Saturday, October 14, 2017

This is the Way, Walk in it...

One of my very favorite ways to relax and pamper myself is to get a pedicure. I've been obsessed with painting my nails since I was around 12 or 13 years old. In fact, I used to paint them every day to match each day's out. I guess I've always found different ways to use color to express my creativity (now I just dye my hair and wear really bright colored clothes!;-) With four kids, I don't really have the time mess with my nails near as much as I used to or as I'd like to. You may well remember posts from the early days of this blog where I have photos of me painting my nails in preparation of big events, such as getting ready for our meeting Gabriel's birthmother, preparing for our sonograms and arrivals of babies, etc. Any time a big event happens, I like to have my nails done! It makes me feel more confident going into a stressful or exciting situation. Likewise, NOT having them done makes me feel like a HOT MESS. It's fine if they're just unpainted, but when the paint is flaking off, or the jamberrys are peeling off, or just a few are remaining, you know that I've had other pressing matters to attend to. And honestly, lets be real here: my nails do NOT need to be a priority most of the time!

At any rate, I do occasionally allow myself a moment to relax and get my toes pampered with a pedicure. I've been putting it off for a couple of months now though. I've tried painting them myself, but they still look SO sad, and being a flip flop girl, the whole world can clearly see that my toes have been sadly unattended lately. In the grand scheme of things, it shouldn't matter so much, except I keep thinking of this pastor we once had who said he could judge people by the type of shoes they wore. He never said what he thought about people who wore flip flops, but that is enough to make me self conscious about my exposed, chipped-polished toes. I wonder what people think when they see my "tattle teal" polish flaking off in various places of my dried, cracked feet? (I realize most people don't think a thing of it, but just go with it for a second, OK?) I've literally found myself almost running out the door several times the past month to get a pedicure, but the Lord has literally whispered in my ear,

"No, P-B. Not yet."  
Really, God?  Why?  
"Just not yet."  
Ok, God...

So this week was kind of a crazy one.

Actually, I'm not sure why I bother to preface it as such. EVERY week in our household is a crazy one! I don't say that negatively, though. We have four amazing kiddos and they keep our lives full of all sorts of interesting antics, stories, and experiences. Lucy got glasses this week, Gabriel discovered he could breathe through a straw and sound like Darth Vader, Annie decided she wanted to be a cloud because "clouds don't poop," and Evangeline scaled her crib FIVE TIMES in the span of one nap time, finally ending said nap time asleep on the floor of the bedroom for a mere 20 minutes. (I accomplished nothing other than keeping an eye on the camera the entire "nap" time.)
Thursdays are typically my main cleaning day for the week, but with my escape artist in full swing, (the previous story is just a sampling of what my day looked like with Evangeline!) absolutely nothing was getting accomplished. I always pray with the kids when I drop them off at school, and in those prayers I ask the Lord to help me to use my time wisely for the day. That afternoon, my floors desperately needed to be mopped, but as I was going through the house Norwex-ing windows and mirrors and pulling out all sorts of "goodies" from within the depths of the couch cushions (holy COW, what was that GREEN glue-like substance on the inside wooden part of my couch?????!), I passed by my entryway chalkboard, which hadn't had a new verse placed on it since I first purchased it. Again, I felt God whisper to me:

"And your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, 'This is the way, walk in it'." Isaiah 30:18

It's from a passage that has been popping up in multiple places before me for the past few weeks, and the Lord has even given me a melody to put the words to. I often find myself humming it all throughout the day. As I looked down at my dirty floors and then thought about the words of the verse, I felt the Lord say to me,

Paula-Beth, why do you keep looking down at all of the dust and the dirt? Why are you so concerned with where you've been? Don't you want to look UP and see where I want to TAKE you? Fix your eyes UPWARD today on ME!"

So I put down my cleaning items and grabbed my chalkboard markers. I wrote the passage on the chalkboard, and I left the floors un-mopped and kindly asked my homegroup friends to "not look down" when they came over that evening. And suddenly, it struck me why the Lord kept asking me to wait on getting that pedicure.  He wanted to drive home that point that I was focused on the past and how it often chips away at us and leaves us feeling less than in the present. He wanted me to fix my gaze Heavenward so I could see the way that He is showing me to go. You see, God doesn't typically meet us in the neat and tidy. God often meets us in the midst of the messy and muddy, the broken and battered, the sticky tile and chipped polish...because His ways are Higher than ours, but He is not beneath meeting us exactly where we are at!

Friday, September 29, 2017

I Choose to Trust...

When my daddy passed away, it really shook my faith. Questions arose from within me that I never knew could exist. I questioned God's plan and His ways. I struggled with His answer to my pleas. How could that be His answer?

And so, again and again, I looked at the character of God. I had to ask myself if I truly believed who God says that He is--that He is loving, He is gracious, He is able, He is in control, and His ways are higher than mine...if I truly believed it, then I had to be okay with not always understanding His response, and instead, trusting that He hears me, He weeps with me, and He is a good God. 

