Not being a big grizzly bear while I wait





If you are just joining, welcome! I am super glad you are here! I have been talking a bit about waiting as it relates to the season of Advent. I've chronicled a bit of what God is impressing on me here, here and here.

 Maybe you're like me and you're familiar with waiting. If so, you know that waiting has this weird way about it, in that at times while it feels like you are doing absolutely NOTHING AT ALL you simultaneously feel utterly exhausted. It is the strangest thing to feel stuck & restless while also feeling weary & spent. I don't think waiting is anyone's favorite. Yet, I am learning that the waiting moments-the in-between moments-seem to be some of God's favorite tools in my life. (Maybe if I had figured this out sooner, I would have spent less time of my life waiting..."Okay, God. I think I've got it. Let's move it along here." See, I still haven't come to my complete peace with waiting.)

 I think one of the reasons I struggle with waiting the most is because I value comfort too highly...that and I am a recovering control-freak. I have this self-centered fear that I will become too worn out. I am a weak person by nature. I get sick easily. I have had my share of mental health struggles. I suffer from migraines if I don't eat right and get enough sleep. And speaking of sleep, I am pretty sure I require more than the average bear...no literally...more than a bear. I could easily sleep all winter. 

 So, a lot of my growing-up years my parents tried to make sure I did what needed to be done to keep from "wearing out". As an adult my kind husband has kind of taken over this roll. How many times in my life have I heard "Did you drink enough water today?" "Have you eaten lunch?" I know they mean well. My people are so caring. But what I am trying to say is, due to the way I am made & the entirety of my life there being voices making sure I am well taken care of, I have developed this unhealthy, self-centered fear of being stretched too thin & becoming sick or weak. I have become self-protective. I don't want to schedule too much into my days or weeks. I guard my resources a little too closely. 

This is something God has been working on with me for a while. I am slowly developing new patterns of giving more of myself and allowing God to fill me back up. In times of waiting I fear becoming weary & spent. I see myself teetering with the weight of all the waiting. And I become guarded. I try to hoard my "resources" in a way that actually resembles a bear getting ready to hibernate. Lately, God has been working on me hard, as I have mentioned in previous posts. And it is exactly the opposite of comfortable. He is teaching me the true meaning of faith- that faith equals obedience. It is not a feeling. It is not just words saying I trust God. It is actually putting feet to those words and walking the unstable, sometimes treacherous path of obedience-one feeble step at a time. One way where God is knocking me over the head  tenderly nudging me toward obedience, is this area of generosity. Generosity- the exact opposite of hoarding, guarding, self-protecting. 

New bloggy stuff and a GIVEAWAY!




So, this is something I have waited a long time for, people! I have had this blog name spinning in my head for almost two years. And this place was in need of a facelift too. Today is the day! I am so excited to share the changes to my corner of the internet. And that is not the only thing I am sharing. There is also a giveaway, as promised!

 I don't make anything pretty enough to give away (except my kids, but most days I would like to keep them), so instead I am using straight up bribery by offering you cold hard gift card to the happiest place on earth: Target AND a bunch of high fives. Check below to see how you can enter to win $50 to spend on throw pillows & Nate Berkus decor... or diapers & socks (totally up to you) and get slapped up by me.


A new thing in the waiting and evidence that God is kind of creepy

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You guys, let me tell you how creepy God is. I know this sounds super-duper blasphemous, but I swear its only a little bit blasphemous. I have been paging through the Bible with "waiting" on my radar. And since this IS Christmas & Advent & all that I figured I would take a gander at all the people involved in the Christmas story to see if any of them had anything to say about waiting (spoiler alert: they totally do). Anyways, I started reading about Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth-Jesus' Uncle and Aunt. They have always intrigued me and now even more so since looking at them through this new lens of waiting & weariness. I was getting further aquainted with their story on my own and then they popped up in my Bible study reading too. Creepy God stuff. I mean its not quite to "the call is coming from inside the house" level. So,I guess God is actually more cool & sovereign than creepy, but whatever you call it, it made me take even closer notice of these characters in Jesus' story.

Quick run down of Zechariah and Elizabeth-  In Luke 1:6-7 it says of Zechariah and Elizabeth that "they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statues of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years". Yet we know them now as the parents of John the Baptist: Jesus' eccentric, fur wearin', honey comb lovin', Messiah preachin' cousin.


Our weary waiting work, my 3 year old climbing out a 2nd story window and references to jolly obesity


A couple days ago I shared in this post that I was weary of waiting, but that during this Advent season of waiting and anticipating I wanted to wait well, to rejoice in my weariness. I have been humbled and bubbly with happiness at how my thoughts and experiences have resonated with so many of you. People have reached out to me and let me know how encouraging it was to hear (or I guess read) that someone else gets what they too are feeling. "Misery loves company" and I guess weariness does too.

