Tuesday, February 09, 2016

When Life Takes a Pause

Today I have a very deep thing to write about.  I've used this blog for years to document my feelings and thoughts through the good times and the bad.  What I write about today is a mixture of both.  If you read my blog you may have noticed my absence...

That's because on the 3rd of January my life was forever changed.

My cousin, Monica died that day.  She was a beautiful soul, and wonderful spirit, dedicated friend and cousin to me. 


I was forever changed by her passing, as were all who know her, but also blessed beyond comprehension to have agreed several years ago to be a Godparent for her two children, and take them in as my own should anything ever happen to her.  Of course, I never imagined having to live out that promise, but here I am.

And, it's hard.
And wonderful.
And overwhelming.
And peaceful.
And exhausting.
And vitalizing.

Here I am with now 6 kids whom I am charged with to bring up.  The weight of this is heavy.  But I am so honored.

In this storm I have been so overwhelmed by the presence of Christ.  I have spent a lot of time with God this past month or so, and one thing I know is He is there in your pain.  I have been literally overwhelmed by pain.  I've never experienced anything like this before.  I suspect it's normal when dealing with an event like this, but having never experienced it before, it's been hard.  But, every time I've felt God's presence and been able to rest in Him and go to Him for comfort and peace as I try to figure this all out.

So, as we enter into the Lenten season I'll be doing my usual, which is taking stock of my life.  I'll be pressing into God and looking to Him for the answers I need.  And it couldn't come at a better time.

What are you facing today that has brought you to your knees?  Do you believe that God is in the middle of your mess?  Trust Him.  He will not let you down.

Love, Semalee




Friday, January 01, 2016

New Year Thoughts

It's January 1, 2016.  I'm sitting in my living room drinking coffee, enjoying the quiet before the family gets up.  I've come to really try to savor these quiet moments, because, it seems, they are few and far between.  Every year I spend some time thinking about what the New Year holds.  I try to envision some of God's plans for me and my family.  I spend some time reflecting on the previous year before approaching my thoughts for the next year.  It's so important to know where you've come from in order to set your sights on where you're going.

Many years I've done a list of resolutions.  Some years I've broken it into categories.  Some years I've simply used a word to guide me through the year.  I think I'll use a word as a jumping off point this year:
Focus
I've spent a lot of time in recent months realizing that I'm very distracted a lot.  I've got WAY too much on my plate, and I'm being INTENTIONAL about clearing things off.  I spent a lot of time simply treading water, and not really swimming.  I lost control of my schedule a long time ago, and it's taking some time to get it back.

But there's more.  I sometimes feel like I'm just in a fog.  On my weekend away this past Fall God really spoke to me about the fact that I always feel like I'm missing out on my children, their lives are just passing me by even though I'm right here.  He told me I feel that way because I AM missing it.  I'm so busy trying to make sure the next task gets done, or fighting pure exhaustion, or allowing Facebook more time than I should etc that I am truly missing the things that matter the most to me.

This starts a downward spiral where I feel guilty, so I withdraw, usually into an electronic device, and miss more, get snippy etc.

Focus
So, for 2016 my main goal is to Focus.

Focus less on the world of the internet, and more on the people right in front of me.
Focus less on the struggles of the day, and more on the successes of the day.
Focus less on the amount of times I have to say no to my children, and more on the ways I can say yes.
Focus less on the dangers of Michael's job, and more on his dedication to our family.
Focus less on things I want, and more on the things I already have.
Focus less on being perfect (because I totally fail at that) and more on being present.
Focus less on being busy, and more on being healthy- physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially.

Focus

In 2016 as I look ahead there are so many things happening, and I don't want to miss even one.

Gregory will graduate this year and probably move out and head to college. I have a limited amount of time left with him here.  A limited time left with all of us living under the same roof.

Auston will spend the year preparing to marry Sarah in 2017.  Before I know it he will be the head of his own family, and that will be his main focus.  It all happens so fast.

Shea will turn 7, "the age of reason". Every day can be a day of healing or defeat for her.  I am part of that outcome. 

William will complete Kindergarten, his first year at school all day.  He struggles daily with feelings of fear of abandonment.  He needs so much to know that I'm all in, especially during the times that we're together, and he's not at school.

Michael and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage.  It seems like these 20 years have gone by in an instant.  Very soon, I will have been married longer than I wasn't in my life.  He deserves my first fruits, not left overs.

