Bloom in Any Season

I was crying, running on vapors, trying to do it all myself. Why do I keep forgetting I didn't get this far alone? I need Him to bloom in any season.

Last Sunday, I held this beautiful rose in my hand as it bloomed defiantly in November. I heard God’s quiet whisper,

“Even this rose can bloom in any season.”

What wonderful encouragement! I have been truly relying on God during this difficult season in the Army, tired but coping.

And isn’t that when the bottom falls out? the minute we think we have it all together? the minute we try to do it ourselves .  .  .

God was encouraging me after the month we’ve had.

My husband has been gone 18 hour days, 6-7 days a week, most Army related but some hunting, and selfishly, I get tired of being ‘all the adults.‘ I was on vapors, holding on desperately for a break. When making frozen pizza seems overwhelming, I’ve hit rock bottom. I thought I had no more to give.

But God was also preparing & instructing me for the week to come.

Monday, the text message came, “Don’t expect me home.”

At all, for at least 72 hours, maybe a week. No warning, no planning ahead. Just gone. Not in war, not deployed. Yet, tiny heartbreaking nights that he just isn’t home.

I was crying, running on vapors, trying to do it all myself. Why do I keep forgetting I didn't get this far alone? I need Him to bloom in any season.

A piece of sensitive equipment (read expensive) went missing and the entire unit was put on lockdown. It wasn’t done appropriately. Soldiers were left with no food, denied necessary medications, while others were let walk to the convenience store or go home to tend to pets.

My husband was stressed and furious. If there was a way to make this situation more disastrous and less compassionate, they found it. Helplessly watching it unfold via text message was so incredibly difficult. Knowing how this would ripple through every inch of our next weeks, I could feel my anxiety building.

But I tried to push it down, jump those hurdles without breathing hard. We can do this! I’m not who I used to be. I’ve totally got this  . . .

. . . but the pressure built inside. I could feel God mentally tapping me on the shoulder, trying to get my attention.

“Even this rose can bloom in any season.”

But I didn’t want to bloom. I wanted to BE MAD. I mean had a good reason to lose it, right?

By day 3, I broke my #30DaysWithoutComplaint challenge. While I tried to be strong and calm, I ran out of steam. I cried. I complained, launching into the unfairness of it all, but I didn’t feel any better.

I was cooking  two separate, multi-step meals for a friend whose husband was having surgery, cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner for my house, making a week’s worth of meals for my husband, plus packing a suitcase, trying not to forget anything since we live 45 minutes from his training facility.

Meanwhile I was trying to parent, home-school, check in with family, fellowship with friends, deal with accidental Facebook drama, and take care of my personal needs, like eating. And deal with a 5-year-old who was having her own missing daddy breakdown. When I would look up from the chaos, all I could see was the dust, dog hair, and general filth and clutter taking over my house.

I was running out of steam because I was trying to do it all. I. Me. ME.

Ephesians 2:8 ESV  “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,”

Where was God in there? Yeah, I was giving Him a nod, keeping my exterior calm, but I wasn’t giving Him the anxiety in my heart, not asking Him to guide my emotions or attitude.

NOT MY OWN DOING. I didn’t change and grow through my own will, why can’t I remember this?

Why can’t I remember I will never outgrow needing Him?

I was trying to multi-task, poorly, trying to avoid burning down my house literally (I do have a nicely browned potholder now) and figuratively, not destroy months of work I’ve done living some big changes Christ is working in me.

And God whispered, you can bloom in ANY season when you live by faith. #BloominAnySeason Click To Tweet

Again seeing the rose in my mind, I heard God calling me to bloom in THIS hard season. I opened my bible app and let it start reading to me while I worked.

James 1:3 ESV For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

Just last week, I wrote about the beauty of our marriage through the testing we’ve survived, the way we’ve learned to rely on each other. So did I mean it?

When I wanted to cry, I said, God “let me put down my agenda for this week and pick up YOURS.”

My prayers changed from bring him home to ‘how can I be calm despite the storm, help me prioritize,  and be a blessing and encouragement to my husband and friends.’

Why can't I remember I will never outgrow needing Him? Can't do this life on my own.… Click To Tweet

It was draining and emotional, but I managed to focus on one moment at a time and to be a blessing when my husband finally came home frustrated and exhausted.

Instead of demanding he talk, I let him work through his feelings. When he was sharp, I took a deep breath instead of firing back. I offered whatever support he needed and let him set the tone for the weekend, so he would have the fortitude to face the new week, including a 24 hour duty on Thanksgiving.

One way I learned to bloom in any season was to realize that sometimes messy can be beautiful because the house doesn’t get our attention – when we give it to people instead.

