Monday, December 8, 2014

I don't believe him.

My husband is a good man.

He's an honest man. Really honest. I'm talking brutally honest.

That's why, when I see him standing up with a microphone in hand, not knowing what he's going to say  puts fear and panic inside me. Check out my face when he surprised me with an unexpected toast. Smiling, but terrified on the inside ... heart palpitations, bringing on perspiration and a flushed face. Because whew! That brutal honesty can be scary!

Sometimes I am the one who helps him to not be so brutally honest. It's hard to make an honest person not be honest. I encourage him to take all that honesty and just keep quiet about it.

He has proven himself to me all these years to be trustworthy. Now ... let's be honest ... each of us has had our moments of distrust, especially in the early years of our marriage. There were some challenging moments, but we pressed through them and came out stronger on the other side.

What has become very apparent to me in the last few years is that there is one area where I don't believe him at all. And, it's not because he's not being honest, it's because I have issues. Issues that most of us have.

Look at this statistic: 4% of the women (up from 2% in 2004) would consider themselves beautiful. That's quite a percentage there. 4%!

I think we all struggle with this: Believing we're beautiful. Using the word "beautiful" to describe ourselves is an even harder thing to do.

I know that I'm number one in my husband's eyes. But, when he tells me I'm beautiful or I'm pretty ... and then there's the even more extreme "most beautiful woman", I wince.

Why do I wince?

I know now. It's because I don't believe him.

Of course I'm not the most beautiful woman. I'm not blind. I see women all over the place who are way more beautiful than me. I'm surrounded by them.

Why should I even worry about beauty to begin with, right? Doesn't the Bible speak against vanity?
You know that Scripture, "Charm is deceitful, beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised"?

It encourages us not to be concerned with beauty. It's vain.

But, that's harder said than done. Beauty is all around us. And, logically if our husbands are attracted to beauty, we would automatically be concerned with it and desire to be beautiful for them. Makes sense to me.

Husbands love beauty. Wives desire to be beauty.

So ... I'm not sure if that Scripture is directed toward men who seek only after physical beauty, or for women not to purely seek after physical beauty and make it their focus. Maybe a little bit of both.

But, let's be honest ... we DO seek after physical beauty. It's just human nature.

No, it shouldn't be our primary focus. God knows a beautiful face attached to an ugly heart is NOT beauty.

So ... now that I've cleared that up ... I realize I WANT to believe him. I really do. I want to be comfortable and we should each be comfortable with hearing that word. But, just the word "beautiful" itself creates an insecurity that rises up inside me and screams, "you can't live up to that word." The word carries a lot of weight.

And, there are more days when I don't feel beautiful than when I do.

I am older. 
I have wrinkles. 
I have a crazy, lazy eye.
I'm always a few pounds overweight. Sometimes more than a few.
I have too many stretch marks to count.
I have thin, frizzy, graying hair.
My once firm body has taken to gravity and doesn't hold up like it should.
Heck, my toenails keep falling off. (I know ... I just went too far.)

Beautiful, right? Wrong. At least not in my eyes.

But, he says I'm beautiful.

He sees me as beautiful. And, that's the part I don't understand.

Because the problem is I don't always see myself as beautiful. And, that's why I don't believe him.

So .. here's the deal ... Beauty is not just physical. True beauty encompasses everything about us ... our heart, our character, who we are. And, when we like that part about us, we're pretty much okay with the other part.

I feel beautiful when my heart is right. I feel beautiful when my life is right. I feel beautiful when I believe all the things my God says about me.

So, when my husband looks at me, despite the flaws that I see every day, he says I'm beautiful. He doesn't see all the things I see. Well, I guess he does because he can't be that blind. But, those things don't matter to him because beauty for a man isn't only physical. Sure, it starts out that way. But, over time a woman who has her heart right and shows true character, strength, and integrity, actually becomes more beautiful to her husband.

When he looks at me now, he doesn't see the flaws, he sees the beauty.

He doesn't see the wrinkles. He sees lines created by many years of laughter and emotion.
He doesn't see the stretch marks and the extra pounds. He sees a body that carried and birthed his two daughters.
He doesn't see that lazy eye. He sees the same eyes he once gazed into for hours so long ago, dreaming of our future together.
He doesn't see me as old. He sees me as stronger, wiser, and more beautiful than before.

That's the part we all have to get! They don't see us the way we see us. And, we need to start looking at ourselves through their eyes. Our husbands are simply a reflection of a God who sees us as even more. If they can look past our flawed selves and see beauty, imagine what our loving Father sees.

So, now I will choose to believe. I will no longer wince. It's gonna take some practice, but we'll all get there if we just start to believe.

And, this man of mine ... he's a keeper.
Thanks for reminding me of my beauty and who I am, sweet man. I love you.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

My life got flipped, turned upside down.

Pump the brakes.

