Thursday, May 31, 2012

Saying Goodbye...

Today I had to say goodbye to something very dear to me. My first home.

This wasn't just any home, this was also my dream home. From the first time my husband and I looked at it, I knew it was the house I had always wanted. It was built in 1892 and through a lot of hard work and creativity my husband and I brought it back to its historic charm.

When we had our twins we knew it was time to move on, so we put it up for sale last year and bought a new home on the banks of the Mississippi River. After it was on the market for a while, we decided to rent the home and for the past year we've been blessed to have the renters become very dear friends.

In March of this year we had to get it back on the market and the first person to view it fell in love and will be the new owner as of 9:00 a.m. on June 1st.

The renters are all moved out and last night Hubby and I went over to the house for the last time, by ourselves. We walked from room to room reliving hundreds of memories. We laughed, we cried and we just held each other, knowing that this chapter of our lives is about to close.

When we moved in we were still newlyweds, fresh out of college, with thousands of hopes and dreams to propel us forward. Not knowing what God had in store for us, who could have guessed what wonders we would experience?

Last night, eight and a half years later, we stood in amazement at seeing the Hand of God weave through our lives, marveling at everything He has brought us through and all the memories we have made.
We stood on the front porch and looked out on the lawn we'd spent hours and hours landscaping. In the living room we talked about bringing our first baby home and setting her on the couch, just staring at her. In the dining room we talked about painting the walls when I was pregnant and hosting many good friends and family for supper. In the kitchen we talked about carving pumpkins with our girls and making meals to feed our growing family. In the den we laughed about Hubby's failed attempt at choosing a paint color (I still contend that it should have been called "Brothel Red"). We ran our hands along the banister, thinking about all the times the girls slid down it.

Upstairs we walked through our bedrooms and I stood for a long time in the girls' room, remembering the nights I would lay with one of them while Hubby held the other on the rocking chair and sang lullabies for the three of us. Through words and silence, we cherished eight years of incredible living.

And then I stood at the window in the boys' bedrooms, staring out at our backyard, remembering all the birthday parties and barbecues we had. I could almost see the girls running through the sprinkler and hear their laughter, like a thousand little bubbles floating to the sky and drifting away on the breeze.

A part of my heart and soul will always be in that home, and a part of that home will forever be in me. I don't regret our decision to sell the house for one moment, but it's still heart wrenching to say goodbye.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Over Committed

Do you ever over-commit yourself - I mean big time? I'm in the middle of an over-committed week right now. Here's just a little snippet of it:

Garage sale at my home, end of school activities, graduation ceremony, closing on the sale of our old home (hallelujah!), helping our friends move, meetings throughout the week and a gigantic fundraiser on Sunday which I am helping to organize and run. Not to mention that I am leading the music for Vacation Bible School which starts on Monday and I don't have a lick of musical ability.

Everything kind of snuck up on me - like a big gigantic snowball. I said yes here and there, without really contemplating that all these commitments would pile up in one week.

I have come to three possible conclusions about why I tend to over-commit myself and they are (in no particular order): 1.) I have a hard time saying no, 2.) I delude myself into believing I can do more than is humanly possible (the Super-Woman complex) and 3.) I really want to do all these things and I can't help that they fall in the same week.

My plan of attack is to take things one event at a time and try to stay organized. It will be a crazy week, but if I can keep everything in it's place and not stress out or worry, it should be manageable. I made my meal plan on Monday night, went shopping after the kids were in bed on Tuesday night and most of my laundry is caught up. I'm also thankful for my mom and mother-in-law who are helping me out this week. I don't know what we would do without our family near by.

What about you? Do you over-commit? Have you figured out why you do it? Any tips for handling a crazy schedule?

One of the committments I made this week was bringing
our kitties into school for my two daughters to show.
This is Charmer's preschool class - she's the blond
with the pony tail on the bottom right.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Yesterday, while enjoying a relaxing evening at my in-law's lake home, with boaters and fishermen playing out on the water and a wonderful meal spread before us on the table, I asked my seven year old daughter if she knew what Memorial Day means. She wasn't sure. 

