The beauty that surrounds us

Some of our dearest friends from Texas came this past week to share in Passover with us….words can’t express what a lovely time we had! They are absolute gems in our world and we adored having them with us!

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Aren’t they beautiful?!

The day after they got here we had a BBQ with some of the most important people in our world, and it was a blast. A blast, and surreal at the same time to be honest. I remember looking around at all of these beautiful kids running around, the guys huddled around the grill charring animal flesh (lol), and wondering what in the world we have done to be so blessed. We have been gone from this place for almost a decade…and yet, upon our return…we have a house filled with love, laughter, memories, and beauty. As I surveyed my surroundings I saw my amazing brother who is one of the finest men I know, and his gorgeous family. I saw our longest, and dearest friends, who have TRULY been by our sides no matter what this life has thrown at us. Or what choices we have made. They have had the courage to tell us when they thought we were wrong, and the loyalty to love us anyways. I cannot say enough about S and L….but I am thinking I may have to do a post just on them, because there’s not enough room in this one for their awesomeness! lol. I saw our precious friends from TX  and their beautiful new baby boy, who came all the way to our home to spend this special time of year with us when circumstances would say they should not have been able too. That family has been supportive, kind, loving, and a perfect picture of the grace through out the last 6 years. Their support during our transition over the last 2 specifically has left us feeling like the most richly blessed friends in the world, and that is no exaggeration! My point in discussing all of these people who were in my home for a Sunday afternoon BBQ…is that as I looked around at all of them…I was amazed at the beauty that surrounded us. The way that all of these lives have been intertwined with ours has been nothing short of a miracle in our lives in one way or another.

A few short months ago, we were living in one of the most beautiful and tropical places in the worldImage

….and while there will always be a part of my  heart that is in Costa Rica….I would not trade this time here with all of these people that we love for anything in the world. I wouldn’t exchange the garden of eden like beauty that we lived in…for the love of these people whom we adore. Image

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Besides the obvious affinity to take pictures of those I love with me in them…lol…

The beauty here that surrounds us, is in the form of people and our relationships with them…and for that I am eternally grateful. My family and I are insanely, richly and profoundly blessed!

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Saying Goodbye….

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Randall Jennings 1947-2013

Unfortunately….my dear family has had more than it’s fair share of premature goodbye’s. This month has been no exception.

He was my only Uncle. My Grandmother’s only son. My mother’s only brother. One and only soul mate to his adoring wife. Only father of his two beautiful children.

Uncle Randy was the first example I had in my life of a spirit filled Godly man. A man who loved the Father with complete abandon.  Reckless abandon some might say. He was the guy who would follow people in the parking lot of the grocery store, to their cars, and explain that the Creator of the Universe had impressed on his spirit as they walked by…that he needed to pray for them, and with them.  He was the man, who taught me how to lay hands on a vehicle, and pray that it would be “healed” and for all car trouble to cease. I still to this day remember the look of complete peace and faith as he thanked God in advance for fixing the car so we could get home. And yes, the car did start. 🙂

His faith and exuberance overflowed into his classroom every single day as exemplified by all of the art, cards and letters presented to my Aunt after his passing. All drawn and written by his students. Some stained with their tears…and all completely heart felt. He was employed in a place where he could not say audibly to his students, that he was a Christian, yet every single child and teacher that came through his room knew that he was a man who worked for God. That he had answered a higher calling. He always told the kids, that they were more than what the world says they are. That they could be anything they fought to be, and that they were of great value and worth. He taught them to never accept or give anything other than their very best. And he challenged them to be more, and do more than anyone before him had.

The testimony of his life, Is far more than I could put onto this one page, and the stories would be endless about the way his life impacted mine. But the greatest part of his testimony to me, was that he was NOT a perfect man. Nor did he ever claim to be. He was a man who made mistakes, who fell into the deepest, darkest pits one could fathom…but each time….he cried out to the Father….he climbed out of the pit….and he sought the face of the Creator like never before. Each time he fell…he got back up…and held tight to the promises of forgiveness made by our Father for a pure and contrite heart.  He lead by example, as he always did, and taught me that all though failure is an inevitable part of life, if you seek God with your whole mind, body, soul, spirit, and strength…..your life will be blessed beyond measure, and your territory enlarged beyond borders. Even the confines of flesh.

