Deep Waters

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The swirling waters of a full Arkansas River.

Have you ever felt that the waters are just deep and life is just too tough? You can’t catch your breath. You feel as if you’re drowning. You’re trying to fight your way out.

Yep, I have. And it seems it’s more and more these days.

When my word for the year came to me (strength), I had no idea that it would be as needed as it was. I guess that’s the way the Lord works, though, when He puts ideas in your head! It seems to be one challenge after another with little to no break in between. Geesh.

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I found this bracelet at JCPenney earlier this year and have worn it every day!

So what does one do?

You MUST relinquish control to the One who loves you. I’m one to hold on to worries and struggle with releasing it. The thing is, many of the issues I’m having to deal with I have absolutely NO CONTROL OVER. How are you to solve a problem if you don’t have any control over it? You can’t.

I was running by the river earlier this week after an exhausting day of teaching, my main goal of alleviating the stress of the day. As I frequently do, I pray but last night I had no words. My sentences wouldn’t come. My words seems to freeze. I was frantically searching for guidance yet found none. I glanced at the river, noticing the rushing current and the swollen banks. Under water. That was what I felt like.

Psalm 121 says the following: I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip–he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you–the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Isn’t that so reassuring?

My second tattoo was inspired by Isaiah 41:13 (NLT) – For I hold you by your right hand – I, the Lord your God, And I say to you, Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. 

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An infiniti symbol in the shape of a heart on my right wrist, perfect for inspiration of Isaiah 41:13.

I have to keep in mind, however, that there are reasons I am going through the trials that I am. Maybe not reasons that I understand yet, but reasons. 2 Corinthians 13:8-9 (NLT) says: Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. Okay, so I’m not to the boasting part about my weaknesses, but I will pray for His power to work in my weakness.

I hope that you are able to place your hope and trust in Christ. Life is hard enough to manage it alone; grasp tight to His hand and His grace will guide you.

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My One Word for 2018

Over the past few years I’ve heard about choosing a single word for a New Year’s focus, instead of a long list of resolutions that could potentially bomb after the first few weeks.  I don’t usually fall into the failure category of my goals, but simplifying things sounded appealing. The question was, what word should I choose?

I mulled over some words that others had used . . . faith, believe, courage, brave, love, joy, heal, forgive, be, cleanse . . . but I wanted something that stood out to me. My inspiration came when I was pounding out some miles on the treadmill at the local Y during Christmas break. Interestingly enough, I can get some of my best ideas when I’m running.

~ STRENGTH ~

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So, why strength?

Strength can fall into many categories. Looking ahead at 2018 I know I have some goals and some potential challenges and the common thread through it all was STRENGTH.

  • Health – As a runner, I need to be in good health and plan my workouts accordingly to ensure I don’t injure myself. Easier said than done, obviously, as last year I struggled with knee issues on top of IT band issues. Although I was lucky enough to PR in my last 1/2 marathon, I need to rebuild my base and start over after a lack of training at the end of 2017.
  • Diet? Yep. Maintain a healthy one! I believe in moderation, none of this drastic stuff. Just healthy unprocessed food.
  • Relationships – My children are growing up which brings parental relationships to a different level. I don’t have a good relationship with my ex although not by choice. As a new wife and stepmom, I will need strength to integrate families.
  • Work – I teach 3rd graders as well as serve on the Leadership Team and am State Assessment Coordinator for my building. State testing is right around the corner!
  • Faith – You might think this should be my word but my relationship with God is super important to me. My faith needs strength to continue to commit my life to Christ and maintain His will as my focus.

Yes, STRENGTH is a word that will work well for me.

Did you choose a list of resolutions? Or did you also choose a single word? Please share what you did!

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Tis the Season

I must admit that although I love Jesus, I find the holidays to be a bit of a downer. Well, maybe not a bit, a lot might be more like it. How can I possibly be feeling funky at the most wondrous time of the year when my Savior was born? Hmmm. . . I don’t know. I honestly struggle to interpret the emotional roller coaster I’m on at this time of the year.

Life itself continues to be a challenge but things have changed, mostly for good this past year. The relationship that began the year prior blossomed and I’ll be marrying this wonderful man next week.  I did some traveling to Sanibel Island with my parents and children as well as Colorado and Nebraska.  I accomplished many things – 3 half-marathons and a personal best, hiking my first 14’er, moving not once but twice, volunteering in a new section at church  – just to name a few. Challenges? Knee issues running, significant ocular migraines, strep throat, relationship issues, my oldest son moving not only out but out of town, family/friends death and health issues, my youngest son’s back issues from weight lifting . . . But I prefer not to dwell on the negative. Or at least I try not to anyway!So, what does one do when they’re struggling? Although sometimes difficult to let go, God’s got it. Even though I can’t put into words why I’m crying, He’s got me. When I want to sleep and never wake up, He’s holding me in His arms. When social media is too overwhelming, He gives me the strength to focus on what matters. When those that I love make poor decisions and my heart is hurting, He’s there. God is good.

