Forced to Choose

sorrow-and-worry-692910-mIt’s a choice I never wanted to make. It tore me up, tore my daughter up, and I’m pretty sure, it tore my husband up as well. But when a situation arose where I had to choose between my husband and my child, I knew there was really only one choice I could make. For if I followed my mother’s heart, the one that longs to buffer my child from every pain and surround her with nothing but abundant blessings, I honestly believe I would’ve robbed her of that which blesses her most–parents with a healthy, united marriage.

It was 2012, and my daughter and I were content. Happy. We lived in a great cul-de-sac filled with involved parents and great kids. The kind of neighborhood where parents kidsplayingfelt safe allowing their kids to play outside on late summer nights. We were involved in a growing church, had our hands in meaningful ministries. Our evenings were filled with family dinners, lots of hugs, and plenty of laughter.

Only my husband wasn’t happy. Not fully. Long story short, things outside our home had become toxic, and he was ready for a change. For peace. When his boss offered him a transfer to the corporate offices in Omaha, he saw his chance.

But this chance came at a price. We’d have to sell the home we loved, one we’d spent a great deal of time and money-making our “own”. We’d have to leave our church and the connections we’d made. Worse, we’d have to uproot our high school daughter. Surviving high school is hard enough. Her trying to navigate the inherently awkward halls as a newbie? The thought made me ill.

I’ve seen her weather enough broken friendships, unexpected rejections, and cliques to know this was going to be tough. Painfully tough. I worried about lonely lunches and even lonelier weekends as she waited, and waited, and waited to establish safe, lasting friendships. In fact, I worried myself sick, and prayed for a solution. One that could provide a much-deserved blessing for my precious husband while allowing our daughter to finish high school in Kansas City.

I knew if I complained or fought against it, my husband would stay. Because that’s how he is, always putting others first. But I also knew how much he needed this move, how much he deserved it. And I trusted if I put my husband first, God would bless our daughter for it.

So we went, and I’m pretty sure the summer that followed was the toughest our daughter had ever faced.

And I wondered why? Why did what was good for one have to come at the cost of another?

It didn’t. It just took time for us to catch sight of God’s blessing. Which is what this move has been–a blessing. For all of us. On New Year’s Eve, as I listened to giggles rising from a basement of teens, I thought back to our move and all God has done since078. God has returned to us all we lost in Kansas City triplefold. And our daughter? She didn’t really lose anything. Her truest friends held on, and they remain close to this day. But now she has many more friends to add to her circle. Great friends. Christ-centered friends.

In short, this move turned out to be exactly what our daughter needed.

Because when we do things God’s way, everyone wins.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this.

But… before we do, I want to invite you to pop on over to a new blog I joined with some of my sweet writer friends, Faith-filled Friends. We started this blog so we’d have a place to talk about our books, our characters, our fun research outings, and all the other things that make us smile. This month, we’re hosting a launch give-away. Join the conversation and get entered into the drawing for some great books and precious jewelry. 🙂 And make sure to subscribe, because you never know when there’ll be other gift baskets to win.

Then, join the conversation at Living by Grace as we chat about making difficult choices. Can you relate? Have you ever felt as if God were asking you to choose between a child and your spouse? If so, what did you do, and what was the result? Why do you believe it’s imperative, not just for us, but for our children as well, to put our marriage first?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

Invoice or Love Letter

Wow, it’s been a loooooong time since I’ve updated this blog. I apologize. We’ve been moving–yes, again. Only a short distance this time–down the street. (Long, boring story that has nothing to do with today’s post. 😉 ) But with moving comes packing, fence and deck painting, unpacking, cleaning, and more cleaning. Did I mention cleaning? 😉 And amidst it all, I’ve had my share of crabby days … this morning being one of them … when the garage door repairman tracked black oil across our tan carpet. Oy! Now if ever I needed to pause and pray that my head didn’t instantly explode (creating yet another mess to clean), that was it.

