Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Wind Beneath My Wings

Have you ever seen the movie Beaches?  I love that movie.

I remember the first time I watched it with my mom.  I was in middle school.

At that time, I was in the midst of losing my closest childhood friend.  We had grown apart, and I found myself wondering if I would ever have a friend like Bette Midler was to Barbara Hershey.

I always saw myself as the Barbara Hershey character.  Smart and serious, yet caring and motherly.

I hadn't thought about that movie in a long time.  But my mom and dad watched it last weekend, and they both mentioned it to me on different occasions.  So it's been on my mind.

As I looked at the calendar yesterday, remembering it was my best friend's birthday, I was suddenly struck by how blessed I am to have been given the gift of a "Beaches" friendship...

...

Wendy and I became friends in middle school.  We had gone to separate elementary schools that fed into the same middle school.  So our story doesn't start until seventh grade.

We were in the same math class, and we had a crush on the same boys, who just happened to sit across from us in math class.  We spent a lot of time talking and giggling about those boys.  Those boys never gave us the time of day.  So we bonded over young love and disappointing rejection.

We ate lunch together everyday, along with 5 other friends.  While we were all close, it was clearly evident that Wendy and I were special.  Our other friends joked that Wendy and I shared a brain.  We would finish each other's sentences, and laugh at jokes that only we understood.  

Even then, I didn't realize what a huge part of my life she would become.

...

Wendy and I only grew closer over time.  It wasn't just the normal things that friends do in high school. We did go to football games together.  We had sleepovers.  But, it was also the little things that made us close.  She would come visit me when I worked at the grocery store, and I would let her scan her own items.  When I wanted to break up with my boyfriend, but I just couldn't face him, she broke up with him for me.

We weren't afraid to tell each other anything.  How we felt about boys.  How we felt about college.  How we felt about our moms.  How we felt about our hair.

Nothing could come between us in high school.  Not work.  Not clothes.  Not mean girls.  Not boys.

Nothing came between us in college.  Not school.  Not miles.  Not dorm life.  Not new friends.  Not boys.

Nothing has come between us in the real world.  Not husbands.  Not work.  Not motherhood.  Not distance.

...

When I got married at a very young age, Wendy was more supportive of my decision than anyone else in my life.  She knew everything about me, and everything about my husband-to-be (because I told her, of course).  She knew he wasn't perfect, but she also knew how happy he made me.  And she supported me at a time when very few others did.

When I gave birth to my second child, Wendy lived 17 hours away.  She called me every day after he was born.  She was the one to recognize I was in the midst of a deep postpartum depression.  She was the one to pull me out of it.

When I made the decision to homeschool, many people were telling me it wasn't a good idea.  But Wendy was my biggest cheerleader.  She was just as excited about me homeschooling as I was.

Last month, when I had surgery, Wendy drove 8 hours to come take care of me.  She cared for my kids.  She cleaned my house.  She did my laundry.  She brought me a biscuit and Dr. Pepper every morning.  She even washed out my refrigerator.

...

When Wendy and I are together now, we retreat to our own little world.  We talk, and we talk, and we talk.  We laugh a lot, and sometimes we cry.  We get each other.  We understand each other.  No matter how long we are together, we never run out of things to say to each other.

My husband jokes that while he's the one I'm married to, Wendy is truly my soulmate.

I laugh.  But there is some truth to that statement.

...

The most memorable part of the Beaches movie is the song at the end, The Wind Beneath My Wings.

Wendy is my Bette Midler.  She truly is the wind beneath  my wings.  I couldn't fly without her.

...

Wendy ~  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank God for you.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

So worth it!

I'm not one to wander through life searching for signs of God.  I know He's with me, and most of the time, that knowledge is enough to carry me through.  But then there are other times, when things just fall into the right place at the right time, and you just can't help but see that He's trying to tell you something.

This is a long one, but I promise the ending makes it so worth reading!

...

Three months ago, my doctor told me to go to the outpatient center for an internal ultrasound.  I'd been having some serious pain in the left side of my lower abdomen, and the normal causes for such pain had all been ruled out.  This ultrasound would shed some light as to what might be happening.

Being the daughter of a cancer survivor, I must admit, I was feeling quite anxious as we were driving "across the river" to Albemarle.  Trying to focus on anything but my pessimistic thoughts, I glanced down at the speedometer and saw the last three digits read "666".

Now, you don't have to be a religious person to know that this number combination is symbolic of bad things.  Nor do you have to be a religious person to be a little spooked by this number.  I am a religious person, and despite my "not looking for signs" personality, my stomach dropped at the sight of those three digits.

My heart started racing.  I started sweating.  And I knew at that moment, I would not receive good news at the hospital.  I glanced back down at the speedometer.  And though I had gone from zero to panic in less than 2 seconds at the sight of "666", I was just as quickly relaxed and relieved at the sight of "667".

In Biblical numerics, the number seven signifies good things.  Even before I knew this, seven was always my favorite number.  So to look down and see it right after I'd experienced that moment of pure panic, it somehow gave me comfort.  (I know it may sound crazy, but it was all very clear to me.)

I felt like God was telling me - "Yes, 666 is bad.  You are getting ready to go through something bad.  But the number seven always comes after six.  So after the bad, there will be good."

I learned just an hour later that I had a cyst the size of a racquetball on my left ovary.  In light of the possibilities running through my mind, this was not bad news.  Of course, as I researched and heard horror stories of the pain yet to come with an ovarian cyst, I knew I'd not yet seen the worst of it.  Three weeks later, when the cyst ruptured, I saw the worst of it.  Or so I thought...

So after I experienced the almost-unbearable pain of a ruptured cyst, I figured that was the "bad part", and I was very much looking forward to the "good part".  Unfortunately, that cyst yielded more bad things to come.  I experienced by far the worst menstrual cycle of my life.  (Men: go ahead and skip to the next paragraph.)  Five days of bleeding, so heavy I couldn't stand up without getting dizzy and light-headed.  This was followed by six more days of somewhat lighter bleeding.  I honestly thought I was bleeding to death.  When that period FINALLY stopped, I thought the bad part was over.

But then I developed another cyst.  And the whole saga started again...

Together with the doctor, we determined my best option was to undergo surgery for a uterine ablation.  This is a surgical procedure in which the doctor burns and removes the lining of the uterus to decrease or possibly cease the flow of future menstrual cycles.

I don't take surgery likely, but you might see why I literally jumped at this opportunity.  When I told people I was having surgery, I referred to it as "a good surgery".  And I actually found myself looking forward to it.

Why wouldn't I?  The doctor reassured me it would be a routine operation, and I would be back on my feet within a day or two.

Riiiiiight.

I had that surgery last Tuesday.  Just before I fell asleep on the operating table, I heard the nurses say I was having an allergic reaction to the antibiotic.  When I woke up, I was in so much pain, but I was too sedated to tell anyone.  The oxygen thing was itching my nose, and no matter how hard I tried to pee, I just couldn't.  The nurses discussed my "complications" and were trying to keep me overnight.  But in the end, they sent me home, doped up on painkillers and anti-nausea medication.  They reassured me I would "sleep it off" and feel much better in the morning.

I didn't sleep much at all over the next few days.  I sneezed a lot, because apparently that oxygen thing irritated my nose quite a bit.  The sneezing led to more abdominal pain.  And I just couldn't seem to find relief.

On Thursday, I sat on the kitchen floor with my best friend, who was literally a Godsend to me throughout this ordeal.  She offered me words of encouragement, telling me something she'd heard about how sometimes we have to go through things in order to be a witness to someone else.