These are just a few things, there are more to come.  There will be joys, there will be sorrows, there will be times of excitement and there will be times of ordinary.  No matter the time, no matter the circumstances, I want to be sure that through it all, the important stuff in my life has my focus.
Focus



Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Recap and looking to 2016

I can NOT believe it is the last day of 2015.  Seriously, time just keeps flying.  This year is almost a blur to the point that I don't even know how to recap it.  I'll do my best.

I went to look over my previous recaps and I was very saddened to see that my pictures are missing from the posts.  I don't know what happened with that, and I'm very sad about it.  For that reason there will be only a few here.  And maybe this will be the motivation I need to start making a yearly book like one of my friends suggested a couple of years ago. 

2015 started off with us at our first wedding of the kids our kids grew up with.  It was a surreal experience for me to think that Ryan Seymour, a kid that we met in cub scouts some time around Auston's 2nd grade year was now getting married.  I found myself reminiscing a lot about our own lives and thinking about how fast it has gone by.  Now, 1 year later it seems like Ryan and Kendall have been married forever, and that's it's own sobering thought.

In January, Shea turned 6 years old and she thinks she's 16.... Trina and Damon got engaged, Auston gave a talk on Sri Lanka to Gregory's Cultural Geography class.  And, Auston received is Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts.  That was such a relief to have that done after so many years of scouts!



And, blessing of all blessings- Princess Meara was born!




In February Gregory got his Driving Permit, and my friends Gwenn and Craig finalized the adoption of their twins completing their forever family :)

March rolled along with not much pomp or circumstance, just the usual busyness that comes from being part of a 6 pack...

April held Easter, our first experience in sharing Auston with his future in-laws, since he spent it in Louisiana with Sarah, and Field Day at Shea's school among other random busyness :)



In May Gregory turned 16, Sarah (Auston's girlfriend) graduated from High School (Homeschool), and Calley graduated from Baylor University.....




June took Mikey and I to Corpus with the MUD district for the Summer Conference.....


July held 4th of July with Michelle, Tahj, and Zeny, and a visit to the San Jacinto Monument before Auston headed off to Sri Lanka again, and I went to Chicago with Pampered Chef for Conference....









I August school started back up and the school/homeschool program I teach at moved to a new location.  I'm teaching Preschool with Rachel again this year and loving it.  William started Kindergarten at Aristoi Classical Academy with Shea, who is now in 1st grade.  A quick look at Gregory's transcripts told us that he would be able to graduate a year early, so he began what would be his Senior year--  surprise!




In September Michael spent his birthday visiting my school and talking to our students.  He's done this for several years now.  I can't put into words how proud I am of this man.  He even celebrated his birthday by bringing Rachel and I donuts!  ;)



In October Auston returned home from his 3 month stay in Sri Lanka, celebrated his birthday, I got to steal a weekend away with my Liberty Classical friends, and Trina and Damon had their wedding....








November holds one of our favorite events of the year, the International Festival.  Auston, of course, manned the Sri Lanka Booth ;)  Michelle moved to Utah :(:(:( And we enjoyed Jayden's company for Thanksgiving :)





December wrapped up the year quickly.  We did our annual hunt for our Christmas Tree, and......

AUSTON AND SARAH GOT ENGAGED!!!! 

OMGosh the time has flown.  It was just yesterday he was a lump in a blanket....







It's been one crazy year!  I think I'll save my resolutions for tomorrow....  or the next day.....  I'm going to go hang out with my kiddos....

Here's to 2015 and all it held, may you remember the good, and learn from the bad.

Here's to 2016, may you find joy in the smallest of places, and may God bless you abundantly!























Monday, December 28, 2015

The Post Christmas Valley



It's here.  That time of year when all of the excitement and expectation of Christmas has come and gone and you suddenly look up and realize the year is just about over.  The time when I start looking back over the past year to evaluate the good, the bad, and the ugly, in preparation for the coming year.  The time that I spend holding on to the joy of Christmas as tightly as I can, while watching my tree die and knowing I'll soon have to put all the decorations away.  It's very bitter sweet.

This year we have had so much happen, it's hard to even believe it all happened in just one year!  As I look around me I can't help but think about how blessed I am.  I have such a full and rich life.  It's not an easy life, and that's important to note.  Sometimes we look at life and think, "If I can just make this much money, things will be easy", or "If I get this one item, I'll be happy".  The truth is, happiness doesn't exist in money or things.  It exists in the hearts of those we love.

My two youngest children were adopted from the foster care system.  They are beautiful, resilient, loving souls.  But, they are broken.  We are all broken in our own ways, that's the reality of this life.  But my Littles are broken on a very deep level.  And that brokenness is hard to see past sometimes.  It's sometimes work to love them.  I'm not saying there's ever a time when I don't love them, but sometimes it's work to get them to accept love.  They are broken places that are so deep, it's hard to reach them.

