This is Real Life

So, last week when I posted I very much wanted to correct the previous days failure. I did go to look for the woman that I should have prayed for but I didn’t find her. The girls and I circled half the store then some of Chloe’s friends found her and I let her go look at clothes with them while Halle and I searched the rest of the store. I even asked a cashier if she was there but she wasn’t. Chloe and I went again yesterday and looked all over the store again but she wasn’t there. The lesson here? Obey the first time. We’re still praying for her and I expect that at some point I’ll run into her again.

If I’m going to be completely honest, this has been a tough week. Our house has been on the market for two full months now and we’ve had so.many.showings. I know that I’m tired and off my game because for the last two showings I did things I’d never done before. I accidentally left hair in the bathtub drain (it’s embarrassing and I know they looked in the tub because the shower curtain was mussed) and yesterday morning I left a towel hanging on my closet door. Those might not seem like big things but quite frankly people are very picky so I don’t leave anything to chance. I’ve never fully appreciated how difficult it is to have your house on the market for a prolonged period of time. I do now and I’d like for it to be over with.

That’s it, this is what my life looks like right now. That and dance lessons and doing my best to make sure that Chloe and Halle get some school work done. Oh, and feeding people and cleaning and planting things. I planted raspberries this week- in pots so that I can take them with me when we leave. I’ve wanted to plant raspberries for years so I’m excited! And that is it. Have a great weekend!

Amy

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Today

Today I have to find a woman and I have to pray for her.

I’ve seen her at Target many times, her neck twisted at an awkward angle, immobile. Day in and day out she works, standing behind a cash register. I’ve seen her and my heart breaks.

But not enough to follow the voice that says, “Pray for her to be healed”.

Fear. Again.

It isn’t that God hasn’t given me the courage, He has. But fear is easier.

I can choose to walk in faith and obedience or fear and unbelief. I say that, “He is with me”, “He is trustworthy”! But my actions are the antithesis of those statements.

I can’t control where she is today but I have prayed that I will find her. I’ve prayed that God would work on her heart ahead of time. I’ve prayed to find her away from the cash registers so as not to fluster her (yesterday in my internal struggle I accidentally entered the wrong PIN # for my debit card and flustered her quite a bit). But ultimately my goal is to find her. To finally be Jesus to her the way He’s asked me to be.

I can’t heal her but I can be obedient. Today.

I’m Back

Dear Blog,

It’s been a while. Too long, actually. This self-imposed, I don’t know what to write so I won’t, hiatus hasn’t been good for me. Not in this area anyway. See, I’ve been waiting. Waiting for inspiration, then when inspiration comes I avoid it. For fear mostly. Fear of not being good, right, happy, thankful, optimistic…enough. Not enough. The thing is though that I know- I know- that this is something that He has given me to do. He hasn’t asked me to be brilliant or to be profound or famous, He’s only asked me to write. How can I obey in every area except this one?

I can’t.

He is patient and for that I am truly thankful.

So…now I write. I’m through trying to write the things that I think will bring the most people to see you. I’m done looking for approval. That is an unending abyss of unhappiness for me. The last several years have made me stronger but also quieter. But not a quietness that’s helpful. It’s been a quietness of fear. Fear that I don’t know enough, that I don’t make points well enough, fear of what others think of me, fear of transparency…just fear, of everything.

I’m done.

I’m done being afraid. Afraid of what could happen, afraid that the bottom will fall out again and I’ll be left a sobbing, heaving mess. I’m leaving that behind. No more fear of the boogie man around the corner. No more fear of what I’m not. I am who I am and that is enough.

Because I am who He made me to be.

Sincerely,

Amy

P.S.

I highly recommend that you watch this. A dear friend sent a link for this to me and in typical Amy fashion I didn’t watch it. I was at her house last night though and she made me watch it. Thankfully I have people in my life that aren’t afraid to make me do things I don’t want to do. I’d wanted, needed, prayed for God to speak to me yesterday, and He did, through this spoken word. It’s powerful and insightful and I imagine will be helpful to many of you. Ann Voskamp brings this word as someone who has truly experienced the depths of fear and loss and has come out of the abyss victorious. Be blessed.

