Life is Meant to be Lived

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Ladies,

I am not even halfway through this book, and my mind is already blown over and over again. I have been underlining and highlighting huge sections. Rachel wrote this book directly to me. I’m sure of it.

Actually, she wrote it for all of us. A powerful message that women need to hear. But, I’m not here to do a book review. I’m here to share something that I learned this weekend.

I’ll give you a little back story. I am a people pleaser. If someone asks me to do something, I say yes. I say yes even if everything within me is weeping over how badly I DON’T want to do the thing. I say yes even when I want to scream NO! I don’t want to disappoint anyone. I have always been this way. I lent out pencils and pens and so much of my own stuff in high school that my mom always had to buy new stuff for me. I have loaned out so many books without them being returned. I know who I lent each book to, because my memory just works that way.  I was always excited to hear what people thought of the book. Do I confront them and ask for my books back? Nope. I’d hate to offend anyone. Someone borrowed my blow drier and kept it! Dresses, swimsuits.. you name it. It’s out there with some other person. Maybe. Maybe they just truly don’t care and got rid of MY things.

I make myself miserable by always doing what others want. MISERABLE.

I am an introvert by nature. I’m  not miserable because I am an introvert. I get miserable because people seem to think they need to FIX me, and pull me into uncomfortable situations. I do not get a thrill out of being around tons of people. I get completely exhausted and overwhelmed. I get panicked. But, that is unacceptable to so many people, so I say yes to going places when I don’t want to. I don’t enjoy it. Craft shows? I’m there. I love that. But, most of the time. Nope. Please stop.  I get filled up by reading a book, taking a walk alone, laying in the sunshine doing nothing.

I say yes to helping with things that I don’t really love doing, which only takes away from the little time I have to do the things that I do love. I love helping people. That is my nature. I love cooking a meal for someone who is sick or just had a baby. I love to drop off little gifts for people. I love helping organize and clean things up. I love that.

The things that you love are probably different from mine. Who loves to help people clean? ha! God made us that way. It allows us to function a whole lot better as a “family” when everyone has different strengths.

How many of you say yes to things that you DON’T WANT TO SAY YES TO. I’m sure almost all of you thought “yep, sure do”. WHY?! Why do we do this to ourselves?

I have told Scott so  many times that I feel like we aren’t even LIVING our life. We are just surviving day to day. Then, I read Rachel’s quote above, and I about fell over. You mean, I’m not the only one feeling this way?

Yes, there are responsibilities. Jobs have to be worked to pay the bills. I have to do loads upon loads of laundry so that my  family doesn’t go around naked. I spend most of the day teaching my children. (I homeschool, if you didn’t know that.) Then, I spend the rest of the day cleaning up the disasters that Harper as created and doing all of the household things that a stay-at-home mom does. I’m exhausted. (I know that working moms are just as exhausted, I just don’t have the experience to speak on it.) Then, throw in all of the things that I say yes to when I don’t want to. I have NO time to do anything that fills me up. I have been trying to pour from an empty vessel for so long.

No. More. I will not say yes when I don’t want to say yes. I will not continue to do “extra” things that just further drain me.

I said no to someone today. I planned on writing about this before this situation ever came up.  I think it was really God challenging me to see if I was actually going to go through with the commitment I am making to myself– to my family. I said no, and immediately after sending my response I felt sick. I HATE disappointing people. But, do you know what saying yes would have meant? It would have meant that I would exhaust myself. I would drain myself even more. I would feel a sense of dread every day until that commitment came and went.

This isn’t all about me. Do you know what a drained wife and mother become? They become bitter and cranky. They take out their frustration on their families. They become miserable to be around. My husband and my kids deserve to get the best version of me. My marriage is my first priority under my relationship with Jesus. My children ARE my ministry. Those things all have to come first, for all of us.

We need to stop glorifying busy. It’s like we get bragging rights if we have the most loaded schedule. We are doing it to our kids, too. Running them from activity to activity. Robbing them of their childhood, and robing you of precious time watching them grow. I will not fall into this trap. I’m not saying that all activities are bad, so don’t start casting stones. I loved having Chloe in dance class, and want to be in a place where we can do that again for our girls. This season of rest has bee nice though.

I am challenging you to look at your life. Are you just surviving? Is your family just getting the leftovers of you? We have to stop this. We cannot continue to watch our society and families falling apart and wonder what went wrong. If we want to make any progress, we have to make big changes.

