Sunday, September 21, 2014

Clear the Stage

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that's the measure you must take to crush the idols
Jerk the pews and all the decorations, too
Until the congregation's few, then have revival
Tell your friends that this is where the party ends
Until you're broken for your sins, you can't be social

Then seek the Lord and wait for what he has in store
And know that great is your reward so just be hopeful

Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper
Beg him please to open up his mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister
Shine the light on every corner of your life
Until the pride and lust and lies are in the open

Then read the word and put to test the things you've heard
Until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken

- Jimmy Needham "Clear the Stage"

 Sweet Rwanda--God, is this my future? 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Living with extreme purpose

Well, my husband made it home safe from Rwanda on Sunday. I will post some pictures of his trip soon. When he came home I could tell he wasn't the same man. I want to know that man more deeply. My husband has found his calling. I've never seen him so joyful in my life. The weight of the world gone - the pain of work problems dulled. The joy of Jesus evident.

We want to live with an extreme sense of purpose. God, take us where you want us. Keep us under your protection. May we never venture outside of your will, but help us never to be scared to leave it all behind for the sake of YOUR name. May we never build a name for ourselves - may we always stay humble. Protect our children. Help us show them how life is meant to be lived.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Pain and Suffering of a Cronically Ill Family Member

If I wrote a novel, I couldn't put into the words the pain and suffering that my father has endured over the past eight years since he was diagnosis with pancreatic cancer (and won).  I think when it first happened we understood that he would get the Whipple surgery; do chemo, and then radiation. Then, if he survived all of that, he would be on his way to healing.  However, it's been a living nightmare the last eight years.  One thing after another--a mystery stabbing pain in his belly that brings him to his knees.  A paralyzed stomach, therefore, all he can eat is a handful of items that mostly consisting of Ensures and high-calorie soft snacks that go down easy. But even with food restrictions he still deals with extreme nausea and vomiting almost daily. He also has a bile duct that does not work, so he is living right now with a bag hanging off of his side collecting the bile that was previously poisoning his body.

And here's the thing, he's a believing, professing, and God fearing man.  He has people praying for him every day and they have been for the last eight years.  He is gentle, kind, generous, smart, and funny.  He is young (50 at diagnosis and 58 now) but, he has suffered more in the last eight years than anyone I've ever met.  I know there has to be days he imagines he is better off with Jesus, although, he's never said that.  He never remarks, poor me, why me, why can't I get better?  He trusts that God is in control - and that he is not.  I have cried out to God over and over and over again, heal my daddy – bring him back to us.  But the silence from heaven is deafening. 

As I type this, my jaw is tight, my throat has a lump in it, and my eyes are watery.  I'm sick and tired of my dad being sick and tired.  The hardest thing I’ve ever endured in my life is watching my dad suffer.  I'm tired of not being a "normal" family.  I'm tired of canceling plans every time we make them because he's so sick he has to go home and laydown.  I'm tired of watching people enjoy their parents, take vacations, or even do a simple family dinner.  I’m tired of feeling jealous.

I encourage you today my friends, slow down. And if you have the honor of a parent still alive, call them, hug them, and spend the extra money to bring them on a family trip with you. Give your children the pleasure of REALLY getting to know them.  And maybe you should (re) get to know your parents as well. Maybe you need forgive a parent for hurting you in the past?  Maybe you need to ask for forgiveness from a parent? I understand that sometimes the grown child and parent relationship can be strained from past hurts, abuse and mistrust.  Trust me, I get that.  My husband’s abusive father was killed in a car accident five years ago; we have walked that difficult path as well. 

Tonight I will cry myself to sleep again, begging God to continue to keep my father alive--all the while begging him to take him if it means eight more years of suffering and pain.  It is a difficult predicament to be in as a child of a father who is her hero.  God, he is such a good man.  The best.  I’ve learned more about life from my father than anyone.  I’ve learned how to give freely, how to trust, how to believe, how to care, how to take charge and get things done.  How to be confident in myself and how to follow my dreams.  But most of all I've learned how to be a parent from watching my precious father.  He loves his family fiercely; his grandchildren are his most-precious treasure.  His grandchildren see him in bed more than they see him out of bed, but they love him just the same.  Their deep devotion to him makes my heart skip a beat.  Thank you God for giving us this special time--extra time, to love, enjoy and relish in the time we do have together. 

So tonight hug your children, husband, wife, sister, brother, father and mother a little tighter.  Be present when you’re in the moment.  Allow the time with loved ones to count.  And most of all, trust that Jesus has a plan, even if we never understand the plan on this side of heaven. 

Keep fighting my precious father.  I love you.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Single Parent day 7

I've totally got this single parent thing down.  I'm seven days in and feeling pretty confident, but let's be REAL here (because I'm 100% all about real mommyhood -- no one likes a liar, right?) - I've got a LOT of help ha-ha.  My twins are at Highland Park Church 5 days a week until next Friday, and the girls have been at horse camp all week.  So I must say - besides crazy mornings getting everyone fed, clothed, and lunches packed and crazy nights, dinner, baths, etc., life has been GOOD.  I've been able to get all my homework finished (WOOHOO) and have managed to keep the house pretty clean.

