Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015

We started 2015 in Florida. Ringing in the New Year as a family at Lego Land to be exact. That was a fun and memorable time of celebrating. Our family of 3 entered 2015 with excitement. 

We celebrated my birthday in February. Okay, to be fair, we celebrated the whole month of February. But it wasn't my birthday that made February special this year. It was the 28th of the month when I had the first sign that we were expecting. Our family of 3 was going to become a family of 4 in 2015 and that was obviously the major theme that marked this year for us. 


We celebrated Michael's birthday in April and officially announced our news on Easter. I admit to being nervous and anxious but also wanted our prayer warriors and friends to pray for us and the baby. 


In May Eli turned 7. We celebrated his birthday at Putt Putt this year with, of course, a Dinosaur cake. The birthdays through the years show me how much he's growing and the true blessing it is to be this boy's mama. 


In June we got the first glimpses of our baby's sweet features and oh how I clung to those images! I studied the nose, mouth, the hands up by the face. And of course we wanted the gender to be a surprise - at least until we revealed it in the presence of our family who would celebrate with us. 

Can we say SURPRISE?! Who can forget this image when I was SHOCKED to learn the inside of the cake revealed PURPLE icing, which meant a GIRL! I was CONVINCED we were having a boy. Michael and Eli both swore it was a girl. So yes, I ate my humble pie AND my purple cake. We knew instantly her name would be Violet Hope. We had chosen it before she was even conceived.

This summer was a HUGE milestone for Eli as he learned out to swim. This confidence booster was such a turning point for him considering he wouldn't even cooperate during lessons to literally overnight being like a fish! We are SO proud of him! 

Michael and I had a "babymoon" to Southport and Oak Island where we enjoyed the relaxation of the beach and LOTS of seafood! We knew this would probably be our last getaway without kids for awhile but we both were looking forward to the changes to come. 

At the end of July, we went back to Florida with both Michael's parents and mine for a week long vacation, including Magic Kingdom, Kennedy Space Center and lots of time relaxing at the resort and enjoying our family time. This was our 4th trip to Magic Kingdom as a family of 3 and Violet's First trip - kindof! But we can't wait to take her for real!

August brought a new year of school - 2nd grade for Eli. This year has been marked with new adventures for an ever-energetic little boy of creating and discovering who he is, new struggles he faces with school and developmental delays and even more challenges that co-parenting and custody schedules bring. Eli's creativity continues to thrive as he's become more enthralled with his inventions and creations. All this kid needs is a roll of tape and some scraps and he will make a creature out of it!

The long awaited, much anticipated birth of our daughter finally came 4 days late and with an unexpected c-section after a day and a half of labor but on November 12, Violet Hope made her entrance into this world. She's stolen our hearts and fit right into our family beautifully. 

































Of course we adore her but what is so beautiful is watching the relationship between this brother and sister. I admit - I was worried. He's adopted. She's born from my womb. Would he feel differently? Would he know how much he's loved? How much I prayed for him? How he made me a mother to begin with? Without skipping a beat, this is how God planned our family. It hasn't always been perfect or beautiful. It hasn't been all joy and rejoicing. There has been heartache and tears but I can look back over this nearly 10 year journey to becoming a mother to these 2 children and know God has had His sovereign hand over each detail. 



As we rounded out December, the birth of our nephew came as an early surprise when he arrived 10 days before his due date. Celebrating Christmas with these two babies has been so much fun! Cousins just 5 weeks and 1 day a part and our family is truly overflowing.

I could have NEVER predicted or planned for what we've seen and experienced in 2015. There's no way I could have even begun to understand what all was about to unfold in these 12 months. My husband often remarks how we've managed to pack so much life in such a short amount of time. So much of what became of this year was well out of my control. So much of what has come has been so deeply embedded in my faith walk of trusting the Lord with each step of this journey. 

When I began 2015 it was claiming joy and hope. I wrote these words:

God is my strength, my shield from every danger.
I trust Him and He helps me.
Joy rises in my heart 
until I burst out in songs of praise to Him
Psalm 28:7

Joy continues to rise in my heart. I can't contain my rejoicing because of how I've seen God work. Understand, this isn't the reflection of 2015. This is the restoration of many years of waiting, praying and seeing Him at work. As I reflect on this year, I simply cannot claim God's faithfulness enough. 



From our family to yours, whatever the year has brought, whatever you've gone through or faced, whatever you may be looking forward to in the coming year, whatever you've celebrated or experienced in 2015, Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

It's Over

And just like that... It's over. 

Months of anticipation. Weeks of preparations. Days counted down. All leading up to the big day. Christmas has once again come and gone. Most people are usually busy with plans right up until the day, and then we wake up on December 26th and it seems as if the entire holiday festivities have drastically plummeted into oblivion. The celebrations have come to a screeching halt. The trash cans now overflow with garbage that just a day before decorated beautiful wrapped packages. Boxes that held gifts are now shreds waiting for the landfill. The 24 hour Christmas stations have gone back to their regular play lists. Holiday item prices have been slashed and shelves are now filled with Valentine gifts. The Christmas dinner that took hours to prepare is today's leftovers. Even worse, the spirit of the season that saw strangers wishing glad tidings of great joy has now transformed to frustrations waiting in line and pedestrians nearly being plowed over by hurrying vehicles refusing to yield. 

It may in fact be the saddest day of the year. In my opinion, of course. My opinion is also that Christmas should not be dictated by a date on the calendar. Nor should it be non-existent in our lives after the 25th. Christmas should be Christ in us. Every day. The spirit of the season is the abundant joy of knowing Him as Lord. We should live everyday like it's Christmas, celebrating His gift to us.

The celebration of Christmas may be over but the gift given to us by the Savior we honor is eternal. This is the very spirit of God in us that allows us to experience joy even when there is heartache. To give freely without any special occasion. To love extravagantly expecting nothing in return. Our holiday celebrations may be over but the life of Christ remains in us always. 

I'm still watching Christmas movies, listening to my Christmas playlist and refusing to take down my decorations. At least for a little while longer. I'm reminded to continue the celebration of Christ and my purpose to share His gift of life no matter what day it is. May the spirit of Christmas still be with us today and every day. 

  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tis the Season

It's the most wonderful time of year. It's the time of year I've waited for. Oh yes, it's Christmas alright and I know this because of the white fudge Oreos and white chocolate raspberry creamer I've recently found in the stores. You know my obsession with coffee and cookies (and not necessarily these together). For me, no plain Oreo will do. I preferred double stuf'd. And even more than that, I prefer the seasonal holiday Oreos with the colored centers. I'm not sure what it is about the colored cream that makes me believe it's somehow sweeter. In spring there's yellow, orange for fall and Christmas time, of course, we have red. But this seasonal limited edition cookie dipped in white fudge - well, I search for them every year signaling the official "season."

It's the same search and success when I finally find pumpkin spice creamer in the fall. It makes the anticipation worthwhile. And it also makes me appreciate the flavors and finds I can only savor for a brief time each year. I do my best to stock up but inevitably the supply will dwindle well before my February birthday. 

Feel love. 

Share joy.

Christmas spirit in the air. It lends itself to smiling at strangers or wishing Merry Christmas to those around you. We drop change in the bucket. We reach out to neighbors, friends and those we haven't seen or kept in touch with all year. We buy gifts for the angel tree. We actually employ the lost art of snail mail and send cards. We feel good when we're doing good. Yet I wonder; why do we only seem to extend this courtesy and care for others at Christmas?

Tis the season for added generosity. Tis the season for blessing others. Tis the season for giving. Tis the season for sharing and caring. But why is it only a season? 

If we get down to the real meaning of Christmas then I have to believe it's about sharing the spirit of Christ - the epitome of love, caring, sharing, generosity, kindness, goodness and joy. It's the spirit of Christ in us, which is not meant to be seasonal. Certainly the fruit of His Spirit dwelling in us was never intended to be a limited time offer.

