Victorious Surrender

    I overslept! Oh crap, I overslept because of the rain! I could hear the horses hooves as they ran past my window, back and forth, communicating in their own way that we were late for breakfast and they were starving! I sat up in bed and just took in the sweet sound of raindrops and horses hooves beating the ground at the same time. Two of my favorite sounds and it was like music to my ears. 

   I went to wake the girls, just to find them nestled in their blankets, eyes open and mouths curved into satisfied smiles as they listened to the very sounds I just marveled in. My presence meant it was time though and they crawled out of bed and threw their jackets on. After a quick trip to the loo, they slid on their boots and joined me outside.  

   As I slid my arms, one by one into my slicker and snapped it shut for only the second time of the season, I realized just how much I love the rain even more when I can stay relatively dry while out in it.  Instantly, my thoughts went to my husband. “I hope he remembered his rain gear.” I remember thinking to myself, knowing that even if he didn’t, he would continue working hard in the elements. He is an amazing provider and works every day to keep us alive and well. My heart was so full, I couldn’t have put it in words even if someone had asked me.

  Gear on, we set out to feed the animals, each being eager for their breakfast.  We said our apologies for being late and heard forgiveness with each chomp on their food. We were even welcomed by hugs from the dog and swirls around our legs by the cats.  The ducks stood back in the far corner, holding their ground, letting out an angry quack or two but their resilience broke as soon as their feed hit the ground and their gate was opened for them to set out on their wild adventures for the day.  The chickens pecked at the ground as if they were already wasting away due to the late feeding. As I tossed handfuls of feed at their feet, they began chattering and gobbling up their food like a bunch of hens in a henhouse. 

   Heading back to the barn, I saw my third child, Jade, coiling up the hose as the bunnies she just fed, nibbled on their goodies. When I stopped and inquired as to her busyness at the hoses, she simply stated she was getting them ready for winter freezes so we don’t have to worry about it once it is upon us. It stopped my heart. All these years of communicating the need for logical thinking in this life and the importance of thinking ahead had finally settled in yet again.  “She is growing so fast.” I thought to myself and pride filled my heart.  It is the little moments like this that God gives me just a peek of my fruits being harvested. I am reminded that without Him, my fruits may not even be fruit, but weeds sucking the life out of everything around it. I am so grateful for His grace and all the times He has forgiven me for not hearing his communicating the need for logical thinking and the importance of thinking ahead.  I smile at my beautiful daughter and praise her for her wisdom. Her smile widens to match mine.

   In the barn, I find Faith, my youngest, dropping hay from the hay pile so she can give the horses their second flake for the morning and realize that even just a year ago, she would have asked for help to do this task. Instead, she just worked joyfully, playfully visiting with the kitten at the top of the pile. The thought that she didn’t need me, not because she was able to do it easily, but because the efforts to do the job herself didn’t seem like such a burden. Above that, she was smiling and finding joy in her morning. I felt God was again showing me the importance of having joy even in the smallest things. It really is what allows us to love our lives, no matter our lives.  

   I remember working at a bakery when I was younger and everyone I worked with hated their jobs but I loved working there. I loved working with my hands and I loved greeting the early risers as they filed in for their pastry breakfast. It’s not for everyone, but it was a beautiful place for me.  Just like here and now, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be sometimes.  Yes, sure, the animals are so beautiful and who doesn’t love petting kittens every morning, but this is a job nonetheless. There are hooves to clean, tails to untangle, poop to scoop, medicine to administer, steps in manure, hay in your bra… hair… pants… boots… everywhere!  When you are in the middle of dinner and your dog decides to bring you a chicken she accidentally killed by playing with or your horse looks at you through your window and you see the fence down behind him, you stop eating, get your boots on, and get out there to deal with the issue at hand. When you are just getting in the shower and you hear a shout from the barn, “Come quick!” you throw on the necessary clothing and slip on boots with no socks and haul butt! It’s a glorified life style and some who try it, back away slowly from the reality of it.  I have lived both lives. One fit, one didn’t.  

   A LITTLE FLASHBACK…

   I struggled living in town. In just 2 years, a lot happened. I dealt with depression for the first time in my life.  I felt like the walls were closing in on me all the time. It was weird. I went from being a happy morning person to not wanting to get out of bed. In hopes of making a purpose for myself, I filled my days with tasks and volunteer positions and pursued a career in sales as well as homeschooling my kids still.  My husband went to work out of state and we accepted two foreign exchange students into our home.  I was no longer thinking logically and I surely wasn’t finding any joy in my days.  I was fighting with my kids and welcoming the fact that my husband could not see me this way. I was a mess.

