Make-A-Wish Hawaii-The Details for Families of Wish Kids

Last summer our (then) almost 16 year old daughter was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of ovarian cancer that is unheard of in girls her age. After six months of chemotherapy and a handful of surgeries, the hospital staff gave her some super-fun news: She was eligible for a Make-A-Wish trip.

Mina decided right away that for her Wish, she wanted to go to Hawaii. I scoured the internet for as much info as I could find on what a Wish trip to Hawaii would look like. What would Make-A-Wish cover? Where would we stay? How would we move 7 people around the island? Do they book us solid for the whole week? Will we have down time? When and where and how and what will we eat? Is breakfast included at the hotel or should I be looking for places nearby to eat? I had so  many questions and found few answers.

So, this blog post is for anyone wanting to know the deets.

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The Process

First off, I have to say that every single part of the Make-A-Wish experience was completely magical. I have nothing but absolutely amazing things to say about the people, the organization, and the total experience. We were beyond blessed by this opportunity and we do not take it for granted at all. I cannot say enough good things about Make-A-Wish and since our trip, Mina and I have decided to join MAW’s Wish it Forward program to raise awareness and funds for this amazing organization. We can’t wait to get involved with helping other Wish kids and families experience the same kind of magic.

I wish I would have taken better notes throughout the process so that I could share more specific information about our story, but I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on the way things occurred.

We officially submitted Mina’s initial Wish application through Florida Hospital for Children in early (maybe January) 2018. We were notified by mail that it had been received and that when two Wish Granters became available, they would assign them to Mina’s Wish.

In February (I believe), two of the sweetest girls (both in their 20s) reached out to us as Mina’s Wish Granters. They set up a time to come out to the house to meet us all and to talk to Mina about her wish. Wellllllll, because we are who we are, we ended up having them out for dinner and they stayed til 11pm. I’m led to believe that this is NOT normal… but for us, it is! 🙂

We had a lot of fun with Amy and Amanda and they explained the process to us thoroughly, but it was a lot to take in. They asked Mina questions about her wish, what was most important to her, what kinds of things she liked to do, etc. Meanwhile, I filled out a mountain of paper work until I got a massive hand cramp. Ha!

Mina’s original wish was to go to Hawaii, stay at Disney’s Aulani Resort, and then do a bunch of fun things around the island. Well, after several emails back and forth, we all learned that HAWAII and AULANI are two separate Wishes. Obviously, Mina is not the first kiddo to choose Hawaii and MAW has got this process down to a science. If you Wish to go to Aulani, you can absolutely do that – but you stay at Aulani. Period. Not much more is included than that. However, if you’re cool with staying someplace else, they can set you up with all kinds of fun adventures. Mina chose to adventure! So, adventure we did. [Side note- We DID end up getting to eat at Aulani! More on that later.]

Because we are a homeschool family, we were able to be much more flexible with our Wish trip planning and decided to wait until fall to travel. Because MAW had so many Wish families travelling over the summer, they had to hurry those packets through and ours sat around a while until June. THAT was a long, hard wait for this family, but we never felt forgotten. Our amazing Wish Granters stayed in contact with us throughout the entire process. They checked in with us after Mina’s doctor appointments. They wished us a Happy Easter. They were just FABULOUS and so much fun. We completely adore them. The MAW organization itself reached out to us, too, through Amy and Amanda, asking additional questions and making sure they had everything they needed from us to start working on Mina’s Wish when the time was right.

Then it was July and our Wish Granters wanted to meet with us again. Because of our busy summer and our Wish Granters’ busy summer, we weren’t able to find a day that worked for all of us to be together. So, thanks to modern technology, we FaceTimed, and that’s when we found out that MINA’S WISH WAS GRANTED!! We were approved for Hawaii!

From what I can tell, Wish Granters go about confirming approved Wishes in many ways. Some just tell you you’re approved. Some have a big reveal party. Ours was a fun FaceTime chat, but Amy and Amanda didn’t leave it at that. Because they knew Mina and our family are very involved in our church (they ARE our family), they wanted to get our church family involved with the Wish. Through some secret stealth communication, they managed to work with our Youth ministers to pull off a surprise party for ALL FIVE of our kiddos and their bestest friends at church. There was cake and presents and colorful leis and a fun video that our friend Kellie put together of all of Mina’s people wishing her many happy adventures on her Wish trip. It was a completely beautiful day. So much Aloha!

MAW Party

If we thought waiting for the Wish to be approved was hard, waiting for the Wish itinerary to arrive was way harder. Apparently, Wish itineraries don’t usually arrive until about 2 weeks before a Wish family leaves. Thanks to Labor Day, our packet arrived only 1 week before we left and this mama was a nervous wreck. I wanted to be packed. I wanted to shop for things we might need. I wanted to plan our off days. But, as always, MAW knew what they were doing and there really wasn’t much left that I needed to do. They are so good at this.

What Was Included

I think my biggest question was, “What is included?”

Wish trips are generally 7 days, including 2 travel days. Limo service to the airport, airfare, hotel accommodations, resort fees, car rental, parking, all transportation tips, and our 3 main excursions were already paid by MAW.

A check came in our packet that covered everything else. I mean, everything. A form was included that broke down an estimation of what we would need throughout the trip. They included generous amounts for every meal (per person), travel day meals, luggage fees, snacks, etc. They included money for gas, souvenirs, and incidentals. We had nothing to worry about. I knew Hawaii was expensive and I was worried that with our party of 7 (including 2 teenage boys) we would barely be able to afford to eat, but what they provided truly was more than enough.

