Tuesday, June 30, 2015

One Step Forward Two Steps Back



I know anytime you start making major changes in your life-diet changes, lifestyle changes, attitude changes, financial changes-the progress is typically slow and complicated....1 step forward 2 steps back.

Yesterday felt like 10 steps forward.

Today feels like 20 steps back.

I did make it to the grocery store. With the kids. Without the husband. But I blew the budget by about 80%.

Other than that...not much got done around the house. No cute outfit and well-coiffed hair. No laundry. No summer school bridge work for the kids. No dinner ready when husband got home (in fact we ended up eating out due to a certain set of circumstances, one of which was my complete lack of energy).

In my eyes, today was an epic fail.

So, now I am disappointed in myself. My husband was not treated well. We are both snarky and crabby and the atmosphere at home is NOT the calm pleasant experience we had last night.

Feeling frustrated and hurt. When I am in the midst of these failures, it is hard to see the way back. I am tempted to just give up.

But I know I can't. My family is to precious to me to give up. So I will keep trudging forward praying for better days ahead.

Sorry no fun pictures or humorous anecdotes from our day. Just not in me tonight.

Blessings,
Meri

Monday, June 29, 2015

Nobody Puts Baby In A Corner



I have always been fascinated by the women of the 1940s & 1950s.  I was raised on movies like "Father of the Bride" (the original with Elizabeth Taylor and Spencer Tracy) and the sequel "Father's Little Dividend", South Pacific, White Christmas, Tea for Two, Sabrina, Giant....and on and on.  My grandfather made sure my cinematic education was well-rounded (he also made sure I watched every John Wayne move. ever.).

What I love most about the women of the 1950s is that they took care of themselves. They carefully coiffed their hair, they dressed stylishly (no yoga pants and t-shirts there!), and they put their husband's needs first (gasp!).



Then along came the feminist movement (otherwise known as the "family-destruction movement"). I could go on about how this movement has done more harm than good for women and how it has all but destroyed the family unit, but that is for another post.

So, along with my efforts to improve my health through eating better, more wholesome food, I am making a commitment to model my wife-hood and motherhood after the quintessential 1950s housewife.


I am not going to try to recreate the perfection of the magazine photos and Hollywood movies. I am researching what it was actually like to be a stay-at-home wife and mother in this era before submission and housework became dirty words.







So this week my goals are as follows:
  • Get dressed. Every day. Not in yoga pants.
  • Freshen up and apply at least a little make-up before my husband gets home from work.
  • Tidy and remove clutter around the house daily.
  • Have dinner at least prepped/started before my husband gets home.
  • Have the TV off and the house calm and quiet when my husband gets home.
  • Feed my children at least 1 well-thought out meal for either breakfast or lunch (hey...gotta start somewhere! They have been on a "snack" diet since summer started).
  • DO NOT dump all of my frustrations and complaints on him as soon as he walks in the door.
  • Handle issues with the children at home during the day without calling him to complain.
  • Do at least 2 loads of laundry (washed, dried, folded and put away) each day.
  • Make our bed each day.


 (This is my effort to get dressed and curl my hair today)








I believe our society has marginalized the role of the housewife in recent history. Over the past few decades, women have been trained to believe that these roles are somehow less than worthy of their time and effort.

But there is a revolution starting. Wives and mothers around the world are joining together and saying "our roles matter, we are not only important, but instrumental in raising the next generation of leaders."

So this is my battle cry. I will not be marginalized, I will not be overlooked as "just a housewife". I am proud of my God-given role of wife and mother and I will embrace it and excel at it.  









Blessings,
Meri

Sugar Detox: Week One Complete

I will keep this short and sweet. Not too much to say about week 1 of the 8-week sugar detox.

We cut out high fructose corn syrup this week. There were certainly some areas we struggled with (Starbucks for me, soda for my son and husband).  The girls were really the easiest, although they are carb-loaders, so I think this coming week when we start to remove refined white flour from our diet, will be much more difficult for them.

Surprisingly (thanks to Trader Joe's), I am not finding the healthier eating habits to be significantly more expensive. In addition to removing HFCS from our diet, we are making a concerted effort to eat non-GMO, organically & responsibly cultivated, locally grown (if possible), non-processed foods.

