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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Be Content Where You Are

I hope your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Earlier in November I was blessed to be with my family for my brother’s wedding. Attempting to fly from the middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania to the middle-of-nowhere New Mexico the week of Thanksgiving proved to be a costly and nearly impossible venture!

I opted to stay here with my host family. We drove 2.5 hours away to spend the long weekend at Grandi and Pop’s house. (Host family Grandparents) Thanksgiving traditions have been different since my own grandparents passed away four years ago. It was nice to have a big family around the table. We ate, laughed, watched football, decorated the tree and made gingerbread houses. I am so incredibly blessed to have a true family all the way out here. Love them so much!

On Sunday we began the trip home. Note that it takes 2.5 hours to get there. Mom, Dad, the four kids and myself piled in the van and hit the road at 2:45 sharp. Once on the highway, everything slowed to crawl.  “Daddy, why aren’t we moving fast?” Kierstin asked from the back. We thought that surely there was an accident up ahead.

After an hour of creeping along at 15mph, we decided there was no wreck – this was just Thanksgiving traffic. At hour 3 we were not even half way there. Baby TJ was hungry and began angrily crying. The girls were blaring a movie in the back and host dad was listing to football in the front. This hour of noise nearly did me in!

Hour four and a half. I was the co-pilot. Two-year-old Judah sat caddy corner me. He was a trooper. We played many rounds of “1---2---1----2—BOOM!” He counts and Heathey explodes. He got quiet for a while and was done playing. A few minutes later, “Uhh oh, Heathey…” I turned around, “What’s the matter buddy?” “Poo Poo.” My host dad and I looked at each other in horror. Please, no.

Only seconds later we caught a whiff. Oh ya. Not just poo poo – it was a pooptastrophie. The kind where the clothes must be peeled off… Gross. The girls in the back were screaming for air – noses up to the vents. I rolled down my window hoping to get relief. Once again we were at a dead stop in traffic, parked next to a giant bus. Fumes or poo. Those were really the only air options.

Host mom hands me the diaper bag and tells me to get a new diaper out ASAP. I look frantically. The horror continued… we didn’t have another diaper. Well, we did – it was in the very back of the van underneath multiple suitcases and ice chests. We did have the baby’s diapers. So, we attempted to MacGyver a 4-month-old size diaper onto a two year old. It didn’t go well. Meanwhile we still have screaming for air, gaging of the rest of us in the car… and we were going nowhere.

In this moment, we had two options. Cry or laugh. Thankfully, we all chose the latter. We sat parked in traffic for close to 45 minutes. All in all, it took us over six hours to get home. The kids really were troopers. We could have had far more meltdowns than we did. Relief was felt when the lights of Beaver Stadium finally came into view.

It was quite the trip and isn’t particularly something I’m anxious to do again. But Lord knows I learned something. It’s about contentment. 

Contentment is one of the greatest compliments you can pay God

I’ve been struggling with contentment lately. I believe Romans 8:28, that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose. I know He is interested in redeeming, restoring, and creating a testimony. I believe that trials perfect us. Yet, still, I'm not happy. 

I wanted to be married. I wanted to be starting a family. I wanted to live in Texas. I wanted to be closer to my parents and brother. I wanted a picture-perfect fairytale.

Yet, I still can hardly talk to a boy without hyperventilating. I’ve essentially become a “grandma” to my little siblings – play, spoil them, and give them back – it’s great! I live in Pennsylvania. I am 2,000 miles away from home. This doesn’t feel like a fairytale.

In light of the holidays and families being together, I’ve been especially homesick. I have coveted the love and romance I see my friends experiencing. The loneliness and longing for love increases. With each snow I grow unhappier in my “arctic wasteland.” I complain, gripe, grow jealous… it’s nasty, it really is. I try to tell God my plan. I map it all out. I manipulate and orchestrate to get what I want in the name of “trusting God.”

Contentment: feeling or showing satisfaction with one's possessions, status, or situation

The root of my dissatisfaction is my own selfishness. I don’t have what I want, when I want it. I’m not where I want to be… there are a lot of I’s in that sentence.

