Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Anniversary of the Hardest Year of Our Marriage

Today my husband Kevin and I have been married for 23 years.  I am blessed with a Godly, hard working, compassionate and wise husband who loves me well.  My friends have been known to comment about how obvious it is that he's crazy about me or how lucky I am to have such a wonderful husband.  This is true indeed.

Sometimes I'll share a particular struggle in my life with my mom and she always finds a way to add "Just be thankful that you have a good husband." I'm not sure why my being sad because my friend is moving to another state or my struggles with getting an IEP for one of my children relates to me having a good husband but she always says that.  And then I think about it and realize she's right.  Life is hard but somehow with him by my side, it's just a little bit easier.

That's not what I'm going to talk about today.  As we celebrate another year of marriage, we both can agree that it has been the hardest year of our marriage.  Not the hardest year of parenting, not the hardest year financially, but the hardest year of our relationship as a couple.

There isn't one thing in particular.  We are busy parents, we struggle with communication.  He forgets to tell me things and I think if I've thought it, he should have read my mind and know it!  His work is very demanding of his time and I'm a little lonely and bored without a job outside the home. Then the evening comes and we meet the demands that come with having a big family.  We are tired and it has become more difficult for us to have the quality time that we need to nurture our relationship. We have shared many years of much worse so I don't know what has made this the toughest year.

Sometimes I think we sound like a grouchy old married couple.  We tend to give each other less grace and patience and kind words than we do the rest of the world.  Ouch!  I'm often irritated with how easily he can become distracted and because of that things tend to take him a lot longer to accomplish because his brain works differently than mine.  He gets frustrated with my resistance to change and my impatience.

I remember the hardest year of college and how I pressed on, then the hardest year of parenting when it never crossed my mind to quit being a parent. I have no intention of quitting my marriage.  We made a covenant 23 years ago and to not continue in this journey together is not an option.

I believe that anything worth doing is going to be difficult and hard and will require perseverance, patience and a lot of faith and trust.

I love my husband.  We are both broken people.  We don't let the brokenness keep us from moving forward together.

I have this visual picture of my marriage.  We are on a roller coaster together and sometimes the climb is slow and unsure.  Sometimes it is fun and exhilarating.  Sometimes it's a bit scary or even terrifying and then other times we plummet with the things that can threaten to derail or knock us off course.  That's the thing about a roller coaster, just when you think you're not going to stop falling, you're heading back up again.  We now know this roller coaster very well and the course it takes.  It gives me hope through the valleys to know that if we stay on course there's a new hill just around the corner that will bring us back up.  It's all a part of the ride.

I chose to share this with you today because I read so many "flowery" stories that can often make me fell inadequate.  I want to be honest that we're just normal people dealing with the ups and downs that life brings.  We are keeping our hands held tightly together and our eyes focused on Christ as we continue walking forward through our life as a married couple.  I hope that we can be an encouragement to anyone who is in a hard place in their marriage.  You are not alone friend.  It will get better.

Kevin sat next to me as I wrote this after we spent an entire day together doing very romantic things.  We went to lunch, to Lowe's and a few other shops where we could take our time and look and dream and shop a little.  We went to dinner and we laughed and we even showed some public displays of affection(Kevin says until the cops came). It's funny how over time what is considered romantic can change.  I had my man all to myself for an entire day and it was good!

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." Galations 6:9

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Another Day in the Life

Recently I've read a few blog posts talking about 'Parenting with Purpose' and "10 Tips for Stay at Home Moms'. I read them but still can't get the titles out of my head.  I imagine myself writing either one of these posts and I feel completely and utterly unqualified to do so.  I wonder to myself what it would take for me to feel like I was in fact qualified to write them.  My conclusion: I do not know, perhaps when I am old and can look back, I may have wisdom for younger mamas that I don't currently possess.

I am a stay at home mom.  I have six children.  Two who live on their own, 2 in high school and 2 in all day Kindergarten.  You may wonder what I do with my life.  I don't actually "do" anything outside of being a mom really but my days are very full.  Most days I have a rough idea of what I am going to do but I have learned to be very flexible because anything can happen, and it usually does.

