Friday, February 19, 2016

Blessings Part 2

It's amazing to me how we can think that we know what we need and we are actually so wrong.  God knows us so much better than we know ourselves.  And often what we need is so much harder to get to but the reward is so much greater than anything we could imagine.

When I look at who I want to be and what I want my family to look like I can paint a pretty clear picture for you.  And I've had my own way of getting there.  But God has been breaking down that way and showing me HIS way.  His way is so much harder, but so much fuller. 

These past six weeks have been life changing for me in so many ways.  God has ripped open my heart and revealed so much to me.  More and more this place is feeling like home.  More and more I am seeing His purpose in bringing us here.  I still don't have a complete understanding of why we're here, and it's possible that I never will, but I know that He is accomplishing things in me he never could have back in Chicago.

I've talked so much about my family and how I am viewing my role as a mom differently.  And it's so true.  Whereas before I would turn to my friends for comfort and encouragement, now I am turning to my family and to God.  Don't get me wrong, I still strongly believe in the importance of community, but I am also so thankful for the blessing of family and I am learning to enjoy them so much more.  I'm having fun developing traditions for just the five of us.  My marriage has been strengthened so much by our time here.  Just recently Brad commented that he has seen a part of my heart that he never saw before we moved here.  I have seen my husband step up in ways I've never experienced before.  I have seen him truly take the lead as the spiritual head of our family.  It's a beautiful, messy, hard, wonderful work that is being done in our family.

But there is even more being done.  I am getting to know my Savior more.  The community that we are so blessed to be a part of is just amazing.  I have never seen people care for each other this way before.  It is so hard to put into words what an amazing, special place this is.  And I am so thankful to be a part of it.  I see the hands and feet of Jesus lived out in this community every day.  I see God's people broken and I cannot ignore it.  I have come to realize that where we used to live, it was so easy to ignore certain group of hurting people.  Here, that's not possible.  There are children in my son's class who cannot afford a winter coat.  Children in my community who don't have running water or electricity.  And my heart breaks for them.  They cannot be ignored because I am faced with them almost every day.  Sure, I can still turn away, but God is breaking my heart.  Just like his heart breaks for them.  And I honestly don't know what that means for me or my family, but I know that God is turning this into something beautiful.  I am catching a glimpse of God's heart lived out through his people and it is truly a beautiful thing.  I cannot wait to see what part he will have me play, but for now I will sit back and allow him to do his work in me to prepare me for what is to come.

In closing, I want to leave you with the words to the song that Brad and I have dubbed our "Rehoboth Song."  We sang this song at church on our first Sunday here.  In the middle of the song, we both looked at each other over the tops of our sons' heads with tears streaming down our faces, knowing that this is where God wants us.  And we have no idea what lies ahead, but we are His and so we will trust.

Oceans by Hillsong
 You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise my soul will rest in your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and you won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise
My soul will rest in your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

Saturday, January 9, 2016

New Mexico Update

"So, how are things going?"

I hate this question.  I get asked this a lot in reference to our move.  It's a good question, and I love that people are interested to hear how it has been for us since we moved.  But I never know how to answer.

Things are good.  Brad loves his job and is really flourishing in the hospital setting.  We joined a wonderful church that is like a breath of fresh air to us at a time when we were feeling wounded and weary.  We live in a wonderful community with lots of kids just down the street.  I've been welcomed into a wonderful circle of friends and we are leading a great small group.  Time and time again we have seen these people come through for each other and others in need.  It is truly an example of what God wants the Church to be and we are so thankful to be part of it.  Micah goes to a great preschool two mornings a week where he is flourishing.  The boys are so happy to be living in an area with so much wonderful beauty and opportunities to get out in nature.  They play outside daily and we go on family hikes whenever we can.  The love getting dirty and exploring their new surroundings.  Things have been going really well.

This is the answer everyone wants to hear.  All of these things are true and we are so grateful for that.  But it's not the whole truth.

