Letting go of what once was…

Change is hard. It doesn’t matter if it is change we desire and set out to make, or if circumstances demand our response to change. Change is just hard.

In August, we moved my first born to college an hour away. She has been prepared for such a time as this, but I don’t remember getting myself prepared. Moving day just showed up one day and I’ve been navigating through what that means for my life. It’s so much quieter at home. The good noise and the teenage noise she brought has left a deafening silence. I’ve also lost my unpaid taxi driver. We provided the vehicle and gas, and she provided the rides for the other kids. It sure was a blessing.

Change is letting go of what once was.

This August brought promotion to my youngest son, who entered into high school. He chose to go to the public school, instead of the private school he’s been in the last two years. This new school also meant learning a new trade route. On the first day, I missed the exit and almost made him late.

Change takes time to get used to.

The majority of this year has been spent living out of a suitcase. I haven’t had easy access to “my stuff” which cleared a fog that stuff provides. I realized somehow I’ve lost touch with who I am. In my distractions and caring for everyone around me, I’ve forgotten to remember myself. In the clearing, I found myself resentful of parts of my life.

When the pain of staying where you are is more painful than change, I’ll choose change.

Who am I? What do I enjoy? What fuels me?

We all need something that’s ours. Something that we can call our own. I need something I can build and enjoy and feel refueled. Similar to how I feel when I’m blogging or when I’m able to welcome a newcomer to church. Oh, I love the feeling of helping a new person acclimate to their surroundings. It is incredibly bucket filling for me.

It’s this realization that has prompted me to make a career change. When I started with my company a few years ago, they knew this career step would happen eventually, but my fear of failing has kept me paralyzed. I’m not passionate about my job anymore. I’ve known I needed to do this, but change is scary.

Letting go is hard.

I’m in the beginning stages of training up my replacement at work and letting go of my position, while pushing back against feeling threatened and unneeded. I’m working hard to not have to feel a need to control everything, and hoping I can experience some cool things if I lean into this journey. Some days is easier than others.

Journeys take us to different territories and on different terrain. I’m in a land of the unfamiliar. There’s some fear, with much anticipation. There’s adventure and waves and sun. I might get sunburnt, but I’ll recover.

And when necessary, I’ll change.

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A letter to my 18-year old daughter

To my dearest daughter Adrianna, on her 18th birthday,

There are so many things on my heart I want to tell you. Have I already told you these things? Do you know them? Oh, how I don’t want you to ever forget. Today, tomorrow, and in your hardest and toughest times.

You are now an adult. You are free to live life the way you want; free to make your own decisions; free to face consequences. Your choices matter. They impact you differently starting today. Ready or not, being 18 demands responsibility.

I believe you’re ready. You have a fighter spirit. From birth you’ve had to fight; to live; to be educated; to embrace your uniqueness. The challenges you’ve overcome will help you succeed as you walk out of our home and into the next stage of your life.

Never forget who you are.

Having your identity founded in Jesus protects you from someone stealing it from you. Who you are is not dependent upon your accomplishments, your beauty, or the basketball skills you’ve developed. Your identity is not determined by what college accepts you or by what boy likes you or who praises you on social media.

Your identity is far more precious than that. You are royalty. A princess. Not the helpless tiara-toting, dress-wearing kind of princess. No, you would never have that. You are strong and determined, yet soft-hearted and humble.

This world is going to try to influence who you are. Be on guard. Reject its criticism. Embrace both your strengths and your weaknesses. God has knitted you together for a purpose, even the parts of you that you don’t like. Don’t be ashamed that you struggle in math. If God wanted you to be a mathematician, He would have gifted you with that! You are wired the way you are for a purpose far greater than you. If your wiring were different, you wouldn’t be properly equipped for your purpose.

Remember this when you face rejection. You will face it. It’s an unfortunate fact of life, but easy to overcome when you remember your identity. Clearly the person rejecting you has no clue how amazing you are, and you wouldn’t want to be in any kind of relationship with someone that dumb. Move on and praise God for saving you.

Forgive. Hurting people hurt people. 

Don’t fall in love with the first boy who sweet talks you. Is he in a growing relationship with Jesus? Pay attention to his walk. Does he consistently demonstrate what he talks and over time? If he tells you that you’re hot or sexy, ditch him. I don’t mean that you should let him down easy. I mean, move like your house is on fire. Get outta there. He is fire and you will get burned. A real man will tell you how beautiful you are, and he won’t only only mean your outward appearance.