We shouldn't have to search for it. It's shouldn't be something we wait for all year. It should be alive and active and dwelling in us daily. If we lived like everyday was Christmas we wouldn't just seek to bless someone in a season but rather we would see the opportunities around us all throughout the year. This isn't about the spirit of Christmas - it's about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that transforms our thinking, acting, doing and causes us to celebrate, encourage, share, give and love no matter what date the calendar reads.

Our celebrations will be to share with those we love and, hopefully, to honor Christ's birth. This year I'm compelled to consider that if we truly want to honor His birth, we must remember to honor His life and His entire reason for coming to earth by extending the holiday well beyond the 25th of December. This isn't a limited edition helping of the Spirit. This is the eternal gift of salvation that transforms lives. You don't have to stock up on Jesus like I do on my limited time flavors before they disappear. You simply have to choose to live and walk with Him everyday.  


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

These Moments

These are the moments we waited for. Since the end of February we looked forward to November. We've anticipated the birth of our baby. We've prepared and planned. Weeks turned into months and the last few weeks seemed like the wait might take forever. Now she's finally here. November has come and gone. Our daughter has joined our family and in a fleeting moment it's somehow December. The countdown now is to Christmas and yet another new year.

It's been 20 days since her arrival and yes I've been counting each one. Somehow it feels like a whirlwind that got thrown into time standing still. If I could freeze these moments of holding our growing newborn I would. I've said it over and over - you can't spoil an infant. Maybe you can, but frankly I could care less. She loves being held and I love holding onto these moments because I know they will be gone before I can even blink. I'm okay with still being the sustenance of life she depends on. I'm tired but not weary because I am fully embracing this season of life knowing it is but a fleeting season.

It seems like only a short time ago I was rubbing my ginormous belly and wondering (impatiently) when we would finally meet her. Now I stare at her perfect little button nose and sweetheart lips and wonder about her life, her personality, the days planned for her by God Almighty. Everyone says she looks like her daddy and she certainly enjoys sleeping like him! It makes me wonder if she'll take after my love of music - or if she'll have any resemblance of my DNA at all! She's too little to care about dress up but I admit I'm having so much fun with all her outfits and hair bows. These are the moments I'm savoring. 

There's no deeply spiritual undercurrent here. There is the simple joy of taking it all in, holding onto every moment and doing my best to savor the peacefulness of her slumber while her greatest concern is just being held and fed. These are the moments when my greatest concern is no longer the things that just a few weeks ago caused me to stress and worry. 

It's an especially busy time of year but I'm taking this time to rest in knowing my greatest responsibility is simply being in the present peaceful moment. And the not so peaceful moments. In the moments in the middle of the night when my baby wakes. In the moments of bliss when my baby girl is nestled under my chin. In the moments of stress when I don't know how to soothe my fussy little one. In the moments of pure joy when I stare at her, mesmerized by the fact that she was once inside my womb where Father God fashioned each one of her beautiful features. It's the moments when her daddy bounces her hiccups away or the moments when she's enthralled with her big brother reading to her. These are the moments I'm cherishing, the moments I'm documenting and writing upon my heart. These are the moments I want to remember and savor. These are the moments we waited for. The moments that will all too quickly be gone.




Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Violet's Birth Story Part 2

DThe night would continue with nurses flipping me, trying to find a spot that Violet would respond to, administering oxygen to help her dropping heart rate, and comforting my increasing nerves. I would shake uncontrollably at times. Partly from the nerves and partly from the epidural. I kept trying to pray, trying to calm my mind. The only thing that distracted me was sweet Melissa, the nurse who didn't leave my side as we shared stories of anything and everything. She could sense my nerves and she asked if she could pray for me. There in the middle of the night, my husband and Nurse Melissa gathered around me and put hands on my belly and prayed. What a sweet moment that was. I knew no matter what, the Lord was with me and He had His hand on my baby too. I couldn't do anything else but trust Him to hold her one more night until she would finally be in my arms. Yes, you guessed it. This lesson has been on repeat not just during my pregnancy but throughout the miscarriage, the adoption, and so many other life experiences. 

By 1:30 am I was being checked for progress. We had reached the halfway mark - Kindof - but each contraction was still proving problematic for my sweet baby. The process would continue as stated above and I would try to sleep only to have my blood pressure alarm wake me up almost every 15 minutes. 

By 8 am shift change I begged Melissa to find me a replacement nurse who would be as wonderful as she. Stephenie proved to be yet another godly Christian caretaker who would be by my side with an added level of determination that would prove more than necessary in the coming hours. The doctor came in and said he'd reviewed my contractions and wanted to prepare me for what looked like a necessary c-section. I still felt we had time, thinking I would be able to labor throughout the day and decide later in the afternoon. According to him, though, we would know within the hour. "Why so soon?" He explained labor was simply not agreeing with our baby. She was under too much stress at this point and he doubted strongly she would be able to handle the stress of delivery. He left the room and I lost it.

This wasn't my plan. This wasn't supposed to happen. How could we have come this far only to end up in surgery? How could this be happening? I was upset. Devastated. A thousand thoughts and even more fears racing through my mind. The nurses came in as they were prepping for an imminent c-section. I needed assurance. "Is this absolutely necessary? Is this because I got the epidural?" The nurse who had been with me when I first arrived the day before was now back on duty and explained this was most likely inevitable from the beginning. They assured me it wasn't because of anything I did or didn't do. But I felt like I had failed my little girl. I felt as if my body, which was designed for this, was failing to do its job. Now I would be facing surgery, a completely different delivery and recovery, something I hadn't emotionally prepared for at all. 

My husband held me as I cried. I was heart broken, scared, filled with concern. He prayed over me, over our baby, and I slowly came to terms with this new reality as the nurses were quickly putting this plan into motion. They wasted no time to get everything set and shortly after 11 I was being wheeled into the surgery room. The doctor had an emergency c-section just before mine so as he came in and asked if I was ready, I jokingly asked him was he ready. He laughed and said he had a full night's rest and was ready to go. I was embracing it. I had to. There was nothing else I could do. What had been an 18 hour stretched out ordeal was now becoming a whirlwind of activity.

Our dear friend Dianne had come on shift in the NICU that morning so as soon as I knew we were headed for surgery I asked them to call and see if she could be in there with us. Of course God divinely orchestrated this detail for her to be in the delivery room and be the one to take care of Violet as soon as she entered the world. 

As they prepped me for surgery and the medicine began taking over my body, I started to shake uncontrollably. They explained it was from the medicine and I felt certain it was coupled with my nerves. I was complete numb from the chest down. They raised the curtain near my head but I could see a slight reflection of my belly in the lreflective light above me. Thoughts were racing through my mind. Michael was not yet in there while they had him change into scrubs and the surgical team continued their prep. I needed something to hold onto. "Lord, be with me. Be with us. Protect my baby girl." I prayed to myself. All I could think of was in a few minutes we would meet our daughter. Violet Hope. "May the God of HOPE fill you with all PEACE and JOY as you trust in Him." It was the verse for her namesake and I clung to it. Over and over I repeated it in my mind. 

Finally my husband came in. "Calm me down," I asked him, "I can't stop shaking." This man...he proved to be my ROCK. I cannot express how thankful I am for him and his calm and steady presence, his spirit in tune with the Lord, his desire to love and take care of me. I never knew how much I could love someone until walking through this with him. He put his head near mine and caressed my face. He told me everything would be fine. He reminded me of our daughter we would soon meet.

And just like that they had begun. I'll spare you some of the memories I have of the surgery. I didn't feel anything but I chose when to divert my eyes and when to look at that small reflection in the overhead light. The anasteologist got Michael's attention, "It's time to meet your daughter." He looked up above the curtain and saw our baby girl now removed from my body. I looked into the epreflection desperate for a glimpse. All I could see was a very twisted umbilical cord. But that's when I heard it. The immediate cry of my daughter being pulled from my womb and now entering the world. 

