.









Happy 8th Birthday Reagan!

***
As a mom, each child's birthday brings back so many memories of that day.  My mind is flooded with happy thoughts of the first time I held my new baby.  

But other thoughts creep in.  Sad thoughts...I can't help but think if their dad remembers what day it is.  Does he ever think of them?  Would he even be able to tell you how old they are?  Or would he even recognize them if he ran into them? 

The kids and I don't talk about this.  Its never brought up or discussed.  They seem to be doing great, and I think most of the time they forget he even exists.  Which may sound unhealthy, but I believe is actually the best thing.  

My kids want a dad, not their dad they quickly clarify.   I tell them that God will provide one.  Either a dad or a substitute dad.  He gave me an amazing one to replace my lost dad, He will give them one as well.   

Its good Randy is gone.  Its good he is totally extinct from our lives.  His presence brought nothing but terror and the last year that he was around it was so sporadic that it was worse than just his disappearance. 

But still, the question will creep into my thoughts and linger for a moment...does he remember that his little boy turned 8 today?  And somehow the idea that he could truly wipe them out of his mind hurts.  
***
I'm going to post this.  And even thought its after midnight and I have a thousand things to do, including sleep, I'm going to snuggle my little 8 year old.  We are going to cuddle, talk, and maybe even eat a bowl of popcorn.  'Cuz not every birthday is the night before Thanksgiving break.  We might as well make the most of it.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Wrestling with God

A week or so ago I posted how I had some thoughts surging, untamed, in my mind.

It started after I read a simple statement on a blog.

'Jacob wrestling God–refusing to let go, unless he was blessed.'   

The author went on to write more.  Briefly describing  how this story spoke to her in her circumstance. 

I couldn't shake the idea that God was speaking to me through this.  It brought on an avalanche of thoughts. I knew the story of Jacob wrestling the angel.  I felt I knew the story well.  But until I dug into The Word, I didn't realize how much of the meat of the story I was lacking.  I knew the story.  I thought I knew it well.  I was mistaken.   I knew Jacob wrestled an angel, or God, or some spiritual being.  But he refused to let go until he was blessed?  That part I did not remember. 

I sat staring at the words:

"I will not let thee go, except thou bless me." 

I stared into the stillness of the words, my mind  racing intensely.  How does this correlate to my life?  How does Jacob mirror my circumstance and how can I find comfort in this story?  What does it all mean? 

For days I wrestled with these thoughts.  I read the entire story of Jacob, I Googled questions, wanting to read different perspectives.  I read. I thought.  I read some more.  I pondered.  Trying to make sense of the confusion in my mind.  I knew God was telling me something.  Just exactly what? 

I almost laid it to rest.  

I know my mind works overtime and I think too deeply on things.  It would be easier at times to let these thoughts go.  My mind just works in rapid speed and I can't help but analyze.  Such a simple Bible story we read as a child; but what does it really mean?  

I want ~I need~ to figure it out. 
***
I have been wrestling some emotions the past few months.  

Anger, bitterness, loneliness, frustration.  

Or was I really wrestling God?  Was I really 
wrestling God about the timing of His plans for my life?  

While reading through the story of Jacob, I realized something:  Jacob had a messy life.

Some of the difficulties in his life were brought on by poor decisions that he made.  Many were decisions thrust upon him.

In his youth, God had it planned that he would receive the blessing from Issac.  But Jacob's mom wanted to make sure, in her way, that Jacob was the recipient.  She made poor decisions that was a catalyst for Jacob to make poor decisions later on.

After the deceit of obtaining Esau's blessing from Issac, Jacob had to run for fear of his life.  This was the beginning of struggles for Jacob.  While his mom made the decision for him, he made the decision to go through with it.

He worked seven years for Rachel.  But his father-in-law chose to deceive him and give him Leah.  This was not Jacob's decision; but thrown on him.  After he worked for Rachel, and family relations fell, he snuck away from his father-in-law in a tricky way.  Again, some of his problems were decisions made by other people and some were made on his own.

Where I am going with this?

I compared this to my life.  I've been told at times that I am living the consequences of my bad decisions.   Which is absolutely true.  But some of my bad decisions were by-products of other people's bad decisions.  {Not making excuses, simply mirroring Jacob's story}.

At the point of one of Jacob's lowest time {I would assume} is the moment he wrestled God.

He was running from his father-in-law, his wives/children hated each other, and he was headed towards Esau. He was surrounded by enemies, and his family was crumbling from the inside.

That is what I feel.

Not that I have enemies surrounding or that my family is crumbling.

But that I am surrounded by hard things.

And I am crumbling on the inside.

And through it I am wrestling God.

The part of the story that made tears stream down my face, was when Jacob said:

"I won't let go.  Not until you bless me."

