Tag Archives: overcoming

Expressing All that Excitement!

“Guess what? Guess what? Guess what?” IMAG0120

My boys responded with the teenage eye roll.

Maybe I tend toward the melodramatic, but hey, a girl’s gotta express all that excitement.

This morning it was over the working burner in my stove.

Time again to be vulnerable about a “private” subject. Since 2013 I shared here about losing weight inside and out. I’ve mentioned periodically our struggle with money.

There it is. The taboo word. Money.

Always paired with the word struggle.

But as I’ve lost weight Jerry and I have also fought to lose the poverty mentality. The attitude that money is always pain and struggle and worry. That there won’t be enough.

I admitted last week that we had some really hard times in the years surrounding Jerry’s near death, times when I couldn’t get groceries. During this season my stove went out. We found a free one on Craig’s list, but the front glass was broken in the oven. Soon after the main burner of the stove started working on only one setting: high.

This morning I put turkey bacon in my skillet and used my favorite burner on medium. MEDIUM! Hallelujah. See, little by little, (and sometimes huge project by huge project), the nagging things that have made me feel pushed down are being fixed, replaced, repainted, re-purposed.

It’s amazing what a new oven door or fresh coat of paint or new fabric on old pillows does to that weary, poverty mindset.

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Picked a nice grey accented by white for my entryway.

 

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The walls are “stone white” and the trim a high gloss white. The china cabinet used to be bright blue, but it is now the color of the wall opposite it. The back of those grey pillows is the original blue fabric, which makes them feel custom made!

Yesterday we got new carpet. NEW CARPET throughout downstairs. The old carpet was original to the house 30 years ago. And I always hated the color. LOL.

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it’s so soft and squishy!!!!!!

Today? New shelves for the freezer. After the old ones broke I was determined to not be angry every time something fell out. It took a while to afford replacements, but thanks to that $75 needed, this is no longer an issue.

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Can’t count the times that jar of yeast almost hit my toes!

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Toes are feeling much safer now!

A friend tells me, “inch by inch it is a cinch.”

And it’s true. A little effort and money here. A little more there. It’s getting done. The upgrades long overdue in my home are actually happening.

The temptation has been to not even start these home projects. There are many, and we are weary. To be candid the first project was thrust upon us, and we had no choice.

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Coming home to old wall paper gone and new sheet rock hung.

But over the last three months much has been accomplished, and I have a peace about my home that is natural. It’s a peace I fought for, sometimes several times a day, when the need for repairs or the lack of beauty threatened to send me into despair.

During those lean years I changed patterns in how I lived, hanging out in rooms that needed less work so I didn’t get pulled down by the bad carpet or old paint. I cut fresh roses and brought them in from outside or made cloth napkins from old fabric to add beauty to each day. I lit a candle. Played some Beethoven. Used the pretty dishes. Cleaned out clutter.

Tried to give the family good memories by working hard to make a big meal even when I felt overwhelmed with the improvisation of cooking without a trip to the store.

We learned a lot in those years. The kids don’t take a gift for granted. Their hearts are tender when they see a need. They work hard. (They have some wounds, too, which I ask my Lord to heal.)

I learned to pray hard. That even in the worst of times I could find something to share with someone else. To find joy in little things, like those 1,000 gratitudes I wrote in marker on my ugly wall. (By the way, it took about seven coats of paint to cover that!)

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I learned to treasure the gift of laughter, of a peaceful home life, of friendship and walks in the sunshine.

The best things in life really can’t be bought.

I learned that God cares about little things. Like when I craved mangos in my weight loss shakes, but couldn’t afford them. I prayed for them and was given a whole flat that were on the verge of being too ripe. I cut those mangos up, froze them, and enjoyed them in my shakes for weeks!

My journey has not been as intense as others. A friend of mine went without food for some time as did her son. Both left the bag of a few cookies on the counter for the other to eat, choosing hunger over taking the last bit of food. I haven’t been hungry like that. But my own journey was significant for me. I fought hard to find joy and to rise above the broken things and broken places in my home and in my heart. Sometimes I cried. Many times I found victory after the tears.

