Lost and Found, A Book Review

Lost and Found: Losing Religion, Finding Grace by Kendra Fletcher


My friends just lifted an eyebrow and took notice of this blog title. I am not a book reader, I prefer hands-on learning over books any day. I wrestle with words and grammar to connect and share my thoughts with my friends and hope to leave them encouraged. So me writing a book review will be a few steps out of my comfort zone.

I met Kendra Fletcher a few years ago at a blogging conference. I was coming to the dinner hour late and most of the spots at the tables had been filled, so I was eager to find an empty area to quietly slip into and eat. Kendra, her husband Fletch, and Carol-Ann took notice of my choosing to eat alone and quickly invited me to join them. I am always grateful for people who invite others to join them.

Over the years at other blogging conference I would get the honor to sit with Kendra and hear bits and pieces of her story. She would share stories of her son, Mighty Joe. She would share her heart as she struggled to be a godly mom. 

Last summer when Kendra announced her book would be published I made a mental note for 2017 to be the year I would read a few books and Lost and Found: Losing Religion, Finding Grace found the number one position on my list.

What I didn’t know was that I would read her book while sitting in PACU waiting for a doctor to give me information about my own son. While my heart bonded to her medical stories and I related to the fear of when the ER staff begins reviewing past trips and questioning your ability to care for your children…I was grateful for her reminders that God has my back.

Even more important than sharing the medical details of her life…were the details of how God changed her heart and reminded her of  her identity in Christ. 

The one paragraph from her book that I loved…We had to have Jesus plus our Reformed theology. Jesus plus our choice to homeschool our children. Jesus plus my decision to be a stay-at-home mom. Jesus plus giving our family size over to God. Jesus plus supporting missions, giving to our church, attending Bible studies. Again, we believed wholeheartedly that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, but we just continued on, wanting to do something. Surely Jesus hadn’t paid it all. (Excerpt from Lost and Found) 

Often as moms we need that reminder, while we desire to do our best job raising our kids…ultimately we are not the ones in control of the outcome…our kids have free will and God has a plan. I am not a great parent if all my children stay in the faith, I am not a bad parent if all my children walk away from the faith…but I am the parent in the trenches fighting for their hearts and pointing them to the truth.

Grab a copy of Lost and Found and a cup of tea or coffee and take a moment to refuel your mind and soul.

I was thankful that day sitting in PACU alone that I had this book as a reminder that while I might have been physically alone, Jesus still had my back, still cares for my situation, and always loves me.

After you read the book you might want to know the rest of story of what happened after Kendra found her infant son near death, ran over her daughter with the family van and almost lost her daughter to a ruptured appendix. Good news, Kendra will be blogging about those details, just follow the link to her website and sign-up at KendraFletcher.com

 

8 Signs That You Might Be an Overwhelmed Woman

8 Signs That You Might Be an Overwhelmed Woman

Overwhelmed Woman

Not that I have done any great research on the topic but I might have experience with a few of these signs.

Since I find these signs can muster up a small chuckle…I shall share my list on being an overwhelmed woman.

*Warning it might be a tad TMI

  1. When you are constipated NOT because you haven’t eaten enough fruits or drank enough water BUT because you have not had time to actually “sit down” to get that job done.
  2. When you get summoned for jury duty and it sounds like a really nice vacation. Sitting in a room where you have no responsibility and you could stare at a wall and daydream.
  3. When your mammogram paper is collecting dust on the back of your desk because you are convinced that juggling one more doctor appointment will land you in the loony bin.
  4. When you see a meme on Facebook that mentions donating leg hair for wigs and you laugh hysterically about that becoming a goal you could achieve.
  5. When your friends publicly announce that they stand ready to fund an account for your bail…just in case your day might find you in need.
  6. When friends find you napping in public places and are kind enough to not disturb you…only secretly take your photo.
  7. When reading posts on being overwhelmed is the closest thing you come to self-care.
  8. You are okay with this list really only having 7 signs since that is one less thing to worry about.

I do think I have some friends out there who can relate with being an overwhelmed woman…don’t worry if you chuckled reading the list…there is still hope…that is an amazing thing.

