When You’re Between Two Paintings

 

Two paintings hang on the wall in our living room.  Our oldest daughter, Taylor, painted both of these masterpieces.  She was only 6 years old when she painted the one on the left.  I can still remember her sweet face and how she beamed with pride as she showed me her very first painting.  She’d only been going to art class for 2 months.  I was amazed at what she was able to accomplish in such a short time.  Taylor was 19 when she completed the painting on the right.  She was all smiles as she turned it around for me to see.  My mouth dropped open and I squealed with delight.  I grabbed it out of her hands and I hung it on the wall in the living room.

One day as I was sitting on the couch admiring Taylor’s artwork I started thinking about all that had happened between those two paintings.  It took 13 years to get from the painting on the left to the painting on the right.  So many things happened that people will never see.  Taylor spent many hours learning how to paint and practicing over and over again.  She painted over mistakes that none of us will ever know about.  I drove her to class every week and I waited 2 hours for class to get over.  I wrote more checks than I can count.  And there’s dad who worked hard those 13 years to pay for the art classes.  And we can’t forget about Grandma.  Grandma took Taylor to art class for an entire year after Mikayla and Hope were born.  She didn’t want me to have the stress of packing them up and taking them with us.  Getting from one painting to the next painting cost our family something.  It wasn’t always easy.  But it was worth it.

In the last two months our family has been faced with two extremely difficult decisions.  We’ve had a lot of sleepless nights.  Anxiety wrapped itself around me and nearly choked me.  My sweet husband and I have had a lot of discussions (um….I mean fights) about what we should do.   I’ve consumed a lot of chocolate.  And finally we’ve found the answer to both situations.  The answer to the first decision is yes.  This yes came with a lot of questions, uncertainty, and fear attached to it. Our family will be going through a lot of changes because of this decision.  But even in the midst of fear we chose to say yes.  The answer to the second decision is no.  This no came with a lot of disappointment and heartbreak.  I wanted the answer to be yes.  I dug my heels in and I wasn’t going to change my mind.  Why can’t Brett see that the answer is yes?  It’s so obvious that the answer is yes. And then the day finally came when I heard God whisper the answer into my heart.  And His answer was no.   I was devastated.

Something happened to me once the decisions were made.  Even though I knew we’d made the right decisions I felt empty and hopeless.  I didn’t go to church for 3 weeks.  The process of walking through the decisions has been difficult.  I’ve had to give up something that I really wanted.  I’ve had to say yes to something that scares me out of my mind.  Life’s going to look different than I thought it would look.  As all of the disappointment and uncertainty were swirling around inside of me God reminded me of the paintings.

He said: You’re between two paintings.  This is the part that no one sees.  This is the part that costs something that no one will ever know about.  This is the part when you feel like your heart has been ripped out and yet you choose to go on.  Trust me during this time of disappointment.  Trust me when My plans look different than your plans.  You’re acting like this is the final painting in your story.  But it’s not.  You’re in the middle of your story.  I know the plans that I have for you.  And they are good.   

This moment with God gave me hope.  God can paint a better picture for my life than I could ever paint.  He’s taken the paintbrush and He’s painting over my mistakes.  He’s painting over the plans that I made.  He’s painting over the disappointment that makes my heart ache.  And I believe one day I will step back and look at His painting of my life.  And the no that broke my heart in 2017 will suddenly make sense.  Because I will see that His plan was better than my plan.  I will see that He painted things into my life story that I would’ve never thought to add.  I pray that if today you are feeling hopeless and disappointed that you will turn to the One who will give you hope.  If life doesn’t look anything like you want it to look turn to the One who is writing your story.  And trust Him.  Trust that His Word is true.   For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

 

 

You’ve Got A Friend In Me

It seemed like every other Sunday morning.  I was standing in line waiting to pick up the girls from their class.  I was wondering what we were going to eat for lunch. Should we stay home and rest after lunch? Or should we go visit grandma and grandpa?  My thoughts were suddenly interrupted as I noticed something beautiful was happening.  Hope was dancing, smiling, and giggling with a girl named Livvie.  That may not sound like a big deal.  But it was.  It was a dream come true.  For years I’ve sat and watched kids running and playing together.  Making friends seemed so natural and easy for them.  My heart ached for my  girls to have a friend.  Someone to dance with, laugh with, and share secrets with.  But it’s not been easy for Mikayla and Hope to make friends.  Their language disorder seemed to be a roadblock between them and the friends they deserved.  I’ve hoped that they would one day find a friend but wondered if it would ever happen.  Then suddenly on what seemed like an ordinary day the extraordinary happened.

