What Would You Text to Yourself?

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Yesterday, a sweet friend encouraged my prayer group to think about the following question:

If you could send a text to yourself one year ago today, what would you tell yourself?

Honestly, it took me a whole day of thinking to come up with an answer, and I still wasn’t satisfied. There are so many things I would want the year-ago-me to know, but how could I put it in words? Especially into a short text? An email might help. A letter might be better.

But would the year-ago-me truly grasp what I want her to understand?

I don’t think I could do it in a text. Year-ago-me would likely scratch her head trying to figure out what it meant. So right now, I’m going to write a blog that I wish I would want to tell her.

Dear Michelle of 2014,

You have a monumental, life-changing year ahead of you. Right now, you have no idea of the trials that await you. You have hopes and dreams and expectations. This year will not be at all as you imagine it. But it will be okay.

Right now, you have hopes for the year to come. Hope for a new child. Hope for a new home in a new state. Hope for the ways you will serve your new church and community. Rest assured, there is hope to be had, and a year from now you will feel those hopes again. But it won’t happen in the timetable you expect, nor in the ways you expect.

You will experience loss this year. You’ll say goodbye to your unborn baby in Pennsylvania, right before you move to Texas.You’ll say goodbye to your Pennsylvania home before you move into your new one. You’ll say goodbye to your friends and family that make up your present community, and it will send you into relational desert for a time. You’ll say goodbye to your beloved church, and that will not give way to a replacement for quite some time.

You will weep and grieve your baby. You will ache for a new little one in your womb, and it won’t happen for a while.

You will attempt multiple avenues to try to engage in your new community, search for a new church, and make new friends. You will start out with gusto and excitement, full of expectation that God will provide those things for you right away. Within a few months, you will be discouraged to find that it has not happened yet.

You will spend many sleepless nights thirsting for the new life and new community that you had hoped for. Those nights will lead to fear that you made a huge mistake in moving as you did.

It’s probably best that you don’t have a clue what will happen to you. If you did, you would likely be paralyzed with fear. But take comfort in this. The trials will not all come at once, and God will give you strength to continue taking one step after another.

I have some advice for you. 

One: Pray a Lot

Before you make a decision to move to Texas, pray a lot. I know you will do this anyway. But pray even more. You really can’t pray too much about this. Even better, get yourself a notebook, and draw a big line down the middle of the first page. On the left side, write down what you are praying for. Now, very importantly, when God answers a prayer or gives you some sort of clarity that you have been seeking, write that down on the other side of the page.

Why should you do this?

During the year to come, you are going to be glad you prayed and glad you followed. Sometimes you might forget the intricate ways that God made your path straight. You will be attacked by a spiritual enemy who will want you to doubt the choices you’ve made. Looking back at the clear answers that God gave you will give you the comfort and assurance that you will desperately need. A notebook would be a wonderful tool to remind you during those battle-filled hours. I wish I had done so.

Two: Trust and Obey

No matter what choices you make in your life, you will encounter trials. Some people will be for you, and others against you. You will be disillusioned and disappointed.

Throughout any trials, though, one thing will guard you from fear, and that is knowing that God is with you. If you seek his will and strive to obey it, you will have the reassurance of knowing that the trials are part of His plan, and not something that you created by going your own way. Though He will often work in ways that you do not expect, you will be able to trust that He will continue to work out good through all of this.

Three: Enjoy the Hidden Blessings

During your time of settling, when you so desperately want to build your new community, recognize the unique blessings of being new to town. Yes… I understand it is important to keep trying to find your place in Texas. But don’t let your spirit be down when it doesn’t happen right away. If you search for the blessings in it, you will see that this quiet period of your life will be a wonderful time of bonding with your own family. Think about it: With nothing regular on your calendar or your children’s except “visit a church on Sunday,” you can experience what could be compared to a lengthy family vacation. Use that opportunity to savor your family’s times together in the swimming pool and exploring new sights. These times of bonding will be more difficult to find when community is established and life gets busy. Don’t let a cloud of worry about the community stuff darken that joy.

