Four flights of stairs…

Today I went swimming with my kids, which seemed like a pretty regular thing to do. Though I have discovered there are no regular days, just unimaginative unappreciated living, I myself am guilty of often. I was on my 3rd time down the slide, when I noticed a group of special needs young adults, handing out high fives to several workers with full smiles and full excitement on their faces. I watched amazed at the love and grace these beautiful people showed one another. In this moment I was not sure what it was I was witnessing, but I could not keep my eyes off of any of them.

I watched as they tried to get one teen boy to let go and cascade down the slide. It took three of them, to finally convince him he could do it and oh how they cheered and hollered, as he splashed with such a sense of completion on his face. Mmmm, these people were amazing – did I mention I could have sat and watched them all day? I was just in awe of the sweet care and heart of God they showed to those we tend to overlook.

Just as I thought the bar could be raised no higher and my heart could be moved no deeper, I watched as one of them took it to a whole other level. I had watched this worker float around the lazy river with a boy who had pail skin, engaged eyes, dark brown hair and who looked about 14. He could not move his legs or arms but his eyes clearly showed he was enjoying himself. I watched this worker diligently pull the boy out of the water, set him gently on the side and carefully step around him. He  literally was being the boys hands and feet all while saying very sweetly, ” okay, okay.” It was so precious to watch.

Finally he leaned over, scooped up that sweet teen, turned with a look of dedication and to my surprise carried him up four flights of stairs. I thought to myself, is he going to take him down the slide? Yes, he was! He placed that precious baby in between his legs, secured his grip around his chest, signaled his buddy below to be ready to make sure he was safe and pushed off down the slide. I can’t tell you if the boy smiled or not down the slide, for sure I watched, but he had no expression. At this point I was fighting back tears at the raw passion I had just witnessed. And I knew in that moment that God smiled and my heart new that it had just witnessed more Jesus than I had seen in a long time. He went the extra mile just so this boy cold feel the rush of the water on his skin and touch normality without so called limits. Those workers loved with all their hearts the sheep that God had placed in front of them. I knew God had counted them faithful and man was it beautifully drenched in everything inspiring.

I resisted the temptation to hug each of them (which was hard for me) and tell them what a difference they were making and apologize that no one would every really notice it much. I stopped myself, because deep down I knew they already knew that and did it anyway, not because they had to but because they wanted to. Not because these kids would fill their pockets with money but because it filled their hearts with everything that really mattered. I watched them, I saw them interact, I saw the skip they had in their step. I saw willing hearts rung out with gusto and passion. They knew how to empty out their love lavishly, on those kids and I knew that’s how their hearts got so full in the first place.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Looking around today I am full of words and thoughts of faithfulness. If I choose to see it, it steps up and surprises me in ways I have overlooked for days. I see His faithfulness in so many ways, yet I can count Him unfaithful within myself with surprising fickleness.

I see God’s faithfulness in my marriage, when I stood in that white dress looking at that amazing man and thinking to myself, “what in the hell am I doing, I am going to ruin his life!” In that moment I felt God’s hand on the small of my back and His sweet voice whisper, “trust me!” I sighed deep and said, “okay here we go!?” I need you to know that really happened, that is the exact conversation Jesus and I had before I walked to that beautiful man. He was crying and I thought, ” if I were you I would be crying to, you have no idea what you are getting into to!”Lol! Ahh you guys, God has been faithful!

I see God’s faithfulness in the birds, promising me that His eye is on the sparrow and I do know He watches me. The birds fly with ease and trust knowing what they need, not always what they want, but what they need, will be provided. I see His faithfulness in His word, giving me what I need and what I will need, in precious words that live and come alive everyday.

I still blink with surprise that my performance does not dictate His presence, oh how I want it to. I want to be what I perceive as perfect all day and then because of my precious attempt at perfection, He shows up accordingly. I love that He continually reminds me that grace is a gift, forgiveness is a gift, His son is a gift. I must repeat to myself daily that He can not be bought, won or manipulated. He is a free gift, I only have to choose to receive Him. More of Him in my life leads to less of the stinky me. He melts down the bad with His good. He runs the warm water of life over my cold heart and shapes me into who I have always longed to be!

He sets before you life or death…. choose life. Choose life in your church, don’t be that person that runs around and finds everything wrong in your church. Help be apart of the answer, ask God how you can help be a solution. Be a blessing to your pastors, stop judging them and pointing out there flaws and start helping them fight the battle, maybe bring them a meal or say an encouraging word! Stop expecting them to be your only answer and seek the one yourself that has all the answers. Stop expecting them to be the only ones who pray for you and actually stop and pray for them every once an awhile! Sometimes, we expect others to do things for us we ourselves aren’t even willing to do for them.

