Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Choosing Joy

(written Friday)

     Today . . . even if it's just for today . . . I'm choosing joy. 

     Let's face it.  We all have things that come up in our daily lives that frustrate us and cause us some temporary pain.  We fix them rather quickly and just move on with our normal tasks of the day.

     We all have some things that we deal with for a longer chunk of time.  It may be for a week, a month, a year, and sometimes even many years.  It may be a health issue, a financial issue, a relationship issue . . . you name it.  God never said our lives would be easy, even if we're following Him, and oftentimes as soon as we get out of one crisis, we find ourselves in another one.  We systematically work our way through them.  Sometimes these crises come rather infrequently, but then other times, like has been the case for our family this last year, they just seem to pile up right on top of each other a bit too frequently, and you find yourself struggling to make sense of all of it.   Thankfully, though, many of these issues eventually come to pass. 

     And then I would dare say that a lot of us have some kind of pain deep down inside that's just always been there.  An issue that just never seems to get resolved.  A feeling we can't seem to get past.  A struggle we continually do not know how to face.  A hurdle that just can't be jumped over no matter how hard we try.  A disease that affects our entire life.  Oh, it may not be something that causes us grief every moment of every day or even on a regular basis at all, but somehow it's just always lingering in the background and in the far corners of our mind.  It might just be something that we personally and privately deal with alone, or it might be something that affects not only us but many people around us, and the ramifications of the whole thing can be so incredibly complicated. 

     That's where I've been for the last month.  For me, it's an issue that has been present in my life for as long as I can remember.  The level of severity of it has always been high, but lately it has reached an even higher notch on the scale, and there is no evidence of it backing down anytime soon.  It has been the most mentally draining and emotionally exhausting month of my life, and when you add that to all the other stressors of our "normal" life lately, it's really, really difficult to know how to keep picking up the pieces and moving forward.  If I could snap my fingers and fix things, I would.  If I could find something tangible to actually do to make a difference, I would.  I'm trying.  If I could pray a little harder and ask God for the millionth time to bring relief, I would.  And I have been. 

     But the fact remains, there are no easy answers.  There is no quick fix.  In fact, there are many obstacles -- big ones.  The actual root of the problem is something that greatly prohibits any normal attempt at fixing the problem, and that plays a huge factor in the whole dilemma.  Consequently, my heart and mind has once again become consumed with trying to figure out how to make some real necessary changes for all involved.  Those closest to the root of the problem have almost become immune to it, even though their lives are greatly affected by it.  But it's like a ripple effect.  Those who are a little bit further away get caught in the middle because they know the problem and are used to it.  They know that things are not right, but sometimes it's easier to just overlook it and try to pretend it's not that bad.  Then they have a wake-up call and find themselves challenged by those from the outside looking in who can clearly see the issues at hand and who can't fathom why something hasn't been done to fix it long ago.  But then we get back to the root of the problem as being the prohibitor for healing once again, and it goes on and on and on.

     For all who are involved, it's deep.  It's painful.  It's horrible.  It affects our lives in ways that most people would never be able to understand.  It's a part of my life that isn't easily shared, but it's a huge part, and there is a whole lot of healing that needs to happen right now in not only my life but also in the lives of those around me.  It's kind of scary to poke my head out and expose this part of my life, but God has blessed me with so many friends and family who truly care, and it's time to just lay it out there and humbly seek your prayer support. 

     After consciously realizing that I was taking my stress out on my family yet again, God recently nudged me to simply choose joy.  Even when the storm is brewing all around me, for my sake and my family's sake, I must choose joy.  That's easier said than done when you're desperately seeking answers and the inward turmoil is about to engulf you.  But the joy of the LORD is my strength, and I must simply keep laying my burdens before Him and then focus on the joy and blessings that He so abundantly gives me.  Relying on that strength has been crucial for me all my life, and I simply cannot give up now.   

     So today . . . even if it's just for today and hopefully again tomorrow and the next day . . . I'm choosing joy.  I'm choosing to spend my day doing some things that I love to do.  I've walked and prayed.  Flowers have been picked from my yard and put on my kitchen table.  Plans are set in place to make some foods that I know my family will enjoy this weekend.  Thoughts have been circulating in my head of how to best be a blessing to others.  I've come here to write again, which is something I've really missed.  And just because writing leads me to pictures and pictures lead me to wonderful memories of my family, I'm choosing to end this by sharing some memories of our summer. 

Thank you, Lord, for my family.
Thank you, Lord, for those who are praying for us.

Today . . . I'm choosing joy.

We had a couple fun weekends of camping with the Westerkamps.

It's amazing what one cousin can get another cousin to do.

Pizzas in the fire -- oh, yeah!

Detasseling and swimming can wear a girl out!

The annual tractor ride around parts of Iowa

Even the kids enjoy the tractor ride!

Cousin time at my sister Sheila's house

We had shirts made for my family's big annual campout.

That's a whole lot of descendants!

My grandma and grandpa, ages 90 and 94, celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary in April.  They're going for the big 70 next April!

After all the little kids had a few whacks at the pinata, they started chanting, "Grandpa!  Grandpa!  Grandpa!"  It was a priceless moment to see Grandpa out there with his cane!

We had a whole lot of fun family activities planned, but the rain had a way of interrupting, which forced a whole lot of people into one shelter house for a while.

Our kids and a couple special friends. 

Cousin time! 
I love how Jenna brought her purse along for this . . .


Normally these kids would have been covered with mud from head to toe, but we had some unfortunate vehicle challenges, which prevented some of the normal "fun." 

Kelsey's workouts have definitely paid off! 
None of these boys could accomplish the same feat!

Good times with cousins from Michigan

Keaton headed off to church camp with his friend Jordan
the morning after we arrived back home.

Haley enjoyed some little trips with her friends.

Kelsey's friend Diana invited her along on a week-long houseboat
trip to Lake Powell in Arizona.

Cousin Camren came to town for a few days to celebrate his 10th birthday.

Keaton moved to middle school and is now a 6th-grader.

Kelsey is now a sophomore in high school.

A couple nights before we took Haley to college, we had the chance to meet up with a third cousin of mine, Tarah, and her kids and parents.  She was on her way back to Africa to meet up with her husband, so Haley was thrilled to have the chance to learn more about their work in Uganda, which is one of the places Haley would love to go someday.  She was even more excited when Tarah extended an open invitation to her.

We moved Haley up to Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa, where she will be studying psychology as a freshman.

It was a group effort!

Heath is going to the same school, but he will be commuting from home as a second-semester junior this fall.  He is majoring in accounting.

So hard to believe we now have two kids in college!

Our kids -- our pride and joy. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Love Song From God

     Sometimes God calls me to share what is going on in our lives.  

     Sometimes it's just a little too personal, and He asks me to be still, to trust Him, and to patiently spend time listening for His voice in the midst of the storm.    

     And then sometimes He absolutely blows me away by providing exactly the right words at the precise time they need to be heard.      

     This little love song came from Him just when I needed it the most, and it keeps coming back to me.  It's time to share it.  Maybe you need it too???