As we’ve worked together in my home I’ve learned new skills like caulking, painting, and using a power tool. This knowledge also helps me rise above my circumstances to create the beauty I crave in my home.

Today I am grateful.

For the lessons learned.

For feeling like I can breathe.

For the fact that I shopped for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving meal without worrying if I would be able to pay for what I need.

I’m grateful for a new fence, new carpet, painted walls, working burners, shelves, and oven fronts. For a new-to-me couch and end tables. For pillows a friend and I sewed that spruced up furniture I already had. For new dish clothes and new shoes.

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I’m grateful for children who dug out old fence and scrapped off old wall paper and filled in holes in sheet rock. For a friend who contributed resources and taught us and for other friends who gave of their time and skills. For a husband who refused to abandon me to finishing projects even when he was bone tired from an eleven hour shift at work. Who fixed my stove burner and installed that new oven door. Who, with our son, helped hang shelves.

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Notice the old carpet! NOT my favorite color.

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Loving that new carpet beneath my new shelves!

I’m grateful for a God who is returning to us the things stolen during the hard season. For a God who cared even about the perfect painting to set the theme for my remodeled room and the 50% off candles that tied the colors of the new sectional together with the blues and greens of the walls.

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For a God who is teaching Jerry and me to live outside of the fear of not having enough and to trust Him as He teaches our hands to create the provision we need.

All our circumstances have not changed. But we are moving into a new season. We are dropping the weight of a poverty mindset.

We are learning a new place of freedom.

How about you, my friend? What’s your relationship with money? Is it friend or foe? Is there stuff at your house that drives you to despair? If so, what CAN you change? You might not be able to buy new carpet, but how about covering some old pillows or cleaning out a clutter pile?

If you’ve never had old carpet, old furniture, or old paint, have you realized what a gift that is? What about the intangibles like love and joy and peace?

May the God of all fill your (and mine!) heart to overflowing with gratitude and joy.

May He empower us all to lose the weight of the money issue and embrace the truth that He has provided and will continue to do so.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!

Until next time,

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

 

 

 

Photo Phobia

Is it a girl thing or a darkness thing?

Or both?

Before I opened my eyes this morning the heaviness attacked. The insecurities. The “less-thans.”

Why?

Because I had an appointment for a professional head shot.

All this angst over a picture?!?!

I don’t even mind being in front of a camera. Flashing my smile comes naturally.

But I almost cancelled.

Tears threatened. Voices assaulted from inside myself.

Look at those bags beneath your eyes. Make-up is not going to cover them.

You don’t have the right clothes. In fact, you never do. Even if you had lots of money to spend on them you wouldn’t know good taste.

And then I did something really smart.

I got on the scale. To torture myself, I guess. I knew I’d put on a little weight with all the hospital stays, grief, and inactivity of the last couple of months. I knew this and have been combating it. Walking again. Backing off the high calorie food (well, except for at the graduation party this weekend). So why, this particular morning, did I find it important to ascertain the exact number on the scale?

You’ve gained a few pounds. It’s going to show.

Wasn’t this picture supposed to be about the new, slimmer you?

How are you going to smile when you feel this way? It is a wasted effort.

I  would have chickened out except for one thing.

The photo session was a gift. A friend of mine encouraged the studio where she works to offer a free professional head shot in recognition of my weight loss so I could update my website.

How could I run from such generosity?

“Honey,” I told my husband. “I’m in one of those moods. If I talk to you about it you’re going to be frustrated, and it won’t be helpful, so this is me NOT talking about it. But would you please pray for me?”

“Is this about clothes for the picture?” His words trailed away as I stomped off, leaving him to take up my ridiculous attitude with God.

(My dear hubby likes to solve problems, and frankly when a girl feels fat and ugly and like she has no classy clothes a man can’t fix that.)

I cried to God above for mercy from my girl self. Emailed my closest praying friends and admitted my nasty girl moment. Asked them to pray that God’s joy would shine from me in those pictures even though I wanted to stay home, curl up, and cry.

