The Perfect Day

Sometimes God blesses us in unexpected and surprising ways. I was 21 years old and visiting my grandmother as I’d been doing every weekend for several months. She was taking a late nap and I was enjoying the splendor of the view from her front porch as the sun began to set over her many-acred farm.  It was a particularly gorgeous day and though I consider myself an “indoor girl” who doesn’t handle boredom well, this was one day I was happy to be outside with nothing at all to do but take it all in.  In a moment of girlish excitement, I tilted my face to the sky, beaming up at God and thanking Him for such a wonderful – almost perfect – day.  I could think of only one thing that could possibly make it more wonderful and I childishly told God so: “the only way this day could get any better is if I had a HORSE to ride!” Within seconds, I spotted a figure in the distance. As he came closer I saw that it was not one figure, but two, for emerging from behind a hill just up the road was a man… riding a beautiful chestnut gelding. I stood in silence, overcome by emotion, as horse and rider drew closer.  It was the first, and turned out to be the only, time I’d ever seen a horse on that road and when they reached my grandmother’s house the man offered to let me ride.  Ben Hewitt recently wrote that life is mostly a series of moments in which nothing very much is happening and so often the things that give us joy are not the things directly before us, but things that live in some unrealized future “and therefore do not live at all.” Perhaps he’s right. But that evening, in that moment, joy entered the present and flooded my body, carried by a crimson answer to prayer on the eve of a perfect day.

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Quick Takes – June 2017

1.

Kidding season has started and once again I’m thankful to have my own personal goat midwife to help in times of trouble, because I’m just awful at the job.  Every time these goats are in labor, I fall to pieces.  I’m completely, utterly, useless.  My youngest son feels the same way I do.  So while Bunchkin and the other kids are right in there (and I do mean IN THERE!) with the goats:

Bee-Boy and I stay a safe distance away, until it’s all over

2.

Did I mention I don’t handle crisis well?  A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law gave me a  brand-new (to me,) heavy duty sewing machine. I bought myself the sharpest, sturdiest needles I could find for the project I’m working on and upon my very first use of this new, super-tough equipment, I put the needle right through my finger when my youngest bumped up against me. I stared in horror at my finger, pinned to the machine, screaming “help!  I don’t know what to do!  I don’t know what to DO!!!”  My three youngest burst into tears.  My five oldest (ever level-headed in times of crisis [they take after their daddy]) ran for the bolt cutters.  Somehow I managed to extract my finger (without use of the bolt cutters) and a neighbor (my new best friend!) was able to take out the needle and thread. I can now testify that this machine, combined with the proper needle, can sew right through ANYTHING!!!

3.

I’m doing a lot of sewing, lately (now that my finger has healed,) because the kids are making cloth pads for a friend to save up for a saddle (you can find them on her website  www.joyfullivingnaturals.com.)  My sister-in-law and I were joking about how they force me to spend hours at the sewing machine, doing all the stitching, but in all seriousness, they’re KILLING it! These are all the pads they’ve made JUST THIS WEEK!!!  They’re determined to have that saddle by the end of Summer.

Creating these pads requires a bajillion steps and everyone helps:

The family who works together, rides together!

4.

The lack of a saddle doesn’t keep the kids from riding and they hop on bareback whenever they can.  Even the lack of a horse doesn’t keep them from “riding” … in fact, they’ve gotten pretty good at cross country:

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There’s no doubt that even without a saddle, the kids are better riders than I am.  A few nights ago I tried getting on my very tall horse without the aid of a mounting block.  I somehow managed to get my foot into the stirrup, hoist myself up halfway, and then sort of dangled for a little while trying to get the rest of my big ole’ butt up there. Finally, I gathered all my diminutive strength and gave one last heave up… and right off the other side!!! Sometimes I really think maybe I’m not cut out for this whole riding thing.

6.

Speaking of things I’m not really cut out for…. Bunchkin and I are learning a song on the violin together that I’ve wanted to play for years.  Or, rather, she is learning both parts the song and then teaching me my part because I don’t know how to read music (bless her heart.)  So far it’s going really well.  When I asked the other day if I sounded like a “squeaky rat” she looked at me sadly and said “yes.” Then informed me: “it just gets harder from here.”  She’s also been giving me lots of helpful tips, like:

“You hit the wrong note.”
“Your bowing is backward.”
“You’re supposed to play that on the A string.”

She’s a bit of a perfectionist.
Personally, I’m taking a page from Florence Foster Jenkins.  They may say I couldn’t play, but no one can say I didn’t play!

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Posted in Daybook, Humor, PERSONAL, Seven Quick Takes, The Eigh of 'em | Leave a comment

Thriving Because Of

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“The reality is that some spouses never change, and some marriages don’t get better.”

– Charles and Michale Misja, Thriving Despite a Difficult Marriage

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I’ve come to the conclusion that all marital problems stem from one major flaw: they involve people.  Sinful, selfish, imperfect, ever-changing (or never-changing!) human beings.  A few months ago, I found myself right back where I was at the end of last year – emotionally distant, angry and ready to give up on my marriage.  Once again, I found myself struggling with my own expectations and felt that Jon and I were caught in a cycle that would never end.  Once again I found myself asking the question: “should I leave?”  But then I realized there was another question, a bigger question, from deep within my heart demanding an answer: “what if everything I’ve always said I believe about marriage is true?”

