Saturday, July 20, 2013

Let's Be Real...

Wow.  It's been since October since my brain has been able to spit any words out on this.  It's been a season of pulling back from Facebook and here for several months and quieting my voice.  I realized that I didn't have a whole lot of wisdom to impart. In fact, I had gotten tired of my head spinning from the constant barrage of people who DID feel they had wisdom to impart.  I am a constant learner and seeker, but I had overdone it.  I tend to hear someone's advice and heap piles of guilt on myself if I don't do it their way.  Every time I turned around, there was another blog about how to be the perfect wife and mother, how to love the Lord better, ten book referrals to achieving the previous goals, along with a mother with a dozen children writing so eloquently it would make C.S. Lewis feel threatened. 
I decided to bail out of the competition...because that's what it became for me.  In typical Annette fashion, it became that if we are being honest...which I totally intend to be today. :) I felt the Lord convicting me that it had become more about how funny or eloquent I could be, instead of about what HE had to say.  With me, it always goes back to my idol of approval.  I would LOVE for you to think I am hysterical, in shape, thin, smart, nice, wonderful to be around, etc.  Most of us probably feel that way, but I can tell when it's getting out of hand and taking the place of what's relationship with the Lord, my husband and my children.
So, I shut up for awhile...made it less about me and more about Him.  It's been nice, but this social butterfly is back for now and loving it! 
Which brings me to what inspired this blog today...I got outspoken on Facebook and people seemed to relate so I thought it would be fun to expand it here. :)  I don't want anyone thinking I have it all together, no matter how much I fake that on the outside.  The truth is, we are all normal, in need of grace and balance and laughter and refreshment as we pilgrimage this journey. 
So, here's me keeping it real for you.
  • When I meet a mom who uses cloth diapers, eats only organic, runs marathons, has all her children reciting several chapters of the Psalms and talks constantly in a gentle sing-song voice, I SHOULD be really happy for her and tell her she is doing a great job.  Instead, I secretly think about stapling her head to the carpet just to see if she will raise her voice...just once.
  • If I have been away from my children for any amount of time....let's say two minutes....when I return, they will all begin incessantly barraging me with how much they have been a victim from the ruthless hands of a sibling.  This actually makes me want to rip my arm off and beat myself with it...that would be less painful.
  • My children unload and load the dishwasher because I don't want to...but I disguise that by saying I am teaching them work ethic.
  • One of my children brings me to Jesus about every 15 minutes.  I used to think I had it all together.  He was the child that brought me a nice, big slice of humble pie.  I am very thankful for it.
  • Whenever I wonder what is WRONG with said child, I realize he is just like me. :)
  • No matter how many times someone tries to compliment me and say I am a good mother, I always doubt it anyway.  That disappoints me because I know that the Lord doesn't want me to live that way, He wants me to feel free to be me and feel His never ending GRACE.
  • I don't follow Ann Voskamp's 1000 Gifts very well, no matter how many people have told me her book is amazing and will change my life.  I still plan to read it! I do!!  I just have to get through the ten books before it on my list...
  • My husband has come last for the past four months and that makes me really mad because I have fought for that not to be true.  He came WAY before my children.
  • One of my children just came by and tooted on me while I was sitting here.
  • I just endured my child's birthday party at Chuck E Cheese last night.  Yes, I said endured because being in a very loud room with masses of small children hocked up on sugar and life kinda gives me the twitches.  In my elderly years, I want them to remember all of that if I need them to wipe MY behind or deal with my dementia.
  • I am really starved for attention.  I can't get enough.  The fact that you are still reading this makes me really giddy.
  • Sometimes if my children are being really loud and asking too many questions and whining too much in the car, I turn worship music up extremely loud so I can no longer hear them.
  • Gentry just wore the same outfit for three days in a row.  On day two, he went to his birthday party.  He kept exclaiming that his outfit wasn't dirty and you know what?  It didn't look like it to me yet either.  By day three it just became about principle, he had to change.
  • We planted a garden this year so that our kids could have a wonderful science project for school with Dad.  I have yet to touch it.  Plants usually die in my care.
  • I am all for encouraging our children and praising them so that they will grow up to be secure, well-rounded adults one day...but sometimes if I have to "WATCH THIS!" one more time I may go mad.
  • I used to cook more regularly, then summer happened.  Bowls of cereal do it just fine right now...
  • I have lost count of the number of times my butt has accidently slammed a child's head into the wall...pregnancy was REALLY bad.
  • I pride myself on using great animated voices while reading to my kids out loud but it's really not my favorite thing to do...even though I homeschool.
  • We go back and forth about getting a dog.  The main reason we haven't yet is because we are really, really tired of poop.
There are all sorts of things that I am intentional about as a mother.  I believe in having an orderly home, family meals, a good schedule for my kids, quiet time each day so we don't hurt one another, little to no electronics, etc. 
But I also think this is important to.  Let's be real together.  What do you got?  Would love to hear them!
Many blessings and laughs,

