Tuesday, October 10, 2017
I was wrong. So wrong.
It was hot. 86 degrees in October. Not a cloud in the sky, the sun was beating down on us both. She was not having anything to do with me putting her down. She screamed and cried the second I tried to pry her out of my arms. I tried to reason with her, got her blanket, was even willing to cave to the idea of a pacifier just to calm her down. Nothing worked. She met my determination to get amazing photos with her own resolve to not participate.
Forty five scalding minutes later, I was dripping and she was sporting a splotchy red tear-stained face. The photographer was gracious and patient and offered to come back in the morning when it was cooler and everyone was calmer. I'm sure she meant me because even though my daughter was the one in tears, I was only seconds away from my own meltdown.
I opted out of the next shoot so as not to be a distraction...but I could literally hear her screaming from a mile away. For real. The best laid plans and props weren't enough. The adorable outfit wasn't going to cut it. She wasn't having anything to do with my vision for this photoshoot and that seemed final.
Fast forward two days and my daughter was guiding me by the hand on a leisurely walk to the pond. We walked and talked, sang and clapped. She threw rocks in the water and then turned to me ever-so-sweetly and sat down on the grass. With the sun glistening off her blonde curls she motioned for me to come near and then said, "Take picture." She sat there as still and calm as she could and smiled like a little angel. I nearly gasped. Had she just instructed me to take her picture in the exact spot we spent almost 2 hours trying to get pictures??? Yes, yes she had. And all I could do was laugh and tell her what a stinker she was for not participating two days prior. Would you believe I didn't even take my phone to document the moment? There is no proof. Simply my own memory and now this blog of the moment it was her idea to sit and smile.
I imagine God must have been laughing, reminding me of how my best laid plans are often completely against what He has envisioned for me. Or worse, when I cry and scream and throw a fit in my unwillingness to participate in what He has planned for me. Oh yes, I'm certain I've earned my picture on the Heavenly Wall of Shame as an Unwilling Participant. Just like my daughter has earned herself documented proof of her unwillingness to get her picture taken on her own terms. Too often I want things on my own terms. I want Him to do things according to my plan. And when I don't get my way, I make sure He knows about it.
It's shameful to admit but I'd be lying if I didn't. May this be a reminder to me to know He is good, to recognize when He sets me down on my own He isn't abandoning me. May I trust His vision and plan even when I don't understand or know what it is. May I be a willing participant regardless of what it is He's asking me to do.
Monday, October 2, 2017
I know when things like this happen there's questions about where God was, uncertainty about why He allows such things to happen. In the midst of what's unclear and heartbreaking, I only know to do one thing and that is to turn to the Comforter who gives strength and refuge even when I can't understand. It's not that I go to Him for answers of "why" but I do seek Him for peace that passes all understanding and Supernatural strength that exceeds my own.
I can't come to grips with knowing anything about people who would do such a thing except for the reality that God has given us each free will. Along with that ability to choose is the knowledge that a very real enemy celebrates such chaos that causes us to question everything we once thought certain. It's exactly what he wants and the stark contrast of what God desires.
It's true. God is love. The very essence of who He is and all He embodies is nothing short of perfect love. Yet His Word is clear and it cannot be missed that there is only one way to a relationship with Him and it is through the salvation given by Christ's sacrifice to cover our sins. We can't just claim it - we have to believe it and receive it. It seems in times like this people wonder how a God that exemplifies love would knowingly allow such tragedy and heartbreak and yet we know just as Eve was allowed to choose for herself to take that bite, so are we given the choice to act accordingly to our own will or His perfect will.
I'm not trying to get all "preachy" but I know some of you are wondering where God is this morning so I just need to be abundantly clear. He's here. Right here. He's never left. His heart is breaking over the lives lost, the families shattered, and the one who decided it was up to him to wreak such havoc.
We can't run amuck and have our own way then shake our fist at Him in anger as if He somehow let us down when things like this happen. We choose our own way then wonder where He's at when we need Him. I'm not here to shame anyone but I am here to relentlessly defend our need for Him and His salvation plan. I am also here to proclaim His goodness and the peace He brings in times of sorrow, the refuge He is in times of peril. But we must also understand our daily reliance upon Him.
God is here today. Right here. I can't see how He could work any of this for any kind of good but I am trusting His sovereignty and relying upon His eternal plan that I can't see in this temporal world. I pray you'll find the comfort of God today knowing His love bears all things.
Friday, September 29, 2017
You know the scene. The morning scramble of herding children - trying to get them dressed, fed, and out the door. Socks and shoes are never where you need them to be when you're in a hurry. Frustrations abound with a scattered mom brain and scurrying children. It was a frantic Friday indeed.
The scene was comical at best. A barefooted toddler was running laps in the driveway at the mention of my notion to get her hair fixed. She never slowed down but I never lost my determination. I chase her, running while combing and putting in hair bows. I was completely unaware of the spectacle we were to the neighbors until I finally stopped to catch my breath and realized I was panting. I felt certain I deserved a medal for the Olympic feat I'd just accomplished of two perfectly placed pigtails all while running full speed after a toddler.
My boy was no less frantic, searching for his Batman costume. It was super hero day at school and the costume was nowhere to be found. Never mind the fact that I should have already had this together the night before. We were now in panic mode. He was melting down and I was sweating. I sent him upstairs while I checked the garage. Then I heard him, "Mooooommmm!!! Never fear! Batman is here!" He was running outside holding the costume bag in hand. Unfortunately the bodysuit wasn't inside. But the cape was so in full mom-mode I went into action and made sure my boy felt like the super hero I know him to be.
Now that he was ready to go I attempted to corral us all in the car only to realize Eli was missing shoes and Violet was still barefoot. I gave him the instruction to find two MATCHING shoes (yes, I did have to clarify) and grabbed her slip on shoes and attempted to put them on. Instead I was greeted with a determination that matched my own as she took the shoes and exclaimed "I do it." Through gritted teeth I mustered a grin and handed them off only to see the fireman rain boots that Eli had put on himself. "What mom? They match." Sorry I didn't clarify further but I now explained he needed to find matching tennis shoes.
