Sunday, December 25, 2011

weren't for you

We had such a sweet morning here with just our two Bundles.  Brother came bounding in to our room by 6am after a quick peek downstairs.  I stood to pour my first cup of coffee between presents being unwrapped and Brother yelled for me to look at his new toy.  I returned his glee.  Suddenly I had memories of my own childhood eager to share my excitement with my own mom asking her to notice each gift I had received.  I couldn't just appreciate it for myself.  I wanted her to enjoy the moment with me.  Wouldn't it be amazing if we bubbled over with joy from the Holy Spirit eager to share every gift we have been given with the people in our lives?  

I am humbled.

My mother-in-law gave me a book for Christmas called the Castaway Kid.  She picked it up to read with someone else in mind and quickly realized that I would enjoy it in light of the journey of  foster care we have ahead of us.  I was touched by the inscription she wrote on the inside cover for me.  I turned the book over to read some quotes from recognizable names about the title on the back side.  One review mentioned crying after reading the first page.  Tears welled in my eyes by the third sentence.  But not for the reason you might think.  Just a few lines into the book and God opened my perspective to something big...not in so many words of course.

"You know all those scriptures/songs/quotes about FEAR I have been showing you lately?  They weren't for you."


On Christmas Eve, My Love was sitting in front of the fireplace under four handmade stockings with our sweet gifts from God in his lap reading a book and all I could think about was we might need more stockings for next year and I hope his arms can open wider. 

I am gearing up to learn how to really pray.  To ABIDE.  There will be bundles coming into our home next year with only memories and experiences of FEAR and I want to know everything God has to say about that because honestly I can' relate.

At church this Christmas morning we sang a song called Hosanna with two lines that I cling to this holiday and into the New Year.

'Cause when we see You we find strength to face the day
 And in Your presence all our fears are washed away, washed away

I want to see the Lord.  I want strength for each day.  I want to be IN His presence.  I want to feel fears washing away from every Bundle Baby I hold in my arms because of His love.  Do big things, Father, for your kingdom in and through me.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

his prayer for me today

Colossians 1:9-14 NLT

 9 So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.
 11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy,[a] 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. 13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom[b] and forgave our sins.

Friday, December 23, 2011

weak heart

Will someone please remind me to read this post again some day? 

(Sidebar: Do you know Katie's story?  Watch it here.

Single.  Early 20s.  14 adopted daughers. Living in Uganda indefinitely.  Let that sink in.  OK, back to me.) 

You know, when you come across a particularly pathetic "woe is me" post I will have written in the future.  I expect one is coming.  That is why God wants me to write this one.  So I can be reminded by someone that there may be many little ones coming through our home of whom He will say to me "not this one".  He may be calling me to stand in the gap to merely love on, pray over and kiss to pieces many precious babes only for a time.  My heart is weak, Lord.  Hold it in your hands so that it will beat with your strength and purpose.

I feel like God is preparing me to learn how to pray like I never have before.  To pray with blind faith and complete surrender knowing full well that I won't have any answers given to me in this life.


a common thread

I am eating a plate of hot eggs and toast while Cars 1 plays in the background.  My Love is outside on this brisk bright blue morning helping on day four of our fence build.  We hired a friend to come down to do the work for us.  The irony was not lost on me as I sat in our nice warm house making cookies with my kids while he was outside in the wind and misting raining building our property boundary this week.

Every afternoon our friend would come in for lunch.  The kids would make him smile and laugh and he would share stories of his life.  There is virtually nothing about the decades behind him that I can relate to.  And yet despite memories of suffering and pain that he shared, we do have one huge thing in common.  A thread that sews the fabric of our friendship together.  By God's grace we both have been saved.

The Enemy does not want us to share what God has done in our lives.  SHARE!  TALK!  WRITE!  Even if you think there is no way this other person in your life could possibly understand the journey God has walked you through, tell them any way.  God unites all kinds of people into friendship.  Stories of His love and grace bless others.

Today I finish my breakfast thankful, humbled, and blessed.  We have an amazing God who desires us to boldly speak to those in our world of his amazing grace.

I encourage you to share today with even the most unlikely of people you may meet.  For every interaction with another human being is a divine appointment.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

suit of armor

Two days ago I got a text from a friend who I haven't seen since we stopped at her home for dinner on our road trip across the country 2 1/2 years ago.  And yet somehow it feels like she lives right next door.  She has four sisters like me and our soul connection grows deeper from there.  Her text was in reply to a recent post I wrote about spiritual warfare and I answered by admitting that there can't be any gap in the armor.  ABIDING is the only way to be fully clothed for battle.  This feels like a battle.  Apparently the reference I made to a passage in scripture was a repetition for whatever God was already teaching her.  He is cool like that.  Fellowship AND accountability are imporatant, people.  Even across the miles.

Yesterday I opened up my One Year Bible where I did the reading for September 28th on December 20th.  And there perfectly planned was Ephesians 6:10-18.  Isn't He awesome?!

Today I was back in Isaiah and read 59:15-17a.
Yes, truth is gone, and anyone who tries to live a godly life is soon attacked.  The LORD looked and was displeased to find that there was no justice.  He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed.  So he himself stepped in to save them with mighty power and justice.  He put on righteousness as his body armor and placed the helmet of salvation on his head.
Seriously God?!  I didn't even know references to the armor of God were in Isaiah and this scripture seems to apply to my day perfectly.  I mean, if the LORD put on armor to do the will of the Father shouldn't it be good enough for us too?

Are you prepared for whatever the enemy might fling at you today?  Because if you are trying to live a godly life you will be attacked.  Showing up to fight the enemy with just two little fists (the equivalent of a relationship with God that you once had in the past) and whatever cute outfit you picked out to wear on December 21, 2011 you might get battered and bruised in the storm.  Some days require a full suit of armor.  These are the days of our lives.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

all aglow

I was vacuuming the family room yesterday evening when I saw this beam of sunlight illuminating a box in our coffee table.
 I turned off the machine and bent down to find God calling

A Bundle Boy puts his head in the box as he wonders what I am doing and absorbs the light into the side of his face.  A game of peek-a-boo with a bright smile.
A move to the other side of the table brought the discovery of a Bundle Girl knelt down low like her Mommy.  A vision of humility.

 I lifted my eyes from this new perspective and saw God's Word aglow in the shelf above it.
 The staples to the start of my day are asking to be reached for even at day's end.
 I stood up and looked out the windows into our back yard.  And in all His glory He painted me a beautiful night sky behind our house like he does EVERY evening.  I am thankful I slowed down enough to turn and see it.  To acknowledge his mighty power and to choose to live with a heart of gratitude in this moment.

Monday, December 19, 2011

a word and other words

Yesterday we decided to take a Sunday morning road trip and drove to our old church so we could see our "family". Brother had been talking about his old teachers recently and how much they missed him ;). It has been two months since we moved here and it seemed like time for a return visit.

I sat down in the third row waiting for the service to begin. J walked in with his seeing-eye dog to his normal front seat. After sitting for a minute or so he got up and start wandering back a couple rows and settled in the chair next to me. I told him who it was and he went on to chat and heckle his way through the worship time and morning announcements. He made me laugh. The sermon was great and of course spoke right to my heart. We miss everything about being there. After the service was over, J started talking to me right away. "God gave me a word for you. Do you have some time?" Um. What do I say to that? I mean, it is not like I could just walk away. I am not sure this has ever happened before. Yes, friends and loved ones have shared verses and encouraging words seemingly out of the blue but in God's perfect timing. But this guy doesn't even really know me. It this isn't exactly the kind of thing that happens at our non-denominational church. I brought his family a meal after his wife had their baby. I passed on some of Bundle Boy's baby clothes to them. I chatted in the hallway with J once last year before the Christmas breakfast. I know his wife better, but really until the pastor came down to talk to us after the service and asked how we (my Love and I) were doing in our new place, J didn't even realize we had moved. Not that we would expect him too. I was intrigued by his statement though. What does a random word from the Lord sound like? I asked him if this happened to him often. It didn't.

He went on to share some interesting things. Not like a prophesy. Just thoughts that must have come to mind while he sat next to me. Thoughts that he didn't feel like he could walk away without sharing. He felt like I was carrying some heavy burdens and that I needed to give them to the Lord. That the months ahead should be spent really getting to know the Lord as my best friend (can you say abiding, anyone?). He asked if he could pray for me and then went on to lift up some sweet concerns on my behalf.

