Friday, September 15, 2017


"Saul did nothing to earn God's favor. Instead, he was on his way to hunt and kill people who believed in God, but still God chose him. (Acts 9:15) Why? It was only because of the grace of God. There is none of us who is too far gone from the love of God. His love and grace can change any heart." 

As I was writing this in my notes from the sermon that Sunday, God brought someone to mind. Someone who, in my flesh, deserves nothing. Someone I have had to choose to forgive multiple times and give my wounded heart to God to mend. I wrote their name in the margin by those words above. In that moment, I broke. God sent Ananias to meet Saul and give him a message from God. It's not that I think I am the Ananias for this person. I just received a glimpse of God's heart and felt a strange mixture of irritation and compassion, no doubt my human nature wrestling with the truth as it often does.

Immediately following this burst of the Father's love for this person I wrote, "I deserve nothing. But God gives me himself." I deserve NOTHING. This person deserves nothing. It doesn't matter what each of us did or didn't do. We are all sinners saved by grace. We are all broken in need of a Savior. 

From my notes: "It is the grace of God to expose the things in our life that are creating a barrier between us and God. He wants to set us free! He wants intimacy." God exposes sin, bitterness, and pain so that He can heal us. This was an opportunity for me to dive deeper with Him and allow healing. This was a Eucatastrohpe. 

Eucatastrophe - The sudden in-breaking of something good.

We get to experience this in our own lives, as well as help others experience this in theirs. I don't know all of the workings of God's plan. He had a grand plan for Saul who, before becoming Paul, was an awful man. God's grand plan always includes giving you a huge dose of love. With that overflow, you might also have fresh eyes of possibility for the person that you least expect.

He is in control. We don't have to be. Thank you, Jesus.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Beau's birth story

Wednesday, May 31, 2017 - Beau Nicole Garza

For about 2 weeks, I had contractions. They were uncomfortable, but not unbearable.
On the 31st, Ryot woke me up and we carried out the normal school morning routine. After she was on the bus, I had some time with Jacob before my doctor appointment. The majority of previous appointments had been afternoon appointments. This one, being in the morning, allowed Jacob to stay home. It was nice to get some time with him before our hectic day.

We went in for my last check up with my doctor before my scheduled c section two days later on June 2nd. They asked me how the baby was moving and I told them that she hadn't been moving around as much. I figured it was because I was having contractions or because she was running out of room. Just to be safe, Dr. Klein sent us to the perinatal assessment center at the hospital to check on her. They hooked me up to the monitors, and I was having contractions every 2-4 minutes. We asked her about what she thought was happening. She explained that I definitely was in labor, but they weren't sure if it was early labor or late labor. If it was early labor, then I would go home, however, if it was late labor, I would be having the baby that day! The nurse checked me, but I was only at 1 cm. The nurse said that she would check me again in an hour, then I was sent for an ultrasound to see how everything looked with our little girl. She looked great and there were no concerns at this point, which was a huge relief!

When I got back to the assessment center, the nurse decided to check me even though it hadn't been an hour yet. To all of our surprise, I was already at 3 cm! She said that she was pretty sure we were going to have the baby today but my doctor needed to make that call. A few minutes later another nurse brought a gown and an IV bag. She mentioned something about having a baby but we told her that we hadn't actually been told that yet. I said that we had been eavesdropping, but no one had officially confirmed it. She looked caught off guard and went to get the other nurse who said we were definitely having the baby that day. Only 10 minutes go by from the time that the nurse checked me until Dr. Klein pokes his head in the door and says, "Are you ready for a birthday party?". We had already been texting family what was going on, so now we got to tell them it was baby time!

I had progressed very quickly so they were rushing to get everything done before I progressed any further. Both of our phones were dying, and everything was happening 2 days early so we weren't prepared at all. As the nurses were rushing around, we were sort of rushing as well. Jacob had to make arrangements at work and we had to figure out who was going to pick Ryot up from the bus. We were in the truck, so we didn't have the car seat, and we didn't have the hospital bags or arrangements for our dog. We both had a lot scheduled for that day and so we had to move things around all while still getting ready for the csection. I had a prenatal massage scheduled for late that day that while I was being wheeled to a different floor, I told Jacob that we needed to call them and cancel it!

We got to the other floor to get ready for the c section. Jacob put on his outfit while I was taken to the OR to start the epidural. This is the point that I got a little nervous. I don't like needles, and Jacob couldn't be in there with me, so I'm so grateful for my nurse, Sharon, who grabbed me and told me to hold on tight to her so that I could get through it. I'm sure she just wanted me bent a certain way to get the right angle for the epidural, but it was still comforting to have someone to hold on to. I got the epidural and then Jacob joined my side. One hand on my forehead and the other hand holding mine, I was so thankful to have him there. One of the nurses told me that they just pinched me really hard with one of the tools and I obviously didn't feel it so we were ready to go. They started the csection and before we knew it, we heard her little cries! I got to have her on my chest for a good little bit while they finished closing me up. While he was putting in the final staples, Dr. Klein asked us, "Ok, so when do we get to do this again?" Without missing a beat, Jacob responded, "9 months, 6 weeks?" Dr. Klein and the other surgeon laughed and said that was the best response yet. I told them that we would only be doing that if Jacob was the one delivering. Too soon, guys, too soon.

The whole day when by very fast.
9:20am Dr. appt
11:30am checked at the perinatal assessment center at 1cm.
12:16pm finished with the ultrasound and checked again at 3cm. We texted family it was baby time!
1:46pm Beau's time of birth!

We are so grateful for all of the doctors and nurses who helped us at Clear Lake Regional Medical Center. If I get the chance again to go through this experience, we will definitely be coming back!

