June Gloom

June holds a lot of exciting birthdays for us, my daughter, nephews, brother, and my grandpa. We took this photo a year ago as we said goodbye to him after his 90th birthday. I knew. Guys, I KNEW it would be the last photo my girls would have with him. I knew it would be the last time I would see him and be able to kiss him. He passed away last fall.

It’s so weird to say goodbye. I will forever remember leaving him as his penthouse elevators closed. The last glimpse of his adoring blue eyes. I will always remember his yellow sweater and sweet tears as he told me he would visit me in Hawaii, when we both knew that wouldn’t be the case.

June holds so much meaning. This time last year we said goodbye to our condo that our girls grew up in. Then goodbye to the beaches of St Pete that we will unlikely see for a long time if ever (best sand in the world, sorry Hawaii). And goodbye to this man who is celebrating in heaven this June with my grandma.

Grief is weird. It’s sneaky and knows no rules. I picked up a Christmas candle I found in my closet yesterday that smelled liked Colorado. I closed the lid and slammed it down quickly as memories and emotions flooded me. This guy came to mind and I needed to honor him today. This is how I chose to do that.

New Normal

The weirdest things give me anxiety in Hawaii. Things I was 100% confident in when I lived in Colorado. For example, teaching Lulu how to swim. Stresses me out. I taught all my girls how to swim. I used to be a lifeguard/swim instructor in my youths (said like Schmidt). We had a neighborhood pool that was calm, clean, and filled with sweet fresh water. I spent many a mornings letting the girls sit on the steps, blowing bubbles, practicing back floats, and putting their faces in the water. From a young age they would swim short distances from my arms to the wall.

Here, I think about how I’m going to teach my almost two year old how to swim in the OCEAN. Like how. With little to no access to a pool here, unless we make friends with our neighbors…which we haven’t yet. Or move into the Hilton, which Pablo isn’t going for that.

Seasons in life are so much like this for me. I know how to be a good friend, but how do I do that in Hawaii with so few friends. We are about to have to a birthday party, but my best isn’t here to hang decorations with me. I also think about how I’m doing life here without my mom. Life is generally the same day to day, but it’s a lot harder to navigate without her help. Definitely not as sweet. I have to do a lot of life in new ways and often alone.

People have to do this everyday. My newly divorced friend just got her own apartment. Now paying the bills alone and being a single mom. My sorority sister said goodbye to her stillborn baby and had to walk away from the hospital as the world around her continued on. My cousin had to learn life without her mom as she passed away just days before girls a few days before Christmas.

It’s hard, trying to live life and do the things we always do but in our “new normal”. It takes time to adjust and really will never be the same as it used to be.

There is no side wall for Lulu to jump off to me. The water is rough and salty. The waves make it nearly impossible to show her how to relax and float and get comfortable in the water.

Similarly, life is all about riding the salty waves, being resourceful, stronger, resilient, and persistent despite how daunting our new normal is. Lulu will have to learn to swim in a different environment than her big sisters did. Just I will have to endure holidays without my family.

The view and water are different now. It’s saltier and rougher, but when we look around the view is so much better. The water is larger, bluer, and the possibilities endless.

I am right where I am supposed to be. I’m the deep waters.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” Isaiah 43:2

I Surrender Everything

I vividly remember sitting on the floor in the twins room one afternoon about 4 years ago, crying. I was desperate for change, I wanted more. I wanted more than the piles laundry and paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. I felt like life was sucking me dry and I wanted to disappear.

For so many years after that I continued to feel stuck. Stuck in our 3 bedroom condo with 4 kids. Watching my husband work a job that was not utilizing the amazing gifts I know he had. I can’t tell you the countless times I prayed and asked God for more. I asked for Him to just open doors of opportunity and new adventures for us. As parents, we want the best for our kids and I felt like we were not giving our girls the best. We were robots. Wake, work, laundry, dishes, bed, repeat.

I so badly wanted to set our roots in a home in the community I adored. The one I grew up in. Around the people I did life with that, I couldn’t imagine ever losing.

I told God over and over again that I would do whatever He asked of me. “God, please change our circumstances! I’ll do whatever it takes!” But, did I really mean it?  When He asked me to leave my surroundings and the things I was holding higher than Him I said no. Unknowingly sticking myself back into the place I so desperately wanted to leave.

On Sunday at church, we sang “Everything and Nothing Less” -by Jesus Culture. I sang these lyrics and God reminded me of where my heart used to be…

“Humbly I stand, an offering
With open hands, Lord I bring

Everything and nothing less
My best, my all
You deserve my every breath
My life, my song

I surrender, I surrender all
Oh, I surrender, I surrender all

Lord take control, I trust You
I’m letting go…”

The truth of the matter was that I wasn’t giving Him my best. I wasn’t giving my everything. I didn’t want to hand over the safe and “perfect” community I longed for my children to grow up in. I didn’t want to hand over the money and job security my husband had. I refused to let go of the baking business I built over 5 years and the people it served. I held tight to the fact I was a few exits away from my parents, my best friends, and that my kids attended one of the best schools in the best district.

I didn’t want to let go and give Him control of my most precious people and my perfect life plans (James 4:10).

I reached the point where my heart flipped. If that’s a thing? I finally said “Ok, God. Here you go. I trust you with everything.” It hurt so bad and I cried. A lot. I still do.  I have to fight the bitterness and anger that likes to creep in and tell me, “Well if God really loved you He would have made it work in Colorado. If He’s God, why couldn’t He have made it work?”. Its a lie straight from hell whispered to try to discourage me (John 10:10). The enemy wants nothing more than for me to doubt the power of the mighty God I serve.