This has resulted in a few unexpected changes:
  • We waste less food. I do not find as much food that needs to be discarded because it has gone bad when cleaning the refrigerator or pantry to put groceries away.
  • We snack less. Less convenience foods mean we only snack when we are really hungry because of the effort it takes to make the food.
  • We have fewer leftovers. We are specifically eating less meat because organic, responsibly raised meat is important to us and tends to be more expensive. So at dinner we fill up on side dishes and vegetables rather than 2nd and 3rd helpings of meat.
So, in addition to removing refined white flour (and continuing to remove HFCS) from our food life, we are also starting to juice again. Now that my NutriBullet is repaired, we have set a goal of replacing 3 breakfasts per week with a NutriBlast. I am also trying NutriBlast recipes for diabetes control and to encourage healthy sleep.

So my favorite meals this past week:
  1. Breakfast Scramble with Eggs, Spinach, Onions, Mushrooms and Cheese
  2. Chocolate Banana NutriBlast (recipe: 2 frozen bananas, 8 oz almond, dairy or coconut milk, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp cocoa powder). Perfect for sweet cravings after dinner.
  3. Chicken tacos with fresh tortillas, black beans, pico and jalapenos.
  4. Veggie platter with homemade ranch dressing (1 cup mayo, 1/2 cup sour cream, lemon juice or white vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, chives, dill, and parsley..then add buttermilk to achieve desired consistency).  Warning-I always make a double batch because it goes FAST.
I look forward to updating you all next weekend!  Headed to Trader Joe's on Tuesday to pick up our weekly goodies!

Blessings,
Meri

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Struggle Is Real

I watch them parade in front of me-some carrying tiny infants on their shoulders, some still carrying in their womb. I see the announcements it seems daily in my FB news feed-pregnancies, births, new life. Pictures on Instagram, week by week as their baby bumps grow. Images of sweet new life being brought into this world-little faces peeking out from white blankets with blue and pink stripes around the edges.

Sometimes I try to ignore them, I scroll quickly past them on my FB and IG feeds. I avoid places filled with new mothers and soon-to-be mothers proudly carrying their precious cargo.

But sometimes I can't ignore or avoid them. Sometimes I am drawn to them, like a moth to a flame. I know the ache will come, but I know avoiding the issue won't heal the pain. Somehow I have to find a way to live with the pain. Somehow I have to move forward.

Recently, I had convinced myself that maybe that part of my life has ended. I am over 35, I have 3 children, I should be satisfied and ready to move into the next phase of parenthood, marriage, life.

But then I heard a friend from my high school class is expecting.

We are the same age, only 1 month apart. All of the things I had talked myself into were suddenly swept away. The feelings of failure, grief, loss, pain, confusion-all of these feelings and so many more came rushing back like a tidal wave, washing away my delicate sense of acceptance.

I believe God's timing is perfect. I believe He wants only good for His children. I believe that when He says "not now" it is for my best.

But some days, some moments my heart just breaks in half. Some days, some moments the pain washes over me in waves and takes my breath away. Some days, some moments I think about her and wonder who she would be today-would she have brown hair like Mackenzie or strawberry blond like Emma? Would she have Logan's laugh? Would she be a picky eater like her sisters or adventurous like her Momma and brother? What would make her laugh? What would make her cry?

Some days, some moments Every day, I think about Baby Sophie (born into heaven 11/23/2010).

And many days I think "was that it? Am I done? Will I never experience that beautiful, painful, exhilarating, exhausting process of pregnancy and birth again?".

Today is one of those days. My empty womb aches. My heart aches. I wear the emptiness like a heavy coat on a summer day. It suffocates my joy and hope for the future.

Then God leans in. He meets me in this gap between what I want and what is and whispers "my timing is perfect, I want only the best for you, I love you-right now, right here, in this moment and in this place."



This was heavy on my heart today and my heart is still aching tonight as I type these words. But I am not without hope. I am not buying into the lies of the enemy. I am resting in the arms of my Heavenly Father.

Blessings,
Meri

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

That's How Much I Love You

"I love you, Puddin"
"How much, Gama?"
"A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck-that's how much I love you"

This is a conversation that repeated itself over and over throughout my childhood.  I was the apple of her eye and she was my everything. She was soft and gentle and kind. She made me applesauce sandwiches and hand cut french fries. I gathered eggs and picked tomatoes, collards and okra.

She was my Gama. My maternal grandmother. And she took a piece of my heart with her when she was called home to Jesus so many years ago when I was only 16.

I can remember the call like it was yesterday. I had left the hospital in Richmond to return home to Virginia Beach because, quite honestly, I missed my boyfriend. I will forever regret that decision. Momma had remained in Richmond to make sure Gama's discharge went smoothly.