Of course, we are just smitten with our little miracle baby. She is perfect.

Beau Nicole Garza
7lb 5oz
Born 5/31/2017 at 1:46pm
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Friday, March 24, 2017

Five Minute Fridays! Root Beer Mix Up

Five Minute Fridays - Write for 5 straight minutes whatever is on your mind with no surplus of time spent editing or proof reading. 5 Minutes is the minimum, max is up to you and your creative juices.

Ready, set, go!

It's been a long time since I have sat down to write. Every time that I do, I feel the obligation to explain why I have been gone. If I do go down that road, it will be another time. First, I am reminded that I owe an explanation to no one. However, second, it would be a task to unpack all that happens in this brain of mine.

So for now, I will tell you a story. I have had a nasty stomach bug since Sunday night. No pregnant woman should ever have to deal with a stomach bug. It was awful and very untimely. Thankfully, I started to feel more human yesterday. This was good timing because I had a couple work meetings that needed to happen this week.

Being the first day out of the house and running errands, I was beat by the end of the day. My stomach still a little queasy, I stopped by HEB on the way home from my meetings to get some reinforcements. Ritz Crackers, bananas, Gatorade, 7Up to name a few items on the belt, it was clear that I was buying for someone that didn't feel good. The only thing that looked like it didn't belong was some Saint Arnold's root beer that my husband, and myself when I'm not sick, loves. As I waited in the line, I leaned on the cart with my head in my hands taking deep breaths and praying for my stomach to settle.

"How are you today?" a smiley, bright-eyed cashier greeted me. I answered politely and survived his small talk as he was ringing the items up and sliding them down the belt. As I paid for my purchases, he started bagging some of the items.

"Are you sure you're old enough for this stuff?" he asks as he bags the root beer.
A little shocked and confused, I laughed and replied, "I'm 27, so yes, I can buy alcohol, but that is definitely root beer."
"Oh" was all he could muster as he looked back and forth between me and the root beer double checking that it was indeed root beer.
Then I added with a grin, "Plus, I'm pregnant so I'm not going to be drinking beer right now anyway."
He smiled a little and responded, "Oh, so you're sticking to the light stuff, huh?"
I laughed but couldn't make eye contact at this point because I couldn't tell if he was serious or not. He laughed again and said, "Have a nice day." I returned the sentiment and waddled away with my groceries.

A couple thoughts on this interaction:

- I love people. I love that they are weird and sometimes socially awkward.
- I love that I am not easily offended. The whole conversation was hilarious to me, and I'm sure will be one to remember.
- The poor guy will probably pay closer attention to what he is ringing up from now on. But wait, was he really going to just sell me the alcohol when he wasn't sure that I was old enough? Did he think that that casual question would be enough to tell if I was old enough or not.
- Another question, Do I really look like I'm not 21? In business clothes, wearing my work name tag, wearing my wedding rings, pregnant? I'm not complaining. I am going to hang on to this baby face for as long as I can.
- God provides humor even when we feel crappy. And I love Him for it.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Embody the Crazy

This weekend I attended a conference called World Mandate. I couldn't unpack all of the truths and great conversations right now even if I tried. That will possibly be a different day, with clearer thoughts.

As we were getting out of the car tonight, Sweetness said, "I really hope I can just go in and go lay in bed because I'm really cold and tired." Same, child, same. That is exactly what she did. She was asleep before I said 'amen' in our prayers.

I went downstairs to do the same, after a couple adult-ish things like taking vitamins and such. I pulled my hair into a messy bun to brush my teeth. Right on the top of my head there was a short, wavy grey hair sticking out above the rest. To the right tucked back in the pony tail was a trail of grey and white hairs. I'm used to seeing them, and actually have a lot of grey hairs that tend to hide just under the top layer of my hair.

Recently I had a conversation with some friends who are older than me about grey hair. I told them that I love my grey hairs. Their response was that I loved them now but just wait a couple years, and continued with the different colors they have tried to dye their hair to hide greys.

Maybe in a few years I will hate my grey hairs. Maybe their unpredictable nature will irritate me and I will start dyeing my hair. I can't promise how I will feel at a later date. However, right now I love them. I love how they curl and stick out. I love how they hide just under the surface most of the time. I love how they have a spring in their nature that's unapologetic.

I hope with each passing year, my inhibitions become just like those grey hairs.
I hope that over the years my maturity and crazy levels rise at the same rate.

How great would that be? I would love to be the crazy grey haired lady that hides candy in her pocket and says what she means, in love of course. I am hardwired to be on the cautious and strategic side of things, which has served me well in several areas of my life. But I want to be wild.

I want to grow to embody the emotions of that crazy, curly, grey hair that stood tall out of my head above the rest.

Some of you will ask, why wait until you are old? I'm not. I'm exploring and learning and letting go every day. I just hope, in the end, that I arrive wild, free, uninhibited, light, and full of crazy ideas.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Beneath the Surface

As I was patiently waiting and watching people flow in and out of the cafe, I noticed that most had grimacing looks or technology glued to their faces. The lack of caffeine has that effect on most Americans. I placed my mobile order a little late and walked in earlier than when the drink was ready. I didn't mind. My phone was still in the car, so I had a couple minutes to scan the room and watch the barista work. 

The barista finished topping the drink with a beautiful design of froth. It's a simple joy, really, to enjoy the sight of something just as much as what it fulfills for you. The leaf on top of the froth didn't add to the flavor, in fact, getting a mouthful of just froth is jarring. But somehow, it made me more excited to enjoy my drink.

