Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Road to His Arms...

This afternoon, I got to call and cancel two different medical appointments--one for a test, and one for a specialist.  When on the last phone call and asked why I was canceling and if I wanted to reschedule, I reponded, "The issue has been resolved.  We do not need to reschedule!" I literally hung up from that phone call with the biggest smile on my face.  I may have even skipped out of the kitchen after I turned my phone off and then gazed at two of my three amazing blessings playing in the living room.  Maybe canceling a few doctor appointments doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but to me, after the past year, it was huge. 

I haven't posted about our family's medical issues a whole lot on my blog (not necessarily to try and hide what has been going on...there's a lengthy explanation for it, I promise...), but sum it all up to say this: we've had a rough year.  It's not that anyone has been diagnosed with anything that has not been treatable, and I do not take that lightly at all, but we've just had a weary year filled with, literally, one appointment after another.  From regular checkups to the common cold at our pediatrician's office, to strep throat and flu at the care now clinics, to so many infections and trips to my OB since Annie's birth, to multiple specialists (I'm not exaggerating--every member of our family has seen one, if not more, specialists in the past year) to surgeries and hospitalizations.  It's been draining in every sense of the word. And while each issue has been a matter of prayer for this momma, there was one issue that weighed especially heavy on my heart: my newborn baby facing a possible surgery.

Annie was diagnosed with a patent urachus when she was one month old.  After over a month of continual antibiotics and a handful of tests, we were relieved to hear the Lord had healed the issue.  Her belly button was no longer leaking any fluid, and the open area from her belly button to her bladder had appeared to close.  However, it left behind something the pediatric urologist wanted to follow up on. So, in January, we had followup testing done, and a very conflicting visit with the doctor.  We left his office very unsure of what course of action to take.  After much prayer, discussion, and seeking some wise counsel, we chose to get a second opinion.  We had that appointment this morning.  DH doesn't know this, but as the threat of severe winter weather loomed over us, I couldn't help but remember a similiar trip just a little over eight years ago...

In December of 2006, my husband was taken in for emergency surgery, and in January of 2007, he was diagnosed with cancer. His oncologist felt the cancer was contained and that observation was the best coure of action, but he wanted to refer us to a specialist for his specific type of cancer so that we could get a second opinion. We were living in Illinois at the time, and the specialist we were to see (who had treated Lance Armstrong's cancer--we felt so blessed to be able to get in to see someone so knowledgable in this field) was in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I had taken time off from work (not something I could easily change...I won't go into the details of that job!), and appointments with specialists don't just pop up very quickly, so when the threat of a winter storm came up, we decided to just head out on the roads earlier than planned to try and beat the bad conditions.  Surrounded by the snow-filled air and the slick pavement, we made a trip for that second opinion, and we were met with very reassuring words from the doctor.

While the snow had not yet filled the air this morning, and the roads were not yet iced over on the road to Annie's second opinion, the threat was there.  And, as I sit here now typing this, I can hear the sounds of our fireplace crackling and the freezing rain hitting our rooftop.
  And, just like that trip to Indianapolis, Indiana 8 years ago, today we were greeted with reassuring words.  There was certainly a chill in the air as DH and I left both of those appointments, but the feeling in my heart was one of warmth and comfort and gratitude at God's grace...but still, I found myself questioning the Lord today. Not in the way of "Why did you make us travel this road?" but in a way of, "Lord, I know Your way is perfect, so I do not question it, but if nothing was to come of all of this medical concern, what was Your purpose in having us travel this path?"  I felt the Lord nudge me, and I realized the question that I needed to be asking was this: "Lord, what did you want to teach me from all of this?"  I couldn't find the answer right away, but the Lord never stays silent...

As the day progressed and the temperature continued to drop, I found myself cozied up in my favorite chair with my favorite blanket...and my favorite blessings:)  Lucy,
Gabriel,
and Annie
all piled into my lap at various points of the afternoon wanting to be snuggled...to warm up...to be held by their mommy.  There is possibly no greater feeling in the world than to hold your precious child close to you, to show them love and, in many ways, to give them protection.  There is such great comfort to be found when you are being held. 

So I'm not so sure that the Lord was wanting to teach me something these past several months...I think, more than anything, He just wanted to give me another glimpse of how He is my Heavenly Daddy; He wanted to hold me.  Because at every turn of this weary year, when I've felt like I can't take another step and it's all too much for me to handle, I've found myself collapsing in His arms.  And while we certainly can enjoy the warmth of our Saviour's embrace during the good days, it is during those times that we so often choose not to.  


