Bittersweet Seasons

Fall. It used to be my favorite.

Actually, that’s probably not true. Summer has long been a favorite since the days of my childhood spent splashing and swimming in any body of water that was at least a few inches deep. Entire days were dedicated to playing in my grandparents’ pool, the river that ran through my town, pretty much any body of water that was available for me and my sisters to play in, and sometimes, the ocean itself. Summer meant freedom, staying up way too late and sleeping in as much as possible. Ignoring the responsibilities of life, which alas, was only school at the time.

Eventually, sometime around my high school years, fall became my new fling. Bonfires, football games, pumpkins, comfort foods and of course the beautiful changing of the leaves had me falling in love. Even though fall meant going back to school, for once in my life, I was beginning to like it.

In early November, the year after I graduated high school, my husband proposed to me. His proclamation of love was surrounded by the smell of a fire and the sights of autumn painted leaves lit up by the setting of the sun. We were married two Novembers later, further solidifying my bond with that dreamy season.

Pardon my Tina Turner, but it was simply the best. What was not to love? I had, and currently have, way more fall decorations than any other time of year. Yes, even Christmas. Gasp!

It’s funny how things evolve. Summer has stolen a piece of my heart back, as our little ones are now enjoying that freedom that comes with the ringing of the final school bell. Just like that, once again, I like to stretch out those warm sun-kissed moments as long as the days will let me.

Try as I may, fall continues to show up. With its routines and schedules, and long before the weather actually begins to cool down. Hello, August in the south. Do not talk to me about the technicalities of seasonal dates. I don’t care what the solstice and equinox have to say about it, I refuse to tell my girls that they have to return to school while it is still summer according to the calendar. As far as I’m concerned, when their school opens those doors for good, it is officially fall.

Lately, for our family, and for a season I once held so dearly, fall has now managed to leave a bitter taste in our mouths. It is no wonder we approach this time of year with a bit of trepidation. It seems as though many of the crises that our family have faced together over the years all come to a head during this once dreamy season. The past three Septembers alone have rolled around with our marriage on the edge of disaster, a major cancer diagnosis of a close family member, a devastating pregnancy loss for my sister.

This year, we are beginning September with our sweet cancer ridden grandfather going into hospice care for the final stretch. Our Labor Days have become less of a celebratory vacay weekend and have turned into a chance to steal away time with our loved ones back home. Many times, I have found myself longing for summer, for freedom, and to forget the responsibilities of the present. To find my way back to the water and, if I were lucky, that crystal clear ocean.

As if the impending season that brings on change is not enough, Mother Nature follows through with another so bitter and lifeless, one does not want to walk out of their own front door for months. We bundle up and stay indoors, longing for another dose of Vitamin D.

However, maybe there is something to that. Maybe it takes the grayscale devastation of winter to help me look for the beauty in the fall. Maybe that spring will be ever brighter, thanks to the death that begins in a season filled with change. Maybe the hope is knowing, even though fall is beginning, spring is never too far away. Life will come again.

When he was well, my grandfather was an avid gardener. Thanks to him I know that only when the ground has had proper rest, can our gardens grow as never before. A season of change, followed by emptiness, leading way to breathtaking beauty, back to the time of planting, growing, and warm sunshine.

Through every crisis our family has faced each year, something beautiful has always been birthed through it. Not right away. Usually only after an unexpected change that brings death to what we thought would be and follows up with a vibrant spring we could have never imagined for ourselves. This time I am not sure what will be on the other side of my grandfather’s last days, but I do have hope. He will be in the midst of the One who makes all things, and we will see him again.

I no longer love fall, but I am trying to appreciate it. I look for the beauty in it, and remember to be thankful for the process of making all things new.

 

 

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Pot-stirring or Peacemaking?

A couple of years ago, I was out to lunch with a good friend. We had been chatting here and there, the usual, but when we were beginning to finish up our meal, she began, so, I saw your Facebook post last night, I would love to hear your thoughts on that.

It was the height of the refugee crisis, the day that sweet little boy washed up on shore and the chilling photo that finally caught the world’s attention.

We dialoged back and forth, as we both shared our hearts, our opinions, and wondered where that left us as humans in America that had little impact on what happened anyway.