It was hiding under the surface. Only she knew it was there. Well, only she knew until I saw it. She was efficient and precise, and yet she took the perfect amount of extra time to add beauty to ordinary. How many times do we pass by the extraordinary to merely be productive? Don't get me wrong, I love a good list. I have different lists. Lists that are color coordinated on the fridge, in my planner, and on the back of the random Hobby Lobby receipt I found in my car. Getting things done is exhilarating for me, but merely taking crossing something off the list is not what we were created to do.

I want to be more like that barista. After she drew the beautiful design, she put the lid on it and called out my name not realizing I was standing there the whole time. She didn't make known the beauty she had created. Being a beauty creator is simply part of the person she is. What are we doing to tend to what's under the surface? I want to be known for creating beauty even in the mundane.

Beauty, breakthrough, and deeply rooted joy is available for you in all that you do today. You just need to tap into it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Drifters:Part 1

Drifting is all I've ever known. We wade in the water from raft to raft. My parents and my parent's parents were drifters. Just as the sun is so warm and inviting, the rain is refreshing and cool. The storms can be really hard to handle, but I was born into a good family who really bands together. Some families let their members drift away from the group and they get lost in the waves. But not my family. We link arms and close our eyes tight. My mom always said that our love of each other and our goodness towards others is what keeps us safe. That's all we need to do: keep drifting, share our food and resources with nearby drifters, and stay together. We will all survive if we stay on track. This is the only life I've ever known. The sea provides our food. There are dangers in the sea, but most of them we can be prepared to handle.

Drifting never bothered me until recently, and was actually quite traumatizing now that I'm telling you. Two friends, Aaron and Rachel, gone in the matter of a week. Aaron, sweet Aaron, just let go. He said that drifting was meaningless, that he didn't matter, and said it was better for everyone if he just let go. He struggled and sank below where we could reach him. And me, left, to do what? How do I even process this? How could he think this was better for everyone? I may never understand.

Maybe he did do the right thing, but Rachel? What is her excuse? She got caught up in the spell of this one Seeker. Seekers are so different from us and not widely welcomed in our communities. They live out of the water on this huge raft that they call a boat. It mostly stays away from our pack of drifters. Sometimes a strong current or bad storm would drift us closer together. Most of them looked over their boat and laughed at us or gave us dirty looks. One day, the cutest little boy dropped a toy in the water. I swam over to return it, but the way his parents looked at me clearly communicated that I was not welcome. Maybe I didn't look like them, or talk like them, but I am a good person. I didn't understand why she acted that way. We were different, but I didn't think that was a problem.

Sometimes Seekers would shout from the boat telling us to come join them. They would shout that it's better than the water. How could they possibly know what the water is like? They live on that boat. When storms would come, they hid in the boat or got worried that their precious toys would flow overboard. Really, most of the time they worried. Worried that their children would become drifters, worried that the boat would sink, worried that they wouldn't have enough stuff when they already had more stuff than any of us. Why would we want to get on the boat with a bunch of unhappy worriers? They never even tried to get to know us, they just wanted us to get on their boat. Did we have to be just like them for us to be friends? Our pack called them crazy, and I wasn't sure that they produced evidence to prove otherwise.

The Seeker that visited Rachel was so different. She was very pretty, and friendly, and our same age. I thought I was happy until I met her. She had a strange light about her. I wonder if it was because she was in a little boat away from the big boat of crazy, unhappy worriers. She used large sticks and rowed through the packs of drifters until she got to Rachel's pack. Rachel stopped her to ask her about her boat and what she was doing. After their conversation, Rachel swam to our pack and told me all about her. Her name was Hope and she grew up on the boat. Rachel was so interested about every detail of what the boat was like. Hope would visit Rachel often to talk to her, sometimes every day. She would sometimes bring Rachel gifts that to my delight would be shared with me after Hope left. I heard so many stories from Rachel about Hope and what it was like growing up on the boat.

Eventually, Rachel came to me and told me that we had to go on the boat. She tried to convince me that it was better than in the water. But how could she just leave her parents like that? How could she leave her little brother? Angry, I fought with her that she didn't have to go on the boat to be friends with Hope or to start living her life to be more like Hope if that is what she wanted. Rachel said it was the only way, and she left. She climbed on the small boat and was immediately given new clothes and was starting to dry off as she rowed away. I waved and cried, but it grew so quiet so quickly.

I haven't spoken to my parents much about how I feel because I know what they will say. They will call me ungrateful and ask, "what have the Seekers ever done for us?" I don't know the answer to that question. The Seekers were always were so far off until Hope met Rachel. I saw what it did to Rachel's parents and brother. They are barely hanging on to their raft. And now they have no one to take care of them when they get old. I don't want to leave my parents like that. Going on the boat was not an act of love. It was an act of abandonment. One, that I wanted no part in.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Storytime: Just a dent

They were watching the video and laughing uncontrollably. They were mumbling things and were sometimes disgusted. I had no idea what the video was about but from what I could gather it was highschool boy humor. I was still on the phone with a vendor sorting out invoicing issues so I was only half listening.

Driver said to coworker, 'oh man, Kayla's gotta see this.' To which coworker quickly responded, 'no, she doesn't want to see that kind of stuff.' They went back and forth for a while as the driver tried to convince the coworker that it would be funny to see my reaction. Coworker finally said, 'she's respectful and doesn't shove what she believes down our throats. So you need to be respectful too. She wouldn't like that video.' Driver called him a buzzkill and walked out. 

I tried not to smile since I wasn't supposed to be listening to the conversation. But this was a clear gift from God. I prayed earnestly for the people that I worked with. I prayed that I wouldn't get pulled into the vulgarity that often accompanies the oil industry. I prayed that I would somehow make an impact on the people around me. I prayed that they would see Jesus.

What a gift this was to me!
Sometimes, an impact is made that you can't see.
And of course, right when I felt like my efforts were just smashing against the rocks, I saw a glimpse of light on the shadow.