I set before you life or death… choose life.

In your wife, in your husband, in your home, in your finances, in yourself, in your words, in your friendships, in your family, in your kids and in your future.

I hope you don’t feel like I am lecturing you today, these are the things I am reminding myself of. I went for a walk today and started out praying to God and telling him everything in my head. I felt Him stop me midway and say, “Gina, just tell me what you are thankful for, tell me how I have been faithful!” Man, I will tell you that the moment I started expressing His goodness, everything in me shifted. When I stopped to remember His faithfulness, I was all of the sudden thankful, excited and back in focus!

How has He been faithful to you? Take the time today to recount His faithfulness. He is faithful, but if you don’t choose to see it my friend -you might miss it.

There is a song I played at my wedding that I love. It always puts my heart in the right place and reminds me of God’s goodness it is called, “Great is thy faithfulness.” Just take 2 minutes to read the words-it will bless you, I promise.

Morning by morning I wake up to find
The power and comfort of God’s hand in mine
Season by season I watch Him, amazed
In awe of the mystery of His perfect ways
All I have need of, His hand will provide
He’s always been faithful to me.

I can’t remember a trial or a pain
He did not recycle to bring me gain
I can’t remember one single regret
In serving God only, and trusting His hand
All I have need of, His hand will provide
He’s always been faithful to me.

This is my anthem, this is my song
The theme of the stories I’ve heard for so long
God has been faithful, He will be again
His loving compassion, it knows no end
All I have need of, His hand will provide
He’s always been faithful, He’s always been faithful
He’s always been faithful to me.

 

 

 

 

Lilacs

Well, I find myself fighting with these 10 pounds, it goes up then down up then down and well I want to punch it in the face. I have started running a little trying to get my foot back in working order again. The lilacs on my tree outside have bloomed and the smell always reminds me of Omaha. My five year old is in my room watching cartoons and I am afraid I let him do that to much at times. I have had my coffee this morning, a ham sandwich and my prayer time. Me and my little guy are headed to a park to play for a bit and then I have a massage at 2:30 and a chiropractic appointment.

I am watching the trash guy go around to each house and it just dawned on me that I am not sure if we stuck ours out. Just checked it, all I have to say is Jon is a good man.; ) Its Monday and I find myself slow and thoughtful today with not much agitating me at the moment. Jon is out golfing, I have never seen a man get blessed with so much free golf. God definitely knows his love language but I am happy for him. As I look around the house I see lots of little things that need to be taken care of. The front windows have little sticky hand prints all over them from the kids taking the “Dukes of Hazard” way into the house. The sink is full of dishes from the huge batch of brownies my oldest made for her class auction today. I have tried to get brownies to come out that thick and moist for 13 yrs and she seemed to have mastered it in one try. That child is amazing.

I have few plans for the day and I like that. I have yet to get dressed or brush my teeth and I find myself lost in this comfy lime green chair. My goal today is to make my little one laugh and see the adventure all around him. To capture the sweet smell of lilacs blooming in my backyard and bring them to my dining room table. My goal is to clean up some of the little details that keep this place running smoothly and to purposefully leave some messes untouched. So this is what a sabbath feels like?

Tomorrow is a busy day, but today is soft, sweet, quiet and cozy. Just a day to look around at small things, a day to rest my mind and rejuvenate, a day to walk and not run. A day to breathe in… Today!

Yesterday is History

Tomorrow is a mystery…

today is a gift!   -Eleanor Roosevelt

Birds of Freedom

I have thought a lot about freedom in the last couple of months. What true freedom is. What true freedom feels like. What keeps freedom alive in a world that chains us to expectations. I thought freedom looked like the time in my life when I didn’t have to depend on anyone. Freedom was a need to answer to no one and owe nothing an explanation. Freedom was a flight pattern with only my needs in mind. Freedom was looking forward with no intention or need for a review mirror.

I was wrong.  Almost three years ago I felt impressed in my heart to do a program we offered at our church. I didn’t want to do it. I knew it lasted a year, I knew you had to dig up your past and I knew it was not for the faint of heart. They call it the step study, which is a program put together by Celebrate Recovery. At the time, the leaders of this group were underneath the pastoral covering of my husband. So when it was put into my mind I figured that was the reason I would attend, so I had a good educational grasp on what went on in the groups. I laugh now at how prideful that thought was and realize that God was wanting to uproot the garden of my life to bring exactly that, LIFE where death had been planted.