Her words gave me chills, as they reminded me of the message I'd heard at our church's revival service on the Sunday night before my surgery, just four nights ago.  The preacher read about the three Hebrew children who were thrown into the fire.  He shared with us that this event did not happen for the benefit of those children, but for the the benefit of King Nebuchadnezzar, who would see God in the fiery furnace with those children.  He said, sometimes we go through things, not for our own benefit, but for the benefit of someone else.

I wondered in that moment, for whose benefit am I going through this?

I ended up calling the doctor on Friday, because the pain had gone from bad to worse, and I was pretty much miserable.  The doctor said I probably had an infection and prescribed two very aggressive antibiotics which "should do the trick", plus some hydrocodone to kill the pain.  Note:  It didn't actually kill the pain, it just made me not care about the pain.  It also made me very nauseous.  

On Sunday, I'd reached the end of my rope.  I'd somehow held it together that long, but I couldn't hold it together for another second.  My husband, Keith, wrapped me in his arms as I weeped tears full of self-pity and exhaustion, while my two boys sat on either side of me looking concerned and feeling helpless.  Keith prayed with me, and reminded me how blessed I am.  He reminded me that God was carrying me through this.

He then decided that since we were unable to make it to church, it would be best to have a service at home.  He played a few songs, including Please Forgive Me by the Crabb Family.  This is a beautiful song.  While listening to the words I found myself asking God a lot of questions.

  • Why is this happening?
  • Who is this benefiting? 
  • When is the bad part going to be over?


When the song was over, God answered all my questions...

My oldest son, Bryson, said, "Can I be saved?  I feel like God wants me to be saved."  And then my youngest son, Camden, said, "I want to be saved for real."

In that moment, I knew in my heart that somehow, all this had led to that.

I don't think it was the pain that I felt that led them to God.  I think it was what happened to our family because of my pain.  It was the outpouring of love that has been shown to us.  It was the prayers that were going up on our behalf.  It was the cards, the meals, the phone calls, the house calls.  It was the help from our family, our friends, and even some people we don't really know.  It was the words of a loving husband trying to comfort his hurting wife.

I don't know when the pain will stop, when the nausea will go away, or when I'll feel back to 100%.

What I do know is my sons are saved, and someday we will be in Heaven together.

That makes it all so worth it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

bittersweet

I've had this blog post in my heart for days, but I haven't wanted to write it.  I'll just go ahead and tell you...  it's very sad.  But it has a bitter-sweet happy ending.  So grab your box of kleenex, and read on.

...

I'll start with the good news.  My brother's wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl last Monday evening.  She came into this world weighing 7 pounds, 7 ounces, and measuring 18.5 inches long.  Her head is perfectly round.  Her cheeks are perfectly rosy.  She has 10 little fingers and 10 little toes.  She's perfect.

I am so happy for my brother and his wife.  But the birth of this baby has not come without much sadness in my heart.

Not for the reason you are probably thinking.

I am no longer craving baby #3.  It turns out a 14-hour road trip with a two-year-old, soon followed by a few sleepless nights in a hotel room with a five-month-old will cure you of that desire.  It's funny how quickly we forget how tiring those early years can be.  At 35 years old, I've finally found myself satisfied with my family of four.

So why am I sad?

I have a couple friends.  I call them my friends; but the truth is I haven't seen them in years.

We were in MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) together.  But then our MOPS group disassembled, and so what brought us together in the first place was no longer there.

Still, they remain very close friends with each other, living just seconds apart, sharing occasional playdates and coffee dates.  I keep up with them and their goings-on via Facebook and via their blogs.

They each have four children.  And they both announced earlier this year that each of their families would be welcoming a fifth child.

That is why I am sad.

Their fifth children are no longer.

One friend gave birth in May, much too early, to a precious, tiny little boy.  She said hello and good-bye to him in the same moment.  His name was Joel.

My other friend was told in July that her baby carried some type of rare chromosomal disorder.  She spent the last three months growing a daughter that she knew would most likely not live long after birth.  That baby girl took her first breath 10 days ago.  She also took her last breath 10 days ago.  Her name was Elliana.

"Sad" just doesn't begin to describe the circumstances.  It's gut-wrenching.

I'm ashamed to say that I haven't sent my condolences to either mom yet.

I've read each of their blog posts, documenting every hope, every sadness, every smile, and every tear.  Their pain is so real, so raw and so...  I don't know how to else describe it.

What do you say to someone whose heart is so broken?

I've sat down many times to write each of them a note, only to find myself without words.  There are no words.

Even now, I don't know what to say.

...

Don't get me wrong.  I was filled with joy the moment my mom sent me the first picture announcing the arrival of my newest niece.  It's the words that were under the picture that reminded me of the sorrow-filled heart of my friend, who had lost her baby girl just two days before...

"Welcome Eliana".

Doesn't it give you chills?

What are the chances my brother and his wife would choose the same name for their baby girl?


This is the reason I've not been bragging about my newest niece on Facebook.   

I am so thankful to be welcoming this precious baby girl into my life.  But to flaunt my joy over a baby that isn't really mine while my friends are mourning the loss of children they were never able to bring home alive... 

I just can't do it.


...

I feel more comfortable posting pics here.  My blog has fewer followers than my Facebook page.  So I am hoping this announcement will not seem disrespectful or insensitive in any way.

It is with bittersweet tears of joy that I say,

Welcome to the World, Eliana Grace Boyd!








Saturday, September 22, 2012

I am weak, but I am strong!

My cousin, Brandon, has created a nickname for me...  "Freak of Nature".  It might not seem like a very nice nickname, but coming from him, I know it is a term of endearment.

He's right, you know.  I am a freak of nature.

Freak is defined as "a very unusual and unexpected event or situation".  I have a very unusual and unexpected body.  And I do not mean that in a good way.

My ex-sister-in-law once accused me of always having to be the center of attention.  I never liked her.  I'm glad she's no longer part of the family.  However, she was sorta right about this.  Although it's more like my body craves the spotlight, doing everything it can from the inside to get noticed on the outside.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not one of those girls who "shakes what my Mama gave me" just so people will look at me.  I'm the girl who is always getting sick, thereby requiring attention from a LOT of people, including my husband, my children, my family, my friends and many times doctors, nurses, specialists and more.

It's frustrating.  Very frustrating.

Let me just give you a glimpse of the unusual and unexpected events that have taken place in my body.  I'll start in my adult life, although I'm sure my mother could add many items to list from my childhood.

  • 3 months of seemingly incurable ear infections
  • annual bouts of dizzy spells that leave me incapable of operating a vehicle, thereby requiring a chauffeur (my husband, my parents, my sister)
  • recurrent severe urinary tract infections that are never cured by the usual medications, but always require a stronger antibiotic
  • adverse reaction to the usual UTI-treating drugs
  • spontaneous anxiety attacks that seem to strike at the most inconvenient times
  • almost every pregnancy symptom a woman could dread - morning sickness which lasted all day for the first 17 weeks, POPS - a very uncomfortable rash all over my very pregnant belly, water retention in my feet, preterm labor, yada, yada, yada
  • wound infection following my first c-section - the doctor had to reopen my wound without anesthetic, and I suffered daily wound packing by my husband who is NOT a nurse.  ouch!
  • pregnancy-induced thyroid problems resulting in radioactive iodine therapy to destroy my thyroid
  • H1N1 flu
I get drowsy from non-drowsy medication.  

Less than 3% of people who receive the tetanus vaccine suffer rare side effects such as fever, body aches and chills.  I am in that 3%.

Let's suffice to say, in my case, "possible side effects" equal probable side effects.

I could go on and on.  But the truth is, so far, writing this particular blog post is really bringing me down.  So let me move on to the good news.

Yes, in the midst of all this physical weakness, there is good news.

