Sunday, August 17, 2014

My life as a fortune cookie...

Sometimes the question arises at a church event, and sometimes at a birthday party, but on this particular day, the question popped up at Chickfila.  

"Is he your biological son?" 
Most people that see me with just Gabriel assume he has my dark hair, but when you sit his gorgeous brown skin next to his sisters', you tend to get a few questions.  I smiled at the sweet lady asking.  "Yes, he is my son, but no he isn't my biological child-we were blessed to adopt him. His birth mother is an amazing woman!"  Most often, the conversation will end there, but this particular lady continued, "Do you mind if I ask why you adopted him?"  This is the question that isn't so cut and dry.  Seeing as how we were in a noisy place and she had to get back to work soon, I gave her the simple answer: "We just really felt like the Lord called us to..." But my answer was followed up by a question I've not been asked before: "What exactly does that mean--that you were 'called' to adopt.  

Now that's a powerful question!

I didn't get to go into full detail in the limited amount of time we had to speak, but that woman's question has resonated in my head as I look back at how God has been writing our story...

You see, "once upon a time," I found myself on a very long journey.  I didn't know at the time that what I thought was the end of that road was actually a huge dip into a very long and winding path.  It's often better that way though, because perhaps if we were able to see every dark corner, every sharp turn, and every rocky terrain, we might not ever attempt the path that would ultimately lead us to where we are today.  The particular road I'm talking about is our road to becoming a family...

Years ago, on a day much like today, you could have easily found me in tears--the type of tears that come from deep within you and hurt just as much to let go of as they do to hold inside of you.  It wasn't a pretty place, and I certainly didn't always handle it as well as I should have.  But in those dark moments, the Lord was working.  He was using my pain to bring me to the place I would need to be to be able to accept what He knew my desires really were. My idea of expanding our family meant me getting pregnant, and yet, if the Lord would have allowed me my want, my plan, I would never have had my son in my arms--the child that my heart was longing for but that I had no idea would come to me in such a beautiful and unique way...but God knew, and so God worked.  He worked in Gabriel's birthmother's life to guide her to us; He worked in our family's lives to guide us to the agency that Rachel would choose; and He worked in the lives of so many dear family and friends who accompanied us on our journey in so very many different ways.  

But our journey didn't end there.  As we trusted in HIS perfect plan for our lives, God allowed a desire of our heart to come to fruition, and He revealed that to us exactly one year ago (I started this entry on August 15.)  On August 15, 2013, I found out that I was pregnant.  We were shocked, and humbled, and yes, a bit overwhelmed! But most importantly, we were reminded of God's goodness...not goodness because He did something that WE wanted.  No, goodness in a much more perfect way.  Let me try to explain...

A precious friend of mine offered to watch our kiddos one evening so that DH and I could go on a date.  We laugh at our "dates," because we usually spend them running errands for the kids, but we enjoy shopping together, and getting to sit through a nice dinner without any tantrums or interruptions and just focus on each other is so nice, and it's a needed time for us to recharge.  (As a side note, someone recently asked me if I had a job.  As I was responding, DH quickly interjected, "Oh yes!  She has a VERY full time job here at home!"  I'm so thankful for a husband who recognizes that I'm trying to accomplish what God has called me to do!) We went to one of our very favorite restaurants, and our dinner concluded with fortune cookies.  Now, I certainly don't put any stock in a fortune cookie, but I often find that the words inside that crunchy cookie resonate with me in some way, and this one did just that: 

"Good news is coming your way."