For the last two years, I've again wrestled down a road of unanswered questions. I deal with daily pain from issues that doctors just have not been able to figure out. As I left yet another specialist's office this week, I found myself feeling very heavy from another round of, "I have no idea what this is..." As I waited for our car, I saw multiple people entering and exiting the building. Many were accompanied by caregivers who assisted them in standing and sitting or pushed them through the doors in wheelchairs. I saw so many people who looked to be in a lot of physical pain. In a way, I felt guilty for feeling discouraged about my situation. Yes, I experience a lot of pain, but I'm still able to go about my daily life the majority of the time. I'm still able to play the piano, which is such a gift since I've lost some sensation in my fingers and experience a lot of pain in my hand--but, most of the time, I can still play. I felt Holy Spirit nudge me as I was feeling guilty for questioning my own circumstances, as if He were saying to me, "I want you to have some perspective, but I also want you to know that I see exactly where you're at, and I see your pain and your fears, and I'm still here."

I found myself at the verge of tears most of the day, wanting to shout out victory in Jesus, but feeling like I just couldn't pick myself off of the floor...and that's where Jesus met me. He reminded me that I can worship Him from the mountaintop, but I can also worship Him in valley. 

So often, I think of true worship as us shouting God's glory from the rooftops, but God is just as glorified when we cry out to Him in our despair. Worship happens when we recognize Who God is. Many times, I find Him in the victory, but lately, I've been able to find Him when I'm  kneeling down and He comes to meet me in the floor, as I cover His feet with my tears, and He covers me with His peace. 

I'm not giving up, but I realized this week that I need to come to peace with the likely possibility that the doctors will not have an answer for me, which means that I will have to continue to live life dealing with these issues. They are going to try to treat the issues they can, and they are hopeful it will have a domino effect on alleviating other issues, but more than likely, these issues aren't going away. Just as my faith was shaken when my daddy passed away, I found myself saying, "but God, how is this Your answer? You are able to heal me, but why won't You?" And He lovingly spoke to my heart and said, "My ways are higher than yours. Trust me." 

I think I often feel like if I trust God enough, I will see Him move the mountains and part the waters, and He certainly can do that and so much more! But who am I to choose how God will move? Who am I to limit Him to blessings as the world sees them? Do I trust Him enough to give AND to take away? Do I trust Him enough to be glorified in the mountains as much as He can be glorified in the valleys? Do I really trust Him? Or do I just really hope He can be trusted?

God gently reminded me this week that I don't need to have all the answers, but that He also doesn't rebuke all of my questions. My daddy-God is allowing me to crawl into His lap and weep. He is allowing me to experience the assurance of His presence, and He is allowing me to be reminded of Who He is. So I will choose to trust. I will choose to believe He is Who He says that He is. And I will choose to lift these broken hands in praise to Him.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Words of Life...

I really love blogging.

(That's probably an unnecessary statement! ha!)

It's cathartic to me in many ways, and it's honestly been a way that I've chronicled so much of the parts of my life as a momma, from the days when we were struggling to conceive (who else remembers xanga?;-), to the adoption process, and now to this journey through motherhood. I feel like my spoken words are often so easily misunderstood, but my written words can be more thought out and, hopefully, clearer.

I also enjoy reading others' blogs and thoughts and keeping up with friends and family via facebook. Social media is a great tool in many ways, but as a lot of us have discovered, it can also be a breeding ground for overwhelming amounts of well-intentioned, yet condemning, information, tips, tutorials, and fear-filled advice.

For example, Saturday evening, I read an article about the danger of making slime, and then Sunday morning, I saw Lucy and her friend playing with slime that her friend had made. I kind of freaked out! I realize, in hindsight, this was pretty silly of me. Yes, we need to be aware of things and be careful and smart, but a few hours of playing with homemade goo probably isn't going to be harmful.

I later found myself at our church's coffee and donut bar (which, lets be honest, I often find myself at! Glazed chocolate donuts, anyone else?;-) and was chatting with the sweet ladies helping serve. One of these ladies shared with me how delightful Lucy was, and a funny story about how she had saved a specific donut for later for her so she could come back and ask for it when she was ready for it. In passing, I made the remark of how Lucy was my helicopter child, and I probably need to cool it on how I have a tendency to hover.

Y'all, I hadn't even heard of the term "helicopter parenting" until, you guessed it, a facebook article that popped up on my feed in the past year or so. I realized, after reading it, how I definitely have this tendency to hover over her, and I have since then focused on all of the negativeness associated with doing so.

But this sweet, precious sister in Christ looked me in the eye and said something along the lines of this: "Well, it's obviously working well for her, because she's a delightful child."

Her words made it feel as if the room just stopped for a moment; I was totally taken aback by what she said. There was no condemnation, no "you've got to learn to let go," and no "I'll pray for you to trust Jesus more with your children." She simply gave me the sweetest affirmation that I was doing a good job parenting my child in the best way I knew how.