The truth is I'm floundering.  When this opportunity was first presented to us, Brad and I were so excited at all of the possibilities.  We knew we would love the area and the people we would meet.  We were excited about the opportunity to serve in the community.  We were confident that God was going to use us and work in us in big ways.  We just weren't sure what those ways were.  But we also knew the reality of the situation, and we talked about it a great deal.

While this move could mean one step closer to financial freedom for us, it would come at a cost.  Brad would be gone 11 hours every day.  I know to many people that is nothing.  But to me that is huge.  I have always known that I couldn't marry a firefighter who might be away from his home for days at a time.  I couldn't marry a  man who had to travel a lot for his job.  I wanted my husband home with his family as much as possible.  One of the reasons we disliked Brad's old job so much was because of how inflexible they were with his time.  He missed so much because he had to work weekends or couldn't easily take time off for family events.  While Brad is now home every weekend, he misses most of the week.  He often leaves right after breakfast and comes home as I am putting the boys to bed.  I'm not used to this.  I don't like this.  Raising three young boys and being pregnant is exhausting.  I'm weary.  By time I'm putting the boys to bed, I'm at the end of my rope.  And I often go to bed myself thinking I have to do it all over again tomorrow.  My partner is missing.  And it's hard.

I've also discovered I am a suburban girl through and through.  I've always dreamed of being a country girl, but I think this is too country for me.  I'm used to endless playdates, Bible study, mom's group, Target trips, Chick-fil-A, countless parks, small group, committees, family parties, mom's nights out, and the list goes on.  I always had something to fill my time.  But here I don't have that.  Don't get me wrong, I have a mom's group, we're part of a small group, I attend a Bible study, but it's not the same.  I am home with the boys way more than I ever was before.  And it's been a hard adjustment.  When I am tired of looking at the four walls of my own house, I have no where to go.  There are no breaks.

But the hardest part is that I thought we were going to be used by God in a big way.  I thought we were going to find a hole in ministry that we filled perfectly.  That has not been the case.  I'm sure there are opportunities that I am unaware of, but the reality of my situation has made it difficult to be used in the ways in which we thought we would be.

And I found myself being angry at God.  Why?  Why did he bring us here?  I sacrificed so much, and for what?  I thought we were doing what he wanted us to do.  I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I thought he was going to bless us.  I thought he was going to see us through.  I thought he would be faithful.  And I just haven't been feeling any of that.  For about a month, my poor husband never knew who he was coming home to.  Was I going to spend all night crying about how I wanted to go home?  Was I going to be mad because he made us come here?  I did everything God wanted me to do, so why wasn't he keeping his end of the deal?

But then I started to think about it.  There is one thing in this life I am certain of.  I know who God wants me to be.  I know God wants me to be a mom.  I have been uniquely gifted to be the mom that my little boys need.  I have always known this.  I've never wanted anything more.  I want so much for my children.  I want them to grow up to love the Lord with all their hearts.  I want them to love his people and to see them with his eyes.  I want them to find their home to be a safe haven.  A place where they feel safe and comfortable.  A place where it's okay to mess up because they know they are loved unconditionally by their Heavenly Father and by their parents.  I want them to learn how God has uniquely gifted them to be used by him.  And all of this takes time and a lot of energy.  It takes a lot of focused time, time spent pouring into them even when I feel like I have nothing left to give.  And in Chicago, I was distracted.  Distracted by good things, but distracted nonetheless.  Every time I brought them to a playdate or we attended another Bible study.  These are all good things, things I want my children to be part of and to see me be part of, but I was doing it in excess and that made them bad things.  And you might think I just need to say no more often, but I didn't know how.  I didn't want to.  I was afraid of being stuck home all day alone with my children with nothing to do.  I was afraid of boredom.  And of failure.  Being home means it's all up to me and what if I fail?