It can be hard to admit that we are weary. We live in a world where hustle is preached & and quick results are emphasized. A world where strength is admirable and weakness is deplorable. We are supposed to do what makes us happy, without really counting the cost. ( I have thought about this before.) I think all these ways of thinking set up us for weariness, but we are hesitant to share those feelings, especially this time of year where everything & everyone is supposed to be so jolly that their bellies shake like bowls full of jelly. (I think I have the belly shaking part down, but that's for other reasons besides Christmas cheer. Why is that image only endearing when referring to Santa or a child under the age of 2?). We are afraid to admit, possibly even to ourselves, that we feel the heaviness of emotional exhaustion at Christmas time...the most wonderful time of the year. At it's best it seems silly. And at its worst- sac-religious. I mean it's Jesus' birthday people. Get it together already.


Advent: weary waiting


This week began just the way most every week does-with the promise of mundane, assurance of impending messiness and the anticipation of the unknown. But if I am being honest, "anticipation" often feels like a bit of a stretch, if not a complete lie. Some times the unknown fills me with fear or dread. And sometimes the mundane, the messiness and the "tyranny of the urgent" completely overshadow thoughts of anticipating anything at all. Although this week began as many weeks before it, it also dawned a little differently this time because on Tuesday Advent began. And Advent is all about anticipation. Surely this week would be different. The unknown would not seem scary or intimidating or worrisome. The mundane and the messy would be glossed over by the bright, shiny hope that Advent brings. Yep, this week would be different. I could feel it.

But for some reason no matter how many evergreen boughs or shiny glass balls you hang,  no matter how much glitz is lining shelves and mantles (and left to be vacuumed up off your living room floor), no matter how many pieces of decor say "joy" or "peace" or "hope", you just can't manufacture those feelings. While the world counts down the days till Christmas, I find myself feeling stuck. I see the days passing. I see each character finding its place on our Advent Calender. But nothing inside me changes.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe Advent (the 25 days leading up to Christmas) has often felt like a bit of a drag to you, or a bit of a gimmick, or maybe you smile but inside you are convinced this season is only something exciting for kids. Or for you the countdown feels all too real, but instead of the anticipation building with each day that goes by, the anxiety grows because in your mind this countdown looks less like a merry advent calender and more like a ticking bomb.


Changes and a new hashtag!

Hey, hey! Happy Thanksgiving!

This is a little different than my usual posts, but its because I have some news to share that I am SUPER excited about, and a tad nervous too.

I already announced it on social media, but figured maybe I should share here, for obvious reasons. On December 15th I am launching a re-design of this ol' blog. It will have a new name, new design, and new content! This has seriously been such a long time coming, and I am just so pumped about it!

In the meantime, I will continue posting here. And I would LOVE for you to follow along, if you don't already, by entering your email address in the side bar. This will enable you to receive the posts via email, as well as be the first to find out new information, and be part of upcoming GIVEAWAYS! Yes, I am not above bribery. I just prefer to call it "incentives for my lovely readers". It sounds a little less desperate and slimy. So, go ahead and subscribe. If you are on mobile, you may have to view in the web version. That is one of the issues that will be resolved with the new design launch, so yay!


The kind of good smell of rotting leaves (Part 2): unicorn fart edition

When I labeled my last post as "Part 1" I almost instantly regretted it because, well Part 1 kinda sorta insinuates that there is a Part 2 coming. I knew I had more thoughts about the idea of something dying being a beautiful act of worship, just as dead leaves offer up a fragrant offering this time of year. But, truthfully this Part 2 is harder for me to write.

I have gotten pretty okay at writing about grief and suffering. God has heaped grace upon grace on me since my dad's diagnosis of Early Onset Alzheimer's nearly 2 years ago. I have actually come to understand new shades of grace ("grace", not gray people!) as I face into suffering and grief in ways I never had to before now. He has taught me that grace isn't always glamorous, or easy. It doesn't always smell of lilacs and unicorn farts or feel like falling into a pile of soft pillows. Sometimes grace is messy and ugly (hideous even) and hard. Sometimes it smells like a bunch of crap instead of the sweet rainbow aroma that I am sure a unicorn fart smells like (disclaimer: I have never actually smelled a unicorn fart.) And sometimes those pillows are soaked in tears, because grace doesn't always feel like a soft landing. Sometimes it feels like you just crashed face first into a brick wall. And sometimes, grace doesn't feel like you are crashing, but instead it feels like you are hovering, exhausted, and will never find a safe, soft place to land.


