Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Review

If not for anyone other than myself, I like to reflect on the previous year. I spent some time this morning looking back at my recaps from the past few years. Michael and I often say we've packed a lot of life into just a few years. The front of our Christmas card this year had the word "Blessed" across our most recent family photo. It wasn't meant to proclaim abundance, wealth or any type of prideful expression. In fact, it is meant to stand as a testament of the blessed redemption our lives represent. Our smiles are genuine. The photo shoot was the second attempt at getting that one amazing shot I had been hoping for. It represents truth and reality, just the way our lives bear testimony of the good, the bad, the painful, the hilarious and everything in between.
We started 2016 with a one month old baby and the year that has unfolded for us as parents has been nothing short of chaotic and amazing. We were blessed to stand before our church with family by our side to dedicate our sweet daughter to the Lord, our commitment to raise her with an understanding and knowledge of the Lord. I can't help but pray over her heart and ask for her to know the amazing love of our Savior and how He's orchestrated our family.


This year can be summed up with two words for Violet: milestones and moments. She's had a big brother to keep up with so she crawled at five months, walked at 10 months and has been on the go most of her life. She chose me and only me which drastically altered my original plan to go back to work after 12 weeks off. Instead, I would find myself working three hour stints and racing to get back to nurse my daughter. To this day she still won't take a bottle, despite being able to drink from a straw for months, and she won't have anything to do with any kind of milk in a cup of any sort. And yet, these moments mark the memories of this year. The times I've held her, consoled her, rocked her, watched her explore, witnessed her affection for her brother... Oh the bond they have! These two are simply inseparable and the feeling it mutual. My heart could nearly explode at their relationship, her "bubby" as she calls him. Life with two kids has certainly been challenging and exhausting and yet our family feels all the more fuller and complete. 
 

We enjoyed a visit from Poppy for several weeks in April. We didn't know then that it would be our last. Just three days shy of the new year, the Lord would call him home. Looking back at these pictures and the times we had with him those weeks are now precious memories. 

We were yet again blessed to visit Michael's parents in Florida and spend a fun and very hot week in Orlando during the summer. It was just the beginning of "Mom's Summer Camp of Fun & Learning" where my best laid plans to fill my children's summer with activity, learning and fun proved to be quite a challenge with two kids at such different stages. It was, however, one of the most wonderful opportunities for me to spend quality time with my E, learning, studying, and entering his world. It was ground-breaking for us both. 



Eli turned 8 in May and started 3rd grade in August. It turned into a turning point for his education with new accommodations and breakthroughs that have proven to be helpful for him both at school and home. So many of you have offered prayers, support, encouragement and advice and for those of you who know what it's like to advocate on your child's behalf, I simply couldn't be prouder of how far he's come and the progress he's displaying. He is a caretaker of his sister, an inventor of all things, creator, lover of outdoors and master negotiator. This year has shown so much of these qualities as his personality and God-given talents continue to develop and emerge. 

As I've gradually stepped back into work, my role changed with the addition of my mom taking on the Marketing at Chick-fil-A. If I can camp here for a moment, this is yet another example of God's redeeming work in my life. When I hesitantly but willingly stepped out on faith to walk away from leading the Career Center, I knew the Lord was leading me yet I felt as if I was leaving my true "niche." God has abundantly provided for me to fulfill this role now working for Chick-fil-A by providing professional development, career training and strategic planning for our leadership team - all while allowing me to maintain my priority as wife and mom. I simply stand in awe of Him and how He's provided!

We celebrated Violet's first birthday, we've enjoyed the wonder of our children at Christmas and even now as we still grieve the loss of Poppy, I cannot deny the outpouring of God's grace on us this year.


It's been a year of firsts, a year of blessings, a year full of family and memories, and now a year of saying goodbye. I'm turning the page on 2016 and excited to share (later) how I feel the Lord leading me for the new year to come. 


For Poppy


April 14, 1934 - December 28, 2016

They say it's what happens in between the dash that counts and for Anthony Frederick Laurie, better known as Poppy to me and many, the in between is certainly what is remembered. 

It's been a week filled with loss as the country mourns the death of super stars. For our family, we've only been concerned with the loss of one man who never had his name in lights but certainly was the light for all of us.

How do you recount the 82 years one man has lived? It adds up to the memories, the moments, and the impact he has had on all of us.

I often think about how different my life and upbringing would have been had both sets of grandparents not given their lives to the Lord as married adults. For Poppy, it was a transformation that altered the trajectory of him and his family. It now stands as the testament of who he was and is to our family. Our fervent prayer warrior, seen every morning at the kitchen table with his open bible and prayer list. For the past eight years, he's kept a picture of Nanny, his beloved bride of more than 50 years, as his bookmark. How he missed her so but how strong he was to carry on for eight more years after she went ahead of him. His faith has never wavered. His devotion to prayer stands as a pillar of strength to those of us who know all too well that his countless prayers on our behalf have provided answers and miracles we may never know this side of eternity.

It's hard to watch any loved one go, knowing each of our days are numbered, yet selfishly desiring to continue the memory-making and time together here on earth. We had planned to share Christmas with him. It was something our family here had been planning and looking forward to for months. Instead we're now honoring his life, recounting the memories and celebrating the amazing man we still hold dear. 

He was a dedicated and devoted husband. Oh how he loved Nanny, treating her as a queen and serving her in every way imaginable. He was the baby brother and youngest son of five and proud of his Italian heritage. The father to three, grandfather to four and an honorary grandson, plus eight great grandchildren, we're all grieved by the gaping hole he's left behind. Yet we do not mourn as those who have no hope because we know his eternity was secure. As a young married husband and father he met the Lord and gave his heart and life to Christ. He spent the rest of his years living out that commitment and allowing us to be a part of his legacy. 

We each have our stories. We all have different memories of him. The dash in between the years God has given him goes down as the irrevocable tribute to a life committed to his Savior, his selfless love and service of his family (even in his dying breath), his dedicated work ethic, and his gift of music. We're celebrating through our tears, knowing he has met his Savior face-to-face, singing about the joy that comes in the morning - the joy we have despite our mourning - because of the life he lived, the love he's given each of us, and the hope of his eternal rejoicing.

We love you, Poppy. We miss you more than words can explain but we will find peace in knowing you now have eternal joy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Day After

What happened? There's shock and awe across the country. A lot of people woke up in fear today. Others couldn't sleep because of the events unfolding. Today carries mixed emotions from polarized people. And yet it is as I said days ago ... God is Sovereign and reigns supreme over any man and all people. 

It's been reported that we saw the highest evangelical voter turnout in decades. Our rights and privileges and responsibilities as Christians and Americans do not end with yesterday's vote. Now we must remain poised in prayer, rooted in faith, and grounded in our belief that God is in control. The voices of the unborn, the working class, those hoping for change must continue to be lifted in prayer to God. Let's not forget that how we got here has much to do with the power of prayer and the showing of our faith in the Lord, not a man, to restore us.

Can we the people restore our faith in humanity? Can we the people give each other credit for desiring the best for one another? Can we the people join together to stand united regardless of how we cast our ballots, voting not for a person but voting for each other? Voting for the inalienable rights of all people, even those not yet born, that we hold to Truth, not just constitutionally what we believe we deserve but biblically what we are bound to.  

Yesterday America's voice was heard. From sea to shining sea the map is colored in, lots of red, a little blue. But this is not about a color or party or an affiliation or even a candidate. Yesterday America voted for America. We voted for each other. We voted for our faith that not only our country can be good but that we can be good together. Stronger. Empowered. United. We didn't vote for one person and against another. We voted for the things we know are right. The things we know require our stance. The lives who cannot voice their own vote. Those struggling to make ends meet. Those compounded by problems because of where they live or the color of their skin. 

