Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nothing Else Matters

Did you get a visual of Metallica?

I did. :)

So this has not exactly been the month of joy we thought it would be when we moved to our new, beautiful home.

Instead, we have been put under a lot of stress.

The kind of stress that makes your heart palpitate as you think about the weight of the world throughout your day.

The kind of stress where you think about your situation when you go to bed, all through the night as you toss and turn, and again first thing when you wake up.

The kind of stress that puts a horrible strain on your marriage.

The kind of stress that makes you feel helpless and angry.

The kind of stress that makes you wander through your day, jumping from one task to another without completing any because you're too distracted.

The kind of stress that makes you snap at your kids (more than usual).

The kind of stress that leaves you praying for God's help while simultaneously blaming Him for not stepping in.

But today as I was holding our 8 month old little guy, I kissed the peach fuzz on his soft little head and really doesn't matter.

When I hugged our 6 year old little boy, wiped the tears away, and kissed his boo boo, I really doesn't matter.

When I woke up to my little 2 year old's garbled "good morning" I really doesn't matter.

When I kissed my husband goodbye as he headed out to his job--a job that provides for us--I really doesn't matter.

God has tasked each one of us with different things, different jobs, different experiences while on this earth and with those things come certain other "a la carte" items. We each have our struggles and triumphs. We all go through bad times and good times.

It's easy to praise Him in good times. It's super hard to raise my hands and shout "Hallelujah" when I feel like the bottom is falling out of my world.

But then, in the midst of the chaos and the yuck, God allows me to see His greatness in a baby's soft skin, in my 6 year old's tears, in my daughter's soft breath on my face, in my husband's strength and leadership. And I realize I have so much to raise my hands about.

While my world might be shaken, God is still there with me. Even if I still have to go through whatever it is I'm going through, He is there to comfort me. To let me know I'm not alone.

Like my baby, just my holding him and kissing his little head is enough to make him smile and feel safe. My 6 year old's wound still hurts when I hold him and kiss it, but he feels comforted just knowing I'm there.

My 2 year old smiles and greets me because she loves me and wants to be with me. That brings her joy.

My husband provides for us, slays dragons all day long so we have what we need, and my support of him can be the difference between a broken, struggling marriage or a healthy, supportive one. I can't remove my husband's stresses, but I can help support him through them.

And God's love is like that for me.

I may wish He'd swoop in and save the day, but I know He's still there. Even though life's hurts rage on. Even though my heart might be breaking, He's there to pick up the pieces.

So in those times when we want to throw up our hands in despair rather than in praise, we have to decide and make the choice...will we praise God anyway like Job or will we allow ourselves to wallow in our misery?

Can we count our blessings--holding those we love most a little closer, a little tighter-- and weather the storm together?

Tough lesson. I'm just a beginner, but I'm open to learning...

Friday, February 22, 2013

When It Rains, It Pours

Do you remember how we just moved? And how we have our previous house on the market?

Well, I got a phone call from Joe yesterday morning and I heard panic in his voice. Pure, unadulterated panic.

All he could say, almost in a whisper, was "There's water everywhere. Everywhere. I don't know what to do."

I could actually hear water spraying in the background.

On a lark, he decided to stop at the old house on his way to work and this is what he found:

That's the basement bathroom. You can't see it so well, but there is about 2 inches of standing water on the floor. That "shine" on the carpet? I wish I could say it was my flash. It's also water. And lots of it. 

There was so much water, the carpet actually moved in waves when you walked across it. I've never seen anything like it. 

Our kitchen. This picture doesn't really capture the devastation. The thing in the sink is the light that used to hang up above on the bulkhead. That fell at some point, along with some insulation, but oddly didn't break. The mural up above was painted by a friend a few years ago and was designed by her specially for me. 

These cabinet doors were lovingly fashioned by my brother-in-law and installed after months of measuring and making them, and driving from 2 hours away just to install. 

This is the kitchen floor. I wish I could say that glossy sheen is from several coats of poly, but it's what's left of the water that was sitting on top. The rest of it has seeped in between and underneath the hardwoods. 

Here's another shot of the sink and the light that used to hang above it. 

There really are no words. I held it together until I heard the restoration guy talking on the phone to his co-worker. He was listing off all the demo they were going to have to do.