The program they say is for hurts, habits and hangups but sticking with my theme of being painfully honest, I felt I was too good for it. I thought to myself, “Isn’t that program for alcohol and drug abuse and I mean ya, I have done that before, way in the past, but not anymore so why do I need it?” To make a long story short, I never knew that opening a dark room and letting light sit and settle on unopened issues could be so freeing. Instead of jumping over past hurts, I was forced to marinate in them and look at the effect they had on me then and now.

Wow, you want to talk about eye opening. I remember one time feeling so good about myself as they were talking about friendships. I couldn’t wait for my turn to talk so I could express how many beautiful trusted friends I had. As I sat there and listened, I started listing those friends in my head, like lighting it struck me that each one of the names listed had been my friend for over 10yrs. I sat there knowing that this epiphany revealed my real issues of trust and loyalty. Basically it took me a ridiculously long time of watching, seeing and testing to count someone trustworthy and to give them an upfront seat to my life. I had different revelations like this at least once a week while meticulously looking through my junk.

It took a year to complete. A year of searching. A year of honesty.  A year to stop blaming and to start owning. A year to unlock chains that I couldn’t see in the dark. I was left with grace, compassion for me and others, courage to leave no stone unturned and more self respect than I ever thought possible. Our group started with 23 women and five of us finished. I will be honest and say that there are few things in life I am more proud of or thankful for. It truly was the gift that keeps on giving. It has been three years since I took a year to unravel the hidden inner knots and I stand before you with freedom in places that I never knew the wind could touch.

I have had the privileged over this last year to lead 6 beautiful women through a step study. I have never been so inspired, excited or humbled to be a part of someone’s process. Having said all that and still contemplating the question, what does freedom look like.. Here is my take.

Freedom is compassion released from the grace you have so beautifully received. It is unlocking the hurt, dusting off your wings and letting that dirt show itself powerless. It is opening the door to your gold cage and letting the wind of change hit your hopeful face. Freedom is stepping out on the ledge of life and trusting that the process of Christ’s forgiveness is more than enough for you. It is gulping past fear and jumping into flight. Freedom is trusting the Lord’s sweet encouraging voice that gently whispers, “Fly!”

The true magnificence of freedom is it’s longing for others to experience it’s wonder. When freedom really settles deep into the marrow of your soul it screams and cries out for others. Freedom is at its finest when, in mid flight, it turns back without hesitation to release those still caged in. When your heart is no longer satisfied with it’s own flight and has to pour out it’s fuel so others can soar, that’s when freedom cries out victory! True freedom must be shared, must be spread and must help set the captives free!

“The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.”  – Gordon B. Hinckley

Freedom is earned deep inside leaning on the flashlight lit by courage

It courageously steps into the rooms of darkness and reveals itself without hesitation                                       It pleads for air and attention                                        oozing into everything alive                                           Freedom fights to breathe                                            It fights to soar                                                             It fights to feel                                                              It fights with passion                                                       to fly…    -Gina Horner

 

 

Your breath stinks!

A couple years ago I came to a event night for our youth group. I was there to make signs with a couple of the students and leaders. I had been in hurry, got dressed, stopped picked up a salad and hurried into the church. I spent an hour with my leaders making signs and talking.  I passed my husband on my way up the stairs and he was on his way down, he walked passed me, looked at me strange and yelled out, “babe you have a head a lettuce in your teeth!?” Yep, you guessed it, I had spent a whole hour with all of my leaders and not one of them felt it necessary to tell me that I had a piece of lettuce covering up three of my front teeth! Now, it would have been nicer if Jon could have whispered that in my ear instead of yelling it down the stairs but I sure was thankful someone stepped out and told me.

When my middle child was little she would try and try at things to the point of frustration. We would have to hold ourselves back from helping her. We would hear her yelling at her shoes, “Shoes get on my feet!” We would sit quietly until she  eventually walked over frustrated beyond words. I would then look her in the eye and say, “Sweetie what do you need?” She, knowing the routine would with relief say, “I need help.” I would cheerfully get up and say, “Sure sweetie!”

I am reminded of this all the time when I am struggling with something. When I am laying in bed worrying about things or I am complaining about not knowing how to do something. We find ourselves in all kinds of situations struggling, pushing and defeated because we are too prideful to say to God or a friend, ” I need help!” I was reading this bible verse yesterday in Proverbs

The way of fools seems right to them,
    but the wise listen to advice.

I realized that to listen to advice means you would have to ask for it in the first place. Imagine that. One of the best things I have ever done in my life for myself is found women around me that I look up to- maybe in the way they parent, maybe in their marriage, maybe in their friendships, and sometimes just because I like the way they do life and asked them to pour into me. I know I can sound like a bit of a broken record about this issue but you need mentors in your life!

