Today is my 43rd birthday.
Today is also the 5 year anniversary of Stefan’s stroke.
I figured those two things are good reasons for me dust off the ol’ keyboard and give myself a birthday gift–the gift of writing something.
I love to write. I always have. I love it as much as I love good food and meaningful conversation. I love it a little more than boy bands and Swedish Fish, but not as much as Jesus. I feel alive when I write.
(Except for the punctuation part of it. I apologize in advance for it. I love commas, ellipses, dashes, and semi colons. I know my posts are over accessorized with them. I’m like the grandma who wears her gloves, hat, pearls, lipstick, clip on earrings, pantyhose, and wrist corsage to McDonald’s. I get it and I own it).
So why haven’t I been writing?
That’s a great question. I’m not sure if I have one specific answer to it.
An obvious answer is life is full right now. Our kids are 22, 17, 15, almost 12. We’re navigating college graduation, a wedding (!!), driving, relationships, friendships, social media, little league–all while trying to cultivate character, integrity, and a deep affection for Jesus. You know, nbd (That’s how the youngsters and I say “no big deal.” It ups my coolness, but the fact that I had to point out that it makes me cooler, actually makes me un-cooler. It’s like one step forward, 5 steps backwards with theses teens).
In all sincerity, I have no greater honor or privilege than being mom to these kids. I am trying to soak it all in and soak it all up because my heart is having a hard time catching up to how fast they are growing up on me.
Maybe the more accurate answer for my silence is that some seasons of life, while in the midst of them, are too sacred to share. I think I needed to put down my pen so that I could submit and allow God to write my story–as He sees fit.
Here’s what I mean:
On my 10th birthday in 1984, I received the mother of all presents—a Cabbage Patch Doll. His birth certificate read Rodney Frankie and I was immediately in love with a bald-headed, blue-eyed, overall-wearing fake baby. He was perfect, right down to the Xavier Roberts signature on his butt. It was exactly what I wanted for my birthday. EXACTLY.
Even if his name was Rodney Frankie.
Fast forward to my 38th birthday in 2012. I can’t remember what was on my birthday “list” that year, but the only thing I wanted was to take a nap. True story. I certainly did NOT want my husband to have a massive stroke right in front of me. It was the exact opposite of what I wanted for my birthday. EXACT OPPOSITE.
Yet, I count both–the doll and the stroke–as treasured gifts.
I found out years later that my mom went to great lengths to buy my Cabbage Patch Doll. She drove a couple hours ONE WAY in the snow, uphill both ways, to find that doll. I’m not certain about the uphill part considering we lived in Grand Forks, North Dakota (the GREAT PLAINS) at the time. “Hill” may be loosely defined, but there definitely was snow. Legend has it she threw a couple of elbows to secure my gift. No one came forward with a law suit so we cannot confirm or deny the story. And, she’ll never tell.
The point is this: she fought for me. She was working for my benefit, behind the scenes without my knowledge of any of it.
I’ve learned much these past 5 years— too much to begin to quantify or explicate. Mostly, I learned that what feels so incredibly cruel and unwanted at the time, can be a gift God uses as one of the greatest tools of transformation in our lives. Sometimes when it feels like He’s fighting WITH us, He’s actually fighting FOR us: working for our benefit, behind the scenes without our knowledge of any of it.
I am not the same person I was 5 years ago. I’m not the same person I was a year ago. My faith is stronger, my hope intact, and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. That’s not due to a newly found inner strength or newly acquired intelligence; it is simply a testament to a God who fights for me. He was and is working for my benefit, behind the scenes without my knowledge of any of it.
Don’t get me wrong, plenty of days I felt (and feel) like 2007 Britney, or 2006 Mel Gibson, or 1996-98 Dennis Rodman.
You get the idea.
All of that to say, the stroke was the beginning of a long season of evaluation, contemplation, and reassessment. I found that in being quiet, it was easier for me to recognize the gifts God was giving me. It was easier to notice the changes (for the better) He was making in our lives. My inactivity was necessary to see His activity.
That’s probably the most authentic answer I can give you.
Here’s my gift to you on my birthiversary: sometimes the most unusual and unwanted circumstances prove to be cherished gifts that make you stronger and gentler, wiser and more compassionate, closer to God, less like you and more like Jesus. He is working for your good even as I type these words. He is fighting for you. He is for you. However, as with all parents, He won’t force you to accept the gifts.
