Category Archives: Life

Control…

...taken by Kristina Olmsted..

Sometimes?

Sometimes I make plans… Oh can I make some detailed plans... Plans to be productive.. plans to be helpful… Plans to organize my plans…

And then?

And then God shows me that it is not MY will … But HIS that I should follow…

When I don't listen to what God's Will is.. things tend to go wrong. Just little things.. but there are enough "little" things that I have to deal with? That I start to feel like a salmon … fighting against the current to swim upstream. When I continue to fight against the current… YUP… I feel stressed and exasperated! You probably know the feeling…

When I tried working at the preschool my kids attended? I was good at my job.. and I enjoyed it! I REALLY enjoyed it. But I fought my kids to go to school every day.. with a child on the Autism Spectrum.. with a side of Bipolar? Fighting them to do something that stresses them? It doesn't really work out very well. I kept having to go pick him up from school because he was overwhelmed. He was stressed.. I was stressed.. my neighbor who was putting him on the bus was stressed…

…and then?

Then one November? My kids were sick… the whole month. I missed a WHOLE month of work.. A runny nose here.. a sore throat there.. a cough… a wheeze… a fever… some bronchitis…

sigh…. and then I sat still and listened…

You see .. MY plan was not what God had in store for me. It took me 3 years to figure that out.. yes I said 3 YEARS.. I am stubborn and persistent. Once I decided to listen to the Still small voice of God.. I realized what He was telling me. HIS plan for me was not at that preschool that I loved… and I wasn't listening…

So at the end of the year I resigned… and I stayed home for the next 6 years. And God? God sent me family after family who needed in home care for their kiddos. I never had a shortage of work.. and I never felt like I was swimming upstream… Now it was challenging and was hard work.. don't get me wrong… but I never felt like I was fighting against every element to make it work…

With that slight change in will-power? I had turned it around, swimming in the direction God was trying to lead me… and BAM.. I was back in control..

Except control is an illusion… I never really had control in the first place….

50 firsts…

Someone once asked me what it was like to live with special needs.. Not just special needs really.. But with Autism (and a side of bipolar).. At the time I couldn’t really answer..

I mean.. With autism you know what you get.. Overload.. Anxiety.. Obsession.. meltdowns..

But add Bipolar? Then you add unpredictability.. When you get home? You don’t know if you have a child with a good mood or anger.. Or tears. When your son comes out of his room? You don’t know if you will have cooperation or frustration..

Honestly?

Honestly I can’t tell you if I will see my Son.. his autism.. OR his bipolar… from one minute to the next .. Especially in the spring months..

So to the question? I simply said, “It’s a roller coaster ride.. But it’s worth it.”

And that IS the truth ..

Tonight I watched a movie with my girls called “50 first dates”.. It was really cute .. a little crude in places (yes I am very old-fashioned.. I don’t like crude jokes).. But still cute.. And worth the watch..

For anyone not familiar.. 50 first dates is about a young lady who is in an accident that results in a brain injury. Because of the injury, she cannot create new memories .. So everyday her dad and brother recreate the last day she remembers. Over and over and over again.. When she meets a new guy, he has to help her fall in love with him over and over again.. every day.. Like EVERY day.. Eventually they develop a system.. They create a video of flashbacks since the accident.. Events.. Dates.. And eventually their wedding… And the young lady writes her thoughts in a journal.. A list of things she doesn’t want to forget.. Important things ..

Then she goes to sleep and wakes up refreshed.. And starts each day over again.. Remembering nothing .. Then she watches the video and reads her notes .. EVERY day ..

At the end of the movie? When we saw that she had to be reminded of her child that she couldn’t remember. As the credits began to roll, my daughter said.. “What a terrible way to live”..

But what if she never progressed beyond that accident.. What if she never stopped living that day over and over? What if she never lived ANYTHING NEW beyond that day?

That would be terrible indeed..

But to have flashback videos and hand written notes every morning.. To catch her up to ? To remind her she is married? To remind her she has a baby?

To be living that married life?

To be a mom?

That is being Blessed!

Being a mom to a young man with autism? Living with a loved one with Bipolar? It is very similar to “50 firsts”..

Every morning I wake up.. And I watch a flash back of important moments in our lives.. Important break throughs.. Flash through my mind.. Every day while I drink my chai? I read through the notes I have made through the years.. Only the important ones..

And then I set forth!

I set forth to make new Memories.. New important events.. I deal with each event as they occur.. Living in the moment! Never bringing the past into play.. Not remembering the mistakes from the day before. Unlike the movie? These choices are voluntary.. To choose to forget the bad.. to forget the mistakes..