In that packet we also received a very detailed outline of our trip, although there were a few more details that I wish we had known, so I’m covering those later on in this post. Our itinerary looked like this:

Monday-
*Picked up at o’dark thirty in a stretch limo to take us to the airport.
*Fly Orlando, FL to San Francisco, CA. Change planes. Fly San Fran to Honolulu.
*Hawaiian Lei greeting at Honolulu airport.
*Pick up Enterprise rental car, go to hotel.
*Check-in at Sheraton WaikikiThis is where most MAW families stay while visiting Oahu. It’s a phenomenal hotel!

Tuesday-
*Horseback riding at Kualoa Ranch
(2 hour ride)

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Wednesday-
*Free day

Thursday-
*Blue Hawaiian Helicopter tour of Oahu
(1 hour ride, video of ride included)

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Friday-
*Free day

Saturday-
*Polynesian Cultural Center
(VIP tour, luau, and show)

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Sunday-
*Return rental car
*Fly Honolulu to San Fran. Change planes. Fly San Fran to Orlando.
*Limo service home

The itinerary packet also included addresses and phone numbers for every vendor or excursion we were working with. We were given the contact information for the Make-A-Wish Ambassador in Hawaii and a list of nearby hospitals which I thought was very thoughtful of them to include.

What We Did On Our Own

Even though staying at Aulani didn’t happen, we knew Mina really wanted to experience Disney’s Hawaiian resort so we reserved a character breakfast there for Wednesday morning. It was, of course, crazily over-priced but the food was good, the atmosphere was fun, and the Cast Members (as always) were delightful. We asked our server if there was any way we could meet Stitch (Mina’s favorite) even though we weren’t staying at the resort. She brought a manager over who took down our info and called Aja to confirm we really were with MAW and he hooked us up with passes to meet Stitch AND Moana, although we didn’t have time to stay for that meet-and-greet. Still, we thought he was wonderfully generous and we enjoyed the breakfast immensely. Aulani is a beautiful resort but we were all a little underwhelmed by it. As Floridians who love all things Disney, I think the Polynesian has much more WOW to it than Aulani and we were really glad that we had chosen to stay at the Sheraton instead, instead. That being said, I’m sure people who stay at Aulani have absolutely zero complaints. It’s gorgeous! I just know we made the right decision for our family, especially since our kids are older.

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On Thursday morning, Tropical Storm Olivia had brought in so much wind that our helicopter tour had to get pushed back a day. So Thursday we decided to spend the morning at the beach by the hotel and then we checked out Pearl Harbor. We missed our street and ended up turning onto the road that leads into Pearl Harbor – the military base. Thanks to our military ID’s, we got on base just fine and actually stumbled across the Pacific Aviation Museum. It was an amazing tour, well worth the time and money. Our kids saw a bit of history that few others have seen. It was a happy mistake. By the time we finally made it over to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, they were no longer taking tours out to the USS Arizona Memorial (they close by 4pm, I think). However, they saw our pins and told us that MAW families get to tour the USS Bowfin submarine for free, so off we went. It was a fun and educational day for all of us!

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After our helicopter tour Friday morning, we drove up to North Shore to meet a friend stationed in Hawaii. We stopped at the Dole Plantation which was SUPER fun (even without paying for a tour) and we filled up on delicious pineapple treats. Then we walked the beach, saw some sea turtles, and wandered around the cute little shops of North Shore, finishing the night with dinner at the famous North Shore food trucks.

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What I Wish I Had Known

There are certain things that you just can’t know until you go unless you talk with someone else who has gone on the same kind of trip. I’m sure every Wish trip is a little different but here are a few things I didn’t know that I wish I had known that now you know that you wouldn’t have known, lol:

*The Make-A-Wish Ambassador in Hawaii will reach out to you (ours was by text) while you’re travelling. Our plane got delayed in San Fran and I was worried we would get stuck in Cali overnight so I felt much better having already heard from Aja, knowing that I had a lifeline if I needed one.

*Do not give the hotel your credit card info. Our itinerary packet said we didn’t need to give our CC info unless we thought we might want to use it for incidentals. I thought we may want to order room service or something extra so I gave it to them. Welllll, that hotel parking fee that I was told would be waived got charged to my card in the amount of $200. The hotel staff assured me that there was nothing they could do about it. As kind as everyone was there, that was very disappointing. We did get it back (after we got home) but the point of MAW giving you money is for you to spend it on your trip. So, lesson learned. Again, MAW was so generous, this didn’t hurt us at all.

*Our hotel room was plenty big enough. Once again, travelling with a larger family can be rough. Seven is a rough number when it comes to hotel rooms. You can put Mama & Daddy in one room and 4 kids in another, but what about the 5th kid? Will our rooms be adjoining? You’d be surprised how many people will separate a family in a hotel without even considering how difficult that is. So we were relieved when we walked into our first hotel room and saw that it was adjoining the second room. But we were over-the-moon elated when we saw that the second room was a suite for the kids! They had a full living/dining room with a kitchenette, a huge bathroom, a bedroom with 2 beds, a long couch, and a murphy bed as well as a roll-away bed in the main room. Each kid had their own bed and they were soooooo happy. We had 3 balconies between our rooms with 2 separate views and the views never got old!

