Monday, August 27, 2012

When God Says "No."

I have to be completely honest.  I have not wanted to let go of the words I'm about to share in this blog entry.  I have found it incredibly difficult to finally put this out there, but I will also say part of that is God's timing.  I have said time and time again I desire to be authentic and transparent about my faith, but this one leaves me feeling very vulnerable (a feeling I'm not okay with.)  But, I'm tired of resisting the conviction I have to share this.  So here it goes...

What happens when God doesn't answer the way you thought he would/should?  

God has blessed me and my family tremendously.  I have a wonderful husband, two beautiful and healthy children, a roof over my head, and food to eat.  I have witnessed Him do some really amazing things in my life and in the lives of those around me.  I had thought it was easy for me to just trust Him with my prayers and know that He is sovereign and in control…until this year.

I spent hours, days, months praying for something.  I had so much faith that God would say “yes” and answer my prayer.  I had never prayed for something so intensely in my life.  I invested a lot of my strength and emotions into this prayer.  I didn't feel like God owed it to me to answer, I was just convinced that he could and he would.  I don't tell you this to say "wow, look at her praying, praying, praying."  I just want you to see my investment into this particular prayer.

A few months ago it became clear, what I had been praying for was not going to happen.  The day I knew my prayer wasn't answered I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me.  To say I was devastated would be an understatement.  I was filled with grief and confusion.  

I felt what I was praying for was in line with God's will.  So when it wasn't answered I struggled with understanding.  Now, for some, not understanding may not be that big of a deal.  For me, not understanding is not okay.  It's never been an option. I need to know the “whys.”  I have always been very analytical (to a fault really.)  I want to know the reasoning behind things.  If I have a clear answer as to why something has to be the way it is then I can move on.  Even if it’s unfair, I just need to know the why.

I felt myself stepping back.  I hated that I was stepping back, but I was so shaken by the outcome in this situation.  I didn’t want to question God.  I knew he didn't owe me anything.  He is God, he is my creator.  So instead I sat, and I hurt.  I took on an un-trusting spirit of fear that I had never had before.  I became afraid to pray.  I couldn’t possibly pour out my heart again to have it so shattered from disappointment.  What is worse is at that particular time, there was so much turmoil happening in my life and the lives of those around me that I wanted to run to God with, but I couldn’t bring myself to invest in a single prayer.  To top it all off, I felt an incredible amount of guilt for feeling this way. 

I was stuck...frozen...afraid to make any sort of move towards prayer again. I was drowning in guilt for not trusting God enough to pray.  So, I stopped.  I continued reading my bible, hoping to just find an answer, but I didn't want to pray.

Stopping proved to be even more painful.  I desperately wanted to cling to God, but felt hurt and wounded.  I didn't know how to get over this unanswered prayer and move forward.  I actually felt depressed, for the first time in my life.

Unlike the past, this time I recognized my need to reach out and admit I needed help.  Over the course of several weeks I received wonderful counsel and advice from several godly friends.  Each person had something to say that I needed to hear. (To all those people, thank-you.)

Nothing happened instantly for me, but along the way God kept ministering to my heart and healing it, despite the fact that I wasn't asking Him to.  Praise God He loves us that much.

I had heard a sermon during these months.  The pastor was talking about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  They refused to bow down and worship a gold statue even though the king had issued a decree requiring it.  When the king found out he had them brought before him and demanded they bow down to the statue or be thrown into a blazing furnace.  They answered him If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us.  He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.  But even if he doesn't, we want to make it clear, we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue.  Daniel 3:17 & 18

The God whom we serve is able to save us, but even if He doesn't we still serve Him.

They chose to serve and worship God regardless if He answered their prayer.  They didn't say "He can save us, but if he doesn't then we need an explanation."  This stuck with me...I thought about it a lot.

I began praying again.  I didn't leap right into the water, instead I started by dipping my toes in.  I started by simply asking God to forgive me and change my heart towards prayer, and He has. (I'm so glad he loves me enough to have patience with me.)

Lately, I've been reading the book "Get Off Your Knees and Pray" by Sheila Walsh.  I actually bought this book a really long time ago, but had never picked it up to read.  I didn't even feel that I needed to read it when I bought it, I just really like Sheila's books and it was on sale.  During the months of my prayer drought I remember seeing the book on my desk and being annoyed with it and not having any desire to open it.  One day, a month or so ago, I finally opened it and started reading.  In one of the chapters Sheila talks about not understanding God's answers.  She talked about Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane.

