Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Growing Up In The Wild Blue Yonder

Hubby and I grew up in very small towns (just a few hundred people) near each other. We come from a rural community where everyone knows each other and pillars of these townships go back for several generations. It was a very safe, wonderful, almost magical way to grow up.  We are incredibly grateful for the way we were raised and extremely proud to be from these communities.

We would have loved for our sons to grow up in the same type of experience...but that was not God's plan for our little family. Our boys grew up in a very different community than we did. They grew up in the Wild Blue Yonder of the Air Force.

Our Scientist and our Engineer are not Air Force Brats. I refuse to call them that. They are so much more than what that name implies. Yes, their blood does bleed red, white, and blue...yes, they know without a doubt what the "sound of freedom" actually sounds like...ahem...jet noise. As a matter of fact...because they grew up in the Air Force...they know what guarding freedom actually feels like as well.

Guarding freedom feels like fear that your daddy might not come back home...sadness when your dad isn't there to see you hit that home run or make that soccer goal....pride when you see someone salute your father...and heart-pounding excitement when you run into his arms on a tarmac after months of being apart.

There are people who have told me they feel bad for our sons because they had to grow up "that way". They wouldn't want it for their children. I understand that.

Sure it seems horrible that a father would miss a child's birthday, music recital, whole seasons of a sport, or every holiday at least once in their young lives. All of those things have happened to our boys. It wasn't fun. Yep...it was sad...but we survived it.

And truth be told...I believe our guys cherish the times we are all together even more because of the times we have had to be apart in the past.

Being an Air Force Kid actually has it perks. Our boys have enjoyed some amazing adventures growing up. Not all of them were directly related to their dad being in the military, but his occupation certainly added in some way to them getting to delight in many incredible childhood experiences.

So today...I'm Celebrating Our Air Force Adventure by sharing a little of the adventures of our Air Force Kids.

Our Scientist and Engineer have visited twenty-five states in this great nation...and have actually lived in six of them. They have also had the privilege of visiting four other countries. During that time, they walked on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, toured the White House in Washington DC, took in the sites at the Mall of America in Minnesota, and will never forget seeing the Alamo in Texas. 

They have viewed Mount Rushmore...the wide open spaces of Wyoming...and the Great Salt Plains in Utah.  They have driven over the Rocky Mountains and through the redwoods in Yosemite National Park. Our boys swam in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans...gazed out over the Potomac River...touched the Mighty Mississippi...and cruised the Caribbean.

Our Scientist and Engineer have hugged Mickey Mouse at both Disneyland and Disney World...toured Southern mansions in Alabama...and floated down the River Walk in both San Antonio and Oklahoma City. They have visited science museums in several states...traveled by train to the top of Colorado's Pike's Peak...and looked out over Saint Louis, Missouri from the top of the Gateway Arch.

Our guys have cheered for the Cardinals at ball parks in both St Louis and Phoenix...camped in the high desert of Arizona....and slept in a cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains. They rode out an F-5 tornado (and several smaller ones) in Oklahoma City and stood wide eyed at the rim of the majestic Grand Canyon.

Along the way...they have adopted two cats, three dogs, countless fish...and at least one little frog.

Because they are Air Force Kids, they have met NASA Astronauts, Air Force Test Pilots, and at least one Tuskegee Airman. They have happily sat in the cockpit of a T-38 Talon training jet,  E-3 AWACS, and the U-2 Dragonlady. They even caught a ride to Hawaii in the back of a USAF C-141 aircraft and visited Pearl Harbor. 

Not only that, but our military boys have cruised down an Air Force runway going over 100 mph in a chase car behind a U-2 "Spyplane" being flown by their very own dad. They have flown Air Force simulators and relished several "behind the scenes" military base tours with their father.

Our Scientist and Engineer have dined with Generals...shook the hands of Veterans...and stood with their hands over their hearts as the National Anthem played over the base speaker signaling the end of the workday.

Both of our boys have walked onto a college campus not knowing a soul...made friends quickly...good ones...each earning a scholarship.

And they have done all of this before the ages 18 and 22.

So please don't feel sorry for our boys. They may have grown up differently than you or I...but their life in the Wild Blue Yonder of the Air Force has been filled with many wonderful, exciting opportunities which they have embraced and enjoyed.

It hasn't always been easy...but our sons are proud to be Air Force Kids...and Hubby and I are so very proud of them.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

When His Dreams Became My Dreams

Looking back, I know exactly when it happened. I know the day...the experience that changed my heart (and my head) from not wanting Hubby to be a military pilot to wanting that for him more than I can express.

As family legend goes...Hubby was just five years old when he announced he wanted to be a pilot and an astronaut when he grew up. And just like that...the plan was set. In true Hubby-fashion, he had set his goal and the next step was to start working toward it. And that's exactly what he did from that day forward.

Hubby never once wavered from this dream. Not once.  

He spent the next seventeen years focused on doing what needed to be done to help him become a pilot and an astronaut. True story.

So on the very same day Hubby earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Physics, his parents and I pinned on his USAF Second Lieutenant "Butter Bars" during his commissioning ceremony. And he had received his first active duty assignment: He was going to Undergraduate Pilot Training. 

Hubby was well on his way to making his dreams come true.

The only glitch was that pilot training was a little backed up, and he was going to have to wait for his slot in the program. We would have to wait an entire year for Hubby to be put on active duty status and begin his career in the United States Air Force.

We both settled into local jobs...I continued with school...and we waited for the big day when we would pack our bags and finally start our very own Air Force Adventure. Nearly a year had passed when one day a thin white envelope from the Air Force arrived in the mail.

Before Hubby opened it, he told me he thought it was bad news. He was expecting a thick packet of information...not a single letter. Sadly, he was correct. It was very disappointing news. It rocked our happy little newlywed life. The letter stated that congress had made some cuts to the Air Force budget and Hubby's pilot training class was one of the cuts. 

It was not happening. He was not going to pilot training. The goal he had set for himself all those years before...after all his hard work and determination was over. It wasn't happening. Through no fault of his own, he had lost his pilot training slot and there was nothing he could do to change it. 

It was such a sad day. The saddest one we had experienced in our young marriage. 

And that was the day Hubby's dreams became mine.

On a day when I could have felt such relief that what I didn't want to be would not be...I only found myself in complete disappointment with Hubby. His pain was my pain. I was heartbroken with him.

In the midst of our great sorrow...strangely...something beautiful happened. It changed our marriage. It grew us up a little. It was the beginning of something that would sustain us and bind our marriage bond even stronger. This was the first real test of our marriage. It was the first real life issue we had been given to deal with on our own. 

Although our parents were nearby and loved us through it...this was a change to our future...our plans...our life... And it was our problem to figure out. How were we going to deal with this? What were we going to do next?

I remember laying across our bed, holding hands, praying through tears for God to guide and direct us. Although this was the first time this happened...it certainly wasn't the last. 

We turned to God and each other to get through this life changing moment. And that day not only changed everything in Hubby's career path, it also changed everything in our marriage. We set a foundation that day that we would stand on throughout our marriage.

The plan was changed...and choices had to be made...thankfully, Hubby didn't shut me out. We sat down and discussed it...we went over all of our options. We talked it out and together we made the decision. Hubby would go into the Air Force as a Physicist.  

It wasn't what Hubby had planned. And it wasn't what I thought I wanted...but we felt God directing us on this path and we trusted in God's plan for our lives. And to this day I am sure that it was the right decision. We both are.

It's amazing how things can change so quickly. A girl who thought she would never want to marry a military pilot...would cry out tears to God when the pilot part was taken away...and then voluntarily agree to move forward with becoming a military wife.