THEN? Then I record those moments in my mind.. Sometimes I even write important information down..

Some days are good.. And just like movie? Yup.. Some days are a disaster.

And just like the movie? Sometimes the days are so bad that I cry myself to sleep at night ..

Then every night ? I sleep and the stress washes away. I wake up each new day ready to conquer some new activities.. With my flash backs and handwritten notes.

And we celebrate every “first” that comes along.. His first 2 word sentence at 5, his first full night sleep at 6.. His first solo cooked meal.. His first time walking to class on his own..  The first test taken by himself.. The first time he stayed home alone..

Ok.. You are right! There are WAY more than 50 “firsts” in our life.  But we celebrate each one…

I know that some people look at my son’s life .. At MY life.. and they think, “What a terrible way to live”..

But to me?

To me a world without my son in it? A world without 50 OR 100 “firsts” being celebrated?

What a terrible way to live…

at day break… 

.. when the sun rose..

I woke early today. Before the sun rose over the horizon. Fog clung to the Earth with a chill in the air. If you looked closely through the fog, you could see deer moving slowly and quietly through my backyard.. Eating treats where they can find them. With spring, my backyard is coming to life.. so the deer stopped often.. If you didn’t watch closely, you would miss the movement at all.

As I drink my chai, I find myself thinking.. Did Mary, mother of Jesus, look out her window 2000 years ago and see a quiet foggy morning? Did she wonder what would happen that day? Did she wonder why Nature seemed so calm when her life seemed to be falling apart? Did she wonder why God didn’t send a terrible storm? Full of fury and winds?

I have a long list of things I would like to get done today. Mostly getting prepared for the fun family celebrations this weekend… But it is definitely work.. and I would rather sit here.. blending into the still world around me.

The still world around me?

Being still this morning? It made me stop and remember.. Remember that right about now? Right about now Jesus would have been in pain and bleeding.. Jesus would have been exhausted.. And marching with a heavy cross upon his back.. Moving forward as fast as His earthly body would let him…

Yet Jesus never complained.. He never tried to get out of His duty.. Jesus knew what God was asking of Him.. He knew He was about to die to save us all from an eternity in Hell.. Yet when Pilate told Jesus that he could set Him free.. Jesus didn’t jump at the chance.. He simply answered…

Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” (‭John‬ ‭19‬:‭11a NIV)

In other words.. Everyone on Earth is only given the power which God has allowed them… and Jesus knew that He was sitting in Pilate’s office that day because it was God’s Will that it should be so..

So what did Jesus do?

He politely refused Pilate’s help.. He accepted God’s plan for Him.. He picked up His cross and Jesus set off to do God’s Work.

I am tired today. I fill my days with volunteering.. and parenting. I squeeze in doctor’s appointments and cleaning the house. I have chicks to care for, chickens to feed and laundry to wash. This week I have also had friends who needed support, children who needed to be listened to, people who needed prayer and meetings to attend. Not to mention fighting off a virus.

I literally had no time to write this week.

So today? YUP.. today I am tired.

But when I think about Jesus on Good Friday? Think about Jesus on the hardest day of “work” in His short life?

I think I will politely refuse Pilate’s offer to set me free from my tasks. And with this last sip of chai, I will hoist my cross.. my heavy tasks.. up on my back and set off to do God’s Will…

…because my day will be nothing like Jesus’s Good Friday… but it is what God has asked me to do….

Have a Blessed Good Friday…

My poor cup..

My cup runneth over…

I always tell people that you can’t write about life .. if you aren’t out there living it. So I am out there.. living life. But life isn’t just exploring, meeting new people, learning, having a good time, and laughing. Sometimes it is fixing things, moving households, comforting loved ones and saying good-bye. But I wouldn’t give up the “good” living to avoid the “sad”.

In fact… If my life was a cup? It would overflow frequently with all sorts of emotions.. all sorts of activities.. all forms of life…

For the last couple months, my cup has indeed been very full. My “living” consisted of hard work and a busy schedule as we prepared to perform Seussical the Musical at our High School.. During this time, my daughter found that Dr. Seuss must have agreed with our family’s philosophy.. because she found this among his many famous quotes…

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”  Dr. Seuss

But sometimes I cram too much living into a small amount of time.. Or Life comes crashing into my schedule and overwhelms it. This month? My cup was definitely running over with Life. As much as I tried to stay organized.. YES you guessed it.. IF you came to my house during the Seussical shows, you would have found piles.. Sewing piles.. laundry piles.. paperwork piles… Chaos! All organized chaos.. but chaos just the same.

