Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Heavenly "Atta Girl" Delivered by Little Lips

Cuddled in a sea of pink blankets and flowered pillows, I listen to her read. Her sweet little voice makes the words float, light and carefree. As they hit my ears and heart they are heavy with meaning, and I can hardly concentrate.

Every night we read a page from Jesus Wants All of Me, giving us an incredible opportunity to discuss Scripture, the short devotion and pray together. I don't think she'll go to bed without it anymore. She is seeking for the meaning, the hope, her Jesus. But tonight, as she read, I knew those words were for me.

A kiss from my sweet King.

A heavenly "atta girl" delivered by little lips.

With the support of my amazing husband I am beginning to investigate growing into the ministry God continually calls me toward. To encourage women in the everydayness of life. To point to God and help create events, blogs, spaces, studies and more where women can breathe and fill up with Jesus.

Common Graces is the start of a faith journey.

As I stand with my toes on the edge of an adventure ready to begin, Isabel read this to me tonight:

"Big God

God picked me. He has a plan for my life. We will go many places. Together we will do wonderful things. But His plan is much bigger than places or things. I cannot see it just now. But in my heart I hear it calling. I hear it calling me to Him!.

Behold we are going up to Jerusalem. Luke 18:31

Thank you, Jesus, for lifting me, leading me, and filling me with the joy that makes my heart sing Your beautiful love song to everyone I meet."


Don't you love that our God is infinitely powerful and intimately involved in our lives?

Next week, I'll officially kickoff the new website, the new and improved (with half the calories and no trans fat) blog, and this adventure with giveaways, sneak peeks of upcoming events and spotlighting some awesome organizations that shine Christ into dark corners of the world while giving tangible help. Join me, okay??

For now, friends, can I ask you a favor? Would you join me in prayer? Pray for this ministry, for the women God has already made divine appointments with, for my family and for His glory to shine from my heart, my keyboard, and my life. Pray that I am filled with the joy that makes my heart sing His beautiful love song to everyone I meet.

Friends, this is the last week I'll be posting here...please visit Common Graces. I look forward to connecting with you there.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cuz my Life is a Sitcom

The chandelier is rattling from the kids jumping off beds upstairs...hmmm, I swear I told them not to do that. I continue to chop tomatoes...rattle, rattle, thump.

Music blaring. Kids can't hear me yell to stop. Hands covered in tomatoes. I'll tell 'em to stop as soon as I finish these onions too.

Tears streaming down my face. (gotta love chopping onions) Hands covered in tomatoes and onions. Music blaring. Thump. Bump. Rattle. Rattle.

Suddenly there is a fly bug thingy going down my shirt? Really?? A bug??

And then as though there wasn't enough happening....

Knock. Knock. Bark. Growl.

You've got to be kidding me.

More knocking. More barking. More thumping and rattling. Tears. And, yes, the bug is still down the front of my shirt.

As I open the door I can't help but laugh (through the tears still streaming down my cheeks). There are the dear ladies from a local church that desperately want me to sit and talk with them about the literature they keep leaving me.

There I stood. A teared-up, wriggling, sticky mess. Water boiling on the stove waiting for canning. Kids coming through the ceiling. Dogs barking and knocking me around.

Literally these ladies looked at me and walked away. NOT ONE WORD! Oh how I wish I could have heard their conversation as they backed out of my driveway -- eyes averted so they didn't make any sort of eye contact with me.

I wonder - will they be back???

Just had to share...cuz some days I feel like my life is a sitcom!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

How a Mop Handle Can Lead to Humbling Life Change

The heat from my burning cheeks was inching down my neck and over my ears. My embarrassment was showing, for sure. So was my frustration and anger. As I bent over to pick up the magazines I could feel the stares of the grocery store patrons and hear the snickers.

Like knocking over a magazine rack (yep, a rack) isn't embarrassing enough, only minutes before I had taken out a couple of boxes of brownie mix and five or six packages of tp. The mop handle sticking out of my cart was destined for home and making my life easier, but right now it was a giant pain and rapidly becoming a cause of public humiliation.