Trust me when I say...that's a God thing!

Yes...that was the day Hubby's dreams really did become my dreams.

And as you have probably guessed by now...God worked it out. He rewarded our faithfulness and trust in His plan...and three years after Hubby had settled into his Physicist Lab...God opened the door for pilot training once more. 

Now...you have to understand...after all the disappointment...Hubby had come to love his "unplanned" job. He actually said to me, "I really like what I am doing, should I go to pilot training?" And because his dreams had become my dreams...I actually said, "Yes, you have to give it a try." Can you believe that? 

I loved my husband so much I wanted to help him make his dream comes true, and in return, he lovingly did the same for me. 

No matter what crazy "Lucille Ball" scheme I came up with...making wreaths and rugs for a craft booth....setting up a scrapbooking classroom in our home...selling beauty products...part-time teaching that turned into full time teaching...or taking on a variety of volunteer projects that invaded our time, home, and lives...he completely supported me. 

Even when it was an "investment" that he might never see a monetary return on...even if it required extra effort on his part...because my dreams had also become his dreams. We are a team. We have approached our entire twenty-five years of marriage this way.

As I Celebrate Our Air Force Adventure this month...I can look back on that sad sad day and know without a doubt that as difficult and disappointing as that experience was...it was necessary. It was an important part of God's plan for our future. It set our marriage on the strong foundation we enjoy today. 

We became true partners. We know we can count on each other. We know we support each other's dreams. We know we can survive disappointments when they come. We know we can go with a new plan and it will be okay.

Today we can look back and see how God set Hubby up to have so many more wonderful experiences in the Air Force due to his time being a Physicist. He most certainly would have missed out on them if he had went straight to pilot training. And Hubby retired a few weeks ago with an amazing resume of opportunity that would not have come his way had he spent his entire career in the cockpit. 

Just as I shared in yesterday's post, God's plan was so much better than our plan. As I continue to share our Air Force Adventures...you just might see a theme here...ahem...we certainly do... 

As you know, Jeremiah 29:11 is one of my very favorite verses:
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." 

Today's story might explain why the verses that follow it (Jeremiah 29:12-14) also mean a great deal to me:
"Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Exact Opposite of What I Wanted...

As I Celebrate Our Air Force Adventure this month...I just had to go back to the very beginning...how it all started on that "fateful" day when I heard these words:

"Today I signed the paperwork with the campus ROTC".

Those were the words that would change the course of my life in a surprising... amazing... difficult... incredible way. Hubby said them to me in a phone call way before he was Hubby. At the time he spoke these words, he wasn't even Boyfriend...but he was a very dear and special Friend.

My response was, "Oh I will miss you so much when you go away on assignment".

Little did I know that day that I would be going with him and that this very dear and special Friend was actually Future Hubby.

I cared about Future Hubby very much. He was a great friend. He made me laugh...he was a thoughtful listener...and he was certainly one of the smartest people I had ever met. He really liked me and I knew it. And truthfully Future Hubby was everything I was looking for in a guy...but there was something holding me back.

You see, years before, I had spent some time thinking about the man I was going to marry. I had even made a list of the qualities such a man should possess. It was a long list filled with ideas like: "He must be kind...smart...thoughtful...and he must love me and treat me well....it went on...he must love and want children...be a Christian...and have ambition. It continued on and on with some fairly high expectations for just one person. But you know what? Future Hubby met them all. He was everything on that list.

The problem was I also had another list. This list consisted of qualities I didn't want to find in the man that would marry me. And Future Hubby....well...he also met the top two on that list:

1. He couldn't be a pilot
2. He couldn't be in the military

Now...I don't hold anything personal against pilots or anyone in the military. I just didn't think I wanted to live the life of a pilot's wife or a military wife. I knew he would be gone often and I was sure it wouldn't be easy...and honestly...I didn't think I was strong enough to deal with it. I didn't think I would handle the separation and worry well at all. And I didn't want to move away from my family and the Midwest.

But I really really liked Future Hubby. Oh how he made me giggle. No one looked at me or treated me like he did. Finally...after some effort on his part...and God's....I came to realize I should just disregard the second list. Future Hubby had met the criteria that mattered...so I called and asked him out.

Thankfully, he said yes! And before I knew it...we were married and off on our very own Air Force Adventure. I truly believe this was God's plan for us from the very beginning. And I'm grateful He worked on my heart and guided me to let go of my "list" expectations.

 For this very reason, Jeremiah 29:11 is one of my very favorite verses:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  

I have learned over these years of Air Force Wife living that God's Plan...His List...is always way better than anything I can come up with. And as I grow older, I am learning to lean more and more on His understanding and less and less on what I think the plan should be.

And here's the really awesome part of this story: As my love grew for Hubby, his goals...became my goals. His dreams became my dreams. I'll share more about that in another post...but I can tell you that when you allow God to work in your life and let His plan shine...everything falls into place.

Even if it's not what you thought you wanted.

Even if it's exactly the opposite of what you thought you wanted.

Monday, July 7, 2014

July: Celebrating Our Air Force Adventure

It seems fitting to me that July would be the month that I would share a chapter of our story that I have never written about on this blog: our Air Force life. I am an Air Force wife. Those of you who know me personally already knew this...but there might be a few readers out there that have just learned something new about me today.

Hubby served our country in the United States Air Force for the past 24 years. Last Monday that all came to a ceremonial end at his official retirement ceremony. It was a day filled with memories and reminders of an amazing adventure. I really can't believe that a week has already passed by since that day. I guess it's true that time moves quickly in "retirement"!

So this month...I will Celebrate Our Air Force Adventure by sharing some of our stories with you.

I had not revealed Hubby's occupation in my posts before because this blog wasn't about that. And because he and I agreed that this particular part of our lives should stay private. Now that it has become a part of our past, we both feel ready to share a little of it with the blog world.

Air Force Wife is another title I carry and it has been a very special one for me. I wear that "sash" proudly. It is something that is challenging and marvelous at the same time. It is a "sacrificial honor". It is both incredibly wonderful and horribly difficult. I hated it and I loved it.

And now that it is over...I am sad and happy that this part of our story is finished.

In the coming days, I look forward to sharing some of our special military moments with you. Who knows...I might even offer a deep thought or two. Mostly I just want to give you a little peek into what our lives have been like as a military family.

So please join me this month as I Celebrate Our Air Force Adventure.

And if you ever wondered about something regarding military life...just ask in the comments below.

*Update*
Here are my July Celebrating Our Air Force Adventure posts:
The Exact Opposite of What I Wanted
When His Dreams Became My Dreams
Growing Up In The Wild Blue Yonder

Friday, July 4, 2014

June...Celebrating Us

Happy Independence Day! I'm sitting in a hotel room overlooking a beautiful lake in the Great State of Texas today and I've been reflecting on the past month in amazement. I had great plans for this blog in June. I had an exciting idea of what I would be celebrating for the month and had planned out several posts in my head.

But the first week of June came and went...then we were actually out of the country for an entire week...then upon our return it was time to prepare for our big move from the Midwest to Texas...then the packers and movers came...we held a little event with our Midwest family and friends...and on July 1st we officially moved to Texas.

And just like that June was over. And I never got to write one of those posts I had planned to write. Instead...we spent the month Celebrating Us.

We welcomed our Scientist back home from college for the month. Hubby and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary and took our first "just-the-two-of-us" vacation since our honeymoon. When we returned, we spent time together as a family laughing and sharing happy memories. And we worked hard as a "team" getting ourselves ready for our next big adventure.

Then we got to do something that very few families get to do: we threw an event to celebrate each other with family and friends.  We told stories...sharing our love with this wonderful group. We enjoyed this opportunity to tell of our journey and thank them, expressing what they have meant to us.

