Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Land of the Living

A couple of weeks ago I was shopping at Wal-Mart (was that a collective groan I heard?) and something struck me. Everybody looked miserable. Have you ever noticed that? Maybe it was just me. Maybe it was just a bad day. Maybe everybody else feels the same way about grocery shopping and they would also rather be beaten with a big stick than have to go to Wal-Mart. At the same time I had that realization I felt like God spoke so clearly to me. I felt like He asked me why we were all so miserable. Of course, it's hard to answer for several hundred complete strangers, but then I understood that what He was really asking was for me to check my heart. I became overwhelmed that I was extremely blessed to have the money to buy groceries. That I am extremely blessed to live in a country where an air conditioned store is available 24 hours a day (even if it is Wal-Mart). Blessed to have a car to drive home and blessed to have a family waiting hungrily. I don't know the situations or circumstances that  all of those grumpy people were facing or what they were going home to. But, I do know that I felt intense conviction that we are spoiled rotten. And by "we" I mean all of us who live in this country and enjoy so many of the luxuries that we take for granted and then complain about when they don't work for a few days or maybe 20 minutes.

It may sound like I'm preaching now, and maybe I am a little. It's been a long time since I've really felt led to blog something that I really didn't want to. I just know that that very day God brought a verse to my mind and today it was part of my daily Bible study. I felt like it was a "Yep, this really is what I was talking to you about." That verse is Psalm 27:13 and it says this, "I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living."  You see, as I looked around at all of the miserable, grumpy people, I began to feel like it is an epidemic. Let's face it, we all have bad days. I have certainly had my share and this blog is evidence that there are times I just drag y'all all up in them. But the more I interact with people the more I sense that our bad days have turned into weeks and months and years. Bad things happen and we start to shut down. I am a professional at depression so let me tell you how this works: you get hurt, you start to shut down because it is easier to not feel than to hurt, then you either completely operate on autopilot just surviving your days, or the emotions are too much and anger is the most convenient emotion because it keeps people at a safe distance where they can't hurt you. Is this sounding familiar to anybody?

Going back to the verse, I know God brought it to my mind that day because I literally felt like I was surrounded by the walking dead. I'm not talking horror flick remake here, I'm talking about a death that is worse than physical death. Spiritual and emotional death. I know this may seem out there and crazy tonight, but the more I have experienced my own grief and trials and the more I've talked with others facing serious and painful situations I can't help but feel that we have been seriously deceived. Revelation 20:10 talks about , "And the devil, who deceived them." It's his job. To deceive us. To lie to us. To make us believe things that are not true. I believe one of the biggest deception he's used right now is that things are so bad. Our economy is bad. Politicians are bad. Families are falling apart. Everything is bad. And I really mean no disrespect to anyone out there who feels like everything really is bad in their life. Believe me, I've been there. I'm tempted many days to hang out in the pits of despair. Sometimes I play hostess and invite others to join me. I am not for a second implying that there aren't bad things going on. I absolutely know for certain that some of you truly are suffering in ways that others wouldn't even want to imagine. The devil's deception is not telling us that things are bad when they're not. The deception is that there is no hope. Life stinks so we might as well feel bad about it. I call this the Eeyore mentality.

I read a fictional novel once based in biblical times. The main character was a woman who lost her husband, sons, daughter in law and grandchild to a vicsious murder. The Roman guards who murdered her family also burned down her house. She literally lost everything. In those days they buried the dead in tombs, which were pretty much caves. This woman was so grief stricken that she actually moved into one of the tombs. She literally moved in with the dead. Her life stopped.

I think about that story as I see and talk with so many people. We've all experienced some kind of loss whether it be the loss of a job, loved one, or a dream. There are so many losses we can suffer. But the greatest loss is when we choose to die, too. We may be outraged at the idea of taking our own life and yet, we completely allow our hearts, souls and minds to die with that person or hope. We refuse to accept that there is still life. We move into the tombs. I can say all of this because I have been there. I can also say it because I refuse to go back. REFUSE. Kicking and screaming, I fight the demons that want me to go to THAT  place again.

I have problems. I've had them in uncomfortable abundance these last couple of years. Yes, I said couple of years. The truth is, I can't think back over the last decade without thinking of a situation or relationship that has been difficult. That realization has brought to my attention the fact that if I'm going to wait for all the stars to align and life to be perfect before I experience a full life again, I need to just hang it up! I have had a really great couple of weeks and when that happens it is tempting to think I must be doing something right. But the truth is, the only thing that has changed in the last couple of weeks is MY FOCUS. I had crept off into Zombieland with the crew of the miserable and God got my attention. He reminded me that my hope is that I will see HIS GOODNES IN THE LAND OF THE LIVING. Sometimes I think we suffer thinking that it will make us more spiritual. Let's all be miserable here because we will all be happy in Heaven, right? WRONG! God's Word promises, not that everything will be good here, but that we will see HIS GOODNESS.

We have been deceived when we think we won't have problems. We have been deceived when we think that God abandons us in those troubles. And we have been deceived when we think that a full plate of unhappiness is on the menu for Christians here on this earth. We are promised joy and hope. Why are we missing it? I think it is because we spend more time waiting for God to do good things and not enough time just seeking His goodness. The goodness that gives us hope and sustains us even when life isn't good.