The phone rang. And I picked up the line in my parent's bedroom.

The memory is so vivid-sitting on the green leather chair next to the telephone table that also held an antique radio. All I heard was "she's gone, Momma's gone" (my Momma was talking to my Daddy about Gama).

I remember dropping the phone and running out of the house. It was dark out, a warm September night. I ran all the way to the park. I sat in the back of the pick up truck jungle gym and cried and cried and cried.

And then he was there. I don't remember how he knew I was there. Maybe I called him before I ran out of the house...that part is still a blur. But he was there. This boy-man who would become my husband. This teenager that somehow knew exactly what I needed. He put away his snarky humor and wrapped his arms around me. We sat in the back of that playground truck and wept together-me for the very new and fresh wound inflicted by the loss of Gama and he for the losses he had experienced in the past and never truly mourned.

I don't believe the pain of this kind of loss ever goes away. You move forward. You live life. But something is missing. A piece of you has been taken away with the passing of the one you love. I am sure I think of her daily. I am certain I have felt her loss acutely in many special moments in my life: graduation, my wedding, the birth of our children. I often think how nice it would be to just call her and say "I don't know what to do with this-what do you think?".

She was a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister. She was my Gama.

Expert seamstress, country cook, hobby farmer's wife, turkey-shooter, country woman, city girl, difficult, stubborn, beautiful, kind. She had impeccable taste (and her own personal buyer for Neiman-Marcus...for the love). She loved soft fluffy pillows and a down mattress-you could literally get lost in her bed. She was a survivor-living on kidney dialysis for many years before she passed (among a multitude of other health issues). Refusing to let that stop her from enjoying her life.

But most importantly she loved me. Unconditionally. Always.

A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.

Until we meet again, Gama. I love you to the moon and back.

-Puddin

Monday, June 22, 2015

Home & Hope

Home is where the heart is.

Home is where we go to feel safe.

Home is where we can relax and feel good.

But what happens when it isn't?

I remember when I used to travel for work.  I hated to travel for work. I hated the airport, the plane, the rental car, the hotel. But most of all, I hated being away from my family. However, I could do all of these things because I knew they were temporary.  I knew that after a few days, I would be home.  That safe place surrounded by people I love where I could relax and feel good.

So what happens when home feels hard and lonely and broken? How do I survive the difficult parts of life, do the difficult things, with no safe place to land?


 (My childhood home in Virginia Beach)

This started out to be a post about how desperate I was am. It was a rough few days last week. I have been in a dark place (and I am not entirely sure I have left it completely behind). I felt abandoned. By God, by people, by family.

But then God showed up. Not in a big way, not on a white horse or with a bag of money, not even with a winning lottery ticket (I guess you have to play to win, right?!).

God came near in a series of little ways, some of which we are still trying to figure out what they mean and where they will lead. A kind word from a friend, connecting with old friends, encouraging words from Momma, shoulders to cry on and that help carry our burdens.

And hope.

I wanted to post about how hopeless I was and how I felt God had turned His face from me. But He is the author and finisher of this story, and that is not part of it. He is a God of hope and glory, not despair and defeat.


I have no words to thank the people that drew near to us in the past few days. My heart cries tears of gratitude and joy. You have done more than you know. A simple word, a kind gesture, or even just the few moments you took to listen and really hear.

These things you did have helped me see a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel (and I am pretty sure it's not an oncoming train!). You have helped restore my faith and reintroduced hope into my heart.

Thank you to all of you who pray for us, listen to us, share with us-you are the hands and feet of Jesus in our lives.

Blessings,
Meri

Saturday, June 20, 2015

This Guy...

So there's this guy....

He loves his children. He works really hard. All the time. He makes me laugh. He holds me when I cry. Which is a lot lately.

There's this guy that hasn't always had an easy life. His relationship with his own father is....complicated. But he doesn't focus on that. He remembers all the good parts and tries to recreate them for his kids. He has learned from some of the struggles and is determined not to repeat them.

He doesn't always say the right thing. He sometimes gets angry. He makes mistakes. But he tries again. And again, and again.

For the past 13 years, Father's Day has been about two men in my life-my own father and my husband. They both hold a special place in my heart and deserve to be honored each and every year day.

But this has been an especially challenging year for the most important man in my life (after my Heavenly Father), so I want to make sure he knows where he stands with me.

The father of my children is my hero. He is my soul-mate, my best friend, my servant-lover. He was chosen by God to walk this journey with me and I am so.very.grateful.