As Christians, we constantly tell ourselves and remind others that God only gives us what we can handle. Sometimes we wear it like a badge.. sometimes I use it as a cattle prod.. (to get myself out of good book… Or out of bed… or to leave that glorious sunshine.. to get back to work)… but sometimes I think we get stuck on “accepting” God’s Will for us.. Kind of like a “stop your whining” reminder.. I find myself forgetting that God sent a model for us when our Life Cup floweth over.

God sent us Jesus to model for us what He expects… When Jesus was not looking forward to the hard work that His Father had set before Him? Jesus was overwhelmed!! Jesus knelt in prayer and cried out to His Heavenly Father…

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42 NIV

This was not Jesus whining about hard work.. or whining because He knew He was about to die for our sins. No. This was Jesus being overwhelmed with the task before Him. What does this mean? This means that God says He will understand if we need to tell Him we are overwhelmed. God is giving us PERMISSION to ASK if a task can be taken away. We can ASK if He will heal a loved one.. we can ASK if He can change the Path before us.. The answer might be “No”… but it is okay to ask..

Then God shows us that He expects us to accept his Will.. accept his decision in all things. “Your will, not mine.”

God ALSO shows us through His Son that He doesn’t expect us to be strong all the time.. He expects us to fall apart when our cup runneth over with Life.. Then we have to rise.. brush off our knees.. and get back to Living.. 

 How? You ask. How do we know for sure?

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35

Jesus wept when He found that He was too late and His friend had died.. Jesus was so overwhelmed.. His cup of emotions ran right over the top… And He gave into His tears. 

This week should have been a relaxing week for me.. Our production was over.. the set cleared away… the stage clean.. Yet my calendar filled to the absolute brim.. My Life Cup filled with Activities.. Good activities… fun activities.. but definitely too many.

And then my mom called.

It seems that God called one of His children home to Him this week. While my uncle was in India.. visiting his grandson.. he had a heart attack and passed away. Now.. I imagine my uncle was one of God’s favorite children… Because he is an amazing man.. and I can imagine God couldn’t possibly wait any longer to call him home…

but still…

..still… My Uncle will be greatly missed until we see him again in Heaven.. I can see my uncle standing at the pearly gates.. inviting me in with that Great Smile of his… inviting me to stay at his mansion until mine is ready to go.. and especially offering to help me explore those streets of gold.. 

 But today? 

Today I think God will understand if my cup runneth over.. and I think God will understand if I ask that my aunt and my cousins have their cup of sadness taken from their lips… I think He’ll understand if I ask Him to pour some of those emotions into my cup.. as full as it is.. so that I might share this heavy task with them.

..but as always.. it is His will.. and not mine..

The small stuff…

In my life I ALWAYS celebrate the small stuff.. I make little goals and update them often.. When my son said his first 2 word “sentence” at 5 years old ? We celebrated.. Then I set my goal to using a “sentence” every day. When my daughter read her first book solo.. at 5 years? We celebrated… then we set our goal to reading a book (solo) everyday.  When my son told me he was mad .. Instead of melting down? YUP!! We celebrated! (I admit my son looked confused when his mom laughed and hugged him for saying “I’m mad at you.”) We celebrated and then talked about what made him mad.

When my daughter stood up to the bully who had pestered her for years..? Ok.. that was a BIG thing.. but still we celebrated.

Big goals sometimes take too long to accomplish.. and admit it.. If goals are too hard, sometimes we give up.  So by keeping my goals small? My milestones achievable? Yup.. I tend to celebrate a lot.

Which is healthy…at least I think it is…

As an author, I celebrate each milestone too.. especially with book selling! Yesterday Shadows broke through the ranking of 100k on amazon’s best selling ranking. Doesn’t sound that great really, lol. I know.. I know.. it sounds like Shadows is barely floating. But to me it is a small goal. Ranked #100,000 out of a million books? It’s the top 10%.. To me that’s great..

SOO.. Yesterday I celebrated reaching my milestone…

Today? Today I set my next goal to keep my ranking up to 100k..

What am I celebrating today?

Today I am celebrating that I am only 16 “likes” away from 200 followers on my facebook page.. Once I meet that? Yup.. keep aiming higher…. one teeny tiny step at a time..

I love celebrating the small stuff..

Interesting in checking out Shadows? Here is my Amazon link.. and where you can get a free sample. 

