Fighting for Happily Ever After

The week before our wedding was, well, far from the fairy tale.

Tensions were already tight as my family bared the intense pressure cooker of a wedding.

The Mother-of-the-Bride was sick, missing one of my showers hosted by her best friends. My Grandfather was in the hospital. My chairman-of-deacons Daddy was hosing down church flames of controversy. Michael was in a car accident on his way to my hometown.

And I was a brat.

Much of my wedding day is a blur. Dog-eared edges of faded photographs—snapshots of a memory. Out of order, jumbled together as I grasp one moment and then another.

Beautiful moments. Imperfect moments.

Attempting liquid eyeliner for the first time and my baby sister coming to the rescue. My bridesmaids—my dearest sister-friends—gorgeous and wearing horrid shoes they still remain bitter about.

My Aunt’s veil. My Grandma’s handkerchief. The impatient limo driver. White roses and a late-90s hairstyle. Selfishly telling Dad he couldn’t cry. The comforting faces of family and the sweetness of vows on my lips.

An ice sculpture I demanded and never saw. A piece of chocolate wedding cake I dreamed of and never tasted. Friends from far-away places I never hugged.

But one memory? One picture clear and true?

Prince Charming taking my face in gentle hands as he kissed his bride.

KIss the BrideA wedding of beautiful chaos that mirrors the marriage my Prince Charming and I have walked through for 17 years.

From the beginning of our marriage, Michael and I faced hardship.

The week we returned from our honeymoon, my new husband discovered he wasn’t offered a job we believed he already had. I was a missionary for a year only making a couple hundred a month—a month.

As we drove from my parent’s home four hours north to our new beginning, my car’s engine blew up. Literally. Sold it for parts while my husband’s car remained in the shop from the pre-wedding accident.

Eight days into marriage with no income and no transportation. We were living the dream. Yep.

Michael’s car eventually did make it out of the shop, and he was able to secure a job teaching out of his subject area by late September. But financial worries are something we’ve understood since day one.

My Grandfather tragically died after falling from a bike in November. We faced death together that first year.

My groom, the PE teacher, slipped on wet grass during a softball game one evening and tore his ACL. Surgery, rehab, and two flights of stairs held our first spring together.

There were sweet times too, but they were away tempered with the difficult.

Yet, I’m grateful.

I’m grateful because from the very first edges of our marriage Michael and I had to choose the holding tight. To grip each other and refuse the letting go.

We didn’t survive because we met halfway. We came through because we chose to meet all the way—together. Every step.

We’ve argued. We’ve stared at silence with our lips held tight, refusing to utter the first apology. When we did speak, hateful, bitter words sometimes bubbled up from our hearts tumbling out of our mouths.

Mistakes still follow us around, snapping at our heels.

How has our marriage lasted 17 years? And how can the relationships you’re in now stand strong in the battles life flings our way?

By understanding we’re never safe.

Because no marriage is safe.

Safe from temptation. Safe from argument. Safe from hurt. And how long can anyone face danger without a defense?

The first shield? Standing firm in the vow.

Then you fight harder than hell for the marriage you have, the one right now. Harder than hell because hell’s laughing like mad to see you struggle—to see you crumble.

And facing hell? That requires the Jesus who’s already defeated the master of the dark pits. The Jesus who claimed victory with arms stretched bloody across splintered wood.

But even with Jesus the battle isn’t easy. Because no one survives a fight-to-the-death clash without scars and broken pieces. And no fight for marriage is won with just Jesus swinging His sword.

No. Michael and I must fight too. Both. With our Jesus. If only one of us stands firm, we will waiver, and we just may fall. So with everything in us, we battle—together. Even when we may not want to. Because that happens too.

Our love, our life, our marriage has always been a choice. We chose to say yes August 1st, 1998. We must continue to choose our yes.

Prince Charming and I? We were never promised perfect. It doesn’t exist.

But the imperfectly perfect?

That’s a fairy tale worth fighting for.

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Making the Difference for Just One

Yesterday marked the beginning of the end of my summer. With two weeks to go until preplanning, I’m in the make-it-count days of July. I’ll be back with weekly posts the first week of August and I. can’t. wait!

You are my people, and you are incredible.

