Friday, December 21, 2012

A Perfect Christmas

Traditional Christmas carols, the ones which have been around for decades and are played repeatedly on the radio this time of year, seem to have a magical touch when it comes to getting people in the Christmas spirit. They paint a detailed picture of what the perfect Christmas looks like: a blanket of snow, lights and decorations glistening around every corner, the hustle and bustle of shoppers as they check off their lists, children overflowing with excitement in anticipation of Santa and his sleigh, joy and good cheer filling the air, worries cast aside, and families and friends gathering to spend precious time together. Who wouldn’t be left feeling even a little cheerful after listening to these heart-warming songs?
I have grown up hearing these songs. I remember knowing the words to many of them as young as six years old, and learned many more as I grew. They became a part of me during the Christmas season, and I enjoyed any opportunity to sing along (even if I don’t sound very pretty!). I loved hearing the words which described Christmas because they were the epitome of my own Christmases…snowy and cheerful and perfect. I couldn’t imagine a Christmas any different.

When I got married and moved away from the northern winters, Christmas looked a little different. It was no longer cold and snowy, but I soon adjusted. However, the Christmas of 2008 changed everything. My husband was away on his first deployment. As the weeks prior to Christmas clicked by, I found myself unable to grasp my Christmas spirit. All of those songs which usually filled me with joy only made me feel worse. They reminded me that I wouldn’t be able to share all of those wonderful, perfect things with my husband. They reminded me that he wouldn’t be able to watch his baby girl’s face as she opened her Christmas presents. They reminded me of how imperfect this year would be because our family wasn’t whole. All I wanted to do was curl up in my bed and sleep until Christmas was over.
Now, we are four years past that first imperfect Christmas. Since then, our family has survived one other Christmas apart due to deployment. But this year, we are together. This year, our Christmas is perfect again. Over the years, the meaning of all those Christmas songs has changed for me. I no longer see them as describing the perfect Christmas, but rather things which make it a little nicer. A white Christmas is nice, but it doesn’t make it perfect. The hustle and bustle of shopping is nice, but it doesn’t make it perfect. Santa and reindeer and presents are nice, but they don’t make it perfect. An abundance of joy and good cheer is nice, but it doesn’t make it perfect.
What makes it perfect is being able to share all of those things with the ones you love. What makes it perfect is having your family complete. What makes it perfect is knowing that even if there is no snow or you don’t host a Christmas party or you can’t see all of your family because they are too far away or you don’t do every Christmas festivity you had planned, at the end of the day you are surrounded by the ones who make your heart whole, the ones who you’d want to spend the season with no matter what it looked like.     

I know the future will bring more imperfect Christmases for our family, and that is okay. But for now I sing loud with joy and gratitude for this year’s perfect Christmas.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Military Wife's Prayer

Deployments are never easy for a military wife. When they occur through the holiday season, she needs a little extra help finding cheer when her husband is away. Last year, all I wanted to do was hibernate through the month of December and wake up again after New Year's Day, when I could finally start planning my husband's return. But because of the kids, I couldn't do that. I'm so happy I didn't. It turned out to be a wonderful Christmas that I got to share with my husband through pictures, phone calls, and Skype.

My heart goes out to all of the military wives whose husbands are deployed this holiday season. It's not easy when your heart is yearning, but you must remember how strong you are and how brave he is. You must think about what is noble and praiseworthy in your situation. You must know that you are in this together. You may be far apart, but your hearts are tied closely together. 

This season, when you are feeling low and missing your soldier, I hope you find comfort in this prayer. Remember that he is missing you too, but if you can show him that you will be okay, he will be okay too. And when you wake up on Christmas morning surrounded by the friends and family you chose to visit this year, know that he is not alone either, but is surrounded by the love, support, and faith that can only come from you.

I pray that this holiday season, you might find peace in your circumstances, joy in your heart, and love all around you. Merry Christmas!

I discovered this prayer on a friend's blog, The Life of a Military Family. Thank you, Marcella!

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Perspective on the Past

Growing up, I knew nothing about military life or what being a service member entailed other than fighting in wars. I had heard stories from my grandfather about his duty in WWII and I knew that my uncle had died fighting in Vietnam. Beyond that, I was clueless. The idea of dating or even marrying a military man never entered my mind. I was used to being a small-town girl who lived in the same area all her life and assumed that these circumstances would never change. 