Now what? I didn't know if I should tell him what was on the horizon for our family or if I should just say thank you and walk away. I decided to share briefly. I told him we were preparing to begin foster parenting in the spring and that God had already been telling me that I needed to learn how to really abide in him. That perhaps fears were creeping into my thoughts and I need to surrender all that to him.

J's response? "No, that's not it."

I burst into laughter out loud.

I guess he thought my "burdens" were something else. He has a funny personality so I just take what he shared from the heart and choose not to be concerned with what he thought God was trying to tell him about me. He said he would pray for us whenever God brought us to mind in the future.

This morning I opened up my God Calling devotional before reading in God's Word and saw this:

"Our Lord, give us that Perfect Love of Thee that casts out all fear."

Really Lord? I am not afraid!!!!!

It went on to read...

"Never let yourselves fear anybody or anything. No fear of My failing you. No fear that your faith will fail you. No fear of poverty or loneliness. No fear of not knowing the way. No fear of others. No fear of their misunderstanding. But, My children, this absolute casting out of fear is the result of Perfect Love, a perfect Love of Me and My Father. Speak to Me about everything. Listen to Me at all times. Feel My tender nearness, substituting at once some thought of Me for the fear. The powers of evil watch you as a besieging force would watch a guarded city--the object being always to find some weak spot, attack that, and so gain an entrance. So evil lurks around you, and seeks to surprise you in some fear. The fear may be a small one, but it affords evil a weak spot of attack and entrance, and then in come rushing despondency, doubt of Me, and so many other sins. Pray, My beloved children, for that Perfect Love of Me that indeed casts out all fear." -December 19

We are experiencing some spiritual warfare around here. The evening "conversation" I had with My Love was anything but encouraging. The enemy is looking for any way possible to cripple us so we are incapable of being used by God.

I opened up Ephesians next and read this...

Eph. 4:

(17) With the Lord's authority let me [Paul] say this: Live no longer as the ungodly do, for they are hopelessly confused.
(22) throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception.
(23) Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes.
(24) You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God's likeness--righteous, holy, and true.
(26) And don't sin by letting anger gain control over you. Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry,
(27) for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil.
(29) Don't use foul or abusive language (sidebar: oh yes I did!). Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
(31) Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior.
(32) Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

It is 7:25am. Bundle Brother is sitting next to me on the couch listening to his Disney mereader that was a gift from KB. I have not eaten breakfast yet but I have been fed. Today I choose to start my day chewing on God's word.

Don't worry. We didn't let the sun go down on our anger and are thankful His mercies are new every morning.  If you haven't been in God's word yet, what are you relying on to nourish you today?

Now it is 7:30am. Time for breakfast. ;) Hey, a girl still has to eat.

Friday, December 16, 2011

of fear and abiding

I haven't had any original thoughts lately.  Nothing of my own to share here.  My Love has been out of town so I have been rocking the single Mom thing but to be truthful I was distracting myself  with TV series on Netflix long before that.  God continues to speak to my heart though.  One word keeps repeating itself even though I keep trying to tell Him it doesn't apply to me: fear.  I am not a worrier.  I am not afraid.  Fears do not consume my daily life as I know it does for some.  And yet, God keeps telling me not to be afraid.  That abiding in Him will thwart any future fears on the horizon.  When fear AND John 5:1-5 were talked about for awhile on Sunday morning I pretty much got the message loud and clear.  Anyway.  Here are some other unoriginal ideas God has been giving me lately.  Enjoy!

"You shall have My Joy.  But Life just now for you both is a march--a toilsome march...  The Joy will come, but for the moment do not think of that, think simply of the march.  Joy is the reward...  Joy is the reward of patiently seeking Me in the dull dark days, of trusting when you cannnot see...  Joy is as it were your heart's response to My smile of recognition of your faithfulness...  Stop thinking your lives are all wrong if you do not feel it...  Remember you may not be joyous, but you are brave, and courage and unselfish thought for others are as sure signs of true discipleship as Joy."  -God Calling, December 16

I know, right?  Oddly specific to where I am at right now.  Want some more?  How about a promise of some spiritual warfare?  Fun!

"There is no miracle so wonderful as the miracle of a soul being kept by My Power.  Forces of evil batter and storm, but are powerless.  Tempests rage unavailingly.  It is like a cool garden...set in the midst of a mighty roaring city.  Try to see your lives as that.  Not only as calm and unmoved, but as breathing fragrance, expressing beauty.  Expect storms.  Know this--you cannot be united in your great friendship and bond to do My work, and in your great Love for Me, and not excite the envy, hatred, and malice of all whom you meet who are not on My side.  Where does the enemy attack?  The fortress, the stronghold, not the desert waste." -God Calling, December 14

Well at least I'm not crazy.  There is some spiritual warfare going on and it is disguised in many ways.  And yet there is more.  Remember the fear reminder?

"Love and fear cannot dwell together.  By their very natures they cannot exist side by side.  Evil is powerful, and fear is one of evil's most potent forces.  Therefore a weak vacillating love can be soon routed by fear, whereas a perfect Love, a trusting Love, is immediately the Conqueror, and fear, vanquished, flees in confusion.  But I am Love because God is Love, and I and the Father are one.  So the only way to obtain this perfect Love, that dispels fear, is to have Me more and more in your lives.  You can only banish fear by My Presence and My Name.  Fear of the future--Jesus will be with us.  Fear of poverty--Jesus will provide.  (And so to all the temptations of fear.)  You must not allow fear to enter.  Talk to Me.  Think of Me.  Talk of Me. Love MeAnd that sense of My Power will so possess you that no fear can possess your mind.  Be strong in this My Love."  -God Calling, December 12

I try to tell God that I am not afraid but he clearly is trying to prepare me for something he knows is coming.  Sidebar: When I read the above passage it was the third time in a weak I had heard the word 'vanquished'.  Weird, huh?

"There may be many times when I reveal nothing, command nothing, give no guidance.  But your path is clear, and your task, to grow daily more and more into knowledge of MeThat this quiet time with Me will enable you to do.  I may ask you to sit silent before Me, and I may speak no word that you could write.  All the same that waiting with Me will bring comfort and Peace.  Only friends who understand and love each other can wait silent in each other's presence.  And it may be that I shall prove our friendship by asking you to wait in silence while I rest with you, assured of your Love and understanding.  So wait, so love, so joy." -God Calling, December 10

Sometimes I wonder how anyone else reading this devotional could possibly have it apply to their exact day the way it does to me.  But God is awesome like that.

He has also be speaking to me through scripture (in Isaiah and Galatians this week) and sermons and emails and visits from friends.

So I sit here this morning with no real original words.  God is speaking.  He is teaching me of the march ahead and raging storms and abiding to prevent fear and waiting in silence.

I know it has been awhile since I last posted.  The gaps in writing might be wider in the near future.  But God is busy working and preparing our hearts.  And sometimes to get a heart ready for something big a lot of other junk has to be dealt with first.  Pray for us.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

picking up stones

The other night I was reading with Brother in his Jesus Storybook Bible after Babydoll went to bed.  It is usually My Love's job but he was out of town for work.  Suddenly I saw how sweet a time this is for My Love.  To snuggle with our growing Big Boy in his bed (that used to be My Love's as a child) and read to him about our Savior and Lord. <3  They don't always read.  Sometimes they tell stories.  Sometimes My Love falls asleep on accident.  Sometimes they watch Veggie Tales clips on his phone.  It is a time of day that is all theirs and I am happy they get to share it.

Bundle Boy asked for me to read the pages about David.  A story known to almost everyone.  It tells the account of a young shepherd boy who chose to stand up against the giant Philistine Goliath.  A boy who grows up to be the next king and who would be called by God as "a man after My own heart". 

I was struck by an aspect to the story that hadn't stood out to me before.  David saw this huge task before him.  He trusted that God would equip him to handle it because by all his earthly strength there was no way he could defeat the towering Goliath on his own.  He HAD to trust.  I noticed this time though that David reached for five stones to be used in his sling shot against his enemy.  God had complete knowledge that it would only take one.  And yet he didn't require David to exhaust his trust in Him.  It doesn't mean David didn't trust him enough because he grabbed four extra.  It just means (to me) that God knew that asking him to put all his faith in this one stone having perfect aim might have been a little too much.  I mean he was already a young boy standing against a "giant".  One out of five was bound to work though.  And since David was already completely weak in this scenario perhaps God knew that he could only ask so much of David before what was once trust crippled into fear.

