Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Repeat Visit in an Unexpected Place

Death has visited part of my family yet again. In 6 months, my beloved Auntie Leti passed away from malignant breast cancer. My amazing Grandpa Sammy passed away from prostate cancer. Aunti Leti was just 2 months shy of her 50th birthday and 5 month short of her youngest son's high school graduation. Grandpa Sammy had celebrated his 85th birthday just 3 months before, but did not get the joy of seeing any of his grandchildren actually get married. He had always talked about throwing a "big wedding" for my husband and I, and how he wanted to "get the officer's club for the reception."  I love and miss them both so much.
This time it was someone whom we hadn't even met. It was almost like having a miscarriage. My mother and father-in-law were adopting their 12th child from China. They had named her and and just received the travel dates to China, when the call came this morning. Josie had passed away. My heart about stopped when my sister read the post made by my sister-in-law. The adoption agency they were going through had called with the news and the promise to look more into what happened.

How many times, God?!

They hadn't even met her! They didn't even get to say "hello" and now they have to say "goodbye" to a girl who had an entire (big) family ready to love and provide for her every need. They only had a few pictures of her... That's why I compare this loss to a miscarriage. You only have a few ultrasound pictures to grow attached to, and while you don't feel the child growing within you, you've experienced the daydreams of holding her; the pains of financial sacrifice, pages of paperwork, countless phone calls and appointments, etc. You've prepped your children and dreamed with your spouse... you've purchased clothes and toys, and shared your hopes and dreams with family and friends...

Another friend of my is suffering from loss and pain, too. After getting engaged and picking a wedding date for this year, she ended her 6 year relationship with her fiancée. While I only know the pain of a partial breakup that only lasted 2 months after less than a year of courting, I still vividly remember the suffocating pain of not wanting to get out of bed, not wanting to leave the house or take care of myself, much less continue on with classes and schoolwork. I think the only thing I really looked forward to (and that was just barely "looking forward to") was my custodial job in the evenings. I sang my broken heart out like I never have before (past and present) while cleaning empty bathrooms and classrooms. Prayer-filled, inspired songs to God poured out of my lips and helped to numb my pain. I weakly avoided even my roommate, housemates, friends, and family. Thinking was dangerous territory because I would easily fall into deep, immobilizing sadness. The thing my friend and I did/do have in common is the power of God in our lives. We both wanted God's will and direction in our lives. We both could go to God with our hurts and expectations, our disappointments and fears. She fears her ex-fiancées' mental state and reaction to her choice to end the relationship altogether. And simply forgetting or erasing the time spent with that person isn't necessarily wanted to be forgotten. There are reasons why were were in the relationships were in existence in the first place. I feel for her as she voices her frustrations of the lack of practical, realistic advice and direction in approaching dating, relationships, engagement, and marriage when she got in the relationship in the first place. It's probably one of the reasons why I have such a high opinion of Authentic Beauty and want to do one in whatever church we end up in as a family.

Well, I think I've dwelt on enough loss and sadness in this post, but I will close with the promise that God is still in control and that we will see those who have gone on "home" before we have. May God grant us who remain here on earth the grace to continue on in ways that bring Him glory.

Friday, May 13, 2011


I HATE it. As much as I love organizing and making things fit, packing makes me stressed and agitated like very few things in this world. Even after I do pack in a timely manner, I have terrible flashbacks (visible and emotional) of the end of my first semester in college:
I had been packing all week long, but the pathetic reality was that I completely and totally underestimated the sheer amount of stuff I had acquired in just 2 semesters! Now there weren't any charges for check-in luggage yet, but even still, I was only allowed 2 check-ins. It was literally 2 in the morning when I had the first nervous breakdown of my life. My stuff was half packed and half in piles waiting to be packed... and I had to catch a flight to Hawaii @ 8AM! (being there 2 hours ahead WAS in effect as 9/11 had only occurred 2 years before. In absolute and humiliating desperation, I called my mom (~midnight their time) weeping about not getting it to all fit and not having a clue what to do with all my JUNK! In the end, my beloved roommate agreed to pack the remaining items into a box that she would mail to me in Hawaii. =( My roommate had to finish packing for me! Talk about being incompetent and humbled!