Later that day, I received another message from a sweet friend with an encouraging message on soldiering through life's current difficulties in my various roles. 

That evening, I met up with some friends. I was in a "comfy" mood and threw on an old Beatles shirt  with some elastic waistband shorts. My friend commented on how cute I looked. I responded with comments on my post baby belly pooching out and looking slouchy. She looked me in the eye and stopped me right there.

Fast forward to this morning. I received a replay to an Email I sent to Gabriel's teacher last night regarding this week's lesson plans. (We are doing part-time homeschooling, so we do work at home two days a week and they do work in the classroom at their school two days a week.) After reading her response, I realized one of the answers was literally RIGHT in front of me, and the other was on the back side of the paper, which I didn't realize was printed on, too. They were pretty silly oversights on my part, and I found myself dealing with all sorts of negative self-talk this morning. "How could you have missed something so simple?" "Why did you waste that teacher's time with questions you should have been able to answer yourself?" "Is homeschooling really the best idea for your family? You obviously can't even handle a simple lesson plan for a kindergartner." And on and on it went, until, like my dear friend yesterday did, I stopped myself.

The Enemy can't take my ultimate victory from me (my salvation), but he sure does want to make me feel completely defeated in this earthly life, and it's so easy to listen to the lies--lies I tell myself, lies I believe from things I read, perhaps with well-intentioned advice, and lies from a world who does not know of my Jesus' grace. And as I chose to stop listening to the Enemy's lies, my Heavenly Daddy reminded me of the words of Truth He had spoken to me through those three precious women yesterday.  Their words were not meant to promote myself. No, their words were used as messages of God's Truth: God is helping me be the mommy to my kids that He wants me to be; God is giving me the strength to persevere through the difficulties I'm currently facing with my health; God says I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Their affirmation touched me so deeply, not to promote myself, but to remind me that God is within me, and I am so much more than this world says that I am because of that profound Truth!

I pray that the words that come out of my mouth to those around me can be life-giving words that affirm God's presence in our lives.

"Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord..." Proverbs 8:34-35a

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Who's the Boss?

Some days just don't go as you plan.

...(Ok, I'll be honest and say that MOST days don't go as I plan!)

For a Type A personality, that's rough! I make lists, whether physically or just mentally, of what "needs" to happen every day, and when I think it needs to happen, so when something happens that isn't on the checklist, it can really throw me for a loop. 

As you've probably guessed, today was one of those days where things just did not go as planned. Homeschooling was met with many struggles, my tiniest T is still sick with an upper respiratory virus of some sort, some appointments got changed (which is good, but led to rushing around trying to get needed forms gathered sooner), my kids misbehaved all through tonight's rehearsal, etc. It's not really that anything earth shattering happened, (and some really great things happened today, too, like a sweet friend bringing me my first PSL of the season and helping me with my kids, and another friend bringing me an assortment of gourmet pickles, and an impromptu lunch outing), but it was just a day full of LIFE happening, and today, it left me drained in the parenting department. I felt like a broken record all day long, just totally unable to get through to my precious Lucy. Before leaving for church, I looked her straight in the eyes and said, "I know you want to feel in control of things, because your life has experienced a lot of out of control things, so there's a need to keep things stable. But you've got to remember that you aren't in control. Who's in control?"

Her big, blue eyes looked right back at me and said, "You are."


I literally think I did a double take, because I honestly thought it was a rhetorical question. 

"No no no, honey! Not me! GOD is in control, and He's placed me over you to draw you closer to Him. Every single thing I do and say to you, is to help you draw closer to Jesus. I fail at that a LOT, but I need you to know that that's the goal: I want you to love Jesus, so that's why I get on to you and don't let you get away with certain things. I just want you to draw close to Jesus."

I'm not sure it fully clicked with her, but I think, more than anything else, it was really the Lord speaking through me to remind me of the important calling He's given me. Perhaps my trying so hard to control my daily schedule has come off looking to my kids like I am the one who's taking control, when in reality, no matter how hard I try to maintain control, it is ALWAYS Jesus, and I have the ability to choose whether I will recognize Him or not. 

A video popped up in my Timehop yesterday of Annie last year. She had this game she liked to play with us called "Who's the boss?" She would play-cry when we told her that Daddy or Mommy was the boss, and then she'd giggle and smile if we told her that she was the boss. Even 2 year olds like to feel like they have control...

I am truly so grateful for my chaotic life. It is full of love, laughter, beauty from ashes, grace...I have an amazing husband who cherishes me, four incredible miracle babies who love me, a church family that allows me to serve, opportunities to use the gifts God has given me...but when I take a step back and peek in on all of it, I realize that somewhere inside of me is a little two year old that's throwing a fit when I'm not told that I'm the boss...and that's where Grace steps in, and oh how I need His grace! It is greater than my need to control, it is greater than my poor responses, it is greater than my struggle to forgive those who have wronged me, it is greater than my kids' disobedience...It is greater, and It is enough. So on a day when I feel like I've just had enough of the battle, my Jesus reminds me that He's still on the throne, and His grace is enough to cover it all.