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*The hotel perks are more than you realize. We didn’t know until we got to the hotel that MAW included access to the Leahi Club with our stay. We learned upon check-in that this club on the 30th floor is where we could eat breakfast each morning (included in our hotel package). We were given a little brochure about the Leahi Club which talked a great deal about things like hotel amenities and the evening appetizers. What was only listed in teeny tiny fine print at the bottom was a list of other perks that were included with this package such as a free 30 minute photo session at the hotel (Wish families get a free 8×10 with any purchase), use of the teepee tents in the kids swimming area, free rental of a go-pro for one day, and other cool opportunities. We ran into several other Wish families at the hotel that week and NONE of them had seen that fine print and they were all as excited as I was to see what else was included. We took advantage of the family photo session and our pictures will be some of my most treasured possessions for the rest of my life.

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*You are not the only Wish family there. Someone told me that there’s usually 7-10 Wish families at the Sheraton Waikiki at one time. We met a few of them. It’s fun to reach out and say Hi. 🙂

 

This trip really was over-the-top amazing and I doubt our family ever stops talking about it. It was such a blessing for our entire family and Mina had the experience of a lifetime. I won’t bore you with any more of our details, but if you have specific questions or if you’re like me and find yourself in need of a little more reassurance that everything will be covered without any planning on your part (it’s a difficult leap of faith!), then feel free to comment here or reach out to me by email at heathertabers@gmail.com I’m happy to Wish it forward and share the magic with another family. Mahalo and Aloha!

 

 

 

 

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July 4th- My Holiday Trifecta

Looking back, I can see how God has prepared me throughout my entire life for becoming a military wife. I was the little girl that cried singing the national anthem. I was the teenager that loved all things red, white, and blue. I was the young mama that volunteered with the Red Cross on 9/11. And today I’m the wife of a wounded warrior, trying my best to raise 5 young patriots.

I love America.

But it wasn’t until this year that I realized the emotional trifecta that is this important holiday for me.

My Country

I was a Midwest girl raised by southern standards. We believe in “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am”, sweet tea, and apple pie. We wave the flag, we wear the flag, we honor the flag.

We say the Pledge of Allegiance loudly and proudly. We grow up playing with sparklers and catching lightening bugs and always eating BBQ on the 4th of July. It’s just what we do.

We take long road trips, winding our way across this great land, from sea to shining sea. We stop at battlefields and read up on national monuments. We teach our kids to memorize the Preamble of the Constitution and the names of all 45 US presidents, in order.

We love America. We are America. We are raising America.

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My Faith

I also grew up going to church every Sunday, memorizing all the verses to America the Beautiful, and proudly embracing my Christian heritage. I know the faith of the pilgrims, the sacrifice of the Revolutionary soldiers, and the importance of religious freedom.

I make it a habit to pray for our military, to thank God for our freedoms in this nation, and to teach my kids of the great heroes of our faith. I pray for our leaders, vote my conscious, and encourage others to do the same. I back candidates that support biblical principles and take my right to vote for godly leaders very seriously.

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My Man

However, the one single factor that binds my heart most tightly with the love of our great country is my husband. He is my hero. He is a patriot, a warrior, and a Veteran. He embodies the attributes of every great soldier- leadership, duty, responsibility, selfless-service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.

I thank God that he lived through battles that others did not. I thank God that he is here.  I thank God for making heroes like him who willingly run towards the things the rest of us run away from.

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So, this 4th of July, while I wave my little flag, watch my children draw pictures in the air with their sparklers, and “oooh” and “ahhhh” over the fireworks above, I will thank God once again for this country. I will thank Him for freedom. I will thank Him for our rich history as a blessed nation. And I will thank Him for the countless men and women who have sacrificed so much for me to even be able to pen these words.

I thank God for America.

5 Reasons I’m Hanging Up My Super-Mom Cape in 2018

I will never forget the woman who made me aspire to be a Super-Mom. I was a young wife and a new mama with 2 kids under the age of 2. I worked full time and felt like a failure at pretty much everything. But I had hope.

There was this seasoned mama that my husband worked with and from my vantage point, she could do it all. She worked full time as a nurse while raising a family. She canned her own homemade salsa and made delicious baked goodies and was always doing something amazing for her friends and family. I never visited her home but I bet it was even clean. I wanted to be her so bad, I couldn’t see straight.

Fast forward about six years.

I was walking through Walmart one day after work pushing a cart full of groceries and lugging all FOUR of my kids with me. I was a newly single mom, still licking my wounds but holding my head up high as I strutted through the frozen food section in my high heels.

That’s when I caught a glimpse of myself.

There in the reflection of a frozen foods door, I saw the woman I had always imagined becoming. I was thin, I had on a super cute work outfit and killer heels. I had four adorable children including a precious baby girl. I was googling a recipe on my Blackberry as I shopped so I could ensure I had all the ingredients I needed. I was smart and resourceful. I looked like I had it all together even though I was falling apart. I could multi-task with the best of them. I could do it all. I had become a Super-Mom.

Fast forward nine more year.

Being a Super-Mom isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve achieved most of my Super-Mom goals. I make amazing cinnamon rolls from scratch. I can successfully can my own salsa and apple butter. I sew new Christmas stockings for my kids every year. I homeschool. I teach at our homeschool co-op. I write curriculum. I edit books from author friends. I’m a freelance writer. I have my own direct sales business. I’m on the Operations Team and Board of Directors for an international ministry. I have kids taking drum lessons and guitar lessons and ukulele lessons and going to cheer practice and soccer practice.

And let’s just talk a moment about multi-tasking. This is where it gets real.

Super Mom

I write while my youngest daughter works on her school work. I text while I’m making dinner. I organize data in spreadsheets while my husband drives. I makes sales while I’m at Disney World. I edit books while I sit with my daughter at chemo. I Facebook in the bathroom.  I answer ministry-related questions during dinner, during movie night, during date night, during cheer practice, during breakfast, while I’m shopping, while I’m reading, while I’m baking, while I’m writing and cooking and watching my daughter dance all at the same time.