I’ve mentioned before that God speaks to me through music. I was mesmerized by Tenth Avenue North’s song, Control that I heard about a month ago. I can’t seem to get enough of it! Here are some of the lyrics:

I’ve had plans
Shattered and broken
Things I have hoped in
Fall through my hands
You have plans
To redeem and restore me
You’re behind and before me
Oh, help me believe
God You don’t need me
But somehow You want me
Oh, how You love me
Somehow that frees me
To take my hands off of my life
And the way it should go, oh …
I pray that you’re able to give God control of your life. If you’re struggling with the holidays like I am, lean on Him. He cares for you. He wants you. Allow Him to fill the voids in your life. He’s got you.

I Surrender

He did it again. On my way home from a sports chiropractor appointment following work last night I was praying about how some issues in my life weren’t going the way I wanted them to and apologizing for not giving it to Him. I’d been playing Josh Groban’s Closer CD in my classroom prior to the beginning of the school day and the tune of  “Confession” came to mind as I was drifting off to sleep last night. The words themselves, however, escaped me.

This morning as I was climbing into my car to go to work, another song came to mind – Hillsong United’s “I Surrender”. I’ve always wished that God would speak to me with huge neon signs so that I can’t miss what He’s trying to tell me. Between these two songs, He’s encouraging me to surrender it all to Him. The illnesses I’ve struggled with this summer. The fatigue. The worries of my training and inability to run due to my knee issues. Untimely deaths. Family in weather related destruction areas. Raising children worries. Body image. Allergies. Relationships. Rejection that just won’t seem to let me go. Forgiveness. Lack of sleep. Stress from my job. Car problems. The ability to handle certain situations. LET. IT. GO.

Psalm 86:7 I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble, and you will answer me.

“Confession” lyrics: (partial)

I have been blind//Unwilling//To see the true love//You’re giving//I have ignored//Every blessing//I’m on my knees//Confessing//That I feel myself surrender//Each time I see your face//I am staggered by your beauty//Your unassuming grace//And I feel my heart is turning//Falling into place//I can’t hide it//Now hear my confession//I have been wrong about you//I thought I was strong without you//For so long//Nothing could move me//For so long//Nothing could change me

“I Surrender” lyrics: (partial)

Here I am//Down on my knees again//Surrendering all//Surrendering all//And find me here//Lord as You draw me near//Desperate for you//Desperate for You//I surrender//Drench my soul//As mercy and grace unfold//I hunger and thirst//I hunger and thirst//With arms stretched wide//I know You hear my cry//Speak to me now//Speak to me now//I surrender//

Thank you, Father, for my neon sign through music. I surrender it all to you. May your will be done in my life according to your timing and your purpose. Amen.

A Refreshing Trip to CO

When the wedding invitation arrived in my beau’s mailbox, I’ll admit I was a little nervous about attending. “Let’s wait and see what the schedule looks like,” I remember saying. I wasn’t looking for excuses really, but something about going to a wedding that involved the family of my beau’s ex was a little nerve-wrecking. Good news was that his ex wasn’t going to be there. Although divorce shouldn’t sever the ties of previous family relationships, my situation, unfortunately, seems to have gone differently. I was genuinely happy that my beau still has relationships with his ex’s family. Once it looked like the trip was going to be a “go”, we planned some activities around the upcoming celebration of love.

Day 1: After many trips to Keystone, I had driven by the shadowed mass on the I-70 of what is Pike’s Peak but don’t recall having actually gone there so the drive toward this particular mountain was incredible. I’ve always wanted to run the Pike’s Peak Ascent but my schedule has never permitted it due to timing of the school year. Some day, perhaps! We arrived after about a 7 hour trip to Colorado Springs and after checking into the motel (great price through booking.com!), we decided to check out Garden of the Gods. This particular location was also listed on my Bucket List board on Pinterest! Inspiring, to say the least! I can’t help but feel closer to God in the mountains, particularly when you see such wondrous sights such as these!

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Day 2: Our morning began early after having purchased tickets weeks ago to ride the Cog Railway up Pikes Peak. We had to be at the depot by 7:30 AM. Of course, I hadn’t planned on having strep throat and still being on antibiotics for this trip either, so although I had wanted to HIKE Pikes Peak, that wasn’t going to happen on this trip.  I wanted to get to the top so the railway was the way to go. Again, the views were spectacular! I was elated that I didn’t get altitude sickness on the way up (I can be prone to that based on my history) and we were both trying to stay hydrated to ward off any potential problems, so much so that Mike couldn’t wait to get to the top and was first in line for the bathroom! The conductor did an excellent job with her commentary on what we were seeing and puns and made the 1+ hour journey up (and back) very enjoyable.