What if God’s desire is that, except in extreme circumstances for which my own marital problems don’t qualify, marriage be a life-long bond, regardless of how hard it gets?

What if marriage isn’t as much about getting my own needs met or desires fulfilled, as it is about loving and serving someone else, no matter the difficulties?

What if marriage is the ultimate ministry, the ultimate mission, the ultimate battleground at which the most selfish, sinful parts of my nature are slain?

What if, as Gary Thomas so eloquently put it, God designed marriage to make us holy, more than to make us happy?

In the following days, I struggled with these questions and could come up with only one solution I could make within my understanding of who God is, and who He wants me to be: I would have to give up hope.  My hopes for marriage, for Jon, for the way I thought relationships ought to be and what “love” ought to look like.  I would have to lay down my desires and expectations.  I would have to truly accept my marriage, and Jon, for exactly what they were instead of what I thought I wanted them to be.  I would have to make thankfulness for what is a part of my daily routine, rather than constantly striving for change.  Sure, I could divorce my husband and go chasing rainbows somewhere else, but no matter where I went or who I found I’d be taking my own flawed, human self with me and “Mr. Perfect-Until-I-Got-To-Know-Him-Better” would, too.  I’d be trading current problems (and standards, and expectations) for new ones, while irrevocably destroying precious, beloved parts of my life in the process.  Instead, I asked myself the cliche question “what if this is as good as it gets?” and determined to find a way to “thrive despite” … or maybe even “because of.”

After speaking with a friend about what I was going through, I wrote the following:

I feel like I have to let go of my desire for a lot of things that I want and expect from a marriage because they’re never going to happen. But in the same way that I have to believe it’s possible to be happy no matter what my circumstances are, I also have to believe that a good marriage – a fulfilling marriage – IS possible. So I think… I think I’m going to spend some time in prayer today.

Today, I’m going to pray for my marriage. I’m going to pray that God does absolutely whatever he has to do to break whatever destructive, harmful, sinful things [have led us to this place]…

But I’ll only pray this once.

I’ll only be able to pray this once.

Because I really do believe that in order to heal, in order to move forward I must – MUST – lay down my expectations for my marriage. I have to somehow give up expectation without giving up hope and the only way I know how to do that is to allow myself to hope, allow myself to pray, allow myself to believe. ONCE.

And then lay it down. (And keep laying it down, and keep laying it down, and keep laying it down because I don’t believe this is going to be a one-time deal.) And let Him, if He chooses to do so, do the rest.

Since then, I’ve come to discover an interesting thing about expectations.  You can’t hold expectations in one hand and thankfulness in the other.  At least, I can’t.  Not in this.  I’ve kept my commitment to strive to be thankful for what is, instead of striving to make things the way I think ought to be, and an interesting change has taken place.  It’s becoming easier to find things to be thankful for (and there really is so, SO much to be thankful for!)  I find myself less critical, not just outwardly, but inwardly as well.  I’m less angry, less irritable, less likely to inflict wounds with my words and more content, in general.  (An interesting thought to explore would be whether there is a correlation between the number of things we try to be thankful for and the number of things there actually are to be thankful for.  It seems to me that the more we do of the first, the more there are of the second.)  I sense a settling within myself, a peace as I make the effort to cease looking to Jon and my marriage as a source of happiness.  Interestingly, though, I feel my marriage has gotten better, although I wasn’t seeking that.  Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that my marriage hasn’t really changed at all, but, similar to what happened last year, I have.  I’m beginning to understand, just a little, what Paul meant when he wrote: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

This may be an education that requires multiple lessons, but for now, in this moment, I am learning.

“The first purpose in marriage- beyond happiness, sexual expression, the bearing of children, companionship, mutual care and provision, or anything else – is to please God. The challenge, of course, is that it is utterly selfless living; rather than asking, “what will make me happy?’ we are told that we must ask, ‘what will make God happy?’ [Paul writes]: ‘those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again’ (2 cor 5:15)… Happiness may well be beyond [us] but spiritual maturity isn’t – and I value character far above my emotional disposition.”

– Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage

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Posted in Marriage | 2 Comments

Getting Close

Asterion and I had one of the best rides we’ve ever had today and I thought this would be a good time to post an update on my “Move Closer, Stay Longer” experiment.

If you recall (you can read the original post HERE), after a bad fall several months ago, I wasn’t able to trot Asterion without almost paralyzing fear.  After reading the book Move Closer, Stay Longer by Dr. Stephanie Burns, I committed myself to tackling these fears.  I made a list of all the things I was afraid of (see link, above) and decided to face them one tiny step at a time.  I chose to do this bareback for a few reasons.  First, I knew the saddle would give me a false sense of security and I really wanted to jump right into battle with the biggest fears I felt (somewhat!) capable of fighting.  Second, I knew riding bareback would be much more difficult for me, without the stirrups for balance.  I often joke that I always choose the hardest possible ways of doing everything, but in a very real sense I do like challenging myself (for the most part!) and it was no different in this case.