I have missed you these two months. I have a notebook full of things I can’t wait to tell you. Just two more weeks, friends. Have I said I’m excited yet? Because I am.

But before then…I am sharing bits and pieces of my heart with the Orlando Moms Blog today. I’d love to have you click on over there to read about opportunities you have to make a difference for even just one.

See you soon friends!

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When We’re Staring at Fear

Dear friends…a break from my break, so to speak. This happened yesterday and God wouldn’t let me go until I shared what I learned. Maybe some of you need to hear Him as I did?

Caleb and I followed the x-ray tech down the clinical hall. My Court Jester needed a CT scan to see if his chronic sinus infections are the result of golf ball-sized adenoids.

I’d prepped my baby boy for the test as much as I could and made sure he knew it wouldn’t hurt.

The tech lacked serious kid skills if you catch my meaning. No explaining and quick movements, he treated my sweet boy like just another tedious x-ray. Without any assurances or compassion, he adjusted Caleb on the table, prodding and shifting his head into just the right position.

My hackles were beginning to stand on end.

And before I knew what was happening, the tech quickly ushered me out the door and shut it in my face leaving my little baby in a big, cold room with a huge machine all alone.

Y’all.

I stood there in shock. And then I heard the tech loudly telling my Court Jester to “be still!”

Um? No.

Momma Bear emerged and I was quickly led back into the room—radiation exposure be danged!

As I stood over Caleb and smoothed back his hair, his little eyes filled with tears. Fear looked back at me, and my heart ached.

He had been scared and alone.

Over the next few minutes, as the tech adjusted his bedside manner, I never stopped talking to my boy. I told him over and over again how brave he was and how strong he was. By the time the scan was finished, the Court Jester was back to himself. He hopped off the table and led the way out.

He just needed to know I was there.

Our lives are filled with big, scary moments. Times we face uncaring people or unknown tests. Days when the uncertainty of tomorrow overwhelms every fiber of our being. Fear crawls up our spines and clutches our hearts. We feel alone in the dark.

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But allow me to tell you—our Jesus isn’t standing behind some locked door. No. He’s never left the room. He’s right there whispering, “Be strong and courageous. I am with you wherever you go.” Again and again and again.

Four times God tells Joshua of the Israelites to “be strong and courageous.” Three times God promises Joshua, “I will be with you.” And that is just in the first chapter of the book titled Joshua.

You see, Joshua was about to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land and into battle. Not a job I would consider fun. Fear could have consumed Joshua.

But God.

God made sure Joshua knew strength and courage were required, but God would never leave him. The Creator of the heavens and earth was always going to be right there—walking beside the Israelite leader.

When staring at our fears, we sometimes just need to be reminded our Jesus is standing right there too—standing there cheering us on. Reminding us to be brave. Reminding us we’re strong. Reminding us He’s never left our side.

Are you walking through a season of fear? Do you need more courage than you believe is possible?

Know God never left the room.

He’s whispering those same Joshua-words into your heart. Let them sink in. Allow them to bring hope. Soak in their peace.

You are never alone.

Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9

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Raising Our Sons to be Fathers

A few days ago I received a gift. My five-year-old son, Caleb, fell asleep in the car. Woo Hoo! Because silence is golden. But wait. There’s more.

When we arrived home I lifted his lankiness from the car seat expecting him to wake up. He didn’t. Instead?

He nestled his sweet face into the space between my shoulder and chin. I could have walked him to his bed and laid him down.

I didn’t. Instead?

I sat in our rocker and held him for the next hour. Because at five, it could be my last time to rock him as he slept. It could always be the last time he lets me. So I rocked and stared at his long lashes and soaked in the gift.

As I gently swayed back and forth, breathing in his precious face, my mind began to wander. What do I do with this little boy? How do I raise this member of the wild and untamed male species?

Today I’m sharing over at Orlando Mom’s Blog. I’d be honored if you click on over to continue reading. Because raising children is hard. And raising our sons to be fathers in today’s world can be scary.

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10 Rules for a Not Bummer Summer

Today kicks off the first day of summer for the kids and me. Prince Charming joins us mid-week next week. Yesterday we celebrated my girl’s 5th Grade Promotion ceremony. A milestone. One that has me a bit reminiscent and unexpectedly teary.

