My First Post of 2016

I’ve spent the last several nights lying awake in bed drafting brilliant blog posts until 2am- although, truthfully,  anything can seem brilliant at 2am. Usually that’s a sign that the things that are in my head need to get out otherwise I might never sleep again.

2015 was unbelievable for us- and by unbelievable I mean it was mostly, well, awful. I had high hopes and believed that the Lord had given us a clear word about some good things but as has happened many times in the past, those good words were a life raft to bolster us and gave us something to hold onto in the midst of really challenging circumstances.

I started the year with surgery and as soon as I recovered from that I hurt my neck. I’ve never been in that much pain for so long without any type of pain medicine. It was never ending pain & insomnia for months. I’d go to bed at 10 and still be wide awake at 4 trying to find a position that didn’t hurt. And since I didn’t sleep, Travis didn’t sleep. During that time I was at my wits end more times than I can count. I was exercising a lot, especially before my chiropractic appointments because I wanted to give my body the best chance of getting better. One day when we were walking, Travis and I were talking about how difficult things were (we were also being really stretched financially) and we recognized that this was a time of testing. I could see clearly that God was after something in us. In the beginning I had no trouble believing that God could miraculously heal my neck or for that matter, heal the tumor that I was going to have surgery for (it wasn’t cancer and nobody ever thought it was so we weren’t ever concerned about that) but I knew that God’s plan was for me to have surgery and that he wanted me to go to the chiropractor. Faith for healing wasn’t what God was after, He wanted us to trust him to provide for us financially.

Times of testing squeeze us and whatever is inside of us comes out- kind of like a tube of toothpaste. There have been times in the past that I’ve been squeezed and terrible things have come out- unbelief, doubt, fear, lies that I believed were true, a host of things that were just ugly but I don’t regret those times because I didn’t know that those things lived inside of me and I couldn’t repent of them and truly change until I knew they were there. Then the real healing could begin.

This year I was determined to be honest with God and honest with myself. In the past I have been a “pulling up by my bootstraps, forge ahead, we soldier on, put your shoulder into it” and whatever other strength cliche’ there is kind of person. I’d stuff my emotions, do my best to not feel anything and just keep going. And I did get through whatever ridiculous trouble I was in- exhausted and weary and sick. I was weary at times to the point of wanting to die. I’m here to tell you that is no way for a child of God to live. This year when the pain was too much I told God it was too much and He comforted me. When I felt like I couldn’t keep going I told God that I couldn’t keep going and He gave me strength. When I felt like I was never going to get better I told Him that I “felt” like I was never going to get better but that I knew He would deliver me because He promised that He would. In the past I’ve let my feelings dictate my beliefs and what I feel in any given moment may be the farthest thing from the truth. This time I acknowledged my feelings but declared that His promises to me are true regardless of how I feel.

And then one morning, Travis got the call that nobody ever wants to get. His mom was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and was given 6 months to live.

I can’t write about everything that happened next. I’ve sat down to write about it, Travis asked me to write about it and I’ve gone over and over it in my mind and I just can’t. It was too much. To watch someone that’s so vibrant and full of life decline so rapidly, to watch life being quickly taken away by cancer is too much. We had 5 weeks with her from her diagnosis until she passed. The days that I spent at the hospital were both gut-wrenching and precious. I treasure the moments that we cried together, prayed together & laughed together as a family. I saw friends and family that I hadn’t seen in years and the time I spent with them was precious.

The loss clobbered me both emotionally and physically. I felt shaken and had difficulty reconciling my belief that God would heal her with the reality of what happened. I know that God can heal. I had no trouble believing that pancreatic cancer wasn’t bigger than God.  I believe that God will answer any prayer that we pray according to His will.  I laid hands on my mother-in-law and prayed for her. It was a strong prayer, I felt the power of the Holy Spirit and I know that she did too. Even though she was on a ventilator, her eyes met mine and she squeezed my hand so hard that I knew she heard me. I know that God heard me. And He took her home.

After we got home we all got sick. And when we weren’t sick, we still felt sick. The loss hung heavy over our home and the cumulative effect of stretched finances, surgery, chiropractic, Travis also hurt his neck (which was bent at an angle like the Leaning Tower of Pisa when he stood up straight), losing his mom, and then Thanksgiving and Christmas was too much. I found myself panicking at the slightest thing. And once again Travis and I walked and talked. I came to the realization that everything was too much and so my body was overreacting to everything. After we talked I felt much better and much more calm. The next day I woke up feeling like I was getting a cold which ended up turning into bronchitis. My parents and Amanda and Daniel were coming for Christmas and during the week Halle got bronchitis, Chloe got pneumonia and Amanda, Daniel and my mom all got sick too.