I think back on that day often. It was such a typical day. After lunch, we went back to work, and back to every day life.

With the ever growing presence of social media in our lives, I think sometimes it robs us of beautiful, ordinary moments of conversation. Online we can say our piece, word vomit our views out for the world to read, and walk away feeling like we were able to have an impact. But do we? We leave our words there hanging, and often end up in never-ending debates (and I’m not talking about with the trolls, but with people we actually care about).. So, are we making a difference or just stirring the pot?

I find it hard to believe we can actually change someone’s beliefs with 140 characters.

Don’t get me wrong, my family runs high on opinions. I have certainly posted my fair share of blurbs relevant to the current culture. But to do so with so much anger and so little love, we are destroying our unity for the sake of our own viewpoints.

You may have heard, “your opinion might be right, but your lack of love makes you wrong.” Basically, if I am wrong in the way I am right, I am wrong even if I am right. Is the sacrifice of love worth being able to say our piece?

Heaven knows, I am not trying to convince us to stay silent. No, not at all. Actually, I have absolutely no problem with people expressing themselves or sharing their opinions. I know that there are many times when enlightenment comes to us, and others, by engaging in healthy debate. We are able to see another viewpoint that might not have crossed our minds until then.

However, may we be bold enough to go back to having these discussions face to face. That is where the magic happens. Where we can look over and see the human sitting before us. We need more people willing to have these hot-button conversations, in the context of real life, amongst friends, where emotions can be felt and heard, not just read and potentially misinterpreted. The truth of it is, most of these issues are not issues, they are about people.

Meanwhile, online, can we hold space for one another, and not continue with our knee jerk reaction responses? I definitely need more people in my life who will hold space for me. Who will give me grace when I need it most, navigate difficult conversations in love, stand by my side when they agree and when they don’t. We could all use more of that. No more bickering and rock slinging.

Here’s a starting point, a simple reply next time a friend starts a tricky online convo on fill-in-the-blank-here: I disagree with what you’re saying/doing, but I know you. Let’s sit down and talk about this over coffee (or tea? blech) and together, let’s figure this out.

Feel free to copy and paste that winner and start a new trend on your own.

Hate spewing is out. For 2018, Love is in.

Blinded By the Light.

Every morning after school drop off, on my way back home, I get to this one spot on the road where, at this time of year, the sun is directly in my eyes. I mean, blinding, burning, I can’t see anything in front of me, in-my-eyes. It’s extremely disorienting and I often find myself both thankful that I know the road enough to navigate it with limited vision, but also praying that there’s not a car in front of me hitting their brakes without me knowing. I literally cannot see.

I’ve seen cars pulled over at this very spot, one having hit the other, and I think, well they probably never saw them.

It’s a short little stretch of this long road that gets the full intensity of our sun. Maybe just a hundred yards or so. But some mornings it seems like forever.

One morning last year, maybe after the first or second time driving through it, I had an idea. I counted it off.

When I was younger and wanted to do something but was also slightly terrified, I counted it off. Ride a rollercoaster? Sure, let me count.. 90 seconds, start to finish, I can do that. Give a speech? 3 minutes.. let me get a stopwatch. Counting things down took power away from the fear I might have.

So, one morning I counted it off. 20 seconds. 20 seconds driving practically blind, I would slow my speed, and it would be fine. It was just 20 seconds.

I found myself, almost every morning, counting that time away while I drove through that stretch of road.

This is the part in this story where you question my ability to cope with things in real life. And I respond by telling you it’s fine, sometimes I struggle with anxiety and fear and worry but it’s all fine…

Carrying on.

I was driving it a couple of days ago, and I just had the thought, man, is this ever where we are in life right now. Navigating the road, utterly blind. We have no clue what may be even just a few feet, a few months, in front of us. Yet we drive, continuing in our day-to-day, because we can’t just stop. We certainly don’t want to turn around, we’ve come too far.

But here’s the kicker.. I CAN’T COUNT IT DOWN. Right?! Because, I haven’t navigated this road yet. This is unknown territory. And we don’t know what’s on the other side, nor how long it’s going to take to get there. Holy guacamole, Jesus send help. (Guacamole would totally help.)