It’s too much.

At what point did I decide that being a Super-Mom meant that I had to spread myself so thin?

At what point did I decide that being a Super-Mom meant that I had to multi-task myself into a frenzy?

Sure, I wanted to do it all – but why have I been trying to do it all AT THE SAME TIME?

I know the answer to that question, though… it’s time. There’s not enough time in the day to do everything I want to do so I thought doing multiple things at the same time would free up other parts of my day to do something for myself like watching TV or reading a book. But it’s just not worth it. I need and deserve a few minutes to myself whether I meet all the demands of the world or not. Relaxation isn’t a reward, it’s a basic human need.

So, here are 5 reasons I’m hanging up my Super-Mom cape in 2018:

  1. Multi-tasking seems like an effective time saver but it keeps me from being focused and present. After almost ten years of being a master multi-tasker I’m finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate on any one thing. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times my kids have asked me a question while I was in the middle of typing something and it’s literally taken me a solid 30 seconds to form verbal words in response. That’s unacceptable. Nobody’s brain should be that tied up.
  2. Constant input has become a compulsion. While I’m a huge proponent of relaxation, I find it more and more difficult to relax. I check my phone while I read. I rush a hot bath if I hear my phone beeping in my room. I can’t sit still in a car, at the table, or in the bathroom more than a minute without feeling the need to check my phone for emails, texts, or Facebook messages. I’ve developed a need for constant stimulation and an addiction to distraction.
  3. I can’t sleep. My brain is so used to running at such a high power and high speed all day that it’s impossible to shut down at night. I start dreaming before I fall asleep. I wake up exhausted. It’s become impossible to fully disengage.
  4. My kids deserve better. My husband deserves better. My customers and friends and associates all deserve better than what I’m giving them now. They deserve my best not my frazzled leftovers.
  5. This isn’t who God wants me to be. Nor is it who my husband wants me to be. Or my kids. Or my friends. I’m the one that has placed these impossible ideologies on myself. I’m the one that gets a high off of martyrizing myself on an altar of busyness.

But not this year. Not in 2018.

This year I will focus on the two words that God gave me in 2017: Focus & Consistency. While I learned a great deal about them, it has only been within this last month that I’ve truly started to embrace them.

This year I will hang up my Super-Mom cape and give myself permission just to be who I am. I will give myself permission to let people down. I will give myself permission to not volunteer every time I see a need that I could fulfill. I will give myself permission to put the phone down and walk away. I will give myself permission to say No. I will give myself permission to relax.

This year I will work hard to be in the moment with those around me.

This year I will be content with my messiness and my imperfections.

This year I will do one thing at a time.

This year I will breathe.

To the Friend Who Trusted God and Feels Let Down

When God gives me the opportunity to share the same message with more than one dear friend in a short period of time, I consider it a nudge from above and I share it with the masses. And this message seems to be quite timely given the brokenness of our world right now.

To the friend who trusted God and now feels ignored, unheard, abandoned, forsaken, alone, disappointed, or let down…

I’ve been there.

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I had clung to God’s promises for five years. I knew He was going to answer my prayers. I knew He was going to restore what had been broken. I knew He would come through for me. I trusted Him explicitly. I never once doubted His ability, His willingness, or His timing. It was hard to wait but I trusted my Savior to come riding in on His white horse to save the day.

But He didn’t come.

My heart shattered. My life shattered. And my faith was tested. Would I still trust God even when He didn’t rescue me?

I’ll never forget the way I felt the first time I heard Natalie Grant’s song, Held. These words touched a part of my heart that hurt so deeply and soothed my soul with the reminder of this simple truth: He was holding me.

Who told us we’d be rescued?
What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares?
We’re asking why this happens
To us who have died to live?
It’s unfair
This is what it means to be held
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held

Oh, how I could relate! The sacred had been torn from my life and yet, I survived. I wanted to be rescued. I wanted to be saved from the nightmare of my reality, but I wasn’t and I didn’t understand why.

But God never promised that if we cling to Him, He’ll make our wishes come true. No, He never promised to give us what we’ve wanted or even to give us what we’ve earned. He just promised to hold us through this very difficult journey we’re on called life.

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When things don’t go our way, God has not disappeared. He has not forsaken us. He has not abandoned us. He has not failed us in any way. He is there. And He is holding us.

My sweet, hurting, broken friends…

It’s not your fault. It’s not your lack of faith. It’s nothing you did wrong or failed to do.

We live in a broken, fallen world. And somehow, despite our own brokenness, despite our own sin, we think we deserve to live a life exempt of the consequences of the sin all around us.

Do we really dare to think that we deserve to be rescued? To be saved?

Maybe we consider ourselves better than other people in our world. Maybe our sins aren’t as destructive, or heinous, or costly. But when we compare ourselves to the standard of perfection which is the life of Christ, can we really be so bold as to think we deserve deliverance??

Another song that speaks volumes to my heart on this very subject is a song that has brought many of us to tears over the past year. Hillary Scott & the Scott Family sing Thy Will Be Done and it brings me to my knees every time. Why? Because we love to focus our minds on the goodness of God and when He allows the pain of this world to encroach upon our lives, we don’t accept it. We reject it. We think it must be a mistake. It goes against everything we want to believe about a good and loving God.

I’m so confused
I know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here

I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I got is hurt and these four words

Thy will be done

But it’s not our view of God that is clouded. I’m beginning to realize that it’s my evaluation of my own self that is skewed. It’s my assessment of my own place in this massive universe that is inaccurate.