I take back what I said. This is not about the lesser of two evils, this is about the greater good of all people. This is about instilling American pride in the fact that we can believe not in a person but in a platform that will ignite us and unite us in prayer and hope. This is not about my believe or hope that one person might affect change but that we would be infected by the graciousness and goodness of what we deserve to give to each other, regardless of the color of our skin or the religion we claim or the party we voted for.

I'm not living in fear today but I'm not throwing a victory party because of one man. I'm celebrating the fact that we the people have spoken for the change and charge we hope will come. We weren't bound by polls and politically infused news coverage. We didn't let our social media obsession dictate our devotion to the heart of humanity. Now we must cross party lines and continue to pray, not just for God to guide the man in office but for His will to be done in our divided country. We have humbled ourselves and sought His face, now we must continue on bended knee as we seek to serve one another in love. 

Beloved, let us love one another. We're not with her or Him, we're with the Lord. Let everyone know we are HIS disciples by loving each other.  This is so much bigger than the Supreme Court. This is about the One who reigns Supreme. This isn't about defeat or victory. This is about the Lord who fights for us, the Victor and Champion who came to save us all. 

So today I extend my olive branch. I reach my hand across the divided lines that have so deeply wounded us. I share this message and implore you as Christians, just as I asked you all to vote, to now stand together and share and show Love the way it has been first shown to us. This, the day after such a chaotic political season, now marks the day we look to each other to begin the healing process. 




Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day

I need you to understand something. This isn't a secret and I don't make any apologies for it. I'm a born again Christ-following believer. My faith and relationship with Jesus Christ is everything to me. It is the core of my very being. My belief is in Christ, my Risen Savior, who saved me from my sinful state of separation so I can have the gift of eternal life with God in Heaven. This is who I am.

If you are like me, you find yourself rocked by the compounding election madness. And make no mistake, it's been nothing short of a circus. I don't have to recall it for you. Videos, emails, scandals, lies, mud slinging, name calling, Twitter wars, media coverage...we've endured it all for nearly two years. As it all comes to a head today, there's a cloud of doubt cast over the outcome. Choosing how to vote became a tumultuous battle of "the lesser of two evils." I've heard it, felt it, said it. I know.

This is why I'm writing today. It's so heavy on my heart. What this election means to me, to us as Christians, is more than one person can do or be in four years time. It will in fact tell us the state of our union, the pulse check of our country. As Christians we'll get the very clear picture of where things stand to protect the right to life, the sanctity of marriage, the biblical truths we hold to. This isn't about one man or one woman. This isn't about being stronger as a nation or making our country great. This is about the true state of who we are and where we stand. It's not about my candidate of "choice" winning today. It becomes the bigger issue of awareness of the state of our divided United States.

So what does this mean? We're waiting, holding out hope for a "miracle" and even that seems disappointing at best. Maybe we'll end up shocked. Maybe we'll shrug and sigh, knowing we did our best. Our best. Our human best. No, I don't believe our best representatives were on the ballot but it's no longer about choices and candidates. It's about the heart of the matter and the millions of souls being deceived and led astray. Not by men or women but by the Enemy who prowls and seeks whom he may destroy. It's absolute war but not in the flesh and blood. It's the spiritual warfare that creeps in and wreaks havoc on our minds, our hearts, our families, our homes, our beliefs and our way of life.

Today is Election Day, tomorrow the new President will be decided (hopefully), and the day after that we'll be settling in to accepting the bitter outcome. And therein lies the problem. What should happen now is a wake up call, a call to action, an active voice that goes beyond the ballot to speak the Truth in love. The Truth of God's saving redeeming love. The Love that came to each and every man and woman to save us from this world. What today means for Christians is the reminder that this world is not our home. We are but strangers here, yet not without hope. Our Hope is in the one Man who can and did save us. The one who came wrapped in flesh with all His God-ness to offer us hope. Eternal hope. So I'm holding onto that today. No matter what the outcome of this election. No matter who wins. No matter what man says (or woman). I'm trusting in my Sovereign Savior who not only holds the future, He raises up leaders, but more importantly is preparing a place for me where the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will reign Supreme.

That's what Election Day means to me. The very real reminder that Heaven is waiting. Lord, come soon. My hope, my eternal hope, is in Him.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Here It Is

Here it is. The eve of the election; one of the most talked about, contested, debated and dividing elections our nation has ever seen. The blessed curse of social media and an overabundance of news coverage makes a news story out of everything. Nothing is sacred. Not an email, not a video. Make no mistake, wherever you go, whatever you do, someone is watching, documenting and taking note and it can and will be used against you, no matter how much time has passed. There's a lesson in and of itself but that's not my point here. At least not right now.

Here it is. Here's my point. I'm voting tomorrow. On the eve of this election I feel a lot of mixed emotions. I'm thankful that it's almost...over... I'm excited for the possibility. I'm nervous for the outcome.  I'm disgusted by the way the media has dictated the coverage to us. I am determined that nothing will stop me from casting my ballot tomorrow and like millions of others, I will be glued to Fox News all day long. I'm praying for the Lord to have His way. I get the human obligation and privilege - that we have the right to choose and let our voices be heard. I also understand the Sovereignty of God and His ability to raise up leaders. I don't know what His will is for this election but I know He's the only one of us who won't be surprised by the outcome. He doesn't need the media's predictions. He is Omniscient over all.

Here it is. I'm calling on you. Pleading. Imploring. I'm not ashamed to beg. PLEASE. Please, with all that is within me, I am asking for you to get out and vote tomorrow. Please don't sit at home. Please don't be passive about this one. Please don't overlook your role, your right, your privilege. I hope you'll count it as such. There's a certain American pride that comes with knowing you've done your part - even if your candidate of choice doesn't win, isn't projected to win, or isn't really your first choice. I get it. I understand. I've felt the same. I've questioned what to do and yet I've determined the cost is too great for me to do nothing. Take ownership of that pride and your role in voicing your vote tomorrow.

Here it is. I've done my best not to be divisive, not to cross lines or offend. But I can't keep silent any longer. There is too much at stake. Too much to risk. I'm voting to make America great again, and not because I believe one man can do that job. Truly because I am scared to death of what the alternative might be. I'm not swayed by scandal. I'm not voting for or against emails or videos. I'm voting with my Christian values as my guide. I'm voting to protect LIFE. I'm voting to protect my FAITH. I'm voting to stand in the gap for those who have fought, those who weren't even given a chance. I'm voting to defend the freedoms of speech that allow my Bible to be the inerrant Word of God preached freely every Sunday. We've already lost so much when it comes to our values, morals and beliefs. It's time. It's here. It's now. It's already too late to reverse some of the lasting effects of the Supreme Court and the constitutional rights meant to protect us. Now we must stand. Now we must act. Now we must not be idle or ignorant. Now we must vote.

So here it is. The eve before the 2016 Presidential Election. Here is my plea to you to vote tomorrow. Make the time. Make a plan. Make a decision to stand for your beliefs and to stand in the gap for our future that depends on you, me, all of us to get out and vote!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

It's Coming

That's it. I'm boycotting. I don't want to participate. You can't make me. It's my choice. It's my decision. If I choose to avoid it...it doesn't make it go away. 

I'm talking about Daylight Savings time. I don't want to change the clocks back for multiple reasons. If you're a parent of small children you understand and you're dreading it too. I know what will happen. The 6 o'clock wake up call will inevitably turn into the ungodly hour of 5 am. Gone are the endless days of summer when we stayed outside until 9 pm. Now it will look like night time at 5:30 pm. 

Never the less, as much as I don't want it to happen, I don't support it, I'm not choosing it, it's coming. 

Just like the election. 

It's coming. Now only 3 days away. Whether or not I like it or the candidates, whether or not I choose to vote or forfeit my right and privilege, whether or not I support it...there will be a new president elected. With or without my vote. With or without my participation. 