I've since learned to let go of things that I don't need and what my necessities truly are. I've learned that, yes, I AM a "pack-rat" to a certain extent. I've learned to keep a few key things in my purse or carry-on that I'd really rather not go digging for later. I've learned that no matter how neat you fold or lay clothes, they will get wrinkled and smashed -oh an recently: alway, ALWAYS put liquids, gels, and even facial scrubs into a new ziplock bag -especially in your check-ins. For short trips with the kids, put all their "sets" of clothes/diapers in individual ziplock bags. It helps to keep from over or under packing. Truly be brutally honest about how much you NEED to bring... especially in the area of shoes and jackets.

As far as this upcoming trip, I have to figure out what/how to get all the extra gifts and toys that we acquired back with us, if possible. I suppose it will help that the girls have both grown out of some of the clothes we originally came with... but eventually I want to bring those back, too, just in case we have another girl OR my mother-in-law would like them for their newest daughter.

I KNOW that it must be done. I've tried to break it down each day so that I'm not left with the horrible, naive-college-girl experience all over again. In fact, the trip from CO to OR went really well and smooth. I didn't have everything in storage like I had hoped, but it was packed and ready for my in-laws to evacuate when they were ready to have their room back. I had even cleaned out and emptied our vehicle for others' use in our absence. The girls had their own manageable carry-ons, toys and snacks included. My necessities were packed and ready, book and gifts included. All of this with a day to spare and yet, I started to hyperventilate and get nauseated with the stress that I'd forgotten something or something horrible just HAD to happen. My husband and sister-in-law did their absolute best to reassure and calm me down that everything would be fine. Our move from OR to CO was still fresh in my memory... while most everything was packed, I'd again underestimated how much time it would take to clean a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment "by myself." Thankfully, we had such a loving, sacrificing church family that they took that burden upon themselves and cleaned the whole place - with their own cleaning supplies no less!  I just went back and added " " to the by myself part... at that point, I DID have the loving, patient support and help of my husband. Perhaps that makes a difference?

Well, now I'm faced with packing again, but this time I have a PRIZE waiting for me after all my trials! Not to mention that if I DO forget anything, it'll keep @ my family's until I can send for it. ;-)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Buildup and Sleeplessness

Okay, so I've had A LOT going on in my head the last week that I wanted to journal about, but never got around to writing out... unfortunately, some of it must have "spilled out" of my head and the rest of it is so compacted together that it may take a while to get it all out in a comprehensible way. It also doesn't help when the only reason I am able to write right now is that my kids are watching a tv show. :-/

You know God's teaching you something when a certain phrase keeps coming to your mind and finally the day comes when you realize that it's no longer a challenge AND you've got a completely different outlook. For instance, up until the last week or so, I've been struggling so hard with the concept of getting enough sleep -ever since I got pregnant: over 3 years ago. :-p  I've always "understood" the reasons for getting 8 hours of sleep and suffering the consequences of getting less than at least 6 hours at night. I guess I took it so literally that it was causing me to become bitter against my children, cross with those I lived with, and to live with a sort of "chip on my shoulder" against the world that I was not getting my "entitled" amount of sleep. Then I came across a passage while attempting to curb my anger/frustration attitude:

2 Corinthians 6: 1-10
And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain - for He says, "At the Acceptable Time I listened to you, And on the Day of Salvation I helped you." Behold, now is "the Acceptable Time," behold, now is "the Day of Salvation" - giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.

The fact that the Scriptures mentioned sleeplessness as something that we would have to endure was of GREAT encouragement and motivation for changing my attitude. ...the funniest outcome of this is that I've found myself waking up after only 6 hours of sleep, regardless of what time I went to bed or the amount of times the girls woke up in the night/morning. I'm fully rested (though I can sleep more if possible) and am completely accepting of the fact that I am "enduring sleeplessness" to the glory of God! My "calling" right now is to raise the children that He saw fit to bless me with, and with it comes the times of sleeplessness.  In fact, the verse later says to be "always rejoicing" knowing that we are being listened to and helped by God of grace. All praise be to Him! =)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Test... a few tests