I don't want to sound overdramtic here, but I have a tendency to be that way. Especially when it comes to this topic. After fighting a 6 year battle with depression God brought healing into my life. I went on to come very close to taking my last breath the day I gave birth and suffered complications. I then went on to stand by my Dad's bedside and watch him breathe his last breaths at the age of 55. I don't understand how things work. I don't understand all of God's decisions. I don't know why God has blessed me with health and many of the resources He has. All I know is that I want to use them for Him. But this is what I do understand after those experiences: If you are breathing tonight, God has a purpose for you. That's just all there is to it. It's a purpose only you can serve in the land of the living. We can't lose hope!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Better Than Ice Cream

I am in a state of stay at home Mom ecstasy right now. We were expecting company this morning and after hustling and bustling to get the house in order, we found out they will be coming tomorrow. What does this mean, you ask? It means that I don't have any dance classes today and my house was clean by lunchtime! I have nowhere to be and nothing especially pressing to do. Lunch is complete and Kate has just laid down for her nap. I've got a 44oz. Diet Pepsi by my side and What Not To Wear is on TV. This is all I ask for people. :) Did I mention that it is also absolutely GORGEOUS outside???

So, I thought I would just take a minute and catch you up on what has been happening at casa de Fidller. It's nothing too exciting, but that's never stopped me from sharing before. :)  Last Thursday I dropped Kate off at her "school" (Mom's Morning Out) and Josh and I went for a stroll through the neighborhood.  I wasn't power walking at the track, we just held hands and strolled down our street. Would you believe that I had never even been all the way down our street? I am a pathetic excuse for a neighbor. Anyway, except for coming upon a dead deer that scared the mess out of me, it was a lovely, peaceful walk. We crossed the highway and walked onto the beach where Josh is planning an evening service in a couple of weeks. He is starting a sermon series soon called "How Great is Our God: Experiencing the Glory of God in Creation" and we are both really excited about it. I think it is going to be so awesome to celebrate the Lord's Supper right there on the beach at sunset. It was a wonderful walk. Except the part where I almost busted it on the rocks trying to get back to the road. Mental note: Find a different exit route for our elderly members. And everybody else.

Friday we made a stop by McDonald's to pick up some hot fudge sundaes for the kids. Sarah made a 100/A on her spelling test and Eli had gotten lots of smiley faces. One day they can discuss with their therapist how their parents rewarded them with food. It seemed to be an appreciated reward. Eli informed us that he loved his sundae so much he wanted to marry it. Alrighty then! I could be such a great mother-in-law to a hot fudge sundae. I'm not sure where Eli's little expression of love came from. Perhaps he has equated the love he sees between Josh and myself to that of our love for ice cream? Makes me think of this song. :)  My little man has become quite the ladie's man by the way. Everyday he comes home saying, "You know that girl? What's her name? That girl in your dance class? I saw her today." Well, come to find out, that girl from my dance class has been chasing him. He told me she never catches him, but later he told me that she got one of her friends to chase him. LOL. Sounds like what I would have to do! I figured that one day Eli would appreciate being dragged along to the dance studio, I just didn't expect it so soon. Mercy.

That night we took Josh and Eli to get haircuts. My Mom had given me two cards for free haircuts at SportsClips. My brother's best friend's girlfriend's cousin (did  you follow that?) works there. Josh went back first and I was already dreading Eli's turn. His last haircut was the weekend before school started and he totally flipped out and I had to let him sit in my lap in the chair for him to comply. I was bracing myself for all manner of bribing, dragging, begging, and pleading when she called him back. Josh walked back with him and returned to the lobby with us seconds later. Just like that, my baby boy grew up. Not only did he not need to sit in my lap, he didn't even need us to hover. It was very emotional, y'all. An emotion akin to the day he leaves for college, I'm sure.

After haircuts and a trip by the Family bookstore we made our way to Josh's parent's house to celebrate Mammy's birthday. I was not kidding when I told you this is the birthday month. I've gained 5 pounds this month, but it was worth it.

Sarah picked out a card for Mammy all by herself and the kids signed it without me having any part in it. Nobody loves celebrating like Sarah. And yes, she always wears dresses for parties. :)

We left Josh at his parent's for the night so he could help his Dad at work the next day and then head to Tally for the FSU game. Josh was 5 shades of excited. I hauled the kids home and got them to bed so I could snuggle up on the couch with a blanket and my new mystery novel. I didn't last long though. I was wored out. I don't tend to be too scared when Josh isn't home, but I do admit that I seem to hear noises I don't normally hear. For some reason the puppies decided this would be a good night to show their tails, literally. They were so noisy! Of course I kept convincing myself that someone must be in the house for them to be carrying on like that. I kept rechecking all of the rooms. Except the playroom where the puppies reside. Finally, it occured to me that someone could have come in that room. And then, I found myself praying for the imaginary intruder in my home, because bless the person's heart that walks in on 8 dogs!!!!! I, for one, look like an extra in a Freddy Kreuger movie just from my brief moments of feeding and watering them. I must have drifted off to sleep while praying for the poor soul in my playroom that didn't really exist, because the next thing I knew I was awake and it was 4 am. The puppies woke me up! I promptly put them OUTSIDE because while I will sacrifice life and limb to feed and care for those I love, I do not sacrifice sleep!!! Just ask my kids! :) I let them out and went back to sleep just long enough to dream that I overslept and missed my dance class.

After dance class the kids and I headed back to Panama City to take my Mom out for lunch for her birthday. We had a yummy lunch at Newk's and then did a little shopping at Kohl's. Have I ever told y'all that if Kohl's had a food court I would live there? Well, I would. Anyway, after that we headed back to my Mom's to eat some cake and brownies.  I don't have any pics from that outing because Josh had my camera taking pics like this...

Well, that was the excitement of our weekend. I spent the rest of Saturday hollerin' at my youngins and trying to read the rest of my book. Sunday we enjoyed church and a downpour. Yesterday we attempted new pics of the puppies (yes, we still have ALL 7). I thought y'all might appreciate this one....