I felt bloated and ugly and insecure and teary. I’d blame it on the monthly only I *think* I’m past all that at the ripe age of 48.

I grabbed my Body Balance and then my metabolism booster. Had some protein and a cup of coffee. Climbed into a hot shower.

The prayer and the water washed over me, and the darkness began to lift.

I put on eye shadow thinking I should have someone teach me how to properly apply it. Thinking I should have done this picture thing when my talented daughter with the cosmetology license was off work to make sure I looked right. Temptation to return to my inadequacy diatribe beckoned.

But I’d determined not to flake out, so instead I pulled out the mascara, dried my hair, and picked out my jewelry.

As I kissed my hubby good-bye he grabbed my hands and slowed my exit. “You. Are. Absolutely Stunning.”

Maybe husbands can help fix this dark girl stuff. Not forever silence it, but help.

I climbed into the car wondering where all the angst came from. Was it as simple as being a woman? Did it go back to the years of obesity? The lean years when I couldn’t buy new clothes?

Or was it deeper and more insidious?

Flipping radio stations between Christian music and the country stations, I sought positive input. It was  a love song from a country band that further shook me from my insecurities. Like God was asking me to receive those words from Him–romantic, loving words that said I was beautiful, important, and worth His notice.

I breathed deep of that idea.

Remembered HE made me. And I’d been dissing His handiwork.

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made. That’s what you said, God. Thank you for making me. That You think I’m beautiful.”

When I finally pulled into the parking lot of the studio 45 minutes later I felt almost myself. No more lurking tears and only a touch of all that insecurity.

The session was actually fun. The photographers didn’t turn a critical eye to my clothing choices, just sweetly helped me make the best decisions. They pulled out that huge camera with the long lens and said things like:

Beautiful!

You’re a natural!

You’ve got that joy thing going.

Love that smile.

You look great!

I told the ladies it would be cool if they’d just follow me around every day saying those things to me.

They laughed. I did, too.

But what if?

What if every time the darkness said I was ugly, fat, inadequate and without taste I’d said back, “I’m beautiful! I look great. Love my smile! I’m a natural!”

Why?

Why do we women find it so easy to be critical and so hard to be good to ourselves?

Why can’t we just embrace the beauty within?

Why can’t we simply believe in it? In ourselves?

Until Next Time,

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PS I started writing this yesterday but didn’t get it posted. Today I wonder what was so hard. The happy ending is that the pictures turned out great. I’ll post the two shots I chose when the final photos come in a few weeks. All that angst . . . for what?

A Mom Releases Her Graduate

2Overwhelming gratitude. It is my offering today.

To the One.

See, from the beginning the world tried to crush this child of my heart.

In utero medication assaulted him. We prayed it would be of no consequence, this medication known to cause cleft palate.

Even in birth the struggle was more than normal. Those strong, wide shoulders, the shoulders that would one day carry so much, lodged and wouldn’t budge. His own body sought to block entrance. Stuck, even before he’d seen the world.

But he came through.

Near death at 9 months, hospitalized. Pale skin belying the life within. Struggling again for the very breath to survive. This baby who demanded solid food much earlier, who never seemed to be full, refused to eat. But he survived. Stephen is an overcomer.

Then a toddler, so cute with that white blond hair. Diaper crackling as he ran up and down, up and down the hallway, straight bowl-cut hair bouncing. Swish. Swish. Big smile.

Oh, Stephen!

This post is for you.

The joys and struggles.

Even then the tears. “I not talk good!” You wept when I couldn’t see your lips to discern your thoughts, and the words from your car seat floated out unintelligible as I drove, eyes on the highway.

It pierced me, that cry of desperation. One so young fighting to be heard.

I weep even now as I type.

But we fought together. You, me, Dad, and Jesus.

Cried out for answers.

And we fed you.

Lots of food.

Even then your auntie joked she’d done the grocery shopping so you could come over.

