Monday, March 21, 2016

Flowers and Fondue...

In our lifegroup the other night, we discussed different truths we believe as Christians. I mentioned that I believe children are a gift. We then discussed what kind of actions those beliefs cause us to make. For example, if we truly believe that children are a gift, how does that affect how we treat them? Do we find ourselves becoming easily angered when they misbehave, or do we treat them with love and gentleness, even when we get frustrated? I truly want to cherish my children, and for the most part, that's easy to do.
Like on the days when my 8 year old crawls into bed with me early in the morning, snuggling up close to me and telling me how much she loves me and thinks I am the greatest mommy in the world...or in the moments when my 3 year old runs up to me and gives me the biggest hug, just because he is so excited to be in my presence...or when my 22 month old reaches up for me to pick her up and crinkles up her nose, smiling at me and babbling away joyfully... It's easy to be a grateful momma in those moments. But what about the moments when that 8 year old talks back and argues with you over EVERYTHING...or when that 3 year old throws a fit because you make him take a much-needed nap...or when that 22 month old is kicking and crying uncontrollably because you won't let her eat chocolate animal crackers for a meal...or what about when all three of those things seem to happen all at once?! Those are the moments when grateful mommies can easily turn into the Incredible Hulk. Those are the moments that we all too quickly forget that even the greatest of gifts often require some of the greatest of sacrifices. I have to admit that I can often "lose my cool," but I truly do pray each day for the Lord to take over every ounce of my being, to give me patience with my children, to show them grace and gentleness, to LOVE them as He loves them, and to help me to appreciate every single moment--the precious ones that make my mommy-heart melt, but also the challenging ones, that make my blood want to boil! And as we approach
socks with sandals
adding another amazing gift to our family, I find myself praying extra hard for the ability to mother these children in a way that honors my Heavenly Father. I feel so humbled that, for whatever reason, the Lord has chosen me to be their mother...but I admit that I often feel very overwhelmed by such a great task. But that's actually a good thing, because when we realize that we really aren't enough, it causes us to rely even more on the only One who IS enough--Jesus Christ. And as we approach Thursday (*squeals*!!!!!) when we will get to welcome Baby H into our wild and crazy and blessed family, I find myself wanting to soak up every single moment I have with these three precious babies the Lord has so graciously gifted to me already. So while my brain is pretty preoccupied with thoughts of how everything is going to look as a family of 6, what recovery from surgery is going to be like with four children, etc., I'm also trying to just live in the NOW of this moment, and my "now" centers around my Lucy Shea, Gabriel Paul, and Annie Beth, and today, that meant picnic and play time outside, and a special mommy-daughter date with my oldest.

The Texas temps are doing their usual
Picnic in the backyard
dance of going from one season to another in the matter of just a few days, which meant my kids all wore winter clothes to church on the first official day of spring (except Annie's winter shoes no longer fit, so I actually put her in socks with sandals!) Today, it started warming up though, so I thought it would be fun to have a picnic out back on the deck and then let the kids run off some energy in the backyard.
Gabriel was the first to abandon his PB and J, but it wasn't just so he could run off and play. He ran up towards me , thrusting a small flower in my face, and with a big, warm smile, he proudly proclaimed, "Here you go, Mommy. I brought you a flower!"

"Here you go Mommy. I brought you a flower!"
My heart instantly became a puddle! I gladly accepted such a prize, only to be continually rewarded with various findings from my boy throughout the rest of our time outside. The fits are often hard to endure, and the potty training wars can be frustrating, but in the grand scheme of things, those moments make up such a small speck of mommyhood. It may seem overwhelming at the time, but when I think of the big picture of being a parent, those aren't the moments that come to the forefront of my mind. And just as I pray to give my children grace each day, I find that they are possibly the best examples of grace-givers (and flower-givers, too;-)

Before-Baby-Date
Not only was I blessed today by the sweet heart that my baby boy has, but I also got to experience the breath of fresh air that my Lucy brings to me.
On their way to see Star Wars!
Daddy-Daughter Date
She recently requested a special one-on-one date with her Daddy and with her Mommy before Baby H arrives. I was the baby of my family, so I never have experienced what it's like to have the responsibility that's placed on the oldest child of a family, especially a larger family, and I often wonder if we expect a bit too much out of Lucy. I seriously would be lost without that girl! She is SUCH a helper, and if ever someone truly blossomed in their role in life, it is Lucy with how she has just thrived in her position as the big sister. Her siblings look up to her with such awe, and she embraces them with such love. I always say that the Lord knew exactly what He was doing when He made Lucy the oldest child. So, while she does have the most responsibility placed upon her amongst all of the siblings, she also gets a few special treats that the others haven't gotten quite yet, such as a one-on-one date with her parents.