So I've learned to say that "I'm glad that emotions aren't everything." I'm being put to the test yet again to see if I will put my trust in the truth and hope of my Lord Jesus Christ, instead of my fears of insecurity, inadequacy, and the unknown.  Anger, sadness, hopelessness, pain, vengefulness, jealousy, frustration... even happiness and pleasure cannot be the driving force in my quest for truth, healing, peace, love, purity, joy and maturity. I guess this whole time away from my husband and role of "only" parent have forced me to put aside my reactive emotions and even the deep seated ones... Where they come in appropriately is now so confusing. I was beginning to just tell myself that they get in the way and shouldn't play a part in my parenting or marriage. I feel split right now. I want to divulge in my emotions and satiate them with my questions and accusations.... but then I despise how they momentarily control me -mostly through anger- and wound my children, my family, and ultimately myself. I don't know how to trust myself. I want to trust Christ, but I find it very difficult to believe that I won't "take over" and "lash out." I've been slowly denying my flesh in some ways and fighting to place The Word and Christ in it's void. It's been such an uphill battle. Just when I think I've given over a weakness of mine, something/someone triggers my emotions like a knee-jerk or a backhanded slap across the face. I catch myself better now, but I'm still finding that I indulge in the emotion (negatively). I give in to laziness. I give in to apathy. I give in to anger. I give in to my "self." Lord? Is there anyway out of this vicious cycle? Am I actually getting anywhere in my relationship with You or anyone else? My brother is coming to me for advice and I keep thinking that I have something to offer all the single women here, but am I just being completely presumptuous and "full of my own understanding and self"? Can I actually completely die to myself this side of heaven?

Continue Praying

J is back from the mountains early. It wasn't something I was expecting, but I'm glad that God got to speak so clearly that J had to respond sooner than later. Sometimes He does answer our prayers "quickly."

We got to talk about an hour after I read a letter he sent me about the things God showed him and told Him he needed to do. It was good. I prayed for good things to come from this time and the beginning of good things came. It looks like the "good" parts will have to come after some very challenging, difficult, and even painful times first.  While I hate pain, every time I've experienced it, I've learned that I can first wallow in it till I carry a "chip on my shoulder" or become immobilized OR I can be brutally honest with God and a few trusted people and learn to lean and trust in God again. The "pain" of my break from my parents has taken around 5 years to bring me back into a healthy, growing relationship with my parents, but more importantly with God.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Day 3

It's interesting what even partial fasting does to the mind and heart. I realize that all the points and "resolves" that I had from my Bible study were starting to "wear off." :-( It's kinda discouraging, but in the same thought, God saw fit to place them back into my frontal memory at this time. Praise God!

Some of the things that I can immediately recall:
~Being mindful of my thoughts when I go to sleep
~Filling my mind with His Words first thing after I wake
~Reading stories of those who have lived "set apart lives," too
~Keeping the mindset that God is literally next to me at all times

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Day 2

Second day of "fasting." I type it in quotes because fasting in a very uncontrolled situation, with guests and visits to other family members is pretty much impossible. After successfully fasting most of yesterday, I had an unexpected guest arrive in time for dinner. It would have been strange to feed my guest and then sit there and watch her eat. Today I made it through breakfast and almost through lunch, until we had to pay a visit to my dear Grandma's home where turning down food for any reason is considered rude. :-p
I've come to the conclusion that I am fasting from one meal each day and tomorrow I will fast from dinner. I'm still learning a lot and sending up a prayer for God's love to pour out onto my husband and His protection around him every time those hunger pangs (or thoughts of food) enter my mind. I'm learning to drink more water, to deny myself of simple little pleasures of sweets, 2nd helpings, and constant nibbling. 100% juice and milk help to "hold off" hypoglycemic reactions to the lack nutrients from my meals.
I noticed that J "liked" Pure Desire Ministries International, which is the book he wanted to finish so much while in Portland. I'm assuming that with all the time he's had today, he's mostly finished the little book.  I still have a few chapters to go. Perhaps he's highlighted and made notes, too... I'll be able to see them since our Kindles are still on the same account.
Praying for God's guidance in knowing how to handle my anger-prone eldest child. I had to put her in the car-seat again while we were at Grandma Joy's house. She got angry over a simple apology and simply screamed bloody murder when asked what was wrong. I could not get her to calm down. I spanked her hard, twice. It made her temper tantrum even worse. The only thing I could think to do was to remove her from everyone and keep her from hurting herself: the car-seat.  The last time I had to use this form of control was at AWANAs when she refused to keep her shoes on. She sat in the car screaming while her classmates were singing, getting rewards, enjoying snacks, and free-playing. By the time she calmed down, most of her friends had been picked up by their parents or were leaving.  It was a hard, but extremely powerful lesson in learning to obey and practicing self-control -or the lack thereof, resulting in temporary isolation and deprivation of blessings/relationships.
This time, I hope, was just as effective, because she returned to apologize and quietly sniffed that she "Never want to be alone in the car by myself ever again. I was all by myself and I didn't like to be that way. I wanted to be with everybody. I need to obey and say I'm sorry and not screaming anymore...."