After all, He's the boss!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Power Struggles...

They say that every child is different, so you'd think four children into parenting that I wouldn't be surprised when my kids do things differently from one another, but I still find myself getting caught off guard when they don't act like herd animals! lol:) Our most recent "adventure in parenting" deals with our tiniest of T's who apparently is channeling her inner ninja warrior. Her first feat? Scale the baby bed! I should note that while she's not the first child to climb out of her crib, she IS our first to be so persistent with it!

I'll never forget the afternoon that I put Lucy down for a nap when she was around two years old. I went into our living room to relax for a moment, looked up, and saw her standing in the doorway! I immediately put her back in her bed, and she did it again! That's when we knew it was time for a toddler bed and a baby gate at her door! This was a fairly easy fix though with just one child--her room was perfectly baby proofed (after we moved that blue chair out of the way! LOL), and she didn't really attempt to "scale the fence." She would, however, stand by her door and yell everyone's names out when she wanted to get out of her room, like when GiGi came for a visit: "Mommmmmmy!!! Dadddddyyyy!!! GiGi??? MICHAEL! Paula-Beth??!"

Gabriel was the opposite--he preferred his crib so much so that he was in it until he was three and a half years old! We never even converted it to a toddler bed-he just went straight from the crib to his big boy bed, which has pretty high sides so it still gives the feeling of being somewhat enclosed. He knew how to climb out, but her preferred the boundaries around him.

Next up was Annie Beth. She figured the whole crawling out of the crib gig at the usual age of 2-ish, but with correction and the removal of crib bumpers, she stayed put in her crib until she was almost three.

And then there were four...

Everyone told me that adding a third child is the most difficult, so after that, four kids isn't a huge transition.

Those people LIED!  lol!

(I honestly think it has more to do with the age difference in my kids. Lucy is almost five years older that Gabriel, but the other three are 21 months apart in age, so they're all going through big, yet different, stages at the same time.)

Evangeline had the roughest start out of all of my babies. She has remained the tiniest of all my kids (by far! I went from an almost 10 pounder to a 6 pounder!), and she had to spend time in the NICU. The phrase, "Though she be but little, she is fierce!" certainly has applied to her, because she's a determined little girl, conquering all milestones well before any of my other children: rolling over, crawling, walking, teething, and, as you probably have gathered by this point of my post, CLIMBING. I partially (jokingly) blame DH for her upper body strength as she spent a lot of time planking when he was doing a push-up challenge last year;-) I'm sure she's just keeping a close eye on her big brother and sisters and wants to get in on all of the fun they're having, but whatever the reason, "TinyT" is keeping me on my toes by her keeping on top of her own!

...It started a few weeks ago when I put her down for a nap and later found her walking proudly into the living room. She hasn't stopped trying (and succeeding) at climbing out since then. We've found her on top of the changing table (her bed has since been moved away from it), scooting her bed over to the jewelry cabinet and playing with Mommy's beads, trying to climb the oven, climbing on top of the name it, she tries to climb it! The main problem with this is that the bedrooms are far from baby proofed like they were when there was just Lucy, and there's not a space to place Evangeline free from getting into something, because she's just the busiest little girl ever! So yesterday, I made an investment in a wearable blanket, and so far, it has been the most fabulous purchase ever! She can still walk in it, and her arms are free, but she can't lift her legs up to climb around. Of course, she has attempted, but did not succeed!

As I was driving home with my new purchase in towe, I was reminded of my own power struggles with God as I look at the ways my children are determined to do things their own way. On vacation last week, I reminded my children multiple times that the reason Mommy and Daddy tell them "no" to certain things and give them certain rules is because it's our job to keep them safe. It may look like fun to run across the street to get somewhere more quickly, but my little ones don't understand that a car can dart out quickly in front of them and hurt them. Eating a whole bag of candy might sound yummy to begin with, but Mommy and Daddy know that too much of a good thing only ends up making you sick. (Just ask my hubby who can no longer eat chocolate because of a babysitter giving him free reign to a whole bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips!)
We place our babies in a crib to give them a safe place to sleep. They still have plenty of room to roll around and even play a bit, but they're given boundary lines to keep them safe from things they would otherwise get into and possibly hurt themselves with. Sometimes, we can expand those boundaries a bit more, like with Lucy, and sometimes we prefer to stay within the boundaries, like Gabriel. But other times, we feel confined and fight against the restrictions placed upon us. Like Evangeline, we want to taste freedom because we don't realize that what we want is not always what we need.

So we fight with God.

We struggle to be free to do as we please, only to find ourselves with the consequences our loving Heavenly Father was trying to protect us from--like when Evangeline scaled her crib and bumped her head. And sometimes we fight against His perfect plan, until we finally give in from exhaustion and rest. But all along, what He wants us to do is just trust Him and rest in Him, so that we don't have to go through the struggles. God gives us boundaries BECAUSE He loves us.

