Lessons Learned

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The past 15 months have been a roller coaster ride for my family. While I normally truly enjoy roller coasters, this is one I would gladly jump off of if I could. Though I am not a fan of this journey, there are things I have learned along the way. This list is not in any particular order, but it’s lessons or things I have learned in the past 15 months.

1) The Lord has a plan. Yes, this a Christina cliche used frequently, but I have had to remind myself over and over again that the past 15 months have not taken the Lord by surprise and there are things that He has wanted me and my family to learn along the way.

2) I am not a fan of change. I am very much a creature of habit and routine. Ok, so this isn’t news to me, but the past 15 months have been full of change and I this feeling has been even more reinforced inside of me. I am so ready for things to settle down again and for us to finally settle into our new routine.

3) Life’s not fair. Again, not really new news, but over the past 15 mos, I think I have cried out to the Lord more times than I care to admit about life not being fair. Things happen to us and sometimes it down right sucks. That’s not a word I use on a regular basis, but sometimes there is no other word that fits. There are times when we look at our circumstances and feel like life is out for our jugulars and we want to shout to the world “IT’S NOT FAIR!!!!” There are times when it looks like others around us are thriving and we struggling to barely tread water. We wonder why the Lord chose us to go down this path and go through these trials instead of letting us have a smooth ride.

4) I still stink at asking for help. Over the past 15 months, there are times when I should have asked for help from different people and it’s still a struggle. I guess I would rather deal with things on my own, than ask for help. The sad thing is that there are people who would have been willing to step in and help if only I would have let them. Pride has been something that I continue to struggle to swallow. All my life I have been independent and I would rather people see me that way than to appear “weak” and ask for help. I have cried out to the Lord for help in my prayers, but yet not opened my mouth to certain people even though I know I should have.

5) My marriage is probably stronger than it’s ever been. We have had 2 choices in this time period.We could either lean on each other and work together as a team or turn on each other. I praise the Lord that I have such and incredible husband. He has made sacrifices for this family and chosen to lead the way rather than run and hide, even though it would have been easy to do so. He and I have had some extremely difficult conversations over the past 15 months, but in the end, we have chosen to be on the same page, working towards a common goal. I won’t say that we have not had arguments or disagreed, but in the end we have both decided to work for the common good of our family rather than our own selfish wants and desires.

6) There is a huge difference between wants and needs. While I have known that there is a different between the 2, this past 15 mos has put that in a whole new perspective. I can do without hummus, so that my kids can have milk. Even though it’s been difficult, we can survive on just one car. There are times when buying a generic brand of something is truly the only option. Aldi’s can save a grocery budget. Date nights can happen at home. When life throws a curve ball, the savings account becomes almost non-existent and the checking account is close to E, sacrifices can be made and you will survive.

7) Even though children should not be made the center of the universe in your family, there are times when they absolutely have to come first. This summer has been incredibly hard on my children, especially on my daughter. It’s important to communicate with your children about the plans for the family and allowing them to be a part of the process. They need to be allowed to grieve their losses. When we found out we were moving into a tiny 1000 sq ft apartment until we can close on the new house, they came first. While we threw the large majority of our stuff in storage, most of their stuff came to the apartment. They have their favorite toys, their bikes and scooter. They have all of their books and coloring books. With only one shared bathtub, we brought their shower curtain. There is kitchen stuff that was sent to Goodwill or put in storage, but they have all of their plates, cup and silverware. Treats that we would typically not allow, have been given. They have had a few extra desserts and special treats. Routine has been disrupted, but we have done what we can to make sure that school and church routine haven’t changed. The kids have been clingy and extra cuddly and we have allowed it. We have told them that we love them a little more than they are used to hearing, even though it’s something they are used to hearing through out the day.

8) The upside of losing weight is that I have felt better about myself and had more energy. The downside is that I have needed to buy more clothes, even when the budget hasn’t allowed it. My mom has stepped in on several occasions and made sure that I have had clothes. I should add that my kids have had fall/ winter and spring/summer clothes in large part to my mother. Yes, that has been hard for me to swallow. Truly having an excuse to go shopping has been great, but, yes but, it has been a great source of guilt for me over the past year. Right now I am looking at my closet and realizing that I am smaller now that I was last winter, which means I need a whole new winter wardrobe. It seems odd to me that the Lord would start me down this path in spite of budget issues. It’s a good thing that I am not a name brand snob and I don’t care about the latest and newest fashion trends. I tend to shop at the clearance racks at the outlet malls and have made some pretty impressive clothing scores over the past several months.