   I had begun to have medical issues. I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, I was having serious kidney issues which were always followed by passing stone after stone, and was having what I later learned were panic attacks. Being sick was a very foreign thing for me.  VERY.  AND… I was failing… at everything.  My balance had been shifted and I no longer had any at all. I had lost my way.  Thanks to some amazing people in my life, this was brought to the surface.

   Dropping to my knees in the middle of my living room, I surrendered my life again. I prayed something like, “I have failed, God. I have failed because I am trying to go my own way. I am trying to fill my anxieties with busyness so they will be hidden. Lord, I have begged for your help but I have not waited for your answer. I  don’t even know what is right for my own life. I don’t even know who I am right now. Whisper your wishes in my heart, Lord. Tell me what to do, even if it means doing nothing at all.”  I gave up everything. I stopped doing everything. God cleansed me. He led me to places I never even knew existed. I held positions but was not doing anything in them. He literally halted my life.  Then, He helped me see.  I sent out a plea to every committed position I was in, that I was overwhelmed, I was physically deteriorating because of it and that I was needing to make some changes.  

This is where it gets interesting…  

   I received VERY different responses to this plea.  They were two very different extremes.  It was split in the middle. There were no gray areas. Over half of them responded angry or put out. I was a bail out to them. I didn’t understand what position I was putting them in. I was ungrateful for the things they had done for me (remembering that these being things that benefited them in some way. Business helps, things they could share to show the nature of their character, etc.).  I would say probably 90% of them turned on me, discarded me and even spewed hatred toward me for saving my own life.  (I’m not kidding. That is probably a generous guess) I was shocked. I look back now and see I shouldn’t have been, but I was.  It was the very clarification I needed.  

   Let me tell you about the 10% that responded differently though. This is really all that God wanted me to focus on at that time.  This group of people had a completely different reaction!  I began hearing of others who had gone through this exact same thing and had come to this exact same fork in the road of their lives. I also began hearing people say things like, “Angie, we are so happy for you. We have been praying for you to slow down.” and “Angie, we have been so worried about you. You just look so tired.”  They devised plans to hold me accountable and refused to ask me to volunteer for anything.  They encouraged me to make a plan to do nothing that God wasn’t specifically telling me to do.  I was no longer allowed to volunteer for anything that someone else could do even if it was differently than how I would do it. I was no longer allowed to volunteer without praying about it and waiting for God to answer me clearly.  I was reminded that God had given me 4 beautiful children that were entrusted to me and a husband who worked so hard so I could be home with them.  This 10% cared more about me than the fact that they were going to have to find another volunteer, leader, and/or planner.  I received encouraging words, phone calls and visits to make sure I was staying on track and to let me know I was loved.  A response one NEVER forgets.

   Next up, I realized I was not good at choosing friends.  I tended to choose friends that required extra grace all the time. I have always been drawn to people who needed lots of patience for some reason. I was in no place to help anyone else and really, I was a dry well because I was never getting anything back.  Well, God weeded my friendship garden and I realized, the only real friends I had just happened to be in that 10% and the rest were taken away from me. As I got stronger, they started leaving, one by one. It made me even stronger, and I began to feel a peace I hadn’t felt in years. 

   Then, the owners of our home lost it, sold it, and we were in need to relocate. My husband and son were in North Dakota working, my oldest daughter was not speaking to me and my two youngest daughters were all I had.  We packed and got rid of stuff and packed some more. One evening I felt really terrible and knew my kidney was the culprit. I called my daughter, who not speaking to me, was still there within minutes to take me to the emergency room.  It was kidney stones and a kidney infection. I was sent home medicated and unable to even walk up our stairs, let alone pack. As time got closer, and we still couldn’t find a place to live, I should have been panicking but oddly I wasn’t.  1 week before we were due to be out, my illness which I had pretty much kept from others so they wouldn’t feel obligated to help me, (Gotta love stinky pride, right?) I started to get a little freaked out.  I was nowhere near packed and really was so tired that I almost didn’t even care anymore.

   I had been calling around to realty places and asking for anyone who met our needs on a short notice but hadn’t turned up anything so I was so grateful when our neighbors came and asked if we would be willing to stay at their place for 2 weeks after we were all moved. GOD. I got a call from a realtor that informed me she didn’t know what property I was talking about in my message but she had something that hadn’t even gone on the market yet and she thought we would be interested. Wrong number. GOD. My church called and said that my husband notified them that even though I wasn’t asking for help that I needed it and they would be sending people to help me move. GOD. While moving, I was contacted by a new friend with a horse trailer that they would like to loan their trailer to us for moving. GOD. Friends flooded my home to help me move almost everything into our storage unit. GOD. One gal from church whom I barely knew never left me. She came day after day to help me, brought us lunch and worked side by side with me until the last night I had to be out. We celebrated by eating a burger in my car at almost midnight. The most a friend had ever done for me without expecting anything in return. GOD. He weeded and then planted beautiful kindness into my life. I don’t think that it was any coincidence that the home God gave us is in the country, just 5 minutes down the road from hers. GOD.  My husband came home unemployed due to his refusing to leave me to move twice without him. I was so relieved. GOD. The new house provided a shop and a friend called and offered (We hadn’t even pursued loan options yet) a personal, interest free loan so he could go out on his own. GOD.  We moved out to our new home which costs way more than what we were seeking and yet, we have always made rent. GOD. 