Humor is a great balm to the hard overwhelming days. At least that is my plan for getting through the trials.

 

Thank You! My word for 2017

My word for 2017…Thank You!

I know being thankful is often discussed…giving thanks…focusing on saying thank you…not relatively new ideas.  But here is why these two words are taking on a new meaning for me in 2017.

See, in 2016 I found myself saying…”I am sorry”…a whole bunch.

I am sorry I was late…sorry mommy forgot to fill out the paper…sorry mommy forgot to buy that at the store…sorry I didn’t remember to do that.

I have been beating myself up over and over for not being super woman mom and handling all that life throws at me with homeschooling, working, and caring for my husband.

Maybe you do the same thing? Trying to battle a little mom guilt here.

Here is the original cartoon that was written last year on Say Thank You Instead of I am Sorry.

For some reason I never saw the cartoon until 3 days ago…it was like a huge illuminating light went off in my head…hey I feel like I am saying I am sorry all the time. It only took about 5 seconds for my heart to know that would be my word for 2017.

In 2017 I want to say: [Read more…]

Blue Christmas, Grief and Joy Combined

 

blue-christmas

Are you struggling with the joy of the season and the grief in your life? Blue Christmas?

The one thing I don’t like about social media…it only shows one moment of a person’s life.

For example…if I share a moment of homeschooling frustration will people judge homeschooling as a horrible choice?

Or…If I show this Pinterest perfect activity will people fear they can never be a success at homeschooling?

The past few months of I have struggled with being able to express that certain life events suck…yet still acknowledge that God is good.

I have sensed an underlying current that…if I vocalized that these events were horrible…then my faith was weak…I wasn’t doing a good job of praising through the storms.

The reality of my situation… COPD slowly steals quality of life… you never know when it will be a good day with breathing or a bad one. And don’t ask me to be thankful about COPD…but I will find the moments where God shows his love and care for us.

Every Wednesday I meet with my dear friend, who became a widow 6 months ago… we share moments of joy in between moments of grief. She lost her husband all of a sudden…I am losing mine moment by moment…and we think both situations stink.

blue-christmas-service

This past Sunday our church held a Blue Christmas service; both of us were unsure about going. Yet after a hard weekend taking care of Ron I texted her that I thought we should go…so we sat in the back row…ready to leave if it became to emotional.

In that sermon Pastor Kenny introduced to me the Korean concept of Han. It seems this concept doesn’t translate well…but it is the combination of sadness and hope. At that moment…he had given me a word to describe my feelings.

When we entered the service everyone was given a stone and a marker. Everyone was asked to write their grief on the rock and bring the rocks up to the altar during the service.

If I could have…I would have photographed the pile of rocks left at the foot of the cross…because it can be a comfort knowing you are not alone.

Instead of following directions…my rock came home with me.

I felt during this series of life events…I need that rock to remind me each day…I didn’t choose these events…but I can choose how to remember them.

My friend…my heart does ache for the broken hearted at Christmas time…I pray that you can find a moment of joy in between the moments of grief.

Merry Christmas…I hope 2017 allows me to return to blogging on a more regular basis.

 

The year of…FAILING

failing

A year ago began a year of failing…first my husband needed shoulder surgery…which turned into 4 months of being out of work. Which is why I cancelled Christmas last year.failing finances. 

A month after shoulder surgery…we discovered his O2 levels were in the 60s at night. Yes, COPD was progressing…yes he started oxygen therapy at night…failing health. 

A few weeks later I discovered out septic tank tank was failing…hopefully I could get it replaced before it collapsed completely…failing septic. 

Yes I managed to get the septic replaced and had hopes of recovering from the whirlwind. But I was only just beginning the walk through the desert.

A lump formed on my husband’s hand…the MRI wasn’t good…again he was going to be out of work…we were going to lose all benefits…more failing health and finances. 

Then the roof needed replaced…or else major repairs would be needed to fix water damage…failing roof.

