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2016: A Reflection

Working on a college campus means that at least once a day I get asked some obscure question. Recently I had two students approach me & ask simply, “What did this year teach you?”. I chuckled it off, told them I’d get back to em’ & sent them on their way.

The thing is…they came back the next day…and then the next.

Eventually, “getting back to em'” was the only way to actually get rid of em’.

So, I found myself really thinking about it & the next time they returned; right before winter term ended, I had my answer–the year taught me to LET GO!

The year was marred by the death of my dad last April. For the rest of my days, that’s what this year will reflect in my eyes–the year I had to let go of my dad. As hard as that was to let go of, there was peace that came knowing that he had also let go–of his pain, of his cancer.

This year I let go of a job that I loved, but which held no further advancement for me. Letting go of that made way for an even greater career opportunity for me.

I also let go of certain relationships in my life; both romantic & friendship. Relationships that were going nowhere & were holding me back negatively. Letting go of the old ones has cleared paths for new people to come into my life in ways I never would have expected. And it has even brought restorations into relationships that I long ago had written off as finished.

I’ve let go of certain dreams, prayers & hopes. Though sad to see some of them go, letting go has left me more grounded & gave me a greater comfort in realizing what it is that I really want out of life. There is sometimes freedom in watching your dreams & desires float away & you can finally rest in the comfort of knowing you gave it the good college try.

This year I’ve cried an ocean of tears, but I have also laughed deeply enough to fill a concert hall. My heart has been broken this year, but has also scarred over & healed from pain I was holding on too. This year found me both angry at God one minute & then on my knees begging for His love & forgiveness the next. I have been weak this year, but also strong. I have taken things for granted, but have also been humbled in true appreciation. I’ve had moments of laziness followed by heavy wear & tear on the hiking boots. I have made many mistakes this year, but have also learned life lessons. I have lost…and I have found.

2016 has taught me, big time, to let go of any preconceived ideas of HOW I think things should work out! So (begrudgingly) I enter 2017 completely clueless. To a type-A planner, like myself, that’s a little terrifying. But I’m left with a sense of peace when looking at a completely clean slate.

Welcome, 2017!!! I have been waiting all year for you!

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2016-a year in pictures!

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“Lord, I don’t trust you…”; retirements, cancer & Psalm 27:14

Last weekend our family celebrated my Dad’s work retirement. zippo Words cannot explain how prideful I felt celebrating that accomplishment with people that came out to honor my dad’s years of hard work. He has always been a great example of many things to us kids, but to show us first-hand what it means to work hard & provide for others is a lesson that I’ve only grown to appreciate as I’ve got older.

I’ve touched briefly on my dad’s cancer in previous blogs. Close friends & family know of his progress & I’m blessed to have so many that pray for us & keep positive vibes afloat as we journey through this tough stage as a family. That made the retirement party even more special as none of us know what the future holds for him, or for that matter, any of us.

Several months ago I decided to do an in-depth self-study on the book of Psalm; containing 150 chapters & (around) 2500 verses, I knew this was going to be quite the undertaking. I gave myself through the summer to complete, but that has now been extended through the winter since the supplemental reading & note-taking is just as time consuming. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, because I secretly am a know-it-all (okay, maybe not so secretly) & “learning” means a new batch of knowledge wrinkles in my brain.

While I pretty much picked Psalms because so many verses contained are dear to my heart, what I’m finding to be the overlaying theme is “trust”….trust.

Trust…

Wow! If ever a time in my life I needed to lean on trust it’s now.

There are moments when I think I’m doing okay about my Dad’s diagnosis & then there are moments when I’m out on a hiking trail & I’m so overcome with emotion thinking about it that I literally sit down in the middle of the woods & bawl my eyes out. It’s in those moments that my faith is the weakest & most tested. Gratitude for a God who has sent me a one-eyed dog that understands my breakdown & will sit down next to me with his head on my lap until the tears start to dry up.

Twice within the last several weeks I’ve had two different people, on two different occasions mention the word “dying” when asking about my dad. Needless to say my response wasn’t the classiest (“He’s fine. And mind your own *blankety-blank-blank -business*”…okay, maybe my response wasn’t that bad, but that’s what I was saying in my head). “Dying”, what a harsh ugly word. And not a word I want spoken in the same sentence as my Dad’s name. But as he just finished yet another several months round of chemo treatments & has begun the next series of testing to see if the cancer has spread or tumors enlarged, these “dying” comments keep popping back into my head & the possible reality hits me full on.

