Sunday, January 29, 2012

where did my head go?

Oh boy has my head been all over the place.  God has been speaking in a very long run-on sentence (somewhat like I assume this post will come across to you) and I haven't had a moment to piece all the fragments together in my mind.  I mean, I definitely take note to the parts of the puzzle that I never noticed before, but I wouldn't say it can all be explained clearly here.  It is more of a broad understanding.  Does that make sense?  

We have both had lots of moments of "oh that's why God did that way back when" and "who would have thought that experience/relationship/job would have prepared us for what comes next?"  To be perfectly honest had God told us in previous chapters the "why" behind certain life decisions that were seemingly made for us we probably would have laughed and said no thank you.  Sometimes ignorance is bliss, people.  Thankfully in our naivete we still chose to trust and follow God's will for our lives even if we didn't fully understand it.

For instance, my job right out of college had nothing to do with my degree.  I am guessing that probably disappointed some people although they never told me that.  I was working on an Army Post in a foreign country assisting in a toddler class at a Child Development Center.  It was A LOT of work physically/mentally but oh so rewarding.  Children would often move away to wherever the Army sent their families.  After investing in their young lives for many months, potty training, documenting their development, watching them meet countless milestones, it was always hard to say goodbye knowing I would never see them again.  Understanding that they would never remember me.   Now My Love and I see that first job right out of college as divinely chosen.  Not just something I settled for because WIC Overseas and the HAWC didn't work out.  No.  God knew.  At that job I loved and taught all kinds of kids from all kinds of backgrounds.  I saw what a predictable, safe, loving environment (at a Child Development Center) can do in a young child's life (18-36 months) even when life at home is stressful and chaotic.  Those experiences seem priceless now.  The examples go on from there.  I am starting to see that He has been equipping me for some time now.  Oh yes.  God has been busy speaking quietly to my heart and loudly through the voices of others.  

Now let me see.  Where did my head go?

More to come.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

on my end table

Here are the four books I am reading right now.  You know, during all my free time.  It has been a slow process but I am learning a great deal from each one.  What about you?  Any good reads lately?

(note: The the books were placed on the mantel for this photo for the purpose of better lighting and not to mislead you.  They really are stacked on my end table in the family room along with God Calling, One Thousand Gifts, a journal, and Shepherding a Child's Heart.  Something good is always at arm's length.  OK.  That explanation was longer than the actual post.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

gospel over ice cream for dinner

His sister hopped down from the table to leave her cup of ice cream to me (we were sharing) so she could wonder off toward the play place at Chick-fil-A all by herself.  It was an ice cream for dinner kind of day.  We don't have them often.  In fact it was only the second time.  But I have decided with some encouragement from a friend that it is good to throw nutrition out the window every once in a while and embrace junk.  As she walked away from our table in the quiet restaurant, her now four year old brother jumped from his own seat without being asked and said, "I'll help you open the door."  The clock said something that started with a four and there were only two tables that had people sitting in them near us.  Noticably two teenage brothers having an early dinner behind us.  This is the conversation (to the best of my memory five hours later) that followed.

me: I'm so proud of you [Brother].  It pleases God when you help your sister.

He stood in the doorway and preceded to instruct his sister on how to play in the empty play area.

him to her: Climb up there [pointing to the top] and take off your socks and boots and put them in the cubby.

She followed his instructions and then stood at the glass and pressed her mouth against the clear wall for a few minutes.  Meanwhile Brother came wandering back to the table where I sat across from his melting ice cream cone.

me: Thank you for helping your sister, [Brother].  It makes God so happy when you think of others. 

him: (smiling)

me: Do you miss your Daddy [who is out of town for work]?

him: Yes.

me: Me too.

him: What do you miss about him?

me: I miss his hugs.

him: And his kisses?

me: Yep.

him: Mommy you can't do bad things and scream at Daddy.

me: You're right. (gulp)  Sometimes Mommy disobeys God too so what do I have to do?

him: (I forget what he said here)

me: I have to make it right with God and Daddy.  I have to say I'm sorry and ask for forgiveness and choose to please God with my words and actions the next time.  Believe it or not your Mommy isn't perfect.  Do you know who is?

him: God!

me: That's right.  Jesus lived a perfect life.  He never sinned or disobeyed God.  And because he lives in our hearts, when God looks at us he sees Jesus.  Isn't that amazing?!

him: And Jesus died on the cross to save us.

me:  That's right.  So the very least we can do is bring him glory by pleasing him with our words and actions.  Just like you did helping your sister. 

him (poking his finger in the bottom of his ice cream cone): Mom, the bottom of the cone is squishy.

Melted ice cream began to drip from the bottom.  Memories of a scoop of Thrifty ice cream rushed over me.  He handed it off to me and declared he was done while jumping down to join his sister in the empty play area.

Just my two kids in that cold smelly space behind a glass wall joyfully playing together.  Climbing to the top of the structure side by side talking all the way.  Brother would slide down the curly tube slide first usually in some purposely awkward position and holler something up to his sister.  Moments later her tiny body came launching down at full speed backwards and crash into her brother sitting at the bottom.  He burst into laughter and I did too.  Her hair stood on end from the static electricity generated.  They repeated this several more times and after each collision he would turn and look through the window at me and watch me laugh too while giving him a thumbs up.