So, if I bump into you, while I’m on this scary road that I can’t see where I’m going, cut me some slack, give me some grace.

I HAVE NO CLUE WHERE WE’RE GOING OR WHY.

(But the adventure is wonderful and I couldn’t have better traveling partners.)

Snowflakes, A Word, & Some (free!) Phone Wallpapers

I’m currently listening to some of my favorite tunes, by the fireplace, sipping coffee.. All the kiddos are upstairs occupied, and I feel like I’ve slipped into a little slice of heaven. Don’t get me wrong, being with my kiddos is it’s own little piece of heaven, but let’s be real, today was a snow day (eek!) and the school just called another one for tomorrow (yikes. One snow day is fun. Two can be intense in this household.) I am going to have plenty of time to be in their wonderful presence, but for now, I’m enjoying the silence (except for my tunes, of course).

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing this here. It’s been written in my real life legit journal already, a personal note for closing out 2017 and embarking on a new year. And I almost just threw my thoughts into a short and quick Facebook post for your reading pleasure, but I’ve decided to give some goodies along with it.

I try to start my year out with a word. Most of the time it’s one word, sometimes it might be a phrase, but usually just one simple word. Something for me to focus on throughout the year, a prayer of sorts. It might be challenging, encouraging, purposeful, or all of the above. November/December is typically when I begin praying about my word, asking God to reveal one to me that is perfect for the season that the next year will bring. It may not be for everyone, but it’s extremely life-giving to me.

However, 2017 was quickly wrapping up and I still had not settled on a word. 

As I was driving back to Alabama after Christmas, for a quick visit, it was just me and the four littles in our car, and I decided some worship music might be in order, since we were officially out of the Christmas music stage. Cue some worshipping, and some prayer, and There Is a Cloud came on, a song I’ve probably heard close to a billion times. But in the middle of it, God quickened my spirit and revealed my word to me. It felt so silly I almost laughed (ok, maybe I actually did) and it feels silly now even typing it out.

Rain Boots.

????? Mmmkay.

No, rain. boots. As what the Lord was speaking to me began sinking in, I proceeded to bawl my eyes out for the next hour down 85-South. And he reminded me of all of the seeds of sorrow that had been planted in 2017. Too many to name. So many personal losses that shook me to my core last year. Count me in with all those people saying peace out to 2017 because I was done. with. it.

And now, God was saying to me, it’s okay, because in 2018, you’re going to need your  rain gear.

Holy cow I’m gonna cry again just typing this out……………………………….

It felt like (and is) such a personal promise to me, but God promptly spoke to my heart about sharing it with others who might be encouraged by the sudden need for an umbrella or a jacket.

I really kept putting off posting or writing about it, because, c’mon, rain boots? It’s not the most profound or fancy thing you’ve ever heard. And who knows, maybe it was just for me and then how foolish would that feel. *Crickets* I even wrote it in my prayer journal with a smiley face and question mark, haha. Because, rain boots. Still makes me giggle just a bit.

Fast forward to this past Sunday, during a night of worship at our church, and low and behold here comes the song, and here come the waterworks. And then, a word from the Lord spoken through our Pastor, I hear the sound of the abundance of rain. Can I just pause and say, for one, God is faithful, and he chases us down and confirms things over and over if we need him to. But also, as I looked around, I saw the altars full of people, seeking his presence and praying for rain.

So, for them, and for any of you in Bama, or anywhere else in the world that might be needing this word… If 2017 brought a drought into your life, get your rain gear ready.

And because I usually make myself a phone wallpaper with my “word” for the year, I decided to make a few extra with the promise found in 1 Kings 18:41. I wanted to share them in case you needed a daily reminder too. Just click the image to open it, then right click to save it. (If you have trouble downloading, or need something adjusted, send me a quick email and I’ll even tweak it for you.)

I’m Believing for Rain in 2018.

 

Dressember 2.0

Today is the last day of November (wha???) and that can only mean one thing…

all loveis createdequal

Dressember!


 

These past couple of months have been interesting for our family. It seems that the Lord has been using current circumstances to test our faith and slowly chip away at our pride, and it has been.. well, it’s been something.

When looking ahead, and knowing December was coming up, and therefore our second year to do Dressember, I really just didn’t know if I had it in me.

