Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thankful Thursday: He Is Enough

I sat on the bench watching my children play. So many emotions were going through me. Fear. Sadness. Acceptance. Excitement. And guilt. I had just found out my husband was deploying and there was a part of me that was glad and I felt so guilty about that. But the past year had been so hard on me. I had such a love-hate relationship with our duty station and I didn't know what to do. I didn't want my husband to deploy but I was ready to be out of there. I was ready to have friendships. To have "girl dates." To not feel like all I was was a mom 24/7. To have people love me and support me. To not just say "let me know if you need anything" but never actually offer to do actually feel like they wanted to help. I was ready to not feel isolated and alone anymore.

I look back at where I was just a year ago and feel a sadness. I don't like who I was back then. I was so dissatisfied with life; so discontent with what I had. I had so many blessings but I was too self-centered and bitter to see the beauty in the life around me. I wanted more, more, more. And, yet, I didn't appreciate what I had. I already had so much more than many people are blessed with. I had two beautiful and perfectly healthy children. I had a husband who loved me more than life itself and would do anything to make me happy...if he could only figure out what that anything was. I had the security of a steady income that, while not making us anywhere close to wealthy, paid the bills with a little left over and allowed me to be a stay at home mom.

Of course, those are not truly past tense things. I still do have all of those blessings. I've just finally come to realize that they are gifts from God, even if I didn't see it at the time. I was so blessed and yet so blind.

This last year has challenged me in ways that I could not have imagined. I've said it before and I have to say it again. I have been humbled. I'm naturally a self-centered person. But for so long I have used that as an excuse. Just been accepting of it. I don't want to be that person anymore. I want to be a bigger person. A better, more grateful person. One who can see the blessing in the hard times. I want to be the kind of person that I would enjoy being around.

Over and over in this last year God has been gently reminding me that He knows where I am. That He knows what I need. For the first few months after my husband deployed I stayed with my family in Wisconsin. There I was blessed with friendships I was so badly craving. That I had so sorely missed in my move to Washington state. It was like a balm to my aching spirit. To be taken in and loved and emotionally supported by more than just family. To have friends set up "play dates" and "mommy dates." To have them "drag" me in and get me involved in church activities. To have them love on my children and treat them as one of their own. It was what I had been missing and wanting so badly for more than a year. I soaked it up. And God whispered to me "See? I haven't forgotten you."

Then I spent some time in Tennessee with my in-laws. That could be another "Thankful Thursday" post all its own. I am beyond blessed with in-laws who love me like a daughter and treat me like royalty. I know that we don't always see eye-to-eye on everything but they are so supportive of me and the life my husband and I have chosen. I just can never be grateful enough for what wonderful, kind, loving people they are. Of course, it was while I was there that I got the surprise news that my husband would be home for Christmas. Once again God whispered to me "See? I know what you need."

These last five months, however, have been the most challenging (in a good way). I've spent them with my sister and her family in North Carolina. Here I have been attending a church that has blown me out of the water. I'm an MK (Missionary Kid). I've been to churches all over this country and in a couple other countries too! But I've never, in my whole entire life, been to a church like Morning Star Baptist Church. I've certainly never been around people more grateful for there salvation than they are here. And you can't attend a service without knowing that they're excited about what God has done and is doing in their lives. It's like camp meeting every service. But it's not just talk...they actually live it. They're excited because it's real to them. It's a part of their everyday lives. And I was ashamed. Ashamed that I've known the truth of the Gospel since I was a small child, ashamed that I had accepted Christ into my heart as a teenager, and have never been anywhere close to as excited as these people are. I've never been so grateful for the life that God has blessed me with - my health, my salvation, the lack of true heartache - I've never given thanks the way that they have. I've never praised Him the way they do here. I've never felt the fire the way they have. And it shames me.

It's so easy to take God's blessings for granted. Too easy, when the only life I've known is the one in church, to forget how much God has given me. God was trying so hard to teach me a lesson. He was trying so hard to tell me that He is enough. That the blessing that He has bestowed on me are enough. I have two beautiful and healthy children. I have a husband who loves me more than words could ever describe; the kind of man most women don't know even exists. A man that is more than just my husband, he is my friend. My best friend. I have the security of a steady income and good health insurance and a roof over my head. But, most importantly, I have a God who loves me. A God who sent His Son to die for me, for my sins. A God who cares about me. Who knows where I am no matter where I live. A God who provides for my needs. I'm ashamed of the blind selfishness that I have lived in most of my Christian life. And I am amazed and so thankful that He has been there through it all. That He has never given up on me. That He has loved me when I've been just a luke-warm and unfaithful Christian. And God whispered to me "See? I am all you need. Am I not enough?"

