Reflections

I work in a university setting, so often I hear our students being told to be more reflective.  Think about how it went, and what you might want to change for the next time.  The act of reflecting helps to refine our skill – as teachers, as mentors, as partners, as spouses, as children, and as Christians.  In my own life I’ve spent plenty of time reflecting, and with some guided exercises learned from my counselor, I can both reflect and refine, and move forward with a clear and healthy plan.

This time last year, I set some personal goals.  Some I met – go me!!! and some I did not.  But I did some pretty awesome things, and I think it’s worth reflecting on the year and looking at what still needs some refining.

January 2017 – I made the choice to not hide behind a veil of political correctness, and instead show my Faith to the world – I shared and forwarded things that spoke to me about God, prayer, peace, and my Faith.  I was surrounded by friends and Baptized by my pastor and dear friend Erica at our little Presbyterian church in Bovill.   I began the practice of a daily devotional reading each morning guided by some wonderful books I received as gifts from my friends in the congregation.

February 2017 – This month I sat for the final sitting on my MRKH tattoo – getting the color added and everything finished up.  The words Courage, Strength, and Faith permanently emblazoned on my skin as a reminder to myself of my journey…and my commitment to guide and mentor my MRKH sisters.  For my birthday this year, my dear friend Karen bought be a lovely cross that I wear everyday, as another visible statement and testament to my Faith.  It was also during this month that I approached Erica about starting a women’s ministry group at church.  I was yearning for a more purpose filled outlet, a more deliberate walk of faith, a way to bring more fellowship to the community.

March 2017 – Our first Ladies’ Night In – Faith, Friendship, Fellowship and bible study.  It was lovely!  I also attended the memorial service for my Gram this month.  It was bittersweet – such a lovely outpouring of love as we formalized the goodbye to her.  I also decided that for Lent, I would write a letter each day to a woman in my life who has touched my life in some way.  Love notes – short and simple.  It was a wonderful practice for me, to show gratitude – and obviously, they were well received.

April 2017 – My first opportunity to fully participate in Holy Week.  Attending and participating in Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and just the active participation of a Faith – filled week.  April always has a few craft shows, and lots going on at the university as the spring semester wraps up, so it’s a busy month – but Ladies’ Night was fun with some flower pot decorating and then planting.  I also hit a deer, and totaled my car.  I was fine, the zombie deer was dead for about 20 minutes before getting up out of the ditch where it lay dead and wandered off into the twilight.  Seriously…you can’t make this stuff up.

May 2017 – more craft shows, a Ladies’ Night In that I couldn’t attend (boo!), and the start of moving process for my in-laws.  Several quick trips over the next couple of months where my father-in-law would load truck and trailer, and bonsai drive from Colorado to Idaho with a load of stuff to drop off.  Drop said stuff, rest a couple of days and head back to Colorado. I got a new to me car this month – after much searching and prayers for guidance and to not get the Saturn…lol.   I’m not sure when exactly, but a niggling idea started forming in my head.

June 2017 – continued trips as the in-laws prepared to move, and my niece prepared to graduate from high school.  Another Ladies Night, and a few carefully timed messages to women around the country.  I had an idea, but I needed help. After a bunch of back and forth conversations, among friends, and with God – I took that proverbial leap of Faith – and started a Facebook group.  MRKH Journey through Faith was born.  A place where mostly Christian women who also happened to have MRKH could join together for distinctly Faith-filled support.

July 2017 – More trips with the in-laws, with a closing set for the end of the month.  Ladies Night continues to grow and prosper.  And I get the horrible text from one of my best friends.  “Cancer.  I have an appointment with the oncologist tomorrow.”  The sucker punch of all sucker punches.  I still catch my breath when I think about it.  What followed in the next few weeks set the tone for much of the following few months.  Highs and Lows, and many hours in prayer.  Consultations, appointments, plans.  At the same time, there were also plans being made to attend the next MRKH conference in Seattle.  To say it was a month of conflicting emotions would be an understatement.

August 2017 – The final trip up from Colorado, and my in-laws were officially moved in.  To my house.  In my spare room.  Consequently, I left for the weekend!  I went to Seattle to meet up with some MRKH sisters and attend the conference in Seattle.  It was a wonderful weekend, fun sight-seeing adventures, wonderful bonding time with beautiful friends and sisters.  A super strong cementing of faith with one sister, and a chance to speak and tell my story, and the Courageous project story to my MRKH sisters at the conference.  I feel like I grew a lot in my faith this month.  Listening, trusting, mentoring, sharing.