There I stood. Frustrated. Angry. Embarrassed. 

And a breath before I could move my cart and knock another item down, images flashed across my memory. Suddenly the heart wrenching truth of the famine in East Africa (view the graphic images here) hit me. In the air-conditioned, shiny, cool grocery store with a cart full of groceries I thought I would throw up. As quickly as the red drained from my face every selfish emotion drained from my body.

With tears in my eyes I fumbled through checkout. Hoping to contain my emotions long enough to prevent further embarrassment. Putting my groceries in the back of my silver grocery-getter littered with kiddo toys, blankets, and the sandy remnants of vacation, I lost it.

I sobbed all the way home.

I'll never understand the grace of God. How it is that this girl who loses her temper...a lot; who turns to food instead of God; who curses the laundry and other daily tasks that await a stay-at-home mom; who can go days without reading the Bible; and who let's foul words escape my mouth more often then I care to admit can be blessed beyond measure by a God whose ways I cannot fathom, I'll never know.

As I ponder the mothers whose babies are starving. The women who rock sick children to sleep begging for one more night and rescue in the daylight. Those who look to the clouds and pray that today they'll open up...that relief will come in drips and drops, in downpours, and soggy new life. I begin the pray, I beg for food, aid, peace, rain, Him. I don't understand the gap, my abundance and their losses, but I do understand that there is  God in heaven who loves each mama, each baby, each community more than we can wrap our small questioning minds around.

I am not sure I can make a difference in East Africa. I can't make it rain, I can't cut through bureaucratic red tape or send aid to so many, but I can use my voice, my space, my life to pray, to speak, to point to the One who loves us all.

Consider joining me:
- pray -- for rain, for aid, for God, for the people on the front lines, for peace
- raise your voice, use your space - spread the word -- blog, facebook, twitter, in Bible study wherever you can ask others to get involved
- sponsor a child -- visit Compassion International today to find out how you can invest in the life of a child in  Africa (all over the world, really) helping to feed their bodies and their souls 

Father, thank you for changing my heart, for helping me to realize that I am so much smaller than my ego believes and MUCH more blessed than I often remember. Help me to find ways to shine your light here in my own community and across the world. Father, kiss the foreheads of your daughters that go to bed lost, scared, or disheartened tonight. I pray that even in the midst of great challenges and great sadness they are able to feel your warmth and peace. Amen.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Have I ever Jumped for Joy?

Her golden hair nearly sparkled in the sun. The blue-green water rushed to greet her shrieks of delight and kiss her wiggling toes. The joy of vacation, of the beach, of life bubbled out of her.

And then, she began leaping. Jumping for joy, if you will.

Joy. That is unfettered joy.

And as I watched her leap, splash and play I wondered if I have ever jumped for joy. Literally, jumped.

This is not to say I haven't been joyful, but have I been so caught up in the the joy that my body left the surface of the earth? Have I surrendered myself to the moments of God-filled delight to the point of abandoned?

I don't think so. And if it did happen I'm sure I was knee-high to a grasshopper.

Folding the warm sheets in the dingy basement laundry room I sighed. And sighed again. Laundry. Need I say more? As I silently lamented the curse of the ongoing laundry battle, two little people came rushing into the laundry room.

Full of laughter and life they chatted away. Pointing to this and that. Asking. Laughing. Curious and cute. The unfinished walls, cement floor and dark corners seemed to light up with their energy. The piles (and piles and piles) of laundry didn't phase them. 

"Mom, can we help with the laundry?"

I nodded a slow, tired nod.

"Yay!!" they both shouted as they danced on and over the heaps of dirty clothes.

We began loading the washing machine together. Jump up. Throw the towel. Giggle. Run back. Hop. Skip. Twirl. Toss the wash cloth. Climb in and out of the laundry bag. Laugh. Throw. Repeat. As I closed the lid, I realized I was laughing. There was joy in these moments I had been lamenting only a breath ago. 