There are lots of frogs out there. Don’t waste your time kissing them. Your prince won’t show up in a kiss. You’ll know he’s your prince long before the kiss. Save your kiss for your prince. What a special gift.

Whatever you do, stay close to God. Make your relationship with Him the most important relationship in your life. Everything has a way of working out when you follow Jesus.

And never, ever, ever forget how loved you are. You may be an adult, but you will always be my little girl, and I will always be proud to be your mom.

 

❤ ❤ ❤ Mom ❤ ❤ ❤

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Amanda’s upcoming speaking engagements:

Saturday, March 11th at Bethel Baptist Church in Port Byron, IL.

Friday, March 24th at Central Church of Christ in Davenport, IA. Click here for more information.

Need a speaker for your ladies gathering? Contact me for pricing and availability. 

 

 

Five things I know to be true today…

A good writer should never apologize in an opening – it’s not a good “hook” – but I never claimed to be good. I’m sorry – this is a blog post all about me – and if you don’t know me personally, you may not care to read it, but perhaps it will speak to where you are in your journey as well.

1. I’m in the midst of a test right now…

This is a test that requires great focus and determination. A “roll with it” mentality is not hard wired in me, but this is a season that requires that. I recognize I have absolutely no control over the timing of our house being rebuilt from the fire, which is a struggle for me. I’ve granted myself permission to be satisfied with seeing progress in my growth, and not be so concerned about perfection, and this test has been a benchmark of how far God has brought  me. For that growth, I’m grateful.

2. Construction on our house will finally start this week…

I write that hesitantly, but optimistically. The contractors will have to do some demolition first, and then we will pray for consecutive days of weather above 40 degrees, so the roof can be rebuilt. Moving back home is hinged on us not having a hole in it, and February isn’t the best time for that kind of weather. God is big and can make it happen if He wants to. I believe He can. I just don’t know if that’s His plan for us.

3. I love mission work.

I especially love mission work when it’s in a tropical place. It’s so much easier to mission for a week or two here and there and return to a “normal” lifestyle. One of the values of my church is to “live on mission” – right where you are, wherever you are. With our living quarters at an extended stay-hotel, we have been having a great opportunity to live in a longer-term missionary status, with people we would never otherwise meet or have an opportunity to have a conversation with.

Meet Charles for example.

I first noticed Charles one evening during dinner, in the hotel lobby. He was walking slowly towards the pool area, assisted by a walking stick. He was elderly. Fragile. I’m not sure what it was at the time, but I had to make an effort not to stare as he walked by. He had some kind of way to get people to look at him.

As quickly as he was out of sight, he was out of my mind as well.

Until I was in the swimming pool.

“Let’s go swimming!”  the kids exclaimed, but when it came down to it, I was the only one who actually went in the pool. They sat on the side of the pool, watching. Relaxing.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed movement. The old man with the walking stick was headed towards the pool. He had on swim trunks, but no shirt. His body was a canvas of bumps. He was missing fingers. Maybe this was what caught my attention earlier.

As he came into the pool area, I tried to carry on and pretend I didn’t notice him. I swam laps and talked to the kids. There came a point I was really ready to hit the hot tub, but he was in it.

To be completely honest, I didn’t want to get in the hot tub with him. What if all of those bumps on him  were contagious?

And a song came to mind. “What if God was one of us? Just a stranger on a bus…”

As I made my way out of the pool and into the hot tub, I wondered how many people steered clear of him because of his physical looks? I wondered how lonely his life might be because of judgments –  no different than what I was caught up in. I wonder what his story was.

So it was time to swallow my fear and place my trust in God.

Charles grew up in the Quad Cities. A military veteran, he landed down south with a wife and family. On this night, he was passing through from visiting family in the Chicago area, and would continue his journey south after a couple of days visiting those he still had in the area.

While he didn’t share why his body was outwardly deformed, he did share about a loss of family that left division in property amongst the siblings. I enjoyed at how quickly he opened up to me, and was glad to be that ear for him.

Then he asked about me and why we’re at the hotel. It opened an opportunity to share the miracle God gave us that evening of the fire, and how He’s been at work since.