DH and I laughed about it a bit: I wonder if we will get a call that all of our recent medical debt has been forgiven?! I couldn't help but think of the fact that a year ago we certainly had received some very good news with finding out we were expecting Annie.  But the more I reflected on "good" news coming my way, the more I realized how good news is a lot like a fortune cookie--we envision it neatly packaged like a perfectly shaped cookie, but to be able to receive what's inside, we have to break that cookie, and just like you can see in the picture of my cookie, it often crumbles.  You see, when I think of the miracle of finding out we were expecting Lucy, I can't help but think of the cancer the doctors found in my husband's body just months before that "good" news, or my daddy's passing just months after learning of that "good" news.  And when I think of the incredible joy of bringing Gabriel into our home, I can't help but think of the grief his birthmother has endured.  And when I think of the "good" news of Annie being added to our family, I can't help but think of all of the stresses that were surrounding our family in the months leading up to such "good" news.  These things come to mind, because I am reminded how easily we allow trials to change our perception of God.  We say, "God is good!" when a friend is healed from cancer.  We say "God is so good!" when someone lands a new and exciting job.  We say, "God is so good!" when we get pregnant after years of trying.  Basically, we say, "God is good!" when He allows into my life what I consider to be good.  BUT, God's goodness is not measured by MY standards, and it is not based upon MY desires, and it is certainly not in need of MY approval!  

What if His goodness IS a cancer diagnosis that will draw someone closer to Christ?  

What if God's goodness IS a difficult job that leaves us dependent on Him for strength and financial provisions?

What if God's goodness IS in a couple's struggle with infertility by them not experiencing the heartbreak of a possible miscarriage, or it bringing about the ability to soften their heart towards their true calling to adopt, or in them having the time to invest in children who desperately need a mother and father figure in their lives?

Isaiah 55:8-9 says this:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts."

This means that God's ways are beyond what I can comprehend.  But just because I cannot comprehend it does not change the fact that He IS good, all the time.  No, His goodness does not rest on my approval.  However, His goodness is felt when I will surrender to His ways and lay down my own.  His goodness exists even when I cannot see it, but oh, how He desires for me to experience it!  L.B. Cowman once said that "The best things in life are the result of being wounded...And it is a broken heart that pleases God."

That long journey that I was on that was filled with so much heartache?  It taught me dependance and trust and satisfaction in the Lord my God; it allowed me to experience the comfort of my Saviour; it broadened my view of His faithfulness;  and, it now echos of the goodness of my Lord.

So when you hear me say that "God is good" when I'm referring to something exciting going on in our lives, or when I'm rejoicing with someone else in exciting news of their own, please don't confuse what I'm saying. I don't mean that He is only good by my own standards. I really do believe He is good all the time-in those happy times, and in those sad times, and yes, even when my world seems to be falling a part into pieces.  So, I'm not sure what "good news" may be coming my way this week, but I pray that I can respond with praise, even if the cookie crumbles...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What's in YOUR backpack??

It's summertime, which means camp time for many kiddos.  I remember when I was in 4th grade, I was all set to go to my very first camp.  However, out of all of the camps in California that I was going to go to, mine found itself as the epicenter of a pretty major earthquake the night before I was supposed to leave for camp.  So, obviously, camp didn't happen that year.  I did get to experience a different camp, Camp Cherith, the following year though.  I think I probably enjoyed the idea a camp a whole lot better than the art of actually being at camp, but it was a neat experience nonetheless. 

Our kids obviously aren't old enough to attend camp (thank goodness! I am SO not ready for that!), but there are still ways to get them in on the fun. One thing our church does for the preteen campers is fill backpacks with snacks, gifts, and notes for each child. Lucy really wanted to fill a backpack, so she grabbed one on her own and proudly brought it home for us to fill. We went and did our shopping, and then Lucy worked very hard on making her own cards to place in the backpack for our camper. Now, I realize I'm a bit bias, but Lucy really does make the sweetest cards. On one of them she wrote, "I love you!" in vibrant colors, and the word "love" was replaced with a big heart. She showed me her work of art and I said, "Lucy, this is really great, but don't you think it's kind of odd for you to say 'I love you' to this girl since you don't even know her?" And that's when my precious girl's heart shined through just as vibrantly as the colors she used to draw one. She responded, "Yes...But I know if I DO meet her, that I WILL love her!"

