Life is a river

“For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.” Jeremiah 17:8

 

Image result for pictures of calm rivers

Living in Boise has a it’s perks let me tell you and one of the many in the heat of the summer time is the river!  The Boise river offers it’s cool refreshing waters to the many willing to jump on a tube, float, blow up mattress (yes I’ve seen it), flamingo (seen that one too), or really anything that can manage to stay on top of the water.

My family and I decided last Sunday to do just that very thing and grabbed our tubes, towels and some waters and we were on the river floating by 5pm.  As you enter the water you see in front of you the calmness of the river, the beauty around you and you kind of arrange your body in a relaxed, comfortable manner as you take it all in.  It’s peaceful, mesmerizing, relaxed, blissful and refreshing.  I laid there with my legs kicked up and watched other floaters pass us, kept my eye on my kiddos in their own tubes and appreciated the beauty around me.  I had been down the river before though, this wasn’t my first time and I knew something that my husband, Michael didn’t know.  There are rapids on this river and after the winter we had and how fast the river was going in the calm section, I was anticipating what was coming.

It started with a faint rushing sound in the background and I pulled my legs up and positioned myself differently knowing that the sound was the approaching rapids in front of us and uncertain as to how strong it was going to be, gripped the handles and told the kids to hold on.  There was a moment of fear as you are trusting the boat and the river to send you down the rapids the right way, facing forward and not compromise us to where we flipped over entirely and all went in different directions.  Michael had the oars and worked effortlessly in front of the boat to navigate us just in the right section of the fall so we would travel over it comfortably and easily without water coming into the boat, side skirting the rocks and boulders and not losing anyone overboard.   Despite his valiant efforts, we still managed to get drenched and a bunch of water dumped into our small little raft, but we didn’t flip over or lose anyone and I was grateful for that.  We all laughed and loosened our grip as we looked back at our milestone and watched it fade behind us and the calmness once again settled upon us and the once raging, rushing river became an oasis of stillness and relaxation.

Related image

But not for long….the sound crept up again and we all knew what it meant and straightened our bodies, braced our hands, steadied ourselves and expectantly waited for the rapids that were swiftly approaching.  The thing about it is you aren’t exactly sure where the rapids or the falls are in the river because you are level for the most part and so you almost aren’t sure how to navigate until you are nearly on top of it and even at that point you can really just hold on to the boat and hope the boat takes you to where it needs to.

Eventually we made our way through the second one and the third one, smarter and wiser with each one we passed as we learned something that we needed to prepare ourselves for the next time we hit one.

The total time it took us was about 1 1/2 hours and then we reached the end of our destination, soaked, happy and a little proud of the small accomplishment of managing and taming the Boise river!

That night as I was drifting to sleep I distinctly heard the holy spirit whisper to me, “life is a river my love”.   I hadn’t even been thinking of the river that day, I was actually thinking about if I had locked the back door or not and was about to jump out of bed to check.  “How do you mean?”  I asked, knowing what I heard but not sure where he was going.

“You see, a river has many twists, turns and uncertainties within it.  There are many amazingly beautiful things that flank the sides of rivers and you can always see something new, different and exciting.   The calm parts of the river are the peaceful quiet parts of life.  These are the seasons of life that are more simple and you can sit back and look around, enjoy the beauty on the journey down the river and pay attention to all the things happening around you.  You lesson your grip on the boat and find yourself trusting the river more and yourself within it.  The rapids of the river represent the tribulations, trials and struggles of life.  Life will sometimes have a way of surprising you with these trials and you can find yourself on top of them uncertain of how to navigate and which way to go.  You become more aware of the boat and what direction it’s heading, how it’s navigating the rapids and you tighten your grip on the security of the raft clinching it in fear as you realize you don’t have a lot of control.  The scenery around you becomes faded and your attention is completely focused on the adversary of the rapids.

With each set of rapids in life you may assess the damage and possibly might even endured some small rips and water logged parts but you’ve learned and grown wiser through it.  With the next approaching trial you reminiscence what you learned from the previous one and you position yourself differently, maybe you sit in a different part of the boat, you rely more heavily on the boat and appreciate the need of it and you are prepared.

Unfortunately love, without the rapids of life you would never grow, you would stay stagnant and non-reliant  on the boat and may even leave the safety of the boat to try and navigate through life without it’s protection.”  ‘Papa – what does the boat represent? thoroughly engaged in this amazing gift and river analogy he was blessing me with.  “The boat represents me….I AM your protection and safety, I will navigate you through the rivers of life if you trust me, cling to me and stay focused on my protection.  You see, every time you come to a calm season in life – you loosen your grip on me a bit and become a little more trusting of the river and not of me.  You can get distracted and caught off guard if you aren’t careful to pay attention.  Remember that life is about navigating through all seasons with ME, not alone and not without your life raft.   I desire for you to enjoy the ride and I call you to live an abundant life with various seasons that will challenge you and comfort you, but the end goal is to reach the end of the river looking back with a smile on your face and maybe a little water logged but a strong sense of confidence and a feeling of, “what a ride!”

I felt like I needed to share this with anyone who needed to hear it today, what a fun and beautiful example of God, His heart and His protection for us.  How we navigate through the river of life is entirely up to us – it can be painful and hard and we can resist those rapids with all of our might, or we can embrace them, cling to the father’s protection and grab those nuggets of wisdom and growth we need for the next season of life.

Blessings to all of you and Papa loves each of you more than you can ever imagine!!

Advertisements

Life Interrupted

“I don’t think the way you think.  The way you work isn’t the way I work.  God’s decree.  For as the sky soars high above the earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think.  Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, Doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, so will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed.  They’ll do the work I set them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them”  Isaiah 55:8-11 (MSG)

Since I started school back up in March, I’ve had to become incredibly strict with my schedule and routine.  Trying to fit everything I need and want to do with school in the mix was going to be challenging, but my type A personality and major organizational skills would make sure it would definitely happen.  Here is what my week looks like and has looked like for several months now

Monday – cleaning day!  Yes – I’m a crazy person and clean my entire, almost 3,000 square foot home in one day!  How long you say???  Oh just about 6ish hours and the family does help out, but I’d much rather have the rest of the week to take care of other stuff then spread out my cleaning through out.  I make sure though that I make time for a workout and cooking dinner in this day…oh yes – it fits!

