Growth and Gratitude in the Worst Year of My Life

1/1/2018

A new year. I enter it markedly different. I suppose we all do, but after a year like 2017, I feel like I’ve been carved into a very different person. The worst year of your life will do that to you. It hadn’t just been awful since the end of August. No…January began and train wreck after train wreck. Storm after storm. (In April, literally.) Challenge after challenge. There were so many prayers answered “yes.” One big one answered “no.” And so many still up in the air. It occurs to me to be thankful that I have so many things to pray for and about. The ones that He quickly answers give me hope for the ones He’s silent on. The answered ones keep me going when He says no. And even His big no was only a “Not right now…” A painful, deferred yes that I both ache for and anticipate with great joy.

I spent a LOT of time on my knees in 2017 praying for change—and the thing that changed the most was me. God worked some miracles for me and He also brought me to the end of myself so many times I can’t even count. Every strength wasn’t strong enough. Every weakness seemed to be laid bare. Every place in which I relied on myself—even unconsciously—was no longer reliable. Distractions no longer distracted. My efforts to plant dreams or make plans were completely uprooted to the point where I felt paralyzed to even dream or make plans. There was literally nothing I could control.

And I think that was the point. I AM is God of your life, Breauna, not you. I heard that loud and clear.

So, I spent a lot of time also asking God, “What do you want from me? What am I not seeing here? I’m begging you for blessing, Father, and I trust you, so I know there’s a reason You’re not honoring my requests. What do you want from me?” Not in a frustrated way…in a willing one.

“You. I want you,” is what I started to understand. “I want you to seek Me because you just want to be where I am. I want you to seek me simply to draw close. To understand and know Me. You remember how you were when you were a child? In some ways, you need to go back. Let go of control. Let go of thinking you are in any way in charge of your life. Let go of expectation. Let go of your own ideas of what you think a blessed life is and be present in the blessed life I’ve placed you in. I want your gratitude.”

“But you have it, Lord! I am grateful!”

Not when I bless you and then you’re on to your next request. Achieve one, move to the next. Open your eyes, daughter. I AM everywhere. I want you to see My favor in your life in spite of the challenges, storms, and disappointments. An easy, comfortable life does not equal a blessed one. An easy, comfortable life does not mean you have My favor. When you were a child, it was just you and Me. You had dreams, but no expectations. No comparisons. No notions of what a “happy” life was supposed to be like. You just lived. My pleasure in you and love for you was not based on my action. It was simply based on your belief that I AM what I say I AM.

Trust Me.”

As water poured out of my eyes in my closet, living water was carving riverbeds in my soul. 2017 was an exponential growth year. I grew…because I shrunk. The paradox of moving forward on my journey was all in the setbacks. I needed to revert to mature. I needed to decrease so He could increase. It’s ironic to me that my whole mantra since moving to a little dairy out in the middle of nowhere was “Bloom where you are planted.” I now see God’s motive was “Make a whole new flower.” Your struggles, challenges, setbacks, etc. are not the pain of the executioner’s whip, my daughter. My no’s and my silence are not punishment. Nor are they you somehow missing the road signs or messing up My plans. You, dearheart, are not that powerful. You’re simply impatient. In the meantime, I’m  using my scalpel to fix a few things. I’ve got Your life in my hands. You’ve seen Me in action on your behalf enough to know that. Trust me with it.

I do, Father. I am trusting You. And thank You.

It took me 11 months to stop praying for the things I wanted and start simply asking God to bless me with the things He wanted me to have. To open my eyes to those things when they came. To open my eyes to Him everywhere. To feel Him. To see Him. To experience Him. To be completely fulfilled in all things Him. I sat down with my Bible simply to read—with full faith that if He wanted to me to know something specific, I would end up there at the perfect time. And I told Him I would try my best not to bring my own requests for material or physical blessing, but simply humbly accept what He saw fit to give and cherish with gratitude everything I had. Not because it’s wrong to ask for those things, but because I wanted to put my trust into action. It’s been tough! I’ve had to overhaul some habits and do some major mindset work—or maybe I can’t even take credit for that as my own strength. All good that I do is Him.

Last month, a friend gave me an idea that I prayed about weeks. A word. I simply wanted a word. Something to hang onto as I entered 2018. I prayed for it. Waiting. Watching. A day or two later—the word “prepare” was jumping off book pages. It was everywhere I looked. It was a broken record in my head. I looked up. Is that you, Lord? Is that Your word? I timidly asked because it had a positive feeling with it, a hopeful connotation, and I’ll admit to being afraid I was intercepting it wrong. Afraid of getting my hopes up.  Things expectations are made of. And yet, this word would not leave me alone. Prepare.

Weeks went by. I kept my eye out for a different word. A different message. I’ll admit I’m still doing it. I just don’t want to get it wrong. And yet, this pesky prepare is still here.

Prepare…prepare for what?

I’m not sure…the only thing I can be sure of is that change is always certain.

Prepare for change? Is that it? At this point, I feel like I’m prepared for anything. Having no expectations will do that to a person. Anything can happen. I simply have to roll with it, which completely goes against pride and my own self-accomplishment.

