Our Hearts are Healing (he's home)

Although I mentioned it briefly on social media this summer, I haven’t talked much about the fact that our oldest is home. Why, when I cried out to you about him leaving, would I not shout from the mountaintop that we’re together once again?

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Well..quite honestly, I AM shouting from the mountaintops! I’m just doing it at home instead of online. The internet is an interesting place and being authentic and open via blog and social media is important to me because I know I’m not the only one going through hard-stuff. I never want anyone to think my life is easy or perfect or unattainable.

Because they truth of the matter is…

We have been through some hard, HARD stuff over this past decade.

I know it’s easy to use social media to highlight the good and gloss-over the bad. Or the flip-side and highlight the bad because of drama’s sake (I’m lookin’ at you, reality tv). Other times, we target the hard stuff for a good reason like wanting prayer.

What I’m wrestling with though is the difficulty of doing any type of deep sharing when I’m not the only person in the story. I struggle knowing how much to tell people when the story is not entirely my own. I want to tell details because that’s the kind of person I am, one who wants to portray honesty and reality.

But the plain truth is…the details do not belong to me.

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What I can tell you is that we follow a BIG, MIGHTY, and GOOD God.

We have a Father in Heaven who truly is involved in our lives and cares deeply about all aspects as we go through them. This REALLY, REALLY hard time when our oldest left became a sweet part of our story because it strengthened his faith and the knowledge of what family really means.

So those of you with children (parent, spouse, etc) who have left, know I grieve with you.

Keep falling to your knees. Don’t give up praying that the Lord only allow them to go so far. Be as available and loving as you can if they do intermittently call, text, or message. I know not all stories end up in a good place like ours currently is, but when I initially posted this post, I cannot begin to tell you how many messages I received about children/brothers/sisters/even parents being gone for 15-20 years and now having relationship again.

After decades, they came home.

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I’ll be praying it’s not that long for your loved one. But as for us, we will continue serving the Lord…no matter how many hearts reside within the walls of our home.

Would love to share more. Perhaps one day he’ll give me permission.

Clinging to Joy,

Teresa


Want to hear more about our story and how God flipped it all upside down (in the best way possible)? Click the link for Beautifully Interrupted and see how an interrupted life can be more beautiful than you could ever imagine.

Friday Five v. 2

In case you've forgotten what Friday Five is...

There are times I just really want to share things with you when I happen onto funny or inspiring Instagram posts...or yummy looking recipes on Pinterest...or a super cute pair of shoes I found online. You know, the fun stuff you text your best friend about.

So I do a post from time to time called Friday Five...which is five things I've come across that week that I loved or wanted to share!

Here are this week's Five!


One

I'm in the middle of reading this book and it is so stinkin' cute!! If you need a sweet read, this is totally for you!

Here's a review from Amazon:

Charlotte Malone, the owner of a successful bridal shop in Birmingham, Alabama, believes the "right" dress finds its bride, not the other way around. But Charlotte can't find a dress for her own upcoming wedding. When she discovers a beautiful hundred-year-old wedding gown in a battered trunk with a welded lock, she’s compelled to uncover the mystery of the dress and the three women who wore it. Eleni Pappageorge's light, airy voice fits this lovely story of faith, mystery, and magic. Her Southern accents are convincing, and one can hear a smile in her tone. Although her portrayals of the story’s elderly female characters are sometimes a bit “gushy,” they simply add to the charm.


Two

An interior designer friend is helping me with a fun office redo. The words I gave her are: Playful, Clean, White (with pops of color), Creative, Full of Story

Want to see my pinboard for it?! I can't wait to start painting!


Three

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I just sent the final FINAL draft of my book in to my editor in yesterday!! It's currently at the printer! Ahhhhhhhh!!!!

And shhhhh...Presales have officially opened on Amazon. But we're not really announcing that yet because we're going to do a bunch of fun gifts for those that DO preorder and we haven't announced those yet. Stay tuned!


Four

Some super sweet friends gave me a gift last night during the planning meeting for our Women's Conference and I'm just over-the-moon about it. They had gone in on it together to remind me that even though Abreham is no longer living with us, he's still ours...and we're still his. That family is forever. Isn't it amazing and thoughtful?

And doesn't it SERIOUSLY look like all of us?! Even the outfits and hair are either things each of us wears in real-life or we would wear!

Want your own? (of course you do) Click here for Nicolle's shop!


Five

Speaking of sweet and sentimental, I'd happened on to some tear-jerker videos this week while looking for inspiration on a project I'm working on.