Everything you say either waters or withers the seed.
We can't know what's happening below the surface.
But God was so good to give me a glimpse that I was walking in the right direction.

Continue to be faithful to the people around you. Even when you think they aren't listening or don't care. God will work miracles and soften people's hearts if you are open to it.

The harvest is plentiful. We just have to continue laboring.
There are rewards. There is hope.
And this is the most important thing that you could possibly be doing.
Even if you only make a dent.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

It just takes time.

I remember several years ago being in church and through tears singing, "you take my mourning and turn it into dancing, you take my sadness and turn it into joy". At the moment, I was singing a message I can't say that I really believed. But I desperately wanted to. After some time went by I could confidently say that He turned my mourning into dancing and my sadness into joy. He answered the prayer that I didn't even say out loud, even if it wasn't within my timetable.

Through every new step in my life, I have had to re-evaluate what that truth means to me. I asked myself questions like:

What does it look like?
How does it feel?
What does it mean to me personally?
How do I practically see that in my life?

If you haven't experienced tragedy then turning mourning into dancing will look different than it does after your friend dies, your sister gets cancer, or your grandma is in the hospital. At every stage, I fall back on what I know to be true. He is good. He is really good. He loves me. He is in control. He has already defeated death and sin. I just repeat it over and over until I believe it. And as I repeat it, I unpack a little more of God's character and my place with it all. Then I'm left with the responsibility of that knowledge which leads me to change my way of thinking, the way I talk, and what I do. The different depths of knowledge of victory over darkness should change the way we act every time we step deeper.

I can still confidently say that He is the good One who turns sadness into joy. It looks a little different than it did 10 years ago, of course, but as the pain has gotten deeper, the redemption has been deeper and the intimacy with Jesus sweeter.

They say time heals all wounds. I say time gives us some perspective so Jesus can step in and heal all our wounds.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Growing Pains

Feedback is always wanted.
Until you get it.
Then it's slightly dreaded, fretted over, analyzed, and processed.
Growth is desired, but growing pains not.

I'm learning.

Monday, August 29, 2016

But we don't always get what we want

I don't want to be picking out my outfit for tomorrow.
I don't want to dress up to be sad.
I don't want to never have another one of your hugs.
I don't want to never hear your laugh again.
I don't want to not be able to envy your cooking skills anymore.
I don't want to miss out on the beautiful children you would have had.
I don't want to never see your hilarious facial expressions again.
I don't want to miss you anymore.

But we don't always get what we want.

You are an extraordinary woman who deserves more words than my brain can function to form right now.

I miss you, Jess. I will miss you for the rest of the time I am here on this earth.

I know I will see you again, but it's not soon enough.

But again, we don't always get what we want.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Weekend Progress

We've moved!

A new house, the same town.
Closer to some friends and farther away from other friends.
More space, with not enough items to fill it.

We need a desk, make that two. We need to paint this, take that wallpaper down, buy frames, print pictures, build a table, buy furniture, hang paintings, etc. Does the list ever end?

If I can say one thing about this process is that I have loved seeing this side of my husband. In our apartment, there was a lot of sitting and not a lot of doing because we didn't have any of the space to do the doing or to put the doings after they were done. This house, however, has been put to use thoroughly and we've only been here one month. The garage has filled up with his tools, and the projects have been endless. I've seen a completely new side of him awaken. One that I knew was there, and was told numerous times was there, but had not personally witnessed. I love to see him work. I love to see him build, fix, and design things. I love to see him satisfactorily rub the sweat off of this forehead as he admires his work. It is satisfying for me to see him so in his element.

I love to see him happy, fulfilled, accomplished, tired from a good days work, satisfied.

And although I may not be a lot of help, I sure love to fill my love tank by spending quality time with him while he works!

Hopefully these types of weekends come often. They are my favorite!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Still Carrying It

Night time conversations are my favorite. Sure, sometimes, Sweetness is just stalling going to sleep. However, night time usually holds some of the most endearing moments of the day. Tonight was no different. As she was snuggling her blanket to her face, she casually said, 'Jesus is here but we can't hear him.' And a door that she has opened several times before was opened again. So instead of trying to use examples or explain it in a way that she could understand, I just decided we would ask him.

We closed our eyes, and she repeated after me to ask God to show Himself to her. When she opened her eyes she smiled.

Sweetness: I saw God with a big beard and he was handsome. And he was a king on a throne and he had a...a..jeweled thing.
Me: a crown?
Sweetness: No, a stick...with jewels on it.
Me: a staff?
Sweetness: Yeah, like Moses, but it had a lot of jewels on it. But I want to see Jesus too!

So we prayed that Jesus would show Himself to her.

Sweetness: I saw Jesus cut down trees. And it was the cross and He carried it. And He dies and three days later he rose to life again! And then when He went to heaven, He was still carrying the cross. He was carrying it forever for us.

Friend, Jesus is alive. He is still carrying the cross for us. He is still fighting for us. He is still reminding us that He took the burden off of us.

Whatever it is that is bothering you or weighing you down, lay it on the cross. I'm praying that as you read this, you will feel the weight lifted off of you. I'm praying that your mourning would turn to dancing, that your chaos would be still, and that you would experience the peace of God.

And that you would be able to close your eyes, see Jesus, and smile.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Write to Remember: God cares about what we have lost

The past couple of mornings, Ryot and I have been doing a YouVersion Devotional on Elisha. This morning in our quiet time, we read in 2 Kings 6:1-7. The story is a strange one. A group of prophets are building houses when one of the ax heads falls into the water. The prophet is distraught because it was a borrowed ax. Elisha then throws a stick in the water and causes the ax head to rise to the surface of the water.