I love how the Psalmist reminds us here that the best place to be is in God's presence. He desires to shield us from harm and bless us if we will simply let go and trust Him.

"Better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere...The Lord God is a SHIELD...and blessed is the man who TRUSTS in You."
Psalms 84:10-12 

 Just as I want to remain patient and consistent with my children, I'm so thankful for a Heavenly Father who is ever gracious and merciful to me when I wander from Him and struggle with my flesh. He may not zip me up in a wearable blanket, but He so desires to cover me in the shadow of His wings.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

I Have This Hope...

Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness.
Surely my soul remembers
And is bowed down within me.
This I recall to my mind,Therefore I have hope.
The LORD’S loving kindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:19-23

Evangeline's 15 month well check was yesterday. It's kind of neat that it fell on that particular day because it is the day, exactly two years ago, that I got the shock of my life in finding out I was expecting her.  My husband and our, then, pastor had just resigned from our church two days prior because of some really ugly things happening within the leadership of the church, and he had just come home from packing up his office when I shared the news with him. I'll never forget the look on his face. Having struggled so much to expand our family for so many years, we found ourselves in awe of this miracle, and yet completely overwhelmed at the timing of it all. And that is how our sweet Evangeline came to first be known to us as "Baby H," because we knew that God was reminding us of the hope that we have in Him, no matter what the circumstances surrounding us may be.

Yesterday at her appointment, Evangeline ran straight to the doctor when she entered the room and hugged her leg and wanted her to pick her up, and waved and said "bye bye" and blew kisses when she left. After her appointment, she was running up to random people in the waiting room with her arms stretched up, motioning for them to pick her up, and striking up sweet little "conversations" with them. She's definitely a people person, athough every few moments she would run back up to me, as if to check in and make sure everything was okay;-)

She remains our tiniest of T's, weighing only 21.7 pounds (50th percentile) and measuring 29 and 3/4 inches tall (13th percentile.) Don't be fooled by her tiny appearance though, because she's got big plans every day, and I pray she will discover the amazing plan her Heavenly Daddy has for her. She brought hope into our lives during a very dark time, and I pray she continues to eagerly reach her arms out to others to give them the hope I pray she finds in Jesus Christ!

As I was writing this blog post out, I kept finding myself humming "I Have This Hope" by Tenth Avenue North. 
I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You're with me and You won't let go

What a blessing it is to be Evangeline's mommy! I cannot imagine our lives without this ray of sunshine who daily reflects her name by being a reminder to me of the Good News we can find in Jesus Christ, no matter what the circumstances are surrounding us.

Friday, July 21, 2017


We are currently in the throws, a third time, with what I have found to be the most challenging part of parenting small children: potty training.  You would think that the "third time would be the charm," but at this point, I'm pretty much just waving my white flag (or maybe a roll of Charmin?!) and realizing that it's probably not my kids: it's me.  I am REALLY really bad at potty training! So far, I have yet to have a child potty trained before they reached their 4th birthday. Part of this I attribute to the fact that I've been blessed to have my babies home with me, so we haven't had to be structured with it all like you would in a school setting. But mostly, I just think I'm really bad at teaching my kids how to use the potty! There is no prize, no chart, no incentive, no song, no special character underwear, no timer, no nifty potty chair or seat, no 3 day program--NOTHING that will win against the determined spirit that overflows from my kiddos. I really see how this strong-willed nature can be a great asset to them, but it's all a matter of directing it, and right now, we are TOTALLY missing the mark (pun intended!!) ;-) With Lucy, it was a matter of everyone else her age being potty trained, so I felt like I was failing her as a mom somehow. With Gabriel, it was a bit of the same. But now that I'm in my third round of it with Annie Beth, I'm not so much trying to keep up with everyone else--I just would really like for her to be able to go to preschool twice a week so she can have fun while I'm trying to do school with her big brother and sister! 

***I should note that I'm really thankful we have Norwex this go around with potty training, because the accidents are no longer as big of a deal to clean up, and they aren't as surprising...although the "artwork" on the bathroom walls certainly was a first (and a SECOND) for me to experience this past week...***

 My sweet little sass-a-pants of a 3 year old certainly has a wonderful mind of her own. I love that she is a determined child with an insistent spirit and strong sense of what she wants and does not want. I love that these qualities are all things that the Lord can and will use for His glory. And while her stubborn attitude can be a challenge, it also fills our days with much humor as we listen to our talkative toddler spout out her plans for the day, which usually do not include using the potty. For example, on a daily basis, my little girl who can't yet pronounce her "r's" will have the following conversation with me:

(Mommy) "Are we going to keep our panties clean and dry today, Annie Beth?"

(Annie) "I'll go poo poo on the potty...tomorrow!"