Best news? It doesn’t even have to be your birthday for Him to deliver.
(I spoke about all of this at a women’s event last September. Here’s a link if you’re interested in hearing more about God’s faithfulness on my journey.)
Let me wrap up by saying this, I haven’t forgotten y’all. So many of you have encouraged me to write and inquired about my writing and genuinely asked why I’m not. I am overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude thinking of all of you reaching out to me, nudging me, praying for me, encouraging me. I wish I could articulate how your care for me has been balm to my soul. Thank you.
I’m hoping to write more this year; however, I’ve also been hoping to lose 10 pounds the past year or so and that’s not gone well, so we’ll see.
Until we meet again here, I’m praying for you. I’m praying that you trust and know that He is writing your story. And, it’s better than anything you can ask for or imagine.
It’s way better than Rodney Frankie and that’s saying a lot.
And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.
I love a surprise. A good surprise. I think I love surprises because my personality conflicts with routine. You know the good kind of surprises I’m talking about:
- the surprise party
- the surprise visitor (the one where the kid doesn’t expect his/her parent to be home from deployment yet, then he turns around and SURPRISE! it’s mom or dad. I’m not even a crier but this one gets me every single time).
I feel the need for a disclaimer here…please do not surprise visit me. Just give me a little heads up. I do not keep a company ready house. Early on in our marriage, Stefan would tell people to “pop in anytime.” That caused some heated dialogue and quiet moments of reflection for him (some might call it the silent treatment. whatevs). I was SO mature. If you must “pop in” know that every other Thursday my house is cleaned by professionals because cleanliness is next to godliness and our greatest weakness is someone else’s strength and I don’t want to try to do something that someone is gifted in and can do better or some crap like that. I like to justify things.
- the surprise gift for no reason
- the surprise check in the mail for one million dollars (this one actually hasn’t happened, yet, but I’m naming and claiming, people).
- the surprise weight loss without trying (this one, too, hasn’t happened, yet, but I think I would be so appreciative and humble if God saw fit to allow this. I would use it for good).
ANYWAY, I think that’s the longest intro to any blog post ever. What I’m trying to say, Friends, is “Surprise! Friday Favorites is back!”
Imagine my surprise when my eldest called (actually texted because I don’t talk on the phone) and asked me if I wanted to come for Mom’s Weekend hosted by his fraternity. Um, not just yes.
(Yes, this function isn’t new this year. BYX hosted mom’s weekend the previous two years. Yes, I did not get an invite previously. Yes, it always falls on the first weekend of March madness. Yes, that’s exactly why I didn’t get the invite previously. And, maybe also because I threaten to wear a prom dress or show up with his little league button pinned to my top.)
My favorite daughter and I loaded our two full-sized suitcases for the 48 hour trip and we hit the road. In our defense, we weren’t sure what the weather was going to be like and what if, by chance, we needed to change clothes 4 times a day. While I don’t like routine, I do like to be prepared.
We had the best time! But, I think my favorite part of the entire weekend was that I got the invite to play a game, not only with Kaden and his sweet girlfriend, but also a whole group of their friends. At one of the frat houses. ON A SATURDAY NIGHT.
These young adults give me such hope for our future.
Which is ironic considering the game we played requires lying, manipulation, and deception; BUT, it was SO FUN.
It’s currently one of my favorite things. It took a couple of rounds to catch on, but once you learn it, you are hooked. I ordered it as soon as I got back to Waco.
The Resistance. (click on image for direct link if you want)
The quick explanation is that most members of the group are “the good guys” while there are a few “spies” mixed in the group and you have to figure out who the spies are before the mission fails. There is a lot of talking, debating, arguing, and blaming. It’s most fun played with more than 6 people. Probably not appropriate for the youngsters (maybe 12 and up? Kyle (almost 11) played and he didn’t quite get the concept).
Whenever I take a long car ride (like going to Arkansas), I make sure to load up on books. Y’all know I love to read (I will eventually devote an entire blog post to Book Club). Unfortunately, I get incredibly car sick so I can’t read in the car. In fact, most of the time I drive because I get so sick. I can listen, though.