I need mentors in my life and I am always looking for new ones to add who can teach me something new about life, love or God. Are you not sure where to look? Look at your neighbors. I have a women down the street from me who is in her 70′s. She is amazing and loves the Lord. I have challenged myself within the next week to ask her to meet with me at least once a month so I can glean from her wisdom. Get involved in a bible study or reading group at your local church. You are bound to see someone there you can learn from. As the saying goes when the student is ready the teacher appears!

Just in general I am learning that being open and teachable has changed the way I look at everyone around me. I pay closer attention to the people I meet. I ask more detailed questions. When I am with friends, I look for how they handle things, any new ideas they are trying and see if that might be helpful for me. Truth is the goodness of God is all around us shinning in beautiful, unique ways and I love seeing parts of Him sparkle and reflect off others.

I have found that being teachable also makes me more excepting of correction. When we allow people into our lives and it is a real relationship with mutual respect, truth tends to come out. Not only do I find that correction is happening but I am also finding that I long for it. The correction and discipline of God in my life is probably one of my favorite things about Him. I remember explaining to my girls last week that if they didn’t keep their drawers organized, “You two will not know what you do and don’t have!” I then walked into my room and heard the Lord impress on my heart, “Gina your drawers aren’t organized either!” I laughed out loud in my bedroom and welcomed the correction knowing that I have to lead by example first and that God was only trying to help me parent without hypocrisy. : )

Last week I sent a text out to my girlfriends asking them to pray for my foot since it was hurting. I received prayers and encouragement and I was very thankful. One friend who knows me well sent me a long text that shot right to the heart of the issue. She started out by saying she didn’t want to offend me but wanted to make sure I was not going too hard (since I have a pattern of that) in my work outs and basically told me to, “Calm down crazy!”  After I finished reading the text I set my phone down smiled and could have honestly drove to her house and hugged her. That is what I am talking about! I wrote back and told her how refreshing her text was and that she was right.

So here is what I know. I want people in my life who aren’t afraid to tell me the truth. Look around for me at the people you do life with and ask yourself, “If my armpits smelled, would they let me know? If my breath was four steps from deaths door, would they offer me a much needed mint and not let me refuse it?” I get it, we all want to be uplifted and encouraged but if people can’t be real with you I have to wonder how real your friendships are. The bible says that the wounds from a friend can be trusted. Do you allow this in your life or do you only allow yourself to get offended when someone you love corrects you. Honesty keeps us real in a world full of pretend. You will harm yourself and your walk through life if you only surround yourself with sunshine shooters, every now and then you need a friend to shed some light on your dark spots.

You don’t want them to end up like some of those poor souls on American Idol. You know what I am talking about, the ones who tell you all about how there friends and family supported their dream to sing. When it is finally their time to shine they sound like a laughing hyena who just got slapped with a pole in the face. All I want to to do at that moment is find their parents and friends and say three words of disappointment to them, “Shame on you!” lol!

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. Prov 26

Life Application Bible says something worth thinking about on this matter. It reads:

“Who would prefer a friend’s wounds to an enemy’s kisses? It would be anyone who considers the source. A friend who has your best interests at heart may have to give you unpleasant advice at times, but you know it is for your own good. An enemy, by contrast, may whisper sweet words and happily send you on your way to ruin. We tend to hear what we want to hear, even if an enemy is the only one who will say it. A friend’s advice, no matter how painful, is much better.”

 

 

Kit Kat

Well, its official I have lost 10 pounds! I sit here typing to you at my kitchen table and it is so sticky that my palm keeps getting stuck to the edge of my table. I am guessing it is Jelly, from my little one who eats about 3 peanut butter and jelly sandwich’s a day, oh well!? It is overcast here today with a chance of rain and I love the way it smells outside. The mountains are barely visible due to a couple clouds who just got tired of holding themselves up, so they fell. The sky around me looks as if it could break down any minute and shower us with tears of expectation.

Yesterday we spent the day at my oldest girls track meet. We had loaded up lunches, slathered on sunscreen and in the craziness of it all I forgot to give my little guy breakfast. So like the perfect parent I am, he had a bag of goldfish and a fruit punch Gatorade. I know I know preservatives and red dyes are all in that stuff. Which if you find sensitivities to those things then by all means do what’s necessary and I think that is great, but in my case I read the book “what you don’t know could be killing you” and came to the conclusion that everything is killing me. If I am honest though sometimes it’s the crazy expectations on moms to be perfect parents that is truly killing people. I gave up on trying to be what peoples idea of the perfect mom is years ago and so far so good! Though sometimes I will get a glare or two when my youngest boy pee’s on the tire. I have Jon to thank for that. Watching a dad with his boy is a hilarious thing and for some reason peeing on the tire seems to be a right of passage, seeing the smile on Jon’s face when it happens makes it all worth it.