Tuesday – Bible study day!  I decided about when I started school that I didn’t have enough chaos going on in my life so I thought I’d open up my house to a bunch of awesome women with amazing little peanuts who would destroy my newly cleaned home in 2.5 hours!  (Did I mention that re-cleaning happens Tuesday afternoon?)

Wednesday – Only day off!  But not really, because day off for me means I can do all those little things that I didn’t get to in the rest of the week.

Thursday-Saturday – SCHOOL from 9am-8pm (I’m a crazy person)

Sunday – Church in the morning and menu planning/ grocery shopping in the afternoon and yes I am that completely nutso woman in Costco you see on Sunday afternoons when you’re casually there with your family after Church to have a Polish dog and I look like a half crazed zombie that has a coffee in one hand and 5 samples in the other!

So you see every minute of my life right now is scheduled and timed perfectly to fit in every task and job I need to take care of.  I don’t really have time for interruptions and yet isn’t it so God to purposely orchestrate an interruption in our life to remind us of what’s really important!

Today is my Monday…my crazy cleaning day and out of my better judgment I made the decision to see a client this morning at 10:30 and I figured I would get to cleaning after my appointment with her.  I spent the good portion of the morning getting ready for her arrival, (I’m an Aesthetician and will work on people out of my home).  10 minutes prior to her arrival she cancelled…to say I was irate would be an understatement and I can’t say I’m proud of how I handled myself but there went 2 hours of my precious time that I would’ve been and should-be cleaning!  Michael encourages me to move on and just get going on my house responsibilities so I sit down to re-group and I very clearly hear the Lord say to me, “Offer a free facial to your neighbor, Barbara” (I changed the name for anonymity) Now – I was not feeling very excited about this suggestion because I was a little peeved at my neighbor for something and had honestly been harboring some not so great feelings.  “NO” I plainly told God…number 1. I am not happy with her right now, number 2. I am not doing anything for free and number 3. I should be cleaning!  “Invite her to come over for a free facial” God stated again.  Now listen, I have gone around the “I’m not listening to what you say” mountain with God several times and I know where it leads and so I obeyed.  I texted her thinking she’d say no and I could get off the hook and get on with my day but she instantly texted back that she could use it and has had some tragedy in her family and is feeling worn down.  I told her to head over!

When she walked in the door I immediately swept her off into my room, told her to get comfortable and I would be in to give the treatment.  I honestly thought that she needed some relaxation and so my plan was to simply give her a calming, quiet, no talking facial/massage and then whisk her away so I could finally clean my dang house!  I really didn’t feel it was my place to pry into what was going on in her personal life.  I walk back into the room and she looks at me and says, “I think we just lost power”.  And in fact, our entire neighborhood lost power which meant I couldn’t do the treatment…ok God, I’m at a loss now – what in the world are you doing???

She tells me it’s ok and she slips out of the bed and heads to the front door in which I proceed to tell her let’s do it later when power comes back on and I’m so sorry.  I hesitated but I looked at her and just said that I was sorry things weren’t well and is everything ok?  She looked up at me, her eyes completely filled up with tears and she said, no, no they’re not.  She then started sobbing and sharing that they had just gone through not 1 but 2 deaths in their family within the last month and yesterday was one of them and they came home last night from watching him pass.  At this point I’m crying and hugging her and apologizing and in that very moment I realize it….I realize why my appointment was cancelled and why Barbara was laid on my heart and why I was asked to give her a free facial and why we couldn’t do the facial…it was for this moment!  It was so I could cry with her, hug her, love on her and listen to her.  We cried together for about 5 minutes, she shared details and though I didn’t need to hear them, I think she needed to process….I listened.  We grabbed tissues and I asked her if I could pray for her.  She jumped on the opportunity, dropped her phone and grabbed my hands and then pulled me in, wrapped her arms around my body, buried her head into my chest and started sobbing.  This…this is life interrupted!  This is what it looks like when God has another agenda that is far greater, far better and far more beautiful than my mundane checklist of my day.  I prayed, I prayed hard and God used me, me of all people to pray over this beautiful person that needed God and me in that moment of her life.  I learned an important lesson today,  I need to always be available for interruptions in my day and always be ready for God to ask me to do something even if it doesn’t fit into my plans and my agenda.  Thank God I listened and I obeyed, I was richly blessed and rewarded and honored to be a part of something so much greater than myself.

Heavenly Father, thank you for today, thank you for the opportunity to be available to the hurt, the grieving and that you used a humble servant like myself to join you in your plan and agenda today.  I ask that you would always make me available and open to whatever is your will and your plans are that impact the eternal and serve a much greater purpose than my own.  In your precious sons name, Jesus..Amen!

Love to all of you,

April

To move or not to move, (realities of moving)

To move or not to move, (realities of moving)

You know how Facebook pops up those “memories” that you can decide to share or not share publicly every once in a while.  I’m always shocked when it says, “Where were you 3 years ago, 8 years ago, 2 years ago..etc.  How is it that your experience and reality can seem thousands of miles a part in how they “feel” to you???  3 years ago today I was living in Kirkland, Washington and we were packing our bags for Austin, Texas.  Today, I sit in my Boise, Idaho home and 3 years ago seems like 20 years ago to me!!  Seriously, I lived a lifetime in 3 years and there are lessons I’m continuing to learn throughout this adventure we’ve been on.

I’ve had to come to grips with a very real lesson that I wished I would’ve learned so many years ago and that is, “home” is NOT  a place…it’s just not!  Oh we sit on our sides of the fences and stare at our neighbors with longing eyes and wishful thinking just knowing that “if we only” had that or “that place looks way better” or “if I lived in a sunnier climate, cheaper economy, lower cost of living, better school district”… blah, blah, blah!!  I mean I did this and I did it again in Texas.  Here’s how mine looked, tell me if you relate to this at all.