I woke up this morning, got the twins ready and as I was driving them to school my 17 year old texted me that he had accidentally taken his night time medicine instead of his morning medicine.  The problem is that he takes a sleeping pill at night.  This has happened to me and it's not fun!  Poor kid, he's in the middle of performing for a Choir contest in school.  I imagine him standing at the top riser where the tenors stand.  It's now been 1 1/2 hours since he took the sleeping pill and he says he is having a hard time standing up.  He does not want to let his teacher down so he states he will try to make it through.

I call the teacher, get her voicemail and leave a message about what has happened and that he will do what is needed to make up the points he will lose for leaving.  I call the school nurse to let her know so that when she sees him she does not think he is on illegal drugs.  I have already been through that experience in real life.  I finally convince him to go to the nurse and I will meet him at school.

Meanwhile Roman and Rya are coloring because it's a 20 minute car ride to school and that is way too long for them to go without creating something, so this is our normal.  Roman, who is hearing impaired but still catches more than most people, has apparently been listening.  "What am I suppose to go to the nurse for?"  I tell him I was talking about Sterling to which he replies, "Yeah, what's the deal with everyone calling him Sterling when we all know his real name is 'Do-Ah'?

I laugh real hard because I love that even if I tried to explain it to him, he would think I was wrong.  When they were little, they couldn't say Sterling's name right and it came out "Do-Ah".  That's what he's called at our house to this day.

I drop the little ones off and pick up Sterling.  When we get in the driveway I can barely get him out of the car.  He is moving but his eyes remain closed.

Meanwhile, Linnea texts me.  Have I mentioned that I love, love LOVE that my kids have phones and have the ability to communicate with me throughout the school day?  There's not much I miss because they keep me pretty up to date about the good, the bad and the ugly parts of their day.  Imagine if Sterling had gone to the nurse without me having first explained to her what was going on?  Anyway, Linnea texted me asking if we could go to Clive's tonight to watch the Minnesota Wild play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Clive's is a sport's bar where our oldest daughter works.

I smiled.  Love languages.  They all have them.  Time is one of her love languages.  What she was really saying was; "That was really fun when you and Dad took me to watch the game with you the other night, can we do it again?"

I'm painfully aware of how quickly our time with our children passes.  My oldest daughter is in Florida as I write this looking for an apartment and plans to move there in July.  My heart feels squeezed each time I say the words.

My husband likes to make fun of me because I am one of those people who finds it necessary to take note of or should I say cherish the "lasts".  I verbally said that this past Easter might have been our "last" Easter together as a family.  Recently one of the kids lost a tooth.  I looked at my husband and laughingly said "this is the last time we are going to experience our kids loosing their first teeth."

Ironically, for all of my taking note of the "lasts", six years ago we were given the gift of experiencing all of the firsts, lasts and in betweens over again when a friend of ours asked us to adopt her unborn twins.

I know that I parent the youngest two differently than I did the older 4.  I'm older and a little tired, a bit wiser, a little more patient and a lot more aware of the short amount of time we have to teach, mold, love and have them.

My youngest sister is about to have her first child.  I think about what I might say to her to offer sisterly advice about parenting.  I don't know.  Don't sweat the small stuff, trust yourself, lean on Jesus, make your marriage a priority, take a lot of pictures, don't compare yourself to others, be present, be real, have a good support network, don't grocery shop with kids, be flexible and find joy in the journey!

I have to miss my sister's baby shower because my daughter has a soccer tournament.  I was feeling a lot of guilt about it because you only get a baby shower once and there are lots of soccer games.  I am the team manager and required to be there.  My husband told me I was making the right choice because by being present in my children's lives, they will not one day say to me "I needed you and you weren't there."  I can be confident that my job as a mom trumps all things other than my marriage and my relationship with God.

There is nothing glamorous about my life but it is the life I have chosen and continue to choose.  I may not feel qualified to share tips on Parenting with Purpose or being a Stay at Home Mom but I am giving my best effort to both.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Choosing Joy

Today is the first day of Spring.  In Minnesota we have new snow on the ground that arrived yesterday.  It's been a long winter with something like 59 days below zero and a lot of snow.  The other day I heard a bird chirping outside and it was a beautiful sound!  We're hearty people, us Minnesotans but we have had enough!  I could keep complaining but I refuse to.