Four: Keep on

Know this: you will see some great things this year.

You will trust that you have not lost that little baby forever. You will rejoice at knowing that baby was made to live for an eternity. You will be thankful for all the pain of life’s woes that your little one will be spared. Yes, you will still miss her, and the 2015 Michelle will still cry at the most unexpected times. But, you will be comforted.

You will wonder if you will ever be able to have another child. You will be overjoyed when you find that yes, you will. You will experience a twinge of fear at miscarrying again, but you will know that no matter what happens with this next baby, he or she too will be made to live forever.

You will laugh when others tell you you’re too old to have babies, or that you have too many children, because you know better. You know that God is the giver and that he makes no mistakes. You know that he will decide when you are too old, or when your family is complete, and then he will stop sending the babies. Your trust in the Lord will be strengthened.

Buy that house your husband and you both love, and don’t second-guess. It’s perfect for your family and you will find yourself incredibly thankful that God is letting you live in it. You’ll use it well and fill it up with lots of eternal treasures (people). 

Your efforts at finding new friends will seem in vain at first, but God will provide them for you at the most unexpected times and the most unexpected places. You don’t have to work so hard at this. You just have to follow God’s lead. Your children will not be lonely. They will develop more sweet friendships than they have ever known, and they will also hold onto those few sweet friendships in Pennsylvania.

The church hunting phase will last exponentially longer than you expect. Your children will make jokes about writing a book called, Church Visiting: the Exhaustive Guide to DFW Churches and Beyond. This is good. Keep the mood light rather than discouraging. You will eventually recognize certain blessings in your long church search. You will learn a lot about what you are truly wanting to find in a church. You will be able to use these experiences to give feedback to your friends up North who are church planting. Your husband, as one who genuinely loves visiting and studying churches, will relish the whole experience.  I know you want to just pick a church and get settled, but just keep on. When the time is right and God has done what he wants to do through your search, he will show you where he wants you. When it’s all over and you’ve find the place where God wants you, you’ll appreciate it all the more.

I know this all sounds overwhelming and frightening. But a year from now,  you will truly be glad that you have experienced it all.

From,

Michelle of 2015

 

This is what I would want to tell year-ago-me. But reading back over it, I think it’s best that she didn’t know all that. She’d have been terrified. Plus, I think she’d lose something by reading all the lessons rather than learning through experience.

So perhaps a short text would be better. What would I say? Just the key points?

Pray a lot. Trust and obey. Enjoy the hidden blessings. Keep on.

?

No. That’s too cryptic. She would read something entirely different in that, and she’d never grasp the depth of those words.

Maybe it would be better just to text her this:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.  ~Proverbs 3:5-8

Yes. I think that says it perfectly.

And then maybe one more:

Start a prayer journal.  Do it now. Write down your prayers and God’s answers. You’ll be glad you did.

Now for the clincher:

My friend who asked this very thought-provoking question followed up with another question:

“Then wouldn’t you say the same thing to yourself this year?”

Yes. Yes, I would.

What would you text to yourself?


Announcement

Our precious new baby is due in August 2015!

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Our little one seems to be doing wonderfully. At our ultrasound last week, he/she was moving around, had a strong, healthy heartbeat, and measured exactly the right size. We are praying that God will keep this little one safe and healthy.

More to come in the near future, the sort of blogs that pregnancy inspires.

I want to talk about morning sickness and fatigue, and what helps me endure…

I want to talk about diastasis recti, an abdominal separation that is common in women who have had children, which I have only recently come to learn about…

I want to talk about why 42 is not too old to have babies, and 10 children is not too many, if God chooses to bless you in this way…

I want to share milestones… In fact, I’d like to start that right now!

A few facts about our baby:

(from What to Expect When You’re Expecting)

  • Baby is almost 1 1/2 inches long.
  • Bones and cartilage, knees and ankles are forming.
  • Tiny arms can now flex at the elbows.
  • Tooth buds are forming.
  • Fingers and toes are separating, and tiny fingernails and toenails begin to appear.

We are so excited and thankful that God has chosen to give us another sweet blessing!