*Kitchen cabinets are coming down
*The beadboard that we lovingly installed a year and a half ago is coming off
*The hardwoods may not be able to be saved. They are original to the house and Joe and I spent YEARS removing and scraping off layers of vinyl and tar to reclaim and refinish them. Years. On our hands and knees. Back breaking work.
*The carpeting in the basement is done.
*They will have to cut into the wall from 2 feet above the ground and pull out the insulation to see how wet it is.
*The ceiling is also coming down in the basement.

The basement was refinished about 8 years ago by the previous owners. It was easily one of our favorite rooms. It had dry-walled ceilings with pot lights and a faux finish on the walls with chair rail. Someone took a lot of time and pride in their work.

I know that we were planning to sell this house anyway, but to see it destroyed like this made us feel guilty. Like we had let it down or something. I actually verbalized an apology to the house. I had visions of handing it off to a family who would love it and make memories in it like we had. To someone who might look at all the work Joe and I had done and admire it. Add to it.

We scrimped and saved and sweated and argued for the 7 years we lived there to get the kitchen to what we wanted. It was a sacrifice of time and money.

But today it was ripped down and thrown into a dumpster.

And the kicker is we don't think the insurance company will cover the restoration or the remodel.

That's a long story which I don't want to get into here right now, but I keep telling myself there has to be a lesson in all of this somewhere. Right?

Thankfully we aren't [supposed to be] tied to "things" on this earth.

I keep telling myself that, but knowing we STILL have a mortgage on this house and the soonest it could be back on the market is 6 weeks makes me sick. And angry.

This could all have been avoided.

And I'm really, really trying to get the positives out of this that I can. Our kids are safe and healthy. It didn't happen while we lived there and it's not our main dwelling.

HOWEVER it still royally sucks.

So this is not the uplifting post I wish it was. It's just a rant. I hope some time from now I can look back and see where God's hand was in all of this. Hopefully it will be while I'm carrying a large check from the insurance company.

Prayers are always welcomed. If you see fit, please pray most of all for our peace of mind and that we will trust God to take care of us. I KNOW He's just when you're in the midst of something awful, it doesn't always feel that way.

Thank you in advance for any words offered on our behalf.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Life Is But A Dream, Sweetheart.

I'm not sure at what point we decided that this life is ours to live.

Some might be blinking at that statement.

"What do you mean? Of COURSE my life is MINE to live!"

I used to think that. Actually, I STILL think that on occasion.

Or daily.

See, because I wake up, I take a breath, I get out of bed and I am faced with decisions on a daily basis, I call that my life. And since those breaths and decisions are mine, I take for granted that this life I live is also mine.

I swear this isn't a riddle. And I haven't been drinking.

Sleep deprived, yes.

But never more aware.

I have a wonderful online friend named Natalie. She lives over at Mommy on Fire.

She and I began blogging at about the same time a few years ago. We both had a lot in common. We are both moms. We are both Christians. We both love writing. We "clicked" and followed one another's blogs for a while.

And then, as with all things, we got involved in our own stuff...blogging communities, life activities, writing...and we lost touch.

As her blog took a decided turn toward the spiritual and she focused more on Jesus in her life, I blatantly shied away from those areas and chose instead to focus on the humorous and mundane of life with kids. Chiefly because I was too darn afraid of how others would receive me talking so openly about my faith and my beliefs. And I didn't want to entertain negative comments about those things that I hold most dear.

And blogging like that bored myself to tears.

And I lost the passion I used to have for blogging.

As I felt convicted more and more to return to my roots, I felt the old flame reignite. It is exciting and terrifying all at once.

Along with blogging more openly here about my faith and my family, I launched  a new women's ministry called Deliberate Women. I joined forces with 4 other beautiful women to write about and share the love of Jesus and how that looks in 21st century America with husbands, kids, jobs, and other demands. I want to dispel the June Cleaver notion and the false belief that Christian women don't have bad days, don't yell, don't make mistakes, hate others because of their sexual orientation, race, beliefs, religion, blah blah blah...

We are ALL imperfect. And I know far too many women who are led to believe that they cannot be imperfect if they claim to be Christian.

And I also know far too many people who believe that this life is theirs, it's their one-and-only and let's enjoy it while we can...

This pin caught my eye today on Pinterest:

and this one:

I can sorta agree with some parts of them. Like not living our lives full of regret, taking chances (under certain circumstances), avoiding drama for sure, but I take issue with the "Eff it" sentiment that pervades both of these pins. 