Living on mission.

We never know who we will meet, and the timing of that encounter. As Christians it is important for us to shine our lights for Jesus, when He opens the door to do so.

4. My husband and I have had a vacation planned for over a year, for just the two of us.

Our vacation is now in the near future, is completely paid for, and with being displaced, this situation is causing us some uncertainty with where kids are going to stay, etc. God knew we’d be in this circumstance when we booked everything last January, and has a plan.

5. I’m beyond ready for said vacation.

What do YOU know to be true today? I would love to hear where you are in your journey!

Discouragement is a joy stealer

It’s 4am and I’m awake. I heard crackling. it must have been in my dream, but it was enough to wake me up. Before I could fall back to sleep, discouragement set in, as I realized where I was. Or rather, where I wasn’t.

It’s been 23 sleeps since a fire took us out of our sleep, and out of our home. It seems like so much longer than that. 23 sleeps since I’ve had a really good night of rest. 23 sleeps since I haven’t been forced into making quick decisions filled with uncertainty. 23+ sleeps since I have felt healthy. Life changed instantly in those moments.

Each day I wrestle with discouragement. The process is moving sooooooo slow.

Discouragement is a joy stealer.

I do my best to stay away from the house, because it’s a harder wrestle as I don’t see progress being made. Yesterday I had to stop at the house and afterwards, I told Ben that I wish I knew how God was trying to grow me through this. Ben asked me what I was struggling with, and encouraged me that’s the area God is looking to grow me.

Trust.

To the human eye, it looks like nothing has progressed with this situation in over two weeks. On paper, two weeks seems so doable. In real life, it feels like so much longer.

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much.” – Job 38:4

Trust has always been difficult when I am not looped into the “whys”. Trust is difficult when I don’t understand the situation. Blind faith is difficult.

Blind faith is what God calls us to.

God is always at work on behalf of his children. Always. Keeping focus on that is harder than wallowing in a pity party. But it’s necessary.

Life did change instantly 23 sleeps ago, but it could’ve been worse. Instead of being inconvenienced, I could be grieving the loss of some of my family. Instead of feeling burdened with numerous decisions from picking out a new fireplace, shingles, paint and carpet, I could be burdened figuring out how to manage life as a widow or childless mom.

Perspective is an important choice.

Make no mistake, it IS a choice.

So today, I choose to trust in God’s character. I choose to hang onto Isaiah 40:31 –

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.”

I choose God’s truth in the midst of my wrestles.

This situation is beyond my control. I have to walk through it. That is not a choice I have.

My experience along this journey is my choice.

Today I choose gratitude.

 

 

***We don’t know how long we’ll be displaced and have really appreciated the home cooked meals provided to us from our friends and family. We’ll continue to add dates to the calendar until we are back home. Please click here if you would like to help us in this way. We are so grateful for all of the love and support we are receiving.***

Finding contentment in difficult circumstances

One week ago at this exact time, I was enjoying a warm fire in our fireplace. A few hours later, it erupted into a fire in our home.

As I’m sure you can imagine, the last seven days have been incredibly exhausting. The more days away from our normal, comfortable lifestyle, the easier it is to lose focus of the saving gift we received that night.

I have a confession.

I’ve had a couple of meltdowns in the past few days. Sometimes crying is healing. This whole thing is a lot to balance. Tomorrow I will introduce work back into the equation and I have concern that my newer employees are about to see the areas I have cracks. I’ll do my best to stay focused on that cracks create space for light to enter.

We have had more people than we could ever imagine offer to help us in some way. I am humbled and awed at the love and support we have felt. This week, one person who delivered us food got teary as she shared how much I have impacted her in her journey. If circumstances were different, I may have never heard that.

What if we told people how much we appreciated them while we still had an opportunity?

If we take a moment to slow down, we can see people around us who are impacting our lives for the better, yet they may never even know. We get so busy in our tasks and to-do lists, we never tell them. I wonder how much it would impact them to know how much they’ve impacted us. I know my friend impacted me that evening.

So I challenge you:

Tell someone today how much their presence in your journey has meant to you, and why. Then, find someone to tell tomorrow, and then again the next day. It can be someone close to you, or the Whitey’s girl who introduced you to the amazing Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup with Banana Shake. After reading the thank you card I mailed to her, she came out from behind the counter and give me a big hug when I saw her again. Take the challenge and see what kind of reaction you get.