Livvie’s mom asked if Mikayla and Hope could stay all night at their house one night during the week of vacation bible school.  I packed their bags for their very first sleepover at a friend’s house.  They went to the park and went swimming.  They had the time of their life.  I’m so glad that Livvie’s mom got some pictures of the girls.  The joy on their faces is priceless
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One night I decided to watch the girls while they were doing the games at VBS.  Mikayla was standing in line waiting to do the obstacle course.  And a girl named Katelyn was holding her hand.

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Katelyn continued to hold Mikayla’s hand and helped her through the obstacle course.  Katelyn was selfless and she didn’t worry about taking a turn by herself.  She took her turn with Mikayla.  I stood with tears in my eyes as I watched this young lady love my daughter so well.

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The next night of VBS they played soccer during the games.  Katelyn once again held Mikayla’s hand and helped her.  They ran together.  They laughed together.  And my heart was full as I saw the sweet smiles on their faces.  DSC01221

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Proverbs 13:12 says Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.  It was so hard to wait for years to see our girls make a friend. I often lost hope while I waited.  There were times when my heart felt sick.  But then suddenly God sent Livvie and Katelyn to fulfill my dream.  I can’t even put into words what it feels like to see our girls smiling with Livvie and Katelyn.  I shared on facebook about Hope dancing with Livvie.  And I found a mom who’s waiting for her daughter to find a friend. My heart aches for her because I know exactly how she feels.  I told her that we should meet at the park so that our girls can play together. Mikayla and Hope have another opportunity to make a new friend.  And I smile every time I think about it.                    

Books I Love ~ Hands Free Life

Books I Love

Hands Free Life

At the beginning of January I read several blog posts that women wrote sharing their list of the best books they read in 2015.  A book called Hands Free Life was mentioned several times.  I went to Amazon and noticed that the Kindle price was only $1.99 (it’s currently  $8.99).  I quickly purchased it because it was only a couple of bucks.  What did I have to lose?

This book may possibly be the best $1.99 that I’ve spent in my entire life.   I absolutely loved Hands Free Life from cover to cover.  I’m even going to order a copy to keep on my bookshelf.  I love my Kindle but I’m also a huge fan of actually holding a book and turning the pages. This book is worth buying twice.

Hands Free Life is about being present in the moments you have with your family.  It’s about not missing out on life because you’re distracted with your phone and your to-do list. I cried many times while reading this amazing book.  Rachel Macy Stafford’s writing inspired me to make the right choice the night Mikayla’s world fell apart.

I don’t often leave comments on blogs but I felt compelled to leave this comment on Rachel’s blog.

I type this with tears in my eyes and a truly thankful heart. I found you only a few short weeks ago and I’m so excited for the journey ahead of me. As a mom of 4 girls (2 with special needs) most of my days feel as if joy is a distant unattainable dream. And then I read Hands Free Life and things began to change for me. Instead of rushing bedtime because I was exhausted I let my girls crawl into bed with me. Instead of worrying about their speech skills and their behavior I found myself just listening to their hearts. And it was beautiful.   I’ve felt like a robot just going through the motions each day.  Just existing but not living. But now I have hope. I have hope that joy can be a part of my life once again.

I still have days when I make the wrong choice and rush through life.  Today was one of those days.  I’m definitely a work in progress.  But reading this book has sparked a fire in me to live a more intentional life with fewer distractions.  It’s time to enjoy my family instead of feeling stressed and anxious all the time.