Much love to all of you can afford to give them only organic, use no preservatives in everything, hand wash all your clothes, make your own wipes, clean the house with lemon juice, sew, can all your food and recycle your toilet paper (that last one was a joke) I tried to do several of those things and ended up with a funny smelling house, really ugly pillows and nasty tasting food. I love it when I see someone who excels in those areas. Good for you, as long as you stay upbeat towards those of us who don’t.

I will share a couple of my hilarious parenting secrets with you-

I turn the clocks an hour ahead at least twice a month so that bed time comes earlier. (this works better in the winter due to the fact that it gets darker sooner)

I hide my delicious treats from Costco in a Safeway bag in the freezer, so they can’t see them and enjoy my little chocolate covered bananas after they are in bed.

I relish going to the movies by myself, simply because I don’t have to share my pop or popcorn with anyone.

In my quest to be alone, talk about birthday gifts or just have an adult conversation, I have locked myself in my car and watched them play around me while I am on the phone. This happened yesterday while on the phone with my mom. I was in there talking to her for about 5 min when I blurted out loud, “I have been found!” We had a good laugh.

Maybe some of these things sound selfish to you but I think they happen simply because of how unselfish parenting is. Don’t worry, I promise not to address parenting in every blog I write but sometimes I want to yell to moms, “Settle down!” Put down the good housekeeping magazine, lay down the vacuum and go eat some gushers. Those things are delicious and after having a package I now see why kids want them! By all means I am not saying to give them only junk food and not make healthy choices. I am saying that some of us can become so obsessed with what we think the perfect parent should be doing, that we miss the fun of being a parent all together.

All I am saying is give yourself a break, a hug or even a pat on the back. You are raising human beings for goodness sake! I think that deserves a Kit Kat! Don’t you? I see so many of you walking around the grocery store with little ones in a daze and if I could I would hug you and tell you to keep up the good work! I am moving into a different season now but I will never forget the crazy, tiring, exhausting, beautiful, constant, delirious and hilarious days with little ones. Just wanted to stop and tell you that what you do matters and every time you change a diaper, wipe a booger, nurse a fever, kiss a boo boo, hide in the car, fill a bottle or make a snack, God see’s your loving work and whispers, “Thank you!”

As I was sitting here my oldest and middle girls just got in a fight, this is how it went down. Middle came up stairs in my oldest socks. Oldest got mad and said, “Stop using my socks!” Middle says, “Why can’t I wear them?” Oldest proclaims, “Because they are mine!” It grows scary quiet in the room and my oldest has disappeared. A couple minutes later my oldest appears from downstairs wearing my middles favorite fluorescent shirt with a pleased smile on her face. My middle child blurts out, “Hey that’s my shirt,” to which the oldest replies, “Yep and those are my socks!” This is when I butt in with all my infinite wisdom, “Take the shirt and the socks off right now both of you, this is not how we are starting our day!” I have to admit that I wanted to laugh when my oldest walked up the stairs with a look of pure satisfaction, thinking she had made her point. It all ended with a sit down talk and some boundaries being set and of course a few “I am sorry’s.” Mornings like this make me want to yell out, “Good Morning!” : )

“What it’s like to be a parent: It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do but in exchange it teaches you the meaning of unconditional love.”
― N.S.

 

 

 

Nothing

I have sat down and tried to write several times today. Nothing good has come of it. I look at it like this, I have written for like 35 days in a row now. Some people can’t even come up with one good Facebook post a week. So, I am not going to sweat it or write something just to write. In my opinion, that is like eating a Hot pocket for dinner. You could eat it, but why on earth would you? Lol! Love to you all!

Gracias!

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

While I was touring my favorite cemetery recently I noticed a grave with big bold letters that read DRINKWATER. I laughed out loud and said, “Okay Lord, I hear you, you can’t get more blatant than that!” I could excuse that sign and tell myself that it is just someone’s last name but why would I do that? I know my God too well to take Him for granted in small things. So, I am making a genuine effort to drink more water.

Here are a few things I have been noticing that have blessed me, things I find I am thankful for.