The year that was 2015 never let up in its intensity and Jesus never failed to faithfully walk us through it. I was in the shower one day, feeling so sad about my mother-in-law and the shower is often where I end up crying. I was thinking about the verse that says, ‘…There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother’ and the Lord spoke to me and said, “I don’t walk you through things just because I’m obligated to, I want to walk you through this”. And He has not ceased to faithfully walk us through it. The years that I relied on my own strength to get me through things left me weak, sick and weary. This time I feel happy, hopeful and full of faith.

I’ve heard people say that “God won’t give me more than I can handle” which is a misquote of 1 Corinthians 10:13,

“13 No temptation[a] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[c] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

That verse is talking about temptation not the normal difficulties of life. Circumstances of life are often more than I can handle but 2 Corinthians 12:9 says,

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

As hard as this past year was, I’m happy with the way I handled it. Not because I was strong but because I wasn’t. He was strong for me and gave me the strength I needed to endure. I was, for the first time, honest with God and with myself about my weakness- I let go of my pride in my own strength and relied on His perfect strength. I pray that I always  remember how to rely on His strength because I never want to go back to my old ways of doing things.

I hope all of that makes sense. In a way I feel like a soda bottle that’s been shaken and ready to burst, spewing words all over the place. I want to write more about God’s faithfulness and His unchanging character. I want to write about His greatness. And I want to write about what color I’m going to paint my bedroom and about what crazy things I’ve been throwing in a blender lately (avocado-spinach smoothie, anyone?) I guess we’ll see what 2016 holds.

Blessings,

Amy

 

A Quick Update

I’ve been thinking about things to write about a lot lately but unfortunately I’ve hurt my neck and have trouble sitting straight up for very long. It happened a couple of months ago and it really is a fascinating story. Are you ready?

I fell asleep and woke up in the middle of the night with an awful pain in my neck. The end.

Don’t you hate it when stuff like that happens? You’re moving along, life is great and then suddenly you make one wrong move and it ends up being a huge deal. My chiropractor said that it’s a bulging disc in my neck and it just takes time to recover. That hasn’t stopped me from stressing and obsessing over how to get better. Although all that has really done is give me (and Travis because he is the unfortunate one who has to sleep with me) insomnia. So, I have determined to not stress about it, take it one day at a time, to not to commit to things I can’t do right now (if it involves standing for long periods of time I can’t do it), and to take care of myself. If I’d done that last one proactively then I would probably not be in this spot to begin with. I really should have gone to the chiropractor years ago.

But in much brighter news, I thought I’d update about how things are moving along in the new house and new city. I wrote this post last year about how difficult a transition I was having so I thought it only right to follow up on that. The transition here was really tough. Part of it was leaving Franklin but another part was that our life was still partially in Franklin. We still went to church there and our Life Group was there so it really felt like our life was in Franklin and we slept in Spring Hill. Part of our neighborhood is brand new, they built out part of it in 2007-2008 but stopped building during the recession. In the new section of the neighborhood we were the only the 5th family to close on a house and so all of the people in our area were working on getting settled which meant that the girls weren’t able to really make friends as they’d hoped. We felt really isolated and it made the transition that much harder. Finally, just before Christmas, we were having dinner as a family and the girls just asked, “Are we ever going to make friends here”? At that point we really realized that we needed to make a change and decided to visit a different campus of the church we are members of that meets in Spring Hill.

We visited, not really knowing what to expect but it became clear pretty quickly that we were going to end up making the transition to that campus full-time. And even though we were sad to leave our old congregation with friends and mentors that had meant so much to us I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Our family is THRIVING here. We host Life Group here at our home now and it’s something that Travis and I wanted for so many years but just couldn’t because our house was too small. Now, on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, people gather in our home, we share a meal together and ministry happens. It’s honestly one of those situations where you never know who could show up and some people have come with their lives in shambles and they are ministered to here. I can’t even begin to describe how much that means to us. At one time, we were the broken ones being ministered to in someone’s home and now they’re being ministered to in ours. Even though my neck/shoulder has been a difficulty this summer, God has given us the grace to host every single time and my heart is so full.

The kids are thriving too. Yesterday Halle came home from church completely excited because she’d answered so many questions correctly during kid’s church that they finally asked her to give the other kids a chance. She said, “I felt so honored”. And my heart swelled with thankfulness that my kid that used to be so shy that she would only scowl at people is becoming so outgoing. The girls get up excited for church when before they used to cry on Sunday mornings.

