Thursday, December 22, 2011

My "Must Reads" List - Not Necessarily a Top Ten and Not Necessarily in a Particular Order

That would take too much brain power - and I'm running low on that these days.

I've had a few people asking for book recommendations and since I've got a little (read - a LOT) of time on my hands, I thought I'd put a little "Must Read" book list together.  Please note:  I am on a LOT of pain medication so my brain is pretty fuzzy these days.  I guarantee you I will leave books out - I just hope I end up spelling everything correctly.  :)

Disclaimer:  Right now I am giving the Twilight series a go.  It is mindless, poorly written and I would NEVER personally recommend them to anyone.  But I'm having fun reading them.. :)

1.  Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  Mark bought me this book for Christmas last year and I put it on a shelf and forgot about it.  Then, Molly told me about this amazing book she was devouring and said that I MUST read it and when I mentioned it to Mark he kindly reminded me that he had given it to me LAST YEAR.  Oops.  It's fantastic, people.  A true story about a WW2 airman whose plane went down over the Pacific Ocean.  He floated on a raft (with no supplies) for close to 50 days and when he finally reached land, he was captured by the Japanese.  READ THIS BOOK.

2.  To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  Favorite book of all time.  You've probably all read it, but if you haven't don't want another minute.  Get it.  Read it.  

3.  The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  This is teen fiction, but it's way more than that.  It's a statement on society.  And it's fun.  And it's GREAT discussion material.

4.  Run by Ann Patchett.  I have read this book twice in the last couple of years.  I think it's a beautiful story.  It's set in Boston and it's about family, grief and loss, hope and the power love has to heal.

5.  Watership Down by Richard Adams.  This is fantasy and is SOOOOO good.  I discovered this book in 9th grade.  It's full of adventure and is just a smart book.  

6.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.  Depression era (I think - can't remember) story about a girl living in poverty, coming of age, love and family.  One of my favorites ever.

7.  Anything by Charles Dickens.  I love him.  So much.  (except for Bleak House... it's appropriately titled)

8.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  OMG - how I LOVED this book!!!  Couldn't put it down.  Post WW2 story about a British island (occupied by the Nazis) that is very much removed from all that is going on after the war - and how a writer from London comes to be there - and what happens when those two worlds collide.  Love it, love it, love it.

9.  Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.  Do I really need to explain why this is a MUST READ?  Seriously.  If you've never read it, put it on your bucket list.

10.  Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.  Beautiful.  Sad.  IMPORTANT.  Read it.

This is a start, friends.  You've probably read all these.  Most of them have been around for ages.  And yes, I'm old school.  I'm not much for pop fiction.  More of a classics kind of girl.  But these are all wonderful.  If you want more suggestions, I'm just a Facebook message away.  :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Friends in Low Places

This recovery journey is HARD.  I thought I was prepared.  I did so much reading online and in books about what to expect after a surgery like this one and I really thought I understood what I was getting into.

Nope.

Not a clue.

And what has been most surprising to me is how completely dependent I have had to be in absolutely every area of my life.

For the first eight or nine days I couldn't do anything on my own.

Not.  One.  Thing.

Now I'm able to do a little bit without help and it's so liberating!!!

I am one of the most independent people on the planet.

Not kidding.

So this dependence has been a bit of a drag.

But at the same time, I am experiencing love in a whole new way.

Mark has been so gentle.  So patient.  So kind.  He has taken over so many of my daily tasks as well as taken care of the majority of my daily needs - all with a grace and strength that astounds me.  In the hospital, as he was helping me with some laborious and painful task, Mark looked me in the eyes and said, "I can totally do this for you in your old age."  It was a beautiful, beautiful moment.  And I was so humbled by his sincerity.  And I realized just how much he loves me.

My mom has prepared food, helped me shower, made lunches for my children, helped my children with school work/homework, cleaned out my refrigerator and my pantry, done laundry... and on and on and on.  And she's done it with a bounce in her step and a smile on her face.  She's been tireless.  I'm amazed.

My friends....WOW.

Here's a list of just some of the things they have done:

1.  Arrived at the hospital the day of my surgery at 6:15AM and stayed there until I was settled comfortably in my room after surgery - which was somewhere around 4:00PM (I was a little out of it at the time).  They brought coffee, lunch, dinner.  Kept me company when Mark went home to shower and see the children.

2.  Didn't laugh at me or tease me when I found out, much to my dismay, that I was going home with a walker.  (Well, most of my friends didn't laugh or tease...)

3.  Went to the Relax the Back store and bought me a bed wedge to make my long days in bed more comfortable... and wouldn't let me pay for it.

4.  Brought me cookies.  Lots and LOTS of cookies.

5.  Went to Sam's for me.

6.  Went to the grocery store for me MULTIPLE TIMES.

7.  Did my Christmas shopping.  Wrapped my Christmas presents.

8.  Picked up my daughter's contacts at the eye clinic.

9.  Put together a spreadsheet and organized help for me in my house every single day until Mark is off for Christmas.

10.  Picked up my big boys for play dates.

11.  Took my baby boy on fun outings.

12.  Brought me a bag full of movies, candy and trail mix so that I would never lack for entertainment.

13.  Made me homemade Pumpkin Pie ice cream.  Divine.

14.  Brought my family a meal.  Or more than one meal!

15.  Picked my daughter up from rehearsal EVERY SINGLE DAY and brought her home.

16.  Took a half a day shift or a day long shift here at the house... cleaning, preparing food, taking care of children, changing poopy diapers, baking banana bread and muffins for me.

17.  Spent time with me talking, crying, laughing, beating me at cards, and encouraging me to keep the faith on the hardest of days.

18.  Chatted with me on Facebook, sent me prayers and words of encouragement online that lifted my spirits.

19.  Cracked jokes with me via text, Facebook or email - that made me laugh OUT LOUD and we all know that laughter is the best medicine.

20.  Brought me lattes and Cherry Limeades.

Really, I could go on and on.  I am so humbled and grateful.

I am in a low place right now, but I'm not there alone.  And all of these expressions of love during this time remind me that God is near to me.

And I'm so thankful for that.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I'm Being Watched

So it's probably going to be more like a "Two Year Bible Reading Plan."

At this rate, I'm thinking I'll feel pretty good if I can read through the Bible in a decade.

I may even need to change the name of my blog from "I'm Steele Standing" to "I'm Steele Sitting."