It was a rare opportunity to do such a thing and we fully took advantage of the moment to Celebrate Us. Cousin Sunshine took hundreds of photos and my dear friend, Warrior Mom, even videoed the entire event.

If you have been reading my blog for very long, you know what family means to me. You know Hubby and I truly cherish our boys. They are the very reason we are in Texas today. You also know that Hubby and I are gratefully dancing through life in a strong, Christian, loving marriage. We treasure each other. We are happiest when we are together and we are excited about the new adventures we are creating together.

It might sound a little egotistical to spend a month Celebrating Us. But we don't mean it that way. We are just four people who are really grateful that God put us together to be a family. We have had to spend a fair amount of time apart from time to time and I know that has made us hold dear to the time we have together and to all of the wonderful blessings God has so graciously bestowed upon us.

So we Celebrated Us in June.

Now on to July. What shall I Celebrate this month?

Check back soon to find out!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Is Everything Awesome?

Just wondering...is everything awesome in your world right now?

Whether it is or is not...are you now singing that song in your head?  Awesome!

{Sidebar: I LOVE this song and the movie!!}

I have written quite a bit about struggling lately...but maybe just maybe...things are going really well for you right now. That's wonderful!

Enjoy it!  Celebrate!

Is that hard to do sometimes? Is it hard for you to embrace the good times because you live with a bit of worry that something difficult will surely come along? Or maybe you feel so bad for all of those whose lives are not-so-awesome right now, you can't truly relish your own lovely fortune?

Have you ever struggled with enjoying the good times because you just couldn't shake the worry of "waiting for the other shoe to drop"?

If you are in a good place right now, I really want to encourage you to SAVOR IT! Relax in the goodness of God and rest in the comfort that this time of peace will last as long as it is supposed to last.

Drink it in.   Embrace it.   Delight in it!

Because our Father genuinely delights in You and wants You to bask in the gifts He bestows upon You!

Take joy in your awesome days with thanksgiving in your heart! Push aside the worry of your mind, dance a little jig...sing a little praise...laugh a lot...and do not feel bad for the good in your life!

And just don't worry about that shoe!! If it drops...it drops. If or when it does...then something might change, but for now...marvel...revel...take pleasure in the happiness of your life.

Jesus tells us during His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:34:
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  (NIV)

So let go of worry about what is to come...be joyful in the good right now!

If you are in a happy place, use some of this blissful spirit to encourage those around you that are in a not-so-happy place. Of course...be careful with this...don't overdo it and rub your happiness in their face...but do try to reach out and give them some love, compassion, and understanding.

Show them there is reason to believe this time of battles will come to an end and offer them hope for a joy-filled future. One of my favorite Bible verses (that I have clung to since my teen years) shares God's encouraging words to His people in Isaiah 40:30-31:

Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.  (NIV)

And while you are busy encouraging others...take for yourself these joyful words given to us in Ecclesiastes 3:11-13:

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. This is the gift of God.  (NIV)

So...if it is...go ahead and let Everything be Awesome in Your life...because really there's nothing better than to be happy and accept this gift from God!

Today I Celebrate YOU and I hope You Are Happy...because if You are...then Everything is AWESOME! Now sing it with me...
{and I TOTALLY LOVE this song & movie too!!}


Monday, May 19, 2014

It's OK! You are OK!

How are you? Are you in a place of uncertainty? Have you ever felt like you were just a little lost...not sure what direction you should go...not sure if you are completely happy with where you are in life right now?

I have been there. I have struggled with those thoughts several times throughout the different seasons of my life. Are you or someone you know dealing with that right now?

If so, I want to tell you something important.

It's OK. You are OK!

The Lord has already figured it out.

I know...I know...maybe those words don't seem to help that much. But I want you to say them to yourself anyway. Please try it. Just say it!

"It's OK! I am OK!"

You might need to say them to yourself several times...maybe many many more times before they start taking hold in your life. It might takes hours...days... or months...but hopefully over time you will realize that it really is OK and so are YOU!

I don't think we are supposed to always have it all figured out. I don't think that's what God expects of us. As a matter of fact, I think He doesn't want us to think or feel we have to have it all figured out all the time...because if we did...we probably wouldn't rely on Him as much, I'm guessing...

If we always felt on top of everything...like we knew and understood it all...we just might start believing it was all us and not God. And how sad would that be? When we fail to give God the glory for what He has done in our lives, we miss an opportunity to share Him with others. And that is not only super sad, but a great disservice to whoever we are taking that opportunity from as well.

Relying on ourselves is just not the way it's supposed to work. That is not how God designed our lives, and I'm incredibly grateful to Him for that. I know He can do so much more with this life than I can! It is truly wonderful that I do not have to depend only on what I am capable of because I would miss out on so many amazing blessings that God has lovingly bestowed on me in this life.

In the book of 2 Chronicles, there's a story about a King named Asa. He was King of Judah. For the first ten years after taking the throne upon his father's death, King Asa and his people lived peacefully. Nothing exciting or significant happened in his land for ten years. The Bible doesn't tell us what Asa was thinking or feeling during this time, but it does tell us that things were pretty quiet during the first ten years of his reign.

So Asa set about cleaning up the land and preparing his army just in case something might happen. During that time, Asa was driven to rid the land of idolatry. The king relied prayerfully on God, and Judah prospered. Asa was obedient, and God greatly rewarded him and his people.

When a battle finally did arise, King Asa didn't waiver. He knew his people needed God's help and he called out to Him in 2 Chronicles 14:11:

Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.”

With God's help, King Asa's army easily conquered those who tried to overpower them. It was OK. King's Asa people were OK. They relied on God and He saw them through to victory.

Tonight I Celebrate You and want to encourage you with whatever you might feel unsure with at this very moment.

If you are struggling with uncertainty...not sure what direction your focus should be, continue doing the work God has put in front of you, and trust in His plan. Keep moving forward. When doubt arises, remember King Asa, rely on God to see you through to your own victory, and I hope you will let Asa's words be your prayer as well.

"Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you."

If you rely on God, I believe He will give you the peace you need to know it's going to be OK.

You are going to be OK.

Friday, May 16, 2014

May: Celebrating YOU

Happy May! The month of May brings all kinds of interesting days to celebrate. There is May Day, National Day of Prayer, National Scrapbook Day, Star Wars Day, Cinco de Mayo, National Nurse's Day, Teacher Appreciation Day, Military Spouse's Day, Mother's Day, Graduation Days, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day...and so many more.

Looking at that list, I think most of us could find something to celebrate this month. Personally, I have plenty of blessings I can celebrate at any given time in my life...which made it kind of hard to decide what to celebrate this month.

As a matter of fact, it may appear as if I haven't been writing again this month as we are half way through May and I haven't posted anything...but the truth is I have been writing. I have written several different posts...but I just couldn't quite bring myself to post them publicly. I really struggled with what to focus on this month.

And then it hit me...why not Celebrate YOU, my Readers.

Some of you I know personally, there are others that are a friend of a friend, and a few that just came across this blog and became a reader. Whether I know you personally or not, I believe I can Celebrate You because when it comes down to the important parts of life, we can all relate in some way or another.

There are people all around us struggling...working hard...achieving...tackling something huge...going through the same old mundane routines...celebrating...hurting...succeeding...or "just getting by". Wherever you are right now...whatever place (high or low) you are in at this very moment...I want to Celebrate You.

For the rest of this month, I'm going to focus on what my Readers might be going through. Hopefully during these posts you will find some encouragement and comfort in knowing there just might be others out there who understand...been there...good or bad...happy or sad. So whether you are in need of a hug or high five...I hope you will feel celebrated this month.

