Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tuesday Tidbits

Ever had a day where you just smile on the inside?
Where...you can't quite say why, but it is just a good-good day?

That's been the case round' here lately.

This afternoon, windows down and radio on high, hair blowin' through the breeze, I looked up at the pale blue sky and fluffy white clouds and smiled at God.  Gratitude for the simpleness, the good, the joy, for no reason other than it was here and I was glad.

I love days like that.  When you've had your share of rainy days, sunshine soothes the soul!

And I'm not talking the yellow ball in the sky here, folks, although it has been amazingly nice for July.
Like uncommonly mild temps for this time of year.  In fact, last night as we were lingering outside on the deck, I had to pull a blanket over my legs.  Crazy to be cold in the middle of summer!

All the worries of the world just melt away here!
It was just so nice to sit outside on a July night and not be dripping in sweat.  Most of the summer, you'll usually find me retreating indoors.  I'm a wimp, I admit it.  My hubby knows I'm usually only interested in fishing at the start and end of the season.  Because this chick just doesn't do sweaty.  It doesn't agree with my personality.  So to find autumn-like weather in what should be sweltering summer puts this girl in a pretty good mood.

But it's not the weather that has me smiling.

It's the plateau.

Life is full of valleys and mountains.  Peaks and lows.  Although I do rather enjoy the highs, I'm even more content when there is a lull.  No excitement, no flash.  I'll take good ole' routine any day.

Here's a few of my favorite simple moments this month that have brought me joy...

Black Cherry and Chocolate snow cones.  Yum!

Austin's memorial tree has bloomed beautifully for his birthday month.

The kids have actually been requesting "tech free" and asked to play games instead.  Love!

And we welcomed a new fur baby into our home.
Meet Dewey "Roscoe" Blair.  He's so happy he smiles!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Faithful Friday: When Life is Hard

Sometimes in life things happen that can't be explained.
Sometimes, life just isn't fair.

We live this reality every. single. day. in the loss of our first son.

Throughout our somewhat still-young life, we've had more than our share of heartaches.  At many points, we've felt like we were being tested.  Sometimes, you can't help but ask why?

And I know many of you, who come each week, have your share of burdens and brokenness.  For those, my heart goes out to you.  I lift up prayers for my readers and share in your hurt.

But we can't dwell and linger on past pains.  Even in our situation, it is a delicate line we walk - in remembering our son but still moving forward.

Moving past the pain and into the next phase is sometimes among the most difficult parts of healing. For when you move forward, guilt arrives.

Sadly, for some, they never transition beyond the crisis.  Whatever happened in life that slammed on the cruel brakes has forever suspended them.  They can't imagine anything else so they just stay - locked inside the darkness and pain.

For the "Why did this happen?" questions in life, I want you to know I don't have those answers. Sometimes, truly, there is no answer.  And often, even if we had one, it wouldn't take the pain away.

Yet, I want you to know there IS an answer to whatever trial you're facing.
But it is one I can't easily explain.

If I had a dollar for every time someone has said, "I don't know how you do it/You're so strong/I could never survive something like that," I'd be writing this post from some fancy beach resort.

Do you know what I say to them, every time?

I didn't do anything.  God did.  I'm weak, God is strong.

As I've shared so many times on this blog, He is the only answer I can give you for how I'm not just surviving but thriving through this journey.  With each and every blow life has handed me through the years, He has been the constant.  Though I'm rarely at a loss for words, with this - it is just difficult to share the how and why.

The short answer, I guess, is that I have faith.  Faith is something that has grown in me because of those difficult moments.  Faith is something that has always existed within me but comes more and more with time.

Faith is the substance of hope, the conviction of things not seen, 
and accepts even that which appears unreasonable.

The hurts we've experienced have, at times, been unimaginable pain.  There were points we felt like there was no way out.  No hope.  No future.  No joy that would ever come from it.

But blessings have come, from every situation, every painful moment, every loss.  

Sure, sometimes they may not seem to equal out.  A small moment of joy or the gift of a blessing may not stand up against the mountain you are facing.  And you may still feel like it isn't fair, or that you've been shorted in this life.

Again, all I can say is that there is more.  Some day.  On the horizon.  There is hope.  

One day, you won't even look back because the view looking forward is one you never even imagined.

Keeping the faith until that One Day is here for us all.....

Friday, July 18, 2014

Faithful Friday: Anger - a Silent Villain

When Noah was little, he was obsessed with super heroes.  But he didn't just want to watch or read about them, he wanted to BE them.

His imagination would run wild, along with his chubby strong legs, as he'd throw a blanket on his back and turn into a caped crusader.  Our bar stools became skyscrapers, couches turned mountains, and his furry friends were victims needing rescue from evil villains.

Oh, how I miss those fun days of jumping into his adventures and escaping reality.  In Noah's land, there was always a happy ending!

Of course, there was a super hero he liked to become on not-so-good days too.

The Hulk became very popular when he was about three years old. Noah's favorite line of the big green guy was, "You're making me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

Only he changed it to, "My getting mad!  You not gonna like this!"

With a scrunched up face, he'd clinch his tiny fists, saying the line in kind of growl.  One couldn't help but laugh, which of course, would only make him madder.

