Wednesday, November 12, 2014

November: Celebrating Thanksgiving

Happy November! Maybe it's not very original...or surprising...but I have decided to Celebrate Thanksgiving this month. It may seem an obvious choice....but honestly some days it's easier to focus on the struggles of the day rather than the blessings. Do you ever feel like that?

During this season of my life, instead of just focusing my gratefulness on one special American holiday, I think a whole month is in order. Even though I haven't posted anything in November until today, I have already been Celebrating Thanksgiving this month. And I'm glad I made that decision because twelve days into the month and I really do feel lighter...more grateful...even more content.

On days when panic, sadness, worry, or frustration set in over uncontrollable circumstances in our lives, I remind myself that I am Celebrating Thanksgiving...not Heartache this month. And you know what? That actually helps.

You know, a couple of men from the Bible, Paul and Timothy, had their fair share of struggles. They went through some very difficult times, but they didn't let heartache stop them from caring about their friends. During a time when they were going through their own troubles, they took some time to write a letter to the holy people in Colossae.

They wrote:
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Colossians 3:15-17

Amazingly these words were written during a time when Paul was imprisoned! Did you know that? These beautiful and encouraging words about thankfulness were written by Paul while he was sitting in prison after being arrested on false charges!

Just think about that for a moment...oh what Paul must have endured...and yet he clung to the peace of Christ to rule his heart. While he was unfairly imprisoned, he wasn't feeling sorry for himself, he was concerned about his faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. So he spent his time encouraging them to be thankful...with gratitude ...giving thanks to God our Father.

Reading over these words, I find myself developing a fresh resolve to dig a little deeper with my own gratefulness. My circumstances, although not exactly what I would choose, are no where near the situation of Paul.

So...um...excuse me while I take some time to be thankful...with gratitude ...giving thanks to God our Father.


October: Celebrating Time Off

Although I certainly did not plan it, I have been quiet on this blog for yet another month. You know how it is...sometimes life just changes...and then your plans change...and just like that I took an entire month off from blogging.

Thanks for checking in. Hopefully we will chat a bit more in November.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Praising God in the Quiet

Recently I started a new prayer journal. I think I've tried to do a prayer journal a time or two over the years...and well....for whatever reason it just wasn't for me. It felt more like a chore...and certainly didn't add a positive note to my prayer life

Surprisingly, journaling has never been something I was big on...or consistant with in my life. I have also started regular life journals in the past, and those fizzled as well. Truth is I'm a talker more than a writer...which is why I am still shocked that I have been somewhat consistently blogging for nearly two years.

As I shared in my last post, lately I haven't been much of a talker or a writer. These past couple of months I have embraced the quiet side of me that has laid dormant for well over forty years. It's been a weird experience for both Hubby and myself...

But it's also been a good experience. One of the productive things I've chosen to do in the quiet was start a prayer journal and I have found that it's something I look forward to each day.

Last fall I agreed to do a little devotional study with a friend. We started reading daily from a book by Beth Moore called Whispers of Hope. In some ways it is a typical daily devotional book with a scripture reading and a devotional that goes along with the scripture lesson.

The part that made this book more unique is that she also included a section after each devotional where you could write out your prayers. Now I knew that in the past I had not enjoyed writing out my prayers, so I was reluctant to do that part of the daily lesson.

Reviews for the book online even complained about the prayer journaling, and my friend said she wasn't sure about doing that part of the study. But I tried it anyway. At first, I wasn't even sure how to do it. Beth had little sections for each part of praying (praise, repentance, acknowledgement, intercession, supplication for self, equipping) with a few lines for each.

How was that going to work for me? I'm a talker. I usually have a lot to say...and there just wasn't much room to write it all out. Plus, I was a busy gal with lots of things to do each day. I certainly wasn't planning on spending all kinds of time on this book.

I quickly decided instead of writing out complete sentences, that I would jot down key words as I prayed. I realized early on that I really like that method. It helped me to keep focused during prayer and remember what/who I wanted to lift up to the Lord.