 Wow. Such a profound statement from my little girl!  In John 13:34-35, we read this:
"A new command I give you: Love on another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

One of the things that I love so dearly about Lucy is how deep her emotions run.  When she feels something, she feels it with every ounce of her being!  Now, this can certainly present some challenges in parenting her (like dealing with how upset she gets when she gets in trouble) but it can also bring a lot of joy in watching her heart feel so deeply for others.

Am I willing to love with that kind of abandon?  Sadly, I think I'm often more worried about how the other person may respond: What if they reject me?  What if they take me the wrong way?  What if they don't love me back?  A friend on FB recently posted this quote from a movie:
"How am I supposed to show love to somebody, over and over and over, who constantly rejects me?" I was reminded of how we are not called to love because of how it makes us feel, but we are called to love because that's what God's commanded of us.  I show love to others because I love Jesus!  

I have several chalkboards throughout our home that I typically write scriptures on.  I recently changed our cross chalkboard to show the fruits of the spirit.  As a momma to 3 energetic blessings, I can easily get frazzled, so one thing I've been praying is that the Lord would help me to respond to my children with the fruits of the spirit.  Am I showing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and SELF-CONTROL in my responses to them?  When Lucy spills her drinks for the second time in one afternoon, do I lovingly help her clean it up?  When Gabriel is kicking at me because he doesn't want to go down for his nap, do I speak to him in gentle words to help calm him?  When Annie cries every time I try to put her down, do I patiently tend to her?  It's my prayer that I truly show my kids these fruits of the spirit, not to gain any kind of number one mom award, but to bring glory to my Father.  My job as a mother is to show Christ's love to my children.  Am I selflessly doing that in every way possible?  I guess I have to take a look at my own "backpack" that I carry around and ask myself what I'm trying to fill it with.  Am I filling it with tools that will build me up and help me succeed in life, or am I filling it up with things that can be poured out onto others? 

As summer will soon be drawing to a close, we find ourselves shopping for a different kind of backpack--one that our kids will carry on their backs each day as they head off to school.  If you follow me on facebook, you know we've been on the hunt for a FROZEN backpack with a matching lunchbox.  (Store clerks almost have flat out laughed at us when we've asked if they have them in stock!  I have awesome FB friends though who helped us get Lucy hooked up with some sweet frozen swag;-) Even though the purpose of this backpack is to carry necessary items to and from school each day, I pray that Lucy's great ability to show love will be the main item she carries with her every single day, and that as they see her enter into her school, Frozen backpack in tow, they will recognize a disciple of Christ.

So, what about you?  When people look into your "backpack," do they see the evidence of a disciple of Christ?  Oh, how I pray that I am found putting on LOVE with everything that I do, just like my little Lucy!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Climbing my mountain...

As a child of the 80's, there are very specific things I remember: Cabbage Patch Kids, My Little Pony, and Psalty the Singing Song Book. I loved music from a very early age, and my dad's work at the time took us on several long car trips. I remember many trips sitting in the back of our Nissan stanza wagon with my favorite yellow blanket underneath me, a doll in my lap, some my little pony toys scattered in front of me, and my arms lifted high to the praise music blaring from the car stereo.  One of my very favorite Psalty albums was the Camping Adventure.  As a child, we only had the cassette tape, but after Lucy was born I learned they had put them on DVDs, and we now own this particular Psalty DVD (from 1984!) Gabriel has recently become very interested in "PSALTY!" as he excitedly voices wanting to watch the DVDs, and the camping adventure one has been played pretty frequently in our home this past week. One of the songs on the DVD refers to how climbing a mountain is done one step at a time, and when we have Jesus by our side, we can accomplish anything.
  