I can't stop the election from happening. I can't control the outcome. I can only play my part by casting my vote. I can share in the mixed emotions of every other American. But whatever my role, the election is happening. The new president will be elected the same way daylight savings time is coming and will cause ripple effects. Make no mistake - the effects will be lasting, just like the last 8 years have greatly impacted us. We are a changed nation, whether we like that sad fact or not. And in my humble opinion it certainly hasn't all been for our good. 

So don't forget to change your clocks back tonight. If you have small children you won't have to worry about the clocks because the kids will inevitably be up regardless. But mark it down. Make a plan. Get out and make an informed vote on Tuesday. Regardless of what you think will happen. Regardless of what you do or don't like about each sub-par candidate. This isn't about making America great again and it doesn't necessarily prove we're stronger together. I can't promise your candidate of choice will win or that either candidate will bring about the change we want to see. But I can promise that now more than ever it becomes critical to play our part and participate. 

It's hard to decide if we'll breathe a sigh of relief that this brutal campaign will finally be over or if we'll hold our baited breath for four years. One thing is certain, it is coming. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

For the Love

Stop! Stop whining. Stop griping. Stop complaining. Stop groaning and moaning. Stop casting stones. Stop breaking bones with the sticks you're throwing. Stop accusing. For the love of all that's good and decent, just STOP!!!

In the words of Andy Stanley, "you're scaring the children."  But for real. I was volunteering at my son's school and had 8 year olds willingly offer their votes, some for Hillary, others for Donald, repeating what inevitably they'd heard uttered at home. One even shared, "If [one unnamed candidate] wins we sure are in trouble." Indeed. We are in trouble. But not because of one man or one woman. Oh no, our troubles go much deeper than that of one person. 

We're ADULTS and yet none of us can seem to put on our big kid pants and extend an ounce of grace let alone a hand. Forget missed handshakes. This is cutting to the core of our humanity. We're tied up in Twitter wars and social media slug fests as if our lives depended upon it. Trust me. There is definitely life that depends on it and they are the ones who can't even speak for themselves.

This isn't about party lines. This isn't about which side you're on. This isn't about turning your die-hard affiliation toward another or - gasp - not vote at all. Seriously?! Oh, I get it. Your passive aggressive determination to NOT choose will allow you to be "off the hook" so you can simply claim you had nothing to do with it. Or maybe you did and maybe your attempt to avoid a choice means you forfeit your voice altogether.

The very essence of our spirits are wilting. Dying. We're growing weary, indeed, and "if we don't get the right person elected it's the end of the world... Government matters. Policies matter. But neither of those matter as much as men and women who understand this word: FAITH. Confidence that God keeps His promises and nothing can thwart the plans of God." (Andy Stanley)

So stop. Stop whining. Stop complaining. Stop harassing those who believe differently than you. Stop blaming the government. Stop giving up hope. Stop living as if our world is hanging in the balance of this one elected official. God is still God. He just IS. For the love of all humanity, He's God. For the love of all that truly is good and decent and just, He is. For the love of you and me, He is. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Politically Incorrect

I'm over it. I'm done with the onslaught of media. Heartbroken over it all. Disgusted by one candidate. Repulsed by the other. Completely overwhelmed with the state of our country. Truly underwhelmed by the options. Feeling absolutely disgraced like every other American. Questioning our ability to look ahead toward a bright future. Clinging to God's sovereignty despite man's humanity.

The war of words is the least of our worries.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

It's an attack on humanity. The innocence of life who cannot speak for themselves. The equality of rights that represent a complete abomination. The argument fueled by racial tension. The outrage of life lost and the black and blue blows seemingly behind it all. The growing spirit of pride and entitlement fueling our selfishness and righteous indignation. 

You don't like either candidate. I completely understand. How did we get here? We keep asking. Somehow we're confused that this is our choice. The thing about free will is that we are in fact given the right to choose. For the people, by the people, right? One nation under… Well, you fill in the blank. Persecution. Distress. Division. Unrest. Hopelessness. What is it you say? We've tossed any semblance of reverence out like last week's trash and yet we still can't seem to find the reason for our present state of being utterly lost. 

The state of our union is a divisive split. One that represents more than party affiliation. This goes much deeper into the heart of humanity and reaches into the fallen sinful nature that exists in us all. We're quick to throw blame on one person or their political association. Neglecting our own personal responsibility allows us to somehow feel less guilty for our role of passively aggressively sitting back and letting social media be our voice. We won't vote. That'll fix the problem...right?! We're quick to toss the cards out online and start the debate but I wonder how many of us would actually be prepared to defend to the bitter end. Defend what, you ask? I'm not here to defend my belief in the good of mankind. On the contrary. 

"All have sinned and fall [drastically] short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23

All. Each one of us. We're desperately in need of a Savior. There is division, no doubt, but it has nothing to do with which candidate you're voting for. There is a great divide that spans far beyond a nation divided. It is our fallen flesh that separates us from a Holy God. I cannot judge the heart of any man, or woman in this case, but I can tell you that each and every one of us is a soul that Jesus Himself died to save. Save from what? From this. From the depravity of ourselves. Forget party separation - this is our hope to be rescued from eternity separated from Him. I can't tell you that it will fix this political torment. I can't assure you that our nation will be healed. I can't promise that everything will work out and we'll all join hands and sing Kum-bah-ya. 

I cannot tell you how I will cast my ballot on November 8. Does it really matter right now? The only thing I can give you is the fact that I place my hope and trust in the Lord. I imagine He's grieved at all this mess. No doubt my own broken heart is a small indication of the magnitude of how He must feel over His own creation in such a state of unrighteousness. It's why He came. It's why He gave. It's why He died. For you and me. For this moment. For 29 days from now. For 365 days from now. For every day He planned since the beginning of time. 

I can only offer that you are given the same free gift of salvation and that, my friend, is your right to choose. It is your sovereignly designed free will to accept - or deny. This isn't about who you do or don't vote for. This is about accepting the eternal gift given to bail each of us out of the creation that groans and cries out around us. This world will pass away. The election will come. Someone will be elected President, whether we like that person or not. The only thing that will matter in the end is what you chose to do with Christ. Period. He remains the most politically incorrect "candidate" this world has ever seen and yet He is the absolute only way. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

S.O.S.

At this point, you've heard me share this too many times to count. It's laughable. Embarrassing, really. I'm truly hoping I'm not the only one but so often I find myself on this deserted island sending out a desperate S.O.S. and wondering how on earth I would be rescued. I imagine the God of Wonders looking down at my smoke signal as He hangs His Holy head and looks on in dismay.

"Child, oh sweet hard-headed child. When will you learn?"

"Lord, a little help down here!" Does He hear? Can He see? Will He come to my rescue? He's never left me alone before but maybe this time... Maybe this was the last straw.

"My daughter, you're mine. You're precious to me. I know your thoughts before you utter a word. I planned all of your days before one of them came to be. Why would you think I would leave you alone?" (Psalm 139:16-17)

I'm so ashamed. I want to remember this moment. Mark it down. Etch it in my mind so I won't end up back here. This wasn't my first trip, and somehow I feel certain it won't be my last. Why oh why do I do the things I don't want to do but somehow miss the mark on the things I know I should be doing?!

I pictured this going so differently. Set my boat to sail and forge ahead to do His will. I would weather the storms no matter what came my way. I was on His mission, after all. The crashing waves wouldn't be enough to sink my determination knowing I was doing His will. I had His instructions and the course was mapped out. I was the Captain of my own ship. He put me in charge. What trust He must have in me! I had great plans to flex my faith. Certainly I was grounded enough to walk on water, right?! So I thought...

I sank. Flailing. Arms flapping. Choking on water. Gagging on my own gull and ego. How did this happen...again??? I'll tell you. I'll explain exactly how.