Then three hours after my dear friend and her husband helped me order supplies to repair my roof…a tragic phone call came…he had been killed in an accident. Ugly crying…it bonds you to your friends…grief became part of everyday life.

While things were failing…not once did God fail me.

I looked back on the past year…a year that forever changed me…I questioned if I could still homeschool.  I learned the value of giving and receiving help…most importantly…I witnessed God bring the strength needed at just the right moment.

While my gifts are for organizing and thinking outside of the box for teaching my children…I never wanted this blog to just show the happy organized homeschool life.

Because if you have been homeschooling for at least a few weeks then you know there are days…weeks…and sadly even months that the battle is real. That the battle to be all things a mom needs to be and homeschool…can be overwhelming.

Three things I have learned walking through the mountain top and valleys of this past year:

  1. You can’t fix hard…showing up means not offering a fix…or feeling like you need the right words to say…simply just show up….offer love and be a reminder that one is never alone.
  2. How are you? I no longer ask this…I now say… It is good to see you. I can’t tell you how hard it was to answer that question going through this past year…how  much did I want to share…how real did I want to be…could I just nod when I felt so broken inside. For my dear friend watching her try to answer the question…when her heart just wanted to cry out…I lost the love my life…how am I supposed to be doing.
  3. Community carries you when your strength runs out. My dear co-worker didn’t let me give up on getting my roof replaced…friends brought food…sent cards…reminded me of God’s grace.

As I look forward to serving and loving my family…I have discovered my secret weapon…rest.

Rest is defined…cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength. 

[Read more…]

Giving and Receiving Help

A Few Thoughts on Giving and Receiving Help 

I haven’t blogged in awhile…you may not have noticed. That’s ok. Most readers find me by doing a search.

If you have stopped by before…maybe you remember my blog post about The Unexpected Side of Homeschooling.  Those eerie times when our read-alouds added an extra layer of schooling to our lessons.

Giving and Receiving Help

Well the beginning of this month my ladies bible study started the book, Just Show Up.

I actually already owned the book. I had bought it several months ago. See at the time I knew I was awkward and uncomfortable with saying the right or wrong thing when people are hurting.

I just knew that silence when you are hurting can’t be understood, it is faceless, void of meaning. I didn’t want to be that friend who said nothing in my fear of saying the wrong thing.

Even though I had never followed Kara’s story I wanted to read the book in the hopes of being a better giver of help. I like helping…I am comfortable with dropping off meals, cleaning up houses and taking care of extra kids.

But this week…this week I realized I am going to have to be the receiver of help. That brings many tears to my eyes.

I could sprew a line of medical terms…COPD, growths, benign, cancer, vascular…that equate to my husband’s health. This time when he goes on medical leave…we lose all his benefits. He had just returned to work from being out from shoulder surgery for 4 months…so we enter this battle in a deficit.

People ask and offer…what do you need…how can I help…Friends my mind is blank…actually my mind is hurting from life. It takes a lot of mental strength to care for my husband.

Let’s talk about the other side of recieving help…you see…I have to be brave to let you in…because when you Just Show Up…it’s going to expose you to other sides of my life. Often I am not feeling brave.

You might offer to bring a meal…and I will have to police your knowledge of food allergies…so I can keep my family safe. Then I will have to explain my youngest doesn’t eat wet meat…I don’t really even know what that means myself…but I am going to need to explain it. By this point you might be thinking you are way over your head in bringing that meal.

If you show up and do my laundry…you are going to notice a lot of things…mainly I really need to find some time to shop for new underthings.

Seriously this Just Show Up thing…it is messy. Often you can not fix it…you can’t fix the hard stuff in life.

My life is just not about caring for my husband…it is being a special needs momma, it is being a work in and out of the home wife…and a homeschooling family. Often these things have kept me from participating with community.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to live life on an island…but we know that is a lie.

So I am going to work on receiving help…because I know I can’t not walk this path alone.

In the book, they talk about this being a dance…and I am pretty sure we are going to step on each other toes…but you know…you can only step on each other toes by just showing up.

Which one are you better with…giving or receiving help? 

 

Debt Free Living for Five Years

Five Years of Debt Free Living!