I'm not doing much standing these days.

Finally had that back surgery I've been avoiding all these years.

Good times.

I am now pretty much totally dependent on others for absolutely everything.

Like I said... good times.

I know there is much to be learned during this season.  I'm up for learning it.  But the truth is, right now I'm so hopped up on pain medications and so overwhelmed by even the smallest of tasks, that digging into the spiritual applications of what I'm going through is pretty much out of the question.

I'm just trying to get through each day with some semblance of dignity and grace.

I know I'm being watched.

My children are watching and learning from me - about suffering, about pain, about the limitations that eventually come our way and how to deal with them, about letting go.

I hope and pray that I can show them how to hope in the midst of struggle.

I hope and pray that God will make Himself more known to all of us through this season.

And I look forward to standing again soon.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Little Behind

TEN days.

It was bound to happen, right?

I'm ten days behind.

The Type A in me (which is a solid 95%) is so ashamed.

I never wanted this daily Bible reading to become another item on my list to check off, but here I am, very much out of sorts because those little "checks" aren't happening.

Guess this is why I should be reading my Bible.

I think I have some good excuses, though.

I homeschool.

My daughter's high school homework load has been astronomical and has kept us both up late on many a night this last month.

It takes a significant amount (but not more than is prescribed, mind you... not even as much as is prescribed - thought you'd want to know that) of pain medication for me to function at a reasonable level these days - and unfortunately, a big side effect of the med is a good deal of brain fogginess.  Hard to concentrate.

I did a little traveling.  :)

Mark and I took a 6 day getaway to New York City last week.

It was glorious.

We have dreamed of and planned for this trip for many, many years.  In fact, the trip was scheduled for the fall of 2008 - when we unexpectedly found we were EXPECTING and so getting through another pregnancy became the focal point of our lives.

So three years later, we finally got to take our trip.

It was everything we hoped and prayed it would be.

The weather was perfect.

The city was fascinating.

The shows were wonderful.

The man I was with is the love of my life.

We had time together like we haven't had in YEARS.


Liberty Island


Top of the Rock


American Museum of National History


Central Park

It was time well spent and I think God was smiling on us.  

So what if I'm a little behind, right?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Surprised by Love

I'm stuck in Numbers.  I mean really stuck.  I think I'm now 6 days behind in my daily reading.  It was bound to happen, right?  I'm a busy lady.  Four kids, homeschooling, and so on and so forth...

Plus, my pain medication makes me sleep like a baby... right through my alarm clock.  

Numbers and post-narcotic fog aren't a great combination.

I'll catch up.

It'll take a few cups of coffee, but I'll catch up.

I'm sure there's gold to find in Numbers.  Just gotta dig for it.

I'm continuing to pursue gratitude in my day to day struggle with pain and the "shaking" that comes with it.

Today, Mark comes to mind.

I fell in love with Mark in a moment.  Literally.

One minute I was expressing my love to the Father and the next moment I found myself head over heels in love with a man I hardly knew.

We were in Juarez, Mexico, co-leading a missions team of teenagers from my church in Colorado Springs.  Mark had been hired to lead the trip and I was paired with him as the female leader.  

In retrospect, I think it was a set-up.

Regardless, this guy with long, curly black hair and a huge personality seemed to me to be out of my league so I turned off any initial "stirrings" and focused on the job at hand.

I tend to do that.

Turn my heart off.  

God usually has to turn it back on for me.

Our first night in Juarez we gathered the team in the upstairs room of the orphanage for a time of worship.  It was a sweet time of singing and sharing.  As I led the team in "Oh God, You Are My God" I was overcome with gratitude for all that God had done and was doing in my life so I stopped singing.  The team followed my lead and the room became very quiet.  After a minute or so of silence, Mark began singing the song once again.

In that moment, as I was completely focused on my love for God... a thought came to me - out of nowhere.

"I can't live without this person."

I think I gasped.  

Audibly.

I know I cried.

Love was ignited and I was completely overwhelmed by it.

And then, true to form, I chose to despair.

"How could a guy like Mark ever love ME?  God, why would you do this?  He's NEVER going to feel the same way!"

"He lives in TULSA!  That's in OKLAHOMA!"

I spent night after night during that week in Juarez tossing and turning.

I lost 5 pounds. (didn't mind that part so much)

Little did I know that God was doing something in Mark as well.

The day after I had my "moment," Mark was back in the upstairs room with the team leading them in morning devotions.  I wasn't there because one of the teen girls had somehow locked herself in the bathroom and I was stuck trying to communicate with one of the NON-ENGLISH SPEAKING orphanage custodians as we tried to keep her calm and get her out.  Good times.

As Mark led the kids in their quiet time, he sensed the Lord speaking to him and saying, "Remember all those things you have asked me for in a wife?"

"Ummm, yeah.  Where did this come from?"  (This is what he told me later he said in reply)

And the Lord said, "Well, they're all in Kaysie."

Now, the difference between what God was doing in Mark and what God was doing in me is pretty important here.

I had actually had initial thoughts of my own before my "moment."  Mark had not.  His God moment was his FIRST moment of any kind as far as I was concerned.

In retrospect, I think God spent that week stirring Mark's heart towards me, while teaching me to trust Him.

I wonder why He insists on constantly teaching me lessons on TRUST?

By the end of the week, with some help from a couple of friends playing matchmaker, we had some idea  of the mutuality of our feelings (though we never discussed it) and a spark of hope had ignited in my heart.

I remember such a sense of wonder in it all.

I remember being amazed that this guy would like me - maybe even LOVE me.

I was surprised when I knew for sure that he did.

And grateful.

Three weeks later we were engaged.

Yep.  When you know, you know.

Seventeen years later I still find myself surprised by Mark's love for me.

I'm selfish, perfectionistic, controlling, distrustful, pessimistic... broken.

He loves me anyway.

It surprises me still today.




Thursday, October 6, 2011

I Remember When...

Still plugging away at the Old Testament.  Halfway through Numbers now and it's definitely more interesting than Leviticus.  I've read the Old Testament several times before, but this time, as I read, I'm reminded of something Mark noticed when he read through the Bible several years ago.

God wants us to remember.

So many times, throughout the stories of the Old Testament, the Israelites would be led to stop where they were, build an altar or a monument of some sort, and take time to say thanks to God for whatever He had done for them in that place.