For 14 years I lived in one of the wettest, dreariest places in our country, Seattle Wa.  It has the highest rate of suicide in our country and MS which they are now linking to lack of Vitamin D, they see an average of 68 days of sun a year..a YEAR y’all!!!  Now listen, I have a deficiency!  I was raised in southern California so my perspective to weather was jaded upon the sheer fact alone that, well, I was ALWAYS in perfect weather.  I’ll never forget my first trip to Seattle from San Diego and I thought I was walking onto a movie of the “Walking Dead” (pre-series), but seriously, everyone was wearing black or grey and they all looked pale, ghostly and like death was just hanging over them.  Here comes overly cheery, bouncy, slightly tanned with a chipper disposition and probably totally obnoxious to those Seattleites self and was slapped in the face with sadness.  Despite seeing this and knowing this, I still made the decision to move, away from family, away from sunshine…..for a guy!  Girls, take note, please don’t ever make life decisions for a guy.  I love my husband and I love my family – we are committed to one another, but our lives have been hard..very hard and I think part of the reason was my initial decision to move and leave my family.

Raising 4 kids without family around on one income in a wet, dreary climate really took its toll on this bubbly girl and I very quickly started hating it…I mean debilitating depression and anger over where I lived and desperately wanting to be back near family and sunshine.  I just had to get outta there and I knew if we could that life would be better, I would be happier, my marriage would be better and our quality of life would greatly improve!  This mentality stayed with me all the way until the moment in our lives when we actually had the opportunity to move out-of-state back in 2013.  My dream finally became my reality and though California wasn’t an option for us, I didn’t care!  I had to get out of Seattle and our next best option was Austin, Texas.  Finally, I thought…finally I’ll be happy, settled, content, joyful again and everything will be so much better.  Oh man…even writing that sentence has me laughing to myself and I just want to go slap that girl silly!

About 3 months living in Texas, I was very quickly reminded of everything I left behind.  In those 14 years living in Seattle I created a family, a community and I had my “people who knew me intimately in a way that even my blood family didn’t and it hurt…it hurt bad!  Not only that but all the sudden you realize the beautiful things that you took for granted on a daily basis, mountains, seasons, lakes, beaches, variety of trees…BEAUTY!!!  Seattle has been likened to a beautiful model whom is always sick and I couldn’t agree more, but my gosh when she’s not sick….when she’s not sick she’s the most majestic creation on this side of eternity and it took me moving to Texas to realize it.  I mourned, cried and became depressed and discontent in Texas.  Life was hard, we were starting over with everything, work, community, home, money – everything from ground up and it was very emotionally and  mentally challenging.  I just wanted to get back to Seattle – I mean I figured it out and I turned from my blind “grass is always greener” ways and just had to get back home to where I belonged.  I’d finally be happy again if I could jut get back to Seattle, (insert eye roll).

My hubby refused to move us back to Seattle due to economic changes, traffic and of course, WEATHER, which he so kindly reminded me of on a daily basis while we were in Texas, “don’t you remember how depressed you were??, you wanted out of there so badly”!  Yea, yea – that was then this was now, things have changed, I know more now – I’ve grown I see more clearly now!  We compromised on Boise, Idaho, great economy, not too big of a town, 4 seasons, low-cost of living, great schools, mountains, lakes, rivers, etc. And here we are…almost a year here and life is perfect, nothing traumatic has happened, we became instant millionaires, my children have excelled in their perfect schools, we’ve settled into a rich community with at least 20 friends that are now like family and I’m finally happy and content in life!  NOT……

Texas may have been hard but quickly after moving to Boise I realized how blessed we were by the community and friendship we had made in just a short 2 year period.  God provided such a rich community to us that the pain of leaving those people almost felt equally as hard as the family we left in Seattle.  All the sudden the realities of Texas became clear and I then mourned and continue to mourn the loss of that place and those friendships.

Starting over is NEVER easy no matter what and almost a year here and we are still struggling in all areas of life.  Hubby still is trying to get business going and we’ve been financially struggling since we moved, still trying to settle into the right community and friendships for our whole family and don’t feel truly connected yet.  Kids have had their struggles in school and we experienced probably the worst winter on record here in Boise, Idaho.  To say that life got “better” since we moved from Texas or even originally from Seattle, would be a statement that wouldn’t work and though I can’t speak for other families that move, I do feel that I’ve learned some hard and important lessons;

1.) Moving is ALWAYS hard, no matter what, where or how.  You are starting over in every area of your life and that is hard, adjusting and painful.  It will take a toll on your family, marriage and finances

2.) If you are constantly looking through lenses that life will be easier, better, more enjoyable in another “place” then the problem is with you not where you live.  My discontented feelings in life has been 10% due to location and 90% due to my attitude and how I looked, (look) at life.  I took for granted all the beautiful things I had in my life in each of the locations I lived in, I looked back at what I had and then longed for that instead of being present in the journey and blessings that were right in front of me

3.) There is no perfect place!  Oh sure you can google, “Best places to live” and there are all sorts of articles on your ideal location but in my opinion every place has it’s good and bad and you have to settle to some degree on something.

4.) People are more important than a place and I learned this one too late after leaving Texas.  I really don’t like Texas and I really didn’t like the town I lived in, but I could have made it work and probably would’ve been happy and content there because of the relationships I had and the community that surrounded me.  At the end of the day you can have a beautiful, fun, adventurous city/town or whatever but if you have no one to share it with and enjoy it with then what’s the point.

5.) My longing goes deeper and I will never be fully happy and content until I am finally in my eternal home with my papa!  It’s hard not to accept that earth is our home and some of you may disagree with me, some of you are fighting for that perfect home here and maybe have even found something really close to it….but there is a longing in all of us, a groaning that we cannot make go away no matter how hard we try, no matter how many times I move it sits with me always.  Accepting this reality has made it possible for me to finally be content in any circumstance.