Spring is my favorite season and there is so much to look forward to.  The other day my son and I both had the stomach flu.  We spent the whole day in my room sleeping and watching movies.  He made a sign for my door that said we were sick and not to come in.  I think he liked having me to himself even if we were both sick.  It was adorable!

Yesterday while a few more of my family members were sick with the stomach flu and I was busy cleaning carpets and doing laundry, I was actually grateful. My little one just wanted me to sit by her as she slept and I secretly liked that she was sick because this sweet girl never stops moving but yesterday she just wanted to be still with me by her side.  It was precious.  Incidentally, today she is singing 'Let it Go' from Frozen at the top of her lungs and that's precious too:)

I looked out the window at the snow and decided neither the snow nor the flu would get the best of me.    Spring is coming, soon the snow will melt, the flowers will come up and I'll be wearing capris and flip flops which are my favorite!  I picked up my computer and decided to make a list of all of my favorite things.

The color Blue, iced tea, lipstick, chocolate, bows, cake batter chap stick, Baskin Robbins Chocolate Peanut butter ice cream, flowers, glitter, posting encouraging Bible verses around my house, date nights, watching my kids find their passions, friends, a fruity martini, painting and decorating a room, helping someone, family time, laughter, giving gifts, concord grapes, the beach, hockey games, playing broom ball, roller coasters, jewelry, wedge shoes, vacations, garage sales, kayaking, falling asleep on my husbands chest, talking with my kids, one on one time with my kids, pink starburst, Italian food, when friends call instead of text, the ocean, cuddling with my kids, having company, my husbands smile, floating on a raft, cruises, flip flops, fuzzy socks, sitting by a fire, lazy Saturdays with my family, going out to eat, watching soccer, getting lost in a good book, crime shows, Jimmy Fallon, watching Chopped, dolphins, grace, mercy, pear and marshmallow jelly beans, my family, blue skies, gymnastics and friends who really know me and are reading this list not surprised by any of my answers.

Making this list was very therapeutic for me.  Life is hard and we never know what each day will bring.    Reflecting on the things I love and choosing joy is so much better than grumbling about another snowy day.

What are some of your favorite things?

Friday, February 21, 2014

My life as Reality TV

This past Labor Day my sister and her family joined my family at the beach to soak up every last minute of summer. My sister has 5 children and I have 6.  They range in age from 21 to 5. They are mostly close in age and love being together.   I'm sure some of her children could pass as mine and vice versa.

 We come from an Italian family, so as you can imagine our normal is very loud! The more fun we are having, the louder we are. I don't even think about it to be honest. We swam, played games, cheered as the 5 year olds swam out to the floating dock with very little assistance and made sand castles. We ate, went paddle boating and paddle boarding. We had a birthday party for our 2 daughters who share a birthday.  At one point my brother in law went and got a hot pink bike they were giving to my niece and rode it from the parking lot to the beach, singing loudly while my daughter video taped him.

My sister and I sat in beach chairs and did what sisters do, talked, laughed and goofed off.  There is no one who gets me more or makes me laugh harder than my sister!

 Our families have vacationed together many times. On this day, I was determined to recreate an old beach photo from about 12 years ago. This seemingly simple request ended up being quite an ordeal. At that one moment, I realized other people must have been looking at us and became a little self-conscious.

After that everyone continued with the festivities. As we were preparing to leave, my sister looked at me and said she thought the couple sitting next to us was watching us. She overheard them trying to figure out who went with who. They had decided that our husbands were brothers. They both are handsome men with bald heads, so yeah.

 My sister engaged them in conversation and commented about our large families. They laughed and said they had been watching us for some time and had decided that if they were television producers they would surely choose our families for a reality TV show. Ok. My mind started to replay the events of the day.  It was a fairly small beach and we kind of dominated the area.  I was having so much fun it never dawned on me that our lively crew may have been drawing the attention of others.

