Wednesdays Word: 5 Stages of Grief

Glad your back. Actually, glad I'm back. This is good for me.

I finished a journal that I have kept the last couple of years and after forcing myself to go back, I really am trying to pull out some key things that happened. It's hard because it's all so personal and every thing I write hits home pretty hard. It gives "preaching to the choir" a whole new meaning!
Some of my journal makes me laugh because I am completely un-censored in my private writing. I read back when Tim had just started his first job (post career change) doing heating and air, we were renovating our first house, and our children were 3 and 1. He was at the bottom of the bottom in his industry. Our house was 1200 square feet smaller than the old one. A complete wreck.  And I was trying to raise 2 small toddlers in the middle of all of it. And all I journaled that day was.
"We are a mess. This house is a mess. Our children are a mess. And on the bright side? It's only going to get messier."

Well, that's encouraging, huh?! Welcome to my world. I know every marriage book says sarcasm is an enemy, but let me tell you that sarcasm may just be the very thing that has saved our marriage. During these times, we would wake up and at random times chant, "LIVIN THE DREAM!" As walls were falling, a toddler was having a tantrum, or God knows what else would be in store that day for us.

Moving on. I wanted to share today about something that was (and still is) really helpful. I don't know how on God's green Earth I am not on every anxiety and depression medication on the market.  I am not on any prescription drugs (besides thyroid medicine b/c mine decided to quit at age 22).

Now before you think I'm all earthy and crazy and a "Jesus is my seat belt" driver... just know I am not. I am all about people keeping themselves mentally and physically healthy and that may require intervention.

Honestly, I firmly believe that your marriage, friends, community, and family can be the best counselors in the world. They know you. They get you. They see you in and out. They can speak into your life easy. There may only be one thing that Tim and I have done well at, we have played with all cards on the table. I only operate with gut wrenching honesty. And that's a pill to swallow.

Thats my first observation about our journey. We were not alone. Are you?
Find some friends. Talk to some friends you already have. Take it to the next level. You may just be shockingly surprised that YOU may be the tool God was wanting to use to break through someone elses life as well. Almost 9 times out of 10, the person sitting across from you has something to pour out as well. Everyone just needs someone authentic. Who wants to hear. Who responds with something vulnerable as well.

Take a time out. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this one because you are all smart people. But, maybe, just maybe, you need a time out. A time out from what you ask? Well, that is going to be for you to figure out. If you are making a big decision. Going through a really hard time. Going through a loss. Whatever. Take a time out. Maybe from large social settings or Facebook. I know for me, the times after my miscarriages when I felt completely alone and forgotten by God.... would you know I would get online and its like my whole entire "news feed" on facebook was pregnant. Like rolling sonograms on my entire screen. Come on! Take a time out! My best friend and I joke about Facebook life. I am not the same Jennifer that is "Facebook Jennifer". I can't be. Facebook cannot give you the ins and outs of peoples authenticity and struggles. That's why real relationships are very important during every season of life. Because I promise you, if your husband loses his job... Monday morning there will be 25 posts about peoples promotions, raises, and new job titles they all got over the weekend. Take a time out, people. Give yourself a break to gain some perspective.

Identification.  I have always felt if you can put a name to it, call it what it is, and share it, then you have gained power. And freedom. Identifying where you are. What you are feeling. And what you are going to do about it. I found these. The 5 stages of grief. There is nothing magical about it. It is simply words and definitions about stages of grief that I think are healing and helpful. And they were for me.

1. Denial or Shock.  Examples: You may try to say: This didn't happen. It's not a big deal. Nothing is going to change. Thinking those statements as a defense mechanism to avoid any emotions that could be overwhelming to deal with.

2. Anger. We want to find a reason or someone to blame to help cope. You are angry when you are wronged, threatened, or hurt. It isn't fair. As Christians, this is where we can get "stuck" telling God that He could have prevented our loss or situation.

3. Depression. This is when your anger turns inward. You can process this as sadness or you can become hopeless. The sadness is a normal grieving process, but not when you become hopeless. Hopelessness is when the guilt of blaming yourself becomes too much. You go into shut down mode. Close yourself off. You become apathetic. Loss of motivation to do anything.