I recently came across the following scripture in my Bible, spoken by Paul to the Corinthians.  It has stuck with me.

2 Corinthians 12:10
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Upon reading this the first time, I was quite confused.  How can it be that when I am weak, then am I strong?  If this is the case, I am always weak.  Which means I am always strong.  Wait.  What? 

So I decided to go back a few verses, and this is what I found...

2 Corinthians 12:7-8

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. 

So Paul had a "thorn in the flesh", a weakness, which he asked God to take from him three times.  But God said no.  

Why did God say no?  

Because God's strength is made perfect in weakness.  When Paul was weak, his strength came from God.  He was no longer dependent upon himself, but fully dependent on God.  God is strong.  Therefore, Paul was strong.

Okay.  I have a very weak, easily-sickened, unusual body, which I have asked God to make immune on more than three occasions.  But God has said no.  

Why?  

Because God's strength is made perfect in weakness.  When I am weak, which it would seem is pretty much all the time, my strength comes from God. When I can no longer depend upon myself, or my body, then am I fully dependent on God.  God is always strong.  Therefore, I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

This is the hard part.

Apparently I should be happy when I am weak.  Again.  Wait.  What?

My first reaction to yet another infirmity is always one of discouragement.  Here we go again.  
My next reaction is denial.  That's okay.  I can handle it.
This is followed by anger.  I hate my body.  Why am I always sick?!
Right after this comes self-pity.  Poor me.  Pitiful me.  Woe is me.

After I've ridden this highly erratic roller coaster, I find myself physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.  That's when I finally take it to the Lord.  

Dear Lord, here I am again, lying on the couch, completely useless to my husband and children.  I'm not able to do what I need to do, what I want to do.  Please help me Lord.  Help me to get well and stay well.

I am never ever ever happy when I am weak.  Like ever.

I think what God is trying to tell me from these verses in 2 Corinthians is from the moment I realize my physical weakness, however it may manifest itself, I should skip all those previous steps and take it directly to Him.  In the midst of my weakness, I will be fully dependent on Him.  He will make me strong. 

I get it now, God.

Now I realize how much time I've wasted feeling sorry myself, when I could have been praying, worshipping, studying and praising.  Yes, it's been unproductive time in terms of my home, but it could have been productive time in terms of my relationship with God.  I should take advantage of this time with Him now, because when else will I spend this amount of time with Him.  That will not only make me happy; it will also give me peace.

So, I may be a weak-bodied Freak of Nature.  But from now on, I will take glory in my weak-bodied freak-of-nature-ness.  I will be happy when I am weak.  ...for when I am weak, then am I strong.

And praise be to God, for with His strength, I am a strong, weak-bodied Freak of Nature. 

Hallelujah!  :)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

bad, bad, bad

It's 9:18a.m.  And I can already say, "I'm having a bad day."

I'm having a bad week actually.

Since I'm really feeling sorry for myself, I could say, "I'm having a bad few weeks."

Three weeks ago, I started having abdominal pain, which my doctor first diagnosed as a possible bladder infection, but probably just menstrual cramps.  I am the queen of menstrual cramps, so I knew something more was going on.  As the week went on, the pain persisted and eventually became worse.  I called my doctor to confirm the results of the test for bladder infection, certain they must have come back positive.  But no.  The tests showed no sign of infection.

So she sent me to the Outpatient Center at the hospital to have an internal ultrasound.  Yes ladies, cringe with me.  That most unpleasant experience revealed a cyst the size of a tennis ball sitting on my left ovary.  At that point, I was so relieved the pain was not in my head, I didn't really hear anything else my doctor told me.

I went to a friend's house that night, and she warned me of the elevated pain to come, as the cyst would eventually rupture.

Despite the pain I was already experiencing, I spent the following week in a constant state of dread.  When will it rupture?  How bad will it hurt?  Can I handle the pain? 

While the cyst made it's presence known in my lower abdomen, every day the pain manifested itself in a different way.  I had sharp pains shooting down my left leg.  My lower back hurt.   I felt lots of pressure in my side.

The worst of it came on Sunday evening, when the cyst did in fact rupture, creating a burning pain that I can only describe as "almost unbearable".  I tried to be strong as I saw the concern on the faces of my husband and children, but I could not hold back the tears.  This pain was intense, and it didn't just go away.  It lingered...  for hours...

I was up at 4:00a.m., unable to stand without passing out, clinging to the toilet, praying for relief.  I finally fell asleep, and spent most of the next day in bed.  In and out of reality, but constantly in pain.

Yesterday was better, physically.  The pain had dwindled to a feeling of soreness.  And that soreness continues today.

If this was all that I had been through in the last three weeks, I think I'd have a more positive attitude this morning.  But it's not...

In the midst of my own physical stress, my children came down with a virus that causes diarrhea.  Great.  First Bryson, for two days.  Then Camden, for two days.  But wait, that's not all.  Then Bryson again, for two days.  Then Camden again, for two days.

And as you know, when Mommy is sick, most of what Mommy does on a daily basis, does not get done.  My husband did make sure we had all our meals.  Thank you Keith, I love you!  And he started a load of laundry every now and then.  But let's face it, he's a man for whom housekeeping is not instinctual.  And he does have a job outside of the home.

Anyway...

When I woke up this morning, one thought was on my mind, "I've been cooped up in this house for days. I have GOT TO GET OUT!!!  I took a LONG hot shower, mentally planning out my day.  Breakfast at Rick's, story time at the library, pick up a few groceries, lunch with Michelle maybe, back home, homeschooling, housekeeping, housekeeping, housekeeping.  

So I get dressed, actually taking time to fix my hair.  I brush my teeth.  I walk out of the bedroom feeling so much better than I have in weeks...   to be greeted by a pale-faced little boy who tells me he has diarrhea again.

I want to cry.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Flapjack Friday & Some Saturdays

I was not ready to hear my alarm clock go off this morning.

I have my alarm set to K-Love, hoping that waking up to "Jesus songs" (that's what we call them at the Bray house) will help jump-start my morning engine.  I love those mornings when the first thing I hear is the Good Morning song by Mandisa, or Well Done by Moriah Peters.

Today I woke up to East to West by Casting Crowns.  This is a beautiful song, but not what I would call an uplifting, welcome-to-a-new-day kind of song.  So I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.

No good.

Instead, I laid there listening to the sounds of 8a.m.  My boys were very quiet.  No doubt reading a book.  The only thing I could hear was K-Love playing in all three of our bedrooms.  So I forced myself to get out of bed.

I zombie-walked to the kitchen and looked at the menu.  Today is Flapjack Friday, meaning I planned to make either pancakes, waffles or crepes on Fridays.  I don't know why I put crepes on the list.  I will never make crepes. 

My first thought was, "I should change that to Cereal Friday".  But then, I got out the waffle-maker and all the necessary ingredients.  I mixed up the batter and started the first waffle...

Up to this point, I had no intention of blogging today.  Blogging is rarely something I plan to do.  It just hits me.  So I have to write it or lose it.  If I am close to the computer, I write it.  If not, I lose it.  Today I'm writing it.

...I got what I call "the pancake bowl" out of the cupboard, and a smile spread across my face.  I love this bowl.



This bowl is not only the perfect size for holding pancakes or waffles; it also holds for me cherished childhood memories.

I come from a large family ~ three girls, two boys.  We lived in a small three-bedroom, one-bathroom house.  I shared a twin bed with my older sister until I was a freshman in high school.  Needless to say, we were close - in every sense of the word.

When I look at "the pancake bowl", it takes me back to Saturday mornings in the 80s and early 90s...

...

Most Saturdays our family slept in, skipping breakfast altogether and moving right on to lunch as our first meal.  But some Saturdays my parents would be early risers.  So we'd wake up to the smell of eggs, sausage, bacon, grits, pancakes and syrup...