Just call me the puppy lady. This is my life. Josh took this shortly after I got home from my Monday ballet/tap/tumbling class with 3 &4 year olds. Ten of them. I couldn't help but think that this is exactly how I feel in that class, too. :)

I know this has been a boring recap, but I have to admit I am thankful for some boring, routine days!!! They've been better than ice cream!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


This has been a crazy, busy week so far, but I wanted to check in so you wouldn't all think that I turned 30 and ran away with the circus or had to be put in a rest home or anything like that. :) The truth is, I got a B12 shot yesterday and it finally kicked in today. I have felt like superwoman. I don't know how long it will last, but I will be beating down the door to the Dr's office when it wears off!!

I've set some new goals for my self and one of those is going to bed earlier. Perhaps I will not need b12 shots if I can learn to go to bed before midnight. :)  So, maybe that will translate into shorter blogs for y'all to read. Or maybe I will start waking up really early and blogging. Okay,  maybe y'all will have shorter blogs to read......

Anyway, I want to first wish my Mom and Josh's grandma, Mammy, Happy Birthday! Yes, we are still celebrating birthdays. My sister's was 3 days before mine. September is THE birthday month around here. There's a lot of cake eating going on around these parts.

Besides going to bed earlier and maintaining my blood sugar, another goal of mine is to be more faithful in my Bible study time. It is embarrassing as the preacher's wife to admit that I have not been as consistent as I should be, but I'm just being honest. And I've realized over the last few months that it has really taken a toll on me spiritually. I just have reached a point where I've discovered that I miss my relationship with God. Please don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that I had abandoned God or forsaken my religion. It just has come to my attention that I have slowly grown away from Him as I've tried to handle difficult life stuff on my own. I'm ready to feel at home again.

Josh and I have often talked about how we sometimes feel "homeless". Anyone else who is in ministry probably understands this. Frequent moving and never having any idea how long God will have you somewhere can leave you feeling that way. Especially as we have now served in two very small communities that for the most part are made up of  people who were born and raised and lived their whole lives in the same place. The awesome thing about experiencing that feeling is that God has really impressed on me that my real home is with Him. We always hear the saying, "Home is where the heart is" and we are told that "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" Matt. 6:21. It is my prayer that my treasure is my salvation and relationship with my Heavenly Father. I pray that my heart will always long just to be in His presence, and thankfully He is willing to be wherever I am if I seek Him.

With my baby ballerinas we do a stretch where we put our feet together and pretend to be butterflies. I always ask them where they want to fly to. They could choose anywhere. That is the great thing about pretending. But without fail they start shouting, "Let's go to my house!" So, we "fly" to their house and they instruct us to do things like feed their fish or play dress up. They could choose anywhere in the world (or out of this world!), but they choose home. Because that is what is safe and comfortable and feels right to their 4 year old little hearts. It's what they know and they are content with that. It's where the people they love are. Oh how I am praying that I will become excited and content in finding my place at "home" with God. I've experienced so much change in the last year of my life. Losing my Dad. Moving to a new town, church and house. Starting a new job. Going from homeschooling to putting the kids in school. Birthing 7 puppies. (Well, you know what I mean. :)  The list goes on. It is a gift to know that when life is full of changes, God never does. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Hebrews 13:8.

Being with Him is being home. "But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds." Psalm 73:28

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Well, it's official. I'm 30. Or according to Eli, 3-D. He saw me with this button and excitedly yelled, "YOU'RE 3-D!!!!"

All I can tell you is that so far being 30 is super fun and if I had known how spoiled rotten I would be this weekend, I would have turned 30 a long time ago. :) The truth is, my Mom has always said that I am an old soul and I feel like I have secretly been a 30 year old trapped in a younger person's body. Now I just finally have the wrinkles to match.

I feel like my birthday got kicked off on Thursday. I got a box in the mail that just made my day. My bestest friend Karen had individually wrapped 30 presents and sent along a cute little explanation for each one. The kids were at school and Kate was still napping and I had the best time standing in the kitchen opening each and every gift. There were serious things like a 30 day Bible study in Psalms and some pretty things like a candle holder and a wall decoration. Then there were things like a jar of salsa to to fill in for not being able to share our traditional birthday lunch at La Pinata, our favoritest Mexican restaurant. The first six presents were party supplies like confetti, a box of cheesecake mix and this cute button I'm wearing. She also sent some random things like hand sanitizer that attaches to your purse (when we were roomates in college Karen was the queen of the Lysol and hand sanitizer) and a sharpie marker. They were inside jokes, but I knew that my girls would be thrilled by those two gifts. I was right. Sarah noticed the hand sanitizer first and had it attached to her dance bag 20 minutes after I opened it. And Kate went right for the Sharpie. I don't think I ever told y'all about that. We have a sweet church member who made sure to give my kids gifts for their birthdays and she gave Kate a pad of construction paper and a HUGE.JUMBO.GREEN. Sharpie marker. All I could think was, 'What did I ever do to this lady?????" I later found out that Kate had specifically told this lady that she wanted a green sharpie marker for her birthday. It's what we all wish for, isn't it? Anyway, my favorite part of the box included the "30, Flirty, and Thriving" theme. I believe I have shared that "13 Going on 30" is one of my all time favorite movies and Karen sent me the DVD and also included a bag of Razzles, a candy that is mentioned in the movie. She also sent me lipgloss to be flirty (only with Josh!!) and some multi-vitamins to be THRIVING!!! I loved it. And I knew I was getting old when I thought, 'Oh good, I needed some vitamins."  :)  Everybody should have a friend like Karen. I mean, all of the "stuff" was cool, but really, just having someone to take the time and who knows you well enough to do something like that, it makes my heart full.

To top that off, Friday night my Mom didn't have to work so she offered to let the kids spend the night so Josh and I could have a date night!! I was thinking that we really need to have more birthdays because our last date night was Josh's birthday. We're going to have to come up with some new occassions. :) Anyway, we dropped the kids off and and had our picture taken outside in the very same spot we've been taking pictures for 10 years now.