It is my prayer this could be a time of sweet togetherness for us. I love how Jesus puts it in Matthew 18:20: "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Let's gather this month and celebrate where we are right now and let the words of Jesus be a comfort and encouragement that He is with us.

If you have something specific you would like me to write about, let me know...otherwise I will touch on a few topics I think many of my Readers can relate to in one way or another.

And from my heart...thanks for reading this blog...being an encouragement to me...and sticking with me when I got a little "quiet" these past few weeks.

*Updated*
Here are my May Celebrate You posts:
It's OK! You are OK!
Is Everything Awesome?

Monday, April 28, 2014

April: Celebrating Family

Well Hello April...

Yes, I am aware that we are nearly through the entire month already and I have yet to post a blog or share what I am celebrating this month. Life took an unexpected turn at the end of March and it's taken our family a few weeks to get back on track.

However, even though you haven't heard for me all month, I have been Celebrating Family. Just a few weeks ago, I sat across from Hubby in stunned silence as we both realized we were about to embark on some major life changes...as in jobs...our home...a school for our Engineer...and even the state in which we live.

Major changes. Life altering changes. Unexpected changes. So yeah...I was stunned...into silence. Thus a quiet blog.

From that day forward, we have prayed, planned, plotted, researched, applied, talked, and did I mention prayed? There is SO much to do that it can be a bit overwhelming if we think about it...so we try really hard to just do what we need to do and not think about it too much. Some days that works...kinda...

During this time, Hubby and I have had several days of extra time together. What a blessing that has been! I LOVE having Hubby "underfoot" and truly look forward to our days of true together-all-day-everyday retirement. I think we are going to laugh so much and have way too much fun, because even during these busy days of checking items off our To Do Lists, we find great joy in being together. While we go through this "hunker down and figure stuff out" phase, I am Celebrating Hubby.

About this same time, our Engineer finished up a demanding spring play schedule and Hubby and I have enjoyed extra time with him home again most evenings. Although the boy is quiet and can go long periods without much to say, when he does pipe up with something, he pretty much always makes us smile. I have certainly Celebrated more time with our Engineer these past few weeks.

In the middle of the month, we got some extra blessed time with our Scientist as well. Since growing up and going off to college, this was his first year he was able to come home during Easter break. It was a quick visit, but we packed as much Celebrating as we possibly could in those three short days. We certainly Celebrated our extra time with our Scientist that weekend.

One way we Celebrated was by opening the Blessing Jar and reading all of the blessings we have placed in that jar since beginning it in January. To my surprise, it was Hubby that suggested we open it. He didn't want to wait until New Year's Eve, because he had something in the jar he wanted to share with us. Also, the jar was already getting pretty full...

So what better time to open the Blessing Jar than Easter? We Celebrated our little family that evening by reading those blessings which lead to much laughter, many smiles, and even a few tears. It was a precious time for our family and a true Celebration as well.

And there are already more blessings piling up in the newly emptied jar.

The next day, we loaded up our van and headed off to meet up with Dad, Mom, and the rest of my entire family for a weekend of Celebrating Family by Celebrating Dad and Mom's 50th Wedding Anniversary and Easter. Their actual anniversary is coming up in June, but Easter weekend was when we could get all 15 loved ones together to celebrate.

We enjoyed a beautiful weekend in the country with music, laughter, chatting, games, hikes, scenic drives, tower climbs, and way too much food! We Celebrated the love Mom and Dad have shared for over 50 years along with the love we all have for each other. It was a great celebration.

Of course we also Celebrated one of my most favorite holidays that same weekend: Easter. It was Mom's request that we all attend Easter Sunrise Service together at a very special local cross. We created memories we will never forget and Celebrated Family in a very special way.

So while I did not blog about it all month long...I have been busy Celebrating Family in several unique ways. And perhaps the most special of all was Easter Morning. As hundreds (maybe even thousands) of us gathered on a hillside out in the country at the foot of a towering cross...we...as a family...by blood, marriage, and through the sacrifice of Christ, celebrated our Risen Savior.

With grateful hearts, we lifted our voices to sing glory to the name of Jesus. We listened as the pastor reminded us of how the Son of God willingly died on the cross at Calvary for the sins of each and every person. All we have to do is Believe it to be true....Believe that Jesus really did die on the cross for our sins and He will forgive us of those sins and prepare a place for us in Heaven.

And truly...that is Celebrating Family in the most precious way I can imagine.

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.    John 20:30-31

Sunday, March 30, 2014

One Word: Grateful

It's been a little too long since I have posted.  I guess it's because I have been so busy Celebrating Spring. A couple of weeks ago, we were blessed with a wonderful Spring Break Family Week. Our Scientist and Engineer miraculously (seriously...thank you, Lord!) had the very same week off for Spring Break and I'm sure I don't really have to tell you what an incredible blessing that was for our little family.

As a matter of fact, we loaded up the Blessing Jar that week. From the moment we picked our Scientist up at the airport until the moment (sigh) we dropped him back off...we laughed, played games, cooked, ate, watched movies, stayed up late, slept in, and just had the best time being together. I truly could sum it up in one word: Grateful.

I can sincerely say we Celebrated Spring all week long with great gusto. Thankfully we finally got a bit of a break in the weather. We still had a good chill in the air most days...but the sun shone and the temps rose enough that it felt like Spring just might find us after all!

Of course after our relaxing happy reunion...it was a little tough saying goodbye. We really enjoyed our time together. We like each other and like being together...so that Saturday was a pouty day. So pouty that even the Heavens cried as rain fell down on us as we drove to the airport.

And then...on the way home...I just had to laugh as SNOW began to flurry around us in mid-March in the Midwest. It almost seemed a fitting ending to our Spring Break during this long cold snowy winter.

As the fun week ended and we all returned to our daily routines...I found something new to celebrate:

The tiny green shoots of what will soon be delicate yellow daffodils. A sure sign that Spring is truly coming. For real.

It made me think of this verse:
The whole earth sprouts newness and life in the springtime,
    and green shoots break through the well-seeded garden soil.
~Isaiah 61:10 (VOICE)

So a wonderful week of family time followed by the first honest-to-goodness signs of Spring...yes..that's something to celebrate!

And even though snow did fall right along with the temperature...we have enjoyed the rest of this month with the hope of warm spring breezes and sunny days to come. As those green shoots grow taller and taller, I am reminded that soon the days really will grow warmer and brighter.

After that special family week, I took some time to return to my regular schedule and focus on some other projects and needs instead of writing. Then just as I was ready to return to this blog...we learned of some fairly life-changing news. This required my attention and once again this blog sat quietly for the past week.

I'll share more as we go along...but we do expect to be living in a new home...new state...with a totally new experience by the time we Celebrate Summer. And while at this very moment I have no idea where we will be living...or what we will be doing, I have every confidence that God is not shocked or surprised by this turn of events.

I believe He has been planning this for quite some time and has already provided all that we will need in the months to come. Hubby and I have been blanketed in peace as we move "Toward the Unknown"...which is unknown to us...but not to our Heavenly Father. And there is it again... one word to fit this situation as well: grateful.

I'm grateful for the comfort God provides at such a time as this.

This Spring has brought us many surprises including weather we were not expecting and changes we could never have seen coming. But just as those green shoots are sprouting up with the hope of beauty to come...so I believe God's plans for our lives will be.

I have every faith that while things look uncertain at this time...something more will develop. Beauty will unfold from a tiny seed...that will sprout...and grow...and open up into something lovely only our Almighty God could create.