By no means is any of this corroborated.  It is just my thoughts.

Sometimes I look before me at this "Goliath" coming and KNOW I am not ever going to be equipped even on my very best day to do anything worth my own glory.  I am completely weak.

But even though God is asking me to put all my trust in him he also knows there is only so much my human mind can take.

So I grab five stones.  Not because I fear one may not hit its target.  But because I know God can choose which stone he wants to use for his purpose.  My job is to not be afraid if the first one doesn't knock the giant down.  For even though my tools look incapable of making any difference, God can use anything given freely to him for his glory.

Monday, December 5, 2011

drove you

"Fret not your souls with puzzles that you cannot solve.  The solution may never be shown you until you have left this flesh-life.  Remember what I have so often told you, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now."  Only step by step, and stage by stage, can you proceed, in your journey upward.  The one thing to be sure of is that it is a journey with Me.  There does come a Joy known to those who suffer with Me.  But that is not the result of the suffering, but the result of the close intimacy with Me, to which suffering drove you." - God Calling

Sunday, December 4, 2011

snot smeared sheet

My daughter has a cold right now.  She is being a real trooper about the whole thing.  After a week of snot she is just starting to get a little red around the nose.  Quite appropriate for this time of year I guess.  I am thankful again and again for two young nose blowers.  The cold season is so much easier when a little kiddo knows how to blow.  The endless wiping can be monotonous.

Tonight I watched her eat the quesadillas her Daddy made for us.  Or rather heard her eat.  With each bite she managed to chew a few times before gasping for air.  It sure is hard to breath when you have a cold.  There is so much you take for granted until things don't function as they were meant to.

It got me thinking.  Isn't God amazing!?!  I mean, of course he is.  But he created two ways for our bodies to inhale oxygen.  There are seasons of our lives where the cares of this world overwhelm us.  They can be life-changing situations that seem all consuming.  It isn't until we have to take an intentional breath out loud that we hear and realize how thankful we are that God is physically breathing for us.  That our very existence is relying on the only pathway of air we have left.  Him.

Every morning this week, Babydoll has woken up with a nose completely snotted over.  Yet another reminder that without God's grace we would be incapable of anything.

Colds pass, seasons change, and we return to breathing thoughtlessly through our nose and mouth without a second of pause to say thanks.  How quickly we lose all gratitude for the gift of sustained life that we wept over with overwhelmed love not too long ago.  When we woke each morning and sat in the dark knowing the reality that we are nothing without him.  But today we act as if we don't need him.  As if we got this breathing thing down.

May it not take a "cold" for us to wake up from a snot smeared sheet and remember how much he loves us.  And how much we need Him.

Friday, December 2, 2011

the voice of christ's love

I spent 30 minutes walking around Costco today the other day.  The kids and I browsed the toy aisles for fun and brought home a few food staples.  In that amount of time three separate people decided it was their responsibility to parent me.  

The first lady came up behind me to tell me my "pocketbook" was just sitting there (in an empty cart) and anyone could just take it (while I stood five feet away helping Brother hop on a big boy bike with training wheels that he doesn't know he is getting for his 4th birthday).  I just smiled and reached for my cart.  It kind of annoyed me though.  I immediately wondered if the world thinks living a life without constant fear equals naivete.  I am thankful I didn't say anything but then of course later regretted that positive words didn't come to my mind quicker as another opportunity slipped through my fingers.  I guess I was more interested in engaging with my kids than who might hypothetically take my purse.  If someone wanted to take it from my cart while I stood five feet away maybe they needed it more than I do.  Note: I don't want my purse stolen.

As we were leaving, the lady checking our receipt drew Bundle Boy a smiley face on the back and asked him, "What do you say?"immediately after handing it to him.  Thanks lady but I think I can handle encouraging good manners.

We weren't twenty feet out the door (still in the breeze way) and a guy coming in looked around with a panic before asking me, "Does she belong to you?"  Babydoll was walking as fast as she could ten feet behind her brother and me.

On our way through the parking lot (note: I was holding Sissy Doll now and had Brother in my hand walking next to me), I got to thinking.  I am used to a way of life where everyone is independent of each other.  If you don't look me in the eye while running me off the road than I don't exist in YOUR world.  My first response to someone engaging me was cynicism.  "Who do they think they are?  Where is all this advice when my kids are acting crazy in the grocery store and I really need help?" 

The people are so different here than anywhere I have ever lived.  They are simple and kind and aware of the people around them.  As a child of God, why am I not doing the same?  Don't get me wrong.  I have done my share of blocking a random toddler who was trying to exit Chick-fil-A without a parent as I was coming in.  I am not completely self-absorbed.  But am I really aware of the people God has put in my day today?  Am I thinking about how I can help them even if I have my hands full of kids and am thinking about disappointing circumstances?

My sentiments were confirmed while at Chick-fil-A later (note: a different time than I referenced before.  I promise we don't go there that often.  Although as we were leaving this particular visit I ran into someone we knew while in California, who visited us at the hospital when Brother was born, and now happens to live in our neighborhood here.  More on that later.).  My kids were a few feet away admiring the in-store Christmas tree while I placed our order.  Wow!  As I type this it sure sounds like I don't have control of my hoodlums.  I am just not the type of Mom that has them chained to my waist.  They are always nearby though.  Anyway Babydoll tripped on a strand of lights, catching her fall, and the woman behind me in line lunged forward to see if she was okay.  Seriously people?!  Where we used to live the whole restaurant would have just stared blankly holding their place in line even if she had busted her lip wide open and was bleeding all over the place.

How easily we let the world around us affect us!  We should look different from the norm.  Whether we live in the country or the city.  We have been inadvertently taught that we should mind our own business or that someone else will come around and help them.  It is not our responsibility to get involved.  

The woman in Costco would probably have felt terrible had she seen me later frantically looking for my stolen purse.  She meant well.  Are we equally aware of the world around us?  Are we thinking with the mind of Christ?  Are we willing to be his hands and feet at anytime in any place even if that means losing our place in line?

The world around us should stir us to action.  It should give us a voice.  The voice of Christ's love in a lost, dark, and dying world. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

a hard lesson for a three year old

"Can I bring two toys?" he asked after I announced we are getting ready to go grocery shopping.  "Yes," I confirmed.  Sometimes he asks to bring three but the norm is one per hand.  A few minutes go by and I hollered out, "Where are you?" as I loaded his baby sister in the Volvo.  "I'm getting my toys!" he responded.  You see this is a big decision for a 3 year 11 month old little boy.  He wants to bring his most prized possessions.  Which two will enjoy the car ride during our morning adventure?  Which two are his favorites of the day?

He settled on a police SUV that lights up and a Mighty World police man.  He loves these simple toys that fit nicely in his growing big boy hands.  The truck was a gift from his aunt and the action figure was one of his first given to him at his second Christmas.  I thought to myself just this week how much use he has gotten out of those little guys.  Even Babydoll carries one around here changing out it's hat and hair piece.

I hit the road with bundled Bundles in the back seat.  The skies were blue and the sun was shining bright on this brisk 40 something late fall day.  Winter is coming.

As we pulled into the parking lot, Brother undoubtedly asked, "Does it say no toys allowed?"  I often read him signs telling him the rules about playgrounds (no dogs allowed) and fast food play areas (no shoes allowed).  I have made other rules for libraries and big chain stores (no toys allowed).  So sometimes a cherished toy makes the trip in the car but is not able to come inside with us.  Not today.  "Yes you can bring your toys," I answered his expected question.

I didn't find any car shaped carts which is actually better because I can never fit everything I need to buy in those things.  Bundle Brother hit the streets with his jeans tucked into his solider rain boots, puffy brown vest layered over his brown thermal shirt and topped with his dad's old "solider hat".  I could freeze this exact little boy in time and keep him forever.

We started into the store talking a lot about all the huge veggies we saw in the produce aisle.  "Look at that sweet potato!  It is as big as your head!"  He lifted the spud next to his cheek to measure scale.  "And wow!  Check out this tomato!  Isn't God amazing?!  He made this." I said.  He picked up the cucumber in the bin next door and married them together announcing they were Bob and Larry.  I laughed at his wit.

