Practicing Thankfulness

My Mom started a Thanksgiving tradition with us when we were kids that I loved so much! Starting November 1st we would make a tree with bare branches out of construction paper and we would tape it to the sliding glass door. Every day we would have to write one thing we were thankful for on colorful leaves. By Thanksgiving Day our tree would be full of beautiful, fall colored leaves and the things we were thankful for displayed for our family to see! It was always so pretty to look at while eating our meal, and I loved reading the reminders of the blessings we had experienced as a family.

Now it’s my turn to carry on the tradition, and I am so excited to share these moments with my kids! They don’t fully understand the concept yet.. but they will get it eventually. 🙂 Once the kids are tucked in bed for the night I stand in front of our Thanksgiving tree with my arms crossed reading some of the things my kids are thankful for:

Daddy.

Chewie.

Iron Man.

No tornadoes.

I think I made the list..

Our rental house.

Animals.

Sunday School.

The things that they are thankful for crack me up! But this is what they are thankful for, and it makes me happy. They are practicing being thankful for anything and everything — and I hope they carry on that mindset when they are adults faced with bigger problems.

I’m thankful for this tradition! I’m thankful Mom took time to do this with us kids everyday. Some days it wasn’t easy coming up with new things to be thankful for! It’s easy in the beginning to write things like God, your family, your friends, and so on.. but after that first week what else do you write about? It got a little tough at times! Mom’s tradition forced us to think outside the box and find even the little things to be thankful for, and I would try to carry on that thankfulness attitude all year long and not just save it for the month of November.

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Some days it’s hard to be thankful when you’re hurting or stressed out about certain situations. I have robbed myself of some blessings by dwelling on things or people instead of focusing on what God has done for me and my family. God has blessed us in so many ways — more than I even realize.

Have you practiced thankfulness lately? It’s not too late to start. 🙂

I’m Back!

I can’t believe it has been eight months since I have posted anything.  One post cannot contain everything that has happened to us since the last time I posted, so I will try to fill you in with short sentences.

  • We moved to Kalispell right before Christmas.
  • We were in a rent-to-buy deal on a historical house.
  • About 3 months after moving into said house, we received a notice on the front door that the house was being foreclosed and we had a certain amount of time to move out before auction.
  • We quickly tried to find another rental and God blessed us with a house to rent that we can’t complain about.  God is good!
  • Paul moved back to Havre temporarily to help his Dad try and finish things at their house.  He was gone a month but it felt more like a year.
  • I choked on some asparagus and nearly died.  Thankfully my husband was home and knows how to do the Heimlich.  Ugh.
  • We are in the process of buying a home right now, but it is still up in the air a little bit if this will work out.  Yay.
  • I am organizing, packing, throwing things away getting ready to move anyway.  It feels great to be busy right now and I pray God will bless my efforts.
  • Due to track work on the railroad, Paul’s job has been a little stressful.  The possibilities of him moving back to Havre temporarily are high, and the timing is really stinky!  He keeps trying to keep his job here in the Whitefish area, and so far he is doing OK.. we will see how long this lasts before he’s sent over — if he gets sent over at all.  Prayers please!
  • Paul found the cord for the computer so I can finally post things on my blog!  Oh, and so he can do his stuff too. 🙂

OK.. that’s all I can think of right now, so there you go!  Life has been one big roller coaster ride for the past 9 months, and I don’t see us getting off any time soon!  I think I’m getting to the point where I feel like laughing at the chaos because I’m blown away at how long it has lasted.  At least I’m laughing, right? 🙂

Not everything has been bad, though.  We have had a lot of happy moments with our little family as well!  We have been to Glacier National Park multiple times, we have gone hiking in different areas, we have enjoyed many lake days, we have gone to farmer’s markets, art and craft shows, tried delicious foods, gone on several beautiful walks in the downtown area..  We have thoroughly enjoyed our new lives in Kalispell, Montana.  When I feel overwhelmed and sad about everything that has happened — especially losing Mandie — I “get lost” (Montana’s motto) by taking the kids hiking or we go on walks in the neighborhood, and I get a chance to see God’s beauty here!  I am reminded that God is an amazing Creator and His details on every delicate petal of a flower to the strength of the towering pine tree remind me that He is still with me, He loves me, and He is here to comfort me through everything.  That is pretty amazing.