I took my eyes off Him. I lost sight of His plan and started charting my own course. I may have gotten so distracted I didn't even remember the mission - what was it He wanted me to do again? There I was. Washed up yet again. I'm surprised He didn't send Jonah's fish to swallow me up. I certainly deserved it.

"I'm sorry, Lord. I thought I had it this time. I wanted to do Your will and I got distracted by myself...again."

I knew He already knew but I tend to fill the silence with words and I couldn't stand not offering a further explanation of my failure.

"I want to please You. It's my desire... But I am my own worst enemy when I try so hard and insert my own ways into Your plan. I get so off course."

His Word is a constant soother of my soul-wounds.

"If you settle on the far side of the sea, even there My hand will guide you. My hand will hold you fast. There is nowhere you can go away from My Presence." (Psalm 139:7-12)

Even there, even on the far side of the sea, washed up and beaten down, He finds me and calls me back. He saves me from the crashing waves and the clouding of my own judgment. He rescues me from my fears and failures. He guides me in the ways of His righteousness even when my own filthy rags have caused me to stumble yet again.

I'm sending out a signal, Lord, a prayer for strength and wisdom to follow you even to the ends of the earth. To the far side of the sea, to the highest reach of the heavens and the lowest of depths. Let me not be the charter of my own course but rather following only after You. Help me, Lord, when I fall, when I veer off course. Guide me back. Forgive my wandering mind and wayward soul. Give me grace to forgive myself and fully trust in You. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

The First Day of School

How did this happen?? Just a few short weeks ago (right?!) we were kicking off mom's summer camp of fun and learning. There were grandiose plans, tons of organization and lots of effort put into our summer of fun together. We all know what happens to good intentions when life just happens. We did not do learning activities every day. His summer journal only has a few pages of writing in it. The summer goal of attempting to learn to tie his shoes was in fact attempted but not with successful completion. 

Nevertheless, time has gotten away from us and the long days of summer have somehow quickly come to a close with the start of third grade today. There's an expected level of excitement and anxiety that comes with the start of something new. This year comes with lots of changes and newness, along with lots of opportunity. Even so, the first day of school means the end of summer and I am in complete denial. 

Don't get me wrong. The summer did not come without its challenges. Many of them, actually. But something happened this summer that gave me such insight into this amazing boy that God gave me. I became the pupil instead of the teacher during mom's summer camp of fun and learning, and learn did I ever! 

We did not do learning activities every day, but I learned more about my boy this summer than in almost 8 years combined. His summer journal only has a few pages of writing in it, but the notes I took while studying and learning who he is and what makes him operate could fill a book. No, he didn't perfect the art of tying his shoes but there's a beautiful bow tied around the mother-son bond we got to share this summer. 

School has begun and while the love of organization and schedules has me motivated, I begrudgingly start this year missing my boy home with us each day. Baxter has been sad all day. Violet even talked to his picture on the fridge calling for "buh buh." 

Summer, you did not disappoint. As a necessary part of life, we must say goodbye for now and embrace change. Thank you for the time together, the memories made and the ways we were blessed. Here's to a new school year and my boy! He said it was great day and he did "all the normal things you do at school." He's a boy. I'm not going to get much more detail than that. For now we are bidding the first day of school goodnight. 


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Unanswered Prayers

He answered my prayer. It was so specific, almost insignificant to anyone besides me, but it was not something I overlooked. I saw and felt His Presence when I got the answer. I knew He had done what I asked, not for any other reason than to bless me because I had asked of Him. I couldn't help but give Him praise. He bent His Holy ear toward me and said yes. He blessed. He answered. I rejoiced!

It's a blessing to be able to give Him such praise. Yet I have to admit it came in the midst of a time of testing when I knew He was asking me if my faith would waiver. Just a few days ago His answer was no. It was something entirely different and much more significant to me and yet He didn't oblige. I can honestly tell you that it was something I have prayed long and hard over, pouring out my heart and shedding tears over this request more times than I can even count. The fact that He once again had to tell me no, keep waiting, doesn't mean that He's any less faithful but it definitely put me in a place where my faith was tested. My simple human mind has tried to grapple with understanding why and when He chooses to say yes or no to my prayers. Many times I have had to be reminded that His timing is not my own. Even more often I have had to remember that I only see what is before me. He not only sees the entire landscape but He has created it and fashioned it by His own hands. Who am I to question?! Oh, but I do. 

So what happens when God does not answer your prayer? 

"You pray fervently then wait hopefully for the changes you desire. When I don't answer your prayers according to your will, you sometimes get discouraged."

Sometimes?! Discouraged?! Let me be real, folks, I have had a full blown pity party. No one was invited, of course, because it was all about me and sulking alone in my misery seemed even more like a sacrificial act of martyrdom. Despite my own self, He offers this reminder: 

"It's easy for you to think you're doing something wrong-as if you're missing out on what I have for you. When you think that way, you are forgetting a most important truth: that I am Sovereign. I am in control and I am taking care of you."

Yes, but Lord...You didn't answer me! You didn't give me what I asked and doesn't Your Word say ask and I will receive?!

Somehow I hear myself and cringe at the selfishness that I scold against in my own child. I'm waiting for it. Just waiting for the lecture I more than deserve. 

"I want you to accept your dependent way of living as a gift from Me.... Actually, nothing will lift you out of the doldrums faster than praising and thanking me."

A glad and thankful heart. Receive His gift of dependence with joy. Praise Him even though He didn't give me what I want. Praise Him because He is God, He is good. He is Sovereign and my limited sight cannot see how He's choosing to bless me despite my loathsome behavior, regardless of my complaining. He doesn't have to give me any answers to my prayers, yet He chooses to because of Who He is. And then He chooses not to because of what He knows and His Sovereignty at work in my life in ways I cannot see. It's well beyond my limited way of thinking. So I have to trust. I have to praise. I have to wait. I continue to pray, not to keep asking for what I want but to continue to draw closer to Him. To thank Him for Who He is. Not what He gives me. But what He chooses not to give me. Even when it doesn't make sense to me. Even when it seems like I somehow know what's best. I praise Him because I don't. Because I am dependent on Him. And that's the only answer I really need to know. 

(Excerpt quotes from Jesus Today)
 


Saturday, July 23, 2016

They Are His

I remember that hike. My memories app tells me it was three years ago, 2013. A hot and hazy July day in Virginia. We had made our way to the top and taken in the view of our town. The sun was now setting and we were headed back down the mountain when a certain energetic little boy took off running. We couldn't keep up with him since we had taken turns carrying him most of the way up. Now it was his turn to wear himself out. As I turned the corner, this was the exact site I saw. My boy, standing at the foot of a man-made cross, looking up in what appeared to be an act of worship. I could barely contain myself but somehow managed to capture this moment that would forever be etched in my memory.

The symbolism is not lost on me. The meaning resonates within my very being as a mother. It is my greatest calling. To point them to Jesus. When I begged and pleaded and prayed for God to make me a mom, I knew what I was asking for. I knew what this meant and what I would become. Oh yes, on any given day I change diapers, nurse, prepare meals, care for wounds, mend broken hearts, give kisses, grant wishes, create, catch bugs, enter imaginary worlds, read books ten times over, sing songs even more...I teach, guide, love, serve, give and give some more. But these are just the daily tasks. The daily insurmountable list doesn't come close to touching the impact we as parents are making for eternity. It is not a job, it is the highest of callings. It brings along with it the accepted challenge of bending tender little hearts toward the One who created them.

I have to remind myself these little people may have my nose or take on my own tendencies, but it is in God's image they were created, not mine. They are His children, only mine to borrow. If they resemble anything of me, I pray it will be the reflection of Christ in my life. It is my constant reminder that I cannot point them to a place I am not looking myself. This isn't about sharing whatever is on my plate or giving of my time. This is about committing to worn out knees on their behalf. Begging and pleading and praying didn't end at the moment God answered my request to become a mother. That is only where it began. This is a relentless battle for their minds to understand Him and His Word while their souls accept and receive His gift of eternal life.