Faith like a child

Warrior child...
Warrior child…

One of my nephews is 3 years old.. Bright blue eyes, amazing smile.. Generous heart and so funny. And he has a tumor behind his right eye. It’s not cancerous. So, although it is scary for us (his family), it isn’t really life threatening. But he still has to endure chemotherapy treatments for 18 months. Treatments that could save his optic nerve from further damage.

6 months into chemotherapy treatments..? I have learned a great deal from watching this boy and his parents. You see this boy..? This little warrior? He has to do a great many things that are hard.. Hard and painful.. And sometimes just not fun. But he does them. He gets cranky, tired and restless … But he does them…

This little warrior accepts what he has to do .. And just does it..

Why?!?

Because his daddy and mommy tell him that this is the way to keep his eyesight.. And although it is hard (for all of them) they have to do it because they love him.

And through eye exams, MRI’s, chemo port installation, long doctor visits, hospitalizations, painful port accesses… I have seen tears in their eyes more than once. But they keep on moving forward .. Having faith that everything will be beautiful in its time.

Why does this boy just accept all this as necessary?

Because his parents told him that this is the way it has to be. That in the end? In the end being able to see .. will be beautiful.

Does that mean he never asks “why?”

No.

Does that mean he never cries?

No.

Does that mean he never states he doesn’t want to go for more tests?

No.

But he still does.

Jesus tells us that he wants us to have faith like a child.

Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (‭Luke‬ ‭18‬:‭17‬ NIV)

I didn’t understand that verse clearly until this year. I didn’t understand it until I watched the faith this child .. This little warrior ..has in his parents.

You see my nephew trusts that his parents know what is best for him. He trusts that this is the best plan because they told him it was. And no matter how much he doesn’t enjoy it, he trusts that his parents know that everything will be perfect in the end.

Is my faith like this child?

Ha.. I wish it was.. I want it to be..

But sometimes my heart cries out “why Father?” Why does my son have to struggle so? Why does my nephew have to suffer these treatments? Why do things happen that make me sad? Why?

Then? Then I always pray that God will take my doubts from me.. Take them so that I can just move forward and know that everything will be good in the end.. So that I can trust that my Heavenly Father knows this is the only way. That my Father knows everything will be Beautiful in the end.

Only when those doubts are replaced by total trust.. Only then will I have faith like a child.

THAT is what I have learned from watching my little warrior.

Don’t go in there..

IMG_9128

My adrenaline was pumping (pretty healthily, I may add) this morning as I drove along the snow covered roads. A couple of the drifted areas were enough to make me hold my breath. By the time I arrived at my kids’ school to drop them off, I was exhausted.

That first snowy drive of the season is always the worst… but after today? After today I will be used to it… Slow and steady will get me there… Slow and steady will keep us safe.

Snowy roads are NOT the roads I dread though.

Nope..

The road conditions I wish I could avoid completely would be fog.

Fog? you ask. (I saw you raise your eyebrow)..

Yes fog!!!

You see snow covered roads make you prepare for battle… You know to leave early… you know to drive slower… no sudden steering changes… no sudden stopping… You basically leave the house with a complete manual on how to win against the snowy road conditions. And?!? And you can see where you are going.. what you are up against.

But with fog?

Yes fog is beautiful!  It is so neat to be able to walk “among the clouds”.. while keeping your feet planted firmly on the ground. It is so cool to run your hands through the heavenly clouds and see what the “heavens” feels like.  You look out the window and those clouds, from the heavens above, give the world around you an unearthly look and feel. It’s eerie and spooky.. but still kind of cool.

But that isn’t why I don’t like to drive in fog… it’s not that it creeps me out.

When you drive in the snow.. you at least have partial visibility of what you are up against. You can be prepared.

With fog?

With fog you have nothing. You don’t leave the driveway with a game plan, a battle manual…

You have no idea what is up ahead… so how can you prepare? Sometimes I pause at the end of my driveway.. take a deep breath… and breathe a prayer to God that I am putting our lives .. and my car in His capable hands. Because to me? To me.. driving in Fog is the ultimate leap of Faith.

It is the ultimate reminder that we are not the ones in control.

Everything can change in the blink of an eye..

Then?!? Then prepared to drive by Faith… I pull my car onto the fog enclosed road.

You know that part in a suspense movie?!? The part where the kids are looking for their lost friend and they know the answer lays down that foggy path to the creepy house? And you are yelling at them NOT TO GO IN THERE.. but still they tiptoe forward.. Tiptoeing in hopes to sneak past any danger.. tiptoeing because their brains are telling them the same thing.. whispering “don’t go in there”, over the loud pounding heartbeats.. Tiptoeing because they don’t want to go down that road at all…

That is what I feel like starting down that foggy road.. “Let’s not do this,” my heart whispers.. “who knows what we will encounter?” and then “what if we aren’t prepared? Maybe we should just stay to home..”