Feeling convicted, I’ve began writing a list of everything I’m thankful for. I’m in the 200’s right about now. My attitude has shifted. I see God’s fingerprints through the dust of my selfishness. He has blessed me with a second family. I have an amazing job that offers incredible opportunities. I’m closer to my family now than I would have been if my plans had prevailed. God gave me a house, my puppy, friends… What is my problem?

This is where the parallel comes in. If you have kids, you can imagine what six hours in traffic with seven people in a van is like (recall the pooptastrophie). It is certainly not where I wanted to be or how I wanted to travel. Around hour four of that amazing car ride, I was nearing a meltdown myself.

I was focused on the noise. The smell. The stagnant traffic. The pain in my low back. The fact that we still had hours to go. I focused on feeling sorry for myself. God caused a check in my spirit.

I was missing the fact that my sisters were snuggled together in the back seat. I missed the fact that the baby was sleeping. I missed the two-year-old singing “Itsy Bitsy Pider.” I disregarded the fact that we were all together as a family. We were safe. We had just celebrated a day of Thankfulness.

The epic Thanksgiving car ride was part of the journey. The road you’re on right now is part of the journey. One of the greatest things you can do to demonstrate your trust in God is to be content. Thank Him for the little things. Find the praiseworthy. 

It is so easy to grow restless when we aren’t moving at the pace we want to. It’s easy to be frustrated when we aren’t where we want to be when we want to be there. We are quick to look for alternate routes and shortcuts – even running over others if we need to – to make ourselves more comfortable. So hard, we strive to figure out a better plan on our own.

Just be in the van. Be thankful in the van. This is part of your journey. Part of your ride. The place you find yourself is exactly where you’re meant to be if the Father is the one driving.

When my two-year-old brother Judah wants something, he really wants it. My host mom has developed this awesome system with him: “Treat. Treat. Please. Treat…” “Mommy says yes, Judah. Now it’s time to be patient.

He’s good at it now; he fills in the blanks. After asking a question, “Mommy says…” “YES!” he squeals, “But it’s time to be…” “Patient” he replies. Then he sits quietly knowing that what he’s asked for is coming.

Simple, yet how much I have learned from that exercise. “Jesus says yes Heather, now it’s time to be patient.” This should be the place where I sit still and know that He is God. Where I trust Him to open doors before me and bring my heart’s desires in His perfect timing. So I’m going to choose to sit in the smelly van and find the praiseworthy. I will allow what I perceive to be a delay in the journey the opportunity to teach me and grow me.

Be content with where you are and with how fast you’re moving. It’s never wise to kick God out of the driver’s seat because you’ve got a better route in mind or because you’ve got a heavier foot. Relax, co-pilot. You are where you need to be. "Jesus says YES <insert your name here>, but it's time to be patient."