Somewhere along the way, the journaling of my prayers became a beloved part of my daily study. A few months later, I completed the book, and I soon realized that I missed writing out my prayers in that format.

So off to Target I went to look for a special notebook that I could use for my prayer journal. I found a mid-size, hot pink, bound notebook that would prove to be the perfect little book to use. And to write out my prayers, I picked up a couple of my favorite hot pink ink pens. {I hope my little Rosie touch makes God smile.}

Now I was ready to start my prayer journal.

Praise
Each day I write the day and date at the top of the page, then thumb through my Bible and find a verse praising God and I copy it word for word onto the page, adding my own little praise after it.

Confess
Next, I confess sin that is bogging me down. Sometimes I focus on one specific issue, other times I might write about more than one. It doesn't seem hard to come up with something to talk over with God each day. I admit where I have messed up, I ask God to forgive me, and help me to do better in that area of my life. Believe me...it's a whole discussion usually...

Thanks
Then, I thank Him for some of the blessings of the day. I usually write several, and pray over several more. Sometimes I focus on one specific blessing, but usually I have a pretty long list to share with God. No matter what is going on in my day to day...I am clear that I have much to thank our Lord for each and every day.

Requests - Others
Finally, I get to the request part of my prayer time....first, my concerns for "others". I have an ongoing list of people that I pray for every single day. Many on that list are dealing with health issues...others are trudging through a slew of other heartaches.

I pray for these friends, family members, and even a few complete strangers as I write their names down in my little pink book. I also take some time to pray for their family and friends supporting them through their difficult times.

Honestly, some days I forget someone because the list is long. Thankfully, when I forget, God doesn't. He will bring them to mind at some point and I will add them to the list as I talk with God. This is a point where I pray for our leaders as well.

Requests - Self
Once that part is complete, I move onto my own requests for the day. In the last several months, my own prayers have pretty much been the same. I have a small list of what's really important to me at this season of my life...and I talk that over with God every day.

A couple items on that list, He has fulfilled quickly and sweetly and I am most appreciative. Our God is a God of blessings and love...and He has most certainly given our family a fair share of both. However...admittedly...as I thumb back through my daily writings and see the exact same thing on the list for months....months and months...I'm not going to lie, it can be discouraging and frustrating.

But as soon as I admit to those feelings, I know in my heart that God doesn't just give us everything we want just because we asked Him for it. That's not how this prayer thing works. Every day I ask God for something...many somethings if I'm being totally honest. And every day He answers me.

Sometimes He says yes...sometimes no. I don't know why...especially when I'm asking for something that only seems to bring honor and glory to Him (and if it makes my life easier...why not?)...but only God knows my future. I don't. He knows what is going to be best for me and my family. He knows exactly when to say no...and when to say yes.

I know this in my head...but sometimes it's a little harder to know it in my heart. Especially when I am feeling quite emotional about the request. So I'm going to keep writing those requests down day after day...and wait to see what God's answer is going to be.

Sometimes our Lord has told me to stop asking. And I have. This happened to me recently. I was praying for a specific blessing for Hubby. I wanted this for him so badly. I knew for it to happen it would only be through an act of God because we had already been told very clearly and precisely that it would not happen by any earthly means.

I could have said, "Well...we gave it a good try, but the answer is no". Except...God has wowed me with His Almighty power before and I thought it was worth asking Him to do it again. I even asked a group of girlfriends to pray with me.

Many of them agreed even though they had no idea what the blessing was or why I was asking this of God. I truly have the sweetest praying friends. I was blessed by that even before God revealed the answer to us.

We all began praying, and then very quickly into the process, I received a very clear message from God for me to quit praying over it. He told me "I've got this. Leave it alone." Well...that truly filled me with both heartache and hope. I didn't want to stop praying. I wanted to continue to pray about it until the answer came...but then again...I did have hope that God was taking care of it...and that maybe He was going to grant this request.