We are in the last years of his career, but the constant trials of Army life are surrounding us. We can focus on the difficulties or know that we’re being shaped and pruned to face every struggle, beautifully able to bloom in any season.

 

No Complaints

Want to be truly thankful this year? Try going 30 Days with No Complaints. Take this challenge - change your heart, home and perspective. #NoComplaints

This morning, God’s plan for my day was not what I was expecting. I was prepared to begin my 2nd Annual 30 Days Without Complaint Challenge with a Sunday full of fellowship and worship, excited for our new pastor, but .  .  .

My day started by challenging ‘no complaints’ right away.

Instead, I snuggled with a sore-‘froated’, upset-tummy-having-little-girl and got the opportunity to tackle laundry, carpet cleaning, and scrubbing the bathroom. Want to be truly thankful this year? Try going 30 Days with No Complaints. Take this challenge - change your heart, home and perspective. #NoComplaintsFocusing on no complaints meant biting back discouraging words about starting my morning cleaning up vomit. I took captive the bitter thoughts seeping into my heart over a groggy barfing child, and smiled.

2 Corinthians 10:5b take every thought captive to obey Christ,

Oh, sweet girl, it’s okay. I made a silly face and laughed when I stepped in puke, and she giggled with me.

Thank you, Lord for encouragement to get some cleaning done. I’m grateful for a washing machine to tackle her now decidedly soggy astronaut costume she had worn again today, poor thing. Thank you for a carpet cleaner and bleach for the bathroom, and a little Lysol Silkwood shower just for me.

Thank you for a quiet, rainy day to rest with a DVR full of Little House on the Prairie.

Instead of frustration that my day had gone askew, I chose to deliberately focus my heart on having a positive perspective.

Instead of the usual thankfulness challenge, this year go #30DaysWithoutComplaint with me! Click To Tweet

Every year, November 1 starts an avalanche of thankfulness on social media. It is fun to play along. Yet, after joining in for a couple of years, I wasn’t seeing much actual change in my life.

Will you take the 30 Days Without Complaint Challenge?

In the past, my attitude has sometimes looked a little like this . . .

  • “I am so thankful for my wonderful hubby. He is my soulmate and best friend! #perfecthusband” 7 a.m.
  •  “Who puts the milk back with a spoonful in the carton? No milk for breakfast. #oblivioushusband” 8 a.m.
  • “Ugh, you do know what a hamper is, right? Underpants under the sink?? #husbandsaretoddlers 9 a.m.

One thankful moment and the rest of the day was full of grumbling.

I took the 30 Days Without Complaint challenge last year, learning how  to live (in real life and on social media) without complaining. Within 48 hours, I realized just how challenging it would be have no complaints for a single day, much less a month.

In fact, just as I started planning this challenge again, my husband told me he has a 24 hour shift on Thanksgiving. My heart was quietly breaking. He has missed so many holidays. I know it is just a day, but after four deployments, I cherish holding his hand over the table that one special day.

But when I stopped complaining last year, I learned more than anything else, my attitude affects my experience. I can choose to be grateful for my husband’s secure job and all that he provides for us; or I can complain about losing a day with him. When I focus on finding the silver lining, my peace gives him such freedom to find joy as well. Our whole home is so much sweeter when I am.

When I focus on joy, my peacefulness frees the people in my life to seek joy and peace too. Click To Tweet

It’s funny how choosing to smile, choosing to say grateful words over a no fun situation, actually made it better.

James 1:2-4 ESV  “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Tonight, I’m thrilled by the joy I witnessed in my home today. Despite tired, wet, headaches, sore ‘froats’, upset tummies, yucky weather, we had WONDERFUL joyous laughter, long hugs, sweet giggles because I chose no complaints.

While my day wasn’t what I planned, it felt perfect and complete, lacking in nothing when I counted it all joy.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to get more of this encouraging content!

Crashing into Reality

Vacations end. We come crashing into reality. What do we do with all that stress?

Don’t you just love vacations? We get to cast our cares aside, just be present in the moment with our family. We know it ends, crashing into reality, but we hold onto vacation as long as we can. Vacations views are clear and bright at the beach.

This year we were blessed by a decadent beach getaway with my in-laws. We had this tremendous view everyday from the covered porch.

Packing clothes was a waste of time. We spent 90% of the time in swimsuits, damp and sun-baked, but we loved every second.

Even bad weather was more exciting. Our family spent an afternoon watching water spouts, but happily they just hovered on the horizon, far away, nothing to worry about, a bit like real life seems while we’re on vacation.Storms of life in the distance during vacation before we come crashing into reality.