Happy Holidays

Here we are on the cusp of the holiday season and I’m excited. I love holidays and time with my family. I love baking and singing and listening to Christmas music. As I’ve looked back over some holiday seasons that stand out to me, unfortunately what stands out the most are the stressed holidays. Like the year my friends and I decided to do a handmade Christmas. Did any of you get on that bandwagon? It was all over mom blogs in either 2007 or 2008. Now, if you love that kind of thing and couldn’t imagine doing Christmas any other way that’s great, but all I remember was being captive on the couch while I furiously embroidered stockings, sewed up felt pouches I made to hold chalk and little personalized chalkboards drying all over my kitchen. The morning I was supposed to gift them I realized that I hadn’t painted the backs of two chalkboards. I hadn’t spent much time with my kids because I was too busy and I mostly just felt frazzled and full of regret. Because spending time with my kids is the most fun part of anything for me. Considering that quality time is my love language it makes sense.

Last year I did so many great things. The holiday season started with Travis taking me on a birthday trip, then we raced home and my parents brought our kids home from Birmingham, then Travis’ brother and his family came for Thanksgiving and Travis and I were in the Christmas production at church, Chloe had two Christmas concerts plus parties, Halle had two Christmas productions and I don’t remember anything about shopping or baking. I did not come out of that season well. I remember crying a lot.

Now, if you’re reading this saying, “Um, yeah, that’s what the holidays are all about” then you and I are probably very different.

My mom will so completely knock herself out for the holidays that she zonks out on the couch at the end of the day, every day leading up to Thanksgiving or Christmas. But she loves it. It’s her dream to have her entire family at her house on all of the holidays so she can cook for them. I prefer to sit in the living room and talk to my dad. It’s not because I’m lazy or don’t enjoy cooking, it’s because I love interacting with my family and talking to them (I’d talk to my mom but it’s best to stay out of her way when she’s cooking). I get to enjoy little moments that I’ll miss if I’m not paying attention. For instance, if Halle pretends to be a turkey and does a silly dance I want to see it. It’s the moments I enjoy. It’s the moments that make me happy. I’d eat takeout or a sandwich if it meant that I wouldn’t miss those moments.

For those of you that are having a heart attack right now at my mention of sandwiches on Thanksgiving, don’t fret. The meal is important to my family and we’ve never had sandwiches on Thanksgiving- unless they’re leftover turkey sandwiches that night.

My point is that I’m just now realizing what’s most important to me. Time. Moments. Hugs. Sitting in the living room talking to my husband or playing Wii games with the family. We’ll have all of the “stuff” of the holidays but I’m determined to not miss the most important things.

Some of my time is already obligated. Amanda and Daniel are coming here on the 22nd and I couldn’t be more excited. Good, home cooked food will be expected and much appreciated. I’ve found that Amanda’s love language is breakfast (though you won’t find that in the book). Nothing gets my college age, engaged kid out of bed faster than a stack of piping hot pancakes. And bacon. And sausage. And fruit. And all of the breakfast foods. I love cooking for her because even though she’s always appreciated it, she *really* appreciates it now that she’s on her own, living 700+ miles away.

The rest of my time though is pretty free. I’m not in a musical and I have time to spend with my kids and husband. I’ll have the opportunity to meet my family’s needs in a way that’s important to them. Halle is the most vocal about spending time together and she loves baking so we’ll do that together. Chloe has changed a bit in the last year or so and the thing  that is most important to her is one-on-one time with one parent at a time doing a specific thing. For instance, she loves watching super hero movies with Travis, while shopping is what she loves doing with me. It’s not the same if I take her to a super hero movie or if Travis were to take her shopping. Travis took her to see, Thor this past weekend so I’m pretty sure I get to go shopping with her now. Amanda lives far away so we’ll do the Nashville/Franklin experience with her. Downtown Franklin, Opry Mills, and we’ll see the lights at the Opryland Hotel. That’s not everyone’s experience but that’s what she loves to do. And Travis and I will make sure we get time alone. We love to Christmas shop together. And what will I do? Hmmm, I don’t know. I think that’s the point of this post. I so often take into account what everyone else loves or wants to do and since I really want to meet their needs I don’t really pay attention to what I want and need. Or I let it go. Until I start crying. Again.

So, I’ll make my own list and I’ll share it with Travis and he will absolutely insist that I do the things on it. Mostly because he wants me to take care of myself but also because if he can keep me from crying then it’s a win-win.

