Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Surprise Ski Trip

Last week, Kennedy surprised me for my birthday with a trip to Colorado. We have been talking about going snow skiing, but as per usual, timing has not allowed for us to go. Over Christmas, we talked about going maybe over President's Day. I told him I would leave the planning up to him (and in the back of my mind, I thought it would not get planned because of Kennedy's busy schedule). I was going to start "planning" the trip on my own. And last weekend, Kennedy was talking about not wanting to go to work. It was going to be my first week back to my clinic instructor job, but I thought to myself- "yeah, that would be great if we could both get away for the week"- doubtful it would happen. He then proceeded to tell me he had already put in for leave for the week back in December- "WHAT?!" and had already contacted my co-workers that I would be gone- "WAITTTT, WHAT?!"
To say the least, I was very surprised. So without my knowledge, he had taken vacation days, cancelled my work for the week, and booked our hotel. We got a good 2 days in of skiing and enjoyed A LOT of amazing food. Thankful for a vacation and time away enjoying good company and scenery and food.




Mountain selfie, of course!



Top of the slopes. What happened after this was not so peaceful- one of us face planted into the snow and trees!


This restaurant's walls were covered in dollar bills.


Matching neck gators. 


We survived Day 2 of skiing! 



 And the second day, we were wind-burnt!


 Third day excursion, instead of skiing, we met the Coca-Cola bear.






Sunsets and sunrises were some of my favs I have ever seen.
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands". Psalm 19:1





Saturday, January 17, 2015

Light and lazy Saturday

Instead of a thought-provoking, heavy post, why not a post that will make you smile or at least think, "Danielle, I'm glad you learned a lesson". Last Friday, my afternoon was suddenly interrupted by a few knocks on our door. I was settling in watching "Fried Green Tomatoes" on Netflix. I opened the door to a young girl, a stranger, freezing in the cold, and as sweet as can be, asked me if I had heard of this vacuum cleaner (gives me pamphlet) and that if I let her vacuum one part of our home, she would get paid by her boss. So two helpful things: I would get part of the apartment vacuumed, she would get paid and her name would also get put into a drawing for an all-paid cruise if she made a certain number of sales. Great deal. She said, "Great, I'll be right back with the equipment!" I waited for a few minutes and answered the second- the girl, and she was back with two men (one who looked 40ish, one about 17ish, let's call the 17 year old "John"). I let all of them in, as the 40ish year old guy started telling me about the vacuum, how it does such an awesome job vacuuming, and how if I wasn't satisfied with how John was going to vacuum with it, then to let him know. I said, "Ok, great..." The girl and 40ish year old man left. It was just John and me and Patty the dog.
Observation: The girl, who I thought was vacuuming our apartment, left...
Observation: John, starts unpacking what seems like bag after bag of equipment that is part of this vacuum cleaner.
I'm thinking- "this won't take very long, he's young, and he's only vacuuming this one room". 45 minutes to 1 hour into John being in the apartment, he has me dragging out our vacuum, showing me how his vacuum is so much better and more efficient than ours, and asking me question after question about dirt, dust, vacuums, etc. He gets filters out of his vacuum, and shows me how much dirt is STILL left over and in our carpet after he has vacuumed with our old vacuum several times. He probably at this point has used 50 of his filters. He asks me for baking soda and uses half of the box so that he can show how efficient his vacuum is at cleaning a mess. During his presentation, he also tells me that he's recently engaged, he's paying for his fiance's medical bills and school, he's got several jobs to try to provide, he's worked his whole life for everything he has ever had, etc. We did get to make some good, friendly conversation after about 2 hours of his vacuuming sales pitch. At this time, he also tells me that if he sells 30 vacuums, he gets his name put in a drawing for this cruise that the young girl told me about previously. He said that it would be really great if I could help him out and buy one. He asked how much I thought the vacuum cost...I said, "$200?" His eyes got kindof wide as he replied, "No, $3,500". I told him that I knew my husband was going to say no and that we could not pay for one at this time- the budget is tight (I didn't go into much more detail). He said, "Ok, but it would really help me to get this cruise that my fiance said I HAVE to win". He also started getting irritated for how long he had been there and that I said NO. I said, "I'm sorry, we can't afford this". He proceeds to call his "boss" and get me a better deal if I could commit to buying one today (I had just said no for the third or fourth time). After calling the man in charge, he came back with a price that he thought would really help us out and we could do the family payment plan... $2,600. I said no...again. He then said (irritatedly) he wanted to show me several other features of this vacuum...and I told him I needed to start dinner and did not have time to watch. He said that was fine, he could do the demonstration while I was cooking and he was in the living room. At this point, I had already texted Kennedy that I had let a stranger salesman in who was trying to sell me a vacuum and he would not leave. Kennedy was trying to leave work to come home and get this guy out of the house. He asked me why I even let them in. Three hours into John vacuuming the one area of our apartment he was supposed to vacuum, to vacuuming our sheets (Yes, he went to our bedroom without permission to take our comforter off and vacuum our bed), to vacuuming the vents....Kennedy finally gets home to find John vacuuming our ceiling fan in our living room while I am cooking dinner (not paying attention to him). Very firmly, he greets John and says, "Hey man, can you turn that off please?" Vacuum...off. "I think it's time to pack your stuff and leave, ok?" John replies, "Oh, I've gotta show one or two more things- please let me just show you, I'm trying to do my job..." Kennedy says, "Nope, sorry, you need to leave". Kennedy walks over to me in the kitchen, kisses my cheek, I'm trying not to laugh at the entire situation, and John starts packing up. He calls his boss to tell him he's getting "kicked". The apartment is SILENT. As he's leaving, I felt bad, and wished him good luck on winning the cruise. He shook Kennedy's hand and said, "Sorry if you've had a bad day or something, I was just doing my job". Kennedy nods his head and opens the door for him to leave. Lesson learned: Don't let salesman in the apartment without the hubby home.
But I was trying to help the girl out?
What would you have done in this situation?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Welcome, 2015!