That is where the prayer of Faith comes in…. I simply pray that God takes my doubts away so that I can be prepared to meet what ever curve, puddle, branch, stop or deer God has chosen to be in my path. To not be so wrapped up in the “What if’s” that my mind will be clear for the actually obstacles as they appear through the fog.

A prayer for clear headed faith.. for a drive in Faith….

Fog covered roads are like our future.. all we can see is what is immediately before us.. like the next 15 mins.

We can take care of those 15 mins.. take care of those immediate needs. But beyond that? Beyond that you are operating on faith. You can apply this concept to anything in your life.

Especially parenting.. As you driving along that foggy road of parenting.. with your children safely buckled in the backseat? Here comes a sharp right hand curve.. SPECIAL NEEDS…  Next comes something blocking your path.. branches, water puddle.. or a cow… and you have to stop and clear the path… EMERGENCY SURGERY… Or a detour sign. A sign pointing away from the easy road ahead and telling you to go down the road less travelled by.. SPECIAL DIETS. Or my personal fear.. a washed away road (a cliff)… When you chose the wrong road and now you have to turn your car around.. like when we chose the wrong Meds to treat my son’s mood disorder.

The marriage road is equally foggy.. you could encounter financial difficulties, parenting struggles.. along with finding old baggage in the road ahead….

On your career path you encounter disinterest, promotions, layoffs, new bosses…

YUP.. When you drive on ANY road through life.. it is exactly like that foggy road… You drive it by Faith. You drive knowing that you are not in control.. only God is.

This year I published a book.

Writing has been my whole life.. publishing a book is the ultimate dream. But when I headed down that publishing road?

You guess it…

When I pulled up to the beginning of that fog covered road to publishing a book? I paused.. (Ok.. really I didn’t just pause.. I put my car in park… I got out and walked around to the front of my car… then I knelt down in fear.. staring out into the eerie white clouds blocking my view.  Like if I stared long enough, God would make a break in the fog and let me see the end of the road. But then I got back in my car…) I took a deep breath (or two..)… and breathed a prayer to God to help me trust Him..  A prayer telling God that I was placing my book into his capable hands to do with as He willed.

Was that easy?

Ahhh.. no…

In theory? In theory every Christian will tell you they trust God to steer their life according to His Will. But it is still hard. I want to plead with God to help my book to sell REALLY WELL because I have a message to tell. I want to argue that I believe that girls need to read stories where there are no Fairy Godmothers to smooth over the edges.. no happily ever afters awaiting in the wings… That girls need to see examples of how relationships and marriage are hard work.. acts of faith.. acts of love.. but are completely worth it..

With the financial commitment and the time commitment of publishing looming in the fog? What if God doesn’t want to use my lifetime’s work RIGHT NOW? Or what if He doesn’t want to use it at all? What if I put my best work forward and it isn’t good enough? These are the fears that all of us face.. The fear of the foggy path… HOW WILL THIS END?

SHOULD I GO IN THERE??

..and your heart full of dread whispering to you.. “Don’t do it. Don’t go down that path… it may not be worth it.”

So why would I do it? Why would I get into my car .. and inch down that foggy road? Driving only by Faith alone?

Because of a promise God made me..

A promise God made to all of us…

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

This is the promise I have built my world around this year.. The promise that powers my car as I drive down that foggy road.. and it is the promise that I built my book around.

Yes.. Shadows is about Emma’s journey down a foggy road.. a road she travels by Faith… knowing that God has a plan for her.. a plan that she knows NOTHING about.. only that the path will be hard and full of intense emotions and choices… but in the end?  In the end, God’s plan for Emma does not harm her.. it makes her stronger… and it gives her a future. A future full of hope. Not a happily ever after ending! Why? Because there is always another foggy road.. always another walk of Faith..

So if I want my book about taking that first step of Faith.. onto that foggy road.. to succeed??

How can I not take those steps of faith myself?

Be prepared..

IMG_6998Ever since the day my daughter was born, she has proven to be unfailingly … unpredictable. If I thought she would act a certain way, she would always pick the other. If I thought she would do great at something, she would refuse to try. She was SO unpredictable.. it was almost predictable..

As a young mother, I decided I was going to rock my infant daughter to sleep every night (because my wise mother had not allowed us to rock our baby brothers)… At 3 weeks old? At 3 weeks old, my daughter decided she had enough of that. She screamed until I laid her in her bed. She peacefully fell asleep on her own. This pattern continued with having to feed herself.. dress herself.. pick her own clothes. What ever I thought she would choose? She would suddenly chose something else.