I don't think trying to avoid making bad decisions is trying to be "the coolest kid around." I think it's prudent.

And yes, I did just have a Dana Carvey/SNL flashback. 

And now you did too. 

I don't subscribe to the "If it feels good do it to me" way of thinking nor do I think that I should have cart blanch to do as I wish. 

Our actions affect others. Whether we see the effects or not. 

But more importantly, we were given these lives for a purpose.

And it wasn't to live by the seat of our pants or make choices on a whim. 

It was to glorify God. Share the Good News. And prepare to live with Him for all of eternity. 


Now God was very gracious as to provide us with the ability to feel pleasure. 

From small things like enjoying a yummy caramel frappucino and on to the "biggees" like...well...let's keep this PG 13, shall we?

You get what I mean. 

God could have programmed us to lay eggs like chickens or copulate like dogs and cats, but He didn't. There's intimacy, enjoyment.

And now I'm making myself blush because I NEVER anticipated getting into all that

But I hope you can see what I mean. 

We aren't robots. We have feelings and emotions and experiences that can be happy and pleasurable. God did that. Just read one chapter of Song of Solomon and you'll see that to be the case. 

But getting back to why I mentioned Natalie in the first place...we also have feelings and experiences that can totally suck. They can hurt, damage and discourage. But it isn't all for nothing. Natalie talked about that today on her blog. Click HERE to read more. 

God did that too. 

And He uses those things for His purpose. For His glory.

Now, you could go off on a tangent and say that means He wants us to do bad things and make crappy decisions. 


But He can and will work all things together for good. (Romans 8:28). 

I have made some DOOZY bad choices, yo. 

Like ending that last sentence with "yo".

I've tried to keep many of them as my dirty little secrets for many years.

I got brave once and wrote another blog detailing my life and some of the reeeeeaaaallly shady things I've done in my 35 years. And then I hid it so it can never be found again. *Cue evil laughter.*

But I am learning that while God is not proud of the rotten things we do or the horrible choices we make, He knows we are flawed and He knew we were going to do those things even before we did. And He chose to forgive us anyway. 

I don't usually greet people at parties with, "Hi, I'm Mandy. I'm Joe's wife, mom of 6. I've been married 3 times. I got pregnant before I was married. I've had affairs. I say the "F" word and I tend to gossip." 

That would be a buzz kill. 

But I am slowly learning that I no longer should have to hide my past for shame of being judged for it. I also know that my all of it's awful, deceitful "glory" can and has been used to help others overcome theirs.

And that's the thesis of this post, everyone.
If you have hung with me long enough to get to it, congratulations. 

Our life is used to praise God, share the Good News that we are forgiven, and minister to others. 

"Ministering" to someone does not mean you have to stand at a pulpit. 

"Ministering" means attending to the needs of others.  

And God made it easy for us to do that by allowing us to use what we know better than anyone else; ourselves. 

"Our" lives. 

So knowing that, tends to make me more careful with my choices, my words, my actions, my time management...

If you ever have any questions about God or about knowing ow He can use you, please feel free to drop me a line:

I'll be happy to offer answers (or be honest and tell you I don't know but I'll try to find out) and listen. 

I'm off now...I'm questioning if using this time to blog was wise as I look around at the dirty dinner plates all over the kitchen and my half dressed 2 year old. (When DID she figure out how to take off her own pajamas?!) But it's all worth a few ketchup-covered plates and half nekked kids if my feeble words mean something to you. ;)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

So We Moved


7 days of moving. 2 moving trucks. Countless trips using Joe's pick up truck.

And I am still missing critical components of our home.

It's the move that won't end.

The hardest part has been not having any sense of familiar.

It breaks my heart every time our 3 year old asks to "go home".

We no longer live in a "city" environment. Nothing is "just across the street" or "just up the road."

Now even going to grab a few groceries requires jumping on a major highway.

It's not all bad. We have a gorgeous home. It's huh-yuge. 5 bedrooms, 4 full baths. An enormous, finished basement with a guest room and full bath. One of those larger than life kitchens that connects to the family room. Seriously, it's everything I've been pinning about on Pinterest for eons.

But I think you take for granted all that you'll miss when you move on.

I loved our other house. Loved it.

We lived there 7 years. I talked about that in this post.

5 of our 6 babies were born there. For the most part, none of them knew any other house as "home".