Well, we haven't been climbing any actual mountains in our house this week, but living in a two story house, we have been climbing plenty of STAIRS.
 If any of you live in a two story home, then I imagine you know the struggle of getting your children to go upstairs by themselves. Truth be known, if we've been away from our home, I don't like to go up the stairs by myself after we return either. My mind always wanders to that worst case what-if. But the Lord began speaking to my heart during my pregnancy with Lucy that I was to "Live in faith and not fear." So, I suppose it is fitting that Lucy is needing her mommy to mirror that lesson to help her face her own fears.  I often ask her to go take something up stairs, and it is always met with a fearful response: "I don't want to; I'm scared." Well, on Facebook this week, I saw that a friend of mine was having the same type of conversation with her son. Rather than argue with him that there was nothing to be afraid of, she encouraged him to face his fear, and if he would, she would make him a bravery award. I wasn't sure that this would work with Lucy, but I figured it wouldn't hurt anything to try. So when she told me last night that she was afraid to go upstairs, I said, "I tell ya what, Lucy. If you'll go upstairs and put your things away, I'll make you a certificate for being so brave!"  This really intrigued Lucy, and it got her mind on her bravery award and off the fact that she hates going upstairs by herself. She came downstairs very excited to see how we were going to create her award. She picked the paper out and instructed me that I was to use crayons.  After I finished, I placed it on the fridge and told her to go have a look.
She seemed pleased with it, but she brought it to me and said, "But mommy, why did you give this to me? What I did wasn't brave. Being brave is when you climb a really high mountain or something like that. I just went up the stairs."  I smiled at her and looked her in the eye and said, "Oh no, Lucy. Being brave means all sorts of things. It means conquering your fears, and that can be anything. And that's exactly what you did-you faced your fear! You were afraid to go up the stairs, but you did it anyway!"

You may remember a post I wrote about being "brave" the day after Gabriel was born.  The adoption process can truly find you facing all sorts of fears: What if the adoption agency won't approve you? What if the caseworker doesn't think your house is clean enough? What if a Birthmother never chooses you? What if the Birthmother changes her mind?  What if the birthfather comes back before the 30 days is up? What if your post placement visits don't go well? What if...???  Some of these fears can seem as silly to some as being scared of a monster hiding in the closet upstairs, but some of them can be very, very real. But when the Lord called us to adopt, He called us to be brave, and that meant facing every single one of our fears, big or small, realistic or not.  And while we didn't literally climb to the top of a very tall mountain through our adoption process, the end result is almost like being able to look down at all of the twists and turns we experienced to get to where we are today. In fact, I think the same could be said of any fear we face in our lives...  

Like when DH was diagnosed with cancer...

Like when we didn't know if we would ever have children...

Like when my father passed away unexpectedly...

Like when the doctor told us something was wrong with one of our children...

Like when family and friends close to us lost a child...

Some of these fears seem much bigger than others, but big or small, God asks us if we are willing to lay those fears at His feet and allow Him to give us the strength to face them, and then watch Him make something beautiful from them.

...Perhaps Lucy wasn't so far off in saying being brave is when you climb a mountain, but maybe she just didn't understand that the view isn't always portrayed as rocky terrain.  Sometimes it's seen as a leap of faith, sometimes it's seen as a fist willing to loosen its grip, and sometimes it's seen in simply climbing up the stairs... 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Less is more...

I think one of the biggest fears in my life is failure. Because of this, I will often not even attempt certain things out of the fear that I MIGHT fail. I think it stems from certain childhood experiences I had before I understood what failure even was...

I remember being placed in the lowest level reading group in 1st grade.
There were four different groups, and they each had names.  The best group was the butterflies--what little girl doesn't want to be a butterfly? But Miss Brian put me in the ant group--the ugly, brown ant. I worked so very hard to get out of that group, and at the end of the year I was supposed to get an award for my reading because I had improved so drastically.  (I don't say this to give myself any kind of accolade because my mother worked extremely hard with me to help me with my reading.) However, politics won out, and because my mom wore pants and was probably not going to be allowed into heaven because of that, they gave the award to a church member.  (You think I'm joking, but they really had issues with my mom wearing jeans!)  To a 1st grader, all you understand from that is that you weren't good enough.  Failure.