My biggest fear with leaving here is that I'll lose the fire that I have caught. That I'll forget the lessons God has taught me and once again become the ungrateful, complacent Christian that I have always been. I don't want that. Let me never lose this closeness to Him, the realization that He has blessed me beyond measure. Let me always be able to hear that still small voice whispering in my ear "I am enough."

"I'm Amazed" by the Ladies Trio at Morning Star Baptist Church
(sorry it was shaking so much...I was trying not to cry as I was filming it. And it was taken with my phone which is hard to keep steady anyways!)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Blessings in Disguise

It's easy to be thankful for the good things in life. Health, family, sunny days, well-behaved children. But recently I was reminded to be thankful for the harder things in life. The things that don't seem like blessings. Things that are annoyances. Things that are hurtful. Things like a deployment.

I think most military wives would be in agreement with my saying it's difficult to find things to be thankful for in a deployment. It's an emotional time. Frustrating, painful, heartbreaking, life altering; these are all words more commonly associated with deployment. Thankful and blessing are, well, just not. It's hard enough to make it through a deployment emotional intact. Thankful for it? Are you nuts?

But, oddly enough, I am. I am thankful for this deployment. It's been hard. It's been painful. It's been a life altering experience. And I am thankful for it.

Despite the pain and frustration, there are so many good things that have come out of it. Things that we, as a family, never would have gained without it. Things that really are a blessing.

Spending the year as a "vagabond" has helped my children to become friendlier and better adjusted to change. They have benefited from it not being basically just mom 24/7. And having them get to know family better is a huge, huge bonus for which I can never be grateful enough. I love the way their little faces light up when they see a beloved family member. The excitement and joy that emanates through them as they get to spend time with Grandmas, Grandpas, Aunties, Uncles, and cousins. It makes my heart so glad.

Then there's the changes in me. I have changed so much through this deployment. I have grown so much spiritually. I've been humbled and challenged in my spiritual life and it has benefited me in my personal life. It's shown me my weaknesses and help me to grow stronger. To become less dependent on my husband and more dependent on my faith in and relationship with God. Which, as odd as it may sound, is making me a better wife and a better mother. It has strengthened my relationship with my husband; made our marriage stronger.

And that, a stronger marriage, could have a post all its own. Going through this deployment has taught me to value my marriage in a way I never have before. My husband is far from perfect. He'll be the first to admit that. But he is perfect for me. And he is so far ahead of "the pack" when it comes to other's impressive really. He is patient, loving, kind, faithful (ask any deployed spouse how important that is), trustworthy, hard working. The list could go on and on. He's had his bad moments but I can't help see the good in him that has come shining through in this deployment. I've come to appreciate his character more than ever.

God has been so good to me. Even in the hard times I can say that I am blessed beyond measure. I have so much to be thankful for. And because of this I can say that I am thankful for this deployment. I can also say that I'm thankful that it is almost over!

I Have Been Blessed

Sunday, May 6, 2012

One Perfect Day...

 May 6th, 2006 dawned a perfect day. Around 8:00 am my boyfriend woke me up so we could get ready for our “special date.” I was spending a long weekend with him and his parents in Sevierville, TN and we’d been planning a picnic for months. The original forecast had called for rain the entire weekend but two days before I got there the weatherman changed the forecast to rain Thursday, Friday, Sunday, and Monday. Saturday was to be mostly sunny. Indeed, the day was a bit cool but the sun was shining and there were big fluffy white clouds in the sky – I felt as though God was smiling down on us.

  As we prepared for our outing there was a lot of playful banter between Jeremiah and I but the over all tones were sweet (presumably to earn brownie points!) Around 10:00 we finished packing our things into his 1929 A-Model truck and, with a few pictures and a wave off from his mom, we were on our way. Not being originally from the area, Jeremiah and his family used to vacation in Gatlinburg so he took me to a couple of his childhood haunts which included “their” cabin and an old covered bridge. There he carved our initials amongst the hundreds of other initials and names already decorating the bridge. After that we started on our journey again.

 People were smiling and waving at us as we made our way towards the Smokey Mountain National Park in his old truck. It was a gorgeous day and more than a few looked envious of our ride. When we got to the Park we stopped by the Welcome Center to see if they had any tips for the perfect picnic spot (yes, truly the perfect guy!). We were thankful we stopped because the lady told us that there was some big "goings on" at Cade’s Cove, our intended destination. She told us about another area that would make a nice picnicking stop so we headed out again. As we drove off we took our time just admiring the view – which was gorgeous – and Jeremiah began to tell me how concerned he was about the gift he had brought for me. Because we hadn’t been together for my birthday we were having a belated birthday date. He told me how fragile the gift was and he was afraid that it would shatter; he had it wrapped in bubble wrap, sitting on top of a cushy towel, and strapped securely in the bed of the truck. The more he told me the more curious and concerned I became.