You know how the Fresh Prince arrives in Bel Air and kisses his former life good-bye in one quick sitcom opening song? That's the story of my life right now ... except I'm a white middle-aged woman (wait ... whuuuuut? Did I just refer to myself as "middle-aged"? Definitely inaccurate.) ... not moving to Bel Air ... and no catchy songs are being played in the background that is my life. But, I could bust a move and do possibly do some decent rappin' if I had to. I kid you not. Try me.

God has been busy at work in my life lately. He may actually be working a little overtime.

Over a year ago, my life changed as I was obedient to do what Beau and I believe God wanted us to do. There were doubts. Many doubts.

Did we do the right thing? Did we really hear God's affirmative yes?

I'm positive now that we did.

I'm positive because I've seen the results of hard obedience. Sometimes obeying what God wants you to do is not easy. And, sometimes it doesn't even seem like the right thing or make sense to you. But, if you obey, God works everything out.

Sometimes the "working out" part seems like forever. And, you wonder is it really going to work out at all. But, you press on and you wait. And, if you're a 40-something-year-old woman or one of those sappy, sentimental men .... you will cry ... a lot.

It's in those moments of despair and giving up that you can be real with God.

If there's one thing I've learned about myself recently, it's that I cannot be fake with God, much less anybody else. This can tend to be a problem with people, but works out perfectly with God.

It means I can tell him things like, "God, I'm broken. God, I'm upset. God, I'm angry. God, I don't understand what you're doing and I'm about to just give up. YET ... You are good. You love me. I will trust You. And, I thank You."

Yeah. You can do that stuff with God.

He knows your heart, so why be fake with Him?  Be real, but reverent.

There have been times and probably will still be times where I think God has forgotten about me. But, then I recall all the things He's done and continues to do for me. I recall Scripture and His promises to me.

There have been times where I thought I might lose my mind or need a counselor immediately. Yeah, that's probably still going to happen too. But, after I breathe ... and I mean, literally BREATHE, God reminds me again that He's in control NO MATTER WHAT. 

No matter what happens and no matter what I can't control, He's got it and He's not forgotten about me.

Things may turn out not the way I thought they would or want them to, but just like I trusted Him over a year ago with an obedient act, I can still trust Him now.

And, as I trust, He proves Himself to me over and over.

In the past year, Beau and I have gotten rid of about $9000 worth of debt. Done with. That's a good feeling. Not only did we do that, but were able to pay for our two-week dream vacation to Italy. We all got cars ... not new ... just new to us. Beau got his dream car and his dream upright bass (which he's wanted for over 20 years).

Yeah, all that happened in a year.

So ... now ...

God has orchestrated something else awesome for not only our family, but also for Him.

You see, my parents, have felt the call to be missionaries. Yep. At an age when most people would be thinking about and looking forward to retirement, they're being obedient to His call on their lives. Pretty awesome.

We've known about this for a while and have been waiting on all the details to be determined. And, now they are.

Within the next three months, we will be selling our home and everything in it and moving into my parents' house hopefully by this summer.

Talk about a whirlwind.

This is great for us financially, but SO great for the kingdom of God. They're going to be doing some incredible things and God's love will be shared to so many through this bold move. God really did work this out for ALL of our good.

Our next few months will be filled with work. All those things we had planned to get to some day will be happening ASAP. We're hoping to have our house on the market by March 1st.

It's a great house. We love it and the girls are a little sad about leaving it. So many memories here. But, there are so many more good things about moving and new memories to be made.

We don't know all God has in store, but we know altogether it will be continue to be worked out for our good and His.

Let me just take this moment to say that we believe all this occurred because, not only our obedience with steps we had to take in our lives, but also our obedience in giving.

We have pretty much always been faithful tithers. It was difficult when we were younger and totally living off of so little, but there was just one day where we decided we had to trust God and take Him at His Word. Either His Word is true or it isn't.

It is. I promise.

But, it wasn't the tithing that God was calling us to. It was the giving ... giving beyond our tithe ... giving when we thought we couldn't. Trusting ... yeah, that again. It always comes back to trust.

God really started to prompt us to give in different areas ... to give in ways that would be a sacrifice for us.

I could share all the different instances where God prompted us to give, and the blessings that occurred afterward. But, I'm not going to. Just know ... He means what He says. We don't give for the blessings. We give our of our love for Him. We give out of our obedience to Him. Whether He blesses us or not, we give. But, because we know who He is and what He says, we know blessings will follow.

So ... we're in this transition phase.

Life is changing for us ... we're selling our home, we're selling out stuff, we're moving our family, K Belle is graduating high school, and La Petite Belle is soon to enter high school.

Some big changes.

I know God's got us. And, I know His plans for us are good no matter what changes He brings. I'm sure there will be many more to come. So, we trust.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Italy: Rome ... The Big Finale

We ended our trip with three days in Rome. Everyone who had been to Rome said it was their least favorite. But, I LOVED Rome. However, I love the energy of big cities. New York City is one of my favorite places so I'm assuming that's why I am a fan. Just as much as I love the big city, I love the serenity of the country, which is why I loved all the other small villages and towns. I told y'all I'm easy to please.