So I quit praying about it, and I felt comforted that I had friends that were praying in my place. And then we heard heartbreaking news from dear friends that their young son was very ill and fighting for his life. I immediately went back to my group of friends, and asked them to pray for him and his family instead of my request. I knew without a doubt that was what God wanted me to do.

So once again, my sweet friends responded with love and prayers...this time for a family most of them didn't even know. And again I was greatly blessed by this even though I still didn't know how God was going to handle the original request.

A short time later, the answer came. It was a no. I was disappointed, but my prayers were now focused on what our friends were going through. Again, I went back to my little prayer group of friends, shared the answer, and then asked them to continue to pray for our friends going through such a difficult time.

Weeks went by....Hubby and I had accepted God's answer...and had moved on to other important items that were prominent in our lives at the time. We continued to focus much prayer on our friends and their son.

Then...out of the blue...in a surprising Only-God like twist...God granted my request and blessed Hubby in a way that we knew was without a doubt from Him. And as I write this, I continue to give God full credit and glory for a blessing that will stay with Hubby for the rest of his life.

It's truly humbling every single time I think about it. What a God moment.

So in the days when I struggle with God's perfect timing...and I wish He would answer me already...I only have to look at my children or my husband to be reminded of the many many great blessings He has bestowed upon our family.

Seriously...enough for a lifetime...already.

I am ever so grateful. And yet...like any other child...it doesn't stop me for asking for more. And God loves that we ask Him. He wants us to come to Him with our requests. The apostle Paul writes this in his letter to the people of Philippi in Philippians 4:4-6:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 

My prayer journal has become a very important part of this Celebrating the Quiet time. I took the concept that Beth Moore offered in her book, and I made it my own. I choose to end each of my daily entries the same way I begin them...with praise.

Praise
At the bottom of each page, I think of one very special thing that I praise God for at that moment and I write it down. It might be the beautiful day...or something someone said or did...or time spent with family...any number of wonderful blessings from God. It's really helped me to focus my prayer time on praising God during this time of Quiet.

Paul goes on to say in Philippians 4:7:
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It really does. He really does. Especially in the Quiet.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

September: Celebrating The Quiet

Well here we are over halfway through the month and I am finally writing my first post of September. I've really struggled with writing this summer and as we ease into fall...I'm still struggling with what to say to y'all.

If you know me in real life, then you know that me not knowing what to say is somewhat strange. I don't deny it. It is. And honestly...it's strange for me too. I just don't feel much like talking or writing these days. I think it's truly because I just don't know what to say.

As you know, we are in a transition period of our lives. One we did not expect to be in at this time and it has left us a little out of our element. Everything in our lives has once again changed and we are working daily to figure out the next step. And we are finding out it isn't as easy as it might seem.

Clearly being in this new season of our lives with no clear direction is a bit baffling at this stage (and age) for us. So...I'm a little quieter than I usually am.

Maybe I am finally learning what that verse from Psalm 46:10 actually means. It says:

“Be still, and know that I am God."
    
I know it doesn't sound very Christian of me...but I've never really cared for this verse. It kind of goes against everything that is in me. Do I really have to be still to know God? I have fought that idea for pretty much my entire 45 years.

But something about this season has flipped a switch in my usual busy, talkative self and I am learning to embrace this be still time. This month I have spent a great deal of time "being still" through prayer and Bible reading.
The pups enjoy The Quiet with me.

I have been working on two projects which both require a significant amount of time reading and searching the Bible. Much of this time, I sit quietly reading and writing out Bible verses. And while these projects aren't for just me personally, I have gained so much as I discover verse after verse pertaining to where I am right now.

In the quiet, I also talk with God about so many dear people who are going through incredibly difficult issues right now. I have friends fighting cancer or overseeing their child's cancer battle and/or several other critical health issues. Friends and relatives of ours are dealing with divorce, separation, severe health issues, a struggling child, family strife, military deployment, financial troubles, marital wounds, heartache, unemployment, and major disappointment.

While I'm being still, these people that we dearly care about come to mind.