Trust…

Before I begin my nightly (okay…”nightly” is a stretch) Bible-Study I do prayer devotionals, my hope is that I will find answers to whatever is on my mind at that moment. Sometimes it works out that way…sometimes it doesn’t. On this particular night, it was answered. With my dad’s bible versehealth on my mind I opened up my section of Psalms to read & was surprised to find, not only this verse, but also to discover that 3yrs. ago on that exact date, I had also been led to that same verse. During that time our family was grieving over the unexpected loss of a beloved uncle only a few short weeks prior & in the midst of making serious decisions over my Grandma’s own struggle with cancer.

“Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!”-Psalm 27:14-

Both of those situations ended painfully & the loss of hope I felt deflated me like a balloon.

When you feel you’re at the end of your rope, sometimes all you can do is hold on. The theme of Psalms kept repeating in my head,”trust…trust…trust”. For the first time in my life, I actually admitted out loud to God that I didn’t trust him.

“Lord, I don’t trust you. Help me believe that your ways are best.”

When you’re in a strong “relationship” with someone you can freely admit, with raw honesty, that you’re confused, hurt, angered…distrustful. And you know in your heart that it doesn’t change the dynamic of the relationship, you’re still loved & not abandoned. That was what I felt by the admission & a flood of relief overcame me.

I’m reminded of the unbelieving father in the book of Mark. He had watched his son struggle with inner-demons his whole life & the reality looked grim. As a final resort, he brought him before Jesus to be healed.

“If you can?” said Jesus. ”Everything is possible for one who believes.” The child’s father cried out at once,” I believe! Help my lack of faith”

– Mark 9:23-24-

It’s okay to have unbelief. It’s okay to be distrustful. You can be a follower of Christ & still be uncertain that your prayers will come true, but in those moments it’s important to pray that your unbelief be healed. Just be honest, He already knows what you’re feeling anyways, why not just admit it??? Allow God to open the door of unbelief so that what’s behind it can be reached.

“Sometimes you just have to smile in faith…”-Joel Osteen-

smile

 

 

 

 

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I want feet like a deer, reflections from Pslam 18:33

If you read my blog from a couple weeks ago (and I KNOW all you fine readers have, right? but in case you missed it: Ready for a slow down, reflections from Psalm 90) then you’re already aware that I’ve been doing a self-study in the book of Psalm. A book that I’m falling in love with because it’s so musically written & “flowy” (is “flowy” a word??? Who knows? but I dig it!). While studying chapter 18 this scripture leapt out at me…

“He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on my high places”

-Psalm 18:33-(NKJV)

**By the way** Don’t cha’ totally love my word play??? leapt/deer…get it??? Smooth!

Anyways, (refocus) If I have read this scripture before, I’ve never noticed it. It’s pretty unassuming, but to an animal-studied-nerd, like myself, wow…this is a good one!

Deer feet. No doubt you don’t have to be in student loan debt to realize that, yeah, deer feet are important to deer. But do you know that, hands down, hooves are the MOST IMPORTANT part of deer anatomy??? untitled

Deer are flight animals, meaning they run from perceived danger, they’re lovers not fighters. Those skinny little toothpick legs carry a few hundred pounds gracefully at 40mph; they can leap about 8 feet high & the hooves are designed in such a way that they take the brunt of all that force. Pretty impressive, huh??

Without getting too technical & for the sake of this blog illustration, let’s break the hoof down into two simple parts; we’ll call it the “outer” & the “bottom” (creative, thank you very much). Most people know that deer are cloven hooved animals, meaning they have two toes, not one single toe-like a horse. God in his infinite wisdom designed them that way knowing the wide variety of terrain they’d be covering. That design allows them to cover everything from swimming in deep water, to scaling a mountain. The hard outer wall of the hoof is made of keratin (the same stuff as your fingernails) this helps them claw, paw, dig & fight; bottom part is a soft, spongy material that helps them grip slippery surfaces. Pretty cool that when you see a herd of deer running & leaping, they really don’t know what’s on the other side of those leaps, but rarely do they slip & fall. Flight animals cannot survive without their legs, the hoof is the first line of defense to protecting the legs & in turn, the entire being.

I’m in awe of the responsibility that hooves have.