Many days I find myself feeling like a failure as a parent.  When we started this adoption journey we had such high hopes.  We will just love on these kids and they will be fine.  We knew it would be difficult.  We knew it would be messy.  But I don't know that we were prepared for how difficult and heartbreaking it would be at times.  A parent's love for their child is an all-encompassing thing, and when you can't fix things for your child it hurts.  When you pour every bit of yourself into your child, loving them with every ounce of your being, and they still question your love on a deep level, it hurts.  When you look into your child's eyes and see a veil of sadness that they can't seem to shake, it hurts. When your child does things to be self- sabotaging, it hurts.

I cry out to God regularly and beg Him to heal them.  Sometimes it feels like my prayers go unanswered.

That's where the goodness of the Post Christmas Valley lies, though.  As we look at the past year, and really look, we can see the healing.  We don't see it in the day to day, because it's not a dramatic difference.  And, my Littles aren't the only ones being healed of their past hurts.  I am too.  I am healed of a little bit of the pain of rejection from my own mother every time I love them through a hard spot.  I am healed a little bit of the pain of failure every time they reach for me.

My daughter took a long time to let us in, and it has been just in the last year that we've started to crack her shell.  She's finally really letting us in, and that's come with it's own struggles.  I'm blessed to be her mom and learn about true unconditional love through her.  I've had to love her even when she wouldn't let me.  And the reward of her finally opening up a little has been well worth it.

My son has a veil of sadness and deep feelings of loss that sometimes consumes him. I find him lashing out in anger and declaring he doesn't care when really, the problem is he is starting to care and that is very scary for him.  He talks uncontrollably, causing him to get in trouble in school, which then causes him to feel worse about himself.  Watching this happen is heartbreaking for me as his mother.  I can't fix that for him.  All I can do is come along side him and love him where he is.  And, in the quiet moments when he climbs up in my lap and allows himself to be vulnerable for just a moment, I can see God working in him.

You see, when you are at the end of yourself, you are better able to see God at work.

And that is the redeeming power of Christ.  That is the redeeming power of the Post Christmas Valley.  The quiet moments as we close this year out, where we take a moment to see just how far we've come.  We take a moment to focus a little more on God, and a little less on our struggles.

The truth is, we're all broken vessels in one way or another, but God.   But God, can redeem us.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you

"Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace)"
All these pieces
Broken and scattered
In mercy gathered
Mended and whole
Empty handed
But not forsaken
I've been set free
I've been set free

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

Oh I can see it now
Oh I can see the love in Your eyes
Laying yourself down
Raising up the broken to life

You take our failure
You take our weakness
You set Your treasure
In jars of clay
So take this heart, Lord
I'll be Your vessel
The world to see
Your love in me

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

Oh I can see it now
Oh I can see the love in Your eyes
Laying yourself down
Raising up the broken to life

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
[2x]

Oh I can see it now
Oh I can see the love in Your eyes
Laying yourself down
Raising up the broken to life

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
[2x]

Oh I can see it now
Oh I can see the love in Your eyes
Laying yourself down
Raising up the broken to life
[3x]



Saturday, November 21, 2015

Too Small- God in a Box

Sometimes I feel God tugging at me to write, but I have no idea what I'm supposed to write about.  Such was the case this morning.  I have so much on my prayer list right now.  Friends who are hurting.  Kids who are hurting.  A husband who is hurting.  I am hurting.  A good bulk of the people around me are hurting in some way right now.  The more I purposefully pray, the more I see the hurt.....

But God.......

What do I know of Holy?  What do I know of wounds that will heal my shame?  Of God who gave life it's name....  What do I know of Holy?

In just a few short days we will enter the season of Advent.  Not all denominations celebrate Advent, and the different denominations may celebrate in different ways, even different churches celebrate differently, so I'll tell you what it means to me.  Advent is the beginning of the Church year.  A period of waiting.  In our church calendar we go through different "seasons" meant to guide us through prayerful consideration of the different aspects of Christ.  Advent is the season where we reflect on the dark time before Christ came into the world.  We reflect on what He means to us, and what he has done for us.  And, we reflect on His second coming.

Advent is often overtaken by the busyness of the Christmas season, and the beauty of what Advent is about gets missed.