I can't help but laugh at her phrasing, seeing as how her name instantly brings to mind the beloved musical of another curly-headed little girl, "Annie," who is best known for belting out "Tomorrow" at the top of her amazing set of pipes.  But this newfound phrase of my Annie's also stirs up some other emotions within because of it's timeliness.

My last blogpost was written a few weeks ago, as I reflected on the tenth anniversary of my daddy's passing, and today would have been his 68th birthday. Not a day goes by that I don't think of my daddy and miss him. But if you've known me for very many of these past ten years of my life, you've probably heard me say that, more than missing my daddy, I miss knowing all that he missed out on. 

If you were to have visited my daddy at his office, you would have found his walls adorned with clocks of all types and sizes. He enjoyed a nice wrist watch, too, and had quite the collection. He would commonly make the remark, followed by his classic chuckle, that he collected them so that he would never run out of time. He worked so very hard to provide for our family, but in his doing so, the one thing we missed out on the most with him was time with him. I think he always thought that there would be a tomorrow, so he wanted to make the most out of his "today" to try to make everyone's "tomorrows" better. 

But we aren't promised tomorrow.

Joshua 24:15 reads:
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.
We live in a world that is constantly wanting to tell us how to better ourselves, but God doesn't want the "new and improved" version of us, because there is nothing we could ever do that would cause Him to love us or want us more. He gave His Son for us, because He loves us! We have to be willing to stop and lay down our own hopes and dreams, though, so that we will be able to take hold of HIS great plans for us.

It is so easy to become distracted in this world. We have technology constantly at our fingertips, we have jobs and families and friends that depend on us and pull at us, and we have goals and desires for what we want in our lives. Whether we admit it or not, we prioritize everything in our lives every single day. Am I spending my few moments of free time on facebook, or am I choosing to spend it in HIS book? It becomes far too easy to put things off for tomorrow when we become immersed in all that the world says it has for us today. That's why God calls us to fix our eyes firmly on Him...

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith." (Hebrews 12:1-2a)

Oh how I wish that my Daddy were alive to see these 4 amazing miracles that the Lord has entrusted to me on this earth! I know that Lucy would tug at his heart strings, Gabriel would be his little buddy, Evangeline would bring a soft side out of him, and Annie would be constantly causing him to deliver his signature chuckle. He missed out on experiencing the life God has blessed our family with in these children, and a life sold out abundantly to Jesus. So, my greatest desire for those of you reading this is for you to look to Jesus and give Him every part of your life--not tomorrow, because tomorrow isn't promised, but today...

Saturday, July 8, 2017

10 years...

It was ten years ago this morning when my mother was frantically trying to get in touch with me. I was in worship team rehearsal and had turned my phone off though. (This is why you will probably never find me without my phone to this day.) She was able to get a hold of the church's number, and someone came and pulled my husband out of rehearsal. After being gone for several minutes, I felt like something must be wrong, so I went to check on him. I'm not really sure how he was able to tell me those horrible words, but I'm so thankful for the caring, loving man that he is, always looking out for me and loving me so well.

 If you've ever lost someone, you know that the grief of their passing can hit like waves in the oceans or thunderstorms in the summer. Sometimes we see the storm coming and suit up in our raincoat and galoshes, and sometimes we are caught off guard and struggle to feel God's grace in the midst of the turbulent winds. 

Yesterday, we were caught off guard by the physical storms that rolled in and interrupted our swimming time. My kids were disappointed, but coming home, eating popsicles, and watching Moana for the hundredth time seemed to do the trick;-) All the while, in the back of my mind, a mental storm was brewing within me, looming over my head like a dark cloud.

July 8 is a day I often approach feeling like Eyeore. And for anyone who experiences the waves of grief, you probably understand how it feel like a rain cloud is hovering over you, following you wherever you
go. But don't forget that there is always a calm after the storm, and with a storm comes refreshment to the earth, despite the destruction it may cause. And the cloud itself, though it can produce a storm, can also provide protection. 

I dread the inevitable resurrection of memories from ten years ago when I learned that my daddy had passed away. I can't see past the clouds at what God did in His infinite wisdom, but I can choose to let Him cover me with His comfort and the knowledge that He is good.

I'm thankful that my Heavenly Daddy doesn't chastise me for struggling over my earthly daddy's sudden death. Instead, He wraps His arms around me and catches each tear that falls from my face and reminds me that He is a good, good Father. 

I imagine today will come with its share of tears, but right now, what the Lord is speaking to my heart is that He is still good, and He is ever near to the broken-hearted. Without pain, we would not experience comfort. And just like I long for my babies to crawl up in my lap and let me hold them close, my Heavenly Daddy wants to do the same for me. 

No matter the circumstance in your life, God is able to bring good from them. It may be that your Daddy-God reveals the bigger picture to you, or you may just experience the blessing of His comfort in the midst of the storm. Some days I still feel like I'm sorting through the damage of that great storm in my life ten years ago, but at the same time, I choose to rest in the total assurance that my God is good, faithful, just, and He cares deeply for me.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Holding on and Letting Go...