I’m looking forward to the quiet spaces this summer, my friends. Digging deep. Praying to be aware of His still small voice.

Just a few days ago I ran across a beautiful truth I couldn’t wait until August to share with you. It’s from Deuteronomy 2:3. “You have circled this mountain long enough. Now turn north…”

Do you struggle with a vicious cycle of defeat in your life? Can I remind you, that you were made for more? Turn north with me, friends! We have circled the mountain of defeat long enough! This verse is now sprinkled throughout my home giving me just the encouragement I need.

Finally, friends, in continuing my partnership with the Orlando Moms Blog, I’m sharing there today. The following is just a snippet of what’s been on my heart:

“Eighteen.

The number of emails I might receive in an hour. Or the loads of laundry I finish in a week. Or the times I pick up Legos off my floor in a day. Or the sweet kisses I get from my son each night.

Or.

The number of summers I have with each of my children.

Eighteen summers. That’s it. And those aren’t even guaranteed…”

I’d love for you to click on over to OMB. I love being a part of the shared space with some incredible women.

I miss you friends. I can’t wait to share with you what my Jesus whispers to me over the next few months. See you in August!

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A Summer of Rest

It happened so quickly. Like walking around a corner and smacking into someone with hot coffee in hand, the liquid spilling, burning your skin as it seeps deep. Nobody meaning for it to happen.

My student’s actions and words cut sharp into my being a few days ago. It was unintentional. He never meant to hurt my feelings. But pain can happen by accident when you’re not looking.

I stood there with an undone heart and a smile on my face. He didn’t need to know how his actions ripped my teacher core. How the fabric of my insecurities clinched tight. How questions of worth and significance weaved their way into my heart.

The questions of whether I could ever do enough, be enough rose to the surface. The always striving. The needing to do more, more, more.

Because then I will be loved.

Right?

The biggest lie I believe?

That I can work hard enough to gain acceptance, to gain love. That if I keep doing, I will be loved more.

It’s the lie I believe about people.

It’s the lie I believe about God.

I know it’s a lie. Because there are those who love me with abandon and without reservation. And there is a God who loves me no matter what.

No matter what.

Yet, there are times I can’t seem to escape the darkness the lie brings. Conditional love does that. When we’re only loved for what we do and not who we are, we travel a scary road of insecurity. We’re left to spin our hamster wheels of doing, trying, go-getting.

I know all about the doing. I think you might too.

It’s exhausting.

Summer is winking at me from a close horizon. I can lift my weary head and see the sun glimmer through the trees. My Florida beaches and their salty waves call out. School will end for me in just two short weeks. I will be free (despite the list 10 books deep of classical literature I will be reading in preparation for August.)

While I yearn for two weeks from now, today I sat buried under papers and summer reading lists. But from under the stacks, I heard the call of my Jesus more than the call of the ocean.

The call to just be.

The breathing deep begins with those two words: Just Be.

Do you know what I want more of this summer? More than a slowing, I want a knowing. I want to sit at the feet of my Jesus over the next few months and be reminded His love for me does not increase or decrease by what I do.

No. His love is unchanging and does not hinge on my actions.

Life is full of seasons. Sometimes full and teaming with activity. Then other times God calls us to rest.

This is the call resounding deep in my soul.

Of course there will be responsibilities. Of course life will still be crazy with kids. Of course work will continue to be done even in summer months.

But there will also be rest. Not physical so much, but mental, spiritual, emotional rest.

And so, dear friends, I will not be blogging weekly this summer. Though there may be a few posts that come through from time to time as I honor commitments made to other sites, I will be breathing deep and refocusing on knowing the One who called me to write and minister in the first place.

I love this space, and I love you. I’m often overwhelmed by your steadfast commitment to these carved out petals of Joy in cyberspace. You are so important to me. You are.

I’m choking down fear even as I type these words. God asking me to take a break for a few months is paralyzing for this doer. Yet, even as I stare at the blinking cursor on the screen, I feel His peace and freedom.

And so I will see you in August, my sweet sisters. Until then, know I will be praying for those of you who, like me, need to sink into an unchanging love of a Savior who asks us to be still and know He is God.