Just as I anticipate delighting in the blooms to come on those green shoots...I also look forward to watching God's plan unfold for our family. And that just makes me: Grateful.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Something to Celebrate

As I wait for warm spring breezes to blow in...and pretty little yellow flowers to pop up out of the ground...and the sun to shine down and melt away the last of our recent snow...I'm thinking of ways to celebrate the sweet sweet spring that is to come.

I was thinking about how this happens sometimes in life. When something harsh...difficult...or uncomfortable comes along...we are SO ready for it to be over. We just need to get through it. In an effort to survive it, we might focus our thoughts on the days to come instead of the days we are currently living in...which can...at times...cause us to miss out on something wonderful going on right in front of us.

Mom would say "don't wish your life away". And I am so guilty of that at times. I get tired of my circumstances and just want to move on. So much so that I spend way too much time dreaming about what's to come and how great it's going to be instead of learning to love where I am right now.

I know that God has me right where He wants me right now. But honestly...sometimes I don't like the place He (Almighty God and Creator of the Universe) has chosen for me. Sometimes I think there are greener pastures (with...ahem...warmer weather) that I would prefer He had chosen for me instead.

As we enter this time of Lent and prepare our hearts for Easter...I can't help but think about what Jesus was going through at this very time when He walked this earth. Jesus was more clear than anyone what God's plan was for Him. It would be the most difficult thing anyone could ever experience. And yet He went forward with the plan knowing full well what God was asking of Him.

Thinking about that pretty much shames me for all the whining about the "endless winter" that those around me have had to endure.  Hubby and the boys have taken the brunt of that these past few months. I feel really bad for them. You should too.  But they are troopers and have hung in there with me and love me even when I am bogged down in the midst of a long, cold, snowy Midwest winter.

But getting back to Jesus...the only One who truly knows the meaning of the word suffer.  I plan to spend the 40 days of Lent really truly thinking on Jesus and all that He went through leading up to the greatest sacrifice anyone has ever made.

What Jesus did then was not for his own gain...not his own self....it was completely 100% for others...every single person on this earth but Himself.  With that in mind, I am going to Celebrate Spring by kicking off this Lent season with a plan to Do For Others.

I will be looking for ways to honor Jesus' sacrifice on the cross by doing something each day for someone else. I won't be sharing these experiences on this blog this time. No...this is something between Jesus and me.  I really want my focus to stay on Him.

So as we eagerly await the warm spring breezes...bright sunshine...and beautiful yellow flowers of spring, I encourage you to think of the hardship Jesus endured during this time leading up to his death. He went through it all for you...for me...for us.

And that's something to really Celebrate each Spring!

Monday, March 3, 2014

March: Celebrate Spring

As you know...we have had a long, cold, snowy winter in the Midwest this year and I have been really looking forward to Spring. So much so that I decided to focus on Celebrating Spring during the month of March on this blog!

For a few days last week, the sun came out from behind the wintery clouds and shone down on our little part of North America in such a lovely warm way. The air turned warmer, and people started sticking their noses outside a bit.

I even saw a couple of people in shorts (and winter boots). We are a desperate people. We are SO ready for Spring. And then March 1st arrived...and the sun went back behind the clouds...and the weather cooled off yet again. I'm pretty sure if you listened closely you could hear us all yelling "NOOOOOO!"

But the Polar Vortex blew in again and dashed our teeny tiny hopes of spring weather arriving anytime soon. Before the first day of the month was done...we had rain that soon turned into sleet. We awoke yesterday to the sounds of sleet hitting the windows. The icy glaze that covered the ground soon turned white as snow began to fall and the temperature fell right along with it.

So I sit here today...thinking about how I plan to Celebrate Spring this month while I gaze out of a second floor window at a white blanket of snow and feel like I am trapped in Disney's Frozen castle. I could almost break out into a chorus of "Let It Go" except the cold has always bothered me anyway....

But really...no worries...because I am letting it go and not allowing this long cold winter to get to me. I know Spring has to come at some point and until the warm breezes and beautiful daffodils arrive, I will write about it....and celebrate it right here.

Please join me this month as I await the arrival of butterflies, birds, fresh green grass, and sunny yellow flowers...and all of the wonderful ways we Celebrate Spring!

*Updated*

Here are my March Celebrate Spring Posts:
Something to Celebrate
One Word: Grateful

Friday, February 28, 2014

Waiting...Again

I woke up today struggling a bit with something. And it's something over which I have absolutely no control. Zero. Na-da. None what-so-ever.

My worrying or "struggling with God" about it isn't going to influence the outcome one iota. I know this. My head knows this. But my heart...

Yeah...this emotional girl wants to hold onto this one and mull over every What-If scenario I can dream up. So I ponder...wonder...fret...and then find myself feeling frustrated...helpless...and a bit overwhelmed. 

I know in my heart of hearts...deep down in my soul...that God has got this. He's figured it all out. It's already handled. All I have to do is wait. Apparently a really really really long time. 

And the fun part? Our family has been down this exact road before. Just a couple of years ago we had to wait for an answer almost six months past when were told we would get that answer. 

And now here we are in the same boat again. And I am not excited to be in this boat. I'm not even that fond of boats to begin with....

When I woke up this morning with all of this on my mind, I didn't feel too joyful and was struggling to find my Rosie Outlook in all of it. 

But...you know...I'm really trying to stick with my goal that it's not about me, so I decided to focus on others today. I posted on my Facebook page that I would be spending extra time in prayer this afternoon and if anyone would like prayer to please send me a message. I also added that I would pray for anyone that liked my post as well. 

Oh my! What a blessing that turned out to be! I ended up with over 30 people to pray for and the requests are still coming in (and I will pray for each one of them). You know it's hard to feel too sorry for yourself when you are praying over other people and their concerns. It was just the refocus I needed today.

Not only that, but a couple of people even offered to pray for me in response to me saying I would pray for them. It blessed me. I felt loved. It reminded me of something Jesus' brother James wrote in his letter to the believers in Jerusalem. In James 5:16 he wrote:
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other.  

So I wrote each name and request in my Prayer Book, lifting each name to Jesus as I wrote them down. It is my hope that each person felt peace and the blessing of God upon them today. 

I don't know for sure how long this wait will be...several months as least...maybe more. I'm sure in that amount of time there will be other days of wondering and worrying, but when the emotions take over, I'm going to take the focus off of me and pray for others. 

Praying for one another is one of the most loving acts we can do. It's a special way to Celebrate Love. And really... I can't think of a better way to survive the long wait...or end this month of Celebrating Love, than by praying for someone. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Symbol of Love

I have started and deleted this post several times in the last couple of days. I want to share this story with you but I don't want it to come off too materialistic or too sappy lovey dovey.... I'm going to try my best to tell it in just a Celebrating Love kind of way.

Quite a few years ago, my grandparents decided to go through their house and get rid of items they didn't need or use anymore. Without mentioning it to anyone, they loaded up their truck and set off for a local resale place. One of the items on the truck that day was an old Singer treadle sewing machine.

When I learned that Grandma Teacher and Grandpa Farmer had sold that old pedal operated machine, I was so sad. That old Singer had provided a livelihood for Grandma and her mother, Great Grandma when Great Grandpa passed away. Because it held such sweet sentimental value, it was a beautiful piece of our family's history. And now it was gone.

Many years have come and gone since Grandma and Grandpa sold that old sewing machine...and every once in a while I would see one like it or someone in the family would mention the story of Grandma and Grandpa selling it. Each time...without fail...I would get a little pang of sadness. I don't know why it bothered me so...but it did.

Saturday, Hubby and I decided to spend the afternoon antiquing. We don't do that very often. As a matter of fact it had been years since we had browsed through an antique store together. We don't own a lot of antiques, but we do enjoy searching through dusty old buildings and sharing in the delight of coming across something that sparks a childhood memory or is just unique and interesting.