The kind of good smell of rotting leaves (Part 1)

A couple weeks ago we were walking, all 6 of us, in our new neighborhood (well, Baby Titus had the luxury of being pushed in a stroller. That kid, 2 months old and yet to carry his own weight). There was the perfect crispness in the air, the perfect crunch of fallen leaves under our boots, the perfect melody of a dog barking at us as we passed by his yard. This dog even went so above and beyond as to chase us through piles of said leaves and nip at ankles of said boots for an entire block, while we resisted temptation to subtly kick him, hoping no one would see. Just a typical, lovely, somewhat awkward family walk.

The kids noticed a missing cat sign, which has since become a bit of an obnoxious obsession , noble charitable mission. Suddenly every cat we see might be the missing one. "No, that one has a hint of grey. The missing cat is more of a blackish-grey." Wait! Oh, no. That cat has a white dot on the very tip of its toenail. It can't be the missing one." "Look! Its the...oh no its not. Its a squirrel." Sigh. So close. But despite all the kids' training in "eye py wid my nittul eye" and all their valiant efforts, I am assuming the cat is still missing because the signs are still up. If in fact the cat has been found can someone please take the signs down, for the love of God?! Or host a block party in celebration? Or put up a new sign, saying "Gavenda kids: I have found the cat (or just given up looking). Thank you so very much everyone for all your time spent searching for my cat. I will reward you by giving you a million dollars, or ice-cream with sprinkles before dinner, whichever you prefer. "?

Other than the missing cat propaganda and the ankle biting dog (who could probably lead a search party for the cat. He was persistent enough), the kids noticed a smell in the air. When I told them it was actually the smell of dead, rotting leaves they asked "How can something dead smell so kind of good?"

That stuck me as funny. I always noticed that smell growing up. I always wondered that same thought. It is one of those things that you forget to notice as an adult, but when you do, it kind of makes you chuckle. The observations of a child. I forgot about it for a while. Then one morning, I looked out our bedroom window at the tree whose branches greet me each day. I have watched them turn from verdant green, to vibrant yellow and now they are more of a dusty brown. This particular morning I looked at the leaves and thought "Why does everything have to die? Why does everything beautiful have to become brown and shriveled and fall apart?"


I'm baaack (back again. She's back. Tell a friend)

So, I haven't written in a while. It is not just that I have been avoiding the blog; I haven't written anywhere, except in my head. There are always quips and prose and run-on sentences chock-full-a adjectives and sarcasm running around up in there. And I have missed it, terribly. More than I actually realized until lately when my very soul felt something missing. And my head is quite possibly about to explode with word/thought/sarcasm constipation. So, here I am. Writing.  I have given my brain a laxative (how's that for a word picture?!) and I am ready for the free flow of everything that's been bottled up for nearly a year. Words. Ideas. It's gonna get messy.

But then I sat and nothing happened. (I swear I did not mean for this metaphor to carry on this long.) Where do I start? I feel almost like I am at a high school reunion, with people I haven't seen in years, and I am worried that I am the fat one or the one with nothing interesting to say. Or that I am nothing like anyone remembers, or exactly the same...


One year after the diagnosis-a smattering of what I am learning

Today marks one year since my dad’s diagnosis. I can’t even explain how weird it seems to be saying that. In so many ways I still feel like such an outsider looking in-as if when the words come out of my mouth to tell our story that I feel I am talking about someone else, someone else’s father, someone else’s family, someone else’s reality. It is strange to not be in denial but still have something feel so surreal.

 

A year ago today I sat waiting , trembling by the phone. I was too anxious to settle myself enough to focus on anything and the pit in my stomach made it impossible to eat. So I put the kids down for a nap and sat on the couch. I went back and forth between wringing my hands as I sputtered dis-jointed fragment prayers and mindlessly suffering the internet to try to distract myself. I knew the appointment should be done by 4. I knew they would have an answer. And despite the last word from the specialist being an encouraging one, I knew in the depths of me what the answer would be. Then the news came as I had retreated to the bedroom, and although I thought I have braced myself I still doubled over, staggered and fell into the bed and the world spun around me like a trippy merry-go-round,. Everything just circled around me, just out of reach.

 

Today I have spent most of the day chauffeuring kids to school, making sure Royce doesn’t color all over the furniture, listening to “Let it go” on repeat, frantically searching for Peter’s work ID tag that was found among a (gorgeous) mountain of throw pillows (my beauties were framed), frantically searching for the source of the horrendous smell in the fridge and trying to keep Royce from ingesting the foam part of the mattress from Hayleigh’s doll house and resisting the urge to throw Royce in a snow bank. Just another day in the neighborhood.