DH took her out a few weeks ago with some other friends to see the new Star Wars movie at the imax. I always say my biggest flaw for DH is I don't like Star Wars,
tic tac toe
and his one and only fault is that he doesn't like chocolate. However, God gave us Lucy--she's obsessed with Star Wars alongside her Daddy, and she's also a HUGE lover of all things chocolate, just like her Momma! So, I decided for our special "before baby date," we would go out for fondue! Lucy was so excited when she heard me on the phone today making reservations for our special outing. I could just see it all over her face how special she felt tonight. She spends the majority of her days having to share everything, including Mommy and Daddy, but tonight, she just had me to herself.
After we finished eating, she asked if she could come sit next to me. Since it wasn't busy at the restaurant, they told us we could stay as long as we wanted, so we sat next to one another and played eight rounds of tic tac toe, coming up with different shapes and designs to use for each game, laughing with each other, and taking silly selfies.
It was a few hours devoted to just enjoying each other's company.

silly selfies
It's quite possible that tomorrow will hold its share of tantrums and fits and arguments, but I'm reminded that my Heavenly Father deals with the same thing from His children, too. I often kick and scream my way through the valleys, and yet He so graciously loves me through it. I so pray that my children will see Him in me as I parent them. Whether it be over flowers, or fondue, or even fits, may I never forget or take for granted the tremendous gift I have been given by being called "Mommy."

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Stuck...

I'm at the tail end of my pregnancy, and while I am savoring each kick and crazy movement my little Baby H is making, my body is SO worn out. Between sickness, migraines, ulnar nerve issues, insomnia, swelling, and a host of other issues, my body has been on a wild ride! I've found myself fighting guilt over these feelings of being "done" being pregnant. I know what it's like to feel like you would give ANYthing to be able to experience pregnancy. But the reality still is that it's hard on a woman's body to grow and carry another life inside of it. A dear friend reminded me this week that I can be both grateful and miserable at the same time--it's just the reality of the situation, and there's nothing wrong with being real! 

 So, that being said, I've had to spend a lot more time in bed lately than I normally would, just trying to allow my body to rest so that baby H can get what she needs, and so Mommy can function to give everyone else in the family what they need, too. Yesterday was one of those days that I just had to take some time resting, and Annie joined me after her nap. As she was "talking" to me (she cracks us up--she will babble on and on endlessly, but we usually can't understand anything she's saying except for the last word or two), she started pointing at my belly.

ME: Is that the baby?
ANNIE: Baby!
ME: Do you want to kiss the baby?
ANNIE: (can't quite reach my belly): NO!
ME: Why not?
ANNIE: Baby STUCK!
ME: As a matter of fact, Annie, yes. She sure is!

All of my girls have seemed to be "stuck" until forced to move. I had my last OB appointment yesterday before that conversation with Annie, and sure enough, Baby H is following in her sister's footsteps (or lack of foot steps!), so I'm not dilating at all. It seems my girls just like to find a comfy position (i.e. an UNcomfy position for Mommy!) and stay put. Sometimes, I feel like my body just doesn't want to cooperate and do what it is "supposed" to do, but in my heart, I really believe that the Lord is somehow protecting us. For some reason, it's best for my babies to come another way, and in the end, it really doesn't matter if I have some amazing natural birth story, if I have to go through a c-section, or if I receive the amazing privilege of being chosen by a birthmommy to parent my children. God's design for our family is exactly what it should be, and I am so thankful for how He has masterfully written our family's story. But typically, we don't tend to think of being "stuck" as being a good thing. However, as I reflected on my conversation with my toddler, I realized that being "stuck" isn't always a bad thing, and, in fact, Baby H's current position (according to her soon-to-big-sister) appropriately reflects the position our whole family has been in these past nine months. I shouldn't be surprised that God would use this baby to teach me and grow me once again, before she even arrives...