You see, I’m not the center of the world and neither are you. Yes, God loves me (and  you) enough to die on a cross for our sins, but we are not the only two people He did that for. There are some events and situations and circumstances in our lives that actually have nothing to do with us and everything to do about the people around us.

What if God’s sole purpose in creating me was to use me to help someone else?

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Wow. That changes the way I look at my life. 

What if God allowed me to suffer through the greatest pain in my life so that He could bring me alongside of someone else going through a similar and use me to bring that person to a saving knowledge of Him??

What if the whole purpose of my life, my pain, and my entire life was just to point others to Him and to bring Him glory??

Oh, wait.

Isn’t that supposed to be the purpose of my life???

At what point in my journey through life did I begin to think that my life was about my happiness? When, as a Christian, was I ever taught that my feelings are more important than the will of God? Where, in the Bible, have I ever read that God’s purpose is to please me?

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When I stop focusing on what I think God owes me and I start focusing on what I owe God, then my perspective of my problems (as painful and traumatic as they might be) becomes much more clear and I’m just grateful that God can use my messed up life to help someone else and I’m not quite as upset anymore when things aren’t going my way.

I truly believe that I will never know on this side of heaven what purpose God has for many of the obstacles that I’ve hurdled (or crashed into) in my life. But I know that the Savior of the world loves me. I know that I don’t deserve His salvation. I know that I fall short of His glory and grace every single day. And I know that His Word says that He has plans to prosper me and not to harm me.

His plans don’t always feel good.

But He’s a good, good Father.

This is what it means to be held.

Thy will be done.

 

 

 

Unhurried in the Hammock

Some days, life just seems way too daily. The to-do list is long and the amount of time available to accomplish those tasks is shortened by interruptions from kids and emergencies and of course, Facebook. Still, on my most disciplined of days I’m doing good to get a few hours of homeschooling in, answer my messages (email, text, and yes Facebook), get my errands ran, and POSSIBLY remember to lay something out for dinner. Possibly. And at the end of the day my to-do list often still has the four things on it that were there the day before. Like “Call the dentist”. And “Talk about the budget with husband.” OK, that last one has been there for six years, but we’ll talk about my procrastination issues some other time.

My point is, most days (like most of you) I find myself feeling pulled in multiple directions. Even when I’m sitting still I feel like I should be doing something. If I’m riding (not driving) in the car, I work my business from my cell phone. If I’m making dinner, I answer messages on my cell phone. If I have 8 minutes while the cookies are baking, I hop on the computer and work on my lesson for co-op. When I’m trying to encourage a friend via text message, I think of a great image I could make, create it, then post it to all of my social media accounts and all of the ministry social media accounts that I run. Do you get what I’m saying. I’m never singularly focused. I’m always multi-tasking. Always thinking of what the next thing is that I need to do. Always hurrying on to that next thing.

How many times have my kids asked me a question while I hurriedly finished typing something “important” with my thumbs while mumbling, “Hang on…. almost done… just gotta finish this….one more sentence…… and….. What did you need?”

I even have a hard time keeping up with this blog. I mentally post here about 12 times a day. I’m not even kidding. I glean nuggets of wisdom from others that I find worthy of sharing and I mull over the best way to express those thoughts… while brushing my teeth, or cleaning my bathtub, or buying groceries. Those words never make it to this screen. I loose focus. I’ve moved on to the next thing.

And THAT is why I have decided that Heather needs Hammock time. Daily. Well, at least 3-4 times a week. And half of my hammock time needs to be phone free. At least.

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Today I went out to the hammock, phone in hand. For a while I listened to some praise music on Pandora from my phone. But then the multi-tasking began and I decided I needed to put it away. So I chose to sit in silence. I watched the clouds. I listened to the birds. I relished the fact that the air was warm and the breeze was light. I thanked God that I lived in Florida. And then I started thinking of the people I love who are going through immense difficulties. I prayed for the friend who’s husband is in immense physical pain. I prayed for the friend who recently lost her best friend. I prayed for my kids and my friends’ kids and for my marriage. Then I just sat.

I’ll be honest. It took a good twenty or thirty minutes before that jittery, restless, incessant need to do the next thing finally stopped.

But it did.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am NOT a workaholic. I’m not a busy bee. I’m not one of those people that work work work from sun up til sun down. In fact, I don’t do much at all compared to most stay at home / homeschool moms I know. I have lazy days (more than I’d care to admit). But even my lazy days are spent with divided attention. I’m never fully present.

And that brings me back to my words for 2017.

Focus and consistency.

Even if it takes me thirty minutes of staring at the clouds, I WILL learn to focus myself on one thing at a time.

And if I have to put this on my calendar and set reminders three times a week, I will.

Because the world deserves my best ME. Not a third of what I can give while doing two other things. And I deserve the peace that comes when you’re focused and not frantic.

So if you need me, I’ll be in the hammock. Unhurried. Without my phone. …. most of the time.

This is My Story

Like so many others, my social media news feed has been abuzz this week with political posts regarding our new President, the Women’s March on DC, and the Pro-Life/ Pro-Choice debate. And while I usually don’t add much to political discussions, the issues of femininity and life are two issues that I really can’t stay silent on. They are intimately woven into the fabric of who I am and what makes me, me. I’ve already shared my thoughts this week on feminism, so today I’m compelled to share why I absolutely have to be pro-life.