"11:53" I heard someone say. She was here! She was crying. She was alive. She was ours. She was immediately passed to Dianne and I told Michael to go be with her. He was torn between comforting me and being with her. He came back a few moments later to show me her pictures. I couldn't stop the tears. "Please wipe my eyes," I asked. Just a few more moments and they were putting her beside me, then on my chest. I could barely move my arms and I was so overwhelmed with emotion but I clung to her the best I could and kept repeating "She's beautiful. She perfect. She's here." 

While I was being sewn up, Michael went with our baby girl back to the labor and delivery room.  Nana and Papa were there waiting to catch a glimpse of her. Within 20-30 minutes I was wheeled into the room and reunited with my husband and baby girl. The nurse asked if I wanted her bathed and as I watched her get her bath and heard the nurse exclaim "She's pooping!" As I was slowly regaining feeling, I was then able to have my baby girl placed on my chest. Finally. Reunited. Skin to skin. Me and my baby. The one I felt move and kick and hiccup inside me all those months. The one I carried with me every hour, every minute, now finally in my arms. 

This is her story. I couldn't have planned or predicted it when I was writing and wondering about the circumstances and timing of her birth just a few weeks ago. Now here we stand one week after her birth and I am in awe of God and how He prepared everything. But mostly how He's blessed us with this picture of His grace and love and goodness. We've missed her face with thousands of kisses. We've unapologetically snapped hundreds of photos. Make no mistake - this is our miracle. The life we now hold in our arms is the culmination of years of prayers and a masterpiece in the making that neither Michael nor I could have ever seen in the midst of our valleys years ago. She is the picture of God's poured out blessings upon His children who wait and trust Him. It is not how He answers every prayer but we look upon our sweet Violet Hope and know this is how He answered us.

So many of you have shared in our journey. You cried with us over the baby we lost. You've rejoiced with us over this tiny miracle we now hold. You've prayed for our family, for our sweet Eli, and prayed us through so many other trials. So we share her birth story with you to share one thing: this happened so that many would give Praise and Thanks to the Lord. He is good. His mercies are abundant. His love is lavished on us. And in this little bundle of joy we've seen Him manifest Himself to us in tangible ways. Thank you for sharing in this journey, and enduring all the pictures we post! Today we celebrate Violet's  first week of life and we ask you to join with us in giving thanks where thanks is due. 

...But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God... On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. 2 Corinthians 1:9-11







Monday, November 16, 2015

His Nature

I've covered your face with a thousand kisses already. My most favorite thing to do is cradle you in my arms and watch your peaceful sleep. I won't listen to anyone who says I shouldn't spoil you by holding you all the time. There's no such thing in my mind. You were a part of me, in me, and I long to still hold you and sustain you. If I don't want to be a part from you, I can only imagine how you must feel since I was the only home you've known for all these months.

When you cry, I will comfort you. When you're hungry, I will feed you. When you're lonely, I will be right there. I will do anything for you, baby girl, because I gave you life and I want to make sure your life is full and filled with joy and love. Isn't that just like God? He's reminding me of my need for Him, my life-sustaining source He is to be. 

I will mess up. Oh surely I will fail you, fail as a parent, fail as a person. But God gives grace for those times. He covers us and redeems us because He loves us. We are never too far out of His reach. 

There's only one thing I want for you and that is to know how much you're loved, not just by your family, but by the God who created you. You see, I was the heartbeat you heard. I was the warmth you felt. I was providing the La Caretta that maybe gave you hiccups. But I was not the hands fashioning you. No, those were God's. Now that I look upon your face I don't have to wonder what you'll look like any longer. Now I can gaze at you as the single most creative masterpiece God has made for me. He looks upon each of us as His own, His child created in His image. We are His. We belong. We are loved. 

You were crying so I laid you on my chest and turned on our Praise Baby music. I started to sing to you and you just nuzzled into me, eyes wide open but almost in a daze. I couldn't hold back my tears. The many days I waited for these moments. The repetitive prayers I uttered to the Lord. The answer culminated in this little 8 pound miracle I'm holding. What a picture of God's goodness, His infinite love for us. How many times did I curl up on His chest and need to be consoled as I was longing, hurting, needing comfort. How many times He just held me, loved on me, sang over me and gave me the comfort my soul needed. 

I'm reminded once again how He sees me, knows me, loves me, would do anything for me. He wants to provide for my every need. He wants me to find comfort resting in Him. He wants to be all I need. Here I am learning all over again about His nature, this time through the life of a 4 day old baby. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Violet's Birth Story Part 1

Disclaimer: This is Part 1 of the 2 day/part account of Violet Hope's entrance into the world. It will not be filled with gory details and it will be long, just like her delivery.

We had an 8 am ultra sound one week ago today, Wednesday, 11/11. I kept thinking how cool it would be if we went in to find out labor was on its way. I admit I was hopeful for progress but not expecting full blown labor. I had some contractions 11 minutes a part for almost two hours very early that morning. The ultra sound showed our baby girl, squishy chubby cheeks and all. The tech guessed she was 8 pounds 10 ounces but also said there was a lot of fluid so that guess could be off. It may have been about this time when "Don't Stop Believing" came on the radio in the room and my Journey-loving husband got a big grin on his face and said he knew it was a sign we were going to have her that day. 

We headed to meet with the doctor and it was explained we needed to talk about induction. "When?" I naively asked. "Today," she responded. My eyes must have gotten huge. I wasn't planning on a baby by induction that day. (Or at all.) But given the abundant fluid and her large size, it was more than recommended for her safety and mine. During this visit I also learned I had not progressed any from the .5 cm and 20% I had been for three solid weeks. 

We went home to gather our bags and we stopped at Subway for what I knew would be my "last supper" for a long time. They had prepared us for a long process. I read. I had studied. I knew. I hated the process and what it could mean but I also didn't want my own body to give out on my baby.

We got checked in at exactly 11:11 am and they were waiting for us. I was immediately taken to a labor and delivery room and checked. I had remarkably made progress! 1.5 cm and 50% effaced!! I would take it because that was progress in just a few hours and it was an answer to prayer. By 1 pm I was given a pill to help dilation and effacement. Of course there were talks of pitocin and the unfolding expected induction process. But for now we would wait to see what happened on its own and I kept praying.

Contractions were coming steady and consistently. 7-10 minutes at first then a few hours later we were at 4-6 minutes. I was dilated 2 to 3 cm and at 6:30 pm I felt it. "Call the nurse! My water just broke!" There I was in my hospital bed and my water had broken on its own! This was a huge accomplishment. My body was doing what it was supposed to do without induction.

Never mind they had said I had an "unfavorable cervix." Never mind I was only making slow progress. I was making progress. They had prepared me for a "flood" and that was an understatement. I would learn from several nurses my fluid level was at 42 and should have only been 15-20. No one really explained until later the dangers of this. When I wanted to get up and walk around, I was bed ridden because of the risks of a prolapsed cord or the baby turning. 

Contractions turned fierce and quick after my water broke. 2-3 minutes then 1.5-2.5 minutes a part. I found ways to breathe, ways to power through the pain. Michael could read the monitor and anticipate them as I was feeling the spikes and often the plateaus of them not stopping. The pain in me was proving to put pressure on the baby. Nurses were coming in frequently to flip me into different positions due to my "baby misbehaving." Her heart rate was dropping with intense contractions. They didn't tell me all of it at the time. By 9 pm they checked me again and I felt certain we would be close. 3 cm and 70%. I admit disappointment that I wasn't further along, especially given the extreme contractions. 

Within the hour, several nurses prepared me for the long haul, helping me realize we would probably be laboring through the night and into tomorrow. No one ever forced me, but it was asked if I wanted to consider the epidural. I had read and studied that process too and I knew I couldn't continue on in this intensity for another 12-18 hours. By 10:30 pm I was being prepped for an epidural. (No judgment or opinions please. This was my decision after 9+ hours on my own.)