I love the fact that just by watching a mom you can tell if the child standing in front of her is her first or fourth. The other day at the recital I told you there was a little girl on the floor next to me who was putting chap stick all over her face. I was laughing and told the mom, who I know, what she was doing, the mom laughed and said, “I know she is just smearing it all over her face?” I laughed and said, “Yep but she is entertained and quiet.” She replied quickly, “exactly!” I don’t have to tell you that that little girl is her fourth child. Right now I am watching my youngest play in a play place, there is one mom in there who is following her child around everywhere, I don’t have to ask her if it’s her first. ;)

I love watching couples interact as they tell stories about each other. Whenever one is talking I watch the one who isn’t, to see how they respond. I love that two people can be in the exact situation and see things totally different. I love that God at times places two totally opposite people together so they can sharpen each other and even out the edges. I love it even more when I see couples who can laugh about those differences and roll their eyes at one another in secret delight.

I love the hum of my house in the morning. I love how my oldest shuffles her feet and thoughtfully wakes herself up. I love how she pretends to not want me to hug her but reluctantly melts in my arms the moment I embrace her. My baby girl wakes up singing and goes straight for breakfast. She never waits around for my hug. She grabs it with every ounce of energy she has and drinks it in. My little guy takes simple joy in just being noticed. He walks up the stairs with confidence on his lips proclaiming, “I waked up.” Now that he is a little older he says, ” I woke up!” to which I always excitedly reply, “You did!?”

I love the look on my husbands face every time we see each other in public. He stairs at me with eyes that say, “If you weren’t my wife… I would ask you out right now!” I love the way he puts his arm around me at church, hitting me in the forehead every time his arm goes behind me and then again on the back of the head when he pulls it back in front. He has done this a million times, but it always makes us laugh. Though at this point I think he does it on purpose. I love the way his arm feels around my waist, telling me without words that he is mine and I am his. He is all things deep and controlled with a patience God knew he would need. : )

Please know that life can be hard and I know and see that reality often. I am discovering however, that finding the good in things is definitely worth the challenge. I will admit that some days the effort comes easier than others. I guess I figure, if I am going to put my effort into something, why not choose to be thankful instead of ungrateful.

There was a time in my life when I needed things to make me happy. When I defined myself by my house, my title and paycheck but I am slowly learning that these things have no hold on happiness. I am however discovering that it is the real relationships in my life that bless my soul. A call from a friend who just wants to pray with me, a laugh with a family member, a walk with my love or a laugh with my kiddos. I am not trying to say that money doesn’t make me smile real big at times, I am however saying that it doesn’t create unforgettable moments when I just want to inhale my life.

Today I sat outside on my porch with my coffee and read a book that challenged me to movement. I sat there in total peace and let the sun kiss and touch my skin with its generous heat. The wind was blowing ever so gently and the birds where chirping their prophecy of spring. I wondered how many times I had sat on this very porch in the exact situation and missed the moment to say, “Thank you!” Today I was thankful that I cherished the moment. Not just because it was so intrinsically beautiful but also because it simply meant that I am growing in gratitude.

Proverbs 15:15- For the person with a cheerful heart, life is a continual banquet.

May you feast upon the simple things in your everyday life that make the small moments come alive!

 

 

love at work

My body stopped me this week, it sent little signs to tell me that it needed a break. I heard its pleas for rest but I ignored them and ran anyway. To make a long story short, I ended up half way around a little lake calling my husband to come pick me up. I sat down on the curb, laid my foot on top of my left foot, and waited. It always stinks when you realize that you are in a situation that you could have avoided. I even sneaked out to run when Jon was at the park with the kids cause I knew he would tell me not to. So as I was waiting for him to come get me, I sat quietly on the curb of regret, ready to eat a big piece of huge humble pie.  For some reason when ever I get injured, I go back to this state of panic like I am in high school or college and have a meet on Saturday that I am going to miss. I have to laugh, it’s like okay Gina no need to panic you can still vacuum and do the dishes with this injury! lol!

To make matters worse we had tickets that night at Red Rocks and if you have ever been there you know that it is a hike. My oldest had an instrument recital at school staring in an hour, so I was hobbling around the house trying to get ready for that. Now, I am not going to lie to you, I do not appreciate choir or instrument concerts. I know some of your faces just fell, but it is my truth. They are incredibly long and tedious and sometimes someone is standing right in front of your kid and you can see only their left side sticking out. I have to pump myself up with little treats, for instance: “It’s okay Gina, you can stop and get a coffee to enjoy while you’re there” or ” It’s okay maybe there will be a couple of kids acting naughty on the stands and you and Jon can laugh and take video!” Last time there was a little girl who kept twirling and singing really loud, she made my whole night.  I almost wanted to thank her and her parents.