The list seems long and heavy. There are so many loved ones that are carrying very real burdens. And these are just the ones I personally know about. I am sure there are plenty more out there feeling quiet and just don't have the words to share the load that is bogging them down right now. Not knowing what else to do (or say)...I pray...often writing them down in a little prayer journal I have started.

So this month I'm celebrating The Quiet. It's been a tremendous time of being still and I do know without a doubt that God is God.

*Update*
Here is my other September Celebrating the Quiet post:
Praising God in the Quiet

Saturday, August 16, 2014

So Your Kid Is Off To College?

Our Scientist will soon begin his senior year of college. On the very same day, our Engineer will begin his senior year of high school. I know. Trust me. I can't believe it either. I've never been that great with math...but seriously...it just doesn't add up. There's no way that many years have passed since holding those sweet little newborn babies in my new momma arms.

And yet...here we are. They both tower over me now. Instead of me squatting to them...they are bending down to me. It's a fact that both amuses and saddens me. They are growing into amazing men. They are...for the most part....making choices and conducting themselves in a way very pleasing to Hubby and I. On pretty much any given day, we find something to be quite proud of when it comes to them.

As I think about my goal of Celebrating School Days this month...I can't help but think about how we got here and where this is all going with our sons. Their first day of preschool...kindergarten...high school...and college are firmly planted in my forever memory. Those were days of mixed feelings: excitement and heartache.

To preserve my sanity...I try not to think much about the after college days. All I can really acknowledge right now is that it is clear things are gonna change...big time.

The first day of college was the most difficult one for us. That one was ALL THE FEELINGS! For our little family, it meant leaving our Scientist in a state far far away...All. By. Himself.

It was a CRAZY plan. Who came up with this idea? And please tell me...who approved it? Because it was totally unreasonable and ridiculous.

And yet...that's what we did. We left him there....697 miles away from us. That's over 11 hours away by car. Let me tell you, it didn't happen without lots of tears...heartache...and prayers.

And you know what? It was the craziest...most ridiculous....incredibly unreasonable....horribly painful decision we made as a family. It was also the right thing to do. It was a huge blessing to our son. It wasn't always easy...he's had some difficult days at college...but it has been the best experience for him!

Hubby and I have cried...cheered...argued...prayed...lectured...rolled our eyes... chuckled...coached....advised....loved...understood...misunderstood...yelled...prayed... muttered...laughed...rejoiced....and prayed with (and at) our Scientist through these past three years of college.

Yep. All the feelings.

Of course, our Engineer will continue taking college classes as the main part of his high school senior year curriculum. Having him still at home with us, but experiencing college level education is also a unique experience.

It's a fine line for us to balance. As we guide and assist him in developing good study habits and practices, we are still trying to let him figure some of it out on his own. That can be exceedingly challenging as well.

This parenting gig isn't easy...but it is an incredible gift of ups and downs...happiness and pain...sweet times of holding tight...and extremely tough times of letting go.

So today as I Celebrate School Days, I want to send a loving shout out of encouragement to all of the parents who are sending off their brand new college freshman this month. Whether they are moving into a dorm and will be far away from home, or taking local classes and commuting from home...you are beginning a new season of life and things are changing at a rapid pace for your child and you.

Hubby and I have been there. We have felt the pain and cried the tears and lived to tell this tale. Your heart will ache with this change, but you will get used to your new normal. They will too.

And if it's just too much and try as you might you just can't adjust? Well then...do what we did: Give it a good three year try and then move to your child's college town! It worked for us.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

August: Celebrating School Days

From the last few days of July into the first few days of September, "Back to School" days are occurring across America. So I'm thinking...why not Celebrate School Days for the month of August? As a student...momma of students...homeschooling momma...and teacher, I have many wonderful memories and a few encouraging words about this time of year.

When I think of my own school days, one of the first people to come to mind is my first kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Teacher. Oh what sweet memories I cherish of her. She was a gentle, kind lady who spoke softly with an easy smile and crinkly eyes. 

I just adored her. 

She is well into her nineties now...but a few years ago when I got to see her again...all the feelings of a little five year old me came flooding back. 