When I am tired, emotionally empty, physically exhausted and simply spent, I must remember this image, this memory, this pursuit. When I am called on for one more bedtime kiss, one more middle of the night wake up call, one more time..., let me be reminded of the calling I've been given to point them to the One. The One who made them. The One who gave them life. The One who died for them. The One who offers them eternal life. The One who loves them more than I ever could. The One who planned each and every one of their days before I ever even met them. The One who entrusted me to be part of that plan for their lives.

Already this week I was reminded that I can't. I'm not. I am their mother in title. They are my life's work but they are His eternal purpose.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I Can't

Today I just couldn't. I couldn't be sweet. I couldn't find it in me to be calm. I didn't have the self discipline to keep it together. Patience wasn't just missing from my vocabulary, it was altogether absent from my being. I couldn't find the strength or energy to feel like myself let alone be what others needed me to be. Incapable to say the least. Like literally just couldn't. 

It wasn't even a bad day. There wasn't anything detrimental or catastrophic that was going on. It was simply, purely and only ME. I was the problem. 

Emotionally I was spent. Physically I was drained. For no clear or apparent reason but for a million things that seemed to somehow be weighing on me. I could feel the physical oppression of anxiety taking over as if it was sucking the very breath from my lungs. It was consuming me. Taking over. I felt like a complete mess and wanted to crumble into a ball. But I had one child crying needing comfort and another begging for food all while the phone rang and my attention was being even more divided. I just couldn't seem to manage it. 

So I did. I crumbled into that ball and closed my eyes as if I could somehow make the world around me disappear. It wasn't going anywhere but I knew I had to get ahold of myself. 

"Lord, I can't." 

It was as if I heard His voice out loud. 

"You're right. You can't."

My eyes flew open. That was it. That was the exact problem AND my answer. I couldn't. Not in my own strength. My own strength. Why oh WHY do I have to repeat this lesson?! I was trying to do it. I was the problem. I was also the solution. I needed to get out of the way already. Stop trying in my own strength. Because clearly that wasn't going well. It had to be Him. 

"Lord, I know Your strength is perfected in my weakness and that's all I've got right now."

He already knew. Thank goodness. He knew exactly what was wrong with me and why I was a mess. And thank God He knew exactly what I needed and how to help me. I just had to get out of the way and let Him be God. Because I can't. I'm not. 

I can't tell you everything immediately got better but I can absolutely assure you that my entire attitude changed. The surmounting pressure slowly began to shift as I started to release my own inabilities and surrender my strength and will. I was offering up my weaknesses and letting Him be what I needed. I couldn't be an attentive mom. I couldn't be a diligent employee. I couldn't be focused, loving, or patient or kind. I could only admit my weaknesses and let Him be God. 

Today I had to admit that I just couldn't and that's exactly where He met me reminding me He can. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Most Magical Place on Earth

There we were. Poised for the show. We had an amazing view thanks to daddy and Papa saving us a spot. Illuminations of familiar classics cast across the castle. The fireworks were starting. I'm not sure what happened. I know I had a smile on my face from ear to ear but then I realized a certain someone in our party was rather fidgety. Actually more like jumping up and down, jumping off the stroller and throwing himself on the ground. I tried to get him to sit. He'd nearly knocked several people over on the last catapult. I was easily distracted by the boom and display just overhead. Try as I could, he wasn't sitting and now the fight had ensued. It was a battle of wills and a crowd of chaos but we were both determined to get what we wanted. I just wanted him to sit down and not be a distraction. Really I just wanted to watch the fireworks. 

Somehow the jumping and thrashing turned into a full blown tantrum. Tears. Screams. How could this be in the middle of Disney World? The Magic Kingdom. The fireworks display we had waited for ALL week. And let's be honest, I cared more about it than he did. I may or may not have thrown my own little fit. 

Disney. The most magical place on earth. I was supposed to be having a magical day. But now I found myself dragging an exhausted over-stimulated screaming child who resembled something of a 2 year old throwing a tantrum. It helped to remember I wasn't the only one. 

I found solace in the parents like me. Earlier that day I shared a thoughtful nod to the mom whose 4 year old was throwing a fit because of her apparent starvation. The banana was all the poor mother had to offer. The banana was NOT what the child wanted. Gummies. That's what she wanted. The whole park knew it for her screams. I wanted to give the mom a hug but I kept walking. 

I laughed at the parents who grabbed their son's magic wand and announced "Everyone look at this boy! He refuses to eat then claims he's hungry." I knew the dilemma. There they stood in the middle of Main Street waiting for the parade with a child who was claiming he would pass out from hunger. 

I couldn't help but notice, how could she be missed, the little one donning her bibbity boppity Princess get up. She was throwing a bit of a royal fit. No doubt her parental subjects had angered her given they WOULD NOT BUY THE TOY she was demanding. How could they be so cruel? Oh the shame. 

Then of course there were the over-tired completely-run-ragged non-nappers who were as plentiful as Mouse ears across the park. Some were in full blown tears. Some were in puddles on the ground. Others kicked and screamed from the confinement of their little people moving strollers. I salute you, parents. I salute you. 

I joined the ranks of parents whose children could not bear the thought of standing and waiting in yet another line. Standing still and waiting in line must have been created by the devil himself to torment these poor children. It was hot. Soooo hot. How could anyone bear the thought of carrying a 50 lb child whose legs simply wouldn't carry them any further when sweat was already dripping from every pore on our poor bodies? It was a real problem and it was happening like an epidemic all across the park.

Disney World. The most magical place on earth. The most expensive people watching you could ever enjoy to be certain you're not alone, or at least not the only one. The most frustrating and nerve wracking place for parents to ever thrust family memory-making plans upon little people who just don't understand the magic they're supposed to be enduring...uh...enjoying. 

But it's Disney World. So at the end of the day, there will always be fireworks. Sometimes of the tantrum kind. There will always be magic. Sometimes it resembles a magic eraser to scrub away the torment faced throughout the long, trying day. There will always be memories. Sometimes the kind you want to forget. Sometimes the ones you smile and laugh about for years to come. We came. We saw. We laughed. We cried. We made memories. And we survived the most magical place on earth.



 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Days Gone By

It had been a long day of travel in a packed car. We were all tired and weary and ready to pile into the hotel and fall into bed. I had enjoyed the ride beside my boy, watching his mind at work as he busily created. He spent a solid six hours playing, taping and putting together multiple creations made from a clear plastic box, styrofoam cup, a roll of tape and a few small trinket-like toys. After a full day of this, I could barely climb out from the back row since the stuff had seemingly multiplied in the car. 

"E, your stuff has taken over the backseat. I've got to clean up all this trash." 

Without missing a beat, his tone changed to a scold as he corrected me. "Mom, this might be trash to you but it will always be inventions to me."
I couldn't argue. In fact, I had to apologize because I knew to him this wasn't trash at all. How many times have I been reminded of this lesson from him? He continues to amaze me with his creativity and I witnessed him at work with a front row - or rather back row - seat into his world of ingenuity. 

We finally made it into the hotel with more than enough stuff for one night at our halfway point but a very mobile baby wasn't about to be confined to a pack and play just yet. After all, she'd spent the better part of the day "trapped" in her car seat and now seemed like a great time to explore her new surroundings. She was tired, so tired, but it would take rocking her to sleep to calm her down. 

Just getting to the point of leaving on vacation with four adults, one child and one infant is enough to send someone over the edge. Planning lazy days by the pool is nothing more than a daydream when one water-loving child will certainly be begging me to play and one fearlessly mobile baby will not understand the dangers of her surroundings. But I'm learning to soak up the moments that will all too quickly pass and be nothing more than a distant memory. 