I’ve also made a bit of a mental list of how to get through this holiday season peacefully and I thought I’d share it with y’all.

Be Kind- It’s possible that the lady that almost ran you over with her shopping cart has and hour before her babysitter has to be home and it’s her only Christmas shopping day. Cut her some slack and be Jesus to her- even if she doesn’t realize you’re doing it.

Be Patient- That guy that cut you off in traffic might just be a jerk or he’s having a really bad day. Either way don’t let it ruin yours.

Be Loving- Because it’s what Jesus would do and it won’t cause a spike in your blood pressure.

Cut People Some Slack- Most of us are after the same thing at the same time. There will be be traffic. There will be crying babies. There will be frazzled parents. The item you want will be out of stock. It all just happens but if you cut people some slack they will appreciate it. And you might find that it makes you feel better too.

Smile- I remember once that I was in my car and was stopped at a traffic light. I was in a bad relationship, my life was a mess and I was miserable. Someone in the next car over smiled at me and it made my day. That was over 20 years ago and I still remember it. You might make someone’s day.

If you find yourself being irritable, grouchy, tired or the like take a break. Get some coffee, eat a scone, take a nap in your car (one of my dad’s favorite things) or get some lunch. Being grouchy isn’t fun for you or for your family.

Make a Plan- Hate crowds? You could shop online or shop during off times. I figured out a few years ago that Franklin doesn’t really wake up until 11am. Since the mall opens at 8 am  I can have 3 hours of shopping before the crowds get there. Or I’ll shop late. I’ve spent most of my life as a night owl but I’ve been going to bed and waking up earlier in my pursuit of peace so that might not be an option this year.

I’m looking forward to the next few weeks and I plan on enjoying them.

So, what about you? What’s your favorite part of the holidays? What’s your strategy for making your holiday season peaceful? I’d love to hear it.

Peace,

Amy

Pursuing Peace

This year has been a whirlwind of things. Good things, bad things, good news, bad news, and lots and lots of really hard work. I don’t mind hard work when it leads to nights of restful sleep. When the hard work drags on and on with no end in sight is when I’m not a big fan of it. Over all though this year has been good. We’ve done many, many necessary things. And yet there are some really big things that still need to be done.

During the time that our house was on the market our house was in pristine condition. And I noticed a couple of things, 1. it was stressful to keep things that way and 2. I was much, much happier overall. I wasn’t tripping on things, the girls kept their rooms clean (because I made them), the dishes were always done and the laundry was always folded and put away. Now there are clothes everywhere, the kitchen is a mess with mail and whatnot on every flat surface and I never make my bed. I realize that these are two extremes and extremes aren’t typically helpful. I know there’s a better way and I’m going to find it.

Granted, there are reasons for the mess.  When our house was on the market I let the girls have about 10 articles of clothing and we put the rest in storage- yes I really did that. It’s because the house is so small that we couldn’t leave a dresser for each girl in their room while the house was staged. Since then the seasons have changed and the girls needed warm clothes and we’re short a dresser and….you get the idea.

I could give several other scenarios with the same type reason but I won’t because I’m looking for solutions. In my heart I’m really “over” trying to make the house work but this is the house I’m in and peace is what I’m after. And I’m trusting the Holy Spirit to lead me in this and bring my heart to the place it needs to be.

During church this past Sunday we were praying for many different things including the persecuted church and missionaries but at one point our pastor asked us to pray for that one thing that stood out in our lives that needed to be broken. And as I started praying for the one thing that stood out to me another word clearly rang out and it was chaos. Chaos was the underlying thing that needed to be broken in order for other things in my life to come into alignment. So how do I do that? How do I subdue chaos in my life? Well, one verse kept coming to my mind over and over, “Seek peace and pursue it.” The New Living Translations says it this way:

“Does anyone want to live a life

that is long and prosperous?

Then keep your tongue from speaking evil

and your lips from telling lies!

Turn away from evil and do good.