My Uncle was a spirit that could not be duplicated.  His kindness, supportive nature, encouragement and love resonated to every person who interacted with him. And just like his Messiah, whom he longed to be like…he gave of himself until he drew his last breath.  I pray that his legacy will live on in us all.

Black and white…and what’s in the middle.

I’ve learned in life…that almost nothing is black and white.

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This picture that I took today reminded me of that. While a photo showing the stark differences between light and dark, black and white, is easy to snap, the difference between the two in life is never quite so easily deciphered.

What is right to one, can be completely wrong to another. What is good to some, is the epitome of evil to another.

My question is….why do we have such intolerance for each other? Why do we say…through our actions, that we have the right to tell other’s how they are to believe, think, act, live, be. Who are we to attempt to define other’s by our standards? Why is it so important to consume ourselves with the actions and choices of others…rather than working solely on being better ourselves?

Our family views, as I’ve said before, are not mainstream. There is no real place for us in the understanding of others regarding our beliefs. We are one thing to one group, and another to another group. And complete outcasts to others! Ha ha! But, it is in this place of being removed from the understanding of most….that we have found the most understanding about OUR beliefs. What it is to be on this earth…who we are meant to serve in this life…and a more defined relationship with the Creator of the Universe than ever before.

My family and I, have taken this to heart:

Luke 6:42 “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Whether you believe in Messiah or not…you have to admit that those are words of amazing wisdom. Who are we to judge another, when we are not fully refined and pure ourselves? I have been pondering these questions for more than a year now. I will share an in depth post at some point about our time in Costa Rica,(Nicaragua and Panama), but for now, I will just touch on what we learned about people while there.

We learned…

That we are not perfect.

And…neither is anybody else.

That when you put your faith in another human being…more than the Creator….you are asking to be disappointed.

There are many, many, many lost and broken, hungry and tired people in this world. And that it is our job to serve them. (this is not a reference to anybody else. Just our family. We have been called to be servants, and have a tender place in our hearts for the hurting of this world.)

Panamanian orphanage 2012.

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To trust our instincts. To listen to that still small voice that our Father so often speaks to us through…and we would save ourselves A LOT of heart ache

That unfortunately, when people take hold of religion, more than an actual relationship with the Creator….compassion is lost. Kindness is revoked. Anguish is created. And judgement breeds division.

No matter what faith you are…or of the none at all persuasion, I hope you would agree that when judging others…we are attempting to elevate ourselves above them. That we are feeding into the division of the world around us, rather than attempting to unite through love.  If all of us would take the time to just perfect ourselves…we would have a lot more time to love others.

Things in this life are almost never black and white.

But if we are fixing ourselves, and deciding what we need to change within our own lives….we should able to love anyone, through the grey.

A covenant worth fighting for.

I had a feeling when I titled this post, that it could easily be misconstrued. With the word “covenant”, and “fighting” in the same sentence, coupled with the fact that I have an obvious belief in the Creator I thought about whether or not I would get any negative feedback based on the title of the post alone. I ALMOST re titled it so there would be no misunderstandings as to what this post is about. It has  absolutely NOTHING to do with who should and should not be allowed to marry in this country/world. It has nothing to do with heterosexuality, homosexuality, or any other kind of sexuality. I will be writing in regards to the covenant that I am a part of with MY husband. It will be the post that I previously referenced about my opinions on marriage…and why some work…and so many more fail these days.  It will be my opinions on the fragility of this covenant and realities of how disposable love is treated in this generation. Nothing more, so please don’t make it more than it is. And hopefully, you will enjoy!!

Marriage-fix it.

I love this ecard that I found on Pinterest!  The beauty of the couple recognizing that they haven’t stayed together for 65 years because it was “easier” for their generation, but rather acknowledging that they have lasted more than half a century because they WORKED at preserving their covenant. They did not enter into it lightly, and through sheer will, love, faith and stubbornness…they have persevered. They took seriously their vow to “fix it” rather than disposing of what didn’t work in exchange for something different. I know, I know…I am probably reading way more into this one cute little captioned ecard than I should…but it made me cry the first time I read it because I can identify with the choice the animated characters have made to stay, rather than go.