I had no idea what I was asking for when I prayed to become a mother. I wanted a child but never understood the depth of what I was being entrusted with. I could never have known it would have meant getting to the end of myself then becoming a provider, defender, mediator, comforter, advocate, intercesser just to name a few. I had no idea how much I would learn about God in this role. I recognize His nature when I see the creativity and imagination coming from my son's ingenuity. I identify with His heart when I rock my baby to sleep. The joys of watching my son create or my daughter discover something new. The heartache of hurting when they hurt. The grief of enduring the battle of wills. Being given the opportunity to teach, invest in and love these little people who God created in His image and called me to mother is my purpose in life. 

Today I'm learning to enjoy the ride and give thanks for the present state of chaos and craziness that comes with the blessing of raising little ones. I'm basking in the joy of knowing my personal time is not my own. There are no vacations from motherhood in this phase of life, at least not until they're grown and gone and then I will simply wish for these days to return. 
 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

He's the Man

He's the man who used to drive a motorcycle. It's not something that many would know. And it's not something he would go around sharing. It's not that he longs for the carefree days of old. It's simply that he has fully embraced his new life. 

He's so down to earth and practical that the motorcycle driving side of him is something I have a hard time picturing. Maybe because he now drives a minivan. But in his defense, he did get rid of the motorcycle before he met me. It wasn't all my fault. 

I remember very early on telling him that we were a package deal. He could not love me without accepting him. I had to know that he understood he wasn't just signing up to be my husband. He would be joining me as I parent my son. He didn't just embrace my son, he jumped headfirst into parenting, fatherhood, and life with a precocious and rambunctious four-year-old. He didn't have the enjoyment of bonding with a baby and watching him grow. But he never missed a beat when it came to stepping into the role of parent. I've never liked the term Step-parent but indeed he stepped in and stepped up to the role God outlined for fathers to love and teach and train up a child, taking it upon himself to accept and love a child who wasn't his own. It didn't seem foreign to me since he wasn't genetically related to me either but I wasn't fully prepared for him to actually love him as a son. He joined me as a partner, friend, confidante, advocate, mediator, defender, protector. It was second nature to demonstrate spiritual leadership because it is who he is. 

No one has ever told Eli what to call him or not to call him but "Mr. Mike" is still his namesake even after 4 years. It's proven to be his own term of endearment and not just a sign of respect. Mike is his name, there's no mistaking that, but the day would also come when he would gain a new name. He would go through the passage into parenthood where he would bear the name dad. Father. Daddy. He already wore it on his heart, but now it has become a part of who he is. 

He's not just the man who used to ride a motorcycle. He's the man who waited faithfully for 12 years while riding out singlehood, never settling for anything less than God's best. (How I ended up being God's best for him still blows my mind because I often feel inadequate to love and serve him the way he deserves.) He's the man who chose me, gently pursuing my tattered heart and helping me rebuild the pieces. He's the man who willingly stepped into a world of chaos and provided a sense of calm. He's the man who joined the ranks of fatherhood without preparation or hesitation. He's the man who stood beside me at my lowest point, holding me as I writhed in pain. He's the man who held me as I sobbed and grieved the baby we had lost. He's the man who joined me in celebration at the announcement of our second pregnancy and he held onto hope and faith that we would have a healthy baby. He's the man who refused to settle on a boy's name because in his heart of hearts we were having a girl. He's the man who was right because our daughter would be born in November. He's the man who would stand over me in surgery calming me down after a day and a half of scary labor. He would watch his daughter be born and battle whose side to be by, mine or hers. 

He's the man God gave me to be my helpmate and support, my strength and leader. He pushes me to go beyond myself and consider new perspectives. He loves me endlessly and serves me tirelessly. He fights fiercely for his family and never waivers in his faith. He is my husband. My friend. My love. The father to our daughter. Step dad to Eli. A brother and son I know his family is proud of. He's my man. My Michael. And this Father's Day I honor him. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Real Life is not Pinterest

Day one of summer is now in the books. I wish I could say it was all I hoped it would be. As with any well laid plan, I've had to learn real life often gets in the way. 

We found out a few weeks ago that Eli wouldn't have a spot in the summer program he was involved in last year so it meant rearranging and making new plans. "Mom's summer camp of fun and learning" was that new plan and I was excited. I immediately created my "summer" board on Pinterest and started pinning away. Crafts, make-together snacks, homegrown fun and learning activities, we would have so much fun. I was determined to make this a summer to remember - for everyone. I planned to create just the right balance of structure and leisure along with opportunities for us to make memories and work on needed skills and abilities. It's no secret that Eli learns differently than me so I did my homework and took extra time to research ways to help him continue to grow and learn. It's been a learning process for me, too, but I felt certain the extra time together would be productive. 

Day 1. I was ready. But I can't tell you how perfect our day was. I can't give details about the amazing things we did. I won't be able to share the memories we mawde. If anything, I'm ready to go to bed and forget this day while desperately waiting for a new one to begin tomorrow. Everyday. All day. Did I mention every single day? How did his teacher do it? I'm now more convinced than ever that she had super powers of which I know I am void of. Today did not go as planned.

He's a challenge, my boy. I love him so and yet he pushes me to the very edge where I nearly lose my cool and my mind. Okay. I admit. I do in fact lose my cool. Much more often than I care to admit. But even as I started to feel guilty for not providing the fulfilling memory-filled first day of summer I had hoped, my ever-wise husband reminded me, "Real life is not Pinterest."

He's right. The pressure to create such amazing experiences is my own fault. And while I do love finding success in a new recipe on Pinterest, that's just about the end of where my pin-worthy life exists. Real life is messy and hard and chaotic and not as planned. Real life is me being honest about the fact that sometimes I just wish things were easy. That we could just enjoy simple things and that those moments of bliss would be the rule and not the exception. Real life is repeatedly having people tell me I am the perfect mom for this child and me wondering if they feel sorry for me or if I somehow managed to actually pull off fooling a person or two. Real life is the triple chocolate cake I nearly devoured in a moment of utter weakness after a day like today. Real life is not regretting one bite. Real life is this, me just being honest, that real life - at least my life - is not Pinterest. Real life is knowing today I got to lean on Jesus just a little bit more than I usually would on my own. Trusting, hoping, praying, believing, knowing He really is in control. Real life is the assurance that while God did pick me to be his mother, no one could love him more than the one who created him. When I struggle to find someone who can handle watching him for a few hours, real life is knowing that God loves, embraces and smiles at this exceptional child He perfectly created. And That's as real as it gets. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day

It was a special service. An emotional video of remembrance. A retired Air Force Colonel sharing his sentiments towards his fallen comrades followed by the playing of Taps. The mood was somber, humbling, honorable. The video alone had brought me to tears, so thankful for those who have served our country. But in the midst of the crowd, I couldn't help but notice a white haired gentleman rise to his feet as he wiped away tears. He stood at attention then put his hand over his heart. He was followed by another in the same motion. Still one more stood with arms raised to the sky then his stance turned to attention. I didn't know them or those they were remembering but it was emotional and moving and a reminder of those we should be honoring this weekend. The distinct way they stood at attention told me they were certain to have served. I wanted to know what they were thinking, who they may be remembering, what service they had given, what sacrifices they had endured. I wanted to know their stories. I wanted to honor them and their commitment to God and country. My heart swelled with gratitude and again I felt tears falling.

God shed His grace on thee, indeed. There's a sense of pride that fills my heart when I truly allow myself to reflect upon what it's taken to get here; to be able to declare I am proud to be an American. I can't - I won't - forget the ones who gave me that right. Land of the free, home of the brave. The valiant warriors who freely went, willingly gave and bravely shed their blood for our freedom, my freedom.