Free speech therapy came with preschool. Me, the mom who homeschooled, driving you to a public world at such a tender age. I fought for services if you went half-time instead of full, and they relented.

God gave you a teacher who loved you. Who saw your beautiful heart. We watched Angels in the Outfield, and you couldn’t understand how a daddy wouldn’t want his son. You talked and talked about it to me, to your teacher. She saw your compassion, and she cared. The last day of preschool she whispered to me, “Keep doing what you’re doing, Mom. Homeschool. The difference shows.” This public school teacher cheered me on.

Your speech teacher was awesome, continuing with you once you were school-aged, but she was also quick to point out to me any area she felt you were behind the public schooled children. It was silly, really. Different classrooms learn different things at different times. I know. I taught public school before you came. But I smiled and taught you to count to 100 or to do whatever little task she found deficient. At one point she mentioned that you made some sounds she’d never heard before except in children with cleft palate.

And I knew. God had answered my prayers.

The medication had sought to deform, but He didn’t let it, protecting you even in the womb. He allowed only a little whisper of a noise so we would know He had stood guard. Had protected from greater sorrow.

Even as that speech teacher said you were now “too good” for her services, she warned that you’d struggle in school.

I didn’t want to hear it.

I kept working with you. Held onto my philosophy that children, especially boys, be allowed to develop at their own rate.

I prayed. Sought help. Found resources. We made race tracks that looked like 8s, drawing the circles over and over, crossing at the mid-line, teaching the brain hemispheres to communication. Did full body exercises to force your arms, your legs to cross mid-line.

Often you cried. Those positions were painful to you, the tasks tedious.

But you started forming letters in one stroke instead of many tiny pieces.

We gave you fish oil, grapefruit seed extract, and lecithin.

Fed you. Always you needed lots of food.

Reading was still hard. A resource said we should focus on teaching you to rhyme. And so we rhymed and rhymed and rhymed. It didn’t come naturally to you. But a little progress. A little forward movement resulted.

Even with all the frustration reading lessons were a joy. We did lessons reading from a Toddler Bible, and you’d ask questions, deep, spiritual questions. How could you understand so much, make such spiritual connections at 4, 5, 6?

It took you a long time to learn to ride your bicycle. Even after I could no longer stay next to you, trying to help you find balance, you fought on your own. Trying again and again as I peeked often out the window to make sure you were safe.

You never gave up. Eventually you rode that bike.

But over the years .  . . tears and questions. Both yours and mind.

In the day you would ask, “Why is it so hard?”

“God has big plans for your life, Stephen.” My answer didn’t change. “He is teaching you perseverance. When you are old, and he gives you a task that really matters, you won’t give up like so many people would. You will do it because you learned as a child to work hard and never quit. You have something important, something good to do someday.”

“But why can’t I be good at something now?”

And in the night I would cry, begging God to help my son and to show me how to help him, too.

“Pray,” I’d tell you when the task overwhelmed. “Ask God to help you.”

And I watched character emerging. Tenacity. Diligence. Patience. Compassion.

Gymnastics was recommended to force the body to deal with mid-line issues. You hated it. Felt inferior. I didn’t let you quit that session, but promised you wouldn’t have to go back if you didn’t want to. Moldenhauers would not be quitters, but I also wouldn’t torture you.

Tenuous, this balance between stretching you without defeating.

Swim lessons helped. In-line hockey did what gymnastics didn’t, and the balance improved. Still, you struggled. Held your feet and head funny when you ran the bases in baseball.

Took three times as long as normal on school work.

But you didn’t give up. You worked so hard.

And I cried in private. It shouldn’t be so hard. You shouldn’t have to work that hard.

Please, God. I need answers.

And He led us to Anna’s House where you were treated for auditory, visual, and vestibular dysfunction.

Now a preteen you had your good days and bad. You hated the therapy. How it made you feel. You often fought it, but you didn’t quit.

Sometimes we both cried. Together and while hiding from each other.

I was mad at God. Mad I didn’t find this help sooner. That you suffered for so many years.

Now I know He had a plan.