Maybe there’s an area of doing He’s asking you to hand over to Him for a time? A handing over in order to be reminded you can never work your way into His love.

Sit with me at His feet this summer?

Love and Joy,

Heather

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A Mom Like Me

My hair tortured me for decades. High Florida humidity + not quite curly hair = disaster. On a regular basis.

I can’t tell you the hours I spent wishing I had been born with different hair.

Middle school was a horrific combination of pubescent awkwardness with a brushed-out perm. Granted, it was the 80s but I don’t think French poodle was the look I was after. I’ve sworn off perms since.

High school managed to offer a slight improvement. No more perms and a hair dryer managed to tame the wild beast a bit. Until I walked outside and met the blanket of wet air resting on my state 90% of the year.

If you want to know what my adolescent hair has to do with Motherhood, join me as I share my heart at Moms Magazine today

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The Test Doesn’t Define You

Tonight? A reposting of a favorite. Because yesterday began two weeks of national AP testing. Because new and old students take the AP Literature test tomorrow. Because students all over our country are in the midst of state tests. Because our culture attempts to define the value of a student based on a number they receive from a one-day testing snapshot. Because I want my students to know how wrong that mindset really is.


So. Tomorrow you will take a test. Bubbling in A or B and sometimes E. Writing essays until your fingers cramp. It will be the test. The one we’ve prepared for by reading and writing and thinking and straining.

And now you’re here. Standing. Wondering if ready is a word you’ll ever feel.

But before the morning breaks and the sun crests over the hill with its pinks brushed against orange—before then. There are a few words I want to whisper. Words I’m desperate for you to hear. Words I hope will shape a thousand tomorrows.

The test you will take? It will not define you.

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Gray penciled marks filling in circles will never tell the world who you really are.

So many things will shape and mold your life, and while tomorrow may bend you, it will not dictate the person you are created to become. No schoolroom test will do this.

And really? No test or struggle in life defines who you are. It is how you prepare for the test, react to the test, and accept the outcome that displays your greatness.

As you discover the voice you will bring to others, there are lessons I want to teach you. Lessons not covered in a curriculum.

Lessons you need to know.

If you’ve heard nothing from me all year, I pray you hear me today.

Prepare for the battles. While you’ll never be ready for every test you’re standing in the middle of, your preparation will keep you tall when those around you crumble.

Stand strong during the trials. Giving in, even once, makes it easier to give up again and again and again. Perseverance isn’t for wimps. And you were never created for weakness. You are strong. I see it every day.

Learn from your struggles. You can bring meaning to the painful when you find even the smallest lesson. What can you better understand about the world because of the trial you walked through?

Admit your weaknesses. Arrogance is never respected—feared sometimes, but never valued. Society relishes in seeing the mighty fall, but will esteem those who recognize their limitations.

Act with conviction. Know what you believe and act on those principles. The world will never know your beliefs if you don’t live them fully each day. You are what you believe. If you hold no convictions, if you adhere to no beliefs, if you’re just along for ride, you will never understand yourself.

Know failing is never the same as failure. Defeat can bring focus—a singular clarity that success sometimes misses. You’re only a failure if you never get back up from the fall. And students? You have time to brush yourself off and rise again.

Choose to be brave. Acts of courage cannot exist without fear. It is the dread that requires bravery. The way to fight fear? Be courageous. Be brave because you’re afraid.

Strive for excellence. In everything. Every. Thing. Because working with diligent excellence is saying yes to the brilliant and refusing the idle. No one ever won the race with laziness. Consider Aesop’s Hare. Excellence may take time, yet it’s worth every single slow step.

Bring joy to others. Only when we put humanity before ourselves, do we uncover true value and meaning in this life. The way you give to people defines how society sees you—sees who you truly are. Your heart is always reflected in the way you treat the world.

Know comparison damages your soul. You were created with a voice uniquely yours. No other on earth can be who you are supposed to be for this world. No other can accomplish your purpose. Comparing yourself to another crushes your own potential for greatness.

Seek Truth. Your freedom in this life depends upon the Truths you grasp with both hands. The world and people you love will fail. Truth will not. If in this life you only seek Truth with your entire being, you will find it. And there is no greater success than to uncover its glory.