I explained to her that Memorial Day is the one day a year we set aside to honor and remember the men and women who have died who fought for our country. I later looked it up on Wikipedia and discovered that it started just after the Civil War and was called Decoration Day to honor the men who died during battle. It has continued on for many generations, now extending to all those service people who have died - whether on active duty or not.

Both my grandfathers served our nation and were able to return home to their families - for which I am especially grateful, because I would not be here if either of them had died in battle. My Grandpa Leo served in World War II and later married my Grandma Pat. They had ten children. He died in 1983. My Grandpa Art served in the Korean War and later married my Grandma Charlotte. Together they had nine children. He recently passed away in 2009. Memorial Day is a time to honor them for their bravery, sacrifice and selflessness. I grew up hearing about their time spent in war and seeing pictures of them in uniform. I was, and still am, very proud of my grandfathers.

But it struck me that Memorial Day has become something far different than what it was intended for. To some, it remains a day to honor our soldiers with memorial services and ceremonies, but it's also come to mean the beginning of the official summer season and an extended weekend to enjoy with family and friends. In Minnesota it means heading to lake homes or campgrounds, boating, picnics, and good food. It also means bumper to bumper traffic on Friday afternoon for anyone heading north to the lake country and Monday afternoon for anyone heading back south to the Twin Cities Metro Area.

Thankfully Hubby and I were heading south on Friday to
the Twins Game. This was the north bound lane not
far from where we live - and it looked like this for 100 miles.
I love Memorial Weekend for all the reasons I mentioned above (except the traffic!), but I also think it's important to keep the real reason for the holiday within our minds and hearts as we enjoy it. It's important to talk to our children about the men and women who served our country and those who continue to do so today.

Our freedom is not free, it comes with a high price tag for those brave enough to pay it.

One way we spend our Memorial Day Weekend
is at my in-law's home. This was taken last night -
just before another thunderstorm rolled in.

The family on the deck at sunset.

My four kiddos throwing rocks into the lake.
What about you? How do you spend the Memorial Day Weekend? Do you have friends and family who served our armed forces? Are you in the Military?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Creamy Mandarin Orange Salad

My mom made this recipe when I was a little girl and I loved it. The other day someone mentioned a recipe similar to it and I realized I hadn't made this one in a long time, so I went out and bought the ingredients and ate the whole thing in a day! :) Enjoy.

8 oz. tub of Cool Whip
22 oz. tub of small curb cottage cheese
24.5 oz. jar of Mandarin Oranges
3 oz. packet Orange Jello (optional) - I didn't use it for the recipe pictured, but my cousin recommends it

Combine all ingredients and store covered in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Minnesota Trivia Question Answers

Thanks to everyone who stopped by on Monday and answered my Minnesota trivia questions. Here are the answers (drum roll, please...)

Minnesota is known as "The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes." In actually how many lakes are in Minnesota?
a) 9,892
b) 11,842 - isn't that amazing? Within a 30-mile radius of my home there are hundreds of lakes, not to mention the many rivers, streams and swamps we have!
c) 10,312

Minnesota has over 90,000 miles of shoreline! That's more than which states combined?
a) California, Florida and Hawaii - crazy, but true!
b) Rhode Island, New York and Maine
c) Alaska, Oregon and Washington

The Mall of America, in Bloomington, MN is how large?
a) 2.0 million square feet
b) 7.5 million square feet
c) 9.5 million square feet - this place is HUGE! There is an amusement park, as well as an underground aquarium and so much more.

Which of these things was invented in Minnesota?
a) water skis
b) snowmobile
d) none of the above
e) all of the above - as was the stapler, masking tape and Scotch tape, to name a few! (3M is based in St. Paul)

Thanks for joining in the fun! I've been enjoying my sister and her brand new baby boy all week. They will be leaving on Friday, so I'll return to my regular blogging schedule next Monday. For now I'll leave you with some pictures from our Minnesota day.