“He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on my high places” -Psalm 18:33-

This chapter in Psalm was written by David wrote after the Lord delivered him from his enemies & Saul (who was out for blood!). David was in a tough spot, he had no idea how he was going to get out of the mess he found himself in. He prayed with a ferocity & the Lord saved him, not in a way he was expecting, for the Lord didn’t rescue him from the mess but equipped him with strength & abilities David didn’t know he had…and he conquered & gave the glory back to God. The NET version goes,”He gives me the agility of a deer; he enables me to negotiate the rugged terrain”. You may not think you’re equipped to negotiate the rugged terrain in your life & it may look impossible, but the Lord has equipped you to be a conqueror.

So next time you feel overwhelmed, look at your feet & see yourself has having the feet of deer!

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Ready for a slow down…reflections from Psalm 90.

I’m learning to thin my plate. Trust me, this irony is not lost on me as I’ve been changing to a healthier eating lifestyle over the last 2yrs., but in eating & in my personal life…my plate is getting thinner.

I’ve always said that when I have too much time on my hands I tend to make foolish, destructive decisions. That fear has caused me to go 900miles a minute and since I’ve never been really good at relaxing I have a bad habit of taking on too much. A habit I’m trying to break.

During this past summer I could feel myself getting burned out. Between working 3 jobs (sometimes 4), worrying about family health problems, staying active in my church & community, plus the pressure (self-inflicted) that I put on myself to spend so many hours reading, working in the garden & house, writing, hiking, blah blah; my candle was burning up quickly & activities that used to bring me joy began to feel more like a chore. I started to have horrible stomach pains & my suspicions were proven true when, for the second time in less than 10yrs., I was diagnosed with a stomach ulcer. The threat of a possible surgery caused me to examine my lifestyle & how I can de-compress, de-stress, & handle my behavior in a less-destructive way.


I took a 30-day hiatus from all social media, quit one of my jobs, cut back on a busy social calendar, took a vacation (days of drinking, nature & laughs) and got back into reading the Bible regularly. At moments I’ve loved having a thinner plate; I’m reading & writing more, I’ve finished “one day” projects around the house, & I’ve met up with friends for lunch instead of saying, “we should totally get together” via text. At other moments I’ve hated it; extra time = my mind over-thinking & worrying about things that don’t matter, having to re-budget after a loss of income, & guilt over sitting down to watch a movie (I know some of ya’ll can relate). It’s been a roller-coaster of highs & lows.


I’m studying the book of Psalms this year. Even though I’ve read countless verses here & there, I’ve never studied it as a whole. Very fitting that Psalm 90 happens to be the chapter I’ve been studying during this season of my life (isn’t it amazing how God does that?). Psalm 90 is written by Moses; a man chosen by God to lead His people out of slavery & the wilderness to the promised land of milk & honey. After freedom from Egyptian slavery, the Israelites spent the next 40yrs. wandering the desert wondering when the promise of their “promised land” was to happen. Boy, can I relate to that! Psalm 90 is Moses’ prayer for strength, that the anxiety he feels during the “waiting” will be a character builder. That the Lord will teach him to “slow down” & value his days, trusting that the Lord keeps His promises & is re-focusing him to be better equipped for the day that promise comes to pass.

Something that I struggle with, and I have throughout my whole walk with Christ, is I don’t feel like I “hear” from God. Like my prayers fall on deaf ears. I’ve got many journal entries asking God why He’s ignoring me, however, many scriptures throughout the Bible refer to God speaking in a “still small voice”. If you know me personally, then you know that the concept of a “still small voice” is foreign considering I’ve never been quiet about anything! In the past, when God has needed to get my attention, he does it brick-wall style, by something so dramatic that I have no choice but to pay attention. I feel this slow-down phase He’s bringing into my life is so I can become better attuned to his direction & voice (and I just now realized that this very moment while typing out this paragraph).

At some point maybe I will learn that I can cause myself so much less-stress if I just trust in the Lord in the first place.

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Some God in my Gardening

The older I get, the more settled & *cough…ahem…cough* domestic I seem to become. My nightly Google searches have switched from, “what bars are closest to this bar I’m currently at” to, “easy sewing patterns…how to make a pallet dog bed…how to decorate outdoor patio using concrete, rubber bands, & beer tabs.” Okay, maybe the last one is a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea.