The first fear I decided to tackle was the trot.  I wasn’t too afraid of riding bareback at a walk and the canter was too far in the “too much fear” column to even think about attempting (with OR without the saddle!)  So armed with determination and lots of prayer, I got to work.  With my heart in my throat, I led Asterion to a small, “safe” paddock, wrapped my legs around him, practically laying on his back with a death grip on his mane, and trotted him for, literally, 3 or 4 seconds. Other than asking him to trot and walk (he responds well to voice commands), I couldn’t direct him at all because it was all I could do to just to force myself to hang on and not burst into tears. I couldn’t even THINK while I was trotting him, because everything in me was trying SO HARD not to panic that it crowded out every other thought I might have had.  During those first few weeks, I built up my time in the trot literally a few seconds each day.  Every time I grew too afraid, I’d force myself to keep going just a few seconds more.  It took weeks before I could trot sitting up and over a month before I could trot for an entire minute.  Progress since then has been excruciatingly slow, but consistently steady.  Five months later, we’ve worked our way up to a canter and today I was able to maintain my balance (for the most part!) during a five minute trot without holding on at all – something I truly wasn’t sure was possible five months ago.  (In fact, not long ago I was searching YouTube for videos of people trotting bareback, semi-convinced that it wasn’t physically possible to do so without holding on for dear life!)  Granted, the trot was slow and on a generally level area of ground, but when I consider those first few weeks and how terrified I was, I can’t help but feel proud of how far we’ve come.

Here’s what my “move closer, stay longer” list looked like, five months ago:

And here it is today:

We’re getting there!!!

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Waiting for baby

Last week I got to do a maternity session with a beautiful new friend, just weeks before she and her husband welcome their first baby… boy?  girl?  We’ll find out soon!  Thank you for allowing me to share such a special time, Sophia!  I hope we get to see more of each other in the months to come!

 

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Emerging Victorious

Years ago, I got caught up in the doctrine of “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” (which Paul warns against in Colossians 2:21 and I wrote more about HERE.)  Several things have contributed to my slow emergence from this bondage and one, in particular, is a book called Dance of the Dissonant Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. In this book, Kidd references the myth of Theseus (and, more importantly, Ariadne) and the Minotaur, making parallels between this myth and the system of patriarchy within our culture and the Christian church. She speaks of the minotaur at the center of the labyrinth as the “inner critic,” the “bullish, bullying, bulldozing force of patriarchy internalized in the cellar of a woman’s psyche.” Although I don’t agree with everything she has to say, I could relate to this metaphor of the minotaur as an inner critic.

Since then, the maze of the minotaur has become symbolic to me, a representation of my determination to overcome the inner critic, to break free from the sometimes overwhelming urge to ask permission and explain myself, and the often paralyzing desire to meet the expectations of others, especially men and members of the church.

This commitment to escaping the maze (so to speak) has led me to openly embrace concepts and practices I was taught in my youth to avoid. Elements of eastern meditation, Native American spirituality, Christian mysticism, and ayurveda, to name a few. The results of this have been interesting, to say the least. I feel I’m communicating with God (specifically Holy Spirit) on a level I never have before – or rather He is communicating with me in a way He never has before (most likely because my self-imposed rules have prevented me from hearing.) Through these communications, He has made it abundantly clear that He loves me, that He wants the best for me (and – what’s more – He’ll help me to obtain it,) and that He’s a friend.

A friend with an awesome sense of humor.

Not long ago, I went out to lunch at a Chinese restaurant with my oldest daughter. At the end of our meal, I cracked open my cookie to read a fortune for the first time in over 15 years – something I haven’t done since learning from a christian author that reading fortunes from cookies was sinful (no, I’m not joking and yes, I really believed that, which is embarrassing to admit.) This is what it said:

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The Minotaur

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Posted in Criticism, Faith, Femininity and Womanhood, Perfectionism, Salvation | Leave a comment

Help for the refugees

I have some troubling news to share, regarding the Refugee Center in Bowling Green, KY.  I recently received a letter from the Albert Mbanfu, the Executive Director of the Refugee Center in Bowling Green, informing me that the executive action taken by Donald Trump to stop refugees from coming into the United States also suspends funding for the refugees who are already here and being assisted by the efforts of employees and volunteers at the refugee center.  These funding cuts affect transportation available to and from from job interviews, acculturation classes and medical facilities for health care.  It also affects the center’s ability to pay for caregivers who take care of children so that parents can attend these important classes, as well as translators who help them navigate doctor visits, grocery shopping, school enrollments and day to day survival.

The center is asking for help in caring for these people who so desperately need it.  Please, if you can help, consider placing a donation at the link below:

http://icofky.org/donate

Additionally, if you’d like information about volunteering your time, please email or call Kelly Rice, the Employment Program Manager, at kellyrice[at]wkrmaa[dot]org or call the International Center at 270.781.8336.

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