This is one of our family favorites

My family enjoying a beautiful
May day 

All eleven grand babies from my three siblings and I!
My next trivia question should be: can you identify
which children are brothers and sisters? :)

Sunday, May 20, 2012


My sister and her family are visiting, so I thought I would take a little break from my blogging routine this week. We spent today at my brother's lake place and I was reminded of all the things I love about Minnesota. For a little Monday fun I've decided to ask you a couple of Minnesota trivia questions - no googling!

Minnesota is known as "The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes." In actually how many lakes are in Minnesota?
a) 9,892
b) 11,842
c) 10,312

Minnesota has over 90,000 miles of shoreline! That's more than which states combined?
a) California, Florida and Hawaii
b) Rhode Island, New York and Maine
c) Alaska, Oregon and Washington

The Mall of America, in Bloomington, MN is how large?
a) 2.0 million square feet
b) 7.5 million square feet
c) 9.5 million square feet

Which of these things was invented in Minnesota?
a) water skis
b) snowmobile
d) none of the above
e) all of the above

Happy Monday! I will post the correct answers on Wednesday, until then, here are some pictures from our Minnesota day...

My crazy children (and their cousins) swam in the lake - in May!

Monkey & Lion Cub

Trying to capture the Solar Eclipse

Thursday, May 17, 2012


My sister is coming home today! She will be here for a week and I'm so excited. :) 

Seven years ago she and her husband moved to Denver, much to our dismay. They're both from our hometown, so when they come back to visit there are many family members on both sides eager to see them.

She hasn't been home since Christmas, but more importantly, she hasn't been here since she had her first baby which makes this visit all the more exciting! I can't wait to kiss my nephew's chubby little cheeks and see his smile. I wrote about how difficult it was to be far away from her when she had her baby here.  

It's been so incredible having two little girls of my own and watching them grow up together like Andrea and I did. I thought I'd share a couple fun pictures with you today in honor of her visit. Happy Friday!

Andrea is on the right. Isn't she pretty? :)
Me, Mom & Andrea
Easter Sunday, 1987
This was taken a week before the twins
were born!

Me & Andrea (she's going to kill me for
sharing this picture!) :)

Dreamer & Charmer

The four of us in Denver

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


I'm a big dreamer. I love imagining all the possibilities in life. For seven years my husband and I remodeled an old home and we dreamt about all the ways we could make it beautiful and unique, but it often got us into trouble. When we needed to insulate the attic, we saw the potential to turn it into living space and we spent four years, and a lot of money, doing just that. When we had to install a mailbox out on the sidewalk, we thought it would be pretty to put the mailbox on a pillar, which meant we had to make five other pillars to match it. Even though this meant more money and more time, it was worth it to see our dreams come true.

Dreaming is a lot of fun. It allows your creative juices to flow and it gives you something to look forward to.

When you dream, the possibilities are endless.

But the thing about a dream is it can often leave you feeling discontent and impatient. I had a lot of dreams for that old home, but I was continually dissatisfied with it because it was never finished.

After having the twins we realized that our house was too small. Two weeks before we moved out we finished up all the projects we'd been trying to get done for seven years. It was hard to leave all our dreams behind, but God opened the door for us to move into a much bigger house on the banks of the Mississippi, where we could start dreaming all over again.

This time I am older and wiser (or so I hope). I will allow myself to dream, but I am not allowing myself to become discontent. Life is too short to live that way. Instead, when I feel myself becoming impatient, I find all the things about this house that I love and focus my attention on them. I love the neighborhood, the river, all the storage space, the room we have to spread out and the backyard.

Yes, we have dreams and we talk about them all the time, but we also have realistic expectations about our finances, our time and our abilities.

God has shown us that patience truly is a virtue; it's something that you acquire only when you exercise it. Waiting for a dream to unfold is the best way to do that.