Much of our Saturday afternoon was doing just that. We pointed out items that looked just like something from years long ago and we shared stories and laughter all afternoon. Hubby picked up an old extension light that he planned to put to good use in the garage and I found an awesome old purse that I carried to church the next day. We also discovered a couple of small items that would bring a smile to a family member's face and we felt quite successful with our handful of small purchases.

And then we spotted this:

When I saw it...I just stopped in my tracks. It looked so much like Great Grandma's sewing machine! It was so beautiful and it was marked way down! It was the lowest price I had ever seen on one of those machines. But really...it's not like we needed it. And let's be honest here...I certainly wasn't going to use it. 

Truthfully, I barely used the modern day sewing machine I owned for years early in our marriage. I'm not sure the two or three pairs of pants I hemmed and the three or four Halloween costumes I sewed on that machine were worth whatever we paid for it.

Could I justify wanting to purchase this sewing machine just for the sentimental value? We continued through that store and then moved on to the next one...but...of course...I kept thinking about that beautiful Singer. And you know...it could actually be my Great Grandma's machine. It's possible. Although there's no way to know for sure...we do currently live just an hour and half north of where my grandparents sold it. 

It is certainly plausible that it made it's way to this little shop in this little town in the years since it was sold. I like to think it did. I like to consider the idea that maybe...just maybe...this machine...this very piece...once belonged to my Great Grandma.

As Hubby and I left the final shop for the day, I mentioned that I was still thinking about that sewing machine. Hubby asked me if I really wanted it, but I said no...I really couldn't justify purchasing it. So we made the turn toward home. When I brought it up one more time...Hubby turned again...this time back toward the store. 

It was still there, so we loaded it up and brought it home. I wiped it down and Hubby helped me put it into place. We looked it over again marveling at all the wonderful details and sharing in the sweetness of the moment. It was home...maybe back in the family...right where it belonged.

Hubby has been very gracious to me over the years. He has given me many beautiful, thoughtful gifts. Some of them are very special. This is one of those very special, beautiful, thoughtful gifts. It was a true gift of the heart. We didn't need. I doubt I will use it. It was really just a very sweet way to Celebrate Love...for me, our family history, and my memories.

There are several reasons why this old Singer is special to me:
It represents a Great Grandma that I never even got to know here on earth.
It honors two women in my family that persevered through a terribly difficult time.
It is a reminder to me that I am never without options even when life might seem a little hopeless.
It is a symbol of my husband's sweet love for me. 

I hope you understand this story isn't so much about the object...it's about all that it symbolizes...it's about the feelings it evokes...and the memories that flash through my mind. 

And I know it's a bit sappy...but it comes straight from my heart...and well...what can I say? My heart...can be a bit sappy at times.

Call me sentimental...I'm okay with that.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Forgiveness Is Such a Gesture of Love

It was the weirdest thing...this morning I was reading my Bible when a painful memory from the past hit me...and it hurt all over again. Has that ever happened to you? Something that happened long ago...and you thought you had let it go...but then out of nowhere there it is again smacking you in the face? UGH.

I hate when that happens.  And when I was reading my Bible no less!

You know...that ugly hurt stopped me for a minute. For just a minute I was right back there in the conversation again. I was hearing the hurtful words all over again and I almost...just almost let them hurt me again!

I really thought I had long forgotten it. I thought I had moved on and let it go. Apparently not.

There I sat with my Bible open and I looked down and saw God's Love laying right there in my hands. I was reminded right then and there that it is HIS words that matter. It is what HE thinks of me..and what He says to me that should be my focus.

So...I pushed that negative thought aside and went right back to reading God's loving words. Within seconds that old hurt was gone and I was once again filling my mind and my heart with the love that can only come from God.

As I sit here thinking about how the wound of that conversation suddenly burst back open this morning, it crosses my mind how thoughtless the person was that said those afflicting words. But then again..as I ponder it some more...I'm sure there are plenty of people that could bring up a conversation with me in which I said something harsh that hurt them.

Thinking about that doesn't make me feel any better than how I felt this morning when I was reminded of that being done to me. It leaves me with an icky feeling I really don't like. And I truly am so sorry for any words I have ever said to anyone who hurt them. I don't want to be that kind of person.

You know forgiveness really is such a gesture of love. All of us have needed it bestowed upon us at least a few times in our lives...and all of us have had to decide if we would offer it many times as well. It's one of those amazing gifts we eagerly hope to receive, and yet at times it can be very difficult to dole out.
Oh the irony...

The funny thing is as I sit here writing this I truly do not even remember the hurtful words that came back to distress me this morning. I honestly can't remember them.

Thank you, Lord. Thank you for taking that painful moment in time from my mind. I hope it never returns to my memory.

Today I forgive those words and just want to forget they were ever spoken. I really do believe that a great way to Celebrate Love is to offer forgiveness.
Even when it's for a long ago past event that suddenly came to mind.
Even then.
Maybe especially then.

And don't worry...it wasn't YOU. (wink)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Beach Blessings

The beach. There's just something about the beach that soothes my soul in such a spiritual way.

As a kid growing up in the Midwest, a visit to the ocean was no quick trip.  However, I remember many summer travels to the local lake where we would spend the day soaking up the warm sun, swimming in the cool water, and enjoying a picnic lunch sitting on beach towels spread out on the soft sand.

Even then those trips to the lake were pure summer delight for me. I have always loved the beach.

I was eight years old the first time I stood on an ocean beach. Our family had loaded up our car and took a road trip to Florida during Christmas break. It was a very special family vacation as we took in all kinds of wonderful new sights along the way.

And even though this trip included my very first visit to Walt Disney World...it's our stop at the beach that I remember most.

There I stood watching in awe as the ocean waves rolled toward us. After traveling all that way...and then spending some time at the Happiest Place on Earth...we were taking in the majesty of the Atlantic Ocean. All of the sudden I was no longer watching those peaceful ocean waves...much to my surprise...I was actually swept right up in them!

Quickly my dad ran in after me and pulled me out of the cold salty foam. With shaky legs...in total shock... I sank down onto the safety of the beach...drenched...still watching the ocean...in my dripping wet clothes.

And thus began my uncertainty about the ocean...but oh how it solidified my love for the beach.

I have a couple of friends who love it as much as I do. Two of my dear friends call the beach their "happy place". For me it is a balm for my soul like nothing I can explain in words. I have never been more relaxed or content than when I am sitting under a large umbrella with my toes in the sand. To me that is just pure bliss. I love it so.

After a particularly challenging time with my husband's work where he had to be away much more than any of us liked, we saved our money diligently to take a very special family trip to Hawaii. That trip was on the top of my Bucket List. Hubby and I worked very hard to make it happen. It was everything I hoped it would be...and then some.

Our boys were elementary school age and they reveled in playing in the ocean with their Daddy. I spent the better part of those two weeks under an umbrella...with my toes in the sand...reading great books or watching Hubby chase those giggly little guys into the warm water. It was pure joy.

We took in the local sights and enjoyed learning about the Hawaiian culture. We ate wonderful food and drove completely around the entire island. We danced at a luau and made fresh leis. And we spent hours and hours at the beach. Memories of that trip will bless our family forever.

Years later we would go through a very difficult and extremely stressful summer. It was especially trying for me. One night Hubby and I decided we needed to get away. At that time we were living in the Southwest and the Pacific Ocean was just a few hours away. I made some phone calls, booked a room, and a couple days later we packed up the van and drove toward the coast.