The details aren't really beneficial for me to share at this particular time, but in a way, our family was stuck in a very difficult situation nine months ago. In some ways, it felt as if we had been "stuck" in a horrible position, but what man meant for harm, God chose to work for our good and His glory. It some ways, it seemed cruel to be confined to a space that doesn't seem to allow the freedom to be all you know God has created for you to be, but in the midst of the darkness and confinement, God was at work growing and developing us through our circumstances. In the loneliness, He had us held more closely to Him. And while it felt like life was at a standstill, in the waiting, HE was still moving. And Baby H is in the exact same position right now...

A word that has similar meaning to "stuck" is the word "hold," and we find it in God's word that we are to "hold tightly" to our hope in the Lord. Just as my sweet baby girl is being held closely in my belly until the appropriate time for her arrival, God often holds us in places while he prepares the right place for us...and also while He prepares US for that place. What I'm learning more and more is that it's not so much about WHERE I am as it is about WHAT I'm doing while I'm there. I pray I will be found sitting at my Saviour's feet, or cradled in His arms, drawing closer to Him whether it be in every step He has me take, or in each pause He asks me to endure. May we all find ourselves "stuck" at His side...

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Holland Tunnel!

DH and I got to attend a worship conference together this week. It was so nice to get away for the day with just him and to worship and be refreshed together. There were some amazing speakers and insights--I laughed with Mark Hall from Casting Crowns,
 I cried with Steven Curtis Chapman as he shared his heart,
and I chewed on the insights from Montel Jordan.
 But before I even entered the room the conference was being held in, the Lord had an interesting encounter for me...

I was standing in a hallway type area waiting for DH as he took something to our car. As I was standing there, a lady walked up to me, no introduction.

"Where's the restroom?"

I glanced down at my lanyard,
 wondering at first if she thought I was a volunteer, but then realizing every person attending the conference was obviously wearing the same thing. Thinking maybe I had heard her wrong or just wasn't understanding if she was actually talking to me, I looked up at her and replied, "Ummm...I'm sorry?"

(Lady) "Where's the restroom?"

(me) "Oh...ummmm...I don't know."

(Lady, laughing) "Well you better find out!"

I was so caught off guard at first, but then I realized my obvious "great with child" stature. I replied, "You're probably right!"

(Lady) "I figured if anyone would know where the restroom is, it would be you!"

I nodded, looked around, spotted the restroom, and pointed her in the right direction.

As she walked away, I couldn't help but chuckle to myself as I immediately recalled a Brian Regan bit that my family has quoted multiple times. (It was a total "Holland Tunnel!" experience!) I re-told the story to DH, we laughed, and then we headed into the conference to find a place to sit...

In that first session, the speaker talked about how there is a difference between "leading" and "directing." He said, "If you arent in the presence of God, then you're only able to direct people to God, rather than LEAD them to Him." He challenged us, asking if we were giving the right impression of how to get to God. I couldn't help but think of the lady I had just recently encountered. I had given her the impression of being someone who would know the answer to her question, but I was honestly just as lost on the matter as she was! I then found myself thinking, "If I am giving the impression to the world that I'm a Christian, I sure better know how to lead them to Christ!"

You see, so often we wear the shirt, we quote the popular Scripture passage, or we share the "right" articles on our facebook wall, giving others the impression that we are followers of Christ. It's easy to just point someone in a general direction, but if someone were to start following me around, where exactly would I lead them to? Would I lead them to that flustered place I often find myself in when it seems none of my children are listening to me? Would I lead them to the chair I often plop down into when the exhaustion of trying to do it all hits me? Or would I lead them to the foot of the cross?  I think we often think the foot of the cross is found at the place where we have our quiet time, or at the alter at church, but I was reminded this week that the foot of the cross is anywhere. You see, we don't have to invite God to join us each day--He's already there! As Montel Jordan spoke, "We are called to RECOGNIZE God's presence!"

So where can I find Jesus? I find Him at the kitchen sink when I'm doing dishes...I find Him at the dinner table when I'm eating with my family...
I find Him in the living room when my kids are playing...I can even find Him at the bathroom of a worship conference! I can find Jesus anywhere, but the question is, am I acknowledging His presence in every aspect of my day? Because when I do that is when others will be able to find Him, too.

As someone who leads worship alongside my husband, I truly do pray that I can be a part of leading God's people to His throne, but I realize that doesn't just happen at our church--it has got to happen at my home, too! So my desire is that my children will see me acknowledging the presence of Jesus in our home, and that they'll desire to follow me to His feet. Because when I'm acknowledging Him in all of those mundane, every day tasks, it's a lot easier to show patience and love and joy and grace to my kids, because I have the very essence of those qualities right there with me. Jesus isn't far away--He's always waiting to meet with us. The question is, will we acknowledge His presence? Let's not just direct others to where He's at--let's lead them...even if that means to a bathroom stall! ;-)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Tap Light in the Fridge...


