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 yet...like 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 clothes...how 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.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

the beginning

If you have been following my blog this year then you might know that Thankful In All was birthed from my private family blog.  Back in February, I was sharing some deep thoughts over at The Long Story in between photo collages of our growing Bundles.  Little did I know what God had in store for me (and many others).  I can't wait to get a minute to sit down and reflect on this past week and indeed year.  We said goodbye to our last five house guests today and it is already way too quiet around here.  There is much to write about soon but not now.  I hear a Babydoll waking from her nap.  Until later here is a post I wrote several months ago that showed me that God might actually have big plans to use me if I would only give him everything.  Enjoy!
 Monday, February 28, 2011
 original title: make peace
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. -Romans 12:18

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. - Matthew 5:9

"Silently the work of the Spirit is done.  Already Love is drawing others to you.  Take all who come as sent by Me, and give them a royal welcome.  It will surprise you, all that I have planned for you.  Welcome all who come with the love of both your hearts.  You may not see the work.  Today they may not need you.  Tomorrow they may need you.  I may send you strange visitors.  Make each desire to return.  Nobody must come and feel unwanted.  Share your Love, your Joy, your Happiness, your time, your food, gladly with all.  Such wonders will unfold.  You see it all but in bud now- the glory of the open flower is beyond all your telling.  Love, Joy, Peace, in richest abundance- only believe.  Give out Love and all you can with a glad free heart and hand.  Use all you can for others, and back will come such countless stores and blessings." -The Two Listeners, God Calling

God is still busy working in more corners of my heart.  Who even knew a heart had corners?  Apparently I have many that are still covered in cobwebs and have never seen the light of day.  A month after starting this journey there is even more surrendering to be done.  This stubborn will of mine sure has been hard to break.

The post had to be republished due to some technical errors on Blogger so I included these previous comments.
Chelsea said...WOW! Think God was preparing you for a couple dozen guests? He knows so much more than we do; if only we would pay attention ALL the time!  Love you sister.
Chanel said...Wow! I'm reminded how God so lovingly equips us for His work. So much of the time I feel like a child who just needs to settle down to see that He is glad to give me all that I need to get through each moment. I'm so grateful for His patience, as I clumsily work on getting my self out of the way (every second of my life).