This is my future writing room. It's a little space tucked into a quiet corner of the basement with windows that face the beautiful Mississippi River. Right now it's a three season area that is underused, but someday it will be heated with plush carpet, a floor to ceiling book case, the glow of a soft lamp and a comfy chair with ottoman. I can see myself curled up there right now, typing away...

I love to dream about this room, but it's easy to become impatient and discontent as I wait for the time and money necessary to complete it. When I begin to feel these negative emotions, I know it's time to turn off the dreaming and focus on something else - like writing - which is another thing I dream about.

What about you? Do you like to dream? Does dreaming leave you hopeful or discontent?  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

I've Been Nominated for an Award!

I'm honored to be nominated by my long time friend, and fellow writer, Jennette Mbewe for the Versatile Blogger Award. Jennette and I met years ago in our home school co-op, and though she's far away, I'm so thankful we've been able to stay in touch through our love of writing and our blogs!

Here are the award rules:
1.) Thank the person who nominated you.
2.) Share seven things about yourself.
3.) Nominate Seven Other Versatile Bloggers.

I've always been an open book, so I struggle to find seven things to write about myself that my friends don't already know - but since I'm blessed to have so many new friends out in the blogosphere, all of this will be new for you!

1. I am from a large extended family (14 aunts, 16 uncles, 35 first cousins + their spouses)
2. I worked for ten years at a Historic Site (House & Museum) before staying home full time with my kiddos
3. My parents were high school sweethearts and my 3 siblings and I all ended up marrying our high school sweethearts, too!
4. I love thunderstorms & blizzards (the weather condition and the Dairy Queen treat!)
5. My favorite month is June
6. I've been to 40 states in the U.S.A.
7. I have an amazing family tree that includes an ancestor burnt at the stake in 1555 (Thomas Hubbard), one that sailed to America in 1633 (Samuel Hubbard), a drummer boy for George Washington (named Gideon Burrdick) and I am descended from Edward I "Longshanks" King of England (b. 1239, d. 1307) by 27 generations. My family's genealogical record is well documented by, for which I am eternally grateful. :)

I am excited to nominate seven other Versatile Bloggers! I hope you get a chance to visit their sites, all of these ladies are so much fun to follow.
1. Melissa Tagg
2. Lindsay Harrel
3. Amy Matayo
4. Thoughtful Parenting - Beka
5. My Little Life - Missy
6. Sherrinda Ketch
7. Gwendolyn Gage

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Pumpkin Beast

I will never forget the day my dad proudly drove the Pumpkin Beast into our yard. I watched in astonishment as my older brothers jumped into the cab of the offensive vehicle, excited that this was their new ride. My mom was happy because everyone in town would keep tabs on her boys in a bright orange truck.

Although the boys had done their best to demolish the Pumpkin Beast, my dad had done his best to fix it up, thus the truck became my own "ride" at the age of sixteen, only now it was worse off than before. At one time its only flaw was that it was pumpkin orange, now it had scratches, dents, missing pieces and a bad paint job.

I was convinced that I would be ridiculed and mocked by my peers, but what happened actually surprised me. The Pumpkin Beast was a hit. No matter where I went, everyone knew I was there. Driving "Gabe's Pumpkin Beast" because the "sweet" thing to do.

Over the years I drove it, the truck became very dear to me so naturally I had to spruce it up a little. I laugh now to think of my dad driving that truck to work with the glow in the dark stars plastered to the ceiling and the little stuffed money hanging from the rear view mirror, or the key chain that hung down to his knees with the thirty odd trinkets I'd collected from my friends. He never complained; I think he was secretly relieved that the child driving the truck was not trashing it.

There were a few mishaps along the way. One time my cousins hopped into the passenger side and put his foot through the rusted out floor. Another time I was driving down the road and the rusted muffler flew off the back - the truck didn't sound any different with it gone, so we didn't replace it.

