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. 

April Fourth

April 4th has been a difficult day to get through for the past few years. I was due with a third child on April 4th, 2013. On September 18, 2012, that pregnancy ended in a lot of heartache. Each year, I feel a weight on my shoulders on that day. I am sad for all of the dreams that never came to pass. I will never see that child grow, learn, get married, have children, etc. That brings a certain amount of pain.

However, I have always held tight to the hope that Christ offers. I will see that child one day in heaven. What a glorious reunion it will be!!

Yesterday, Chloe found a yellow stuffed dog. She asked me whose puppy it was. I told her that she has a brother or sister in heaven, and I had bought that dog for them.

Chloe has been asking a lot of questions about heaven since around October of last year. Last night was no different. She started asking a lot of questions; questions about heaven and Jesus and Him dying on the cross. We had a long conversation about it all. She understands. She knows that she is a sinner (we all are). She knows that Jesus died on the cross so that she could go to Heaven one day (He died for us all and wants to offer that gift to all of us).  She understands it all. She was super distracted by her little sisters and what they were doing. So, I prayed for her.

Scott came home from a staff meeting and I told him what Chloe and I had been talking about. I took Addi and Harper into Harper’s bedroom and read several books to them while Scott and Chloe talked; especially since we were nearing bed time and those two needed to calm down! haha!

After a little while, Chloe came into the room and listened to the story I was reading. When I finished, she climbed into my lap and hugged me. She told me, “I have Jesus in my heart.”

I have prayed that Chloe would accept Christ since I found out that I was pregnant. I pray that for all of my children. My nieces and nephews. My friends’ children. Chloe has had such an understanding mind, and has asked questions that blow me away so often. I have never once wanted to pressure her into praying a prayer. After all, the prayer does not save you. God knows your heart. He knows it all. He knows my baby girl more than I ever could.

While yesterday started off on a rotten foot, and I struggled all throughout that day for many reasons, I could not have asked for a better ending! Take that, Monday!

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Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!!!!!

Unwind

I am currently lounging on my bed while my husband has our girls helping clean up. It is been a day, to say the least. I obviously am writing ahead.

We took it easy this morning and got a slow start. Chloe and I did school while Harper wandered around the house playing and entertaining herself. Addison did her usual “I want to do school work. Just kidding, I’m done.” over and over again.

Lunch was a flop. Naptime was a train wreck. The girls fought and yelled so much that they woke Harper up. Remember, Harper can barely hear.. Dinner time was another flop. I told Scott “I need some time away from them.”

Sometimes, it is important to recognize that we need a break. There’s nothing wrong with needing a break. I figured that I would take some time for my mind to unwind. What do you do to unwind?

I like reading my Bible; especially when the day has been a huge disaster. I need to re-focus on what I am doing; why I LOVE being a mother. Because, I really do, even on the hard days.

Lately though, I feel like my Bible study time has fallen flat. Almost as though it has become just one more thing to check off my list. That is not good. I started searching for a new Bible study that would help me along. I saw on Mandy’s blog that she was reading Pressing Pause. I went ahead and pre-ordered it.

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It just arrived, and I always have to laugh at God’s timing. He knows just what we need, and when we are going to need it!

The book is beautiful, and I really cannot wait to dig deeper into it. I love journaling devotionals. If I just read, I don’t have the tendency to just close the book when I am done and move on to the next thought. I love having the space to write my thoughts about what I just read. I try to keep a notebook with my Bible so that I can write down some thoughts about what I have read for the day.

Since moving, I have completely slacked on that. Everything got packed and I just got lazy. More excuses.

I encourage you to join me. Whether you purchase Pressing Pause for yourself, or just start journaling during your regular Bible study time, make sure that you don’t just let your Bible be another thing to check off the list. Read and experience what God has for you! Spending time with Jesus is the best way to unwind.

The Bright Side of “Special Needs”

As the news sinks in, I have realized that I am officially a “special needs” mom. I believe that technically, I have been a special needs mom since Harper was born with FPIES, if you are super into labels.

I realize that there are so many parents to children with special needs. MANY of them facing far more difficult things than I will ever face. I do not wish to offend anyone, or to make it feel like a slap in the face. If I phrase something in the wrong way, please KINDLY point it out to me. This is all new to me, and I am trying my best to learn to navigate these waters.

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I have noticed a bright side to all of this madness. (My home is full of “madness”, if you couldn’t tell!)

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Addison and Chloe have had it drilled into their minds that Harper has food allergies since she started eating real food. Their sister cannot be given anything with dairy. They keep their milk cups far away from her. They are always asking “does ____________ have dairy in it?”  “Can Harper have this?” They have learned to look out for her. It has been really beautiful to see this progression in them as Harper grows and explores more.

