What’s weighing you down?


Living in the WNY area I have enjoyed seeing different historic landmarks in our area. One of my favorite places to visit is the Buffalo Naval Park. I have watched this area distinctly change over the last 15 years. But at least this one thing has remained with all the additions to the area. There is a lot to see with a nice museum to walk, a simulator (though I’ve never been in it), however the most striking part is what I call the big ships. You can walk on board the USS Little Rock and walk through the complete ship, seeing where men ate, slept, worked while they lived out at sea. Personally, I would not like to live in such a ship but I am grateful some are willing! To look at the large submarine docked here, you have to wonder what kind of man it takes to be willing to defend our freedoms in this way.

I have been through many circumstances in my life and I grew up feeling as if I could only truly count on myself. That all changed when I met Jesus in January of 2003. It was then that my temporary anchor was pulled in and a permanent anchor was laid down. If you are not sure, an anchor is an object used to keep a vessel from drifting away with the wind and waves; an object used to attach a ship (or boat) to the bottom of the ocean (or sea, lake, pond – a body of water). You may or may not be aware that there are temporary anchors and permanent anchors. If you have ever been out in a boat perhaps you have used a temporary anchor. When I was a child we used to go to the Adirondacks regularly and it was common for us to take a canoe out on the lake. As I grew older I would paddle the canoe out to a quiet spot on the lake and I would let the anchor down and swim, read, or sunbathe. I didn’t want to canoe to drift where ever it may so I used the anchor to stay in one spot. When I wished to paddle back to camp I would simply pull in the anchor and return whence I came. I wouldn’t expect that little anchor to help if there were a storm with heavy wind and waves coming my way. If I want something to help me stay put for the long haul, I need a permanent anchor. A permanent anchor would keep a ship or buoy or other seaworthy structure set in place so that wind and wave could not move the structure.

In the world of anchors the chain links for the anchor used for the largest ships weigh more than five hundred pounds each! A person walking amidst such a chain would look like one of those little plastic green army men! The anchor used to be a commonly used symbol for Christianity. Many tomb stones from the Roman persecution of the first century bear an anchor alongside words of hope. It is a strong reminder that Jesus is our anchor.

Are you dragged around by the waves of life? The circumstances that crash against you, this way and that? Does the wind blow you off course? In a world that is ever changing the only constant I have found is Jesus. He keeps me on course, permanently anchored in His word. He makes me strong when I have no strength of my own. He reminds me of who I am, who He has created me to be when everything around me tells me otherwise.

If you have never checked out the big ships in the Buffalo Harbor you will be delighted walking around canalside!

Hard Labor

If you are a woman reading this blog there’s a good chance you have given birth at some point in your lifetime.  I have personally given birth eight times.  Yes, I have eight children.  They came one at a time (no twins) and I was glad to receive each one of them.  The labor and delivery I was not so glad to perform.  It’s amusing the different questions I have been asked with each new pregnancy/baby.  “Do you find that labor & delivery is easier since you’ve had more babies?”  No.  No, I don’t find the most physically painful events in my life become any easier as more are added.  In fact, I have found giving birth to be traumatic in more ways than one.  I love babies and being pregnant (most of the time).  But I hate the ordeal of childbirth.  It hurts.  After I had my first baby, every subsequent pregnancy I have celebrated as much – but then I remember the culmination of pregnancy.  I’ve been duped!  I don’t want to do this again, it hurts!  It’s hard!  One of the hardest things is for my last few pregnancies I actually feel like I am in labor for about a month before the baby is born.  My most recent labors I have found longer and more unpredictable than my earlier labors (all those old wives’ tales are just tales).  My eighth baby was born two days after Christmas (December 27, 2016).  Just thinking about labor and delivery makes me tear up!


Why am I talking about this?  I am not pregnant, and probably won’t be anytime soon.  Because I find that anxious feeling, the dread, of the labor and delivery, deep inside of me.  In my circumstances God is preparing me for an emotional birth of something new.  After all, He makes all things new if we let Him.  When I am nearing the end of giving birth, it’s time to push and the baby is ready for his or her debut I am weary.  I am bone-tired and all I want to do is close my eyes and get some much needed rest – if only that were possible.  However, rest is not possible until the work is completed.  I cry and say I can’t do anymore, it’s too much – I just can’t.  And someone takes my hand and tells me I can.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Two minutes and I am done.  I can breath again, amidst my crying.