I’ve taken up gardening…

By “taken up gardening” I really mean, “I’ve developed an obsession for gardening…”

Thanks to Pinterest, a father who has always had a vegetable garden & a plethora of Twitter-communities where gardening is cool again, my obsession has been even more fueled. This is the first year that I’ve had a real decently thriving garden in my yard. I moved to my house about 3yrs ago; a big metropolis village of 300 people. Not that I lived in a real big city before, but a city of 100,000 compared to a village of 300 is a big difference. Trust me, I’m not complaining. AT ALL! I’m a country girl with country roots & cities are not my thing. Now I live smack-dab in the middle of the woods, with a long driveway & land for my dog to run around un-fenced. That also means I have land to plant an outdoor herb & vegetable garden.

While I’ve always had a love for gardening, it was pretty limited when I lived downtown in the city. I had no yard & my “garden” consisted of tomato plants growing in flower pots on my deck. One year my tomato’s seemed to come up missing, while I thought it was a stray raccoon or cat stealing them (cats eat tomato’s???) I later caught my neighbor plucking them off my plants…it did not end well. Another year I bought a “Topsy Turvy” plant from a

my $400 upside down tomato plant

my $400 upside down tomato plant

commercial on TV. This product was made for tight-space living; was hung upside down from a hook & tomato’s grew downward. I thought “perfect” & couldn’t wait to expand my deck garden. Well, the commercial didn’t lie! This plant took off! It grew so well & contained so many tomato’s (definitely factory-produced seeds that grew low-quality, abundant tomato’s) that one day I came home from work to find that my upside down tomato plant had grown into the gutters & the weight had ripped them down & half of my neighbors gutters. A $19.95 product ended up costing over $400 to fix. Nice!

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Green onions & romaine lettuce started from seeds.

So fast-forward a few years & my 3rd season of planting at my house & the soil finally seems dense enough to support a healthy, full garden.
I started my plants from seeds back in March. March, 7th to be exact. As told by the dates I had sharpied on the egg-carton starters. My sunroom had turned into rows of seeds that rooted & bloomed into tomatoes, onions, lettuce, eggplants, dill, chives, parsley & lots more! I had containers on my fireplace mantel, Hearst & brickwork, on my fish tank, on the floor, behind the couch…you name it & it had a vegetable or herb. Ohio also had a late spring, so I didn’t get outside to plant until the beginning of June. By that time I had lost some of my vegetables & they had to be replaced with plants purchased from greenhouses. Quite the ordeal of tilling the garden, pulling weeds, planting, mulching, weeding again, watering, weeding again….and again…and again…but they’re a’growin!!!

This may seem like a huge, detailed backstory to someone who has little to no interest in gardening. But those that enjoy it will understand when I say what therapy my little garden has been. The last few years have been very hard & stressful in my personal life. While I have found ways to relieve that stress (I’m a big outdoorsy-girl), there’s a different kind of therapy that comes from working the land & watching something grow. There’s something different about getting your hands dirty, sweating, tending, & then reaping the benefits of something you’ve put your time into.

I listen to music a lot, I rarely watch TV but I always have music on. When I’m out hiking-headphones on, when I’m cleaning the house-music playing in background, when I’m running (okay, let’s be real. When I’m out one-step-up-from-walking)-headphones on. However, when I’m working in the garden…no music. I’m on my hands & knees, digging in the dirt, my dog at my feet, & I’m thinking…figuring stuff out, praying, having conversations in my head. I’m going through an especially hard time right now, making some big decisions & stressing out over what is the right path; in addition to stresses that life already has me boggled down with. Yesterday while in the middle of planting squash, the story of the Israelites popped into my head. God delivered the Israelites out of slavery from the hands of Egypt, however, he didn’t take them to the Promised Land right away. They wandered around in the wilderness for 40yrs; they couldn’t see past their own stubbornness, unforgiveness, frustrations, situations & attitudes. They never even realized how close they were to their promised land until they gave up even more control. This is me, I’m currently in the wilderness. Even though I’m delivered from the bondage I was in, I’m still “wandering” around in the desert until my promised land. Have I done anything wrong?? No. In fact, I’ve done everything right (mostly). I’ve obeyed. I’ve listened. But the reward hasn’t come yet. Is it frustrating? You bet’cha! Especially for someone like me who lives by day planners & loves schedules. Do I feel forgotten? Ignored? Un-worthy? Yes, Yes, Yes. But just like my garden, the harvest will come. The reward will come because I’ve been working the land, planting seeds, watering, & weeding. Is there an area of my life that God is trying to get me to focus on before the harvest can come??? I believe there is. I can only pray that He will reveal that to me so I can move on.