In 2nd grade, I can remember taking a math quiz and getting it back to discover I had failed it. I didn't even know what a failing grade was until then, and it embarrassed me so much.  From then on, I told myself I was no good at math. Failure.

I begged and begged my parents to let me take piano lessons as a little girl, but they were told by someone that my fingers were too short and stubby to make a good pianist, so they resisted for quite some time on allowing me to take lessons.  Failure.

But academics were nothing compared to my total failure at anything with athletics. To this day, I absolutely detest basketball, probably because when I tried to play, I was laughed at so much by the other players. I was completely humiliated. Failure.

In junior high, I decided I was going to become a runner. I remember some girls I was running with laughing at me afterwards and telling me how awful I was at running. Failure.
But quite possibly the biggest feeling of failure was when DH and I tried to expand our family. My body felt broken, as it was unable to do what it was "supposed" to do. Failure...

Well, though I'm certainly no book worm now, reading is no longer a struggle. I read constantly as a child and I think that's what helped me develop such a love for writing. 

And no, I will never win the Van Cliburn, but the Lord softened my parents' hearts to allow me to take lessons, and through that gift I learned how to express myself through music.

You definitely won't ever find me tutoring anyone in math now, but with an extreme amount of work I made A's in all of my college math courses (although you would be shocked if you knew how many HOURS I spent daily studying for those classes. Big shout-outs go to Em and Aunt April for their help!) 


There's no cinderella story for me to tell you about basketball. They say white men can't jump though, so I'll just blame this one on genetics;) 
And running? People still probably laugh at me when they see me training, but I have ran 5ks, 10ks, and have completed several sprint triathlons. I would never consider myself an actual athlete, and I would be lying if I told you those girls' voices don't often haunt me when I find myself breathless during a run and having to take a walking break. 

And as for expanding our family...the Lord had such better plans for that than our dreams could have ever reached for. When I look at my three children and see how The Lord brought each of them into our arms in such unique ways, I'm filled with such a sense of humbled awe that He would choose me to be their mother. 

I don't share all of this with you to portray a "woe as me" attitude or to try to get a bunch of compliments.  I share this with you to give you a small picture of how I have often lived my life with an attitude of total defeat.  I have found myself feeling so "less than" from everyone else. I have so often felt not good enough. But you know what finally helped me turn my failure into victory?  When I stopped trying so hard to succeed. You see, I AM incapable, but I am so thankful now that I'm incapable!  Because when I realize how weak I truly am, I finally can begin to take the focus off of ME and place it on the One who is more than capable.  "When I am weak, THEN am I made strong..."

I would be lying if I told you that my life is a breeze right now.  Don't get me wrong-I am so thankful for this season of life as a wife and momma and minister alongside my husband.  But every day, I fight the voice in my head that tells me what a failure I am. When my house is a wreck and the laundry is piling up; when I snap at my husband or speak in a harsh tone to my kids; when I can't make it past the buggy section of the grocery store before having to turn around and leave because my child is throwing a fit; when I'm so exhausted I can't get my workout in... Failure.  But through Him? oh, through my Jesus I am MORE than conquerors!  Through Him I am whole and I am victorious!  Truly, I am thankful that I am incapable; I am thankful I am less than, because that is when I discover how I am so much more than, through Jesus my King...

Friday, June 27, 2014

Love at first sight...

I'll never forget that moment. It was around 3:20pm and I was standing in a hospital room with my phone closeby. A text message came through with your picture.  It was my very first glimpse of you.





