Friday, March 2, 2018

Even If

Sometimes I don't remember what it was like to speak only English. Not British English, not Kinya-English, just plain English. I'm not fluent in Kinyarwanda, or even close to it, but you learn enough to move around; you use the Kinyarwanda words when you have them, occasionally some French or Kiswahili may be helpful, or you can just pull out the English words that you know are most familiar to your Kinyarwanda speaking friends, and it all just becomes this jumbled mess. So, sometimes I have a hard time remembering what's "correct". 

What I'm trying to get to is, and I can't remember if this will make sense, 'even if' is a full sentence around here. In fact, it's kind of become our unofficial family motto. So much so that I was telling one of the boys that I would like a huge, blown up print of just the words "even if." at our new house. It covers a multitude of topics. For instance, if I make fun of one of the boys clothing selections, I get the duck-face-one-shoulder-shrug, "Even if". (Translation: Even if you don't like it, I know I look good.) Or when someone tries to take my....anything (clothes, perfume, bags...) and I say it's for girls, thinking I could change their mind, and they respond with "Even if!" Not all "even if"s are cute. Some are hard even if you don't like it.... even if it hurts.... even if you're sorry.... even if we're not together.... I love you. Even if.

And now for the point: I got several really sweet messages from people who were worried or concerned about me, our family, our house... and I just wanted to say thank you so much. We are fine. We will be fine. This is our life, and we are so incredibly blessed, even if. 

Maybe you know that I always stumble around talking about callings; I don't know if God called me here, to Rwanda. I think that He called me to Him and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt He met me, here. He has used me and more than that He has changed me and challenged me and grown me in ways I could never put into words. And that hasn't happened because it's been easy. He carries us and He has never, not for one second, not proven Himself to be faithful. Even if.

Life is hard here, that's just reality. It's uncomfortable more than it's not and I think that's often putting it lightly, but I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. Even if I don't like it. Yes, we fight, but we are fighting for something so much bigger than ourselves. And, ultimately, when I can breathe, I appreciate that. I want to be brave with my life. Brave for Him, brave for my family, brave for my friends. And being brave requires taking risks. Looking back over the last 7 years, I can't think of a time that I stepped out in brave faith and came to regret it. (I can think of a few cowardly regrets....) I know that this little blip in time will be no different. Even if it's overwhelmingly difficult, it's more than worth it in the long run. Like, the eternally long run.  

Thank you for caring. Thank you for taking the time to reach out with kind words, support, and prayers. It's never my intention to downplay what's happening, not the good or the bad, because the sweet spot is right smack in the middle. We are thankful more than we could say. xo

PS. We got the final, scary budget to finish the house and we have about a month to raise it and get the work done. It feels daunting and I don't want to use this blog to publicize our personal financial needs, however if you are interested in helping push us over this last hurdle, shoot me an email and I'll shoot you one back with the breakdown.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Choosing to Stay


I'm trying something new here, like talking about what hurts as it's happening. Talking about it while it's not fine. These last two weeks have been a constant stream of cuss words and prayers and cussing prayers. And all the tears that have ever been cried in the history of ever. Our little family is struggling, hard. Our new house is way behind schedule, way-er over budget, and potentially a couple of bedrooms too big. One plumber has been put in prison and a good friend threatened with joining him (regarding our current house) and the gutter man for our new house is on the lam, with our money and our gutters, and the promise of prison once he's caught. Until then our house progress hangs in the balance. Bonnie, our rudest and ugliest chicken was stolen! And that's just this week.

I'm not telling you this because I'm looking for sympathy, I'm telling you because I want to be honest, and I also have some context to put it in....

One of my New Years resolutions, or fresh start plans, or whatever... is to take better care of myself. If I'm being honest, I don't really love the word self-care, for whatever reason it just sounds... icky, to me. Or maybe it just seems icky in the vein of "treat yo self", which I also can't stand. That being said, I do realize the screams of my body and soul and to be taken care of. Practically. Feeding myself good things, in all senses of the word; quiet time, away time, eating better, moving more....

Another thing I've done in the name of self-care is dig a bit deeper into learning about myself. This actually started before the new year, but over the last several months I've been learning so much more about the enneagram. And learning that I really knew/know so very little about myself. Not my whole self, but the shadows, the parts I'm not always readily willing to admit. Even to myself. If we've spent any time together, like ever, you know I love Myers Briggs. I'm an ENFP and when I learned that I thought I knew all I needed to know. I remember reading the description for the first time and thinking, Holy wow, I could have never said this about myself, but YEAH.

So, that's fine.