"I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah. Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me lest I be like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul." 
Psalm 143:5-8
Instead of dwelling on what could have been in 2014, I want to look back on 2014 and remember the faithfulness of God in every moment. 2014 came with joys...and also heartache; but as I let my mind wander into thoughts of 2015, I want to savor and cherish the moments where I felt God's gracious hand- where He brought me out of a place of darkness and into His glorious light. The joys of 2014 for me were times of being at home and with family and friends while Kennedy was deployed, when Kennedy returned from deployment, our three weeks of leave which included a beach vacation, a mountain getaway, and a wedding re-ceremony- one that I had imagined for years and it was a celebration that went above and beyond my expectations, finding out we were pregnant, visiting family over the holidays, getting to know our church family, new jobs, new friends, new puppy dog etc. As hard as the heartache moments were, they were times that I can now, by God's grace, see His loving, sovereign, holy, perfect plan unfolding. God has shown Himself more and more faithful within the past couple of weeks and has given me the joy of knowing Him through this season of life. He has also graciously shown me more of the depths of my sinful heart that I could not avoid...and I despised how ugly and bitter my heart had become. I wanted to get rid of it, run from it, ask the Lord to take it from me and help me to turn and hold on tightly to the Cross. The heartache of 2014 actually became the greatest joy, in knowing more about my Savior and the depths of His love for me and the transforming power of His great love. At the close of a year and the beginning of a new year, I am praying the Lord will continue to reveal His faithfulness, help me press into Him, strengthen my love and affection for Him, and help me shovel out my "self" and give me more love for others.


I love music, so this morning I am listening to one of my favorite songs and rejoicing in the light of Christ:


"So I walked out of the darkness and into the light
From fear of shame into the hope of life
Mercy called my name and made a way to fly
Out of the darkness and into the light

Years of keeping secrets safe, wondering if I could change
‘Cause when you’re hiding all alone, your heart can turn into a stone
And that’s not the way I want to go"
-Ellie Holcomb

If you haven't listened to the following songs, you should check them out. They were staples for my listening enjoyment- a soundtrack for my life during walks/driving/working on my writings. Welcome, 2015- May you be glorified, Lord, in my life! 
1. Marvelous Light- Ellie Holcomb
2. God With Us- All Sons and Daughters
3. Though You Slay Me- Shane and Shane
4. Not for a Moment- Meredith Andrews
5. Lift My Life Up- Unbroken
6. Multiplied- Needtobreathe
7. 10,000 Reasons- Rend Collective
8. How Can It Be- Lauren Daigle
9. Love Broke Through- Ellie Holcomb
10. Your Great Name- Natalie Grant
11. Take a Moment- Will Reagan and the United Pursuit Band
12. All I Am- Phil Wickham
13. Set a Fire- Will Reagan and the United Pursuit Band
14. Immeasurably More- Rend Collective
15. Beautiful- Ben Rector 
16. He Knows- Jeremy Camp