Take a look at some of these (sob).

Moms...grab a box of kleenex for this next one.


The kids are off from school today so we're headed to our favorite Ethiopian place for lunch...gotta go! If you're ever in Denver and decide to try it, totally get the Doro Wat. You can thank me later.

Enjoy your Friday and the beauty of the weekend!

Take Joy,

Teresa

Fear, Family, + School Shootings

Four times in the past two weeks since the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, we've received messages from our children's schools regarding found threats by students. As much as we limit our kids seeing the news and various things on social media, they are in-tune with the shootings that have been going on. They hear the gossip about the student-threats and internalize conversations had in class. And they're scared.

To be honest, I think as parents...we're scared, too. I was chatting with one of my dearest friends in the world, asking if she'd be willing to contribute some thoughts on it all because she gets it. Deeply.

I challenge you to take a few minutes and really read what she has to say. Because I'm having a hard time sending our children to school, a hard time explaining things to them, and a hard time not living in fear...and not infusing fear into our children's hearts. Maybe you're struggling with this, too.

Meet Crystal Woodman Miller. Columbine survivor.

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Thursday morning, February 15th, the day after the horrible attacks in Parkland, Florida, I woke up questioning whether or not to send my oldest daughter to school. Sadly, it wasn’t the first time I had asked myself this question. Our nation has experienced far too many of these attacks. However, the incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school hit close to home for me personally.

Nearly nineteen years ago, I was the same age and in the same stage of life as these students when...

I narrowly escaped death at Columbine High School.

I was a junior and only sixteen years old on April 20, 1999 when my friends and I decided to spend the lunch hour in the library working on class work. When chaos erupted within the halls of Columbine we took shelter under our tables, praying that God would save us. After a few moments, the two gunmen entered the library and went on a killing spree for seven and a half minutes.

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During that time, my friend vowed to take a bullet for me and I promised God that if He would save me, I would give Him my life completely. The library is where the majority of the violence took place that day. Ten of the thirteen who were killed were in the library, and fifteen of the twenty-four were wounded there. After those long, seemingly never-ending minutes, when I was literally waiting to die, the two gunmen pushed a chair in under our table, and I braced for the end. Yet nothing happened. They needed to gather more ammunition in another part of the school, but told us they would return to kill those of us who were still alive, giving us only a few moments to escape before they came back.

We now live and raise our children in a post-Columbine era. As parents, we remember the days when schools were safe, and people did not have to fear sending their children to school every day.

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Nowadays, however, we wonder...

Could today be the day my child experiences the unthinkable?!

It should not be this way.

What is more, our kids are keenly aware of the dangers that they face.

Whether they express it or not, they are afraid to go to school, making it virtually impossible to learn or even enjoy their school experience. Every student from elementary to high school has lived knowing what a school shooting is, and they recognize that violence can take place anywhere. 

I just returned from Parkland, Florida. I was able to speak to the community and with survivors themselves. The overwhelming grief they now face is unbearable.  The question I received from parents more than any other was “How can we ever send our kids back to school?”

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So, what do we say to all the parents out there who are anxious and feeling crippled by fear?

What is more, how do we talk to our kids when they ask questions like:

“Will I be safe at school?”

“What happens if a gunman comes to my school?”

“Why would anyone ever do something like this?”

How do we walk the delicate balance between sharing enough with our children in an effort to prepare and educate them...

yet not say too much and cause undue anxiety?

I think it is important to note that all of your feelings, emotions, and questions are valid. They are completely normal and they are shared by most parents everywhere with school-aged children.

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We face a very real enemy whose aim is to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10) He will stop at nothing until he succeeds. Yet, we also trust that our God is bigger than any evil that comes against us, and that He is present with us in all circumstances. We know that God’s plan for us is to live- and to live radiantly- despite all of the things that seek to crush us.

Faith and fear cannot occupy our minds simultaneously.

In my experience, and in God’s great story of redemption, we know HE WINS.  Yet until the day He returns, a war rages on against our children and within our own minds as well.  It is a battle between what we can see, and what we truly believe.

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I know from experience how fear can have mastery over your life.

Oftentimes, before I even recognize that I am doing it, I have laid out a plan in my mind about where I would hide, how I would shelter my children, or where we would escape to in any given situation.