Not a care in the world.

Not a single fear or burden.

I am overwhelmed by His love for me.

seeing beauty

Some dear friends of ours have a daughter who is a senior in high school and has a home school education.  It is safe to say her presence (and that of her three brothers and parents) in our lives was one of the pieces of the puzzle God used to confirm for us his plan for our family to home school.  She is an amazing girl, people.  You would never believe she is a teenager.  We are blessed to know this family and I wanted to share one of N's most recent life changing experiences.  Just in case you are in the market for another blog read.  She just returned from a trip to India that she took with her aunt as part of a large group who went for humanitarian and missionary (I think) outreach.  She has been in the process of writing (beautifully) about her trip and I know you will be blessed by her view of the world and the lost and broken whom God loves.  N has shared three posts about her trip so far but I know her heart and mind are overflowing and there will be more to come.


what's your fighter verse?

How to Fight Fear

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bible app

A friend posted a Psalm reference on Facebook today.  My Love gave me his old phone when he got a new one.  I don't have a data plan (because I don't want one) but I can use the apps/ internet at home (where I am most of the time) or with Wi-Fi at public places.  One app I hadn't used yet but had noticed was there from when My Love used the phone was one called Holy Bible.  I plugged in the Psalm my friend shared on her status.  At the bottom of the page was an audio button.  A male voice started reading scripture to me.  What?  Am I way behind the times or something?  This little tiny app might revolutionize my cleaning habits.  While the kids took in an episode of Word World via Netflix after dinner (don't judge), I cleaned the kitchen with headphones on.  I heard ten Psalms read to me before I had to stop cleaning and start parenting.  It becomes a lot harder to choose the hard thing at the end of the day when you know your husband isn't coming home and everyone is tired (praying for you JS).

I am a terrible housekeeper.  OK.  Maybe not terrible but I don't love it and I neglect a lot of important jobs for too long.  Suddenly I found another motivation (in addition to serving My God and my family).  Listening to scripture.  Oh this is going to be good for me, people.  I can feel it.  And the New Testament!!  Yes, I think I will like need this very much.

Next word study: steadfast love.  It sure stood out in the version I was listening to while being repeated often.

gathering more tools

My parents gave me a study Bible in 1996 when I was in high school.  The binding is missing half of the leather and the edges of the cover are cracked but it still works.  Back then and into my college years, I remember sitting down to read a passage studying the commentary and following little foot notes to scripture throughout the Bible.  I would flip back and forth following another verse foot note.  Underlining and highlighting (gasp!).  It has been years since I studied that way (I do mostly book studies and devotionals now) but last night I got caught up in it once again.  My Love bought me a new Bible (ESV) for Christmas.  It was totally unexpected and so thoughtful.  I have started studying again.

At dinner I replayed this song at the table while the kids and I ate.  Bundle Boy sang along at the parts he knew and Babydoll lifted her hands.  It was emotional for me to witness but I held it together and sang the words out loud to remind myself of the truth.

The bridge (is that the right term?) started and I heard it again.

I lift my eyes up
My help comes from the Lord

Funny that part of the song didn't come to mind when I shared this post.  God was saying something and he was repeating it.  From there (Still at the table.  Don't judge.  My Love is out of town.) I tried to look up the actual worship song that I remember singing in high school when our youth group met on the beach of a local lake during the summer to worship and hear the Word.  I couldn't find a decent YouTube track that wasn't extremely distracting (ie. ska).  Some of the videos were labeled Psalm 121.  I opened my Bible and read it.  I reread Psalm 145 (a scripture my sister shared with me in a comment).  Then the flipping started.  More tools for my belt.  More repetition.  More truth.  I couldn't get enough.  Did I mention this was not happening at the dinner table but on the toilet in my bath room (while sitting on the closed lid) while my Bundles took a bath together after dinner?  Now you know.  I scribbled scripture references on a notepad.  Water periodically splashed out of the tub and I remembered to parent.

God has been clearly telling me that the words of encouragement I will need when the dark days fall on us will ONLY be scripture.  Take note people.  This will be your job.  

Gathering more tools for my BELT OF TRUTH. 

Psalm 147:3 "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."  

*Oh, LORD, remind me that only You will be able to heal their broken hearts.  And ours too.  Thank you.

Psalm 144:1-2 "Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; his is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues people under me."

*Oh, LORD, you are my rock and training me for battle.  Remind me that you are MY steadfast love, fortress, stronghold, deliverer, shield, refuge and it isn't just up to me to remember all you taught me.  You will be fighting with me.  Thank you.

Psalm 145:14-19 "The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.  The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.  You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.  The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.  The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.  He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them."

*Oh, LORD, on those dark days please hold me up.  Remind me that even then you will provide, satisfy, be kind, be near, hear my cry and save me.  Thank you. 

Psalm 91:1 "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shelter of the Almighty."

*Oh, LORD, teach me to dwell in the shelter of your wings so that I may abide.  Thank you.