It’s not easy. Nothing worth having is easy. If it is worth it to you, you are going to find a way. You will find a way to make it happen.

Do one thing today that makes you feel like you are LIVING.

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Six Days

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We are just 6 days from uncharted territory. We surrendered our lives to Jesus as teenagers, and have lived in surrender ever since.

Scott and I have been serving in full-time ministry since he graduated from college 8 years ago. Every day of the last 8 years I have been “youth pastor’s wife” or “ministry wife”. (Yes, I know ministry is wherever you are and whatever you are doing.)

Sunday is our last day on staff at CCC. Any time God has called us away from a church, He has always opened a door just in time for us to go from one to the next. That has not been the case this round.

This is completely new. I feel like a huge chunk of my identity is being stripped away from me. It’s painful and feels a little scary. It could be months or years before God decides to open another door.

This whole ministry journey has been a roller coaster. It is painful. People say hurtful things. People gossip. You live your life in a fishbowl and any tiny slip up in your life can be blown out of proportion. You can be betrayed by someone that you thought loved you.

On the flip side, people also love on you and pray for you when you are hurting. When your entire family is sick and you feel like you can’t do it anymore, people bring food to your home. You get to see people come to know Christ. You see people declare that they are going to give up their drug addiction. We have seen teenagers go from Jr. High personalities to mature young adults sold out for Jesus. You see lives completely changed and transformed- and THAT is why we continue doing ministry! It is an honor to be used by God in this way.

We are in a painful season of this journey. We are being put through the fire for refinement. How I react is an example to my children as to how you go through trials in your life. I have to show them that God will carry us through. I also can show them that emotions are ok. It is okay to cry when you are hurting. What we do with our emotions is what matters.

I listened to this song yesterday and sobbed.

“As I walk this great unknown
questions come and questions go
Was there purpose for the pain?
Did I cry these tears in vain?

I don’t want to live in fear
I want to trust that you are near
Trust your grace can be seen
In both triumph and tragedy”

Scott has started applying for local jobs outside of ministry and my heart hurts for him.

We are trying to figure out the logistics of being able to find jobs to pay bills while also still being able to candidate at churches whenever opportunities arise; all with one car. We are doing exactly what God wants us doing at this time; even if it is not at all what we want.

We trust God through everything, but that does not mean that it won’t be painful or hard. God never promised us an easy life, He only said that we would never be forsaken.

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5

 

 

 

One Year Later

I find Facebook memories to be enjoyable. It is amazing to see what God has done over the past year (or 10) in my life. Monday marked one year since we found out that Scott was losing his job. (Today also marks 5 years since a day full of testing newborn Addison for Cystic Fibrosis. Thank God for negative results!) He came home on his lunch break and told me that the church could no longer afford to keep him on staff. We had until the end of February with him receiving a paycheck, and then it was just darkness. At least, that is how it felt. A week later, we found out that he only had until the end of January.

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Our hearts were shattered. We had spent the last 4 1/2 years growing to love our church family. We had ministered to these teens for years. We saw them through their awkward and obnoxious Jr. High years. There were times I wanted to strangle them, and they know this. haha! They also know how deeply I loved and cared about them, even in their obnoxiousness. Now, these once awkward Jr. High boys and girls had become incredible young men and women. They still are.

We went through the next couple of weeks unable to tell our church family. We didn’t want their Christmas to be ruined by this news. Not that we are that special, but it is hard when your youth pastor and family are leaving. I know from experience. Somehow, rumor got out and hearts were broken right before the holidays.

One year ago, we were making plans to move in with family  if God didn’t open a door in time. It seemed impossible that a door could open in time. I knew God could, but honestly, I didn’t believe He would. I was hurt and confused. Why do things like that happen? We had surrendered our whole lives to serve God in full-time ministry. It is a sacrifice. It is painful and hard. It is also incredibly rewarding and such an honor.

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One year ago, I had NO idea what today would hold. Where would we be in a year? Would we have a home? Would we still be serving in ministry? Goodness, it was such a dark time. It sent me into a bit of a tailspin questioning WHY.

If you had told me what our future was going to hold, I never would have believed you.

Here I sit in our beautiful home that God just plopped into our laps, not in my old teen years bedroom.

We serve in an INCREDIBLE church with some INCREDIBLE teenagers who fiercely love Jesus and want to reach the world. Seriously, THEY inspire ME. Plus, I get to serve in the children’s department and love it.