I decided early on.. I was going to have to be prepared for anything.

My motto became… BE PREPARED!

I remember one camping trip fondly. My daughter was 2.. and fairer than any child I had ever seen. So I dressed her in a swimsuit.. in case she got wet in the wash tubs again.. or got too close to the water pumps… or “accidentally” spilled her juice on her clothes again. Then I slathered her from head to toe in a strong sunscreen.. that way I wouldn’t have to call out to her to stay in the shade.  Setting her down outside the tent, I then sprayed her with bug spray .. so the mosquitoes wouldn’t carry her away.

With a nod of satisfaction… satisfied that I had been as prepared as I possibly could be.. I turned back into the tent to prepare my second born.. my easy going son.

I had only JUST started dressing my son… when the laughter started. I am not talking about cute giggles. I don’t even mean a short laugh of amusement… This was full blown laughter.. and it was coming from the adults in our camping group. Trying to catch his breath, my husband called out, “Hey honey.. come here a minute… and… and bring the camera.”

Scrambling toward the door… I stepped outside to see my beautiful blond haired child.. covered in black dirt… from head to toe. While I was preparing to protect my daughter’s porcelain complexion, I happened to create the perfect glue. So perfect in fact, that when she laid down and rolled around in that dark sandy black soil? It stuck instantly to her.

And in the middle of that dirt caked face? A beautiful smile…

So I laughed with my family.. and reached for the camera. But I vowed.. I would be better prepared next time.

Then one night, I tucked my second grade daughter into bed.. and reached for the book on her night stand. Startled, I realized it wasn’t the same book that I had been reading to her.. It wasn’t the book I had been reading to her every night for the last week..one chapter at a time.

“Where is the book we were reading yesterday?” I asked her, confused.

“Oh I finished that one .. that is the next one in the series,” she replied nonchalantly.

“You finished it?” I repeated, still confused. “How? We only read chapter 10 last night..”

Taking a deep patient breath, my daughter replied.. “You left off where it was getting good.. I had to know how it would end. So I took it to school today,” she finished with a shrug.

“But we were reading it together,” I stated bewildered.

“You go ahead and finish it,” she encouraged. “But tonight you can start this one.” Pointing to the book I held in my hand.

In that moment? In that moment, I realized I was never going to be fully prepared. I was always going to be surprised by her.

So I decided…

I would go on being prepared.. but I needed to let the control go. Or at least the illusion of control. You see?!?  I never really had control. And I knew that I needed to just let the rest go.. I needed to let the NEED to feel prepared for ANYthing go.. and just lean on faith.

Now that my daughter is a teenager.. YUP.. she is still unpredictable.. But she no longer surprises me every time. We have come to expect her to be unpredictable. Always taking her two choices.. knowing that she will choose the only option we didn’t offer… We have just come to expect it.

So my new motto has become.. BE prepared and leave the rest to God..

This works for me.. most of the time. I still prepare myself for several scenarios… and occasionally I am still surprised by the unexpected. And occasionally? Occasionally, I am unprepared for it.

No matter how many times I talk myself through it? I am always surprised when someone lets me down. When someone that I look up to, behaves in a way I could not predict… in a way that disappoints me… it always takes me by surprise. I have to force myself to give that surprise back to God.. and to lean on faith. Faith that THAT person is dealing with unpredictable surprises of their own. The faith that everyone needs understanding.

It works well.. until the next time.

Recently, my family had something happen.. that none of us were expecting.. and we certainly weren’t prepared.

My youngest brother and his wife have a 3 year old son. Beautiful 3 year old boy.. with a beautiful soul.  As he progressed through his “terrible” 3’s? We, as a family, prepared to help guide the independence.. we prepared to keep a straight face when funny sassafras came out of his independent mouth… we prepared to pretend to be firm when needed. We all want this amazing boy to be the BEST that he can possibly be.. so we prepared to support his parents when needed.

But we prepared for the wrong thing…

My nephew was diagnosed with NF this spring. NF stands for Neurofibromatosis. A genetic disorder that we all believed to be characterized by large birthmarks .. and cyst growth on the skin. Again we prepared.. we prepared to make him feel comfortable in his skin. With these growths.

But again.. we prepared for the wrong thing…

Neurofibromatosis (NF) can cause tumors to grow on nerves… and cysts on bones… and anywhere.. on any organ system in the body.