And just for fun, God brought me here.  Remember when a friend shared part of this passage awhile back and I knew I would need it again someday?  No?  Then maybe I didn't share it here.  Follow this link to her original post.  And then read this.  I love it when God repeats himself even months later.

Psalm 126:1-6 "When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion we were like whose who dream.  Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them,"  The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.  Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negeb!  "Those who sow in tears shall reap in shouts of joy!  He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him."

Oh, LORD, remind us in times of deep sadness and heartache that you WILL restore us to laughter and joy like as if it were a dream because we can't imagine it ever happening again.  Choosing to do the hard thing is worth it.  Thank you.

Mmmmm.  Nourishing to my soul.  Who knew multitasking during bath time could be so fruitful (no pun intended...I think they turned into prunes from soaking so long).

Saturday, January 21, 2012

tool belt

The other night when I was driving around feeling sorry for myself and trying to drown out God's voice I turned on our church's radio station.  A sermon from Malcolm Wild was running through the air waves.  

You can not run a ministry alone.

As part of the armor God is asking me to put on, I reach for the BELT OF TRUTH.

I will hear his voice in a song, sermon, scripture, blog post...  "Put this tool in your belt.  You will need it later."  So I ask you to remember this post in the future when I write about the dark nights and deep valleys ahead of us.  He is giving me the tools ahead of time for the battle so I can reach down when I need them.  Tools that will speak His truth when the fog of the storm is too thick to hear it clearly.

So gently.  All of you.  Please.  When that moment comes, tell me to...


We can't do this ministry alone.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

of coffee and face wash and storms

I'm on day three of voluntarily not drinking coffee.  If I wasn't crazy before, I most definitely am now.

I didn't intend on giving it up but a few days ago I heard God clearly asking me what I was doing differently to learn how to abide in him.  I was still plugging along doing the things I had been doing and the warfare hit.  Hard.  I wasn't equipped.  I kept hearing him say that I needed to put on the WHOLE armor (like ten times through many sources) of God and I wasn't exactly dressing myself any differently than normal.  The storms hit.  It was like the movies, people.  When the main characters are standing outside at night when all of a sudden there is a downpour.  Every time I see a scene like that in a movie I question the reality of the situation.  There is usually a gentle sprinkle before the hard rain falls.  Not around here this week.  We have been having some good days (even seeing God speak to us together) and then *bam* the storm hits us unexpectedly.

We both acknowledge the storms are a tool of the devil.  But God is working all of it together for good.

We choose to see the storms differently than our enemy presents them to us (in the form of fear, doubt, conflict, division...). 

Have you ever started using a new facewash?  The first few days can bring a lot of junk to the surface of your skin that you didn't know was there.  You start questioning if it is really working or if your skin is just too sensitive for this type of cleanser.  After all, your skin actually looks and feels worse from using it.  You press on though.  You know it is just unearthing the dirt that your old face wash left behind.  Several days pass of faithfully washing your face with the new cleanser and you realize with the touch of your cheek and a glance in the mirror that your skin is actually smoother and clearer than before. 

That is what is happening around here.  We are dealing with red spots and pimples and rough patches that were being ignored by our old way of living.  It hasn't been easy.  There have been some difficult talks arguments but we choose to trust this process.  We are purging all the dead stuff.

One night after a particularly loud conversation where harsh words were flung in both directions, I went for a drive (not my usual MO).  Sometimes being alone helps we hear from the Lord better.  He started talking.

I was humbled.

Of the many things He said to me that night one was asking me what I was doing differently to abide in him.  It caused me to pause and think about what things in my life I still wasn't surrendering.  What earthly things was I relying on when I could be trusting him instead?  You guessed it.  Coffee came to mind.  My socially acceptable crutch/addiction.  A friend and I were talking last week about how when we were pregnant with our first child we didn't drink coffee.  We gave it up.  By the time my second Bundle came around I was drinking one to two cups of coffee again a day.  These days I find myself needing 2-3 cups of coffee just to start my morning in prayer and reading.  I have been dragging and I am less than peaceful after rolling out of bed and heading downstairs to spend time with My Love before work.

What if I relied on God to start my day?  To actually get it started.  Not rely on coffee to get to a place to commune with Him.  Don't I already KNOW Him to be more than enough?

I came home after my drive and repented to my husband and made a bold announcement that I was giving up coffee until God told me I could start drinking it again.

Day One came and my attitude stunk.  I drug myself downstairs and opened my new Bible and started looking up scripture about "awake" and "alert".  I wrote them on a sheet of paper.  I read and reread them.  I bit My Love's head off during this time of "abiding" when he asked me if I wanted to pray with him before he left for work.  Cue storm.  He didn't exactly understand my process but I knew God wanted me to do this.  I knew it would be hard.  I kept reading almost afraid of looking up from the pages because I knew I would lose it.  My head was already aching from withdrawals.  Do you know how troubling that is?  That there is actually a physical reaction to giving up something that came before the Lord.  My concordance took me to Isaiah 51:9 "Awake, awake, put on strength..."  Matthew 24:42 "Therefore, stay awake..."  Luke 21:36  "But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place..."  Then 1 Thessalonians 5:6,8 "...but let us keep awake and be sober...having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation."  I was touched by this subtle reference to God's armor.  Finally I followed the word "alert" to Ephesians 6:18 without even thinking and found "praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.  To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints."  My eyes looked back a few verses and noticed I was right where God had been bringing me to time and time again for a couple of weeks.  Ephesians 6:10-18.