Funny God arranged for this post today, well before my need arose. 😉

Invoice or Love Letter by Cheri Swalwell

“Dear Heavenly Father, Your Word tells me that I am a letter being read by everyone. I pray that I won’t be junk mail today. I pray that I won’t be like a bill making people feel like they owe me. I pray that I will be a love letter, a thank you note, and an invitation to celebrate life.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” (www.girlfriendsingod.com)

Wow – After the day I had earlier this week, the prayer above really convicts me. I could blame it on the Heatwave, excessive stress, change in routine, any number of things. Honestly, though, it all boils down to me making the choice to let my emotions have the best of me. I wasn’t only miserable myself, but I managed to spread my bad mood to those I love the most too.

MH900178785I think God showed me that prayer on purpose today. You see, I realized yesterday, even as I was saying the words in a not-so-nice tone, how I sounded and how unfair I was being. So, last night, I first asked forgiveness from my Heavenly Father for being such a poor example to those He entrusted to me as well as those unfortunate souls who happened to cross my path. Then I apologized to my kids themselves for being “the wicked witch of the mid-West.”

This morning, I was determined to have a different sort of day. I asked questions instead of accused, found things to compliment my kids about instead of criticizing, and even though it’s my job to keep my children focused on “completing tasks to their best ability,” I chose the better way to go about that goal.

When I opened the cupboard to grab a container and everything fell out on top of me, my response was much different this morning than it would have been yesterday. Did I let my kids off the hook for their laziness? No, but I was very clear in my expectations, delivered with love this time. Does that mean that they were thrilled to hear the message today because it was told in a different tone of voice? No, but that isn’t the point.

I am realizing, and the prayer above just reemphasizes, that it is my responsibility to show this world an accurate example of Christ’s love. I am God’s letter. If I am going to proclaim that I am a Christ follower, then I need to show Christ in my life always, not just when my hair looks good, the scale shows numbers I like, and the temperature is in the low 80s with a breeze. I will even take my convictions one step further. I think it’s more important to show Christ when in the middle of a Heatwave, my stress level is through the roof, or Murphy’s Law has decided to set up camp in my front yard.

People who are looking to see if Christ is the answer to their life are going to look, probably doubly hard, at how a Christ follower handles life on a day-by-day basis, during good and bad days. And, even though I won’t get it right all the time, I pray that I’m learning from my mistakes (like yesterday) and will do better the next time. After all, I don’t want to be accused of false advertising.

***

Cheri_portrait-2Cheri Swalwell is a wife, mother, and avid reader, but first and foremost she is a Christ follower. She has a degree in Psychology and has been blessed to be a guest on a variety of blogs including Christiandevotions.us, Circle of Friends, and Crosswalk.com/family. She is a regular contributor to book fun magazine. If you want to hear more about the heart she has for marriage, parenting, and relationships from a Christian perspective, feel free to visit her blog: http://journeysfromtheheartofawifeandmother.wordpress.com or “like” her on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/cheri-Swalwell. She loves to interact with her readers, so feel free to connect with her at clSwalwell99@gmail.com.

Let’s talk about this. If you’re like me, you often fail to pray when you need it most. Most often because I get so wrapped up in the moment–in myself–God’s kingdom is far from my mind. But like Cheri said, it can be during our most difficult times that others will see Christ shine through–if we would but let Him. What are some ways we can align our hearts and actions more with Christ? And what gets in our way?

Share your thoughts and stories in the comments before or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

The Other Side of No

Today’s post is a bit off the cuff, so if you see an abundance of typos and awkward phrases, bear with me, please. 🙂

Many of you have shared such kind words regarding our move. For those of you who read  The Gift of No, I wanted to give you an update–a praise worthy, grace-infused update. 🙂 (If you haven’t read it, you might want to. Today’s post will make more sense.)

But before I do, I did want to touch on Thursday’s post. Yesterday I received an email that indicated the post had the potential to be misunderstood. In no way was I suggesting emotional repression. Nor was I trying to minimize the grief that comes from trials we face. My intent was to share what God showed me during our difficult time–that He is still good even when life is hard.

This doesn’t mean my daughter doesn’t still mourn her old friends, doesn’t still struggle with the move. It does mean that He wants me to walk beside her, to show her a love that is strong and true. And that was the message I want to convey to her, and that I’d hoped to share with all of you.