I asked them to turn the epidural down and not have it on full strength so I could still move my legs somewhat and feel the pressure of my contractions. I had the most amazing nurse, Melissa, who stayed with me almost the entire night. I asked Michael to sleep knowing I would need him by my side the next day during intense labor. Melissa was a God-send. She prayed with me, we shared stories of our salvation. She kept my mind busy when I was filled with worry and fear. You see, my baby was still "misbehaving" and under stress. And so was I. 

It began at 8 am and I had no idea what kind of night or next day we would be in for. At one point I remember one of the nurses saying God must be trying to teach me I am not in control. My endearing husband laughed and agreed this was an on going lesson for me. I couldn't argue. It seems to be my anthem. Why would this be any different? There I was, laid in a bed, unable to move, unable to control what my body would or wouldn't do, unable to do anything for my unborn baby, waiting and unknowingly anticipating the details of her arrival. This was day 1. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

11-?-15

Today is the day. Before you get too excited, it's not the actual day. But it is the date on the calendar we've been looking forward to for 9 months. It's November 8, 2015, and so many months ago it became the date etched in our minds that we would look forward to, pray over and anticipate the arrival of our baby. Of course from the beginning we've known this day, this specific date on the calendar, was simply an estimate. It's not a movie premiere or a definitive holiday. No, it was simply a calculated guess to give us some sort of timeline of when we could expect our baby's arrival. 

As the day draws to a close, it has become more than evident she isn't making her appearance on her due date. (Most babies don't.) It does mark the day of a full 40 weeks of pregnancy and a miracle still in the making. It gives me such encouragement and joy to know this day has come, knowing full well the Lord has been fashioning and forming her for the past 280 days, even before we knew about her. It is a day to celebrate, no doubt, for the sheer fact that He has faithfully brought us full term to this point. 

I remember waiting the longest minutes of my life wondering if the test would show positive. Only God knew. Then there was the wait to get past the first trimester. We didn't wait to tell people but we held onto hope and prayed for God to protect this pregnancy. With anticipation we waited for the 20 week anatomy scan. I wanted to know everything was healthy and forming the way it should. God alone was in control of shaping her unformed body. Then of course there was the gender reveal. Until that point only He knew if our baby was a boy or girl. So many milestones. So many reasons to give thanks.

There's a big question mark standing over the actual day of her birth. We can wonder and guess and even make plans but her entire birth story has already been written by God alone. If I can't find comfort and peace in that then I might as well throw all faith out the window! In fact, it took this reminder to help me understand this isn't just my story. The very day she will come into this world has already been planned by Creator God as He began fashioning her in my womb. This is the story He's begun writing for Violet and all I truly want for her is to be safe, healthy and to grow up to love and glorify Him. So with that hope for her, I must also pray for the circumstances surrounding her birth and delivery to bring Him glory. 

I've been praying for the labor and delivery nurses. For the doctor who will deliver. For my husband who will be my support and coach. For me as I prepare mentally, emotionally and physically for this process. For Violet as she breathes her first breath in this world. For those who join us as we celebrate her birth. I don't know the day. I can't even begin to guess a date. But none of that matters. Today we celebrate November 8, not as her birthdate but as the date God has given us as a reminder of the work He began and how faithful He is to complete it. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

My Plan

Life doesn't always go as planned and yesterday morning was a complete and total reminder of just how loose my grip must be on that which I cannot control.

I didn't plan to get hit from behind. I didn't plan to miss breakfast with friends. I didn't plan to be sent home from the doctor with the report there were no signs of labor. I didn't plan to have a complete and total meltdown after such an emotionally trying morning. None of it was part of my plan but all of it was out of my control. Yet in each and every detail He showed Himself mighty and evident, working in my circumstances.

In a complete act of protection, He had His hand on Violet and me when we were unexpectedly hit. Just when I needed it, He provided friends on the side of the road to comfort and stay with me while I was in sheer panic mode worried about the impact the accident may have had on the baby. While I had hoped to hear a report that would be labor would be imminent, I was truly thankful just to learn that my baby was fine. She was moving, heartbeat was good and she proved to be more than snug in my belly. (As Eli would later explain, "Your big belly is super soft for her so it must have protected her." No doubt, son!)

Overcome with emotion, I sobbed uncontrollable tears sitting on my back porch. I just had to stop and thank Him for Who He is in my life. I watched the unseasonable warm breeze take the colored leaves from the trees and gently carry them to the ground. Just as He had carried me through the morning.
He reminded me I am His child, His creation. His love for me is infinite, everlasting, immeasurable. It's not a gift I can earn or something I can lose. It is freely given and in this particular day, His love was not only lavished on me, it was wrapped in abundant grace. His Presence was with me. His protection and provision was abounding. Being anxious in these moments was a natural human reaction but recounting the multitude of blessings caused me to stop and only give thanks.

Life doesn't always go as planned but sometimes in the interruptions, even the difficulties, in the inconveniences, we find an overwhelming sense of His Presence and Sovereignty at work in our lives. I'm thankful for these reminders. Despite the not knowing, the wondering, the waiting, I'm fine to take my rightful place recognizing His plan is so much better than mine. Understanding that He is watching out for me and working out His plan to completion and perfection - according to His purpose and not my own. It's often frustrating, sometimes devastating, but it can also be freeing when I release my expectation and desire and look solely to Him as my hope. Yesterday God reminded me of the very verse for which we've given our daughter her middle name:

May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope as you trust in Him. Romans 15:13

Overflowing hope, joy and peace is mine to claim if I will simply trust in Him. It's so much easier said than done but these are the moments that bring me to the point of realizing all I can do is place my trust in an all-knowing Sovereign God as I thank Him for always being at work in my life. Even when I can't see. Even when I don't understand. Even when life doesn't go as planned.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Vessel

Never have I more fully understood the concept of being a vessel than during pregnancy. Of course. It makes sense. I'm growing a human. There's a life inside me, not just my own, being sustained by me and my daily decisions. Drink enough water. Eat the right foods. Take my vitamins. Try to rest (ha). It goes without saying that my body is a vessel for this growing baby. And yet this pregnancy has taught me a whole new level of this idea as it relates to being used by God. 

While I am a vessel for my unborn child, watching and experiencing my body undergo miraculous and often crazy changes, I've learned my place. I can do my best to take care of myself and my body and my unborn baby, but there's still an element of this being completely out of my hands. Oh yes, you can only imagine how this control-freak has had to be put in her place learning this lesson. Needless to say, it's been on repeat for 9 months now. 

Though I cannot wait to hold her in my arms, I have not been fashioning her with my own hands. While I can dream of kisses, snuggles, making memories and family traditions yet to come, I have not ordained the days of her life. We've had ultra sounds and even a few 3-D images to give us a sneak peek of her precious face but I've not been able to see her unborn body. I often wonder will she have hair? What color will her eyes be? Will she look like her daddy or maybe more like me? It's not only fun to wonder about but yet another reminder of just how little I actually have to do with this creation of God. Sure, we've contributed DNA and genetic codes but I didn't get to dictate my hazel eyes or her dad's blue eyes. No more than I didn't get to choose, plan or predict that my sweet Eli would sovereignly look like he shares my genetics too. It's amazingly mind blowing when I take it all in and recognize my role. 

You see, I prayed to become a mother. I begged God for a child. My entire journey to and through motherhood has been nothing short of a complete faith walk. God has answered these prayers and yet He's also reminded me how much it has required my full and complete trust. Reminding me through adoption, miscarriage and now full term pregnancy that I truly am nothing more than a vessel. It doesn't require passivity. This isn't for the faint of heart. It demands my surrender. It expects my trust. It requires my faith and belief that His ways are higher than mine. That He alone is working it all out for the good. That I cannot step in, intervene or do anything within my human power that would supersede His sovereign plan. That is what I'm learning. To truly be a vessel. To let go of the death grip of control I so often inflict on that which I want to fix, do, be and simply let Him. 