People often ask me how I read as much as I do and my answer is another one of my favorite things.
It may be cheating the system a little bit, but I listen as much as I read, maybe more so. I’ve never been much of a systems-follow-the-rules-gal, anyway.
I REALLY love when the book has Whispersync because then I can switch back and forth from reading on my kindle to listening on audible. It syncs up to my current location without missing a beat.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite book I read last year. It’s actually in my top 5 favorite fiction books of all time. You will want to talk it through with someone, and at the very least, you will want to ask your friends to pray for these sisters. And, you will be serious in your request. I understand this because these sisters are REAL AND NEED PRAYER.
If you need to talk to me about it, I will gladly meet you for coffee, lunch, whatever. These things need to be discussed and processed. Let it out, sister (or brother). Let it all out.
Lastly, if I’m being completely transparent, this isn’t one of my favorite things; however, it is helpful and beneficial for my husband and he is one of my favorite things.
For over a year, Stefan has tried to have “the talk” with me. Not that talk. The other talk. The one that makes me nervous, makes me cry (I don’t understand this reaction at all), and immediately puts me on the defensive.
The money talk.
Stefan is the most gracious person I know. For real, he’s a saint. He has not ever once guilted me or shamed me for spending. He has simply said, “This is our financial picture. I think it would be helpful for you to know it so we can stay within the guard rails.”
Here’s what I hear (in the best Charlie Brown teacher’s voice I can muster), “Whamp, whamp, wha, wha, whamp, guard rails. Guard rails mean rules. Rules mean I’m pinned in. Pinned in means jail. No one tells me what to do. Don’t put Baby in a corner.”
You can see how sometimes this might be an area of conflict for us. And, also, pray for Stefan. He’s married to someone who gets very irrational when finances come up.
In an effort to usher in peace for him (which is ultimately what I want!) I downloaded an app at the beginning of the year to help me track my expenses and stay within the very generous guard rails we’ve established.
It’s simple, easy, and a great starting place. For me, it is easier than envelopes, Mint, or anything else I’ve tried. The only thing I wish it had is a sharing/syncing feature. Stefan can’t access it or see the spending unless he gets on my phone.
It’s been VERY eye-opening for me. When it’s all said and done, I DO want to be faithful with everything (big or small) God has entrusted to me: kids, house, talents, relationships, and money.
And, since it’s almost 1:00 in the afternoon and my fitbit says I’ve walked 349 total steps today, I should probably go do something productive. Like clean my house. Or take a walk.
That’ll surprise everybody.
Y’all know I’m not very good with small talk, right?
I ran into a couple of friends at Target yesterday and after we exchanged pleasantries, I blanked out. Seriously, I stood there smiling (I hope) and staring while my mind literally did not have one single thought except, “Do not ask them the deep questions of life. They are at Target–the Disney World for moms–they do not want to ponder all the thoughts and feelings about love, life, parenting, the Resurrection, or whether Justin and Selena will get back together and turn from their trying-to-be-rebellious-while-still-trying-to-be-innocent phase.”
So, I walked away, awkwardly, while desperately wanting to tell them everything that was going on in my head. They certainly didn’t want that, believe me. They wanted to go to Target and have the same experience that all women have, “I came in for 2 things, and spent $157.”
It’s a beautiful thing.
Now that leaves me with all these thoughts in my head that I need to get out. And, who better to share my feelings with than a captive audience.
(Notice that’s not really a question.)
Surprise! Hope you’re ready.
Let’s start with a confession. I don’t like Valentine’s Day. I never have. I definitely won’t judge you for liking it. I just don’t like the pressure of it, the idea of it, the “I have to love you today” part of it.
I never claimed to be a tender-hearted romantic. Sarcastic? Yes. Mushy-Gushy? No.
Stefan and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. Except last year we gave each other a gift. It wasn’t exactly on Valentine’s Day, but it was in February. Close enough.
We gave each other the gift of marriage counseling.
Let me try to explain a little about the last 4 years. In March 2012, at the age of 38, Stefan had a massive stroke. One that should have killed him, or left him permanently disabled. There is no handbook for how to walk that road. At the time, we had a Junior in high school, a 6th grader, a 4th grader, and a 1st grader. Their fears, understanding, and comprehension were vast and complex. They struggled to make sense of it all…as did we.