They marked the place where it happened.

This way, whenever they came across that spot again (or whenever someone else traveled by), they would remember (or learn about) what God had done there.

Surely these markers of remembrance (or "remembrance stones" as I've heard them called before) helped them when times got tough.

I've lost count of the times when people, who were/are much wiser than me, have told me that gratitude is one of the greatest weapons I have when in battle against Fear, Anxiety, Depression and countless other enemies of my soul.

It's true.

When I spend time reflecting on a moment in time when I KNOW God met a need or desire, or comforted and carried me through a crisis, my heart is calmed and the places within me that are shaking are steadied.

This is a good time for me to be doing that.

Today I am remembering a Christmas when I was about 11 years old.  I know... Christmas - and it's only October.

But I've got Christmas on my mind.

Anyway, this particular Christmas things weren't going too well with my family.  Money was tight.  Actually, there just wasn't any money.  My mom was struggling to find ways to keep us fed and my dad... well, he was struggling.  As Christmas approached it was pretty clear that without a miracle that day would be like any other day in our house.

My mom begin to encourage my brother and me to pray.

Now, I'll tell you I don't really remember praying.  I remember my mom praying.  In fact, I have strong memories of getting up every morning for school to find my mom had been up for hours, with her Bible and a prayer notebook.  I knew what she was doing.  I knew how desperate things were.

I was already pretty cynical and pessimistic at 11.  It seemed safer to me to keep my requests to myself.

I do remember telling my mom that I wished I had just $25 to use for Christmas shopping.

It's important that you know that as a general rule, we didn't talk about our situation with others.  I'm sure word got around.  It wasn't a very big town.  But we didn't do the talking.

This was true that Christmas.  My mom prayed.  That was pretty much it.

So, about 2 weeks before Christmas my mom received a phone call.  A man in our church had decided he wanted to give a handful of children $25 for Christmas shopping.  My brother and I were two of them.

Cool, huh?

I was thrilled.  I'll never forget the day we got to go shopping.  We felt rich.  I bought my mom a pair of earrings.  Patton bought dad a tobacco pouch.

But that's not the significant part of this story.

Besides shopping money, there was ONE THING I really, REALLY wanted for Christmas.

And I didn't tell anyone.

I didn't pray for it either.

Too risky.

I just kept it quiet and tried to prepare myself for the disappointment that I knew would come on Christmas morning.

Christmas morning came.  I woke early.  Patton and I were notorious for waking at the crack of dawn on Christmas day.  I walked toward the living room, and there... kneeling before our Christmas tree, with her Bible open on the floor at her knees, was my mom.  She was crying.

But she wasn't crying tears of sorrow or disappointment.

She was crying tears of thanksgiving.

And she was surrounded by gifts.  There were many, many packages under the tree.

Really, it seemed like magic to my eleven year-old mind.

Until we began opening presents.

There, in the midst of it all, was the ONE THING I really wanted.

It's going to sound silly when I tell you what it was.  In fact, it doesn't really even matter what it was.

What matters is that He knew.

And in that moment, I knew... He loved me.  He knew me.  He SAW me.

It marked me.  And today as I tell the story, I remember.

And I'm grateful.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Leviticus and Dread

Leviticus.  Wow.  One million rules to follow and another million rules about what to do if you don't.

Yep.  Let's just say that I'm not popping out of bed every morning excited to read my Bible.

There's a sense of dread accompanying my daily reading these days.  I could probably push past it and, with a little study, find some real gems in this particular book.  For instance, I'm sure the picture of the scapegoat (a literal goat) that once a year took the collective sins of the Israelites upon itself and was released into the desert to wander until it died would resonate deeply within me if I took the time to meditate on it.  Probably not gonna happen.

So there's a sense of dread to the reading.

I just want to get through it.

Be done with it.

I'm really looking forward to Joshua.

Yesterday I went to my Bible study on David.  We've been at this particular study now for several weeks and I'm loving it.

I love Beth Moore.  She has a way of getting to the heart of things.  I respect her because it's obvious she studies hard, follows God hard and has experienced "hard."

Not often, but occasionally, it feels as if she's talking directly to me.  Yesterday that was my experience.  

She identified for me the "something" I've been battling these last few months that I had yet to put my finger on.

Dread.

I have been asking God to do something for me for ten years now.  And I'm realizing He's got something else in mind.  Something I dread.

Beth put it this way, "You are begging for God to do X - and He's determined to do Y."

I've always hated algebra.

Spent many hours wrestling with those nasty little variables.

Beth reminded me yesterday that Jesus understands this feeling of dread.  He experienced dread in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Dread unlike anything I could ever imagine.

But here's the key - and this is what struck me from Beth's teaching - Jesus knew what was coming for like YEARS before it actually happened.  And he was still able to walk with confidence and purpose - free from the dread of what was to come.

He wasn't paralyzed by it.

In fact, he didn't allow Himself to experience dread until the night of His arrest - in the Garden of Gethsemane.  That night He fell on His face before God and poured His heart out - His anguish and dread over what was to come and His fear of it.  He even asked God to take it away.

He asked God for X - but God was set on doing Y.

It's safe to assume that Jesus knew before He fell to His knees and succumbed to the anguish in His heart that God wasn't going to give Him what He asked for.  God had something else in mind.  But Jesus cried out for it anyway.

Seems like the act of begging for release - for something different than what is in front of you - is understood by Jesus.  Acceptable to Him.  Acceptable to God.  It didn't offend God when Jesus allowed dread to overwhelm him to the point of terrible anguish and prayers for release.  It wasn't sin.

But there comes a point when the begging has to stop and you have to move forward.  I've had a hard time getting to that place.

I HAVE BEEN PARALYZED BY DREAD.

The difference between Jesus' experience with dread and my experience with dread is significant to me because it's making me ask if at my core I continue to struggle with trust.

Jesus trusted God implicitly and that trust allowed Him to pour His heart out to God, then settle it and move forward - without the answer He had hoped for.   He understood that God's will had to do with a higher purpose... and He found hope in that.

But I've had so much dread in my heart, there hasn't really been any room for hope.

I know better.

God's will for me may not be easy, but I can trust that He loves me, sees me and will be with me.  I can hope that He will make something beautiful and purposeful out of the pain of my journey.