My favorite story, though, has to be the case of the missing knob. This happened years after the abuse from my brothers, so I'm still not sure why my dad made such a big deal about it. Somehow the knob for the heater went missing one night. My dad questioned me right away the next morning, but I didn't know where it had gone. He drove me to my friend's house, where I'd been the night before, and he had me lean out the passenger side door to look for the knob while he drove five miles an hour down the main road in town. We never found the knob.

The Pumpkin Beast finally left our family quite suddenly (before my younger sister had the privilege to drive it). After seven years of my dad pouring money and time into repairing the truck, a fifty cent clip broke. He'd had enough. He wouldn't put another penny into it. That day he sold it to a coworker for fifty dollars and the Pumpkin Beast was no more.

What about you? What was the first vehicle you drove? Any fun stories to tell?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Changing Gears

My life is driven in two gears and they are called Winter and Summer. My husband is a landscaper so our personal lives are vastly different between Winter and Summer. As a mother of four kiddos, our social lives change with the seasons, as well. I am just getting ready to switch gears and say goodbye to all the activities the kids and I have participated in for the past nine months. Soon Summer will be upon us and we'll have new activities to enjoy.

Some of the regularly scheduled activities we've done this winter include: Zumba classes for me, Early Childhood Education Class (ECFE) for me and the three littlest, Parents of Multiples class for me and the twins, basketball for Dreamer and Hubby, MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) for me and the three youngest, AWANA for me and the two girls, piano for Dreamer, Sunday School classes for all of us and regular school for the girls. Confused yet? You'd be surprised at the activities we turned down this year!

Two of my favorite Winter activities end this week, AWANA and MOPS.
Me with an AWANA Cubbies leader and some of our Cubbie
kids this year! This was a great group of kiddos (my Charmer is
 the Blondie to the right of me!).

Me (in the white) with my MOPS Table! We were the "80's Ladies"
this year. You ladies are amazing!!

Summer is shaping up to include two Vacation Bible Schools, two weeks of swimming lessons at the lake, basketball camp for Dreamer, MOPS playground play dates and Multiples play dates. Hubby and I are planning a little getaway for our eleventh wedding anniversary for a long weekend and a Twins Baseball game in July. We also have two little girls celebrating their birthdays, not to mention all the lake days we'll spend with family and friends, the little day trips we'll take to the zoo and amusement parks and some fun regional festivals and fairs. We also have a handful of graduation parties, as well as three weddings to attend this summer.  And all of this we'll cram into three short months!

As the seasons change it's hard to say goodbye and leave our routine behind, but this Summer promises to be a great one! And before we know it, September will be on us and it will be time to switch gears again.

What about you? Are your schedules in the midst of changing gears? What fun Summer activities do you have planned?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Amazing Grace

Last week I shared a personal story about a painful experience in my life on Katie Ganshert's Wildflowers from Winter Blog Hop. Today I wanted to share a story about the day God showed me His Amazing Grace.

I was just leaving my parents home after dropping off my girls. The seed of Love had been planted in my heart as God was healing me, but I still lacked the seeds of Faith and Hope. I remember backing out of the driveway asking God: After all the pain I have experienced and all the questions I have asked, can my life truly be restored? After being to such depths of fear and doubt, can my faith fully recover? Can I be redeemed? Is there hope for me?

From out of nowhere, I saw in my mind an image of the man who portrayed John Newton in the movie Amazing Grace. Mr. Newton had been an ex-slave trader who had called upon God and been forgiven and redeemed. He later wrote the lyrics to the song Amazing Grace, which has touched the lives of countless people for over two hundred years. In that moment, pulling out of my parents' driveway, I heard God whisper into my heart: If I can redeem and restore a slave trader, I can surely redeem and restore a servant who has doubted and been afraid. Instantly my heart filled with a hope I couldn't explain.

I drove for a block and a half just reveling in the truth that God's redemption will never have limits, that no matter where I had been in my thought life, I had hope for healing and full restoration. About a minute after this revelation hit me a song by Chris Tomlin began to play on our local radio station, quietly and gently...

