Sunday, February 8, 2015

I Quit...Confessions of "Volcano Mommy"

Today, I said two words I never thought I'd hear myself actually say out loud...and I said them to two precious little girls who never should have heard them come out of my mouth. The words were, "I quit." I realized my mistake instantly as I watched their little faces become confused and completely panicked at the same time. "You quit? Do you mean, you quit being our mommy?!" Then the tears flowed as sobs took over my two precious girls; my seven-year-old melting into a puddle and my ten-year-old screaming and shouting.

How could I have let this happen? When did I become so consumed with stress, anxiety, fear, or whatever, that I lost control of my tongue? I know what the Word of God says about the power of the words I speak, and yet I completely lost control. There were no fruits of the Spirit in me at all at that moment. I felt so ashamed, and so lost, like I had just done something I'd never be able to undo. Well, that part is true. I can't un-say what I said. Ever. I can't erase the fear that those two words made my daughters feel in that moment. However, the intense pain I felt when I saw the looks on their faces assured me of one thing. I will NEVER lose control of my tongue like that again.

I have no excuse for the way I hurt my children with those two little words. Yes, I've been under a tremendous amount of stress over the past few months. Yes, my girls have been fighting constantly, both with each other and with me. I have been feeling like a volcano about to erupt for a few days now, which should have been a warning sign that I needed to pay serious attention to, but I didn't. Nothing excuses the fact that I lost it. I just plain lost it. I messed up, big time. I was "Volcano Mommy."

After many tears from the three of us, and my being completely honest with them about why I was so angry, I was able to explain to them that when I said, "I quit," I was not talking about quitting being their mommy. I was talking about my efforts to stop their constant bickering, fighting, yelling, name calling, etc., etc. I was talking about my consistent efforts to make them understand that I'm their Mother, and they are to honor me and respect me, even if they don't "feel" like it. I told them that I was tired of trying to teach them these things, when it seems to go in one ear and out the other. I told them I felt completely disrespected and that my feelings were very hurt. However, after all that needed to be said was said, I was able to reassure them that I had made a terrible mistake by allowing those words to come out of my mouth, and that I didn't mean them. I asked them to forgive me and they did, without reservation.

Children are amazing. My children amaze me. No matter how awful they've been acting towards me or each other, when something like this happens, they want things to be right again so quickly that it's almost like they forget the fact that they've just been hurt so they can make everything OK again. Their need to feel safe, loved, and protected overrules their need to hold an offense. Man, can we learn some serious lessons from our kids. I'm blown away at their ability to forgive me so quickly, especially when I've messed up this badly.

As much as I wish things would have gone differently, that I would have had a more calm approach to the conversation that still needed to happen, we each learned valuable lessons through this experience. My children were immediately remorseful, which is usually not the case. They lavished me with hugs and apologies. They asked me if they could please be excused to go and talk with each other and do some "research." I have no idea what they're talking about, but I can't wait to see what they've come up with.

I should never have allowed the volcano mommy inside me to erupt. But, maybe it was what needed to happen for the lights to really come on for my kids about how things need to change right now. I've basically been a single parent since November, and my hat goes off to every single parent out there who is trying their very best to not become volcano mommy or volcano daddy. What gives me the greatest hope is that even though I messed up as their mother, I can still run into the arms of my Heavenly Father and ask his forgiveness. The same comfort that my girls had from my reassuring hugs and kisses is the same comfort I feel from my Father in Heaven, who also forgives me the moment I ask him to.

1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." I am so thankful that God is gracious and merciful to me. I need him so desperately right now, and I know he's with me. I pray that my children never see "Volcano Mommy" again. It was a good indicator to me that I've been trying to carry the load of my life on my own shoulders for a while now. Which is exactly why Peter tells us to cast all our cares on Jesus, for he cares about us. I needed the reminder to let go of all the things in my life that I can't control right now, so that I can remain in control of myself.

I debated whether or not I should share this post with you. Let's face it, it's not an easy thing to admit when you've messed up. But, if it encourages just one other parent that we can be forgiven by God when we've made a huge mistake with our kids, then it was worth it to put myself out there like this. I hope you're encouraged. We need each other. Raising kids is hard just by itself. Add to it any other life challenges and our job becomes almost impossible at times. At least it feels that way to me. It is, in fact, an impossible task if we're trying to do it in our own strength. We must give our cares over to the Lord so that we can do this most important job that we've been called to do...raise godly children. Hug another parent when you see them. Encourage them and tell them they're doing a great job.