I'm going to try to move out from under the power of dread and into the freedom that comes with hope and trust.  And I'm praying... expecting... that He will meet me there.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sven

I'm currently in the middle of Exodus and the (let's be honest) EXHAUSTINGLY detailed descriptions of the building of the tabernacle.

Sigh.

I know many, many people find the tabernacle fascinating.  Me, not so much.

Though when you think about the fact that these were ancient people... nomads... doing this detailed artisan work in the middle of a campground - well, that is pretty amazing.

Anyway, I'm pretty much just getting through this section of Exodus.  Glad I have my Beth Moore "David" bible study to work on.  So, so good.

On another note, some of you have asked so I thought I'd post a little update on my back - and use my blog as a way to process where I am with this right now.

Ten years ago I was told I needed spinal fusion surgery for a herniated disc.  I said no way (Hello... I had THREE babies at the time) and began trying other ways to get better.

Chiro - FAIL

Exercise - FAIL

Inversion Table - FAIL

Pain medications - FAIL

Massage - FAIL (but feels great trying!)

Yoga - FAIL

Physical Therapy - FAIL (has helped, but unfortunately it doesn't change my condition)

Spinal injections - FAIL (well, has helped some but again, condition is the same)

Decompression Therapy - FAIL

Prayer - ???? (jury's still out on this one)

Yep, I've pretty much tried it all and quite honestly, if there's anything else out there to try... I'm not up for it.

So, after ten years of struggle (and another little surprise baby boy) I find myself with a back that is now unstable.  I have several degenerative discs (most of us do and it's not always a big deal - but for me it is) and likely fractures in my lower spine with a condition called spondylolisthesis.  This means surgery.  And not just any surgery.  Spinal fusion surgery.  A TWO LEVEL Spinal Fusion surgery.  The very surgery I have worked to avoid all these years.

When the surgeon made this clear to me a few weeks ago, I felt my old "friend" Anxiety/Depression creeping back into my life.

I like to call him Sven.

It's been a difficult few weeks with Sven hanging around.  Makes being a busy mom of four rather challenging.

To top it all off, I woke up a few weeks ago in the early hours of the morning to find both of my legs numb and heavy.

Um, that's terrifying.

My left leg came back to life right away, but I have struggled over the last five weeks to regain the strength/feeling in my right leg.  This last round of injections has definitely helped, but the leg continues to give me trouble.

I have hoped that I can put this surgery off another few years so that little David can be in school and protected from the trauma/drama of Mommy being out of commission for several weeks (more likely, several months).  Plus, it'll be easier for me to recover if I don't have the pressure of caring for a toddler.

We'll see how the leg fares and hope for the best.

In the meantime, Sven's not so welcome presence has become more and more of a burden.

I've thought (and been told by docs) that anxiety/depression is to be expected after years of chronic pain and with the disappointing news that I've gotten worse and not better.

But even with the help of an anti-depressant, I've continued to struggle and have wondered why.

Then, this weekend - in a Facebook conversation with one of my AMAZING physical therapists - I was hit with a truth that struck the core of me.

She said (among other things), "I just hope you aren't looking at (this) surgery as failure..."

This message came through on my phone as I was pushing my grocery cart through Wal-Mart.  And all of a sudden... tears.

Those of you who really know me know tears are rare.

And these tears took me by surprise.

She was right.

I did (DO) see this surgery as failure.  A personal failure.

I feel like I have been unable to get better and so have failed my children - my husband.

Wow.  How broken is that?

Once again, I am faced with my core struggles.

Control.  Perfectionism.  Self-sufficiency.

I have believed that I could fix this.  I SHOULD fix this.

Isn't it amazing how the belief systems that I created as the co-dependent child of an alcoholic continue to haunt me in my adult life?

I have been through countless hours of counseling and recovery.

I have read books.  I have grieved.  I have "let go."

And here, in the middle of a completely separate issue, Sven rears his ugly, but very familiar head and catches me off-guard.

Kinda like that monthly cycle that you always know is coming and yet you always find yourself "surprised" when it shows up (sorry, guys - just couldn't think of a better comparison).

At 42, there's still that kid in me that decided it was her job to fix things at home.  Make sure everyone was okay.  Keep dad at bay.

Now, the truth is that kid is a MUCH smaller part of me.  I'm grateful for that.

But I'm hoping for more.  And I believe more is possible.  I know God sees me and understands me.  I trust that He will continue to work in me.

I also believe that as He works, Sven's visits will come less frequently and have less of an impact on me.

In the meantime, I'm thankful for the insight of those around me that help me recognize the things I miss on this journey.  Thanks, Maegan.

I'm going to process this new revelation as I walk through what's next with my back.

Be intentional about reminding myself I have no control here (something that is VERY difficult for me to do).

Accept this journey as part of God's plan for me - even though I don't understand it.  I really do trust that He will bring something good out of it.  Not just for me.  For my children.  For my husband.  Maybe for others as well.

And I hope, as I walk through it, Sven will let go and move on.

I've had enough of him.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Darkness That Can Be Felt

Just finished reading the Great Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.  I never get tired of that story.  The boys have been reading it as well and it's been great discussion material.  We've been wanting to watch The Prince of Egypt this week, but so far it's been too busy around here for a movie.  Maybe this weekend.

One of the things that struck me with this reading was "The Plague of Darkness."  I noticed that when the Lord instructed Moses to stretch out his hand so that darkness would spread over Egypt, he called it, "... darkness that can be felt."

Now, as a child I was never really afraid of the dark.  I mean, I had a pretty wild imagination and I remember being afraid of crocodiles under my bed and giant spiders on my wall... but quite honestly, I had bigger fish to fry as a kid.  The dark wasn't too big of a deal.

But I see now that this was a different kind of dark.

You could FEEL it.

It was a physical darkness, yes.  But if you could feel it, then it must have been darkness that was so deep and heavy the effect was also emotional and spiritual.

And yes, I'm afraid of that kind of dark.

It's the kind of dark that can crush you.  Fear settles in on you and despair is quick to follow.

You cry out but the darkness is like a vacuum and you're sure no one can hear you.

I know that kind of darkness.  I've experienced it.  And so I can understand how this particular plague would've driven the Egyptians to a place of complete and total despair.

I wish we could get an aerial view of Egypt at this moment in time.

I can imagine what it might look like.

Complete and total darkness with the exception of one small area.

The Israelite camp.

There - there was light.  And hope.

It was right next to them so don't you think that if the Egyptians could've seen it, they would have run to it?