I remember the first home DH and I lived in. It was about five steps away from the church doors on a busy college street that liked to party on the weekends. (I still remember people at school telling me that they would warn each other not to touch our house when they were all partying, because DH was a minister! ;-) It was a very cute house on the outside--it looked like an old barn--and it was certainly a nice size for just the two of us. But it definitely needed some repairs! The house was actually deemed un-insurable, and we would often spend around $600 or more each month trying to heat it in the winter because it was so drafty. (I still remember burning my feet multiple times standing on top of the vent grates trying to warm up.) I'm not complaining at all-we were thankful to have a house near the university and church! But it had lots of little quirks that I often think about now. I remember when we moved in, the church ladies had worked so hard to try and make it homey for us. We have carried one of those decorations to every house we've lived in since,
 and I always feel like it makes our new dwelling place a home to settle in at. We endured lots of cold temps in that house, a roof caving in (for six months!), a smashed in front door repaired with duct tape...just to name a few.

We also got to see a beautiful deck built on the front though, and we welcomed many students into our home for B.Y.O.M. (bring your own meat) Survivor watching parties, girls nights in, youth gatherings to play video games, etc. I am thankful for that first home we got to live life in and for the many ways God has taught me through the stories that unfolded within.
Perhaps one of my favorite memories is when we first moved in. There was possibly the ugliest and oldest fridge sitting in the kitchen that I had ever laid eyes on. It was an interesting shade of brown, and even a short person could tower over the top of it. Its main flaw was not its appearance on the outside though, but the inside. When you open a refrigerator, you typically see a light pop on automatically, but with this one, there was no light. Some sweet ladies in the church wanted to fix it though, so they placed a tap light in it so we could have some light in there. I never had the heart to tell them that within hours, that tap light quickly gave up the fight. The temps and the condensation quickly got the better of it, and it wasn't usable anymore. 

So what's the point of all of that? Well, I found my heart very heavy for my kids today. We received some news that I knew would be very disappointing for Lucy, so we tried to explain it to her as best we could, why we could no longer support something that she really enjoyed, because it was promoting values and things that don't please Jesus. It truly is getting increasingly harder to learn how to be in the world but not of it. I found myself asking, "So, what is the answer?" It came very quickly and clearly to me though:

Jesus!

I want my children to want Jesus more than anything or anyone else in this world--more than a friend, more than a job, more than a placement, more than a comfort or a luxury...I want them to want Him! So how do they do that? And that's when the Lord reminded me of my role as their momma--the greatest role I've ever been given. It is my job to guide them every single day to the foot of the cross. It is my job to show them the example of someone so in love with Jesus that it guides their little hearts to want to do the same.
Do I want Jesus more than a full time job with security for my husband? Do I want Jesus more than any friendship to fill a void of loneliness in my life? Do I pursue Him more than any other dream that I have, trusting His ways are so much better than I could ask or imagine? Am I willing to make tough decisions to ensure no one takes His place in my life? 

The Lord directed me to the following passage in 1 John 1:15-17...

And I was reminded of the verse I have prayed over Lucy throughout her life... 

You see, it's easy to say we want to be a light for this world, but when the "elements" come into play, just like that tap light in the cold fridge, we often burn out. Oh, how I pray I won't do that, and oh how I pray that my children will desire to stay on fire for the Lord! May my desire for Jesus shine so brightly that it leads others to desire the light within me--the light of the world, and not the tap light in the fridge...

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Nine Years...

Today marks an incredibly special day in the life of of our family.  It started off as a typical day, but it ended in what, at the same time, seemed like devastation.

DH and I had just finished up a very busy Christmas season as youth pastors. We had enjoyed the Christmas holiday with his family, but I remember he and I talking that evening about being worried about a lump he had found. I remember when he told me it didn't really hurt that a red flag went off in my head, except he was only in his 20's, so it seemed kind of ridiculous to be worried about it being something serious, so I tried to dismiss the idea. And then we both went straight from Christmas festivities to the annual state youth evangelism conference. DH took our youth group, and I was in charge of backstage stuff for the event, so I had to stay in Springfield, IL at his parents' while DH went back and forth with the youth group.  I remember discussing things again with him over the phone one evening, and we decided he should probably go see the doctor on Friday, just to be safe, since it was going to be a long holiday weekend. I had to work that day, and we had plans to go on a "Christmas date" with friends to dinner after I got off, so to save gas money (we lived 45 minutes away from my job), DH decided to just drop me off at work and then go to the doctor, and then just hang out in Springfield until I got off. Our plans were quickly derailed though...