There’s a sense, for me, that prepare was an apt word for 2017. Brace yourself, Breauna. This is going to be a long, dark, bumpy ride. Major growing pains around the next bin.

And yet, here we are in 2018, with this positive, hopeful “prepare.” What was He preparing me for in 2017? And not just me…but Leslee, as well? I’m reminded of Jacob after wrestling with God. Leslee and I can relate to walking with a limp. We come limping into 2018, but with newfound strength, as well. And  humble, grateful hands wide open for whatever the Lord wants to give.

And the word is… “prepare.”

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Be YOUR Beautiful

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What if being confident and seeing the beauty in yourself isn’t about you at all? What if it allows you to better see the beauty in others? What if it allows you to be free of insecurity? And what if being free of insecurity gives you the freedom to acknowledge another’s beauty without taking anything away from your own? To lift up someone who’s looking for their special, unique kind of beautiful? What if being confident and seeing the beauty in yourself allows you to freely give praise and encouragement simply to see someone smile? To live without comparison…which makes the world a more beautiful place?

Conversations Between the Farmer and His Wife, Part II

We’re in the second week of the farmer’s low-carb, high protein, no sugar eating adventure. I chuckle as I type the word “adventure…”

This has not been an easy feat for my grains and starch and sugar loving hubs. In fact, he’s been quite cranky. And I get it. It’s only been  two weeks. You do a lot of conquering what your brain is telling you you’re craving in that period of time. Your body has to remember how to pull energy from fat storage instead of just burning carbs. You get a little lethargic and moody sometimes when your body was used to counting on something it’s not getting now. He’s had great days where he’s thought this isn’t bad. And he’s had bad days. I think the phrase, “My life is no longer worth living” comes up periodically. (Dramatic, anyone?)

However, he’s stayed the course like a champ and looked fiercely forward to the one cheat day he gets a week where he goes completely off the rails and has whatever he wants. On the non-cheat days, he can have whatever he wants as long as it’s meat, eggs, veggies, beans, and nuts. And ya know what? He is very visibly shrinking. While he loves that, he still has to complain just a bit because he feels like he’s eating the same things over and over again. (He kinda is…but ya know what? That right there is part of why he’s been so successful).

This afternoon was a bad day. It didn’t help that I’d let our supply of foods he can have dwindle. It also didn’t help that I was within earshot–he’s gotta play it up for that.

Farmer (as he stands with the fridge doors open): “I am so SICK of lettuce! This fridge looks like a stinkin’ vegan lives here. My options are green, green, green…and green.”

Me: “Oh, come on now! Look at what’s in the crockpot for dinner! STEAK! And you’ve liked every meal I’ve made all week.”

Farmer:  (grumble grumble…something about how they’ve been alright, but not his first choice. )

Thanks, honey. Thanks a lot.

Me: “Really when you think about it, I’m not even cooking much differently than I usually do. I mean, what is missing from our meals that I used to make?”

Farmer: “HOT ROLLS! POTATOES!”

Me: “I NEVER MADE HOT ROLLS! And potatoes? We hardly ever had potatoes!”

Farmer: (more grumbles…something about at least he could have had them if he wanted to)

Because of his lack of choices and apparent desperate hunger, he settles on some refried beans mixed with salsa. And continues to be the curmudgeon to my positivity and bubbliness. But, see, this only eggs me on because it’s my greatest pleasure to make him smile and laugh in these moments.

And even though the farmer’s cranky, his mood actually improves his natural sarcasm and wit…which I get a kick out of.

So, I shift gears as he berates the fact that I told him he could have sweet potatoes. For the love of all things good, when will I be serving sweet potatoes?

Me: (with a ornery smirk) “Now, is this how Jesus would talk to His bride?”

Farmer: (as he looks at me incredulously and holds up his bowl with what looks like brown and red mush in it) “Is this what you would serve Jesus??!!”

At that, I am in tears. Laughing so hard I’m crying at the thought of this being the straw that broke the camel’s back for Jesus. He continues on with his spontaneous skit. Passing his bowl of refried beans and salsa to  imaginary Jesus in the chair next to him and saying all kinds of more hilarious, sarcastic things as he offers him our “best” food and hospitality. I can’t even catch all of it because I’m about on the ground. All the while knowing that I in no way forced my beloved to eat what he concocted in his bowl.

However, because of how hard I am laughing, guess who’s smiling…and laughing. The more I howl, the more he cracks up.

And that bad mood takes a severe hit.

 

Jesus’ presence wasn’t so imaginary in that chair next to my husband, after all.

 

Conversations Between the Farmer and his Wife

The farmer is baling and wrapping hay all day today, but he came in for a quick bite to eat. As I walked from my desk area to the kitchen carrying a plate, he says,

“Watcha doin?”

Me: “Oh, ya know, what I do best…”

Him: “Editing?’

Me: “Well, I was thinking more along the lines of eating, but I’ll take editing, too. I’m multitasking. All while being SUPER efficient because I’m eating leftovers…therefore, no food is going to waste.