Friday, November 15, 2013

Love Never Fails: The Wedding

Love is not proud
My baby brother got married. Sometimes it’s still hard for me to see him as a man. Isn’t this the same boy who would chase me around the house with his underwear? Lock me in the car with him and pass gas until I couldn’t breathe? Scare me to death as I walk down the hall? He’s grown up. He found her.
Love does not boast
And she is amazing! My new sister, with God’s grace, compliments my brother. She brings out the best in him always. She challenges him and encourages him to rise to the occasion to be the man God has called him to be. She’s patient with his shortcomings and praises his strengths. She really is his better half. I’m thankful he married one of my friends.
Love after all
One year ago he matter-of-factly said, “Yes, I love her but I’m not getting married for at least five years.” HA! God had other plans. I remember that day in February my phone rang and my bro’s face popped onto the screen. I was at the bank. “Hey Heth – I’m proposing!!” “TO WHAT?” was my response. Shocked, surprised, jealous, excited… the air was sucked out of my lungs as quickly as the bank teller sucked up my container.
Matters the most
And boy did he propose! It’s one of those that makes all the other guys mad. He blew them out of the water and created quite possibly one of the most incredible, romantic proposals I’ve ever heard of. She said yes. On came the ring. My heart remained divided. I was thrilled for my brother. I loved this girl. Yet, the heart inside of me was still breaking. Only one year prior, my wedding and impending marriage came crashing down in a heap of flames before I even knew what was happening.
Love does not run
I felt numb. Occasionally sparkly, but mostly numb. It seemed like only months earlier my brother would come home from his musical rehearsals and sit on the floor of my room. “Heth… I really like this girl. What do I do? She’s one of my best friends and I don’t want to ruin our friendship. I can’t ask her out. I’m going to ask her out. No, I can’t. I think I really like her. What if we’re better as friends? I don’t want to hurt her…” This went on for a few weeks.
Love does not hide
“KYLE, for Pete’s sake! PLEEEAAASSSEEEE ask her out. If she thinks you’re a dweeb she will say no. Good grief!” I couldn’t handle it anymore! And I am so glad he asked her out. I know now that she does think he’s a dweeb – but he’s a dweeb that she loves!
Love does not keep
I shared their genuine excitement. I also bottled up my grief. Friends of mine were getting married right and left, but this was different. This is my baby brother. I’m the older one. My job is to tell him what to do. (Despite the half-million times Mom said, “Heather… you are NOT his mother – I am.") He was entering territory I had not yet deemed safe for him.
Locked inside
I was thankful that I could be excited from the other side of the country. I don’t know that any closer I would have been able to. Out of sight and out of mind. But the date kept getting closer. I knew I couldn’t do it. I haven’t been to a wedding since. But I wanted to do it. I got help. I received prayer. I finally faced my own hurt head-on; that I might go home and be their joyful sister.
Love is the river that flows through
My brother is one of the few people in this world I would do absolutely anything for. I was more motivated than I’ve ever been. I chased healing. I demanded it. I sat in the lap of my Heavenly Father as he healed and worked so that I could stand where I so badly wanted to stand: by my brother’s side on his day.
Love never fails you
More healed and whole than I’ve been since February of 2012, I got on the plane. Every emotion from fear to elation engulfed my busy brain. I landed in the South Plains knowing I was going to learn a lot about love in one weekend.
Love will sustain
Never mind that he looks five years older than I do, he is my baby brother. I saw him in a new light. With a puppy. Packing for a honeymoon. Preparing groomsman’s shirts. Sorting out the playlist. He was busy and focused.
Love will provide
Then she walked in the house. It appeared as if his world stopped. He paused to look at her beauty. His face lit up. She was in sweats and no makeup, but to him, she was the epitome of flawless beauty. Love.
Love will not cease
My heart eased. This is what it is supposed to look like. It’s hard to argue. They are right for each other. Anyone who knows them agrees. A huge honor, my sister-in-love asked me to be her stand-in bride for the rehearsal. For those who don’t know, this is a Texas tradition. The bride doesn’t walk down the aisle twice – a friend or family member stands in her place at the rehearsal so the wedding really is her first time to approach her husband at the altar.
At the end of time
I was thrilled she asked me to be part of her special weekend. It was a huge honor to be her stand-in. And yet, I had no earthly idea how I was going to do it. I haven’t been to a wedding since…. Now I have to pretend to be the bride? Seriously...
Love will protect
Healing had come. I was going to do this. I wanted to. I needed to. A few deep breaths and I linked arms with her father. A familiar song – one I intended to use in my own ceremony - filled the sanctuary. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a frog in my throat quite like that. Her father offered me a knowing smile. “We’ve got this,” he said. And we put one foot in front of the other.
Love always hopes
My brother came and took my hand and led me to the altar. We stood together with the pastor and the bridal party while the choir sang “One Thing Remains.” It was in this moment I learned about love.
Love still believes