I would have.

In the midst of my own seasons of darkness, I have found myself searching for light to penetrate the heavy, suffocating dark.

And in every circumstance, it has always been right next to me.  I just had to run to it.

Jesus.

He is the light.

He is MY light.

I still experience darkness.

We live in a broken world and we are broken people so darkness will come.

But His light always dispels the darkness.

EVERY TIME I RUN TO HIM.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Moses and Me

So, three weeks later and my Daily Bible Reading continues to inspire me to rise early each morning and have at least a semblance of a quiet time before the kids begin to stir.  It's only about 30 minutes, but it's pretty much all mine and I cherish it.

The chronological approach has been interesting.  I'm in Exodus now and I love that what I'm reading corresponds with what Charlie is doing in our church's Bible Blast program each week.  I don't think that will last long, as the kids skip a LOT of the "who begat who" and so on and so forth in order to move through the main stories over the course of a school year.  But for now, it's been a good thing.

This weekend we're hoping to have a movie night and watch The Prince of Egypt.  We've all seen it before, but it's been quite a while and I love this movie.

I find Moses' persistence when face to face with God amusing.  He is determined to convince God that he's not really the best man for the job.

God.

The Creator of all things.

The Holy One of Israel.

The Big Guy.

The Bible goes so far as to say that God burns with anger against Moses and at one point, He even moves in to KILL Moses, but Zipporah (Moses' wife) is able to obtain mercy on Moses' behalf and God backs off (the way she does is this well, a little wacky and far beyond the realm of what's considered "okay" these days - you'll have to read that for yourself).

Crazy stuff.

But I do that.

Argue with God, I mean.

God, you want me to homeschool?  Are you kidding?!!!

God, you're giving me another baby?  Are you CRAZY?!!!

God, you want me to say what?  Give THAT?!!

I wish I second-guessed God less often.  I don't know that it causes Him to burn with anger towards me, but I can imagine that it hurts His heart.

The funny thing is - like Moses, I don't so much doubt God as I doubt myself.

Maybe they're one and the same?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The One Who Sees Me

I'm back in Genesis.  This morning I read the familiar story of Hagar, the maid-servant of Sarah, who was given to Abraham so that he could finally conceive a child... since Sarah had decided that God must not be able to keep His promise and she should take matters into her own hands.

First of all, I can't say that I really blame Sarah for doubting at this point.  She was NINETY, after all.  I mean, did she even WANT to be pregnant at that age?  I'd be tempted to look for a way out as well.

I gave up on childbearing at the ripe old age of 35.  Little did I know that God fully intended to use this old body to bring another baby into the world.

Sweet little David.

So worth it, but my body is still screaming over that one.

I totally get Sarah's take on things.

Second, bless Hagar's heart.  I mean, let's call it what it was... sex by force.  She was told to do it and she did it.  She had no choice.  She gets pregnant (like she was supposed to) and then is abused by a jealous Sarah.

So she ran.

And she found herself lost in the middle of a desert.

And here's one of the things I love about this story - the angel of the Lord found her there.  HE WAS OUT LOOKING FOR HER.

In the midst of a desperate place, Hagar discovered that she was being sought after... by GOD.

I've experienced that.

One of my most desperate times came as my father's health rapidly deteriorated and I began to understand that I was going to be the one to walk him through death's door.

My father was terrified of death.  My father was a frail and broken man, who found himself completely alone at the end of his life... except for me.  And our relationship was fragile at best.  I knew that he was going to be relying on me to carry him through and I knew that my "dad tank" was completely empty.  I had no idea how I would fulfill my obligation as a daughter.

I was in a desperate place.

I look back on the afternoon that he died and am overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude.  I know without a doubt that God was out looking for me (or looking out for me) that day.

After Hagar's encounter with the angel, she gave God a name, which I find beautiful.  She called Him, "The One Who Sees Me."

The thing is - Hagar's circumstances didn't really change.  She had to go back to the mistress who abused her and was jealous of her.  She had to go back into servitude.  She had to have Abraham's baby and then watch her son lose his position and inheritance as the "first born" when Sarah finally had a son of her own.

Her life was hard.

But I don't think she felt alone anymore.

I was afraid that I would be alone with my father when he died.  Deeply afraid.  I didn't verbalize this fear to anyone (not completely sure I could've put words to the fear I was experiencing).

My dad died during the Tulsa ice storm of 2007.  The city had pretty much shut down and I found myself in my dad's apartment, away from my family and really stranded as my father declined rapidly.  We couldn't get dad to a hospital.  It was very clear that Dad would die right there... and soon.

But God came looking for me.

My dad's cousin flew in right before the storm hit (a trip he'd been promising for months that finally came to fruition with no foreknowledge of dad's impending death).

Hospice was able to get to the apartment the night before he died.  They were wonderful and stayed with me the entire time.

Mark got through the crazy, icy roads to be with me as dad's final hours closed in.

My two dear friends, Molly and Ronna, decided to make a risky trip just to give me a hug (and, I think, a treat of some sort) - and unexpectedly found themselves with me as dad died.

My pastor decided to "drop by" to pray with dad, not knowing he was literally an hour away from death.  He stayed with me and coached me along the way.

And another dear friend arrived just minutes after and was able to hold me as I grieved not just the death of my father, but the death of dreams and hopes for my dad and our relationship unrealized.

I wasn't alone.  I still had to go through it.  But I wasn't alone.

In fact, in the hour following Dad's passing, seven beautiful people surrounded me in the small living room of my dad's apartment.

Hagar named Him perfectly.

He is The One Who Sees Me.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Job

I finished reading the book of Job this morning.

I've read Job before, several times, and I'm always struck by just how bad things got for Job.  What a nightmare.  There have been seasons in my life (not unlike my present one) where I am compared to Job by someone (or several someones) because of the seeming unrelenting nature of a particular struggle.

But wow.  Job had it bad.

And my life is good.  Not without struggle, but very, very good.

I'm grateful.

I guess I would sum up the book of Job this way...

GOD IS BIG.

I AM SMALL.

I'm okay with that.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Early to Bed, Early to Rise

... Makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

My grandmother used to say this to me every single night as she went to bed.  I thought it was sweet and kind of silly.  In my mind, the later I stayed up the more I could accomplish.  I had so much nighttime energy as a kid... a young adult... a thirty-something.