Much love,

Tracie

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Challenge

It's been quite a while since I've sat face-to-face with my computer screen, just staring at a blank blog post page...the vertical line in the top, left-hand corner blinking away, waiting for me to start typing. "What do you want to say today, Tracie?," the blinking line asks with every blink. It waits patiently while the torrent of emotions in my heart flood up into my mind and try to answer that question... What do I want to say?

Honestly, I don't feel like writing today. I don't feel like saying anything. Past experience reminds me, however, that on the days I don't feel like writing it's usually because I need to write. Along with past experience is a recent experience, which I will write about later in this post, in which I was challenged by a hospital chaplain to write the truth of what was in my mind and heart, not just what I thought people would "want" to read, but what they "need" to read. So, even though I don't feel like writing today, I'm going to anyway.

Many of you know that my girls and I have been in Washington State since the middle of November to help take care of my dad, who is fighting brain cancer. To try to count the number of precious moments my girls and I have had with my dad and family since we've been here would be impossible. Even though it has been incredibly difficult to watch my dad, my hero, suffer tremendously, I wouldn't trade one second of the time we've had together. We had a lot of catching up to do.

Christmas Day began with our tradition of having the girls open their stockings and a few gifts before heading over to have breakfast at my sister's house. They took over the tradition of breakfast at Grandma Peggy's house after she passed away six years ago. My brother-in-law prepares a delicious breakfast every year and we have had the privilege of being here for three of those years. Usually, it's Dad, Mom, myself, my two sisters, our husbands, and our children. This year was my first Christmas apart from Josh since we met fifteen years ago, so of course that meant it was the first Christmas our girls were apart from their daddy, too. We were all feeling the empty spot at the table, but were determined to have a good day. We finished our feast and gathered in the living room to open each others gifts. My dad was extremely weak and so tired, but he wanted to stay and watch his grandchildren. Like I said, he's my hero.

Eventually, my mom took him home (which is conveniently right next door to my sister's house) and then she came back to help us pack up gifts and clean up. However, the conversation and mood had turned to anything but a holly-jolly Christmas. All we could talk about was how we were going to take care of my dad. He was getting too weak for my Mom and I to handle when the caregiver wasn't there. Even when the caregiver was there, who is an amazing lady, she still had to ask for my help at times when my dad needed to get from one place in the house to the other. We were beginning to realize the need for things to help him be safer and more comfortable.

But most of all, there was the elephant in the room. You know, the one you try to push in the closet and hope it doesn't pop out. It was the one question no one wants to know the answer to... "Is this our last Christmas with Dad?" There! The elephant is out of the closet. I said it. Do I feel better? Not really. But, I've come to realize in hindsight that the "elephant" was probably what led to the events that happened later in the day. I'll get to that in a minute. We finished cleaning up, and put our conversations about hospital beds, facilities, doctors, etc, on hold and went back to my parents' house to rest until our small family dinner later that evening.

Around noon, I began to have very strange sensations and sounds in both of my ears. It was like every sound was magnified 1000x normal, yet both ears felt like they were stuffed with cotton balls. I couldn't think straight, and I began to feel the all too familiar "boat rocking" sensation of vertigo begin. My first thought was that I was getting a migraine, so I decided to lie down and drink a cup of decaf coffee and have some dark chocolate. I can't handle the amount of caffeine in regular coffee, so the combination of decaf and chocolate usually works for me to stave off a major migraine. However, things went from bad to worse and in a matter of a couple hours, the room was spinning.

When I say spinning, I'm not talking about a slow spin, like when you first get on the Tea Cup ride at Disneyland, and you're in control of how fast you spin. I'm talking about the room spinning in every direction all at the same time, like in an aerotrim. An aerotrim is a gyroscope large enough to contain a human being, used for cardiovascular workout and balance training in pilots and astronauts. See the picture below.


Notice how happy the woman in the picture is? I can guarantee you, I was not smiling. In fact, I was physically ill. I somehow managed to keep my head completely still and eat some dinner in my room while the rest of my family was at the table for Christmas dinner. Sometime after that, by the mercy of God, I fell asleep. I woke up several hours later, around 2:00am and tried to get out of bed to use the restroom. I fell on the floor. I called my mom's cell phone and told her I needed help to the bathroom. When I got back to my room, I began to throw up. At that point, I realized I needed to go to the hospital. I had no idea what was causing the severe vertigo, but I had never experienced it so violently in my life. So, my sister came over to stay with Dad and the kids and off to the ER we went.