That was my life for nearly twenty-one years. Even when I went to college, I was only thirty minutes away from home and would visit often. I began entertaining the idea of venturing out of Ohio to attend graduate school, but I planned on settling back near my family after I had sewn my wild oats. But in one quick swoop, something unexpected happened that changed everything. In the middle of my junior year of college, I met the man who is now my husband.
Since becoming a military wife, I have often grieved the loss of my past. So much is different from all that I knew during my first twenty-one years. Life had been so consistent, so easy, and so expected. Now, those things are gone and I get stuck sometimes wishing that I could bring them back. I find myself weighing on the way things used to be rather than accepting and appreciating the way my life has evolved. By spending so much time longing for my past, I surely have allowed the way things were to get in the way of how they are to be.
I have read many quotes which encourage people to forget about the past and instead focus on the future. In the book The Noticer, by Andy Andrews, there is a quote which reads, “It’s time to stop letting your history control your destiny.” Though I agree with these words of advice to an extent, I also believe that our pasts are essential in helping to shape the people we are today.
For me, my past is where I developed my values and moral beliefs. My experiences are what helped to create the positive voice inside of me that pushes me to find the good in life. The time I spent with family growing up has influenced the way I teach my kids about the importance of being together. Somewhere along the way, though I never knew I would need it, I developed the skills and the faith I would need to persevere as a military wife.  I may have grown up in a lifestyle which was consistent and easy, but the lack of challenges back then allowed me to view life with a positive enthusiasm which has allowed me to overcome the difficulties of military life.
Our pasts are the foundations on which we continue to build character and a reference point when we find ourselves astray. It is true that allowing the past to overpower our ability to make wise choices can lead to setbacks on the road of life, but so can denying ourselves the opportunity to use the past as a way to influence our futures in a positive way. Our memories, good or bad, are a guiding force for the people we are today. We can choose to forget them entirely, or we can choose to see them as learning experiences which can, in the present, help us to improve our selves. 
Today, when I find myself missing my past, I remember that all of those great times were in preparation for where I am now. I consider how grateful I am for the life I had, but I also smile with thankfulness for where it has brought me. The life I have now may be very different from what it used to be, but I cannot deny that it is just as wonderful a life to be living. And when I gather my thoughts and remind myself of these things, I realize that I wouldn’t trade this life for anything.


Monday Meet Up

One of the many great things I have discovered since becoming part of the blogging world eight months ago is connecting with other blog authors and being inspired by them. Before I started my blog, I had no idea how many blogs were out there and how much I could be encouraged by other people's experiences and perceptions of life. Reading others' stories has helped me continue to develop my own thoughts and perspectives which I, in turn, use when I write my blog posts. I hope that I am inspiring my readers in the same way and that they, too, can use what I write to be encouraged in their own lives.

Today, one of my fellow bloggers, Brooke, has graciously agreed to post one of my articles, A Perspective on the Past, on her blog, Covered in Grace. She hosts a weekly link-up called Monday Meet Up in which she recognizes her favorite bloggers and then allows readers to link up their blog posts as well. It is her way helping bloggers discover other blogs and extend their own blogging community. Check out the event, and my post, here.

I am so grateful to Brooke for taking the time to consider my writing and to promote it on her blog. I am also thankful to you, who are reading this, for taking time out of your day to read what I have to say. Your support is the reason I continue writing!

I hope this Monday finds you feeling rested and rejuvenated, and with feelings of excitement for the holiday season. May your heart find peace, joy, and love this Christmas!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How an Old Song has New Meaning

A few days ago while watching television, I heard a clip from the Cheers theme song. It had been a while since I heard that song and was happy to hear such a familiar tune. With joy, I began singing along to the words I remembered so well: “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came...”  But before I could go on, I was struck with surprise by the truth in what those words said. What used to be mere words to me suddenly turned into an exact description of how I often feel as a military wife. Sometimes all I want to do is just go to a place where I know I belong.

It is no secret that military families move often. Each time, military wives must rebuild their social lives with the people who surround them. This has always been a challenge for me. Though I enjoy making new friends, I always miss my old friends. Many times I find myself thinking about friends from college or the ones from previous duty stations and how much I love their company. They are the ones who already know me. They are the ones who I can be myself around. They are the ones who are happy to see me. When I must leave them behind, I lose the comfort of their presence, the ease of knowing that I am already liked, and their understanding when I make a mistake or say the wrong thing.