We also dropped Dad off at the airport for his personal vacation time to visit family and friends in CA until Mom and #1 brother join next Wed. for sister's birthday a week from tomorrow. Wow. My baby sister is graduating from college at age 20. O_O Very proud of her though, as most of her friends still have at least one more year to go, if not more.

I miss talking to J before dinner, but I know that something much more important is happening. I'm praying that he is being comforted by Him and conformed to His Word. I'm praying that his soul is finding rest and shelter, as well as living food and water. I'm praying that I would be a better mother and a the type of wife that I would want to be married to. I'm asking the Lord to help me to die to myself and to change my natural ways of thinking and reacting.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Day 1

Had a good conversation with J on his drive up to the cabin. He really just wants to spend time with God. He doesn't want to have an "agenda." He just realized that he hadn't been spending time with God, regularly or continually. I know how that feels, and yet my challenge is to make Him more important than anything else... to literally fight for why He is everything to me. In my mind and slowly in my heart, He is taking control, but my temper and cravings are my battles, no matter where I go.
I've started fasting today. I had breakfast, but stopped eating food after that. Since then I've had some juice. It's crazy! I'm realizing how much I use food to pass the time along. I eat with the girls, I eat their leftovers, and make food for others and snack on the broken off pieces or crumbs! Aaahh! I didn't realize how much food occupies how I order my day and move my thoughts along -or just plain stop them. My thoughts go idle when my mouth and tongue and stomach are working. While I claim to not be picky or "don't eat much", I'm realizing how much I snack throughout the day or use meal times to plan out what is going to happen next in the day.
If this is how I'm dealing with it all -food everywhere, preparing meals for my girls/family, electronics at my fingertips... I have no idea HOW J is going to handle 3 days of it! I have responsibilities. I have places to go, and things to fill the sound of my grumbling stomach. He has NO responsibilities. He is doing this of his own free will. Granted he does have the splendor of creation, the peace and quiet of nature (and lack of other people/places), but even that may not compete with a mind that is use to constant information, interaction, and busyness. He's at a COMPLETE STOP. He's not going to a conference. He's not meeting someone for a prayer meeting or Bible study. He's going to intentionally meet with the Creator of the Universe whom he's somewhat ignored for the last few months.
Lord God, please protect him! Anyone seeking you is promised to have trials, temptations, attacks, and supernatural challenges. PLEASE put a wall of protection about him as he seeks You. May he be leaning on You to lead the way and to protect him from the enemy's snares -especially the ones from within.
Most of all, Lord, please just answer his prayer to meet with You. Reveal Yourself to him in Your time and way, and may he recognize You and find You! Make me the mate he needs in this life! Mold me and direct my prayers and thoughts. Be my strength and wisdom as I raise these girls. I surrender their training and teaching to Your will and plan. I'm not doing so well on my own. I'm tired of resorting to screaming, yelling, threatening, and punishing... I don't know any other way though. Neither of the girls seem capable enough of remembering the lessons I tell them every day. I repeat myself as if I'm talking to dogs who are cute but really don't care or know how to process and keep the information that I'm giving them. *sigh* I am exhausted and out of "creative ideas" to get them to obey me and to love each other. Plus, I'm fighting my own battle of laziness, cockiness, self-righteousness, anger, apathy, unfaithfulness, and insensitivity. Please show me the battles that are ours, the girls, my husband's, and the family's.  I want to hear from You again!
Love your fickle,
Amy Joy

