Not Looking For Normal

I thought I’d post a quick, “here’s how we’re doing” post.

So, how are we? I’m pretty sure that we’re fine. We have food and clothes and shelter and we’re not in any danger of losing those things so that qualifies as fine I think. Although I suppose I really could say that we’re great. Our faith is high, we believe that God has something better for us, and I see His blessings around us everyday.

I was driving to the gym yesterday and while I was driving I was thinking and praying. I had the opportunity to do this because the girls weren’t in the car with me. If you have girls then you understand the nonstop talking that comes with them. Although a really talkative boy is possible too- I’m married to Travis and he talks a lot more than most men I think. Anyway, I think I prayed about being tired and how this year has been one long exhausting thing after another and I can’t really see the end in sight. Then I heard the question, “Are you the worse for wear?”. Hmmm. I had to think about that for a minute. Am I? Am I worse off for all that we’ve experienced this year? I quickly realized that the answer was no. No, I’m not worse off for all that we’ve experienced. I’m not depressed. I’m not sad. My marriage is better than it’s ever been. Our finances are better than they’ve ever been. And I can honestly say that I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I trust God more now than I ever have.

I know that under these circumstances depression is normal. Stress is normal- and I have felt moments of stress. Anxiety is normal- and I’ve had moments of anxiety. But I’m not looking for normal. God has given us a gift of faith that isn’t normal. It’s supernatural.

Here’s the definition of supernatural-”(of a manifestation or event) attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature.”

According to the laws of nature I should be afraid. But I’m not and it’s not because I’m so full of faith in myself, God has given Travis and I a gift of faith that we wouldn’t normally have on our own.

1 Corinthians 12:8-11 says,

  To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

I grew up in a denomination that had such an emphasis on one particular gift of the Spirit that I didn’t know that these other things were gifts. I didn’t understand supernatural faith. I can say that I have a much better understanding of it now.

So if you’re asking the question, “What’s ahead for the Buttons?” I suppose that I can’t sit here and list everything that’s going to happen because I don’t know that but I believe that whatever God’s plan is for us it’s good. I believe that God has something better for us than we could have imagined two weeks ago. I guess you’ll just have to stay tuned.

I’m praying for all of my readers today for a gift of faith in whatever impossible circumstances you find yourself in.

Blessings,

Amy

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Embracing the Unexpected- Again

Travis calls me on his lunch break every day around noon. Every day unless he’s going to lunch with someone. Occasionally he’s called at 11 but not often. Friday was one of those not often days. I thought it was strange but I wasn’t really worried. Until he said, “Honey, I don’t know how to tell you this…”

He’d been laid off. His position was being eliminated and though his termination date was to be three weeks later they told him that he could go ahead and leave so that it wouldn’t be awkward.

I think I said something brilliant and comforting like, “I’m so sorry. I have to go now.” I tend to be quiet when I’m processing things.

Then I had to tell the girls.

Just a week prior we’d visited Burgess Falls with Travis’ mom. The hike was beautiful if not a bit treacherous in places. It starts at the cascades and then we hiked to the middle falls and then hiked and climbed what seemed like a hundred stairs to the overlook for the big falls.

It was beautiful…and *high* up. A little-known fact about me is that I have a fear of heights. I’ve always had it  and unsuccessfully tried to conquer it in college. I’m not sure how one gets over an irrational fear. As I walked out onto a wooden deck built out over a cliff I felt an all too familiar feeling. Butterflies, sweaty palms, light headed and as much as I wanted to see the beautiful falls that we’d worked so hard to get to, I wanted to run off the platform. Then I suddenly heard the Holy Spirit speak, “I want to show you that you have nothing to be afraid of.” My eyes welled with tears, not because I wanted so badly to see the falls but because I know how much I struggle with fear. And Jesus cares. He doesn’t want me to be afraid. Because my life is in His hands I truly have nothing to fear. So, I stepped out onto the platform again, still scared, but not as much. And this is what I saw.

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I can’t help but think that word wasn’t as much about seeing these falls, as beautiful as they are, but was more about what we would face just one week later.

It would seem like this is the last thing that we need but I know that through the past, through things that I’ve suffered, God was after something. What is God after in me in this moment? Because I will tell you this, and it’s the truth, every time I’ve gone through what looks to be impossible I’ve come out on the other side different than when I went in.  I’m more compassionate because I know what it is to struggle. I love more deeply because I’ve needed love. I give more grace to those around me because I’ve received much grace. The Christian life isn’t about escaping struggle and hardship, it’s about becoming more like Christ. It’s about being people that Christ can be seen in. How can I identify with the struggles of those around me if I’ve never struggled myself?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

There’s no faking the fruit of the Spirit. It’s either been developed or it hasn’t. If I know anything to be true it’s that when I’m squeezed what’s really inside comes out. If I’m going to be completely honest, I have been completely appalled at what’s come out of me during times of testing. God saw it though and He wanted something different for me.  And I’m thankful for that.