9) I am so thankful for my church family. On the days that I have felt the lowest, being around them has helped me more than words can say. The Lord has blessed me with an incredible group of friends and my Wed night Dance Ministry Ladies mean more to me than I could ever express. Dance is my favorite form of worship and to have the privilege of doing that along side this group of ladies is truly a blessing. Choir is a close second. To be a part of a group that leads worship every single Sunday is incredible. Dance and choir have been the 2 things that have kept me going over the past 15 months, when I wanted to throw in the towel and quit. In the past week, we have seen our connect group be the hands and feet of Christ for us and helped us transition from the house to the apartment.

10) Anxiety stinks. While I have never had a full blown anxiety attack and have never been on meds, I have felt the physical and emotional affects of anxiety. I have never experienced insomnia on the level that I have in the past 15 months. For me it has been about feeling a lack of control over a situation. I am a control freak and struggle when I feel I have zero control over a situation. It’s amazing how boring things can be online at 2 o’clock in the morning. It is also amazing that your heart can be racing and your palms can be so sweaty and others around you don’t have a clue. Thankfully, I have had some healthy coping skills in place or I would be a hot mess. Reading and music are the best ways for me to take a step back and take a deep breath. Also, getting a good run/ walk or workout have also helped tremendously. I have felt like a failure as Christian because I have experienced so much anxiety in the past 15 months, BUT, I know that so many Christians experience this and that I am not alone. (If you ever struggle with anxiety at point where you can’t control it or feel so out of control you don’t know what to do, I do suggest talking to your PCP or a therapist about the issue. Also, there is no shame in taking meds. It is no different than taking meds for diabetes or any other issue).

11) There is a verse that has continued to show up over and over again during this time: “I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with My eye on you, I will give counsel” Psalm 31:8. It shouldn’t amaze me that during a time like this that the Lord would bring about a specific verse over and over again, but I am. It has been a constant reminder that my family and I are not alone. The Lord has never left our side, even in the times that I felt He has been completely silent. In spite of the craziness of the past 15 months, I have seen the hand of the Lord over and over again and we have yet to be left without the things that we need. We have seen the Lord open doors that we never imagined could be opened and it’s given us a sense of encouragement in the midst of our struggles.

12) Apartment life isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. We have only been in our apartment for 1 week as of today, but my family has a roof over our head and it’s going to allow us to pay off a little more debt. Our building is actually mostly town homes with a few one bedroom units. We have only met a couple of our neighbors, but so far everyone has been kind and welcoming. The sweet lady who lives under us, brought my kids a container of homemade chocolate chip cookies. My kids have enjoyed having a swimming pool and I have enjoyed getting play with them and forgetting that the rest of the world exists. We will get to enjoy the luxury of the pool through Labor Day. While the space is a good bit smaller than I would have liked, our family is together. My boys think it’s a great adventure, while munchkin would prefer to be back in her old room and have the ability to go play on her tire swing. We have assured our kids over and over again, that as long we are all together, that we are good. We have also allowed our kids to be a part of the prayers for our new house and allowed them to dream and tell us what they hope for in their new rooms.

13) Banks take their sweet and precious time. I wish I could say that I have been pleased and patient on this front, but that would be a bold faced lie. When I talked with our agent last week, he told us that realistically, it will be Thanksgiving or the first part of December before we can close. I will tell you that I was not a happy camper with this news. Buying a short sale house is the best choice for us because we get more bang for our buck, but the process is a pain in the rear. I would think the bank would want to go ahead and let us close, so they have one less thing to worry about, but apparently, they really are not in any hurry. 

14) I am so not a patient person. Ok, again not really anything new, especially to the people who know me best. This process of having to move from our home into an apartment until we can move into our new home stinks. I hate the waiting.  Can I just say it again? I hate, yes hate, the waiting. If I had my way, when we put in our offer at the end of July, we would have closed the very next week. I am so ready to be in our new home and settled. I am ready to decorate our home in a way that shows who we are and our tastes. I am ready to give my kids the rooms of their dreams. My daughter wants a “horsey” room. She has picked out pink paint and all sorts of things for her room. My boys are looking forward to their “Roll Tide” and “Go Titans” room. We have also decided to add a Nerf basketball hoop, since my boys enjoy “taking it to the hoop” with each other. I am also ready to finally have a master retreat.So, this may be a little on the shallow side, but to finally have something that is ours is a huge deal. We want it to be the place our kids grow up and I hope it will be the home they come home to on their weekend visits from college and I also hope that one day our new home will welcome spouses for our children and maybe even our grandchildren.