We crossed over the scariest bridge I have ever been on in my entire life...but it was worth it. Our room turned out to be really nice (they gave us an upgrade!), but the highlight for me was four beautiful glorious days under an umbrella with my toes in the sand. It was a very peaceful, healing, renewing time for me as I watched my now almost grown teenagers run and splash in the ocean with their dad.

I just sat there...watching them...taking it in...and praying. That was a great time of chats with God about what was going on in our little family. We had big changes coming...some we had planned for and others we had been waiting to find out about for months and months. It was all so uncertain and we had no idea what we would be facing or what our lives were going to be like in the very near future. We didn't even know where we would be living in just a matter of days.

Yes, it was a very difficult time. And sitting on the beach was so good for me. That trip was so wonderful for all of us and to this day we look back on it with such fond memories of special family time. It renewed us all.

Even though this winter has been extra cold and snowy by Midwestern standards, we were gifted with a week-long, warm, sun-filled trip south in December. We celebrated Dodge and Darol's 50th wedding anniversary and enjoyed some much needed family time. And we got some precious beach time in as well.

I smile now as I think of the afternoon that I watched my big boys delight in the wonder and fun of playing in the ocean with their dad once again. I soaked up the sun under a big blue hat and watched with great joy as I listened to their laughter and "hollers" for me to watch. Yes...it was precious time.

We all thoroughly savored that afternoon beach fun. It renewed us as we returned to what would turn out to be a very harsh winter in the Midwest.

One of my favorite beach photos was taken last summer at a lake far far away. We were there to return our Scientist to college. We would be moving him back into his room on campus the next day. It was one of those days filled with loving family togetherness with tinges of excitement and sadness. We love being together and college move-in day is always an emotion-filled day for all four of us.

The hotel where we were staying sits right next to a beautiful lake. Much of the beach area along the lake had been busy with clusters of families and friends laughing and playing all day long. But as if God knew Hubby and I needed a little quiet beach time...in the early evening...a rain shower kicked up and that little patch of rain sent every single person scurrying for shelter.

As the last drops fell from the sky, Hubby and I grabbed our beach chairs out of our van, and slipped down to the empty little beach on the lake. We set our chairs in the sand and sank into them. Hubby held my hand as we talked softly about the changes coming. Our hearts were a bit heavy that night.
And I found myself quietly praying...just as I had many other times as I sat on the beach.

As the water lapped near our feet...we watched the sun slowly sink in the evening sky. Once again we felt the peace of God.  Truly, the quiet beauty we experienced that night was a blessed gift from our Heavenly Father.


The other day as I was reading in Acts, I discovered I'm not the only one that feels the peacefulness of praying to God on the beach. I read this in Acts 21:5:
When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. 

It turns out that Paul was heading back out to sea. He had more ministry to do. And some of the disciples...along with their wives and children...went to the beach to see him off. As they said their good-byes, they knelt in the sand right there on the beach and prayed together.

Reading that verse really touched me. I love that it is in the Bible. It made me smile and I underlined that passage with my pink ink pen. Sometimes I pray on the beach...just like the apostle Paul did.

How about you? Where do you find a prayerful peace like no other? Where do you go to experience renewal and find God's Blessing?

As I focus on Celebrating Love this month...I just wanted to share with you some of my special Beach Blessings from God. For me...each and every visit is special and the beautiful renewing peace that washes over me is something I really really love.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

So It's Not A Perfect Marriage

Here we are on the eve of Valentine's Day and I have committed to Celebrating Love on this blog this month. I woke up this morning with grand intentions to write something lovely and inspiring about true love in honor of February 14th...and then...Hubby and I had an early morning tiff just before he left for work.

Very lovely and inspiring don't you think?

It was a silly fight over nothing...coupons on the counter. Seriously...that's how bad it is around here. This is what we are down to arguing about...coupons on the counter. And honestly, as ridiculous as it sounds as I write it down...I really struggled to get over it.

I just knew I was right...justified...and did I mention right? Ugh. So much for my "It's Not About Me" theme today. Hubby didn't throw that in my face, but he could have. I probably wouldn't have received it very well because minutes (or maybe even seconds...it's all a blur now) after he left, God threw it in my face gently nudged me "uhm...remember...it's not all about you."

No...I didn't want to hear that from the Lord right then.

This is the thing about loving marriages...they are not perfect. True story. I would say mostly because a marriage is made up of two pretty imperfect people...with imperfect motives...and imperfect focus...and imperfect attitudes.

Hubby and I met when we were 16 and 14. Our relationship started out as a friendship...developed into really close friends...who dated...and here we are married to our best friends. We grew up together. We know each other pretty well. Too well sometimes. Shockingly not well enough at other times. Hence the tiff.

This crazy argument has hung over me all day. It made me sad and mopey...and I had no intention of being sad and mopey when I woke up this morning. I had no intention of arguing over something silly this morning either...but we did...and the whole spirit of my day was changed.

Instead of writing about Celebrating Love, I found myself going back over our conversation and declaring to myself that I was right. I was refusing my goal of it not being about me. And it's embarrassing, but true, I allowed this attitude to affect my Bible study time and my prayer time.

Then I got busy with my day's To Do List and I didn't think about it for a while. But the gloomy feeling stayed with me anyway.

As the afternoon wore on and I completed my tasks...I grabbed the offending pile of coupons off the counter and went through them. I threw away the ones that were expired and I sorted the rest of them and put them in our coupon folder. Step One complete.

Then I had a decision to make...what was Step Two going to be? Continue to harbor hurt feelings over something not worth it or was I going to move on...just let it go? And you know what popped into my mind as I mulled this over? So...our marriage isn't perfect. Shrug.

And there you have it. The majority of the time it kind of feels like it is. We go days...weeks...even months really without a tiff, but then our imperfectness creeps out and there we are facing the ugliness of a misunderstanding. I don't like it. Hubby doesn't like it. So why do we do it?

Because it's not a perfect marriage...but it is a real marriage built on friendship, love, and the God who created marriage. And that's why we will be okay. We don't need a perfect marriage. We need to be loving and forgiving. And I know without a doubt that we can be.

Hubby is so much more important to me than coupons. He is so much more important to me than me being right. Our marriage is so much more than a silly little argument. It is filled with love and forgiveness.

So no...our marriage isn't perfect...but on this Valentine's Day Eve...I can truly say: I love my husband and our marriage.

And it really does kind of feel perfect to me. Sigh.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Heart Friends

Today I want to Celebrate Love by introducing you to a very precious family. I am using their real names, because they face a very real battle every day, and I am hoping by sharing their story maybe some of you will want to come along side them and fight with them.

The Inspiring Olimb Family:
Rachel, Asher, Beck, and Jeremy
Meet my friend Rachel. For a long time, Rachel was a friend of a friend. Now I am so blessed I get to call her my friend. We have only met face to face once. We aren't best friends...or even good friends, but we are Jesus loving, Cystic Fibrosis fighting friends. And we are prayer friends. 

When I first heard Rachel's story, I immediately had such a heart for her.  One day, my friend mentioned her friend Rachel and her little boy named Asher who was born with Cystic Fibrosis. Here and there, during quick chats, our mutual friend shared more bits about Rachel, her husband, Jeremy, and little Asher.

Over time, other mutual friends would mention Rachel, her husband, and son as well.  God kept bringing Rachel into my life.  He had a plan that would touch my heart and make us friends.

One of the greatest blessings I had as a teacher in a Christian school was that we had prayer time every day. For a few minutes, right after lunch, my students would gather around, and they each had an opportunity to share one prayer request with the group.

ONE prayer request. That's all they got. (I figured that rule out pretty quickly when I began teaching or prayer time would have lasted the rest of the school day.) Without fail...at least once a week, but usually more often, one of my students would ask for prayer for Rachel & Jeremy's son Asher. 