Can you smell it?

Mmm...

Those were the best mornings.  I'd climb over my sister, who even to this day has the uncanny ability to sleep through anything.

I'd actually scurry out of my room to find Mama and Daddy hunkered down in the kitchen preparing a morning feast fit for royalty.

Mama busied herself making pancake after pancake (it takes a LOT of pancakes to feed seven people), all the while turning bacon and sausage on the griddle.

Daddy asked, "How do you want your eggs, kiddo?"  My reply was always, "Cheese omelet, please!"  My dad makes the BEST cheese omelets.

I loved those mornings.  All seven of us would sit together at the table with our made-to-order eggs on our plates, passing around "the pancake bowl" and syrup.  I felt so loved on those Saturday mornings.

The memory of it still puts a smile on my face, and brings a tear to my eye.

...

I guess that's why it was so important to me, after forcing myself out of bed this morning, to prepare these special treats for my boys.

I want them to feel so loved.



Maybe someday they'll fill "the pancake bowl" with love for their own children.

Friday, August 17, 2012

B.B.F.F.E. ~ Part Three

But then God brought us together in a way we'd always hoped He would...

...

When I took Bryson to school on his first day of Kindergarten, I literally got chills when I walked in the door to his classroom.  Guess who was in his class...  Michelle's oldest son - Logan.  This shouldn't have even been possible, as Logan is one year older than Bryson.  However, they were both placed in the combination first-grade/Kindergarten class.  He approached Bryson and me, and posed more of a statement than a question, "You know my mom, don't you."

This took me back.  It took me back to that first day of school so long ago, when that blonde-haired girl in the pretty yellow dress came up to me and asked, "Do you remember me?"

I cried on the way home.  Michelle and I had dreamed of this day, when our children would go to school together.  Here it was happening, and all I could do was be joyful.  Thank you God.  

I would visit Bryson often, volunteering in his class, or having lunch with him and his friends.  Michelle worked at the school that year.  So I would see her too.

I was never uncomfortable with her after that.  We had both become mothers.  I had two boys; she had two girls and two boys.  Our boys were each two years apart, stair-stepping in order - her Logan, my Bryson, her Ryan, my Camden.  It was like we'd reached a new understanding.  Even though we were no longer close, perhaps our boys would be.

A couple years later, I started homeschooling.  It seemed this would sever any possibility of our boys growing up together. I was sad about that, but God had called me to homeschool.  So this was the way it had to be.

...

If you follow my blogging, you've heard me say before...  That first year of homeschooling is like an emotional roller coaster.  I was not only taking full responsibility for my children's education, I was also working from home.  Needless to say, I was constantly overwhelmed and extremely stressed out.

I don't remember the exact moment, but I had run into Michelle, and she offered to watch the boys for me if I ever needed time to myself so I could get my work done.  While her kids were at school, Michelle ran an in-home day care.

Now, I am very picky about who I allow to watch my children, as my youngest son has food allergies.  But I didn't think twice about leaving them with Michelle.  I know her well enough to know that she has a gift when it comes to children.  Her patience level is at the "sainthood" mark.  She is loving, caring, dependable and godly.  What more could I ask for?

One day, as I was dropping my boys off at her house, she mentioned perhaps she and I could do breakfast. Her husband was kind enough to watch my boys, along with the other kids.  So Michelle and I escaped to a local restaurant for breakfast.

Our time together that morning was magical.  It was like we'd been transported back to our childhood days. We talked non-stop, laughing and even crying along the way.  Before we knew, three hours had passed.

We decided to make this a weekly excursion - a breakfast date that we both looked forward to, happily anticipating what secrets our conversations would reveal.  We learned about what we had missed during our years apart.  We missed special occasions.  We missed parental health concerns.  We missed misguided love.  We missed early motherhood struggles.  We missed a lot of things.  We were both sad about that.  But we were so grateful to have found our way back to each other.

Michelle would tell me about her walk with God, which I found fascinating in comparison to the curious little girl I remembered.  I learned more about exactly how she'd found her way to Him, how He'd led her to her soulmate, and how He had called her to be a preacher's wife.

I would tell Michelle about homeschooling.  How heavy the burden of educating my children is, but how rewarding it is to watch them learn.

In turn, I wanted what she had - a closer relationship with God.  And she wanted what I had - the confidence to homeschool.

That's why God brought us back together - to satisfy our needs, and to fulfill His purpose.

I have never walked closer to God than I walk today.  I can honestly say that He has used Michelle to spark my hunger for Him and to show me how to know Him more.

Michelle will soon be starting her second year of homeschooling.  Together, we are coordinating a support group for local homeschooling families.

Once again, our lives are intertwined.

Once again, we want to go the same places, to do the same things, to be the same people.

And just as those two little blonde-haired Daddy's girls imagined, we're raising our children and growing old together.

Praise be to God.

B.B.F.F.E. ~ Part Two

We thought we were done with each other.
But God wasn't done with us yet...    :)

...

I was having lunch with my mom one day, and she informed me that my dad had run into Michelle, and "she was wearing one of those long skirts".  Mama and Daddy were confused by it, but I knew exactly what it meant.  Michelle was back in church...

...

Even when we were little, she always had a hunger for God, which I did not understand.

My parents insisted on attending the 8:00 mass on Sunday mornings.    Do you remember me saying I am NOT a morning person?  Michelle looked forward to getting up early and going to church with us.  And she was always genuinely interested in the message delivered, while I was counting down the minutes until we could go to the fellowship hall and have hot chocolate and cookies.

She would ask me questions about God that baffled me.  I didn't know, and I didn't really care.  So she would talk to my dad about them.  I remember wondering why she was so curious about God.  He's God.  We go to church because He told us to.  What more is there to it?

Michelle found answers at her aunt's church.  I will never forget the first time I went with her as a child.  Keep in mind I was a little girl who had only ever been to Catholic masses.  We walked into a Pentecostal church, and all the women were wearing long dresses or skirts.  Thank God Michelle told me to wear a dress.  They all had beautiful long hair.  I was in awe.  Then the service started.  People were singing really loud, throwing their hands in the air.  I'm sure my eyes revealed my shock.  I'd never seen anything like it.  Then someone began babbling (that's what it seemed like to me at the time) and sobbing, and Michelle told me she was speaking in tongues.  I had no idea what that meant, but I was scared.  This was all so weird to me.  And then they started running around the church in a circle.  I asked Michelle if they were playing chase.  She laughed and said they were filled with the Spirit.  This totally freaked me out, and all I wanted to do was go home.

On the way back to her house, Michelle told me that she really wanted to speak in tongues.  I had no response.  This girl was like a sister to me.  I knew her better than anyone else in the world, but I just could not wrap my brain around her obsession with all things God.  I just didn't get it.

...

The first time I saw Michelle after she'd gotten back in church, I was shocked at the difference that was so evident in her.  She not only looked completely different - no makeup, no hair color, no jeans.  She seemed lighter, happier, free.  Those words probably sound cheesy here, but as I look back on that day, and the change in her, those are the words that describe my impression.  And much to my surprise, she had gotten married.

I remember being so relieved to meet the Michelle standing before me on that day.  She was no longer carrying the burden of a young girl who'd suddenly lost her father so many years ago.  She no longer had questions.  She had found God.  He'd given her the life she'd been hoping for, and I was so happy for her.

We got together a few times after that, but the minutes dragged by in unspoken emotions and awkward pauses.  Michelle talked a lot about God, her lifestyle and her church.  While I too had found God, I hadn't been led to serve Him in the way Michelle felt called to live.  I could tell she wanted to share her passion with me.  I felt like she wanted me to follow in her footsteps, and this made me very uncomfortable.