I wouldn’t have signed up for this. I certainly didn’t ask for it and I don’t want to walk through it. But I will. We will. And I trust God’s plan for us.

God is good and my circumstances don’t change that. What will it look like? I don’t know. But I believe that His plans for us are good.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever. Psalm 23

Blessings,

Amy

Embracing the Unexpected

For the last two nights I have slept. Like, zonked out, woke-up-with-a-gasp-at-daylight kind of slept. I don’t remember that happening two nights in a row in, well, my oldest daughter is 23 so it’s probably been that long. This morning though, I awoke when Travis locked the door behind him to leave for work. Inwardly I groaned because I didn’t want to get up.

A couple of hours later I awoke again and I inwardly groaned again. I didn’t want to get up. My routine since the house has been on the market is this- wake up, stumble out of bed to the living room and check my phone for texts and e-mails about our property. There have been very few of either lately and so I brace myself every morning for disappointment. It’s really not a very fun way to start the day and if I’m not careful the entire day will be a downward slide. After that I read and pray to stop the sliding and then the girls and I clean in case someone wants to see the house.

This morning was different though. Although I did reluctantly drag myself out of bed and down the hall to the living room to check my phone, this morning I had an e-mail from a friend. And it said this-

Subject- Article that made me think of you.

It’s short, to the point and I think you already have it down.  I just wanted to encourage you.

 
Have a GREAT day!
Love,
Mary
 
 
 
I was intrigued and so I read the article. And then I was encouraged when before I had been discouraged.
 
 
Nearly this entire year has been taken up with strategizing about selling our house, interviewing contractors to do work on our house, we’ve spent weeks working on our house and now our house has been on the market for weeks. Weeks of cleaning frantically for person after person to come in and reject our house. I have found myself crying out to God, desperate for my life to be about something other than real estate. And then, unexpectedly, I received encouragement from a friend that had nothing to do with my house. It encouraged me, provoked me to think and provoked me to write.
 
 
I couldn’t be more thankful.
 
 
Thank you, Mary.
 
 
I encourage you to embrace the unexpected and also to encourage someone else. You never know what a difference that could make to them.
 
 
Blessings,
 
Amy
 
 

Rescue Me

Last week I was sitting at Starbucks with Chloe and Halle. I’d had an appointment at the doctor and I picked them up from a friend’s house and I decided that we needed some fun.  I got a Venti Pike Place and a blueberry scone and the girls got old fashioned doughnuts. That’s what they get every time, they just love them. They hadn’t asked for a drink and I forgot to ask if they wanted one so as I was doctoring up my coffee Halle asked for a hot chocolate. I tried to discourage her because I thought it would be too sweet with the doughnut. “Wouldn’t you rather have a passion fruit tea?” I asked, ” You love those.” She insisted on hot chocolate so that’s what we got and for her and a passion fruit tea for Chloe.

About 3 sips in to the hot chocolate Halle made a face. Then she squirmed, sat back in her chair and sighed a big, heavy sigh. “Mom…” she started, “It’s too much sweetness, isn’t it?” I held back the  I-told-you-so tone as much as I could but she could tell I was a bit frustrated with her. “Can I have a tea now?” she asked. “No, I already bought a hot chocolate and I’m not buying anything else”. “But can’t I just please have a tea?” she badgered. “No, Halle, you may not have a tea but you may go ask for a water. They’ll give you a cup for free but you have to go ask”. Her eyes darted around the coffee shop desperately trying to find something to quench her thirst that I would buy so she wouldn’t have to go ask for water. So she sat. She fidgeted. She sighed. I made the concession that Chloe could walk to the counter with her but that Chloe could absolutely, positively not be the one to ask for the water.

I struggled through the whole thing. I could see that my daughter desperately needed a drink of water. Not to the point that she was going to die but she was really uncomfortable. I’ve never been the tough as nails mom when it comes to stuff like this. I like to have fun and I dote on them and I want them to be comfortable and have every single thing that they need. But- and this is a big but- Halle deals with fear. Not just a little fear, a lot of fear. It has hindered her and disrupted things like bedtime or sleeping. And as much as I desperately wanted to rescue her, to swoop in and save the day, I held back.