I began buckling Violet in only to realize the dog had been hiding inside the car. Did he really think he was going?! Why wouldn't our giant doodle be in the car on a morning like this?!
With the dog safely inside and the kids buckled in, we were finally off! We may have started out frantic but we were now fully embracing fantastic. Here's the picture to prove it!
Monday, September 25, 2017
This isn't political. It's not about the flag or the anthem or the President. It isn't about a race or denomination, it's not about gender or labels. It's about the only thing I know to be absolute truth and that is the fact that He bled and died for us ALL. To cover every single one of our sins and our foolishness. His blood is enough.
This is my own personal stand for Truth. Not what I believe is truth but what God's Word actually says is Truth. The One and Only Truth. The inerrant Gospel of the Son of God who came, willingly gave, and sacrificed His life for my soul.
We all, every single one of us, fall short of Him and His perfect glory. The wages for our sin is death. Eternal separation from God. But His gift of life is for life eternal - life with Him. With our hearts we believe and with our mouths we profess Him as Lord and are saved. He intercedes for us, no matter where we are, no matter what we've done. While the enemy seeks whom he may devour, the saving grace of Christ seeks each of our hearts and offers us eternal life through Him.
Here's what I believe (personal opinion here). Whether it's born out of true conviction or a media stunt, there's a part of me that thinks some of these people who are standing for what they believe is right do in fact believe in their cause. What I know of the enemy is he's crafty enough to get us to believe anything but the truth. It's been happening since the creation of man and he's only intensified his vicious attacks in the present day. It's why I feel so passionate to share my own convictions because I know so many are being led astray.
What is Christianity? A belief in God? Is it that simple? What does believing in God cost? What is faith? Faith in who? Faith in what? It's becoming so blurred it's hard to defend. The only thing I know to do is go back to His Word. He is the way, the truth and the life and not one of us can get to God the Father without going by way of the Cross of Christ.
This is my stand.
Monday, August 14, 2017
My sweet Eli,
Tomorrow you start fourth grade. I can't believe how quickly the years are passing. You only have two more years of elementary school and I can't even begin to think about beyond that. But before I get ahead of myself I want to share some pivotal things with you that have marked this summer.
This summer has been wonderful! The stressful moments have been few and far between in comparison and it's only proven to me how much you're growing and maturing. We've come a long way from the tumultuous struggles last year and struck a delicate balance of relaxation and fun mixed with just enough structure from part-time summer camp and it worked out beautifully for everyone! Your camp counselors would often tell me how creative you are, how they would never think about things the way you do. You challenge people around you to think differently and it causes people to understand more deeply.
Last week you were having a tough time. You were upset and crying, telling me things get jumbled up in your head. You said the words to me, "I hate my brain! I hate what my brain tells me to do." It saddened me so deeply and my heart grieved for you. I held you as you cried and I prayed for God to give me wisdom and to know how to be what you needed in that moment. You recovered quickly, you always do, and even as I offered continued comfort, you were determined to press on and push through. Somehow you always find a way to make it work. I often wonder how your mind works and in these moments I worry for you and the battle you must face.
And yet I can't stop there because just today while we were out a bo about your age approached me and asked if I was your mom. I affirmed to him I was indeed and he proceeded to share he knew you from camp. "Eli is really creative! The things he builds and makes are awesome!" I beamed with pride and thanked him for such a wonderful compliment and in that moment my heart swelled beyond what I knew it could feel. All the times I watch you off to yourself avoiding a crowd or busily creating when the rest of the group is engaged in conversation were now painted in a different light. The admiration was all over this boy's words and expressions and he was admiring my boy! You inspire people, Eli! With the way you think and the way you create and how you are - you instill intrigue in those who watch you in wonder as they attempt to enter your world.
My sweet Eli, as you approach fourth grade tomorrow I know you're nervous about all the things that come with a new year. We already know God answered your prayer and gave you the teacher you wanted. We continue to pray over you and ask for God to further develop you into the person He uniquely and wonderfully created you to be. We watch in wonder as that unfolds each year.
I'm so proud of you. Even as I tucked you into bed and we talked about our day, you made sure to share what I always say that tomorrow is brand new. A brand new day, a brand new year, a brand new grade, a brand new teacher. A brand new opportunity for you to continue to be the uniquely amazing person God created you to be.
Welcome to fourth grade!
Friday, August 11, 2017
I don't know how I've never caught it. Maybe I've read it before but today the words leapt off the page. We know the story. Thousands had gathered to hear, see, meet Jesus and the miracle of the two fish and five loaves unfolded to feed the masses. But I'm certain I've only focused on the miracle itself and not necessarily the preamble.
There's so many ways this is speaking to me today. So many new ideas and lessons in a story that seems so familiar.
1. Jesus allowed Philip to be a part of the plan.
Jesus was very specific in his question to Philip. "Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?" It wasn't a matter of if the people would eat but a matter of how to get the food. The wording is so intriguing because it allows me to understand that Jesus had a plan, which we'll soon see, but He was allowing Philip to enter into the miracle that was about to unfold.
As I dissect this passage I'm not convinced that Jesus needed to hear from Philip (see point 3) but He was inviting, including, and asking him to be involved. I think too often we perceive Jesus, whether in the flesh or on His throne, as too lofty for us to reach. Too separated from us to be a part of our everyday situations. And yet, right here in this text, we see just the opposite! The black and white proof that He wants to be in our midst - that He invites us into His. He's at work, often with a plan already in mind, yet He wants to include us in what He's doing.
2. Jesus tested Philip.
This stopped me. Because at first it didn't sit well to think that Jesus intentionally tested Philip. I dug deeper. The Hebrew word for "test" is peirazó. It means to try, tempt, test, to make proof of. I found another translation that read "This was said to prove him." I admit it made me feel better to believe Jesus was trying to prove something in and of Philip rather than just test him. I believe this directly correlates with Jesus wanting his disciples to see Him at work but to help them understand what He was about to do.