4. Bargaining. This is our way of trying to control our life and/or God. We may statements to God like, "If you do this.... then I will do this...." We try to understand, explain, or reason out why the loss occurred.

5. Acceptance. I think this is where Christ plays the ultimate role. Accepting the situation. Asking yourself how to move on, live in spite of, remain in hope. We ultimately accept that this world is fallen, broken, and that sin reigns here right now. But in Christ we know this is not our final home. We are going to a place where there is no more sadness. Or loss. We are in need of a Savior not just for eternity, but every single day.

These stages are not even in order. I think you can jump all over them and back and forth. I think that is called Life. There is no check mark and you are done, it is the ultimate healing process and helps you filter out becoming introspective and spiraling downward.  If you do find yourself stuck  in any stage besides acceptance, Lord have mercy give yourself a break and see a pro that can help you. Even for a short time there are some things that can really help you medicinally and through more counseling.

Don't walk alone, go deep with a few. 
Take a time out. 
And find out where you are with your loss. 

Life is not about me. And Life is not about you. And it sure as heck isn't about all our stuff.

We are strangers. Aliens. Walking around on Earth until our day of Glory. If you are in Christ, your heart will never be at home here. If you can accept that and live in spite of that, I believe you will experience true joy.

If we can truly embrace this eternal perspective as Paul writes in 2 Cor 4:17

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Its possible. Definitely a possibility. To get hammered by life, blow after blow, and still have hope. A Spirit that does not waiver or fade. Because after all, it is HE that is in us. And HE is far more greater than what is in the world.

Call it what it is, my friends, and remember to show your cards.


Wednesdays Word

I have had some really great devotions over the past 4 years that I wanted to share. Probably the most recent ones first, because the older ones are going to take more time to mentally go back.  I think sometimes when you are going through some of the hardest stuff, that can be when you hear from God the clearest. I know it isn't always the case, but when you are completely in a broken state, you can read anywhere that is where God likes to make his appearance.

To heal the broken hearted.
To set the captives free.

I have experienced Him a lot in our trials, am grateful for it, and getting to a place where I can share some of my darkest times and devotions in those moments. I am going to try and post every Wednesday of some past devotions. I may not succeed at being regular, but I will try!

One of the verses I share to friends struggling the most is this verse:
Micah 7:8- Do not gloat over me my enemy, though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.

Wednesdays Word:
I was reading about Jeremiah one morning and when he said (lamentations 3:18)
"my strength has perished, and so has my hope from the Lord"

Some days I remember feeling just exhausted by my circumstances. Strength and hope felt impossible.

Later he goes on to v 3: 21-22 and says "This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope. Because of the Lords great love we are not consumed for his compassions never fail."

That is the part of the verse that I feel like speaks the most. I know the following verse continues with "they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness" but during hard seasons I dont feel like I woke up every morning and the feeling of "loss" had gone away. I think during seasons that is true. I also dont think WE are supposed to "feel new" every morning. We may, but we may not. The verse is talking about His Word enduring forever and every morning it is the same. And new. Thats what I think anyway- and have experienced.

But, I like how Jeremiah has to "recall to mind" the Lords great love. To be thankful. To remember how He has been faithful. And to remind yourself of the times when He has been faithful and you have seen Him move. 
Thankfulness and remembering those times will give you the truth you need to get through the tough ones.

This is difficult, but I remember literally walking around with a thankful list. Constantly "recalling to mind" of where God has provided and shown His great love.

Lastly, the segment ends with (verse 24) The Lord is my portion. I will wait for Him.

And, the waiting is the hardest part. Hope deferred makes a heart sick. Waiting for restored hope, waiting for God to restore. Waiting for hope. Just waiting. But, I have seem Him restore hope every. time. 
Thankfulness seems to be the biggest weapon to fight losing hope.