Him: “Yeah, I see you also finished off the last Clif bar.”

Me: “I couldn’t let YOU eat it!” (He’s all low carb, high protein, no sugar right now. I took one for the team. That’s sacrificial love right there, folks. In action. )

Him: “Oh, no! We couldn’t have that!”

Me: “OH, OH! AND here’s the best part, (I ignore the prior sarcasm) while I’m eating, editing, and being SUPER efficient, I’m also growing a tiny human! And that quite possibly makes me the most productive person you will encounter today! 

Him: *smirk*

Trust me, it blew his mind. I rendered him speechless. He’s a lucky, lucky man. (I’m still hungry.)

Taegan Dresses Up for Spirit Week

Whew! I survived last week. I was creative. I baked. I shopped. I worked. I counted. I did no cleaning. I snapped pictures. I took deep, cleansing breaths. I did not maintain my sanity. And now I’m back, mostly recovered with only a small amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

I don’t think I could have chosen a more inconvenient time to be 8 months pregnant. It’s really cramping my style. Usually, I thrive on the crazy and mostly enjoy it. I’m a high-energy person. I like to be involved.

However, some alien form of Breauna resides as the dominant personality in my body right now. She’s not as much fun…maybe because she has to heft a bowling ball around 24/7 amidst all the other fun things that come with the third trimester.

Anyway, last week was Spirit Week at Taegan’s school followed by their Fall Festival Friday night. I’m a PTO officer this year, so naturally, this was going to be a VERY busy week.

First, let’s talk about Spirit Week. Every day was themed.

 

DAY 1: PAJAMA DAY

I didn’t get a picture of Taegan that morning because Monday was the only day I was going to get to work. Picture time didn’t happen because Mommy was too busy trying get herself ready. (And if you knew the hoops I have to jump through to get a picture of this kid, you would know ain’t nobody got time for that). Taegan wanted to wear her red and green plaid Hello Kitty long, flannel nightgown. I got it for her last Christmas and, granted, it is adorable, but it screams “Merry Christmas!” I tried to talk her out of it, but she insisted. Nothing else would do but Christmas Hello Kitty. So, in the pouring down rain, I walked my galoshes-clad 4-year-old into the school looking like Christmas morning.

 

DAY 2: STORYBOOK CHARACTER DAY

Figuring out the storybook character for Taegan to be wasn’t hard. In fact, it only seemed natural for our tutu-wearing tomboy with crazy curls and she just so happens to be the main character in some of our favorite books. None other than Fancy Nancy!

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I bought Taegan a tiara with feathers on it and lots of pink beaded necklaces. We had the rest covered. You can’t see from this picture, but I pinned her mess of curls into a…mess of curls and stuck a few hair bows amidst it all. Ooo-la-la! She was darling. (That’s fancy for sweet). 😉 I tried to encourage her to say “Merci” any time there was an opportunity, but she drew the line at that.

 

DAY 3: WACKY WEDNESDAY

I love children’s books and I’ve read Wacky Wednesday many a time. I had this. I really knew I had it when I saw the look on the farmer’s face at the outfit I was carrying around… that look of “Are you serious?” You betcha! I was on the brink of genius! Don’t question it! See, look, even the picture’s all wacky because she’s nut that won’t stand still.

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But, I crossed right over that brink with her hair. Vertical pigtails!!

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She looked in the mirror and laughed at her whole ensemble. I take pride in it. If one can pat themselves on the back for wackiness, I did it on Wednesday.

 

DAY 4: SPIRIT DAY

There was a home game that evening and it was “Pack the Gym Night.” So, the kids were to wear their school t-shirts or red. Well, low and behold, my child owns not one dress, shirt, pair of pants, or sock that is red. Nor does she own anything with a tiger on it (the school mascot). So, I believe we went to school that day wearing a purple shirt with a fox on it.

We went to the game that night and she got her face-painted with tiger paws. We ended the night with spirit.

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DAY 5: SUPERHERO DAY

I wanted to superhero day right, but my daughter isn’t in to superheroes, so I wanted to come up with something about her that was something special.

I thought, What does Taegan like to do? Be outside or bee bopping around the farm with Daddy.

What is Taegan good at? Well, her little head is filled with various facts about the farm. All of the cows’ names, who’s going to calve soon, who had a heifer or a bull, which ones are dry or need to be milked on the bucket according to leg paint and ankle bands, which ones have recently had “masatitis.”

What is Taegan’s 4-year-old passion? This farm, the country, dirt, and cows. It’s her life.

Then, it hit me. Taegan’s super power needed to be something to do with our dairy. And then the slogan came to me.

DAIRY GIRL: FEEDING AMERICA ONE GALLON AT A TIME

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Complete with cow ears, a cape, and the dairy farming staple: black rubber boots. I’ll never top that because it truly is who she is. Farmers are definitely superheroes and she was so proud to wear it.

As you can tell, Mommy had just as much fun (if not more) with Spirit Week as Taegan did.