While in the hospital, we learned that “there was a spot on Stefan’s brain.” Everyone was confident that it wasn’t a factor in the stroke, but words like tumor, clot, and specialist, were thrown in the already confusing jargon.
We spent a year doing two things: trying to figure out what caused Stefan’s stroke and trying to determine what the spot on Stefan’s brain was and if it was dangerous.
We opted to not tell our kids or friends about the spot because it was already an emotional roller coaster that no one wanted to be on, so why put them on another one? Our families and closest friends knew. They didn’t get a choice in whether or not they got to ride.
Our life looked a lot like this:
We received all the best possible physical news for Stefan. The hemangioblastoma on his brain wasn’t growing or life-threatening and probably something Stefan was born with. He didn’t have Von Hippel-Lindau disease, A-Fib, cholesterol or plaque in his arteries. Nothing. He had a “spontaneous dissection of his carotid artery.”
After a year of going to cardiologists, neurologists, interventionists, and other ‘ists’ who far exceeding my intelligence and understanding, Stefan was released to resume life as normal. One of the best days was when our final stop on the hamster wheel ended in the office of an amazing Interventional Neuro-radiologist. He looked at me and said, “Stefan has no greater chance of having another stroke than you or I do.”
And all God’s people said…
Except we didn’t.
We spent more than a year considering and nurturing Stefan’s physical state that none of us regarded or evaluated our emotional or mental states.
The evaluations and assessments were discouraging.
Trauma changes people. It changed Stefan. It changed me. It changed our kids.
Maybe one day I’ll talk about all the changes, but some are still so tender and raw and too personal to share. Even for me.
See? I do have filter (praise hands emoji).
I found myself in a real season of loss. A season that lasted years.
Stefan’s frontal lobe was damaged in the stroke so aspects of his personality were different. Kaden graduated and moved SEVEN hours away. One of my children was experiencing severe anxiety. Not to mention, life kept going on. I was experiencing feelings, emotions, and insecurities that I was usually able to laugh away, but couldn’t this time.
All of that landed us on a couch in a counselor’s office last February with one of the smartest, most genuine, kindest counselors in all the land, or at least, all of Waco.
I firmly believe God uses people to advance the gospel. Simply put, God uses people to help other people see that God takes brokenness and makes beauty. He takes dead things and breathes life into them. Sometimes we just need for someone to tell us that God restores the barren places. Rod did that for us, he told us all that.
Oh, and he also told me I have PTSD. Or I did. Maybe still do. I’m not sure how it works. That’s for another day.
What I’m trying to say is this–marriage counseling was not only the best Valentine’s Day gift I ever received, but one of the best gifts I ever received. Stefan and I have done a lot of messy, heavy, hard work on our marriage this year and we are better for it. Our marriage is better for it. Our kids are better for it (and, yes, our kids know that we go to counseling. I’m determined to raise kids who understand that going to counseling is courageous and brave, not a sign of weakness, fragility, or whatever reason you believe that has kept you from going).
Maybe you just need to know that God restores the barren places. He brings to life those things you think are dead. He is working for your good. Even when everything feels not good. He makes beauty out of ruin.
Maybe that’s what Justin and Selena need to hear. I know he’s moved on to Hailey, but I will forever be pro Jelena. I’m a pretty big fan of first loves, especially since I get to spend this Valentine’s Day not celebrating with my first love.
Happy Valentine’s Day for those who celebrate!
And for those who don’t, we can talk about it when we run into each other in Target some day; but just remember, I warned you that I’m not good at small talk.
You know that friend that you run into every now and again; and, inevitably, you remember how much you like this friend and think to yourself, “I just don’t spend enough time with this person. I really like her.” So, as your conversation wraps up you mention, “We should go to lunch sometime.”
Then, you run into said friend a few months later and you hug, catch up, and as your conversation wraps up you mention, “Really, we should go to lunch soon. I mean it.”
Several more months pass. Same song. Second verse, “For real, lunch soon. Let’s not just talk about it.”
Eventually, you see said friend and she hasn’t seen you yet, so you walk really quickly hoping that she doesn’t see you because one, you’re embarrassed you’re so terrible at follow through and two, you hope she’s not mad at you because you just can’t seem to get your crap together.