Quite frankly, our lives would make a fascinating reality TV show but thank God it's not!

I do often have to laugh at how seemingly crazy my life must look from the outside.  I know there are many others who feel like we do; weary at times, or weary more times than not.  We try to take it one day at a time and ask God to give us the grace we need to make it through.

Having people to do life with is so necessary!  Having good relationships with family is invaluable.  As I sit in my home writing this and remembering that fun day,  I smile at how blessed I am!  I also can't wait to be back at the beach again.  There is a fresh 11 inches of snow on the ground in Minnesota today, so that day can't come soon enough!
                                                            Two great families!

Monday, January 20, 2014

A True Legacy

The year was 1971 and my parents were 2 wounded people from very different backgrounds trying to make their marriage work, though it clearly wasn't. My dad was an Italian-Catholic who grew up in an Italian neighborhood in Pittsburgh, PA. My mom grew up in St. Paul, MN without her dad, poor and one of 8 children. Together they had myself and my brother Nick.

My parents purchased a small home in what would be my hometown of Richfield, MN. The biggest selling point was a huge bar in the basement. Alcohol was an ever present staple in their life.

There was a Pentecostal Pastor and his family who lived directly across the street from us. His wife showed up at our door to welcome us to the neighborhood one day with a pie and a book. The title of the book was 'The Cross and the Switchblade' by David Wilkerson.

David Wilkerson was a small town pastor from Pennsylvania to whom God gave a passion for the Gang members of New York City. "It all began when he saw a photograph in 1958 of seven New York City teenagers charged with murder. He later wrote that as he felt the Holy Spirit move him with compassion, he was drawn to go to New York in February 1958. It was then that he began a street ministry to young drug addicts and gang members, which he continued into the 1960s. Later in 1958, he founded Teen Challenge, an evangelical Christian addiction recovery program affiliated with the Assemblies of God, with a network of Christian social and evangelizing work centers."(Wikipedia)

My mom read the book and it changed her life. She gave her life to Jesus and began attending Bible study at our neighbors house. My dad noticed the difference in her and was interested in what caused it. About six months later, he too read the book. Shortly thereafter he went to a rally where he heard David Wilkerson speak. He gave his life to Christ that night. My family was forever changed. My mom had been ready to divorce my dad. My brother and I were about 2 and 4 years old at the time. After becoming Christians, my parents went on to have 5 more children! They have been married now for 45 years. My siblings all love Jesus.

 Ironically, years later my family would once again be changed because of the passion one man had for Christ and for those addicted to drugs and alcohol. We sent our son to Teen Challenge, the recovery program started by David Wilkerson. It changed his life and he has been sober for 3 years now. One man, whom I have never met has impacted my family's legacy profoundly. The ripple effects within my family alone from one man's passion and obedience to Christ is beyond comprehension. I don't think there is any way to adequately measure the impact this man's life has made for the kingdom.

This got me thinking about how none of us knows what kind of impact our life will have on others.  One of my greatest desires is that my life have meaning and to make a difference for others for Christ.  I think we all fear not making a difference in some way.  I love the visual of throwing a rock in the water and watching the circles start out big and end up smaller and smaller.  I believe that both our good and bad choices have a ripple effect like the stone in the water that can leave an impact on those closest to us as well as our acquaintances.

I am not Dave Wilkerson.  I am Gina Lind.  My life looks pretty good in pictures.  Come live a day or two in my home and you will see I'm in the midst of several storms.  I'm pretty honest and open about things.  I believe that through my failures and successes, I can share how God is faithful no matter what.

I can be a good neighbor.  If our neighbors in 1971 hadn't reached out to my family, my life could have looked very, very different.  What if a pie, a book and an invite into my home was the beginning to changing a life for eternity?

I believe in loving and serving people.  Sometimes I am not the most loving to the people I care about the most, but that is my desire; to love well, to serve others and to reach out to people who are hurting.

Two years ago I came across this verse and it is one of my favorite verses.  I have it posted in several places through out my home.

"Above all, let your love for one another be intense because love covers a multitude of sins." 1Peter 4:8

If I'm going to leave a legacy, then I really need to live this verse.  I believe this is how David Wilkerson lived his life, otherwise he would not have had the incredible impact he did on the lives of drug addicts and gang members.