They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”  Mark 14:32-36

Jesus himself was filled with grief and sorrow.  Jesus, God's perfect son poured out his sweat, blood, and tears while praying to God, his father.  Jesus pleaded with God to deliver him from the wrath that would soon be poured out on him, but only at God's will, not his own.

Jesus is our ultimate example.  He prayed for something that he was completely justified in asking for.  Yet God still let Jesus take His wrath...our punishment.  This is beyond unfair.  But Jesus, perfect Jesus didn't question or stop trusting God.

God in his mercy and love gave me the explanation I was looking for in Jesus example.  I don't always have to understand, even when it seems to make no sense.  I just need to trust that He is God and I can always go to Him in prayer.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Last Days of Summer Break

Hayden started back to school last Wednesday, August 8th.  While there were a few days I was ready for her to go back due to sibling arguments (which were ongoing some days), I was actually sad.  Our summers seem to fly by at a rapid pace since we started running the campground.  It feels like I just picked her up from the last day of Kindergarten yesterday, and now I have to send her back...and to a whole new grade level at that!  She is my big first grader now.  How did this happen?  

A few weeks before school started I was browsing Pinterest and came across this:

I hope my children look back on today
And see a mother who had time to play.
There will be years for cleaning and cooking...
For children grow up while we're not looking.

So last week whenever Hayden asked, "Mama, will you play with me?" I immediately thought about that very quote, put down what I was doing, and said, "Sure, what do you want to play?"  Her face lit up as she said "beauty shop!"

She needed some time to set up her beauty shop so I finished cleaning the kitchen while she got everything ready.  A few minutes later into the kitchen she came, all smiles saying, "It's ready!"  As I walked into her room she had a beauty station set up with combs, brushes, clips, and bows.  Her CD player was blaring a Dolly Parton CD she had bought a year ago in Branson.  The girl loves Dolly (one of the things I love about my Hayden is her innocent confidence.  When she loves something she loves it proudly, she doesn't care what anyone else thinks.  I'm so glad she still has this, I hope she never loses it with age.)

As "Coat of Many Colors" starts to go off she leans in and asks if I would like her to put it on repeat (this is her favorite song, some days she lets it repeat well over 20 times.)  I try not to giggle, and then tell her, "It's okay, I would rather listen to the whole CD."

She did several different up-do's and down-do's to my involved a leg warmer she fashioned into a scrunci and then begged me to wear in public later.  She did pretend make-up with her markers and crayons (since she had left her real make-up kit at the campground).  

We had a fabulous time.

Hayden singing along to Dolly as she beautifies me.
The next day we loaded up for our annual last-day-of-summer-family-trip we take each year.  We didn't tell them where we were headed, we wanted to surprise them.

I don't know if it's because I love surprises so much, but I love to surprise my kids.  I love their little giddy faces as they try to figure it out.

Loaded up in the car and ready for the surprise destination!
So Kerry and I have always loved Pops in Arcadia.  We stop there just about every time we are in the OKC area.  I've even blogged about it before in Family Road Trip...I know, I'm kind of obsessed.  But it's awesome, so, it's okay.  Pops was our first stop.

Hayden always willing to pose for a picture.  Deacon is staring at the pop cases ready to get his pop!
I had found an awesome family package deal at water park on Groupon the previous week, and if you know me at all, you know I'm all about a good deal!  I looked it up online and asked around and it seemed perfect for younger kids.

Surprise destination #2:  Andy's Alligator Water Park in Norman!  As we got closer to the water park you could see the slides.  My kids had two different reactions going on.  Hayden is grinning ear to ear and bouncing in her seat, Deacon is nervous and already muttering, "I not riding the slide."

We get inside the park and after much reassuring poor Deacon that he does not in fact have to ride the giant slide, we began to have some fun.  Hayden and Kerry took off for the big slides and Deacon and I hung out in the lazy river and the kiddie area.

Deacon and I watching Daddy and Sissy ride the racing slides.

I love these two so much!

Hayden doing her signature pose

When Kerry and I lived in Norman (oh, how I love and miss it) we ate at Texadelphia a lot.  For me, there is something so comforting about going back now and eating there.  It's pretty much a given if we are in Norman. My kids actually love it too.  We have taken them a few times.  I almost always get the steak nachos.  They are so...well...look at them.  They are awesome!