We spend a lot of time telling our children, "Don't let go!" As we were walking through Six Flags yesterday, I can't tell you how many times the question, "Does everyone have a hand?!" came out of my mouth.
Basically, everyone is supposed to be holding someone else's hand (or onto the stroller) as we maneuver through crowded areas. There is something about holding on to each other that makes us feel safer. It's easier to stay together and stay on task when we join hands and hold on tightly. (It's also comforting to have others at your side, like our amazing Mimi who came along with us yesterday to help with the kids.)

But with as many times as I told my kids to not let go yesterday, I also found myself telling them the exact opposite! Like the moment when I was trying to sit Evangeline onto the carousel horse, but she clung tightly to her momma out of fear of the unknown. She squealed in delight as she was in line watching each horse go round and round and up and down, but she cried in fear when she was given the opportunity to experience it firsthand. In those moments, all she wanted was for her momma to hold her closely so she could watch it all unfold from afar.

Lucy, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. There is no ride she doesn't want to try. She raises her arms in abandon as she screams in excitement through the unknown twists and turns of each roller coaster. She has excitement for the unknown, with an inner confidence that she is still safe in the hands of the operator of each ride.
And then there is my sweet Gabriel. I don't think I will ever forget how terrified he once was of everything about Six Flags. He wanted nothing to do with any of the rides or characters. He still wants nothing to do with the ginormous characters (notice his absence from the photo here with Tweety Bird--he was hiding behind my back and holding on tightly to my legs!), but he was eager to ride as many rides as he could. Slowly, but surely, he's learning to let go and experience things. 

And then there's my Annie Beth--so eager to go on all of the rides, but not quite big enough yet. She's still growing, and it is difficult to not grow impatient in the process. (Animal crackers help though;-) 

Lastly, there's the momma--me. I used to ride every single ride that I could get on! I loved the thrills and the excitement, but as I've gotten older, I've found that most of those circular motions just make me feel sick! Lucy told me yesterday, quite sincerely, "Momma, I feel bad that you don't get to ride very much because you have to stay with Evangeline." I responded, "It's okay, baby. This way, I get to watch all of your reactions as YOU are on the rides, and that's just as thrilling for me as if I were getting to ride it myself!"
You see, life is full of so many seasons. And with a large family full of kids at various ages, the Lord is really working on my heart on what it means to truly embrace each of those seasons...

My incredible "Tiny Toller" (Evangeline) is at the season of learning to let go. Yes, I want to hold her tightly and keep her safe, but I also know there are so many amazing things she can experience if she will just let go and try. Her fear often overtakes her willingness to try, but I continue to be patient with her, knowing that she will eventually learn. Our Heavenly Daddy does the same with us. He loves us and encourages us through our fears. God is so ever patient with us as we learn to trust Him, which is the place Lucy was at yesterday at the amusement park. She had confidence in who was in control, and she was simply there to "enjoy the ride." God so desires that for His children--for us to trust Him and let Him take control so that, like Gabriel is learning, we can experience all of the amazing things He has for us when we are willing to let go! But then there are seasons like my Annie Beth is in. Those are the seasons where we so desperately are ready to move on, but God is telling us "not yet." He is still molding us and growing us so that we can be prepared for exactly what that next step is that He has for us. He wants us to trust that HIS timing is always best, and if we will let Him, He will give us the grace to handle that time in the waiting room. 
Just like my kids had to be reminded yesterday to "hold on" AND to "let go," this roller coaster of life we are all on is much the same. Once we are finally willing to grab a hold of His goodness, we don't want to let go--it becomes comfortable and safe. But the Lord reminded me this morning that we aren't meant to hold on forever. Just like my kids find it hard at first to grab each other's hands, we often think that holding on for very long is the hard part. However, it's often the letting go that becomes the most difficult task. What will happen when we let go? Will we fall? Will we forget? Will our hands be filled with something uncomfortable? Or what if it's a season that our hands are going to be completely empty? Just as I ask my kids to trust that my requests of them are to keep them safe, God reminds me that I need to trust Him to do the same. Do I believe He is going to take care of me and that His best is truly THE best? 

The Truth is that He IS a good Father! He can do nothing less than what is the very best, and He invites us to experience that with Him, just like sweet Mimi accepted our invitation for a day of Six Flags fun.Whether we are waiting for our turn to come, nervously stepping out in faith to the unknown, cheering others on from the sidelines, or in the midst of enjoying the ride, God simply asks us to be willing to follow Him. We don't have to fear or hold tightly to the past--we can eagerly anticipate what He is doing now and wants to do in the future! (And I think it's okay to munch on a few animal crackers in the meantime;-)
"Do not be afraid, for I am with you...forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a NEW thing! Now it Springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." (Isaiah 43:5a and 18-19)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Taste and See...

It's a common scene at our dinner table. I spend time trying to make something yummy for my family, but when I set it in front of everyone, I'm met with moans and groans from my picky, unadventurous eaters.