My thoughts turn to my Grandpa Dunbar and the stories he would tell of his and Grandma's time serving in World War II. He would watch D-Day specials on TV looking for a glimpse of his brother who had been lost at Normandy. He was a pilot, that much I knew. I had heard the stores but am ashamed to say I didn't pay better attention. We weren't a military family beyond their service but I am proud to be an American and have a deep respect for those who answer the call to serve, defend and protect. My right to write this blog was given by the blood, sweat and sacrifice of soldiers and patriots who have fought for these and other freedoms.

It can be a time of confusion. A presidential election year, battles over gender in the bathroom, Supreme Court decisions that have altered our way of thinking, living and believing. And for these freedoms these men and women continue to fight. Whether they believe in each and every one of the decisions being made, they still believe in the good of our nation, in the people who make up this country. The speaker yesterday said it best, explaining these service men and women sign a blank check, their oath, that their call to duty can be cashed in at any time, to any place, for any length of time. I don't know if I could be as selfless. You not only forfeited your right to yourself, you were willing to give everything for people you've never met. For me. So today I stop and say thanks because each and everyday you've never stopped considering us worth it.

Monday, May 23, 2016

It's Monday

It's Monday! It's the last full week of school. Just 8 days left and 3 of those are early dismissals plus field day, end of the year assemblies and celebrations... It's an exciting time of year and summer break is at the forefront of everyone's minds. I even dressed Violet in her brand new Minnie Mouse outfit in anticipation of just 31 days until our Florida vacation. I AM HAPPY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But it's Monday. Did I mention that? It's like the law of gravity or e=mc2. It seems when God created the world and set everything into motion that He must have divinely planned for Monday's to be the test of what we learned on Sunday. Am I right?! 

I woke up early. I woke up happy and refreshed. The baby slept through the night which meant I slept through the night. The coffee was preset and it would be ready by the time my feet hit the floor. That's enough reason to get me bounding out of bed. I'm now sitting here at high noon wondering what happened to the past 6 hours.

Picture the scene: My son's bed is unmade because in my effort to teach him responsibility he lacked the follow through this morning. His clothes are laying in the floor of the living room where he got dressed because, "There's not a dirty clothes basket down here so I can't put them away." In the rush of the morning I chose not to argue about this one but when I came back from the morning drop off, the clothes were missing. Had he in fact put them in the dirty clothes basket? The mystery would only later be solved... There's a pile of clothes, folded, alongside a stack of hangers covering our bed. I'm closet purging and only got mid-project before the baby ended her nap abruptly. For three solid hours I've been holding, bouncing, walking, rocking, nursing and soothing a very fussy baby. We'll chalk this up to what appears to be teething but bless her heart, she just won't let me put her down. So the clothes remain covering the bed but they have to go somewhere so we have a place to sleep tonight. I made my way downstairs to fix some lunch when I saw all the couch pillows knocked to the ground. It must be a game for the dog because he does it each and every day, several times a day, and always when I'm not looking. Oh, by the way, mystery now solved. I caught a glimpse of something red in the middle of the green grass. Yes, that would be my son's pajamas now strewn across the yard. Even as I was typing the fur baby came barreling in the house covered in black muck. We live in Virginia where the dirt is red so I don't even know where he's been. I admit I lost sight of him and forgot he was even outside given the state of the crying and gnashing of gums from the baby inside.

As I was making my lunch, I caught a glimpse of the coffee mug with a nearly full cup of now very cold and old coffee. I never got to finish it let alone savor it. I was so anticipating that java. it's just like the three unfinished projects I've started today while bouncing a baby and entertaining her with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (gasp!). Don't judge me. This is my Monday, my mess, my fussy baby and my blog. The thing about is I'm not even upset. This is real life. I had high hopes for today. I wanted to purge my entire closet, set things up to give away and sell. I planned to do the same to Violet's clothes and go through each of her drawers to remove the things that no longer fit. Yes, once again this little stinker has decided to grow and yet again I'm forced with the daunting task of clothes-swap. I have a full to-do list of work-related projects that I've only begun to look at, let alone tackle. And of course I had a new recipe I wanted to try for a home cooked meal. But here I sit, holding my now sleeping baby, perfecting the art of the one-handed typing and enjoying my little piece of peace in this present moment. 

Newsflash: I'm not going to be any less of a mom, wife or human if a bed goes unmade or clothes don't get put away. We won't be any less fed with takeout versus cuisine I make from scratch. This is my normal today and I'm finding the joy in it. I don't get to hold my baby while she's sleeping very much these days so I'm soaking in these snuggles. I don't usually have the time to sit and write so I'm relishing that as well. The radio and TV are off. There's a lawn mower in the distance and the chirp of birds outside but other than that, there's quiet. It's not usually quiet or calm in our house so I'm taking it all in and taking it all to heart. It's Monday. It could seem like just an ordinary day, one filled with problems and mishaps. But the sun came out and the sky is blue. I'm alive and breathing and determined to enjoy this day regardless of how many unfinished projects I start, or good intentions I don't fulfill. 

So have a good day. Better yet, make it a GREAT day. It is indeed up to you and what you choose for yourself and this day. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Blessed Be His Name

It's coming up on Mother's Day. It used to be one of the most dreaded holidays I could ever experience. Now it's one of my favorites. Mother's Day weekend always falls around my son's birthday and it stands as an annual reminder of God's richest blessings and answers to prayer.

I've spent some time this morning making my list:
- Cupcakes for Eli's Birthday
- Card for Mother's Day
- Wrap gifts

Just a few of the preparations in a weekend full of party plans. You know how seriously I take celebrating and this is certainly a weekend that deserves celebration. But not just birthday parties and mother's day plans. No, this calls for a full and complete honoring of the faithfulness of God. The sentiment attached to these memorable days is fiercely tied to remembrance and gratitude woven together with tenderness. This is my proclamation that God is faithful, so faithful.

Sunday morning we will sing the familiar worship song "Blessed Be Your Name." It holds significant meaning for me because it was the same song I stood to sing more than 8 years ago after learning a birthmother had not chosen me. Oh how I prayed. PRAYED. I called out, cried out, claiming the baby boy she was carrying by name. I asked God to do this - I knew that He could - and I believed in faith that He would. She seemed so genuine in the interview and I thought we had made a connection. I was certain, just sure, she felt it too and somehow I sensed God answering this prayer. But I was wrong. I was not the mother she would choose for her baby boy and one cold day in February I would learn he was placed with another family. Just days later I would stand in church and sing the words through tears, "You give and take away, my heart will choose to say, Lord, Blessed be Your name."

I had to come face-to-face that day with the question of whether or not I would still choose to bless Him despite the emptiness my heart was facing. This Sunday I can stand and sing with full assurance of how much I not only believe it, but want to proclaim this truth:

Blessed be Your Name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your Name

You may still hold your doubts, it's easy for me to bless His name after receiving His blessings. But lest I need to offer clarification...I've experienced the promised land of plenty but oh how I have also wandered through the desert. It makes me all the more aware of how blessed I am. How one can truly offer praise through the pain, how sacrifice and suffering can bring about perseverance and gratitude. My road to motherhood alone brought me through infertility, failed adoption placements, successful adoption, miscarriage and a successful pregnancy. It's why there's so much meaning to this celebration-filled weekend. It's the reminder of the hope we have in Christ. Even when life is difficult, complicated, painful and downright broken, I can hold onto a good, loving and faithful God who carried me through every tear-filled painful step that led me to where I am today. And this is only my journey to motherhood! I won't even use this blog space to write about the daily trials through motherhood and parenting, let alone life, love and other experiences.