I can't remember how many hours later it was when my mom told me she was going out to the car to try to take a little nap, but then came back crying. I thought she was going to tell me that my blood test results were back and it was bad news. Well, it was bad news, but not about me. My sister had called to say that the paramedics were on their way to the ER with my dad. At the time, they were suspecting that he had had a stroke, but weren't sure if it was that or a seizure. Either way, his left side was paralyzed. I could not believe what I was hearing. And I could not believe that I was too sick to go see him across the ER. We waited for them to do preliminary imaging and make sure my dad was stabilized and then they prepared to transfer him to Swedish Hospital in Seattle, where all of his doctors are.

I was worried about my girls. They had watched him being taken away by the paramedics. I knew how sensitive they were and I was so afraid for Hailey. I didn't want the stress to trigger an attack in her body, as it so often does. I was so sad. I was so mad. I was SO frustrated! Why? Why, when my dad needed us the most, was I not able to be with him? I had been here for almost two months taking care of him every day, only to have the most important thing happen and be completely helpless myself. I did not understand. I asked if the paramedics could at least roll his gurney next to my room so I could wave and say goodbye to him, which they did. I am so grateful for them. At that point, I had no idea what the future held for my dad and there was no way I wasn't going to tell him that I loved him before they took him to Seattle.

The ER Dr. admitted me into the hospital later that afternoon. I found out late that evening, after my dad had gotten to Seattle for an MRI, that it was indeed a stroke. I just cried. There was nothing else to do at that moment. I was completely alone. I hung up with my mom and just cried and prayed until a nurse came in to take my vitals. I was so sick, so dizzy, so helpless, and so alone. Did I mention alone? I know that I am never truly alone and that God is with me always but, I had never felt so alone in my entire life. This is the part where the hospital chaplain's challenge to me comes in.

I didn't actually see him until the third day of being there, but it was perfect timing. I was too sick before then to have even been able to hold a real conversation with anyone. We began to talk and he listened to me patiently tell him what had happened since I had been there. He kept hearing me say over and over again things like, "But I know God is with me. God has His hand on this. God is taking care of my Dad. God is taking care of my kids." He looked at me and said, "I hear you saying all of these things, but I want you to tell me what you're feeling inside right now. What are your fears? What are your worries? Are you angry? Are you feeling alone? Tell me what you're feeling. Don't tell me what you know about your faith. Tell me what you don't know about your faith." What?

At first, I was shocked. I wondered what kind of a chaplain was this? He certainly wasn't seeming to be encouraging. He wanted me to tell him all of my bad feelings and stop talking about my faith. But all of a sudden, a dawning occurred to me. I needed to put aside my Christian "lingo," my "game face," my "super-woman" complex for just a minute and actually allow myself to feel the full weight of my emotions, my fears, my confusion, and my anger. I started to tell him how alone I had been feeling. That my husband was in Virginia and my family was in Seattle, where I wanted to be. I felt like I was 3,000 miles away again, as I have been for over six years now. I was angry. I was confused. I could not understand the timing of the events. I was worried about my dad, I was worried about my mom, I was worried about my daughter getting sick, I was worried about myself. How long was this relentless vertigo going to last? Why now? Why was I sick AGAIN?!

In that moment I realized what God had sent that chaplain to tell me. He sent him to tell me that it's OK to be scared. It's OK to be mad. It's OK to be human. I've been trying to be strong for so long, not truly facing my fears head on, and my body finally said, "Enough is enough. You can't do this anymore." He told me that God knows I'm a woman of faith, a woman after His heart, and His will. But that he needs me to be honest with him and be more real with him than I ever have been before. That was the key to my body beginning to get better. The chaplain asked me what were some things that I do that bring me joy and peace. I told him that I sing and write songs, I write on my blog, I go to the ocean, etc. That was when he challenged me.

He said, "I bet your blog is full of scripture and encouragement, right?" I said, "Well, yes." He said, "You are a woman of faith. Anyone who knows you knows that about you, right? But what I want to challenge you to do is to write about what people can identify with. Fear, worry, anger, etc. You are always going to bring God glory, no matter what you write. It's in you, you can't help that. So, have the courage to write honestly about what you're going through. Because it's the pain that people like me identify with. It's the agony about their loved one. It's the frustration at the timing of events like this. That's what they relate to. That's what they need to know they're not alone in walking through. The encouragement will come, yes. But, for a moment, they need to be in the dark pit with you before you can show them how God helped you climb out."