How thrilled I was when she recognized me and called me by name! How cool is that? Mrs. Teacher was so delighted to see me as a grown woman with children of my own. It was a happy reunion for us both. She was definitely older, but her smiley eyes still danced with joy as she quietly asked about my life. I was so pleased to find her just as I remembered her. 

We had a wonderful chat and as we parted ways...she patted my hand and told me how proud she was of me. I beamed back at her because in that moment I realized how much I still craved her approval. 

Our forever bond was established in August 1974 on the first day of school. And it didn't matter how many students she had then...or before me...or after me...I was important to her because I was her student. It's something that will keep us connected throughout this life. 

It's true that you learn so many meaningful life lessons in your kindergarten year of school. For me, one of them was how to be a lifelong teacher. Mrs. Teacher showed me how a teacher loves her students...connects to them...and makes them feel treasured. And through her actions she gave me a love for school...and teachers.

I had no idea in 1974 that I would grow up to teach my own children...and then...eventually classrooms of students. Mrs. Teacher did not know that she was modeling for me an amazing example that I would reflect on and try my best to emulate when I became a teacher. 

Of course, God knew the plan even then...and he placed me in that classroom with that loving educator at that impressionable time in my very young life to begin the preparation for my own teaching experiences to come many years later. 

That's just how awesome God is.

And I'm not the only one to notice this. Here's what the Psalmist (probably King David) wrote a long long time before I would discover God's wonders for myself:

Many, Lord my God,
    are the wonders you have done,
    the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
    were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
    they would be too many to declare.     Psalm 40:5 (NIV)

And Isaiah noticed it as well:

Lord, you are my God;
    I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
    you have done wonderful things,
    things planned long ago.    Isaiah 25:1 (NIV)

What a gift to be able to look back and see the beauty of God's perfect faithfulness in preparing me in Kindergarten for all the School Days to come...as a student...a momma...and a teacher. 

That's something worth celebrating for sure!

Please join me the rest of this month as I Celebrate School Days with you.

*Update*
Here is my other August Celebrating School Days post:
So You Kid Is Off To College?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wondering...What's Next?

While there are many aspects of Hubby's new found retirement that we are both enjoying...I have to say our lives aren't exactly where we want to be just yet. Hubby seems to be making a smoother transition than I am with this whole process.

In an eye-opening twist, once Hubby and I began sharing that he would retire from the Air Force, people started offering their retirement experiences with us. People he had worked closely with for years, and friends we had known even longer, opened up about how their retirement came about or how they dealt with the days that followed.

It's weird...but we never heard these stories while Hubby was on active duty status. It wasn't until we were ready to "join the club" before we were let in on how it really was.

Hubby's response has truly surprised me...but evidently not those who have gone before him. It turns out his road to military retirement isn't much different from anyone else's journey. Who knew? We certainly didn't. I think there's a strange sense of comfort in learning this...which gives Hubby a relaxed, peaceful disposition in his new role. He's taking it all in stride.

I have found that my experience in walking away from this lifestyle was more difficult. It was the oddest feeling because there was so much stress and uncertainty with our military life...and leaving it meant I was able to finally put that behind me. With Hubby's retirement came great relief from worries I no longer had to worry over.

However...

This is the lifestyle I have known the longest and retirement at our age is not retirement in the way most people think of it. We still have two boys to get through college...one of which is still living at home. We don't own a home...we aren't settled into a church or community full of friends and memories. Our military lifestyle has not set us up with those comforts.

We are very blessed to have had all those things at one point or another along this journey, but as we finish up our "roaming" lifestyle...we don't have them all gathered into one place to enjoy in our retirement. For us, retirement is another adventure in a long list of adventures. And for me...the least adventurous of our little family...it feels like I have traded old stresses for new ones.

While I do find joy and excitement in each move...there's also the whole starting over part that fills me with uncertainty...doubt...fear...and impatience.  If I could just move from one place to another and jump right into a community with automatic friends, church, connections, a job, and especially a hairdresser...I would certainly enjoy these moving adventures a whole lot more!