When I watched the show Cheers growing up, I just thought it was about a bunch of people who liked to hang out in a bar. But now, I see that the reason those people kept coming back (other than the fact that the script told them to!) was because that’s where they felt like somebody. That’s where they felt like they belonged. They could complain about their troubles and there was always someone who cared enough to listen.
Because military wives move so frequently, it is often difficult for them to develop the same sense of belonging. Building great friendships is something which takes time. When we do finally find those friendships, chances are it won’t be long before someone has to leave and the process starts all over again.
Fortunately, military wives are amazing. When I moved here in late July I had no close friends. But a friend from North Carolina told me about another wife she knew who was also moving to this area. That was my first friend here. And through her, I met many other wonderful ladies who introduced me to even more wives, and now there are people coming up to me at functions to say hello. One great thing about military life is that there is always somebody who knows somebody. A military wife is never truly without friends.  
Someday, I hope that I will have settled down somewhere long enough to have many great friends all in one area. And when that happens, you can be sure to find me at the place where everybody knows my name.   

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

'Tis the week to be extra Thankful! I love this holiday. Every year seems to hold more things for which to be thankful. This past year has been one of change for our family. Everything I had grown accustomed to over the course of four and a half years came to an end as we moved our family to a new place. It took some time, but I finally feel I can call this new place home. And I owe it all to you.

This year, I am particularly thankful for all the people, whether I have known them for just a few weeks or my entire life, who have placed a stamp on my heart. Many of you don’t even know it, but your words or actions have somehow helped me get through a difficult time. Each one of you matter to me more than you know. You have taught me, influenced me, or simply made me feel like I belong. For all these things, I thank you.

To my girls from North Carolina who check up on me, whether by text or Facebook or a phone call, thank you.

To the EWS wives who come up to me and say hello, even if they don’t remember my name, thank you.

To a new friend, who invites us to her kids’ birthday parties and asks me to go shopping, thank you.

To another new friend, who arranges time in her schedule to have coffee with me, thank you.

To the military wives who continue to follow my blog and comment when you feel compelled to do so, thank you.

To everyone else who reads my blog and encourages me to keep going, thank you.

To long distance friends, who I may not talk to very often but are still just as good of friends as ever, thank you.

To my husband, who loves me unconditionally (and I provide him ample conditions!!), thank you.

To family, who give unconditional love, support, and respect, thank you.

To my Facebook friends, who show their love with likes and comments, thank you.

To you, who are reading this, thank you.

May your Thanksgiving not only leave you feeling gracious for the blessings in your life, but also appreciated by those who know you, because there is no doubt that you are in some way making a difference in their lives.

Happy Thanksgiving!



Monday, November 5, 2012

Cultivating Happiness

“If you will call your troubles experiences, and remember that every experience develops some latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances may seem to be.” –James Russell Miller

This quote charmed me as soon as I read it. I am always searching for words of wisdom which can help me maintain a positive perspective on the trials I face as a military wife. These words suggest that there isn’t any burden I could possibly endure that should prevent me from being happy. They propose that by viewing the difficulties in my life as mere experiences which build upon my character and strengthen my soul, I can learn to accept any circumstance I am dealt without forfeiting my happiness.
Though I wholeheartedly believe this to be true, putting it into practice is easier said than done. There have been many times when my circumstances led me down the path of negativity and any attempt to take a positive perspective was overpowered. Deployments, demanding schedules, distance from family, and moving are a few of the situations which have troubled me over the years. Many times I knew exactly what it was I should be doing to get off the pessimistic path, but the will to do so was simply not there.
When I hesitate to see what is positive, I not only hurt myself but the rest of my family as well. The kids, with their remarkable intuition, can sense the anxiety emitting from me which, in turn, affects them negatively. My husband, as if he doesn’t have enough on his mind, must take extra care not to upset me even more, and we all know there is no defined line between what does and does not make a troubled woman upset. Furthermore, if I am stressed out it doesn’t make it easy for him to feel content. So basically, an anxious mommy equals no fun for anyone.
There is no denying that there is a time and a place for pining, but imagine if we put as much effort into positive thinking as we did into brooding.  We must remember that our troubles are part of our life experiences. They allow us to grow and change and become better versions of ourselves. They allow us to more fully appreciate the good times. They give us a reason to rely on others and create great friendships. It may sound contradictory, but our troubles are the things which make our lives all the more fulfilling.
It takes a lot of perseverance to overcome our negative tendencies, but with diligence we have the opportunity to create a new force within ourselves, a force which will conquer negativity and cultivate a spirit filled with happiness.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