Needless to say I was praying and studying these verses many times the first two days I drudged through without coffee.  My head ached.  My nerves were on edge.  And God continues to ask me to give my everything to Him.  Today I almost buckled and reached for the cold leftovers from My Love's pot to reheat in the microwave.  I didn't wake with a craving on day 3 and announced to myself that I was in the clear.  As I lifted the mug up to the machine, my hand hit the door and the coffee spilled all over.  Yes Lord.  I will continue to give this to you if it teaches me to abide.

What might this look like for you?  If you are already reading and praying, consider what else he might be asking you to surrender.  There are some things that we think are a non issue but can easily get in our way of hearing from Him.  Watching TV, eating sweets, spending money...  What is something that you do often that might be consuming some of your ability to abide in Christ?

I have not sworn off coffee forever (please, Lord), but in the midst of the storms of this chapter I figured what better time than now to heap on more weakness.  To be honest, it hasn't been the best time but my disobedience would require consequence.

Please don't freak out.  My Love and I are actually doing well (today).  Some moments feel like we move forward a step and then a storm slams us back five.  But we keep walking hand in hand determined to be stronger in him when this battle is through.

After all, we know that the war has already been won.

Our foster parenting classes begin in 2 1/2 weeks.  I imagine there will be more storms between now and then.  Please pray for us.

Have I mentioned God provided childcare for our classes?  That is a post for another day.  He really is amazing, people.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

love come to life

This song spoke to both of us separately this week.  More to share.  Soonish.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

His LOVE for me

is more than enough!

godly parenting

Parenting is not easy. 

There are days when you are exhausted and hungry and frustrated.  You wonder why the world isn't bending down to meet your immediate needs at the sound of your screaming voice.  Demanding your own way is at the tip of your tongue.  Patience and self-control are the furthest things from your mind.

Why should it surprise us when our children act that way?

Everything in our human nature puts self first.  We don't want to wait on God's timing until he explains the big picture.  We desire to have every earthly comfort.  Our happiness is the measure of our quality of life.

Sometimes purposing to be a godly parent is choosing to do the hard thing.  It is dying to self.  It is admitting your failures and showing your children their need for a Savior.  It is making them wait.  It is teaching them to deal with disappointments.  It is experiencing discomfort together.  It is allowing them to feel unhappy once in awhile.  It is giving consequences for disobedience.  It is staying consistent.  It is loving without conditions.  It is giving grace in the unexpected.  It is modeling thankfulness even when you are tired.

Parenting is not easy, but it is so worth choosing to do the hard thing.

For how can I deny the same patience and selfless love my Heavenly Father put into parenting me?  The sooner my children learn to look to Jesus the better.  I choose to do the hard thing.  To bend down in humility and acknowledge my need for a Savior.  When I kneel down low enough my children will be able to see Him clearer.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

in the new year, 2012

At the end of a year I like to look back at all God has done and reflect on what he might be prompting me to do/change in the year ahead.  Life has been busy the last few weeks so He has had a little bonus time to show me clearly what I will need to focus on the most in 2012.  Just for fun I am going to share them here and at year's end I'll come back and remember what God did through it all.  Pray for us.

*ABIDE:  I feel strongly that this year will be about learning how to abide.  To make God the focus of every moment and to pray in every circumstance.

*BOLDNESS:  I have a feeling this will be a continual theme.  The years of "silent witness" seem to be behind me.  It has become easier for me to speak the name of Jesus but God has provided an all together new opportunity for me this year.  I am excited to see what God does in a new friendship with an unbeliever.

*DIE TO SELF: It has become very clear to me that the only way God's love can flow through me to the lost and broken is for me to surrender all of me.  It is not easy.  I am a work in progress.  But I am hopeful by the end of this year I will be able to look in the mirror and see less of me and more of Him.  With disappointments, heartache, chaos, disruption, unpredictability on the horizon my focus can not be on what I want for this day if God is going to use me.

*PRAY: We spent 2011 learning to pray for the needs of others.  We were overwhelmed to watch God work and answer prayers in his timing.  Our faith was strengthened.  Each morning we would open up our journal and lift up the names of so many people in our lives.  Extended family, local friends, far away friends, our church.  Over the months new names/needs would be added.  God worked in many who didn't even know we were praying.  He was faithful to show us more than once what He was doing.  With a little perspective, we have come to realize we let our own family's prayer needs fall by the wayside without intention this past year.  Is it possible we have been offering up other people's Isaac's and holding tight to our own?  2012 will be about learning to pray for ourselves very specifically.  To pray for each other's hearts and weaknesses.  To see God work in our marriage.  To witness more transformation as he answers each prayer in his timing.  We will still be praying for you all, but we are putting our names higher on the prayer priority list with a sense of urgency.  We expect we will be praying a lot more this year.  I guess that is how you learn to abide in Christ and He in you.