Boise is ok, it has it’s faults and there’s some things that are a little shocking to me to be honest but I am choosing to stay, choosing to make this place my temporary home and look for the best in it.  I’m trying really hard to not look back and miss what I left behind but strain to look forward and be hopeful for the future as I press on.  I am so grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and how I’ve grown in character from my moving adventures, I’ve sure made some incredible relationships and met some amazing people and for that I am eternally grateful!  Remember, it’s 10% circumstances and 90% attitude so make a decision today to be happy, grateful and live life to the fullest in this moment!

Unidentified Me

For the last 15 years I’ve been a full-time stay at home mom with a minimum of 2-3 kids at any given time crawling all over me all day long, (anyone out there relate?)  My days were spent juggling naps with feedings with pickups and activities to keep said kids happy and distracted.  I don’t ever remember there being a time in my day when I sat and thought a lot about who I was, what I wanted to do and what things made me happy….I really didn’t have a lot of time to think outside of anything that didn’t relate to my children, the house, cooking and grocery shopping.  I didn’t realize I was slipping away, I mean I never contemplated the fact that I was losing myself because I was too distracted by these tiny humans that depended on me for everything.  When one got old enough to go into school, I’d pop another one out and the vicious cycle continued….that is until this last year.

 

This last year my baby started Kindergarten and it rocked my identity to the core!  My full, busy days distracted with this last little peanut that relied so heavily on me for everything, (she’s a mama’s girl to the tee).  She was my mini me for the last 6 years,  never put her in preschool even cause she didn’t want to leave my side.   I honestly didn’t realize how much my days were filled and busy with her.  I mean, I knew she was by my side every second but I kinda thought I was taking care of my things while she was around….nope!  Sure I was getting the cleaning, cooking and grocery shopping done but something about having that nugget with me that served as a giant distraction to the blank slate of my true identity and who April really was.

The first few weeks I felt like a drug addict going through withdraws.  Had to keep moving, keep distracted, don’t sit too long, never be alone!  And then when I was alone I’d be crying uncontrollably feeling like a giant chunk of myself had been ripped away from me..well it had I guess!  I don’t like facing myself, I like being busy with other things to keep  me from looking at the gaping hole of myself that was filled with labels like, “Mom” and “Wife”.  Don’t get me wrong,  I don’t think anything is wrong with identifying as mom and wife and for the most part those of us that have chosen this life would say that this was our identity and we’d be proud of it!  But there was something empty and wrong with how I felt – it was as if I didn’t know who I was without them anymore and I wasn’t even sure if I liked who I was.  I found myself obsessing and pouring my time and energy into my physical self and not in a healthy way.  I was exercising like a crazy person, putting myself on strict diets and analyzing the new wrinkles that just popped up on my face all the sudden, “how did I not notice these before??”  My new-found identity and days were spent totally on my looks and trying desperately to reach some unrealistic goal.

When I was young, prepubescent and even earlier I was given labels like, “California’s #1 Brat” and my basic little personality and character was being ridiculed relentlessly.  If I wasn’t being told how annoying I was then I was simply just left out and ignored.  I’m not talking about kids my age either, there were adults in my family that constantly reminded me how obnoxious I was.  I always felt like I didn’t quite add up to the other girls that were my age physically.  I was a bit awkward looking and a little more plump then the other girls…oh and my mom permed my hair so that helped everything.  All this compounded with being raised a Jehovah’s Witness where you are really excluded and isolated from a lot of stuff, I found myself struggling with acceptance and confidence.  My father was absent and I never was given the affirmations that every little girl needs to hear from their daddy, “you’re beautiful and you’re enough!”

At about 15 I started coming into my looks more and I was receiving comments like, “wow April you’re really turning into a beautiful young woman” and I started getting attention that I had never gotten before, not just from boys but also from girls.  The braces came off, I stopped letting my mom perm me and I leaned out a bit…I was noticed!  I didn’t realize it at the time but it was at this point in my life where I think I subconsciously placed my identity and self-worth in how I looked.  I mean, finally I was cool, noticed, accepted and desired and prior to me becoming pretty my basic personality and self were not good enough so why wouldn’t I have?

At 23 I met my now husband, Michael and at 24 I had my first child.  From 24 until now I have been caught up in the distractions of motherhood and all that being a full-time mama entails.  It doesn’t surprise me that after my youngest went to school I dove right back into how I identified with myself prior to being a mom and wife.  After all, my worth and value were that before so why wouldn’t be that still.  Well, here’s the problem…well there’s lots of problems – I’m a wreck so let’s just state that but here’s one of the problems with that thinking….I’m getting old!  I don’t look like I did at 19 or even 24 and there is no way I can sustain that as much as society has created many ways for us to try.  But even if I could – do I want my identity to be based around my physical self?  I mean it’s pretty superficial and yes it feels good to be noticed, to be told you’re pretty but when I die and I’m pretty sure I will, do I want to be remembered as a “pretty face”.  I don’t think so, there’s got to be more!

I don’t have it all figured out and I definitely have NOT arrived yet guys.  I’m not sure if there are any women out there that resonate with me at all and can relate to my struggle with identity.  It’s a daily battle but it’s a battle I’m choosing to fight for and choosing to believe what the bible tells me about my identity.  There are days that are harder than others and I find myself back into old habits or old mindsets but then I get this soft, loving nudge that whispers truth into my ear.  Here are few scriptures  that remind me of who I really am and I hope they encourage you the way they encourage me!

John 1:12 – Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (I’m God’s kid)

Romans 3:24 – “But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (I’m justified and redeemed)

Romans 6:6 – “We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (My old self was crucified)

Galatians 5:1 – “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery” (I am FREE)

Ephesians 1:4 – “For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love”(I am chosen, holy and blameless)

This is just a taste, a few scriptures that remind me of who my true self is, for a more thorough list go to this awesome website,

https://bible.org/article/who-does-god-say-i-am

Love you all and am always praying for each of you!