Monday, September 24, 2012

That "Tres Dias" Retreat THANG....

My friend has pursued me about going to a "Tres Dias" retreat...for TWO years now.  Michael and I thought the idea of it was not for us.  For many reasons, one of which was the time committment it would take and the amount of time we would have to leave the other one alone with our four small kiddos...

They happen in Fall and in Spring in Nashville...the men go the first weekend, the women go the next weekend and it's 72 hours long.  So, when she started pestering us about it, yet again, I did what any punk would do...I signed up Michael but not myself. :)  There.  Problem solved and who knows?  Maybe he would get something great out of it.

Besides, we were signed up for the WARRIOR DASH (a charity obstacle course race that involves leaping over fire and covering yourself in mud)  the next weekend and had paid quite a fee to be a part of it for St. Judes Research Hospital.  I was out.  Woo hoo!  Excuse in tact.

My friend continued to earnestly hope there was some way for me to go when she called me to check on me while Michael was away.  I again explained that I couldn't make it.  She apparently began praying with her fellow retreat servers that God would open up a door for me to go.  The next day, we all received emails saying that the Warrior Dash had been moved to a location farther away.  All of my friends and then us, decided to bail on it.  Hmm...God...what are you doing here?  Then came the childcare issue...Michael would need to be off but what are the chances of him being off two full weekends in a row?  He was.  All but for the first evening and so I called our beloved sitter who quickly agreed to help and even stay overnight.

Oh boy.  Then came the confirmation email that I would be going to Tres Dias.  My husband walked into the home Sunday night, wrapped his arms around my neck and whispered in my ear..."You are going.".   My mind was still screaming....NO!  I don't want to go!

And so, I watched my already amazing husband, act out the things he had learned and apply them to his home.  It was a sensational thing to observe.  I didn't even know there were such blessings to reap from him but it was incredible to witness and receive.  I was treated like a queen all week. 

I hardly slept and spent the week in denial that I was really going.  I was reluctant and on Thursday morning, before Michael left for work that day, I started crying in his arms...explaining my fears of the unknown.  There are no secrets with Tres Dias, but they don't tell you too much about what to expect so that your surprises (incredible blessings) remain surprises.  I didn't like that part.  I didn't like feeling out of control.  What if they brought out some snakes?  What if they made me do some interpretive dancing?  What if they made me talk about my inmost fears and hurts?  What if they actually saw behind the masks I still wear with some things?  I don't want to be vulnerable.  I have been hurt too many times by people.  I am ready to back away from them and keep them at arms length.  It's comfortable this way. I just don't want to go. 

To which, my loving husband wrapped his arms around me and reassured me that all would be well and that I would love it.

Then my friend picked me up so that she could drive me to and from the retreat.  That way, I wouldn't make a clean get away....even more scary.  I was anxious the whole way...back pedaling in my mind.  I was skeptical of the entire thing and questioning why I was so hesitant?