So, I’m hoping you’re not mad at me and really, I am embarrassed it’s been so long.
Instead of giving you ALL THE REASONS why I haven’t blogged lately (they will come in later posts, pinky promise), I thought I’d blog about something I know you will LOVE. Think of it as my make-up present to you.
My sister, Val, had the (enviable) privilege of being on season 3 of HGTV’s huge hit, Fixer Upper.
I know, right?
As a long time Wacoan, it’s so strange (but exciting) to see our #WacoTown step onto the world’s stage. Thanks to Chip and Joanna, Waco is now a hot spot destination. Which is crazy to most of us who live here. Believe me, when I was 15, I could not wait to leave this town because “there is nothing to do here.” Now, we get to watch our sweet-little-baby-town blossom into a star. It’s almost like J.Lo’s transformation from Fly Girl to Vegas Girl. Almost.
I sat down with Val (like a real reporter except exact opposite) and asked her about the process, the show, Chip and Jo, and what her house looks like now. We asked for questions from social media and you guys had A LOT of questions. Hopefully, I asked her everything you want to know.
Me: How did you get picked for the show? What was the process?
Val: I submitted an application online, skyped with casting producer, and after that, signed a contract. But, I think the process is different for every person.
Me: How long was the process from when you first submitted your application to day one of filming?
Val: Well, it’s hard to answer because I really think each couple (on the show) has a different experience and timetable depending where the show is in the season. For us, it was about a year from when we submitted to when we started filming, but, we signed a contract while they were filming season 2 so we thought maybe we were going to be on that season. Basically, we started the process in February 2014, but started filming February 2015.
Me: Once all the interviews, applications, and contracts were signed, and house was secured how long did the actual renovation take?
Val: 2 1/2 months. Middle of March 2015 to the end of May 2015.
Me: How much design input did you have?
Val: I sent pictures of spaces I liked so they knew my style; and, I told them I wanted the honed black granite and marble countertops for the kitchen. I also said I wanted subway tile and wood floors. That was it. I trusted them with all the other design decisions.
I also know Joanna’s style and wanted the look that she has perfected. I wanted the white cabinets, the shiplap, the subway tile. There is no one that does it better as far as I’m concerned. Her signature style is farmhouse, rustic, and white so I’m always surprised when people (on social media) offer critiques like, “I’d like to see wood cabinets or not so much shiplap.” It’s like asking Justin Beiber to sing opera. That’s not his gig. Let him do what he does best.
Me: Really? That’s the analogy you’re going to give?
Val: It was all I could think of in the moment.
Me: This question is from your instagram post: Does Joanna do all the design?
Val: She definitely has the vision and the final say in design, but like all great designers, no one works alone. She has an amazingly talented team.
Here’s what a lot of people may not know, Joanna isn’t a surprise to Waco like she is to the rest of the world. She’s been a Waco staple for design and inspiration long before HGTV. You don’t get to be on HGTV without immeasurable talent and proven work.
Me: THE NUMBER ONE QUESTION PEOPLE ASK: Do you get to keep all the stuff they stage on reveal day?
Val: Some things. For example, I got to keep the custom table that Clint made for my craft room. And, the lighting fixtures stay (someone asked about that). Joanna gifted several things–the ‘M’ sign in the living room, the botanical print, and the color-swatch prints in the craft room.
The furniture, decor, rugs, etc. are not included in the budget, but are available at cost.
Me: What did you buy/keep from the staged house?
Val: The coffee table, the bar stools in the kitchen and craft room, the chalkboard sign in the kitchen, and I tried my hardest to convince my sweet husband and family that I should purchase the thousands of dollars bookshelves.
Seriously, on reveal day, your emotions are so high and you look around at the beauty that is now your home and you want everything…and you tell yourself you’ll never be able to find bookshelves that beautiful ever again in your whole life. Thankfully, not everyone was caught up in the emotion of the day. I was wisely counseled to “back away slowly from the bookshelves.”
Me: What other rooms get done?
Val: Whatever rooms you want to include in your budget. For us, we did the game room, too. It just wasn’t on the show. I really want to put signs on the doors of the rooms that didn’t get renovated that read “Ran out of money.”
Me: Is the budget accurate?
Val: It was in our case.