It may seem like a random story, but the devotional goes on to point out that God cares about what we have lost. He cares about the details. Ryot and I talked about how God cares about when we lose tangible things and when we lose intangible things, like joy and peace.

Our conversation went like this:
Me: When was a time that you lost joy?
Ryot: ummm, Tuesday, I think.
Me: What happened on Tuesday?
Ryot: Maybe not on Tuesday, actually.
Me: Ok, so when was a time that you lost joy?
Ryot: In my dream
Me: Your dream last night? What was your dream about?
Ryot: Bad guys
Me: What did the bay guys do?
Ryot: They killed Jesus
Me: They killed Jesus in your dream last night?
Ryot: uhhuh, and that is not joy.
Me: No, you're right, it's not. What happened next?
Ryot: He rose to life again!
Me: In your dream?
Ryot: Yes!
Me: Yes, that is great joy!

We talked more about what that means, and how Jesus cares about our joy. He delights in giving us joy, and we have to fight the enemy and our selfish sin nature from taking it away from us.

I pray every night with Ryot that she would have sweet dreams that are pure, lovely, and from Jesus. I pray that she will see His face and know His voice. I pray that He will speak to her and fill her with His peace and love.

I did not give her enough credit when I asked the question. I was thinking about losing joy over not getting candy for breakfast, and she breaks out with the resurrection.
Don't underestimate the little children.
Don't think they don't know what you are talking about.

I write this to remember, and remind you that God cares about what you have lost. He is not idle.

Before we knew Him, God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to pay the penalty for our sin. Jesus came knowing the pain He would endure, and chose to die on the cross for us even when we did not choose Him. We sinned, and He paid the price. He knew that we would keep sinning, and He still chose to pay the penalty for us. But that's not all. He beat death. He rose from the grave. He is alive! And He cares about all of the little things and the really big things that we have lost.

He cares about the things that have been lost.

He wants to give you life. He wants to replenish you with Joy. He knows all of the cracks and voids, and He has exactly what you need to fill them.

If He cares about a borrowed ax head sinking in the water, He definitely cares about the worries in the heart of His children.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Moving Nightmare

We pulled up to a modern building with black stone columns and metal gates on the windows. I helped Sweetness unbuckle and we walked hand in hand toward the door. "Who is this guy again?" I asked Jacob. He smiled, "I can't exactly pronounce his name, but he's supposed to be the best." My stomach became a little uneasy and blood boiled a little.

You see, I don't like surprises. I like schedule. It is sometimes a point of contention between my handsome hubs and I because we are so different. He wants to have no plans and just drive around aimlessly looking at things. I want to schedule down time so that I know that for the next hour and 23 minutes I can do whatever I want- be it rest, or writing, playing with Ryot, or watching tv. We are just different, and that's ok.

It's Saturday. Jacob is happy. Just go with it. I calmed my nerves down and smiled back at him. "It's an adventure, I guess." I said as I grabbed the door handle. Immediately I thought we were in the wrong place. "Is this a joke?" I asked Jacob, but when I looked at his face full of wonder, I knew he wouldn't be responding. The walls were painted in dark blues, greys, and blacks, but with the lights so dim it was hard to tell some of the colors apart. Occasionally there was a wall with a bold geometric print painted on it. The decorations on the displayed art were dark colors and modern designs. This all seemed so far away from any sort of design that Jacob and I had considered.

"I'm going to look around." I told Jacob as Ryot and I began to walk through the store. I repeated myself since I had heard no response. His look of concentration didn't waiver as his thumbs separated page after page of modern gothic designs. Is this really happening? What is he thinking? I walked through a narrow hallway to large space decorated like a room-to-room furniture store. The only difference is that the huge vaulted ceilings that are normally caressed by ceiling to floor windows seemed like an endless pit going up. There were no windows, and few lamps. Most of the lamps on display were tinted to be darker or a color like red. I squinted trying to look at the designs as the staff dressed in all black walked by emotionless. At least we weren't getting hunted down by sales people. That was just about the only silver lining of this place.

We made our circle around the room and found more bold prints, geometric shapes, dark colors, metal, and leather. It was all different variations of the same exact thing. Back through the narrow hallway, we spotted Jacob in the same place we had left him. A staff member was opening a book half the size of the table to show Jacob the designs for painting the living room. "Ciao Bella!" the staff member startled us with his boisterous greeting. He quickly dashed around the table to kiss both of us on the cheek and then returned to his spot on the other side of the desk. I know he said his name at some point of our meeting, but before I could ask him for it again he was back on track. He spoke very quickly over the next few minutes through a thick Italian accent. I didn't catch all of it, but made out that he was the owner, and that they had pretty much planned everything out in the 10 minutes that Ryot and I had been perusing the designs around the store.

A variation of dark blue paint swabs, dark blue geometric shapes in a pattern, pictures of dark blue and black furniture with modern metal accents all laid out in books and magazines on the desk. "Woah, woah, wait. I think we need to think about this a little more. We don't even have a house yet." I reminded Jacob as we had just talked with our realtor the day before. "How long is this job going to take?" I put my hand in the middle of the table and looked back and forth between the owner and Jacob. "Five to six weeks, finito" the owner said to me and stood in silence for the first time since I had returned to the table.

Five to six weeks? My blood pressure started rising. We don't have five to six weeks. We have to move in four. FOUR. We have four weeks to move all of our stuff out, clean the apartment, and turn our keys in. We don't even have a place to live yet. We would have to find a place today and go through all of the steps to finalize that it's ours on the same day, and we still would be displaced one to two weeks while the design team was finishing our space. There is no way that this timing was going to work out.

I looked at Jacob and took a deep breath to ready my response.