September 2017 – Cancer surgery for one friend, In-patient drug rehab for another.  It was an emotionally draining start to the month.  Ladies’ Night and a long conversation with Erica about taking time to refuel spiritually when we are caring so deeply for others.  We have to make a point to rest and trust.   September also was when I loaded up the last of my goats, sent them off to their new homes, and closed that particular chapter of my life.  This is also when I first learned about Stephen Ministry and began prayerfully considering some options…and I was ordained and installed as a Deacon.

October 2017 – Ladies Night, and some time to consider and research more Stephen Ministry details, which ended with me being invited to participate in the training series.  I started that training on the 17th, had a craft show the end of the month, and I finally got a phone call from my friend in treatment.

November 2017 – November started off with a bang as I was visiting a church member in the hospital, and right then and there he coded right in front of me.  Twice.  He went to emergency surgery and 6 long hours later he was miraculously still alive.  I was with the family the whole time, and felt truly at home in the prayer and care-giving situation I was pushed into.  I had the support, and I prayed like a crazy woman.  It was exhausting, but….I don’t know the right word…fulfilling maybe?  I was right exactly where I needed to be, doing what I needed to do to get through the situation.  My Faith was strong and deep in those moments.  I spent time visiting at the hospital over the course of the first few weeks in November, and was thrilled when he was able to go home before Thanksgiving.  Additionally, my hubby and I made a quick trip over the mountains to attend my parents 50th wedding anniversary party the first weekend.

December 2017  – was much less dramatic than November, except for the fact that work finally began on the remodel of the house my in-laws bought.  Construction demolition has to be one of the messiest projects to undertake!  By the time Christmas day rolled around, the house was stripped down to 4 walls and a roof, and the rebuilding started.  Kind of appropriate don’t you think?

As you can see, this was a big year for me.  Full of challenges and a multitude of blessings!  I’m much stronger in my Faith, and I feel like I continue to grow each day.  I don’t regret at all making the choice to make my Faith a priority, and to be public about it.  I’m on the downhill side of my Stephen Ministry training.  I’m an ordained Deacon at church.  I’ve walked the path of medical crisis with 2 very special friends.  I’ve watched our local women’s ministry efforts flourish and make a real difference for the women in our community.  And our MRKH Journey through Faith group has taken off more than I ever hoped.  All of these things, while benefiting different groups around me – the underlying current is that they have all had a part in making my growth as a Christian woman even stronger.

I pray that 2018 is a powerful and Faith-filled year as well.

 

Blessings

There is a song lyric that has been in my mind for a few days, and when that happens, I choose to take it as a sign that I need to focus on the deeper meaning and context of the song.  The song is written and performed by the lovely Laura Story.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQan9L3yXjc 

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

As these lyrics course through my brain and touch my very soul, I feel like I need to focus on the blessings in my life.  I often find myself, and maybe you do too, focusing on all the trials in my life.  All the things that aren’t going quite like I thought they would.  The construction projects that are way behind schedule.  The friendships that are tested by betrayal.  The to-do list that gains 8 new things for every one thing we accomplish.  The diet plan that goes by the way of holiday baking.
When I take the time to think about my blessings, I’m astounded by their number.  They are big things, and small little everyday things – but I have blessings too many to truly count.  I have my health.  I have a roof over my head, and lights that come on in my home.  I have food in the fridge and a stove to cook on.  I have a lovely car to drive, and the money to fill the gas tank.  I have a husband who loves me, even after nearly 24 years together.  I have a dog who adores me and makes me laugh everyday.  I have a job I love, and work with people I enjoy being around.  I have wonderful and generous friends who remind me to live without fear and love without limits.  I have an incredible church family who help to refill my cup of blessings each week through fellowship, friendship, and worship.  I have a beautiful drive through rural Idaho no matter what direction I head.  I have an incredible group of MRKH sisters to join daily in ministry and fellowship, honoring our commitment to faith each and every day through shared prayers and scripture.  I have a coffee pot that greets me every morning without fail with a steaming cup of goodness.  I have clothes on my back (and front!!! LOL), and shoes on my feet.  I have pens and paper to write on and with, but also a computer and printer.  I have a voice to sing praise and worship.  I have cosmetics and jewelry to help me feel beautiful, and glasses to be able to see the world.  This morning on my commute, I was blessed to see a herd of nearly 100 elk!!!  I have an umbrella and waterproof coat to keep the rain off.
But more than anything…above all these worldly things…I have a loving, patient, kind Savior.  I have faith that His word, His love, His promise is true.  If I have my God, I have everything I need, and more.
Have you counted blessings lately?  Have you thanked God for them?
Don’t hide your light!  Let is shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all the world to see, so that they will praise your Heavenly Father.  – Matthew 5:15-16