So today, I got to call and cancel two appointments that we no longer needed to keep, because the issue had been resolved.  After hanging up the phone and gazing at my precious kiddos in the living room, I joined them, and I held them, and they smiled up at me.  And I found myself reaching for my Heavenly Daddy's arms, too.  But today, it wasn't to find refuge.  No, just like my children were smiling up at me, I found myself smiling up at Him. 

Thank you, Jesus, for your grace in DH's healing and in Annie's healing.  And thank you for how you love your children. May my children see a glimpse of your love for them through the love I show to them as I hold them when they are crying, and as I hold them when they are smiling. Thank you for how you are ALWAYS holding onto me... 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Fuzzy Pink Chair...

As a parent, I take such joy in seeing my kids accomplish things. You would have thought Annie had become the youngest president of the United States from the way DH and I responded to her waving for the first time just a few weeks ago...
And while it may not be hanging in a popular art gallery, Gabriel's first water color painting is certainly taking a prominent position on his mommy's fridge this week! 

Lucy even bowled her first strike recently, and the "crowd" (ummm, family;) went wild!!:-) 

But even more than being proud of my kids for their various accomplishments and activities, it's those moments--those "ah-ha!" moments--that really melt my mommy-heart.  You know, the moments where something just "clicks" with your child, and they aren't simply memorizing a fact or performing an activity out of habit and obedience, but they really "get" a situation and apply its importance to their own life...

Lucy is blessed to attend a local Christian school, and it has been such an amazing experience for her. I love that she is surrounded by teachers who not only love her, but teachers who love the LORD and bring Him into every subject and every activity. Part of Lucy's assignments this school year is a memory verse each week. I typically keep the paper in the kitchen or we write the verse out on one of our chalkboards (is anyone else obsessed with chalkboards? I have them everywhere!) and go through it every day.
 Lucy wasn't feeling well on Monday, so she had to leave school early and didn't get her verse sheet until the following day. At dinner that evening, I was going through her papers and saw her verse. "Lucy! This is one of my favorite verses! It says, 'The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.' Exodus 14:14." Lucy responded, "That's one of my favorites, too!"  She paused before continuing, "And you know, that's just like me, too! I didn't feel well yesterday, so I needed to be still, and the Lord had to fight my sickness for me." I think I almost had to pick my jaw up off of the floor! I tend to think of difficult battles I have in my adult life that cause me to need to let go of my desire to control and just let God handle it. But oh, to be able to view life through the eyes of a child! She so eagerly and quickly made that verse her own and applied it to exactly where she was in her own life--and the Lord cares just as much about her feeling poorly as He does about anything we as adults may be facing in our relationships, finances, jobs, etc.

So whether it's learning to use a spoon for the first time...
Or being engrossed in a newfound love of art...
Or celebrating an accomplishment... 
I pray that my family will learn how to actively practice being still--to carry out our everyday lives in such a way that we allow the Lord to work through us...to place the stresses of our circumstances at His feet while we wait patiently to see how He will move...to move past our hurts and move toward the arms of our loving Heavenly Father...and to look for Him and wait for Him. We never really know what's in store for us as a new year begins, but we can trust in the One who has gone before us to prepare the way, and fight the battles that are ahead...you only need to be still...and if you're like Lucy, you can enjoy it all from the comfort of a fuzzy pink chair;-) 


 


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Learning to Hope Again...

This time three years ago, I was sitting on our living room couch sifting through multiple sheets of information while also trying to sift through the multiple thoughts and emotions running through my head. Three years ago today, DH and I had attended the first day of our adoption agency's orientation. That weekend literally changed our lives. We went into it apprehensive about open adoption, and came out of it completely certain and totally excited at the path God had placed us on. There were so many unknowns, but there was one very clear answer: We were called to adopt! As the status update from three years ago popped up on my timehop app today, my heart literally stopped and a smile spread across my face as I looked across the breakfast table at my precious little boy...as I studied his face, I found it unbelievable that three years ago he was just a hope in my heart. And you know what is so amazing about hope? That it "does not disappoint!"

One of the scripture passages the Lord led me to during our struggle to expand our family was Romans 5:1-5: 

"5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and HOPE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." 

I struggled so much with how to hope. Through the devastation of unanswered questions from my daddy's death to the heartache of being unable to conceive, it was just too painful to hope. But God was teaching me that when we place our hopes in His hands, He will never disappoint us. Rather, He takes our ashes and makes them into something beautiful.  And now, every time I look at Gabriel's precious face, every time I squeeze him tightly, every time I kiss his smooshy cheeks, every time I hear his sweet voice say "Momma..."I'm reminded of the truth that we can hope and not be disappointed, because God's path truly is perfect. It may be filled with the lowest of valleys and the trickiest of turns, but it is always accompanied by our Daddy-God who guides us to somewhere more beautiful than we could ever imagine if we will only let Him.