We all have our own personal fires.

When we look beyond ourselves and try to make someone else happy, it is often then we can find contentment in our journey.

Thank you for walking this journey with me, and for being such an encouragement.

You make a difference in my life.

Fire post thoughts

It’s been three sleeps since the crackling of a kindling attic fire awoke us from our peaceful slumber.

My understanding of the situation and expectation of what tomorrow holds is still very limited. We currently operate one day at a time, unsure of next steps. With lingering thoughts that a long holiday weekend will stall the progress of moving back into our home, I am hopeful that we will at least have some more answers by the end of today.

At this time, there’s really no new information on the situation to share.

So many friends have offered support.

We cannot thank you enough, as we don’t have the easiest time asking for help. If you feel led to help us in some way, we won’t refuse it, but we’re just unsure of the help we will need, until we need it. If you have experience with this, I’d love to hear from you.

I do feel really grateful my family has stuck together during this time. Taking three kids and two adults, having them uprooted to live in adjoining hotel rooms, with no “fun” vacation-type plans and very limited resources, and not having to mediate a single argument is incredible to me. In fact, I’d go as far to say this has been a blessing for our relationships with one another. Distractions have been put aside and we’ve had great conversations, we’ve played games, and we’ve enjoyed meals with friends and hotel staff. The kids have yet to complain. If they have, it’s fallen on deaf ears. Seriously, that alone is a feat inside of itself.

One day at a time.

Prior to the fire, I had a head cold and this circumstance has made recovery difficult. With allergies to smoke, my asthma has been causing me issues. Although the smoke smell is almost gone from the house, I still can’t be in the house for any length of time without feeling the effects, which led me to finally go to the doctor and receive some medicine. I feel hopeful I’ll start to recover soon. In the meantime, I have had a great opportunity to rest.

God has a funny way to slow us down.

Yesterday we put new tires on one of the cars and ran some errands. We were also blessed to have a movie night at our neighbor’s house. Typical for me, I fell asleep. That’s not a reflection of the movie, or the company. It was a typical day, in a less typical location.

Life goes on.

(Ben practicing his guitar while Adrianna applies for college). ben-strumming

Next week we’ll return to our jobs. I do have some concern for how that will work out, as the kids are still out of school. Leaving teenagers at a hotel without parents doesn’t seem like a wise solution, and I haven’t had to be a babysitter to them for several years. My employer is understanding and I know it’ll all work out, just as everything else has.

The peace I’ve walked in amazes me. The patience I’ve had is astounding. Without a doubt, it has to be God working in me, because -> this <- control freak is still a work in progress, and this is some serious progress.

God is good.

All the time.

Thank you for walking this journey with us.

When the road gets bumpy

Yesterday many of you woke up to the news that my family experienced the devastation of a house fire. Similarly, we were awoken just before 1:00 am in that situation. In an instant, all of our plans came to a standstill and we were at the mercy of the circumstance in front of us. Our path took us down an unfamiliar and unexpected bumpy road.

The day prior began unlike others. Both my husband and I had great anticipation of this week, as we had been planning it for months. We were on vacation from our jobs and the plan was to wake up, get all of the Christmas stuff put away and dive into minor home renovations. Ben’s main focus for the week was to tear out the existing ugliness surrounding our fireplace, put in drywall, build a new mantle and reassemble. My main focus had to do with back-splashing the kitchen, though that wasn’t as well planned out. When finished, we’d take on repainting the entire main floor. At the time, we didn’t realize how extensive our renovations would become.

With our 2016 Christmas put away and the main level of our home cleaned, the eyesight of cedar shingles on the fireplace came down into a box, to appropriately be burned later that evening.

(My post on Instagram just hours before the fire.) insta-post

Sometimes our journeys instantly take us down a road that is bumpy, but our faith doesn’t have to experience those jolts. If you’re in this situation, here’s some tips that have helped us:

  1. Be still. In the chaos, God’s voice can quickly drown out. Take time to praise and seek Him.

Around 9:30 pm, as Ben was preparing to put more wood on the fire, I asked him to just let the fire burn out. After a long day, I was fatigued and didn’t know how much longer I could stay awake. As the fire burnt out, my youngest son came to me with a tummy ache. He thought he might throw up, so I decided to sleep in the living room with him to keep an eye on him.