Chloe has a best friend now- the kind you have for sleepovers- and we have the opportunity to swap off driving with her parents. They took Chloe to summer camp and I picked them up, things like that. Plus she has a whole other “crew” and she’s so excited for every youth meeting.

Travis and I are starting to build relationships too and we’ll do more things, have people over, etc. as soon as the neck issue is resolved. I’ve been doing some personalizing on the house and we’re really starting to settle in. I love our neighborhood so much and I love our location. We’re just a few minutes from the interstate and we’re very close to the new roads the city has built to help deal with congestion. Spring Hill is known for it’s traffic tie-ups and not having wide enough roads but we very rarely have to deal with any of that.

When we first started the selling and buying process I was adamant that I wanted to be no more than 5 minutes from where we were currently living. I was used to it and I didn’t want to have to change anything about our life except the size of our house. And you know what? God had so much better for us than that. It’s amazing to me how much less stressful our life is now and how much more full it is. Being close to our church community has drastically improved our lives and honestly, I love living in a small town so much more than I thought I would.

I guess the thing I learned-again- is that God is so faithful, He knows what we need so much better than we do and the painful, difficult things in our life are many times the path to something so much better. I’m so thankful that we listened and that He brought us here.

Blessings,

Amy

P.S.- I did not proof read this post and I’m blaming my neck :)

To Love Like Jesus Loved

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I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately, as have a lot of us, I imagine. And my thoughts have led me to Jesus, how he would love, what he would do if he were walking among us today. I’ve thought of several stories of his life, how he walked among the unbelievers of his day and my mind wandered to the story of the woman who was caught in the act of adultery.

I’ve printed the whole story here because I think it’s important.

John 8:1-11

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

11 “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

When I thought of this story I thought of myself, 16 years old, unmarried and pregnant. In ancient times, Jewish people could be stoned for a lot of offenses. Yes, for being gay, or having an affair, or being 16 and pregnant. If I lived in those times, I would be dead and so would my beautiful daughter Amanda. That was the law. The law is unbending and unforgiving. The law brings death. God gave the law to the Jews so that they could see that they could never follow it perfectly and were in need of a Savior. A Savior who brought grace into the picture. He didn’t nullify the law–he simply turned the law around and made it a mirror. They had to look at themselves and realize that they also were law-breakers.

When the mirror of the law is held up to me, I have no room for throwing rocks. When the mirror of grace is held up to me, I see how very much I’ve been forgiven, and I would be a hypocrite to hold others to a higher standard.

The answer is and always has been Christ. He set such an amazing example to believers of how we are to walk among unbelievers. He broke bread with those that were considered the worst sinners of the day. When he was with them he showed in action and in words that he was the way to life. He bent low and washed the feet of his disciples during the Passover dinner (John 13) just before he was crucified. But he didn’t only wash the feet of the disciples that loved him, he also washed the feet of the one who betrayed him.

That’s love. Serving others, especially those that don’t believe. Someone who is an unbeliever may never listen to anything I have to say, but if I meet their need and love the way that Jesus loved then I have a chance. I’ve heard stories of our missionaries in Nepal who are ministering tirelessly to those injured in the earthquakes there. And there have been people who have come to Christ because their needs were met. The question is can I lay down my pride and wash the feet of someone who needs it?

So, how did Jesus love? Matthew 26:39 says, “39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus didn’t live for himself, he lived for others and died so that they could be reconciled to God. Being fully man and fully God, he knew exactly what he would have to suffer in order to do that. That’s why he prayed if there was any possible way to avoid this cup of unbelievable suffering let it be taken from him. And then he suffered because it was the only way.

Fear, futile arguing, insults, hate: those aren’t the ways of Christ. Those are the ways of the ruler of this world. Love, prayer, humility, bending low: those are the ways of Christ.

“The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

The message of the cross is sacrificial love. Bending low. Humbling ourselves. Not making our opinion the most important thing, but making the Great Commission the most important thing. One way to bend low is to look up. Look up and see the people around you that need Jesus. They need to know that Jesus loves them and died for them so that they can be reconciled to God. So that they can be a recipient of this great grace that we as believers have received. So that they can walk in freedom. Not freedom to sin, but freedom from sin in this life, and freedom from the consequences of sin in the life to come.

I’m Back

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So, I’m back. I have to say that after months of quiet it’s really hard to get a blog post out. I’ve talked with Travis about it and knew it was time to write again but about what? It seems like the first blog post out of the gate should be meaningful and great and profound and…that’s too much pressure. So, for my first blog post I want to leave you with this.