Our Life in Texas

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It’s been seven months since we relocated from the cold north to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I confess, life here is much different than I imagined when my husband and I first pondered the thought of moving here. I had ideas of cowboys, ranches, and sprawling acres in my mind! I dreamed of a clothesline in my backyard, with pretty little dresses hanging in the sunshine. I dreamed of a big garden and fruit trees. I dreamed of kids shooting bows and arrows and bee bee guns at targets out back. I think I may have even been wearing a prairie dress and apron in my mental picture. I liked that idea of a slower pace of life, almost a step back in time. Sigh… I was made for a different era.

the Texas dream

 

Of all the possible places to live, God placed us in an area quite the opposite of my dream, more metropolitan than any we’ve ever lived. Dallas is the 9th largest city in the U.S., Fort Worth is the 17th, and both are quickly growing. Squish them together, and they make up a pretty huge area! Instead of sprawling acres, we found our choice of homes in neighborhoods with houses seemingly piled on top of each other. Instead of cowboys and ranchers (and maybe a covered wagon? :)), we found heavy traffic. Instead of clotheslines and bee bee guns, we landed in an HOA community that does not allow so much a basketball hoop in the driveway.

The DFW reality

Do I sound disappointed? Well, maybe I was a little, at first. But I quickly came to love this area. The part of DFW where we landed is not nearly so big and overwhelming as other places we have seen. The roads here are two or three lane, rather than five or six, and many are flat-out gorgeous, tree-lined roads. Neighborhoods and businesses almost run into each other, but seamlessly blend together in what can only be the result of ingenious community planning. No one typically has to travel far for anything. We are literally minutes away to every single place we ever need to go, from stores to hospitals to restaurants to churches to recreational places, and even getting to an airport isn’t much further.

The home lots are small-ish, but the yards are all fenced in (thanks to that HOA), which gives us the sense of privacy and quiet that we enjoy. Although the lot is just 1/3 acre, not sprawling fields of country, we have a swimming pool that has proven much more desirable for us than lots of land. The house itself is twice the size of the one we moved from, and every detail seems like it was made especially for us. I honestly think if I was designing my ideal house from scratch, I couldn’t have done better for our large family.

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our house

 

But those are all less important things than the people in our lives. When we moved away, I was terribly sad to say goodbye to family and three friends who felt like sisters. Do you have a friend like that? They are hard to come by, and if you are so blessed with that sort of friend, do everything you can to keep that person in your life. I hoped and prayed as we moved that I would at least find ONE such friend.

For the first few months after moving, I made a few casual acquaintances and got to know some of my neighbors, but found no real “kindred spirit” (hat tip to Anne spelled with an e.) Although our family savored the summer days in the pool, and the quiet newness of our lives here allowed us to spend precious loads of time together, it was quite a lonely time in that we lacked any sense of community. We were working harder than ever in trying to reach out and get connected in this new community, but our efforts seemed to be in vain. This relational desert in our lives stirred up fears within me, causing me to wonder if we had made a huge mistake in moving here. (Please don’t judge… I’m being raw and real here).

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Questions and Doubts, Worries and Fears

 

During the day-times, in a normal, refreshed state of mind, I could quickly laugh those fears away. I could recall the steps that God had put in place for us that clearly led us here. I could recall how we had prayed fervently throughout the whole decision-making process, “Not my will but yours be done, Lord.” I could recall the very clear answers he gave us, and doubts had a hard time taking root.

But night-times, in my physical weakness, the fears struck me differently. I would sometimes awaken in the middle of the night in a panic-stricken fear… “What if you were wrong…” “What if this was all a big mistake…” “What if you screwed up God’s plans for your life…” “What if…” “What if…” “What if…”

Once, and only once, in a sleep-deprived fog, I said to my husband, “Can we move back?”

My rational husband gently shook his head. “No honey. The money is gone, those bridges are burned. We’re staying put.”

Husbands are so logical and to the point, aren’t they? I’m thankful for that. His gentle but blunt answer made it clear that there was no turning back, and left me with no choice but the best one: To trust God and move forward.