Three years ago, we not only began our adoption journey officially, but I also began my journey of learning to hope again. My prayer is that you, too, will discover how He's calling you this new year to hope in His perfect plan... 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

My Greatest Accomplishment...

From the time I was in junior high, I had one big dream: to be Little Red Ridinghood in a production of Into the Woods. I referred to it as my "not-so-secret ambition in life." Well, being 29 (again...and again...and again...) I'm pretty sure my ship has sailed on that dream.

I remember my daddy went through a period of time where he had a "word of the day." One word/term that he shared with me that I have never forgotten was "wool-gatherer." It means someone who likes to daydream. Well, that was certainly me! I had oh so many plans and dreams for my future--dreams I would play out over and over again in my mind. Dreams I was told I could certainly accomplish...when I was older. It was a recurring theme in my life--feeling passionate and led to do things, but so often being told I was too young and there would be plenty of time for them when I was older.  Well, now I'm older...and I'm beginning to get a lot of "well, you're a bit TOO old to do that now..."

/sigh/

I shared with my husband one evening at the dinner table how I so often feel like life is just passing me by, and I'm not accomplishing "anything" I had set out to (in true dramatic flair, using that exact verbiage.) What I failed to realize at that moment were the precious, tiny ears listening in on my conversation. I looked up across the table to find my daughter staring right at me with a sad and questioning gaze in her beautiful blue eyes, as she asked with all sincerity, "Do you wish that you never would have had me?"

My heart sank.

"Oh Lucy...please come here right now." As she walked over to me, completely defeated, I grabbed her close and then pulled her face up into my hands as I locked eyes with her. "I'm sorry what I said made you think that. Don't ever ever ever think for one moment that I didn't want you. I love you more than anything in the whole world. YOU are my greatest accomplishment." 

I suddenly realized the selfishness of my earlier words. I recalled the heartache of not being able to start a family. I remembered my desire to fill the greatest role of a lifetime: Mommy.

And while it is true that there's nothing I've ever wanted so badly as to become a mother, I more often than not feel like I'm the last person who should be awarded such an honored title. The numerous blogposts that pop up amongst my feed talking about how important it is to wake up early in the morning to have our "Java with Jesus"
so we are fully prepared for the day...and here I am struggling to get out of bed before 9AM after being up late with children that won't sleep and a baby who needs her momma in the middle of the night followed by my insomnia...
 Then there's the toy closet that looks as if it might explode through the tiny crack between the door frame and the wall, that no matter how many hours I spend organizing, it just looks like the same mess within days... Then there's the pile of laundry in my closet floor that I just can.not.seem to get caught up on. And how about the crushed up veggie straws lining the inside of my minivan floor? Who am I kidding? I'm doing good getting all three kids out of the car without everyone having a major meltdown, so there's no time to clean the car out. But worst of all are the moments when Annie is screaming, Gabriel is disobeying, and Lucy is arguing with me, all while I'm trying to get clean clothes on and get everyone out the door because we are, yet again, running late. (Please don't get me started on the post running around saying that people who are late are rude and inconsiderate. Even if I were to get up an hour earlier to try to avoid the last-minute mishaps, that would just give more time for another diaper blowout or spilled drink or untied shoe on the way out the door.) I could go on, but my point is this: I feel like a failure. If someone were to watch my life play out on the stage (and let's be honest--as a minister's wife, I DO feel like people are watching my every move) they would probably write a review that was less than stellar, bidding readers to stay as far away as possible.  I find myself looking at the other mommas around me-the ones homeschooling their kids while they have babies at home, too...the ones holding down a full time job with young children at home...the ones who scrub the grout between their kitchen tile and seem to always have their house in order...I feel like I can't even get my teeth brushed by a decent time most days! 

So what do I do? I retreat. I start searching out a different role in life. One where I can pretend to be someone else-anyone else-because maybe then the world will watch that person instead of the real me. Maybe they will be distracted and not hoan in on my flaws. And maybe my children and my husband would be better off without me around so much.  If I need a break from myself, surely everyone else does, too, right? Right!

And for a split second, I believe the lies, until my Heavenly Father whispers a response in my ears: 

WRONG!

God didn't choose me to be a momma because I was so awesome at it. God chose me for this role despite my weakness, so that I could be a vessel to show HIS strength. 

I think I often feel like every day I'm waking up to audition for this role, desperately wanting a call back and ending the day defeated that I just couldn't measure up. But I'm looking at the wrong audience. The ones whose opinion matter the most are those three precious cherubs who call me their momma.