How often have I lamented the moments that hold the potential for joy? As I trudge through the everydayness why do I choose not to look for the chances to leap, twirl, giggle and skip? When do we loose that? Can we get it back?

I am firmly convinced one of the reasons God chose to give me children was to get me out of my own head. To remind me of what childhood looks like.

Today, I am going to find a reason to jump for joy...even if it is only laundry!! Care to join me?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Their Story is My Story

Piles of construction paper. Glue. Stickers. Scissors. Bits and pieces of paper. As though the craft bin exploded in the living room. It overwhelmed me...overwhelms me. And in all honesty part of it still sits on the living room floor.  The aftermath cast a shadow over the project. Over the impact. Over the reasons. Over The reason.

...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me...

As I walk up the stairs today their pictures hit me anew. I remember when I first hung them there, it was a daily reminder to pray. I wonder now as I touch their cheeks and pause to pray, how often do I walk by them, do I forget to remember them, do I let the distance between our worlds beckon me from standing in the gap for them?

Today as I look at their pictures and glance over my shoulder at the pile in the living room I'm moved nearly to tears. Really? A pile of construction paper and craft materials is enough to derail me? When she sleeps in a house with dirt floors and he awaits our letter for a glimpse of Jesus?

I pick up the homemade folders stuffed to the brim with glued-on, cut-out, colored-in grace, and sit on the couch. What will she feel as she holds this? Will he know our love? Will she see we are rooting for her? Will she understand that Jesus is so much bigger than the poverty she faces? Can we love him bigger than the reality of his circumstances? I ponder that.

When we began sponsoring children with Compassion it was for our kids. How desperately we wanted to expand their worlds. And, while their worlds are still rooted in princesses, trucks and backyards swings whose to know if we will succeed in giving them a God-sized vision for helping those we can. But while we wait for their outcome it is changing mine.

I worry for her sister who always seems to be ill.
I wonder if his parents know Jesus.
I ask the Lord to help us find away to visit, to understand, to look into their eyes, to give them a Jesus-filled hug, to tell others their stories, to be more than a check.

I've come to understand that their story is my story. That God placed these precious babies in the path our family so we could share what He is blessing us with (monetarily, emotionally and spiritually) and so that we can become a family that cares. That understands our knees will take us farther than any vehicle in the journey toward these children; for petitioning the Throne of Grace on their behalf is an awesome responsibility.  That sending letters lets them, their parents, and others know we care. He cares. That the job of a sponsor is much larger than a check or automatic deduction. It is hope, sealed in envelopes stuffed with Scripture, joy and crayon drawn love. It is prayer and belief. It is a faith in my God that says the least of these are His and their mine.

As I pick up the pile of crafts on the floor I will count each scrap of paper and each blessing. I will pray for the translators that go through our envelopes, the people that will deliver them, the folks that help the kids write and read the letters, the parents of the children as they bring them home to share with the family, and the future. A future safe in Christ. That their love, faith and strength is a force to be reckoned that changes the world.

Father, bless these little children. Help us to shower your love on them. Place others in their paths that will point them straight to You. Help me, Father, to be patient with my children and to find ways to help their worlds expand to include all your children, and their future to be full of visions and passion to change their world for You. Amen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

She is Grace Exhaled

Scrap of paper between us. Words scribbled in haste a link between hearts. God's grace and meager thanks laid upon the table cloth.

It was a moment in time. For her, one more face in a long line of excited strangers. For me a moment that will forever live in my heart and one more piece of my life rebuilt.

"There's something different about her," several women would comment about her later. "But what is it?"

I knew it when I read her book. I knew it when I heard her speak. I knew it when she accepted my tear-filled, scrap paper thanks with love, hugs and tears.

She. This farmer's wife with a gift for word pictures and God pictures. She is grace exhaled.

People began filing out around us. Snifles and music filled the air. Ann VosKamp's words were now but echoes in our memories and God's kisses for our souls. I couldn't move. The tears just streamed down my face.