So, I firmly believe, God had to take me out of that place, away from those distractions in order to force me to stay home and truly focus on my family.  Something my heart has desired all along but I have been afraid of.  When I feel like I am losing my patience and I can't take one more minute, I can't run to Target.  I have to deal with it.  When my kids are going crazy because it snowed AGAIN and they haven't seen anyone who doesn't share their DNA in days I can't run to the park or the nearest Chick-fil-A.  I have to deal with it.  I have to take time to teach them how to resolve their conflict.  To come up with fun new things to play.  If I'm feeling worn out and I want time by myself, I don't have MOPS to look forward to or a coffee date with my best friend.  I have to force myself to keep on keeping on.  And it is hard.  So, so hard.  But I am already seeing the benefits of it.  I am seeing God's blessings.  When I sit down and truly evaluate where we are now versus where we were six months ago, I can see God's faithfulness.  I see how well my boys get along.  I see how much they look forward to our time spent together.  I see how Judah goes to his big brother for comfort or help.  I see how Micah cuddles up in my lap and tells me how much he loves me and then wants to talk about Heaven or the Bible or Jesus.  I see how God has put in my heart Scripture that I can use when disciplining or instructing the boys.  I see how my marriage has grown and strengthened because we have to lean on each other more now than ever before.  And I see the possibilities.  I see how my homeschooling can flourish because I am away from all those distractions.  I see how my relationship with God can strengthen because I don't have those things stealing my time (don't get me wrong..there are always things stealing my time, but not being home enough is no longer one of them).  And I see how I am surrounded by like minded people and I am encouraged.  I see that God truly did have a plan through all of this, it's just a little different than what we were expecting.

And it's still hard.  And I still get angry and frustrated and upset.  It's hard when you're being molded.  But pottery has to go through the fire to come out the beautiful end product.  And I still will jump at any chance I have to go back home, but I'm recognizing this place for what it is.  And I'm finding the beauty in it.  And I see God's faithfulness and I have the promise that he will continue to be faithful, and each day it makes it a little bit easier.  I don't know if this place will every completely feel like home, but I know without a doubt someday I will look back on this time and I will sing of God's faithfulness and how he brought me through the fire so that I could be the woman he wanted me to be, and I will be forever grateful.

Friday, January 1, 2016


I know it's been quite a while since I last updated.  A lot has been going on and I've wanted to write, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  But I am determined that this year I am going to more consistently write.  So, I'm starting the year off on the right foot!

New Year's is one of my favorite times of the year.  I love the newness of it.  I love looking ahead at the year and seeing a blank slate.  Knowing that I have the power to determine how it will be filled.  I love the fresh start that it brings, the chance to set new goals.  In the past I have made a list of several goals that I want to accomplish in the new year.  These goals ranged from reading a certain number of books to eating healthy to writing a certain number of letters each month.  While making goals like this can be a good thing, several years ago I stopped making goals.  Instead, I chose one word to focus on for the whole year.  This word drives my goal setting.  It helps me focus on an idea rather than something I have to do.  It's not something I can perfect so I don't feel like such a failure when I forget. 

Several months ago, God brought a word to my mind and I instantly knew it would be my word for 2016.  The word is joy.  Honestly, joy is something I have not experienced a lot of lately. 

When we first moved to New Mexico I was full of excitement over all the new things we were going to do and place we were exploring.  I didn't mind all of the time home alone with the kids.  But after a while I started to sink into monotony.  First I got bored, then I got frustrated and discouraged.  I stopped making the most of my time and instead gave in to self-pity.  I wasn't finding joy in my family and I wasn't doing things that brought me joy.  And things got worse and worse.  I was so focused on myself and how much I miss my friends and family at home that I was missing out on the wonderful things that are right here in front of me.  I'm sure this is all a normal part of adjusting to such a drastic move, but it's not how I want to live my life.