*SERVE: I want to be willing to be used by God in our church and community however would best bring him glory.

*HOSPITALITY:  I want our home to be open to any and every one who might need a place to stay/eat/live.  We honestly believe he gave us this house for his good purpose and we want the doors to be open to all at a moment's notice.  I guess I should learn how to be a better house keeper too then.  *sigh*  A bigger house means more work for me.  Cleaning does not make me jump for joy, people.  I can think of 100 other things I would rather do.  But I want our house to be available to be used by God at any time which means clutter needs to be addressed and bathrooms need to be maintained.  Perhaps I will learn to love cleaning for his glory.  How did this bullet point turn into doing house work?  Is My Love reading this?  Let's move on.

*READ: I need to make more time to read.  As an adult, I have learned how to get lost in a book and I hope the new year allows for more opportunities to do that.  Once again this brings focus to prioritizing better.  With the addition of foster children, many things at the bottom of the list will be sacrificed. Our marriage, children, home, friendships, prayer, loving, serving, blogging, and reading seem to be the only things worth preserving.  Kind of freeing actually.

*DATE: Enough said.

*LOVE:  I want to learn to love how Christ loves.  To see others through his eyes. 

*SALVATION:  We are praying for many to come to know Jesus as their Savior and Lord.  May this be the year that the Holy Spirit opens their eyes and hearts of those we have been lifting to Him.  Will you join us by praying with confident expectation for the lost that God has put in your lives? 

*BOUNDARIES:  With all this serving and hospitality we have learned some very important lessons.  We need boundaries.  We need firm priorities that are not affected by constant changes in the wind and rain of the storms coming.  This is a time sensitive goal.  With every long term house guest has come opportunities to learn this concept.  God has been good to show us this need before the abnormal becomes normal.  With boundaries and structure in priorities the unexpected that will fall in our laps will be less likely to blow us down.  We choose to cling to our foundation and each other.  Their can be peace in the chaos.  We choose to abide...and create boundaries.

*EDUCATION:  I REALLY want Brother to be in some kind of structured pre-K kind of schooling at home.  He is more than ready and I know if he has something in place the unpredictable days ahead will be less stressful for him...and me.  (temporary note: this Saturday is a homeschool gathering at our new church.  Perhaps this goal will be well underway sooner than I think)

*STUDY:  My Love and I would like to do a Bible/book study together this year.  It has been a few years since we have done something like this.  I am hopeful it will open doors for better communication and deepen our connection.  We are both really excited to see what God will teach us together.  Have any book suggestions?

Ok.  I think that is more than enough to focus on this year.  I challenge you to seek the Lord and ask Him what he would have you work on this year in your own lives.

before the morning

Can you tell that God has been speaking to my heart through music lately?  I feel like I am hearing some songs for the first time even though I have been mindlessly singing along to the lyrics for some time.  I have no idea if people actually listen to the videos I post but sharing them here is a good reminder to me of what God is saying to my heart in this moment.  I don't know if it is the case for you, but our local Christian radio stations have been playing All of Me by Matt Hammitt to death around here.  I hope it stirs you to pray for us because we need it.  Have a great day!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


 I never noticed the light coming through the blinds onto the wall like this before.  His subtle beauty amazes me.

Monday, January 9, 2012

all of me

I dare you to listen to this song with foster parenting in mind (although I am positive the lyrics are about something else entirely) and not tear up.  It might be physically impossible.  Seriously.  Every word was written seemingly from my soul.  God has been busy teaching me many things.  He is working in my heart and My Love's heart and our marriage and our home.  He is turning over the junk drawer and asking us to deal with everything that falls to floor.  It is a strange place to be knowing full well that obedience to God includes our broken hearts.  More than anything God wants us BOTH to die to self and love with reckless abandon.  No matter the tears, the pain, the heartache.  It hasn't been easy.  It won't be easy.  But God is equipping us and I am overwhelmed by his love and gentle guidance.  Completely.  More to come.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

God is always good

Sovereignty is a tricky thing.  We only tend to think about it when things are going poorly.  When life is peddling along great we take all the credit for the happy moments.  God must be blessing us.  But when the road of life takes a sharp turn we suddenly become aware of the bigger picture.  Of course our default reaction is not to praise God in the storm.  But as the fog lifts we see that his plan was perfect all along and had we only trusted him in the chaos we would have experienced his peace rather than our own fear.

I see things differently in 2012.