3. Jesus already knew what He was going to do.
As mentioned, Jesus allowed Philip to be included even though He already knew what He was going to do. There's another truth to be taken from this. What we can imply is the idea that He wants us to seek Him, to ask of Him, and He will answer. I believe that gives us the reality of knowing He not only listens to our prayers but He wants us to approach Him and ask. By no means do I think this strips Him of any Sovereignty but I believe in His infinite wisdom He allows us the opportunities, at times, to bend His ear with our prayers and petitions.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
He gives us the opportunity to present our requests to Him. Even though He may already be working things out and have a plan in mind, let's not miss the fact that we're invited to approach Him and be a part of what He's doing. And when we don't seek Him, He often seeks us out.
What about the test? When I read the word I didn't like it but just this week I faced a massive testing of my faith. The thing about this test was I can tell you most assuredly the Lord already knew what He was going to do. I just had to wait and see. There was nothing I could do, it was completely out of my hands, and the only role I played was to be tested, waiting for God to reveal His answer and will.
Do I need to tell you how I responded?
Philip answered him, "It would take more than half a year's wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" John 6:7
I'm ashamed to admit the likeness I bear to Philip. Riddled with doubt, essentially pointing in Jesus' face the improbability of how to work things out. There's a certain practicality in Philip's response, much like my own. As if to say, "But Lord, this just doesn't seem humanly possible. I imagine He must have laughed to Himself, maybe even out loud. In my mind He must have wanted to remark, "You're right, silly human, it's not humanly possible. But it is God-possible." Maybe that's my own mind's eye of how this conversation might go but I know with certainty He's inviting us to be a part of His mighty plan. In the same way He demonstrated His Almighty power feeding the thousands on that hillside, He revealed Himself to me in this test. I don't always respond in faith, something I know I am continually learning, but He pursues me and allows me to be a part of His miracles. I know I don't always pass the test but I am so thankful He grades with grace!
Friday, August 4, 2017
I rejected the idea of school supply shopping for awhile because I thought that would somehow mean it wasn't a reality. I just couldn't bring myself to it. I didn't want to acknowledge this passing of summer with the finality of packing a backpack and saying goodbye to lazy pool days.
But we did it. Eli and I made a date of it. We got some popcorn and a slushy and went searching for painted rocks before loading up on the mandatory list. We made a fun outing of the ordeal even if it was going to feel like they were stripping us of our summer-time freedom.
In the middle of our rock hunt my nature-loving boy started to veer off. His compulsion to pick up every stick and leaf started to get the better of him (and me). I started to feel my own anxiety welling up as I wanted to regain control and get us back on track but he wouldn't listen. Now we were in deep waters of disobedience and non-compliance and I started to lose my cool. And there it was. In the middle of the sidewalk of Wards Crossing we both encountered a meltdown. Him crying, me yelling, people staring. And then I stopped.
What was I doing? Was this about him not listening or was this about my own frustration that he wasn't doing what I wanted? This was supposed to be about him and special time together. I didn't want it to be a takeover of emotions and reactions that would later lead to regrets.
So we worked through it. Mostly I worked through my own immaturity and fit and changed my attitude. We managed to strike a compromise without completely losing it. And we successfully ended up with all our school supplies. WIN!
I can't say it always happens like that. There are way too many times when it doesn't. It's been a long road of discovery, research, trial and error, and lots of tears and prayers to get to a point where we can even have this kind of "success." I'm so proud of my boy and how hard he's worked and how far he's come. I'm reminded this isn't as much about HIM as is about me and my growth process. How can I teach him obedience when I can't keep my cool? The internal conflict becomes a reality check of myself and my weaknesses.
Friends, I know how hard this parenting thing is. I assure you that anyone who witnessed the scene in front of Barnes & Noble most certainly thought some crazy lady had lost her mind trying to get a child to comply while said child kicked and flailed for his own way.
I can't stop summer from coming to a close, but I can prevent my fuse from blowing. I can't prolong the start of school, but I can work through my expectations and emotions to help teach AND LEARN valuable life lessons. For him and for me.
Saturday, June 24, 2017
We weren't really seeing eye-to-eye. It wasn't one of those "in-your-face-not-going-down-until-I-prove-I'm-right" fights. It was more like the "passive-aggressive-visible-frustration-over-nothing-big" kind of scuffles. I took my passive-aggressiveness out on the house. It was a silent motivator to get things done. Loads of laundry getting washed, dried, and folded, clean sheets, straightening up flop piles. I made sure to empty the dishwasher EXTRA LOUD. And that's when it hit me. I was being so dumb. What was wrong with me? Did I somehow expect the clanging of bowls and tossing of silverware to justify my pride? The scuffle wasn't over chores or housework. It wasn't over roles or responsibilities. It wasn't about who was right. It was just a simple thing we didn't seem to agree on. A difference of opinions due to differing personalities. I wasn't wrong but I wasn't right either. Neither of us could claim it. In this little conundrum, I realized it was as if I was putting the puzzle together by choosing the edge pieces first but he seemed to be focused on working from the inside out.
The reality is we don't always agree. We don't always see eye to eye. We don't always approach things the same way. And sometimes that causes tension and friction and a clashing of ideas. The reality is we aren't perfect. The reason is we're made up of two imperfect people. Thank God for His amazing grace and redeeming love.
Just this week I had two people contact me asking about divorce and contemplating their marriages and pondering their own decisions. It's difficult to know what to say but unfortunately because it happens more often than I wish, I have my patented response. The steps toward wholeness and healing of one's own heart and soul start with a deep look inward. I will never EVER tell someone they should or shouldn't get a divorce. I will never provide justification for someone to decide one way or another what they should do. It is a truly personal and deeply emotional and spiritual decision and varies from couple to couple. No two situations are the same. But in both cases I was just grieved all over again knowing the road that lies ahead. Sympathizing with the heartache they're in the midst of. All of this has come after the devastating announcement from a popular Christian women's speaker and author announcing her own failed marriage and it's caused us to stop and evaluate each and every situation, each and every circumstance, each and every little tiff that could cause us to throw up our hands in frustration or wrap them around the waist of the one we're frustrated with instead.