I'm also a 7 on the Enneagram. I pretty much knew that I would be before I took the test, but I've taken a few tests now and confirmed that I am. Unlike Myers Briggs, the Enneagram goes behind the mask, it's less of a caricature based on personality, and more about the influence of basic fears and motivations of each type, for the purpose of self-actualization. The reason I took the test a few times is because sometimes 'they' say you'll need to, but also because upon reading more about sevens I thought, Nope, not me. The problem is they said I was a thinker. And a planner. They said I make decisions out of fear, a basic fear of being in pain.

Annnd, cue the pain. And all the fears.

I knew it was coming, not pain, but opposition; any kind of growth is always met with opposition. My pastor says, "If you're not ready to face opposition, you're not ready." I've opened my eyes and learned so much lately and have been working so hard at getting centered and staying grounded. And then in just a couple of weeks, or maybe an instant, it feels like everything washed away. Not just the new growth, but everything. (And yet the whisper, I will restore to you double.)

Looking on the bright side, here's a chance to put some of my new knowledge and self-care to the test. Sevens are often labeled escapists, running from anything that might hurt; not necessarily physically running (but sometimes) it's more like escaping into a book, or a season or 3 of Friends, or a bottle of wine... But healthy sevens are encouraged to stay. Stay with the pain. Stay, because that sounds terrible. Here's the thing, I don't even know what that means, to stay with pain. I guess I thought we all tried to avoid that which seemingly wants to kill us. Or maybe I thought I actually was always feeling it real good. To be sure, my heart does feel like it's cracking, shrinking, shaking, beating too fast for too long and then all of a sudden deathly still and I think to myself, Uh huh, yep, got it. Pain. Feel it. Check.

In an effort to stay present, it seems my tears have run dry. Surely, that must mean I am so here for this hurt... Another thing I've learned about sevens is that they are often nicknamed 'spin doctors' or 're-framers', walking around with a pocket full of silver linings, to avoid pain. I do recognize this about myself, so any time I've tried to spin this big-yuck into something less than, to reason it away, reframe it, or hand it off to God with easy words, I tell myself, Nope, it's that bad, just bad, really sad and bad. Feel that?

Acknowledging and feeling what hurts. I remember one of my first appointments with my counselor in Oklahoma, she said, "Tara, of course it's hard. That's hard." Those simple words freed me from so much baggage I had been carrying around about not be good enough, or smart enough, or sane enough and now I carry those words with me instead. "Of course it's hard." And I think that might be what staying in it has allowed me to come back to this week. I know this pain, the ins and outs and all the reasons, because it's done nothing but wash over for me for days. Of course it's hard. 

But I faced it and I'm still here. Praying for restoration.

So after all that, I guess I didn't tell you what the big hairy deal has been. I guess I'm not going to, specifically, because the seven in me is still hoping I might not need to. That somehow, as it usually does, the world will get back on it's axis and we'll all get back to business as usual. I guess maybe I just wanted to tell you about the enneagram and how, if you haven't already, you should jump on that train, asap. Here's a free test to get you started. And if you want some good related books or podcasts, I've got those, too. Just shoot me a message! xo

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

I Will Restore To You Double

Hi. I've been really mulling over my word for 2018. Praying that I would hear and be open to it. Thinking about it so much that I'm listening for it in The other day, I literally thought, "Guacamole....?". No.


So, for real, I was watching a youtube video a couple of weeks ago and the woman, reading from her journal said, "I wrote at the top of the page, 'I will restore to you double'." Something about it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up and over the next couple of days I couldn't get it out of my mind. I just kept hearing it, over and over, in my head. I will restore to you double.

The following morning in my quiet time I cracked open my journal for the first time in over a year and wrote: 2017 Word Ideas (and then I wonky scratched that 7 into an 8). The first word I wrote was double and next to it, the phrase I couldn't get out of my mind, I will restore to you double. I also underlined restore, because that felt like a potential option, too..... I scribbled down a few other words with little notes beside them; some personal, others business related, a couple in reference to our family, but none that I really felt were all encompassing.

And then I decided to just google 'I will restore to you double' to see if it was a thing, and what do you know....

Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double. Zechariah 9:12

Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion;
instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot;
therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion;
they shall have everlasting joy. Isaiah 61:7

Maybe you know I'm and ENFP and a 7, if enneagram is your thing; I like to look for connections and deeper meanings and find them in all the things. Also, hi. My name is Tara, Prisoner of Hope. So, this, in my little world, is God serving me up my word(s) for 2018 on a silver platter. I can pick both of these verses to pieces and know exactly why He drew me here; personal, work, family...all the things.