So I have decided to choose joy.  Instead of focusing on all that I miss about our old life "back home," I'm going to focus on the wonderful new experiences I have here.  I'm going to stop worrying about all the things I "should" be doing and start spending more time doing the things that bring me joy.  Things like reading.  And writing.  Baking.  Playing games.  I will never be okay with my husband being gone 11 hours every day, but I get to choose how I spend that time with my children.  I'm going to spend it doing things that I enjoy.  Coloring with them.  Doing puzzles.  Going on adventures.

Joy is a choice.  I get to choose my attitude.  I'm not saying that it's going to be easy.  I know that some days will end in a big pity part.  And that's okay because I will give myself grace.  But I don't want to miss out on this time that I have.  I want to have fun and enjoy this life that I've been given.  I want to laugh more.  And I am looking forward to seeing all that 2016 has in store for me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Recovery is Two Steps Forward and One Step Back

Several people have asked me to update my blog.  I know people want to know how things are going down here in New Mexico, but the truth is I don't know what to write about.  I have started several new posts but never quite finish them because I just don't know what to say.  There's so much.  And I don't know what people really want to know.

But one thing about me is it's hard for me to not just be honest.  I'm definitely a "bare your soul" kind of person.  I don't do shallow or small talk very well.  So, I'm just going to go with what is on my heart right now.

Moving is hard.

I knew it was going to be hard.  I knew that Brad would be gone more hours so more responsibility would fall on me.  I knew the kids would need to adjust just as much as we do.  I knew that I would have to discover the best place to do my grocery shopping or which park is the coolest.  I knew that it would take time to build friendships, especially the deep, soul-quenching type of friendships I crave so much.  I knew it would be a while before Brad and I got to go out on a date just the two of us.  I knew that not being able to go to my parents' house whenever I want would be really hard.  I knew that not being able to throw the kids in the car on a bad day and walk around Target aimlessly would be hard.

But I didn't know it would be this hard.  I don't think I could know because this goes beyond a knowledge and into the experience. The hardest part is parenting through all of this.  My boys have handled this whole thing like troopers, but it has not been without its own bumps in the road.  Whether it's just their own way of adjusting or their response to the lack of routine or even perhaps our own lack of discipline in the house, their behaviors have been very trying.  And, if you recall, I am a recovering perfectionist, which makes it even worse.  I put on myself this idea that I have to have perfect children so when they act out or act crazy I am doubly stressed.  I feel like everyone is watching and judging, even if I've been given no reason to feel this way.  And when you're the new girl, you already feel the pressure to impress.  I have doubted my own parenting more in these past two months than ever before.

But I keep coming back to the same thing.  This clip from one of my favorite movies, Mom's Night Out, sums it up perfectly.  God did not make a mistake when he gave me my three little boys.  He knew their personalities and struggles.  He knew their strengths and weaknesses.  And he knew that I would be the best mom for them.  Most days I question whether God really knew what he was doing, but the truth is he did.  And on those days when I question him, I am reminded that I do not have to do this alone.  It is by his strength that I get through every day.  He promises me enough for today.  I may not have any left over at the end of the day, but I have enough for the day.  And when I remember that I am not alone on this journey, he is always by my side I remember that I am going to make it through.  We will come out of this.  Some day, my children will stop throwing temper tantrums.  Some day I will stop worrying about what all the other moms think of me.  Some day, I will truly find my identity in Christ and who he made me to be rather than who I think everyone else wants me to be. 

That's the thing about being a recovering perfectionist.  You're always re-learning the same lesson.  It's two steps forward and one step back, but in the end, you are not where you started. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

God's Blessings Part 1

I'm going to be honest for a minute here.

Being a mom is hard.

Way harder than I ever imagined.  When I thought of being a stay at home mom, I though of baking cookies with my kids and playing games together.  Going for nice walks to the park.  Playdates with friends.  Easy naptimes and family fun Fridays where we all sit around the TV and watch a movie together.

