Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Joy In Life Comes From Trusting God

When we started our business 5 seasons ago, people thought we were crazy.  The economy had just taken its big downturn shortly before that and we knew very little about owning a business.  But the fact remained that Hubby had been laid off twice in one year due to the economy and as we prayed about our path, we felt the Lord calling us to take a big leap of Faith and trust that He would sustain us in our business venture.

And so it was that New Growth Landscaping was born.

To say that it has seemed to be all Joy would be an untruth.  There were many moments where we failed to even look for the Joy much less acknowledge it.  But, more and more lately, as James 1:2* encourages, we have been attempting to consider all aspects of our journey joyful, even the trials.

The truth is, we've seen more dark times than anything.  I'm not going to lie, even through the light of Joy and the knowledge that God is indeed taking care of us, there is the reality that it has been quite difficult.  But that is okay.  God has never promised that this life would not be difficult.  He has, however, promised us His deep abiding love that is enough to sustain us and allow the strength to get through the difficulties.  He's also promised the availability of the fruits of the Spirit which are obtainable through trials, through suffering, through His grace.  Those, too, are the nourishment to our souls when we are weak.

And there is indeed much Joy to be found.  I find it when my husband comes home after a long day of working in the world.  I see it on his skin- the sunshine saturating to the bone, and in his tired eyes- a day's hard work etched in the iris.  I sense it in his embrace- his aching body leaning into mine for support when he walks in the door.  I smell it on his hands- the earthen scent permeating.  I know it's there in his willingness to break his back working to make someone else happy, to give them the beauty they desire in their landscape.  It's there in his creativity, working into the late hours of the night to get a design perfect for a client.  And in the daily reminder that every cent he makes is a testament to our Faith in God's unending Love, whether we make a lot or just a little.

I have no idea if our business will ever take on a status that will afford us pretty much anything we want. I actually hope it doesn't.  With wealth comes much responsibility and one must be very wise in order to handle having that luxury.  Just because one has the means to obtain almost anything one wants doesn't mean one should obtain it.  Many people we know and love live in excess and their focus is on "success" and money.  It's a terrible tragedy because especially for some of them, it seems to blot out the truly important things in life: Faith. Unconditional Love. Time with Family. Service.  That's some food for thought as I think about where our business is going and if we will ever be at the point where we can pay our bills and have something extra.  We both want what God wants. If it's to have the ability to just pay our bills and live each day in service to Him through the workings of our business, then that's fine.  One of my most favorite quotes by Mother Teresa is "God does not call me to be successful.  He has called me to be faithful."   We try to live by that, however difficult it is in this material world.

When I think about the saints, and especially about St. Joseph and also Christ's mother, Mary, I think about how poor they all were in the monetary sense.  Some even gave up their wealth to follow Christ.  And they are now saints.  How marvelous!!  Even though it's difficult to live in this world and not want so much, the deep longing of our hearts is to be humble, to live simply, and to lead others to Christ. I hope that the Lord will use our meager business to bless others, to shower His graces upon those whom we meet, and to spread the Truth of His Love.  That is the true joy of owning a business.



*"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials," James 1:2 NAB

Monday, June 24, 2013

Pep Talk

I always know when I'm on the right track with my journey because the people in my life who are on the completely wrong track are getting to me - whether it's by purposeful and outright attacks on me for my lifestyle or family, behavior they display that I notice, or, like with hubby's family and all the pain they've caused me, it's sometimes just my inability to refocus myself away from the hurt people cause me.  But my experience as of late serves as yet another blessing.  

Thank the Lord that He has blessed me with the ability to realize how badly I need Him.  Anyone who thinks they can get along in life just fine without Him as the center really has some serious problems.  I know because I've been there.

I have a sticky note on my computer that says "YOU ARE OKAY."  I need it.  Daily.

I need that pep talk and every ounce of grace that the Lord wishes to bestow upon me, so I can continue my path.
Sometimes I give myself this type of Pep Talk..bad
The anxiety I have felt as of late has been paramount.  I don't understand it.  I want to believe that it's just more proof that I'm on the right path.  There is so much I am facing.  My battle with PPD has been dwindling, which I am so thankful for.  I have, however, phased into this weird almost bi-polar state which kind of scares me.  I have had some extra physical health issues that point to the possibility that perhaps my mood issues are part of a larger problem, and not a different phase of the depression I am facing.  Doctor appointment has been scheduled.

When I get into my lows, I rehash the problems I have faced lately and trouble myself with wondering what I could have done differently.  Analyzing past behaviors with the desire to change future ones is usually a good thing.  I'm not so sure in this case it really is.  I have realized, however, that the one main thing I could have done all along (and this seems to be a recurrent theme in my life because I'm just so darned blunt about things), is to just keep my mouth shut.  WHY do I always fail at this?  WHY does God's grace come AFTER the fact and not before?