The ones who wake me up every morning with excitement for what's in store...the ones who dirty up their clothes and add to the laundry pile from living life with abandon and excitement...the ones who pull out their toys and make messes from using their sweet imaginative minds, inviting me to play with them...
the ones who leave sippy cups and crumbly snacks behind
because they're eager to be on the go with wherever Mommy wants to take them...the ones who are learning how to ask for forgiveness and also how to accept it every time they accept my apologies with, "It's okay, Momma. I forgive you." 

Yes, there are seasons where it feels like I've fallen short and am failing, but that's when I get to experience God's power in an even greater way in my life. Life isn't passing me by-life is standing right in front of me in the form of three incredible blessings who call me their momma, and who I call my great accomplishment...

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Easy Peasy Pillowcase

This is not my typical blog post here, but since this is my space on the web for things about my family, this loosely has to do with that...

While everyone else is saying "only 5 shopping days left until Christmas," you're more likely to hear me say, "only 5 CRAFTING days left until Christmas." I absolutely love giving friends and family homemade gifts-I enjoy praying over them and thinking about their favorite things and how I can incorporate them into something that will make them feel loved and special. Also, since DH is a minister and I'm a SAHM, making gifts, rather than buying them, is much more doable for us financially. One of my favorite things to make for children are pillowcases, and GP is just now at the age where I feel comfortable letting him sleep with a pillow, so this Christmas, one of the things I'm making for him is a Thomas the Train pillowcase. There's nothing very difficult about making a pillowcase...although I've discovered you can make ANYthing more difficult than it has to be. There are SO many tutorials for making pillowcases, but I've yet to find one that I haven't felt the need to adapt. So, rather than continually searching for a tutorial I just love and trying to remember how I want to execute my own pillowcase projects, I figured it was time to write down the way I like to make what I call the "easy peasy pillowcase."

Easy Peasy Pillowcase

MATERIALS:
one yard fabric (I like flannel the best, but I've used cotton many times, too.)
Thread
Scissors
Sewing machine
Iron

INSTRUCTIONS:
iron your fabric (this will make it so much easier to fold and sew straight without having to pin anything.)
You want the main piece to be about 27.5" in length (and 20" in height when folded, so 40" total in height.) For my flannel, I needed to fold up about 7" to get it to that length--DON'T CUT, but just fold the WRONG SIDES together and press with your iron (seriously, don't skip this step!)

Now zig zag stitch that folded side: 
And cut the fabric as close to your stitch as possible to avoid fraying when washing. 

This is what the other side will look like at this point (see the zig zag stitch?):

Now fold your length in half, RIGHT SIDES together and iron (the zig zag piece you just sewed will show the right side):  

You can now zig zag stitch all across the top and the side (the other side-not the side you folded over.) 

I like to do a regular stitch on the inside edge and a zig zag on the outside edge: 

Now flip it right sides out and iron and there you have it! Easy peasy, right?!;-) 






Friday, December 12, 2014

Just Jesus...

It seems like we literally left for vacation amidst Halloween costumes...
(we went to trunk or treat at our church on Friday evening and then left while it was still dark outside on Saturday morning to get on our ship!)

and then came home to Santa and his elves adorning every store window.  And even though everyone has said this is going to be a super cold winter, we are currently hanging out in 70 degree weather.  I still refused to take my cowl off today though;-)  In true Texas fashion, we're experiencing all of the seasons at once: Christmas tree in our living room, leaves COVERING our driveway, short sleeve t-shirt weather, and cloudy skies.  Winter, fall, summer, spring...it would be hard to tell what season it was if it weren't for the constant stream of facebook posts regarding the Elf on the Shelf's daily shenanigans.

 No offense to those who participate in the Elf--I actually admire the creativity and the TIME people put into it.  We are doing good during the Christmas season trying to get everyone in bed before 10 'o clock though (rehearsals, programs, church Christmas parties, etc.), so no Elf here.  (Unless I count when using my "Elf" name of "Jingle-Nipper Toe Bells";-)  Instead, the main Christmas decoration we put out for the kids each year in our house are our various Nativity sets.  My mom has added many unique pieces to our collection, but the favorite has to be the one that started them all: the Fisher Price Little People Nativity Set.  I love that it's something that all three kids can plan with (because, let's face it--when you have a 7 year old and a 2 year old and a BABY, you usually spend all of your time making sure your youngest isn't chewing on a small Polly Pocket that's fallen to the ground.) but I love even more the type of play and thinking it encourages.  While Gabriel tends to throw all of the pieces around in various places throughout the living room, and Annie showers them all with "kisses" (teething), Lucy is very meticulous in the positioning of each and every character. I can always tell when Lucy has been playing with the nativity set, because I will find all of the little people with their backs facing us, each one, wisemen, donkeys and all, facing into the manger. Their gaze isn't facing outward towards us.  No.  Their eyes are fixed on the tiniest, yet most important, piece of the nativity set: Jesus.
I truly just love that little girl's heart.  Maybe she doesn't realize it fully at this point, but her actions remind me so much of what I desire we keep our focus on this Christmas season--not the packages and bows, or the trees and the lights, or the treats and the characters.  Just Jesus.  And while it seems like that's a pretty simple task, keeping our focus on "just Jesus" during this season can often be quite a challenge.  I suppose Lucy learned from the very best though, because her Daddy's heart led out in this desire to bring the focus to our heavenly King this holiday season.