We headed out for dinner and ate until we were afraid we might be stuck in our booth for the rest of the night. I was finally able to get up and walk to the restroom. I forgot to tell y'all about my "Turning 30 shoes". I found these snakeskin, wedge heeled sandals that were normally $70 on sale for $13  and I decided that I liked them. And they are SO NOT anything I would normally buy or wear. So, I decided that was the perfect reason to buy them and wear them. And I did. And it took me 10 full minutes to work up the courage to walk from our booth to the restroom for fear that I would fall flat on my face. It would probably give y'all great comedic relief to tell you I did, but I didn't. Thank the Lord. I did have a totally "13 Going on 30" moment in the bathroom. As I stood at the mirror reapplying my lipgloss there was a little girl about Sarah's age standing next to me washing her hands. She was wearing neon pink eyeglasses. And I thought about being that age and getting glasses and how I was one of those kids who was desperate to be a grown up all of the days of my life. I remember being that age and wondering what I would look like and what I would be like when I was grown up. Man life goes by fast!

Josh wouldn't tell me where we were going after we ate. His surprise for me was that he was giving me $5 for every year and he was going to drive me to any stores I wanted to go to and let me shop!!! Isn't that best birthday present ever? He followed me around carrying armloads of clothes and waiting patiently while I tried things on. He pretended to be interested while I discussed things like structured jackets and why I can't wear pants that have buttons on the back. My present from the kids is new perfume and we went shopping for that last. With no luck. We both just ended up with headaches and the mall closed before I could look anymore. Feel free to give me your perfume suggestions. I'm always looking for the perfect one.

We finished the night with a movie that ended up being terrible and we actually left halfway through it. Oh well, it was fun just to hang out in the movie theatre and eat peanut M&M's for awhile. When we pulled up at our house my heart was full again when I saw a ball in the yard and the bikes lined up at the door. I think the 8 year old me would have been very excited to know that she would spend her 30th birthday with her soul mate and come home to a house full of kids. (Or, at least their stuff. )  :)

I woke up the next morning to a quiet house and ate some breakfast and started my new Bible study. Then it was time to head out for dance class. It was unusually calm and easy and I felt like it must have been a birthday gift from above. :) Josh had already let me in on the fact that I was having two surprise parties. Yes, I knew about my surprise party. Josh got worried that I was going to make all kinds of plans and broke down and told me what was going on. Which was good. I like being surprised and all, but I have to prepare for the surprise, you know what I mean? I needed to clean my house and know what to wear and all of that stuff.

Josh told me the ladies at the church were going to take me out to lunch, but they actually decorated the fellowship hall and made finger foods and cakes and all kinds of goodies. I couldn't believe they had done so much work for me! It was so much fun though and I loved getting to just hang out and visit with everybody. I always feel like I'm running around like a crazy person at church chasing kids, so it was nice to sit down and actually have conversations with people. I felt so loved! We all decided that we will have to get together more.

Last night was my party. My Mom sent decorations home with Josh and let me tell you, it's really fun to watch your husband decorate for your surprise party. :) My Mom and Phil brought the kids home and Josh's parents and Mammy also came. Josh grilled steak, chicken and pork chops and made cheesecake and a German sweet chocolate cake. T, Mammy and Nana brought potato salad, baked beans and sweet tea. I seriously have never eaten so much food in one day in my life. I figured I needed to eat as much as possible last night because I knew my metabolism would be slowing down drastically today. :)

My Mom brought me my own box of cake pops! In case you don't know what that is, they are pieces of cake on sticks covered in chocolate. My Mom got some for Eli's pirate party and I'm not gonna lie.....I ate every last one of them that was left over. I commented then that I would be happy if cake pops were all I got for my birthday.

If you are in the Panama City area you can get some, too, at It's A Sweet Life. They are the greatest thing ever!!!

Today I am celebrating my actual birthday in true Emily fashion. Complete laziness!! We came home from church, I changed back into my pj's and we ate leftovers for lunch. I am stuffed, wored out and feeling spoiled rotten. Mostly, I am so grateful to be surrounded by so many loving, thoughtful friends and family. And I am excited to start a new chapter. I plan to live my 30's in 3-D!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

That Was Easy

Sometimes life is just not funny. Have you noticed that? I try so hard to use my sense of humor as a coping mechanism, but let's face it, some things just aren't funny. They are tragic and heartbreaking. They make you question everything you've ever known. They're just hard. So, I've learned that my sense of humor, while helpful at times, cannot be my source of strength and peace in difficult situations. But do you know what I have learned? I really do have a source of strength and peace in difficult situations. It is how I know God is real. There are so many really smart people who could out debate any day on the existence of God, but no one can convince me otherwise. Because I know. Because I've experienced Him.

Since we've moved I have a friend back in Mississippi who has commented several times on how happy we look in pictures. I feel like people think that we've moved into our little piece of paradise and life has just been peachy. And the truth is that we have experienced many blessings since moving here. We've also experienced some of the toughest trials and deepest heartache we've known. I would say that looks are just deceiving and we've plastered on some fake smiles in pictures. But the truth is, I'm a lousy liar and those who know me best will tell you that I communicate with my eyes. If I look happy in a picture, I am. That is one of the reasons it is so hard for me to see pictures of me during my depression. I can just look at them and see how miserable I was, even if I was smiling. My eyes weren't. What I'm getting at here, is that it seems the lesson God has been bringing home for me over the last several years has been happiness does not equal perfect circumstances. Anybody else been in on that seminar?

After yet another experience this week that left me feeling beaten and battered I realized that as much as I was hoping that when I hit 30 I would be out of the "decade of disaster", it's not likely. I'm not kidding, my 20's have been rough.  I would give you a year by year summary of all of the less than perfect, not part of the plan, way stinky things that have happened, but I'm over it. Really, I am. And do you know what has amazed me about the last few weeks and the trials that I've faced? I've been able to handle them. Where the 20 year old me preferred to hide under the covers or eat a case of honeybuns to deal with stress, I feel like the close enough to 30 year old me discovered some newly formed spiritual muscles. These muscles enabled me to DEAL with my issues and not ignore them or wish them away. I won't say I didn't cry, whine or have some pity parties through them. Maybe I can say that when I'm 40. :)  But, at the end of the day, I put on my big girl panties and kept going. It hurt. I didn't like it. But I did it.