Hayden asked if we could drive by OU afterwards...yes she is Sooner born.  So of course we did, and since it wasn't busy we got out for a bit and let the kids look around.
They begged to get in the phone booth...and then begged to get out.  

I miss seeing all the beautiful buildings on campus.
(Note from Kerry:  the name on the back of the shirt
is "Francis", not "Racist".)

My future Sooners checking out the library
As we were leaving Norman that evening it started raining...pouring actually.  I rolled down my window and just put my hand out for a few miles.  The fragrance of the rain was incredible.  I love the smell of rain on asphalt.  It was the best ending to a great day.

The next morning I woke up my new first grader, got her ready for school, took way too many pictures (as usual,) and off she went.

My first grader

Love this beautiful girl.

I made her take a picture in front of the cougar last year too.  I will get this same picture each year (until she begs me not to out of embarrassment.)

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Anniversary Weekend

If you keep up with my blog you will know that last weekend was mine and Kerry's tenth anniversary.  I kind of made it a big deal (*cough*, four different blog entries.)  Anyhow, for years we had always said "we'll go to Hawaii on our tenth anniversary."  After all, ten years was always a really long ways away,  and we would have plenty of years to save up for that.  Well, around this time last year we began to realize that Hawaii may have to be more of a fifteenth or twentieth anniversary trip.  

Several weeks ago we were blessed to stay out our friend's cabin on Lake Tenkiller.  One night as we were laying in the hammock, I looked at Kerry and said, "Why don't we just come here for our anniversary?"  "We love to come here, and it's so beautiful."  Kerry smiled and agreed it sounded like a good plan.

This is a favorite picture of mine. Sweet, cute, and romantic right?  Well, I have to be honest and admit that the scene that occurred while we were trying to get in the hammock was completely ungraceful and very ridiculous.  I was hanging on for dear life while crying from laughing so hard.  It was quite the ordeal.

So I asked, and our lovely and hospitable friends said we welcome to stay in the cabin the weekend of our anniversary, so all was set.  

It's really funny how things change.  I remember a few years ago thinking how I "needed" to have a big elaborate and fancy vacation to celebrate our tenth anniversary.  I was bordering on entitlement.  However, in the car on the way to the cabin (only 20 minutes from where we live) I was so excited to be celebrating ten years of marriage with this wonderful man, I didn't care where we were.  I just wanted to be by his side.  

View from the deck...isn't this beautiful?

We arrived at the cabin and decided to go swim in the lake...kid free!  It was so nice to just lay out in the water, swim, and not have to scrutinize over every thing my children were doing (even when my children wear life jackets, I'm a nervous wreck.)

After we returned from the lake Kerry grilled some steaks while I cooked the sides.  It was actually nice outside so we had dinner on the deck and watched the sunset.  So peaceful.

On Saturday night we decided we would go out to dinner.  Oh, but where to go?  Tahlequah?  Muskogee?  Tulsa?  Then we remembered we hadn't been to Pete's Place in for-e-ver!

Pete's Place is one of our favorite restaurants.  Kerry actually took me there on our 2nd date.  On that 2nd date while we were enjoying out anti-pasta plate, Kerry bit into a peppercini pepper and juice from it shot across the table directly into my eye.  It set my eye on fire. It was equally embarrassing for us both.  

Needless to say, we recovered from the "pepper in the eye" incident, eventually got married, and have returned to Pete's many times since.

I was lazy...I should have taken a better picture of the restaurant. 

If you've never been to Pete's Place, you are missing out.  First, they bring you an anti-pasta plate, salad, and garlic bread.  After that they bring you ravioli, spaghetti, meatballs, and then whatever entree you ordered.  It's all so yum and so much food.  We always, always have leftovers to take home.  Once we forgot our leftover to-go-box on the table and didn't realize it until we got was devastating.

Besides the great food, my favorite thing about Pete's Place is getting your own private room.  We have always had our own room at Pete's, except...wait for it...the night of the "pepper in the eye."  Yep, that night we were in a room with several other couples, making the incident even more awkward and embarrassing.

Anyhow, this weekend we had our own room and it was great.  No food injuries.

10 years!
We arrived back at the cabin just in time to enjoy the sunset. We had a fabulous weekend and a wonderful anniversary.

My favorite :)
Thank-you God for this man I call my husband and best friend.  Thank-you Kerry for choosing me to spend the rest of your life with.