This concert was different. This was a talent show and I enjoyed every drop of it. I loved watching these little pumpkins hold their instruments and wait for their turn to shine. If you know me, I love to watch people. I love to watch how they approach things, how they react and how they communicate. If you have ever seen me do this, you know I will create whole scenarios in my head as to what is really going on in their lives. I love social experiments. At church, in our staff meetings, I would set up chairs in a circle, sit down in the smallest chair and wait and watch to see people pick where to sit, why and how. Its crazy, but this process reveals a lot about a person and I love the inter workings of people. You can learn so much about a person just by watching them interact and react to situations and other people.

You should have seen these parents faces when their baby got up to play, it was magical. I loved watching them whisper a word of encouragement, kiss them or give them some well thought out last minute advice. As their baby sat down on stage to perform, I relished watching their parents shift, nervously chatter to those around them and smile straight ahead just in case their kid were to look up for one last dose of confidence. I saw many of them clap, stand up and saw a few dads cry. I thought to myself how incredibly beautiful, here in this ordinary gym, on these metal chairs, with this little girl next to me who keeps smearing chap-stick all over her face, love is resounding off these walls. I could have stayed there all day.

When is the last time I just sat back and watched love at work? When is the last time I appreciated all the love being poured out all around me? I thought awww Lord this is how you feel when you have instructed, cared for, disciplined and taught us. This is how you feel when you whisper, “It’s time” when the song has been mastered and the practice has ended and it’s time to perform. You sit in heaven next to my Jesus and say, “Aww there she or he is. Aren’t they absolutely wonderful, have you ever seen something so amazing?”  He sends us off with a few encouraging words, kisses us on the forehead and smiles at us when we need it. We sit down nervously to share the gift we have been given. We make mistakes in small places throughout but He only considers how far we have come. As I watched the daddy in front of me slowly wipe tears away as His little girl played piano, I knew without a doubt that God has done the same for me. How beautiful is that?

 

 

The day I stopped fighting.

I was thinking this morning, in my quiet time, about how far God has brought me. I was thinking of my image of myself and my family when I was little. I can’t lie, it wasn’t always bad and I always knew I was loved. When I was 7 my mom remarried a wonderful man and that’s when things got better, at least at home. I was reading the scripture that says, “God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.” That scripture brings me great comfort and it is my absolute joy to watch someone I know turn from darkness to light. I know without a doubt when you live in the gray and everything sacred has lost its color, light can be blinding to your eyes. I resisted the sun for years not really sure how to walk in both worlds.  Until one day the shadows grew overwhelming and my life lost its luster, what was shiny and appealing became meaningless and dull and even diamonds refused to sparkle.

We were lower middle class, my mother worked three jobs after the divorce. My father split to Minneapolis for reasons he doesn’t believe in today. Basically, my mom was left to fend for herself and us. After the last anger outburst that left behind more smears of purple and blue, fear had lost it’s war within my mom and courage reared its head in surprising doses. My mother will always be my hero. My father was asked to leave, locks were changed and I stood and cried through a glass door as my father drove away. A scene I would unfortunately see several times through out my childhood. They say in books that a little girl asks herself, “Am I lovely?” The only person who can answer that question for her is her father. I am sure that this is probably true, but to save the drama of it all, I knew God loved me. I am not really sure how I just always knew Him, loved Him and knew He loved me. I will admit, I did not know a lot about His Son Jesus or His sacrifice for me but I wasn’t interested in going that deep anyway for awhile.

Grade school was hard. My parents split up around kindergarten and I look at my youngest and can’t imagine what that life would have been like for him. My mom did all she could to try and keep life normal, she was such a good mom. I would watch this warrior work her tail off all day, come home make dinner and not eat, and then head to a job at night cleaning offices. I got up in the mornings all alone to a phone call from my poor panicked mother who knew even if she tried with all her heart that things would fall through the cracks. I would watch her panic every school year trying to find me a ride, a place after school and lunch money. I went to school a lot of times dressed just like Madonna, my clothes hung off the shoulder, and I would steal them from my mom’s closet for the day.

My kindergarten year was very emotional and I felt very alone, lost and graspy. I just made that word up, but it describes exactly how you feel when you feel that you have no access to the basic necessities in life.  I just wanted things touchable and untouchable and would grasp at anything. I ended up not paying much attention in kindergarten (go figure) and because of my “attention span” they called it, I was held back. I was handling the divorce, the stressed out mom, the angry brother and the absent dad, but the teasing from other students felt as though the world had tipped and I could fall off any moment. People, I know now, react to this situation in many different ways. I decided to smile, lie, steal and place brick walls wherever I could. I remember walking down the halls in kindergarten the second time and running into my old class. Two girls in particular would point and laugh and ask me, “How’s kindergarten you dummy?” I know each of their names till this day, isn’t that funny how hurts can stick around and slap you right in the face when you least expect it?