 

“Jane”

I have felt the Lord nudging me lately to post something I wrote about over a year ago and share it with whomever needs to hear this.  Michael and I had the privilege of visiting an amazing ministry outreach in Kenya, Africa back in 2015 called, “Open Arms International”.  The work they are doing is incredible and I’m so grateful for the time and experience we had with them.  I was asked to write something about my experience towards the end of my visit and I was absolutely expecting it to be an encounter or moment with a child from the Orphanage.  God rocked my world and popped my oh so western world perspective in a very unique and amazing way.  Here is my story;
Perspective. That’s a word I’ve used often, and it’s a word I’ll use at home every time I open my mouth to complain about anything.

As I prepare to leave Open Arms Village, there are many moments I could write about.  I look back on these last 10 days and realize how greatly this visit has impacted me. From the Kambi Teso Slum, to the Juvenile prison, to the Tumaini (Hope) Rehabilitation Center (for children living on the street), to the great assistance I saw OAI providing, I can say I will never be the same.  I would like to share my brief encounter with a beautiful woman and mother named Jane, but first, allow me to share my life in the States. Maybe you’ll find pieces of familiarity woven into my story and we can sit and share a good dose of perspective together.

 

I have been a stay-at-home mother to my four beautiful children for the last 14 years, and  I  thought I had it rough. Up at 6 a.m. to ensure my kids got to school each day, I venture into the kitchen, frustrated with all the details needing to be done before the 7:45 a.m. departure for school. I spend the morning cooking, cleaning, fixing hair, changing outfits, preparing lunches and downing as much coffee as my body can handle before we rush out the door. Tough… right?

 

After dropping my family off, I head to the gym for at least an hour;  Then I’m off to the grocery store where I am presented with bountiful options.  All I have to do is pick which items I would like to fill my refrigerator and pantry so my family doesn’t starve.  StarvingThat’s a word that will not be used lightly in my home again.  Well, I could bore you with the rest of my day, but I’m disgusted with myself. So, allow me to introduce you to Jane – she’s the one this story is really about.

 

In Kenya, I had the privilege of delivering gifts to neighbors of the Open Arms Village. Most Kenyan homes are made from clay and sticks with a sort of thatch roof.  Typically, they don’t have electricity or running water, so they must make every meal from scratch.  Some people have access to a hand dug well, but many must find water to carry home and boil for safety.  Most of the homes have dirt floors and very little furniture.

 

After a tedious journey (driving down long dirt roads, walking across fields, and climbing over and under barbed-wire fences), I see a tall, thin woman in the distance with a child by her side. As we get closer, I can see the poverty in which she lives.  Both she and her 4-year-old daughter are barefoot, working in the field together tending the crops.  They wear torn, dirty clothes and their feet are swollen from the sun and exposure.

 

We are out of breath, but I see just how beautiful she is as we approach! We greet her with a kiss and hug and she never stops smiling. She stops what she is doing in the field and asks us to walk to her home with her. As we walk, I inquire a bit more about who she is. She is a mother of 8 children, one of whom is disabled. Her husband is usually absent and spends his money on alcohol or prostitutes, leaving Jane to care for her family.  As she is walking and sharing with me, she never once loses her contagious smile.

 

We enter her home after passing her disabled son who sits in the dirt in front of her home, incapable of moving himself except by dragging his body with his hands.  She smiles and welcomes us into her home, honored to share it with us. I walked in to what can best be described as a cardboard box with clothes strewn all over the dirty floor and no furniture to sit on. All this woman had was walls and a dirt floor. To her, it didn’t matter what she had or didn’t have – what made her home wonderful were the people and love in it.

 

I pause and breathe in her life. I take in her world and begin to process, painfully living out her day so I can fully appreciate what I have. We start to leave her home and she directs us to an easier way back to our car. I ask Jane if this is her field. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘I have done this.’ On her own, with a 4-year-old at her side and a boy with disabilities at home, Jane tended an entire field of food for her family so they could eat.

 

Oh… Sweet, sweet perspective, there you are!  You meet me in the middle of Jane’s field and I am humbled.

 

I look at Jane and move toward her. “You are amazing!” I say to her, and then she asks me the question I was dreading.

 

“Do you have a field like this at your home?”

 

I look back at my friends, hoping  they would save me, defend me but they just stand there while I try to explain grocery stores. The more I explain the more embarrassing it is, and I just don’t want to talk anymore.  I give her a hug, thank her, and once again remind her how amazing she is. Then we leave.  Jane goes back to her life tending the fields and raising her children.

 

I wonder what Jane thought after we left. She was honored that we came into her home, shared briefly in her life, and loved her.  We filled Jane’s cup for a while. But her beautiful smile, incredible story and simple life have done more than just fill my cup; they’ve caused me to decide to change my cup completely!

 

I think  Jane’s story was my ‘aha’ moment because it challenged my theories, opinions, and feelings on so many levels.  For Jane, life is survival in the most extreme way.  At the end of her day, if she has provided food and shelter for her family, then she has done her job well; anything above that is a huge blessing to her.  She doesn’t have time to think about herself, her desires or dreams, and she has found simple, unadulterated joy in serving the needs of her family and community.

 

The Bible says there is more joy in giving than in receiving.  I don’t desire to live on the level of poverty Jane does, but I do desire to have her outlook and attitude in life.  Jane will be my ‘go-to” person when I’m in any kind of difficult moment back in the States and feel the need to complain, whine or argue about my circumstances… Jane is my perspective!

Home

Home

 

Hi from Boise, Idaho!  My family and I have officially relocated ourselves from Dripping Springs, Texas!  Ironically, 2 years ago almost to the day I was staring into my oven in Kirkland, Washington getting ready to relocate to Texas.  Oh the journey I’ve been on these last 2 years and the amazing lessons I’ve learned.

It was June of 2014, I had my 2 best friends and they’re massive clan of children helping me pack up the rest of my stuff to get me out of Washington and on our way to Texas.