All of these are nice things.  And all can be reality, just not as perfectly as I had imagined.  My boys love to bake with me, but it always winds up in a mess and everyone is fighting over the best spot on the step ladder.  Don't even get me started on walking to the park.  What should take 10 minutes takes at least a half hour because we have to stop every 5 steps to pick up a stone or look at the ant walking in the street or we're fighting over who is going to push the stroller.  Needless to say, being a mom is not easy.

But lately I have discovered that because things weren't going my way parenting was even harder.  I had a hard time finding the joy.  The constant interruptions to my day were a nuisance.  I was being selfish.  I was focusing on how my kids poky-ness (that is totally a word) was messing with my schedule.  They were happy and content playing with trains, but I wanted to bake cookies.  Micah wanted me to sit down and do a puzzle with him but I wanted to read my book.  My day was focused around me.  I was more worried about what I wanted to do than I was about my children.  And it was robbing me of my joy.  I was passing on snuggles and tickles and laughs because it didn't fit into my plans for the day.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am constantly reading.  Lately, my books have centered around being a Godly mom.  Someone who points her children to Jesus.  One common theme the books have is giving up your own selfish desires.  When we become moms, we lay down ourselves for the sake of our children.  I'm not talking about never doing anything for ourselves.  I believe that is wrong on so many levels.  But it means our focus is on our kids.  We have them home for such a short time.  We only get so many snuggles and tickles before their too big and too cool for them anymore.

When we first started getting all the details of our move and found out that Brad would actually be away from home longer we both had our doubts.  Brad knows I am a person who needs my time everyday.  I need time to read and be alone or I can become very grumpy.  His new schedule would make this very hard.  But, still, we prayed about it and decided if this is what God is calling us to, He will change my heart and get me through this time.

And let me tell you, He has done just that!  With encouragement from the books I have been reading, I have found more joy in my children and home in the three weeks that we have been here than in the three months before.  I wake up every morning and spend time in Scripture.  Sometimes it's a half hour, sometimes its five minutes, but I am starting the day focused on Him, and he, in turn, gives me the grace to focus on my children.  Yes, I am tired at the end of the day, but I am truly enjoying playing with my kids.  Going to the park with them.  Building them tracks.  I'm more intentional about disciplining them, taking the time to point them to God's Word to help direct their behavior.  We're listening to music together, reading piles and piles of books.  And yes, even cooking together.

Don't get me wrong, I have always loved my children.  I have always loved being a mom and I would not trade it for anything in the world.  It's just that my focus was more on the playdates and naptime then the actual hard work of mothering.

But already I am experiencing one of the blessings of God because we were obedient to God's call to come here to New Mexico.  I am sad for all of the joy that I missed out on and I don't even want to think what it would be like if we had not followed God's call to come here.  Now, I am eager to see what other blessings He has in store for us.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


When this whole journey to New Mexico started, I kind of felt like I was just following my husband's lead.  He's never before felt God speak to him so clearly, and I have never before seen him lead our family so strongly.  So I knew I had to follow him.  We've had many conversations about this journey.  We've gone through many reason why God has brought us here.  To help us become financially free?  So that we could volunteer at Rehoboth School?  To live a simpler life?  To grow closer together as a family?  So that I could start a mom's group?  Does it have to do with people Brad will serve at work?  For the boys?

I still have no idea why God has brought us here.  Maybe all of these reasons have some validity.  Maybe none of them.  But I can already tell you this move has changed my life.  I have honestly seen this move as more about Brad.  Or the boys.  It doesn't have much to do with me.  I'm just along for the ride.  But I am discovering that I am so wrong.  I thought that picking up my life and moving 1500 miles away from everyone I know was good enough.  I thought I had done a good thing.  God was proud of me for trusting Him in this and now everything is going to fall into place.  I would love for it to work out like that, and maybe it will, but my job is not over. 