The kids did really well this shopping trip unlike last time just before Thanksgiving.  The shoppers who were blessed to be amongst us then were both thankful to see us go and happy my kids did not belong to them.  

Today Sissy Doll had managed to eat her way through half a sleeve of graham crackers when Brother yelled out, "MY TOYS!"  I told him he left them in the car and then I remembered his hands being full as he tried to walk Babydoll through the parking lot.  "Do you remember where you left them?" I asked.  He has a very vivid memory.  With it being the first of the month there is no way I was going to weave up and down the aisles again in search of a couple toys that could be anywhere three feet from the ground or lower.  "They are by the bananas," he recalled.  That made sense.  By the time we got to the tiny chilies he was definitely empty handed.  We ventured back.  No sign of them.  We continued with our shopping through the cold sections and I talked to him about the lost and found.  He was intrigued.  He kept asking me how it worked.  

Once finished we got in line to check out.  He started to melt thinking we were going to abandon his precious gifts somewhere alone in the store.  I pledged that we would go to the lost and found when we were done buying our groceries.  As I stood there paying for our basket of food, Bundle Boy yelled out, "That little boy has my truck!!!!"  Two cash registers over was a man with four young kids that looked two and three years old.  I didn't see the truck.  I said a few words to Brother as I finished my transaction.  He said it again.  "That little boy has my truck!"  He started to cry when he realized I wasn't going after them to retrieve them.  They were exiting the store just before us.

The family didn't hear or see us.  That is when I knew this was going to be a hard lesson for a three year old.  I knelt down and told him that maybe that little boy needed the truck more than him.  That maybe he doesn't have a lot of toys and this little truck would make his day really happy.  I told him we could go to the lost and found and ask about the police man.  Apparently Brother noticed that the little boy had it too.  He was crying by now.  Not a tantrum cry but an I-am-so-disappointed cry.  He loved those toys.  In fact, he chose those toys to bring with him so he could enjoy them while he was out on my errand.  He didn't choose to bring toys that wouldn't have bothered him if they got lost (which is what we as adults would have done).  He brought his favorite toys of the day.  

We walked out of the store.  He grabbed my hand and whimpered while clearly upset.  The woman pushing our groceries out to the car was trying desperately to cheer him up as we journeyed to our far away parking spot.  He buried his head in my leg as we walked.  Sometimes no amount of encouraging words can get you out of how bummed you feel.  I tried to explain to her what happened but English was her second language.  As she loaded our trunk I put my most precious gifts in their car seats and one car lane over I saw the father loading four little kiddos in to his car (perhaps all his?).  I saw the car in the boy's hand while my son sat crying in the second row.  

I tipped the lady (that is just what you do here) and went to buckle my sweet boy in.  I told him how proud I was of him and how it makes God smile when we don't demand our own way but think of others before ourselves.  I reminded him how happy those toys made him and how happy they will make that little boy.  I told him that God has given us everything we have and we have to be willing to let it go even when we aren't ready.  I also told him that Christmas was coming and he would be getting more toys. ;)  What?  He is only three.

How easy it would have been for me to walk over to that guy and tell him that those toys belong to MY son.  That he just accidentally set them down while we talked about spinach and that HIS boy should give them back to their rightful owner.  How we are entitled to have them returned and my son loves them very much.  I could have said it nicely and quietly enough as to not cause a scene.  But in exchange for my son's tears would have been his son's.

Would that have pleased God?  Would that have taught my son (and myself) that this world is not our home and we deserve nothing in this life?

Sometimes disappointing things happen.  I am beyond thankful that the list of disappointing things during his nearly four years of life has been very short and extremely trivial.  But how will we respond to each circumstance that crosses our path?  Will we say yes Lord use me however best brings you glory?  Will we deny self when the opportunity arises?  Will we spend time searching for the best gifts that we have been given and still be willing to give them up at a moment's notice?

Five minutes into the drive home my heart was heavy for my little boy.  He welled up with quiet tears a couple more times when he realized he would never get to play with those toys again.  The mama bear inside me wants him never to be sad or disappointed.  He was halfway through a cheese stick (which instantly brightened his mood) and he announced, "I can play with my 'nother toys!"

That's right, Little Buddy.  God has given you more than enough.  Are we willing to let him use the best that we have however he sees fit?!

You can be sure the next time Brother looks for two toys to bring with him to the grocery store, he will reach for his favorite of the day once again.  Will I be so quick to do the same?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

target run

Today I am thankful that I went to Target to buy some last minute Thanksgiving day items just to get to the register and find my wallet was not in my purse.  I walked back through the store and put each item where I got it before abandoning the cart and leaving.

Today I am thankful that after I drove home totally annoyed at a wasted trip in the rain I found my wallet on the floor of the Volvo while I was getting Babydoll out of the car.  I could have done without the silent car ride home from my two kids in the back seat and then the words of "Now you are happy, Mommy!" when I found my wallet once parked in the garage.  Do my circumstances make me happy/mad or is my joy found in the Lord?

Today I am thankful that because we kind of went hog wild crazy (with a budget) buying stuff for the house after moving in that I didn't spend the money at Target.  Who really needs 5-cup Salad or cranberries in the stuffing anyway?  The day will go on without them.

Today I am thankful that while I was making dinner My Love walked in the front door with a large bag that was left on the front porch.  It was full of presents for the kids from our realtor (a kind of "thanks for the business and congrats on the new house" gesture) and a Target gift card.

Today I am thankful for a God who knows all things.  Even details as small as providing more than enough to complete our Thanksgiving dinner menu.  I only wish my heart would have been ready and willing to say thank you while living in each disappointing moment today.  More missed opportunities.  I am choosing to say thank you now Lord.


Monday, November 21, 2011

i am the whiner

You didn't think I would write a post just complaining about whining did you?  Okay maybe I would have done that anyway but not this time.  God always has something to teach me from my circumstances.  It is not like he is sovereign over every breath except for my daughter's default whining mode.  Oh no.  There is grace in everything.  Even the stuff that drives me crazy.

These days of unending whining have gotten me thinking.  It is not always natural to be obedient at the first sound of instruction and eager to please at any cost.  No way.  When it comes to my relationship with God, I am the whiner.  We all can be from time to time.  The glaring difference between me and Him as a parent though is his patience is UNENDING.  His voice is calm and encouraging in the midst of years of whining.  We default into whimpering and complaining so easily.  He gently teaches and corrects.  He squats down to be at eye level and speaks quietly so we can hush our tears long enough to hear his still small voice.  No, it is definitely not natural to obey first time.  And yet we expect it from our children.  How thankful I am that my Heavenly Father is the perfect parent!  I have a lot to learn.

Yes, my daughter might be in a phase of whining every single word that comes out of her mouth.  She is one.  What is my excuse?  Why do I expect anything else from her?  We have to learn to be thankful in all circumstances.  How am I doing in the "modeling how to do that" department?  I am a continual whining work in progress.  

use your words

How did we end up with a whiner?  Seriously.

Our sweet little Babydoll is going to turn me gray any day now.  Somehow with more language came constant whining.  We still haven't learned if it is more affective with her to deal with each issue head on or totally ignore it.  Our batting average is low at the home field and away.

It is so humbling to have children.  Nothing goes as planned and the balance of figuring out how to parent two kids differently is less of a dance and more of a hot mess.


Parenting has recently become a full time job.  What I mean by that is we are constantly trying to scramble and figure out what in the world we are even doing.  Yes our oldest human child is turning four in a couple of months and no we still have no idea what we are doing.  I mean, we do but we don't.  The foundation is there but the rest seems to be blowing in the wind right now.  What happened to my structure?!?!  As My Love so eloquently stated tonight, "It is like they are both going through the terrible twos at the same time!" Note: Neither of them are two.

Having more than one kid brings a whole new set of parenting challenges.  Although we always knew the concept we have just realized we can not parent two different personalities the same way.  It is just not possible.  But how do you do it in a way that isn't overtly noticeable to both parties and how do you figure out HOW to parent the second one differently?

Time to regroup.

Did I ask you to pray for us yet?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

willing hearts

God has been really busy confirming for us that this new church body is exactly where he wants us to be.  They announced today that the Men's prayer meeting that meets EVERY Saturday morning will be moving to the Chick-fil-A three miles from our house.  Um, couldn't be more convenient.  Oh and the one Life Group that mentioned children being welcome also very close by.  I love it when he does that.  It makes me feel like he already has some amazing friendships planned for us in those groups.  We are excited to make it to one meeting soon.  