I watched Chloe put her arm around her little sis as Halle, shoulders tight and pulled forward towards her chest, arms covering as much of her as they could with her hands covering half of her face. She took a couple of steps forward and stopped. Chloe started to try to pull her forward and I said, “No, she has to walk there by herself”. A young woman was watching the whole thing and I figured that she was thinking something like. “For Pete’s sake, Lady, get up off your lazy butt and get your kid what she needs!” I decided I would not care what this imaginary voice had to say. Because from my sitting position I was fighting for my kid. I watched as the girls let three people walk in front of them in line. I, in my type A way, wanted to just get it over with but I stuck it out. Finally they reached the counter and Chloe stepped back out of the way to let Halle order. She didn’t say a word. Halle, still in her terrified position asked for a cup of water. At the point that I knew the barista understood her and was getting water for her, my eyes welled with tears and I wanted to jump up with my arms over my head a la, “TOUCHDOWN” style but I didn’t . I was shouting on the inside though. And I knew, I KNEW,  that I had done the right thing.

She walked over to me and I could tell that she was upset with me. And after I scolded her for being rude and not saying thank you to the barista I told her why I made her do it. “Halle, I know you didn’t want to get that water. I know that you were afraid but I need you to know that there are things in life that I’m afraid of that I shouldn’t be and I’m an adult. I don’t want you to grow up afraid because it hurts you and I don’t want anything to hold you back because I love you”. Then her eyes filled with tears and she fell into my arms and nuzzled into my neck and said, “I love you too, Mommy”.

In this whole process that took maybe ten minutes, I recognized that God was speaking to me as well. He could so easily swoop in and save the day. It would have been easy for him to ensure that our house would sell within an hour or even a second of being on the market. That’s what I wanted him to do. But through this entire process, through the disappointment of everything pointing to having an offer within the first week, only to have our Realtor go out of the country for a week and a half with no communication and very few showings after that- I’ve learned some things.  One of those things is that God is not nearly as interested in rescuing me as he is with revealing things that need to be dealt with- for my good. When it’s God’s plan for us to wait, the waiting is never in vain. Never. I can honestly say that if we’d sold our house in a week, we’d very likely have made a mistake in what we purchased and where we moved. I can honestly say that my respect for my husband has grown exponentially through this process. And things have been revealed that likely wouldn’t have been revealed otherwise. God is more interested in us leaving this house and this season well than with our comfort. We will be comfortable again- but it probably won’t be today. And that’s okay because as difficult as this is we are moving forward.

I would like to challenge you to look inward. Where is your biggest source of frustration? What area are you waiting for him to rescue you from? What is he saying to you in this season? If you don’t know, ask him. Ask him to speak to you in a way that you can hear and understand what he’s saying. God is always speaking but we have to learn how to hear what he’s saying. He is faithful.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think,

according to the power that works in us,

to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

Blessings,

Amy

 

Today…

Today I am working through things. We’re about a month into our house being on the market and while we started off with a bang and thought that there was an investor that would be making an offer within the first week, they’ve decided to not make an offer and though we’ve had other showings, we still have no offers. And I’m just going to be honest…I am bummed- really.

In all of this though God is showing me things in me that need to change. And as usual it has nothing to do with the thing that’s right in front of me that’s causing all the frustration. I want my house to sell! That’s it. I don’t want to talk about anything else or think about anything else or do anything else but sell my house. And what does God want? He wants to dig deeper. He wants to reveal things in me that need to change. He wants me to break out of my quiet Amy cave, the place I withdraw to when things are going wrong and actually tell people around me that things are going wrong- or aren’t going at all- either way it’s not going the way I want it to.  Why do I withdraw? Why don’t I just tell my friends what’s going on? Why do I want to wait until things are better? As if once things are better I’ll have something to add to humanity or to my friendships. His revelation that trying to react perfectly in the midst of difficulties is killing me. And to stop being afraid of my own weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). He said that His strength is made perfect in my weakness. To let go of what I’m “supposed” to be. Perfect, smart, strong, wise…

He is all of those things and I don’t have to be- but I try anyway.

I often try to end things on a happy note- “Things aren’t great right now but I’m sure they will be soon!” And while I do think that’s true I’m going to spare people my syrupy optimism today. I actually am feeling quite a bit better- both physically and emotionally after I did sob my heart out this morning. And I talked to a friend- technically I texted her but she called me and prayed for me and that helped. Talking to my husband (that adores me) helped. And I’m realizing that while running to God first is great, I can’t negate the role of people in my life.