That's gone now.

My mind is usually fully shut down by 9 and my body begins to follow suit just a little while later.

But I've finally begun listening to my grandmother, who's been gone from this earth now for many, many years.

When I get up early, I have time and space for me, for a moment of quiet to think, read and pray.  When I don't, I play catch-up all day and never get around to the quiet time I so desperately crave and need.

Wow, I'm stubborn.  I'm 41 and just now applying this simple lesson to my life.

I've always convinced myself that sleep is so much more important to me than quiet.  But now I'm starting to really value that 45 minutes of quiet before the rest of the house begins to stir.  I'm finding it's something I've needed all along and I've been depriving myself of it.  In turn, the motivation to continue the habit is building.

Kind of like that diet or workout plan that you think is going to kill you when you first start, but you find tremendous value in once the numbers on the scale start going down.

You all probably learned this lesson a long time ago.

Like I said, I'm stubborn.

Anyway, so far so good.  I missed one morning and sure enough, I was never able to get back to my bible so that day got dropped... but I made it up the next day.

Right now it is pretty much like something to check off my "to do" list, but I'm believing for more.

Trusting that obedience will bring about the deepening and satisfaction that I crave.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Struggling Well

"Are you 'struggling well'?"

My pastor uses this phrase often.

I like it.  It's allowed for a necessary paradigm shift in my thinking.

We all struggle.  We grapple with sin, hopelessness, despair, frustration, depression, anger, jealousy... the list goes on and on.

But there's a sense of shame attached to the REALITY of this struggle.  We're not comfortable with these imperfections and feel the need to suppress them - at least I do.

I've spent a LOT of energy over my lifetime trying to cover up my struggles.  The end result has never been pretty.

What I like about the phrase "struggling well" is that it acknowledges that the struggle exists within me, but challenges me to battle it out in a way that is pleasing to God.

I can definitely say that I'm consistently struggling.

I wish I could say that I'm consistently struggling well.

Working on that.

Today I started a Bible reading plan.  Again.  I've lost count of the times I've STARTED a Bible reading plan - only to drop it a few days or weeks in because life is just so crazy busy.

I thought I'd make this blog a bit of an accountability partner for myself.  Putting it out there, so to speak.

Because the truth is... it's the Word of God that gives me the power to struggle well.  I can't do it on my own.  I just don't have it in me.

I don't know how well I'll do.  I don't want this to just be another thing to check off my "to do" list every day.  I want God's Word to be "life" for me.

But I think I'm going to have to just get in there, gut it out, and hope for the "life" part to come.

I'm using this as my resource:  http://www.biblestudytools.com/ and following the chronological sequence because I think it will be interesting to follow as I'm teaching the boys ancient (and medieval) history this year.  It'll be cool to see how it all fits together - and I think will open my mind and heart to more opportunities for teaching my boys and discussing truth with them.

But regardless of how well it goes along my history plan, the crux of the matter is that life isn't getting any easier, friends.

I need Him more than ever.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

He's 12!

Jackson Mark Steele - my first born son - turned twelve this week.  I'm okay with it.  I really am.  What I'm NOT okay with is that this means he will be a TEENAGER in just one short year!

How is that possible?  It's happening too fast.



I adore this boy.

He is quirky, loving, kind, helpful and insanely smart.

Here's a conversation he had with his dad not all that long ago...

Jackson:  "Dad, I think God created me to change the world."

Mark:  "Wow, Jackson.  Yes, I believe He did.  He created you to change the world."

Jackson:  "Yep."

Several seconds of quiet...

Jackson:  "Through time travel."


This is my son.  I love who he is and who he is becoming.  

I love (and share) his passion for books.  

I love his persistence.  

I love his relentless curiosity.

I love that with his glasses on he can look a lot like Harry Potter.

I love that he sometimes acts a bit like Brick Heck.


He is a joy to raise and I am looking forward to the man he will become.

Just so long as it doesn't happen too quickly.

Monday, July 18, 2011

What I'm Reading

So, I'm one of those people that has a stack of books on her nightstand and beside her nightstand at all times.  It's hard for me to wait to finish one book before I start another.  I contradict myself, I know.  I am a perfectionist who has a hard time with unfinished tasks, but for some reason, books are a different monster.

I love them.  I can't get enough of them.

It's like chocolate.  If I've got in front of me a piece of Ghiradelli dark chocolate with caramel, M&M's, Dove dark chocolate and a Baby Ruth... I'm gonna have to have a bite of each one in order to be satisfied.  There's no choosing just one.

Books are the same for me.  There are so many wonderful choices, I just can't choose.  I have to dip into several at a time.  Occasionally, one will be so good that I am compelled to SOAK and finish it on its own. But that's rare these days.

Don't get me wrong.  I finish my books.  Most of the time.  It's not often that I put a book down never to pick it back up again.

That's where my perfectionism kicks in.  Leaving a book unfinished wears away at my soul.

For instance, right now I'm about two-thirds of the way through this...


It's killing me.

I'm a Dickens fan.  And it's killing me.  Let's just say it was appropriately titled.  I've put it aside for now.  I WILL get back to it.  But I may watch the PBS mini-series for inspiration before picking it back up.

I'm also reading this...


Again, about two-thirds of the way through it and it's truly wonderful.  But it's also brutally enlightening about the plight of the African people (a story about the Lost Boys of Sudan) and I can only take it in spurts.  When I read it, I feel compelled to DO something and yet, quite honestly, I'm not sure what to do.  So I put it aside, think, mull and pray.  Then I pick it back up a bit later with the hope that I will find a way to participate in bringing hope to the African people.  

And yes, I know that my pocketbook is a very good resource - and I use it.  But I want to do more.

My book club is reading this right now...


I'm loving it.  I'm only a few chapters in, but I find it fascinating.  I love books that immerse me in another time and place - one that's completely foreign to me.  I love learning about the experiences of other people groups around the world.  It challenges me and reminds me of all I have to be thankful for here in America.  This book is set in China in the 1960's and 70's during the "re-education" of the intellectual population by Chairman Mao.  Young boys (teens) are sent into the mountains, away from home and any chance of an education, in order to suppress this particular demographic.  Crazy.  I find myself thinking of what I was doing when this was happening in China.  

I find myself thinking of what kinds of things are going on in remote areas of the world while I go about my very comfortable existence - and it make me want to pray.  It makes me want to ACT.  And it makes me grateful.

