Thursday, February 11, 2016

Collecting Memories

I recently saw a saying on my intern's desk that made me smile.  As I reflected on the simple words, it struck a chord in my heart. I think this is something I've been striving for - I just hadn't formulated the complete thought in my head.  

The phrase went like this: COLLECT MEMORIES NOT THINGS

Over Christmas this past year, Brian and I flew out to Vancouver, BC and were able to see my entire immediate family.  For some families this is normal.  For my family, it is not. The last time we all saw each other was at Brian and I's wedding. Before that it would've been my sister's wedding, and one more step back, would've been my graduation from high school. It's an unfortunate challenge we encounter.  Sooooo, let's get back to this past Christmas ...

For Christmas presents, my family decided not to buy "typical presents" for each person like we normally do.  We decided to invest our money into memories!  Each family picked an activity - then we all spent time together doing exactly that.  Making memories.  We went ice skating, had hot chocolate on the beach, saw a park in downtown Vancouver decked out in Christmas lights, and more.  We had a blast.  I'd vouch to say it was a memorable and special week for each person in my family.  

A month later, Brian and I got back on a plane - heading south this time.  Waaaaay south.  We flew to Costa Rica for my cousin Hannah's wedding.  Brian and I didn't have a lot planned for the trip.  We truly wanted to spend time with my extended family and make some new memories. We had an absolute blast.  

I got to spend precious time with Hannah.  Got to hang with other family - cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles, and meet one cousin's children for the first time. We invested our time and money into showing up.  Being there for the wedding. Spending time talking, eating, swimming, and hanging out on the beach with these people - I hold our time in Costa Rica close to my heart.  It was SO worth it.  Brian and I collected memories I hope we never forget.  

Sometimes you will never know the value of 
a moment until it becomes a memory.
- Dr. Seuss -

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Simply put, this was our year...

Exactly 1 year ago today, I was boarding a plane to see my dad in the hospital after cancer decided to attack his kidney. 

               ....And that was just the START of 2015 for Brian and I.  

It felt like 2015 moved at the pace of a tortoise.  The hope I eagerly suggested at the beginning of last year, has been what I've clung all year long:

Instead of saying, "Lord, I don't know how I'm going to do this"  
try saying "Lord, I can't wait to see how you do this".

And HE did it.  Sometimes Brian and I felt like we were barely hanging on - but God got us through.  There were a lot of challenges that came. I don't think they would've felt so overwhelming if just 1 or 2 happened.  But it felt like one thing after the other.  When one wave was done and we were gasping for air, the next wave came and pummeled us under before we could catch our breath.  This cycle seemed to happen all year long.  After 12 months of gasping and pummeling, it's been just flat out exhausting.  

As the world wound down from the old year and geared up for the new year - I couldn't help but feel a little more bounce in my step.  I wanted a FRESH START, a clean slate; I wanted to wipe out all the negatives and fill those spaces up with hopefulness and joy!

I look back and see how sneaky the enemy is.  He FEEDS on hopelessness and disappointment in ways we don't even realize.  It affects you spiritually, physically, emotionally... the battle is real folks. I know I need to claim God's promises (and do) but I don't always FEEL it.  It seems like I should be filled with gladness and joy and kindness when I cry out - but I look in the mirror and see a hardened heart, a tear filled snotty face and bitterness that has taken root in my soul.  I feel like I'm one of the most negative people on the face of the planet. Deeper still, I believe the battle is being won by choosing to believe in God's promises.  By clothing myself with joy and wielding the sword of truth.  I don't do it gracefully. AT. ALL. And I fall on my face a lot.  I lose hope in myself. I hurt others.  And I sometimes take 5 steps back while only moving 1 step forward.    

It's so easy to believe after the 10th wave that nothing will ever change.  That the dreams Brian and I have will never come true. Yet I keep clinging to the hope that God wants to see me through.

When cancer tries to attack my dad's body.  When his one kidney that's left decided it only wants a part time job.  When my mom struggles to remember things and we patiently walk with her.

When the state of Iowa does an audit and tells us we owe over $10,000 for a tax hardly any people we talk to know about!  Ever heard of Consumer Use Tax - ya, neither had we.  And when they want records 10 years back and your accountant & lawyer said to destroy records over 5 years old... when we can't prove anything from 10 years ago and get charged 66% interest.

When we sell off 90% of our business and everyone keeps asking what were going to do.... when we don't even know.  We just felt God told us "now's the time to sell".  When you encounter a co-worker daily who has ripped you down to shreds and still takes punches.  When your boss is gone a lot because his family is going through the ringer.  

When decisions can't be made because they're too stressful. Or when you feel like you're at the bottom of the totem pole for things being planned. When communication simply sucks and hurts people in the process.  When you see your spouse being taken at the knees by somebody questioning his character - and you KNOW he is the most loyal, upstanding person around.

These are a few of the waves from 2015. It seems when I say them out loud, they aren't "that bad' compared to loved ones being killed by terrorist, children not eating and awful disasters like earthquakes and flooding happening all around us.  Simply put, this was our year.  This has been the thick and thin of it.

I can still say I am thankful for how God has changed me. How He's grown me and that he continually turns His face towards me and offers me kindness.  I am being refined in His fire and pray I make it out a lot purer than I started.  And that I can keep saying, Lord, I can't wait to see how you do this.

"Even your battles can serve you well if you trust God to train you in them"
- Susan Larson-