So, while I was always happy to run into Michelle, I was also always quick to scurry on.

...

But then God brought us together in a way we'd always hoped He would...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

B.B.F.F.E. ~ Part One

I met Michelle the summer after my first grade year.  I was at the YMCA in Thomasville with a friend, and Michelle was there with her cousin.  They introduced themselves to us, and we played together for the next hour while we waited for my friend's mother to take us home.  We waved good-bye when we left, explaining to my friend's mom that the girls were our new friends.  I didn't expect to ever see them again.

A few months later, on the first day of school, I noticed a new girl with long blonde hair.  I noticed her right away because she had on a pretty yellow dress.  She asked me if I remembered her, and as soon as she spoke, I knew she was the girl I had met over the summer at the YMCA.  We sat together at lunch that day.  And so our friendship began.

Michelle was the oldest of three kids;  I was the middle of five.  We both had blonde hair.  We both loved to sing.  And we were both Daddy's girls.

We soon became inseparable.  We did everything together from basketball and Girl Scouts, to softball and clogging.  We had so much fun together.  We sang songs together.  We wrote songs together.  We watched movies together.  We made movies together.  We took pictures together.  We picked out clothes together.  We played together.  We laughed together.  We spent most every weekend at each other's house, to the point our parents joked that we were joined at the hip.

Most of the time when we were together, we played some version of house.  We pretended we were grown-up and married (She was married to Donnie Wahlberg;  I was married to Joey McIntyre), with lots of children, and we raised our children together.  That's how we figured our lives would turn out, and we could not wait to grow up!

I have very few childhood memories without Michelle in them.  She was my B.B.F.F.E. (best best friend for ever).  I was her B.B.F.F.E.  And as little girls always imagine, I thought we'd be friends forever.

Unfortunately, life sometimes throws curve balls.  Sometimes those curve balls hit a window, shattering the glass.  Sometimes what breaks is beyond repair, and you just have to throw it away.

That's what happened with Michelle and me.  Life threw a curve ball that hit Michelle's family causing irreparable damage.  Michelle's father died the summer after our seventh grade year.  And Michelle was never the same.

I will never forget the day her father died.  My mom picked Michelle up and brought her back to our house. As they were pulling in the driveway, I remember telling my sister, "I don't know what to say.  What am I supposed to say?"

It turns out, I didn't have to say anything.  Michelle got out of the car.  We ran to each other and held onto each other for dear life.  We cried together.  Actually, we sobbed together.  We both felt her loss, and neither one of us knew why it happened or what to do now.  I cry even as I sit here remembering.  It was an awful day.

You'd think surviving her father's death together would bond us for life.  In fact, it did the opposite.  Rather than strengthen our friendship, the time we spent together after that seemed to magnify our differences.  I became the smart one, and Michelle became the pretty one.  Our wants, our needs, our interests and our families led us in completely opposite directions.

I remember being so heartbroken as I realized what was happening to us.  I remember feeling hurt because I felt like Michelle was growing up and I was being left behind.  I remember feeling guilty because she was growing up, and I wasn't ready to.  I remember feeling angry at her father for doing this to us.  I remember feeling sad because our future didn't hold for us the conjoined lives we'd always imagined  - a lifelong friendship - being in each other's wedding - being pregnant at the same time - our kids playing together - growing old together.

We no longer wanted to go the same places, to do the same things or to be the same people.  We weren't together anymore.

The rope of friendship that had once joined us at the hip became unraveled, until we both just let it go...

...

Michelle and I saw each other sporadically after that.  We'd run into each other every now and then.  But we never felt compelled to speak for more than a few minutes.  She didn't come to my wedding.  I didn't go to her baby shower.  We didn't call each other, or even send Christmas cards.

Our childhood selves would be shocked and disappointed at just how separate our lives had become.

...

But that's not the end of our story.

We thought we were done with each other.
But God wasn't done with us yet...    :)

...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Seasonal Friendship

I entered college as a freshman at High Point University in the fall of 1995.  I can't believe it's been seventeen years since then.

My goodness, that sounds like forever ago. 

That is when I was first introduced to email.  

I remember going to the basement of the university library and signing onto the computer. 

The emails I most looked forward to reading were from my high school friends, seven girls who had served as my lifeline during the years preceding my college life.  

They had gone to other colleges in North Carolina.  Though they were only minutes away, it was such a larger distance between us than we'd ever experienced.  For me, it was devastating.  I felt as though a part of me was missing.  Those daily emails brought me joy, making me feel complete again.

At that time, we passed around a lot of copied emails that revolved around the topic of friendship.  One message that particularly struck me discussed friendship as a seasonal event, describing individuals that come in and out of our lives for various periods of time and different reasons.  (http://www.danceadts.com/newarticles/seasonsoffriendship.pdf)

I didn't like this particular email.  

I could not imagine ever drifting away from the high school friends who I had recently left behind.  Yes, we were physically miles apart, but we would always be close at heart.  

I was so naive.

I thought that about the friendships I developed in college as well.  I lived with these girls, sharing everything from rooms, meals, Jesus, trials, triumphs, secrets and more.  In those moments of closeness and camaraderie, I could not imagine my life ever without them in it.

Of course, now - seventeen years later, I see the truth in that email message I read so long ago.  

Other than my husband, I have only one friend from high school with whom I still share an unbreakable connection.  She is my very best friend in the whole world.  I don't know what I would do without her.  Love you Wendy!  

I have only one friend from college who I must see once a month before I go into withdrawal.  Had fun yesterday Molly!

Perhaps because I am older, more experienced, less naive...  I now understand that the majority of friendships do last only for a season.  God brings people into our lives for many purposes, but mostly because we need each other during that time.  And then, for whatever reason, we don't need each other anymore.

I look back at the people who at one time played such a vital role in my life.  Whether it be during high school and college, or during my "preschooling mommy" years...  We're not close friends anymore.  

Sometimes this makes me sad.  

Yet I realize those friendships did serve a purpose.  

God brought Heather, Crystal, Melissa, Wendy, Melissa, Beth and Kim to me in high school to love me unconditionally during those confusing teenage years when I was trying to figure out who I wanted to be and where I wanted to go.

God brought April, Melissa, Amy, Molly, Tonia, Hala, Beth, Jamie, Maida, Rachel, Nicole, Daviana, Heather, Wendy, and so many others, to help me know God in a way I'd never known Him before, and to keep me safe during my  adventuresome college years.

God brought me Marina, Karen, Julie, Jennifer, Beth, Christy, Erin, JoAnna, Wendy, Bethany, Danielle, Sabena, Cathy and many others, to support me, encourage me and help me maintain my sanity during my early motherhood years. 

To all these people who I have had the privilege of calling my friend...
God brought you into my life for a reason.  For this I am truly grateful.  

Thank you for being my friend.

...

In nature, seasons end.  But we find comfort in knowing that season will come around again next year.  Sometimes, this happens in friendship as well.  A friend who had floated out of your life years ago, may some day float back in.  

I'd like to tell you more about the friend God gave back to me in my next blog...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My Meal Plan

If you know me at all, you know I have been dubbed the Queen of Organization.  

I love being organized.  And, as I say to those who have come into my home and marveled at my organized chaos, This is both a blessing and a curse.

I willingly admit, not only do I like to organize, but I also like to have things organized. 

Yes, there is a difference.  Let me explain...

First of all, I absolutely look forward to completing projects that require boxes, baskets, labels, etc...  One of my favorite possessions is my label maker.  I have labeled bins identifying the toys in my boys' rooms.  I have labeled baskets explaining what type of books are inside.  I have labeled almost every area, every cubby, every drawer, and every shelf in our homeschool room.  I have even labeled my boys' dresser drawers to help them in putting their clothes away.  These are examples of how I like to organize.  Each of these organizing projects have reaped blessings upon me in the form of declutter.