What's even more mind blowing is to stop and consider how each day of this pregnancy, everyday of my own life, was planned for me long ago as He was fashioning and forming my own unborn body. He knew how hard headed, stubborn and controlling I would be. And He's loved me regardless. 

This week I was reminded of a familiar yet promising verse:

"He who begin a good work in you is faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus." Phil. 1:6

I don't know when she's coming. I don't know the day or time or circumstance surrounding her birth. I do know God knows and I trust He is faithfully working to complete the good work He began 9 months ago. I trust in His perfect timing, despite my impatience. I wait knowing the only thing I can do is be but a vessel for Him and my baby. He's not finished with her yet, and thank God, He's not finished with me yet either! 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Any Day Now

36 weeks and 6 days. The fact that her arrival could literally be any day now has me absolutely over the moon. I'm giddy with excitement at the thought of meeting her. I sat sorting through clothes yesterday, pulling out yet another round of newborn outfits to wash and have prepared and I was brought to tears. I tried to picture her sweet little face, the defined lips we saw on the 3-D ultra sound, the little button nose that seemed to be evident. I keep wondering if she'll have a full head of dark hair like her daddy. I snuggled one of the sleepers, purple and white terry cloth as soft and sweet as it could be. I imagined holding her clothed in that very outfit. Overcome again with emotion, I had to pause for moment.

"Thank You, Lord, for this miracle."

In the early weeks I can recall being gripped with fear, claiming each new week as a milestone and asking God to have His hand on my womb. I can fully admit I've battled worry my entire pregnancy. I know full well I cannot control the outcome, yet it's caused me to stay permanently on my knees trusting the Lord to be in control of my body and my baby. It's a humbling and yet empowering feeling knowing that the Creator of the universe is literally fashioning and forming the life inside of me. How could I not be brought to tears at the fact that God Almighty is planning all the days of my daughter's life even as I feel her move within me?

Now here I stand (quite truthfully, I'm sitting as much as possible with my swollen feet these days) staring down the last few weeks. At last check she was snug as a bug with no signs of showing up early. I'm prepared for the long haul but I'd be lying if I didn't admit to waking up everyday wondering "Will she come today?" I envision her birthday. I'm preparing for labor and delivery. Remember my meltdown at almost 28 weeks? I was gripped with fear that I wouldn't be able to do this. Now I'm fully prepared for what's to come - understanding I can't really predict or prepare for any of it! But make no mistake. She is coming. Sometime between now and about a month from now Violet Hope will be here (dear Lord please don't let it be longer than 4 weeks)!

This entire journey has been one full of faith. There will be a series to come of my journey to motherhood. When I prayed to God to become a mother, I had no idea how He would answer with the emotional and spiritual journey that led to adopting Elijah. When I prayed to become pregnant, I had no idea the spiritual and physical journey it would bring. Blessed is an understatement as we prepare to meet our daughter. I'm thankful for this journey, thankful it's kept me close to Him, thankful for even what remains unknown and what is to come. I'm thankful you have shared in our journey, rejoicing with us over this miracle, crying with us when we mourned last year, celebrating our baby girl as we wait for her arrival...any day now!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Lessons Learned

The day did not go as planned. We started out with our family in tow, preparing for an outdoor outing at the pumpkin patch. We'd anticipated this trip for weeks and had two very excited cousins ready to tackle our annual family tradition. By the time we got there it was pouring down rain. Now what?! Plan B swiftly unfolded as we attempted to salvage the day and create alternative fun. 

I told Eli I was sorry the rain had changed our plans. As sincere as he could be, he responded, "It's okay, mom, the rain is good to water the grass." He was matter of fact and I was in awe of his reasoning. Had he heard Michael saying he hoped for rain to help the grass seed he'd recently planted? Either way, he wasn't deterred.

After enjoying our day despite the rain, I made a point to tell my boy that I hoped he'd had a good day even though we didn't get to go to the pumpkin patch. Without skipping a beat he let me know, "It was the funnest day ever! I got to be with my family and my cousin and I had a great day!" Again all I could do was marvel at his outlook and thank God for his sweet heart. 

We'd come home to find stuffing on the floor. I couldn't find the source but I knew who was to blame. Our doodle can't handle anything with stuffing. It's instantly ripped to shreds. It wasn't until bedtime when we found the victim. A small stuffed monkey Eli earned from his school fundraiser. He was proud of that little trinket. It was something he usually kept right by his bed. Now it was missing it's eyes along with a head full of stuffing and the face was unrecognizable.

Eli was in tears. I scolded Baxter and he immediately gave the remorseful puppy dog eyes. I got the needle and thread and gave my best effort at stitching up the poor monkey. As I came back with the refurbished and slightly less happy stuffed animal, I found Baxter curled up in bed with Eli. Eli was rubbing his head as he laid propped up against his giant pillow pup. "It's okay, Baxter, I forgive you because God forgives me." I couldn't even handle the moment. I quickly embraced him and presented the stitched together monkey and told him how proud of him I was. 

His positive outlook was enough to shake me out of any bad attitude I had. Not once but multiple times throughout the day, he demonstrated maturity and grace that I admit I fall short of. His example today was much greater than mine and I'm supposed to be the adult. And what culminated at the end of the day captured the essence of what I knew God was displaying to me through the heart of my seven year old. 

Being a parent isn't always easy. It is primarily our job to teach our children and train them up in the way they should go, but today my son taught me. Repeatedly. Reminders of God's grace no matter what storms arise. Demonstrations of plans falling through yet our reactions being Spirit filled. Recognizing the blessings around us even when things don't go our way. The act of forgiveness in its purest form - because God forgave us. I'm marking this day down as one I hope not to forget. The day when the heart of my child helped me see more fully the loving heart of our God. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Just a Man

We're so saturated with media outlets that our news is available to us 24 hours a day. Last week I grew weary of the second GOP debate and every analyst trying to sum it up a different way, yet somehow saying the same thing. 

This week the headlines encompass the Pope's visit to America. I've struggled to understand the hype surrounding it, wondering if it is also part of our day-in, day-out media frenzie. What seems evident from the coverage and crowds is the sacredness surrounding this man because of the position he holds and the title he bears.

I mean no disrespect. I am not Catholic so it does not resonate with me. In the Baptist world, I liken him to Billy Graham who is a true giant of the Christian faith.  But he's not holy. He's not perfect. He's not more important in the eyes of God than anyone else. He's a man. Just like the Pope. 

Thousands have been gathering and waiting for hours just to "catch a glimpse" of the Pope, so they reported. Thousands more waited and observed the Catholic mass held in DC. They worshipped, no doubt. I am sure it was deeply spiritual for so many who attended or watched. Thousands more lined the streets of New York waiting for him to pass by. It got me thinking.

When Christ was on this earth, he spoke to crowds just like yesterday's mass. The streets were lined as he made his way on a donkey (quite different than the Pope-mobile.) He blessed two fish and five loaves and multiplied it and fed literal thousands. A true miracle for sure. I can't help but wonder what our media coverage would be like if Christ was on earth today. No doubt the pomp and circumstance would follow as He made his way from town to town. "Another miracle on the streets of Jerusalem, today," I imagine they would report. 

But remember. Those same crowds who followed and cheered for Him would later turn on Him and call for His death. Can you imagine? The same masses gathered waiting to behold the Pope, the leader of their faith, only days later calling for Him to be executed because of His preaching?! It seems unthinkable considering the reverence and respect they're treating him with, so many gathered in hopes of their moment with the Pope. 