The suffering produced more than ease ever could.

But then. Oh how it hurt.

But we set our faces like flint.

And you prevailed through NDD therapy, bi-lateral integration, listening therapy, and intensive phonetic and spelling sessions.

You took mixed martial arts and Anna cheered, telling me it would continue the bi-lateral integration you needed without all the specific exercises.

“He’ll catch up,” Anna said. “We’ve set him free to progress through normal developmental stages. It will all come.”

And slowly but surely it did.

I purposely put you with other teachers for your hardest subject, writing. I knew you wouldn’t believe me. I was only mom. But you were becoming a good writer. I thought if the other teacher told you it might stick.

You still talk about winning a giant gummy bear one day for the best short story in class. (Food. It’s always about the food.)

Even in classes your character shined. Your math teacher whispered that your calm, comforting spirit set the tone, even for her.

Suddenly you went from being the one without interests to having so many I couldn’t keep up. Baseball, guitar, mountain climbing, backpacking, mixed martial arts, volunteering, umpiring, teaching.

And always you were hungry. For food. For challenge.

The enemy tried to keep you stuck from the beginning. But now it was too late. You were moving forward. There would be no stopping the momentum.

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photo by the creative pixel

You loved your MMA instructor who taught you much about being a man who was strong and still compassionate, who helped you process how your physical strength and spiritual strength didn’t have to be opposed as a man of God. You became protective and your muscles hard as rock. We both cried when he left to be with Jesus forever.

Two varsity baseball letters. Continued straight A’s in your classes. Learning to lead as an umpire, standing tall as authority to people three times your age.

Then you were chosen, a waiting list of 60 who were not, to participate in the Outdoor Leadership Program. And you climbed mountains, explored caves, repelled down cliffs and floated in canyon rivers. Even there you stood out for the strength the struggles had birthed. And your peers elected you president. Said you were a strong leader. That you made them feel safe. That they could tell you cared.

You took a voice class, and the boy who once couldn’t hear pitch sang a solo for a full crowd. Sang well. And my young seventeen-year-old with the old soul fell in love with the greats from the past, singing Johnny Cash (much to his siblings’s chagrin).

Your diligence continued to pay off. The A’s came not just from your homeschooling momma, but from FACE teachers, Warren Tech, Front Range Community College, and Red Rocks Community College. When you did poorly on your first quiz in College Algebra you dug deeper, then earned a 92%.

But I worried about standardized testing. Though your work was no longer debilitatingly hard, you still read a little slow. If the ACT would just give you extra time I knew you would shine.

But they didn’t believe you needed it, despite all the hoops I jumped through to get you more time. I was mad, but you weren’t.

I think you were relieved.

You took the test without accommodations. Didn’t want any special attention. The score wasn’t what you could have done if you’d been allowed to work at your speed, but it proved you could perform at the college level. And that score, combined with your 4.0, earned you a merit scholarship to college.

Tomorrow you graduate, oh son of my heart. In front of a full auditorium I’ll be given 30 seconds to honor you. With your permission I will mention the struggle, not just the glow of success in these final years of high school. I have to. The success means multitudes more because of the challenge.

And now my tears start again.

How can I ever express how proud I am of my Stephen, my overcomer, my gentle giant, my warrior son, my Jesus and people-lover?

How can I truly honor the sacrifices you made to become all you could be, the way you dug deep, worked with diligence, fought through what could have destroyed you and came out a victor?

I’ll shout my gratitude to the world. Feed you mounds of food and throw a big party. It’s a process, this letting go.

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photo by the Creative Pixel

I’ve already released you to manhood. I had no choice, really. You embodied maturity. I’ll never forget how when my momma ways were too . . . momma-ish . . . you’d stand tall next to me, wrap a muscled arm gently around my shoulders, look me in the eye, and say, “I can handle this. I know what I’m doing. It will be okay.”

And I knew you were right.

But now I have to say good-bye, and oh how my heart breaks and greatly rejoices at the same time!