To all of you that are struggling right now with circumstances that are stretching you to the breaking point remember this,

“Let us hold tightly without wavering

to the hope we affirm,

for God can be trusted to keep

his promise”. Hebrews 10:23

Currently I’m struggling with severe neck pain and I have been for almost 4 weeks. At the beginning of this year the Lord gave Travis and I a clear word about some areas that we were going to see breakthrough in this year. One of those areas was my health. So far this year I’ve had surgery and I’ve been out of commission for nearly a month with my neck. But that doesn’t mean his promises aren’t true. The surgery was part of my healing and I expect that going to the chiropractor is too. Why? Because I know God’s character from reading the Bible and from experiences in the past that he’s brought us through. And what I know to be true is that He is trustworthy- always. When things are really hard and we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, He is trustworthy. In sickness, in finances, in relationships He is trustworthy. In everything. Whatever He promised you and regardless of how long it’s taking, He is trustworthy. He will bring His promises to pass.

I’m really glad to be back :)

Amy

In With the New

I’m pretty sure that I have finally fully made the mental and emotional transition to our new city and our new house. I went shopping with the girls last night and as I stood next to my car waiting for Halle to get out I realized that everything felt familiar instead of strange and new. I actually really love our new city. It’s tiny for sure but the upside is that I can get anywhere in town within 10 minutes. And since I can get to Target in less than 10 it’s a big win for me.

I mentioned in my last post that we’ve had a lot of overnight guests since we moved in and I joked to Travis that we should start calling our house the Button hotel. Trav’s brother and his girlfriend visited last week and next Monday the Button hotel will be abuzz with Trav’s brother and family, my parents and Amanda and Daniel- 13 people in all.

In our last house, which was less than half the size of this one, we had ten people total for Thanksgiving. We also had less than half the bathrooms that we have now so everybody had to be very considerate to make it work- and everybody was. I remember hearing, “I’m about to shower, does anybody have to use the bathroom?”, being shouted several times a day. I also remember all 10 of us being together in the tiny living room at the same time. We also had dinner seating for 6 at the most so one year the kids ate Thanksgiving dinner out on the patio- thankfully it was a warm Thanksgiving. And last year at Christmas Travis stood up and ate Christmas dinner. He was a good sport about it but it wasn’t ideal.

This year we have an actual dining room! I’d been using it as an office and thought about making it a seating area since we don’t have a bonus room (we have everything else we wanted plus some). Travis works from home at least once a week though and since we also homeschool it’s too noisy for him to work downstairs. We also decided that we really needed to use the dining room for dining. So it was time for a dining room set.

I’ve been an avid Craigslist shopper since we moved into our last house. It was the perfect way to get the furniture I needed with a tiny budget. I’ll admit though that I’d grown weary of taking out the seats in the minivan and moving heavy furniture out of someone’s house and then lugging it into mine. Maybe I’ve gotten lazy. I also didn’t find the perfect combination of function, price and likeability. I did find a vintage set that I loved but it only sat 6 and I wanted a table that would seat at least 8. After Travis and I measured the dining room to see how big of a table we could buy though we determined that we could seat a maximum of 8. So we went shopping!

And found this…

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I liked it because it was formal but not too formal, traditional but not too traditional. I think it’s because the backs of the chairs are straight rather than curved. We looked at less formal sets but since the dining room has wainscoting and hardwoods we felt we needed to go with something more formal.

I really like the way it looks in the dining room.

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It’s a bit of a bummer that when it was delivered there was a decent gash in the top. Thankfully, without my even asking, American Signature is sending a new one. So far I’m really impressed with their customer service.

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I love that we got a buffet at the same time because in addition to being pretty, it also serves as storage for tablecloths and homeschool supplies.

I was also able to accessorize a bit. I knew that I wanted a pop of color in that room (my eyes are kind of tired of blue) and found the picture of poppies on sale at Kirkland’s for $35 but it was another 40% off so I feel like I stole it at $22 (with tax). I got the light gold mercury glass candle holders at Ross for about $6 each and I let the girls pick the candles at $5 each. The lantern was a super-awesome housewarming gift from my aunts. I love it and I’ve wanted one for forever. So, even though we bought a new set I was able to accessorize with bargains.

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The room also serves as a place for Chloe to do her school work. In the last house the girls were always fighting over table space which added to my stress level. Now each girl has their own table to work at, it’s such a blessing.

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I think I’m ready for Thanksgiving.

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