Monday, December 15, 2014

a new Hope

Dear friend that I made at our FRG Christmas party filled with 100's of people I did not know,
Before you said something as we sat awkwardly at our table, I was curious about your story. We both had that "alone" look on our faces, being at a party where we didn't really know anyone expect for our spouses. I stuck my hand out to meet you. I slowly glanced down only to do a double take as I saw your pregnant tummy. My first thought was, "Lord, Why did you seat us at the same table?" As we awkwardly met, and your story came to light, I really wanted to share mine with you. You continued to chow down on the food, saying over and over that you never ate enough because everything you ate made you sick, and I thought about how in the past 4 months I have experienced that same pregnancy glow you had around you, the same sortof turn-off and sickness I had with certain foods, the questions that come with being pregnant and thoughts about what the future would be for mine and Kennedy's little growing family. Yet, I couldn't offer any dialogue about babies or tell you that I had recently lost our first baby. I just sat and listened and laughed when you made pregnancy jokes or comments. Your husband then came over and was able to chime in about your weird cravings, the fact that your belly was so big at 10 weeks and maybe you were carrying twins, and I joined in laughing. I sat, probably with surprise in my eyes, as you said you were going to your first sonogram appointment this week, hoping to hear the baby's heartbeat- and you were hoping it was only ONE heartbeat instead of two. Tears gathered in my eyes, as a flashback of our first sonogram appointment turned out so differently than what you were saying you anticipated. I was confused that I could relate so well with all of your feelings and emotions and our discussion, yet I didn't want to tell you about our first sonogram appointment. It's still painful for me to look back on. Throughout our conversation, I heard resonating in my mind over and over again, "The joy of the Lord is your strength"...I didn't think that months after our miscarriage, it would still be hard for me to be around babies, to talk about pregnancy- but GOD surrounded me that night I met you, dear friend, with a new hope. A hope that is reminding me of what this season is about. It is about God's plan and gift from before time: to send His Only Son in the form of an infant child born in a lowly manger who was to bear the weight of my sin and to redeem my broken heart, broken self, and pain. I pray that through the birth of your baby (babies- twins!), you would also see and experience this hope that has kept me going. This precious, perfect Life that came to this earth to save you and me. I pray that one day our stories will be very similar in that you, your husband, and your baby (ies) will know this perfect Life and be known by Him.

God has been our only hope. I've experienced this hope in a whole new light these past 4 months. Little did I know that God would allow me to experience this hope through the way that we have, but I am thankful even more this Christmas for Emmanuel- God with us. The conversation with the pregnant stranger was one of the first times I have had peace and joy in those kinds of moments. God is not finished in His working in my heart, and I am grateful for even those hard encounters where I am aware of His presence.

"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save the people from their sins...The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel- God with us".
Matthew 1:22-23

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Psalm 46

Kennedy and I wrote many a letter to each other during his deployment. We also wrote each other while we were dating after meeting last April. I TREASURE letters. I absolutely love snail mail. I'll come back to this in a minute...

Tonight, I started thanking the Lord for some time to myself where I could sit at His feet, read His Word, and talk to Him. Not often enough do I take advantage of this alone, intimate time with Him. I spoke my fears and worries and He led me to a familiar Psalm- Psalm 46. 

Psalm 46. An encouraging Psalm. A psalm about God being our refuge and strength, a "very present help in trouble". I gave Kennedy a hard time, because there were a few letters I sent him during the deployment that he had not opened. He said he wanted to keep them and read them for when he had a bad day upon returning from Afghanistan and taking command here at Ft. Riley. I kind of laughed at the thought and said in my mind that he would probably forget. It came to the point that I had to ask him to read one or two here and there out loud, because they were just sitting out on his nightstand. 

As soon as we got home from our first ultrasound appointment with the heavy, sad news, I stumbled into our bedroom and drowned in tears. Kennedy was of great comfort, and turned to his nightstand opening one of the unopened letters that I had written him. It started off by saying of course that I missed him and couldn't wait for him to be back...but in this particular letter that he opened, I had written that on the day he opened it (in Afghanistan), I wanted him to take a moment (if not more) to "Be still and know that (I) am God"- Psalm 46:10. And then I had written out that Psalm for him, and myself, to be encouraged.

With tears in our eyes and the unknowns swirling around us of how to move forward through and from this grief, he continued to read this beautiful Psalm: 

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved from the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling, There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress...
'Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!'
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress".

I'm reading that Psalm again tonight, tears of joy streaming down. Knowing this brings the best and most sustainable and lasting comfort. God is a very present help in trouble and I am praising Him tonight for this truth and for leading me to these verses and memory. I want to remember in times of trouble, that the God of Jacob is my fortress. He is with me and will strengthen me.