The first night I was FREAKING out inside.  We all were.  All of Friday, studying of the Word and incredible testimonies were told and many other amazing things were occuring and I was still numb.   God, why do you have me here?  I don't want this.  Why am I so guarded Lord?  Help me know.  Show me what you want me to have here?  What do I need from this and from you?  I realized that day many things.  Even though I pride myself on being led through some very dark times, and openly owning those to whoever will listen...even though I knew I was forgiven...I still didn't realize how much I still did not trust people.  I really didn't trust people to love me well.  I still wrestled with letting people see my most vulnerable parts of me.  I still had trouble shedding tears in front of people and letting them hold me while I did it.  I still wanted to protect them from seeing all of that.  I still didn't know how to let people love me.  I still didn't know how to FEEL.  I knew Christ in my head but that was all.  Why don't I feel more joy Lord if I have everything I could ever ask for?

I walked in that night judgemental as can be.  I can't even begin to confess all of the thoughts I had about what I was seeing.  Who I was seeing...what they looked like.  What I would have thought of them in any other arena.  God laid bare all of my judgements as the weekend progressed and it was so humbling and life-changing.

It took me 48 hours to finally break.  48 hours people!!! That is how long I applied my posture of resistance to the experience.  But finally, Saturday evening, I broke.  And what they did was EXACTLY what I needed.  My Papa God knew exactly what I needed and how to reach me.  I had been shedding tears all weekend but not like I did in that moment.  I wept openly for so long.  It was so healing! It was SO powerful.  I can't even begin to try to desribe it!!  But I am thankful.  And somewhere after that began my first true worship of the living and active God.

In the next few hours, I became beloved friends with a recovered addict and prostitute and I watched her raise her arms to her father and worship Him with full freedom.  The power in that caused my heart to sing and worship our Lord. My sisters in Christ came from EVERY background you can imagine.  It was all there.  We all looked incredibly different, from every walk of life but we were ALL united in Christ that weekend.  Testimony after testimony showed that appearances mean nothing.  Satan is at work in EVERY person's life and God ALWAYS wins.  He already beat Satan.  We are set free by the blood of Christ. If only we'll all walk in that light, love and GRACE.

I finally worship now with freedom.  I am free of so many things!  God wants to take our messes and turn them into messages and our tests into testimonies if only we will let Him.  Our pain is our purpose y'all. It's scary, but worth every bit of it.

Some people may ask if I got a new haircut or new look so beautiful today!  It's no haircut friends, it's thing new THANG I got going on! It's Christ in me.  It's an annointing from the Lord.  And I am doing my best to guard it. He has shown favor on me and I am a new creation in Him.  I give him all the glory for knowing every bit of me and knowing what I needed next on my pilgrimage.  I am eternally grateful to Him for bringing me true joy.  I only knew Christ in my head before, but now I know him in my HEART.  I worship freely now...because He is worthy of it.  I am over myself.  There is less of me and more of Him.  I have scripture posted all over my home.  The Word is TRUTH and I finally feel convicted to dive into it.  My day is filled with prayer and worship.  My words are of truth.  My mountain top experience if over and now I am walking in the valley but I will not fear.  I will use Ephesians 5:6-10 to guard me.  And Hebrews 4:12 for strength.

The entire weekend's theme was being a WARRIOR woman for Christ.  Interesting.  That Warrior Dash just got changed into a WHOLE new kinda THANG that was even better dontcha think?  Thank you Lord.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mt. Adams Climb 2012

WARNING:  This is WAY long...if you plan to do this with me right now, you may want to pull up a chair.  I am obnoxiously long-winded, and as Shawn recently put it, I have no inner monologue.   But for THIS, I just couldn't help it.  This was BIG for me people.  BIG.

 Can you picture me doing a happy dance while rubbing my hands together with glee?  Really?  You can?  Man, you must REALLY know me.  Anyway, this is how I feel when starting to write this blog.  I have had many mixed emotions since flying home, but there is definite glee within my spirit.  I still CANNOT believe that I made it!  I guess I gave the punchline away...but we did in fact summit Mt. Adams in my beloved home state of WA!!!!  It was an incredible experience, and there was no doubt that God was all over the climb.  Thank you for your prayers; they really did work and were felt.