20140528_165739 Michael and I were good, we had been good – I’d wanted out of Seattle for so long now that I honestly couldn’t get out of there fast enough and up until this day I was beyond ready, emotionally and physically.  I was antsy for a long time in Seattle, complained about all the things I wished Seattle was but never lived up to for me.  Why couldn’t it have the sun of southern California but the beauty of the PNW??  Why did it have to be so expensive and why in the world were we living in a place on one income that cost so much?  Oh and why didn’t we make more money??  These were just a few of the things that I grumbled about and I knew that moving out of this place was going to fix everything and finally life would be greater and greener!

There I was in my kitchen cleaning the inside of my stove while I had my one friend packing my bathroom, (I still can’t find my husband’s razor), and my other friend packing my living room and it hit me…it hit me like a ton of bricks and for the first time I went into full panic mode and started sobbing hysterically.  The snotty crying that distorts your face in ways your never could if you weren’t crying.  What in the world was I doing??  This was my family, these women, these kids, this place – how do I leave it?  I felt a total lack of peace about all of it and I wanted to change my mind, I wanted to push the stop button and make it all go back to the way it was 2 months prior.  God gives his children a long leash and your playground is wide and vast with lots and lots of options!  This is a great, beautiful and wonderful things to have a father like this!  However,in that moment I wanted him to force it to all stop and control the situation…but He didn’t and He wouldn’t.   Instead, like the amazing, gracious, kind, comforting God that He is, He simply loved on me in a unique and special way in that very moment with my head in the stove.  I was listening to secular music on the radio and on came a song that I honestly can’t believe I could hear the words to over my own personal sobbing.  It was called, “Home” by; Phillip Phillips and here are the words;

Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
‘Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
‘Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

I pulled my head out of the stove and pressed on to what I believed was going to be our forever home.  At the time, I had believed that God was telling me Texas was going to be my new home and to settle the heck down, it’ll all be fine and He’s got it!  He did have it, but what He revealed to me over the course of the next 2 years changed my opinion on what exactly He was saying to me through the words of this song.

20140602_142641

We finished up packing our 18ft. trailer, loaded our 4 kids and left Seattle with no job or home waiting for us in Texas, we were seriously living on faith and a prayer for next steps.  Lesson #1 – Sometimes God won’t reveal next steps until we make that first step of faith and trust in Him.  It doesn’t mean that we can be stupid and make unwise decisions, but if we have a spreadsheet of our lives planned out and have every detail marked out then where does God come in?  He wants his children to let go of some of the control and allow Him to reveal His glory in our lives…He loves showing off and when we create opportunities for Him to do that, He will never let us down. Heb 11:1 – “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see“.

20140609_165220

We arrived to Texas in June of 2014 and proceeded to live in our beautiful, pimped out 2002 26ft. trailer for 100 days!  Let me just break that down a little more for you; 4 kids =  2 on the couch that converts to a maybe full size bed, 1 on the dining table that converts to what I think was a twin but was chopped short a couple of inches, 1 on the floor between sofa and dining table in the kitchen.  When you have to step on your children to get coffee in the morning and it doesn’t stop you to retrieve said coffee, that’s when you know you have a possible coffee addiction.

20140605_094144

We also felt that we needed more fun in our trailer and decided that in the middle of  a Texas summer, we should buy a puppy, because surely potty training a new puppy in a 26ft. trailer would be exactly the kind of fun we were looking for.  It was a ride for sure and I couldn’t get out of that trailer fast enough when we finally found a home, but there was some incredible lessons and growth for me during that time.  Lesson #2 – God will allow us to sit in uncomfortable situations for a period of time to grow our characters and strengthen our endurance.  Romans 5:3,4a – “We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.”

20140627_111154

Michael and I had this dream of buying a little bit of property, getting some animals, growing a garden and learning to live a simpler life with less chaos from the city.  We thought for sure that life could be so much better for us, easier and way more fun!  We purchased a manufactured home on 2.2 acres in Dripping Springs Texas which sat about 12 miles from the town and over 30 to Austin.  A double wide wasn’t our first choice, but after 100 days of searching and realizing we were going to have to sacrifice the home or the acreage, we caved on the home.

Our initial plan was to tear up the carpet, replace carpet and then move in.  However, when you’re married to a custom home builder and he asks you if you would like to move any walls or cabinetry in the Kitchen before replacing floors, you sometimes say things that you might end up regretting.  We went from tearing up carpet to a full fledged gut and remodel job.20140825_19385620140909_14163720140920_201553

So, as you can see by the above pictures, we really put ourselves in a mess, a hot mess actually!  Here we were in a new city, a new state and living as a family of 6 in a construction zone.  I went from sidewalks and city streets to gravel roads and cows as my rush hour traffic.

The adjustment of moving to a new state, living out of a trailer with 4 kids and a new puppy was monumental, to say the least.  We, however, felt that gutting our new home and living in a construction zone for roughly 7 months would just be a nice way to add to our already overwhelming experience.  During this period of time, I was also getting prepared to put my youngest into full-time school for the first time.  I have always had children and babies at home with me for the past 14 years and honestly can’t remember life before that.  I thought I was excited and ready, “time to myself, wahoo”!   Boy was I wrong.

I remember the day like it was yesterday, I think I was in the first week of school starting.  There I was in my construction zone kitchen, hurdled in a ball on the floor sobbing hysterically.  Whelp, this felt familiar – here I was broken down and what was supposed to be my “greener grass”, felt like sage brush and tumbleweeds and it hurt.  Discontentment started settling into my body and soul again and I found myself desperate to control my situation and GET OUT!!  I wanted out bad, like really bad.  I wanted back to my normal, rain filled, cement laden, tree hugging life in Seattle and with my familiar surroundings.  I was stuck though, really stuck and I knew deep in my soul that there was nothing I could do about it at that moment, but I could control other things and so I did….I immediately went down to the elementary and middle school and yanked my kids out and proceeded to home-school them part time.