I was floored. I was challenged, indeed. I was humbled....I was in the hospital for four days. The vertigo barely let up, even to the point when I was discharged to go home. I spun and spun, cried and cried, and prayed and prayed. Josh had to come out to take care of me a couple days after I'd been released. I wish it wouldn't have been because of being so sick, but at least we got to see him for over a week. It was much needed tangible strength for my girls and I. My husband is amazing. God knew just the right time to send him to us.

I will never fully understand the reasons why I got so sick right before my Dad had his stroke. One thing I do know is that I don't think I could have handled finding him that morning, unable to move his left side. And, from what my sisters have told me, I don't think I could have handled seeing him in the hospital for that week after the stroke. My body was already completely stressed, which is what the Dr's determined caused the attack in the first place. So, I can't imagine what would have happened had I not already been in the care of doctors during that time. I do not believe that God causes illness. He is our Healer. But, I do believe that he allows us to go through things at specific times for very specific reasons. I believe my hospitalization was His divine protection over me. I really do. It gave me time to grieve alone, without worrying about making my kids sad. It gave me time to pray and intercede for hours upon hours. It gave my kids a chance to get to know their other family members and friends who were so wonderful to step in and help take care of them. I am so grateful to God for every good thing that came out of this horrible situation. As I always say, He is forever faithful.

There is so much more to say, however, I feel that I should end for now. Please keep my Dad and my family in your prayers. We need prayer like we've never needed it before. Thank you.

Xoxo,

Tracie

Monday, July 7, 2014

Can We Be Real?

Yesterday, I posted a Facebook status that basically said I was done with cable TV. Well, it got me thinking that I'm actually starting to feel the same way about social media. I'm not saying I'm going to delete my accounts, but I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. My main reason is this: It's not the real story of our lives. What it usually is is what we want people to "think" our life is like. It's a snapshot. A cozy little image of our best selves, or should I say, "best selfies." It's pictures of our adorable children smiling big smiles, or siblings with their arms around each other, snuggled in their bed reading together. Where are the real pictures? You know, the ones from ten minutes before where the kids were fighting and screaming at the top of their lungs and you were locked in your bedroom counting to ten. Can we be real?

Where are the selfies after you've just given your child with Sensory Processing Disorder a shower and you're soaked from head to toe from all of the thrashing around it took just to wash her hair? Not to mention totally exhausted, your back muscles in knots, crying right along with her; both from exhaustion and also the thought that it's just not fair that a shower is torture to your child, even though you are just trying to be a good parent and keep her clean. Then, we move on to drying off and brushing the tangles out of her hair. More torture. Next comes teeth brushing. At this point, we're just praying the neighbors don't call CPS from all the screaming. All because our little girl has an over-stimulated nervous system and can't handle a single ounce more of sensory input. This is often my reality. Can we be real?

Social media can be a substitute for what our realities actually are. Where are the 420-something "friends" when you are walking through a deep, dark valley? I can count on one hand, maybe two, the friends who are walking with me through my valley times. And there's nothing wrong with that! We need to be careful who we allow into the valley with us. We need to be sure they are people who are encouraging us, speaking positively, and helping us to get out of the valley, not camp there. My point is that we can get unnecessarily lonely when we look at the number of friends or followers we have on social media compared to the number of actual phone calls and visits we get in reality. I know people who have, at times, based their worth on how many followers they have on Twitter and Instagram, or how many "friends" they have on Facebook. That is so sad to me. It's sad because that used to be me. Can we be real?

Where does this need for followers come from? Why do we get so obsessed with the numbers? Why do we compare our friends lists with other people's lists? All of these things lead us down a dangerous path of needing approval, craving attention, feeling rejected or accepted, and for what? And by whom? The only person we need to make sure we're impressing is Jesus Christ. The people who deserve our undivided attention are the ones who live in our home with us. Our spouses and our children. Too often, social media takes the place of spending real, quality time with the ones who are actually craving our attention. Our true followers. Our biggest fans. They are the ones who would rather spend time snuggling with you and a book, not you and your smart phone. Can we be real?