Now, I also like to have things organized.  This is where the curse comes in.  When things are not organized, and it is beyond my control to organize them, this completely stresses me out.  When we've had lots of events on our calendar, and I have been unable to keep up with the housework, I come completely unglued. When we are part of a group, and the leader suffers from attention-deficit-disorder, I want to throw a temper tantrum.  When I listen to a message, and there is no obvious flow or train-of-thought, I simply cannot focus.

So, to summarize, disorganization makes me crazy.  Organization keeps me in my happy place.

I know.  I'm a freak.

Perhaps my freakish organizational OCD can be helpful to you.

...

I was so embarrassed after yesterday's blog post about my day of unhealthy food choices, I decided to attempt an organized meal plan.  I am hoping that by organizing our food choices ahead of time, I will be more conscious of what I what I put on the table at meal times .  (Also, hopefully this will make us less likely to eat out three meals in one day.)

So here it is...


Morning Snack = Cereal
My boys LOVE cereal.  I don't to deprive them of this. Still, we will make healthier cereal choices.

Afternoon Snack = Pick a Stick from Snack Attack Jar
My plan is to write a lot of healthy snack options on popsicle sticks.  Put those stick in a decorated jar.  Let the boys pick a stick.  That's what our snack will be that day.

LUNCH - Sweet Saturday @ Gail's
Gail is my mother-in-law.  She is a saint.  She makes lunch for my family every Saturday.  Isn't that sweet?  Hence the "Sweet Saturday".  I love her.  :)


As you can see, I've tried to be realistic by not limiting us to 100% healthy meals.  However, I can guarantee, if I am able to stick to this menu plan, I will feel much better about what I am feeding my family.  

Please feel free to duplicate our meal plan and adapt it to your family's likes.

God bless!

Phil 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Focus on the Positive

I ate out for every meal today.  This is so embarrassing.  I can't believe I'm telling you this.

Hardee's for breakfast - a chicken biscuit and a large Dr. Pepper.  My kids wanted Bojangles, but this Bojangles does not have Dr. Pepper, so we had to go to Hardee's.

Sam's Club for lunch - a huge slice of three-meat pizza and a large Coke.  They didn't have Dr. Pepper.  What?!

Los Tres Jinetes for supper - half a chile relleno (I would have eaten the whole thing, but this one was on the spicy side), one crunchy taco, rice and water.  Only because Keith was there; otherwise I would have probably ordered a Dr. Pepper.  And the chips and cheese dip don't count, right?

I know this looks bad.  It does.

I am truly embarrassed.

Honestly I didn't even think before I ordered or while I ate.  I just hurried my meals along with the rest of my day.

In fact, the only reason I am telling you this is because just a few minutes ago I received a text from a friend  - a fellow passenger in the same boat as me, traveling on a sea of seemingly impossible tasks (quiet time, diet, exercise, etc.) in hopes of reaching the land of self-improvement.

She admitted her imperfections of the day.  So I in turn admitted mine.

At the end of each of our confessions, we chose to add something positive, hoping to make us feel less like today was a complete failure.

And you know what?  It worked.  Focus on the positive.

...

I am choosing to ignore the fat, carbs, high fructose corn syrup, and everything else I put into my body that is so not good for me today.

I choose to focus on the positive.

Breakfast - I did not order hash browns.  This is a good thing.

Lunch - It cost us less than $7 to eat.  So I'm saving money, which is also on my to-do list.

Supper - I drank water.  It's a good thing Keith was there.  And tacos have vegetables.  Woohoo!  Go me!

So, while today's menu is not something I am proud of.  I am not going to berate myself for my lack of self-control.  Instead I'm going to pat myself on the back for the good things I did.

And tomorrow, I'll actually try to make better choices.  :)


Phil 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

All Together

There are a few women in my life who seem to think I have it all-together.  Or at least they did until my most recent blog posts.

The fact that I homeschool, cook, and don't have a filthy dirty house amazes them.  While I bask in their praise and envy, their awe of my daily grind also makes me very uncomfortable.  Because I know what they don't know.

I don't have it all-together. 

...

Almost two weeks ago, I started this "Journey to a Better Me".  In response to my self-inflicted pep talks, to-do lists and openly honest lack of accomplishment, I have received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback.


Thank you for that. 


I realize I've struck a chord with many women my age.  I'm putting in writing, for all the world to see, what most of us are only thinking in our heads.

I don't have it all together.


While many of us struggle with consistent reminders of our ever-present imperfections, I would like to comfort you with this fact.  That woman who you are idolizing as the perfect wife, or the talented homemaker, or the all-inspiring supermom...  She doesn't have it all together either.

I know this because many of the women in my life, who I have put on that pedestal of flawlessness, have willingly stepped down to admit my view of them is only a mirage.

For these women, I am so thankful...

  • the woman who told me that she has always felt insecure about the fact that she provides no financial contribution to her household
  • the woman who expressed feelings of inadequacy every time she steps in her friend's house
  • the woman who admitted she forgets to pray
  • the woman who confessed to a satisfying addiction to Coca-Cola  ;)
  • the woman who called to tell me she too has faltered in her walk with Jesus
  • the woman who texted me a picture of her Morning Prayer Routine
Thank you so much for your honesty.  You are such a blessing to me.  You have encouraged me more than you'll ever know.

I am especially thankful for the woman who, the day after my first "Journey" blog post, reassured me that every woman feels the way I feel.  I didn't believe her at first.  But now I do.  I hope you do too.

While we may not have it "all-together", we are all together in this journey.  I find comfort in knowing I am not walking alone.

I pray this knowledge is comforting to you as well.

God bless!


Phil 4:13
I can do all thing through Christ who strengthens me.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A bad case of loving...

Last Wednesday I created a to-do list (http://braypartyof4.blogspot.com/2012/07/my-to-do-list.html) to guide me on my path to betterness.  (My spell check keeps telling me "betterness" is not a word.  Like Webster is the only person who can make up a word!)

I printed this to-do list and review it almost everyday.  There's nothing I feel ready to "mark off", but I have made some steps in the right direction.  Yay! (Apparently Webster thinks "yay" is not a word either.  I'm sorry to digress, but these little red underlines drive me crazy.)

However...

There is one item on my to-do list that is so monumental, I cringe at the idea of its completion.  For that very reason, I thought I should attempt it first...  Stop drinking Dr. Pepper.


So, on Wednesday of last week, inspired by my own blog post, I did not drink a soft drink all day long.  I was so proud of myself.  I went to bed on cloud nine, feeling like a superhero.  WooHoo! (Also not a word.)  Go me!!!!

Then I woke up on Thursday...

The only thing on my mind was Dr. Pepper.  It was all I could think about.

I once saw an episode of Raising Hope where all the dad could think about was the word "think".  He even visualized a little man inflating this huge "think" balloon until it exploded into a million little "thinks".

Well, that was me, only replace the "think balloon" with a huge can of Dr. Pepper.

I love Dr. Pepper.

I made it until 10:30 that morning.  Then I drank three Dr. Peppers.

Dr. Pepper makes me so happy.

Still, not wanting to fail, I attempted to abstain again on Sunday.  This time I replaced my Dr. Pepper with Caffeine-free Coke.  Again, I went to bed feeling like I'd accomplished something big.

Then I woke up on Monday...

Yeah...  That didn't really work out...

So, as I sit here typing this blog post and thoroughly enjoying my Dr. Pepper, I relinquish myself to the fact that Stop drinking Dr. Pepper will be the very last item to be crossed off my to-do list.  In fact, it may NEVER be crossed off my to-do list.