   I look into my daughters eyes, and remember all this and I thank God for all that He has done for us. We have lived here for just over a year and in our 17 years of marriage, we have finally settled.  We are satisfied because He guides us and we are listening.  We probably won’t live here forever. It really isn’t feasible and we feel Him telling us that this is a step in a plan, but we are so grateful to be here. Here being physically and spiritually. 

   I am reminded of other blessings that have come from letting God be in control of our lives. This Summer, my son re-dedicated his life to the Lord and has made vast changes in his life. He gave it all to God. He is no longer a boy, but a man in my eyes. My daughter not only is in constant contact with us but is a beautiful friend in addition to being our daughter. She took the hard road and it is such a blessing to see her choosing to return to God one step at a time.

   When I came in from feeding, I saw my disheveled house.  I saw muddy footprints from Jade forgetting to take her boots of at first. I saw the decks of cards on the table from our family time when my daughter was visiting the day before.  It felt wonderful to know that while I don’t necessarily love cleaning, that I have time to do it and I really wouldn’t rather be anywhere else.  I am grateful for a small house that draws us all close together and is a perfect trade off for my husband being able to work out of the elements from time to time in a shop.  I am so blessed that while we all have to work hard, we are working hard right where God wants us. I am SO grateful to not be living in town. Not because town is bad, but because it is just not where I belong right now.

   I now have peace that reaches all the way down into my soul. The only kind that truly satisfies us. The peace of Christ being the ruler of our heart.  The peace that comes from not having all the answers ourselves but knowing Who does. There aren’t many things that make me afraid anymore, but when I am afraid, I know that I am not listening…

 

   Thank you God, for always loving me. Thank you for seeking me when I refuse to answer. Thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for giving me peace that allows me to face the horrors of this world and know that You and only You have the victory. Thank you for allowing me to write so I can share the before’s and after’s of this life You have given me and saved me from. Thank you for all the people who will read this today and be brave enough to surrender their lives to You.  Thank you for the support I receive from them. Thank you for my family, my friends, and the HOPE You have given me through your grace and word.  In the name of Your Holy Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

“…and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:7

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Ready To Love Home Again!

   Your laundry room is where cleaning happens so why on earth is it always such a mess?! There is just something about when you walk into someone’s home and their laundry room is clean and smells wonderful that just makes you want to slap them and tell them they suck.  Well, that would be terribly rude of us, so instead we must decide… Do we make a million excuses why we long for that, yet never seem to care as much when it is time to clean it, or do we take it on and protect it like a our lives depend on it?!  How was that for a dramatic beginning?  I know, nice, right?

   Okay, but here is the real me.  I love my home being clean and when I have time, I love cleaning it, but there is something really weird that has happened to me over the years.  When my youngest daughter had leukemia, our home was insanely clean.  I was so freaked out about her coming into contact with germs that we maintained a hospital like sanitized environment for  a very long time.  When she hit remission, the doctor made a joke knowing how I had become, about not sterilizing the door knobs every day anymore.  Some weird switch in me said… Relaxed housework symbolizes everything is okay.  It sounds ridiculous and I have really struggled with the way my own mind glitched on me, but it is the honest truth.  That’s what we do here, remember? 🙂

   So, I allowed that mentality to grab hold and within a couple years, I was in big trouble. I had let my house go, I was taking on tons of projects and jobs that consumed my every moment, and I had decided to keep, EVERYTHING! Moving into town was the final straw. I was completely out of my element and depression was sinking in.  I didn’t even know it. One friend after another expressed concern about my changes and how they felt it was affecting me.  At first, I was totally pissed.  I was so mad that they knew all the things I had gone through and thought that I didn’t have control over my own life.  Really, what they were saying is that I was trying to be in control of my whole life!  Even in the areas I needed to surrender, and even in the areas that I needed to say “No”, I wasn’t.  I wasn’t even interested in hearing what they had to say.

  The seed was planted though and God began to work through my heart. Slowly but surely, I began to actually feel burdened by all that was happening and all that should have been happening, that wasn’t.  I came home from a large event for the organization I run here and I thought I had been robbed!  It sounds so funny but it was almost like I was seeing the disaster for the first time.  It was nuts!  That week, I spent the most time connecting with the friends who had expressed their concerns and let them know, YES!, I finally saw it.