15) I hate moving. There is nothing fun about the moving process. There are boxes and packing and clearing out of things. I am convinced that you can see a person’s true colors in the moving process. Yes, there have been many tears and many “screw it” moments over the past month and a half, but we have survived the first of 2 moves. Moving should probably be a blog post in an of itself, but I promise I won’t bore you with that type of post.

16) The amount of “stuff” accumulated in 5.5 years is insane. Granted, when we moved in, I was 7.5 months pregnant with munchkin and we would then go on to have our 2 sweet boys. There was a great deal of “stuff” that we brought into the marriage, moved from TX to our first rental in TN and then into the house. “The Great Purge of 2014” was liberating. My husband joked that the guys at Goodwill were treating him like Norm from “Cheers.” I am pretty sure that for every load we took to the storage unit, we took at least 2 loads to Goodwill. In the last days of our move, we hit the point where we threw things into a garbage bag and took it to the dump. Now that we are in the apartment, we need to start making it a little more liveable. I am pretty sure that Goodwill has not seen the last of us. We have seen the need to move as a blessing to declutter our mess.

17) The Lord CAN handle my frustration and questions. So many times Christians are not given permission to question the Lord and are made to feel that it’s wrong. I have news for you, It’s OK! He CAN take it. Now, we can’t camp out there and refuse to move forward, but why lie to the Lord in your prayers when he already knows how you feel? He may not give an answer as to why are we going through the things we are going through, but He can take the questions and it’s much better to release to it to Him, than to hold onto it.

18) Getting into debt is just plain dumb. I do understand that life happens and there are times when it happens even though we don’t want it to, but most of our debt is caused by poor choices. Poor financial choices made 9 yrs ago can come back and bite you in the rear. It only takes a minute to destroy your credit, but it can take almost a decade to improve it. If there is any one thing I could pass on to newly wed couples, it would be to make wise financial decisions or dreams can and will be put on hold for much longer than you ever imagined. We do not follow Dave Ramsey to the letter, but we have taken and applied his basic principles and it’s helped us to move forward. I hope to one day stand in Financial Peace Plaza and scream “Debt Free” at the very top of my lungs and praise the Lord that we finally made it.

19) This morning our pastor preached a sermon on “Are We There Yet?” While he was talking about our church, where we have been and we are headed, I thought about our own journey, where we have been in the past 15 months and where are headed in the next several months and the year ahead. The answer is “no.” Reality is, that we never truly “arrive.” There are times of peace of coasting, but there are always lessons to be learned and stinky things that happen in life. We won’t truly arrive until we have entered the pearly gates of Heaven. At that point, it’s finished and life will cease to stink and we will spend the rest of eternity celebrating in the presence of our Lord and Savior.

20) I pray that next summer is boring and uneventful. By the time we hit next summer I will have been out of full time work for 2 full years and been working part time for our church for about 18 mos. My hubby and I will celebrate our 10th anniversary and our cruise will once again have been put on hold thanks to life. We are hoping for a long weekend in Gatlinburg. I am also hoping that next summer will consist of play dates through our church and our annual trip to my sister’s house up in MI, but other than that I hope it is completely uneventful!

21) Surrendering your dog sucks! Crimson was our first child. Letting her go was one of the hardest things I have done and pray that I never have to do it again. When we found out we had to move, we worked like crazy to find a person, family or organization to foster her until we had keys to our new place and it didn’t happen. When we thought we would have to surrender her to the one place we feared the most, a friend gave the name of one of her friends. This lady worked at the “dreaded place,” BUT she had connections. I started communicating with her via FB messaging and in the absolute last minute we took our precious Crimson to the “dreaded place.” The upside is that we had a friendly face and the hope of our girl going to a rescue. A few days later, this lady called and delivered the news that Crimson was going to a rescue. While she has been in the shelter for almost a week, on Tues, she will head to a rescue where she will be loved and spoiled. I wouldn’t wish this process on anyone, but I have the peace of knowing that my girl won’t be put down for no good reason. It will probably be a good long while before I could adopt another dog, I am thankful to have had Crimson for almost 8yrs. This has also been hard on my hubby and the kids. My hubby misses his morning walks with her and my kids want to know when we will see Crimson again. We have told them that we needed to share her and that she is now living on a farm and is a happy as she can be.