31 Days of Peace, day 31

The Final Day

Welcome to the last day of my 31 Days of Peace series. To be honest, this was not an easy task. There were many days when trying to come up with something peaceful felt like a chore. Some days I was too busy to have to stop and think peaceful thoughts. Other days I was tired or frustrated or just in a bad mood, and the stubborn side of me wanted to say no to my commitment to find peace that day.
But I did it anyway. I searched my mind until I found something, even if it was small, which brought my soul peace that day. Admittedly, I often used my “My Passions” board on Pinterest or the inspiration app on my iPhone to come up with my inspiration for the day. But, in my defense, I only picked the quotes which truly spoke to me and which truly helped me discover peace.
Now, on the last day of the exercise, I am elated as to how this commitment which I made back on the first of October has helped me grow. This is the first time in a long time I have completed such a challenge. Over the past few years I have challenged myself to exercise more regularly, create better schedules in my family’s daily life, try more new recipes, read more often, pray more often, and work at tossing out some of my bad habits. All of those challenges withered. But this one was different. With 31 Days of Peace, I was held accountable to my promise by the hundreds of other bloggers writing their 31 days. I didn’t know how many others, if any, were reading my posts about Peace, but I couldn’t risk letting anyone down. I couldn’t take the chance that somewhere out there someone was looking forward to reading what I had to say each day about finding peace or even possibly needed my words to help them find their own peace. By completing this challenge, I have proven to myself that I can, in fact, complete the challenges I give myself with a little extra hard work and dedication.

What is even more amazing about how this challenge affected me is the way it actually helped me find peace. Not just a day of peace, but a heart of peace. In the beginning, my heart was unsettled. I was still adjusting to our recent move and the kids’ new school schedules. I was feeling discontent with our circumstances. I was emotionally distant, which is quite unlike me, and I couldn’t figure out why. But as I moved through the month seeking to find peace in every day, my heart changed. Little by little I felt more content. My energy and excitement began to return. I felt much better about our circumstances and rediscovered the appreciation I have for this military lifestyle. Before long, my old self returned but this time it harbored fewer anxieties and was enveloped in a feeling of contentment.

I am forever grateful to The Nester for providing me with the challenge of writing about one topic for 31 days, and I am thankful that God directed me to choose the topic of peace. It is exactly what my soul needed. I will no longer be writing about peace every day, but there is no doubt I will still be searching for it in my daily life.

I challenge you to do the same. Pledge to find peace every day, even when it seems out of reach. Perhaps keep a journal or tell a friend about the peace you discover. Soon, you too will find your heart shifting away from anxiety and discontentment and towards happiness and peace.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

31 Days of Peace, day 30

A Few Thing I Have Learned from Sandy

1.       Things will not always go the way we plan them to.  Every life has its share of storms. There eventually comes a time where we must accept our lot, batten down the hatches, and simply wait. The rest is in God’s hands.

2.       Appreciation for my husband. There have been two other instances in which I had to prepare for a hurricane without his help and without the comfort of his presence at home with us. This time, I was thankful for his help when we secured the house and made extra trips to the store for emergency supplies. And when the wind was howling loudly outside the windows, I was ever so thankful that he was home.

3.       To think of a storm like this as a family adventure, as something we experience together that will carry with us for the rest of our lives, and as an opportunity to spend quality time together. After careful consideration, my husband and I decided we should all go along when we made the trip to the grocery store for supplies. We got what we needed, but we also walked out with a box of chocolate covered pretzels and a huge tub of cheeseballs. What’s an adventure without the little extras that make us smile?

4.       How to slow down. Usually when we are all home, I feel guilty if I don’t get the kids outside to run around or take time for myself to exercise. But since going outside was not an option, I used it as an opportunity to simply relax. I allowed myself to not feel guilty if we cuddled up and watched movies or if the kids played games on our phones while I surfed the internet. I was reminded that sometimes it is okay to have a lazy, unproductive day, especially when the end result meant finally finding some much needed relaxation.

5. Not to complain, be thankful, and remember to pray for those who's storm is much worse.

Monday, October 29, 2012

31 Days of Peace, day 29

Peace in Friendships
Friendship, for me, is a matter of quality, not quantity. As one who tends to shy away from large groups of women, I find it easier, and more fulfilling, when I find those women with whom I really click. When that happens, it sometimes takes a long time for the relationship to develop to the point where we can tell each other anything, and where we know each other's best and worst traits. But when it does, the feeling is remarkable.
One of the hardest things about moving in the military is having to leave great friendships behind. There have been many tears for my best girlfriends who have had to leave me behind, and those I have had to leave behind. When I got married and moved away from home, I said goodbye to some of my best friends from high school and college. As a military wife, I have watched other military couples go off to new duty stations; I have seen that even non-military families move too, and grieved the relocation of two much loved neighbors. When I moved, I had to tear myself away from some women with whom I had formed a strong bond. But the great thing about these quality friendships is that even though we may be far apart, even though we can't find much time to talk on the phone, nothing truly changes.
When the time comes to see each other again, we still know the bests and worsts. We share the memories we've had together. We fill each other in with the missing pieces and within five minutes it's as though we were never apart. We share dreams and disappointments, laughs and tears. And the best thing about these great friendships is that we can lay it all out on the table without judgement but rather with pure acceptance for who we are. 
I miss my friends, but there is peace knowing that the next time I see them, everything will be the same.       