I got a serious wake-up call a few months ago when my youngest daughter said to my oldest daughter, "I really want to play a game with Mommy, but I know she won't stop looking at her phone. So, maybe we can just play later. I know her phone is more important." Oh. My. Gosh. I was wrecked. I thought, "Of course my phone isn't more important than playing a game with my child! I'm just crushing candy to take my mind off my legs feeling like they're being crushed!" But, that's not what my daughter thought. I am still guilty of spending too much time on my phone, but I have gotten much better since that day and am determined to get even better. Maybe to the point of not even touching my phone, with the exception of answering a necessary phone call, until after the kids are in bed. Better yet, until the next morning once my husband and kids are gone for the day. Candy crushing can wait. Tweeting can wait. Selfies can most certainly wait. Surfing my timeline can wait. There is no excuse I can give that will make my daughter change her mind about me and my phone. I have to show her with actions. Love acts. Love shows. Love proves. Can we be real?

What if we were real? What if the picture we paint isn't all sunny and full of flowers? I've tried my best to show my real side on my Facebook page. But there's only so much I want to share about my reality. I want to maintain a positive attitude and outlook that will be a blessing to others, not just one more sob story on someone's timeline. Not everyone needs to know everything you're going through. But that is why social media frustrates me so much! There are times when I really do want to be real. I want to say, "I'm really lonely. Open for visitors!" I want to explain more details of what I'm dealing with so that people will understand why I physically haven't been to church in a month. I want to share our parenting challenges in raising a child who suffers every day. And maybe I will. Maybe I can be real and still keep it positive. After all, my true reality is that Jesus is my source. He walks with me every day. There is always something to be thankful for, even in the dark valleys.

I will continue to ask for prayer when I need it. I will continue to post things that I hope will encourage people. I will continue to share my heart, my songs, some pictures, and my blog posts. But my attitude toward social media has changed. I want it to be the right kind of vehicle for the right kind of purpose. If it's not enhancing my life, if it's taking away quality time from God and my family, if it's threatening to trap me in depression or loneliness because I wish I could insert myself into the pictures I'm looking at, or making me desire to impress people, then it's not worth it. My value is found in Jesus.

I will end by saying that social media is not all bad. I've reconnected with many good friends from my past. I've strengthened relationships with people I thought I'd never talk to again. I've gained a lot of new, truly wonderful friends. I am able to keep in touch with my friends and family all over the country. That's why it's a love/hate thing for me. I love it for so many reasons and I hate it for even more reasons. However, I think it's where the future of communication is headed. I don't want to be a hermit. I just want to be sure that my priorities are in the right place. So, I've been real with you tonight. I've shared my opinion. The beauty of these "platforms" is that you never know who you're really talking to. I hope that those reading this will hear my heart on the subject. I pray that we would all just be a little more real. Make a phone call, send a card, show up with flowers. You know, like we did "back in the day." Can we be real? I think we can.

Love, Tracie

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"The Healing Project"

It's been a couple months since my last post. Much has been going on with my family, both immediate and extended, and also with me. It's been a bit overwhelming at times and I'm really tired. Like, really tired. I think there are different levels of tiredness. You can be physically tired, mentally tired, emotionally tired, and spiritually tired... just usually not all at the same time. I have hit a level of tiredness that encompasses all of those things, and even more it seems. I thank God that he has made me aware of this because when I am this exhausted, in every area I mentioned above, it makes me vulnerable to my enemy.

I don't want to be the "someone" my enemy is looking to devour. As it says in 1 Peter 5:8, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." No way am I going to become food for his dinner plate tonight. I may feel chewed up and spit back out already, but as long as I have air in my lungs I can fight and believe for the dreams that seem impossible from this vantage point. More importantly, I know Who is fighting for me...and I've finally learned to let him. I also know that not a single Word that comes from Him will return to him void. Every promise He has spoken to me, every promise he has given each of us as His children will come to pass. No matter what our enemy throws at us, we already have the victory through Jesus.

What I do when I am this tired is be still and know that He is God. I stop freaking out a lot sooner than I used to, put down my weak, human weapons and pick up the most important weapon I have... The Word of God.

Hebrews 4:12 - For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

I'm a pretty stubborn person. Kind of like the Israelites when they were wandering in the desert. If they would have just learned how to trust God the first time with no hesitation, grumbling, or complaining, they would have seen their promised land a lot sooner. God has revealed to me that I have done the same thing in my life in regards to one specific area. He has spoken to me many times about it over the last ten years or so, and I have finally done what he's asked me to do. I wrote eleven songs and, with the help of an incredibly talented dear friend, recorded nine of them last week, creating my first "raw" album. It's called, "The Healing Project." This has been a dream of mine since I was in high school and it feels amazing to have finally accomplished it.