Monday, October 27, 2014

Expectations


As I do with most posts, I'm going to start off by saying that this one may not make sense. I'm writing off of a fuzzy brain, compounded with discouragement. I have to admit that my expectations of God can sometimes be small. I get impatient and doubt His power in situations that I think I can take control of. God is showing me that He is more powerful than I can imagine and He is reshaping my expectations of Him. When all of the miscarriage stuff was happening, I of course prayed, cried out loud to God...but small parts of my heart were in constant struggle of not praying confidently. There were parts of me that were holding back in prayer, doubting that He could really redeem this and give me reasons to hope and have joy. My expectations were small.
God shows us over and over again in His Word that He is more powerful than we can imagine or grasp. Why do I doubt this?
Today I went in for my HcG level check. Since the miscarriage, the doctor has been monitoring the levels as they have decreased, but it has been a really slow and long process of the numbers coming down. Nearing the end, the doctor recommended I come back every two weeks instead of every week. In the past month, the decrease has been really slight. Like every two weeks it has gone down 10 or 15. I was hoping or EXPECTING my levels to be at normal range (10 or below)...but I was given disappointing news of "19.2" when I answered my phone while at Hobby Lobby- almost in tears in the paper craft aisle. I know God is reshaping my expectations of Him. In the discouragement, I want to still be thankful. Before these past few months, my confidence in hope and my expectations of God were something that changed with whatever my circumstances were. And now, He is all that I can hold on to and has remained the same: faithful, and this has strengthened my confidence and hope and expectations. Even though the HcG levels haven't gone down as I've expected them to, they've still gone down, which is a praise. Even though "fill in the blank with whatever life's hard circumstances have been", something good has come out of them, which may not have looked like our expectations but they were good in the sense that God, out of His love for us, revealed more of Himself to us.
I did a search on "expectations of God" and came across a really good article, that as I was reading, I was nodding my head and thinking to myself, "This is exactly how I feel" and the author nailed it. Jon Bloom says, "Highest on God's agenda for us is strengthening our faith. Highest on our agenda is frequently accomplishing something necessary or noble, or escaping affliction or humiliation. These may not be wrong desires, but they may be the wrong priorities...The strength that God supplies is often increased capacities to trust his promises, which might require dying to our envisioned accomplishment or enduring what we wish to escape...God loves to answer our prayers with the strength that causes us to abound in faith-fueled hope."
I love this part: "So pray with confidence. And pray for the strength that God supplies. And keep your eyes open for his answers. They may not look like your expectations. But you can be sure that even when he answers with a weakening agent, God is working to strengthen your understanding, strengthen your faith, and strengthen your hope in him." God, I am choosing to believe this about you!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Getting used to tears

I'm using this post as a means of bragging on my husband and praising the Lord for the gift He has given me in giving me Kennedy as a husband. As we've been going through the really long process of grief and long days of being drained, we've had to lean on each other more than ever. I'll admit that I lean on him quite a bit more often than he leans on me. And at the end of our processing conversations, he always points me back to the Lord. I'm so thankful for Kennedy because of this. God knew before time who He had chosen for me to be my best friend and I am praising the Lord throughout today for His loving kindness.
My "leaning on" Kennedy consists of tears. I'm getting used to them. If you ask anyone in my family/close friends, they'll tell you without a doubt that I NEVER cry...or it is very rare. If you were to ask my loving husband if I cry, I would be interested to know his answer. It is definitely "sometimes"/"occasionally". Growing up and before recent events, I gave in to crying when I was either really hurt or really sad. But something drastic, then, had to have happened in order for the tears to flow. Yesterday afternoon before church, I cried for a while. Kennedy would tell you it seemed to be caused by no apparent reason...But he was about to finish our reading of The Silver Chair, and I just started crying and had that stomach-deep pain. And then it hit me-the why. Even in our early stages of pregnancy, Kennedy would read to me. And we joked about it because it was too early for our baby to "hear", but he wanted to. My mind flashed forward to where we would be in our pregnancy now, and the baby would probably be able to "hear"---which would make The Silver Chair reading so special. My mind also flashed forward to what Kennedy will be like as a dad one day. I knew even before we were married that he would be an AMAZING dad....but yesterday as he was reading, I just couldn't help but think about how true that is of him. He loves to read to me. We take breaks from our tv show watching, because he wants to read. And I love it. And I know our kids will love it one day.
The Lord has been so gracious in using Kennedy's patience love and joy to point my weary heart back to Him. I told our pastor when he asked how we were doing that Kennedy had been a great blessing--and he said, "You have a great husband and an even greater God". That has resonated with me the past few weeks as I wrestle with what's in my heart and having to share that with Kennedy when I randomly start crying and how the Lord cares for me even more deeply--That in itself brings me comfort that I can share the sadness and depths of my heart with the One who created me and knows everything about me and loves me.


"He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them."
Psalm 145:19