Plus, I have been doing so much lately, with my arts/crafts, and with the African jewelry, that it seemed like just one. more. thing. And I don’t want my life to read like an advertising agency, always promoting something.

Deciding to go ahead and post this today was not easy. Typing out why seems so silly, but all of that, above, is just how I felt.

Sometimes I wonder if people will grow weary of my constant encouraging to join up with the causes I’m trying to support. The last thing I want is to push anyone away from doing a good thing.

But I also know deep down that this is just how God made me, all of our family really. When he was doing all of that knitting in all of those wombs, he pulled some fibers of justice and fabric from compassion, and wove them in as deep as he could. Some people are great singers, others are amazing athletes, or captivating speakers, the list could go on. But this Griffin clan that I’m privileged to share my house and my heart with, we’ve got fire in our bones that compels us to look out for others.

A singer can’t just sing in the shower. An athlete can’t always just throw the ball in their backyard. Captivating speakers are no good if they never speak up.

That’s why I write what I do. That’s why my in real life conversations almost always trail back to some idea I have about getting involved with fill-in-the-blank organization. That’s why post what I do on social media and tug at your heartstrings at the minimum of once a month, getting anyone who will to board our ship that is sailing out to do something.

It’s not that I’m trying to pressure you, convict you, or even judge you. I’m just quietly wondering if I gathered some courage and spoke up a little more, if then we might be able to change the world together.

So I type. I speak. I post artwork I’ve made to fund the people I’ve grown to love. I help sell jewelry for some college kids who want to alter the trajectory of their country. I walk for causes that are important to me. And now, in Decembers, my girls and I wear dresses. And with everything I do, I invite everyone I know (and some I don’t) to join me along the way.

That being said, tomorrow begins our Second Annual Dressember.

You may or may not have heard of this before, so the short version can be summed up in the Dressember Foundation’s tagline:

End modern-day slavery by wearing a dress.
You can find the long version and the incredible story of Dressember here. You can read about our first year here.

Me and my girls have a team fundraising page and are all in. Dresses every day. 31 days. Abbey wrote our mission statement for our page and it owns me!

These Griffin Girls will be rocking our dresses all month long! Help us by joining our team, or donating to our fundraising page. We are in it to end it. For good. Let’s rock this world!

We are dreaming big again, and aiming for $500. If we have a cheat day, it’s gonna cost us. We are going to do some giveaways here and there, my artwork proceeds are going towards our goal, and we are open to sponsors if anyone is interested. My sister is dedicating 10% of her LipSense sales in December to our campaign. If you would like to do something similar, let me know and we will share it on our updates!

And, of course, if you want to join us in bringing awareness by wearing dresses for 31 days, we would love that!

All in all, we will have some fun, but this month is not about us. Human trafficking is real, and it’s scary. And if doing something as simple as wearing dresses for 31 days, and fundraising along the way can help bring an end to that, well.. you can count these Griffin Girls in, every time.

 

This Is Marriage.

It’s our wedding anniversary, and I’ve been thinking about traditional wedding vows. You know they had to be written by someone who was already married, or someone who had seen enough to know…  who knew, she’s going to get sick, and it’s going to be easier to leave than it is to care for her, but I ask you to commit to staying. Or he’s going to lose his job, and the financial stress is going to try and crush you, but I ask you to commit to seeing it through. Someone who took the Bible for what it said, and wrote, I want you newlyweds to agree to this covenant relationship and let the only thing that can separate you be death.

Today the hubby and I are eleven years strong. Eleven. Years. And I’ll say it again for those in the back, Strong. 


I pulled up my ‘On This Day’ feed on Facebook, as you do with all of life’s big moments nowadays, and scrolled through our posts from the past seven years (because, you know, MySpace before that). Pictures of our innocent baby faces, music from our wedding day, and sappy posts written to each other, for every single year, with the exception of one.

It took only seconds to remember why there were no disgustingly sweet comments on that year. That was The Year. It was a tough year. The year we almost gave up.

I’m sharing this today, with permission from aforementioned hubby, because there might be someone who needs it.

We had almost made it through 8 years. There were highs and lows, like everything else in life, but we were making it. However that year, something had started happening. A separation that was growing in our hearts, in our minds, and it was coming to a head faster than we could realize.