There may be pain in your offering but He turns our mourning into dancing. He gives and takes away but He never leaves us. Whether you're dreading this weekend or preparing your own heartfelt celebrations, I pray you'll know His goodness and hope. I pray, if nothing else, you can celebrate His faithfulness in your life with confidence that He is working it all out for your good. You may not be able to see it yet. Eight years later I'm still discovering and being reminding of this truth. Through every blessing He's poured out, and yes even in the emptiness and darkness, my heart will choose to bless His name.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Abundance

...when it gets dark, and things look a bit hopeless, Lord, 
You lift our chins to look up at the stars, 
and whisper that no matter what's happened, what feels like burned up ashes today, You are redeeming it, You will redeem it, redemption will rise. 
Redemption is the papery ash that’s falling, 
turning, and uplifting, as sparks of pure glory...a bit like stars in the middle of the dark...
Ashes are never the last line of any of God stories.
Abundance is. - Ann Voscamp


Today marks an anniversary that's difficult to reflect upon. Five years ago fire destroyed the house I had once called home. What most people didn't realize at the time was my son and I had already been living out of the home for more than a year. It was one of the lowest points I can recall, questioning what was next, feeling helpless and hopeless and out of control of the pieces of a shattered life that I couldn't figure put back together. All of that was prior to the fire. 

Nothing prepares you for a tragedy like this. But nothing comes close to comparing the ways God reveals Himself in such times. I can look back at the days surrounding this event and recognize the abundant blessings God provided, the ways He miraculously allowed me to sense His presence, how He used hundreds of people to reach out and meet needs and provide in overwhelming abundance. 

I've seen the paper ash of redemption fall and turn into sparks of pure glory. I've witnessed the blazing fire of destruction reveal the refinement of tears into pure joy. What abundance looks like to me is an overwhelming supply of redemption freely given in the midst of heartache, tragedy and loss. It defines you. These are the places we build altars and cry out to God in praise and thanksgiving because He is faithful no matter what. 

What I need you to hear is that house fire was a turning point but more importantly it was a defining point. It was a moment I can claim in full assurance of faith that God, my God, is bigger, stronger, and victorious over whatever we may face. I stand here before you to proclaim His goodness, grace and mercy, knowing that when you're staring down the face of tragedy, crisis, uncertainty and pain, God is altogether working it out for your good. When it looks and feels absolutely hopeless, no matter what He is redeeming it. Ashes are not the end of my story. Abundance is.  



 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Answered Prayer

Here it is. Here is where I build the altar of remembrance and give thanks for what the Lord has done.

I told you earlier this week of the walls we were scaling. Claiming in faith that they would come crashing down. How can I keep from singing His praise when God has proven Himself mighty and victorious, able to conquer even the highest, most impenetrable wall?! Praise You, Lord!

This week has been filled, I mean FULL, of challenges. You know what I know about the Enemy has proven true. His fiery darts have been aimed this direction all week. A deathly ill child, a teething baby also going through a growth spurt, work obligations, church commitments, bible study, schedules having to be rearranged, and the list goes on and on. He was bound and determined to throw obstacle after barrier after stumbling block my way in an effort to trip me up. You know what I know about God is even more true because to His credit alone I never fell except to fall straight into the arms of Jesus. I've landed there several times this week - falling at His feet claiming those walls in faith, falling on my knees with hands raised in praise to Him when I saw Him answer.

Faith is my belief that God is who He says He is and He will do what He says He can do. Faith requires my action to join with Him in what He's doing. He knows me so well. Because if I could do it all myself, I would certainly give myself all the credit and glory. Yet if I wasn't even able to bear witness to what He's doing I would fall short in taking an active part in what He's doing. Faith requires me to move forward, allowing me to be in the midst of the miracles He's working in my life.

This week my faith became sight. Faith that I will admit had grown dim at times. Prayers I have prayed for so long that I started to forget to believe they might actually be answered, let alone heard. This week God peeled back the curtain of doubt and allowed me to take a front row seat to His mighty display. He showed me He hasn't forgotten, He's heard every single prayer for 3 solid years and He had a plan the entire time. He proved to me that I was to be part of His plan.

I can look at this situation and identify one resounding theme. God never leaves us. He never forsakes us. But He also allows us to wait. Not to test our patience or our faith but to give us the opportunity to be part of the miracle. Here's what I realized. Had this answer come 3 years ago, it wouldn't have been near the victory. Had this answer come 3 years ago, I wouldn't have been so emotionally and spiritually invested. Had this been simple and quick, I wouldn't have had the privilege of waiting and believing in faith while I drew closer to Him over these last 3 years.

So here we are, three years later and I am writing this blog as a testimony that God is faithful! His ways are good. His works are mighty. And He never, ever fails.

I don't know what your wall looks like. I don't know how long you've prayed. I'm not sure where your faith stands right now. But I pray this will be an encouragement to you to know that God hears, He answers and He never fails.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Walls

Sunday was a worship experience unlike any given Sunday. You see last week our pastor presented us with the "Jericho Challenge." The Old Testament story is familiar to me, one I've read to my son a number of times. One I learned myself even as a child. The wandering in the wilderness was over - except the giant wall standing between God's Chosen People and their Promised Land. How could God have brought them all this way only to land them in front of an impossible, impenetrable wall? They had their very literal marching orders: March around the wall six days and say nothing. Just march. On the seventh day march around seven times and shout and blow their horns. They weren't supposed to fight, climb or knock it down. All they had to do was march then shout and the walls would come down. With very little effort on their part, actually. All it required was faith and obedience.

Our own Jericho challenge began with a week-long process to identify and pray against the walls in our lives that need to come down. Was it something preventing intimacy with the Lord? Maybe an obstacle or trial? A wall of impossibility? I took the challenge seriously because, being blatantly honest, we are facing some giant walls. Unscaleable in my opinion. But nothing God doesn't know about and already have a sovereign plan for. I prayed. I begged God - just like I have been doing for weeks, months. There's something about writing out your requests and your prayers. Making your prayers known before God in a way that you can visualize and recognize that nothing is impossible for Him. Knowing my God CAN make those walls fall. And on Sunday morning I stood with others claiming in faith and I prayed and shouted and asked God to TEAR DOWN THE WALLS.

You know what I know about the Enemy? He is real, lurking, seeking whom he may devour. He knows exactly where our weaknesses lie, the chinks in our armor where he can target us. He can't claim my soul but he can surely attack my spirit and knock me to the ground. If I'm not armed and ready, I may be rendered useless. You know what I know about God? He is good, faithful, just, merciful, loving, Sovereign. But over all this, over everything, He is victorious. The Enemy may be able to knock us down, cause discouragement, even seemingly defeat us - but we are more than conquerors through Christ. The same power that rose Jesus from the grave is the power available to us to defeat the Enemy and cause those walls to fall.

This isn't some Old Testament fairy tale. This is putting feet to our faith. Sure, I admit I thought the Baptist preacher had gone a little Pentecostal on us because this was definitely "out of the ordinary" for our semi-conservative-somewhat-contemporary church. It was certainly a deviation from our traditional service. But it was also Spirit-filled and Spirit-lead and spiritually uplifting to publicly stand and claim in faith that we were asking God to bring the walls crashing down. In this case I was being asked to do the unthinkable. It had nothing to do with how uncomfortable I may have been to shout in church. It had everything to do with surrendering control. Relinquishing the fact that God wasn't asking for my action or involvement. He was simply commanding me to obey, trust and believe.

I stand here today and cannot tell you that I've now successfully taken possession of my Promised Land. But I can stand here today and tell you that what feels impossible has now been proven to be something God is working out for my good. The walls that have seemed impenetrable are literally falling down around me as I watch in wonder at how God is working. The rubble around me could seem like a mess but these are the stones from which I'll build an altar of remembrance to honor the way my Almighty Sovereign God has been at work. What I realized on Sunday is that the God of the Old Testament Jericho walls is the same God of my very present time of need. Today I will stand on the rooftops and shout out my praise to Him! My good, deserving, Sovereign, wall-crushing God!