And then there was the sermon today.  To be honest, we have been struggling some with adjusting to a different teaching style from where we just came from but knew that was just about us.  The Word was being taught.  Today God spoke right to my heart through the sermon and we both just knew this place would be our new Home.

I write the following for my sake...

I was so touched by all he spoke about in Exodus 35 today.  God knew exactly what I needed to hear.  How Moses had given God's commands to the Israelites for how the work was going to be done before starting to build the Tabernacle (ie. six days a week) then gave VERY specific instructions on how it would be built and asked the people to bring their offerings and gifts.  God thinks of every detail, people.  The men and women went back to their tents and "all whose hearts were willing" came and brought "their gifts and gave them freely to the LORD".

Then he goes on to identify a couple guys who became the "project managers" and who were filled with the Spirit of God.  He had given them all their abilities and expertise and wisdom and skills.   

 Exodus 36:
The Lord has gifted Bezalel, Oholiab, and the other skilled craftsmen with wisdom and ability to perform any task involved in building the sanctuary. Let them construct and furnish the Tabernacle, just as the Lord has commanded.
 2 So Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and all the others who were specially gifted by the Lord and were eager to get to work. 3 Moses gave them the materials donated by the people of Israel as sacred offerings for the completion of the sanctuary. But the people continued to bring additional gifts each morning. 4 Finally the craftsmen who were working on the sanctuary left their work. 5 They went to Moses and reported, “The people have given more than enough materials to complete the job the Lord has commanded us to do!”
 6 So Moses gave the command, and this message was sent throughout the camp: “Men and women, don’t prepare any more gifts for the sanctuary. We have enough!” So the people stopped bringing their sacred offerings. 7 Their contributions were more than enough to complete the whole project.

God filled these two guys with his Spirit and equipped them to do all the tasks he created them for.  And on top of that, God stirred others hearts to provide all the necessary parts and equipment to build the whole Tabernacle.  In fact, they brought more than enough to meet the need.

Why do I spend a moment in fear?  If God has called us to do something big for his kingdom than that means he created us for that purpose.  All we have to do is come before him with willing hearts who are "eager to work".  He will provide everything else.

Keep praying.

cried through this at church today

storms will be coming

We are going through a rough patch around here.  Normally I like to read comments so I can know I have been heard by someone out there.  But not today.  Today you will not be able to comment.  Today the words just come from me for me.

God continues to do amazing things in spite of us.  He is confirming his call on our lives from all angles and we are moving forward on the same page faster than we ever have on a single issue before.  It is like God is posing the same questions in each of our hearts regarding foster parenting and adopting and answering them in the same way faster than we can bounce the topic off each other.  Life is moving in hyper speed and we are lagging behind.

I am struggling internally with the Lord.  Such a strange feeling to KNOW completely what God's will is for your life and yet doubt it 100%.  I started to regret sharing any information here.  "If I hadn't opened my mouth maybe we could just stop all of this and pretend like none of it happened," I thought.  The cat is out of the bag now isn't it?  Why do I always do that?  Make these big announcements about all God is going to do before I have my seat belt buckled.  He knew I would do it and he knew I would feel this way about it.  I guess I am thankful I wrote about our desire to foster so you would all pray for us.  Part of me wonders if I will really write much more on the topic until it becomes a lot more real.  But who am I kidding?  If it is on my mind and heart than God put it there for a reason.  I just hesitate to drag you all along on this rough journey with us.  I am sure one or two of you might even think we are crazy.  Then pray for us harder.

Even though we know we would never want to "pretend like none of this happened" the voice of fears and unknowns are growing in my head.  A voice that I know is not of the Lord and yet I choose to listen for awhile just to have a practical stand point.

Oh Lord, I REALLY don't think my heart will be able to handle this.  The stories we have heard have been difficult to hear.  8 month old twins staring up at their foster parents confused because they had hardly ever been held before.  Kids with filing cabinets full of records on all they have been through.  Oh Lord, please send someone to adopt them.  Letting a child into your life and family for a whole year before they were returned to their birth family.  "If I did it again I would draw better lines between our kids and the foster kids.  After awhile you just forget that there is a difference," a new friend told us.  Sending a child back into a situation you know is bad and may never hear from again.  You know...the kind of stories that come with talking to others who have walked the road with the Lord and spur you to action and yet make you afraid to even give your heart to be used by God at all.  Somehow knowing it is going to hurt just makes it harder.

Oh Lord, the Enemy keeps telling me my marriage and family will not be able to handle this.  Strengthen us Lord.  I stand in awe at how you had birthed this in My Love's heart years before me.  How you have spoken to us directly and clearly in the same way about every issue regarding fostering/adopting in the last two weeks.  Each confirmation is another I-Love-You from my Lord and yet I listen to the lies...or rather worldly realities.  Self is creeping in and more than ever it feels like we NEED to plant our feet in a sold cement foundation three inches from each other.  The storms will be coming and Satan is quick to tell us our house of cards will come crashing down.  So we dive in head first to the Word seeking to know it more now than ever.

But even with the threat of heartache and family stress, the pain we feel waiting is compounding.  How is it possible this only came about two weeks ago?  Oh but of course it didn't.  God wrote it before the beginning of time and has been whispering his plan to us along the road of our lives.  We can not wait to get started.  Every time we think about our little babes being out there somewhere our hearts break a little more.  Bring them quickly Lord.

I don't feel strong enough for this journey and yet that is exactly the point.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

hold on tight

It is going to be a wild ride.

God showed up yesterday.  After posting here, a friend who is currently involved in the adoption process sent me a text about a possible opportunity in our state.

I lost my breathe.  I mean, we weren't ready for this.  It is too soon.  We weren't planning on disrupting the birth order.  We hadn't talked about some important logistics was adoption imminent or were we content just fostering.  What was God planning?

We won't be adopting quite yet but God used that message to communicate something very important to us.





"Is it bad to put guidelines on what we are willing to accept from the Lord?" Adam asked me.

We are praying.  Praying for this boy who needs a family.  Praying that God would prepare our hearts for whatever he has planned for us.  Praying for wisdom and discernment about what would be best for our other children during this phase of their childhood as more opportunities arise.

I contacted our county yesterday.  They are sending me some info through the mail.  We live in the northside of our city which is technically in a different county.  By God's design I'm sure.  We were told we could foster in any county, but I think we will start in our place of residence first.

This is really happening.  And probably faster than we think.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

a call to action

God is doing some big things.  So big that we feel a tad bit overwhelmed to have a front row seat to all His power.  In some ways I feel like I have had blinders on until this very moment in time when God decided to use his Holy Spirit to reveal a little more of his plan for my life. 

I sat in church weeping before the service even began.  You see, My Love and I had talked about possibly visiting a different church today.  We had been to this one twice before and had been praying whether or not this was the church home that God wanted us to settle in to.  We decided to come back for a third time this morning when God met us right there in the fourth row after the first worship song.

Let me back up.  Last week at the same church, a couple shared some of their story in honor of Orphan Sunday.  They had mentioned that in the coming weeks other families in the church would be sharing too so it wasn't just talked about one day out of the year and then forgotten.  They were passionate about God's call on their lives and that of the Christian church to care for orphans.

I sat there and listened and for the first time I thought that this might actually be an option for our family.


It was like a light switch was flipped on and the blindfold was removed.  The Holy Spirit was alive in that moment and my mind and heart were flipping through experiences like a Rolodex of how God had been planting seeds along the way.  Suddenly I looked around at a pile of puzzle pieces I didn't even know went together.  My heart tugged.

On the car ride home I mentioned my enlightenment to My Love.  He was surprised that I had never considered it before because he had.  You see, we have been praying for three families closely who are pursuing adoption for multiple reasons.  It has been a miracle to be a part of the prayer support just to watch God do amazing things.  Two families we know are still waiting on their children while one is expecting a third addition soon.  No where in that process of praying had I even thought about adoption for us.  It was fine for them but we were happy with our little two-child-predictable-easy-to-manage family.