I've heard from Brett a few times; he said he was having a wonderful time.  I'm over the top happy for him.  My heart is bursting with joy.  I pray every night that God will speak clearly to him and give him direction for our family as we finish up schooling in the next few years, what will our future look like? It's pretty cool to think about what our next step will be and how God will use us and our family.

Okay, a few fun single parenting lessons I've learned in case you were wondering (I know you are on the edge of your seat, it's cool, I've got GREAT advice bahaha...)

1.  Straight Duggar style your kids.....this means bringing out the buddy system.  My bigs are helping me so much with the littles.  In fact, the bigs fed the littles last night, and I have NO idea what they ate (I was doing homework haha), but they ate, so we are ship shape, right?

2.  Don't put your kids in clothes unless you need to.  Way less laundry.

3.  Buy a lot of Lunchables, enough said.

4.  Continue to let your bigs sleep in the bed with you, they are great snuggle buddies.

5.  Pray.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Day 1 - Operation Single Mom (for 17 days)

It has been 1 day since Brett left for Africa. First things first, he is in Rwanda safe and sound at the Nazarene compound.  I got a call around 1:00pm our time when they landed and then again around 4:30 when they were at the compound about to turn in for the night. The 6 hour time difference I'm sure is a very difficult adjustment but hopefully tonight they all get some rest.

A few things I learned about single parenting day 1:
1.  Have family come help - they make the day go faster and honestly who is better than family?  No one. Period.
2.  Don't have two year old twins. Enough said.
3.  Have a birthday party lined up for the older kids so they can get out of the house (yeah this is not exactly easy but, hey I'm sure if you took them to the nearest Family Fun Center there's bound to be a party your kid can join- I mean honestly who actually keeps track of each kid at those kinds of places?  It's a freaking zoo, folks.)
4.  Give your two year old twins an early nap so you can ensure an early bed time. This is key to your sanity later in the evening.
5.  Let big girls share the bed with you. You're lonely anyways, why not let them sleep on one side and you (and a huge maternity pillow you haven't haven't given up for 2.5 years) on the other.
6.  Let your big girls ask a ridiculous amount of kid questions once in said bed. Here is a few from tonight, "Ok, so is Jesus and God the same person?"  "What are foster kids?" And last but not least "Can you be my mommy forever?"  And of course my response to those are,"Yes, they are the same but different (super helpful in a 6 year olds brain). "They are kids who need someone to look after them while their mommy and daddy get help" and "Yes, I can. Can you stay 6 forever?"
7.  Soak up every freaking second of those 6 year olds they are precious human beings.

I'm sure I'll have a ton of more great wisdom tomorrow as we enter into day 2 of 17 as a single parent to 4 littles.

Please keep praying for my hubby and his team every chance you get.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Brett heads to Africa tomorrow

Well, the day has come. Tomorrow morning Brett leads a team of 9 to Rwanda to continue work on the Nazarene School they started in a small village three years age. I know he's nervous, anxious and excited. We are all of those things for him too. I'm proud to be his wife, sometimes I'm not sure how I got so lucky and I don't brag on him enough but he's once heck of a daddy.  Our home life with 4 littles is NOT for the faint of heart. But he takes it all with a grain of salt and is always willing to pull equal weight. God, protect my sweet, gentle, and kind husband as he ventures out of his comfort zone.  You have placed a call on our lives - we know it. Open our eyes so we can see what you have for us and give is big, brave and bold dreams. Not for our glory, not for our fame, no more of our name but more of Your name. Give Brett clarity and peace as he goes places he's never been and allow us to trust that you are God and we are not. Amen.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Leslie, remember this feeling ok?

Why does it hurt so bad to be left out?  Am I not that fun?  Is my husband not fun?  Do we stink, I mean literally do we have BO?  Is my hair ugly? Am I too bossy?  Did we say or do something wrong?  Do we not offer enough of what you need, so we are just tossed aside?  Just trying to remember this feeling for my own ministry one day....

Leslie - don't do this, okay?

Facebook free update time, what what?  I'm still off Facebook and going strong.  I have NO idea what is going on in the day to day lives of the 400+ "friends" I had and as bad as it to say this, it's so refreshing.  When someone has something important to tell me, guess what they do? They call or email me...personally.  What a concept, truly.  And when I have big news I get to call my friends too.  Woohoo, I'm making strives to love my friends and connect with them because I choose to connect with them. I am also choosing not pretend that my life is perfect, it isn't. It's hard to have four young children, REALLY REALLY hard.  It's hard to go back to school.  It's hard to be a pastor's wife. I feel alone SO much. I don't feel any connection to the people who you would think would understand the most, they don't.  It's hard to be the Christian I claim to be.  It's hard to help run a ministry.  It's hard to let go of the control that social media has on my life.  But I have. One step at a time to freedom.  I pray I'm always free from the lies that social media tells, and I pray that God will continue to show me that he is enough.