So today we didn't see eye to eye. It wasn't the first time and it certainly won't be the last. I'm thankful for the opportunity to share that life isn't perfect despite the picture perfect ideals we post and share. Please accept this as my plea to you today to hug the one you love. To decide, whatever the argument and whatever feelings may be justified, that love and grace are worth much more. There's an internal price to "pay" to lay down our pride, but the price is even greater when we don't. Love isn't enough on its own. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit to be the strand of three cords that cannot be easily broken. It requires His divine strength and grace when our hearts are failing and weak. It requires perspective that goes beyond what we can humanly comprehend especially when our hurt feelings overtake any rational thoughts.
There is no greater love than the one who lays down their life for another. It may in fact be one of the toughest things to do but thank God we have Christ as our example and help. His grace is sufficient for every weakness and His love knows no limits even when we've come to the end of ourselves. Love by our own might will never be enough but the supernatural Love of a perfect God will always be.
Friday, June 16, 2017
"During difficult times, your natural tendency is to rely heavily on your own understanding. However, your human understanding is not up to this task; it will fail you time and again. You have every reason to be confident in Me. I am the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and I am in charge of every aspect of your life." - Jesus Today
Do I believe that? One thing I've learned about faith without works is that it is in fact dead. Sure, my head knows that it's true but my actions (and let's be honest, most of the time it's my knee-jerk reactions) say something different. Can I say with full faith that even in the difficult times, I am willing to let God be God and rest in knowing He's in control of every aspect of my life?
If I'm being honest I have to admit this is an ongoing struggle for me. It's at the core of what I wrestle with in my humanity. The battle to release my inhibitions, fears, anxieties, and allow Him complete control. Truthfully, there's a better chance of Him having to pry it from my clinched-fist rather than my willing surrender. Too often I try to run interference thinking He somehow needs my help. If only I would recognize the interference I am to the plan He has.
We live in a broken world. Our hearts and flesh fail. Period. We can't get around it. People hurt us. Life happens. Disappointments come. Plans change and hopes fail. There are different seasons for everything. Life, love, friendship, jobs, desires... But only ONE remains constant and never faltering and that is the Sovereign God and Creator of us all. He planned each of our days and set us as living stones exactly where He purposes us to be. My response to His will has to be that of genuine faith. Not the kind that requires action but the kind that believes without reservation or inhibition that God is God and that He is working in each and every single aspect of my life.
Can I do it... Can I have that kind of faith... Even when my heart is aching and the emotional tug of war causes me to be gripped with fears and anxiety... Even when nothing makes sense and things just don't add up... Even when life throws a curveball that takes me out of the game...
Jesus asks me to lay down my life for His sake (John 13:38). What that tangibly looks like is walking with Him in the day-to-day, moment-by-moment instances that seek to steal my joy and strip me of my faith. Crawling back on the altar over and over again, each and every time I get off. It's choosing to rest in Him even when things around me are completely out of control. It's being confident of the good work He began and trusting He will see it through to completion. Even when it's hard. Even when what is right before me doesn't seem or feel good at all. Even when my human understanding can't make sense of it.
My faith needs feet firmly planted in the truth that He is in fact in control of every aspect of my life even when the ground beneath me is quaking and crumbling. This is the kind of faith I want, the kind of faith I haven't yet achieved. But when my feet do give way and my faith falls short, I rest on His infallible grace that holds me even still.
Increase my faith, Lord. Help my unbelief. Help me not be blinded by my circumstances. Give me eyes to see You.
Saturday, May 20, 2017
Seven days. That's all that's left of the school year. Two of which are early dismissals and the long-awaited, well-earned summer break will be here. At this point we are nearly crawling toward the finish line but we ARE going to get there.
I wish my son would just buy lunch but instead he requests one packed. We've resorted to the store-bought lunchables and pre-packaged snacks. Not the healthy kind either. We're talking chips and cookies. The elaborate napkin drawings have turned into smiley faces and stick figures (at best) with a "Love you."
We stopped doing homework 2 weeks ago. It was SOL season so it was what I felt was my due diligence to ensure my child saved up his brain power for school. (Yes, this is the story I'm sticking with because it is how I've convinced myself that we all get a homework pass.) But seriously, if it wasn't already learned previously, why do we think there's going to be anything of grand importance shared the last seven days of school? Shouldn't we just be done with it already?
I admit this regrettable attitude has spilled over into other areas. Home cooked meals? What's that? We've eaten out for 2 solid weeks. We've had birthday's and celebrations and work and an unusually busy season. There's not been time to meal prep and cook but we are all eating.
Don't worry, though, the house is clean. Oh it's spotless. That's because I'm paying someone to come clean and we're living outside now that it's finally warm. Don't judge me. I'll give you her number if you want. She's life-changing.
I know we should have limits on how much "screen time" the kids get but let's be realistic. If I don't have the energy to pack a lunch or cook a meal, do you really think I'm coming up with creative ideas to keep the kids entertained? Besides, I already told you it's warm outside and that should be all the entertainment we need. Don't get me wrong. I'm going to be right there in the middle of bubbles and sidewalk chalk and pulling them on walks in the wagon. But there are no Pinterest crafts or science experiements happening here. It's outdoors or in front of a screen and that goes for me too. Shameful, I know.
Seven days. I haven't even thought about the summer goals and projects, let alone sat down to plan our activities and calendar. I'm not quite sure what's happening to me other than I'm just running on fumes at this point.
In an effort to regroup, I sat down to meal plan for the first time in 3 weeks (right alongside my grocery clicklist order because I'm far too busy/lazy to actually GO grocery shopping). I exclaimed to my husband, "I'm going to be Super Mom this week!"