     But I am getting ahead of myself.  Let me back up and also include that my family, friends and I worked for an entire year on a BIG SURPRISE bash for my Mom.  We threw it to honor her...we missed her 60th birthday and her we felt it was time. She had never had a party thrown in her honor so it was a real thrill to knock her socks off that night. We told her we were all flying in the next day for the climb but actually lied to her all year.  I know. I'm amazing. This is me after being up for 24 hours straight, flying across the country and shocking my Mom.  This is my childhood bestie, Samantha, and I doing what we could to hydrate for our upcoming climb in 48 hours. :)  Let me interject here that she gets the "Amazing Friend" award for A) putting up with me and my antics for 28 years and B) supporting me on such a personal and special event.  You rock girl.

     Then we had the privilege of enjoying a down day/climb prep day with forever friends and family who flew out just to support our memorial climb for my cherished brother.  They knew and understood the significance of the event and did what they could in many ways to enjoy the week with us.  We love them so much!

Our "Packing Party"...

And here is the cast of some cases...literally.  :) OK, maybe just mine.

MISSION: To summit Mt. Adams, in one piece, to spread the ashes of my beloved brother Michael Lloyd Bushnell.

From far left: Randy Wells a.k.a "The Most Loving and Wonderful Surrogate Big Brother to Walk the Face of the Earth".  He has been my dear friend since age 14, along with his incredible wife Sandy.  He said he had never wanted to climb but that he wasn't doing it for him...he was doing it for us. How many of us can say they receive that kind of love from someone?  He is a gift to us.

Ben Dixon  a.k.a  "The Workout King and Friend Who is Up for Any Adventure".  We became friends six years ago and he was rockin' awesome to spend his vacation time and money to support us and experience something so great. Thanks for looking out for me up the mountain, brother.

Devon Dixon a.k.a. "Female Jesus".  I know you use this name for another person Dev, but I appoint it to you. You were so thoughtful, doing quiet and loving gestures at every turn.  You took seriously your role to help in any way you could and lighten our load.  You literally did just that when my pack became so uncomfortable. You were a godsend and a fab photographer!  You had even painted this incredible mountain for me and then chose to step all the way to the top of it to support our mission.

Sam Schumacher a.k.a. "Longest Running Friendship of my Life".  You touched my heart when you wanted to join us, and you rocked it.  I couldn't express what it meant to spend time with you again like that.  Thank you so much for your love and support and laughs.  Now would be a good time to also mention that I have peed my pants handfuls of my adult life...with this woman.  Thanks for going so far back in my memory bank.

Next we have Biscuit a.k.a.  "The Fat Roll on my Belly"  She has been a part of my life for four years now and she continues to grow.  She is a part of me, and though I despise her most often, I can't give her up or what comes with her.  We have a love-hate relationship...

Michael Delk  a.k.a "Absolute Smokin' Hot Stud Muffin Who is the Love of my Life".  He needed this as much as I did, and I am so glad we could experience this together, supporting one another.  I was distracted the entire climb by his hotness.  I am serious.  I couldn't stand it.  I love you babe. I would write more but this is already a book, and you would all be puking anyways...

Alison Rau a.k.a. "My Sister-in-Law and Forever Friend".  Without your idea and planning and desire, this climb wouldn't have existed.  Thank you for bringing us all along on such a personal and emotional journey for you.  I love you forever and am still constantly in awe of your strength, beauty, resilience and grace. Thank you for being such an incredible and loving wife to my beloved brother.  Shawn was right, you were his North Star...

Shawn Bushnell a.k.a. "Brother From Another Who is Freakin' Superman".  Whether you wanted to or not, you became our guide.  Thank you for being in such great shape that you could take care of us, lead us, guide us, and teach us.  You extended such patience and laughter.  Thank you for memorializing your brother in this way with us.  It was almost like having him with us up two have so much in common about your personalities.  We benefited from being with you.

The view of Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens from my parents' doorstep...I know.  It's amazing.  Takes my breath away.  I miss "MY" mountains.  Yes, I take ownership of them whether that is fair or not.