He went from the doctor, to the hospital, into an operating room, in a matter of just hours. I remember calling him on my morning break to check in on what the doctor had to say, and that's when I learned they were sending him to the hospital for a scan or something. I felt my heart skip a beat, but I remember he assured me they were just trying to be cautious. Next thing I know, I'm finding out he's got to have surgery...and I have no car to get to him, and my job is refusing to let me leave because there was no "undertime" available right before another holiday. I got in touch with DH's mom to come pick me up, and I just took the point for leaving work (if you got so many points, you got fired.) but I didn't get to the hospital until they had just wheeled DH off into surgery. I was a MESS!  I felt like I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I remember my sweet mentor-friend praying for me that God would prepare my heart to rejoice or to grieve.  I remembered the tears I had cried just days before when I discovered that, yet again, we were not pregnant, and now wondering if we would ever be able to have a child...and yet at that point, all I wanted was for my husband to be okay.

But, in the midst of the tears, the worry, and the confusion, Jesus was there. He was present in so very many ways, reminding me of the control He had of what seemed like a very OUT of control situation. You see, since all of this happened on a holiday weekend, there weren't really any surgeries scheduled, so the schedule was very open. And, the doctor who "happened" to be on call at the hospital that day also just "happened" to be the very best. If things hadn't all played out when they did, we would have been looking at a wait time to get in just to see a doctor about the issue, and then waiting to schedule surgery. But instead, it all happened that day, and it was truly a huge deal that it did, because they literally removed the tumor RIGHT before it had spread anywhere else as far as the surgeon could tell. The news was not one we wanted to hear: it was almost certainly cancer. But the outlook was as positive as it could be at that moment: it looked like they were able to get it all.

If I close my eyes, I can immediately transport myself back to those hospital halls and that waiting room where I received the news from the surgeon. I can remember walking in to see my husband for the first time after surgery. I can remember the grief in my heart, the worry in my soul, and the overwhelming love I had for this amazing man. At that moment, nothing else mattered--none of the disappointment of our fertility struggle even--but that he was there with me.

The next several weeks were quite stressful. I can remember laying on the floor, crying harder than I ever had before, banging my fists to the ground and up in the air, questioning why God had allowed this to happen, questioning what this meant for us, and being so angry. I remember going to church and them singing, "Victory in Jesus," and being unable to participate, because I truly felt no victory in my life at that moment. But you know what? God didn't punish me for my questions, or chastise me for my attitude. Instead, He just kept showing up and loving me and assuring me that He indeed was not caught off guard by all of this, He already had a plan for it all, and since I couldn't walk the path on my own, He reminded me that He would just carry me through it instead. You see, my Jesus' faithfulness to me has no bearing on my faithfulness to Him; His works have nothing to do with what I bring to the table; His plans are not thwarted when my flesh gets in the way because He is God, He is able, and He is bigger than my doubts, confusion, and mistrust. He didn't have to prove that to me, but He did, and I was forever changed because of that. During that season in our lives, DH and I learned we had to just cling to one another, being held together by the One who had brought us together: our Lord. It was the darkest road we had traveled together, but it brought about such a blessing, because we grew closer to one another and to Jesus in the whole process, so we wouldn't trade it all for anything. God doesn't always answer our prayers how we personally would hope for Him to, but He always answers them in the best way, and we praise Him that in this case, He allowed DH to be okay...

So how do we choose to celebrate this particular anniversary?  Well, in a few days, we're having a bit of a party to commemorate it all, but today, DH is taking his oldest on a daddy-daughter date. It wasn't purposely planned for this day. In fact, it's been delayed a week because Lucy was sick last week when they were supposed to go. But I can't think of a better day for DH to spend with our Lucy. You see, after all was said and done with DH's surgery and diagnosis, we were told it would be very difficult if not impossible for us to have children on our own, but just a few months after DH's surgery, we would find out that we were expecting our first miracle: Lucy Shea. And now, here we are, nine years later, with this amazing family that God has so lovingly and graciously blessed us with.