When your older sister was born, I could immediately see your daddy in her, and I remember searching deep into that picture for a way to identify you with our family. I so longed to be your momma and call you mine! But you didn't have your daddy's eyes or your mommy's nose. I didn't get to kiss the sweet feet that had been kicking in my belly for nine months. I couldn't identify with you in who you looked like or what you felt like. Some might say we were total strangers. And yet, when I caught that first glimpse of you, I lost my breath and my heart skipped a beat. Strangers don't do that.  And that's because we weren't strangers. Because before time began, God had decided that we would belong to one another.  He knew that I would be your mother and that you would be my son, and He knew that it would take a much different path than most for us to find one another. At 3:16pm on June 26, 2012, you entered this world and were placed into your loving birthmother's arms,
and just minutes later, she lovingly placed you into mine. Instantly, I fell in love; instantly my heart connected with yours, because I knew you were the baby that I had been growing in my heart for so long.

And for the past two years, you've continued to make my heart grow more and more...
Your smile is infectious, baby boy.  When people see you, they can't help but smile.

Your big brown eyes are always telling some sort of story in how you cut them across when you're being mischievous to when you bat those gorgeous eyelashes that seem to go on for days.

Your hands are strong and with great insistence make it very obvious what you want and do not want.

Your feet have become more sure of themselves as you curiously explore the world around you.
Your mind amazes me, as you grasp things that children twice your age often have no interest in.
What an absolute privilege it is to be chosen to be your mommy!  What a blessing it is to guide you as you grow. What an honor it is to love you and be the one who gets to show you that you are loved not just by me and your daddy and your sisters, but also by the precious woman who chose life-this life-for you.

I love you more than any words I can find to tell you, but I will never stop searching for them! Happy 2nd birthday my sweet little mister man!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Just a Spoonful of Sugar...

I'll never forget hearing a speaker at a conference back in the spring of 2001.  He spoke of having to take his child to get their vacinnations, and how hard it was to know you were going to have to put them through pain for their ultimate good.  How do you explain that to a young child?  Well, you just can't.  So you sit there with them, love on them, and tell them it is going to be okay.  And as you watch their face fill with confusion and their voice cry out in pain, your heart just breaks that you can't take it all away in that instant.

These past several months, we've had to experience this sceanrio a lot with each of our children.  Thankfully, all of the things we've gone through have been treatable and fixable, but when it is all happening at once I would be lying if I told you it was easy. It's been an exhausting and overwhelming past few months for our family.  We have seen doctors, dentists, eye specialists, 4 lactaction consultants, a speech therapist, an ENT, a urologist, a podiatrist...etc.  Our calendar has easily been filled with anywhere from 3-5 appointments every single week.  Take a few weeks ago for example: I cracked a tooth the night before so had to head to the dentist on a Tuesday morning for a 3.5 hour appointment to get a temporary crown.

(Let me just interject here that, being the girly-girl that I am, I would typically love to be told I needed a crown.  However, when the words come from a dentist, it's not something anyone finds that "yay!  I'm a princess!" delight in...) 

After my anxiety-filled morning, I drove home and DH and Lucy immediately headed out to the pediatrician to have Lucy's wart frozen off for a SECOND time.  (And yes, we had been trying home remedies, but this wart was trying to grow to the size of the state of Texas!)  DH then dropped Lucy off at the house and immediately took himself to an emergency trip to the eye doctor.  (Some shards of metal had flown up into his eye the night before while working on a project in the kitchen, and his eye was looking seriously angry so much so that the pediatrician noticed it and told him he needed to be seen.)mAt that point I thought, well, hey, 3 out of 5 isn't so bad, right?!

Another typical day for us involved a routine checkup for Annie.  Her one month check was to consist of a weight check (hello over ELEVEN pounds!!) and a vaccine from the nurse.  We had noticed her belly button looking strange after her umbilical cord fell off though.  I had been putting off giving her a bath because I was worried it hadn't all fallen off yet and maybe that's why it looked strange.  So, the nurse said we should have the dr take a look at it.  A simple check up at the pediatrician's office ended up sending Annie and me to the children's hospital for an ultrasound and then a call later from the doctor stating there was an issue that would require surgery to repair (A patent urachus) 

Surgery...on my newborn...when we were already facing an upcoming surgery for our toddler... 