I watch him with his children, our children, and I look at him in wonder. I see the heartache and hurt from damaged relationships and a broken family etched in his face. But moreover, I see determination. I see a man who refuses to quit. A man who will never give up-on any of us. I see a man determined to set the example of a godly husband for his son. I see a man who desperately desires to show his daughters the kind of man they should seek for a husband. I see a man who will stop at nothing to keep his family together.

I see a man after God's heart. And I love him deeply.

So, today, I honor my husband. Father of my children. Soul mate. Hero. Friend.

Happy Father's Day, my love!

-Meri

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Necessary Things

Racism. Police lives. Gay marriage. Gender reassignment. 
Abortion. Religious freedom. Poverty.



I don't know how to talk about these things.  I don't know how to write about these things.  I don't even know how I feel about some of them and if what I believe about others is right or wrong.  I don't know if what I believe even matters.

But I can't ignore them.  I can't make them go away just by pretending they don't exist or that, while they do exist, they don't impact my life.

I have children who have questions.  I have questions.

I have friends who have been touched in a personal way by each of these topics. I have friends who live these topics every day.

I somehow have to reconcile all of these things for myself and my children.

I am not sure I know the words to use.  I am afraid of using the wrong words and offending someone.

I have put these subjects in boxes and put them on a shelf in my life.  I have covered myself and my family with the blanket of "this is my personal opinion, but..."

We need to talk about them.  I need to talk about them.

Racism is real, and I hate it. I have largely ignored racism, allowing myself to believe that it was a problem of our past. I have relegated it to history. But it is real. It is now. I cannot pretend it does not exist any more than I can pretend to understand what it is like to be persecuted simply for the color of my skin. I may not experience this in a personal way, but I do not have to remain silent as others do.

Police protect us every day and I love them for it.  But some of them make mistakes.  And some of them are just plain bad.  But most of them are good and deserve better than we give them.

Homosexuality is wrong according to God's word.  But God also teaches us to love one another.  Each and every one of us.  I believe homosexuality is a sin.  I also believe I am a sinner.  God tells me, through His word, that all sins are equivalent and only He can judge.

Gender reassignment is against God's perfect plan for us.  The Creator of all things does not make mistakes. But again, only He can judge-it is my place to show Christ's love, and God's place to hand down judgment.  You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. -Romans 2:1

Killing babies is wrong. Period. End of story. Abortion is not a choice, it is a trap. Abortion hurts women, not just babies. Women need forgiveness and love, not judgment. Women deserve better.

Poverty surrounds us. We live a privileged life and most of us, including me, take this for granted.  Right now a child is dying of starvation. Right now a mother is choosing which child eats today. Right now a husband is wondering how he can provide for his family. Right now a family is being evicted because they can't pay the rent. Every day. Every moment. Poverty is real and we, for the most part, ignore it.

Freedom of religion is a freedom I cherish.  My heart breaks when I see people persecuted around the world simply because of their beliefs. My heart breaks to see any religion judged solely on the character of its most extreme members. I want the whole world to know my Jesus.  I want each and every person to believe the truth of the Gospel. But it is not up to me, it is God alone who can save. I can't stop loving others because they don't share my beliefs. I can't save anyone, not even myself. Only God. Only Jesus. I am only tasked to love.
Y'all. Silence kills. Silence allows poverty and abortion and persecution to continue.

We have to talk about these things. Even if we use the wrong words (as I am sure I did in this post). Even if we offend someone.

To ignore these issues is to ignore these people.  We cannot ignore and love at the same time.

Love is everything.

Blessings,
Meri


Greater Love


This was not my planned post for today.  But, as usual, God has laid it on my heart to write about how He has worked in my life.

This is my birth-mother, Michelle.  She is also my mother's sister (it's complicated, but you get used to it after 30-something years). 


I have a very deep love for my mother, my adoptive mother. There is no question in my mind that she is my real mother. She has shown me a love that only a mother could.  She has loved me through tears of pain and tears of joy, laughter, fun times, anger, difficult times, and everything in between.  She has shown me the love of Christ and for that, I am eternally grateful.






That being said, I feel I need to acknowledge the love I have for my birth-mother as well.I only wish I could have said this to her while she was still alive.

We often think of this verse (John 15:13) in terms of sacrificing our life for a friend and Christ's ultimate sacrifice for our salvation.  But I see this through the lens of adoption.

As a mother who has carried four babies in her belly (three that are here with us and one born into Heaven's nursery-for more on that click here), I look at the picture of my birth-mother, pregnant with me, and I see hope and excitement for a future with the child that grows within.