If you know me then you know that My Love and I have been announcing for a few years now that we only want two kids.  Two kids.  We have seen lots of people have a third and all chaos breaks loose.  Two seems good.  Two seems doable.  We could better afford two.  We could better parent two.  Two was enough and we were thankful to have our two beautiful healthy children.

But then something happened that I wasn't expecting.  God told me to surrender that to Him as my Shepherd too.  By me telling him what I could handle I wasn't trusting him with everything.  My heart changed.  Suddenly I wanted what God wanted for our family.  He started growing a desire in my heart for more children.  Maybe one, maybe two more.  I would look in the back seat of the car and think there are faces missing.  I was ready to try again.  My Love was not as interested.  Two was still good for him.  I stepped back and told him that I was content with our Bundles and that God would have to change My Love's heart toward wanting more before I pressured him into the idea.

Last Sunday, I started thinking that maybe the desire God had been growing in my heart the past few months was not for me to birth more children but that we would adopt more.  The need was not to be pregnant again.  It was just to have a bigger family.


I tried to let this new idea sink in.  We have been exposed to the idea of adoption by many angles for years now.  A family at our old church adopted 6 of their 8 children.  A guy My Love works with has been a foster parent and pursued unsuccessful adoption many times.  My brother-in-law is a Child Advocate and spent some of his childhood in the System.  We have prayed and prayed for A and M all the way in Ethiopia and were blessed to watch them get off the plane here and step into their new forever family.  We have seen them grow and thrive in the care of their loving Christian home.  A college girlfriend adopted two kids and fostered two more while in the process of adopting them as well.  We have been surrounded by it and yet the Spirit never let it in to my heart until now.

Last Monday we were on a two hour road trip to attend a retirement ceremony for a friend (who adopted teenagers and fostered many) when I brought up the topic with My Love again.  Somehow through that discussion we decided that perhaps foster care might be a good place to start.  We had some fears and thought maybe we would foster a child and realize this wasn't for us.  It was a good way to get our feet wet.  It seemed like the plans were being made for us though.  Since we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into neither one of us wanted to commit to it 100% but knew we had to pursue it.

My heart started racing.  My friend's words were ringing in my ear.  She told me not to be surprised if God started moving boldly and quickly once we began praying.  Having been a part of her journey with adoption I kind of knew what she meant but not completely until now.  The very thought of just possibly fostering  children with the intention of adoption made my heart heavy.  I am talking like a sense of urgency that I have never felt.  Just the idea of any hypothetical children in our family being alive and on this earth at this moment just brings me to my knees in prayer for them.  I am not kidding when I say this whole idea has just snowballed so quickly and yet has been perfectly orchestrated in His timing.

I hopped online later in the week and did a little research about fostering in our county.  It got me thinking.  What if God moved us to this house for a child who is out there and needs a home?


Maybe the "person with a need" that we have been praying for that God would use our house to bless is another child.  Or lots of children.


I am overwhelmed.  My heart is literally heavy.

I have made plans to talk to my old college friend who I have lost complete contact with (even though we are Facebook friends) but I have watched God grow her family through adoption.  I am excited to hear her perspective on the foster care system.

The guy My Love works with who has fostered and pursued adoption is supposed to come over for dinner with his family in the coming weeks.  You can bet we will be picking his brain.

This morning we both woke up after a night of poor rest for both of us for no apparent reason.  My Love asked me if I had an opinion about where we would go to church today.  Maybe we chose to return again out of laziness but like I said we came back for the third Sunday.  While praying together this AM we asked God to make it clear to us if this Body is where he wants us to be.  We sang the first song and then there were a few announcements before a couple took to the stage.

The topic of their talk today?  Foster care.

I should have known God would show up and confirm what he was clearly calling us to do through his Holy Spirit.  I guess I just didn't expect it to come so quickly and loudly.  The tears came with every word that was written and read specifically by God with us in mind.  His power overwhelms me. 

We had an amazing conversation after church with the couple who shared their story of foster parenting and international adoption. A HUGE blessing. They have nine children.

There are some life decisions you think about and ponder and weigh the pros and cons.  And then there are other choices you make that make you feel like if you don't do it right now you will be disobeying God.

How can I wait?  My child might be out there.  Maybe today he is being born.

A couple weeks ago, Bundle Brother put a pair of little boy shoes in our shopping cart and said, "These are for my baby brother."  I laughed and said something like, "You are going to have to talk to God about that one Buddy!"  Perhaps he knew something I didn't back then.

So we pray.  We pray and we pray and we pray.  I have thought about my two pregnancies and how each baby has been safely protected inside my womb until God chose to add them to our family.  We prayed for their development and birth and future.  This feels all together different.  There is so much to pray over.  We are praying for God's timing in all things.  Bring them quickly Lord.  Fill this big house with your children.


There is another side to all of this.  Some children that we foster will be returned to their birth families.  The couple we talked to today said they have fostered some for a weekend and others for up to one year before they were taken away,  The road will be hard and painful and full of heartache but we are eager to walk down it.  For before we told God what we could handle (two is good Lord), and now we are trusting him with it all.  Our hearts and all he has given us to bless the lives of as many children as he wants.

I worry that I will want to adopt them all.  My heart will need lots of prayer.  We wont be able to, but I can tell you right now whoever God places in our care will have two loving "parents" who will pray for them for the rest of their lives.  We will be his hands and feet for as long as they are in our home.  I don't feel strong enough Lord.

During our reunion with Germany friends, someone shared the story of how her mother prayed for the future spouse of her daughter throughout her whole life.  The man my friend went on to marry grew up in a home with permissive parents who had no rules and pretty much didn't care where they were or what they were doing.  By God's grace, he came to know the Lord and is an amazing guy.  He later said he felt prayed for growing up.  That God was protecting him through out his life. 

If we end up not being able to adopt any of the children we foster in the future, we will pray for them for the rest of their lives and that might have to be enough for me.


Okay.  Still processing.  Pray for us as we start this journey.  We have a lot to be thankful for but the road ahead will not be easy.

sunsets from here

Friday, November 11, 2011

a new journey

Have you seen the movie Gattaca?  It stars Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman and is a futuristic/sci-fi.  In the movie, doctors take a blood sample of each baby at birth and are able to determine length of life, cause of death, future health problems, and intelligence level.  Their whole life is told to them from the start.  Nothing is a surprise.

I am thankful that God didn't design us that way.  Our Creator knows before we take our first breath all that we will do and be.  But by his grace and our faith in his will, He slowly reveals his plan to us as we seek Him.  How thankful I am that my future life was not told to me in great detail from the start.  Perhaps I would have been like Ethan's character and wanted it all to be different.  I would have been incapable of seeing the reason for the journey and how the road was paved just for me.  God sees it all.  

So we start a new journey.  One that was completely concealed from us before this week.  And for that I am thankful and yet equally overwhelmed when I look at the life He wrote for me and the notes he left along the way.  Yes, I am certain if I had known what I know now I probably would have said, "No thanks, Lord!"  But we walk forward in prayer trusting that nothing is a surprise to Him.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

God in action

"Remember no day is lost on which some Spiritual Truth becomes clearer.  No day is lost which you have given to Me to use.  My use of it may not have been apparent to you.  Leave that to Me.  Dwell in Me, and I in you, so shall ye bear much fruit.  The fruit is not the work of the branches, though proudly the branches may bear it.  It is the work of the Vine, that sends its life-giving sap through those branches.  I am the Vine and ye are the branches."

-God Calling, Two Listeners

Sunday, November 6, 2011

missed opportunity

I grew up in a modest home.  Well several different ones really but each was a basic house that my Mom made our family home.  I never remember thinking that I wanted more than what we had.  We shared bedrooms, bathrooms, chores, food, and clothes.  Life was simple and yet full.  We got gifts at Christmas, for our birthdays and new clothes before the first day of school.  I am sure I probably asked for more things, but I don't remember ever expecting anything.  Our needs were met and anything else just felt like a gift.  

When my step-sister was here visiting this year, she shared some funny stories of her perspective of me growing up.  Apparently I was known for treasuring even the most trivial of gifts.  If I knew someone picked it out just for me, it meant so much.  Gifts that weren't that exciting for a regular tween were put on my shelf and displayed with pride.  I laughed at her memories as she recalled specific presents that I wore regularly.  Isn't everyone grateful when they are given a gift?  For some reason she recalled me as being thankful to the extreme.  A few years ago I watched some old home videos on VHS taken of Christmas morning.  I cherished each unwrapped present as specifically chosen just for me with all love.