The next few weeks consisted of other tests, including Annie having to get a catheter twice.  Having to stand above her head and hold her hands down as she screamed was absolutely horrible.  All I could do was keep telling her over and over again that it would be ok, that I loved her, and that I was sorry it hurt.

In the midst of all of that, Gabriel had tubes put in.  It's such a quick procedure--it literally only takes about 5-10 minutes for them to do the surgery--but it is so hard on a little one.  After they took him to surgery, I went down the hall to get a cup of coffee and I could literally pick out his cry from behind those closed doors once the surgery was over.  My heart BROKE.  There is nothing that compares to the feeling of knowing your child is hurting and you can't be there with them.  Thankfully, he was only away from us for about 15 minutes, and we were able to love on him and reassure him.  He was NOT a happy camper though!  But wow, what a difference since he's had those tubes put in!  He's talking so much more and he doesn't have fluid on his ears anymore!  It was not a fun procedure to experience, but it ultimately has helped him so much.

The week after Gabriel's tubes were put in, we took Annie to a urologist, where I came prepared with a mile-high list of questions about the surgical procedure...only to have the dr walk in stating the issue had healed on its own! What a praise!! We still have to do some follow up on the issue to be on the safe side, but according to the urologist, Annie is a perfectly healthy baby girl:) I was so excited to go home and throw away her antibiotic (she had to be on antibiotics until the issue was repaired) and give her her very first bath that night, something I will never again take for granted.

I've had many moments these past several months of wanting to just break down (and I've done that a few times, too!) But through all of it, the Lord made it clear that He was in control.  I thought about all He has done in our lives and what a happy time this should be for our family.  But it's so easy to forget all of the good and focus on what's not so good, you know?  It's easy to lose sight of Him and His perfect plan, and it becomes harder to trust. But, I felt like God was asking me if I would still praise Him in the midst of the storm.  I knew the Enemy would like nothing more than for me to question God's goodness; he would love for me to lose sight of what a happy time this really is for our family.  And so I made a decision: I was not going to allow him to steal my joy.  Now, that doesn't mean I didn't have a few meltdowns along the way, but through it all, God reminded me He was still on His throne.  None of these things had taken Him by surprise, and He was going before us to prepare the path He was having us walk down.  It was as if He as standing there with me through it all, just as I did with my own children, saying that He loved me and that it was going to be OK.  

Just as my own children don't always understand how the momentary pain they're having to endure is for their ultimate good, I have to remember that I can't always see how God is using my circumstances for my ultimate good and His glory.  It might not "taste" too good at the moment, but the effects of our cirumstances are helping us to become something much better, so I choose to praise Him in advance for what He's doing, and I thank Him for giving me the strength to endure things until I can see His plan come to fruition. 
As I was typing up this post, Lucy needed to take some medicine and was making horrible faces.  I said "Hey! That's exactly what I need for my latest blogpost!" So, thank you Lucy, for being my pictoral example;-)

Deuteronomy 31:8 "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."

Sunday, June 8, 2014

How I spent my summer vacation...

Summer is officially here, and we are loving it! I love having my little kindergarten graduate
home with us all day (and to help us, too-she's an amazing big sister!), but it does present some challenges. After being in school for the last several months, she is used to being busy, and some days at home can be rather mundane to a busy six year old (although I think things at home are anything but boring lately!) Thankfully, we have things this month to keep us entertained though--Lucy and Gabriel started swim lessons yesterday,
 and those go for two weeks. Then, we have VBS the following week, and by that time we will already be headed into July.

Side note: As you can see, Gabriel was less than thrilled about swim lessons. They assured me it is totally normal at his age though, and I imagine by the end of this week I will have a hard time keeping him away from the pool. (He's always loved bath time, but pools are a different story apparently.)