In a couple of weeks you’ll leave for the summer, working with kids, sharing God’s love at a camp in the mountains. And then you’ll be off to college. So far away.

I release you, my child, this six foot man of courage and compassion, of strength and gentleness, of perseverance and faith. I release you to live out your integrity, your diligence, your wisdom, strength, skills, and abilities. I know you will continue to be a good thinker. To serve others. To stand tall.

I offer you as a gift to this big ole world that tried to crush you, keep you stuck, hold you back. I send you flying forth, strong and confident. You will make the world a better place.

Friends, 

Thank you for indulging this momma. As I’ve said before we writer types process by typing it all out, and so I write. 

BTW, if you have a child with learning struggles, maybe there is something in my journey that can help you. I wrote the following articles to give hope and help to families struggling with learning: Tips for the Struggling Reader, My Hand in His: Homeschooling Through Learning DisabilitiesConfronting the Learning Disabilities Lie, An Interview with Anna Buck. You can also find several articles on parenting at my website or by putting Paula Moldenhauer into the search engine on Crosswalk.com

Until next time,

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Carnival Mirrors and Mocking

Pretty much any time we step out into new territory we are opposed.

If you haven’t experienced this, please let me know. I want your secret.

Several years ago I began a weekly devotional called Soul Scents. It wasn’t long before I got hate mail telling me all the reasons I wasn’t good enough or holy enough to write about spiritual things. After a few tears and lots of prayer I kept going. How? I clung to the truth. I didn’t have to be good enough. The only way anyone is that good is because they are covered by the blood of Jesus. That writing experience was one of the best of my life, and a few thousand came on the ride with me.

What if I’d listened to the critique?

Fast forward to now. I’d known for a long time I was supposed to offer videos on my blog. A few weeks ago I finally stepped up. I felt exposed and nervous, but that first Monday Makeover was a personal victory! It wasn’t perfect, but I said what I knew I was supposed to say. I DID it.

But after a day or two the opposition started.

This time it wasn’t from people; it was an oppression that became so tangible it was as though the very air I breathed cried out, “hopeless,” telling me there would never be true success, that I would never really influence this world for the better. Even the air around me seemed tinged gray.

I pushed through videoing my second Monday Makeover, sharing Truth I absolutely believed, but speaking out of a determination to move forward, not out of free-flowing joy.

That Monday was awful. Tuesday morning was not much better. I read my Advent devotional determined to embrace the beauty. While it shined pencil light into my darkness, I still felt I was suffocating.

I tried to journal, to talk to God, but instead of free-flowing conversation there was confusion and an overwhelming sense of condemnation. In my mind I saw a strong man standing before me, glaring at me, arms crossed. I cried out, “Lord, this is not the True You, the Loving God You’ve revealed to me.” I think the last thing I wrote in my journal is that I felt powerless and needed Him to rescue me.

I went on with my day, attending my critique group. When it was my turn for advice on my manuscript I asked for prayer instead. My friends surrounded me.

It wasn’t long before one spoke up. “I believe the Lord has given me a picture that reveals what you’re dealing with. I see a “fun” house full of a maze of distorted mirrors. Over a loud speaker comes mocking laughter, playing over and over. You’re fighting to look in a true mirror, but you can’t find it.”

She was right. Those three women began praying and before I went home that day the gray film no longer suffocated me.

I knew who I was. A daughter of the King.

Maybe I’ll tell you the whole story someday, but for now my message is simply this: You will be opposed when you move forward; but you will NOT be defeated.

Believe. Keep walking forward. Grab your friends for prayer and encouragement. Ask God to rescue you. Read TRUTH.

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The darkness wants to destroy all that is good in this world, to keep us captive to despair and doubt. To tell us we are unimportant, ineffective, and unable to succeed.

But the Good News is “The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness does NOT overcome it.” (That’s from the Gospel of John.)

I hope to hang some lights later. If you happen to drive by my house know that I’m shouting victory to the world with their every twinkle.

The LIGHT shines in the darkness, and the darkness has NOT overcome it!

Victory over the Carnival Image