I remember walking home each day with a gang of misfits, many I still know till this day. Each of us had something going on in our lives that no one was talking about. Instead of sharing those hurts and woes, we made fun of people and laughed a lot. This type of behavior goes on into adult hood it just wears a prettier package, I call it gossip. You talk badly about someone else and laugh, so that you feel better about yourself. Not so intense when it’s put that simply is it. I watched our group of misfits, as some of our parents became really sick, as some of our brothers became drug addicts, as a few of us went to jail, and as one members brother drowned. It seems in that season of our lives, tragedy had a seat at the dinner table each night, and it was greedy and took over sized helpings.

I got lice three times as a kid and each time it was embarrassing, expensive to treat and another pest that had worked its way into our lives. Sometimes when that many doors are open everything tends to walk through. I remember heading to the salon with my mom to get a trim as I sat down in the chair I saw the lady scoot back several feet, lay down her comb and walk away. She was whispering to the manager and having already had lice two times before that, I knew what they were talking about. To make a long story short we left, and after the third time and another situation that left me feeling dirty, I wasn’t sure if some of the stains on my soul would ever lift. I did life a long time with this uncertainty.

I don’t know why I wanted to write this today, sometimes your heart just types things your mind hasn’t completely thought through and usually that is when you are most honest. I find after re-reading this that I left out so many stories and included a few I haven’t thought of in a long time.

All I know is this, I spent years trying to prove myself, years trying to fit neatly into a box my life seemed destined to bust out of. I did everything I could think of to make sure I never felt the way I felt that year of kindergarten ever again. People would not hurt me, I would hurt them and my face would beam with acceptance while my heart drowned in rejection. Even being Mexican became a source of resentment only further solidifying that I was indeed different. I remember one time sitting at a table with my boyfriend at the time and his family, his mother kept staring at me and I was one second away from asking her, “What in the heck is your problem, besides the fact that my parents don’t have money?” when she finally blurted it out, “So Gina, what are you again, Italian?” I took the long way around the question, “Well thanks for asking, I am Swedish, Norwegian, french, Spanish, and Mexican.” I smiled really big at her and continued eating, she was quiet the rest of the meal. I was mad, but once again smiled it off.

For me the quest for what I thought greatness was became more obsessive with every blow. The harder you hit me, the more I fought. I fought for acceptance, money, happiness, the last word, safety and now I know you can sum that all up to one word, “Control.” I fought for control. I know God must have had a sense of humor when he created me because I will be the first to admit I am a cross between great compassion, insight, thoughtfulness, determination, passion and straight up sass, all of this before and with Jesus.

I know what it feels like to feel last, forgotten, dealt a bad hand, cursed and tired. I just never knew I could feel the total opposite. With God I now know what it feels like to like myself, own the freedom of true forgiveness, feel totally cherished, purposeful, passionate and blessed beyond words. What a difference a day makes? No, what a difference our God makes. I look back on these stories and a hundred other sad situations in my life and feel thankful for them. I look at kids differently because of them, I look at single mom’s differently because of them, and I look at what the world has tossed aside in a person and see great potential. I don’t care how tragic the story and how screwed up the character. The ending awaits a writer willing to shift the words and help rewrite their story.

If you are a christian and your reading this take time to notice those who are hurting, ask God what He sees in them and then work with him to pull out greatness. If you aren’t a Christian then I understand that too. We Christians can make things pretty complicated and weird and I apologize for that, we really do mean well. I can say, that we only want to share with you the one thing that changed everything for us. I have seen many times that we forget to walk beside you and end up pushing you or leaving you behind.

I will have you know, that when it was my time to put down my gloves, take out the mouth guard and leave the competition, I did that for God. I stopped the ring dance for the one who never left my corner, patched up my wounds and carried the water to quench my thirst. Till this day I fight a different battle for God and once again He never leaves my corner. If you ever wanna join me, I am the one with the golden gloves, purple shorts and a red robe that reads, “Daughter of a King.”

I can promise you this, no matter where you have been or what you have done, you my friend are always welcome. Matter of fact, we already have a robe with your name on it. The robe won’t fit over your gloves, so you will have to set those down and stop fighting. Please don’t worry, Jesus will pick them up and fight for you. He is after all the undefeated Heavy weight champion of the world!