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”-Galatians 6:9-

Being in the wilderness stinks, big time. But it will make the harvest that much sweeter. And all these thoughts came because I decided to plant some tomatoes.

My first tomato has arrived! Will turn into a Indigo Blood Rose tomato, black & a sweet salad tomato! Can't wait!

My first tomato has arrived! Will turn into a Indigo Blood Rose tomato, black & a sweet salad tomato! Can’t wait!

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Right Now: my reflections, obsessions & thankful’s in this moment…

Whew!!! What a whirlwind the last few months have been! From family health problems (prayers needed) to a change in work position & my MTI graduation I’ve barely had time to breath let alone blog.

It’s always nice to have a few blog ready-made-ideas when you only have a few moments to spout out a few words, so my fail-safe this week is a “Right Now” installment. My blog
idea topics are pretty tapped out at the moment, so if you’ve got any suggestions I’m open!

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1.)I’m currently reading, watching & listening to… Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte-this was my selection for May’s Book Club read so I feel obligated to finish it, but truth be told it is PAINFUL to get through!!! Recently went & saw Heaven is for Real in the theatre. Loved it! Followed the book beautifully (some parts were uber-cheesy), but the message was gracefully delivered. And latest music obsessed song, Give me back my Hometown by Eric Church. I’m not even really sure how much I like this song because the lyrics kinda don’t make sense (and the music video was even more confusing) but it’s been in my head for days & the chorus is super catchy–http://youtu.be/l5DnNxDTjbQ

2.) I’m worried about… my Dad’s cancer. It’s spreading & outlook’s not the most positive despite best efforts. But God is good (and forgiving) & I do have faith that His will is always right & this is just a bump towards a greater purpose.

3.) I’m improving myself by… Book Club!!! Me & a few book nerd friends have started a monthly book club. Although we’ve been off to a rough start with some of our selections sucking big time (*cough Tale of Two Cities…*cough Wuthering Heights*) we’ve all hung in there! We’re all so geeked up over reading that others have shown interest to join. Like I said, we’re making reading cool again 😉

4.) I’m excited about… Nerd-alert flash again…but summer gardening. Mother Nature just needs to cooperate & provide some solid warm days with no thunderstorms or cold nights so I can get all my seed starters (which are taking off like crazy!) moved out of my sunroom into the dirt outside!

5.) I’m grateful to God for & asking for forgiveness because… I’ve gained back 15#’s over the winter from my last year. Since my 5k last September I haven’t been out running at all & never kept up with my yoga classes. Recently I’ve got back on track with a running schedule, joined yoga again & have dove in deeper & becoming even more strict with eating habits. So grateful that my daily prayer of strength & endurance is being answered (even though I accidentally fell asleep on the couch after work tonight & missed yoga). I ask forgiveness everyday, today it was because I lost my patience & acted snotty towards someone that probably couldn’t help their behavior. I’m forever a work in progress…

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Right Now: my reflections, obsessions & thankful’s in this moment.

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1) I’m currently reading, watching & listening to…
-Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. I’ve read this novel dozens of times, but I’ve never read it from my 1895 early addition copy. There’s something amazing about holding a copy of a 100+year old book & thinking about all those that have read & held this novel before me.

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-The Butler. It usually takes me days to watch a movie, can’t sit still long enough to watch a full movie. This one I was captivated by & watched all 2+hrs from start to finish. And I watched it the next night as well. Based on a true story of Cecil Gaines, a White House Butler for over 30 years & spans through many Presidencies.

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-I Will Run to You by Hillsong. Sang this song for the first time in church a few weeks ago & I’ve been in love with the lyrics ever since! http://youtu.be/RZGqKqciv8E

2) I’m worried about…money! Isn’t everyone always worried about that???

3) I’m improving myself by…Sewing! My Grandma gave me her sewing machine & I’ve become obsessed. My first attempt was a success (just don’t look to close at the stitching job!). Bandana chair covers for my kitchen table.

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4) I’m excited about…my first solo sermon is this Sunday night. I’ve changed it 4x’s & was supposed to preach last week, but due to the weather class was cancelled. I was very glad because it gave me a chance to completely re-do it again & I loooooove the new approach. And my parents will be there to hear me, woot!

5) I’m grateful to God for…so much this month! Above all for friends & family that helped me through some car problems when I didn’t know what I was going to do!
I’m asking God for forgiveness because…I threw a temper tantrum & doubted He would come through! Which He did!

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