Wow…has it been 5 years since we yelled “debt free”…yes that included the house! We had achieved debt free living on one average income while raising 4 kids.
Well according to my TimeHop on Facebook…it allowed me to share my photo with Dave Ramsey taken February of 2011.
Debt Free Living
I can tell you that all those skipped meals out, no cable TV, budgeting groceries, and crazy financial sacrifices that we did to become debt free…pales in comparison to the peace I have today.

Let me take a moment and fill in some details of the last 5 years…and then you can grasp how amazing that peace becomes in the midst of trials.Five years ago my husband was the main breadwinner for our family, we had chosen to live off one income so I could be home with our children. I did occasionally pick up small part time jobs to supplement the kids schooling and activities.

Then a year later my husband spent 2 weeks out of work for pneumonia. After his recovering, he noticed his lungs would hurt, like breathing a huge breath of campfire smoke. After a few months when that didn’t clear up we scheduled a visit with a pulmonologist.

After a few tests he was diagnosed with COPD. He was prescribed inhalers to help slow down the progression. With the increase in medical I began working more steadily.

His health continued to decline in the form of a tired body and often sick with respiratory issues. Eventually he went for a sleep study and because his oxygen was low at night he was put on a C-PAP machine.

Things continued to decline but now the symptoms looked more like dementia. Someday I will write about when my husband went to church and told our pastor I was divorcing him…not because things were tense but because he knew something was wrong and how could I love him if he lost his mind.

It seems the lack of oxygen mimics mild dementia. I fought for a doctor to help because at first I thought maybe it was dementia…but 3 months ago we discovered his oxygen levels were in the 70s when he slept. Now he is on oxygen and things have become stable for his health.

Let me fill in a few details of the last 5 months. My husband needed rotator cuff surgery and spent the last 4 months out of work, while he was recovering he was placed on oxygen, and our septic system failed…and I found myself with a decreased income, rising medical, and needing a new septic system.

I know these few 100 words can’t begin to express the depth of my anguish…but I remembered telling a dear friend…I feel like each of these situations is like cuts on my body and I fear I am going to bleed to death.

But in the midst of this…I didn’t have to worry about a mortgage, car payment or credit card debt….can you feel the importance of that peace?

I know it’s hard in the current moments to give up comfort things, especially when you feel you deserve them after a long week of working hard…but I am so thankful we did.

While we don’t have fancy vacation memories, better cars, or bigger investment portfolio…I have more energy to care for my husband without the stress of paying off debt.

 

Mice in the House

If the title “Mice in the House” hasn’t scared you away…read on.

Ok…I am going out on a ledge here…risking my dignity and your opinions of me. But I am thinking you need a laugh…and I have a story for you.

Maybe I should make you promise that you won’t think anything crazy about me after reading this post.

Mice in the House

Mice in the House

Yes that says “mice” and not “mouse.” We live in the country and are quite used to The Better Mousetrap. Mostly they are active in the fall when the farmer plows the field. Then there is the occasional winter trapping.

But it is February…and we hadn’t seen any mouse activity in a few weeks…until last night.

I awoke to the note in the kitchen from my husband…Red Alert…I saw a mouse by the stove and set a trap. Great…after 20 years of marriage my husband knows…Nothing Says Love More to Me Like Well Maintained Mousetraps! 

The kids and I went about our day not seeing any signs of this current invader. I went to bible study for the evening and got home around 9:30pm. My husband informed that he had just emptied the mousetrap.

Then he goes on to note that it was a black mouse…now we are used to the gray field mouse and the occasional crazy brown mouse. In our neck of the woods the brown mice are notorious for running in the middle of rooms and not along the walls. I drive my husband crazy when he has to set a line of traps to catch them.

I have seen black and white mice in pet stores but never in the wild. I wished they had taken a picture of it before removing the dead carcass…because I am skeptic at heart and wanted proof.

My husband and daughter head to bed while I head to the kitchen. I had soaked cashews earlier in the day and needed to finish making the cheese for our mac and cheese meal the next day.