My nephew? Well this beautiful  3 year old boy has cysts growing on his leg bones.. causing so much pain that he can’t sleep.

We weren’t prepared for that….

Then through a routine eye exam, they found what the specialists knew could happen. A non-cancerous tumor growing on his optic nerve.. behind his eye. Non-cancerous prepares our hearts to not be scared. But in fact, these tumors are too risky to operate on. When left unchecked, a growing tumor can damage his eye sight. The solution?

Chemotherapy.

Our beautiful, sweet, amazing nephew… needs chemotherapy..

We weren’t prepared for that either…

I don’t think anyone could be prepared for that…

“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn; and a time to dance;”  Ecclesiates 3:1-4

God has never promised us a perfect life… and it is not even close. But He has given us other promises. Promises to give us strength.. promises that we need not fear what He has planned for us.. promises that all things will make sense someday. And in these verses.. He tells us that after the tears.. there will again be laughter. Sometimes that laughter comes in the middle of the tears.. like a rainbow in the midst of a storm. Sometimes… it’s much later… after the storm is but a memory.

I don’t think we will be able to fully prepare this young boy …or ourselves… for the next 18 months.. But we can definitely try .. The rest? The rest we will have to take on faith. Faith that God will be there and get us through what we aren’t prepared for. That he will get this young boy and his parents through whatever they aren’t prepared for.

I have a feeling that my nephew will be more prepared for his chemotherapy treatments then us adults will be. After all.. he has 2 amazing parents with a deep faith in God. But it is always hard to see a child struggle through hard treatments.

So this week? This week was my time to weep.. and it was my time to break down.

But next week? I am praying that next week will begin the time of healing for my nephew.. and a time for laughter.. and a time to build up .. To build up in preparation for this road we will travel with this beautiful boy.. and his parents..

And in 18 months… I am praying it will be our time to dance…

The year of the locusts…

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Once upon a time.. a long, long time ago… the locust took over…

Actually in truth, it was 1875.. and the worst of the locusts were only there for the summer.  So they should have called it the Summer of the locusts. (Just my opinion, of course..)

During this Summer of the locusts.. Farmers watched their fields of mature crops get eaten to the ground by black “clouds” of these locusts. A locust is just a grasshopper, right?!? Such a simple insect.. seemingly harmless on it’s own. But in clouds of 1000’s? Clouds that took five DAYS to fly over towns on the prairie? Five days that they blocked out the sun. In these clouds, the locusts took everything… Crops, leaves from trees, clothes hanging on lines, ax handles, fence posts… everything…

A tiny insect most often no longer than an inch and a half.. brought farmers to their knees.

If the locusts had just eaten all the clothes on the line.. the farmers may not have lost their farms.  If they had just eaten the ax handles, the animals may not have faced starvation.  If they had simply ate the crops.. the farmers may not have had to seek shelter with family elsewhere… But these small insects ate everything in their path.

Some of these farmers did give up. Total loss of faith. And I have to admit I can see why… Knowing your children have no clothes.. no food for tomorrow.. no way to chop wood to cook with… nothing to feed your cattle.. the cattle you were fattening up for market.  With NO WAY to support your family? Yes.. I can easily see why they would pack their families up and move on.

And still… many farmers did not give up.

Maybe their losses weren’t as severe. Maybe it hadn’t been wash day for them.. maybe their sheets, towels and extra clothes were safely tucked inside. Maybe little “Johnny” had remembered to take care of the ax and the rakes… sparing their handles.  Maybe they had already put up a supply of hay before the locusts came. There is no way for me to know for sure if the severity of their losses affected their decision to stay put.. and to have faith…

But have faith they did.  Many farmers picked themselves up and replanted their crops in June. Not knowing if the crops would even grow in the typically dry, hot months… Going on nothing but faith.. they re-planted. And hoped…

They were gifted with unexpected rains that summer and their crops flourished. Their immense faith was rewarded.

  “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten– the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm– my great army that I sent among you.” Joel 2:25 NIV

What a great promise that God gave His faithful followers… Those who showed faith and replanted.. God repaid them their lost crops. Those who lost their faith.. those who packed up their hungry families and moved on? They moved on– empty handed.

How could they have such faith? Faith placed in a God who admits that HE “sent” the great army “among them”? How can faith withstand that statement? There could be many reasons.. but to me? To me there is another promise that stands out in God’s Word.. A promise that echoes with comfort for me..

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also placed ignorance in the human heart, so that no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV

Why locusts?

On this beautiful fall day, why am I writing about locusts?

After weeks of not typing a word.. why are my first words about locusts?