This week Bundle Brother got a cold.  Then Babydoll.  It wouldn't have been a topic to open my eyes to God's sovereignty except that brother's 4th birthday party bash was approaching on Saturday.  We didn't mention their sickness to our friends and were hopeful that with lots of rest and fluids it would pass before the weekend.  Sister was two days behind his cold so she was in worse shape than her recovering sibling.  Saturday morning came.  Early.  Brother came running in our room at 4am saying through tears about his ear hurting and he needed "earwax" (which is what he calls q-tips).  I gave him some water and Motrin and sent him back to bed.  Three hours later he awoke for the day with healthy eyes.  My Love gave him a hair cut for party day and Brother got dressed in his solider shirt paired over his brown long sleeved thermal and khaki cargo pants.  Things were being disenfected around here. We sat the kids down at the table with our four visiting house guests and opened up a box of Peanut Butter Cheerios that we had picked up to try for the first time.  Bowls were filled and bananas were passed out.  Babydoll started having a coughing attack (like she is right now standing next to me).  Brother burst into tears and complained about his ear hurting.  Our boy has never had an ear infection in his four years of life.  I looked at My Love and asked him if he thought we should cancel the party.  We agreed that in that moment it was the best decision we could make.  Luckily the party was scheduled for 4pm so I was able to let people know early enough so they could still enjoy their day.  

Brother was up in bed again by this time.  I went upstairs and broke the news which we had been prepping him for in the days leading up to this moment.  He took the news very well.  He didn't even seem disappointed.  I came back downstairs and started sending texts and sending emails.  My friend was sitting at the table for breakfast with her two kids  and another mutual friend of ours.  She felt terrible about the colds that her two had when they arrived at our home over a week before.  She thought she was responsible for the cancelled party. 

How could I possibly be upset about it?  God is always good!  Always!  Brother wasn't even disappointed.  It would have been easy to focus on all the time I had spent running errands this past week preparing for the party.  The money spent.  The cupcakes baked.  The decorations we had put up while up late the night before with three of our good friends.  But wouldn't that have made the day about me?  God knows what he is doing.  He was sovereign over the week before while they were getting sick and he remains sovereign today.  I completely admit it would have been more difficult to be so positive had Brother been broken-hearted but he wasn't.  The older I get the more I see disappoints as opportunities for teachable moments for my kids (and myself).  We can have all the plans in the world but God is in control and he knows better for us than we can prepare for ourselves.  

With clearer eyes I started to look at the new opportunities God made from this canceled party.  Two families in particular were making the time to drive down even with other plans before/during.  Now they could fully commit to the other.  Two other families took the time to show their love to me in ways I needed.  One text a pic of the card her daughter had made for Bundle Boy.  Another offered for her daughter to call Brother later in the day to cheer him up.  I was touched.  The other three families live on our new street and were now freed up to enjoy the rare beautiful and sunny day we had.  I thought about each conversation the parents would be having with their child/ren.  Some of them may have been crushed.  More teachable moments.  I thought about the opportunities they were given to spend as a family doing something else.  Then I thought about the people God literally put in my living room that morning.  A close friend who lives states away.  Her husband sat on our couch the night before as we blew up grenade [water] balloons (the party was solider-themed) before driving back into the City for work Saturday morning.  We have been praying for his salvation as his address for the past several months has been in the Afghanistan desert.  He returns for several more months in another week.  I thought about the single friend who spent Friday night sleeping on our couch and was spooning his own PB Cheerios into his mouth as this decision was being made.  We have been praying for his wife for over a year.  He is not married but longs to be.  I hopped on FB as the dust was settling around here that morning and read our friend's status update while he sat on our couch.

"If you are going to really reach your goals in life, sometimes you have to delay gratification. You have to do the tough thing instead of the fun thing, the right thing instead of the pleasurable thing.

Any goal that's worth achieving is going to have obstacles in the way. You need to have a long-term view so, when difficulties come, you can persevere knowing that you are going to get past it.

God's timing is perfect and ours is not. When you find yourself in God's waiting room, just be patient and persistent. A God-given vision will always be fulfilled." ~R.W.

Seriously people if that was the only reason for sick kids and a canceled party, PRAISE GOD!  A few nights before our friend sat on our couch sharing his vision for the new year.  His goals for making changes in his life.  And without out-right saying it, asked us to pray for a new relationship with real potential.

God is always good.

Are you thankful for his sovereignty today?

Brother woke up early again today crying for earwax.  My Love and I had just sat down for our first cup of coffee and Bibles in hand.  Upon inspection My Love discovered dried blood in our son's right ear.  "I can't hear out of this side but I can hear out of this side," he said to me.  My Love got on the phone and scheduled an appointment at a nearby urgent care office on this Sunday morning.  My Love had offered to watch all four kids this morning (since two were still sick) so my friend and I could go to church together.  With the boys off to the doctor that plan again changed.  But God is always good.  And in light of yesterday my first thought was surprisingly to be thankful it was the weekend because My Love was home to take him to the doctor for me.  He just called from the doctore.  Brother has a sinus infection, ear infection, and ruptured ear drum.  He is never sick.

The Enemy keeps trying to shake our gratitude but we stand firm.  We choose to trust our Sovereign Lord even in the disappointing because we know the very near future will include LOTS of disappointing moments.  What will we do then?