I used to think that part of that glee over gifts received came with our modest life throughout the year.  And maybe part of it did.  But I also think it just was something different built inside me.  To expect nothing and be thankful for WHATEVER gift was given with my name on it. 

Now that I live in a nice home with extra bedrooms, bathrooms, chores, food and do I instill the same attitude of gratitude that came from my upbringing?  I struggle with knowing the balance.  I watch HGTV and I see people walk into descent homes tearing them apart with words because they NEED granite and hardwood and a huge master bath tub.  Perhaps I don't think that way because I never had them before.  If you start your life with nice things is it hard to expect less?

My children are 3 1/2 and 19 months.  They have no cares in this world.  None.  We don't lavish them with gifts (except at Christmas and birthdays) and we eat basic foods at home out of necessity.  How do I teach them to realize not everyone has a room of their own (I shared one room with 2 & 3 sisters for a time) or his/hers sinks in their own hall bath (a friend's family of 5 shares one bathroom)?  How can they possibly understand that many, many people in this world don't have options for dinner and wish they had enough blankets to keep them warm at night while mine kick theirs to the floor because the heater keeps them comfortable enough and they whine about eating fresh chicken again? 


Do I sound ungrateful?  Perhaps.  But this issue has been bothering me lately.  Sometimes I look around at all of this and I ask God why on earth he gave this to me and how content I would be with a 3 bedroom and 2 bath house that has a small back yard for the kids to play in.  How on earth am I/we going to raise grounded children in this self absorbed world to appreciate every thing they are given as a gift chosen just for them with all love?

We feel like we have a purpose here.  God wouldn't give us more than we can handle.  Does it sound odd to read that with the perspective of excess?  Sometimes I don't know how to handle all of this.

We often teach our children to think beyond themselves.  If you see something that needs to be done or someone that could be helped and you are capable of meeting that need, don't wait to be asked.  Help.  Do.  Serve.  If you tripped on a toy, pick it up and put it away.  If you accidentally knock (or push) your sister over, help her up and ask if she is okay.  If someone is carrying a heavy load, step aside or ask them if they need a hand.  One of our goals in parenting is to teach our kids that our lives are not our own and therefore God can use us anyway he chooses.

Perhaps the Lord knew (of course he did) that these particular children would learn the same lesson I learned as a child but in different circumstances.  I expected nothing and appreciated anything that was given with me in mind.  My children have access to more than enough and yet will hopefully learn with abundance comes more opportunities to give with others in mind.

As often happens, the Lord blesses my socks off and then quickly swoops in with a pop quiz.  You know the kind.  The one that you aren't expecting, didn't study for and yet know you should know all the answers to.

This past week God showed me time and time again that if I only trusted him with the big picture he could more easily use me in any circumstance.  Unfortunately after learning all those lessons, I failed the pop quiz miserably.  I should have known one was coming.  I haven't had a test in awhile.  There are only so many lectures given and chapters read before the Teacher wants to make sure you are following all the material.  Are you really getting this?

The kids and I were out running errands yesterday evening.  I told Bundle Brother that I would buy him a new knight helmet at the Dollar Tree since his broke recently.  He was thrilled.  We browsed the other aisles but came to the register with only a fire hat in hand.  As I waited in line behind a woman and her young daughter, she handed the cashier her card.  Declined.  "Can you swipe it again?" she asked.  Nothing.  "Are you able to key in the numbers?"  Nada.  In my heart I heard, "pay for her stuff!"  I never have cash but happened to have $20 in my wallet after a recent grocery shopping trip.  "Pay for her stuff!"  I thought I would wait.  Maybe her card would go through and then it wouldn't be awkward.  I don't want to embarrass her.  When is the right moment to offer?  I just came for this $1 item.  What if she is offended?  "Pay for her stuff!  Your money is mine."


She left empty handed.  I paid for the hat and then thought if I saw her outside I would just give her the money so she could go back in.  Mother and daughter were no where in sight.

Pop quiz: failed!


What is my problem?! 

And please don't leave comments about how noble an act it was for me to even consider giving her money unsolicited.  The Lord clearly asked me to act as His hands and feet and I hesitated.  Am I still holding tight with clenched fists to the things of this world?  Have I learned nothing about God's sovereignty over every moment, breath, interaction?

When I say ALL THAT I HAVE IS FROM HIM AND IS HIS I mean it.  And yet sometimes I fail.  What a missed opportunity!  An opportunity to share God's love with this woman and her daughter.  For me to surrender yet again to God's will.  An opportunity to model for my son that if you see someone in need and you are capable of helping them, help, do, serve.

All that I am and all that I have is God's.  When am I going to get this?  All I want for my family is for them to know that every thing they have is a gift from God to be used for his glory.  That they would give with all glee at an opportunity to share what He has blessed them with in His name.

Forgive me Father for yet another missed opportunity.

Friday, November 4, 2011

his reunion

Today was the beginning of our new normal.  What does that mean really?  We have been living in this house for three weeks now and are just waking up to a day that might feel like whatever the future will bring.  After an amazing move and a week of solid unpacking/settling, we were all geared up and ready to welcome our first house guests.  Since closing day, we have not had a "normal" yet.  It might take awhile but today feels pretty good.

I have a lot to write about.  God has been knocking my socks off and I don't feel like I have actually had a minute to sit down and take it all in.  The kids are napping so hopefully this chunk of time on this day will prove to be fruitful.  Here we go...

As previously posted, God made it clear to me in February of this year that he had something planned that he wasn't quite ready to reveal to me.  It actually started a little before that.  There was talk of some acquaintances coming out to run the marathon in October.  My Love jumped at the chance for some motivation to run again and other mutual friends who we hadn't seen in six years decided they wanted to train and join the trip as well.  Cool.  A mini Germany reunion.  A Facebook group page was created and the runners started their programs from all over the USA.  Life went on as normal.  My Love and I were excited about hosting a get together but then came the inevitable "elephant in the room" question.  We live here...where will everyone else stay?  I made some bold announcement to My Love that I would love to have everyone over for a reunion dinner but I wasn't going to have people stay with us and pretend to be closer to some of those people than was reality.  My Love understood my perspective and agreed that being fake after all these years probably wasn't the best witness.

God IMMEDIATELY (like the next morning) turned my face toward his and shook my shoulders to wake me up.  What kind of witness was I being to another Christian that I once knew but had never clicked with?  It didn't matter how many people were blessed by reading all about what God was doing in my heart and life.  If this one person was looking at God's grace on me through the lens of my lack of grace on her everything else was pointless.  I was in turmoil.  I had chalked up this relationship as something that never developed naturally.  We all moved away and our callousness toward one another didn't seem like something that needed to be dealt with.  I mean, you can't be best friends with every one.  God did not want me to be kind and loving to most and just write this one interaction off.  In fact, he was bringing this person and many others to my very town and pretty much told me I WILL welcome her into my home.  Um...Yes Lord but how do I do that?

"Pray for her," someone said.  Duh!  Why didn't I think of that?  It wasn't easy at first, but I started to pray.  God quickly told me he wanted me to make it right with this person.  I wasn't just going to tolerate her presence during the reunion but that I was going to give her a royal welcome.  She was going to eat my food and sleep in my house.  So I wrote her.  I sent an email apologizing for how our relationship never seemed to develop on its own and admitted that there was no single event that sparked a riff but rather it was just an invisible personality conflict.  As I had been praying for her, I had to be willing to accept her response or lack there of.  She wrote back quickly confirming our strained interactions and was thankful that I made the bold move to reconcile.  At that time she welcomed an invitation I had extended for her and her family to stay with us during the marathon.


Now what?  I didn't exactly know.  We emailed back and forth a few times over the next several months sharing personal prayer requests but life got busy.  I wouldn't say I knew her any better by the time October rolled around but my heart toward her had almost completely changed through prayer.

We went through the whole house hunting process and kept updating the visiting friends that we didn't know where we would be living in October but that the reunion would be on.  As you know, God built us an amazing house with lots of space.  Slowly other friends started asking if they could stay with us too.  I took out the floor plan and figured out how we could possibly fit 17 sleeping heads within these walls but somehow we made it work with room to spare.