We have made some great friends that I know will be around for a lifetime.

We are living in a beautiful state in an amazing family-oriented town; able to walk out the door and feel safe.

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God has completely blown my mind with all that He has done in the last year in our lives. I am not the same, and I would never want to be. Sure, we miss many people from Michigan terribly. They became family to us. Distance doesn’t cause a family to fall apart though. I am grateful for social media that allows us to keep in contact; and snail mail for those sweet ladies who don’t even e-mail.  I am thankful that there are roads that connect us when the chance arises. I am thankful for our new family. They are so amazing and such a blessing to us.

I am so thankful to be where I am doing what we are doing. I feel an incredible sense of gratitude. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that we would ever be here, but I am so, so thankful.

Comparison

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You have heard the saying that Comparison is the thief of all joy, right? Oh, how true that is.

I find myself getting caught up in the comparison game a lot. I mean, A LOT. We haven’t taken a real vacation since April 2011. A vacation alone just as us? A random two night trip to Kansas City when we were newlyweds. I see these families going on vacations and having a blast, and I start feeling really down. Will we ever be able to do that? Will we ever get to show our children all of the beauty in this country? I have to stop myself though.

We may not get to go on “real” vacations, but at least once a year we get to travel back to Illinois and spend time with our families. Scott’s parents just moved to Arizona over the summer, so that is making things a little more tricky. But, how blessed are we that we get to take our kids to see all FOUR of their grandparents?! They get to see their aunts, uncles, and cousins also.

I see people who own their home. They get to plant gardens and do whatever they want to their house without asking permission. I have to be honest, this is my biggest joy stealer. I have ALWAYS loved homes and home design. I watched HGTV with my mom ALL THE TIME. I took interior design courses at Missouri State University. I LOVE cozy spaces and pinning my heart out. In Michigan, we lived in a tiny little house that was basically a glorified apartment. Now, we live in a literal apartment, and it really put me in a funk. Again, I have to really stop and count my blessings.

In January, we were facing homelessness. The church we were at had to cut Scott in order to afford survival. We were heartbroken and honestly afraid. We would be moving in with one of our sets of parents. When we were able to move all of our stuff into our “own” space, it felt so good. I was so incredibly grateful to be able to set furniture up however I wanted, and have space to somewhat spread out. I cried tears of joy. Now that the newness and excitement has worn off, I have allowed myself to feel ungrateful for what I have.

Isn’t this all so silly? We live in a world of social media where we can see everyone’s perfect outfits, homes, and projects… and post-baby bodies. It’s nearly impossible to be bombarded with the temptation to compare.. to be perfect.

May we never forget…

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Stop comparing yourself to someone else. God created us all with different talents and abilities. As long as you use those talents and abilities to glorify Him, that is all that matters!!!

I can make my tiny apartment a welcoming space to love on others. It doesn’t have to be huge and immaculate to be hospitable. It is still a daily battle; but one that I am willing to continue to fight.

 

Do you struggle with perfection and comparison? What have you done to overcome that battle?

 

Quiet Time

It is so hard to take time alone as a mom. I am terrible at it. I go to the grocery store alone. That’s really about it. I don’t even do that as often as I used to. *I want to add that this is in no way Scott’s fault. He is ALWAYS encouraging me to go out alone when he is home. I just don’t do it.*

I was talking with him about how I really wanted to get my hair done. He told me to go for it. So, I actually listened. ha! I called and set up an appointment. I had my pictures all ready. One was a balayage that was light blonde at the roots working its way into REALLY light blonde at the tips. The other was just a warmer color with some highlights. Now, I never do anything crazy with my hair. I decided that I wanted to do something fun.

This is my hair.. The first picture looks like a wig because I NEVER have that much volume.

I have SILVER hair! I wasn’t really going for silver hair, but it is the hip thing to do right now. I guess? I don’t know what is hip anymore. In my bathroom lighting, it looks like I have strawberry blonde roots with light blue hair. I seriously panicked and thought about selling an organ to pay to have it re-done. Thankfully, I went to church and everyone was raving about how much they loved it. I also got to see it in a normal light (I don’t know whats up with the bathroom lights..) and realized that it was pretty. It is SO different. But, really pretty. Plus, it is just hair.