Is God birthing something inside you – in your life right now?  I know He is in mine.  And I’m crying, saying I can’t do anymore.  It’s too much God.  Can I please just lay down and rest?  I sit here and take a deep breath.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Do you need to say it again?  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

The work is not complete.  Keep pushing.

Fire before us

Today was a long, awful, wonderful, day. 

I have a very different life than the household I grew up in.  While we had expectations to meet, it was a very independent household.  So independent that I was not homesick (not even a little) when I went to college.  I wouldn’t say anyone in our household was particularly close with each other.  I guess we loved one another the best we knew how at the time.  Part of me was heavily career minded as I grew into adulthood but the rest of me seemed to know that really what I wanted was to marry and have children – and I wanted to be the one pouring into my children rather than sending them off to someone else each day.  It could only be God because growing up I only remember knowing of one homeschooling family, and the girl I knew left home to live somewhere else during her high school years!  Now, although I am with my children almost constantly, I have had to work at actually having a relationship with them rather than just let them go about their business while I go about my own.  Because that’s my status quo and what I learned growing up.  I hope everyone hears me on this – I am not complaining about my upbringing.  I actually love the independence and knowing who I am, and that I do not need anyone else to complete me (except God).  What I am saying is that I had to learn how to build a relationship with my children after they had passed the cuddly age and started becoming more like little adults.

God really knew what he was doing when he created marriage and family.  It’s the best cure I have found for selfishness, and one of the number one ways I have found to honor God!  These close relationships bring out the best and the worst in us, if we let them.

But back to today and relationship building with children.  We are going through one of the most difficult seasons we have ever been through in our family, and my children are struggling.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell because it seems like everything is the same as usual but when I study their faces and attitudes I can see the struggle.  Oh, the disobedience today of my 3 & 5 year old children!  It was epic.  They weren’t the only ones, but their teamwork is outstanding!  It was how the day started and nearly how it ended!  But amidst this crazy, chaotic, day I saw the heart of two of my other children open up in a way that I have been praying for, for all of my children.

My sweet and spunky 11 year old needs constant correction and guidance (I should probably handcuff her to me for a while to keep her from wandering lol).  As per her usual I let her know at the beginning of the day what she needed to do if she wanted to participate in afternoon activities (extras).  And like she has done so many times before, 10 minutes before we need to leave she is wrying (cry whining) that I never told her anything and trying to rush to get her work done.  Obviously she didn’t get it done.  It was too late and we had to go.  When the time came for her to miss out on one of the planned activities I looked at her.  Did she have a headache again?  Did it even bother her what she was about to miss?  I saw an unusually deep pain in her countenance.  I took my time studying her expression and asked her if she was ok, what’s wrong?  As she answered with “I don’t know,” she came and put her head on my shoulder, hugging me, as she started to cry.  The consequences had tipped the real pain she had been feeling and had allowed me a chance to see into her heart for a moment.  She was confused, hurt, scared.  From the girl who could easily fake the tears (and deny any proven reality), I could see this was real, heartfelt, emotion that I could not ignore.  In an instant I felt Jesus tie our heartstrings together as I comforted and prayed for her.  She’s the one I worry about the most – tough since she was in the womb!  One day, I know her testimony will be a great one, but I continue to pray that she doesn’t have to walk through the stupid choices I or her father did to get there!

My sweetest, softest, child who is 7 has been enduring the ups and down just like everyone else.  In our house, when circumstances are difficult, the litmus test is how children sleep.  When they are not well their sleep suffers at the hand of bad dreams and nightmares.  My poor girl has been regularly telling me about such occurrences.  Tonight as I sat in her room, hoping my presence would help her feel safe, she proceeded to tell me the details of an awful dream.  And it was awful!  She shared, we prayed, I asked questions, she answered, and I’m not sure I have ever experienced any of my children cry as hard as she did tonight.  She was feeling sad, and angry, and then bad about feeling angry.  She is our prayer warrior, and clearly sensitive to the spirit of God.  She is the first to suggest praying, the first to offer to pray, and inwardly trying to make sense of it all.  Tonight, that little 7 year old was able to identify her emotions, and why she was feeling what she was feeling.  And she got to hear her Madre (that’s what she’s been calling me since she learned that is the way to say “Mom” in Spanish) confess that I have all the same feelings!