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This picture right here is 1/5th of my story. This is my youngest daughter, Maddie, and in this picture she is about 16 weeks old, in utero. This picture is why I have to be pro-life. Do you see her round little head? She still has that unmistakably round forehead. Can you see her little hand waving at me? This is a picture of my BABY. This is why I have no other choice but to defend the lives of the unborn. You can argue all day long about a woman’s rights, federal funding of abortion clinics, or compassion for victims of incest and rape. But at the end of the day, we are still talking about a baby. That never changes.

My story starts with another baby, though. Her name is Miracle and aptly so. Our story is one of God’s grace and it has a very happy ending.

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I’ve shared it before Congressmen. I’ve shared it before Senators. I’ve shared it to women facing an unplanned pregnancy and women wanting an abortion. I’ve shared it with strangers and I’ve shared it with friends. I’ve shared it on my blog before and today it felt fitting to share my story again.  Please follow the link below.

Welcome to My Story.

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On Funerals, Friendship, Feminism, and Washing the Floor

I only wish that as I start penning these words, a quelling would occur of the emotions flooding my soul. So many emotions within twenty-four hours: anger, disappointment, sorrow, grief, encouragement, hope, sheer joy. Like the hot and cold air currently swirling over Florida tonight, these polar ends of emotions have ignited a number of little tornados taking formation in my heart. It’s just too much.

Jesus, we need You.

I learned this morning that a young mother in our church died unexpectedly just before our morning worship service began. She was only 36 years old. She leaves behind a husband, a 2 year old daughter, and a 2 month old daughter. Two little girls who will never remember their mommy. I didn’t know Jen as well as many of my friends knew her. She was the MOPS leader at our church and ironically, I had just spoken about friendship at their last meeting, at her request. I spoke about the different types of friendships. I talked about how real friends are the ones that go through the hard stuff with you. The good and the bad. The easy and the difficult. The tough stuff. She kept her eyes on me the entire time I talked, smiling and nodding with encouragement. How could we have possibly known that the next weekend we’d be walking through this hard stuff… without her? How could we have known that this week we would be helping her husband plan her funeral? It’s just too much.

Jesus, we need You.

When I went to bed last night I had no idea that today I’d be mourning the loss of  a beautiful soul. No, last night when I went to bed, I was mourning the loss of morals and values in our country. I mourned the loss of 57 million aborted babies who have been killed by abortion since 1973. I was angry at the pictures I saw of women taking part in the Women’s March on Washington yesterday. I was embarrassed that the rest of the world might think these women represented me in any way. I was disappointed that women could be so misguided and uninformed about their own worth that they would degrade themselves in their quest for equality. It’s just too much.

Jesus, we need You.

Tonight, with hot and cold swirling… with north and south repelling….with light and dark colliding, I began to see things for what they are. There is a difference between the women I wept with today and the women that crammed my social media news feed.

At church this morning I huddled with four dear friends and we prayed for our friend’s husband and baby girls. We prayed for her parents and her sister. We prayed for our other friends who will be ministering to this family in the coming weeks. We prayed for strength for ourselves. And as we prayed, the tears fell gently and puddled at our feet. I’ve heard a lot of disputing over what a woman’s role is this week, but I assure you that each of us praying today considered it an honor and a privilege to wash the floor with our tears. We weren’t seeking to have our voices heard by the mainstream media. We were simply crying out to our Savior and He heard our cries. It’s just too much.

Jesus, help us do this.

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Women have the ability to give life. That alone makes us SO unable to be equal to men. Men will never know that power. I sat with women tonight who cried as they talked about how little baby A is going to wake up tomorrow and ask for her mommy. We talked about how our own children are asking who is going to be A and H’s mommy now. The answer? We are. We are going to be her mommy. All of us. Collectively. The mommies of our church will love A and H. Because we are her family. We are her friends. We are mommies and we give life. We will give these precious babies life in the midst of her death. We will give life to her memory. We will give life to her unconditional love. It’s not too much.

Jesus, help us do this.

Another friend recently gave birth to a baby that is not her own. She carried this child for 32 weeks for a friend who had lost her own daughter tragically and could not carry another child of her own. Last week this friend brought a new baby into the world and laid it gently into the awaiting arms of his parents. She gave life. To this baby. To this broken family. She. Gave. Life. It wasn’t too much.

Jesus helped her do this.

This afternoon, my eight year old daughter had many questions about Miss Jen’s passing. Jen was her kids’ choir director. She was the VBS director. She wore many other hats as well and my little girl could not make any more sense of this loss than I could. Her questions of heaven and hell sparked a new understanding inside of her and together, we prayed the prayer of salvation and my baby asked Jesus into her heart. For all of eternity. Because He is the giver of life. Joy unspeakable!!  Jen’s legacy of love and Kingdom service lives on, even in her death. It wasn’t too much.

Jesus helped her do this.

As I continue to sort out these emotions and feelings, a lot of confusion remains. How could women take the life of their own child? How could women possibly think that they’re the same as men? How could they degrade themselves and humiliate themselves in the name of feminism the way they did?

How are we going to help Jen’s family get through the tough stuff? How do we say goodbye to our friend? How do I guide my daughter in her new faith? There are so many questions. But, it’s not too much.

Jesus will help us do this.

 

 

 

 

Dear Mama, You Failed

FAIL is not the worst of all four letter words, despite popular opinion. Fail means you tried. And in today’s world of celebrating mediocrity, trying earns you a ribbon. There are certainly worse things in life than failing.