Friday, October 26, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

31 Days of Peace, Day 25

Thankful Thursdays: Thankful to God

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

"With thanksgiving." How easy it is to tell God about our troubles and ask Him to answer our prayers while forgetting to be thankful. I can't speak for everyone, but I myself do not feel particularly enthusiastic about doing things for my kids when I don't feel appreciated it. Imagine how God feels when we demand his power in our lives, but forget to thank Him for the blessings He has given. How could we possibly find peace without first being grateful? Fortunately, He is a forgiving God, but that doesn't mean we should take Him for granted.
This week, I am thankful to God for:
1.       My husband and kids. When I was younger I prayed simply to find love. I have been blessed with a husband who loves me unconditionally and two children who know what it is to give and receive love.
2.       The path my life has taken. In the grand scheme of things, my time as a military wife has only just begun. But already I have grown in strength, spirit, and faith and have learned the virtue of perseverance.
3.       Humility. He has shown me that I am not above anyone, but there is something to learn from everyone. Everybody deserves to be treated with the same kindness and respect with which I would like to be treated.
4.       His understanding. Try as I might, I continue to fail at my attempts to improve in certain areas. But He knows what’s in my heart and I trust He will guide me to where I need to be.
5.       Friendships, old and new, which continue to last even when we are far apart.
6.       Food, water, clothing, shelter. These are easy to take for granted, but so greatly desired by far too many.
7.       Good health. This is something that is guaranteed to no one. I feel incredibly blessed to have a healthy family.
8.       The strength to help pull myself back up when I struggle.
9.       Creating me with a positive mind and an inspired soul.
10.   Opportunities to learn and be encouraged by others. Click here to read about my evening with the Commandant’s wife. God always seems to know how to help me find a little more peace.

What are you thankful to God for?

Who Knew the First Lady was a Comedian?

Last night, I had the privilege of attending an event at which the First Lady of the Marine Corps, Mrs. Bonnie Amos, spoke to military wives about what she feels are the most important aspects of being a military wife. When she began speaking her voice was sweet and dainty, leading me to believe this woman, who has made it nearly forty-two years as a military wife, surely has never yelled or thrown fits about the trials of military life. But I soon learned that the Commandant’s wife is no different from the rest of us military wives who have our fair share of complaints about life in the military.