We were driving home sandy and tired, but joyful. Family time had been the priority the entire week. Even phones got put down. We had literally done not much more than eat and swim for a week.

I was singing along to the radio, asking the kids about their favorite memories from the week, trying to hold onto the joy and lightness as long as possible, but I didn’t even make it home before reality invaded our vacation high.

*CRACK*! My husband and I flinched. Something had hit the car.

Quickly, we saw our brand new windshield had cracked, worse than the damage we had initially repaired just days before leaving for vacation.

Vacations end. We come crashing into reality. What do we do with all that stress? And just like that I was crashing into reality:

  • a second $250 deductible in 2 wks
  • $120 we just spent replacing a new tire weeks ago
  • a $400 for yearly termite treatment I had forgotten
  • $500 surgery for our dog (that might not even save her life) after the $350 vet bill
  • a $700 bill for our home warranty
  • plus added expenses of summer vacation/ having the boys right after I unexpectedly lost my job.

My emotions started into hyper-drive, but I knew this was an opportunity to reflect Christ or the world. If I trust that every good thing comes from God, and He can use everything to my good (Romans 8:28), then I have to trust even this is good whether I know His reasoning or not.

James 1:2-3 ESV “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

I felt like this moment was a test, so I held my tongue until I could control it. Tears welled behind my sunglasses, but I kept silent. I had a chance to demonstrate my trust in God. I took a deep breath and prayed instead of panicked, remembering –

Matthew 6:28-30 ESV “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”

A few miles down the road, I commented how it was frustrating, but not worth getting upset about, held my husband’s hand, and turned up the radio.

God has provided for us in everything so faithfully.

Last year, some vandals left our outdoor spigot running for several days before we realized it. Our bill was about $120 more than normal. I prayed for peace. In the mail the next day was a refund from an old rental insurance policy, for $122, almost the exact amount felt like a gift from God even if the check said USAA.

We’ve never been in such dire need that we couldn’t meet our obligations. He has sent blessings through others when we needed some extra loving financially and emotionally.

I don’t know yet how God will provide, or what lesson He is teaching, or direction He is pointing. I don’t even know if my family even noticed my refusal to freak out, but I know I was obedient in that moment.

Reality tried to crash my party, but my trust in God didn’t let it. Life is tough. Expecting it to be easy is folly, especially as a Christian.

1 Peter 4:12-13 ESV “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”

God didn’t promise me that I would always have a pantry full of organic groceries. He didn’t promise me a brand new window every time it gets dinged. He doesn’t even promise us safety or security, only that every trial will refine us and lasting joy in his kingdom, the kind that doesn’t fade when the vacation bubble bursts.

What I Learned When I Stopped Complaining

Exploring the things I learned about my attitude and spirit when I changed my words.

For the 2014 Thanksgiving season, I began a challenge of 30 Days Without Complaint. And it was hard. Honestly, it was pretty much impossible to keep 100%. I wanted to revisit what I learned when I stopped complaining.

1. I learned that being negative has been my default setting for most of my life.

I tend to see the one wrong thing like a flashing beacon begging me to fix it, which makes me a fantastic essay grader as a teacher, but also means I have to be purposeful about seeing the positive and intentional about mentioning it!

Trying my best to follow the dictionary definition of ‘complaining’ as expressing any negativity, I had no idea how often I complained. “I’m hungry.” “This coffee is cold.” “I’m tired.” I had this whole under-the-breath monologue of whining that I did almost unconsciously.

Complaining seems like our default setting as humans. Can one month reset our hearts?… Click To Tweet

During this challenge, I had days I considered duct tape might be my only hope.

Heaven Not Harvard - Exploring the things I learned about my attitude and spirit when I changed my words. I got a big dose of conviction one morning when my daughter heard me mumbling my husband’s name while cleaning up after his mess. She shouted aghast, “MOM, he isn’t even here!”

Yes, not only was I adding to the mental list of resentment in my own head, I was coloring her perceptions of her father. I was unintentionally disrespecting him in front of his daughter. LOTS of reasons to halt that behavior immediately.

2. Negativity is a big brush that paints over everything else.

A single complaint can sour an entire experience for everyone. I can be having a perfectly nice time when my husband’s food isn’t right, or he feels the service is slow, and the focus for rest of the night is that ONE aspect of the experience instead of being aware of the myriad of enjoyable moments.

Ever think about all the compliments you’ve ever been paid? What about all the insults? I find that negative feelings and thoughts overshadow all the positives if we give them room in our minds.

3. I had been using complaining as a passive way of asking for things.

“I’m hungry” wasn’t just a declarative statement. I was looking for my husband to offer to cook or get me something. I realized that using complaining to ask for things wasn’t healthy behavior. If I want something, I need to ask for it. And I need to be willing to get it for myself if the answer is no. If I’m not, it wasn’t really that important.