Yet, in our fear of negative emotions, we absolutely denounce feelings of failure in ourselves and others. I know I’ve been guilty of it. A mom friend sends a text and says, “I have failed at parenting today. Adulting is so hard.” And you know that you reply to these texts the same way I do with absolute assurance that said friend is the exact mama that Jesus handpicked for those children and that said friend is not a failure in any way. And maybe you even throw in a comment or two about children being little demons. No? Just me? Oh well. I’m ok with that.

But Papa God taught me something this week that I just have to share with you.

It’s ok to fail.

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No, truly. It is. Please keep reading.

Failure is like death. Now, hear me out. God gave this to me, so it’s good. Failure is like death. It’s sad when someone dies and it’s ok to be sad when someone dies. We will miss them. We wish they could still be with us. But it doesn’t end with sadness. If the deceased was a Christian believer, then death is not the end. Sadness is not the end. We have peace and hope and even joy when a believer dies because we know we will see them again someday in heaven. Sadness is not the end of this life because of redemption.

The same holds true with failure. Sadness, regret, and shame are not the end of failure for the Christian mama – if she gives it over to Jesus.

Unfortunately, sometimes we are so deeply grieved by our own shortcomings that we forget to give it over to our Redeemer. As if we, in our failings, could possibly make it better and not worse.

Failure is like death. It may look like it’s the end but it doesn’t have to be.

So, dear mama, you failed. You lost your cool. You yelled. You made a bad decision. You ruined Christmas, a birthday, a special occasion. You forgot about the tooth fairy. You got divorced. You got married. You trusted someone untrustworthy. You harmed your child. You ignored your child. You infuriated your child. You didn’t love your child enough. You failed.

Satan wants you to think it’s over, but it’s not. Failure is not the end of the game. It’s not the end of the race. It’s not the end of your story….if you don’t want it to be. It certainly can be and for many people, it certainly is. Failure leads some to the bottom of a bottle. To the backseat of someone’s car. To a life of loneliness and hopelessness and despair. But Jesus died on a cross so that our failure could still be used for His glory. He died so that all of our messy imperfection could be made perfect.

When your teenager looks you in the eye and tells you that you’ve failed them, hug that sassy thing back and thank God that it’s not over.

When you’ve messed up the checkbook and the electricity gets shut off, light a candle and thank God that it’s not over.

When the man you’ve loved and devoted your life to walks out the door, pour yourself a bubble bath and thank God that it’s not over.

So, you failed. Admit it. Don’t try to sugar coat it. Don’t deny it. Deal with it by giving it to Jesus and asking Him to redeem it. He makes all things new. And that “all things” includes you. And your babies. And your relationships. Dear mama, we are all going to fail. It’s ok to fail. It means you are in need of a Savior. A Redeemer. A Friend.

Be a friend to another failing mama and let her know it’s ok. It’s not over.

 

 

 

Three Little Words that Grieve Me

 

Legalistic… Liberal… Lukewarm

These three words have been spinning in my head a lot lately. A triad of extremes. Three little words that grieve me.

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They’ve been in the media. They’ve been spoken at church. I’ve read them on Facebook. I’ve heard them in sermons, commercials, testimonies, and speeches. They bother me.

These three words, each in their own right detrimental to America’s way of thinking and acting and voting and living. These three words that are encroaching upon the way non-Christians view the church. These three words that some Christians are embracing with loving acceptance.

Liberal. Legalistic. Or Lukewarm.

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I’ll start with Legalistic because that’s where I started. Legalistic Baptist Church. Wearing dresses or skirts only. In the church every time the doors were open. Memorizing. Quoting. Performing. Knocking on doors. Not because I was in love with Jesus but because that is what was expected of me. Don’t get me wrong. There were a lot of folks there who probably loved Jesus a lot but I never felt that we were doing things out of love as much as we were doing things out of obligation. I walked the aisle at age 9 because I was terrified of hell, not because I was in love with my Savior.

I sat at church camp in my culottes. I sat in the sanctuary tapping my toes to the organ music. I sat there all 6 nights of Revival services. I sat in the choir loft during the Christmas Cantatas. I sat in the back row during my youth group days. I sat in the nursery on my Sundays to serve. I sat in the van on mission trips. I sat. And I sat. Nobody was running or leaping or … (dare I say it?)…. DANCING!! Dancing was on the long list of forbidden “thou shalt nots” that I adhered to for fear of hell, fire, and being a permanent outcast.

Legalism in the church stifles any spark that the Holy Spirit wants to fan into a roaring flame. It hinders growth. It puts the Holy Spirit in a box. It kills churches and it turns sinners away without any hope of ever measuring up to the impossible “thou must always” list that’s posted by the front doors. Jesus did not die on a cross so that we could live out our lives checking boxes and aiming for unattainable perfection. No, He did not. Jesus died on a cross because we are ALL hopeless, flawed, imperfect human beings in need of not only a Savior but a relationship with a Savior that loves us unconditionally. Yes, He did.

But where Legalism smothers a spark, Liberalism burns out of control.

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Liberal Christianity is on a rise and secular media is embracing it with arms open wide. While this should be a tell tale sign to Christians that something is amiss, this generation’s fear of being labeled “intolerant” has them running by the truck-load into the open arms of the all-tolerant liberal media. (Well, maybe not “all-tolerant”. They tend not to tolerate the intolerant. But that’s another blog post entirely.)

Over the past few weeks I’ve been participating in a Bible study by a popular, beloved Christian author. She’s wildly hilarious, has an amazing writing style, and her honest vulnerability is a breath of fresh air to worn out mamas and yoga-pants-wearing-women everywhere. But as I followed her on social media I was shocked by her very openly liberal political opinions and her unashamed passion for things that I am very much against.