Tonight in ballet class I was working on leaps with the girls. As I demonstrated a leap one of the girls sighed with frustration and said, "It's so easy for you."  I laughed out loud. One, because I am not a spring chicken anymore and I will probably be feeling that leap for the next week and two, because I promise it was just yesterday that I was 8 and  knew that I would never be able to do a leap. I didn't realize at that age that after 8 more years of leaping, ugly and painful as some of them might be, that I would be able to leap. And apparently make it look easy.

What is the moral of this story? Practice your leaps! Just kidding. The moral is that only the Holy Spirit can bring true peace and strength in our most trying situations. And the way that the peace and strength are perfected in us, is through those trials. I could read 15 books on leaps and watch 50 ballet productions, but the only way to build the muscle memory, strength and flexibility to leap is by leaping. Over and over. Even when it's hard. Even when it hurts. Even when they're so ugly they make you want to cry. That's life, y'all. I cannot tell you how many times I've had the conversation with God about how it would be so much easier to minister to other people if I weren't constantly dealing with so much drama in my own life. My Father continues to patiently explain to me that without these trials I wouldn't have a clue how to minister to people. My ability to recognize needs is greater because I have been in need. My compassion for those who are on the prayer list due to sickness has increased because I've experienced health scares. When I hug someone who is grieving, my heart is still grieving, too. When I tell a young Mom, "I know how you feel", I really do.

Some things just aren't funny. But apart from my salvation and the amazing fact that I will one day spend eternity in Heaven with my Heavenly Father, I think the most awesome part of being a Christian is the way that He grows our hearts and changes us in ways that only He can. Our trials have the power to destroy us. To bring out the worst in us. To create bitterness in us. But when we rely on His strength He has the power to use our trials to build us up. To grow the best in us. To bring sweetness where there was once bitterness. To fill us with such peace and strength that when we come up against life's toughest moments we can look back and say, "That was easy."

"An evidence that our will has been broken is that we begin to thank God for that which once seemed so bitter, knowing that His will is good and that, in His time and way, He is able to make the most bitter waters sweet." (Jonah 2:9)

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

James 1:2-5

3We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. 4Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
2 Thessalonians 1:3-4

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Here's Your Sign

Apparently my listening skills need a little work. My daughter has taken to communicating with me by marker board. Actually, it's our calendar, which you will soon see and understand why we never have a clue what is going on or where we should be.

I guess she took me literally when I told her I did not want to "hear" her ask me one more time.

This is my favorite.

Only my child would beg to clean. Is she weird or what?

Over the weekend she progressed to story writing. I tried to encourage her to capture her thoughts on paper, as it would be nice to like, know what the date is and stuff like that. But, our calendar is more fun I suppose.

I'm not sure if you can read it, but it is a love story about a girl and her dog. Me and Softie. Or Softey. We haven't written it the same way twice.
You can see from this pic from early puppy love days that I was in fact smitten. I can see where Sarah developed this story from. HOWEVER, as is the case in so many once awesome relationships like Brad and Jennifer or Britney Spears and Keven Federline, as time wanes on, you lose that lovin' feeling. Like, when they start chewing up your carpet. And peeing on it. And eating enough food to nourish a small country. Um, I'm talking about the puppy here. At least we'll always have our story......

Saturday, September 11, 2010

That's Something To Be Proud Of

I'm not sure if I've ever blogged about my thankfulness for the military, the police, firefighters, or EMS. All of the everyday hereos who do their jobs because they have to be done. Not for money, glory or fame. Just because it is the job that needs to be done. The truth is, there never seem to be words that are adequate. Everything I can think to say seems cliche or too simple. I'll admit, I still don't know how to say thank  you adequately. I will say that as we mark the 9 year anniversary of the day that changed our country forever, I have my eyes open to the sacrifices our military and their families make in a new and fresh way. In a hold my breath, count my blessings, spend more time on my knees kind of way.

You see, I am proud of my two uncles and grandfather who all served in the military. I am proud of so many of my friends and their families who have served this country in amazing ways. But, in the last several years both of our sisters have become "married to the military". And I don't consider those guys my brother in laws. They are my brothers. I joke that Dillon is the older brother I always wanted. (He's 5 days older than me. :)  And Brad, well, I could just pinch his cheeks. He seems like a cute, little kid to me, but the truth is that he has served our country overseas for the last 2 years. After a year in Korea, he and Leah are now in Italy, far from family and all things familiar.

Dillon has already fought for our country in Iraq and this very week will be leaving for Afghanistan.  Brad will be headed there as well sometime early next year. I know we hear about our troops going over there all the time, but for me, as well as for so many others, they are more than soldiers. They are real people. With wives and moms, and dads, and brothers and sisters who care about them. Dillon will be leaving behind a 2 year old and an infant. To serve our country. To protect us. To ensure that we continue to experience so many of the freedoms we take for granted and abuse.

Nine years ago I was broke down at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fl. I had left my lights on during class and the little red rocket was deader than dead. I didn't even have a cell phone in those days. I was desperately trying to call Josh on a payphone and hoping someone would notice my distress and offer assistance. I couldn't figure out why everybody was gathered around the TV's and very preoccupied. It took a long time for the reality of what happened to sink in. Afternoon classes were cancelled due to bomb threats at the capital building. My 20 year old self didn't get it. I couldn't comprehend it. I'm not sure the 29 year old me has made sense of it yet. I had no idea that 9 years later two people who I didn't even know at that time would have a special place in my heart and that they would be called to fight for this cause. I didn't know I was capable of having so much pride in these people. My heart breaks for my sisters who will experience so many lonely and sleepless nights.  I pray for my nephew who is a true daddy's boy that he will adjust while his daddy is away. I am thankful for the amazing friends and neighbors who have become family to my brothers and sisters and offer to do things like baby-sit and do yardwork. I'm just proud. Proud to call these people MY family. I sure would appreciate your prayers in the months and year to come for these special people. Your prayers won't be wasted!