Lord, help me to be willing to reach out to others no matter my own personal circumstances.  Help me to look for ways to love and serve others.  Thank you for the people you have placed in my life who have pointed me to you.  Help me to be someone that points others to you by the way I live my life.  Thank you for loving me and for being my Father.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Giving Them Wings

Several years ago, I let my 18 year old daughter travel to Uganda with 10-20 women from across the US I did not know. It actually ended up being a comfort to me because I could strongly feel the love and the nurturing she'd be getting from the other women who love Jesus. My heart was wishing that I had been able to be with her on this incredible experience.

This brings me back to some verses God has given to me over the past several years. It's been a true struggle learning to let go of our children. We have given them wings and soon it will be time for them to fly. It's really something we start doing as early as when they begin walking. The question is, are we ever really ready to let them go?

"Let your hope make you glad.  Be patient in the time of trouble and never stop praying." Romans 12;12 I think that one was written especially for me! I feel strongly about hearing the Lord tell me to have hope and this verse makes my heart happy.  The patience part, I'm still working on.

Lamentations 3:22-23 -
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

There is no exclamation mark after this verse but I think there should be. I am an emotional person who feels deeply and I love the exclamation mark! His compassions are new every morning. That is just amazing to me! Thank you Lord for your great faithfulness!

So here's what happened: Hannah arrived in Dallas airport with 2 bags to check, a carry on bag, a purse a backpack and a small bag. She had to leave security to meet up with the team she was going to Uganda with. She rented a luggage carrier, which didn't help as she was told she must leave them within the security area. My 110 pound daughter begins to drag all this luggage across the airport. I received a phone call from her, she was frantic and scared. I was wondering what I had been thinking letting her go alone! Thankfully after her ordeal with the luggage she had a pretty easy time find her teammates.

Those 2 weeks she was gone were a lesson in letting go. I was so proud of her and yet so shocked that she was learning to manuever this life without me being there every minute.

When God was teaching me about giving my children wings and letting them fly, I completely didn't connect that perhaps Spencer would be the one I had to let go of first. That was a complete blow to me! I wasn't at all ready for what happened.

Two months prior to Hannah leaving for Africa, we chose to send Spencer to Teen Challenge, a Christian faith-based solution to life-controlling drug and alcohol problems. He was only 16 years old and it was a 15 month program. Though there are hundreds of Teen Challenge sites, we chose Florida, which is a long way from our home in Minnesota. We chose this program because we thought it best suited his needs.

All this happened smack dab in the middle of my depression, making it even more difficult for me to to process. I missed him and I grieved the many losses involved with this situation.

Fast forward almost 3 years and I am amazed at what God has taught me and how I have grown.  I'm still learning to let go.  Hannah is now 21 and Spencer is 19, both of them live on their own and are needing me less and less and when they do need me, it is a different kind of need than when they were children.   Sterling is 17 and he's beginning to look at music schools in other states.  Learning to maneuver the road of parenting older children is a whole new world.

I continually remind myself that they were never mine to begin with. They belong to the Lord.

I recently came across a blog 'Keeping up with the Clarks'.  The author of the blog, Shirley wrote this very wise piece as a new mom and I'd like to share with you. I have paraphrased it a bit. Check out her blog, it is full of beautiful writing.

One day soon my child will outgrow my lap...though never my heart.

And that is the way it should be.

One day soon this baby will become a man/woman.  God will be his/her source and sustainer of life.  My child's needs will be met by Him and not I.

And that is how it should be.

One day soon they will be too big for me to wrap my arms completely around and soon after he/she will prefer the arms of their spouse.

And that is how it should be!

I really love what she wrote and it hit home in a way I hadn't thought of before.  I don't want my children to need me, I want them to need GOD!   I want them to be happy and confident in who they are as my child and as a child of God.  I want them to find that special someone and make their own life.

Of course, I want them to call me every now and then(texting is good but phone calls are better) and I love it when they come home, even for a few minutes to grab some food or play with the littles.