 Lesson #3 – Never make extreme decisions in a time of adjustment and chaos, they will most likely always be bad ones.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I have thought in the past of home-schooling my kids and completely admire my friends who do it.  I just don’t think that in a season of newness, adjustment and remodeling our home was it wise to bring all of my children home and try to do something like this.  I had thought, emotionally, I needed them with me to deal with the discontentment  I was feeling in life.  Surely, their presence would fill the void and emptiness I was experiencing.  I quickly learned that there was only one place I could go to get the emptiness filled and help I needed.  Psalm 46:1,2 – “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea”.

God used my brokenness to draw me deeper and further into a personal relationship with Him.  I clung to Him daily as my only real source of strength to get through this time.  I hated where I lived, I hated my home, I hated home-schooling and would daily grumble and complain to Him about it and what He was going to do to change it.   The beautiful thing about our Papa in Heaven is He gave me the complete freedom and grace to complain about my circumstance.  Never once did He shame or condemn me for what I was feeling, He simply comforted me and encouraged me.

Then there was a day, September 24th 2014.  I was struggling to get through another day of home-schooling and the daily routine that I was still having a hard time adjusting to.  It was fall and by golly despite it being 95 degrees outside, I was going to cook something fallish for my family!  I bought a butternut squash and was prepping it to put in the oven.  Anyone who has ever tried to cut a butternut squash can understand the pain of this experience for me, plus I was not in the mood to fight with a squash!  I grabbed it like a football and with the other hand took my machete, (ok it was a knife), and hacked it as hard as I could.  Not only did I not cut the squash, but somehow I managed to cut my finger.20140924_173415

Remember how I shared that I lived 30 minutes from Austin out in the hill country, ya well I was very quickly reminded of that in my panicked state of mind trying to figure out how to stop the bleeding.  Meanwhile, my 3 kids are sitting at the table waiting for their next assignments, screaming that mom just cut off her finger!  I called 911, (maybe an ambulance would be easier than trying to find a local urgent care).  Apparently my phone called the state of Washington 911 and they told me they don’t drive to Texas so I had to figure something else out.  I looked at my kids and made a decision, “you guys stay here, I’m going to wrap my finger and run into a town and look for a place to get stitched”.

I jumped in my SUV and proceeded down my windy, 3 mile stretch of road just to get onto the main hwy that’s going to take me 20 minutes from there to get anywhere, “Please God don’t let me pass out while driving”!  I began sobbing – this was normal now, but this was the one like the head in the stove experience.  Hysterically driving down my Texas road, I turned on the radio and was immediately met with my song, “Home” by Phillip Phillips.  Once again I was comforted in such a unique and sweet way – my finger still hurt and I was still crying, but it was the first time I started looking at everything and this song differently.  It took on a new meaning, or at least the beginning of a new meaning and I started to view what God was saying to me through this song as not an actual physical place.  Eph 3:17 – “That Christ may make His HOME in your hearts through faith, that you, being rooted and grounded in love.”

My finger was stitched, my kids were OK and I was actually able to make it home in time to make my butternut squash for dinner.  Lesson #4 – When you feel in life that you are run down, broken and totally incapable of going on, God is empowered and steps in to pull you through;  2 Cor. 12:9-10 – “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Through my trials and hardships, there were invaluable lessons to be learned and God so sweetly and gentled taught them to me.  He showed me how to truly lean only on Him for comfort and peace and was revealing to me that He is my home and shelter.  There was however a lesson that had yet to be learned and that was the lesson of contentment.  I had friends who had pointed it out and I saw it in myself but wasn’t sure how I was going to weed this ever present sin in my heart?

In April of 2015 Michael and I were invited to go to an orphanage in Kenya, Africa.   A fully paid trip to see if we were the right fit to build a medical center there in the village.  Michael and I spent 12 days with the beautiful people of Eldoret.  Here are a very few of the many pictures I took.

I thought this trip was meant for business, opportunity, a way for the Larson’s to help out an amazing ministry.  Nope – God had other plans!  He rocked me to my very core of discontentment and touched it in a way that only going to a 3rd world country really can.  I saw things that I couldn’t process, poverty on a level that was inhumane.  I kept trying to understand it all…everything was difficult for these people!  Water, food, medicine and even love was something that was a hardship.  Yet – here was the craziest part of it all – they were the happiest people I had ever met.  They had nothing and yet they were so filled with joy – how???   They were experiencing the true “Joy of the Lord” and were filled with so much love in their hearts that they were overflowing.  They had nothing to distract them because they had so little and were able to focus their time and energy on the only lasting thing that really matters – Jesus!

I went home a different person, praise God and the words of Paul echoed in my heart and still remain true for me today; “for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Phill – 4:11-13.  Lesson #5 – Contentment and joy in life are not by products of our circumstances but decisions and choices of our hearts.  I wake up every day with a thankfulness, not because of what I have but because of who He is and the abundant amount of grace He daily bestows on me.

Once I surrendered myself to God’s plan, learned to be content in any circumstance and began wrapping my arms around Texas and our little home out in the hill country is when God released us from there.  I had to go around a few mountains before I was able to move on to the next lesson that I’m sure I have waiting for me here in Boise, but until I learned the lesson of contentment in a a place I didn’t like, then I couldn’t go.  Lesson #6 – God will leave us sometimes in places of hardship, trial and discomfort until we fully surrender all control to Him and find peace under His wing.

In the end, it was actually Michael who made the final call to move us back to the PNW.  I was actually kinda cool with staying and made the decision in my heart that it would be great.  When we decided as a family to move back, I thought a lot about the Phillip Phillips song and the meaning for me behind it.  At the end of the day it didn’t matter if I lived in Texas, Seattle, Boise, California or even Kenya for Pete’s Sake!  My “Home” was in the arms of my savior and King and as long as I remained in my true home – I could go where ever I wanted – now THAT is true freedom!!