More to come...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

littles and olders

It has been a busy week.  We have visiting friends staying with us for awhile.  The Bundles are having fun playing with their age-appropriate playmates.  The pairs have acquired the names "The Littles" and "The Olders" for the time being.  There is something so comfortable about living in community with people you know and trust.  We wish they could stay forever.  Or buy a house down the street.  Maybe some day.  In the meantime, I have come to discover that the dish fairy does exist and lives in Florida most of the year.  Our Brita pitcher is magically always at full capacity and the play room is tidy every night before bed.  Of course we enjoy their company too. ;)

Little, Older, Older, Little

We had a fun New Year's Eve weekend with our friends here at the house playing games and eating appetizers with all four of us staying awake almost until midnight.  Mr. S. is back at work again in the City and we hope to see his face once more before he has to return for the second half of his yearlong deployment.  God knew my good friend would need the distraction of being here right now but the reality of the long road ahead for her and their two young children is heart aching for me to watch.  We were thrilled that he was able to be home for his R&R at Christmas.  The two bonus weeks he had tacked on to be in our area for his boss's time at home was a huge gift.  J and the kids will be hanging with us for the next couple of weeks until M flies out.  Please pray for their Little and Older as well as their brave Momma in the new year.  Hurry home, M!

On a positive note, our time together as families has been precious and God has shown more than one answer to prayer this past week.  He is working.

Needless to say I have wanted to write and am now only getting the chance (My Love has been home and off of work since Christmas) because I fell asleep shortly after the kids went to bed and am now wide awake.  Perhaps this is my opportunity to post something.  I have much to share.  Stay tuned...

Monday, January 2, 2012

this one is for me

Jeremiah 23:1-4 NLT

“What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people—the shepherds of my sheep—for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for,” says the Lord. 2 Therefore, this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to these shepherds: “Instead of caring for my flock and leading them to safety, you have deserted them and driven them to destruction. Now I will pour out judgment on you for the evil you have done to them. 3 But I will gather together the remnant of my flock from the countries where I have driven them. I will bring them back to their own sheepfold, and they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4 Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the Lord have spoken!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

chew on this

Colossians 3:17, 23 NLT

(17) And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
Colossians 4: 2, 5, 6 NLT
(2) Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

(5) Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.

(6) Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

a year in review

A year ago this blog did not exist, but I did write down my goals and prayers for the future of 2011 over on my private family blog.  I sit here in my new green chair alone in the quiet reflecting on how good our God is.  He planted many of these things in my heart twelve months ago in preparation for all he would do last year.  I had no idea what he had planned.  Take a trip down memory lane with me and see the updates I added in red.  Stay tuned for an "in the new year, 2012" post soon-ish.  Enjoy!  God is so good.

Original post date: 31 December 2010

Alright. We are minutes from ringing in the new year out here on the east coast. We all had fun with some new friends tonight who came over to eat dessert and play games with us until their kids had had enough. Now it is time to get down to business. Many of the things on my list this year have been running through my mind a lot lately. I am confident they were placed there by God. I am excited to see Him make some changes in me during this new year. He has given me a glimpse into what my part in those changes will be, but I am looking forward to the unknown. 2011 will be unlike any other. So here we go.

* read through the Bible together again.

--We did this again...kind of.  My Love and are on different days and months behind schedule, but we press on.  We will finish our One Year Bible in God's perfect timing.  In fact, it has been amazing to see God speak to me on daily readings "meant" for other days and yet amazingly perfect for that particular day in my life.  His sovereignty is amazing.
* complete a Bible study with each of my sisters (starting with Justine)...surprise girls! I already talked about it with Bee and it got me thinking. With modern technology the way it is, there really isn't anything keeping us from studying God's Word together and chatting about it over Skype. I can't wait.

--There are not enough words to describe how this goal blessed my life.  I was a little over zealous in thinking I could manage to do a Bible study with each of my sisters in one year.  But the one I did with my youngest sister was life changing for us both.  We read through "LORD, I Want to Know You" by Kay Arthur.  Since we live on opposite coasts we read a couple chapters at a time and then Skyped during nap to discuss what we had learned.  At first I didn't know what to expect but God showed up and blew my socks off.  I was so blessed to have a front row seat from a country away in literally watching the Lord work in my sister's heart.  After years of praying for her (alongside many others), I can say with confidence that she is firmly in her Father's hands.  His love and grace overwhelm me.  He NEVER gives up on us even when it seems like the rest of the world has.  Sometimes it just takes us to slow down and be still long enough so we can hear his still small voice speaking directly to our hearts.  Keep listening, sister.  He has big plans for your life for his glory.  I SO loved getting to KNOW the names of God with you in 2011.  Our relationship as sisters is stronger and I am thankful for all you taught me during our time together every week.  You remain in my prayers.  I love you.
* read more books (at least one a month)...We got some new books for Christmas and have been filling our spare time together reading. I love it! With this one comes a reason to reevaluate what we do with idle time. 

--I did read some amazing books this year but not as many as I wanted to.  One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp transformed my life and perspective.  Through the process of looking for and thanking God for his grace in my every day life, I experienced overwhelming joy in varying circumstances.  God used this book to take my eyes off of me and wake me up to what is really important in this life: to know Him and to make him known.  I also read The Fitting Room by Kelly Minter, Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, and Decision Points by George W. Bush which were all great books.  I've got a new stack on the bookshelf from Christmas gifts that will get me going in 2012.