If you would like to know more about Rachel Macy Stafford and how to have a Hands Free Life check out her website http://www.handsfreemama.com.  Believe me.  It will be worth your time.  If you need me I’ll be over at Amazon ordering Hands Free Life and Rachel’s other book Hands Free Mama.  Kinda wish I had Amazon Prime.  Sigh.

Thank You For Turning On The Light

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I was standing in line at the Hobby Lobby when a candle caught my eye.  It was the size and color that I needed for my lantern.  It was half price so I grabbed it and put it in my cart.  My lantern has been without a light since I bought it 6 months ago.  Now it finally lights up.  Isn’t that how life is a lot of times?  Don’t we all have situations that seem dark?  And then 6 months later suddenly a light will appear and the darkness begins to fade away. Light brings hope.

We have finished our school year and we are basking in the joy of summer vacation.  At the end of every school year I reflect on the progress that our girls have made.  As we started the school year last fall I had a hope and a dream in my heart.  Will this be the year that the girls will learn how to read? Surely this new phonics program is going to be the answer to my prayers, right?  Third time’s the charm.  Those first two programs didn’t work but this new program is the one.  I just know it.

I was wrong.  This phonics program didn’t work either.  Great.  What do I do now?  I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on programs that didn’t work.  I’m really tired of throwing money away and I just don’t know what to do.  So I decided to give up.  Let me rephrase that.  I decided to give up on phonics. But I never gave up on our girls learning how to read.  I don’t give up easily.  I’m the gal who spent 3 years trying to teach our girls phonics even though it wasn’t working.  I’m either stubborn or stupid.  Maybe both.

Anyway, the light bulb in my brain finally went off one day and it told me “Phonics isn’t working. ”  You think?  So I did the same thing I always do when I don’t know what to do.  I googled it.  I typed in “how to teach a visual learner how to read”.  One of the first links I clicked on introduced me to Snapwords. As I was reading all about Snapwords my gut said “this is it”.  I ordered the first set of cards.

These little cards came straight from heaven.  The very first day that we used Snapwords a light went on for our girls.  On the second day, they remembered some of the words.  By the end of the week they knew 6 words.  On the last day of school they knew 36 words. I can’t believe it.  We’ve finally found something that works.

Our girls are no longer sitting in the dark wondering how to read.  A light has been turned on for them. And it makes me smile. Yes, they are learning to read later than most kids.  But they are learning and that’s what is important.  God gave me the inspiration to name this blog Two Upside Down Turtles. Turtles are slow.  They take a lot of time getting from one place to another place.  But I can’t help but wonder what turtles see on their journey that the faster animals don’t see.  Our girls are slower than kids their age.  It’s taking them longer to learn to read and do math.  But I can’t help but wonder what they are seeing on their journey that the rest of us overlook.

Our two turtles teach me so much about perseverance and patience.  I don’t think life is about how fast we can get to where we need to go.  It’s really about the journey.  It’s about not giving up when something takes longer than we want it to take.  It’s about pressing forward when life hurts and we don’t understand why it has to be so hard.  It’s about loving others who are different.  Sometimes it’s about stopping our face-paced life and helping someone whose life moves slower than ours.  And it’s about taking a moment to thank the God of the universe for creating light and bringing hope to our darkest situations.

 

Anchor

Anchor by Bethel Music

In every season, in every change
You are near
In every sorrow,
You are my strength
You are near

A peace in the storm
Your voice I will follow
In weakness I rise
Remembering You hold  my world

I’m holding on to hope
I’m holding on to grace
I’m fully letting go
I’m surrendered to Your ways

The anchor for my soul
Father You will never change

I love You, I love You

My great Redeemer,
My constant Friend
You are near
My faithful Father,
You took me in
You are near

A peace in the storm
Your voice I will follow
In weakness I rise
Remembering You hold my world

I’m holding on to hope
I’m holding on to grace
I’m fully letting go
I’m surrendered to Your ways

The anchor for my soul
Father You will never change

I love You, I love You

I will remember Your promise forever
My Strength, my Defender
I can count on You
You are my Savior, My Hope and my Shelter
Your love is forever
I can count on You

You want me to start a blog? Are you kidding me!