I do remember taking swim lessons a few summers when we lived in California, and my friends and I spent as much time as possible at the neighborhood pool.
But after we moved back to Texas, swimming wasn't a staple summer activity.  Some kids go to camp every summer, and others look forward to a yearly family vacation, but me?  A huge summer staple for me was attending the Texas Music Teachers Association's convention every summer.
In a way, it was kind of like a camp and a vacation rolled into one (and the hotel always had a swimming pool:) At that time, competition was pretty fierce to get a spot on the ten piano ensemble team that would perform at the convention. Starting in the sixth grade, I auditioned each year through my senior year and was able to secure a spot. We would then drive 45 minutes each day for two weeks for rehearsal with my fellow ivory ticklers, and then my mother and I would head to the convention for a long weekend. We played some really fun, melodious pieces such as Dizzy fingers, Turkey in the Straw and Rhapsody in Blue.  And then there were others...like Witold Lutoslawski's Variations on a Theme by Paganini. 

I remember hating just about every step in the process of learning that piece. It was made up of the strangest chords ("modern" music for sure!), tons of dissonance, and there was no melody to really pick out. But what is sometimes easy to forget when working on an ensemble piece is that the part you are playing is not meant to be heard alone-it is a part of a much larger work that needs all parts playing together to create the sound the composer intended for the piece. But, you can't put those parts together until each part is ready, so this means a lot of grueling practice sessions that aren't always very enjoyable. But once you've spent those tedious hours of practice and hear the work completed, it all begins to make sense.

Well, my summers no longer consist of trips to the TMTA Convention each June. Rather, we spend our days with sidewalk chalk and swing sets and family outings. One such recent family outing was a very special one for us--Last weekend, we attended a picnic with Christian Homes and Family Services.
 This is a yearly picnic they have for their adoptive families to come together. It was so neat to see our caseworker, Gabriel's birth mother's case worker, and dear friends we made through our adoption journey.  (The picnic so happened to fall on the anniversary of the day we actually met Gabriel's birth mother, too. As she has said, it was the day we extended our families to each other.  I will never forget that special meeting and how it changed the course of our lives in the most amazing and beautiful way.) They had a man there documenting the day, and he asked us to share a bit about our adoption process. I always seem to freeze up when asked to briefly explain our experience. It's just so hard for me to put it in a few short statements, because the Lord did so many amazing things throughout the process, and I never want to short change any of it. But, when asked to describe what we learned through our journey, this is what came immediately to mind;

Faithfulness.  God's faithfulness. 

It oozes out of every portion of our adoption journey; it drips from every memory of our story. And I can see that all so clearly now that the pieces have come together. But what about all of those years we tried to conceive and could not? What about all of the nights spent filling out paperwork and stressing over how to portray ourselves on paper? What about the days spent wondering if a birth mother would even want to pick us?  What about...?  We may not have been able to clearly see the evidence of God's faithfulness in the midst of the journey, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there. He was orchestrating something far greater than anything I could have dreamed of. He was weaving all of the difficulties, the dissonance so to speak, together to create a beautiful masterpiece displaying His faithfulness and His goodness. Some songs are so catchy you can't help but immediately get them stuck in your head, and others takes awhile to grow on you, and then there's our song--an anthem of sorts that holds the ups and downs, the dissonant chords, and the beautiful harmonies that echo of God's faithfulness.  

Just like that ensemble piece I learned so many years ago, our lives were never meant to be lived on our own-they are meant to be lived through our Lord, the Composer and Conductor of our lives. He understands how those "minor themes" and "modern dissonances" can be placed together to create an amazing and beautiful work. The question is, are we willing to allow Him to do His work in us?  Will we withstand the grueling "practice sessions"? I pray my answer is yes, and that this summer I can find myself singing the tune of His faithfulness as I continue learning to trust His ultimate plan on His perfect path... 

"And we know that ALL things work together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."
Romans 8:28