 

I can’t help but think back on this past year-it was harder than I ever wanted and I have learned more than I ever expected. I am pretty sure that’s how it works. So, as a way of processing, maybe as a way of trying to find the good in the wake of this diagnosis I want to haphazardly and incompletely list some of the those things I have learned through the crappy. Here they are: in no particular order and possibly making no particular sense.

 

Everyone is suffering.  Just this past year we have had friends and family who have dealt with infertility, miscarriage, loss of jobs, chronic and debilitating illnesses, financial hardship, death of loved ones, mental health issues and more. My heart aches for the people I love.  Who am I to think that no one can relate to what I am going through, or that “X” suffering is less than “y” suffering? God promises we will have trouble in this life, so suffering and pain is something universal that can bind us together as we bind ourselves to Christ.  It is so tempting for me to just turn inward during suffering, or to feel sorry for myself (ewww). But I am learning that suffering is an opportunity to be able to show compassion and become more others-centered, rather than self-centered. I still have a LONG way to go on this but God is working on me.

 

Grief is sneaky. While it is not a new thing for me to cry seemingly out of nowhere, it is new for me to cry spontaneously without even realizing I am crying or what has triggered it. Apparently that is normal with grief. Grief is a sneaky little stinker. You can be strutting along (or plodding along) having a great (or normal) day when all of a sudden grief creeps in and sucker punches you to the gut. It rips the wounds wide open again and leaves you there dazed, wounded and writhing.

 

While grief is sneaky, God’s grace is more. When grief takes sneaks up on me, God’s love and grace take me by surprise even more. There is a song that says “Where sin runs deep, your grace is more”. I love that. If God has saved me from my sin, He will save me from my grief.

 

Grace doesn’t always feel good. Grace is often called “amazing” and “beautiful”. I picture flower gardens and sunsets and forgiveness. But grace is really “God’s unmerited favor” or getting something I don’t deserve. Good right? Yes! Very! But it might not always feel good. I have learned in the last year that God’s grace has been reaching me (giving me the favor I do not deserve) through hardship. The suffering draws me closer to God. It makes me more into the person He desires me to be. It gives me the privilege of being an instrument to bring Him the glory He is worthy of and of making His name great even in my sorrow and darkness. I do not deserve ANY of those things. It may be tempting to say “what have we done to deserve this, this Alzheimer’s, and all that comes with it?!”. But the better question is, “what have we done to deserve this love lavished on us by God, always and even now as we suffer? What have we done to deserve closeness, communion with the God of the universe?" Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And that is why grace is amazing and beautiful.

 

If things weren’t bad the good news wouldn’t seem so good.  How good would a rescuer sound if we didn’t need rescuing? Or a doctor is we were healthy? If my hope was found in my earthly circumstances, would good would the hope of heaven be?

 

I have hope now and for eternity.  God has secured a place in heaven for me. And you better believe I am counting on that, longing for that, every.single.day. There are some days where that is the hope that keeps me going on, putting one foot in front of the other. There are some days where in my grief I get so caught up in my grief and my longing for heaven that I lose sight of the hope I have right now, on earth, during the hard times. God sent Jesus to earth. He didn’t stay in heaven. He came down. Hope came down. So, I have this unshakeable hope in heaven waiting for me, but I also have hope here with me, my Emmanuel- “God with us”, as I walk this road I never wanted to walk. God with me now AND for eternity? Bag it up, I’ll take it.

 

God isn’t a one hit wonder Redeemer. When Jesus died and rose again He reconciled us and redeemed us. He took a seemingly hopeless situation (our sin and separation from God) and made it good. And although that act of redemption is history’s biggest (and also my personal fave), He didn’t stop there. God is not a one hit wonder Redeemer. He is in the business of turning crappy and hopeless into renewed and glorious. He hasn’t taken away my dad’s Alzheimer’s. But he has time and time again used this situation for our good and  His glory. He looks at our lives with a vision and sees beyond what the devil would only intend for ugliness and destruction. He masterfully takes his hands and creates beauty out of what appears to be ugly, broken, haggard and just plain useless, beauty that only the purest and most holy Artist could create.

 

So, there it is- a small smattering of just a few of the slew of things God has been teaching me this past year. I don’t know what the next year will bring, and while part of me is not looking forward to it, (Alzheimer’s will do that to you. Time please slow down!), the rest of me is surrendered to the idea of surrendering to the only God I know who is worthy of my praise and worthy of my trust. He is the great Physician, the Redeemer and my Unshakable Hope. I know that whatever is ahead that God is good. God is sovereign. And- maybe the most radically transforming and beautiful thing I have come to really, truly understand this year- God loves us. Oh, how He loves us. That makes my heart leap! Exhale. God loves me. If that is the only unwavering truth I have for the coming year, that is enough.

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