It is at that point that I must force myself to stop, and tell myself that everyone is safe- that no one is in any imminent danger.  More importantly, I must fix my eyes on Jesus and try to focus my thoughts on the things that are true and right and lovely. (Philippians 4:8)

Then, I must personally ask for peace- a peace only He can provide as the overcomer of evil. (John 16:33)

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Oftentimes, if my thoughts are anxious as I drive my daughter to school, I start praying over her.  With a confident assurance that the Lord loves my daughter even more than I possibly can, and that she belongs to Him, I begin praying out loud over her.

I ask that God will command His angels concerning her to guard her in all of her ways. (Psalm 91:11) I ask that He will be her Protector, and a wall about her. (Numbers 6:24 and Zechariah 2:5)

Praying scripture over ourselves and our children is our weapon.

This scripture-weapon will fight the enemy and to quiet our minds when things are beyond our control.  We must be a people who can stand firmly on and trust in the promises of God so that we will be unmoved by fear. Choosing faith over fear gives us victory over the enemy’s constant assaults. Choosing faith over fear allows us to run in total liberty and watch as the chains that bind us break off link by link.

One powerful and practical tool to help us do this is to train ourselves in the art of mindfulness.

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In doing so, I am convinced that we will learn ways to deal with the anxiety, fear, and panic that seek to suffocate us. In fact, three very specific things can happen when we practice this mindfulness: Gratitude, self-grace, and future assurance.

First, we must become a people who are grateful.

Gratitude allows us to be present in all the moments of our lives- from the most mundane to the most exceptional and extraordinary moments. Gratitude causes us to take pause and enjoy the little things, like how our kids smell when we kiss the top of their heads, how they giggle and laugh at the dinner table over the silliest things, how their eyes sparkle in amazement when they watch snow fall from the sky, or how they breathe when they lay next to you fast asleep.

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Gratitude even awards us the opportunity to laugh and enjoy the “difficult” moments, like when they spill their milk, dump out the dirt in your flower pots, or get paint on their new clothes. These are the moments that turn into memories. These are the moments that fill our hearts with inexplicable joy.

Second, mindfulness teaches us not to make judgments and to be gracious to ourselves.

Whenever you face panic, confusion, or fear, instead of suppressing or ignoring the unpleasant feelings, we must turn to acknowledge them and face them head-on. We must take courage because as believers in Jesus, it is ours for the taking. Courage is not the absence of fear but rather staring fear in its ugly face and saying, “Not today! You will not win today!” When you acknowledge the fear, it loses its powerful grip of control over you.

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Lastly, mindfulness gives us resolve.

It reminds us to assess where we are and where we hope to go in the future. As parents, we get to determine how we want to raise our children and guide them into who they will become. We get to send them out as brilliant stars to light up the darkness in this world.  As parents, we set the stage so that they can become the ones who truly affect real and lasting change in this culture.

We have the beautiful privilege to raise empowered, strong, compassionate, loving children whose legacies WILL NOT and CANNOT ever be extinguished by any amount of evil in this world. We get to instruct and disciple them, to teach them to accept others, to reach out to the lonely, to recognize the broken in a hurting world and respond in kindness.

Ultimately, we get to show our kids how they can change the world one friendship at a time. We get to teach them to hold out the hope of the Gospel to friends and classmates as fearless truth-tellers.

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As parents, we model an understanding that this world is not our final destination. We model an understanding that violence, pain, and even death will not be our end or be our ruin. Then, and only then, will our children walk confidently forward in the direction we’ve led. If we and our children know who we are, WHOSE we are, and where we are headed, we will be able to walk through whatever challenges we face.

As parents we must confront this issue and be brave enough to invite our kids into a conversation about it.

We must create space within our homes and margin throughout our days to talk about these issues. Some families choose to conduct a daily briefing- giving their children a safe place to share their concerns and fears.  We must address their feelings and concerns- both validating and assuring them.

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Without making promises we cannot keep, we must encourage our children that our schools are doing everything they can to ensure their safety. We can discuss reasonable precautions and actions to take in the event of an attack. We must talk about warning signs of the sad, angry, and disenfranchised so that they can reach out, but also be willing to alert safe adults of any threats.

It is critical to never forget what has happened, and remember those we have lost.  We must talk about how we can use our voices and our skills to seek change on every level. Most importantly, we must establish a firm foundation of God’s Word and truth in our homes as we read and memorize scripture. We must pray together, knowing that prayer has the power to ease our fears and also to change things. 