As I was thinking about what to write, and the many things swirling in my head, and the song "What do I know of Holy" came on my Pandora.  I was reminded that in the midst of all of this pain that surrounds me God is still Holy.  In the midst of the infighting between the different religions of the world, God is still Holy.  In the midst of unexplainable circumstances that leave a little girl broken beyond what seems repairable, God is still Holy.  In the midst of children who have lost their way and forgotten how deep a parent's love really is for them, God is still Holy.  In the midst of the different church buildings and worship styles that we find ourselves in on Sundays, God is still Holy.  In the midst of the many different colors we all come in God is still Holy.  In the midst of broken relationship, God is still Holy.

What do we know of Holy?  As humans, it seems we often put God in the box of our circumstances, and forget that he is God.  It's not that we mean to forget.  It's that in our human-ness we can't see what He sees.  And by what we see, we don't see a solution, we only see the pain.  But, what do we know of Holy?  Holy supersedes our human box of reality.

So, as we prepare for Lent, take some time to think about just what Christ means to you.  Think about how He is omnipresent.  Think about how when we can't see a human solution, that is when we are actually able to see the God solution.

Things often do not go how we want them to.  But when you have your eyes focused on Him the pain of the world, the shortcomings of people begin to fade away, and the Holiness of God becomes clearer.



What do I know of Holy?

I made You promises a thousand times
I've tried to hear from Heaven
But I talked the whole time
I think I made You too small
I never feared You at all, No
If You touched my face would I know You?
Looked into my eyes could I behold You?

(CHORUS)
What do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
So what do I know? What do I know of Holy?

I guess I thought that I had figured You out
I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about
How You were mighty to save
But those were only empty words on a page
Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be
The slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees

(CHORUS)
So what do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
So what do I know? What do I know of Holy?

(CHORUS 2)
What do I know of Holy?
What do I know of wounds that will heal my shame?
And a God who gave life it's name?
What do I know of Holy?
Of the One who the angels praise?
All creation knows Your name
On earth and heaven above
What do I know of this love?

(CHORUS)
So what do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
Lord what do I know? What do I know of Holy?

What do I know of Holy?
What do I know of Holy?