It doesn't matter whether you believe in his faith, he says, only what's in your heart. He asks for prayers and seeks to bless others. An honorable man known for his humility, his reputation is followed by stories of his kindness and simplicity. All of these things are noteworthy. And yet he's still a man. An imperfect human just like you and me. 

He cannot save us from eternal separation from God. He cannot redeem us from our sinful state. He cannot provide eternal salvation. He can offer hope, encouragement, a message of eternal life, but it's not something he can actually give. Yet he's called "Your Holiness," upheld with more reverence than the Son of God who came as Holiness wrapped in our human flesh. I dare say these same crowds hovering in to catch a glimpse of this one man will not be calling for his death. He's making history, they say. He's brought a message of hope, they say. But only one man came with a true message of hope, a truth that would change all of history and eternity. 

None of us in our fallen flesh are holy. Our righteousness is filthy rags. Only one man, one message, one way is eternal. One life that was given for all to withstand the test of time. One life paid the price to provide a way for eternal life with a Holy God. No one has ever come before Him and no one will ever come behind Him. We can revere these giants of faith but we must not mistake or replace them with the One True Holy God. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Stand Up

This may be the most important post I've ever written. It comes after the challenge was presented by our pastor this last week in church. "What do you stand for? Stand up and be counted. " It was a challenge to take a stand for Christ - to publicly and openly share my faith, my salvation, my redemption and my knowledge of a Savior who died for all. So please allow me to share this with you.

Today was SYATP. What does that stand for? See You At The Pole. I remember it well. My first efforts to coordinate this activity at Rustburg Middle School were in my eighth grade year. I was told by the principal that I couldn't put up posters and it would be best for us not to join and pray so we didn't upset anyone. I was a stubborn 13 year old and chose not to listen. I didn't hang posters but I did ask my friends to join me at the flag pole. It was a small group, less than 10, but we gathered together, joined hands and we prayed. We took a stand for our faith. We took a stand in a public school setting to let others know we wanted to share the love of Jesus.

I was never the kid afraid to back down from my beliefs, nor was I afraid to share my beliefs with others. I'll never forget the self-proclaimed atheists in high school who went head-to-head with me debating the bible. It was an eye-opening experience for me because it taught me I must know what I believe - inside and out - and be able to not just defend my faith but to live it out so that what I believe is witnessed in my life.

More than 20 years later, I am now using this blog as I've done so many times before to share. This isn't just about taking a stand and publicly proclaiming that I love Jesus and believe He is the only Saving way to eternal life with a Holy God. It's also my accountability. You see, I don't always choose wisely. I don't always live this out daily. I don't always represent Christ's love and compassion. When I'm tried, frustrated, annoyed, irritable, (pregnant - that has to be a disclaimer, right?!) I often let my flesh react without being led by the Holy Spirit to guide my words and deeds. I don't always respond the way I know God would want me to.

So here's what else I need to openly share. I'm human. Being a Christian is not about a "title." It's not about an expectation. It's not about rule-following. It's about a life - every single life - needing forgiveness of our fallen sinful flesh. It's about choosing to follow Christ in all things - it's not just being a fan of His - it's knowing Him. It's a daily intimate relationship meant to grow and mature. It's a free gift given to anyone who will receive it.

Today I'm taking a stand, not just to claim I'm a "Christian," but to share with you how much I desire - even more, how much He desires - to see you put a soul-surrendering faith in His sacrifice for you on the cross. He paid the penalty for your sin - all of them. We're all sinners needing a Savior and He died just for you. Today I'm sharing the most important message I could ever share - that Jesus Christ desires an intimate and personal relationship with you. He created you. He died for you. He loves you. I know it may be hard to grasp but there's nothing more important than accepting Him and recognizing the eternal impact of your choice to follow Him.

Won't you take a stand with me?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Note of Encouragement

Right now my heart is grieved for dear ones around me dealing with devastation, those engulfed in the throws of battle. I had no idea a simple blog about our Terrible Tuesday and the tiny mishaps of my day would usher responses from those simply overcome by their own circumstances. And yet it's all a reminder to me of the war that rages all around us. 

What happens when life is devastating? What do you do when the bottom violently crashes from underneath where you once securely stood? How can we look to a sovereign God and trust that He works all things for our good when everything we face is nothing short of catastrophic?

Where are You, Lord? What about when the ache in our souls is so deep it causes literal physical pain? When our minds can't make sense of the circumstances, when we're so grief stricken by the failure and frailty of flesh, are You still here? Are You still faithful to complete the work You began despite man's efforts to destroy everything we've diligently worked to build?

Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:3

There's hope and encouragement to not grow weary, but that often seems impossible given our overwhelming state. We're told not to lose heart yet the very heart within us has been pulverized alongside our crushed spirit. 
It's hard to see past our own heartache until we consider what He endured - then understand that He went through it all for us. There's comfort and promise in this verse recognizing our own Savior was scorned, rejected and ultimately crucified by those who formerly followed Him. There it is. Right in Scripture. The reminder that even our Lord faced the rejection of those closest to Him. 

Whatever you're facing may not even be your fault. You may be the victim of lies, someone else's poor choices, external circumstances impacting you personally. You may have slipped into the snares of the enemy who's been prowling around seeking whomever he could devour. You may have plummeted into the pit your own hands dug. But none of it, no single isolated place you could find yourself in, is separated from the loving reach of God. 

When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2

As impossible as it may seem, nothing is impossible for Him. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly all that we ask, and yet even that hope sometimes causes us to wonder why He's not working it out the way we ask. Our limited earthly view does not afford us the opportunity to see beyond to what He sees. We often get caught up in the temporal and miss the eternal which is where He is ultimately at work. It doesn't mean He wants us to suffer or to endure such heartache in our present earthly state, but it does mean that we often are unaware of the bigger picture of His eternal purposes. 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution...?
"For your sake we face death all day  long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." 
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37

It does little to offer solace in the midst of the very real and present danger, the sheer torment, we face on this earth in our human state. I know. I've been there. From my vantage point what I have to offer may have little value in the middle of your tragedy. I'm more than familiar with this place. When my soul was downtrodden and my existence all but a vapor I felt everyone and everything was trying to snuff out, I felt the exact same way you do right now. But I stand here to tell you one thing: I survived. Not only did I just make it through, He saw fit to bring me out of the valley of death itself to the point of restored fellowship with Him in heavenly places. It might not make sense to you now, but He never left me. He reached down for me. He walked through with me. He lifted me out of the pit. He redeemed my life and all the locusts had destroyed. He blessed, oh so abundantly blessed. I couldn't see it then. I had no idea how He would be able to mend the brokenness or restore the shattered pieces. The ashes and dust were in fact traded for beauty. His beauty that was beyond what I could comprehend and certainly more than my limited sight could see in the midst of my own struggle. 

Do you understand? Nothing - not death or life, no single person on this earth and no heavenly being - good or evil - can separate us from the love of God. No height is above His reach. No depth beyond His Presence. No single thing, human or not, can remove you from the love He has for you, His child. We conquer the crushing forces that close in on us. We overcome the overwhelming. We rise above the muck and mess life throws at us because He raises us up to the Rock, to Himself. He draws us in the midst of despair when we have nowhere else to go. 

Friend, I'm praying for you. I'm grieving with you. My heart hurts because you're hurting. Yet I know, I know with all that is within me, He's going to redeem this - even this. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Terrible Tuesday

You might have mistaken it for one of those Monday mornings when everything goes wrong. But make no mistake - this was a Tuesday determined to give any bad Monday a run for its money.

Before the alarm even sounded, I was awakened at 1 a.m. by the rolls and moves of a growing baby who was apparently uncomfortable. I got up, got a drink and no sooner crawled back in bed when I heard the cry, "Mommy!" Elijah woke himself up and was now wide awake. We would both remain as such for more than an hour.