 We finally arrived at the location that the lady had told us about and did some exploration of the area. Although it was very pretty, it wasn’t quite what we had in mind so we headed back the direction that from which we had come to investigate a couple areas we had noticed by the side of the road. The first place we stopped the embankment was too steep and there wasn’t any place to lay out our picnic blanket.  The second place proved to be even better than what we were searching for. We traversed down the embankment and spread the blanket below some trees next to the river. It seemed we had found the butterfly’s playground for there were many of them flitting here and there. When we sat we could hear the occasional cars driving by but couldn’t see anything making it was just us, the butterflies, and the river bubbling past us. Cozy and perfect.

  Jeremiah asked if I wanted to eat or open my gift first. Since he had managed to get my curiosity up by all of his talk about the gift (yes, I know, not a difficult feat) I made the easy decision to open my gift first. He had already told me that he needed to check it to make sure it was ok and he wanted to help me open it so I was prepared when he told me to close my eyes. I tried covering them with my hands so I could still peep through but he knows me entirely to well and I couldn’t see anything. The song “Anticipation” played through my mind before he finally told me to open my eyes and showed me the wooden box that he had made to house my gift – it was very pretty and of expert craftsmanship (like all of his work). He slowly lifted the top of the box off. Bubbled glass words “Marry Me?” were popped up off a mirror secured to the base of the box. To the left of the words were a bride and groom glass figurines standing in front of an arch way with tiny wedding bells hanging off of it. Behind the words was a ring box with an exquisite diamond solitaire nestled inside. He sat with a hopeful pleading expression on his face. It took me about 10-15 seconds to process that he was proposing then I threw my arms around him, box and all, and hugged his neck for –what he says- at least another 45 seconds. Finally I realized that I had yet to give him an answer and I squealed out an ecstatic, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES!”

  He slipped the ring out of its box and onto my finger. I couldn’t stop admiring how beautiful it was. As we ate he told me how he had gone to a glass smith and had them specially make the mirror set because he knew how much I loved to have those types of momentums (he scored big time brownie points with that one!). He explained how he had made the box and, in case I ever wanted to take the mirror off, he pointed out that it was duck taped down to the base as was the ring box (you you’re marrying a redneck when…). Even in the serious moments he knows how to make me smile.

  At that time I had no idea what our future would hold; the ups and downs it would bring. But I have never once regretted my decision to marry him. He's so much more than just my husband, he's my best friend and my soul mate. Truly my better half. And how could I ever regret that?

Leaving on our special date

Picnic Site

Marry Me?

My Ring

One Happy Couple!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thankful Thursday: It's the Little Things

Recently I've been challenged to be more thankful. To be a more positive person. The kind of person that I would want to be around. 'Cause, let me tell ya, a lot of times I wouldn't want to hang out with me. So I've decided to do a "Thankful Thursday" post every Thursday for the month of May. And I had something wonderful, surprising, and witty to share for my first "Thankful Thursday" post for the month of May.

That is, until I jumped on Facebook this morning. For any of my Facebook friends, you may have noticed a series of postings regarding a friend of mine who was pregnant with twin boys, at not quite 19 weeks along her water broke This morning the heartbreaking news came through my feed that her precious boys had gone home to be with Jesus. It gave me a whole different perspective on my day.

Today, I'm thankful for the two normal, healthy pregnancies that I have experienced. I'm thankful for the two healthy children that keep me constantly on my toes. I'm thankful that I've never had to mourn the loss of a child. Sometimes I feel almost guilty for these things...but I'm thankful for them, nonetheless.

Lately it's been difficult to be thankful for my children. I feel like I've been going round and round in battles with their willful personalities; letting them know in no uncertain terms that I love them but I'm the mom and the boss. And jus because I tell them "no" doesn't give them the right to throw a temper tantrum. It's been rough. And today was no different (seriously, don't they ever learn?).

But I held them a little more today. I reminded myself to look for the positives in the day and not focus on the hard parts. My son's giggles as he played with the puppies. My daughter's snuggles as she pretended she was my still my baby. Their wild imaginations that are already showing through. And then my Li'l Diva was so sweet and kissed away my tears as I wept for those babies and the parents that would go home with empty arms and broken hearts.

Not just sibling, but also friends...makes a mommy's heart glad!

Best of Friends

First visit to the Atlantic Ocean - St. Simon's Island, GA

Once again I was reminded that it was the little things, in the form of my two favorite little people, that are important. We took the time to Skype with Daddy today so he could see his babies (only two-ish months until he gets home - give or take a couple weeks!). We were all thankful for the short time we had to see each other and for the promise of being a whole family once again, very soon.