And I'm okay with that.

I know it's not good for me.  I know this.

I am conscious of when and how often I drink it.  And I am striving for improvement in this area.  But I have no desire to let go of my addiction to its famous 23 flavors.  At least not now.  I'm just not ready to give it up.

Dr. Pepper!  
Give me the news!  
I got a BAD CASE of loving you!  
No other taste gives me the thrill you do!  
I got a BAD CASE of loooving you!




Phil 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.


So when I am ready, He will give me the strength to follow through...  :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Good morning, God. It's me, Marci.


My husband, Keith, gets up every morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed - eager to start the day.  

I am not this way.  

They say opposites attract.  I'm quite certain, if Keith had seen the morning version of Marci prior to our marriage, he might not have found me so attractive.  

I'm just not what you would call "a morning person".  I don't wake up with a smile on my face.  I don't jump out of bed.  I don't sing happy songs.  

I have to force my eyes open, and convince myself it is time to get up.  I give myself a little pep talk, hoping it will inspire me to pull the covers off and crawl out of bed.  It's time to get up.  It's after 8.  Look at all you have to do today.  You should get up, so you can get started.  At this point, I normally ignore myself, roll over and go back sleep.

Twenty minutes later, I try again.  It's 8:30.  You have to get up.  The boys are already up.  You should be up.  

Before I know it, it's 9am.  If you don't get up now, you are the worst mother in the world.

This works EVERY time.  I'm up.  I'm not fully awake, but I am up.  So I'm not the worst mother in the world, right?

My husband and kids are used to this by now.  It takes Mommy a good thirty minutes to wake up AFTER she gets out of bed.  

If any one speaks to me during that first half hour, they rarely receive an audible response.  It's more like a growl.  Thankfully, they find this amusing.  Also, thankfully, I'm too tired to actually bite their heads off.

As you might have guessed, this is an area of my life that I've determined needs improvement.

Sooooo....  for the last week, I've tried to think about God as soon as I wake up.  This helps me to remember to pray.  (I'm ashamed to admit that I have to remind myself to pray in the morning, but I do.)  Good morning, God.  It's me, Marci.  I'm so tired.  I don't want to get out of bed, but I know I should.  Please give me the strength to get out of bed.

On the days I've remembered to have this conversation with God as soon as I wake up, it's like I come to life quicker – in fact, almost immediately.  

Focusing on God the moment I open my eyes, (okay, maybe a few minutes after I open my eyes) helps me to greet the day ahead on a positive note.  

So I find myself actually awake as I start my morning routine - go to the bathroom, wash my hands, make the bed...  Because I am awake and able to think, then I take the time to sit down and spend a few more minutes in prayer.  

This is a new task on my morning routine to-do list.  I want to be sure I don't forget to thank God or to ask Him to be with me throughout my day.  So, with the help of Cindi Wood, author of Victoriously Frazzled: The Frazzled Female's Guide to Restoring Her Sanity  (I highly recommend this awesome Bible Study), I've adopted a Morning Prayer Checklist.  It looks like this...

1.  Recite Psalm 5:3 - My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord, in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.

2.  Pray Psalm 143:8 - Cause me to hear they lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust:  cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.

3.  Thank God - Thank you for saving me and for pursuing a love relationship with me.

4.  Ask God - Please intervene in the specifics of my day ahead.  I tell God what I have planned for the day, and ask Him to lead my feet and guide my heart as I do these things.

5.  Listen to the Good Morning song - I am a huge fan of Mandisa.  My absolute favorite song right now is her Good Morning song.  It's the perfect words and music to get me started on the right track.

I've inserted a link to Cindi Wood's Bible Study available at LifeWay Christian Stores...


 as well as a link to Mandisa's Good Morning song...

"I can feel the hope that's rising in me"


I hope you find this helpful.  

God bless!!!


Phil 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.



Friday, July 20, 2012

Think, Think, Think

The thing I love most about Winnie the Pooh is how he forces himself to sit down and think.  I just find it so adorable when he's sitting there next to the sign marked "Pooh's Thotful Spot" tapping his index finger to his forehead saying, "Think, think, think".  

I never really appreciated how much work Pooh puts into such a task.  How hard can it be sit down and think?  I'm learning now, it's harder than it looks.

As I've pondered my to-do list over the last couple days, I've realized that very few of the items I have listed are actually difficult.  In fact, most of them require little time or energy to be completed.  

What they do require is thought.  

Why have I not been praying when I wake up in the morning?  Why have I not consistently initiated a daily quiet time?  Why don't I take my medicine everyday?

The answer is embarrassing.

I just don't think about it.  

I didn't realize how much of my time I spend functioning on auto-pilot.  I'm walking through the motions of my day like a zombie, neither rightly conscious of the decisions I am making, nor the least bit concerned about the long-term effect of those decisions.

Until now.  

Now I'm trying to be more like Winnie-the-Pooh.  Think, think, think.  

I've found that there is quite an effort required to think, think, think.  Especially first thing in the morning.

I'm so used to crawling out of bed and following my current routine --- go to the bathroom, wash my hands, check on the boys, make sure they get breakfast, take a shower, get dressed, brush my teeth, make sure boys are dressed, make sure boys have brushed their teeth, grab a Dr. Pepper, start a load of dishes, start a load of laundry...  yada, yada, yada...

Look how much time I've wasted NOT thinking.

Still, let's be honest.  My morning tasks are not rocket-science.  So what is there to think about?  

ANSWER -  
  1. God
  2. Prayer for my husband, my children, my family, my friends, for others and for myself
  3. Scripture
  4. Praise & Worship
  5. Healthy choices for breakfast
  6. Taking my medicine
  7. Drinking water
And this is just during the first hour of my day.  

Do you see how much more blessed my day could be to myself, to my God and to others, if only I would think, think, think?

...

I always viewed Winnie-the-Pooh as an icon of my childhood.  But now...

Now Winnie-the-Pooh is my hero.


Phil 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My To-Do List

I'm one of those weird people who loves a to-do list.

Well, let me clarify.  Lest my husband read this and come home with a to-do list for me.

I love to create my own to-do list.  It allows me to organize my thoughts.  It provides a visual aid of my progress.  And I get an immediate sense of accomplishment with each check mark applied.

Sometimes I am so desperate to feel I've been productive, that I will write a list of things I've already done, just so I can mark everything off.  (I know.  I'm a freak.)

So, you might see where I'm going with this...

I've created a to-do list for my Journey to a Better Me.  More specifically, these are the areas of my life which "need improvement", and the steps I plan to take to accomplish betterness (I know.  It's still not a word, but I like it.)

My Relationship with Jesus

  • Pray before starting my day.
  • Engage in quiet time on a daily basis.
  • Listen to God-centered music.
  • Don't miss church.
  • Pray more when I am alone.
  • Memorize scripture.
  • Pray as my day is ending.
Better Health
  • Remember to take my medicine EVERYDAY.
  • Take necessary vitamins as directed.
  • Eat breakfast.
  • Stop drinking Dr. Pepper and other soft drinks.
  • Drink more water.
  • Eat out less.
  • Prepare healthy meals.
  • Engage in physical activity on a daily basis.
Better Housekeeping
  • Develop a cleaning schedule.
  • Assign chores.
  • Create chore checklists (for boys).
Productivity
  • Set alarm clock.
  • Limit television viewing.
  • Spend more time at home.

I'm sure I'll add more to this list as I continue this adventure.  For now, I have an idea of where to begin.  

Phil 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My name is Marci. I am a perfectionist.

My name is Marci.  I am a perfectionist.