* learn a new creative hobby that I can use to bless others

--Somehow this one escaped me again.  I do enjoy being creative but perhaps God has other talents that need to be highlighted at this chapter of my life instead.  I hope there is a future that includes blessing others with some new creative hobby.
* set aside a date night once a month...we thought back to this year and realized we had been on two dates all year. Now in our defense we were busy having a baby and caring for her immediate needs. But two dates? That is pretty sad. We both want to make that a bigger priority.

--Haha!  This didn't go as planned either.  We did really well at the beginning of 2011.  We hired a friend's daughter in our neighborhood to babysit on a couple of occasions but with visiting family coming we discontinued that to wait for free childcare while they were in town.  I am certain we went on more than two dates in 2011 (probably more like six) but our goal of once a month was not fully realized.  Now that the kids are a little older I can see this becoming easier in the future.
* boldness!

--I am not sure how to respond to this one.  God did light a fire of boldness in me this year.  In conversations with friends I would often ask probing questions trying to deepen our fellowship and create opportunities for prayer and accountability.  I spoke more openly in public using the name of Jesus in my every day conversations with people.  I challenged many to open up and pray for loved ones and to be open to however God might want to use them in this moment.  Yes, I will say boldness was definitely the word of the year in more ways than one.  It is likely that some chose to stay at a distance from me because my passion for God this year made them evaluate their own relationships with him.  It is not my job to keep the peace and make people feel comfortable.  It is my job to please God and bring him glory.  Boldness.  Yes, I think I will choose to take that into the near year as well.  And if you have known me in the past, then you know it is only by God's strength that boldness could ever be used to describe a year in my life.  A bit of a former wall flower in social gatherings, God has done a big work in me to be able to use me for his purpose.  Isn't it usually in the opposite way than we think we can be used?  I find the stuff we are weak in is exactly what he wants to use to highlight his strength.  So if boldness was the theme of 2011, to God be the glory.  Because everything inside me knows that didn't used to come naturally.

* have friends and family come visit us. ;)

--Oh boy did this happen.  With all the craziness that came with moving at year's end, I had almost forgotten how many loved ones we were blessed to see this year.  All of our parents, two sisters, a niece, and several out of state friends.  We had an amazing year of site seeing and making memories with many who we know and love.  Thank you to everyone who came to stay with us in our home.  We loved having you and hope to see more of you in the new year.

* strengthen our close friendships here in Virginia

--  Yes this happened too.  As we started praying for the needs of our close friends here, we saw our relationship with them strengthen.  This has not always come naturally to me in the past either.  I know God wanted me to make deeper connections with friends this past year and that required me to invest in them and to open myself up to being vulnerable.  I know God used our time there at our old home to bring together several families that weren't plugged into any real group of friends at our church.  We became a family away from each of our own extended relatives and enjoyed many holidays making memories together.  We miss them all terribly but are lucky to still be close enough to see each other from time to time. I have been SO blessed to see God work in their lives and know we will be close for many years to come even though we now live further away.

* make ourselves available to be used for God's glory in our church.

--Well.  I'm not sure this was clearly realized in a way I can put in words but I KNOW God used us there.  Some things we just won't be told until we get to heaven.

* see complete restoration (and healing) of fractured relationships in my extended family

--God has been working.  He did some amazing work in 2010 but unfortunately there is still more healing to be done.  The first step will be forgiveness.  We continue to shower many in prayer.  Life is too short to make it about us, people.

* see family and loved ones return to (or accept) a relationship with God

--I know this happened in multiple people.  We continue to pray for the salvation and restoration of many who we love and some we have never met.  I really believe God listens to our prayers for the lost and keeps tending to the soil until the perfect time when the Holy Spirit opens their eyes to all he has done.  We pray and pray for that day to be soon for so many.

* see complete physical healing of a young "extended family member"

--A year ago a sort of extended family member (by marriage) was diagnosed with neuroblastoma.  We prayed for his life and health and family and for God to get the glory through every part of the journey.  I think he was eight.  He had surgery.  He did two rounds of chemotherapy.  The tumor stopped growing and he is currently doing well.  We praise God and continue to pray for this whole situation as we ask Him for complete healing.  None of this is surprising to God.   

* witness the miracle of life given to those who I know long to be parents (through pregnancy/adoption)

--WOW!  This sentence gives me chills now in light of the future before us.  We have been overwhelmed by God's love this year as we prayed with our dear friends who became the forever family of two children from Ethiopia.  We were present at the airport when they arrived home.  We have watched them grow and settle into a life that was chosen by God just for them.  It has been amazing.  We continue to pray for this family in the new year as they move forward with the adoption of another child.  God places the lonely in families, people.  We remain in prayer for more loved ones who we trust WILL be parents in His timing.

* keep my family safe and healthy in the year ahead

--I think I put this one in at the end for good measure.  Good health and safety is something we take for granted.  We should place even that in the Lord's hands to do with as he pleases.  We praise God for two healthy children and acknowledge that he is the reason for our safe keeping.  Thank you Good Shepherd.

Thank you Lord for already knowing the outcomes to all these personal goals and ongoing prayer requests. Mold me and shape me to be your instrument in 2011.



To be continued...