He didn't miss a beat. "What do you mean, you're GOING to be Super Mom?"
"I'm going to meal plan and prep and cook homemade meals AND desserts!"
Once again right on cue he rebuttled, "That's not what makes a super mom. You're already super."
He walked out the door before I could argue or ask for more. But the statement left me pondering.
Could I somehow embody something super without providing for my family in these ways? How am I actually providing for them if not cleaning and cooking and elaborately planning on their behalf?
The Lord spoke to my heart as clearly as my husband's words had been.
"Pray for them. Be present. Love. Share Me with them."
It was just last week when I had been riveted by a book that led me to draw up new prayer cards, one for each of my children and my husband. Those prayers and scriptures sparked an inspiration of family guidelines that I believe are to be the guideposts of our home. I don't care if my kids grow up recalling their favorite homemade dish that I made. I'd much rather them talk about the mother who prayed for them daily and covered them in God's Word. Here's the thing. My efforts could all be in vain but His word will never return void so as long as I'm serving them with His Truths, I don't have to worry about what's on the dinner table.
Just last week we lost power for several hours and ended up receiving the biggest blessing as a family while we gathered around candles and flashlights playing games and reading bible stories. It literally took my breath away to hear my son recount the story by heart and share that he had just read it on his own. Who cares about math when my son is memorizing scripture?!
I know I could give a little more effort to the cause of homemaking but in my world I preach stick to your strengths so for now I'm going to stick to mine and not pretend to be the super hero of the kitchen and home. Rather I'm going to give my heart and soul to serving my family with my time and affection. I'm going to pray over them and seek to have God's Presence covering our home. I'd rather focus what little energy I have right now on cultivating the fruit of the Spirit in my life so I can better serve my family.
So here's to you, Super Mom. Just trying to get through the last few days of school, pulling together last minute meals, spot-cleaning clothes, and making your house a home. Wrap your arms around their necks and cover them in your prayers. Don't be afraid to let your cape fly high as long as you're willing to bend your knees on their behalf.
Friday, May 12, 2017
We'll honor mothers everywhere this weekend. If you're at church like me, you'll be asked to stand and be recognized as the congregation will applaud moms. But I'm mindful that a few years ago I was not able to stand, and while I was seated and blending in with the crowd, I was silently dying inside.
Please don't take offense, but when you're dealing with/diagnosed with any type of infertility, it's not usually the kind of thing that makes the prayer list. Over and over on our prayer requests from church we see requests for surgery, illness, cancer, accidents, sometimes even emotional health. But I have yet to see one prayer request come through that calls for the prayer chain to lift up a couple who are struggling with infertility and the desire to get pregnant. (Maybe this is happening elsewhere, and if it is I'm grateful!) But that wasn't a part of my story. Infertility is a lonely, painful struggle. I've walked through it twice with both support and the opposite. I'll share some of that below.
It's a very private and personal struggle. And when you're in the midst of it, you feel like you have no one - LITERALLY NO ONE - to turn to.
All I know to do is share my story.
Somehow this idea of becoming a mother pricks the heart of a woman at some point. I wasn't the girl who grew up with this innate desire. In fact, I was rather worried because I didn't share my mom and sister's love and nurturing qualities for children. Even so, after a couple of years the desire came for me too. I wanted to be a mom. I wanted to have a baby. I wanted to raise a child. And so it began...
Even as a teenager I had this "fear" that I wouldn't be able to get pregnant. There were reasons and some medical issues involved that seemed to back this up, so it wasn't completely ungrounded. It started casually. A few months went by, and then I became more intent. Month after month turned up no results so I started to do some reading and research. I charted, I took my temperature everyday before my feet touched the ground, I took over the counter tests, ovulations kits and other predictors, vitamins, exercise and a host of other "natural" things that I will not go into detail here.
What happened as each month turned into another disappointment, was that each day turned into a "number" - I was constantly counting days. It wasn't about what the calendar said the date was, it was about what day of the month it was for me. Every. Single. Month. This would go on for nearly 2 years.
I am going to try to describe this for you. As the days creeped along and approached a "month" cycle, I would wait. I was scouring the internet researching "signs of pregnancy" and I would try to sense any little signal my body might give to indicate that I was pregnant. (Again, not going into detail because you can google this yourself, but suffice to say I had a heightened, maybe even overly stimulated, sense in a desperate attempt to see if I could tell whether or not this would be the time...)
And then it would happen. Every single time. Every single month. I would get the sign. NOT the sign I wanted. The sign that proved yet again I wasn't pregnant.
I can't try to explain the emotions. It consumed me. Literally. NO ONE KNEW. I was always thinking about it. And every time I would think about it, it would turn into anxiety, and then I would try to calm myself because I knew the more I stressed, the less likely it was for me to conceive. I would go from anxiety and stress to excitement and wonder to devastation and heartbreak. And this vicious cycle of emotions accompanied the monthly counting and charting and testing. Over and over.
It was finally time for medical intervention. Testing. Fertility medication. More testing. Uncertainty. And more emotions that usually resulted in more heartache.
All the while, no one knew. Despite living a very public life, this was something I couldn't openly share.
And then it came. The test results and diagnosis that confirmed there was no natural way to conceive in that present situation. Please understand that I choose for this part of the story to remain intentionally vague due to confidential reasons and the fact that it doesn't involve me. I was on the receiving end of the news, yes, but I was not directly impacted physically, only emotionally. The doctor delivered the news as if she was telling me the weather report. It was just she and I in the room, yet again I was feeling all alone, and as matter-of-factly as if it had no impact whatsoever on anyone's future, let alone my entire hopes and dreams. I sat across from her speechless and motionless, waiting for her to give me the "but"... but it never came. So I walked myself out of the office and got in my car...and wept. Yes, this was the ugly cry and rightly so. I couldn't even begin to process what I was feeling and how this changed everything.