It was the year 1976 and nervous children gathered in Mrs. Lankford’s kindergarten class for the very first time.  Kindergarten was only a half day back then.  There was enough time to be introduced to the Letter People, hear a story, meet a few new friends, and then get back on the little yellow school bus. Kids went home from that first day of school and told their parents that there was a girl in the class who couldn’t talk.  That little girl was me.

I was painfully shy.  Mrs. Lankford only heard me utter two words the entire year that I was in her class. We had an assignment to cut pictures out of a magazine and bring them to class.  Mrs. Lankford thought my pictures were wonderful and she asked me what magazine I had found them in.  I whispered the words “Sesame Street” into her ear.

Fast forward to 5th grade.  The teacher gave an assignment that left my knees shaking.  Each student had to memorize a poem and recite it to the class.  Memorizing the poem was easy, but I did not want to recite it in front of the class.  I was really hoping that I would get a stomach bug and I would get out of it.  No such luck.  I remember getting up and reciting the poem and feeling as if I could vomit at any moment.

Fast forward to Senior English.  The teacher announced that it was time to start giving speeches.  Didn’t I just do that 7 years ago?  Why-oh-why can’t I get a stomach bug, strep throat, or a migraine so I can get out of this?  Of course, I woke up perfectly healthy.  I was actually going to have to do this.  I walked to the front of the class, lifted my papers up,  and began my speech.  My hands were visibly shaking. They were shaking so much that I was having trouble reading my speech.  It seemed like an eternity, but I finally got to the last line.  As I walked back to my desk, the teacher commented that I seemed so calm and I had done a wonderful job.  I’m pretty sure that she saw my hands shaking, but she chose to compliment my efforts rather than criticize my delivery.

Public speaking has always been my enemy.  All year I’ve felt like I was supposed to start this blog.  But fear kept creeping in.  It whispered in my ear “You know you’re not good at speaking.  You really aren’t qualified to do something like that.”

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I’m pretty sure that Moses and I have the same personality type.  The Lord asked Moses to go and bring the Israelites out of Egypt.  Moses asked “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  (Exodus 3:11-12).  He obviously didn’t feel qualified to do what the Lord was asking him to do.  When I first felt as if the Lord was asking me to start this blog, I questioned Him as well.  I asked Him “You want me to bring encouragement to other families when I’m a complete mess myself? Are you kidding me?  How is that even possible?”  The Lord’s response to Moses was “I will be with you”.   He is with me also.  I can’t do this without Him.      

Moses said “Oh Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant, I am slow of speech and tongue.”   The Lord said to him “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:10-12).  I have also reminded the Lord that public speaking is not my strength. “Don’t you remember kindergarten, 5th grade, and my Senior year of high school, Lord?  I can just picture Him smiling and saying “Oh, Tricia, stop thinking so much and just go.  I will teach you what to say.”

Christine Caine

Christine Caine

God doesn’t always choose the person who looks qualified for the job.  I can’t help but think about I Samuel 16:7.  It says For the Lord does not see as man sees;  for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  If you look at my outward appearance I certainly don’t look qualified. My knees and my hands shake when I speak.  But the Lord looks at my heart. He sees that my heart breaks every time our two upside down turtles struggle with something that is easy for other kids. He sees me when my heart is ugly and I’m angry because life just doesn’t look like I pictured it.  He sees that my heart aches for others who feel the same things that I feel.  He sees all that is going on in my heart and He wants to heal me. He sees others who are lonely, angry, broken-hearted and disillusioned and He wants them to be healed too. I believe that this blog has been born so that all of us who are struggling could find each other. The Lord never meant for us to be alone.  He wants us to encourage one another. He wants us to bring light to someone’s darkness and to bring joy to someone’s sorrow.

As I end this first post, fear is starting to whisper in my ear again.  My knees are shaking, and I feel a bit nauseous.  Our pastor told me that sometimes you have to run over the fear instead of hoping that it will go away.  I’ve waited all year for the fear of starting a blog to go away, and it never has.  So I’m choosing to push the publish button to this post and run over my fear.  I trust the Lord will bring hope, healing and encouragement to all who read the words that He gives me.