What do I know of this Love....?.... I know that it is greater, deeper, more than I can humanly fathom.  I know that it follows me wherever I go, whatever I do.  I know that His love is much more. 
 
~~~Love Semalee

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Here, Rest

If you know me at all, you know I lack the ability/time/organization etc to truly rest.  For a long time I thought that this just made me very productive.  But over the years my schedule has become over-filled to the breaking point.  For several years, as in I have no idea how many, but for as long as I can remember, I've been telling myself something needs to come off the schedule, and several people around me have been telling me the same things.  It is a fact I know and agree with.  But yet, here we are.  Several years have gone by, and I'm still over scheduled.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to steal away some time with the beautiful ladies that I do life with at Liberty Classical.  Liberty Classical is a homeschool program here in the Katy area that meets twice a week and purposes to assist in the education of our children ages preschool-High School.  I've been doing life with them for 3 years now, and I truly love every minute of it.  Over these past few years the ladies there have become my "village".  We all truly, truly love each other and each other's children.  In reality, it operates more like an extended family than a school.  There are truly not words to describe what this program does in my life.  Even as Gregory is getting ready to graduate, and we made the difficult decision to put the Littles in a charter school (at least for now) I want to continue on with this group of people.

Anyway, we took off for a "Schole Sister Weekend" and spent the weekend in Surfside Beach.  The theme of the weekend was based on the book Teaching From Rest, A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace .  Even as my season of homeschooling is coming to a close (if only for a time) I found this to be a wonderful read, full of nuggets of wisdom.  Schole means restful learning. 

One of my biggest take-aways from the book was the Time Budget.  For whatever reason, I had never had it explained to me in the way she did, and I'm purposing to implement her ideals.  The basics of it are that you have a budget of time, as in there are 24 hours in every day.  From that, you need to take out the time needed for sleeping, and usual household tasks.  What's left is your time budget.  Now, here's the big idea: You need to ONLY SCHEDULE 80 PERCENT OF YOUR TIME BUDGET.  I am a person that looks at the calendar, sees an empty spot and allows it to be filled, thinking I'll rest the next day.  Most people like me actually schedule 110 percent of the budget.  The problem is, the next day I fill that calendar up too... And the next, and the next, and the next.  Before I know it there is NO time for rest.  This is a problem, but the bigger problem is that there is also no time for unforeseen circumstances, emergencies etc.  So, when those things happen (and they WILL), I find myself trying to squeeze in the remedy for that into an already over-filled schedule.  You can imagine how well this works.  The ultimate end result is I live my life day to day feeling like I'm living in a delicate house of cards, in a constant state of stress that something will happen to knock over the cards.  This ultimately leaves me short and snippy with the people I love, and missing life.

 
 
Throughout the weekend we had a few discussion times.  On Saturday, the discussion left me completely convicted and on fire. I can not describe how the Holy Spirit worked in me through this weekend.  In one of the prayers my friend Kelly coined it so well, saying something to the effect of, "The Holy Spirit just likes to come hang out among a bunch of women who love to sit around and talk about God".  That is just what He did.  I had already decided when I got there Friday evening that I was going to leave my phone upstairs, and truly unplug for the weekend.  I knew I really needed it.  But the discussion on Saturday really spoke to me.  We discussed ways that we were struggling with our families and our children, (and even our students) and something really hit home for me.  We were talking about how we get frustrated with our kids etc, and I had a vision of the Cinemark commercial that they play before the movie.  In essence it talks about "The Little Screen beckons, drawing you away from the big screen that you came to see" and the Holy Spirit told me that I allow the "Little Screen" (Phone, computer etc) to take me away from the "Big Screen" (Life, my family, my children growing up etc)  And then He took it a step further for me in the discussion. 
 
Honestly, at this point I don't even remember who was saying what, it's like a blur to me, because it was so convicting.  I felt like the Holy Spirit was talking directly to me.
 
One of the ladies talked about how "Multi-Tasking" is a lie.  That we are NOT able to multi-task.  As women, we feel like our life is just one big multi-tasking adventure and the truth is that we are not giving anything our attention at all.  And I realized that I've been saying for years that my life is a blur- I feel like I'm missing it.  I feel like I've missed so much with my children (AND THEY'RE HOMESCHOOLED), but yet, I feel like I've missed it.
 
And you know what-----????  I HAVE.
 
I've allowed my busy schedule to take over to the point that I am not fully present in ANYTHING I am doing.  Putting the phone down is only a very small piece.  The real problem is that I'm so overwhelmed with my schedule and responsibilities that even when I am performing a task, or with my kids, or even my husband, I'm constantly thinking of the next thing on my list, because there is ALWAYS a next thing.  Not just one.  Probably 100.  And I'm continually figuring out how all of these pieces are going to fall into place "just so" and keep my house of cards in the upright position, and as a result, I may be in the place my schedule says I should be, but I am not present.
 
So, when I say I feel like I'm missing life and it's just passing me by.  I am.
 
Ouch.
 
The very reason I do not work a full time job is because I don't want to miss my children.
The very reason I do not work a full time job is because I want to be present and available for my husband who has screwy hours.
 
Somehow I let my plumb line get so skewed that I'm completely off the path.
 
 
At the risk of sounding like it's all about me all the time, I have to say that this weekend was perfectly timed in my life.  I never get tired of how amazingly God truly does work all things out in His time.  I imagine this weekend was perfectly timed for the other ladies as well.  Here's why it was perfectly timed for me:  The week prior to this weekend my good friend of 16 years, Jennifer, passed away.  She had been battling liver failure for some time and it finally got the best of her body.  The Tuesday before I left for the Schole Sister weekend was her memorial service.  Her death hit me very hard.  I loved my friend very much, and I know where she is now, and I am comforted by the fact that she is no longer suffering.  During her service everyone shared stories of how Jennifer was available  when they needed a friend.  I realized I hadn't been available to her.   My busyness had stolen that as well.  I knew coming into the Schole Sisters weekend that I needed to make a change.
 
So, I'm purposing to say no to pretty much everything right now as I try to clear out my busy schedule and pair it down to just a few things that are important to me.  I'm trying to press in to God and really listen to Him.  I'm making a conscious effort to be present in the stuff of life - the stuff that is the most important to me.  It's a process, for sure, but you know what?  As I've spent the past week really limiting my time on facebook I don't really miss it.
 
 
As I was driving home from Jennifer's funeral this song came on the radio, and I really felt like God was telling me to just be here.  Let me know how God is changing your perspective on these things as well!
 
 

"Here"
Come and rest here
Come and lay your burdens down
Come and rest here
There is refuge for you now

[Pre-Chorus:]
You'll find His peace
And know you're not alone anymore
He is near
You'll find His healing
You're heart isn't shattered anymore
He is here

[Chorus:]
Breathe in
Breathe out
You will
You will find Him here

[Bridge:]
I will rest in You

[Outro:]
You will find Him
You will find Him here
You will find Him
You will find Him here