Me: On a scale of 1-10, how enjoyable was the process?
(See, I’m not the only dramatic person in the fam).
Me: Are Joanna and Chip really like that (in person)?
Val: What you see on tv is what you get. Joanna and I are friends in real life, but it was my first interaction with Chip and he really is a goofball. They are real people–just like you and me.
Me: Tell me about the shoe closet. Does Mike really have 500 pairs of shoes?
Val: No, he does not, but he has A LOT.
The shoe closet was small, but it was a small space. What viewers didn’t see is that they customized the shelving to fit the size of Mike’s shoes. There was not another way to configure the shelves to accommodate the space. They made the best use of the space considering the restrictions they had to work with. So, it was small, but it was also customized for a size 14 shoe.
Me: Do you pay for the big reveal poster? Do you keep it?
Val: No and No. Where would I put that thing?
Me: Someone wants to know about the landscape. What kind of plants and such.
(lots of laughter)
Val: Oh, that’s cute. Clearly they don’t know me.
Me: I’ll just say they are green. For now. That work?
Val: Yes, perfect.
Me: The reveal. A lot of people were talking about your genuine surprise at the reveal. What made it so genuine?
Val: Okay, yeah, I want to talk about this. So much of the reveal is about personality. Mike and I are expressive, demonstrative people. I grew up with sisters (who are also dramatic and expressive) and I don’t know any other way to respond than with emotion, high emotion. I hate that some viewers pick apart (and question the sincerity or gratitude) of homeowners because their reaction or response was not what a viewer expected. I know some homeowners are so nervous that they are on the verge of throwing up on reveal day. Can we just agree that everyone on the show is super excited and happy and grateful to have a home fixed up by Chip and Joanna despite how their response or reaction may or may not live up to what someone expects? Unless you experience it, you just don’t know how you’ll respond.
Me: Well, that’ll preach.
Val: I think a factor that worked in our favor was that we did not go and look at construction one time. Once we walked out of the house on real estate day, we did not go back to look at progress.
Me: I did.
Val: And other family members–which resulted in a phone call from production that politely asked “please ask your family to refrain from visiting the house so often.”
Me: (guilty face emoji)
Val: It was so difficult to not swing by and check out the work, but I truly wanted the genuine surprise. I even had my daughter screen my texts…just in case someone wanted to let me know something about the house. We had to work for the surprise.
Me: So, if you wanted to see the progress you could, but you’d be less surprised on reveal day.
Me: Would you do it all again?
Val: In a heartbeat.
And, because I aim to please. Here’s a breakdown of some of the questions you may still have:
Living/Dining/Kitchen walls: SW Repose Grey
Kitchen pantry door: SW Magnetic Grey
Craft Room walls: SW Silver Strand
Kitchen Cabinets and Trim: SW Alabaster
Craft Room Cabinets: SW Dovetail
Master Bedroom walls: SW Mindful Grey
So many of you asked to see Val’s house now, after living in it for 9 months. I know I’m partial, but Val is a really good decorator and carpenter. I’ll let the pictures prove my point.
And, because I like to keep it real (and so does Val), you see the door to the right of the game room door?
That’s the bathroom. It didn’t quite make it on TV. I can’t imagine why.
Finally, no one asked, but I’m sure it’s because you were afraid I’d say no.
Of course, you can have my autograph. I was kinda the star of the show. Serving tea is a big deal.
It feels good to be back on the ol’ blog. I’ve missed you. We really should have lunch sometime.
Last week, I briefly mentioned on social media that it has been a difficult few weeks emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And, it has. For various reasons.
I joked (and I use that word loosely) with my girlfriends that I feel like we are all at such deep levels of need right now. We are all drowning in personal afflictions, family emergencies, spiritual attacks, and emotional mind games that our only encouragement to each other is a solidarity fist bump and head nod acknowledging, “I see you, sister! You are not alone. I’m trying to make it, too!”
Strangely, that’s been enough for me. Usually, in my group of girlfriends, one of us is experiencing a season of strength and is the voice of encouragement, courage, and war-cries; but, this new year has knocked a little wind out of all our sails. Not to mention the weight of personal circumstances and responsibilities has us drowning a little.
Oh my word, you’re still reading this uplifting, encouraging, and humorous post? Bless you.