But I know the outcome, and it was not the story she imagined.

I cannot comprehend the sacrificial love that she expressed by giving me up for adoption. The combination of joy and pain she must have felt watching me grow up from a distance. 

Greater love hath no man mother than to sacrifice her life personal desires for a friend child.

She was not perfect.  Some would say that her situation was a result of her own poor life choices-and they would be right.  But she made good choices, too.  She made one choice that many women could not fathom.  She chose to die to her personal desires and sacrifice them for her child.

Most mothers will tell you that they would do anything for their children, including lay down their own lives.  But I think the sacrifice of adoption takes more. And an adoption situation where you continue to be in that child's life, but must watch as they call another woman "Momma", must take a level of sacrifice that few are capable of.

My adoption story is more than this one picture.  I have honestly never thought much about who my birth-mother was before I have actual memories of her (by which time she was functionally my Aunt Michelle).  This photo has allowed me to connect with her in a way I have never experienced.  At this moment in time, she shared all of the hopes and dreams that I felt with each of my pregnancies.  And then she had the strength to let them go.

I have experienced the loss of those dreams.  I have had them torn from my womb in a painful and terrible way. 

But she laid them on the altar in the ultimate act of self-sacrifice.  And for that, I am forever grateful.

Blessings,
Meri

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sugar Detox: Prep Week



I have recently made a decision to take back control of my health.

I have chosen to stop most pharmaceuticals and attempt to treat my fibromyalgia, chronic headaches, and other ailments with diet change, essential oils and other natural remedies.

This is a major step for me as well as my family.  I am thankful for a supportive husband and a great "crunchy" friend who is my Sherpa-guide for this crazy journey.  The whole clean food scene can be very confusing without a wise and knowledgeable sensei (mad props to my friend, Megan).



We will be following the 8-Week Sugar Detox Challenge from Natural Fertility and Wellness (available on Amazon here).

I plan to start each new week on Sunday, so we are preparing to start with our weekly grocery trip this coming Sunday.

This first week, we will be eliminating high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) from our diets.  That being said, there are some acceptable sugars we will be able to keep.

"Good" Sugars:
Honey (local, real honey)
Maple Syrup (100% pure)
Pure Organic Cane Sugar
Muscovado Sugar
Coconut or Palm Sugar
Molasses
Sorghum
Stevia


So far I have gotten rid of several items-some expected, some not so expected.  We will have to find a brand of Worcestershire sauce that does not contain HFCS (hopefully).  We are getting rid of the BBQ sauce (my son is not happy about this one), ketchup, and chocolate sauce.  Thankfully, my favorite condiment (Duke's Mayo) is safe, at least for now!

I am excited and intimidated at the same time.  I am also prayerfully seeking God's guidance in this process.  I know He has a plan for me and my family and I believe that plan includes a healthy lifestyle.

Blessings,
Meri





The Longest Distance

"The farthest distance on earth is between one's heart and one's head."-Unknown

Every day my Instagram and Facebook feeds are filled with little tokens of biblical wisdom.  There are posts about faith and trusting God in difficult times, having an eternal perspective, character is developed through trials.



I read these and I understand them.  I read the verses in my Bible that talk about these same topics-especially the Pauline epistles.  I know that my situation(s) are temporary, all of this life is.  I know that there are millions of people on this planet that experience unspeakable suffering each and every day-far worse than anything I will likely experience in my lifetime.

By my heart refuses to understand.

I feel stuck.  I am in survival mode. Curled up in the fetal position trying to get through just the basic functions of life and just survive each day. 

I cry tears of frustration.  Tears for our financial struggles, tears for my health struggles, tears that come from a deep sense of loss and hopelessness.

Yes, hopelessness.

I know that I should feel hope. That God has given me much and has promised even more.  I know that fear and hopelessness are the exact opposite of faith.  My head knows all of these things, but my heart refuses to process and accept them as truth.

I don't know how to connect the two-my heart and my head.  I don't know when survival mode will end for me.  I want to feel hopeful, it just doesn't seem to be that easy for me.

Maybe I am broken. 

My head knows that God makes broken things beautiful in His time and in His way. 
My heart doesn't understand why I continue to just feel the brokenness. 

My head knows that God's answer is sometimes "no" or "wait". 
My heart is insistent and impatient.

My head knows that my sufferings are inconsequential compared to the sufferings of millions around the world. 
My heart fails to see past the suffering of the moment.