It took 4 1/2 hours for this to be done. I had 4 1/2 hours TO. MYSELF. I love having my hair played with, so it was basically heaven. While I had a toner on my head, Denise sat me down in a huge massage chair for twenty minutes. You know what I love the most about Denise. She didn’t chatter away the whole time. Am I the only one who hates when a hairdresser talks the entire time. I just want to fall asleep in your chair and wake up looking fabulous. She was so kind and kept offering me drinks and snacks.

Honestly, even if my hair was actually light blue and orange, it would still have been worth it. I came home feeling so refreshed and rejuvenated. I love being a mom. However, you have to be “on” 100% of the time. My kids never give me a moment of peace. Someone is always wanting something and someone is ALWAYS touching me.

It is so important that we, as moms, take some quiet time. We need to do something for ourselves occasionally. We are better moms and better wives. We spend so much of our time pouring into others; especially as a ministry wife and mom. If we don’t take the time to fill ourselves back up, we will dry out. So, go have your hair done. Go get a cup of coffee alone. Take a walk alone or go for a job. Just do something to recharge your batteries. It does not have to be big and extravagant. Just make sure that you take care of YOU, too.

Grief

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If you had asked me four years ago if I thought this would be me four years down the road, I would have said no. Four years ago, I was so overwhelmed with grief and pain.

I felt like I was free-falling into an abyss. I couldn’t figure out which way was up. All I could do was cry. A lot. I prayed and begged God to somehow rewind time. Somehow make it all better.

I still don’t fully understand WHY I had to lose my baby, and never will. That’s just it though. That baby was never MINE. All of my children are God’s. They were never mine to begin with. They aren’t mine now. I don’t have to know why God does things, I just have to remember that HE IS GOOD.

Grief is a funny thing. When you are in the midst of it, it’s heavy. It’s dark and painful. You feel like you will never be able to breathe again, because even breathing hurts.

But, here I am. I still grieve. This week always brings a dark cloud that looms over my head. I don’t have to give in. I need to take time to grieve each year. I need to grieve the kisses that I never got to give. The nights that I never got to rock my baby to sleep. There are so many things that I missed out on, so I grieve. I can’t camp out there. I have three daughters who deserve a present mama. Life is beautiful even in the darkness.

Quinn, I hope you know how loved and missed you are.

If you are going through a miscarriage, please don’t go it alone. Talk to someone. It’s ok to hurt. It doesn’t matter how many healthy children you have; every one is a blessing. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. If you have no one to talk to, please email me (myfourarrowsblog@gmail.com). I would love to pray for you, cry with you, and be a source of encouragement for you.

Authenticity

I have been thinking about authenticity a lot; being an authentic Christian. When I started this blog, I said that I wanted to be honest and real about being a pastor’s wife and mama. 

There is something that I have been hiding; something that I only recently admitted to myself. I have been struggling. I have been struggling with some form of depression for a couple of years now. 

At first, I thought it was just because I had a seizure and lost a lot of independence. Then, Harper was born and I assumed that it was just baby blues. Here we are two years later, still struggling. I am a ministry wife, and I feel like I am doing something wrong by even admitting this; let alone the struggle itself… I have had this typed and fear hitting “publish” but I need to.

I have made excuses for how I feel. I mean, if you look back on the past couple of years, you will see that they have been pretty rotten. However, my faith didn’t waver. I TRUST GOD. I don’t understand it all, but I trust Him and His great plan.

I spoke with my doctor last week. I was able to pinpoint when it all started. It could be a side effect of the medicine I take for seizures. So, we are scaling back on how much I take (apparently he had never seen anyone on such a high dose before). He is also checking hormone levels, because if they are out of whack it can cause all sorts of issues. I am looking at you, insomnia and exhaustion.

I hate the thought of automatically taking pills. I hate medicine. Now, please do not think that I frown on people who do take medicine for it. I know that it is necessary for some. There is no judgment there. None at all. 

I am very thankful to have found a doctor who is willing to let me try some natural solutions.

Do you know how it feels to tread water? At first it’s easy, and no one can really see how hard you are working. After a while though, it gets harder to stay above the water. Occasionally, the water covers your head and you fight like crazy to get back up. That is how I have been feeling. No one could see that I was hurting. It has been more difficult to put on a brave face lately. In fact, I don’t know that I have really been fooling anyone except for myself. 

Why am I sharing this? I am not looking for sympathy. NO! I don’t want it. I also don’t want advice; no matter how good the intentions are. I want other ministry wives to know that they are not alone. This path is not easy. It’s ok to struggle. It’s ok to hurt. You are not alone.