My emotions raw and feeling almost 1,000 different things, the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “My love will never fail you. His did. Your husband’s love will.  Fall in love with me. It is the only sure fairytale.”
When you don't
My heart was overwhelmed with emotion and leapt with joy. Here I was – at the altar – with the Lord of Creation pledging His love to me! Nothing I ever do will make him stop loving me. Nothing will make him “fall out of love” with me. He will never walk out the door and leave me standing alone. Love.
Love is the arms that are holding you
I fulfilled my role as the temporary bride receiving far more blessing than I even knew. But you must know, I am not super-human. Was it hard? Yes. Do I want to do it again? No… I’m thankful I only have one sibling!
Love never fails you
At the hotel that night, my mother wrapped her arms around my emotionally fried self. I was pretending to be tough as usual… She pulled me down next to her on the bed. “It’s ok to cry you know.” A river flowed. I let it out… for many of these months I’ve kept it locked inside expecting it all to fade away someday. It was a beautiful release. I got the nasty, icky, selfish part of the tears out. It doesn’t make sense to completely ignore pain.
When my heart won't make a sound
The day of the wedding was much easier. I think had I not had the experience in the rehearsal I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy or remain composed through the ceremony. Praise Jesus for His hidden mercies. I laughed with my family. Foofed and primped with Mom. Got Sonic with Dad. It was time.
When I can't turn back around
As family, we were escorted to our seats. Then the moment. A stunning, white figure took her place behind the glass doors of the sanctuary. I always love watching the groom. My brother’s face was priceless… even before they opened the doors he was in tears.
When the sky is falling down
And he cried. Not a silent tear rolling down his cheek. The beautiful snot-throwing, eye-wiping kind of tears that seems to say, “I can not believe she is mine.” I cried through most of this too. I was moved by my brother’s love for her. Hope filled my heart again. That is what I want someday. That's what I am waiting for.
Nothing is greater than this
Before God and many witnesses they made a commitment. A life-long covenant. The family then surrounded them with prayer and shared communion. I cried through most of this also. I have never been prouder of my baby brother. He’s amazing. (I'm also glad he no longer aspires to be Captain Underpants!) My sister-in-love is so blessed. 
Greater than this
They kissed – we celebrated! Both Bride and Groom were radiant. I breathed a sigh of relief. We did it. We all did it! While I still cried a lot, each and every tear shed Saturday night was for them. Moved by their love. Saddened that my brother is all grown up. Proud of their commitment. I am so thankful my icky tears came out the day before. A hurdle was cleared.
Love is right here
Ever since my fairytale took quite the dramatic twist, I’ve lived date-to-date, challenge-to-challenge. “If I can just get over this event.” “If I can just get past this date.” Milestones and challenges have plagued my race. But you know what? I think I’m done for the time being! It’s a straight away – I don’t see another one in the distance.
Love is alive
I walked out of the church with a weight off my shoulders. A confidence in my spirit. I reclaimed the town that holds a million memories. A new phase of healing was completed on November 9, 2013. Thank you brother and sister for walking this with me. For being patient and loving through the months of tears.
Love is the way
And while I still have a ways to go, I have hope once more. Hope that I deserve that kind of love. Hope that I will find a man who will love me more than anything besides our Savior. Hope that I will laugh again, love again and be romanced again. I now have a desire to let others into my life - to let them love me - to allow myself to receive the love of others.
The truth the life
Prior to my trip, one of my mother-figures in Pennsylvania challenged me to combat the negative thoughts and emotions with a list of “Thankfuls.” She knew they would be there… and Oh, they were: “He’s already found someone else, there must really be something wrong with me.” “Remember this location? This song? This date? This restaurant?” “Why wasn’t I good enough?” “It’s not fair… what did I do so wrong?”
Love is the river than flows through
She said to write down things I was thankful for. Engendering an attitude of thankfulness and praise seems to squeeze the devil out pretty quickly. I kept my yellow notebook in my purse all weekend. And I wrote. And I wrote. Number 58… Number 95… Number 127… and counting.
Love is the arms that are holding you
It’s like being in the ocean. On the surface you can have three-foot waves crashing upon your head making you seasick. Beaten, battered, water in your eyes – up your nose – insert choking here. But when you take a deep breath and dive down just a few feet it’s perfectly still. It’s peaceful. Sometimes in the midst of our storm, we need to dive down. Force yourself past the surface view. Take a deep breath and submerge.
Look for the praiseworthy. There is so much…
Love is the place you will fly to
Kyle and Devon, I love you both so incredibly much. Thank you for an amazing weekend that changed my life too. I bless the two of you: When it gets hard, remember that marriage is a picture of the Gospel of Christ. Satan would love nothing more than to destroy that picture. Stand firm in your love for Christ and for one another and the devil has no chance at erasing that picture. Congratulations – the best chapters are still to come.
Love never fails you