On my drive, God also showed me not to miss out on the potential blessing of connecting with my daughter–because I almost missed it.

Now back to closed doors and divine nos. 🙂

A few weeks ago, I shared about a home we made an offer on. It was in a great neighborhood, walking distance from the high school, was spacious, fit our budget. Or so we thought. But God said no.

We are now living in the house–the neighborhood God showed us … after the no. The house He said yes to. (This house is in a different city–a suburb of Omaha.) It’s smaller, not fancy, but … home. With a lovely walking trail that connects to our neighborhood. Those who know me know how much I cherish my walks. That’s my Jesus time. The day after we’d moved in, I left the boxes and clutter, grabbed my Iphone (with it’s Pandora Radio) and went for a walk. God met me on that path, and showed me it was His gift to me.

On Sunday, we went to a church ten minutes from our house. An outreach focused church full of welcoming Christians. We met the youth pastor, and on Wednesday, my daughter joined them for a dinner and movie night.

This Sunday, our love for the church grew.

On Wednesday, our daughter will spend two hours with the HS tennis team. She’ll do the same each Wednesday and Friday this summer. Two days a week of connecting with HS kids. Kids who will provide familiar faces on my daughter’s first day of school, some may even lead to great friendships.

You see, God knew all along.

Once again, praising God for the gift of no, and His love that never ends, never leaves, always guides.

Happy Sunday!

Head Down

I’m a day late, and I apologize. Can I blame it on moving? (And if so, how long can I use that excuse?)

Today’s “Reach Out to Live Out” post comes from a sweet young lady I met at the 2011 CWG writers’ conference. And what a timely post! (You’ll see what I mean once you read it.)

Head Down

By Nichole Parks

                  Our community college will accept anybody. I’ve seen the druggies, heard the potty-mouths, and looked away from the risqué. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s keep your head down. Considering we’re approaching finals, I’d say the strategy has worked.

Cleaner and cigarette smoke, clinging to classmates, embalms the dim room. I tuck my arms tighter to my sides and shuffle to my seat—second row back and three seats in. My neighbor is already there.

“Hi, Nichole.”

“Rhonda.” I give her a polite smile as heave-ho my algebra book from my bag. From the get-go my plan had been get in and get out. Nobody would get hurt that way. Rhonda had other plans. While we waited for the rest of the class, she informed me of how this is the third time she’s taken the class, how she’s raising her grandson, how she’s been house hunting since she’s been foreclosed, and details on her up-coming surgery.

I told her I’d pray for her, but inside I was praying for me. Pick somebody else to witness to her, Lord.

Since midterm, I’ve felt a tug to invite her to church. And though Rhonda has no problem opening her mouth, mine remains pinched shut. Today, when I arrived, it opened. “Are you going to need help moving?”

She blinked, probably shocked that I had a voice. “Uh—yeah, my surgery is smack-dab when I need to be moving.”

“I talked to my youth minister and our youth group would like to help you move. If you can get me the date and address, we’ll be there.”

A slow smile spread on Rhonda’s face. “Yeah, yeah, that would be great.”

So, as of today, my strategy is expired because I can’t keep my head down any longer. Or somebody will get hurt. Our community college may accept anybody, but heaven won’t.

***

Nichole Parks is a Squire and Apprentice graduate of the Jerry B. Jenkins’ Christian Writers Guild. She completed the 2010 NaNoWriMo challenge. In her spare time, Nichole reviews books for Multnomah Waterbrook and Baker Books Publishing, hones her manuscript, and sings along with the country radio station. Visit her online.

Thanks to all our donors for helping motivate us all to reach out in tangible ways as we share the love of Christ to a hurting world:

Margaret Daley, author of Saving Hope: Men of the Texas Rangers and Second Chance Family;  Elaine Marie Cooper who is giving away two books–The Road to Deer Run and The Promise of Deer Run;  Zeke Lam from Submission Ministries who is giving away a copy of subMISSION: Heeding His Voice Only; and for the book give-away–Deborah Raney with Remember to Forget.