God doesn't look at my obedience and trust in moving here and say, "Way to go, Amanda!  You passed the test.  Now everything else in life will go exactly as you want it."  No, moving here was only the beginning of my surrender. 

Ever since we got here a week ago, I've been wrestling with God.  I have felt him telling me there is more.  More than I can even imagine.  But I have to surrender.  Everything.  I have to surrender all that I have been clinging so tightly to.  My security.  My comfort.  My things.  I have to be willing to give him anything he wants.  That doesn't mean he's going to take it all away from me, but until I surrender completely to Him, I will not be able to experience the full blessing that He wants to give me. 

But the truth is I'm not ready for that yet.  I still want to hold on to my comfort.  My security.  I like watching TV at night or having a closet full of clothes.  And so we wrestle.  I know what I have to do, but I don't want to.  But the funny thing is, I can't run away from Him.  He is everywhere.  Turning my heart toward Him so that soon I have nowhere else to go but to Him. 

I started reading Anything by Jennie Allen before we left.  I had seen it recommended on a blog I read and it sounded like it fit with what I was going through.  In the beginning, the book was not what I expected, but it quickly was exactly what I needed.  A book about surrendering it all to God so that He can do more than you could ever imagine.  So that He can fill you so completely it won't matter what you're going through because you have Jesus.  I am undone by this book.  It has spoken to me like no book I've ever read has.  I'm not ready for surrender, but this book was a gift from God, pushing me in that direction.  I want to give Him my all.  I want to surrender everything so that he can have anything he wants.  And I know the time will come soon when I will be able to say that and honestly mean it.  And I cannot wait to see what it is for.  To see what work He is going to do. 

Maybe this journey is really about me and surrendering completely to God.  Maybe he had to bring me 1500 miles away from everything and everyone I know so that He could capture my heart. 

Friday, June 19, 2015


We were made for community.  Everyone wants to feel like they have a place where they belong.  When we first started talking about moving down to New Mexico my biggest hesitation was leaving our community.  It has taken me years to feel like I finally found a place where I belong.  Brad and I are part of a wonderful small group.  They feel like family to us and we know leaving them will be hard.

I have always longed to have the kind of friends that my children can call "auntie" or whose houses I can walk right into.  I wanted friends who would come over at the last minute because we both have nothing to do so we might as well do nothing together.  Friends who I could share my struggles with and know that they truly would pray for me.  Friends to walk alongside me and just do life together.

Our small group is just that.  We have found three amazing couples who encourage us and challenge us all the time.  When we first told them about this opportunity they were nothing but supportive despite their own desires for us to stay here. I love seeing the people of God come together and forming their own family.  I truly believe that this is how God intended us to live.  I love my family but my favorite part of my family is the people who are not truly part of my family but have become like family to me.  And I realize that is not something everyone finds.  We are lucky.  We opened ourselves up to others.  We shared our struggles with them.  We were honest with them.  And they reciprocated.  They didn't criticize us or cast us out of the group.  They continued to welcome us with open arms and they opened up about their own struggles.  They started to be honest with us.  I love it when God's people live together in community like that. 

That is no small feat.  I know how scary it can be.  It takes a lot of trust and vulnerability, but we have been greatly blessed because of it.  It's not just our small group either.  We have developed some really amazing friendships with several other families in our church, and even an old friend from high school.  People who are a constant source of encouragement and support.  It is so hard knowing that we are leaving them behind.  Knowing that we will never find anything else quite like the friendships we have here.  But it's also such an encouragement, knowing that we go with their prayers and support.  Hearing promises of e-mailing and plans for days together when we return home.  Even plans to come visit us.  If we didn't have the love and support of our extended family I don't think we'd be able to do this.  It has made this crazy adventure all the more a reality. 

I'm not looking forward to leaving these precious friendships behind, but I am looking forward to seeing how we continue to grow in community while we are gone.  And how we develop new friendships to add to our family.  I am so excited to see exactly what God has in store for us and how He will continue to show His faithfulness.