Thursday, October 23, 2014

Beauty and Transformation

It's been a beautiful Autumn here in Minnesota.  The colors of the trees have been especially lovely this year.  I've been busy helping my husband with projects around the house.  He's back to work now and I am learning to fill my days with my own projects.

I've discovered that I love to paint.  Not paint as in art, but to physically paint.  We've painted almost every room in our house this summer and even the deck.  What I really love to paint is furniture.  I also like to follow and be inspired by people who have an eye for how to make beauty from something that isn't necessarily in a current state of beauty.  Then I become inspired to try to create something myself.
Below you will find two of my most recent favorite pieces of inspiration.  The first one you can find on facebook at Old World New Home and the second is also on Facebook at Girl in the Garage.


They're beautiful aren't they?

It got me thinking about how I love seeing the transformation that occurs and how I know God looks at me and sees the hidden beauty and potential within me.  He is transforming me everyday.  I truthfully feel old and don't exactly know at the moment how certain things are going to turn out in my life.

 Then there is this:
"He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"  Then he said, "Write this down for these words are trustworthy and true." Revelation 21:5

And that my friends is my inspiration for today!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Compartmentalizing


Over the past few years my life has been full of a lot of pain. I would say more so than anytime previous to now. I've been pretty honest about our struggles,. I have already shared about the move, my depression my other family members depression and then a child of mine was hit by a car and my son's drug use and entering Teen Challenge. My husband doesn't have a job currently which is somewhat a result of the previously mentioned family stressors.  Tough stuff for sure.

I am currently in the midst of a pain that is deep and heart wrenching. When I think about it and look at my own family and even things I see on facebook, I know I am not alone.  That's not what I want to talk about though. I want to talk about something God has taught me over the past two years; Pain is inevitable.

I've also learned that amidst great pain, there can be joy. That is very different from depression. If someone is depressed, it's hard to find joy in anything. I feel that's important to mention because I know what that feels like and how the dark gray of depression can hinder our ability to see the joy and color in life.

Something can hurt us deeply and yet we can be happy. I call it 'compartmentalizing emotions'. I literally envision the old school library card catalogs that have ironically become a treasured antique collectable.  In my mind's eye I see myself opening one drawer and for that moment concentrating on just one emotion. When I need to I close that drawer and open another.  It's a form of coping or perhaps even survival.

 In one area of my life, there is great beauty and in another area there is great pain. It's been important for me to learn because with six children, there is always a lot going on. I need to be able to put that which is painful in a compartment, to be dealt with, but also to not hinder my ability to celebrate the good things in life.

When I am with one child I try very hard to be present with them and where they are at emotionally.  For whatever amount of time I can, I try to be just that child's mom because they deserve my time and attention.  I love laughing with my kids, listening to their hopes and dreams and celebrating their accomplishments.  I love hearing about what happened at work and school.  I also love when they tell me what they are struggling with, what hurts them and what is just plain hard for them.  I like to send them encouraging texts, e mails, blog posts and Bible verses.  I like to talk to God about my kids because I know he thinks they are even more awesome than I do because He created them!

I struggle a little bit more when I'm with my husband to keep the compartments of the children closed and solely focus on him and on our relationship.  I know how incredibly important it is for us to close all of the painful, stressful compartments and have fun together.  It's something I work on getting better and better at.

The first time I can remember consciously compartmentalizing is from my Junior year in college.  My grandma was in a hospice home and she was dying.  One of my best friends had recently found out she was pregnant and was going to get married in a few days.  We went to a Christian college and there were only a few of us who knew the situation.  We were suppose to go dress shopping, but my grandmother was dying.  I thought about what I should do and realized that I needed to support my friend.  I had loved my grandmother well and my mom was with her,  I needed to love my friend well at that moment.  We stopped at the hospice home where I spent some time saying good-bye to grandma while my friends waited in the lobby.  She was in a coma and very close to death so I knew this would be the last time I saw her here on earth,  After that we headed out shopping for wedding dresses.  I chose not to put a damper on my friend's special day so I put my pain in a compartment to be dealt with later.  We did have a good day and I hope that my friend remembers it as such.

Life is a lot like that day in college.  My best day could be my sisters worst day.  That doesn't mean I have to minimize my happiness at all.  It just means that I need to be sure to show compassion and to look beyond myself.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens."

Right now we are in a unfamiliar season.  We are doing many of the things that follow in those next verses.  We are mourning, we are searching for a new job for my husband, we are tearing down old habits, we are silently waiting for God's direction and we are loving one another.