Back in August, DH was beginning the preparations for our choir and orchestra's Christmas program.  I'm not sure how many dozens of musicals he listened to, or how many stacks of CDs filled with Christmas songs he and the music secretary went through, but he had such a clear vision: to create a worship experience that pointed to Jesus; to allow those presenting and those listening to prepare room in their hearts for the Son of God.  This past weekend, we presented "Prepare Him Room" to our church, and it truly was such an amazing worship experience.  It really set the tone for this Christmas season.  For years, I have sung the song "Joy to the World" simply by  rote: "Let every heart, Prepare Him room," but I don't think I ever really focused on what it means to truly prepare room in my heart for Jesus' coming. Just like I was caught off guard returning from vacation to rows of stocking stuffers and brightly colored lawn decor, it's easy to get caught offguard and forget what Christmas is really about. I'm so thankful for a husband who desires to keep the main thing the main thing though.  This past weekend wasn't about a performance. No, it was about making a place--THE place--for the coming King.  Simply put, it was about Jesus.  Just Jesus. 

But DH and Lucy aren't the only ones who have reminded me of the true reason for this holiday season.  Even though still at such a young age, our precious little Gabriel has wrapped up the true meaning of this season with one simple phrase...

As I mentioned before, we like to decorate with nativity sets, and Gabriel really enjoys playing with all of them.  He is quite familiar with the "cast of characters" in the scene: the animals, the angel, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus...but Gabriel has a different name for the characters.  Whenever you point to the nativity and say, "Who is this?" his response isn't the typical name, "Jesus," but rather, he responds with, "Jesus loves me!" At first, I thought he was just being reminded of the song, but after having him do this on multiple occasions, it's become quite obvious that when Gabriel sees a nativity scene, he immediately is reminded of the love of Jesus.  And honestly, isn't that what Christmas is REALLY about--about the fact that God loved us SO much, He sent His one and only Son to this earth so that we might be able to have a relationship with Him?

And then there's my sweet little Annie Beth, 
 
just soaking in everything that is around her. She is quite taken with the Christmas tree and all of the decorations hanging within her reach, but she's also very focused on the twinkling lights. Though the wonder in her eyes, I'm reminded to soak in the wonder of my Saviour, the Light of this dark world. 

Sometimes we can get lost in the glow of the Christmas lights and the presents, but when I look at my tree, I'm reminded of the light of the world, and when I wrap up my presents, I'm reminded of the greatest gift of all. Yes, we can easily be distracted, but I hope that just like Lucy, I can fix my eyes on the manger.  And like DH, I pray that I will prepare room in my heart for my Lord.  And like my Gabriel, I don't ever want to forget that Christmas is the celebration of knowing that Jesus loves ME!  What about you? Will you fix your gaze on Him this season?  Will you prepare room in your heart to celebrate His worth?  Will you overwhelm yourself with the knowledge that He loves you so very much?  Don't worry about anything else but Jesus.  Just Jesus...


Such a tiny babe
in such a lowly place
Yet noting but greatness filled the air
And they had all been told
How the story would unfold
But still there weren't many to greet You there
But I don't want to be one of these

When was the last time
I gazed at the manger
And thanked you for coming to earth
When was the last time
I gazed at the manger
And let my soul fill its worth?

So many busy lives
So very little time
We've lost our focus of Who you are
And we have all been told
How the story did unfold
But still there aren't many to greet You there
But I don't want to be one of these

When was the last time 
I gazed at the manger
And thanked You for coming to earth?
When was the last time
I gazed at the manger
And let my soul fill its worth?

We spend so much of our time trying to fill
The void that we feel in our souls
That we've overlooked that the answer, it lies
In the baby born so long ago

So when was the last time
I gazed at the manger
And thanked you for coming to earth
When was the last time
I gazed at the manger
And let my soul feel its worth
 And let my soul feel YOUR worth