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Fast Favorites

It has been awhile since I have shared some of my favorite things, so this Fall Friday seemed Fit to do a Favorites post!

This is my favorite lippy ever! Not only does it do an excellent job preventing chapped lips, but it also has a little bit of a pretty shine to it when it is applied, which always feels fancy to me. I have only ever found it at the Big R farm stores in Colorado of all places, so I make sure to buy them out whenever I visit. I just did a search and found they are available to order at https://cvc4health.com/products/superior-source-lip-healer-lip-balm-3-pack.

These little caramel cremes or “bullseyes” pack so much decadence into one bite. I never have the self control to only eat one. Don’t go through life missing out on these!

My new favorite shoes. This may mean I officially dress my age, but I don’t even care because these babies make me happy every time I wear them. Amazon sells this for $50-&60, but I found mine on sale at Kohl’s for $35!

At first I thought these were just an Ohio thing, but I have now traveled and seen these in other states, so run, don’t walk to get yourself a bag of these. Hands down the best pretzel I have ever tasted! Their other flavors, not so much, but I do like their version of Cheetos as well.

I rented this book from the library thinking to read it to my youngest, but it turned out I was the one caught flipping through it for the second and third times. Funny title, but the words and pictures scratched across the pages are so tender and real and encouraging they speak right to the heart. Easily one of my favorites.

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Sink or Swim

This week was the end of me. I felt like the last drops in my cup were sucked dry and I had nothing left to give. Frustration over my exhaustion and inability to keep up in the midst of daily hardballs left me convinced the best thing for me was to quit fighting for well, anything. Least of all myself.

As my body does, it decided another shut down was in order, and my digestion came to a screeching halt. This led to constant discomfort, and frequent vomiting even though I wasn’t eating anything. For three days I was in bed burning through barf bags or clutching a big metal bowl while at the same time trying to single parent my little people and see that their needs were met. I was not able to get up and feed them one meal, so they did without or got by on bowls of cereal and Halloween candy. It is heartbreaking to not be able to do the things I want and need to as their mom, and the volume gets turned loud on all the voices telling me I’m failing at motherhood… and everything else.

This is a lonely season of trying to build community without always having the strength to do it. This means long hard days scraping by and simply doing the best I can usually at the minimum amount. I long to be in a place again of having community to surround us and pick us up and meet us in the messes, because doing it alone is awful.

Despite my grumpy attitude and dismal outlook God showed up in the flesh of a friend who saw my frantic social media post asking for help and dropped everything to pick me up and not only see that I got back and forth to a small surgery, but while I was under she shopped for meals for my kids and stocked my freezer with things they could make in my absence. The “Just Show Up” mantra that I’ve tried to make part of my life song was so beautifully expressed in the serving kindness of my friend that day.

It is embarrassing now, but I felt so helpless I texted another friend and told her I had nothing left to give and she deserved better than me. I basically told her she needed to drop me like a sack of rocks because I did not have what it takes to be a good friend. Instead of stepping back she pushed in. She responded, “I’m not letting you break up with me. You can’t get rid of me.” I don’t know what I was expecting, but her response cracked a small grin across the weary furrows in my face, and the brick wall I was trying to build started to crumble.

Thumbing through the pages of my Bible I was brought to 2 Corinthians 10:5, which reminded me I am to take each thought captive in obedience to Christ. I heaved a sigh heavy with burden, gathered all my thoughts of overwhelm, anxiety, and defeat, and imagined placing them at the feet of my Heavenly Father. Peace washed over me; relief that these heavy weights are not mine alone to carry.

I was reminded me that I cannot control everything that comes my way, but that I can decide if my life will be marked by defeat, or by a patient trust in a Heavenly Father who loves me and knows where I am at every moment.

I cannot help but wonder who else is finding themself at the end of their rope this week. I wish we could all gather in solidarity and speak truth to bolster each other in our capacity to carry on. It always seems easier to encourage others than to encourage yourself sometimes. If you are in that spot this week raise your eyes up; remember that the hairs on your head are numbered and the birds outside the window are under the Lord’s watchful care. As we reflect on Him it is easier to be assured of His strength and less intimidated by the size of our problems.

God has promised us abundant life. I don’t want to miss that because I am tangled up in worry and frustration over circumstances that are not mine to control.

Here’s to the ending of a hard week and the beginning of a fresh one, Saturday sports games, Sunday morning donuts, and knowing that we do not have to be strong enough to carry our own burdens. Jesus has us on the hard days just as much as the easy days and beckons us to take up His yoke which is easy and His burden which is light, and he will give us rest for our souls.

“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The sovereign Lord is my strength! He will make me as sure footed as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.” Habakkuk 3:17-19

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Instead

I am so sad.

With summer break upon us I’ve been feeling terrible for all the things I cannot do with my kids. I want to go hiking with them. Instead they get stuck at home all the time watching too many screens. I want to take them to the pool almost every day, and explore the national parks around us. Instead I’m puffing walking up the stairs to tell one of them goodnight. I want to have all their friends over for late night fires and s’mores on the deck. Instead I’m exhausted by dinner time and asleep hours before the rest of my crew. I want to plan an exciting vacation getaway and surprise them. Instead I’m having major surgery that will take all summer to recover from.

I want to scream. And a little teeny part of me wants to quit; wants to give my family the freedom to live unchained. This mess is not living up to my well planned out expectations, and I’d like a redo please.

My friends, I know so many of you live joyful and exuberant lives in spite of much pain. You live the story that you did not sign up for, and yet you receive that cup so graciously, with kindness and contentment that I long for. Please share your wisdom… what is it you do when you want to throw in the towel on your own race and trade for a different one?