The Bible says,  “I will lift my eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.  My help cometh from the Lord, which made the heaven and earth.”  (Psalm 121:1 KJV)

The grand thought of this psalm is that the God who created the heavens and earth also watches over the lives of all those who trust Him and His Word.*  Isn’t that a beautiful thought?  With everything we have gone through, and with everything we are going through at this moment.. I can’t imagine dealing with any of it without God.  Now is not the time to let my faith sway and choose to live life without Him.

Well.. I feel like I rambled a lot in this post. 🙂  I guess that is to be expected, though, since I haven’t been on here in so long.  Next time will be better!  Hopefully! 🙂

*Excerpt from Life in the Spirit Study Bible — Commentary on Psalm 121:1

This entry was posted in Life.

I’ll sing until my heart caves in

These days pass me by

I dream with open eyes

Nightmares haunt my days

Visions blur my nights

I’m so confused

What’s true or false?

What’s fact or fictions after all?

I feel like I’m an apparition’s pet

But you haven’t lost me yet

No, you haven’t lost me yet

I’ll sing until my heart caves in

No, you haven’t lost me yet

Yet by Switchfoot Sing until my heart caves in

It’s crazy to think life goes on after you suffer such a loss.  Some days you are distracted by routine, and then something will remind you of what life used to be.

Sometimes it’s a movie line from an old chick flick or musical, sometimes it’s a smell of something warm and sweet coming out of the oven, or sometimes you’re reminded by driving through town and passing old houses that once had little kids running around the front yard and crafts made out of paper plates hanging in the kitchen window.

But there is no time machine.  We can’t go back.  We have to keep moving forward.. trying to live life without that someone special.

I still listen to Switchfoot on repeat every single day.  Each song speaks to me in a different way.  Music is my therapy and I never skip a session.

It may sound cheesy to some, but Switchfoot has helped me so much the past couple of months.  Because of them and their beautiful lyrics I try not to sweat the small stuff.  I hug my babies a little tighter.  I pray to God despite my brokenness and confusion.  I choose to sing until my heart caves in.

We will never get over the fact that we had to say goodbye to someone we love too soon, but I’m so overwhelmed with thankfulness when I remember that this is not forever!  One day we will see Mandie again, as well as all the other believes that have gone Home before us.  That will be an amazing reunion, and I cannot wait to get there!

This entry was posted in Life.

Live it Well

I don’t feel like I’m a great writer, but when things happen in my life that are too hard for me to handle.. writing is my outlet.  After I put my thoughts on paper, or in a blog post, it makes me feel a little better.  Sometimes I will look back on what I have written and see God working through me in ways I did not realize at the time.  I have no idea if I will ever feel that way about this post, but I guess we will see…

Paul, Noelle, and I went to see Switchfoot in Denver a few weeks ago.  It was amazing!  Ever since then I have listened to all of their albums on repeat — especially Switchfoot’s latest album Where the Light Shines Through.  On their new album Jon Foreman sings a song titled Live it Well.  If you haven’t heard the song yet then I suggest you pause reading this post and google it.  I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Live it Well has been stuck in my head for weeks.  It may sound silly, but after seeing Switchfoot in person I couldn’t help but feel different about their music and about life in general.  Part of the song says,

“Life is short; I wanna live it well
One life, one story to tell
Life is short; I wanna live it well
And you’re the one I’m living for
Awaken all my soul
Every breath that you take is a miracle
Life is short; I wanna live it well, yeah”

I remember coming home and looking myself in the mirror and asking myself if I was living my life well.. or if I was just going through the motions.  Was I appreciating every part of my life — the good and the bad? or was I letting silly little things rob me of joy?

I was going to see Mandie soon and I could not wait to tell her about the concert and about my new perspective on life and trying to learn to appreciate it more.

Amanda Marie Alexander

I didn’t call her on the phone.  I didn’t text her.  I waited to tell her in person.

The day before I was going to see her we were headed to Walmart and I was daydreaming about the next day and how much fun I would have with my sister.  We were going to drink coffee, play games, stay up late and enjoy adult conversation with no interruptions..

On our way to Walmart the phone rang and Paul answered the phone.  The car’s bluetooth picked up the call and we heard Nancy’s voice over every speaker.

The sound of anguish.  The sound of deep pain.  The sound of loss.

Everything was a blur after that.  We quickly went home and threw some clothes in a bag and then we left.  When we were headed to Kalispell I heard Live it Well playing in my head again.  I thought about Mandie’s life and her story.

Mandie lived such a full life full of love for God, Caleb, her kids, as well as the rest of her family and friends.  She always shared scriptures to me that spoke to her in certain ways and knew it would be a blessing to me as well.  She was quick to thank God for the little things, and she was not afraid to stop everything she was doing to pray for you no matter where she was.