Urged by a new friend to write my thanks to Ann for what her book has done in my life, my heart, my home. I found inadequate words and pushed the pen across the paper. Not nearly enough, but more than I could say.

As I slid the note across the table cloth and choked out a tear-filled explanation her eyes looked into my soul. With acceptance and deep as the blue of her eyes she hugged me. I was touched. Broken. Grateful. Overwhelmed. Humbled. This woman who poured her life unto page so that it might speak of Him of was sweetly listening and in my story with me.

With grace she accepted my thanks and the sliver of my story that I offered to her. Her blue eyes deep with understanding and love. Her very being radiating Christ.

Ann Voskamp's words, speech and tales are beautiful and memorable. Her gentle spirit is grace exhaled to a broken world in need of thanksgiving, light and beauty.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Hidden Gems of She Speaks

I love to hide things where people will find them and be blessed. Love notes for my hubby taped to the mirror or in his coat pocket (or the year I put valentines in his boots and he didn't know it...wore 'em all day and ground the little notes into lint!). Little surprises for my an out of the blue snack on the breakfast table sweet, delicious and just waiting for their little fingers. I am even know to hide cookies from the dogs now and then...just so they can find a yummy lil surprise.

I realized today, that God does that too. 

I have been blessed to be part of the She Speaks facebook group for this year's attendees. It is great seeing the advice, prayer, support and laughter that is being dispensed from keyboards around the country. What added bonus that group has been.

And yet, as I read the posts about nerves, worries, frenzied preparation and more it excites me to think of how much more is in store for these women. To know that God has tucked lil gems in the nooks and crannies of the upcoming weekend specially hidden for His daughters to stumble upon and delight in.

In the large banquet room there will be delivious meals peppered with lively conversation. The room is a buzz with energy and passion. There will be messages that empower, bringing us to our feet with energy and gusto. Messages that bring snorting laughter that reminds you just how much sweet tea you had at dinner. And the personal stories and messages that God uses to massage a weary soul; that bring you to your knees in a humbling, emptying moment...only for Him to fill you up again.

The small conference rooms are just large fire hose hook ups I think. You go and get hit with so much information that it is like drinking from those fire hoses. You hope you get some of it in, and that the rest just covers you over and soaks in as you dry out. (um, CDs....a She Speak-ers best friend) The wisdom, character and charm of the presenters astounds me every year. The caliber of professional people willing to help others follow hard after Jesus is a thing that only God (and Queen LeAnn) can orchestrate.

And those moments are amazing. Trust me. All of them.

But sprinkled throughout every moment, every hallway, every room you'll find other moments our Great Big God of little details has laid just so. There are friendships hidden in the elevators, bathrooms, buffet lines, airport shuttles and roommates assignments. Accountability partners that pop up in speaking eval groups, writers groups and even just around the dinner table. There are books that were written for your moments...seemingly for you. The prayer room is holy ground where Jesus leans in as prayers are whispered and where you find a reminder of who God is to you and for you. The worship is sweet and maybe a small glimpse of what Heaven will be where 600 sisters raise their voices to a God who hovers just a breath away.

She Speaks is an amazing conference, for a million reasons. And probably my million would be different from others, again it is God in the details that makes it amazing.

So as I pack my bags this year. I am asking God to open my eyes, to help me see the gems He's hidden. To breathe in the moments He's created to draw me into His lap. 

Today as I write I'm a weary momma who wonders how she'll get it all done before heading to Charlotte this week, but I know next week I'll write as a re-energized daughter of the King back from a weekend of treasure hunting with her Daddy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Truth that Met Me in the Fast Lane

It was as if the words hung in the air. The song played on, but the line sat there in front of me. As though written on the windshield I had to look through the words to see the truth of my life...past and present.

As a birthmother I have heard a lot about how noble my sacfrice was. What a gift I've given the girls and their families. And I have wanted to believe that, but it felt like there should be more to it. That moments wrapped up in pain, joy, the scent of a baby and a tidal wave of hormones have to be for something more than praise from strangers, an empty belly and movie-of-the-week memories. But what?