I'm not sure where you are at personally as you enter into this new year. Maybe you've received news that has left you in shock and confusion; maybe the desires of your heart have yet to be fulfilled and you find yourself feeling hopeless and doubting God's promises; or maybe you're eagerly anticipating all God has planned for you in 2016...whatever the case, let me encourage you keep praising Him through the storm, keep clinging to Him through the confusion, and when you just can't put another foot in front of the other, let Him CARRY you! We were never promised an easy road, but we were promised a Guide, a Comforter, and a victorious ending! God truly is SO good, even when life is not, so please join me in praising Him today, for the storms, for the sun, and for all of the moments in-between.

Happy New Year, my friends!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

All is Well...

I have so much that I am thankful for and looking forward to this holiday season. I am so humbled by this incredible family God has created in His own special way and in His own perfect timing. I love seeing the wonder and excitement in my children's eyes as we pass by Christmas lights in the car, the joy they express at giving to others, and the excitement they feel as they gaze at presents under the tree. And I'm so thankful for the amazing church we are getting to serve in right now who has loved us and affirmed us in such an incredible way. As we have been preparing for this amazing season where we celebrate the coming of our Saviour, there is so much joy in my heart. But if I'm being honest, I have to tell you that more than a lot of years, this holiday season has been one filled with a lot of tears...

While I never want anything to overshadow the true meaning of Christmas, I fully acknowledge that the Christmas season is also one where we take time to really spend with family and people near and dear to us. In a society that thrives on busy-ness and full schedules, the Christmas season is one where we usually try to take a step back and focus on the things that are really important to us. So, it's little wonder that if you've experienced a huge loss in your family (whether it's a job or even more, a loved one), it can often hit you harder this time of year than any other...and boy, has it done just that with me this season. Maybe it's the extra pregnancy hormones compounded by the health issues I've been experiencing lately, or maybe it's just one of those years that's going to be more difficult for me, but whatever the case, the Lord has certainly been filling up that bottle of tears that He collects for each of us.

A friend once told me that for children, grief is like a toy. They play with it for awhile, and then they put it away. In other words, it's perfectly normal for a child to not deal with grief right away, so we just have to be patient with them and available to them. I realized this past week, though, that grief can be that way for adults, too. I shared with a friend how sometimes we, too, can kind of place it up on a shelf. It's not that we forget about it necessarily, but maybe we just don't think about exactly where we've placed it. Whatever the case, just like something you place up on a shelf, it will often present itself in the most unexpected ways--blind-siding us as we are actually searching for something else, only to find it coming crashing down and hitting us hard on the top of our head. It's not a new type of grief--it's the same thing we placed up on the shelf before--but when it hits us unexpectedly, it hurts. Bad.

As I go into this Christmas season, I feel like there are a lot of losses I'm mourning: the loss of a ministry and many relationships, the loss of my Daddy and also my PaPa...there are a lot of people I expected to be spending this holiday season with that I will not get to. Does that mean I'm ungrateful or have lost sight m of all of the many people that I DO have in my life? I don't think so. But I do have to take my grief to the Father and ask Him how He can use it and mold it and make beauty from the ashes, so that's exactly what I've sought to do the past several weeks. I don't know why I ever get surprised when He reveals Himself to me, but I found it so sweet how He gently nudged my heart this Sunday at church with a glimpse at how He's listening to me and working...

Our pastor preached out of Colossians 1 this week. Verses 16-20 tell us this:

"For by him all things were created:things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 

17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 

18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 

19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 

20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."

You see, as Pastor Charlie pointed out, "The purpose of God being broken was to piece back together our brokenness." As I deal with hurt and loss and confusion on how so many prayers seemed unanswered, I have to take a step back and ask myself, Do I trust my Jesus with great expectation that these requests I have made are already done? Do I trust that He's working even when it appears that nothing is working out? As I struggle through grief and hurt and disappointment, my God wants to remind me that His perfect work has already been accomplished, so I can trust Him to make beauty out of the sin in this world--that's the whole reason He came! He came to make right all that was and would be wrong. Do I really trust that He's not only able to do that, but that He's already done it? I think sometimes I am so overcome by the hurt, the loss, and the grief, that I lose sight of the healing and the Work of my Father. I don't believe this means I can't still pour my heart out to Him through my tears and my grief, but it means that I can TRUST Him with that grief, that as He stores each of my tears in a bottle, He is willing and able to pour them back out upon me as refreshment.