I like this passage, but I think reading it in context of Jeremiahs trail is not what everyone thinks it means.
I pray you would read these verses in a new light and apply them to your situation.
Lamentations 3:18-24
18 So I say, "My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord."
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, and the bitterness and gall.
 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.
 21 Yet I call this to mind and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 
24 I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." 

 I am trying to hit a "reset" button on my life for the fall. I love the fall. Always have. But over the past 4 years, the fall has been a bitter time when I lost the most babies and Tim received bad news from jobs. It is hard not to go back there. As I enter into this fall, I have to "recall to mind" where God has taken us from. Out of the pit of sadness and the stormy seas and put us on dry, safe pastures. And we are dwelling there. I really believe God can make all things new. That is what He is in the business of doing not only for our salvation, but our every need.

I know its from 2011, but the words to this song are so great.


Summer Lovin

Here are our last few glimpses of summer! They are not in order, but hey, I am lucky to even get them on here!
Tim and I got to spend some lake days with each of our families and cousins and it was fun! We both grew up on the lake so we are making sure it is a big part of our kids childhood. If I could just be around water every day..... ahhh.
 Mackenzie and Joshua
Took the kids back to school lunch shopping at Trader Joes! This picture semi communicates the chaos of shopping with little ones. 
Sweet friend hosted a prayer group for all our kiddos that started school together. I can't tell you how those prayers were heard and answered!!

My sweet First Grader. Isn't he sweet in his uniform? I can't tell you how happy this mama is to never have a fight about clothing... they all wear the same thing. And praise the Lord it will be that way for my daughter! He has finished 4 days. Made friends. And loves his teacher.... granted, she was Teacher of the Year and I really would love to just bring her home with me!! Our school feels like home. David fit right in and I can't wait for him to keep developing into who God has made him.
Another sweet friend gave us White Water passes for Friday so we celebrated the mere fact that we made it to school. On Time. Walking. We are not in bus district and the carpool line is backed up to my house pretty much, so we walk :) The kids loved White Water.
My sweet grandma's assisted living place had a party. Mackenzie is always the life of the party somehow. She dances with random people, tells everyone way more information than people need to know about us, and kisses everyone. On the mouth. (Working on that). My grandma was a hoot and it was a fun memory.
I *think* there are 19 great grandchildren on Tims side of the family! We just have SO many cousins we don't know what to do with them all!!! But. We start by having *one* spend the night =) This is the sweetie that slept over and it went awesome!
We even made it to church Sunday morning. Dressed up!
Mackenzie and her bestie having girl time. I asked Mackenzie what "girl time" meant and she quickly responded, "Cupcakes, mom." (Giving me the DUH look) I took a mental note.

Meantime, David ended his summer with his little bestie doing a sports camp. This was able to get out a fraction of the energy this small man has. Whew, outlets for boys.... anyone??
Somehow, these two, will allow their crazy worlds to collide and have brief moments of utter joy that make my heart leap. They will have it out. And then 2 seconds later be laughing and best friends. Can I freeze them like this??
My sweet, sweet nephews. Mackenzie and Joshua have grown into twins. They are crazy the same. I love these 2 little boys so much!!
I am completely aware I need more pics on the house blog, but we are building an office. Walls are now up and we are close to painting and finishing. Finishing. That is a funny word.
Oh Seaside. Possibly my favorite memory of the summer. Tim went "on call" for a week and it is PEAK season for my man. His parents and aunt called last minute and invited us to go to the beach! Tim insisted I go since he wasn't going to be even home... so we did!! We stayed out on the beach the entire day. No exaggeration. They loved every second and never got tired of it. 

Our last night there...

We did summer workbooks a few times a week and I think this really helped us transition back into the school year easier. I'll definitely keep this up!