22) Looking to the future is important. It keeps you from feeling stuck in your current circumstance. If I only looked at what has happened in the past 15 months, especially since the end of June, I would find a hole to go and hide and not come out again. For my husband and I to have the ability to look at our kids and our current circumstance and say to each other “it’s only temporary,” is comforting. There will come a time when we get to move into what we hope will be our “forever home” and not ever have to move again. Looking to the future gives us hope and something to look forward to. We can talk with our kids about the future and what it will hold for them. We can talk about the things they will have in the future and it takes a little of the sting away from here and now.

23) Tears happen. Over the past 15 months, I have shed more tears than I care to count. Some of been out of pure frustration and some have been of pure joy when the Lord has stepped in and provided in the very last minute. Some have have been shed in those times when I have felt that “life’s not fair.” Some have been shed in complete and total worship to our Lord. Some have been shed when I felt like giving up and walking away. Some have been shed because I felt totally overwhelmed. I look forward a day when the tears are only out of joy and not sorrow or frustration.

24) One of the books I read this summer was “A Scarlet Cord of Hope” by my new friend Sheryl Griffin. There is a blog post coming later on about the books that I have read this summer, there is something that stood out in her book and that was “handing over the keys to my husband.” Too many times I have tried to hold onto them and not let my hubby handle the things that he is called to handle. There are times that I have had to look at him and say out loud “I am giving your the keys.” This is not a literal handing over of the keys, but it’s important. I am not a fan of the wife having no voice and no control over situations, but I think there are times when our husbands need to be the one to handle things. Our husbands are called to be the heads of our homes and to sometimes stand between his family and a stinky situation. For a control freak like me, this has been much easier said than done, but there have been times, especially this summer, that it’s been needed and I can’t say that I have a regretted a single situation where I have let him “take the keys.”

25) Compromise is a part of life. Ok, again, not completely new, but the past 15 months have been full of compromise. In the grand scheme of eternity, they haven’t been that bad. In the here and now it stinks. To give up something you want so that others can have what they need or to make a wretched situation more peaceful, it’s an evil necessary. 

26) My grandmother used to say “This too shall pass.” In spite of everything going on, this is only a temporary season in our life. One day we will look back on the past 15 months and see His hand. We will see where He has led us and guided us and  how lessons learned in this time will allow us to make better decisions in the other situations.

27) Dreams may be on hold for a time, but it won’t be forever. My dreams of someday doing women’s ministry hasn’t disappeared, but I don’t think it’s for the here and now. I had the privilege of speaking at our Mother’s Bible Study on a Tues morning and I loved every minute of it! I pray that the Lord will open the doors for me to continue speaking and that my experiences will help to encourage others in their experiences.

28) Transparency and authenticity are important. While I have been to say “What you see it what you get,” it’s probably not the most accurate statement. Yes, I am consistent across the board in how I act, what you see is not always what is under the surface. Many times, there is a conflict between the inner self and what I present. I fear that too many people are walking around the same. On the outside, life seems fine, but in reality there is turmoil underneath. When I started this blog, my goal was complete and total transparency, but the reality is I have not 100% succeeded in that goal. I have hidden things that I should have allowed to come to the light. I think that our churches should be hospitals for sinners and not country clubs for the saints, this can’t happen until the “saints” take off their masks and let down their guards. If we don’t have permission to be transparent in our churches, then where do we have permission to do so?” It’s time we let down our guard and walked through this crazy life together.

I am sure that after I post this, there will be other lessons that will pop into my head and I will wish that I had added them, but hopefully you will see where we have been in the past 15 months. If you are in a lousy place in life, I hope that somehow, someway you have found encouragement in this list. I hope you realize that feelings of frustration are completely normal. I also hope you realize that there is hope and that the Lord will never leave us alone and in those times when you can’t see His hand, that you will have the faith to know that it’s still there.

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