One last thing before I go.  Brett and I purchased a piece of land today.  It's a great little lot in the historic district of Lakeland.  We are going to be build something on it and rent it out...I'll keep you posted.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Late night purge...

Well, a lot as happened since I posted last. Let's see;

1. I started Pentecostal Theology (my 4th Masters level class at SEU).

2.  I started Christian Education for All Ages with the Nazarene Bible Institute (class for my course of study to become an ordained pastor in the Nazarene church).

3.  I've been out to Carver a few times this summer. Today, I was able to witness an HIV-positive young man come to trust in The Lord and our ministry(a year+ in the making). Carver Ministries was able to get him on a train right away to New York (complete with a months worth of phone time, new shoes, shorts, shirts, socks etc. Because he literally only had rags, as he was homeless at Carver) to get him the medical help and shelter that he needs with Catholic Charities.

God was able to get this young, medically fragile, and forgotten young man out of Carver and into hands that love him. He finally understood he is worth it. His life matters. His past, so horrific that no human should have to endure. There is nothing that can replace the moments I got to witness today. Nothing. I don't care how famous or special or cool or popular you are - being humbled by your savior reminds you that being the lowest of the low is where we truly belong. Lord remind me again and again "lower still," so low that people will never know the name of Carver or Leslie or Jessie but only know the ministry as, the place God dwells.  The place that God revived from the deep grasp of Satan himself.

4. My sweet hubby heads too Africa in two weeks for 17 days. So I'm home alone with the kiddos. Pray for me  and pray for Brett as he works, witnesses, and loves.  My prayer for him is that he comes back never to be the same. Never ever.

5.  My dad has been suffering a lot with his liver tube that's hanging off his side collecting his bile while they stretch his bile duct for the 3rd time in a year. It's hard to watch your dad suffer. He's so brave. He's lived eight years past diagnosis of pancreatic cancer (pretty much not even physically possible) I'm pretty sure my dad is cooler than yours ;).  No, but seriously, my relationship with my dad hit an all time low a few months ago and since then we have been on a steady incline upwards. We talk almost every day now. If I were to be honest with myself, I would say this - I was too scared to get too close to him. I was afraid that if I did, he would be taken away, and I would be left in shambles.  But God has shown me that no matter what happens to my dad it's my job to love him where he is, which is on this earth. I'm embracing that and believing more and more that he just might actually live. It's taken me eight years to believe that.

6.  My children are crazy, funny, challenging and well crazy (did I say that already?) true story. Kate and Ella are obsessed with their new American Girl dolls that they saved their money to buy (way to go girls). And Nolan and Nora are well...two-year-old can imagine that, can't you?

7.  I'm leading two classes at Highland Park Church this fall. I'm excited and nervous.

8.  I'm going to NYC in October with two sweet high school friends. I cannot wait. Girl time is pretty special, and I'm so grateful for friends that go the distance with me. Those friends are few and far between.

So that's the latest in the exciting life of the Blondell family, party of 6.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

So, here's the ugly truth....

I've come to the realization that I'm not who I say I am, I'm not who I think I am.  I am nothing. I didn't realize that a few weeks ago. And here's the cool thing, I don't mean that in a depressing, poor me, I am nothing without God cliche. This is what I actually mean - I am nothing. The John 3:30 nothing - He must become grater and I must become less. I may look like I have it all together on the outside. A handsome husband, 4 amazing kids, a big house, nice cars, an education and getting more of that as we speak (the list goes on). But here's the thing - I'm a jealous fool.  I look at what everyone else has and I want it too. I literally fight my flesh every single day of my life, but I bet if we are really honest with ourselves (painfully honest) we would admit that we all do. I'm a wife of a pastor who hasn't cracked her bible in weeks and before that - months.  I'm real, I'm honest, I'm fierce, I'm a cusser, I hate legalism, When I say I'm going to do something - I do it.  I'm strong willed, I'm a natural leader, I think everyone should adopt a child (yep I actually believe that and you can't convenes me otherwise.) I'm  called to the ministry and I'm scared to death - did you just read the list of my flaws?  I am nothing. I am nobody. I will never be a household name. But I will always love Jesus. I knew I was called into the ministry as a teenager - I didn't listen then. But I'm listening now. I'm sorry Lord - I'm Sorry that it took me 31 years to say yes to you.

I deactivated my Facebook account about two weeks ago and haven't looked back. I've realized that I don't need validation from people only seeing the good part of me and it's freeing. More free than I've been in the 5 or more years I've been on Facebook. I may be the last one to find out the latest gossip but maybe that's ok. It's ok to keep reminding myself that I am nothing. And maybe that nothing can become peace in my spirit. Maybe that nothing will start to bring joy to my foolish, ugly, prideful, hateful heart.

Jesus rescue me before it's too late - because being good enough in the flesh, isn't really good enough at all. Being 100% sold out to the ministry that I'm called to do - now that is good. That's worth fighting for. That's worth spending the next 3 full years in school reminding myself I am nothing but he is everything.

I love you Jesus thank you for loving me back.