Love Never Fails by Brandon Heath Lyrics

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Freedom In the Pumpkin Patch

It's fall in central PA. The leaves are looking beautiful and apples and pumpkins are everywhere! My host family took advantage of one more warm day and we headed to the fruit farm Pumpkin Festival this weekend. 

Everyone knows my "little brother" and I have a very special bond. He was almost seven months old when I moved in with them. I've watched him learn to crawl and walk! When I come over, he's at the window screaming "HEATHEY!!!!!" I love him more than I knew it was possible to love a human being! 

Naturally, at the pumpkin patch, he was my buddy. We rode the tractor out to the patch and he wanted to get down and look around. We walked through the patch as he pointed to the big, round, orange things and said, "ball." Then he zeroed in on the one

Boo had to have this pumpkin. Nothing was going to stop him. Nearly as big as he is, the sweet darling attempted to pick it up. This is called the "bear hug" approach. You bend over, wrap your arms around it and yell "UP!" This method didn't work. 

After one failed attempt, he decided on a new method. Allowing me to help him was not an option. This is the "squat." You try to lift more with your legs... After numerous attempts, this still did not work. 

He is not appreciating the fact that I'm dying with laughter. It was so adorable to watch! He tried this on his own for about five minutes before he allowed me to finally assist. 

All I did was roll the pumpkin over and point out that it has a stem. I pointed to it and said "Lift here." 

It was still no small effort, but he adjusted his grip, stuck his tongue out and lifted the pumpkin off the ground. He did it! Could he have really done it on his own? Maybe. But he would run a much greater risk of being injured. Let me tell you - before he allowed my help, he was growing frustrated and angry... my laughter and photography were not helping. And yet, the sense of pride and accomplishment he had when he picked it up! I cheered for him. He dropped the pumpkin back down on the ground. He took my hand and looked up at me, "Heathey, up," as he pointed to the pumpkin. I was thankful he consented to letting me carry it out of the patch.

I'm sure by now many of you already know where I'm going with this in a spiritual sense. Yes, those things in life we think we can carry on our own. The burden, the struggle, the sin, the temptation, the brokenness. We really and truly think we can carry it by ourselves. 

I've tried. I have tried for the last three years to carry my "pumpkin" on my own. The truth is, I can't pick it up. I'm sure the Lord found it highly amusing to watch. He probably looked on with His camera. "Awww how cute! She thinks she can really do this!" [Snap embarrassing picture]. "Do you want me to help you, Heather?" I simply gave the same grunt Boo gave me and slapped His hand away. 

We were not meant to carry "pumpkins" on our own. 

Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. Psalm 55:22

 Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2

We are to let Him carry our burdens and allow others to come along side and shoulder some of the weight as well. I'm not sure who I've been trying to fool or what I've been trying to prove. In the last month and a half, I have finally realized my inability to carry (or even lift) my pumpkin alone. Family. Friends. Fellowship. There is a purpose to it. It's to help you. 

Allow the lift. I'm sure you look as adorable as my little brother trying to figure it out by yourself... Let Him come show you a better way. Let someone else hold it for a while. Faith sometimes means admitting to feeling. It is ok as a Christian to feel. I've denied myself the ability to feel anything (positive or negative) for far too long for fear that someone might think less of me if I showed my true level of strength.  I was great at faking it. I could put on my "muscle suit" to go out in public, but behind closed doors, those muscles were nothing more than well-placed padding. 

God designed us for community. To fulfill the law of Christ He asks us to carry each other's burdens. That also means you must be willing to allow that to happen. Yes, you can learn about faith, freedom and fellowship in the pumpkin patch.