"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind but now I see."

I. Was. Speechless. There are few times I can say that my eyes have bugged out, but that was one of them! I believe, without a doubt in my mind, that God had ordained that song and that moment just for me. There may have been hundreds or even thousands of others listening to that station, but I knew this song was all mine. Tears began to pour down my face as I pulled over to the side of the road and continued to listen in awe.

"'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed"

God spoke to my heart and said: My grace is sufficient for all your needs, My grace will relieve your fears, if you'll let it.

"My chains are gone, I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace"

He spoke again and said: Christ gave His life for you. The chains of fear and doubt have been broken off of you - get up and be free.

His mercy, His unending love and amazing grace washed over me as I continued to listen to the song I'd heard a thousand times, but now truly understood.

"The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures"

And then God spoke words into my heart that broke the flood gates of hope and healing: I promise good to you, Gabrielle. Your heart and your mind are being transformed and renewed through My Word and the days to come will be full of hope and joy once again. 

And these words from Proverbs 31:25 came to my mind: "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come." (Italics mine)

"The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God who called me here below
Will be forever mine, will be forever mine
You are forever mine"

And then He said: You are forever mine. I will not leave you nor forsake you.

As the song died away, I was left speechless and in tears on the side of the road. It was a turning point in my faith walk and it brought great hope to my heart. It wasn't a coincidence, it was a moment when God was laying foundational promises in my life and planting those seeds of Faith and Hope. His grace and love are enough to heal any broken heart, wounded soul or repentant sinner. There is nothing that can keep us away from the love of God and there is no life that cannot be restored, no matter how far we have gone astray.

"Amazing Grace," by Chris Tomlin

I have winners from Friday's book give away! I used a random number generator and the winner of Katie Ganshert's debut novel Wildflowers from Winter is MN Mommy! The winner of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stressed offered by contributor Dianne E. Butts is Melissa Finnegan. I will be contacting the winners for their addresses. Thank you to everyone who joined the conversation last week!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Black Bean, Corn & Mushroom Chili

I've never been a fan of chili beans, so I was excited when I started dating my husband Dave and found out that his mom had a great chili recipe that didn't call for the chili beans. Originally, she didn't have the black beans in this recipe, either, but since I started making it, and I'm always trying to get healthy food in my kiddos' bodies, I've added the black beans and we really like it. If you're not a mushroom fan, you can always omit the mushrooms and you're still left with a great black bean & corn chili. This is my favorite chili recipe ever ~ enjoy!

2 lbs. Lean Ground Beef
2 (29-oz.) can Tomato Sauce
2 (29-oz.) cans Diced Tomatoes with seasoning
2 T. Chili Pepper
1/2 T. Salt
1/2 tsp. Oregano
1/2 tsp. Cumin
1/2 T. Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp. Paprika
1 T. Onion Powder
1 T. Garlic Powder
3 c. Niblet Corn
1 (15-oz.) can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
4-5 jars Whole Mushrooms (cut in half)
2 (8-oz.) cans Sliced Mushrooms
Shredded cheddar cheese, garnish
Sour cream, garnish
Tortilla Chips, garnish

Brown ground beef - drain extra juice. Add cans of tomatoes and seasonings (to save time, in place of seasonings, I recommend using Carol Shelby's Chili Kit, omit the mesa flour). Simmer 20 minutes on medium-low. Add corn, black beans and mushrooms. Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese & sour cream. Serve with fresh tortilla chips.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Wildflowers from Winter Story

Today I am honored to participate in Author Katie Ganshert's Wildflowers from Winter Blog Hop. Katie asked me to share my story, along with many others, on May 3rd & 4th. You can learn more about Katie, her debut novel Wildflowers from Winter, and today's blog hop at Katie's Website.


"The snowiest of winters bring about an abundance of wildflowers come springtime." ~ Katie Ganshert

My Wildflowers from Winter Story

I was born into the most amazing family on Earth. My parents, siblings, in-laws and many extended relatives have surrounded me with unconditional love and have cheered me on every step of the way.