We got into Rome early and had to wait a bit for our room to be ready to check in. Good thing ... because I was starving! So ... surprise, surprise ... we ducked into a nearby pizza place to grab a bite. I fell in love with one thing there ... cannot for the life of me remember the name of it. It was basically a cheese ball, rolled up in some type of rice-tomato substance (that does not sound appetizing in the least but it's delish), and then of course fried up. Delicious! If you know the name of this snack, please comment and let me know what it is so that I can figure out how to make these suckers at home.

We checked in and made our way to the main attraction for us, the Colosseum and Roman Forum. Amazing.

The Arch of Constantine seen from the Colosseum ... the very place Christians were tortured. Ironic to me.

Of course, we had to sample the grapes in Italy. Duh. 

Yeah. There's this.

Piazza Venezia in front of the Victor Emmanuel Monument

Did Beau actually eat pizza again for dinner that night? Well, yes he did.

I wanted to try something more traditional and compare the taste to what we have here in America. This is lasagna. It was not at all like the lasagna we eat ... no Ricotta cheese, no meat. So, although it was good, it was pretty bland. And, you can't go wrong with adding Ricotta and meat to any pasta.

More tiramisu ... I think this was our favorite one. The Italian mama in the kitchen makes it homemade every day. 

 The next day we visited Campo Di 'Fiori. This was my favorite area. Lots of restaurants with tables on the cobblestone streets and an adorable farmer's market with so many beautiful, fresh veggies, fruits and flowers.

This guy right here was making fresh pomegranate juice which was quite possibly the most delicious drink I'm ever had. I told Beau I needed this juicer and some loads of pomegranates.

Another lively area was the Piazza Navona. Lots of people, music, and you guessed it, eating.


Then, we walked over to the Pantheon. It was quite a sight to behold.

After that, we headed to the Spanish Steps.

And, stopped off for a bite. Best salad I ate while there.

By far, our favorite restaurant was a family-owned establishment, Osteria Del Cavaliere. Mom cooked. Dad managed. Children waited tables. 

This is what bruschetta looks like in Italy. You spread any combination onto toasted bread. 

Cheese plate

Homemade pasta

Lamb skewers with potatoes

Toffee-type tiramisu/pudding dish

And, the last day ... we hit the Vatican. It was Sunday so it was pretty crowded. Everyone wanted to get a glimpse of Pope Francis.

Yep. He came out from his apartment.

I even captured a bit of what he spoke on video. I had no idea what he was saying except for God, Mary, and redemption. That is all.

St. Peter's Basilica ... Gorgeous.

These people are serious about getting in to see this church. The line was ridiculous. You may think I'm crazy because we came all this way, but I literally told Beau the line and the pushing were not worth going in for me. But, he was determined at this point. 

I, on the other hand, almost came to blows with an older Italian woman who kept giving me the elbow and shoving me. I had to say something to her ... in English, of course. I'm sure she understood me though. I got on the other side of Beau and told her if she wanted to push someone she could push him. And, then he gave her his famous death stare and the pushing came to a halt. But, I have never seen so many people anxious and adamant about getting into church. Never.

This is the spot where it is believed that Peter was crucified.

Ya'll this here ... Nutella crepes. Yeah, so good.

Just killing time in the Castro Pretorio.

And, our trip was over. 

It was the most fantastic trip I have ever been on. I'm not sure what could top it, but I'm willing to try other spots. We do want to plan another trip to Europe in about five years or so ... Paris, London, and Dublin. Maybe somewhere in Switzerland. I'm up for suggestions.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Italy: Tuscany Region/Siena

Another area I had longed to see was Tuscany. The whole Tuscany region is quite large. We wanted to drive through the most picturesque parts of the area, which was Chianti.

The whole drive was gorgeous. The photos don't truly show the depth of how vast this area is. But, there were miles and miles of rolling hills with vineyards and typical Italian-style homes with terra-cotta roofs. Just miles and miles of beauty.

We stopped and ate lunch at a vineyard, serving only the freshest most organic food you can get, right from nearby villages and towns. I'd say this was one of our top 3 meals.

Fresh Tomato Soup

I don't remember what this was but it was my favorite thing I ate, go figure ... some type of potato dish.

Pork Tenderloin

Guinea Fowl (or as they call it "like chicken but better")

Panna Cotta

We left the region and starting making our way back to Assisi, stopping in Siena. This is one of the most beautiful towns. If we ever went back again, I think this is where I would want to stay.

St. Catherine's Basilica

Piazza Del Campo with Mangia Tower and Santa Maria Church

You guessed it. More gelato.


And, the last post in this saga on Rome to follow.