When I look at the pain I've been in over specific things, namely the issues with hubby's family, I am still in a raw state.  I try so hard to move past it.  But the bi-polar type symptoms I have experienced seem to govern my ability (or lack thereof) to heal from it.  And therein lies my problem.  HOW can I let such a broken, hurtful family get to me SO easily and SO deeply?  I have realized that on my path to become a better person in Christ, I am more susceptible to pitfalls.  I am more susceptible to the devil's hand in all things.  I am more of a failure.

So what does all this mean? What does carrying on as a Christian witness, finding the ability to heal and forgive, as well as uncover the ability to move on look like?

Silence.  Prayer.

That's right.  Silence and prayer.  I can no longer make attempts to reach out and understand and try and lay myself out there on the line just to get stomped all over, and run the risk of retaliating harshly. So I have to keep silent and let God do the work.  I have to be still and know that He is GOD.

And I must pray.

My most fervent prayer lately is that I stop failing so much and recognize..and more importantly accept the fact that I CAN'T do anything else.  All my attempts have been in vain.  And the seeming fruitlessness of them has left me in the near occasion of sin.  There's only so much hurt I can take before I lash out in terrible ways.  Speaking truths with harshness on my tongue has been the worst of it this time.  But next time?

That's why there cannot be a next time.  I am just too fragile right now.  The level of anxiety I feel and the other things I face at this point in time are just too much for me.  I do not want to act like they have. I just can't do it.  As easy as it would be for me, I just don't want to go there.

It's been difficult enough watching my husband struggle through his own pain in this.  He is so broken and it's all their fault, and as his wife, I want to "go ghetto" as my friend would say and give them a taste of their own horrible medicine.  See if I can get them to feel as awful, low, stepped on, unloved as they have made him feel.  But I know I can't.  Even the thought in my head of such an action isn't right.  Sometimes my flesh is so very very weak.

Lord, forgive me.

So, this wrestling I've been engaging in, between the weakness of my flesh and the knowledge of what I should do, how I should act, has got to come to an end, no matter how I feel.  AND I have to get to a point of not feeling the way I have.  Everyone of us is broken, everyone is imperfect.  Everyone needs the Lord.  Some just don't understand that yet.  Some pretend that what they do is right, not really realizing how very wrong it is.  Some people will never change.

It's a give and take, this letting go.  I have to keep the faith that regardless of how I feel on any given day, I am in fact working (even if at a micro-crawl many days) toward the goal of a deeper relationship with Christ, and the means to live my life as a witness to that relationship, and as a sinner.  I fall short of His glory just like everyone else.  I, too, need His precious blood to save me from my sins.  I cannot allow others to throw me from this path.  I am so thankful for the people in my life who are constantly reminding me of this through their love and friendship. I am so grateful to God for placing so many amazing people in my path to guide me, sustain me and remind me what my purpose is and what His expectations of me are. I'm in awe of the conviction He places in my heart to do better, to keep trying, to be that person and fulfill that purpose which He planned for me as He lovingly knit me in my mother's womb. And I'm thankful for all the people who have admonished me in love, and the ones who have told me that I have inspired, helped, encouraged them, for I am humbled by their words and grateful to the Lord for using me as an instrument of His love and peace through my own sufferings.  I only hope that I can always remember to give Him the glory and never ever take it for myself.

I am continuing to record the things I am thankful for, the little and big blessings I have uncovered in my daily life, through the good and the bad, the highs and the lows.  It's made an enormous difference and I am so blessed by the two women in my life who prompted me to take part in this challenge.  I want to again encourage anyone reading this to do the same. I promise you won't regret it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hurtful People Are Gifts, Too

Yes. They. Are.

I have to keep telling myself this over and over and over again.  I have to remind myself that every single person I cross paths with will leave some sort of mark on my life, and I have to believe in the grace that comes with every mark- be it a  gaping slash that wounds or a gentle caress of love.

It's so much easier to recognize the caresses of love.  And so much easier to see them as gifts, to accept them with hands open, to be thankful for them.  I wish that every mark felt like that, looked like that, breathed like that.  But reality is- life unfortunately is- that there are other marks, darker marks, marks that make one bleed, marks that take awhile to heal.

And that's what I'm wrestling with.  I am trying to heal.  I'm trying to get over being hurt so deeply in such a way that I never saw coming.  Or maybe I did see it.  Maybe there were signs and I chose to ignore them because I'm just crazy like that; because I'm just that needy in the way of desiring acceptance and respect and love from others.  Maybe I fell under the same spell of rejection and pain as my husband, taking up his cross as my own, desiring something I have always told him he probably will never get himself. Maybe.