Mandie did not know a stranger.  As a matter of fact, she invited strangers into her home for a warm, dry place to stay the night and made sure their bellies were full and that they knew Jesus loved them.  Her doors were always open and she always had delicious cookies coming out of the oven no matter the occasion.

Mandie was a busy bee constantly cleaning, organizing, folding, or meal planning.  And she was determined to finish the job even if that meant staying up half the night.  She put a lot of women to shame.  Myself included. 🙂

I don’t think Mandie realized how many people she touched in her life and the legacy she has left behind.  She lived her life well.  She will be missed desperately.

With loss comes sadness for loved ones left behind, but it also brings up some regrets.

I should have called her more.

I should have stopped by her house more and helped her fold laundry so we could watch one more episode of Hoarders together.

I shouldn’t have been so hard headed when she was so desperate to give me advice…

I should have French braided her hair one more time since she couldn’t do it herself.

I hope Mandie knows how much I desperately love her and miss her.  My heart aches more than I can bear every time I see her face in pictures.  I hope this pain the whole family feels will ease as time goes on.  I pray for Caleb and the kids all the time.  If I feel the way they feel, their pain must feel so much worse.

So Mandie, if you are allowed to look through a window in Heaven.. I hope you see how hard we all are trying to work to live up to all that you did for your family and for everyone you came into contact with.  Your husband and children are well taken care of, and I promise to do the best I can do for them in your honor.

I can’t wait to give you a high five with your new hand.

Do you think Jesus will mind if we have movie one-liner conversations when we see each other again??

XOXO

Many Things About Tomorrow I Don’t Seem to Understand…

I bought a new devotional journal for myself yesterday.  You may have read it – Wake Up Laughing: An Offbeat Devotional Journal for the “Unconventional” Woman by Rachel St. John-Gilbert.  The title and the picture on the cover were enough for me to buy it and start reading as soon as I could!

As soon as I started reading I knew this book was written for me and the timing was perfect.  I read chapter one and I felt like it was written for Paul and I and the situation we are facing right now in our lives.  I don’t want to give anything away in case you choose to read it for yourselves – and I highly recommend that you do!

For those of you who do not know, Paul has been furloughed from the railroad (again) for the past 5 months.  If we count the amount of time he was furloughed last year with this current furlough, since he barely worked 3 months between the two, it makes a year of not working for the railroad.  It is no secret that we hate being in this situation for many reasons.

I feel like I am handling this second furlough a little better than the first one, I have more faith that God will take care of us because He has never let us down.  As soon as Paul got the call that he was furloughed again I feel like we both went into work mode – he was able to get a job as a handyman, and almost every evening he is at our old house remodeling it and getting it ready to sell.  I kept my data entry job that I work from home, but I was able to get a job at a coffee shop.  We are juggling a lot of things up in the air and hoping that we don’t drop something!

Every single day is scheduled with work and projects so our minds stay busy.  It wasn’t until I sat down this morning and actually thought about our situation that I realized how long we have been doing this…  But when I do sit down at times, and think, and realize how overwhelmingly full our plate is right now ….. I can get a little emotional.

When I feel myself falling into anxiety that tightens my chest and makes it to where I can’t breathe, God reminds me of beautiful verses like this:

Jeremiah 29:11

He gently reminds me, again, that He has everything under control, and that His timing is perfect.  He has good things in store for Paul and me, but we still have to wait like anxious little children for Christmas morning to finally get here.

Recently I have started saying, “It’s OK” out loud so I can hear myself say it and so I will hopefully believe what I say.  When I start to get stressed, I tell myself it’s OK over and over until I really do feel like it’s OK! 😀  It may sound silly, but it has helped me not blow silly things out of proportion the past couple months so I’m happy it works for me!  I speak peace over my life and over my husband.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.  Philippians 4:8

Being furloughed stinks.  It’s hard not being able to pay the bills on time, or even listening to others complain about their spouses working too much!  But it’s OK. I know that God has perfect plans – plans of hope and a better future, and I know He will continue to take care of us in our situation!  Instead I try to think about positive things and focus on the good instead of the bad.  Again, I speak peace over my life and over my husband who is tired and ready for his old life back.

I don’t know what you’re going through today, but I hope you are reminded that you serve a mighty God who is still in the miracle working business!  His timing is absolutely perfect – He is never too late.  Focus on what God has done for you so far, remind yourself of the blessings He has already bestowed on your life.

Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand, but I know who holds tomorrow – and I know who holds my hand!

This entry was posted in Life.