My shoulders shook with exhaustion as I read the rest of the chapter witnessing how God responded and blessed him.  It wasn't a pat on the head and a small gift.

It was: "Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed." 

Can you imagine?  God telling you that you prevailed.

Not just stuck it out for a little bit.

Not just 'good job...you did great, little one, while He pats you on the head.'

But that you prevailed. 

You stuck it out, through the darkness of the night.

You prevailed. 
***
Getting back to the story, I realized that moments before God blessed Jacob, He touched his hip socket and shortened the ligament which caused Jacob to walk with a limp the rest of his life.

Why?  Why would God permanently wound someone just before handing them a blessing that was indescribable?

That was one key part that I thought on.  I compared to my life.  I pondered on for days.

Then I realized this:

Jacob didn't walk away freely from his mistakes.  I can't walk away from my mistakes.  He had to live through them. I have to limp through them.

He didn't walk away blessed without boundaries without any cares.  He had a limp to remind him how powerful God was.

He had that limp to remind him of his weakness and God's strength.

I have a proverbial limp that reminds me how strong God is.

Maybe even going as far as stubborn, strong-willed, personalities such as Jacob and myself need a bit of a limp to slow us down a bit. To remind us that God is in control and we are nothing.
***
I've talked to very few about my thoughts.

As in the past when I talk about how I think, some respond staring blankly, many don't respond, several tell me to stop thinking about things I don't need to think about.

And then there is the one that says "Julie, Julie, Julie...you make me smile...I like your thinking. Keep it up."

After all my reading, after all my studying, after all my exhausting thoughts, and in all my asking others their thoughts I have come to one conclusion:

I am allowed to ask God to bless me.  God desires us to hang on tightly and say "Bless me!!"

What I had to accept, in reading Jacob's story, was that while he became the Father of Israel it didn't mean he walked on easy street.   What one told me was we must then walk in God's ways.  We can't give stipulations for our blessings.

We can't go to God and say:

"Bless me...and THIS way...NOW."

We must simply hang on to God and trust in His blessing.
***
I came to know, through Jacob, that I can be blessed and am worthy to be blessed in spite of my past.

I came to understand, through Jacob, that I may still walk away wounded.  But I can be blessed.

I came to realize, through Jacob, that I can be blessed greatly, but life will still bring sorrows.

I came to appreciate my temperament, through Jacob, that being strong-willed doesn't necessarily mean a curse, it could be part of the blessing.

Because of it, I won't give up.

I will prevail. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Huh?

A conversation between Rhianna and Reagan:

Rhianna:  Can you believe it.  Mom was actually ALIVE in 2000. 

Reagan:  REALLY??? What year was she born?

Rhianna: I think nineteen eight....

Reagan: {finishing her sentence}...nineteen EIGHTEEN? 

Monday, November 18, 2013

I hate to do this--{but there's no other way!}

Sometimes a boy needs grounded.

Sometimes a boy needs extra chores.

Sometimes a boy needs wrestled to the ground

and given a wet willy.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

bubbles, Bubbles, BUBBLES!!!

We are almost settled into our *new to us* house that we are renting.   There are the few boxes (okay...many, not just a few) boxes that still linger in the hallway and corners.

Working crazy hours will be my excuse.

While this house is small, needs a few updates, rather unnoticeable if you were to drive down my street; it has everything I could have ever wished for.
  • Attached garage.  I've never had one and am feeling rather exceptional about it.
  • Has a dishwasher.  Seems rather small to add to my list of dreams.  But I went a year without one.  It  was not fun.  I think I would rather go without a microwave than a dishwasher.
  • I have a WALK-IN closet.  Huge, huge closet. I painted it a vibrant 'Japanese Kimono' color (pinkish-orangeish/coralish color).  There is always a party going on in my closet ;-) 
  • I have a jetted/whirlpool tub.  Yep.  Was so excited for that one, but knew I wouldn't have the time to use it much. 
***
Friday night I worked 2nd shift and made it home around midnight.  The kids were either at moms or a friends' house so I had the house to myself.  I should have unpacked another box, or vacuumed the floor, or something productive.  Instead I decided to take a hot, whirlpool bath.  

Sounds rather relaxing, right? 

I filled the tub with hot water and climbed in.  Hit the jets, to the fullest power, and sat back.  About .02 seconds, I noticed there were a few bubbles.  I knew that the water could bubble up a bit and didn't think much about it.  Then about half a second later the few bubbles turned into thick white bubbles and started to rapidly rise. 

Then I remembered. 

Earlier in the week, Rhianna yelled from the shower "WHO DUMPED ALL THE SHAMPOO OUT OF MY BOTTLE AND FILLED IT UP WITH WATER???" 

There really was only one possible culprit.  