It’s simple… this was my Summer of Locusts.

Now it is true I have quite a few grasshoppers in my garden.. but my locusts don’t really jump around and eat tomato plants.

This year has been long months of trials after trials… you know how it goes…. A screw in your brand new car tire.. unexpected expenses.. sickness.. medical mysteries… teenage “stages”… disrupted plans.. squash bug invasions.. a fungus killing off half your garden… delays.. watching a child suffer… and funerals.

As I watch the world around me.. I see that I am not the only one suffering from Locusts. A young family buried their newborn..  A beautiful soul called out for prayers as her father slowly left this world.. My whole family grieved when my uncle was unexpectedly called home.. a beloved sister in law lost both of her parents within months of each other and watching a young nephew suffer.

Oh yes.. we have all had a Summer of Locusts…

And what have we done?

What have I done?

I hate to admit it.. but my Locusts brought me to my knees.  I am the farmer who collapsed to her knees in the dirt. Shocked as I looked out at the destruction left behind. Helpless in that moment.. speechless against the pain.. but not hopeless. I held that hope tightly in my hands.. fearing if I loosened my grasp that I would lose it completely.

As I looked around.. among what remained.. I saw things out of place with the grief.. things out of place with the sadness and stress.. Little things. Little things that show God’s promise to repay our losses. I watched my daughter use her voice.. her gift from God.. to comfort others. I watched people step forward to share stories of how my Uncle touched their lives.  I watched my parents tearfully give their beloved brother into God’s care. I watched with pride as my little brother fought through his grief and sang song after song with me in my Uncle’s hospital room… singing through tears and choked voices. Even through my tears and shock, I could see the Blessings God was repaying.. my book successfully being published.. a letter from our new exchange student.. watching my nieces and nephews display love and comfort to others.. watching them grow into their beautiful souls… and feeling the love and support all around me.

So I pulled myself to my feet.. wiped my tears and began picking up the pieces.  But I still clung to that hope. Holding it tightly in my hands lest it fall apart too..

“When are you going to write again?” my niece asked me one day. And then she asked it again the following day.. and the day after that.  She might as well have been asking me, “When are you going to loosen your grasp on your hope? When are you going to trust it? Plant it in the ground .. and with a little faith.. watch it grow…”

I think I will…

I think I just did…

..and in the end… it will be beautiful…

That still small voice…

reflectionsI have always believed that the “still small whisper” in your mind is God trying to guide you along the path he has chosen for you. I try to listen for it, I do… When I hear more than 1 reference to a topic, I research it.. When I get a strong feeling to call someone I do.. When I meet with obstacle after obstacle on a self-chosen path in my life, I start to wonder if God means for me to go in a different direction. My whole life could be described as “Looking for the Signs”… But I like to say I listen for God all around me.

Sometimes, my head is so full of thinking or worrying.. even while praying.. that I forget to empty my thoughts and listen. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10)… I am really good at knowing who my God is.. the Being Still part I get rusty on. So God sends Megaphones into my life.

For example.. I’ve had 3 separate people this week tell me to get out of my warm house and warm car, to GET a library card. NOW, my family LOVES the library. But both times we went to get a card, there were obstacles.. so it got shuffled to the end of my to-do list.. But after 3 distinct messages? I call that a Megaphone. So Simon and I went to the Library yesterday. He was so happy. I didn’t realize how much he missed it.

I have a few friends that are regularly used for Megaphones in my life. God uses one particular friend the most often.. why this one in particular you ask? Because God KNOWS that I love to hit the snooze button. What is a snooze button in life you ask? You know, “I am busy right now, I will think about that later.” SNOOZE “That is going to take some time to accomplish, I will schedule time next week.” SNOOZE… or my favorite, “I think you have the wrong number.” SNOOZE

My favorite Megaphone? Well let’s just say God let her in on my “snooze” life style.. so she is very persistent. “I think you should blog,” she says. “Here is a blog on why you should blog,” she says. “Here is a blog on HOW to get started with blogging,” she says. So I FINALLY get it. I hear God’s voice through the Megaphone of my sweet friend’s persistent voice. But still I say.. I don’t have time today.. maybe next week.. So what does GOD say?? “Have a snow day! Will that give you enough time?” (SILENCE) Should be plenty God, thanks..

So I need to make “Being still” more of a priority in my life. I need to spend a portion of my time, not just reading my daily devotional, that is zapped to my phone for my convenience.. but being still. Letting my body be still. Letting my tongue be still. Letting my thoughts be still.

I think I will start tomorrow. Because today God used a Megaphone, and I will be setting up my blog..