So. Tomorrow you will take a test. But remember the test will never define you, know the results of an exam do not place a value on your existence.

No.

You have worth and meaning simply because you exist. 

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When Your Motherhood is Tired

Hey, Momma.

I know.

I know those tired eyes and that sleepy soul. I see the dirt smudges on your knees from crawling through playground tunnels. I hear the sigh you heaved after changing your second diaper in five minutes.

You bind imaginary wounds with superhero Band-Aids. You can be found jammin’ out to the Fresh Beat band—not realizing you’re actually alone. You’ve scraped sticky-sweet syrup from the floor ten times this week, even though you can’t remember when last you mopped. What’s the use?

You have days when your motherhood is tired.

Are you tired, sweet friend? I’d love for you to head on over to Orlando Moms Blog today to be encouraged. Because your job? An exhausting-but-worth-it calling.

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When You Need to Move Forward

I don’t handle change well.

Does anyone?

Over the last two weeks Prince Charming and I packed up our home of 14 years. We scrubbed dirt and relived memories. We kept with the daily and added it to the moving of our lives.

On Monday we signed bank documents, sold our home, handed over the keys.

And more than once, I forgot to breathe.

The sale is nothing short of a miracle—a God-breathed shift in our lives.

But just because God moves doesn’t mean moving on is easy.

I keep trying to wrap my mind around the change. Knowing my traveling home will be different, and my entire landscape has shifted.

With this bend in our journey, emotions flooded. New opportunities for our family bring excitement. But as I sifted through the memories of a life lived within the brick and mortar of my home, I realized part of me didn’t want to move on—or move forward.

Because there is a deep comfort in staying where I am.

The hard work of moving forward makes me want to lock myself in my bedroom and stay under the covers, eating chocolate chip cookies while sipping triple-shot mochas.

Packing up the life I’ve known for 14 years, the longest I lived anywhere, overwhelmed me. Where to begin? As with any moving forward, I began with one step. One picture at a time came down from the walls.

Moving forward always begins by moving one foot forward.

And then another. And another.

With each step I felt my grasp on the past ease. I spent the last few weeks with arms reaching into the darkest corners of cabinets, pulling out glassware and plastic cups I forgot were there. How many glass 9×11 pans does a girl really need?

That’s part of moving forward—choosing what needs to be left behind. Realizing there are pieces better left in the dark corners. Chunks of our memories and experiences that may just need to be let go.

One night I dug through my hope chest, a cedar box of dusty recollections.

Pulling fragments of my past out, one after the other, I smiled and I cringed.

I also let go.

An unmarked envelope floated in the midst of my memories. As my eyes traced the words written over 20 years ago, I felt the bitterness I’d held onto loosen its grip. I released what I’d carried for so long, the weight lifted in the pen and paper lightness of the letter.

Sometimes moving on is about leaving things behind. Pain. Bitterness. Anger.

And in the midst of packing and letting go, you can completely break. I did that too. Because there’s this field trip to the zoo I won’t be able to attend. But it’s okay to be broken. When we’re banged up into bits and pieces we realize how desperate we are for the Creator to hold our fragments in His tender hands.

And then, when you know there’s nothing stopping this train of moving on, and you don’t know if you’ll ever be ready—friends show up.

They skip church and bring trucks and serve with their strong arms showing what the Body of Christ is all about.

They stop by to pack your pantry and remind you that you’re not as alone as you thought in this journey.

They watch your kids and pay for your dinners.

They lift the heavy burdens in cardboard boxes as your life spills out of one place into another.

They drive hours to make sure you have what you need the first night of your new life.

They drop off donuts to welcome you home.

Because if I’ve learned anything over the last few weeks it’s this: You can’t move forward alone.

Change is messy. It’s newsprint-blackened fingertips, cups broken from careless handling, and wondering if you’ll ever settle into the new.

But you have a choice.

You can either cement your feet to the ground, refusing the shift, or you can bring one foot in front of the other—ever determined to keep moving forward.

Joining my incredibly brave-because-God friend, Suzie Eller and learning to #livefree. If you want to read more brave sister stories, please follow this link.

More than you imagine

Posted in Beautiful Life, Relationship with God, Struggles | Tagged , , | 12 Comments