Search for peace, and work to maintain it.” Psalm 34:12-14

So not only do I search for peace but I work to maintain it. That’s helpful to me because I can identify a source of chaos (or frustration) but it’s not going to magically disappear over night. Or apparently in during the day either. While I was writing this Travis called and reminded me of 5 errands that I need to run. That isn’t how I wanted this day to go and this would normally frustrate me but during my devotions this morning the Holy Spirit reminded me that I wasn’t going to be completely organized in a day. I am thankful for that and I’m determined to at least make one step toward subduing chaos today.

So, today I will get a book case out of storage. It may not sound like much but since I have to run errands anyway it makes the most sense. I don’t have anywhere to put the girls homeschool stuff, so I’ve had binders stacked in the living room only to get knocked down, spilling their contents in the process.  I also intend to make a menu. My friend, Mary is a good resource on this. In the past she’s posted her weekly menu.  I think incorporating some of her ideas  will help me get my weekly dinners under control so that all of the Buttons are eating together at night, help me with my chaotic eating patterns (if I don’t know what to eat then I won’t eat), and it will help me get our grocery budget under control. I’m finding that this whole chaos thing is much bigger than a messy house.

Good grief, I’m being transparent today! You know what though? I find that the more transparent I am, the more helpful it is. Because I’d be willing to bet that this will either help someone or it will give someone else an opportunity to share how they’ve overcome something in their life. Because if I’ve learned anything  it’s this- it’s never just me. We all struggle with something. One of the biggest lies  that people buy into is that we’re the only ones with a particular struggle. That I’m the only one that needs to subdue chaos in my life while everyone else has a life that’s perfect. It’s just not true.

Today I will pursue peace. Even if it’s just one thing. How about you? Where in your life is there chaos? Where have you overcome chaos? Is there an area in your life that just seems out of control?  Let me know in the comments.

I pray for peace for you in abundance,

Amy

The Engagement

So it seems that in all the hubub of Travis being laid off and in being preoccupied with his finding a job and whatnot, I’ve overlooked writing about a very important event that took place two days after Travis was laid off.

Amanda, my precious first born, got engaged!

I introduced, Daniel, her fiancee, last year in this post. And honestly we couldn’t be more thrilled with who God picked for her. I mean, besides the fact that they’re both completely beautiful, they also complement each other very well and Travis and I love to see the way he takes care of her- even if that means protecting her from her little sisters. It’s possible that the two smaller Buttons have attacked her on occasion, all in good fun of course.

They may also be planning an attack for the next time we see her. Really, what good is it to be a little sister if you can’t attack the big sister.

Now back to the story…

Amanda and Daniel visited this past July in a super-fast, blink and you’ll miss it sort of trip. We hadn’t seen Amanda since Christmas which to that point was the longest I’d ever gone without seeing her in her whole life. But Florida is *far* from here and it’s difficult for us to be able to get there to visit.  It’s hard for her too of course but she and Daniel were able to shift their schedules to get a few days with us. And while they were here, Daniel asked for Travis’ blessing to marry Amanda. We thought it was coming so we were really excited that Travis and Daniel got to talk about it then.

Now, I’m hesitant to write out all of the details of the actual engagement because I’m 99% sure that I will get the details wrong. Amanda told me the whole story very quickly and considering I couldn’t tell you what I did last week I know I’ll screw it up. The one thing that I know for sure is that Daniel went through a lot of trouble to plan out every detail. There was some subterfuge involved with friends saying they were going one place while they were actually someplace else setting things up. And this detail I consider to be a big hug from God to Amanda- the very first time they met was caught on film. Yep, my girl who loves to be in front of the camera was surprised one day when a guy knocked on her door and serenaded her with song and guitar while being filmed. She didn’t know him and he didn’t know her and if I remember correctly Daniel did it for a contest or a school project (see I’m terrible with specifics) but their very first encounter was filmed. Daniel edited that and had some friends set up a laptop in the park where he took Amanda under the pretense of  hanging out with their friends.  Imagine her surprise when she showed up and saw a video playing of she and Daniel meeting! It was all sweet and if you want the whole sweet story, I’m giving an open invitation to my precious firstborn to write a guest post on my blog. Yes, that’ s a thing.

Amanda engaged

amanda engaged 2

amanda engaged 3

We’re all super-excited. The girls want to pick out their dresses *now*! And Chloe told me last night that she’s going to *demand* that there’s dancing. As if she controls these things.  We’re all really looking forward to celebrating with them.