Surprisingly I woke up without an alarm (we'll call it a literal internal clock) and went downstairs to start breakfast and coffee. I set a few frozen sausage patties on a plate on the counter so they'd thaw for Elijah's breakfast. Thankfully he still had awhile to sleep while I got ready. By the time he was up and making his way downstairs, I discovered the sausage was GONE. I admit. I accused my husband of throwing them away. (He has a tendency to go behind my messiness and clean up after me.) He had already left for work but responded he had NOT tossed the patties and felt certain it was a determined doodle dog who is much taller than we give him credit for. No doubt. The puppy dog eyes were in full force and I knew it was this mess of a mutt that had eaten breakfast.

I made a plate of new food for my dear son. Thanks to the changing temperatures and seasonal allergies, he needed some cough syrup. I left him with his breakfast, medicine and clothes while I finished packing lunches and bags. He ran to the bathroom at one point but I didn't pay much attention. He is 7 after all. It wasn't until he came out half dressed with his hair plastered to his head that I started to ask questions.

"Did you fix your hair?" I asked.

"Yes, momma," he responded without changing his expression.

This wasn't like him. AT ALL. The hair being combed and teeth brushed would be something he would never choose to do. Ever. I went to help smooth out his hair only to realize that it wasn't water in his hair, despite it's wet appearance.

"Elijah, what did you put in your hair?" A closer inspection gave off the distinct smell of honey - in this case, cough syrup. The extra sticky "natural" kind.

You see, that same big fluff ball who precociously stole the breakfast off the kitchen counter had jumped up on the couch in an attempt to steal food off Elijah's plate. In the process, the cup of sticky cough syrup had somehow flown through the air and managed to land appropriately in my son's hair. Exactly what happened is still a little fuzzy but the mess was inevitable and the innocence exuding form my son this time was hard to be mad at. He tried his best to wet it, even used the hand towel in an effort to get it out. Bless his heart. He tried.

To the shower he went to wash his matted down hair while the dog was now being punished. Oh what a mess. Oh what a morning. By the time we made it to the car, hair washed, clean clothes on, and everyone (humans and dog alike) fed, it was all I could do to take a huge sigh and breathe out a prayer, "Lord, help us get through this day."

Ever attentive, my child spoke words of wisdom he'd certainly heard me say a time or two (or a thousand) before.

"It's okay, momma. God gives us lots of chances."

Yes, indeed He does. I took the opportunity to remind him of the verse in Jonah when the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time. "Do you know what that means? That means God forgives us. He gives us second, third, fourth..."

Before I could continue he jumped in, "Even One MILLION chances!"

The thing about this morning was meant to remind me that in all things - from morning mishaps to catastrophic circumstances - God is still with us, still at work in the midst of what we face. He's never overwhelmed by our situation, no matter how consuming it may be. In fact, He's not even surprised by it. It may have started out as a disastrous morning but it was also a renewed chance to do some evaluating. A chance to check my spirit and make sure I don't respond in anger or frustration. A chance to trust the Lord no matter how big or small the frustration. A chance to leave discouragement behind and recognize the unlimited chances God gives us to begin anew. We had quite the laugh on the way to school as we recalled all the "silly" things that didn't go as planned. This Tuesday wasn't going to be so terrible. At least that's what one little boy and his momma determined.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Hope in the Lord

"May those who fear You rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in Your word." 
Psalm 119:74

The translation for the word fear in this verse does not mean we cower in fear to God. Rather it explains a reverance of our Lord, an understanding of Who He is and His Sovereignty at work. Our fear, or reverance, allows us to trust in Him; it gives us the ability to place our hope in a true God and to be able to take Him at His word. 

His word, His spoken book of life, is full of promises that are true, hope for us to claim. This God-breathed Life Book fills and sustains us as we grow in Him and draw closer to His side, even and especially when we're broken and crushed in spirit. 

Last Sunday we sang one of my favorite songs that so beautifully speaks of these truths: 

Oh my God,
He will not delay!
My refuge and strength, Always.
I will not fear,
His promise is true,
My God will come through, Always.
Always.

Even as we sang, I could barely contain my emotion. I knew of broken lives, hurting hearts, souls desperate for hope who were standing in that very congregation praying for God to come through. I could recall a time when I stood there as one of those lives, wondering how this would all work out, how on earth God would redeem all that had been destroyed. Yesterday I got to share "my story" - bits and pieces of a life, somehow woven together by God's grace and His faithfulness, certainly not that of my own. It was a reminder all over again of just how good God is, even when human plans fail, even when heartache and devastation hit far too close to home.

He is not bound by time or circumstance. While the enemy wages a very real war against us, He is stronger and greater than anything we face. While relief and rescue may not come right away, in our limited scope of the present, His omniscience of how the scattered mess will come together to be woven into His masterpiece is where we can place our trust - knowing He will come through when we place our trust in Him. 

All of this brings this verse to life for me. It doesn't matter what people have heard, what others assume, even the questions and gossip that may encircle your life. The devastation of your circumstance as you watch life crumble isn't for anyone to explain or judge. What I know to be true is that God can redeem any shattered life. He can restore even the heart that has been pulverized. Whatever pit of despair you may find yourself in, even at the hand of another, you are not beyond His reach. 

I know how hard it can be. I know how hurt you may feel. I understand the depth of the devastation you may face. But I also know the goodness and graciousness of God. I rejoice when I see you, not because of what you face, but because I know His hand is upon you. Even when you're crushed in spirit, you can put your faith and hope in a God who infinitely loves and is working out His plan for your life. Even when your heart is destroyed, you can stand in reverent awe of Sovereign God, knowing that the miracle He will bring will cause those around you to rejoice. His redemptive work in your life will stand as a testament of the very goodness of His character and the depth of His love for His children. I stand as a living, breathing example of Him at work. 




Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Missing Ingredient

I added all the necessary ingredients. Greek yogurt, sliced strawberries, a banana, spinach, chia seeds and a splash of local honey. A little water and some crushed ice and I was ready to blend my morning smoothie. I placed it on the base and hit the button only to realize my grave mistake two seconds too late. One missing, necessary, "ingredient" - the lid. Pregnancy brain? Morning rush? Or just plain stupidity. It didn't matter what the reason, the after effect was now splattered all over the counter.

Even as I was mopping up my mess, I started to laugh at myself. I couldn't be mad at the blender. It was doing its job of tossing around ingredients. I couldn't be mad at the ingredients, though now I was really aggravated that the sticky honey happened to be on top. I certainly couldn't be mad at the forgotten lid - it would have done its job had I put it in place. It was clear there was only one to blame: Operator error. The catalyst for this accident was my negligence (forgetfulness?) in missing the lid. 

I couldn't mistake the fact that I needed the reminder. I needed to be confronted with the idea that so often my good intentions get messed up, my plans get foiled. I also couldn't overlook the reality that what I put into my life will eventually come out, ready or not.

I have to follow through with the entire process: The need to carefully choose the ingredients that I place in my life; the necessity of properly using the tools available to me; the process by which those ingredients culminate into something together; and the understanding, and grace, to not always get it right. 

I'm happy to report I was able to salvage most of the ingredients, properly place the lid and still enjoy the majority of my smoothie. I'm also pretty sure I will double check to make sure the lid is on before I hit blend tomorrow. I'm taking some time to reflect on what my smoothie incident taught me today. When it's blended together properly and poured out for consumption, everything serves its intended purpose. Ingredients by themselves don't make the recipe. Spitting out bible verses without them being the marrow of my life would be like chunks of strawberries smothered in yogurt and covered in chia seeds. I can't expect it to be choked down, swallowed whole, when it's meant to be sipped like a smoothie.   I can't just add the ingredients of "Christianity" and hope for the best. Ultimately it's up to me to make sure I'm filled with the One that will make me a blessing to others and not a bothersome mess. I must commit to the full process of spiritual growth and intimacy with Christ. 

What ingredients are you putting into your life? What tools are you using to cultivate the process? Take it from me, every part is important! 