Now, I have tried explaining to them that we know that Harper does not hear very well. They have known that Harper cannot say words, but that was just “baby sister” stuff. It was normal to them. We have asked them to not try to speak for Harper so that she will learn to say what she needs on her own. We didn’t know that there was any issue other than not speaking.

Scott and I have been working on learning American Sign Language and teaching it to Harper. She can hear and mostly understand what we are saying to her. We have to point and gesture a lot (which I never thought about before..) to get her to follow directions sometimes, but she understands most of the time. When she is trying to tell us something, we are lost. She is trying to repeat the words that she hears, but it just sounds like growling or grunting. We have felt frustrated because she will get upset when we don’t do what she is wanting or needing. I don’t know if she done eating or wants more food, for example.

It is so nice to sign while asking “Do you want more to eat, or do you want down?” and have her respond with a sign. She otherwise would just growl and I would be lost. Both girls have been observing this and so eager to learn along with us. I haven’t forced it upon them, but have encouraged them that they can help Harper out by learning to sign.

Chloe especially has been signing while she talks to us. She doesn’t know a whole lot of signs, but she is always asking what the sign is for words.

Harper’s hearing loss is most likely not permanent. She will most likely have something done that will cause her to hear like “normal” again. But, she will not just catch up verbally over night. She has a long road ahead of her no matter which way things go.

I want to continue learning sign language even if it is no longer necessary for our family. I think the world needs more allies for people with these special needs. How wonderful would it be to have child with hearing loss be able to communicate and make a friend in my children because they learned ASL?! I know that IF Harper’s hearing loss were to end up being permanent, it would mean the world to me to see her make friends who speak her language.

Had my family not been thrown these challenges, even though they are insignificant compared to many others, my girls may not have learned the compassion they have. You can teach diversity and that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses all you want. But when they are faced with it head on, it takes on a whole new meaning. They are daily living it and putting into practice what they have been taught.

It is truly beautiful to see these girls blossoming and learning all about what makes each other special.

 

Goals Update

How are you doing with your goals? Have you set any?

I set a few more specific goals after writing this post.
-Drink 40 oz of water per day. (Yes, the recommended is much more, but 40 is GOOD for me.)
-exercise 5 times a week; mix up cardio and strength
– healthy meal replacement shake for lunch each day
– No snacking after 8 PM
– eat REAL food

I did really great my first week. I met every goal. Then, I was plagued by the stomach flu. I guess that counts as meeting my goals minus the actual eating and drinking..  I was trying to recover from that and i let it all go down the tubes.
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Water: I have been drinking more water. I bought this 32 ounce mason jar from Hobby Lobby to go with my MBC bamboo lid (you need the wide mouth for this one). If I put away two of these a day, I will surpass my goal. I like a little lime flavor in my water. Some of my other favorites are peach and mint. I cannot stand plain water. Gross.

Exercise: I have been trying to focus more on strengthening my core for now. I haven’t jumped back into running yet. We are still trying to get Scott’s work schedule figured out so that I can know when the best times to go are. It’s easier to have set days and that accountability. But, you need a strong core to avoid injury doing any sport. I doubt I’ll ever see my abs again, but if I can feel them that would be great. 😉 I haven’t done it as often as I planned, but I am getting there. Every journey starts with a single step.. or something like that.

Meal Replacement: The shake I bought ended up not agreeing with me. It was leaving my stomach in severe pain and I felt really hungry until dinner, even blending it with fruit. So, I have a new one that will be coming soon. Until that happens, I am trying to eat light, but filling, lunches.

No snacking after 8: This one is turning out to be tough. On Wednesdays, we leave at 4:30 for church. I pack dinner for the girls, but want to actually sit and enjoy a meal with my husband. We don’t get home until nearly 9, so I have been eating dinner late every Wednesday. I’m thinking we will just get creative with salad instead of loading ourselves down right before bed. On Wednesday’s, we eat salad.

Real food: This one is going well now that we are all able to eat. Healthy foods have always been a passion of mine. I don’t really have a sweet tooth; I struggle with a salt tooth. Is that even a thing? But, if you don’t buy the junk, you won’t eat the junk. It’s not that hard.

I don’t intend for this to be me bragging, because I seriously am not doing so great. I want this to be accountability. If you see me eating something bad, smack it out of my hand. No, not really. I would appreciate some encouragement to exercise. that is the hardest part for me. That first step out the door, or the first plank is the hardest. I just don’t want to. I see the mess around the house and feel like I should be taking care of it instead. I need my girls to see me making my health a priority. I want them to live a healthy lifestyle, too, and that starts with me.