The Sting of Slavery

Religion has sure come in and messed a lot of us up!  And, worse off, they’ve done it in the name of God, creating an opinion of Him that is formed from man and our screwed up thoughts and not who He really is and what He really stands for.

I was born and raised into the Jehovah’s Witness organization.  A lot of you many know them as the “door knockers” or the “watchtower and awake” group, I simply knew it as my life and my family.  I knew I was different at a very young age and I knew that I couldn’t do a lot of the things that almost all of the other kids were doing, but it was what I knew so I learned how to deal with the teasing, name calling and bullying throughout my school years.  I couldn’t celebrate any birthdays at school, couldn’t stand up for the pledge of allegiance, couldn’t participate in holiday functions and had very limited association with anyone that wasn’t a JW like myself.  Don’t feel too sorry for me though, I felt at the time that I was surrounded by people who for the most part loved me, I had a doting mom and all of the other people that were JW’s, (which wasn’t a big number so I had a lot of friends).

Once I got baptized into the religion is when things got way more serious for me.  It was just my mom and I at the time, my father had left us when I was young and then my sister went and moved in with him when I was around 11, so the pressure to perform and perform well was incredibly intense. JW’s function like a well oiled machine and seem to do a really great job at organizing, controlling and manipulating its members.  

Once you are baptized, you are under the rigid rules and religious scrutiny  of the elders within the particular church you attend.  They keep a very, VERY strict eye on you and this unspoken “watchman” mentality is felt within the entire organization – it’s like everyone is under some sort of spell that controls even basic common sense.  Nothing is missed, nothing can be hidden and if anything goes wrong, you will be disciplined…ahhh, but there’s the key IF you’re caught, IF you’re discovered and only IF you confess.  It’s a flawed system and here’s why;  I was not doing anything different than any of my friends were doing, but I carried a lot of weight of conviction and guilt on my shoulders.  I wanted to always impress my mom and never let down this Church that had established such a crazy standard over me that I felt like I could never live up to it.  My mentality was, if I confess everything then there won’t be any hidden sins or mistakes.  All of my peers were doing similar things, just not getting caught and therefore, not getting in trouble.   I quickly realized that the more they know about you, the more trouble you are in and by the time I was 19 I had gotten excommunicated from the Church.

Excommunicate – ” to cut off from communion with a church or exclude from sacraments of a church by ecclesiastical sentence”. – dictionary.com 

I lost everything and everyone from my life in a single instant that my name was announced on that pulpit and what felt like a tearing of my very heart from my body, I was left abandoned, rejected, alone and confused.  That’s what religion does!!  Religion stands in the name of God and says, “You couldn’t live up to our demands, you didn’t make the mark, you are flawed, sinful and disappointing to us”. This religion WAS my God, I worshiped everything about it, the rituals, practices, people and guidelines that kept me safe and protected from anything out in the world that could harm me.  What I didn’t realize is,  I was enslaved to a system that I failed and it then turned it’s back on me and I blamed God for it!

I hated God and anything to do with religion after that.  I had spent my entire life trying to live up to a standard and expectation that was set before me constantly.  I figured out how to  “pose” and “fake” my way through almost any situation, how to put on a face or a mask to appease whomever it was that I was with in that moment.  I was a chameleon to my environment and mastered the art of deception but not really knowing exactly what my true identity was.  To be separate from this religion was in a way to begin figuring out who I was behind the mask, to stop living for a checklist of rules I had to abide by and start running the course of my own life!  I had NO idea how to do that and honestly it scared me to death.

  Some experts have estimated the rate of suicides associated with the Jehovah’s Witnesses Society to be five to ten times the rate of the general population. ~ Christian Peper, “Cult Awareness”

I couldn’t describe the loneliness, emptiness and anguish I felt over the course of the next year and it honestly doesn’t surprise me to learn the above statistic about suicides within the religion.  When you are a slave to a system and know nothing or nobody else outside that system and then get removed from it with nowhere to go is incredibly frightening.  You know and understand the expectations within the system, you know how to operate and function within the walls of its doors and how to maintain your “pose”.  Outside the walls is too big, too massive and scary and sadly some people feel so overwhelmed by it that they take their own lives.  I came very close to attempting to take mine but managed to get the help I needed and made some changes in my life that moved me into good places.

I met Jesus for the first time in an apartment bedroom at 3am in the morning after I had been released from the hospital.  I had been out with my friends for the evening, drinking and partying.  I did one too many lines of cocaine, passed out and was rushed to the hospital where they brought my vitals to normal, released me and told me to get help.  The cab ride home was one of the longest I’ve ever experienced, I questioned everything about myself, my life, what I had become…..what mask was I wearing now??  Who was I?  Is this really the person I had become?  I hadn’t prayed to God since the night I got excommunicated and let me just say that any prayers I had prayed while I was a JW were very impersonal and carried a lot of fear in them.

I went into my room, closed the door and started sobbing, I didn’t care and I didn’t even know what or who I was screaming to but I started screaming at God.  I poured my heart out, got real, removed the mask and drew close in to the possibility that maybe God didn’t hate me and was out there listening to me.  I cursed at him, every obscenity you could imagine and questioned my life to Him!  Why was I placed on this planet if it was only to be rejected alone and unloved?  “ I have not rejected you, I love you, I have called you mine and I have plans and a purpose for you!”  It was as if the voice was in the room with me and it sent chills up my spine.  I begged for more, asking Him over and over again to tell me that I was accepted, forgiven and loved and He was so faithful to do that!  He laid there holding me for the rest of the night, comforting me, encouraging me and loving me.  That night was the beginning of my freedom and the journey of having a life of intimacy with my creator and no longer be a slave to a system or a religion.

My dear friends, I cannot wait to share more of my heart with you and all that God has shown me over the years of what a relationship with Him looks like and what it doesn’t look like.  He continues to remind me on a daily basis that I am no longer a slave to a system of rules and regulations and that all He desires from any of us is a relationship with Him that is true and authentic.  He wants your heart sweet friends, not your works!

Much love and always in Him