   To make a long story just a little less long, I got rid of crap.  Every time I went to town, I took things to donation.  I made sure that no matter how much garbage we had, the trash can was always full.  It took a while, let me tell you! That year, we had more deaths and tragedies in our family than we had sustained in our lives entirely.  It was a very rough year. Just when I was finally getting a grip on surrendering, we got a notice that the owners of our home needed to sell. While it seemed like such a catastrophe considering that my husband and son were working three states away, one child had moved out and it was just me and the younger two girls left to do the packing and the moving.  I got rid of more stuff and finally said, “Enough! I can’t focus on this anymore.” I was so irritated with God that here I was… ‘getting IT’ and now this is thrown into the mix!  I was determined to do it on my own.  My husband didn’t like that idea.  He called our church.  I was sure no one would want to come move our family of 6, plus an organization, plus a home school, plus put up with my exhausted butt!

   They came… they loved on us, they moved our crap, they brought us lunch and went through a couple very difficult situations with me.  They came… God was there… I got ‘IT’ again.  I was doing good until I tried to be in control of my own surrender. I know… what a dork, right?  Yeah, I agree. 🙂

   Anyway, the point of this is that now, we are back in the country, (God made sure of that) and what was already in progress has continued in shorter spurts.  I donated 10+ more boxes of stuff while unpacking in our new home and I continue to get rid of things on a regular basis.  I have 2 boxes in my car right now and another box I am in the process of filling.  I wish I had thought to blog the process of going through our office area and bookshelf… it was invigorating!

   Now… I’m here… with you.  I have officially gotten rid of enough stuff that finally, I can start living again and organizing with pleasure and joy in my heart!  I, my dear… AM READY TO LOVE HOME AGAIN! 

So!  here goes!…

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Here is my laundry room BEFORE.

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Sorry the pictures are terrible from my phone… This is my bookshelf made into shoe rack and ‘organizer’ for quick grabs from outside.  This is the first thing people see when they walk in this door.

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This is our pantry in the same room.  The space is good but the organization is not.  Behind all those plastic bags are cloth grocery bags that I always forget to take to town on shopping day! 😦

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We eat mostly fresh or frozen foods unless I can it myself, which hasn’t happened for 3 years! I need to make room for that because we are building a garden this Spring, you and me. 🙂

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There were OVER 100 plastic bags in my pantry!  These puppies have GOT to go!  Right to the food pantry!  (Anytime you get overloaded on plastic or paper bags, donate them to your local food pantries.  They love them because they store well and hold a lot of food.)

THE TRANSFORMATION…

The reason it is so important to take everything out of the room is because it allows you to really understand how much stuff is in the room, it is SO much easier to clean the room thoroughly and it gives you a clean slate to work with.

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I have this insanely high shelf in the top of my pantry that goes up to the ceiling and allows for a lot of storage.  This is the perfect place to store these tall boxes of dessert mix!  We bake goodies to go with dessert that our Small Group serves at our local homeless shelter once a month. (If you really want to help your homeless community, serve often at a homeless shelter and really get to know them.  You might be surprised who learns more.)  See that space to the right?  That is going to have 20 boxes of brownie mix (The guys’ favorite) after Saturday.

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To save a lot of space in your pantry, after cereal gets down to 1/4 of a bag, roll it up and write the kind of cereal on it.  

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Drop them in, writing side facing the wall of the container, side by side.  You can identify the cereal without pulling them all out.  Keeps the cereal fresher too!

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Hot cereals stay fresher longer in plastic ware as well.  Cut the directions off the box and slide it down the side.  Refill and toss the box upon every purchase!

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Only 20 bags in that laundry bag converted grocery bag holder!  When it gets bulky, we will make another donation!  No more bags on the floor!

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I labeled the shelves because my family is great about unloading groceries… Now, they can actually put them where they belong because they have a well marked location!

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These recyclable grocery bags are going into my car! I shoved all the smalls into the big.

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Portable insulated bags, coolers and lunch packs now fit on the floor in the pantry!

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I actually had extra space even! And look! Nothing on the dryer!

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Shoe rack now is able to hold our dog grooming bucket and has a place for everyone to put there gloves after working outside!  On top is ready for coffee mugs to be set on while boots are going on!  This is the country, yes, we really require this.  I even put a yummy smelling candle on there that I lit and now has made that whole part of the house smell wonderful!

  My laundry room is small, but it is still part of my home. There were muddy boots coming off in that very room just an hour after I took these pictures.  But now, it is just a wipe and sweep away from being clean all over again and I can do it in about 2 minutes!  

   It’s about making your house work for your lifestyle, not adjusting your lifestyle to fit your house.  I had so much fun doing this and I loved knowing that I could share this with you guys to encourage you to start even if it’s small and learn how to make a small space work for you!  Hope you had fun reading!

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See you soon!

Angie

 

 

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