After the Dust Clears

Today I’m sitting across a table from a sweet girl that’s wearing a combo of frogs and penguins- it’s a pajama mash up- while slurping coffee from a tablespoon. I’m not sure why she does that. It seems to me that it would be easier to sip from her coffee mug, but I’m not 8 so that’s probably why I don’t get it.

In some ways I’ve been thinking about writing and in others I’ve not been thinking about it at all. I often like for things to be resolved before I write a big “thankful” post so that if something unexpected happens I don’t have to alter things. The trouble is that now that the crisis is over and the dust has settled I have a whole new realm of emotions to deal with. Being human is much more complex than I’d like for it to be.

So, in the super- awesome, God is amazing category- Travis has a job! He’s actually had this job for three weeks but it’s been a contract position while his company has worked on the details of making him a permanent employee.  The company that he’s working for now is a global company, meaning that they have offices all over the world so there’s more to hiring someone full time than there would normally be. That’s why it took so long for him to be made permanent.

I’m completely blown away at the details of how God brought this all about…and I’m going to share some of those with you.

Travis was laid off on Friday, September 13th. I’m not at all superstitious but it’s an easy date to remember.  My first reaction to his lay-off was, “This is GOOD!” It’s a completely strange reaction considering that a lay-off is probably on my top ten list of things that I never, ever want to happen to me. I’m certain though that God was speaking to me in that moment. The very first thing that I wanted to do was to take the house off the market. I couldn’t imagine showing the house and suddenly the prospect of us selling it seemed like a terrible thing. Where would we go? The first thing that Travis wanted to do was pray. I was very proud of him in that moment and for many moments to come.

We did pray. And we did take the house off the market. I called our Realtor and Travis spent the rest of the day calling everyone he knew in the IT field, and even some not in the IT field, that might know of someone with a position for him. His days were filled with phone calls and meetings and that same week he had an impromptu interview. The following Monday he had a phone interview with another company. Which is the same day and hour that our Realtor came to get the locked box off the door. Which made Daisy bark as if someone was trying to break the door down. I thought something like, “Awesome. Daisy just ruined Travis’ interview”.  I wasn’t terribly worried because God had given us such amazing peace and I knew that there was a job for Travis but I want things to go perfectly. A crazy dog barking during an interview isn’t perfect. Blerg.

That second week was a bit more difficult than the first. Travis had talked to everyone he knew by the end of the first week so other than the interview he didn’t really know what to do.  He never retreated to the bedroom to lick his wounds and feel sorry for himself though. He did retreat to the bedroom often to pray.

At the end of all of it there were three possibilities that we were considering. At least we thought there were. At the very end of it there was only one offer on the table. And it was a good one. Better hours, better location, better pay, better benefits, better vacation time- it was all just better than the company he left!

And as it turns out, Daisy ruined nothing. Travis was having a talk with his director, who lives in Pennsylvania, and found out that his manager lives on a farm in the UK. So occasionally he has to put a call on hold to shoo roosters and sheep away from his kids or what have you. I think that was God’s way of reaffirming that I have nothing to fear. Oh, and even though Travis called everyone he knew in the Nashville area it was actually a phone call that my dad made to a friend of his in Atlanta that resulted in a job! Thanks, Dad!

And, in the interest of being real, I am very, very disappointed about the way the house thing has turned out. Emotionally I’m just too tired to put the house on the market and I have kids that are depending on me to educate them. I can’t focus on everything that I truly need to do and have house showings. I realize that we can and probably will put it back on the market in the spring but we worked so hard for this whole year and it’s just really disappointing.  It’s not something that I thought about during the crisis because in crisis moments the things that are most important rise to the top- food, shelter, clothes, etc. So I’m just now in the spot to deal with it- I think I cried about it for the first time a couple of days ago so this is a new emotion.

I am truly thankful that Travis’ job is full time and permanent tomorrow. I’m thankful for the deep, abiding peace that kept us every step of the way. I’m thankful that God always has a plan regardless of what things may look like in a given moment. And, yes, I believe that He has a plan for our house as well. He won’t leave us hanging. His promises are true.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for

and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

If you’re struggling in your faith today you should read all of Hebrews 11. It shares some of the most amazing things about regular people that believed that God would do what he said he would and the incredible promises He brought to pass.

Blessings,

Amy