And I know without a doubt I'm not alone. I can't even tell you how many many times I have heard from other military wives in the past few months. Sometimes with tears in their eyes....or in hushed tones....or even with a wistful smile on their face...recounting their own retirement struggles. Over and over they told me how their husband's retirement was harder on them than him.

Each time someone reached out to share this important confidence with me...I listened. I felt bad for them. And I'm embarrassed to admit that I pretty much waved it off. How sad for them...but I was not going to have trouble with it! I have looked forward to this for a very very long time. It was a goal we set years and years before...and by golly...we had made it over the finish line together! How could that be hard to accept? I had already planned to celebrate it with gusto!

But then the days zoomed along from the middle of March until all of the sudden we were nearing the end of June and the end of the only way of life I had known as an adult. An adult life full of security...a paycheck...a home...and a community of people experiencing the exact same life. Soon we would be kicked out of the Active Duty club and the new Veteran club was not nearly as organized...or special...and quite frankly....didn't pay as well either.

As I sat at Hubby's retirement ceremony...the struggle hit me with full force. As people stood to speak kind words about Hubby and his commitment to our country...I wanted to stand up and yell: "STOP!"  I knew I wasn't ready for it all to be over. There were more adventures to be had.

I didn't want to change everything. I didn't want to go to the civilian world where people don't always understand. I didn't want to leave the security of a world where I felt safe...and knowledgeable...and part of something good in service to our nation.

As you may have guessed (or at least hoped)...I didn't jump up and scream. I did what every other military wife before me has done. I sat in my chair...smiling proudly...dabbing away the tears of happiness...sorrow...and amazing memories. I took a deep breath and drank it all in...knowing it was the last of the lasts of our military experiences.

And like so many other military experiences...I was braver than I thought I could be...or wanted to be...and I survived it. Soon Hubby and I were walking together through a sea of family and friends to the strains of The Air Force Song:

"Off we go into the wild blue yonder"...

And off we went the very next day...

As I write this...I am sitting on a wicker love seat in our temporary home. One month into our newest adventure, we haven't figured out the next leg of our journey yet. We have time. There's no rush. We are...after all...retired. Many many of our military friends have been in our exact same place. They have reassured us this is how it is. They went through it too. It takes time to find your place in a non-military world. It can be difficult...but we will prevail. They have. We will.

Knowing we aren't the first to ever experience this is somewhat comforting...but then again...I really wish it wasn't like this...that it didn't feel like this...that we weren't once again strangers in a strange land. I'm ready to settled in...grow some roots...become part of local history...know people and be known by others.

Seriously...I'm ready to have someone smile and wave at me because they recognize me.

It doesn't happen overnight... or even in 31 days. That is a fact I have learned from experience. These things take time. And now that Hubby is retired...that is something we seem to have in abundance. I believe deep down in my soul...with every beat of my heart...that God has this all under control...that even when I don't know The Plan, He does.

Even though we don't have the next adventure lined up...and it's been a more difficult transition than I expected...I trust God to be God of our lives. I do so because of these words written by the apostle Paul to the church in Rome:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

Paul wrote these words to a group of people he had not even met. He sent them letters of instruction and encouragement with the hope of visiting them one day. Among his wise words were those found in Romans 15:13. Even though they were written to other people long long ago, Paul's words give me hope for our situation today.

God is the God of hope. He does fill me with joy and peace when I trust in Him. And I do want to trust in Him and overflow with hope. Overflowing with hope sounds wonderful.

As I wrap up Celebrating Our Air Force Adventure this month...I smile. It's been an awesome adventure. A journey I didn't think I wanted to take in the beginning...but now...I'm oh so very grateful to have been allowed to experience it.

I'm thankful that God gifted us with this Amazing Air Force Adventure...and while I may struggle just a little as I wait on God's plan...I do trust in Him...and I'm hopeful for what's to come.

After all...His ideas have always been way better than mine...

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
Wondering...What's Next?

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.