A little background on my own marriage…my husband and I literally have grown up together. I don’t mean knowing each other since childhood, I mean since we got married, we have become adults together. Well, mostly. 😉 We dated the first time while I was in my sophomore year of high school, and proceeded to be “off and on” (mostly off lol) until my senior year. High school for me was rough. Not because of bullying, or any of the normal things, but because I was a wounded kid, making bad choices, and trying to find any way to make the pain of my past go away. Those attempts at self medicating manifested themselves through promiscuity, alcohol abuse, and drug abuse. I know that a lot of kids go through rebellious stages, and experiment, but for me it had surpassed experimentation and developed into a full blown methamphetamine addiction by my Junior year. I will save the entirety on that part of my testimony for another time, but you now understand where I was  when my love came into my life for what would be the last time.

It was March of 1998, and we had reunited for about 4 weeks. We were engaged on April 4th, and by April 28th we were finding out that we were pregnant and married four days later. Yes…I said four days later. Fast forward those four days to May 2nd, 1998 and my fiance and I are standing in front of a justice of the peace in Loughlin, Nevada. Exchanging vows, and making life long promises. We are accepting responsibility for the choices that we made, and promising to love each other no matter what….forever. Neither of us…had any idea what we were getting ourselves into!  My husband will tell you that he did. That he loved me from the first time he laid eyes on me, and knew before I did that I was going to be his wife someday. ❤ But regardless of that, there was no way at the tender age of 20 and 17, we had any concept of the covenant we were entering into.

There we are...in all our wedded glory. Yep...braces and all! ha ha!

There we are…in all our wedded glory. Yep…braces and all! ha ha!

Neither of us had any concept of loving someone more than we loved ourselves, because to be honest…neither of us had ever loved ourselves very much! We had both come from broken childhoods and all though completely infatuated with what we thought we knew of the other, what we knew was not much at all. We had no idea how dangerous it was to take two wounded souls and tie them together in the bonds of marriage without working diligently to find peace and healing within our own hearts. We didn’t know any of that, because as I stated before…we were babies! We were babies about to have a baby, and wanted to do what was right by our baby. We were all ready engaged…so why wouldn’t we just marry? As if a decision that HUGE can be made based on such a limited scope of facts. Looking back, I can only shake my head and smile because I see now the miracle of this marriage that we are in. All though it took us at least the first 10-12 years of it to develop that bond that we should have had from the first day we said “I do.”

Our oldest daughter was born in December of that same year, and she was beyond anything we could have ever hoped and dreamed for. She was exquisite, beautiful, and a complete miracle in so many ways. I have another post that will be shared soon on the story of our pregnancy and how our Father used her to bond and create our family, and how amazing this precious child is. For now…we’re going to stick to the marriage aspect of this story. 😉

Our daughters entry into the equation came with all of the challenges that any parents knows comes with a newborn baby. Ours was simply amplified by the ways I would cope with my intense love and devotion for her, and how it would affect our marriage. For reasons I did not understand at the time, I felt an intense and overwhelming need to protect her from anyone and anything that might hurt her. I had been wounded as a child by my biological father, and before I knew it, I was projecting my unresolved issues of not having felt protected onto my husband. I hang my head in shame when admitting these things, because my husband is a devoted father, and while not the most hands on Daddy, he is a good one. His daughters know that he loves them beyond himself, and he never lets a single day go by without telling them that he loves them. He did not deserve the way I treated him. He did not deserve the way I would scream at him to get away from us (myself and our daughter) when we would fight. He did not deserve for me to take the one precious thing in this world that for the first time ever was truly his…and treat it as though it wasn’t. He helped create this tiny being. He was the father of my child, and my husband, and I treated him as though he was disposable and a nuisance.  My husband has his own issues and when our issues clashed it was the most magnificent all of fights. We fought loudly, emotionally, and violently at times. It makes me cry when I think about how broken we both were and how long we spent blaming each other for our pain.

I would be lying if I said this wasn't us for a year or two...or five or seven. Ha ha!

I would be lying if I said this wasn’t us for a year or two…or five or seven. Ha ha!