Then I woke up.

I guess the combination of talking to our Realtor yesterday, creating an event to ask my friends to help us move, and renting a moving truck all before actually having a place to live is weighing heavier on my mind than I thought.

So much for sweet dreams!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Battle

I remember being told that my heart hurt so much because I loved so deeply. "How do I turn that off?", went through my mind on more than one occasion in middle school and high school. I didn't want to love that deeply if it hurt this bad. It was too costly for the reward. But that was when I didn't understand real love.

No, I'm not talking about 'twue wuv' or 'mawwiage', (Princess Bride reference, anyone) but a love that was unconditional. This wasn't a middle school boyfriend drama. There are just people in a child's life who are just naturally supposed to love them. Back then, I saw the only common denominator was me. I didn't understand life. I'm not saying I fully understand life now; that seems like an awfully bold statement. However, I have grown, failed, learned, and been kindly given some good nuggets of revelation over the years. Thank you to Jesus, and the beautiful mentors He has placed in my life.

Growing up, I knew Bible stories, the importance of worship and obedience, fellowship (shout out to my fellow Baptist-raised peeps), and the basics of being a good Christian. I know that Spiritual Warfare was talked about at church but it wasn't something I understood.

I didn't understand that every moment is a battle of the mind.
I didn't understand that renewing your mind was a offensive weapon. I just thought it was fixing what was wrong in me to be more like Jesus.
I didn't understand the importance of the choices I made.
I didn't understand that it wasn't just me that struggled with loneliness, insecurity, and shame.
I didn't understand how early in life the battle begins.

I now understand the importance of taking every single thought captive because the mind has the potential to be an isolating, debilitating place.

I see the battle already full force in my Ryot. Anyone that knows my Sweetness knows that she really is a little sour patch kid. She hasn't quite learned the skill of controlling her face from showing her emotions. An emotion that often rears it's head is anger or frustration. For my little she-hulk, it takes some patience and a lot of the Father's love to calm her down and get to the root of the issue. Most of the time if you really talk to her she reveals that she is just mad at herself. She doesn't understand why she makes the decisions she makes. She doesn't want to be angry, disobey, or make people feel sad or disrespected when she makes mean faces. I had family in town this past weekend and they laughed because it really is her go-to. I don't even think she realizes she does it. In our house, we tackle one thing at a time, and this mean face habit's number was just called. Not because I want to control her or create fake emotions, but because I want her to understand that she has the power through Jesus to take every thought and emotion captive. She has power with her words and facial expressions to possibly alter how other people feel.

Proverbs 15:13 says, "A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit." This verse punched me in the gut when I read it. Am I teaching Ryot the power of her mind? Am I giving her the tools that I learned so that she can surpass me to new glories as she grows? Am I focusing more on the symptom and not the cause? Is she aware of the battle for her mind and emotions?

Ryot is a flame that is beautiful and unpredictable. Ryot was made in God's image.

God is not tame.

Parting a sea so a mass of people could walk through and letting the waters crash on the enemy.
Speaking through a burning bush.
Speaking through animals.
Flipping tables.
Do the plagues sent for the Egyptians seem like a tame battle plan?

God is not tame. He does not take battle being waged on His children lightly. He does not take lies being whispered to His precious babies lightly. He will not sit idly by while the war is waged on our hearts. He never has. He has already defeated death on the cross, and has given us every resource of His spirit, and completely open communication with Him at all times to fight back.

Not one of us can fight this alone. Ryot has gifts and talents that God created specifically for her that I do not possess, because we are meant to be the church, together. To battle lies, together. To put each puzzle piece of our being together to be the body of Christ to fight this battle, together.

That helplessness that breaks you is a lie.
That shame that you carry is a lie.
The brokenness that you feel is not from Jesus.
The loneliness that encompasses you is merely a dust covering the light.
It's all a battle of the mind.
Take captive EVERY thought.

'Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." Phil 4:8

For those of you who love Ry, thank you for continuing to give her grace and know that there is way more going on under the surface than she can articulate. Thank you for not perpetuating the culture of shame that she so easily tacks on herself. Thank you for calling out goodness in her and holding her accountable to honor and obedience. Thank you for knowing that the enemy is already waging war on her mind and looking up to you to see how you handle it. She really is going to change the world, if we can somehow not tame the wild free spirit that God joyfully created in her. 

The same goes for me and you. We really can change the world.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Flippin Miracle Update

Here is the latest update on one of my best friends, the girl who introduced me to my husband, my sister in law, Ashley Flippin. We are all so very excited!!! 

Below is the email update:

Hey Guys, 

Today we met with Ashley's doctor to go over the results from her scans. We have lots of great news to share. Praise Jesus!

He said her liver looks normal now and the largest tumor which was in her lung is less than half the size it once was. He said now it just looks like a scar. She only has 3 legions visible in her brain and they are all small. The largest one is in her "motor complex" which he believes is why she still has trouble with her arm. Overall everything is smaller and there is no new growth. He said she is in "partial remission".  He wants to scan her again in 3 months and he said if she continues at this rate she will be in remission by the next scan which is in May. 

So she's gone from  "less than a year to live" even with chemo and radiation to possible remission in less than a year, without chemo and radiation. 

Isn't God amazing? 

Her doctor is going to set us up with a specialist to help with the infections in her feet. His goal is to not need to adjust her treatment. 

Thanks so much for continuing to pray with us. We love you guys. We will keep you updated!

Prayer Points

* Ashley would regain strength in her left arm (she starts Physical Therapy for it tomorrow morning)
* Ashley's feet to be healed so the infections don't effect her treatment 
* God would continue to heal Ashley 
* God would continue to use Ashley's story 

Thomas & Ashley

Cancer has tried to rock our family over the last several months. Ashley went very quickly from having some numbness in her hand to a hopeless diagnosis.

“Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.”
Psalm 106:8 

He is doing just that. 
We are in awe and so thankful. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Little Bird

Little bird slipped into the bushes. As I walked by I had to pause and listen to his song. It was so effortless and sweet. Good morning to you, it's a beautiful day, he sang.

I didn't stop once on the sidewalk, but kept walking slowly. I meant him no harm but as I continued walking down the sidewalk, he kept fluttering out of the bush and moving further along to another spot to hide. When we got to the edge of the bush, in a hurry he flew up to a tree across the sidewalk and hid at the top.

Was he afraid? If he was afraid, he had no need to be. I wasn't there to harm him, but just to pass by.

I wonder, how many times have I shied away from conversations or opportunities because of the fa├žade of fear?
I wonder, how many times have I been creating something beautiful and paused because I assumed it was being threatened or looked down on?
I wonder, how many good ideas I have not explored because I was afraid of unknown outcomes?

Fear is smoke. It's not real.
Sometimes, little bird, the thing that you are afraid of is the shadow of something also really beautiful.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Side Effects

Hour one of lying awake in bed had me searching on Google, "side effects of Vicodin" to find out why I'm an hour into not sleeping and itching all over my body. It was confirmed and recommended that I take Benadryl to stop the itching. Good to know at 1am when I have no access to such. "Not breathing" is one of the side effects I'm glad to not be experiencing currently. I guess not sleeping and itching is a better trade off than not being able to move because I'm in pain.

Hour two of insomnia has me up and writing to you. I read an article in bed trying to hide my cell phone light to not disturb my snoring husband. It's called What it's like to have fertility problems in your 20's and it's about what it's like...well, I'm sure you understand. You can click the link to read it yourself if you like. It's from a fellow cyster, Candace Ganger, who writes about dealing with more than I have so far, yet I still can relate. I remember being told that I couldn't have children at 18 years old. I felt like the whole point of my life was ruined. Possibly a little dramatic, but I couldn't think of anything I wanted more than to be married and have a large family.

When I found out I was pregnant with my Sweetness, I was already 12 weeks along. Irregular periods, pain, nausea, mood swings, insomnia, exhaustion, skin problems, and the near impossibility of losing weight were my normal life. So how was I supposed to know that I had defied the odds? If I would have been walking more closely with Jesus, I'm sure I would have known. I don't know all of the reasons why He gave me such a precious gift into a toxic marriage when I wasn't living my life for Him, but He did.

I didn't deal with any postpartum depression that Candace mentions in her post. If I'm honest, I silently judged women that dealt with it at the same time that I gave birth. I never would have said anything, but I definitely had judgmental thoughts as I lied awake staring at the perfection in my arms. Maybe it was because I had given up on the idea of being able to have children, so I was just thankful for whatever time I did have with her. Maybe it was just my general view of life because of the things that I had experienced growing up with losing Brent, my mom, and being separated from my siblings. Maybe it was God just protecting my heart completely. I'm not sure. I still don't understand postpartum depression, but I don't have to in order to realize it is a real thing and grieve for those mom's.

Thankfully, I haven't had to have an ovary removed, and a full hysterectomy isn't on the schedule for me any time soon. However, I have to be prepared that it could be in my future. I might not have another baby. I think people like to be kind and hopeful and say that Jesus will give me another baby. But one thing that I have learned is that I can't presume to know His will. I am learning to move into friendship with God and realize that I am valued enough to have an influence on His decisions. (Listen to this podcast by Kris Vallotton, seriously) Yet, I haven't been told that I will be given another child. One of my mentors in life shared that in her own journey, very separate and different from mine, she was given the promise that every woman in the Bible that wanted a child was given a child. I desperately want to believe that that is true for me. Maybe I'm just guarding my heart? Maybe it's unbelief? Maybe I don't want to get my hopes up? Maybe that promise isn't for me? I'm not sure.

If I found out I was pregnant tomorrow, I would be ecstatic. Nervous for complications, but over-the-moon excited for another precious gift of life. On the flip side of that scenario, I am getting to a point for the first time in my life that I am ok with not being pregnant. Does everything in me ache to be a mom again? Yes, all the time. But near sounding like a lunatic, I have to tell you it's different this time. It's a passion in my heart and so strongly desired, but it's held in open and lifted hands to the One who created me. He knows my heart. He gave me these passions. He knows the purpose behind them. So I'm not afraid to cry out and grieve for what I feel is loss, but in the next breath I give my longing to the Sustainer of Life and I lean on truth.

Matthew 7:11God gives good gifts
Psalm 34:17 The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.
Isaiah 45:2-3 I will go before you and will level the mountains, I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.

In the car on the way to Pre-K yesterday my Sweetness asked me, "When do I get bigger like you? It's taking too long." I took a moment before answering as my mind flashed back through so many memories from my first time kissing her precious face to looking at her now. There is no more baby in her. She is a full blown kid now. I answered her that she is growing everyday, and said that we would start tracking her measurements so she could actually see how much she is growing. She seemed satisfied with the answer and went back to singing jingle bells. Every stage that we have come to has had it's challenges, but every stage was one that I never thought I would get to encounter with her. She is a miracle, and I'm thankful.

If God gives me another child or two, I will be grateful.
If God does not give me another child, I will be grateful because I know that His will is perfect.
I know that God is good and wherever He is, that's where I want to be. Whatever He is doing, that is what I want to be a part of. I have never known fuller joy than to be in the center of His will in fellowship with Him.