"I don't like that!"


"I'm not eating that!"

It took me awhile to figure out that you simply cannot force a child to eat something. Yes, you can force the food into their mouth, but you can't make them digest it, because if they truly don't want it, while they may still swallow it, they're just going to throw it back up. This would be Lucy and chicken.

Yes. Chicken.

I don't understand how you can't like chicken, but it makes Lucy gag every.single.time!

We all have foods that we don't care for, but with children, they so often want to just stick to what they're used to. They'd prefer fish sticks and peanut butter and jelly (not together!) over some mysterious looking dish. And while some of us love experiencing new things, many of us prefer to stick with what is safe and known.

As I was perusing Facebook this morning, a friend of mine posted a verse I've heard many times:

"Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that takes refuge in Him." (Psalm 34:8)

Maybe it was because of the yummy mini bundt cakes leftover from our home group last night staring me down from the kitchen counter, but whatever the reason, when I saw that verse this morning, my mind immediately halted at that first word: taste.

We live in a society that has rejected God and His Truth in so many ways. When It is presented, it's met with responses similar to a child who gets broccoli on their plate. "I don't like that!" People reject It without ever tasting of It. You see, if we truly taste of the Lord, we will always find that He is GOOD, and it will only leave us hungering for more and more of Him. We can't MAKE anyone partake of His goodness though. Just like force-feeding a child, if we "shove Jesus down the throats" of others it's only going to come back up...and not in a pretty way! But perhaps, just like when introducing new foods to our kids, if we will repeatedly present Jesus to this hurting world, we can hope that one day, they will choose to give Him a try, filling their plates-their lives!-with the things of Him. I know if I will do that, I'll find myself going in for a second helping...and many more, because when we taste of Jesus, we will see that He truly is so very, very good! 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Clearing the Path...

Lucy had the opportunity to audition for a play this last month. She was beside herself with excitement over the thought of getting to portray one of her very favorite characters: Lucy, from "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe." (I actually got the name for my Lucy from reading that book back in junior high. I love everything that her character represents!) She was constantly reading over the script and rehearsing lines; she was determined to get that part!
I had no idea how many other little girls felt the same way though. The amount of little girls with braided pigtails in their hair lined up for auditions was overwhelming! (My conservative guess would be at least 30.) I was SO proud of how Lucy bravely marched herself into that audition room and delivered her line boldly, passionately, and with excitement. She felt confident in her performance, and she was SO anxious to hear the results.
My view peeking into the audition room:)
So when I get the email the following day with the cast list not including her name, my heart didn't just sink down into my stomach--it felt like it hit the floor. My mind raced, wondering how on earth I was going to be able to deliver the news to her. I took a deep breath and asked her to come over to where I was. I grabbed her delicate hands and looked into her precious face and asked her, 

"Do you know that Jesus loves you, and that He has an amazing plan for you, even if it's not the one you want it to be?" 

I think she knew what was coming as she nodded and said "yes." I held her for a long time and found myself crying, knowing that my baby was hurting, yet also trusting that God had a plan and wouldn't waste this hurt. As I hugged Lucy tightly, I suddenly had an image of Jesus holding me close over a decade ago, when I would find myself almost unable to breathe through the tears after discovering, over and over again, that we weren't pregnant. He held each one of those tears, knowing He had something amazing in store while still hurting with His child. 

I believe with all my heart that God never wastes our pain. I know He hears our cries, and He longs to hold us through the hurt, assuring us of His love for us. I think we so often want to be told, "It's going to be okay."

But God didn't promise us that.

In fact, He told us we WOULD face trials in this life. ("In this world you WILL have trouble..." John 16:33) But He also told us that those trials produce "perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame..." (Romans 5:4-5a) In other words, our trials bring us closer to Him, and the closer we are to Him, the more we can feel Him embracing us. It's a mystery to those who do not know Him as their Father, but God blesses us with trials so that we can know His love more deeply. 

As a momma, I don't ever want to see my babies hurt. But as a child of God, my desire for my babies to know and love Christ trumps anything else. If we could see all of the fires we will be asked to walk through, I have a feeling we would never leave home without an extinguisher. We'd have our kids wrapped up in a plastic bubble to shield them from hurt and from harm...but it would also keep them from feeling love and experiencing blessings from others.  My heart so desires to say I can praise God through the storm. I want my kids to see that in me so that they can learn how to do the same. You see, while storms can do a lot of damage, God uses them to provide the Earth with
practicing for this weekend's audition
refreshment. So, when we go through trials, God is actually raining down His blessing upon us.

This weekend, Lucy has another opportunity to audition for a musical. It's an opportunity that she would not have been able to take had she gotten the role she auditioned for last month. This one is through an educational theatre run by a Christian woman who desires for children to learn all the wonderful aspects involved in theatre. I'm so excited that the Lord led us in this direction! And He did so by clearing a path that was only made visible after a storm...