Last night, Noah climbed in bed with me, since Tim was working late.  He'd been holding in some anger, more hurt really, from something said to him as a joke.  But because he didn't deal with it, the hurt festered and grew until he found himself angry about a silly situation.

Though I'd had plans of getting to sleep early, we ended up chatting for nearly two hours.  Granted there was much more conversation on my side, but God did open up an opportunity for me to share with him about the grumpy times in life.

In fact, as He often does, God brought to light a similar situation I'd had myself last week.

As I was "preaching" to my son about being quick to forgive, God showed me an area where I'd let the same thing happen and began to work on my heart to make it right.

As I shared with Noah last night, it is so easy for us to respond in anger.  It's our human nature to get mad, hold grudges, and fail to see the good in people.  The more we sit and stew on it, the worse it becomes.  And Evil is ready to pounce on those moments to fan the flames of anger and make them stronger.  Anger can often be a silent villain, lurking and growing, spreading and attacking an otherwise gentle heart until POW! you explode.

Years and years ago, I waited on a cute little couple in a small cafe, who were celebrating 60 years together.  Myself newly engaged, I asked them how they lasted so long.  Their words of wisdom are something I try to carry with me even today.

"Don't go to bed angry.  Tell each other 'I love you' every day."

But that nugget doesn't have to only be used for your spouse.  God reminds us to love everybody. Yep, even those sneaky, pesky villains.

If someone has come to mind in the course of reading this little post, it probably isn't coincindence.  Use the opportunity of today to set things right, after you're prayed-up of course.

Cuz, as this momma often says, sweeping anger and troubles under a rug eventually leads to making one trip and fall!

Be slow to anger, quick to forgive, and eager to love, friends.  
Sending you much JOY this Friday.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Faithful Friday: Scripture Challenge

There's a thing going around Facebook right now where someone challenges another to post their favorite scripture.  So far, I've not been tagged.

But it has had me thinking of what my "one scripture" would be.

Scanning back through Faithful Friday posts, I came upon the very first one I wrote.  (aww)
No surprise, it contains one of my favorites, Philippians 4:13.

It has been a significant verse in my life and one I've turned to often.

Choosing only one verse though seems somewhat impossible.  To quote a favorite, really depends on the situation.  If you twisted my arm and made me pick, right now in my life, it is from Nehemiah and pretty much sums how I've survived the past few years.

"The joy of the Lord is my strength!"  Nehemiah 8:10

Having so many to choose from is the wonderful thing about scripture.  God has stacked so many beautiful words of wisdom in the Bible.  Some are tried and true and others specific to certain times of life. Regardless, I've never met a scripture I didn't like.

No matter where you open your Bible, God has a message for you.  
It's something He and I were talking about yesterday.

You see, I was chatting while driving through the countryside and asking Him to help me find more time to spend in His word.  Throughout my life I have peaks and valleys where I do amazingly and terribly all in what seems one breath.  I know I've been lacking in this area, due to recent job changes (and summer timing) but I didn't want to just make excuses.  Whenever I lapse, something within pushes me to make a change.  My soul needs God's word.  Regularly.

I prayed for a window of opportunity to be shown to me.  A time of day I could be consistent, no matter what life threw my way.

Last night, terrible nightmares attacked me.  Probably some of the worst ever.  I fought back with songs of praise and scripture.  Some even mumbled out loud.  (I can only imagine this story from Tim's side!)

Needless to say, it was a night of much tossing and turning.  At one point, I considered just getting up and then recalled my prayer request.  Did God have a message for me?  Lack of sleep made me too lazy to get out of bed, so instead I returned to Him in prayer.

This morning, the sunlight, a beautiful song, and scripture came to me.  In my dream, I was singing a song, "Jesus, Come to me...."  In fact, it stuck with me heavy enough that when my feet hit the floor I grabbed a pen to start jotting it down.  Maybe someday I'll share it with you, if it ever gets completed.  A songwriter, I am not.?

Once writing it down, I opened my Bible to the scripture that was also on my heart.  Some of the same words were contained on those pages!!

Didn't enjoy the nightmare, but oh, how I love hearing from God!

Wishing you a Joyful-Scripture-Filled weekend, friends!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Goosebumps at the Ballpark

Celebrating someone’s birthday once they're gone is a bittersweet and often difficult thing to do.  Your heart doesn’t always feel like rejoicing when it is feeling the weight of the loss.  Especially when it is your child.

Austin’s birthdays have varied since losing him.  The first, after he passed, we spent the day away from the house, just the three of us, and planted a memorial tree in our backyard.  What would’ve been his 16th, we had family over, a gathering just like he always loved.  In other years we’ve sent balloon letters up to him or floated sky lanterns in his memory. Most have been somewhat somber and heavy.

Yesterday was his 6th birthday gone.

I hadn’t planned anything leading up to it, figuring I’d let our emotions dictate what we did to remember him.  And then Tim called one afternoon telling me he’d won tickets to a ballgame.  We both teared up once realizing the date.  July 8th - Austin’s birthday.

Baseball and Austin went together like peanut butter & jelly.  They just fit.  