One little brown eyed, blond haired, prank-playing, boy who would do such a thing.

I *honestly* have no idea where he got his prank-playing, goofy antics from.  Don't ask my mom either.  She did not have a daughter who did crazy antics.  And that daughter still doesn't do goofy things on purpose either.  

I made him pay me for the bottle and told Rhianna to use my shampoo.  I left it at that and forgot about it... 

...until the bubbles were up past the top of the tub, only 45 seconds into my 'long, luxurious, and relaxing bath'.   

I laughed so hard.  Then I got up, showered all the bubbles off, got into jammies, and did what I should have done in the first place.  

Cleaned the kitchen.  

I almost let the jets run, close the glass doors on the shower, and see how high the bubbles would go.  

Now I'm regretting that I didn't. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

I don't know what to title this post...{its a jumble of thoughts}

I don't even know what to title this post.  Its just a jumble of thoughts finished off by some quotes.  Some are funny.  Some make you think.  

I have a lot rolling around in my head right now.  Just trying to figure out how to write it all down.  

You all know how I am struggling with lack of direction right now, some have even sent beautiful letters and thoughtful cards.  Thank you for those.  They truly meant so much. 

One thing that has changed is my choice to have an open mind about moving.  For 3+ years God was so distinctly clear about telling me to move.  Then as the jobs fell through one after another, right when it seemed to be a sure thing, I lost hope.  Maybe I even was weary of the fight.  Just plain tired.  Maybe I gave up.  I don't know.  But I gave up on the idea of moving.  

The weariness is waning.  I'm frustrated, but coming out of a mental hibernation.  I'm feeling refreshed and renewed.  But I'm feeling different.  I don't feel the urgency to move, but I don't feel that its completely out of the picture either.  I'm just letting happen what happens.  

It took me awhile to get to this point.  Someone emailed me and said "they want to hire you, its just a matter of the right timing."  Those words took a few days, even a week, to grasp.  To realize that the phone calls this summer telling me the positions were closed weren't locked doors; just temporarily closed doors.  

I don't know what will happen.  I don't know if all of a sudden things will start moving along and we will move in the Spring.  I don't know if nothing will happen and I will move when my kids are in college.  I don't know.  One thing I do know, is I'm going to stop living for the 'when we are moved' and start living here, while I'm here.  

I have more rolling in my head.  A blog I read triggered an avalanche of thoughts that I can't  stop thinking on.  I think they are good.  While my mind feels like fireworks, one idea after another, this one concept is pulling all of my struggles and self-doubts into one ball and explaining them all.  

Once I can get it into legible wordings, not just rantings that make little sense, I will write.  It might take a few posts, but I will write.  And hope to make sense. 

In the meantime, I'm going to leave you with some quotes.  


Adjusting well to night shift :-)

Waiting, excitedly, to see how God puts this mess back together. 











^My favorite quote^ 

XOXOXO to all, thanks for your support! 







Monday, November 11, 2013

Star Birthday {11 on 11.11}

Riley told me that I should have had him 2 years earlier. 

That way he could have had his star birthday (turning 11 on the 11th) on 11-11-11. 

My bad.  :-)

I should have thought that one through. 

***

I'm going to say what every other moms say:   

"I can't believe how fast they are growing up!"  

And its true.  

I can't believe that I have an 11 year old. 

What may be worse is that I'm old enough to HAVE an 11 year old.  

***
You may laugh, but I am determined to stay close with my kids as they get older.  I am determined that their teen years will have more wonderful moments that bad times.  To make that happen, I have to lay the groundwork.  And I have to be working hard at it now.  

I asked Riley if he wanted me to come into school today and eat lunch with him.  I know that around this age, they can be a bit embarrassed of their weird/old mom.  I assumed he would be okay with it, but a little nervous that it would be the first time of many where he would say "No. Just stay away". 

He was so excited that I was coming (made me smile) but what really surprised me is the hug he gave me in the hall as he met me for lunch.  IN FRONT OF HIS CLASSMATES. 

We ate lunch together and then he asked begged me to come out to recess with them and be all-time pitcher for kickball.  How could I say no to that? 

Each team had one time up at bat kick and it was time to go in for afternoon classes.  

He gave me another quick hug and thanked me for coming. 

This afternoon he had a friend over and I ordered pizza.  Then quick making brownies because this really bad  really overtired mom of his forgot to get him a cake.  (I'm having a real party in a few weeks so it was legit that it slipped my mind...right??) 

He played football all evening in the backyard with a group of kids.  I think he had a pretty good day. 

But what surprised me the most was his answer to my nightly question of "what was the best part of your day?"  He didn't say the pizza, or the friends, or the brownies.  He said "You coming in to lunch and playing kickball."  