Life was starting to settle down after the move when we found out that B was in our small town for work and although he couldn't stick around for the marathon and reunion, he wanted to come hang out for dinner.  It was an amazing night.  I knew B while we lived in Germany but he worked a lot and kind of just popped in to group gatherings every once in awhile.  We spent that evening catching up and God gave us a clear look into how we can start praying for B in the future.  What a gift!  He said this was only the second time in three years that he had traveled for work and he was staying 2 miles away from our brand new house that we had only been living in for 1.5 weeks.  Anyway he knew J was arriving the next evening so he planned to come back and surprise her at dinner time.  She had just brought the kids in the house after a long trip from Florida.  We sat down to crock pot minestrone and the door bell rang.  "I hope you don't mind that I invited someone else to dinner," I said to my friend.  There was a fourth place set at the table.  My Love opened the door and J just about lost her mind.  B stayed for dinner and we laughed and talked and reminisced about those days in Germany and all God was doing in his life now.  T drove down for the pre-reunion too.  God's timing is PERFECT!  J and I continue to be blessed by that time with B.  I mean, he was working IN our town not the big City up north.  Crazy.

The next day we were gearing up to welcome the friend I had emailed, named E, and her family.  I was excited to see her and was really overwhelmed by how much love God had given me for her over the months I had been praying.  After a long road trip in from Michigan they got in during the wee hours of the morning on Thursday.  I was so excited to meet their three miracle boys.  Everything went so smoothly.  It was like we had all just been best friends for years and a day had hardly passed since we all lived near each other in Germany.  E went on to mention several times how similar we actually are and how thankful she was that we were getting to know each other now.  I am still overwhelmed.  The three of us girls had some amazing talks while the seven kiddos napped and ran around the house playing together.  It was amazing.  I grieve the years that I missed out on a relationship with E.  For the times I told God who and how I would love others.  No longer will I choose to be a Jonah.

Then it was the night before the race.  J was really debating not going to the race and perhaps staying home with our four kids.  She didn't know how she could manage seven by herself but felt really strongly that she thought she could do it.  I asked her to think about it before she mentioned it to E.  By Saturday night, J was conflicted but confident that she could watch all the kids herself.  She and I had kept the seven at home while the the runners went to the Expo that morning.  It actually went really smooth.  It reminded me of the time I worked at the Child Development Center in Germany.  Sometimes having more kids around makes things run smoother.  Anyway when J mentioned it to our friend you could tell it was a huge blessing to her that J offered.  Lugging three strollers on the metro in the 30 degree weather wasn't exactly ideal but we all expected to do it.  J was offering to keep all the kids home with her.  We were overwhelmed and thankful for her sacrifice.  An hour later the third wave of house guests rolled in from Texas on Saturday night.  Ma is 12 weeks pregnant with her first child and feeling sick and Mi HATES the cold.  They came out just for the reunion and pretty much announced instantly once inside the house that they WERE NOT going to the marathon that next day.  What?!?!?!  I was shocked.  God literally blessed J's obedience in that moment.  They were a huge help and even supervised the kids more closely than had J and I been watching our own.  I am still overwhelmed by how God planned all of that.

So T drove down from his place an hour north and spent the night on an air mattress in the basement after the carb-loading pasta feed Saturday night.  T and E were supposed to run the marathon but were both injured and had to defer their slot to next year.  So we had a house full of people and only E, T and I drove up to watch the race.  It was crazy.  Before everyone arrived we were trying to figure out logistics with caravanning.  My Love drove up early with K as they were both running but the spectators fit in one other car.  I was SO thankful that T was with us because he was able to maneuver around the city easily and we road the metro to different places on the course based on the varying running paces.  Mo was running too but was staying in the city with friends until Sunday night when she and her family would be bunking with us too.  So E, T and I were doing our best to catch all three runners.  The whole time we were thankful we didn't have strollers FULL of seven cold kids to push around.  The metro was crammed.  I was huffing and puffing behind E and T (marathon runners mind you) and we managed to see all three runners twice on the course.


They all did great and the weather turned out to be gorgeous.  On Saturday before the race, I realized God was replaying a scenario that took place six years ago.  My Love and E ran the Rotterdam Marathon in 2005.  K, T, Mo and I went up to The Netherlands to cheer them on.  This time K, Mo and My Love were running and T, E and I were watching.  I was overwhelmed at the thought.  There is no way we could have planned that on our own.  I mean we now have seven kids between our families.  It was amazing! 

We drove home and got ready for the reunion dinner of two kinds of chili and cornbread that J was pulling together.  Two more families we knew in Germany who live locally came down for the gathering.  We had 24 people here and eleven of them were children.  Everything went flawless.  The conversations were rich and the laughs were hard.  We watched a photo slideshow of the memories we had made together at our first assignment in Germany as far back as nine years ago.  Like I said, some of us had stayed in better touch than others but nothing could replace the beginning.  We have all grown as we have moved around the world in different directions since then, but somehow the bond was still there.  

I was blown away with how well everything went logistically.  All the kids were healthy and slept well in a strange house.  My kids were carted around from room to room based on which rooms were occupied that day.  The meals we organized and there was plenty of help with managing the kids and cleaning up.  Everyone pretty much made themselves at home.  I was so blessed! 

Monday we took a long walk to the playground with most of the kids and had Costco pizza for dinner before dressing up all nine children for halloween.  It was so much fun.  It was crazy but it was fun.  Our neighborhood was packed with kids on the street trick or treating and most of the home owners were on their porches or driveways passing out candy.  Babydoll refused to let go of her candy bucket even when it got really heavy.

Tuesday brought the first goodbyes as Mo and Ku (who came along after our Germany days) and their twin boys headed back to Texas.  Their visit was way too short but we were so glad they came.  Then E and K loaded up their triplets after lunch to start a road trip back to Michigan.  I am certain that the friendship that God grew out of this weekend that for some reason didn't come to us naturally while in Germany will be life changing and long lasting.  I am blessed to call you friend, E.  I can almost guarantee that the flight back to Texas on Thursday for Ma and Mi was full of lots of conversation.  Mi surrendered his life to Christ after we all moved away from Germany (praise God!) and Ma joined the picture later but somehow fits perfectly into this crew (loved her!).  Spending time with nine kids under four years old when you are expecting your first baby is enough to get you talking about all you might want to do once your baby arrives.  J loaded up her two kids and started her two day drive south to Florida on Thursday afternoon as well.  Knowing she will be back up in January made the goodbye seem easier but we did linger our hug in the street for quite awhile.  She is the best girlfriend any one could ever have.  J vacuumed my whole house before any other guests arrived, made me two dinners to put in the freezer to use after the crowds left and cleaned the bathrooms the night before she went home.  Can anyone say "acts of service" love language?  Sometimes I don't know how to accept all the love God gives me through her willing servant heart but I know it is a gift from Him so I say thank you and thank you.  Did I mention we also delivered two meals on Wednesday that J made for another family we knew in Germany who lives locally and had a baby last week?  J is amazing.  Wish the R family could have joined us for the reunion too but I am thankful we were able to swing by with our four kiddos.

So all in all the week went PERFECT.  There was one glaring absence though.  We are hoping M will be in country next year when we do this again.  That is right people.  Germany Reunion 2 is on the books.  This time there will be more runners so we are thinking me might all need to fly out the Anderson grandparents to watch all our kiddos.

And the bonus cherry on top...

Because we had lots of expenses with just moving in, we kind of communicated to the troops beforehand that we weren't in a position to feed everyone for every meal.  Clearly I have never asked house guests to pay while they visit but this scenario and timing was different.  Of course everyone agreed to contribute and by the time the last family left God had provided every dollar we had spent for this reunion to happen.

Why?  Why did I ever waste a moment of my life worrying about anything?  If God wants to do something he can make it happen.  He can fly babysitters for marathon day out from Texas.  He can build old acquaintances into new close friends.  He can bring people in town for work who otherwise would have to miss an amazing opportunity to reconnect with old friends.  He can provide the means to feed and house 17 people for days at a time.  He can bring the same six people together on a marathon course to watch a different set of runners.  He can build a big house to be ready at this moment during this year months after plans of a reunion were made and before talk of moving was even started.

I am overwhelmed.  Every person who walked through this door was blessed by Him and I hope that it is a predication of all God has in store for this house in the future.  It is His to do with as He pleases and I can't wait to see Him work as we learn to surrender every earthly thing to His perfect plan.