I've noticed on social media, especially this year, that there are definitely two camps; those who choose a word and those who don't. For me, choosing a word is less about 'name it and claim it' and more about where God is drawing my focus, for better or for worse. It's about where He is turning my heart and what He is asking me to be prayerful and mindful of. I've been on the receiving end of a word that, in hindsight, I would have preferred Door #2. This year, the jury is still out.

To be honest, double feels like it may be time to double down on what He has called me to, to some dreams that I have let lie dormant, but also to prepare to accept abundance and to pray about where I may be playing small. Through stressed out tears this week, I asked Him "Double, really?! You think that's a good idea?!" I heard it again, "I will restore to you double". And for the first time I understood the emphasis on restore, as well.

These last couple of years have seen some considerable loss. I've made mistakes and suffered the consequences. I've also learned a lot of lessons and I can sense now that it is time for restoration. Restored confidence, restored dreams, restored relationships... I could go on, but we have a whole year for that.

So, I guess that's two words for the year. And so it begins. xo

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Arise, My Daughter

Do y'all pick a word for the year? It's something I picked up a handful of years ago, praying about a word that God would in some way provide as a sort of theme for the coming year. There are years I have focused on that word more than others, but every year it's crazy to look back and see how God used it to shape the following 12 months.

In 2014 my word was seek and I taped up in several places around my tiny little apt in Nashville. I was back from Rwanda, living in a new city, and desperate for some fresh direction.

In 2015 my word was courage. I didn't post a single blog that year (this was my first blog back), but I ordered a necklace with J, 1, and 9 charms on it for the verse Joshua 1:9, Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. I also had a Giving Key with 'courage' etched on it. I wore them both every day and promptly re-gifted them as soon as the year was over. Happy to close that chapter. I thought He was preparing me to be brave for something great. I had no idea when that word came up that I was actually going to be so incredibly weak that year, that I would need courage like never before just to hang on and keep going.

In 2016, my word was chosen and it meant so much to me I got it tattooed onto my arm. God had been whispering it over me for some time, but it took a precious friend, audibly praying it into my ear as I wept, for me to internalize it. He chose me. As His daughter. For this exact life; for exactly this place, with exactly these people, doing exactly what He asked me to do. Maybe I didn't feel like I was enough, because maybe I wasn't supposed to. Despite how the previous year had thrown me around, I did hear His voice and He is directing my path. We are in this together, He and I, for the long haul. Because He chose me. And I knew he was asking me to rest in that.

In 2017, my word was rise. I never offically wrote about it, but I heard it clear as a bell. Again, another sweet friend was the catalyst. Her text said, "Hiiiiiiii. You just popped in my head and I prayed for you. I heard 'God is listening'. So there you go." The story only starts out sweet, because it made me so mad that God would tell her He was listening, but I felt like I had been BEGGING Him to speak.

There is a mountain near our house that I started climbing the year before, I would go up when I felt like I couldn't breathe. From the top were the most stunning views; I could see clear to the lake and all the way into Congo. God often spoke to me from that spot (and I often told Him I'd like to jump).

One particularly rough day, the same day I got that text, I put on my tennis shoes and hiked up that mountain to give God a piece of my mind. It had been a while since I had been up there and the eucalyptus trees someone planted had finally grown too tall and I could barely get to my prayer rock and, even when I did, I couldn't see the view. I kept walking, wondering why He would take even that away from me. My one place. It started to rain and I stopped at an old, boarded up church and pressed myself tightly under a tiny overhang. I started to cry and slumped to the ground. And then I heard Him. Arise, my daughter, it's time to move on. Your spot is gone because you don't belong here anymore. I finally understood. I had been down too long, asking Him to speak or to move. And He was just waiting for me to get up. When the rain stopped I walked back down the mountain, lighter than I had felt in months. And when I got home, I googled "arise scripture" and got Isaiah 60:
“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. 
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you. 
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

“Lift up your eyes and look about you:
All assemble and come to you;
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters are carried on the hip. 
Then you will look and be radiant,
your heart will throb and swell with joy;
the wealth on the seas will be brought to you,
to you the riches of the nations will come.

The message was crystal clear and I vowed to rise. It happened with the grace of a baby giraffe. There were no monumental moments of clarity, just slow and steady steps forward. Hard circumstances strengthened the bonds between the boys and I; we all settled in and really began to thrive. We rented a new house and new shops for the 41 gals and I started to dream again. We found our Myla girl. We bought land. We raised a large chunk of change and started to build our house. If you would have told that crying mess on January 8th, 2017 that this is where we would end up on December 28th, 2017, and that every single line of those verses would have meaning, I would have fallen down dead.

God has moved mightily this year and I'm so thankful that I was standing to see it. It's been a long time since I've looked forward so expectantly to a new year. I don't have my word yet, but 2018, we're coming in hot.
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