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We must practice mindfulness for ourselves and model it for our children. Mindfulness invites the presence of God into our fears, anxieties, and worries.  As God shows up in every area of our lives, even the ones we wish we could avoid, it silences the enemy and causes the darkness to flee. The enemy will continue to sling his arrows at us, and he may injure us, but he will not ruin or destroy us.  He is no match for The King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

Our power and our authority come from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit! The enemy cannot stand in the presence of the Almighty, so we will call on the powerful name of Jesus- the name that is above every name! He is the answer to every fear and worry we face. And He is the gift we give to our children and to this broken and hurting world.

By the way, Crystal will be back soon as she shares practical tips on how to talk to our kids about the what-if's and to live prepared...yet without fear.

If you have specific questions you might like answered in that post, please ask in the comments section of today's blog post.


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Crystal Woodman Miller lives in Morrison Colorado with her husband Pete and three children Lucca, Malachi and Josephine.  She is the author of Marked for Life: Choosing Hope and Discovering Purpose After Earth-Shattering Tragedy (NavPress). 

She is an international speaker on issues of faith and hope in the midst of suffering.  Crystal survived the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999,  and shares candidly of her own journey of hardship, faith and hope so that it may encourage others in the challenges they face. 

Crystal also speaks in effort to prevent school violence and to help those who, unfortunately have already been impacted by it.  Crystal is most passionate about teaching God’s word and carrying life through the hope of the Gospel to a broken world.  Find her online at crystalwoodmanmiller.com  

My heart is broken into pieces (+ prayer printable)

If you follow me on social media, you'll have picked up that our family has been going through a really difficult time. I haven't really alluded to the what and the how...quite honestly because I could hardly say it aloud yet.

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Have you been in that place before? So hurt that you can hardly ask for prayer because you're so emotionally drained and don't have the energy to talk about it?

Growing up, our family had a code word we'd say if we needed help. I could call my folks while at a party, slumber party, etc, use the word in conversation...and my parents would immediately pick me up, no questions asked.

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We do the same thing now for our kids, but we've even gone one step further: they know if they just need a hug or a cuddle and some mom or daddy time, they have a word they can use and we'll know they need a little extra love. They may not be capable of voicing it aloud yet, or depending on their age, they may not even be able to put a finger on WHY they feel that way...they just know they need added affection.

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We've all needed a little extra love over here lately because our oldest son Abreham decided he didn't want to be part of our family anymore. If we were sitting over a cup of coffee or glass of wine, I'd share details with you...but both because it's a long story, several years in the making...and because I'm still trying to figure out how much and what to share with the world, I won't pour everything out right now.

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What I will tell you is he's an 18-year-old Junior in high school who has lived through a lot of trauma in his life. He's angry, he's broken, and he thinks he's better off alone because he can hide in his pain and not feel. Because feeling, to him, is weak. And it's painful.

We know he's safe, but I will leave details at that.

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I am devastated.

Absolutely devastated.

I ache every moment of the day with the loss and rejection and sadness. I'm angry, worried, and full of sorrow, all at the same time. As I go through the cycle of grief, over and over (and over), I give it back to my Father in Heaven to is with my son and I'm reminded he's not actually alone.

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The thought of it is incredibly painful, but I'm ready for God to allow Abreham to be broken...but not destroyed.

And that's what I'm desperately praying for: that God only allows him to go so far. Just like the waves are only allowed to come so far onto shore, I pray that the Lord only allows Abreham to drift from Him so far. It's so hard knowing our kids need to learn from failure sometimes. They need to try things and realize growth is hard and it's even harder when bad decisions are being made.

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Ben and I always say we want to prepare our kids for the road, not the road for our kids...and this is yet another example of how we cannot soften things for our children at every moment. This is obviously a much larger situation than simply allowing them to see what happens if they decide to wear flipflops to school when it's 35 degrees. This is huge.

This could potentially change the trajectory of his entire future.

And that may be even harder than him deciding he doesn't want to be part of our lives anymore.

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And the incredible hurt and pain he's cutting into his brothers and and sisters hearts, is one of the hardest parts on my mama-heart. But hearing the prayers of these little ones for their big brother, is awe inspiring. They pray for his "hurt heart", they pray for protection, and they pray that He comes home.

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While praying a few days ago, the Lord whispered in my ear "I will bring him back to you." I knew better than to ask when...it may be 10 days, it may be 10 months, it may be 10 years...I just don't know.

But HE knows.

And I will rest in that because He is God and I am not.

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Abreham, I love you.  You are not alone and can never stray too far that God won't pour His love out onto you. There's nothing you can do that He won't forgive if you ask with a sorrow-filled heart.