Directions

I’ve been contemplating this post for a while.  Well, honestly, several posts – but I haven’t been sure of the direction I wanted to take.  Often this blog acts as a journal for me, allowing me to share and process my thoughts.  Sometimes it serves to address a particular topic or event.  Often it’s completely random.

In my life, and probably in yours too, things happen and our focus shifts a bit.  Sometimes it’s a quick detour, and sometimes it’s quite the journey before we realize that we strayed far from what out target was.  I’m kind of in that place – in another cycle of living my life where it really doesn’t look a whole lot like what I imagined a few years ago.  Crazy how that works sometimes…but work it does.

Over the course of my life I’ve gone through counseling several different times, in order to help me “deal with stuff”.  The stuff is the variable here.  And the type of counseling I’ve done has varied too.  But pretty much you go to a stranger, you begin to build trust, and that stranger becomes a trusted confidant.  And then you start to dig through the layers of “stuff” that is holding you back in your current season of life – hopefully with the goal of dealing with it and getting back to a level of normal you set.  Been there, done that.  I’ve worked through issues of abuse.  I’ve worked through financial ick.  I’ve worked through grief.  I’ve worked through issues of weight and body image.  I’ve worked through infertility.  I’ve worked through failed relationships.  I’ve grown, and I’ve healed.  I’ve changed.  And for the most part, it’s all been for the greater good.  Sure there has been some pain – some regrets – some things I can’t take back no matter how badly I’d like to.  But it’s all been my life.

In the past few months I’ve done a lot of personal reflection, and made some changes and choices that have effected more change.  It’s been quite the process.  I honestly believe that change and growth is a good thing.  We need to challenge ourselves, take calculated risks, and take action.  And sometimes that is a complete upheaval – a major change…and sometimes it’s a just a small shift that has the potential for gigantic ripple effects.  A shift in my life and my priorities has precipitated ripples in so many other aspects of my life I wasn’t expecting.

I took a stand in my heart and mind that shifted my focus to my faith in God, and my place in this world as a Christian woman.  Openly doing so, has opened the door to so much more, and has guided other choices and has given me a sense of peace that had been lacking for many years.  It released burdens, and opened my heart to alternatives.  It gave me direction and purpose that was focused on others and not on myself.  It has brought up some questions too, of course.  All changes come with challenges, and I’ve tried to embrace them all.

Most of you know of my Courageous Project with the Beautiful You MRKH Foundation.  I love this with my whole heart.  I love that through the medium of soapmaking I can make a tangible difference for women like myself who have MRKH.  I love that I can donate money to an organization that was instrumental in my personal growth, and that I can continue to touch lives.  Over the last few months, sales have dropped off considerably, and I take responsibility for that.  I haven’t spent much time or energy promoting it.  But in the greater picture – I haven’t done much at all in my soap business as a whole- I skipped a couple of craft shows this summer to allow me time to focus on family and other obligations.  That will be changing soon, as the fall craft show season is starting up in a couple of weeks!

One of my “other obligations” this summer was attending the Seattle MRKH conference.  What an incredible weekend, with some lovely women.  I will be posting about that weekend here on the blog soon – much of the content is already written actually.  So stay tuned for that.

This summer I also worked with some of those same lovely women and together we created a Christian support group on Facebook called MRKH Journey through Faith.  I felt the need to form a community of women who shared both Christ and MRKH…and where we could encourage each other to grow in our Faith and to work toward healing the wound that MRKH often is in our lives.  We have continued to grow and add members, and it’s been a wonderful way to connect on a deeper level with each other.

I’ve had some other big things in my life this summer, big changes, new opportunities, and tons of personal growth.  I hope to share more with you over the next few months some of these directions my life is headed.

Have a blessed day!!!