My word for the year is PURSUE. I don’t know why I put that in all caps. As if yelling it will actually bring about the implementation of it.
I have screen shots that I keep on my phone to remind me what it means to pursue. Chase. Follow. Hound. Seek. Persist.
I started praying about my word for the year in November. Stefan and I took a long weekend to Colorado to set goals for our family, as a couple, and personally. I originally thought my word was AWAKEN, but God had other (bigger) ideas for that word. There’s no doubt, my pursuit of Jesus will lead to awakening. Jesus cannot do anything but awaken my soul, my resolve, my love.
So, I don’t know why I’m surprised that the year has started off with numerous (and I mean abundant) opportunities for me to lean into Christ. Pursue Him. Chase after Him. But, instead, the opportunities have me wanting to retreat, run away, and shrink back (did you see the antonyms of pursue?).
But, in every circumstance that has presented itself over the past few weeks, I have never once felt alone. I have doubted. I have questioned. I have worried. I have eaten my emotions wrapped up in Milk Duds and Swedish Fish.
My faith has been shaken, but I’ve never felt alone.
In a very healthy conversation, I had a family member tell me that I use “this Jesus thing as a crutch.” I regret not replying with, “please don’t reduce it to a crutch. That makes it sounds like Jesus is an addition to my life and I only need Him every once in a while. He is everything to me. And, I need something WAY stronger than a crutch to lean on.”
I need to follow Him, camp out with Him, seek Him, hound Him, chase Him. Pursue.
I need to know He will carry me at times when I don’t have the strength.
God’s allowed several opportunities already for me to push into pursuit of Him rather than retreat in fear. That doesn’t mean I’ve been absent of fear. OH MY GOODNESS…I would be liar, liar pants on fire if I said that.
Several weeks ago, I finally called my OB/Gyn regarding a lump I found in my breast back in May. LISTEN, GIRLFRANDS, DO NOT HESITATE TO CALL ABOUT THESE MATTERS. AND, IF YOU AREN’T DOING SELF-EXAMS, START DOING THEM. I’m sorry to yell at you, but you are important to me and the other people who love you. Don’t do like I did, do like I say (which also seems to be the mantra for my parenting).
For 48 long hours, I went through ALL THE FEELS. The whole nasty spectrum of feelings. Despair, fear, hope, wonder, doubt, resolve, more fear, and peace.
I went to my doctor, she felt the lump (plus a second one) and sent me to radiology for a mammogram and an ultrasound/sonogram (I get these confused. But, to be fair, I get my kids’ names confused too, so…).
As I waited in the women’s only dressing room, I looked at the other 4 women sitting there. Again, like with my dear friends, I silently offered up a nod and fist bump as if to say, “I see you. I don’t know your fear or your hope, but we are in this together.”
(This is probably totally inappropriate. You would think that I would not say it if my initial reaction is, “don’t say that.” But, I don’t like being told what to do. And, y’all know I am SO bad at small talk and awkward situations. So I’ll tell you. The day I went in for my lump was a Wednesday. It took a spiritual act of God for me not to look at the other ladies and say, in my best camel voice, “Lump Ddaaayyy.”)!
Anyway, then I got a text from my dear friend that read, “You may be all alone in the waiting room, but I know He is with you. He is ever present in this.”
And, then I was whisked away to go to second base with several strangers.
But, I was never alone.
And, neither are you.
I received the best news possible (or, “breast news possible” as my friend said. I know. I’ll stop now).
Benign fibroid cyst.
I don’t know if you’re in a season of great need or brokenness, but I know this, and I believe it to my core:
You are not alone.
You are not forgotten.
You are seen.
You are known.
You are loved completely, wholly, without condition.
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting,
God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along.
If we don’t know how or what to pray,
it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us,
making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.
He knows us far better than we know ourselves,
knows our condition, and keeps us present before God.
That’s why we can be so sure that every detail
in our lives of love for God
is worked into something good.
I’m absolutely convinced that nothing…
can get between us and God’s love
because of the way that Jesus, our Master,
has embraced us.
Romans 8:26-28,39 the Message
While we are in the waiting room, trying to stay afloat, know that I see you. I love you. And, I am, in solidarity, fist bumping and head nodding you all the way home. We are in this together.