Forgive the above levity while talking about such real and raw emotions…but we have a rule in my house…if we don’t laugh about it…we would never laugh! 😀 My husband forgets that often, but hat is why God gave him me…so he would remember to laugh. 😉

We went on to have our other three daughters within the next 4 years. We had all four girls under the age of 5 by the time I was 23, and oh boy, oh boy, was it a survival act!! My husband had become a truck driver when our oldest was two months old, so he was gone…a lot. Looking back, I see now how that only added to our laundry list of issues and amplified them by 100. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to work on a marriage while you are only together for a few days every 4-6 weeks. I felt alone, and feelings of abandonment consumed my thoughts of our marriage. I am sure that it is easy for those in all different kinds of marriages to identify with those feelings. Feelings of abandonment are a powerful thing, and can touch on so many other emotions within us. I again, had no idea what I was actually dealing with at the time, so we spent years in an unhealthy cycle of abandonment, rage, anger,  and frustration. Then…we would make up and have another baby. Ha ha! Sounds funny now, but I believe that was the closest thing we had to therapy at the time!

It seemed like an unending cycle. One that I felt desperate about time after time, as I’m sure my love did. I remember begging God…pleading on my knees with tears so thick I could hardly see through my swollen eyes to let me out of this. “I was too young to make this kind of commitment Father…you could NOT have meant for this to be my life! I know I’m a mess…but he’s a bigger mess and I can’t deal with it! I didn’t sign up for this!’ Each time I whined, and cried, and pleaded….I heard a still small voice that said, “You will wait…because my son will become the man he is to be. And in the process…you will become who I have called you to be.” I didn’t like hearing that honestly. It would have been so much easier to just walk away. To cut our losses and I was even convinced for a time that we would be better off without each other.  Those are the thoughts you begin to let yourself have when you are tired. I consider myself a strong woman, with the ability to endure almost anything life throws at me. But this marriage that I was a part of just made me want to sit down and give up more time’s than I care to admit.

And oh boy would I have lost out!

And oh boy would I have lost out!

One of my greatest revelations was in a time of prayer one day. I was whining to Father about how different my husband and I were, and about how he didn’t understand anything about me. About how it seemed like everything that made me, me, he didn’t like. I can’t quite explain what happened next, but it was a life changing moment. It wasn’t a clouds part and angels sing moment, but it was a quiet speaking to my spirit moment that left me floored at how stupid I had been. I began thinking about all of the things I prided myself in being. Intelligent, articulate, self assured, confident, capable, kind, considerate….Okay, I’ll stop now. 😉 And as these thoughts were going through my mind…the revelation of WHY I was these things hit me like a Mack truck. I began to think of myself before my husband. How insecure and broken I was. How lonely, and desperate for acceptance I used to be. I began thinking….”would I be the self assured, strong, capable woman that I am….if I didn’t have the love of a good man?” I am not a woman who believes that you need someone else to define you….I am painfully independent. But that day, I learned that I very likely, would NOT have grown into my own skin as beautifully as I was….without this man whom adored me. This man who calls me his queen every day, and while he hasn’t always treated me that way…has always shown me how precious I was to him in his own way. This man who couldn’t stand the thought of loosing me, and would walk through fire to ensure that I and his children were safe. I realized….that love is the most powerful of emotions…and because of his acceptance of me…I had been freed to feel love like I had never felt it before.  

Forgiveness

My husbands love has helped me find healing. It has opened up doors to my soul that I would have left sealed forever and the baron holes behind those doors would have been left filled with unforgiveness and and bitterness. My Father knew before I did, that all though this was not going to be a easy love…it was going to be a love worth fighting for.  That from this marriage…I would begin to understand His covenant with us and be irreversibly broken before Him. That I would allow Him into places of my heart that I swore I would never relinquish, and heal them forever. That one day, down the road, we would look back and see that if this love had been easy…we likely would not have appreciated it the way we do now. I know that our story is not an uncommon one. But I am beginning to see that our future is. Because we choose NOT to treat this like a common relationship, a disposable one, we are becoming the minority in this world of “my way or the highway” love. I, as his wife, choose to love him, cherish him, honor him, and respect him. Even when I do not understand his reasoning’s. I have learned to rest in his wisdom, and even when he is wrong, I have learned to be thankful for whatever lessons come out of those mistakes.  We choose daily to accept the responsibility of our vows and all though we still drive each other crazy daily, we CHOOSE to love through the ugly. We CHOOSE to forgive. We CHOOSE to stay. And most importantly, we CHOOSE to accept the differences in each other (which are more than our similarities!) and rest in how those differences make us a more well rounded couple, parents for our girls, friends, and human beings.

Bottom line…when it is broken….we CHOOSE to fix it. And I am thankful every day….that we do. 🙂

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