I got used to all the sounds that initially drove me crazy; sirens on the main road close by, engines revving at the 4-way stop around the corner, loud neighbors, the radiator's temperamental bangs and knocks, the floor boards that creaked in our 70-year-old house, the sound of the airplanes flying over after just taking off from the airport that was only a few miles away.

I knew exactly where to walk on each step so it wouldn't creak and wake up the kids.

I knew which light switches were quirky and which ones went to absolutely nothing (and there were many).

I got used to our neighbor Joan taking her little dog out to do business at 11:00 every night. It was comforting to see her outside light flip on and then see her all bundled up (summer or winter) to bring "Reeth" out for a walk.

We knew all of our neighbors on every side, up to 3 houses down, by name.

I've recited and written that address countless times.

We knew all the hot spots for takeout and delivery.

Giant Eagle was literally across the street. Get Go was only 5 minutes down the road. I feel like a stranger in a strange land.

I am absolutely grateful and thrilled at this new beginning...but it feels a little sad too.

The rooms--that are now SO big and exactly what we craved for so long--now feel, big. And empty. They echo because we haven't gotten any pictures on the walls yet.

The kids rooms are SO much farther away from ours now. I have to walk about 20 steps from our bed to the girls' room and the same for the 2 oldest boys' room.

Please don't think I'm insinuating that this is by any means a palatial mansion or's just about 5 times the size of our other house. Our other house was small, cozy.

I have felt my relationship with God feeling distant over the past week.

I think it's just because I feel no "normal".

I used to have a routine of reading my Bible on my iPhone every night when we got in bed.

Now, I have been so weirded out by being in a strange place, I've just buried my head under the covers and willed myself to sleep.

On the other hand, because this is a much more country setting, there are NO traffic sounds, no sirens, no street lights even...the kids have been sleeping until the sun comes up, rather than when the 5 am Port Authority bus rolls by.

It's such a calm feeling here. I sleep much better too. Sounder. I feel more relaxed while at the same time stressed out and a little sad about all that is happening.

It's not even that I miss the other house, per se. I miss the familiarity. I miss feeling like I "know" the house. Miss feeling like I belonged there.

And call it silly, weird, ridiculous...but I knew my house was filled with good energy. Good memories. With God. I don't know what this one has been filled with. I know the previous occupants were questionable at best. Who knows what they could have introduced here.

But so far, so good.

I've been playing KLOVE and singing about Jesus a whole lot. ;)

And I know that this is something that only time can change.

Only time will make us feel familiar and like we belong.

I know it's for the best in the long run.

The kids have so much more room to play. They have a nice suburban community where they can ride their bikes in the driveway and we can walk the dog on our street with much less fear of them being run over by some yay-hoo blazing by. I don't have to worry about the 2 scary dogs that lived next door anymore. We have a big yard they can play in without fear.

So...I know this is good. But it makes me think of a song (surprise surprise) by Building 429.

"Where I Belong"

Sometimes it feels like I'm watching from the outside
Sometimes it feels like I'm breathing but am I alive
I won't keep searching for answers that aren't here to find

All I know is I'm not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

So when the walls come falling down on me
And when I'm lost in the current of a raging sea
I have this blessed assurance holding me.

All I know is I'm not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

When the earth shakes I wanna be found in You
When the lights fade I wanna be found in You

All I know is I'm not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

Where I belong, where I belong
Where I belong, where I belong

And I think it's good to keep in mind that I'll never really be home while on this Earth.

I'm a stranger in a strange land.

1 Chronicles 29:15 MSG
As far as you're concerned, we're homeless, shiftless wanderers like our ancestors, our lives mere shadows, hardly anything to us.

1 Peter 2:11-12
The Message (MSG)
11-12 Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.

Did you catch that word in 1 Peter? Cozy. Remember I said our last house was cozy? I sense an object lesson here?

Maybe I'm not called to be cozy, but to realize that this world is not my home. My home will only truly be in one place.

So I don't know every quirk and creak in this new house.

That's okay.

Actually, that may be ideal. Obviously, I will get used to being here, like I did in our last house, but for now, I choose to draw the correlation...I should never allow myself to get too comfortable. I should always look to stretch myself and be prepared to leave this world at any moment... to be in the world but not of it (John 17:15-16).

And on that note...I am off to relax. Tomorrow is a new day of getting to know this new place.

And of chasing my kids through the house, which feels to be the distance of a football field. ;)

If nothing else, my cardio will vastly improve.

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