For me in this situation, it took on a whole new meaning of feeling alone and helpless because I felt the need to take on the burden of making it "my" problem. It seemed more "natural" that it would be the female's "fault" but make no mistake, there was no one to blame, it was just certain reality. I had to first get "comfortable" with the news - which was never comfortable. Then I had to get to a point of acceptance of this devastating reality. It had already been a tumultuous two years of loneliness with not much support for my desire coming from my marriage. Now I was trying to triumph a new cause to still see to it that I could become a mother. Just because the doctor's tests said "no" didn't mean my heart heard or accepted that as final. Was there a possibility or surgery, procedures or something else? There was so much to consider. There were no guarantees and no predictions. Just a whole lot of uncertainty and emotional whirlwinds that I was certain I couldn't handle.
As time passed, the questions became more superfluous - when would we be having children? I cringed at the question for a long time, silently hiding any effort of trying to conceive without success. But after the diagnosis it became clear I couldn't hide this anymore. So ... I had to figure out how to tell people. It was like a knife stabbing my heart each and every time some well-meaning person would ask...
"We can't." This answer brought an onslaught of questions I wasn't prepared to handle or answer. So I tried other responses like "We can't have our own children so we're looking at other options." It became apparent people wouldn't be satisfied without details, but it wasn't really their business. And again I felt even more pressure to offer "protection" of those details. Even now it's something I don't and won't share.
It seemed appalling to me that godly, well-meaning Christian people would say things like "You're just not trusting God, that's why you're not pregnant" or "You must have unconfessed sin in your life". This wasn't some sort of punishment, nor was it a matter of my faith in God.
Then there were the experts - everyone had a "story to share" and an opinion to add. So and so who adopted and then got pregnant, or so and so who tried infertility and had triplets. Listen, people. Let me get on my soapbox for a minute (it's my blog and I'm allowed). JUST STOP. Be still. Be Silent. Listen. But don't feel like you have to do anything other than pray. STOP THE RIDICULOUS ADVICE!!!! Oh how this has taught me to just be silent and listen. To not offer advice. To just let the person share their heart and their hurt and offer my prayers and nothing more. Please heed this. You don't have to say anything!!! And for goodness sake, PLEASE don't say something STUPID!
I knew all the statistics and stories. I did all the research. I poured over it. I devoured it. I wept. I read. I researched some more. I understood every option and the implications of each. It wasn't for anyone else to decide. AND everyone's story and situation is different.
I remember the person who said to me that I wasn't trusting God...to which I responded, "This has everything to do with my faith in God, but nothing to do with me not trusting Him. Are we so foolish to put God in a box and think He can bless us with a child through only one natural way? I can't wait to see what HIS plan is!"
Here's where I need to speak to those who are NOT going through this. If you know someone who is or has, offer your prayers. Be supportive and encouraging. A listener. But don't ask every month. Don't ask specifics. Don't worry about offering advice. Just pray. We try so hard to fix it and take the pain away from another - I am the biggest offender! But just like the person who can't control their cancer diagnosis, someone dealing with infertility needs to be reminded that God has a plan and He is faithful ... and even more, His plan is not their plan.
I'm having to unfortunately add that even after experiencing a loss, I dealt with well-meaning but stupid people. Yet again I heard comments of it wasn't God's will. The baby was better off. We were better off because it probably had something wrong with it. It obviously wasn't meant to be so I just needed to move on. How could I grieve something/someone I'd never met? It wasn't like it was a baby I held. People. FOR THE LOVE. Once again I implore you to SHUT YOUR MOUTHS. No one can tell ANYONE how long or how to go through grief. You just can't. I don't care who you are or what you're facing, we will all deal with it differently. SO PRETTY PLEASE JUST STOP!
I got slammed for sharing our pregnancy news so early. The rationale, of course, that had I just kept it private then I wouldn't have had to go through such a public loss. As I stand before you I can tell you I have absolutely NO regrets. I don't care if you've been pregnant for one day or one year, you were still pregnant. Having now gone through this, I know there is something about knowing there is LIFE inside you that you will grieve as if you had held that life in your arms. I hold to the belief that life begins at conception so the loss for me was still a loss. No matter how "early" I was.
This portion has had to change in the past 5 years to reflect the second half of this journey. I'll share the first part then add to it.
Infertility involves a whirlwind of emotions and it comes in waves. For the person walking through it right now, you have to let yourself feel. Everyone grieves differently. Let them.
On The Other Side
There was a long conversation I had with another adoptive mom who said to me "When you get on the other side, you'll see how God worked all of this out." Her words were true and I can now say - on the other side - that I do see how God has worked through all of it. But at that time, in that moment, I wasn't on the other side. These words still ring in my ears no matter what someone is going through. I feel strongly that anyone who is or has dealt with infertility, loss, or any piece of it could share her own journey but if she isn't on "the other side" then she is still walking through it. Just like we can't rush the grieving process, we also cannot force someone to get to the other side. Here's why. The other side is ONLY the arrival of one part of the journey that God is continually orchestrating together. Just because I have held two newborn babies in my arms doesn't mean I even have yet to know the full stories of their lives or my role as their mother. It's still being written.
Just recently I had a conversation with a dear friend who lost her grown son. We talked of the grief that still comes and the wave of emotions that resurface. I shared about the other side with my own addition..."When you get on the other side, you'll see God's plan...but right now you're on THIS SIDE so you have to let yourself feel these emotions and go through this process."
That's what I learned. Yes, there is a plan. Yes, there will be the "other side" ... but for now you have to grow where you're planted. So if you're still on "this side" and not yet privy to the details of the plan and how it all works out, you've got to stay put. You've got to feel to heal. Work through the process and all the emotions. And don't try to rush ahead or jump the fence to the other side. So to say we've arrived "on the other side" is merely a matter of perspective of having walked through a specific part of the journey.