The kids desperately wanted to have a "Pancake Party." We have had Defacs (Department of Family and Children Services) out here a lot for the adoption process and that is the one thing Mackenzie kept telling them about. One of the Defacs workers asked, "Well what's a pancake party?" To which she replied with no sass at all,  "You know. When your friends come over. For pancakes. And its a party. I want all my friends over for a pancake party." We finally negotiated and a few friends that live near-by came over for the infamous pancake party. My mom read, "If you give a pig a pancake" (my favorite childrens book) and we made TONS of pancakes. It was another fun memory.
Homemade Turkey Sausage- 2 lbs ground turkey, 3/4 t ginger, 1 1/2 t salt, 1 t sage, 1/4 t cayenne pepper, 1 1/2 t black pepper, 1 T syrup.  Double the seasonings. Make patties the night before. Cook on griddle in the morning. 
Davids new obsession is 4 wheelers. He is lucky my dad and our "uncle mike" both have one!
Mackenzie wins the colorful award with not only how she dresses, but everything she says.
And they are still wishing. Asking. And hoping for a new sibling to join our family.

So far in our adoption journey, we have turned one situation down. Our case worker even gave us her gut instinct that this was not our child. We felt it. And knew it. But... it was hard to say the words, "no."
That was hard. We were put in for another child and are awaiting the outcome of that... along with the fact I think our homestudy is widespread through the state offices. 
So. Waiting. What is funny is that I feel like our whole life journey has been on waiting. Waiting for God to show up. To answer . 
I have realized that waiting is a sign of Hope. So all is not lost when you are waiting. If all was lost, there would be no hope, but despair. 
If you are waiting on an answer, then you have hope that it will be answered. And faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.
I feel so grateful for our adoption journey this far. It has been an intimate, healing, miraculous journey Tim and I have gotten to share together. So special. Just as there is something special about pregnancy and your bio kids, there is a whole world and journey I have walked in now and I can't ever turn back.  And so many opportunities for the gospel to bleed into our very souls. We are adopted as Sons of God. Jesus takes us in just as we are. And loves us like his own. I truly pray God answers this prayer and chooses to grow our family this way. 

I am constantly in awe of life and the cycles of happiness, disappointment, hardship, joy, new beginnings, endings, and relationships. You really never know the turn of events that can happen in one day. Nothing specific per say, but I have just been analyzing seasons of my life and marriage, being a parent, family, and friendships. I am always consistently brought back to one main thing. 

This world is not our home. But we live like its all we got.
This world is full of sin. Yet we act shocked when we hear acts of sin. 
People will disappoint us. And we are disappointments. Again, we act shocked when we are disappointed by another sinful human.
That is why we have a Savior. We look to Him last a lot.
Whom we deeply need every day. 
Because without him we wither. We fall away. We are not connected to the vine.
Through Him we can live, move, and have our being.
This world will pass away and everything in it.
Why do we try to hard to make heaven on Earth?

Through our miscarriages, job loss, house renovations, moving, broken family, you. name. it. Feel like at times we've hit almost every bump in the road. And then sometimes, if the road is calm, we detour to go off-roading for fun. We are sick people.

But. Do you know what is glorious? Having situations that make your need for a Savior GREAT. We have desperately needed Him along our journey and man oh man has He shown His face. 
Strength. Endurance. Grace. Hope. Love. Guidance. Wisdom. 

Would we have run so hard after Him if our life was a chocolate cake? Maybe. But, our life is not chocolate cake and I am completely aware that I am nothing without Christ. I can't mother. I can't love as a wife. I can function as any sort of family member. When I am outside of walking with Him, I am negative. Mean. Sarcastic. I despair. I play the pity card. No win situation.

God is changing me and I am asking Him to fill the holes of who I am. I won't ever be perfect. I will disappoint others. But, how wonderful. We can't live up to anyones standards and no one can live up to ours. Our who need goes back to Christ for whole-ness. Grace. And to be grace to others. Even when they don't deserve it. Because Grace is getting what you don't deserve. 

Are we open to hurt to show us the holes in who we are? Knowing that God will fill them? Or do protect ourselves from hurt? Do we ask hard questions about ourselves and ask others to speak into our sin? Or do we shut ourselves off from feeling any hurt? Afraid of something bad happening? I am right back in the scary boat because I feel like my heart is wide open for the chance of hurt through adopting a foster child. Its a pretty scary place to be. 

Its a beautiful life knowing the end. God wins. And love conquers all. 

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