Another book I'm reading is...


I'm reading this with two of my BFF's.  It's pretty challenging stuff.  Trying to replace chocolate with God.  That's not easy, my friends.  At least not for me.

And this one...


Three Moms and a Podcast http://threemomsandapodcast.podbean.com/ is currently in the middle of a discipline series and this book was mentioned several times by several moms in our discussion thread... so I picked it up.  Wow.  I wish I'd read this when Morgan was born.  I am being challenged to be a better parent.  I am learning to pull back and give my kids space to make mistakes (FAIL) and learn from them.  It's a good read.

Finally, I'm pretty much reading whatever good material on back surgery I can find.  Right now, I'm devouring this one...


Love the way this surgeon puts chronic back pain (and all the possible medical approaches to it) into layman's terms so I can make the best decision possible for me and my family.  It's the best one I've read so far.

I've got a couple more on my summer reading list and I'm hoping I can get to all of them.  I do have four children.  I am preparing to homeschool Jackson and Charlie (5th and 6th grade... no small challenge) this year.  One of those four is a busy toddler, the other a busy teenager.  And let's face it, they're all busy.

We'll see.  But here they are in case you're interested...







Yes, I'm an overachiever.  But surely that doesn't surprise you.  It's what makes me ME.





Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fourteen

My daughter.



My oldest.


My Morgan.

She turned 14 last week.

This girl is a bright light.  She is wise beyond her years.

She brings me joy.

She comes down the stairs in the morning ready to share a cup of coffee with me and ALWAYS asks me if I slept well the night before.

She dances with her baby brother.

She sings.  All the time.

She's the perfect mix of girly and tomboy.  This grown-up tomboy is so grateful for that.

She deeply cares about people.

She is beautiful.  Inside and out.

Happy Birthday, Morgan.  I love you very much.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Colorado

We just returned a couple of days ago from a week long visit to Colorado.  Can I just say I LOVE this place?  It's funny because we didn't really do that much this time around - not really practical to camp, white water raft, climb mountains, etc... when you have a toddler along for the ride.  But, there's just something about BEING there that's good for my soul.


Maybe it has to do with the beauty that's all around me when I'm there.


Or that when the sun goes down, you pretty much need a sweatshirt or a fire nearby in order to stay warm... even if the temps have been in the 90's during the day.  LOVE that.


Or that this is the place where Mark and I met and fell in love.


Or that this lovely lady lives here... friends for 22 years.  So thankful.


Or that my "baby" brother and his family call this place home and I love them very much.


But I think mainly it's because being here reminds me of how small I am... and how big God is.

And I feel more thankful.  More peaceful.  
More connected with the One who made me and understands me.

Thank You, God, for making Colorado.

Friday, June 24, 2011

And Just Like That...


He's TWO!!!
TWO!!!!!!

We celebrated his birthday "simply" with family.  He's not big on parties.  Not yet, anyway.  He will be.  He's a Steele.

I can't believe he's two.  

We're enjoying him so much.  His language has been a bit delayed, but the explosion of words is beginning and it is SO MUCH FUN.  

I love the "Nigh, Nigh, Mommy's" and the "Hi, Sissy's" and the "Joosh's" - I love baby talk.  Especially when I can understand it.  

As the Big Three grew and developed through the toddler and preschool years, I mourned each milestone.  

Especially with Charlie.  He really was the cutest kid on the planet.  Seriously.  


I mean, come on.  It doesn't get much cuter than this.


Or this.


O.  M.  G.


Seriously.  I'm crying.


I think the "milestone grieving" came because deep down in my heart I just wasn't done.  There was a desire for another.

With David, I find myself enjoying him immensely but CELEBRATING each little step he takes towards independence.

Guess that means I'm done.  

Here are a few birthday pics so you can revel in David's cuteness.  


Birthday present!


Playing at the park


Hating the birthday song


REALLY hating the birthday song... and the birthday cupcake... and the birthday candles.


And back to the cuteness!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Persistence and Perspective

Most of my friends would say I'm stubborn.

I prefer to call myself persistent.

When I want something, I'm pretty tenacious about making sure I get it.  When I set a goal for myself, I push and push until I reach that goal.

This works out pretty well for me.  I'm by nature a doer and so I'm internally motivated to "do" until it gets done.  That makes for a lot of personal gratification at the end.

And I really like feeling gratified.

It's a little trickier when my tenacity is connected to my belief system - especially when what I believe isn't really working for me.

It's hard for me to let it go.  Change my perspective.

I find myself hitting my head against the proverbial wall, if you will.

I've been doing a lot of that lately.

For the last ten years I've been fighting to stay off an operating table.

I have a lousy back.

I have tried just about every conservative approach to my problem (a MILLION chiropractors, acupuncture, yoga, exercise, pain management, physical therapy).

I have believed I could find a way to lift the limitations on my life that come from chronic back pain.  I have believed that the harder I worked at therapy, the more I would be able to do what I want to do.

This hasn't happened.

And I've found that another (less lovely) aspect of my persistent and tenacious (read:  STUBBORN) nature has a tendency to kick in when things aren't going the way I think they should.

When things don't go my way, I pout.

Yes, I'm the snotty-nosed kid crouched in the corner with her arms folded and her lips sticking out.

Ugly, isn't it?  Sometimes the truth just is.

So, the other day one of my therapists, Maegan, pretty much stopped me in my tracks when she said, "I think you need to get some perspective."

After I swallowed my pride, pulled myself out of the corner, unfolded my arms, and did some deep breathing, we had a little talk about reality.

It's not easy being told hard things that you don't want to hear, but there's something a little freeing about it, too.  Perspective, for me, helps define my place of peace.  There's a release that comes with acceptance - even in the midst of grief and disappointment.  I can move forward with some reasonable expectations and that helps me move towards peace.

"You will never be pain free."

"Even if we're able to reduce your pain, you will always have limits on what you should physically do."

"Surgery isn't something you should take off the table."

Yeah, these are cold hard facts.  I don't like them.  I've cried many tears over them.

But here's the thing... this big dose of reality got me thinking.

My persistent nature might come in handy if I applied it more readily in my prayer life.

I was reminded yesterday of the parable of the persistent widow.  The Bible says that Jesus told this parable to the disciples so that they would remember to "always pray and never give up."