Yes, I dream. I think it's important to dream. We were created for it, but I hold my dreams with open hands. I know that what He has for me is better than anything I could plan. And you better believe that He knows that if that conversation comes up between me and Him, He will hear my full passionate argument on the matter. Because He cares. Because He listens. Because He created me with the desire to be a mom.

I will grieve, but I will not dwell in grief.
I have questions, but I will not question His character.
I will struggle, but I know this is not my home.
It's all temporary - these struggles, questions, grief, and the side effects of this medicine.

James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Sometimes I get a little lost

Sometimes I get a little lost.

I used to take my journal to the mall, buy a hot latte and a cookie, and people watch as I wrote blog posts, stories, and random observations. Now I write in my journal in the small time frame in between dropping Sweetness off at school and my work day begins. It's no longer stories and random observations, but pleads for help and cries of praise to the God who sustains me.

Sometimes I get a little lost.

I have piles of laundry, piles of dishes, piles of paperwork, piles of kids toys, piles of bills. I can't do it all. I can try. I can get organized and prioritize the more important projects first. I can put work aside to spend time with Sweetness. I can remember to take a shower and brush my teeth, but then I walk back out to clutter and dog hair.

Sometimes I get a little lost.

I used to get lost in the pages of a book, or the wind in the trees at the park. I used to just lay on the floor and listen to good music. I used to have more time on my hands than I knew what to do with. I used to be able to make last minute plans with friends piling in my apartment. I used to have movie nights with my girl friends. I used to lay on the beach for hours and tan. I used to play sports and train several hours a day.

Sometimes I get a little lost.

I was watching her paint earlier today. She was rinsing the brush in the water and watching the color swirl in circles. As she was mesmerized by the water, I was mesmerized by her. She was so calm and focused. She brushed her hair back but a few strands fell down in front of her eye. Her plump little cheeks were rosy from the epic dance party that had just taken place.

Sometimes I get a little lost.

Sometimes I get caught up in being a wife, employee, and mom, that I forget that I am a girl. Once there was only me and my hopes, yes, but those hopes included a dream of the life that I live now. Those desires for a little girl come with the piles of toys and laundry. Those dreams of a husband, my handsome husband, come with the reality of dishes in the sink, and dog hair on the floor from our Gracie girl. I really don't mind it all, I just get a little lost sometimes.

Listen friends, balance is elusive. If we had balance, we wouldn't need Jesus. We will never obtain perfect balance of life, love, responsibility, spontaneity, fun, risks, etc.

I'm done getting lost. I will never find balance. It doesn't exist.
Becoming a mom to my Sweetness and a wife to my handsome husband is something I would never give up for anything.

We are not the sum of my faults and short comings. We are also not only the sum of one thing. We are allowed to be multiple things without being an expert at all of them at one time.

We are allowed to just be without explaining anything.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Getting Warmer

Your teeth are chattering as your feet sink deep into the snow with every step. Snow always seems like a good idea until you are driving in it or walking through it in the middle of the night. Just a couple more feet and you are there. The memory of the pictures of the cozy cabin with dimly lit lights and a warm fire blazing in the fire place is almost tangible. You fumble for the keys in your pocket but your bulky gloves make it impossible to identify what anything is. Only a few seconds go by as you quickly remove the glove, find your keys and unlock the door. The knob jerks, but the door slides open as you lean into it. Once inside you take a deep breath as an audible sigh of relief exits your frozen lungs. Leaning against the door, you can just taste the coffee and feel the fleece tucked around your lap.

Your eyes open suddenly. Why are you not warming up? You've been inside for several minutes avoiding the icy wind. Where is the thermostat? The kitchen, hallway, master bedroom, guest bedroom, utility room, storage closet, and entryway are all empty. The walls hold memories captured in frames, mounted antlers, a hand-carved wooden coat rack, and other various prized possessions to create an atmosphere of comfort, but no thermostat. The iron rack by the fireplace has mere twigs and pieces of logs that would barely start a fire let along sustain one for the night. There's no heat.

You walk to the center of the home and curl up on the couch staring blankly at the fireplace. You know, if God wanted you to be warm, then He would just make you warm. You just need to wait on Him to make you warm. Yes, wait on Him, and as you do so make sure you are grateful that you at least have a roof over your head.

Waiting still. A shiver down your spine moves you to stand up and walk around the room. Well, you know, if God wanted you to be warm, He would send someone to make a fire for you. That's it. Just go wait by the window for someone to come. Any time now. Tap, tap, tap, a branch outside knocks the roof in rhythmic pattern. Thirty-seven seconds pass as you draw stick figures on the window with what little heat is in your breath.

Ok, maybe you need a new plan. As you fumble through the drawers in the kitchen you feel a box. If your bones didn't hurt from shivering, you would leap for joy as your hands ran over the box of matches. The only thing that would make you happier right now is your arms outstretched to a fire already crackling in the fireplace. You look over at the twigs once again and sigh; that simply will not be enough. A rug on the ground, curtains hung from ceiling to floor, books on the shelf in the corner - you have options. Not great options, but they are options. You could just light the curtains on fire. That would make you warm, but it could also potentially burn the house down. For a moment, your running nose and visible breath almost convince you. You quickly put the matches on the end table before you make any rash decisions.

You have to think this through. If you go back out there, you are going to be cold. Probably colder than you have ever been. You will have to find an axe, and spend at least an hour out there chopping wood. There is no way you will be able to carry it back by yourself, at least not in one trip. Surely you aren't supposed to go out there and chop wood. The pictures in the catalog definitely didn't show a half frozen person chopping wood in several feet of snow in the middle of the night. You haven't received any formal training on this. What if something goes wrong? No one in your whole life told you that you would have to chop wood one day.

You will have to think for yourself on this one.

It needs to be done. You put on your glove and grab the door knob. What are you choosing?