Dillon and Jenny (not to break the seriousness of this post, but does anybody else think it's totally unfair that my sister looks like a supermodel?? :)

                                                 Brad and Leah (my other supermodel sister.)

Brad- Thank you for serving our country!!

Dillon and baby Lyla. Does this picture just about do you in, too?

Luke is going to be so proud of his daddy!!

Okay, these guys may never speak to me again after posting these pics. Just needed them and y'all to know I AM PROUD!!!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wild and Crazy Nights

So it occured to me tonight that I only have two Friday nights left in my 20's. It was a profound moment. Especially because I came to this realization minutes after excitedly telling my husband that he should go look at the laundry room I had just cleaned out. And the kitchen that I bleached from top cabinet to hard to reach baseboards. I suppose this is the moment when you know that you are officially old. Who needs dinner and a movie or a night out with friends when you can organize the laundry room???? I am just so excited that after feeling like a sedated turtle for the last week, I got a spurt of energy and motivation that came out of nowhere and shocked us all. It has to be my vitamins. :)

Isn't that the truth? I know I've never looked cuter than I did tonight in my yoga pants, ponytail and make-up free face! He forgot to mention how intoxicating the smell of bleach is!

Josh started asking me today what I want to do for my birthday. I honestly don't know. I'm really hoping next week will go better than the last few and I will be motivated to experience social interaction again. I just thought I would pass on this little tip to Josh: ALL OF THESE WOULD MAKE ME CRY!!

Just sayin'!!!!

I was thinking the other day that I really need to work on a new fall fashion 2010 blog. Because I know that this one made all of you more confident in your fashion choices. :) I haven't had the time to do proper research, but I did come across this amazing piece of fashion and I am totally asking for it for my birthday.

Isn't that fabulous???? Do all the Moms out there see the functionality of this skirt?  Transitions right from  church service to "Come on children, pull up a chair."  So perfect. I am going to start looking for a blouse to go with it full of pockets to keep condiments and Capri Suns.

Yes, I better enjoy these wild, crazy  nights in my 20's while they last.......

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Good News Is I Don't Have Anthrax

I feel that I owe my blog readers and any breathing human being who has been in my presence in the last couple of weeks an apology. I have been in a funk of epic proportions.  Debby Downer has nothin' on me. I feel like when I walk in the room it is like everyone stops for a minute long enough for the "whaa, whaa, whaa" to play. Plants droop, dogs tails stop wagging, and ice cream melts. Okay, perhaps that is a bit dramatic, but seriously, there's been a cloud over my head for weeks now.

I would like to blame it totally on some medicine I've been on. I was quite impressed by this medicine by the way. It's info. says it treats everything from acne(the 1 hormonal problem I DON'T have) to lyme disease (Lord knows I've had more encounters with ticks than most professional hunters) and get this...ANTHRAX. Personally that seemed a bit much to me, but hey, what do I know? Well, the fun thing about this medicine is that apparently, I'm allergic to it. Took me a full week to figure that out. About a week ago my legs started itching LIKE CRAZY!!! And it was always at bedtime. I would lay in bed and scratch like a dog. Very attractive. Anyway, it finally occured to me that this was an allergic reaction and I am officially not taking this medicine anymore. It also made me not able to sleep (whether it just caused insomnia or it was the hour long scratching fest everynight, I'm not sure), which has made me tired, which made me irritable, which always leads to me over analyzing what kind of person I really am and thinking that I'm terrible and life is terrible and the whole shebang.

So, yes, I would definitely like to blame that stinkin' medicine. But, there has actually been a lot more going on. I haven't been sure how much to share because for the first time in my blogging career it really hit me how the things I write could possibly affect my babies. Sarah is now at an age that while she doesn't read my blog, she is very aware of things and how people treat her and react to her. So I share this trusting that my wonderful bloggy friends will respond with the same love and grace you always do.

A couple of weeks ago we got a note from Sarah's teacher asking for a conference. With ALL of Sarah's teachers AND the principal. We were scared. I was scared because after homeschooling Sarah I knew that what she had been studying wasn't synching up with the school's curriculum and she was really struggling. Yes, I felt like a failure. I would say "feel" but I am really trying to get over it. Anyway, there is a lot to this whole story, but during the conference we became aware of something we had no clue about. The private school that Sarah attended for kindergarten and part of 1st grade had faxed her test results and grades and the principal of Sarah's new school informed us that on the spring test during kindergarten she scored in the 33%. My jaw literally dropped to the ground. I am not kidding. It was the teachers and principals turn to have that reaction when I shared that we were never made aware of that test score. I told them that as far as we knew she had always made straight A's and no one ever once communicated to us that there was any problem whatsoever. I could have spit fire, y'all. I am not even kidding. First, I won't even tell you how much money we paid for Sarah to obviously not learn much at all. Second, the fact that no one thought that was important information for us to know just blows my mind. That score could indicate that Sarah is just a poor test taker, that her teacher didn't do a good job, OR  that there was something serious going on that we needed to address. It really explained a lot of the issues and frustrations I had with homeschooling. I had obviously been expecting her to know things that she didn't.