I will also add that on the other side of divorce and remarriage, with portions of my story revealed, people have also criticized me for wanting to pursue adoption. If I knew my marriage was in trouble why would I have allowed a child to be brought into the situation? I understand. I get the doubts and questions. The only thing I can offer is the reality that even this week as I recounted the story of Elijah's birth and adoption, I cannot for one second think he was placed in the wrong family. I know without a doubt that God chose me to be his advocate, his warrior, the one to cultivate his heart and who God created Him to be. So doubt if you must but please don't question my story just as I won't question yours.
Five years ago I wrote this blog because I believe the Lord has not allowed me to walk through this journey without the opportunity to share some piece of hope. The fact that I titled this section "HOPE" and now 5 years later my 1.5 year old daughter bears this as her middle name should tell you about the journey God has had me on. I cannot tell you that I've always held onto well-meaning hope. I cannot tell you that I've counted it all joy. I can tell you, though, that I am here to share this with you so you know there is in fact hope.
"May the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13
That verse hangs in Violet Hope's room. It is the very verse from where her middle name came. The word "HOPE" is etched on a tiny piece of rice hanging from my rearview mirror. The day I started miscarrying I had that piece of rice inscribed and clung to it as I waited the tormenting days and weeks hoping and praying for a miracle, only to experience the devastating loss. I didn't lose HOPE because my HOPE is in the Lord. I can tell you that at times the desire of my heart seemed so excruciating that I prayed for God to take it away if it wasn't His will. There were times when I felt hopeless. I cannot and will not sugar coat it.
Here's the other thing I need to say. What if God hadn't given me a baby? What if I had never gotten pregnant? What if I hadn't experienced a loss? Or pregnancy? What if I'd never become a mother? Would I still have hope? Would I still be able to raise my hands in praise to a good, good Father? I can't answer the what if's. I can only tell you that what I did's. When I was barren, when I was alone, when I was broken, when I was empty-armed, when I was even abandoned as a wife, when I was unloved and unwanted, when I was truly hopeless and helpless, I can honestly tell you I had no one else BUT God. I had no where to turn except toward Him. No one held me in my loneliness except the Lord. That's all I know.
If you or someone you know is experiencing infertility, I can only offer simple words from a heart that understands. I'm not going to tell you what to do or choose. I'm not going to tell you to just relax or have more faith or trust God's timing. I won't tell you how to respond or how to get through yet another Mother's Day.
What I have to say is this: First, you're not alone. For anyone who doesn't have someone to talk to or share with, please message me and know I will offer whatever support and prayers I can. Second, if you're able, find a prayer partner or support group whom you can call on as you're dealing with these feelings and the ups and downs. You feel alone but when you can get to a point where you can share, I promise God's people will also receive a blessing in praying with you and believing with you on this journey. I can't tell you how many people count Elijah and Violet as part of their own miracle knowing they played a pivotal praying part in these stories. Third, understand that it is a journey. It's a process. You will experience the emotions in waves. You know the cycle. It comes and goes. Mother's Day will most assuredly be a heart-wrenching day. I know. I've been there. I can now proudly stand and be recognized as a mom but I don't do it without remembering the years when I ached as I sat childless. Feel. It's okay to feel. To hurt and cry. To be upset. (If you're on any kind of fertility treatment, you have an heightened emotional and hormonal state already.) Just don't put it in "park" in any one emotion.
I will say this hoping you hear my heart: turn to the Lord. Because of this private, painful struggle you face, there aren't a lot of people you can turn to. But I can most assuredly tell you it was in this times of desperation and solitude when I truly sought God's face - not His hand - and where I found Him. (Jeremiah 29:13)
I know this post is LONG and won't apply to everyone. But someone needs to read this and if you need me, just know I'm here and I understand.
Thursday, May 11, 2017
during the same time of year when I get to celebrate becoming a mother. Nine years ago
on Mother's Day I wasn't even aware of him. Yet I was oh-so-aware of the absence of him.
I prepared myself for yet another Sunday when I'd sit in church and all the mothers around
me would stand to be recognized while I would silently sit, hiding my pain and choking back
child. Even now after carrying my own child, I remember it all. I pray I never forget. May is also
the month when we should have welcomed another child but that was not God's plan.
It makes me mindful that every time I see a miracle enter someone's world that someone
else is still praying and waiting and hoping for theirs.
"However motherhood comes, it is a miracle." I hung it in the room that would later
become Elijah's nursery. I prayed there every morning until he came to occupy it as his room.
Then I prayed there every night as I rocked him to sleep. Now I get the privilege of rocking
another one and I can't help but stand amazed at how God planned it all and put it together.
It certainly isn't how I would have pictured or planned. I wouldn't have chosen the pain and tears
but I wouldn't trade it now for either one of my children and how they came to be mine.
so you better believe I threw every amount of energy, strength, desire, hope and a whole lot
of prayer into the journey of becoming a mother. My journey wasn't easy. So many times I'd
find myself angry or frustrated because yet another person was "accidentally" pregnant or
"surprise, we weren't even trying." How could it be so "easy" for them? How could it be so
difficult for me?
to become a mother. Countless charting and testing. No day on the calendar was sacred.
It all took on new meaning in the journey that consumed my every thought and action.
It happened all over again when Michael and I hoped God would bless us with a baby,
only to receive our miraculous answer and all too soon have the dream come crashing down.
There were even more questions, hurt, tears, and feelings of torment I hadn't ever experienced
before. More waiting and wondering and desperately trying to find my footing on my Faithful
God who had never failed me before but Whom I was certainly having a hard time trusting
especially with this.
God to grant their request. I've seen miracles through adoption, fertility treatments, and
pure acts of God defying all diagnoses. Truly, however motherhood comes it is a miracle.
be nothing less.
would adore her growing great grandchildren. I think about all she's missing here only to
be reminded that really it's just us missing her here. She would have loved to be a part of
our lives still, and yet she's experiencing the purest joy of eternal life.
ever breathing their first breath. The bittersweet hope of what never came to be.