Sometimes I find myself worrying about them moving out of state or what kind of choices they will make.  I know I need to let them figure it out on their own and fail every now and then so they learn.

My husband will wrap his arms around me when this happens and look at me and say "When we have done our job as parents and everyone is gone, it will be just you and me.  We will always have each other and that is very important to remember."

I love him and am so thankful for how he loves our children and for how he loves me.

Dear Lord,
I'm a mom who has given my whole self to parenting.  I have never been perfect and I am always making mistakes.  One thing I know is that I always try my hardest to be a good mom.  I love my children.  I love who they are becoming.  I love that you love them more than I do and that is a lot!  Help me as I learn to let go of my children.  Help me as I learn to let go of control and let them make their own choices.  Help me to figure out how to parent adult children because this is new to me.  Also Lord, please give me the strength and endurance I need as I not only parent adult and teen children but also the twins who are 5.  Sometimes I am tired and think the road ahead is very long.  Thank you for gifting Kevin and I with 6 amazing kids!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Anyone God uses significantly is always deeply wounded...On the last day, Jesus will look us over not for medals, diplomas, or honors, but for scars.             Brennan Manning

When my husband and I were first dating and getting to know each other better, we spent an afternoon pointing out our scars and sharing the stories behind them.

The truth is, our scars tell the stories of where we've been and who we are.  I have a scar on my finger from when my brother and I both foolishly stuck our finger into an open pop can.  Neither of us were willing to pull our finger out first, knowing whoever did would get cut.  I finally did and have a scar to prove it. I was so mad at him that day!  I have scars from childbirth, surgical scars and even scars from burning myself while cooking.

The scars you can't see are the ones that truly tell who I am.

I have emotional scars from my childhood.  The little girl in me remembers the pain like it was yesterday. As an adult, I am responsible for how I respond to the painful memories. I can't react like a child. I've been to counseling and i continue to choose forgiveness for those who hurt me.

Some scars are from people I've loved and lost.  I'm glad they left their mark.Those are beautiful scars!

I have scars from my own poor choices.  I've learned a lot from those scars.

I'm VERY proud of my scars from childbirth.  They remind me of my most precious gifts.

Some of my biggest scars are from motherhood.  Teaching, following through and being consistent. It hurts to see my children hurt and watching others hurt my kids or having to let them fail so they can learn from their failures. I worry about my children's faith. I worry when they make poor choices that negatively affect them. It's hard to allow my adult children to use their wings to fly and watching them falter as they get used to those wings. It hurts to know that I may have caused scars in my children. I wonder if I was good enough. I am blessed to have been chosen to serve God as a mother.<
I have scars that I carry because of someone else's poor choices, which have directly affected me.

One of the definitions of the word scar is "mental effect of distressing experience: a lasting effect on somebody's mind by a personal misfortune or unpleasant experience."  Another definition is" a mark on skin after damage: a mark left on the skin after a wound, burn or sore has healed over."

 As I ponder the scars that I carry, I think about the physical scars that are healed.  They tell a story.  The mental scars, they remind me of my need for Jesus.
I also have some scars from the jobs I've had. I've seen abuse and neglect and poverty up close, I've worked in a trauma center and watched families devastated by loss, I've sat by people as they've died in hospice, I've held the hand of women who have relinquished their child through adoption. Those are scars of service that I am honored to have walked with people. It is what I feel called to do.
Then there was a time when my own pain was so great, I could no longer reach out to others. I believe now I am at a place where I can look at some of the most traumatic and painful experiences in my life as the catalyst for my own personal growth.  Many wounds have healed but their lasting effects remain. I'm more compassionate with others as a result of my own scars. I can relate to pain. Pain doesn't always go completely away. It has changed me, made me more real and made me realize that everyone hurts. I am able to offer grace and mercy to people. I feel it is a gift born out of my own pain. My heart is forever changed. I can honestly say I am thankful for that. I could choose bitterness and anger but instead I choose to let God use me for His glory.

I love you Lord and I know you have scars because of me. I consider it an honor that you love me enough to have chosen the scars. Please use me significantly to impact others in your name. Give me opportunities to serve and love others.