My head knows that the pain of this life is temporary. 
My heart feels like this pain is without end.

My head knows that I am greatly blessed. 
My heart can only see the gaps and empty spaces.

My head knows that it is in those gaps and empty spaces that God's greatest miracles can happen.
My heart feels like those miracles are just not for me.

I have know wise words or poignant scripture today.  The Bible is full of wisdom on this very subject, but I just can't today.  I just can't.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Family Fun Weekend #1

Please note, this is post #1 in a series of posts I intend to write about our family adventures this summer.  We have decided to attempt to take a day-trip (or longer) at least every other weekend this summer and then I will post about our experience.  By titling this one #1, I am committing myself to #2 and beyond.....right!?!

Friday night we decided to explore Winston-Salem's culinary scene.  We landed at Bad Daddy's Burger Bar....it was totally worth the 30 minute wait, just to see my son unhinge his jaw like an anaconda!!!





On Saturday, we headed west towards Statesville and stumbled on Lake Norman State Park.  Thankfully, there was a swimming beach open to the public and we were ready to cool off!


After 2 hours at the lake and in the water, we were all tired.  But we had big plans-drive in movies in Eden with our friends the Fassetts!!!!





The first movie was "Jurassic World"

So we watched a movie about dinosaurs.

Big dinosaurs with big teeth.  In the dark.  Outside.  In the woods.

Thankfully the next movie was.......

Love Love Love this movie!!!!  Just as good as the first-maybe better!

It was a great time, all of the kids had fun.  They met new friends and played all evening and into the night.  We sat outdoors and enjoyed the fresh air and films.  We also enjoyed the very loud go-cart that the theater employee drove (insert sarcasm here).  My husband even offered to relocate the go-cart keys for him, free of charge.

So we arrived home around 3 am on Sunday.  Needless to say we ALL slept in-thankfully church service is not until 5 pm!

Looking forward to sharing many more adventures with you!

Becka out.












Monday, June 15, 2015

Painfully Transparent

Today, I had planned to post about our awesome adventure this weekend.  I was going to share a few pics of what we did and tell you about how our family had a great time bonding with each other and our good friends.

But that is not what this post is about.

This post is about being painfully transparent and letting you look into our lives without the filter we usually apply.

We are still struggling financially.  We still fail to choose joy many days.  We know love is everything, but we let anger and disappointment and fear rule our lives and our family too much. We are full of good intentions, but fail to follow through on so many of them.  We continue to repeat the mistakes of our past, seeming to never learn or grow.

There are some tough decisions we have to make over the next few days that will require us to achieve a level of honesty about who we are and the choices we've made that I am not sure we have experienced yet.

The lies of the enemy echo in my head: "you are not good enough", "you have disappointed people-again", "you are not where you should be by now", "you will never measure up". 

But it is here, in this gap-this in-between space, that God whispers "You are Mine and I love you."


The One Who Sees Me.  El Roi.

He sees all of me.  The rebellion of my heart against my husband when I fail to submit.  The anger and resentment my still-rebellious heart harbors and refuses to release to Him.  He sees my pride, bitterness, unhealthy habits, and all of the other failures I try to hide from the world.

I am ashamed.  I have failed to be obedient to my husband.  Oh, not overtly disobedient in the manner of a wayward child that defies a parent.  But I have harbored a rebellious heart.  I have made it difficult for him to lead me.  I have quietly, almost subconsciously (but not quite), rebelled against his leadership and his decisions.  I have embodied the saying of "happy wife, happy life" or more appropriately the flip side of "unhappy wife, unhappy life".  I have said I will follow his lead with my mouth, but refused to do so with my heart.  This man, this husband of mine, whose main desire is to obey God by serving me, wants so desperately to make me happy.  And I have used that desire as a tool to get my way (I was trying to think of a better way to word that which would not make me appear quite so manipulative, but this is titled "Painfully Transparent" so....).





This failure to submit to my husband, to listen and follow his guidance with grace and honor, is a symptom of a deeper issue.  Too often, my feeling of worth is defined by society deems valuable.  But my Father has a different definition of value and purpose.  His Word reminds me that all of my value is in who I am in Him and only by His grace and the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ, do I have any value at all.  My worldly value was lost on that day in Eden when Eve chose to disobey Adam and God and ate of that one forbidden tree.



 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  -Genesis 3:1-5

Not only was Eve's choice sinful because she ate from the one tree that was forbidden, she sinned by disobeying her husband.  And so have I.