We were great at making our marriage look awesome. A lot of days it was awesome. We served together at church, took trips with our kiddos, and made time for dates. We were great at marriage those days. We still had fun most of the time.  Except those itty bitty seeds of separation were turning into vines and roots.

Our communication became horrible, and before we could blink, we were staring at each asking questions we never dreamed of saying out loud: Do I need to sleep on the couch? Do you even love me? Do I need to move out? Should we even try to stay together?

Did we even have a marriage??

(I am being EXTREMELY transparent right now.)

Right on our 8th wedding anniversary we found ourselves considering the ramifications of separating.. what would happen if we were no longer married?

And it all came about, coincidentally it seemed (seemed) during our church wide time of prayer and fasting.

I’m gonna let that sit for a moment.

And now I’m going to get real and speak a little spiritual.

Thank you Jesus, that by far the hardest trial I had ever faced in my life, that we had ever faced in our marriage, came to a roaring explosion in the middle of a time when we had already been PRAYING AND FASTING. God. Is. Faithful.

Had Stephen not been praying, he might have called it quits with no question.

Had I not been fasting, I might have left Stephen in a hot minute.

But God set the scene for us. He knew there were things we needed to get out of the way. There were things we needed to work on. And if we were going to grow old and change the world together, we needed to clean up this mess we had made and start some things over.

Now hear me out, because of all that was going on in our lives at the time, we probably weren’t even as invested in that prayer and fasting time as we typically were. Realistically, we probably weren’t even praying for our marriage, but we were showing up. And that was planting seeds too. Greater seeds. Faith seeds. Seeds of commitment.

And the night of our anniversary, before we went out to ‘celebrate’ (because we were barely speaking to each other at this point), we stopped by the church for prayer first.

Days later we would begin the process of deciding, how exactly were we going to let the rest of our lives play out. Were we going to let what God had joined together, be separated?

I remember asking each other these two questions over and over and over: Do you really love me? Do you believe God put us together?

And if both answers are yes, then who are we to throw it away? Who are we to say it’s too hard? Who are we to give up, when God gives everyone the opportunity to have a clean slate?

We did the best thing we knew to do at the time, and sought out wisdom from our Pastor, and began marriage counseling with a Christian counselor as soon as possible.

It is, to this day, the most humbling thing I’ve ever experienced. My pride was broken, my insecurities soared, but love abounded.

I look back at all of our pictures from that year and see them, before the big fight, when everything looked fine on the outside, and then after. It may have been the biggest battle we had faced, but there was a joy and happiness that welled up from knowing neither one of us were giving up, and I can still see it in our eyes.

God was so real and so faithful in that year. There may not be pretty packaged words on Facebook for the world to read, but there are moments written in our hearts, memories of recommitting, and that’s what real marriage is.

Happy Anniversary Stephen. These two kids didn’t have a clue, but we have made it this far. Here’s to many many more.

Circa 2006

(Circa 2006)

 

Here at Home.

We moved to SC exactly one year ago today.

365 days have passed since leaving the state I had lived my entire life in; close to 11,000 days.

Our neighbors have welcomed us and gifted cookies, baby items, and art supplies.

We have finally found our family favorites: restaurants, playgrounds, cheap and free activities. (Still holding out for that fav Mexican place though)

We have discovered which Walmart to go to, and which one to avoid like the plague.

The stairs that Jude could barely navigate when we moved in, have become his slide, his jumping off point, the backdrop for some of his coolest superhero moves.

Two of our kiddos have graduated out of floaties in the neighborhood pool.

The roads Siri once directed me down, are now etched in memory, traveled at ease.

We have gotten settled in to a new house, a new school, and a new church.

Most notably, we have gained a kid.

We have made plenty of trips to Alabama, and had the Alabamians make trips to us.


I am surprised at how easy some things were; while shocked at the things that were harder than I imagined.

We have celebrated life in a new state.. birthdays and holidays, good grades and lost teeth, dedications and baptisms.


People ask if our kiddos transitioned well. If this is any indication, when we casually mentioned to the girls that it had been a year since we moved, they declared we have a party. A day of celebration of our new home.