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Day 2 continued: The wedding was also this day so after heading back down the mountain and visiting the gift shop (of course!) we rested before getting ready for the wedding. It was a lovely ceremony and you could just feel the love and contentment between the bride and groom. I felt very accepted and there was no discomfort at all.

Day 3: This was the BIG day! We had planned to hike a 14er (a 14er is a mountain that exceeds 14,000 feet. See What are 14ers?)and carefully chose Mt. Bierstadt as my beginner mountain. Mike had hiked a couple of 14ers many years ago so this wasn’t new to him but he hadn’t hiked this one yet. We got up at 4:30 AM to drive 2 1/2 hours to the trail head (from Colorado Springs to Georgetown) to ensure that we were down below the tree line prior to any potential storms coming in during the afternoon. I had my Garmin on to see what the mileage would be like but it died at 6.4 miles after several hours on the trail despite having been fully charged prior to departing. The book that we referenced said the trail was a 6 miles round trip hike that should take about 6 hours so I’m curious as to what our actual mileage was since we were beyond that and weren’t even down yet!

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The trail started through willows and then got to boulders. Due to my running, I would consider myself to be quite fit yet my legs were screaming at me to stop because they were so tired of climbing! When we got to the part where we could actually see the summit, it was easier to keep going. A second wind? Perhaps. The end was near! Well, the TOP was! We still had to hike down.

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The view from the top

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Another view from the top. The clouds were starting to gather and you could see lightening off in the distance therefore we didn’t stay on the top as long as we would have liked.

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Tired was an understatement but WOW! what an accomplishment! We hiked a 14er!

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This was the “official” marker of having made it to the top – a cardboard sign! Yep, had to take a picture.

Going down was tough and Mike twisted his ankle more than once. The parking lot seemed a long, long, long way away and we got rained on a couple of times as well as lightly snowed upon. We did pack adequately though, and had plenty of fuel and water to make the trip, for that I was grateful. After spending about 7 hours hiking and getting up predawn, we crashed that night!

Day 4: Since we were in Georgetown , just down the road from where I spent many days in Keystone, I wanted to show Mike the place I love so much so the next day we headed in that direction. After showing him where my parents’ town home used to be, we walked around Lakeside Village and then walked to River Run, sharing stories of my experiences as we went. After shopping at the Silverthorne Outlets following our walk (I took advantage of the savings and did some Christmas shopping!), we headed back to Colorado Springs.

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Day 5: That night we stayed at the Air Force Academy (cheap lodging!) and toured the chapels in the morning. They were absolutely incredible! The larger chapel was Protestant with a humongous organ in the balcony. Below that was a Catholic chapel and Buddhist and Jewish chapels. What an amazing place!

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I only had a week left before I headed back to the classroom for meetings and I can’t think of a better way to wrap up my summer. I accomplished things I hadn’t done before, admiring God’s incredible works and spent precious quality time with the one I love. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I was very glad that I went!

It’s been quite a year . . .

I had such plans for my blog this year. I had great thoughts of what I was going to write about, how life was going to go, and then things started to spiral in all sorts of directions. Hmmm. . . I guess that’s how life works, isn’t it?

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A run-down:

January: After nearly 14 years of living in the same home, it was time to move. There were too many not-so-good memories in that house and I wanted to downsize. I met with a realtor, determined a time-line in which to get her recommended improvements done, and started the work.

February:  The goal was to have the house on the market by the end of February. I had to repaint the entire ceiling (kitchen/dining/living room/hall/entry way) due to changing out the light fixture in the kitchen.  It took 6 GALLONS of paint and a lot of time & energy. I didn’t meet the deadline. I wasn’t even going to even start looking at other homes yet as I didn’t want to get my hopes up in case my own home didn’t sell in a timely manner. My teenage son didn’t help matters any when the hallway had to be patched, as well as his bedroom wall, and the bedroom door replaced. Ugh.

March: House finally hit the market after spring break and a lot of sweat equity!

April: Let me tell you that trying to have a house ready for viewing with 3 kids, 2 dogs, 3 guinea pigs and working full time was just crazy.  However, on our 3rd last minute showing, the house sold —  in only 4 days!! Uh-oh, now I have to find somewhere else to live AND pack! I had already started purging things left and right and even managed a yard sale in an attempt to earn some $ instead of just giving it all away. That was a nice surprise as I earned about $300 for one day! Then there was CraigsList and Facebook Marketplace to help get rid of some of the other stuff. . .