Then our friend gave me a card with Asher's picture on it.  I hung it on our prayer board in my classroom and Asher became a part of our daily prayer.  Next came the news that Rachel was expecting another baby - another boy! And then very sad news...this little guy would also be born with CF along with some other life-threatening issues. 

Rachel and Jeremy named him Paxon and we all began to pray. Their family prayed, friends prayed, my students prayed, and strangers prayed. Paxon arrived a little early and lived 11 days. Our hearts just broke for Rachel, Jeremy, and Asher. We grieved with them and we continued to pray.

Rachel and Jeremy went forward with their plans for their annual TeamAsher Silent Auction and just a few weeks later held this huge fundraising event that benefits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. That is where I finally got to meet Rachel face to face! After months of being prayer friends, and Facebook friends, we finally became In Real Life Friends. 

The moment we met, Rachel reached out and hugged me, and I knew without a doubt that she was my kind of people.

That day at their auction, Rachel and Jeremy played a video that gave Hubby and I a tiny glimpse into their lives and what their little family goes through living with this difficult disease.  


video

Although we had heard of Cystic Fibrosis, we didn't really know much about it.  Since meeting this sweet family, we have come to learn so much more.  While we can't even imagine what daily life is really like for them, seeing this video was an eye opening experience for Hubby and me. That was the day we truly began to support their efforts in working toward finding a cure.

video

As God would have it, we would move far far away from this sweet family. And they would go on to become the parents of a third little guy they would name Beck. He is beautiful, adorable, and clearly Asher's brother. And sadly...Beck was also born with Cystic Fibrosis.

As I watch Rachel's little guys grow up in pictures and on video...I pray for them...I pray for her and Jeremy. I pray for that cure. I know there are so many worthy causes out there...there are so many children suffering...so many parents hurting. These aren't even the only friends we have whose children are fighting an illness.

But today God has laid it upon my heart...to share their story with you. If you live in the Gilbert, Arizona area, please attend their upcoming annual auction: SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2014.

The 2014 teamASHER+BECK Silent Auction will be an event you will not want to miss. They will be offering an abundance of wonderful goods and services to bid on and all of the proceeds go toward the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's fight to finding a cure.

This is no small-time affair. Last year's auction raised $21,543.09 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and another $5,392.59 was added (from t-shirt sales and a 50/50 drawing) to Asher and Beck's medical fund for the boys' on-going medical expenses.

Here's a link to the 2013 video from that auction. It's full of Asher and Beck cuteness and another reminder to me why I'm writing this blog today.

If you would like to support TeamASHER+BECK, but will not be able to attend their awesome auction, then click this link to donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in honor of Asher & Beck.

Click this link if you would like to learn more information about The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

No...I don't get to have heart to heart chats with Rachel over coffee...I don't attend a Bible study with her...or go shopping...or do lunch...and we don't chat for hours on the phone. We aren't that kind of friends. We are two mommas...raising our boys...trying to do the best we can with the job God has called us to do. We are heart friends.

And I write this blog today as a Celebration of Love for a friend: Rachel, my heart friend.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Love Never Fails

Well here I am snuggled under two blankets with the furnace blasting and several inches of snow piled up outside on our lawn. It's been a cold snowy winter in the Midwest and according to a well known ground hog we aren't anywhere near done with it yet.

This weather makes Sister happy and I am truly happy it makes her happy. It makes me...cold. I'm not fond of being cold. I am often cold and it's actually painful for me at times. I don't know if I have ever mentioned this...but I'm a fan of sun and heat. Sun and heat does not make me cold.

But today I am in the Midwest and it is cold...so I will layer up...drink lots of hot tea...maybe make some soup...and think on love. That will warm me up.

And that brings me to what I want to write about today. I've been thinking about what love really is.

So in my Quest to Celebrate Love this month, with the help of the apostle Paul, I made a list just in case you were wondering what love really is.

1. Love is waiting...even when you want attention right now...or a response right now...or understanding right now.
Love is waiting for God's perfect timing.

2. Love is kindness...even when your feelings are hurt...or you are tired...or things aren't going your way.
Love is showing a little kindness.

3. Love is contentment...even when this isn't where you want to be at this point in your life...even when others have what you think you want...even when it seems there is no end in sight for your situation.
Love is finding contentment in your life at this moment.

4. Love is humility...even when you know how to do it better....and quicker...and you know it.
Love is being humble.

5. Love is honoring others...even when you don't feel like they have honored you.
Just love them and honor them anyway.

6. Love is others-focused...even when you feel like it's never about you...even when you would really like it to be all about you and your feelings...even when you think it's your turn.
Love is focusing on others.

7. Love is forgiving...even when you want to be really mad...even when you are totally justified for wanting to be really mad...even when you have every right to be really mad.
Love is forgiving anyway.

8. Love is letting it go...even when you want to dwell on it...brood...and think about it some more.
Yes, sometimes love is just letting it go.

9. Love is truth...even when it hurts...even when it's hard...even when you want to avoid it.
Love is truth.

10. Love is protection...because when you provide it or when your receive it, it's comforting.
Love is protection (giving it or getting it).

11. Love is trust...even when you are scared...unsure...or unconvinced.
Love is pushing aside the fear...and trusting.

12. Love is hope...even when it seems insurmountable...or feels impossible...or is just unimaginable.
Love is imagining it anyway.

13. Love is perseverance....even when you have tried so hard for so long...even when you really just want to give up.
Yes, love is when you keep going and don't give up.

Truly, Paul said it better in 1 Corinthians 13:4-6
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 

So I encourage you to wait, show kindness, find contentment, offer humility, honor and focus on others, forgive and just let it go, speak truth, protect, trust, have hope, and persevere. If you do...that is love... and you will not fail...because we are promised in I Corinthians 13:8 this very truth:
Love never fails. 


Monday, February 3, 2014

February: Celebrating Love

As crazy as it sounds, it really is true that we have already completed an entire month in 2014!

So on to February we go...and a new month means a new theme for me. Of course, I really felt I had no other choice than to Celebrate Love all month long...because what is better to celebrate than love in February?

Now...now...now...before you start rolling your eyes and clicking on something else...I'm not necessarily just talking about mushy lovey dovey kind of love (although I happen to think that kind is awesome)...no I'm talking about celebrating all the kinds of love this month.

Oh I'm sure I will share a few sappy stories along the way...but I have so much more to say about all the wonderful kinds of love that this life offers us.

As a matter of fact...as you probably know...February 14th is a very special day to celebrate love because it is Arizona Statehood Day. I'm sure you knew that Arizona became the 48th state on February 14, 1912. A little known fact about me is that I once lived in Arizona and I just love that state and quite a few people in it. So naturally it seemed right to Celebrate Love this entire month.

And really why not focus on something that not only do we get from God, but He has equipped us to be able to give as well?

A great description of this love is found in a letter the apostle John wrote to a group of Christians that were caught up in false teaching about who Jesus truly was. John knew Jesus personally. He had lived daily life with this incredible man. He was also a first hand witness to the miracles Jesus performed and the truly sinless life Jesus led on earth.

This is part of that letter written in 1 John 4:7-12:
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Whether it's the Valentine mushy kind of love, Arizona Statehood kind of love, or the love of a Heavenly Father offered to his blessed children...there is plenty to celebrate this month...and that is something I just love.

*UPDATED*
Here are my February Celebrating Love posts:
Love Never Fails 
Heart Friends
So It's Not A Perfect Marriage
Beach Blessings
Forgiveness Is Such A Gesture Of Love
A Symbol of Love
Waiting...Again