I have always been this way.  Wanting everything in it's place - all the i's dotted and all the t's crossed - everything to run smoothly - everyone to be happy.  When everything is not perfect, I take full responsibility.  I then evaluate the situation to determine what needs to be done in order for things to be perfect.  And I go about trying to make it so.

My mom called me yesterday wanting to know who had gotten in my head and convinced myself that I am a loser.  I told her that I don't think I am a loser (not everyday).  I just want my house to be in order.  I want my time to be well managed.  I want my finances to be secure.  I want husband to be content.  I want my children to be satisfied.  I want to wake up in the morning feeling good.  I just want things to be perfect.

She reminded me that there is only person who has ever walked this earth in perfection.

This helped me to realize that every time I've tried to improve myself in the past, my goal has been perfection.  And that is why I have always failed.  Perfection is an unattainable goal.

This time, I will go about it differently.

I've given myself a report card for my life, and many areas are marked "needs improvement".  So that is my goal - to improve.

Please know I am not unhappy with my life.  I am so blessed.  My life is good.  But I know I can be better.  That's what this journey is about.

It's not about achieving perfection.  My goal is not to be the best.  I just want to be better.

To God be the glory!

Phil 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The long road ahead

It's been a few days now since my "three days of pep talks".  I probably should have continued that trend of positive reinforcement because the last three days I've woken up in a really bad mood.  Mostly because I'm not a very patient person.  Accepting that this is a LONG journey to betterness (I know that's not a real word, but I'm using it anyway.  It's perfect for what I'm trying to do here.  And I'm still in a bad mood, so don't mess with me), is hard for me.

When I decide to make a change in any area of my life, I do it immediately.  For example, we recently decided to allow my sons to have their own rooms.  This required selling my husband's pool table.  Moving our homeschool room from a bedroom to our family room.  Taking apart the bunk beds.  Sorting out the toys.  And much, much more.  Within two days, my homeschool room was successfully relocated and my boys were sleeping in separate rooms.

As I said, when I decide to make a change, I do it immediately.

If I decide to rearrange my living room, I don't wait for my husband to get home to help me move our insanely heavy couch.  I use these hips God blessed me with, and I move that couch myself.

If I decide I'm going to make chicken pie for supper tonight, but I don't have any self-rising flour, then I'm going to leave for the store right then to buy some self-rising flour.

I wish this whole "becoming a better me" were that easy.  I wish I could use these hips to force the old me out and push the new me in.  Or go to the store and purchase an updated version of myself.  Unfortunately, it's not that simple.  This is going to take FOREVER!

This is the point in which I would have abandoned ship in the past. Just given up and said it's too hard.  Or it's not worth it.

But not this time.  I know better.  It's so incredibly hard, but it will be so worth it too.

Despite the long road ahead, I have already experienced some small successes.  Today I'm choosing to focus on those.

I'll share them with you later this week.

Until then, thank you for your encouraging words and prayers on my behalf.  May God bless you always.

Hugs & Smileys!


Phil 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Another Pep Talk

As I pushed "publish" on yesterday's post, my husband walked through the front door.  His first words to me were, "So how long is this health kick going to last?  A week?"

I had JUST published a blog post on how comforting it was to have support in my "better me" journey, and this is what he says to me?

In his defense, I have not emailed him my most recent blogging entries.  So he had no idea of my newfound resolve to try again nor of my intention to not fail this time.

Explanation:  My husband loves me, but he hates this blog.  He does not understand why I would expose my weaknesses or give with the world insight into my vulnerabilities.  He fears it creates opportunity for unnecessary criticism.  

Little does he know, he was the first to speak out against me.  Or was he?

No, in fact, he wasn't.  The first person to negate my hopeful attitude lives inside my head.  As soon as I put myself out there, committing to make these changes in my life, she started to wonder if I can really do this.  She reminded me that I've failed so many times in the past.  And she almost immediately had no faith in what I can do.

Fortunately for me, I have supporters who speak louder than that voice in my head.  My friends and my family (Keith included, now that he knows I'm serious) believe in me.  More importantly, God is on my side, as He continually reminds me that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Phil 4:13

I hope you're not getting tired of my self-inflicted pep talks.  I'm trying to overwhelm myself with positivity.  I plan to begin posting more useful information tomorrow.  :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

He who strengthens me..

I ended yesterday's post with the scripture from Philippians 4:13 - "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  I did this because I know that as I try to improve the person I am today, I can only become that "better me" I long to be with the help of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Of course, it helps to have the support of family and friends.  My sister called me this morning in response to the negative comments I said about myself yesterday.  She told me I need to be more positive, and understand that I am not the only woman who suffers from feelings of inadequacy.  She was hoping to jump start my self-esteem.  And she did just that.  Thank you, Jennifer!  


I was brutally honest yesterday, hoping the revelation of my previously-private struggle might encourage others who suffer the same.  I didn't realize what a comfort it would be for them to admit those same feelings back to me.  But what a relief when I received an unexpected text from a friend who I never would have suspected to be fighting this same battle.  Her text reads, "...you know that blog post you just posted -- I am right there with you!..."  Hallelujah!  I am not alone!  Thank you, friend.  You know who you are!  ;)


Still the greatest confidence booster I received came as I was driving home alone last night.  I was reflecting back on the events of the day, focusing on my blog post, my decision to try again to help myself, my friend's text.  I thought about how I really don't want to fail this time.  So I prayed, "Dear God, please help me in this journey.  Let me never forget You are here with me."  Within seconds "Waiting for Tomorrow" by Mandisa, began playing via K-LOVE on my radio.

The chorus says,

"Can't spend my whole life wastin'
Everything I know I've been given
'Cause you've made me for so much more than
Sittin' on the side lines
I don't wanna look back and wonder
If good enough could've been better
Everyday's a day to start over
So, why am I waiting for tomorrow"

I believe God used this song to remind me that He is my biggest cheerleader.  He knows I want to make some changes in my life that will make me a better Christian, a better wife, a better mother, a better person.  I believe He's telling me this is MY time.  Don't wait.  Let the journey begin.

I want what is best for me. God wants what is best for me.  Knowing we are on the same page... it makes the journey much less scary, and a lot more appealing.

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

 
Click on the link below to hear Mandisa's song - Waiting for Tomorrow
http://www.myspace.com/mandisa/music/songs/waiting-for-tomorrow-80576508




"Waiting For Tomorrow"


Maybe tomorrow we'll start over
Maybe tomorrow I will finally change my ways
Said the same things yesterday
Don't know why I'm so afraid
To let you in
To let you win
To let you have all of me

Can't spend my whole life wastin'
Everything I know I've been given
'Cause you've made me for so much more than
Sittin' on the side lines
I don't wanna look back and wonder
If good enough could've been better

Everyday's a day to start over
So, why am I waiting for tomorrow

Maybe today I'll start believing
That you're mercy is really
As real as you say it is
It doesn't matter who I used to be
It only matters that I've been set free
You rescued me, you're changing me
Jesus take everything

Can't spend my whole life wastin'
Everything I know I've been given
'Cause you've made me for so much more than
Sittin' on the side lines
I don't wanna look back and wonder
If good enough could've been better

Everyday's a day to start over
So, why am I waiting for tomorrow

Oh, I'm makin this my moment now
To grab the hand that's reachin down to save me You saved me
And I'm makin this my moment now
To grab the hand that's reachin down to save me You saved me

Can't spend my whole life wastin'
Everything I know I've been given
'Cause you've made me for so much more than
Sittin' on the side lines
I don't wanna look back and wonder
If good enough could've been better

Everyday's a day to start over
So, why am I waiting for tomorrow

I'm gonna grab the hand that's reachin down
And I'm not gonna wait until tomorrow
Oh, tomorrow