Jesus, please help me live for /your/ expectations. Help me to be thankful for what I have instead of mourning what I do not. Help me to make the most out of my time awake, and not have guilt for the times I need rest. Help me to have meaningful time with my children, regardless of what we are doing. And Jesus? Help them understand. Let their hearts become soft instead of resentful. Let their disappointment develop deep character. Help all of us to trust you with our story and to use it to bring you glory.

Amen.

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Losing Focus

Gifted an incredible gift to slip away just the two of us, my man and I took every opportunity to soak in the great joy held abundantly in the salty waters. Each afternoon he would tenderly inflate the vest to keep me afloat, and don his long fins to do the kicking for the both of us. As he gently pulled me along I marveled and squeaked with delight at the stunning colors and entrancing shapes of the sea creatures below.

One hot afternoon the winds had been stronger all day, and the choppier waves had churned up a hazy silt from the ocean floor. Just as we had done before, he held tight to my hand and pulled me along the surface of the water, snorkels upright amid the salty spray. This time I felt different. Even though my hand was in his, the murky water clouded everything from view, and when I looked straight ahead the sides of my mask obscured the rest of my view of my helpmate alongside me. As soon as this happened my heartbeat thumped frantically faster and I felt lost and panicked in the disorienting haze of the sandy water. Then I turned my face to the right, and clear as day I could see him right next to me guiding me along, and in an instant the throb in my chest slowed and a peace settled over me, knowing I was not lost or alone. Slowly though I would turn my gaze forward again only to be paralyzed repeatedly as his comforting presence disappeared from my view, and then look up again to see the comfort of his company right next to me.

This week I took calculated breaths as I tried to distract myself from the pain of a necessary procedure. With each new bolt of agony my mind would race through the what ifs, panicking myself into wondering if this would last forever. Then I would look up, and there squished in the corner where he could reach to hold my hand was my heartthrob, eyes locked, waiting to meet mine. Again that wash of peace and okayness would melt over me and quiet the pounding of my thoughts. As long as I held his gaze with mine I could do this.

There was where I realized… what a pertinent reminder; that when my focus is on other things I get lost, scared, and unsure of my direction. But when I lift my eyes back to the face that has never turned away from me, I find peace, safety, and belonging. I draw from that strength and it gives me the courage to keep moving forward, however foggy the future may be. Even though my Heavenly Father is right there holding my hand, it is I that has to raise my panicked stare and remember that with Him as my focus I have the courage to face whatever hard comes my way.

What about you; do you forget to look up when you’re in the panic of the moment? Do you find yourself looking for someone to steady in you? He’s always there waiting, just turn your eyes up.

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Mighty

Smoke mingled with the clean scent of antiseptic as the ambulance doors were thrown open. A woman’s voice crackled through the radio following the long beeps of the station tones. “We have a call!” My partner’s eyes were wide with anticipation as she repeated what I was already hearing. We had been working on a training exercise at the fire station, practicing rescue of a downed firefighter in the midst of a woodsy blaze. The large rubber manikin that was our pretend victim lay heavily on the stretcher that was now needed for an actual patient; the victim of a horrific vehicle collision. Wasting no time, I jerked the straps off of our lifeless dummy and heaved him over my shoulder, all 165 pounds of him. Nudging wider the ambulance door, the whole battalion had eyes on me as the scene played out that would be retold for years to come. I, the tiniest on the department standing at 5 feet 2 inches and a hundred and five pounds marched with that dummy over my shoulder and chucked him into the empty garage bay of the station. Spinning back around I crunched through the gravel and hopped up in the passenger seat of our rig and we barreled down the road to my first trauma call.

That was the day I earned my nickname; Mighty Mouse. The story would be grinned about for years to come; the department’s smallest firefighter who manhandled the Rescue Randy dummy because she got her first real patient. A mix of adrenaline, excitement, and the hard work I had put in to keep up with everybody else had enabled me to perform that amusing feat that day.

Fast forward to a cold April day in 2022. My arms shake and spasm as I lift a stack of dinner plates toward the open kitchen cabinet. Overpowering my waning muscle strength, the stack of plates comes crashing to the counter, shattering the bottom plate. I bite my lip to hold back the moisture that pools in my eyes, and gingerly start gathering the shards while feeling like I am picking up broken pieces of my hope.

It is endlessly humbling and frustrating not to be able to accomplish menial tasks when I once let nothing stand in my way. My pride stings when I have to ask for help instead of being the strongest. It hurts.

I can only surmise that this is one of the greatest lessons I need to learn; that alone I am powerless, and need the unending strength that God in his loving kindness offers to me. So many times as I call out for someone to help me lift or move something I am reminded of my desperate need to call on my Heavenly Father for help. Do I always remember? Definitely not. But he is gentle in reminding me that I do not need to rely on my own strength, that he’s got me and all I need to do is rest in the power of his might.

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Grasping Easy

Tonight is opening night for my talented Junior girl’s next musical. She’s starring in the opening number, as well as solos throughout the show. I should be calculating what time to get there for the best seats, and picking out what kind of flowers to surprise her with. Instead I’m struggling to get myself upright, and fighting for breath, and today it has the better of me. Today I’m angry that I can’t just focus on my daughter. I’m frustrated that my presence at her show is threatened by my ability to get myself ready and drive there. I am mad that the feeling of suffocating is going to distract me from the beauty of her blooming there on the stage. Today I want to just be like the other moms. I want it to be easy.

Maybe easy would make me less the person I am. Maybe if I did not have to fight so hard, the victory would be lost on me. Maybe if it was not such a gift to be there it would seem mundane. So I’ll fight. I’ll show up, flowers in hand and I will soak in the miracle of getting to be there to see her. I will fight back tears of gratitude and I’ll cheer the loudest because I will know the absolute gift it is to be there. Heaven help me.