Sometimes God doesn’t change our circumstances for a reason.  Its because He wants to changes our hearts. My heart needed some serious work. I put SO many things above Him. The idols I was serving were blinding me and keeping me from putting Him first. I wanted to live wholeheartedly for Him, but in order to that, I needed to surrender it all.

My prayer today is that this speaks to those who feel frustrated with their circumstance. What do you need to do in order to put God first? Following Him requires action and choice. He will never force us to chose Him. Yet, every time I surrender and chose Him, I never regret it.

Stronger in the Struggles

Our kids face all kinds of new struggles than we ever did as children. They have to navigate through way harsher environments, political topics, bullying, and technology. In turn, as parents, we are also leading them through the tough stuff that our parents may not have had to lead us through. Its like that for every generation I imagine. One of these items for me is LICE. Or as you would say in Hawaiian, ukus. OR in Spanish piojos. Now unless you lived in a warm environment in South America as a child…I won’t name any names here :), you probably weren’t exposed to this when you were little. An issue that was reserved for the humid hot places or cramped living quarters is now common in any school. I think about 80% of the moms I speak with here in Hawaii or in Colorado have had them in their home. WHAT. With more research, I am finding this to be more common due to the Super lice strain that is resistant to the medicated shampoos and treatments. OH MA GAH. Jesus take the wheel.

I wanted to say this, though. One of my daughters came home from school with ukus this week. Unfortunately, a few years ago a different daughter of mine also had them. Back then, I FREAKED OUT. Like full panic and crazy person mode. Cleaning all the things and all the people. Just short of burning down the whole house I went into Defcon 1. Thankfully, I kept the little buggahs (said in my best Hawaiian accent) from spreading to others in our home. It was a trying and STRESSFUL time, to say the least. No one tells you about this stuff when you have a little bundle of love growing in your belly. All you can think about is tiny shoes, ordering the cutest bibs from Etsy, and praying your baby sleeps through the night. If you are a new parent, let me tell you how difficult it is to choose the right school for your child. That you will one day be cleaning vomit out of hair, sheets, and carpets. That you will cry over laundry and dishes after working all day long.

Momming is hard. Life is hard. I often get upset at bouts with sickness (or FRACKING LICE) wondering why this is something we have to deal with ON TOP of the already full-time job of being a mom.

This time around I was way cooler-headed. I have had this struggle before and I am way more prepared to deal with it. I am in a foreign place that I already feel isolated in, if I was having to do this for the first time I would have been on the first plane to Colorado yesterday. But God knew. He knew that these things happen in life and that I needed to go through what I did years ago to properly navigate and treat my sweet girl this week. I didn’t panic and freak out. I put on my big girl pants and dealt with it the best I knew how.

As I nitpick her hair (going on hour FIVE), one strand at a time and listen to her sobs and sniffles I first get angry and say all kinds of curse words to the lice under my breath. Telling them to leave my baby alone. Then I get a soft heart. Tears form in my eyes as I take the time to pull the almost microscopic eggs from my girl’s long hair. I cry that I get to care for her when she is hurting and scared. That I get to be the one to hold her despite the risk of being infected myself. The purest love I feel for my kids is when I am taking care of their most disgusting ailments.

God is just as intentional with you and me. He knows the number of hairs on your head. Plucking the yucks, sickness, infections, and sins. Tenderly removing what makes us unworthy if we are willing to sit and let Him work. Holding us in our most unclean forms and loving us anyway. That is how He is. It’s just how He operates. He is not mad or angry at you. The struggles you face can be in complete purpose and design to make you stronger and more capable to face the future. To lead other people, and to love them too.

“Sometimes it’s not even about battling to win, or about battling forward. It’s about battling to breathe. Everyone’s fighting a hard battle that they’re losing — and winning is staying in the battle. The battle you have ahead of you is won — if you just keep your heart in the battle now.” -Ann Voskamp

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair.”  2 Corinthians 4:8

The Root Canal

This morning I found myself holding my eight year old daughter’s hand while she was getting an emergency root canal. We have been trying to pin point her pain for months, even pulled one tooth, but another tooth next to it abscessed. Sigh. As I squeezed her hand I looked past my one year old (who was strapped in her stroller watching Elmo) and onto the city out the window. So many apartments, high rise office buildings, and non of it looks familiar to me. I examine the lines along the buildings and the spacing between them, then the ocean in the distance behind them. Its all so new. So different. We moved to Honolulu six months ago and my eyes and heart still search frantically for familiarity, especially in stressful situations. Nothing about this particular situation is familiar or comforting.

Before I became a mom no one told me how heart wrenching the dentist would be with my children. No one warned me of the intense mom pain I would feel as my daughter held back tears and squirmed as a needle was jammed into her gums. My girls have each had various little cavities here and there and the dentist anxiety is a real thing in our house. Isn’t it for everyone? I would take her place in a second. Endure the pain so she wouldn’t have to. But I know she must, or the infection will worsen. As she breathed in her bubble gum scented laughing gas I could feel her fighting off the panic. I knew speaking to her too much would make her more emotional so I rubbed her hand and gave her firm squeezes so she would know I was there.

This season I am in God often reminds me that I am not alone in my pain. Jesus is gently holding my hand, never leaving, always loving. Firmly reassuring me it will be ok. Staying with me as I go through this painful process. One that He knows I must walk through. I don’t know why, but He does. His love and steadfastness remains.

Know that what God is doing in your life might be painful and heart wrenching, but so necessary. Kind of like an unavoidable root canal.

“Our suffering becomes part of Gods redemption plan.” Latasha Morrison