We have our own little one we'll meet one day in eternity.
and peace. I pray for a loving Father to wrap His arms around them even as they seem to
it didn't come they way they may have planned, today is a day of rejoicing in finally
understanding the fruition of God's Sovereign plan. Even on the days when I question
whether or not I have the strength and grace to parent despite the challenges I don't think
I'm equipped to handle, I know this is what God planned for me. It's an amazing fact
whenever I feel less than capable because I can know with certainty that no one other than
God Himself could have put this all together. It is that very thought that gives me the strength
and grace to make it.
maybe with joy, tears, or a mixture of both, I pray you'll not let this day dictate who you
are as His daughter and His child. Whatever title you do or don't bear, you are His and His
perfect plan for your life is still being worked out. Even as you wait, even as you grieve,
even as you rejoice, He is working out your miracle. I pray you'll have His grace and strength
today, whatever you may be feeling or facing. I pray you'll embrace his understanding
even though it might not make sense right now. I pray you'll experience the joys of Mother's
Day even though this day may still bring so much pain.
Thursday, April 27, 2017
The sun was shining after days of rain and we were enjoying the warmth of what 60 degrees could feel like on a spring morning. It beckoned us outside where we forgot about the pollen choking our throats. I wasn't watching my watch or barking out orders to keep us on schedule. I was simply living in the moment and delighting in the thrill of their joy. Their smiles were contagious, their laughs infectious. Their love for each other was flooding my soul as I watched in wonder. Witnessing the freedom in their play and the full surrender of their ability to just be allowed the normal hustle to be forgotten.
It's amazing what you can learn from a child. All the while you're the one meant to be teaching them. Yet I couldn't help but watch in wonder as my own eyes were enlightened from the lesson playing out before me.
Today wasn't about schedules or places to be or commitments needing to be kept. Today was about being a steward of the opportunity before me to savor every drop of carefree youth as I soaked up their enthusiasm. Today was about learning to experience joy in the simple pleasures of life as we picked up rocks, plucked weeds, and let the spring morning breeze brush across our faces. My hands were dirty from the mud and I didn't care. Make no mistake - I am not a "get your hands dirty" kind of girl but today I was because today I was digging in the mud with my kids who were exploring the bugs and slugs from the days of rain. Today was about letting them make a mess and dig in the dirt even though their clothes were clean and we didn't have time to change. Today was about releasing all inhibitions while throwing our hands up in the air as we let our bodies move to the beat. It was about learning to lay down the desire to "capture" the moment and live in it instead.
Today was a day I won't soon forget as I got to experience the rewards of motherhood in all its glory. I'm learning about the ministry of motherhood and the lessons I can learn from ministering to my children as they minister to my soul.
Sunday, April 16, 2017
As we were making the long trek home, I was bored and scrolling through feeds only to be bombarded with pictures of families surrounded by colored eggs, children running through fields gathering up eggs, baskets overflowing with gifts and candy, and smiling faces posed with the Easter Bunny. I started to feel sad because we hadn't done Easter "stuff." There were no hunts, we didn't color eggs, we didn't do Bunny pictures and there weren't even Easter baskets. I had spent so much time planning for vacation and making sure we had a chance to celebrate my husband's birthday that we missed all the Easter festivities. I wasn't jealous of others' pictures but I was feeling like we had missed out on celebrating Easter. Then I started to feel even more remorse about my pity party realizing I had truly missed the celebration of Christ's sacrifice and resurrection. This wasn't about baskets and eggs. This was about so much more and I was suddenly faced with the fact that I still had time to celebrate.
Every part of my eternal existence hinges on this day with the reality that Christ conquered death and paid my debt. Easter candy loses half its value tomorrow simply because it's "after the fact." The price Christ paid never loses its value yet seemingly becomes an afterthought on this candy-filled, egg-infused holiday.
I nearly missed it. It wasn't a traditional Easter and there weren't picture-making Easter memories to share. But you know what? I have something so much better to share! I have the good news that Christ conquered death, that He paid the price for ALL, each and every one of us, to be able to have the gift of eternal life. He rose! Today represents the gift of LIFE given through victory over the grave. The tomb is empty. He isn't there. And that, my friends, is the most amazing thing I could ever share or celebrate.
Don't get me wrong. I enjoy the festivities and fun the same way I embrace and celebrate Christmas but this year turned out a little bit differently with the reminder that I didn't need all the Easter "stuff" to celebrate Easter. But what if you weren't in church today. What if you were alone in a coffee shop with nothing more than your bible and your thoughts? What if you were gathered around a table full of family and food wondering what's it's all about? What if you were knee deep in grass searching for eggs? What if you're just now coming off the candy sugar rush and ready for call it a day praying you captured some part of today's significance?
I hope you haven't missed it. It's not too late to embrace this gift and celebrate with thanksgiving that today, Resurrection Sunday, He has indeed risen, for you, for me, for each of us. Let's not let this day close without stopping to make sure we haven't missed Easter.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
If you've been around me for any length of time then you understand that I can completely empathize with all of these emotions. Two years of infertility. Multiple failed adoption placements. Nerve-wracking interviews with birthmothers. Waiting to be chosen then the grief when you're not. Another year of questions and not knowing. The joy of pregnancy. The pain and grief of a miscarriage. I have walked through this journey navigating each twist and turn that has left a scar of remembrance upon my heart. No matter how far removed or how my cup runneth over, I am not too far from the memory of each and every step it has taken to get to this point.
Today represents one of those altars I mark as a testament of God's faithfulness. It would be easy to think I'm in a position to proclaim His goodness because of where I sit now, but it is because of the journey I've traveled and the fact that He's carried me through. He allowed me to carry a baby, but during the years of tears, heart-wrenching pain, empty arms, failed placements and aching loss, He drew my heart to His and became the source of my comfort and hope. I know the longing, emptiness, loneliness. I know the questions, stinging tears, dreaded doctor visits, and sitting unrecognized on Mother's Day. I also know the comfort of His embrace, the depth of His lavish love. I know He heard my heart's cry and answered not always with a yes or in the way I prayed, but He always answered. And for that I will stop today and give praise as I remember how far He's brought us.