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My occasional state of fear was not a good place to be, and I learned to recognize those doubts as whispers from an enemy who sought not to convict my heart and spur me to action, but to torment my heart and paralyze me with doubts.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. ~2 Timothy 1:7

I made a decision that whenever confronted with those fears, I would respond in two ways.

1) I would pray. I would tell God that I knew he brought us here by his own hand, and that I trusted him completely with my life. I asked him to take the fears away.

2) During my prayers, I would remind myself of all the clear signs that God gave us to make his will clear to us. There were many! I would remind myself that we didn’t come here with an attitude of “We’re moving whether you like it or not!” but rather of “Whatever you say, Lord! Slam the doors you want us to pass by, and open those you want us to enter!” 

Those prayers and reminders strengthened me to see those doubting thoughts as the lies that they were, and eventually the moments of nighttime panic ceased to happen at all.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:6-7

And then God opened up the doors to the friendships that I sought. Through the direction of one of my first friends here, I found a local Christian homeschooling group. For a few weeks I went to the group’s park days and met some wonderful moms and their children. From there, we joined a Bible study that I eventually started hosting in my home. I made some sweet friendships there, and with the 25 or so kids (from little ones to teenagers) that meet at our home, each of my children have made some amazing friends as well.

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Older kids playing games during the moms’ bible study. Note: Photos are blurred to protect identities of anyone who may not want their photo published.

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Younger kids playing.

From the Bible study, we also became connected with a service group for teenagers, which connects our families with opportunities to serve the community in a variety of ways. To top it off, while the group is geared for teens, the whole family can engage in serving together, even welcoming my preschoolers and toddler. The groups also plan regular social activities from the trampoline park to Christmas parties. Each lady has become so special to me, and their kids are truly wonderful people whose friendships have blessed my kids. The men have also been able to connect through several gatherings, which has been great for my husband too!

Service project at food pantry. Photo is blurred to protect identities of those who may not want their pictures published here.

Service project at food pantry.

I find that the best friendships in my life and my family’s have been found, not through recreational activities, but through studying the Bible or serving alongside each other. God has now brought an abundance of wonderful friends into all of our lives that have made us feel like we are home.  I’m very grateful. :)


My Children Make Me Smile

The playroom was extra loud this morning as my children belted out the song accompanied by the CD player. The older kids and I all stopped what we were doing to listen and giggle at the song which none of us knew, which we have no idea where the CD came from, and which the little kids were obviously well acquainted with: Please Don’t Send Me Fruitcake. Apparently this is their new favorite Christmas song, because I’ve never seen them sing any other with such gusto!

So during cleanup, I had Strawberry play the song again, and started recording while hoping for an encore. They didn’t disappoint! Here you can see Strawberry, Conductor, and Sonshine singing their song. I especially like how Conductor starts out quietly observing, then suddenly breaks into song. Smile.

Another fun moment from this week came when Handsome was getting ready for his nap. He likes to “read” (tell as much of the story as he remembers while looking at pictures) before he goes to sleep. Yesterday one of his book selections was Pete the Cat, and he was so animated in his storytelling, Smile. I had to record that too!

Never a dull moment with these kids! They make me smile in a hundred ways every day.


Merry Christmas!

What we’ve been up to…

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One day while Grandma was visiting, we got dressed up for our Christmas card photo (above). While outside, we snapped some extra photos of kids doing what kids do!

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playing

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And the kids snapped a few of Mom and Dad

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doing what Mom and Dad do!

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Cowgirl loves to play with the little kids!

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Grandma with the children

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Making buckeyes for our Christmas party

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I realized almost too late that I hadn’t gotten a picture of my mom with me during her visit. We remedied that at around 4am on the morning she left. I’m in my pajamas. :)

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Little kids playing

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Happy and Strawberry building with Legos

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Handyman wearing shorts. Because he can.

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Princess acting like a puppy

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Handsome reading a story

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Princess enjoying the Christmas tree

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Handsome demonstrating how a cowboy takes his nap

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Princess demonstrating how a princess naps

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How have you been enjoying December?

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!