I know this sounds like I'm trying to pass the blame, but I promise I'm not. I just felt like I learned a very valuable lesson in that we have to be involved and proactive as parents. I've said that when my kids were babies I kept up with every developmental milestone and knew exactly when to expect things like crawling, walking, etc. But as soon as Sarah went to school it never occured to me to keep up with what she should be learning as closely. Josh and I were both honor students and had very little trouble in school. I really didn't expect kindergarten to be that difficult, especially for my Sarah who pretty much came out of the womb talking in complete sentences. I also became concerned after doing some research that she might have dyslexia. I always thought that dyslexia was just reading things backwards or mixing up letters. Sarah has had difficulty with tranposing letters, but I learned from this site that there is a lot more to it. Her teacher will be keeping an eye on her, because some of the symptoms work themselves out around this age. After some assessments and discussing our options like everyday tutoring and other avenues, we made the decision to move Sarah back to 2nd grade. I say that matter of factly, like it is no big deal, but it has been a very big deal. It has consumed my thoughts and kept me awake at night (that and my itchy legs). I've cried and cried and cried some more. I've been angry. I've cried in front of teachers and guidance counselors and principals. I've felt like a failure. Let's face it, you never see a bumper sticker that says "My child had to be moved back a grade because my homeschooling stunk". But, the more I dealt with it and prayed about it and, yep, cried about it, the clearer it became. Of course I had the normal fears of how it would affect Sarah's self-esteem and would she make new friends (bless her heart, it's hard enough to move and start in a new class once, not to mention twice!) But at the end of the day I knew my biggest issue was pride. I'm sure that any parent in this position would feel some responsibility, but knowing that you were homeschooling, you were the one soley responsible for your child's education. It's been devastating. The way my heart has hurt over this has been one of the most painful things I've experienced, and if you know what this last year of my life has been like you know that is saying a lot. I finally concluded that when I questioned what to do the biggest hang up everytime was my pride. And.....I had to get over it. No question about it. I think one of the greatest things about being a Mom is that it has taught me that it doesn't matter how things look, it doesn't matter what people might think or say, the only thing that matters is doing what is right for your kids. Amen.

So, today was Sarah's first day in 2nd grade. She loved it. She has an awesome teacher and knows several other 2nd graders from church. I worried how her friends in 3rd grade would react, but they are all jealous that Sarah gets to have their favorite teacher. :) We are all breathing a little easier tonight that the decision has been made and the hard part is over.

So, that is one of the things that has been weighing on me lately, putting me in my Debby the Downer state. Tonight, I feel like a 1,000 pounds have been lifted off of me. Now that Sarah is successfully settled in 2nd grade and I've quit taking that crazy medicine, I am hoping to get some sleep tonight. Wish me luck!

I leave you with a quote that sums up this whole experience for me:

"You must accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and the best you have to give." - Eleanor Roosevelt

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

She Did The Best She Could

I think I've talked about this before, but when we were living in Mississippi we lived across the street from the cemetary. And for some reason (most likely the lack of other entertainment) when friends or family would visit, they liked to tour the cemetary. My mother-in-law once discovered a headstone that said, "She did the best she could." Bless her heart. We laughed about it, but deep down I felt so bad for that lady. I wondered if she left this earth feeling like her best was good enough.

I usually have a lot to say, but not tonight. I just have questions. And not rhetorical. I'd really love to know what you think. Here goes:

1. How do you know what your best is?
2. How do you always know that you're doing your best?
3. What do you do if your idea of your best and other people's ideas of the best don't line up?
4. What if your best isn't good enough and it affects other people?
5. How do you handle dealing with the fact that maybe you haven't done your best?

Just curious...

Sunday, September 5, 2010


My rough week this last week had a lot to do with dealing with a yucky issue called pride. Eventually I am hoping to be able to share an amazing story about how much I've grown and what I've learned. For now, I'm going to focus on the good kind of pride. The Mama kind of pride. I hope you don't mind. They're my babies and I'll brag if I want to. :)

First, I wanted to share something that just made my day yesterday. For anyone living under a rock or on another planet, college football started this weekend. That meant a trip to PC to watch the game with Josh's family and my Mom and brother. If I can be completely honest, I've been dreading football season. A lot. And not for the usual reasons, like, not getting to watch what I want on TV. You see, my Dad was the.BIGGEST.FOOTBALL.FAN.EVER. Hands down. My Daddy loved family and football and he loved them big. I think football season may be tougher than his birthday and all holidays put together. To me, football=my Daddy. When I was away at college the only thing that made me homesick was football on the TV on weekends. I can't explain it. It's just one of those things. I am still totally clueless about football despite my Dad's continuous efforts to educate me, but I always said that since I couldn't play football I did the next best thing. I made the dance team and we performed during all half-time shows so my dad always had an excuse to be at the high school football games. :)

I say all of that to tell you that in addition to football season starting, Eli has been playing football at PE and thinks it is the greatest thing ever. As he was talking about it yesterday it made me a little sad that my Dad wasn't here to experience Eli's excitement or see him play. The Bible tells us there are a cloud of witnesses watching us in this race called life, and I have to wonder if there is also a crowd of grandparents checking in on PE and dance classes. I like to think so. :) Eli drew this picture and it just melted my heart and  made me think that Pappy would be so proud.

This is Eli in his football gear. And, according to him, his little brother, who is also named Eli??????? NO! I am not making any announcements. I have no idea where that came from! Josh asked if we should adopt Eli Manning. I told him Eli Manning needs to adopt us!!!

Sarah made me equally proud tonight. It has been a long time since I've had all 3 of my children in church. Our church here usually has a nursery for Kate, but not tonight. I had forgotten what a beating it could be, but also how amusing. At one point Kate kept walking to the pew in front of us and I caught Eli doing that fingers to the eyes and then pointing at Kate thing, as in, "I've got my eye on you." Cracked me up! On a more positive, spiritual note, Sarah composed a praise chorus. Or as she calls it "The Song".