The Lord is walking beside you, Abreham, even when you don't want us to be. I will pray for you always. I will love you always.

- Mom

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Prayer these days has been a constant companion, though sometimes there are times it is hard to do so. I created this printable to remind myself of who He is and what He can do. Our God is a BIG God, and one of deep love for us.

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When I have a hard time praying, I'm simply going to read this. If you need it, I pray you print it out, too. Head to The Library to download. As always, the password is at the top of all my emails, so if you haven't subscribed yet, feel free and do that today.

Love you friends, thanks for walking life with me.

Take Joy,

Teresa

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How to Rest + Be Still

Life is busy and bustling and very rarely is there time to sit and rest. Are you in this same season?

Every night I sing to the girls after our prayers. They make their minds known while shouting out their favorite end-of-day songs: Jesus Loves the Little Children, Twinkle Twinkle, the Rainbow song...and one I made up when Anton was an infant called Be Still.

Based on the hymn we sang in church as a child, it goes like this:

Be still (insert child's name), and know He is God...that Jesus loves you, Mom and Daddy too. So close your eyes...and go to sleep. Every time I sing it, it's like God's murmuring it right on back to me because I'm tired and have a hard time settling down to rest.

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This has been an extra busy season, with Ben still settling into his new job and me trying to figure out what life as an author looks like: completing my manuscript, getting gigs on my speaking calendar, coming up with good content both for my own blog and for articles I'm collaborating with on other peoples sites and magazines.

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What's funny though is that I work so hard to ensure our extra business doesn't affect the kids that I end up just creating a whirlwind of exhaustion. I want our kids to know that my ministry won't disturb our family-memory-making that when I am with them, I just have nothing left.

Instead of allowing our family time to fill my bucket back up so I can pour out...

I'm left dry and parched.

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During church last week, a friend filled in for our sick pastor and spoke about this very subject. Our family intentionally hunkers down during the winter months, when cold weather sweeps through our Colorado mountains, but fall is just a busy one with six kids in activities, clubs, friends, homework, and all that fills the outside school hours.

I needed this reminder on rest.

Why do I look at Sabbath as something unattainable, though?

Are you the same? Our friend Eric (who preached last week) talked about how the Sabbath isn't supposed to be a 24-hour span of time full of what we cannot do...but isn't that often what we think?

When I hear the word Sabbath, I feel I need to somehow figure out how to just be still and relaxed and quiet for the entire Sunday hours. Like I need to do literally nothing.

But as a mom that just doesn't seem possible!

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We live in a neighborhood full of Jewish families because we're so close to the Synagogue. It's amazing to watch their diligence walking to and from service on Saturday: pelting rain, blistering sun, and deep snow, it doesn't matter.

A few summers ago, a someone's dog got out and was running around the street. A knock on our door brought me face to face with a smiling woman who said she heard we "take people in" (hah!) and would we be willing to take in this lost dog because since it was Sabbath, they couldn't use their phone and locate its owners.

Huh. Is this what Sabbath looks like?

Am I supposed to rest in a way that I cannot even help a lost pet?

How are we supposed to rake the leaves and go to Costco though, if this is the only free day we have? What about those of us with kids that need to be run around town for sports and birthday parties?

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What about the toilet that keeps plugging up and the necessary trip to Home Depot? Sunday is the only day we have to get all this done and prepare ourselves for the week ahead. Sunday is when we do meal-prep and change the sheets and make sure all the laundry is put away.

So someone...

please tell me how we're supposed to keep this Sabbath?

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Our sermon on Sunday reminded us it's more of a heart issue.

Sure we can go to Costco...but when we do, let's not get riled up with the crowds and our children touching things and making the trip take longer. Let us instead take a step back...walk a bit slower.

Stop for the samples. Let them play with the karaoke machine and the keyboard piano or drum set. What if we actually made Costco...or Home Depot...or raking the leaves...or whatever it is we're needing to do, into an experience.

What if we did our week's meal prep with the kids instead of ushering them out of the kitchen? What if we slowed down enough that we enjoyed our tasks, rather than simply rushing through them?

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We may not get as much done on whatever day we choose to rest on, but isn't that the point?

We don't need to literally do nothing.

We can still go on a hike, bike ride, or fishing with the family. But if chores need to be done and errandss need to be run, we can do it with a different viewpoint.

Our tasks can still be done... but with our hearts positioned differently, it could become more restful.

More rest-filled.

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What do you think? How could you honor the Sabbath and put rest in its rightful place in your life?

Take Joy,

Teresa