As I've been writing down gifts on a daily basis, the ones I see etched in the faces of each little person in my house, the ones splattered across the skies of morn and of eve, and the ones hidden in the chaos, I am reminded over and over that even in difficulty there are gifts.  Even in anxiety and sleeplessness and crowded space and polarized emotions, there are blessings and the grace which God desires to fill me with.  And that includes the difficult people.  It includes the heart-wrenching and the anger and the sadness associated with dealing with these people.

In the moments I find myself rehashing things in my head, trying to understand, I have to fight hard to remember this grace, these gifts.  I have to listen for that slight whisper which I know to be there. I have to keep the faith as I dig down reeeeally deep.  When I wonder how one can be so broken as to not be able to maintain a normal relationship with me.  When I fail to realize that it isn't really about me, but them.  When I have completely forgotten the recent unearthing of explanations as to the nature of one's personality.  When I am desperate, wondering why I can't just be loved by them.

I remember- or try to- the infinite love of God and the graces He fills me with in dealing with all of this, of the pinpricks of emotion that jab at me and gape my heart open in the most unexpected moments.  The realizing my purpose is not to be understood or loved by everyone, but to be light to everyone even through the darkness of misunderstanding, even when they refuse to see it.

My brother recently posted one of those FB memes on my timeline which read "Never waste your time trying to explain who you are to people who are committed to misunderstanding you."  The day he posted that I was in great peril inside myself.  And he didn't even know it.  It was like a little love note from God.  He used my brother to remind me that life isn't about me, that it doesn't matter how misunderstood I am.  That I don't need to crack people's heads open and stuff them full of information about myself that they'll just immediately drain out their ears or use to their advantage to gain control.  Because they just don't want to understand me.  And their issue isn't about me.  It's about them.  It's about their inability to cope with life and reality, and their rejection of true and unconditional love. 

And life is really about Jesus Christ anyway.

Christ was completely misunderstood by those who never took the time to really get to know and follow Him.  People didn't want to turn from their ways and realize they were wrong so they refused to understand, they refused to acknowledge His nature, the Truth.  They refused to change in order to love.  They accused Him of things He didn't do and backed away from a relationship with Him, because of fear.  And then they killed Him.

By conforming my sufferings to Christ, I am attempting to push past the pain I feel, continuing on in my journey to be light and salt to the earth; to fulfill my calling as a servant of the Lord. And as a servant, I must cultivate love.  I must try to see my dealings with difficult people as the gifts that they are. Their very nature has caused me to draw closer and cling ever more to Christ, to reflect on myself and my own failings, to realize the truth of brokenness in human relationships.  It has caused me to love my children harder, to be more gentle with my husband and myself.  It has caused me to grow stronger, and seek the ability to draw lines, set boundaries and really scratch the itch for healing and wellness in the exact spot that is needed. If those aren't gifts, I don't know what is.  So I'll take them. Wrapped in brokenness and haphazardly held together with fear, they will serve as some of the best gifts in my life.  And I am thankful for them.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Beauty in the Ugly

As I'm reading through Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts," I am consistently inspired to keep searching for more.  I go through my days, dialogue with myself in my head, thinking, 'how can I see this moment for what it truly is?'  Each moment is different, each occurrence in my daily life either sings or whispers beauty, whether it's a good moment or a bad one.  And I am challenged as of late to find beauty in the bad ones. Ann calls them the Ugly Beautiful.  

In the past few days there have been several bad moments that jump out at me.  The beauty is there, whispering on soft tongue, but I am straining, have strained, to find it.  A son with a consistently bad attitude.  Where can I find beauty?  In his searching eyes, his knowing I am his mama and he is my son and he's walking dangerous lines with his words.  Yesterday, brief exchanges of reality with my second mother in law, forcing me to acknowledge the truth of things, cutting and scarring all over again, and yet....yet...freeing, somehow. The late evening, my daughter entrenched in the throws of Lyme disease, hallucinating, crying, frightened.  What can I do with this?  I am blessed to hold her, when she'll let me, to realize that I do not have the control....that God does.  And then, late late hours of the night, fighting.  Husband reeling in anger over something so trivial.  Harmful words float out, unable to be wrangled back in.  Prayer.  Healing, if only for one at the moment.

As I have traveled through the past year in a darkness I have never known, steeped in the emotions that try so relentlessly to govern my life (and I allow them many times), I have missed all the gifts in moments like these.  I have allowed myself to be drowned by anger, sadness, disappointment.  Expectations of myself have been too high.  Irrational thoughts upon myself too binding.  And, even rational expectations of others still too much as the disappointment seeps and slithers and I am left wanting. Too many instances of realizing that not everything I desire is attainable.