My heart is grieved by this.  My heart is heavy with the burden of sin.

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  
-Romans 7:18- 

But there is hope.

There is a way to relieve my heart of it's burden.  I am not destined to continue to sin.  I do not have to reside in this place of grief for one more day.

This does not mean I will never sin.  I will make mistakes.  I will make selfish choices.  I will make poor decisions based on my human heart's desires.  I will grieve.  My heart will break.  I will break others' hearts.  There will be sorrow and pain in my future.

But I am not doomed to remain in a place of grief and heartache forever.  I will not dwell in sorrow and pain forever.  My Jesus took that away from me on the cross, I have only to accept the gift.

"The heart of the human problem is the heart of the human.  And God's treatment is prescribed in John 3:16." -Max Lucado

Blessings,
Meri
 



Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Sweetly Broken

At the cross, You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees
And I am lost for words, so lost in love
I'm sweetly broken, wholly surrendered
(Jeremy Riddle-Sweetly Broken)
Today, I am broken.  Physically broken.  

Yesterday, I saw my new pain management specialist and he recommended trigger point injections to relieve my Myofascial Pain Syndrome pain in my shoulders and neck.  He assured me there was only a very slim chance (less than 5 percent) that I would not be able to make my trip today.

This morning, I woke up with severe pain in my right shoulder and arm.  Clearly, I should not bet on cards (or anything else for that matter).


I so desperately wanted to go on this trip.  To fulfill the promise I made to the company I am contracting with, to help my family financially.

But here in the space, this gap between what I want and what is reality-God meets me here.  He reminds me that my brokenness is His power.  That He can use me in any state, even with a broken body and unpredictable illness.

He also reminds me that He is sovereign over my life, my health, and my finances.  He is Jehoveh-Jireh:  The One Who Provides.

I feel broken today, but I am not without hope.  I am not with out answers.  I am not without love.

And love is everything.

So today, I will choose joy.  I will trust Him with my circumstances.  I will trust Him with our finances and our marriage.  I know He is able to provide more than I can even dream of!

Blessings,
Meri

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Cancer Sucks

So, as you all know-cancer sucks.

Cancer sucks the life out of people and families.

Cancer sucks the air of lungs.

Cancer sucks mothers away from their children, husbands away from their wives, children away from their parents.

Cancer sucks the ability to bear children from young women.

Cancer sucks in so very many ways.

But there is something you can do to help cancer suck less.  To take the sucking power away from this terrible disease.

I have a dear friend, a sweet friend, a friend I have known for over 20 years and this friend's life and family have been touched by cancer.  I won't share the details as they are not mine to share, but because of how cancer has touched their lives, her husband (who is a pretty awesome guy) is going to ride 150 miles on his bike to raise money for cancer research so we can take the power away from cancer and give it to cancer survivors and so that one day, may in just a generation or two, cancer will be something they talk about like we do smallpox today-eradicated from the face of the earth.

This mighty man is joining other biking legends in the Ride to Conquer Cancer.  He has committed to raise $2500 for cancer research and ride 150 miles on his bike to show his commitment to this cause.

Seriously, y'all-150 miles.  I don't even like to drive 150 miles.  I probably couldn't ride a bike 150 feet without getting winded.  This guy is my hero. 

I.can't.even.

Sometime, somewhere your life will be touched by cancer, too.  Please consider on this National Cancer Survivor's Day to donate to this very worthy cause so that someday we can eradicate cancer and no longer have to celebrate this day.

You can donate here:
John Dorsey Ride to Conquer Cancer

As most of you know, my life has been touched in a very personal way through my mother's ongoing battle with cancer.  I have felt the pain of watching a loved one suffer from this terrible disease and I pray that one day we can say "no more".  The bravery of the men and women who battle this disease day in and day out and the dedication of the doctors and researchers that treat these patients and seek the cure is beyond my comprehension.  They deserve your support.

Blessings,
Meri




Survivors

Today is National Cancer Survivor's Day. June 7, 2015.

Almost 14 years ago, cancer touched my family in a very real way.  Until then, cancer was something that happened to other people.  To older people. To someone else's mother.  Until it happened to mine.

The day I learned my mother had breast cancer is burned into my memory.  I had stopped by their house, unannounced, to find her quietly reading and favoring her arm.  Just as she was explaining that she had just had a needle biopsy to determine if a lump in her breast was cancerous, the phone rang.

It was the doctor.

It was cancer.