Politics. Yep. I’m bringing up politics. It’s an election year so politics are everywhere and as ready as we all are to be done with this horrid election, it’s still worth mentioning that a person’s political views are completely intertwined with their religious/spiritual/ethical/moral convictions. And if they’re not… well then, their convictions must not run very deep.

Let me be clear- contrary to what almost all secular and liberal media outlets report- being “against” something does NOT mean you are afraid of it. I’m not sure who stumbled upon the gold mine of labeling unashamed Christians as being “afraid”, but it has certainly been beneficial to their cause. Don’t like a Christian saying they think homosexuality is a sin? Tell the Christian they are afraid of homosexuality and you’ll make them and their argument look weak. Don’t like a Christian saying that we need to respect our police officers and other law enforcement officials? Tell the (white) Christian they are afraid of black people and make them and their argument look weak.

I’m here to tell you I am not weak. I am not afraid. Of homosexuals. Of black people. Of politics. Of loud-mouth liberals. Of secular media. I am not afraid. Why? Because greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world (I John 4:4). I can and I will stand firmly on Biblical truth because it cannot be shaken. God cannot be shaken. My beliefs, my views, my moral compass… they’re not part of a trending fad of acceptance and tolerance. They are timeless truths that were given to me by the love and mercy of my Savior and nothing is going to change that. Ever.

I struggled as I read Facebook posts and interviews and Tweets of the afore mentioned author. Do I stop reading her books? Do I tell my friends that I’m done with this author? Do I publicly denounce any further alignment with her and her book studies? One article about her liberal beliefs said that Christians should just take her beliefs with “a grain of salt” and filter them through their own beliefs. I think that’s true with anything we read outside of Scripture, but that response felt very weak. A mamby-pamby response to a mamby-pamby response.

So I’m just going to say it. Sin is sin. Sin should not be accepted. But it SHOULD and it MUST be forgiven. When Jesus talked to the adulteress woman in John 8, not only did He not condemn her, but He told her to “go and sin no more”. He didn’t pretend adultery wasn’t a sin. He didn’t embrace her and tell her she could go and commit adultery in His house. He reminded the people condemning her that they were all sinners just as each of us today are all guilty of sin. But Jesus would have done this woman a disservice if He told her to go about living her sinful lifestyle just as Christians today do a disservice to those we do not warn about the dangers of the sinful lifestyles they are in.

Liberalism is a slippery slope.

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Lukewarm. There’s a word.

If you ever watched the movie “War Room” you saw Miss Clara give Elizabeth a great analogy of what it means to be lukewarm when she offered her a cup of room temperature coffee. Like the Scripture in God’s Word, Elizabeth was ready to spit that lukewarm substance out of her mouth. Like a good cup of coffee, God wants His children to be hot or cold.

Lukewarm Christianity is dangerous. Anything not leading people TO Christ is leading people away from Him. Anyone not standing up to evil is falling to evil. Edmund Burke is credited with saying that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Truer words have never been said.

Saying “I don’t want to get involved” is the same as saying “I don’t care enough about this situation to stand up for it.” Many Christians don’t want to hear this. They don’t want to face the reality that they’re lack of involvement is really just acceptance. They don’t feel that they have to fight every fight. They don’t feel that they need to put themselves out on a limb if it’s not something they’re directly involved with. So they don’t. And when good men do nothing, evil triumphs.

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Legalistic. Liberal. Lukewarm. Three little words that grieve the heart of God. Three little words that should grieve the hearts of Christians and call them to action against complacency, altruism, and a life of checking boxes. Three little words that God has laid on my heart to recognize. To call out. To call attention to. To warn others of. To speak out against in His Church. Three little words that can bring so much damage if good people do nothing.

 

 

 

 

Legacy & Changing Perspective

Legacy has been a buzzword in my life as of late and I’ve found myself pondering what it is I will be known for when I’m gone someday. Who will my children and grandchildren say that I am? How will I be remembered? What will have been my greatest accomplishment?

Thinking about legacy has shifted my perspective.

OK, so I’m changing more than my perspective. I’ve changed the blog up quite a bit, too. Whatta ya think? Snazzy, huh? Maybe not quite snazzy but I had to get rid of the previous set up. It wasn’t me anymore.

I created the previous blog page as part of a college assignment which required me to “brand myself” by trying to appear exceptional in some area of my life.

Yeah. That totally didn’t happen.

I am good at a lot of thing… but I am not exceptional. And I really did not like pretending to be an authority on life as a military wife. Blah. Not even close. (Too bad I just renewed my domain name. Working on that. There’s gotta be a way to change it. Stay tuned!)

I’m awed by the women in my life who seem to have clear direction, clear purpose, and a clear understanding of who God has called them to be. That’s never been me. I’ve never stood out in any area. I’ve never gravitated to one side. I’ve never lead others in a new direction. And I’ve certainly never been the best at anything I’ve attempted. While that used to frustrate me, leaving me feeling inadequate and “stuck” I’ve found that being smack in the middle of average and ordinary tends to make me quite accessible to everyone. And I like that.

Maybe someday my legacy will be, “She speaks. She writes. Well…she really tries.”

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I’m totally ok with that. Because if people know that I’m trying, then they know that something has mattered to me. God matters to me. My marriage matters to me. My children matter to me. People matter to me.

So I’m changing my perspective and I’m no longer focused on finding one area of my life that God can use me. I want Him to use every area of my life. I want Him to use me in the grocery store and around our homeschool table and on conference stages and in my prayer closet. Wherever I find myself, I want Him to use me. And if I don’t write well…and I don’t speak well… well, at least I tried.

Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”