The most supportive and understanding husband in the world to one Alison Rau.  And my cute nephew Maddux.  You are such an important addition to our family.  We love you so much.

Bittersweet goodbye from parents who will wait expectantly until our return...always supportive.

Emotions are already tough...

Michael literally stopped a four car caravan of cars in the middle of a highway to get a picture of this Red-Tail Hawk on our drive to the mountain...for those of you who know our loss, we don't think this was coincidence that he was sitting there for us...

Stopping to reenact our wedding...12 years ago this month in Trout Lake, WA.  The only thing I would do differently this time at our wedding is run toward him.

We huddled up for a prayer and a team cheer of "Michael Lloyd!"...some tears...and we were off.


"Lunch Counter" our spot to camp for a few hours.  These are the man-made rock walls to cut down on the crazy wind while you sleep on lava rocks.  Our weather was perfect the WHOLE time though.  It never got colder than 45 degrees that night either.

This device is called a "Freshette".  It helps a woman pee standing up like a man.  You're welcome people.

Mt. St. Helens from Lunch know, that big mountain that blew up in 1980 when I was just a wee little one knee-high to a grasshopper.

Is anyone still with me anyway?  Anyone?  Surely the only person left at this point reading is me, right?

Moving on...these next photos are of the "False Summit" in the wee hours of the second day.  It was intense but awesome. 

                                                 We MADE it to the False Summit!!
      While I was packing for the trip, our dear friend Stephen encouraged me to think of a scripture.  And anytime I felt like I couldn't go any further, I was to repeat the scripture over and over.  He told me I would come back changed.  I don't have many scriptures memorized but what popped in my head was Philippians 4:13 "I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me".  I literally used it as a mantra up the mountain as well as continuous prayers, worship music on my Ipod and hearing a little whispered voice of my brother telling me I could do it.  Each of these things empowered me to keep going.  He was right, I am forever changed by this.  God literally surrounded me on all sides and helped me get up there.   At the summit, there were three birds circling.  We hadn't seen birds until then.  I like the significance of the three birds being there with us...

Almost there....this is where I hit a wall, and Ben and Devon had to coax me up the rest of the way while I tried to breathe...thank God for friendship!

Kelly Huddleston, this picture is for you.  This is me crying my eyes out from exhaustion.  Only about 30 yards to go or so...

My brother's ice ax that Ali carried up the mountain.  My brother climbed this mountain three times, his last time with her.  She was a machine.  So proud of you Ali!

Michael is using my brothers pack, and that airport tag flapping in the wind is still left on the pack from when my brother flew out to climb.  It has his name on it.

And now headed back down and back to happier thoughts...

Yes, these are the glissading trails made by previous climbers.  You literally slide down about 2500 feet of the mountain on your bohunkus.  I was spazzing out and ran into Ali numerous times.  That whole "Self Arresting" thing just wasn't working for me.  At some point, I finally surrendered to it and started having a blast and going fast.  Dev, this picture of you will always make me laugh, and I am so glad that in spite of hating that part, you were still a good sport! :)

This is taken right after I laughed at Shawn for biffing it...oops! :)

Back to lunch counter to gather our tents and gear and head on down. We were practically jogging down...

This is me with my bloodied knuckles from the ice ax and my terrible glissading/stopping skills.  I am also doing my best "Fire Marshall Bill" impression here.

And the climb wouldn't be complete without loved ones meeting us at the bottom of the mountain for a cheeseburger and one famous Huckleberry shake in the Trout Lake cafe. 

This experience was amazing.  I never expected to feel so blindsided by the emotions and grief it evoked after coming home, but I am forever grateful for every minute of it.  Every bit of sweat, blood and tears were worth it, and I can't help but know that my brother would be smiling down on us and so proud of us all!  I am thankful a part of him is at the top of his beloved mountain.  Thanks again for your prayers and love and support and for reading this sentence.  Are you SERIOUS?  You are still here?!  You are amazing.

And would you believe I am already ready to do it again next year?  Yep.  I think I'm hooked now...