That moment changed my life and the way I saw my mother forever.  Suddenly she who had always cared for others, needed caring for.  She who was always strong, needed the strength of those around her to get her through the surgeries, tests, chemo and its side effects and all of the accoutrements that go along with breast cancer.

She had amazing doctors and surgeons and they treated her cancer aggressively.  By the time I gave birth to our fist child in May 2002, we were able to celebrate two lives-a new life given and another life saved, she was in remission.  About 5 years later, she was declared cancer-free.

She was a survivor.  And we were so thankful to God for her healing, because we knew that He is the Great Physician and her doctors here on earth could only assist Him in His work.
 Then about 2 years ago I got the call from my Dad.

The cancer was back.  It had metastasized to her spine.  It apparently was a spot they had been watching for several years (I think since about 2010), but they were not sure what it was and it was not growing.  Then, suddenly, it was growing-and required action.

So, again, with skilled and gifted doctors, a plan was developed to address this new tumor.  This time there would be no radical surgery, no chemo.  It was not in a place that was easily operable, chemo was not the best option.  This time they went with radiation therapy and oral cancer-fighting drugs.  The tumor shrunk some, apparently enough to satisfy the doctors.  But, there was pain.  Pain from the tumor, pain from the radiation damage to her spine. 

She was quietly brave about all of it, never showing weakness or fear-at least not to me.  Sometimes I wish she would, but that is not who she is-at least not with me, and I do not love her one bit less for that.  She is my Momma and she wants to protect me at all costs, and I love her deeply for that.

This time it was different though.  The doctors said there will be no cure, no cancer-free celebration.  This type of cancer is not going to go away.  She will likely die with this cancer (not from it, mind you), it will always be a part of her now.

They call today National Cancer Survivor's Day, but my Momma has done more than survive-she has thrived.  She has allowed God to fill in the gaps in her faith with His steadfast love.  She has allowed Him to lean in during the times she has been afraid and remind her that nothing comes to us that has not passed through His hands.  She has played with her grandchildren and watched them grow, taking in every moment.  She has taught them, loved them, cherished them, and prayed over them.  She takes them swimming, kayaking, searching for shells on the beach, to museums and movies, to events at church.  She volunteers and serves her community through her church.  She sings on the praise team-her beautiful voice worshiping her Mighty Healer and Comforter.  She lives life every moment.

I have no words to express how much I love this woman, this survivor.  She is brave and beautiful and I am blessed to call her Momma.


Finding Our Joy Again

Last night we went over to spend some time with dear friends.  Friends who have walked with us through times of pain and times of joy.  Friends who we have shared laughter, meals, children, tears, prayers and life with for the past 6 years.  Friends that God has gifted to us.

This was after I had gone to see movie with a dear girlfriend, and Rick and the kids had gone to do a few fun things themselves.  It was a bright, sunny, summer-like evening with a brilliant Carolina-blue sky.  It was warm and we had the windows in the SUV down and the radio cranked loud.

And then it happened.

"Shake It Off" (Taylor Swift) came on the radio.

And we all broke into song and dance.

Let me tell you-I will not be winning a Grammy in the near (or distant) future.  My biggest only fans of my singing are my children and my shower head.  But when this song comes on-you just have to sing loud and dance.

What I think I look like breaking it down to "Shake It Off"
What I actually look like breaking it down to "Shake It Off"
The point of this is, we are finding our joy again-as a family.  Financial struggle is a quiet killer of families.  It is like a slow-growing cancer that eats away at the soul of the family unit in an area where it can go undetected until it is too late to cure.  I am thankful to God that He revealed this necrosis to our family before it was beyond repair.

In light of this, we have adopted two new family mottoes in the past month: choose joy and love is everything.  We want to live every moment with the understanding that we have a choice, not always in our circumstances, but in how we react and process those circumstances-and we want to choose joy as often as possible. 

We also want to understand that when you strip everything away: hurt feelings, perceived injustice, rules, regulations, and past or present offenses, what matters is love.  That is the gospel of Jesus Christ at it's most basic: love.





13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (www.biblegateway.com)

Not only is love everything, but without it, we are nothing.  All of the amazing things we could do through Christ's power in us, are worthless and meaningless without love.

 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21

I can't say that the troubled times are over.  We may face greater storms ahead.  But I can say, that no matter our situation-our family will choose joy together and will love fiercely and recklessly.  We will do this because this is how we live the gospel.  This is how we put feet to the God-breathed words of the Holy Scriptures.  This is how we worship our Maker and Father.

Blessings,
Meri