Within the first few minutes of her speech, Mrs. Amos had the crowd laughing hysterically. She is one funny woman! She talked about the time she met her husband and joked about how, at first sight, she really didn’t like him at all. It wasn’t until he walked into the bank where she worked and asked her out that she willingly accepted, but only if he would pay to take her roommate along as well. She told us he agreed, and then shocked us all when she said, “Here’s this guy thinking he’s going to have a ménage a trois!”
She continued on with her speech, creating laughter in the audience all along the way. She talked about how she threw a temper tantrum every time her husband got orders and they had to move. She admitted that she threw tantrums upon leaving the old house and arriving at the new house, all the while saying, “This is the last time I am doing this!” There is no doubt that a sense of relief came over many of us in the audience knowing that even the Commandant’s wife has had her share of hissy fits throughout her time as a military wife. Upon talking about her grandchildren, Mrs. Amos told us that we might soon see the youngest one’s name in the newspaper because they plan on sending him to prison, at which time she playfully rolled her eyes at the thought of how unruly the child is. One would expect a child’s own mother to joke about this, but for the grandmother to be saying it was especially funny because usually grandmothers think their grandkids can do no wrong!
When the time came for questions at the end, one girl asked how she has made her marriage work for almost forty-two years. Her initial reply was, “I’m very sexy.” You can imagine our amusement hearing these words come from this sweet little lady! In response to the same question, she also talked about the importance of saying “I’m sorry” and asking forgiveness, humorously noting “even though he should have been the one to say it first.” Even after forty-one plus years of marriage, the woman still understands the idiosyncrasies of living with a man, especially an ego-driven Marine!
In addition to the humor, Mrs. Amos also spoke more seriously about the aspects of being a military wife. Specifically, she talked about having a career as a military spouse. She used her own career path as an example, stating that despite her managing experience she was forced to take an administrative assistant job at one point because that’s all she could find. But because of her willingness to take that job, she eventually worked her way up to a managing position for a real-estate company. The message she emphasized to us was how important it is to be adaptable and flexible when it comes to a job. She told us to discover what it is we can do, as basic as it might seem, but “be flexible as you go along the way.”
Another point that was made, something which resonated with me, is that our deepest learning comes from the hard times. Mrs. Amos emphasized the importance of friendships, the people we meet, and the connections we make. Sometimes the reason we are connected with certain people is because of the difficulties we are facing. In the midst of struggle, we find them or they find us, and we learn a great deal from them. She also stressed the importance of becoming involved with other military wives and with events or organizations in the military community. Not only do we meet others who could potentially become best friends, we also have the chance to make a difference. The First Lady said that she didn’t become very involved with the wives community until her husband was already a Lieutenant Colonel, but once she did she realized how much she had been missing. Now, she said her favorite part of the military lifestyle is the wives she meets along the way.
Everything Mrs. Amos said touched me deeply, as it is only natural to heed the wisdom of someone who has been through so many years as a military wife. But the most poignant advice Mrs. Amos gave, for me, came when I raised my hand during the question segment and asked what things helped her to pick herself back up and keep going when life got tough. She told me it was her faith and spirituality, and “Knowing that the reason we are in this position is because God has put us here.” My eyes filled with tears as she spoke because that is exactly the thing which gets me through my hard times. I can whine and complain and have a tantrum all I want, but that doesn’t change anything. I can’t change anything. The only way to get by when life gets overwhelming is to trust that God has put me here for a reason. This is his plan for me and there is a greater purpose for this way of life that I may not yet be able to see. I felt so blessed to have heard those words coming from the First Lady of the Marine Corps, a woman who knows more than anyone what it is like to be a military wife.
When the evening was over, I was filled with inspiration and motivation. I was reassured of the plan for my position as a military wife. I rediscovered the reason why I really do love being a military wife. I felt as though I could get through anything the military threw at me. I thought that if this wonderful woman could make it through all those years as a military wife, then so could I. When I got home, I told my husband that if he happened to be chosen for Commandant someday, I think I would be okay with it. He laughed, but I meant it. However far God decides to send us on this adventure, I will follow.
I am humbly grateful to Mrs. Amos, for sharing her inspiration and wisdom, and for the great laughs. She has no doubt left a footprint on my heart.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

31 Days of Peace, Day 24

 Do You Stop?

"Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn't stop to enjoy it. -William Feather

Click here to view all posts in the 31 Days of Peace series.
Click here to read what others are writing about for 31 days.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

31 Days of Peace, Day 23

How a Road Helps Me Find Peace

“It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.” –Charles Haddon Spurgeon
There is a road on the way to taking my son to and from preschool that delights me every time I drive it. It is a hilly, winding road that reminds me of the back roads from home, the ones I would drive with my little 4-cylinder stick-shift car, feeling high as a kite and free as a bird. My heart was so content.
 Now, I drive this road with my big, automatic, kid-towing SUV, always a little frazzled about something as I first turn onto what my son calls “the road with the funny hills.” But as I continue on, I am overcome with peace by the beauty that engulfs this slight stretch of road, with the branches of the trees arching overhead and the leaves turning more colorful each day. I pretend I am in that small, peppy car again, hugging the corners of the turns and giving a little extra gas at the bottom of the hill so I can get to the top with more enthusiasm. But I must use extra caution with this big car, not only because the extra weight makes it less agile, but also because of the precious cargo sitting behind me.
Still, for a few short seconds, I am home again, reminiscing in the bliss of that feeling of freedom and rejoicing in the wondrous beauty around me. For a few short seconds, I am taken away from the hectic, frazzled life and am reconnected with the contentment I felt as I drove those back roads so long ago.

Monday, October 22, 2012

31 Days of Peace, Day 22

Just Keep Going
When your path seems too long and your body is tired, keep going. When your spirits are low and you want to give up, keep going. When there's too much to do and you can't fit it all into the day, keep going. When there's nothing you can do, keep going. Keep going forward, pick up your feet, and lift your head high. Walk as though you are unwilling to surrender and you might just find the tides turning in your favor. You might just find the comfort of peace.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

31 Days of Peace, Day 21

The Silent Voice

For the past week or so, I have been having some very vivid dreams. Some of them are strange, while others seem to be a simple reflection of the things which have been occurring in my life. But one of my most recent dreams was different. This dream spoke to me, sending a message about something I have been trying to figure out in my mind. This dream gave me an answer.