I grew up in a small, tight-knit town on the banks of the Mississippi River where my husband and I have chosen to raise our own family and where my mom is the mayor. We're blessed with friends and neighbors who understand the true meaning of community. For ten years, before I stayed home full time with my kiddos, I had a fantastic job as a historic site guide, spending the day with great coworkers and people on vacation.

I met the love of my life when I was sixteen. He's handsome, smart, kind and full of powerful wisdom and insight - and best of all, he's crazy about me, too. We have four adorable children, two girls and twin boys and we live in a home near the river I love. God has given me every desire of my heart. I am blessed, no doubt about it, I know I am.

I'm wildly and passionately in love with God. Every fiber of my being resonates with my Creator. Each decision I've made has been guided by my belief in Jesus. I know I'm valued, chosen and called by Him and I feel honored to be His child.

On a beautiful summer day in 2006 I had my second child, a healthy little girl. Up until the delivery everything was text book perfect, but right after she was born there were some serious complications. I was rushed into the operating room for an emergency D & C and I was put under anesthesia. Some time during the procedure I started to wake up when I wasn't supposed to - although I didn't come to my full senses. Not comprehending what was happening, I began to panic. Enough of me was conscious to know something wasn't right, but I couldn't pull myself from the abyss. In that semi-conscious state I thought I was dying, but where was Heaven? I didn't see any of the things I had always hoped to see. But, more importantly, I didn't see Jesus. All around me was white emptiness and the only thing left was my thoughts - for eternity. Just me and the panic, forever.

I was screaming for help and thank God my doctor was close enough to reassure me. I remember hearing her voice come through the fog of fear - it was like an anchor. I went back under anesthesia and my nightmare was over. I was never near death and I came through the surgery just fine, but at the time I thought I had been. I lost so much blood that I required a transfusion the next day and it took my body a good three months to fully recover - but it took my mind and my heart much, much longer.

In the weeks and months that followed, I began to have panic attacks. I kept reliving the vivid memory of that moment when I thought I had died. I cried all the time. I began to hate myself for letting the fear take over me. I was filled with guilt and remorse for missing out on the joy of my infant's first months and the look in my two year old's eyes when she saw me cry. I wondered if I would ever come out of the panic. I didn't think I could ever trust God again. I imagined my husband having to raise our children alone because I was going to be locked away somewhere.

I became insecure for the first time in my life. Who was this scared, pathetic woman? What happened to the confidence and joy I had experienced in life? I was not prepared for this at all. My foundation, the bedrock of my existence was shaken. Where had God been when I needed Him most? I questioned everything about my life and my faith. It consumed my every waking moment. To say I was overwhelmed with fear would be an understatement, it sucked the life out of me. Before my feet touched the floor each morning I was overwhelmed and exhausted with it. There was no rest for me.

I didn't tell people outside of my immediate circle, though I did speak about it a lot to those near me. Some of you may be reading this now and be shocked to hear it. Some of you saw me on a regular basis and had no idea. I didn't speak about it because it was a very personal experience and, to be honest, I was ashamed for not being able to control the fear, for having so many insecurities and for questioning my faith.

On and off for years, I dealt with the pain and fear from that experience. I asked God constantly why He allowed it to happen, but I wasn't given an answer.

"He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver." Malachi 3:3

I was put through the Refiners Fire and each little piece of my life was subject to the intense heat. I examined every area - and what I found left me disgusted. Yes, I had led a blameless life, I had made good decisions and I had no regrets, but I saw that I had been self-righteous. My world revolved around me and I took credit for my talents, my accomplishments and my faith. I was selfish, prideful and opinionated. I was judgemental and my expectations for myself and others was set too high. And this was just the beginning. God took me deep into my heart. He showed me that my heart was a garden, His garden, and I saw the beautiful flowers He had planted there. Flowers planted through His Words spoken to me and about me, but they were being choked out by weeds. Weeds that had been planted through believing lies since I was a little girl about who I am and who the world expects me to be. The garden in my heart was a mess.