Just before 1:00 am, Ben woke me with insistence I come upstairs. What actually was a few moments of confusion for me likely felt like a lifetime to Ben, as he had incredible concern. He asked if I could hear “that”. Hear what? It sounded like there was still a fire in the fire place.

I went upstairs with no urgency and walked into our bedroom. Again, Ben asked if I could hear “that”, and pointed to where the chimney ran through our bedroom. I could hear crackling and popping, as I had earlier that evening. We also noticed the ceiling turning black around the chimney.

What parts of my mind were still groggy instantly awoke and adrenaline and control took over. A former 9-1-1 dispatcher, I knew communicating my needs well could be the difference of life and death, and of saving our home. As calmly as I could muster, I informed the dispatcher of our situation while I ran around to the bedrooms to get the kids up and outside. Each of us has our own experience with what these moments were like. It’d  be interesting to me to hear that 9-1-1 call.

When we got outside, it was unseasonably warm and quiet, or so it seemed. We could see the glowing of a fire in the attic, but no flames were yet visible.

Chaos quickly ensued and the quietness of the evening was lost. Our street was lined with fire trucks and ambulances and police. We watched as the fire broke through the siding of our home and the fire fighters planned an attack. We answered questions from the police, the district fire chief and then the fire marshal. And in the breaks of questioning, we praised God.

fire

  1. Look for the lemonade. Or coffee.

It’s my limited understanding the fire was caused by a crack in a liner in the fireplace, which allowed embers to get into the attic and smolder until it kindled into a full blown fire. My understanding is very limited and may be further developed in the coming days. What I did understand was even though we had replaced all the batteries in our smoke detectors just a couple of weeks prior, they never alarmed. We were safe and out of our home because Ben, in his sleep, had heard the crackling and awoke to protect us. If my son hadn’t felt ill, instead of hearing the crackling, Ben would’ve been hearing my coughing and snoring, brought on by a cold I’ve been battling. As we stood on the cold pavement of our neighbor’s driveway and watched the scene unfold, we could see the blessing in the events that accumulated to bring us to this point.

We’ve been displaced from our home for awhile. “A while” being a subjective term depending on who you ask. If you ask the insurance adjuster, he’d tell you a couple of weeks. My husband will tell you we will be home tomorrow. In our displacement, I have found a free 24 hour coffee bar. How’s that for lemons, or coffee beans?

coffee.jpg

  1. Allow others to help you. You don’t have to walk this path alone.

The outpouring of support from our friends and family has been greatly overwhelming. We have been so overwhelmed with calls and texts and Facebook posts. We haven’t been able to thank each of you individually, but we know we are not alone. Last night our church provided pizza for us at the hotel. After a really long night of no sleep, followed by a long day of meetings with the various people who are working on our behalf to restore our home, it was nice not to worry about “What’s for dinner?”, as my growing 15 year old son loves to ask.

We have organized a schedule for people who want to help us in this way, and again feel overwhelmed that it is filled with volunteers already. We don’t want to burden anyone and honestly have no idea what our needs will be, but will do our best to communicate how you can come along side of us as we find we have needs. Thank you for your generous and loving hearts.

  1. Lean in and look for where God wants to use your situation.

I’m excited for how God will use this situation to help others. I don’t know the scope of this, but we do have a new home for awhile and will develop relationships with the hotel staff. It’s my hope that as the staff sees the outpouring of support from our friends and family, and as they get to know us, they will be intrigued to ask more questions beyond the fire. I am praying for these conversations to happen and for God to be gloried. God knew we would have a fire in our home, and he chose to allow it to happen for a greater purpose.

Currently we don’t have any clean clothes, but we have our lives. We don’t have our beds, but we have a bed. We don’t have our plans, but we have a plan. We don’t know what bumps this day will hold, but we do have peace that surpasses even our understanding. When things seem out of our control, we know Who is in control.

house

On a side note: Ben has kept me in the loop of the many of you have posted on my Facebook wall. I can only imagine there are many personal inboxes to my Facebook. I have been on a much needed Facebook fast since mid-November and cannot see those messages. Thank you for your caring thoughts and love. If you’d care to communicate, you can email me at lfizgud@live.com or comment on my blog post. God bless you.