I was talking to someone in the dream, whom I do not recall, but I do know that it was someone I knew well and what I was saying was something I felt very passionately about. The words I spoke went as follows: “It’s not how much you know, it’s what you do with the things you do know that matters.” Though in reality my mind was asleep, inside my dream these words were pulling at my heart and I was eager to make sure the other person heard my message.

When I awoke in the morning, I considered what I had said in my dream. I wondered where it had come from. Questioning whether I may have read a quote on the internet and it was stored in my subconscious, I Googled the quote. I found some things which are similar, but nothing which was exact and certainly nothing I had actually read beforehand. What I find especially exciting about this message is that it seems to have been made specifically for me.

I have been thinking a lot lately about my future career path and the knowledge I have. I wonder if what I already know is good enough for the path I want to take. I wonder if what I know is good enough for anyone after being a stay-home mom for more than five years. I think about how much information is in the world and how much more I could potentially learn. I wonder if I will ever fulfill the extent of my mind’s capabilities.

I have come to believe that the other person in my dream with whom I was so eager to share my wisdom was, in fact, me. Something inside me needed to make sure I remembered the words when I woke up. That something was my spiritual faith. Every so often I get a clear-cut answer to my prayers and I believe this is one of those times. I often pray that God will help me with my struggles, and I also pray that He will give me content for my writing, content that I can use to continue my attempt to inspire others. Sometimes, if I am willing to listen, I am able to hear his answers. This time, He told me exactly what I needed to hear:  “It’s not how much you know, it’s what you do with the things you do know that matters.”
I was relieved after hearing these words. There may be a lot I still don’t know, and there may be more I will need to learn for my future, but these words have opened my eyes to all that I have been doing with my current realm of knowledge. I have been taking the opportunity to teach my kids what I remember about the leaves and the trees and the birds and the creeks. I have been using my health education to cook healthier meals for my family, talk about which foods are healthy and which are not, and encourage the kids to exercise regularly. I attempt, to the best of my ability, to speak to my kids and act in ways that will instill important values and morals. I use what inspirational wisdom I have to, hopefully, encourage others when they are struggling. I continue to write, a job which I have fully placed upon myself and which has no real obligation, because I believe in seeing the positive light. I believe that no matter how badly we might be struggling, there is always a way to pick ourselves back up. I believe in using the hard times to get stronger. And I believe in sharing these things with others in hopes that they, too, will see the positive light.
There will never be a time when I have finally learned enough, and I will always be open to new information. But now I see that simply having knowledge is not what matters. What matters most is that I take the opportunity to use what I do know to benefit myself and others.  

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31 Days of Peace, Day 20

Time Away
On this day, I decided my peace would be found in taking a break from the computer, from too much technology, and from writing. This is why the 20th day of peace is one day late. The delay was well worth it, as it was a much needed break which allowed me to spend more time with my family. We had a wonderful day!


Friday, October 19, 2012

31 Days of Peace,Day 19

Remember to take the time to reflect. Reflect upon your life, reflect upon who you are, and reflect upon your faith. It is during these times when our wisdom grows the most.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

31 Days of Peace, Day 18

Thankful Thursdays: Thankful for my Kids

Another week has passed and there is much to be thankful for. Specifically, though, this week I wanted to focus on my kids. It is so easy for a mother to complain about the whining voices, persistent demands, rude behavior, lack of listening, and absence of a simple “thank you mom” to make her feel appreciated. But it is also easy for her to focus on those things her kids do which make her smile and melt her heart if she is willing to look past the challenges.
It is common for mothers to have an idea of how they want their children to be, as though there is a predetermined mold they hope their children fit into. But if we don’t allow our children to be their own unique people, not only will we suffer but so will our kids. It seems to be a law of nature that children must get on their mother’s nerves as much as possible, but then act absolutely perfect for everyone else. We fight it, we get frustrated, and we wonder why. Perhaps we should just let it be.

Here is what I am thankful for with my kids this week:
1.       That they come to me for their needs, like food when they are hungry, comfort when they are sick, and a blanket when they are cold because it means they trust me to help them.

2.       That my daughter is happy to see me when she gets off the school bus in the afternoon because it’s likely there will come a day when she would prefer I not be there.

3.       The increasing knowledge they display when they are playing in the house and having conversation. It’s amazing how much information their little minds hang on to.

4.       Their imaginations.

5.        How they want me to play with their toys with them.

6.       The extra kisses they give me out of nowhere.

7.       The messes they make with the art supplies because it means they are expressing their creativity and having fun while doing it.