I learned my complaining was sin in so many ways: resentment, manipulation, grumbling. Click To Tweet

By taking more responsibility for what I wanted or needed, I began to take more responsibility for my own feelings as well, which turned out to be very empowering.

After two years being fairly immobile, I got used to not being able to do much. Learning to stop complaining might mean getting up more often, but I am so glad that I finally can!

4. Most importantly, I really learned that words have power.

The way we say things matters. I can complain, “I’m cold” or I can say “I’m going to get my jacket.” One is powerless. The other is pro-active. One is letting my environment dictate my expectations, the other is choosing to create my own reality through my actions or how I choose to perceive it.

The words we use become our focus. I spent this challenge removing as much of the inner complainer as the outer. My internal dialogue was just as much of a problem as my outer one. I still have a long way to go, but see that stopping mid-thought and looking for the blessings can really change my perspective.

For example, my kitchen is messy because my husband works ridiculously hard at insane hours and makes his own breakfast when he is barely awake. I can be upset at the mess or I can choose to see it as wonderful evidence of having a family and a dedicated husband.

Going 30 Days Without Complaint was only a starting point. I have a long way to go before I really conquer this bitter battle with complaining, but I have learned how to be more positive, even with negative emotions.

I’ve seen change starts with my attitude, but ends with being a light and joy to those in my life.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to get more of this encouraging content!

Say Yes to More Mud Puddles

Say Yes to More Mud Puddles (allowing for joy in the chaos) instead of worrying about the mess lets us soak up the moments that make life worth living.

I let my daughter jump in a puddle. Yes, neatnik, OCD, clean freak ME let my daughter jump in a puddle, a grassy, muddy puddle.

She came inside from riding bikes and asked if she could jump in the puddle. Bonus points for her asking prior to becoming a muddy mess.

Would I say Yes?

I don’t think I gave much thought to which puddle she meant, but I said, “Sure.” My husband was not in favor, but it was a warmish day for Alabama in January, and she’s a kid. Kids need to get dirty sometimes, to toss away rules, to play with abandon. Letting her be a kid was more important than worrying about her getting wet.

I wasn’t going to let her swim across the English channel. It was just a puddle, for Pete’s sake.

I wrapped her feet in plastic bags up to her knees, tucked them inside her boots and sent her off with instructions not to jump in higher than her boots, knowing she probably would get muddier and wetter, but making a motherly attempt to mitigate the damage anyways.

A few minutes later, I heard laughing and shrieking so I went to peek. The “puddle” was actually at the bottom of the deepish ditch at the house next door and she was fairly wet and muddy up to her hips.

And she was laughing. The boy next door was rolling in it. He jumped up, soaked from head to toe, shaking the water off like a dog. My sweet girl was giggling hysterically. She jumped across the puddle, spraying muddy, grassy water in all directions. I smiled and walked away from the window, fairly certain that she wouldn’t come home with typhus from playing in the rain water run off from our yard.

She was going to need a bath. Her clothes would need stain treatment the minute she got home. But for a few minutes, she was blissfully just playing in the mud. And I let her, despite myself, thank goodness.

For the moment, she was blissfully playing in the mud puddles. And I let her, despite myself. Click To Tweet

I should have grabbed my camera and caught the gigantic grin on her face as we stripped her down in the garage, but I was too busy being in the moment with her. I did remember a similar smile from a too early spring day when I said yes to the sprinklers. All joy despite being chilly and wet. Sometimes we just have to say yes to the mud puddles and sprinklers.Say Yes to More Mud Puddles (allowing for joy in the chaos) Heaven Not Harvard

I can think back in my life and count the precious few times I played in the mud or danced in the rain, and isn’t that a shame.

I spent too much time worried about the mess instead of reveling in the joy that can come from a little controlled chaos.

Life is pretty hard and miserable often. Life is too short almost always. I have to spend a lot of time saying no. No, don’t eat that. No, don’t lick that. No, don’t shove a pencil eraser in your nose. No, don’t get messy before church. No, we can’t play in the rain today. No, mommy can’t fix that. No, mommy can’t make life fair.

So sometimes, I want to say yes. Dance in the rain. Play in the sprinkler. Jump in the puddle. Eat ice cream for dinner. Watch too much TV today. Make noise. Sure, you can have extra bubbles in the bath, an impromptu play-date picnic, an extra story or a game with mommy.

Suffering, trials, hard work, and tough times are ‘givens’ in this world. Sadly, joy and fun are not. We have to take and give those moments when we can. So, I’m going to say yes to mud puddles more often.