What about you?  What’s going on in your heart that you wish you could talk about but can’t bring yourself to say it out loud?  You don’t need to tell me.  But maybe find a close friend who is safe to share with, or find a notebook or journal and write it down.  This can be difficult because when we write something down or say it out loud it becomes more real than it was just floating around in our mind.  But becoming aware can help us make clearer decisions, and deal with whatever issues we have.  Many adults have a hard time doing this!  Ignoring your emotions don’t make them go away.  Instead they stagnate in the recesses of our soul, keeping us from moving forward and causing us to live in the fog of the unknown.

Hope is the Anchor of my Soul

You don’t know me.  Maybe you do, or you think you do.  And for the most part I attempt to live in such a way that what you see is what you get.  Yet I still sense that some think I am some kind of supermom or superwoman.  I am not.  I’m just like you.  I’m trying to get through the day, trying to honor my Jesus and treat others with kindness.  Sometimes losing bad….  Truth be told I want to be vulnerable with you but I know that some people will judge me and my life.  Some of you already have.  Perhaps it’s the clothes I wear, how many children I have, the fact that I home school….  Maybe you think I’m judging you.  Ha, sometimes I am but I have learned to be vigilant to my own preconceived notions so that I can catch myself and remind myself that I don’t know the whole story on anyone’s life.  God gave me my own story.  He scooped me up and showed me how much more there is to life than just me.  He showed me that I can’t always trust myself.  He showed me my limitations; He showed me my potential.  Isn’t that the way with God?  Doesn’t He always show us we can’t do it on our own and then in the same breath remind us that He has created us for even greater things?
I grew up in a house absent of Christ.  I’m not sure if that was intentional on my parents part but it was godless nonetheless.  When I went to college I ended up with several Christian friends – I had no idea what that was all about and I did think they were a bit weird.  I thought “I love to sing but this is a bit much, why are they raising their hands?”  Yes, I’m that kind of freak now.  I had great respect for my Christian friends, although I thought some of them to be hypocrites and I adopted some of their music tastes and when they talked to me about Jesus I said, “That’s great that that makes you happy, but I’m not interested.”  And that was that…  or so I thought!

Honestly, I didn’t get it.  How do these people know what is true, I thought.  I mean every church can’t have the truth – they are all different.  They all say something different so they can’t all be true.  Some people were baffled when I said that to them.  I wanted to know how they picked a church to belong to, they simply can’t all be true since many beliefs contradict one another.  Crickets….

I wanted the truth.  I wanted to be a good person.  Somehow I knew I wasn’t as good as I thought.  And somehow I knew that having faith in myself wouldn’t be enough.  I didn’t want to believe in a Hell.  That sounds awful, who wants to believe in a Hell?  But there must be something good right?  I wanted the good, without the bad.  And now about 15 years later more and more I see that you can’t have one without the other.  I have found no relationship that has good but no bad.  I have found no organization that has good but no bad.  I have found no teaching that has good and not bad.  God has taken me just as I am – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

As I sit here with my head in my hands, trying not to fall asleep (not wanting to go to bed and have to face tomorrow lol), I offer myself to you – just as I am.  Let us make a safe place to open up and be who we are together.  Let us not have to hide our pain, our gain, and even our shame.  It’s hard, I know.  But we must move past this facade of perfection.  We have problems, they are real, and unless we deal with them it’s likely we will be traveling around our own personal wilderness for the rest of our lives.

I don’t have anymore to offer than the next person but I hope to be a voice to those who have no voice; an uplifting word to those drifting through depression; hope to those who feel like they can’t go on; a resource of practical and spiritual fortification.  Let’s do life together and spur one another on!

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the presence behind the veil.”
Hebrews 6:19

Anchor of My Soul by Josh Garrels