So why the title of "All is Well" for tonight's blogpost? Well, I wanted to share a Christmas arrangement on my studio Facebook page during this Christmas week, and that title is what popped up in the forefront of my mind. As I looked over the lyrics of this Christmas hymn, I smiled at how God was continuing to speak to my heart. Yes, through the darkness, through the wrongdoing, through the grief and the sorrow, Jesus came humbly as a baby, and because of that, we are truly able to say that ALL is well--all of the hurt, all of the pain, and all of the loss. It truly is well because of Jesus.

So if you, too, are struggling this Christmas season, join me in clinging to the Truth that Jesus came to this earth to make it well for YOU! He is not only the reason for THIS season, but He is the reason that we can have victory through ALL of the seasons we endure in this life on earth. My prayer is you will be overcome by the joy and the peace that only He can give.

Merry Christmas, my friends!

"All is Well"
Words: Wayne Kirkpatrick
Music: Michael W. Smith

All is well all is well
Angels and men rejoice
For tonight darkness fell
Into the dawn of love's light
Sing A-le
Sing Alleluia
All is well all is well
Let there be peace on earth
Christ is come go and tell
That He is in the manger
Sing A-le
Sing Alleluia

All is well all is well
Lift up your voice and sing
Born is now Emmanuel
Born is our Lord and Savior
Sing Alleluia
Sing Alleluia
All is well

Born is now Emmanuel
Born is our Lord and Savior
Sing Alleluia
Sing Alleluia
All is well


Friday, December 11, 2015

The TRUE Story of Adoption...

You won't recognizes most of the faces in the photos I'm sharing today. In fact, I don't recognize them either, and that's because they are from a post I saw on Facebook that struck me so deeply. The images you see are things actually said to adopted children and families all of the time--I've heard many of them myself. I know that people do not tend to be hurtful in their questions, but adoption is just so often misunderstood. Seeing the photos shared below spurred on these words from me. I hope you'll read and gain a little insight into where my heart is when I think of adoption, and especially of how I view my own son...

As Gabriel gets older, comments like this will become more and more confusing for him. I know a lot of them are out of ignorance from what adoption really is, which I can clear up for everyone in one single word: 

LOVE! 

Adoption isn't a burden, or a saintly
action, or a plan B because you couldn't have your "own" kids. Adoption is LOVE. It's not only the love I have for my son, or the love he shows me daily; it is also the incredible love his birthmom has for him. Love is a verb, and that means it is shown through many different actions.
I'm so thankful that my calling is to love Gabriel as his momma, that his calling is to love me as my son, and that his birthmom's calling was to love him by giving him life-a different life-and by giving our family a different life, too. 

Is there sadness involved in adoption? Yes. There sure is. But when you think of it at first thought, please think of love!

It's not a question of, "Why didn't his real mom want him?" It's a statement of "Wow! His birthmom must have really LOVED him to be able to do that!" And it's not a question of, "How can you love him like you love your OWN kids?" It's a statement of, "Isn't it beautiful how God can grow a family in a way no person ever could dream up?!" Because here's the deal: No, Gabriel didn't get his gorgeous complexion from me. Those dark brown eyes and long, beautiful eyelashes are nothing like mine. His precious face doesn't carry any of my family's or my husband's family's traits. But do you know what I see when I look him in the eye? I see the beauty in front of me and think, "Wow. DH and I could never have made that, and yet we get to call this precious boy OURS!"

You see, when you let God write your story, it's always going to look different from if you would have written it yourself. And while the journey of having absolutely no control of the outcome is often filled with grief and fear, it all becomes worth it in the end. Will there be more hurt and difficulties in future chapters? Yes? But I am able to hold to the truth that my Jesus knows how to make beauty from the ashes.

So I choose to trust Him.

I trust Him to give me the words when my son asks the tough questions. I choose to trust Him when well-meaning people say hurtful things. I choose to trust Him when I don't feel like I'm enough. And that's where I gain confidence and a sneak peak at the very end of this ongoing chapter called life--I know how the book ends!  


So, if you're thinking about adopting, or you have already adopted, or you know someone who has adopted, I'm going to let you in on the end of the story. It may not look like the conventional fairy tale, but when God writes your story, we are promised that we are "more than conquerors through Him", so we can rest assured that the last page is going to looks something like this: 
"And they all lived happily ever after..."

The End

(All images except the last came from Kim Kelley-Wagner images.)