So why would I write any of this? It’s emotional and personal and uncomfortable for me but I’m writing this publicly because I’m not the only one. I’m not the only one who hides in an emotional cave until the bad stuff gets better. I’m not the only one who is emotionally and physically exhausted from trying to be perfect. And because the best way to break down a wall is to take a sledge hammer to it. To recognize unhealthy patterns and then act on it. I can realize that I withdraw into a cave but unless I strike a blow to the walls, I’ll never be free of it. And neither will you. I don’t normally point the mirror I hold up to myself to my readers but I am this time because hiding is crippling. Having a false sense of our own strength is crippling. Having a community of godly people around you is vital. I don’t say that as one who has mastered it but as one who needs it. I don’t know how exactly to do this since I’ve never relied on anyone ever but I asked a friend to babysit my kids tomorrow while I’m at a doctor’s appointment and believe it or not that’s a start. Baby steps…

 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.

I’m in need of Christ’s power today and I pray for Christ’s power for you too.

Blessings,

Amy

Comedy in the Midst of Chaos

It’s been forever since I’ve even checked my blog- and I know that people want pictures. I’ve been posting pictures on Facebook- yes, Facebook the thing I’d abandoned “forever”. It seems that forever is not forever if one needs to get in touch with a bunch of people quickly. Say if something happens like my mom having a stroke and I need to get in touch with aunts, uncles, cousins and friends quickly. And as it turns out the whole Facebook thing is much less frustrating after a sabbatical- and I’ve got about 200 less friends so it’s not nearly as noisy.

So, this morning I was making breakfast and Halle walked up to me and said,

“Mom, you’re really good at making breakfast sandwiches so we could call this place Jenny’s or Jen’s.” To which I replied, “But my name isn’t Jenny or Jen.” Then she said, “But I like the name Jezebel!” I was confused and Chloe chimed in with, “But, Halle, Jezebel is the name of a bad guy in the Bible!” And Halle said, “I can like it if I want to!” Followed by running down the hall and calling out in a high-pitched, southern belle accent, “Jezebel…where are you Jezebel?”

And that was it. No more mention of Jezebel. Sometimes I wish I had a map detailing how Halle gets from point a to point b.

On the house front I’m finishing doors and trim. We replaced 7 doors in the house (all of the interior doors minus one) and they all need two coats of paint on each side. It takes me about 45 minutes to an hour to do a coat on each side depending on how badly my hand cramps up and I have one coat on three doors and two coats on one- I’m not doing the math but it’s going to take a while. The trim is actually a piece of cake once the taping is done and Chloe has been taping things up for me. All of the big painting projects are done and after Travis paints the ceiling in two rooms and puts the doorknobs on we’ll only have touch ups and cleaning for pictures on Wednesday!

I have to say that while this is one of the most miserable things I’ve ever done it’s also been really good for us. It feels very similar to when I was preparing to graduate from college. There was a certain number of things I absolutely had to do or I wasn’t graduating- I absolutely had to finish. Finishing is good though. It’s difficult and unpleasant but aside from physically finishing an actual house I think there’s something very symbolic to it too. Finishing a season- a really tough, really long season. Repairing a foundation. Repairing damage. Repairing neglect. God is speaking in this season and He gives strength and peace in the midst of remodeling chaos- or any chaos for that matter.

I am thankful. I am tired. I am ready to finish strong. And I am ready to move.

Blessings,

Amy

Monday

I’m currently sitting outside watching Daisy roll around in the dirt while Halle digs for dinosaur bones. Around me are empty pots, reminders of past plants and projects and things I never got around to doing. I see a bare spot where, Tracy the rose bush used to be. Travis cut her down this past weekend. She was sick and I couldn’t fertilize her anymore because she was within Daisy’s reach and I didn’t want her (Daisy) to eat it. I probably shouldn’t name my plants. It tends to confuse things.

The holly tree, bush thing (we never named it) is gone too. If we were going to stay we wouldn’t have cut it down but once it bloomed there would be hundreds of bees inside- so many that last year it sounded like the tree itself was buzzing- and you can’t really show a house that has a scary, bee infested tree. And even though I hated it when we moved in I really did come to love it. Especially in the winter when everything else was dormant. I loved the red berries blanketed in snow. Sigh.

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I suppose it’s normal to feel sentimental when so much change is happening. I have a little regret over things I didn’t get to, not much though. And right now most of the things that have to be done we’ve hired people to do. Since Travis and I can’t put in a driveway or repair the foundation or repair the wood trim that squirrels decided to chew their way into this past winter. It’s a lot of things and a lot of money. I’m thankful that the Lord has provided but it’s still stressful.

I’m looking forward to this all being over but I truly am thankful for all of the things God is teaching us along the way.

And now I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures of the kiddos.

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Amy