The Lord blesses us in so many ways.  It's easy to bask in the glorious sunset and feel the might of a gracious Lord who would paint such a beautiful varying tapestry for us to enjoy every single night.  It's easy to look into the bluest eyes of your child snuggled in your lap, feeling the Love He has created in the bond of motherhood.  But what of the dark gray clouds that often mar that sunset, or angry hot tears in those innocent blue eyes?  Beauty, still, and I'm challenged to find it. In those moments, God is whispering, deeply; in the silence He calls.  We answer with thanksgiving if we are listening with bended ear, knowing and acknowledging these spirit-filled gifts. Seeing the sunlight through the gray.

Today I reached the recording of my 100th gift.  A far cry from a thousand but I am still moving forward, anxious and eager to lap up every ounce of every gift I can find.  And I am sure there have been so very many I have completely missed. I have randomly posted several of my gifts on my Facebook timeline for others to enjoy reading, if they want.  I decided that if I can remember (because my brain is so crazy), I would like to give something to someone for each set of 100 gifts I write down.  I don't know what that something will be, but I hope the Holy Spirit inspires me to give the perfect needed thing to the specific person who needs it.

In the meantime, I encourage anyone reading this to start your own journal of thanksgiving.  Challenge yourself to look even in the most difficult moments to find the gift(s) that are buried there.  Find the beauty even in the ugly and you will also find much joy.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Girls!

Some women are dripping with diamonds, Some women are dripping with pearls
Lucky me! Lucky me!  Look at what I'm dripping with: Little girls!

I have three girls.  And when I say girls, I mean GIRLS.  With the exception of my middle one- she is a bit of a "tomboy" like I was when I was young- these girls are all about Barbies, princesses, tiaras, finger nail polish...But now that I think about it, even the tomboy-ish one doesn't shy from fancy dresses or the all-important role of mother to her baby dolls (and to her baby brother when I'm slacking).  In any case, my three wonderful girls are a challenge in so many ways.  But the challenges, I've come to realize, are just the vehicles by which I can grow in understanding of the perfect design of children, and most especially little girls!

Recent challenge: HAIR.

Just the other day, as we were getting ready for an important family event, I realized that one of my biggest fears as a mother of three girls is never being able to master the art of french braids.  Okay, okay, maybe not one of my biggest.  But seriously.  I have THREE girls (I did mention that, right?), I have crazy curly hair that I could do absolutely nothing with as a child, so I'm unfamiliar with the relatively straight hair all my girls have...and I do not know how to french braid! I mean, yes, I get the logistics of it, the basic premise.  I understand how it should look.  But there's a slight huge disconnect between what my brain wants me to do and what my hands actually do, and the end result is kind of like a weird, lopsided braid that looks like the girls rolled around on the carpet for awhile just after I finished.  Yet they didn't, I swear.

Thank the gracious Lord that He knew what He was doing by giving me these little girls, who will probably never have a perfect french braid donning their heads...ever...but who planned their personalities, talents, characteristics and even their gender, specifically for the purpose they have in my life and more importantly, in the world.  I know that french braids or any stylish coiffure are not a sign of beauty, femininity, who a person is, or how much value they have.

My "tomboy" is 5 1/2 years old.  She likes her hair crazy most days, but enjoys the occasional [regular] braid.  She plays Barbies, but she's also not afraid of a wrestling match with her older brother, getting dirty,  or holding slimy worms between her small fingers.  She has an affinity for pretty necklaces, and for sloppy mud pies.  She is sweet and generous,  but also has a bit of a temper: mother hen to her baby brother one minute, angry mobster over a toy the next.  I think God has big plans for her life.  One of the biggest, so far, has been to teach me the intricate and delicate balance of the nature of girls.  Even at age five, she displays a wealth of wisdom, and has a deeply nurturing spirit.  Her emotions are often CA-RAZY, but at the same time, a reminder to me and her daddy that she needs gentleness and patience to handle her.  She is strong, but also, fragile.  She deserves protection, love, respect.


I am  in constant awe of her and my other two girls, their personalities and the fact that even if they added absolutely nothing to my life, they have so much worth and beauty as individuals.  Their unique personhood and intrinsic value is God-ordained and has nothing to do with me. Nor does it have to do with the way they look, if their hair is braided perfectly, whether they like princesses or Angry Birds. And when they grow up, this will be truer still.  As women, they will hold the vast and sacred ability to be life-givers.  They will possess an even richer beauty, one that has nothing to do with my - or the world's - view of them, especially as they come to an understanding of whatever wonderful pre-ordained purpose God has for their lives.  And I pray that they will know all of this.  That they will feel confident in their beauty and worth- two absolutes which are not defined by the latest fashions, views from other people, or experiences they've had, but the true, raw unadulterated and inherent absolutes shaped and formed in all of us as we were knit in our mothers' wombs.


***I'm honored that a similar version of this article has been posted on The Guiding Star Project blog here.  I have volunteered to write for the blog of this incredible group and I hope you will visit their site and support them however you can.***