But Jesus came.

I remember the day I felt him enter my garden to tend to my heart. He began to identify each weed and then He pulled them out, one by one. Every day He would show me another weed that needed to go and He told me the roots had to be removed or they would keep coming back. It was a very painful process and it left big, deep holes. But slowly, ever so slowly and gently, He cultivated and healed the soil of my heart. And then, one by one, He began planting new seeds of faith, hope and love into my heart through whispered promises from His Word. I can still close my eyes and see Him quietly working there as we fellowship.

It was the hardest experience of my life, but also the most beautiful. Together we're still pulling out weeds and working at getting to the root of them. Every once in a while a new weed will pop up and we'll deal with it, but my garden is now in full bloom again and it is a place of rest and beauty. As the seeds He planted continue to grow, they will produce a harvest of fruit in my life, which I can give to others through my words, my actions and my love.

It would take me a lifetime to convey all that God has done and shown me through this process. The way He's woven into my life people and circumstances to show me His glory. The deep understanding and insights He's given to me as He continues to reveal Himself in little and big ways. For the first time in my life, I have an incredible peace deep within my soul and I am left standing in complete and utter awe of the Master Gardner. The doubt and the fear have been uprooted. What I am left with is a beautiful garden of flowers from the deepest of winters and a hope beyond all comprehension.

I believe God has a mighty plan for my life - and yours. He wants to come into our hearts and clean out the mess and begin to restore the garden so that we can display His beauty.

After five years, God answered the question on my heart: why did all of this happen? He planted the answer deep into my heart soil and whispered a promise there, which I will hold for all of eternity and which will produce an abundance of fruit in His perfect timing, for His glory.

And, four years later, God gave us a double blessing for the pain, our twin boys.

"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come." 2 Corinthians 5:17

Do you have a Wildflowers from Winter story? Are you still experiencing the winter, longing for the wildflowers to bloom? I'd be honored if you shared.


Today Katie has generously offered to give away a copy of her debut novel, Wildflowers from Winter, to one of my commenters. Everyone who comments before Monday, May 7th at 12:00 a.m. will be entered into the drawing. Please leave your email address in the comment form to be notified. If you'd like to receive my reply to your comments, please click on the "Subscribe to Email" link at the bottom of the form.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Never Ending Projects

The back yard
One year ago, we bought our new house. I have to admit, we got it for an incredible deal - but it needed some work. It had been empty for six years and mice had infested part of it. We had to tear down walls and ceilings to get rid of the problem before we could move in.

My husband is a landscape designer and he owns his own company. In the winter he's home full time and he works on our house. In the summer he's busy from sun up to sun down, but he sneaks in a little time here and there to get projects done in our own yard - and there are a lot. We both love to dream and plan, which usually makes more work. :)

We started on the back yard first, since we love to entertain and that's where we do most of it. Last summer he built a fire pit and patio on our bottom tier and this summer he's been working on the steps and patio leading down to the bottom. It's a slow process, to say the least, but he gives it all he's got and I appreciate every moment of it.

The front yard
We've also started working on the front yard, because that's where we will have the children's play area. We had two trees removed on Saturday and now we're top dressing the yard so we can plant better grass. We were only able to get half the black dirt spread before dark last night and this morning it poured, so now our front yard is a mud pit! Next week we'll have a black wrought iron fence put in. I'm so excited to have a place to corral the boys!

There is so much more to be done and God is continuing to teach me about patience. It's a little easier now than it was ten years ago, but I have a long way to go.

What about you? Are you working on any projects? How's the patience holding out?


On Friday I'm participating in Katie Ganshert's Wildflower's from Winter Blog Hop. I have my own Wildflower's from Winter story that I'm excited to share with you. Katie is also giving away a copy of her debut novel Wildflower's from Winter to one of my commenters on Friday. I hope you'll join me!