Man, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to see my firstborn express her love for HER savior (or saveryer)! Don't worry, God always provides a way to keep me from being too prideful. At one point tonight Kate was laying on the floor under the pew singing (in a whisper) "Gotta get that boom, boom".  Maybe in 5 years she will be as spiritual as her sister. :)

And just to top off my so proud I could burst into glitter ( I totally stole that from my cousin, Lauran) moment, when I got home from church tonight my friend, Ann, had taken some pics I posted on FB and made these amazing digital scrapbook pages. I love them!

Okay, I will stop with the obnoxious Mom bragging. Just had to get it out there. How about you? What have you been proud of (in the good way) lately? Your kids? Your job? Your favorite football team? Your ability to get where you're going on time? Seriously, I want to hear it all!!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

He is For Us

I love my job. Have I shared that? I mean I LOVE it! I had no idea it would bring me so much joy and fulfillment. Tonight one of the Moms commented on how much her daughter has improved and it made me want to soar. I've taught her something! Right now I am teaching 7 classes with girls ranging in age from almost 3 to almost 9. I started to wonder after dance camp if I would get bored only teaching the younger girls. I wondered if I would long to do more complex combinations, challenge my students more, challenge myself more. Honestly, I just couldn't be happier. The other day I was having an especially bad day and right in the middle of tap class one of my 3 year old students came up to me, wrapped her tiny arms around my legs and said, "I wanna hug you". That led to a big, class hug and I have to tell you, they will never know how much I needed it that day.

With my petite ballet and jazz classes I have the best time. That's the 6-9 year olds. Their classes are so basic (to me) but it thrills my heart to see them learning new skills and working so hard on things that really challenge them. I've discovered that I could do barre work 8 hours a day. It is so peaceful and relaxing to me teaching and demonstrating the basic skills. Even after so many years of not dancing, combinations are as much a part of my brain make-up as telling time or writing my  name. I remember being their age and having to work so hard to train my body to do things that seem so basic now. Turning my feet out, pointing my toe, keeping my leg straight, keeping my back straight. Oh, how the 8 year old me dreaded my ballet teacher pushing my hips back into position or making me stand up straight. But now, it feels like medicine for my achy, breaky body. I had no idea the corrections and teaching tools my teachers used so many years ago would pop into my head so quickly and leave my tongue so naturally. It's the basics. It might not seem exciting or important to others, but I've realized just how important my job is. The technique I teach them will stay with them however many years they continue to dance. Right now they are getting the foundation that will shape their performance in the future.

I just shared all of that for two reasons. One, I needed to focus on something good. This has been a very difficult, challenging, no good, very bad week for me and my dance classes have been some bright spots for me on some pretty dreary days. Second, as I thought about the importance of laying the foundation for these girls, I couldn't help but think how it is the fundamentals of my faith that pull me through difficult, challenging, no good, very bad weeks. This hasn't been a week for great spiritual revelation or personal revival. It's just been one of those weeks of hanging onto Jesus' cloak, squeezing my eyes shut and praying He will just make it all okay. I'm not talking about leaky refrigerators or hyper puppies. I'm talking about the kind of life issues that keep you on your knees and make you long for the days when broken ice makers are your greatest foe.

I haven't blogged much this week because, truthfully, I just haven't felt like it. I've been physically and emotionally exhausted. I've been anxious about meetings and appointments and I've pretty much retreated into my own little world. I finally feel like I can breathe tonight. Not because everything is all better or that I've gotten all the answers I need. I'm still waiting on some answers in several different areas. I asked Josh tonight if someone signed me up to be a character in a Tyler Perry movie and forgot to inform me. Seriously, the drama in my life the last few weeks could keep a soap opera running for at least a good year or so. Usually I am an open book about the things I am dealing with, but this is one time that I just don't feel like I can be so open. And I hate that. It's just the way it is.

The only reason I'm sharing any of this is to share something fundamental I've been reminded of this week. Back in the day as a baby Christian I was in something called Bible Drill and we were assigned a number of verses to memorize. My friend Brandi and I discovered a verse that completely changed our lives at the age of 14. Romans 8:31 says,"What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?" I have so taken that verse for granted for so many years. Just this week Josh and I were talking about an experience we had in the hospital shortly after Sarah was born. I had a meeting with the lactation consultant (who I affectionately nicknamed the breastfeeding nazi) and it went very bad. Y'all, literally an hour after becoming a mother my personality drastically changed. My whole life I had been a sweet, calm, non-violent person. Well, an hour after birthing my first child I discovered a part of my personality I had never experienced. That woman said that my child was not a go getter. As Josh and I discussed that I told him I wanted to kick her in the head. My poor husband seemed a little taken aback by my sudden violent nature, but the thing is, I really wanted to. It was good for that woman that I was in a hospital gown and that I still couldn't feel my legs. I am telling you, there is just something about becoming a Mama that makes you protective and defensive in a way you've never known. I should probably feel a little guilty over my reaction to that situation, but I don't. There is a part of me that feels a lot of pride in the fact that even though I have always been a quiet, go with the flow, take whatever happens kind of person, I DO NOT STAND FOR IT WITH MY KIDS!!! Just so you know.

I've spent a lot of time this week thinking about how much I love my kids, how proud I am of them, and how nothing hurts my heart worse than them hurting. And it occurred to me that if I love my kids that much in my human, imperfect state, how much does God love us? And not just love us, but feels protective of us? I know many times in life I have felt thrown to the wolves. Life is hard. People are mean. We all make mistakes. Sometimes life just stinks. And often we feel like everybody and everything is against us. I must confess that I have even felt at times that God must be against me. Or He must just not care. Let me tell you, He has assured me this week that nothing is further from the truth. I am completely convinced that those times we feel beaten, battered and forgotten, He is fighting our battles for us. He is for us. Our enemies and challenges are many in this life.He is for us.