I assembled all my ingredients and put the cashews in the blender to start the process. After about a minute of pulsing and running the blender…I hear the squeal and flapping of a mouse caught in the trap behind me…over the noise of the blender!

Of course I scream and run to the living room and jump on the ottoman…something about taking to higher ground calms me in a mouse scare. Seriously I know those buggers can climb…so this is solely for me to feel calmer.

My daughter comes running…she has visions that I have sprayed cashews all over the ceiling from the blender.

I keep yelling for my husband…I fear maybe we have only captured part of the mouse…which if you know…leads to them dragging mouse traps around. [Read more…]

Vision Boards for Dreaming, Goals, and Planning

Since I am a highly visual person…Vision Boards sparked my interest this year. Except I kind of skipped the feelings part of looking at things that make you happy. I needed visuals to keep me focused.

PicMonkey Collage

Honestly I have struggled with writing goals, making plans…having dreams. I have spent many years letting the circumstances of life direct my planning. Which is not a bad thing but does not provide any thoughts to doing anything beside surviving.

I am not even sure I have grasped the full understanding….but here is what I have done this year at my house.

Vision Boards for 2016

Most of the directions I read had you gathering magazines to cut out pictures that inspired you. Since I don’t have magazines and honestly didn’t expect to find what visuals I wanted, I switched to a plan B.

I gave my boys a sheet of paper divided into sections labeled:

  • learn
  • money
  • school
  • fun
  • spiritual
  • books

I had them think of 2 to 4 things for each section. I felt like I was combining goals and dreams on one board. I tried to help them keep some items measurable like save $200 and exercise 2 hours a week. When they write their school plans each week they can remember to add the time for their goals. [Read more…]

Clean Slate for 2016!

For all the people who choose words for their years.

Well the title of the blog post…

Clean Slate Happy New Year

“Clean Slate” for 2016

really gives away the punch line for the word(s) I have choosen for 2016. I know you probably do not remember that 2015 my word was “stones” and 2014 my word was “squirrel.” It seems I do not like those flowery abstract words like grace, faith, or courageous.

I need a visual reminder…I need to see what my goal is for choosing the word. My pile of stones still decorates my shelf in my living room. I failed often in 2015 with getting those most important items at the top of my list. I almost think my stones were tied to a pendulum and I swung between extremes. Might be why I have not blogged lately.

Why I choose Clean Slate:

  1. Holy cow…it has been a struggle to keep past fears and failures from affecting my decisions. I spent way too much time in 2015 beating myself up for not being a better homeschool mom, or not getting enough hours in at the office, forgetting to read my devotions or ever getting my clothes put away.  I want to start my mornings with a clean slate…not allow yesterday’s issues to overshadow today. 
  2. My husband’s health has really rocked my world this year. I never know if my day will include a husband who can not breath and needs extra rest, a husband who is confused and not thinking clearly or a husband who you would never know had any health issues. I want each morning with him to start with a clean slate, and not expectations. I want to write on my slate for him that no matter how sick he gets he is worthy to be loved…his identity is in Christ.
  3. I really want to be the parent who offers a clean slate to her children. I want them to see that even if they break something, have a meltdown, or fail…that it does not have to follow them around forever. A certain child at my house has a reputation of being irresponsible…my other children have taken to being really strict with things…I have to remind them that opportunities still need to be offered for the child to learn responsibility…this is not 3 strikes at you are out. Cover that slate with grace! 
  4. Enter the hallelujah chorus…Jesus paid it all…all my sins are forgiven. My clean slate is washed white as snow…or wait…then it would be a white board. No worries…I bought a doubled sided slate. Now to focus on renewing my mind every morning…visualizing my clean slate.

Clean Slate

Clean Slate…fresh start…even if the last 20 years of writing goals has ended in failures…I can still try again. There has always been lessons learned in the journey.

The biggest lesson I learned this past year…that the trials have a way of pushing me off track but taking a moment to talk with friends about the situations helps me to refocus my thoughts. Because sometimes I feel like I can not see the track but I just need to turn my eyes slightly to see it.

Happy New Year…Clean Slate Here I Come!