I wanted to cry. 

I love this boy who is quickly becoming a man.  

He has had a lot thrown at him in his very short life.  But he hasn't let it get him down.  He knocks each one out of the park and is making the best of it.  He will go far in life.  I just know it. 

***
I wanted to find a picture that best described Riley.  I found a few over the past year that I found.  Most made me smile as they show a glimpse of my wild and crazy little man.  

Enjoy:


Showing us how to properly ride a dinosaur at the Creation Museum: Feb '13

Riley and the beloved Chinchie

What? Cold rain and mud?  Why would that stop us from playing backyard football? 

So excited he got #2 for his baseball jersey.
He has to have his number :-)
Bauman #2

Starting pitcher with his starting catcher after a win.
These two became great friends after working hard together through a baseball season. 
 




Love that he sets high goals and goes for them.
He wanted to be #1 reader in his class with the highest AR points.
100 is the goal to earn an ice cream party.
He was so determined to be top he ended up with over 300.
Hoping he carries that determination to succeed through life. 
Rittman Sleepwalker Parade on the Football float.
Sitting between his brother and his good friend, Seth. 


Working hard on the line. 

My favorite player on the team ;-)

Getting his jersey.
So excited!  (And just bit sweaty)




Sunday, November 10, 2013

Back in the Batter's Box

My batting coach is kinda tough.

Tough love, I 'spose.

He's encouraging me to step out of the dugout and back into the batter's box.

He's asking me to start warming up and doing some practice swings.

He's not letting me sit on the bench and wait until I think I'm ready.

He tells me that will only make my swing rusty and weaken my muscles.

So I climb out of the security of the dugout.

I squint in the bright sunlight and take a few practice swings.

I can feel the old familiarity of the swing.   The rhythm is coming back.

 It feels comfortable, yet there is still the nagging feeling that my swing isn't quite right yet.

Not ready to go for the big hit.  But I can't sit and wait.

The only way to get that home run is to take chances.

To do my best and focus.

There may be a few more singles, doubles, or even a triple.

Even in my time in the dugout, my batting coach sat with me.  Coached me through my mistakes.  There can't be anymore strikeouts.  The occasional foul tip will be inevitable, but a swinging K is not acceptable.

I need to focus on the pitch, watch for timing, and use all my strength and swing.

I'm still in the batter's box.  I'm still stretching out through my lethargy.

Tomorrow I'm stepping back in the batter's box.  

This time with more focus and determination.

My time in the dugout was not wasted.  I learned something important and valuable.

We all have time in life where we sit in the dugout.  In the dark.  Where its cold and lonely.

But we can't sit for too long.  Bench warmers don't hit game winning runs.

We must pick ourselves up off the bench and walk back out and step back up to the plate.

That's what I'm doing.  I'm taking the risk.  But I'm back up to bat.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Baseball

Lately I've been struggling with a lack of direction in life.

I'm going to interrupt you before you say anything...

I know.  None of us really know where we are going in life.

But we all need goals and something to focus on.

At least I do.

And without clear direction, I get rather cranky.

***

Today I had some alone time. I had time to think.  If you know me at all, you know that to understand things that are hard to understand, I have to find an allegory.  Something that paints a clear picture.  Once I paint the picture, I can accept almost anything and move on from it.

It has taken me a few weeks to ponder on some recent events.  Some changes, some mistakes, some simple life learning.  Gather them all together and they have taken me to a rather low spot.  I wanted out of this funk and knew the only way out was to paint that picture, understand it, and move on.

I am understanding it with baseball.

***

I'm at bat and my goal is the home run.  To hit the perfect pitch, as hard as I can, and have it land successfully out of the park.

I have an amazing batting coach.  He tells me how to stand, how to find the perfect swing.  He reminds me to keep focused, to not give up.  He tells me that I am strong enough to hit the ball out of the park.  He gives me everything I need to be successful.  He can't do it for me, I need to do it for myself. 

I swing at bad pitches.  I maybe even miss some good ones.  I occasionally hit a single, double, or what even feels like a triple.  But I'm not hitting the home run, just yet.

Then there was the time when I struck out.

Swinging.

Eyes open, staring at the ball.

Knowing I was swinging at bad pitches, but swinging anyhow.  Trying to take a bad pitch and turn it into a home run.  Knowing it never works, but trying anyhow.

I go to my batting coach, head down, tears streaming down my face.  Instead of ridiculing me, he puts his arm around me and tells me its okay.  We all swing at bad pitches, but I have the choice...keep swinging wildly or refocus.  That no matter what I swing at, he will still love me and be there for me.  But he knows I am capable of refocusing and only swinging at the best pitches.  He knows that there is a pitch coming, eventually, that will give me my home run.  If only I focus and wait.