It's funny that someone as stubborn as I am about pretty much every other thing can be so quick to give up on prayer.  On what God can do.

I'm a bit jaded, I'll admit it.  I don't like the vulnerability that comes with laying it all out before God with the hope that He'll come through for me the way I want Him to.

I'm more of a "sure thing" kind of girl.

But that widow kept going back to a judge who really didn't care about her at all - finally driving him to the point of exasperation so that he did what she asked of him.

And I absolutely know that God cares about me.  He's done a really good job of that all along.

It was risky for the widow to go back again and again and again.  I'm sure she worried that at some point that guy was going to blow up all over her.  But she kept going back anyway.  She wanted what she wanted that badly.

I don't know if my back will ever be better - be healed.  That's hard for me - and praying for something different feels risky.

But I want it badly.  I'll keep trying the things on earth that I can try - and I'll try to adopt the perspective of the widow and be as persistent with my prayers as I am with my actions.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Loosening my Grip

Leaving town when you have four children is a big deal.

Especially when you are leaving said children behind.

Because of this, Mark and I haven't taken many "just the two of us" trips in our almost 17 years of marriage.  

But after weeks of planning, we headed to the airport last Friday morning for a four day weekend in Boston.  It was my brother's graduation from Boston University and I wanted to be there.

I won't go into the layers of family history that made this event even more important to me than it would be to any devoted sister, but it WAS a big deal and I VERY MUCH wanted to be there.  

I knew we would be cutting it close when I booked our tickets.  We had an arrival time in Boston of 2:30 and the ceremony would begin at 5:30.  We would make it - as long as there were no major delays. It would be close.  But we would make it.

We arrived at the airport in Tulsa in the midst of a massive thunderstorm.  As we checked in, Mark noticed our bags were only checked to Dallas and pointed out the mistake to the attendant.  

"Ummmm, ma'am?  Our bags are only checked to Dallas and we're going to Boston."

"No, you're not."  She replied.  "You're going to Boston tomorrow."  

We laughed nervously and rechecked our tickets.  

"No, we're going to Boston today,"  Mark insisted.

The flight attendant checked her information and informed us calmly that our flight to Boston had been cancelled for today.  

My heart sank.  As she began working to try to find a flight that would get us where we wanted to go at some point in the next 24 hours, I felt a surge of disappointment well up within me.  

At that same moment, a still, small VOICE spoke to me...

"I want you to hold everything loosely today."

Calming me, even in the midst of my sadness, I knew at that moment that He saw me and understood me.  

He also knew I wasn't going to make it to the ceremony.

Throughout the day, a long day with one travel delay after another, I wrestled with disappointment, frustration and sadness, but was consistently calmed by following the Father's instruction to hold my plans loosely.

Interesting lesson to be learning in my early forties.

I was the kid that did calendar countdowns for events I was anticipating.  In fact, I often worked myself up before a special event so much that I would become sick (literally) and end up missing the whole thing.  I spent MANY moments lying on my bed in despair as my mom delivered the news that I was too sick to do whatever it was I was looking forward to doing.

I have always held my hopes and plans closely - TIGHTLY.

There is a sense of security that comes for me when I make my plans because - I gotta tell ya - I make a GOOD plan.  I feel in control when the plan is MY plan and, even after all these years, it's easy for me to believe that if I make the plan it is less likely to fail.

Yeah, I'm broken.  I'm a broken person.

I love how the Father recognized this broken place in me last weekend and literally COACHED me through the letting go ALL DAY LONG.

I trust that He will continue to do this as I learn to loosen my grip on my "best laid plans."

And learn to surrender to Him - as the Great Planner.

And the best part?

Even though we missed the ceremony, we celebrated with my brother, his wife and his little girl in a big way the next day.  It was a wonderful day.  Perfect, really.

And I didn't plan it.







Monday, April 25, 2011

Unplugged

Once again, an unfaithful blogger is back online and attempting to write something worthwhile.

I have a good excuse for my latest blogging lapse.

Last week our entire family "unplugged" as a Lenten exercise the week before Easter AND as a chance to get a good glimpse of how plugged in our family has become.

It was fantastic.  Difficult, but fantastic.

No Facebook (oh, how I love Facebook).  No television (oh, how we all love television).  No video games (Dear Lord, how my boys LOVE video games).  No music (my poor daughter thought she was going to die).

Actually, we did listen to some worship music on occasion.

And David didn't suffer.  On the contrary, WE suffered through his repertoire of Baby Einstein dvds just like we always do.

Mark read three books.

I read two books.

My daughter is now reading FOUR books... at once.

Jackson and Charlie discovered a new series of books and began to devour them.

We played Monopoly.

Scratch that.  We STARTED playing Monopoly.  That game never ends.

We played Bananagrams.  Ever played this?  So.  Much.  Fun.

Mark and I played cards when the kids went to bed.

And we talked.  A lot.

Not that we don't talk around here.  We do.  But we talked more.  And we were more thoughtful in our conversation.  Loved this.

Jackson commented many times over how much he was enjoying the week and how he could see the hold that video games had had on his heart and mind.

That alone made the entire exercise a success, in my opinion.  Remember, he's ELEVEN.

So, I think we all agreed (except for maybe Morgan) that this was a good exercise and one that we should observe more often.

At least once a year.

Kidding.

And last night Mark and I broke our weeklong screen fast with the season finale of Parenthood.

Sigh.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Course

Yeah, so there's no real big revelation here.

Just a bit of settling, if you will.

I've blogged a little about this before.

I'm 41.  I have 3 "big" kids (not grown, but over halfway there).

I have a toddler.

I homeschool.

I have often found myself wrestling with the seemingly endless limitations on my life.

I see several of my close friends moving on to the next season of their own life journeys and I feel like I'm being left behind.

Let's be clear.  They're not making me feel left behind.  They're awesome.  They're fantastic.  I can't imagine life without them.

But I feel it nevertheless.

I just can't do the things they can do right now.  And it can be frustrating.  A little sad.

So, the Lord is saying to me... "Stay on YOUR course."  And, "I've got this."  And, "This is a GOOD journey."

And He's right, of course.

I'm on a good journey.  It's difficult and hard and exhausting... but oh so wonderful.

And look at what I get to be a part of along the way...

This beautiful inside and out girl

This fantastically brilliant boy

This wonderfully funny and charming boy

And this baby boy ball of life, energy and surprises