From the time he was tall enough to hit off a T, a passion was sparked.  Spring to summer our family spent our days (and nights) at the ballpark.  Once he grew old enough to enjoy watching it on TV, he was hooked even more.  Bats and gloves littered my house, so much so that we still keep one of Austin’s bats by our front door.

One of our favorite things to do as a family was go to a minor league ballgame.  At one particular park, they had fans come to the field in between innings to play games.  Without fail, Austin would always get picked. He won pizzas, gift cards, and shirts, including one of his beloved Ts that is now included in a quilt on the back of our couch.

When he passed, it was hard for us to love baseball again.  For awhile, it hurt too much being on the field.  In fact, Noah even stepped away from the sport for a couple years, coming back just in time before he aged out.  Last night, sitting behind the home plate, we all realized again how much we missed it.  The Blairs just need baseball!

As if winning tickets to the game on his birthday weren’t enough of hug, 
as always, our boy came through in very big ways.

The weather report was plain ick for the day, actually calling for hail storms and torrential winds.  I was worried it would be so bad that we couldn’t even drive the hour to the field, as the timing called for it to hit late afternoon.  While at work and driving around, I sent up a little prayer that we might have a rain free evening to enjoy the game and remember Austin.  God delivered big time…

Checking the weather again later, I noticed the 85% chance had disappeared to 0% and the hour by hour only included a very small chance of rain, way into the evening.  Wonderful!  We arrived to sunny skies and high 80s in July – picture perfect.  In fact, it wasn’t until we got home late last night and headed to bed that I heard the rain hit.

Getting to our seats (which were amazing  - 2nd row, right behind the plate), our family was met by the park photographer, offering to take a group shot.  Asking about our shirts, Noah shared his brother’s love for the game.  Before he walked away, the guy tossed him a ball to have as a souvenir.    And later he caught a fan shirt during a toss out.  His big brother was certainly shining down on him.

Settling in with an array of fried goodies on our laps, I look up to another goose bump moment.

For the first pitch, the catcher bent in front of us in a blue jersey with #23 printed in bold white – Austin’s number.  Every year he ever played, #23 was Austin’s jersey and even before he passed it was a special number for our family.  Since he’s been gone he uses it to send us hugs and this was just about one of the best ever.  It was all I could do to keep from bursting into tears.

Such a special moment!

The rest of the night continued to be a home run.  We felt Austin’s spirit with each swirling of dust and ping from the bat.  All of us shared memories and stories of baseball days and family trips to games. Things we loved (and missed) about him.  It truly was a celebration of Austin’s life.

Not a feeling we’re quite used to on this grief journey, but one I’m grateful for.

Happy 20th birthday in Heaven, Bub.  
Thanks for the hugs from above.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Faithful Friday: Freedom

For seven days last week, the kids were soaked in the Gospel.

From youth camp to our mission trip, they were knee deep in devotions and in being the hands of feet of Christ.   I'd like to say that is how we live every single day but the truth is, life often gets in the way.  Which is why I'm thankful for opportunities like these for the kids to fully disconnect -and reconnect to God.

God spoke to both at different points last week and weights were lifted from their young hearts.  One I heard about upon their return from camp, one I was blessed enough to witness.  For both of them, they had breakthroughs and this momma heart was rejoicing...tears included!

Oh, the freedom that comes from knowing our Savior!

And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
(Star Spangled Banner)

Noah, my somewhat stubborn reader, found messages within God's word.  He soaked up the lessons in their group devotions.

Arriving home, he eagerly showed me his Bible, scriptures underlined and his own notes written in the margin.  Above all, he shared an important moment he had while there and a conversation he had with his youth leader.  With misty eyes, we hugged and I sent up prayers of thankfulness for him having this opportunity, for God using camp to reach him, and for Noah having such wonderful role models to lean on.

Going into the mission trip was the perfect bookend for him.  With each ping of the hammer, he was filled with a passion for helping refugees entering our nation.  God ignited a spark within him and I can't wait to see how he'll use him in the future.

For Tina, I was prayerfully concerned about her on our mission trip.  By luck of the draw, she was put into a group without any of our church members.  Worried, she would be too shy and upset to enjoy the weekend, I asked if she wanted me to request a change.  Without pause, she said that God placed her in this group for a reason and she would do it for Him.

And use her, He did!

Tina's group visited a refugee neighborhood and did a Backyard Bible Club.  She was able to hand out shoes and clothes, play with the kids, and even visit a Sikh temple.  It was eye-opening for her!  So many moments touched her and through the lens of her phone camera, she captured some of the best photos from our trip.


But perhaps the photo that speaks the most to us, was the one I quickly snapped of a surprise moment at the end of our day.  As our groups combined to share testimony, mouths dropped when our timid little girl asked for the microphone.

With a brave small voice, she shared her favorite experiences of the day.
She watched God move through her and the lost and it forever changed her.
Later she shared what an urgency she had to tell the story and what freedom came afterwards.

On this day, our nation's birthday,
a day we celebrate our freedoms and independence...
I can't help but feel blessed to know both these kids know the true sense of those words.

One nation under God...
one family filled with His Spirit!

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