Even though we are in a difficult season, there is still so much joy to be found.  My husband is home with me during the day.  He gets to spend lots of time with the kids.  He has completed an abundance of things on my honey-do list.  He is not rushing, he's able to rest which is something he needs very much.  There is laughter, family meal time, movie marathons and no deadlines to be met.

My love tank is overflowing because one of my love languages is time and we have had so much time together!  How can it be that pain and joy, love and uncertainty and fear and comfort can marry together and be ok?

Maybe it's because as the waves of pain, fear and uncertainty hit us we let ourselves feel them for a time and then we close that compartment and then open the compartments of joy, love and comfort. Then we realize this is a blessed season that we would not have chosen but are finding good fruit coming from it. Who would have thought?

None of this would be possible without our faith in Jesus and his absolute love for us.  We've spent a lot of time praying.  What does that look like?  Sometimes it's "Jesus help us".  Sometimes it's like "Hey God, it's me again. I don't have the words to say how I feel but you know me and you know what I need."  Other times it's me having a long conversation saying what I'm feeling both good, bad and ugly because God is real and He loves me just as I am and He wants to hear my heart, not necessarily beautiful flowing words.  I talk to him respectfully but real, you know?  He's my best friend.

“I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” 
― Philip Yancey









Thursday, August 28, 2014

Women Mentoring other Women and Why it is an Absolute Necessity

Recently I responded to a group question from Holley Armstrong Gerth, a popular Christian author, speaker and blogger.  Her question was "What is the biggest need you see in women's ministry today?'  My response was that I'd love to see older women mentoring younger women because I feel it's so nice to hear their wisdom born of years of living through things I am currently in the midst of and to garner from their faith as well.

I was specifically thinking of how much I would love to have an older more experienced mom to bounce things off of and to remind me that I'm going to make it through these teenage and early adulthood years of parenting.  I need a spiritual mentor as well.

 I watched my response to Holley's question get many likes and start many conversations about the need for mentoring.

I'm going to be honest about something.  I have not made a lot of friends in the 5 years we have lived in this state.  Some of that is due to me having been isolated at home with young twins.  Some of that is our life situation demanding that our children be our focus at this point in time.  That is our #1 priority and we love it.  Some of it is that I still miss my old friends, the ones who have known me since I was a young mom and have been there through thick and thin,  The friends I do have here are parents of my teenage children's friends.

I have purposefully avoided developing friendships with young moms, especially if their oldest is the same age as my youngest. I'm not sure they can relate to any of my struggles and I have a hard time fully empathizing with their current concerns because I don't want to be a "Debby Downer" and minimize their issues by saying "Oh honey, you just wait, it gets worse." I also feel very alone and dare I say judged by younger moms.  I've heard more times than I care to hear that when their child is that age they won't let their child act that way, or go there or do that.

I was once one of those moms who made those very same statements.  I am feeling very convicted by the Lord to seek out younger moms and minister to them.  I can feel the incredible selfishness of my initial statement that I could use a mentor.  Not because I don't need a mentor, I do, but because I wish I were more selfless and thought more of others first rather than thinking of myself.  My husband often tells me that his life "is not about me, but Him".  I admire that very much.  I hear God gently nudging me to remember that it is not about me, it's about Him and furthering the kingdom one friendship, one example, one non-judgement, one listening ear and one encouragement at a time.

Generally speaking, helping others, especially those who are hurting comes very naturally to me.  I have mentored many teenage and young adult women over the years.  My husband and I used to be marriage mentors.  Life seemed easier back then.  I didn't think I had all the answers, but I hadn't yet lived through real pain within my own family.  I have now and it makes me feel unworthy. So I ask myself what makes me feel so unworthy?  That I have faced trials and although I have experience, I am both broken and stronger like a bone that has healed?  Good!  What is it that makes me so afraid to nurture other moms?  It is that I would be vulnerable and have to share that neither myself, my marriage nor my children are perfect? Yes.  Do I think this may be refreshing for others to hear so they don't feel so alone? Yes.

I am going to leave my insecurities behind and ask the Lord to use me to encourage and cheer on younger moms.  Are you in need of a mentor?

If you are an experienced mama, I urge you to find a younger mom and make it your own personal ministry to mentor her.  I can't imagine that you would be turned down if you offered.  You might be surprised by the number of women who would jump at the change to be mentored.  My hope is that women mentoring other women would grow and every woman would have a more experienced person in their life to walk alongside them and fill them with hope for the future and contentment that whoever they are, they are enough!


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!