8.       The loud, obnoxious singing from my daughter because it means she has a song in her heart.

9.       Their persistence in venturing away from me at stores or asking if I can buy them a toy or candy because it reminds me that I did the exact same thing when I was little.

10.   The temper tantrums, because it reminds me that they are still little and one day, when those tantrums are no more, I will miss these years.

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

31 Days of Peace, Day 17

What We Can Learn From the Changing Seasons

Everyone gets tired, eventually. We get tired from the demands of life. We get tired of the things in our closets. We get tired of eating the same foods. We get tired of the winter cold or the summer heat or the spring rain. We crave change, a fresh start, a new dress, or a new season. We desire to wake up refreshed with a newfound excitement for the days ahead.

It is not always easy to know how or when to change. Sometimes change happens to us whether we want it to or not. But sometimes we have the choice to make a change. We have the ability to refresh our souls and wake our tired eyes. Just as the trees shed their leaves, just as the snow creates a white blanket of purity, just as the flowers bloom into an array of new color, so too can we change our hearts and minds allowing us to find a new perspective, a new energy, and a new peace. Every few months, Mother Nature ever so gently gives us a cue for finding this peace.

Right now while the leaves are falling, allow your hearts to shed their anxieties. Let them fall to the ground and get blown away by the wind. Lighten the load which weighs down on your soul. Refresh your mind with this change of season. Then open your tired eyes and see clearly how exciting your life can be.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

31 Days of Peace, Day 16

Why a Zip Code Means Nothing
If anyone were to go through my blog posts from the past two months, an obvious trend would be found. Since our move, I have not hidden the fact that I miss our North Carolina home, the small-town feel, the quaint street we lived on, and knowing that I had friends closely surrounding me. Reminiscing about the times spent in that house, though happy, inflict a sense of grief within my heart. 
Growing up in NC

Our new place doesn’t impose the same feelings of comfort upon me, at least not yet. Our time here is still young, and I try my best to take it for what it is. After all, all of those great things about our last place occurred over the course of five years.

Today as I basked at the beauty of the ever-changing leaves, pondering how these gorgeous trees are one more thing to add to the growing list of favorites I have about our new place, I had an epiphany. I realized that it really doesn’t matter where I live. In the grand scheme of things, my zip code means nothing. What truly matters is that I’m somewhere on the map.
I’m here in this world and my family is with me. No matter where my location might be, I am home on God’s beautiful earth. My family and friends may be far away, but we share the same land. My current area may not be my favorite, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t just as many magnificent qualities as the last place. I have great memories of the past, but my mind does not remain in the past. It is continuously with me, allowing me the opportunity to create new memories wherever I go.

With this realization, my heart has found a little more peace. No matter where my feet may step, I am already home.    

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Monday, October 15, 2012

31 Days of Peace, Day 15

Visions of Sugarplums
As I lied awake in my bed last night as I often do, my mind drifting as it often does, I found my mind getting excited about thoughts of the upcoming Christmas season. Yes, I am getting way ahead of myself here, especially when we are in the middle of my favorite season and I should be enjoying the present. But this holiday season requires extra celebration. This year there will be nothing missing because daddy is home.
December 2010
There is so much joy in autumn that I don’t want to miss. But I cannot help but rejoice in the idea of finally being together again for Christmas. It is a reminder of how much we’ve been through and how far we’ve come as a family. It is proof that time will pass, even if we feel like it takes forever. It is the memory of a grieving heart but the hope that the next year would make up for what was missing. This is the next year. This is the year that will make everything from last year so worth it.   

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

31 Days of Peace, Day 14

How I Find Comfort in the Trees
There is something about this place, this new town in which we live, that feels like home. I recognize the trees. The oaks, maples, beeches, tulips, and elms that I remember from growing up. I admire their stately grandeur and am reminded of the memories.
I remember my middle school science assignment when I had to collect leaves, press them, and identify each one. Most kids would have balked at the assignment, but I was excited to get outside and discover all the different trees around me. Yes, I was a dork. But I also appreciated the world around me for its simplicity, is beauty, and its desire to be noticed. I noticed.
Today we ventured to the park as the morning sun sent its rays through the colorful leaves. It was delightful when my kids voiced their excitement upon asking them if they wanted to learn the names of the trees around us. They collected leaves with me. They ran to every tree with smooth, light-colored bark when I showed them how to identify a beech tree. Their little minds are so open, so ready to learn. I hope they have the same excitement when they get to middle school and are given their leaf-collection assignments. I can't wait to do it with them.