As much as I wish I could have done this sooner, I had to go through a tremendous amount of suffering in order to birth these songs that God put in my heart. The songs tell my story. They tell of the incredible faithfulness of God. They come straight from my heart. As much as I want to hang on to them until they're "perfect", I believe I'm supposed to begin sharing them in their raw, unedited form. Of course, I will be working to find other musicians to add to the project, and a studio to record them professionally. But, I have no idea how long it will take to pull all of that together. God is asking me to humble myself completely and just start sharing them. This makes the perfectionist in me want to rise up and throw the biggest, pouting tantrum you've ever seen. But this project was never about me in the first place. It's about bringing glory to the God I love with my whole being.

So, with that being said, I'd like to introduce you to one of my songs. It's called "Carry You." I wrote this song at 5:00am during a time when I felt like I couldn't take another step. And yet, as I began to write, I felt faith rise up inside of me that no matter what season of life I'm in, I can choose to let Jesus carry me through it. Most of this album was recorded lying down with my swollen feet propped up, crying my way through it. Seriously. The glamorous visions I had in my head of the day I finally recorded my first album faded really quickly. But, what happened during the recording was miraculous. It was healing, and it was restoring. So, rest well tonight my friends. Let Him carry you. He will carry you... Click here to listen to "Carry You."

Love,

Tracie

Monday, April 7, 2014

In The Vine

I have had many opportunities in my life to wonder whether or not Jesus is real. But, I've had even more opportunities to see him at work in my life, and the life of others, so I have come to a place of total belief and trust in him. However, this place of trust didn't just happen overnight. In fact, it's still being developed every day. I don't think I will ever "arrive" at a perfect place of trust because every day brings new challenges, new reasons to doubt, new reasons to wonder about life and my purpose here. Trusting Jesus doesn't just happen magically. It happens by our own choosing.

Every day we have an opportunity to trust Jesus, or not. We decide. We choose which voice we're going to listen to, and who we're going to trust when we're up against a wall. We have a choice between putting our trust in Jesus, ourselves, or someone else. We have a choice to believe what Jesus says about us, what the enemy whispers in our ear, or even what we say negatively about ourselves. Unfortunately, trust building usually requires suffering of some kind. If we never suffered or faced difficulties, we would have no need of a Savior. If we could do it all on our own and save ourselves, then there would have been no need for Jesus to go the cross.

As much as I don't like suffering, I do like what it's producing in my life. I'm starting to see the fruits of putting my trust completely in Jesus. I'm seeing the effects of remaining in Jesus, and him remaining in me.

In John 15:1-8, Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

He wasn't kidding when he said, "Apart from me you can do nothing." I've tried doing life in my own strength. I've tried it "off the vine" so to speak. Not only does it not work, but it's very painful. We must remain in the vine if we are to make it through this life with our minds, bodies, and souls in tact. And not just in tact, but living abundant and fruitful lives! And able to share the love of Jesus with the world! We must trust the true vine (Jesus) and the gardener (God) to do their most excellent work in our lives. Pruning hurts, but it's purpose is to promote growth. I'd rather endure the temporary pain of being pruned than choose to live apart from the vine and become a dried up withered branch that gets thrown into the fire and burned.

Everything I've gone through, everything I'm going through, and everything I'm going to go through in the future is already known by the Master Gardener. He knows what must be pruned in order for His will to be done in my life. I trust every day that he is in control even when, in my flesh, I feel like my whole world is out of control. That's why I said that trust is a continual process. 

I've been reading Sheila Walsh's new book, "The Storm Inside." It's been amazing so far. I highly recommend it. In the first chapter, she talks a lot about disappointment. Not just disappointment in people, but feeling disappointed with God. She said a few things that really stuck out to me and I'll leave you with them...

"Truth is like a lighthouse on a stormy, pitch-black night that steers us clear of the feelings that would wreck us."

"While walking through a dark season, if we attempt to navigate our lives by what we feel, we will run aground onto the rocks. We must navigate by what we know is true no matter what we feel."

"My emotions can change in a moment, but God's Word is rock solid, so I am learning to drag my emotions in line with what is always true, not just what might feel true for a moment." 

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. ~ Romans 5:3-5