May: I ran the Spring Prairie Fire Half Marathon and, amazingly, somehow managed a PR in spite of all of the craziness! I finished in 186th place, 4th in my age group out of 67 women with a time of 1:53:49. Soon after, my nephew graduated from high school. We found somewhere else to live but the home inspection came back with horrible issues so we backed out of that deal and luckily didn’t lose my earnest money. In the meantime, my teenage son got angry in the bathroom and punched a hole in the bathtub. Another costly repair. Closing on my existing home was scheduled for May 15 and I didn’t have anywhere to live!  The rush was on to find another home! This entire time I’m praying for God’s guidance and his direction on all of the plans. After all, He’s got this under control, right?! My stress levels were off the charts . . .

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trust in god

May continued . . . I found another home but they couldn’t close in time with mine so we moved all of our house into a storage unit and moved in with my parents. A week after closing, school finished up for the year and we headed to Sanibel Island, FL for a week with my parents. Perfect timing for a break, that’s for sure! I ran miles on the beach, biked across the island, relaxed poolside, and enjoyed time with my parents and children. I also got to see my aunt and uncle that I hadn’t seen in ten years! The very next day that we returned from FL, my oldest son moved to Lawrence, KS. Well, he IS 20, but nothing can prepare you for your children leaving home.  And it’s not like he was just around the corner — it’s a little over 2 hours away!!

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Bikes and beaches. Ahhhh . . .

 

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I loved running on the beach!

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My beautiful children at various locations on Sanibel. But then again, I’m biased!

June: My mortgage company was giving me issues and dropped the ball on the purchase of my new home, delaying the closing date to mid-June. Praise God, though, as the sellers were willing to let me move in on our original closing date! If that hadn’t have happened, I would have had NO help to move all of our belongings AGAIN, this time from the storage unit to the new house. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am in my mortgage company.  What makes it even worse is it’s the same company that carried my previous loan! Crazy. In the meantime, my younger brother and his family were planning a move out of state. They had put their house on the market and my sister-in-law had already moved to FL. We settled nicely into our new home and it didn’t take me hardly any time at all to unpack. I still have work to do with it (the previous owners REALLY liked the color gray and couldn’t paint worth a darn) but it was mine with fresh memories ready to be made in it. Refreshing, I tell you! I also managed a quick weekend trip to my parents’ lake house. A change of scenery can do one good, that’s for sure, especially with someone you love!

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Here we go again! Between moving from 1 house to the storage unit, Taylor moving out, then moving all of this out again into a new home, I was sick of moving!

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In the outdoor gardens at Crystal Bridges. We couldn’t resist having our picture taken by the LOVE art!

July: Even though I was feeling less stress than I had all year, my ocular migraines returned. I have been suffering with these migraines for more than 6 years and they’re actually quite strange.  They come on suddenly, rolling in behind my right eye, feeling like a knife is piercing me. I had already had an MRI in the past and tried medication, to no avail. After more than a week of excruciating and debilitating pain, I opted for daith piercings.  My niece also suffers from migraines and she said they really helped her. Once I got through the pain of the actual piercing and the healing of the cartilage, I am pleased to say that they have most definitely helped. I would highly recommend them! By July 7th, my brother and his family left for their new home in FL. In the meantime, I’m supposed to be training for 2 more half marathons and a 10-miler so my training has been suffering.

Still July:  I spent two days taking a class working for graduate credit in order to renew my teaching license by January. Next up? Homework! Then I went to my parents’ lake house and enjoyed time with my younger two children as well as my boyfriend and his children. The water was lovely and floating around in the hot sun was refreshing!

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Still July: Fast forward a week and I awoke with a sore throat. No big deal, right? Except for it got progressively worse. And worse. And worse. The Dr. visit said mono or strep, yet all of the strep tests came back negative! The white sores in my mouth told me otherwise, however, so after waiting too long on test results, I finally got a prescription for an antibiotic. Let the healing begin! Once again my training was derailed and I felt like I’d been run over by a truck. Argh!

So, what do you do during all of these types of fiascos? Dare I say that I’m actually glad that it’s now August and I’ll soon be back at work? Well, maybe I’m not THAT desperate. Cling tightly to His hand. I do believe in what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! God always has a plan. . .

A Verse to Live By

I received this daily Word on the Way on December 31, 2016 through WAY-FM and this one really made an impact on me. I’ve been relying on God’s strength for so long that I was holding my breath in the hopes that things were starting to turn around.  This Word on the Way has been wonderful encouragement for me. I printed it and put on my lamp on my desk at work as a constant reminder that God has the best intentions for me and my life. 2017 is going to be a great year!  I look back on the past nearly five months and I am in awe with all of the new things that have happened. He is indeed making a pathway through the wilderness!