Friday, September 4, 2015

One Year Ago

Timehop showed me this today:
One year ago today I got a positive pregnancy test. It was a surreal moment with a flood of emotions. I couldn't wait to share the news with Michael. We were going to have a baby! We couldn't wait to share the news with the world. What a miracle, a blessing, something so far beyond our hopes and dreams. Our joy was cut short and quickly turned to grief but without this day, one year ago, I don't know that I would appreciate this day one year later as much as I now do. 

am thankful for this reminder, thankful for the life inside me kicking even as I type. It's been a journey of God's repeated faithfulness and grace, revealing to me how He has kept His hand upon us, weaving His masterpiece throughout it all. 

There's been tears, grief, life, love, mercy, learning and growth. None of it can be separated from the very real understanding that God's Sovereignty has had a perfect plan for our lives despite the human nature to doubt and question and wonder. 

Michael and I are both living breathing testimonies of God's redemptive plan even when life doesn't go as we plan. Violet Hope is a living breathing life inside of me, being knit together by God Himself, as yet another example of His grace and mercy at work. I stand in awe of Him and His faithfulness. Thank You, Lord, for reminding me of how good Tou truly are!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Where was God?

You don't have to live in Southwest Virginia to have heard the tragic news. To some across the country, this is another senseless shooting. I may have been too quick to dismiss other like stories that have made national headlines, but this one hits close to home. Literally.

You've heard me say it so many times before. But now I need to make a declaration that doesn't apply to something personally happening to me. It's something affecting so many. I need to share how even now, even in the midst of this reckless and ignorant violence, God is still good. 

I had to make myself stop reading some of the comments posted by viewers and naysayers. So many feelings and thoughts, so many questions. What saddened me were the ones misunderstanding a belief in God. The ones who think God planned this. Those who accused God of this being His will. Those mistakenly not understanding God's role in the midst of such a Tragedy.

Let me explain. God didn't plan this. He didn't want this. He didn't cause it. He did allow it. Why, It's reasonable to ask. We may never know. But Him allowing this, meaning He Himself not stopping it or sending someone to stop it, doesn't take away His Sovereignty or the goodness of Who He is. His role in this, in the midst of heartache, confusion, tragedy and chaos is still God. We can't expect those without faith in Him to understand. It's naturally human to question and even blame Him. But He hasn't stopped being God, or good, no matter how great the tragedy. 

He gives peace in the midst of the storm. His peace transcends all our human understanding. His presence brings us rest. We are protected under His wing. So where was the protection for the innocent lives lost today? Did He disappear? Take it away? Not love them as much? His will is for no one to perish. But that means He doesn't want anyone to die without knowing Him because this life isn't what we were created for. We are created for Him. His glory. Eternity with Him. 

What happened is yet another example of a fallen, depraved, sinful world in desperate need of being saved. But here's the good news. Our Savior already died for you. For me. For every single person who will admit they need a Savior and exchange a sinful life for eternal life. It's a promise. It's truth. And it's for every single one of us. 

Where was God? He was there. Watching as lives He created were taken by the hand of another. Grieved by the corruption surrounding the events. Heartbroken over families hurting. He was not surprised or caught of guard. Don't mistake this for it being His will or what He wanted. I tend to think about all the people and incidents He must have sent to try to change a hardened heart. And how He must be even more grieved that all those attempts were ignored and neglected because of the free will He's given each of us to choose. And choose we must. He's asking us to choose Him. To choose His gift of life. Not the temporary life that we strive for here on earth but the eternal life He's created us for. The life with no more tears, no more pain and no more grief or tragedy. 

He's here, even in the midst of such confusing tragedy. He brings comfort even when we don't understand. He offers peace when chaos abounds. He's still God. He's still a good God, despite the fallen state of the humanity He's created. As we mourn, as we grapple to make sense of such circumstances, God is there. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Transparent

Transparent. At least that's what has been said of me today. I'm honored by this tribute but I feel as if I owe you all a complete and transparent explanation.

There I was Saturday night, 27 weeks and 6 days pregnant, staring down the third and final trimester as if it was about to knock me square between the eyes. A wave of emotions flooded me, but mostly the fear took over. "I can't do it," I sobbed to my husband. "This baby has to come out and I don't think I'm strong enough."

Never mind the fact that I had been absorbed in labor and delivery documentaries, reading and researching, spending my "unwind" time before bed engrossed in other people's sagas of their own birthing process. I saw it all. The good, the bad, the "oh my word" and the very ugly. "No more documentaries," my kind and patient husband encouraged. "You're going to be fine and I'm going to be right by your side." I feel confident that most pregnant women have had this rock and hard place hurdle they must overcome. (Don't tell me if you haven't - I'm genuinely only looking for sympathy and encouragement on this one!)

Then Sunday rolled around. An exceptionally spirit-filled service watching our children give testimonies of how God had worked in their lives at summer camp, followed by bed time emotions the night before the first day of school. We'd had some challenging moments, moments that left me stumped as a parent. Then it hit me all over again. I couldn't hold back the uncontrollable tears, feeling like a failure as a mother and praying for God to put people in his life who will love and understand him. "If I can't figure him out, how will others?" I sobbed again to my ever-listening husband. Then God gave me that verse and the blog that helped me realize the One Who knows and understands and loves him more than anyone, even his mother, ever could. 

By this morning, the much-anticipated first day of school, you can only imagine that the emotions packed on top of the pregnancy hormones were at an all-time high. So when an external frustration caused a disruption and altered our schedule, along with presenting an unwanted conflict, it wreaked havoc on my already weary nerves. Because of the added stress, we forgot his backpack. On the first day of school! Mom of the year? Not likely. My boy was fine, an angel even, and he took it better than me. I tried to shield him from the frustrations and pull myself together so as not to disrupt HIM and ruin his day. I managed to pray with him and over him the best I could. "Lord, I don't even know what to ask except for You to be with him." 

I was ridiculously late for my 28 week check up and all-important glucose test because of how the morning had gotten deterred. I hadn't had time to be nervous but I certainly knew my blood pressure was through the roof. By the time the doctor came in I simply couldn't hold it together. I turned into a blubbering mess and could barely explain why. 

You need to understand, if I'm being transparent, I don't cry. Like crying is actually difficult for me. But apparently pregnancy has changed that! I'm learning to expect this new reality that I simply cannot control or contain my many changing emotions nor the flood of tears that so easily comes. 

I'm the midst of it all, God has been there. Calming me, bringing people to encourage me. At church yesterday someone told me she had been reading my blog and hadn't been to church in awhile but something I wrote, something she read, encouraged her to come to church. Yes, tears, and rightfully so! Praise God!! This morning an early message arrived telling me that verse I had written about, the one she's read so many times before, had so suddenly hit her and was exactly what she needed to read. Yes, me too!! Even today, this undeserved honor of reading how somehow something I did years ago was a blessing to someone else. It's humbling and inspiring all at the same time but don't miss this - this isn't about me! This is about GOD! How He intricately works in the details of our lives. How He uses our words, our actions, things we may never even realize, to bless and encourage others. And now He was using these things to encourage me. 

Today was a day that I needed to be encouraged. Today was a day I needed to be able to sit down in a booth with a friend and share my frustrations and vent. Today was a day that I needed to actually be told I was going to make it. And God graciously provided exactly what I needed. 

I'm happy to report I passed my glucose test, my gracious doctor calmed my fears about labor and delivery and assured me I can - and will - in fact be able to do this, and as for the first day of school, Eli's exact words were, "I had a great day! I didn't even have to be talked to." I'd call that success! 

The reality is I don't have it all together and since we're being transparent, I have days when I need more grace than I certainly deserve. I'm going to bed tonight with an overflowing heart, ever mindful of God's working in the details of our lives and His ability to provide for us exactly what we need when we need it. There may be tears but only over the reality of how simply good He is. And that is as transparent as I know to be.