Mother's wifely input

Today J leaves for Praise Mountain. =) As I said before, I am very proud and excited about his decision to do this time of personal reflection, renewal of faith, and fasting from a few key things (food and technology). Last night was a Tuesday. On Tuesday nights my family has their dinner and "family devotions" on a local beach. There is also a time of sharing prayer requests and praises, which are prayed for by each member (if time permits). I shared about J's retreat coming up: requesting protection from the evil one, renewal for his spirit, insight and strengthened belief in who and what Christ means to him, and possible direction for his life and our family. lol... it wasn't nearly as well asked, in fact i remember actually saying that I didn't really know what exactly to pray for. i did mention the protection and possible direction for our family.
After sharing, my mom said something that I think was very important and that I will take to heart. "You should fast with him, too. Just focus on the girls and pray for him. It will help you to be connected." I realize that I could just pray for him like I have been this whole time, at mealtime and before bed... but the more I think about it, it could be VERY helpful to ask him ahead of time what he plans to focus on, what questions he wants to search out, and what he hopes to gain from this time.  Every time I go to put food into my mouth or feel those hunger pangs, I can remember what J is doing and pray specifically for the things he shared with me.  I can ask God to focus his mind and to also draw myself to Himself... asking Him what He would have me to learn and grow from during this time, too.  While not together, we can make it a shared experience of dedicated time to listen and learn from God.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May Day

I missed the chance to post on "May Day" this past Sunday... it was a bit crazy. J and I decided that this separation time needs to be done and over with ASAP.  How that was going to come about was the root of the weekend craziness. I found that all tickets to the mainland were "decent" up-till the week of Mothers' Day (May 8-14).  I then realized that my sister's graduation from college happened to be that Friday (yes, the 13th). So, I proceeded to make it work where I could get to LAX and attended the graduation, and then continue on to DEN. Dozens of calls, complicated overnight stays, and mini discussions, I was unknowingly "riled up" and rather unnecessarily stressed out. Half way through the decision making process, we were also offered 2 buddy passes with Delta. I wanted to please everyone in some way -parents wanted me with them as long as possible, my sister wanted me to meet her friends, my husband wanted to pick us up from the airport... while everyone's desires were legitimate and understandable, the flights, transportation, and lodgings were not lining up. I finally agreed to a plan largely concocted by my father... which I thought would be "the end of it." Then my husband questioned my plans and I erupted. Literally. Like a volcano. Remember how I said I was "unknowingly riled up"... yeah. I messed up BIG TIME in my communication with him. :-(

In so many ways, it was the confirmation that the two of us apart any longer was NOT a good idea.  When he was at training, his mind was only on training. My mind was only on the girls and the family I've been living with. I call it my "survival mode." If I think too much about not being with J cripples me to immobilization. I can't process, can't make decisions, can't take care of myself, I barely take care of the girls, I cry, I sleep, I eat too much or too little.... so I adopt a "single-mom" mindset, with the hope that it is only temporary.
He on the other hand has almost too much time on his hands now. He's not directly providing for a family, though he IS very actively looking for a job. He doesn't need a babysitter to watch the girls or to even wait for me to "get ready" to go anywhere. He just goes. He does what I've been doing all this time and talks to his family about his thoughts and hopes and aspirations and disappointments. He probably tells them what his plans and hopes are before (if at all) sharing them with me.... it makes sense. they are THERE. they ARE his family after all.... but then he starts making decisions and opinions and choices based on such conversations and interactions (just like I have all this time) without me understanding where he's coming from (and vise versa).
I assume. He assumes. I don't trust he has our best interests and respond defensively, questioningly, and disrespectfully. He responds defensively, questioningly, and injured.

To bring this post to a close, it looks like I'll be flying (as directly as possible) to DEN on May 19th. =) He moved on in the relationship after I apologized and talking needed to resume for planning and children's sake. I don't deserve this man I call my husband. Without saying a word, I know that he's forgiven me. And I hope he believes me when I say that I've gotten better at controlling my temper and tongue... it just might show better when we're not thousands of miles and 4 hours apart. :-/