I have grappled with that question for over a decade. With every picture, letter, and phone call I have known there is something deeper to this birthmother thing then grief and longing. 

And then there it was. A random afternoon. A random song on the radio. And God's truth meets me face-to-face in the fast lane and changes my life forever. 

I'm not one to say God spoke to me. I've never heard His voice, but I've felt His presence. I know His hand in my life. And I know when my heart meets Truth. And in those moments I know what God is saying. Louder than the voices in my head and heart I can hear Him.

For weeks I have been in love with this song. It seems to minister to me in the midst of difficult moments and in the everydayness of life. 

Play the video. Listen. Close your eyes. Let the beautiful music and soothing truth wash over you in whatever your circumstance is....let's worship together for a moment and then I'll tell you how this song changed my perspective on my life.

(Laura Story - Blessings)

"Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things."

Becoming a birthmother wasn't (just) about giving my girls all they needed and deserved that I didn't have. God worked that plan for me too. He loves me way too much to give me lesser things. He knew that every step I took in healing and growth as a birthmother would bring me closer to Him. That in comforting others, sharing my story, loving my girls, grieving our lost moments, praying, laughing, doting on my babies I got to parent, and the million other things I do as a woman who gave up her children would make me a bit more like His Son. That I would draw closer to Him.

And God's best is what it is all about. 

If you have read any of my other adoption posts, you'll know that I don't like to open the "what if" door to my past. And often when I do I want to write. I want to reach out. I want something to feel real and concrete and whole for just a breath or two. And yet, tonight as I write I don't want to open a door to past that never was. I want to look back and remember those moments. Those are my moments. 

Before time began God knew the tears of a young woman in a dim and silent hospital room. He knew that my tears would wet the pink cheeks of my daughter. Think of that...He knew me tears. He knew my pain. He knew that His hand would be the only thing that would save me from myself that night and many nights after that as I began to wish for death and live recklessly.

He knew my tears were not in vain. That my suffering was not pointless. That my breaking heart He would bind. He knew that His love was...and is...greater than my pain.

That is the truth that met me in the fast lane this week. That God didn't use my decisions and circumstances to only bless fact, perhaps I received the greatest of the blessings in the adoption process. I grew a little more like my Savior...

Father, sometimes it is so difficult to feel the blessings in the midst of the storms. I am grateful that You never give up teaching me, showing me, helping me to redeem my past and see it in Your light. Thank you for loving me enough to make me a birthmother. Thank you for memories of infant girls, and for memories yet made with young women. Help us all to find you in the fast lane of life, Father. Change our view -- past and present. Help us become more like your precious Son. Amen.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Love...I can do that

Hidden under the heavy blankets with the fan whirring above me I finally let it out. Tears. Not sobs or that ugly cry. Just tears. One after another. Like someone had opened the release valve for my heart. 

His body, crumpled by years and time, precariously perched in his wheelchair watching as I hung the crayon masterpieces delivered by sticky hands with sing song descriptions and tales. This is his life now. These beige walls. Beige carpet. Little rooms. Where time hangs heavy, moments pass slowly and sadness covers the room like a late winter blanket of heavy, crusty snow. 

Pushing the scotch tape against the wall with every thing I had, I was willing myself to keep it together.  As if this tiny piece of tape holding paper to concrete could somehow hold my heart together. Swallow the tears. Get it together.

Words have failed her for a long time. Locked in a world of early memories she functions in her own world these days. I listen to her crying and grunting as they change her. All dignity lost. Like a child she is laid out to have her body cleaned and clothes changed. Her discomfort and confusion palpable in the noises  she makes.

I push the scotch tape to the wall.

Helpless. We all are.

Time has robbed them of so much. Even the memories of better days...

I remember. 

She's singing "In the Garden" and dancing in the living room. She tells me of God and His love. That Jesus loves me...and so does she. The seeds she planted wouldn't sprout for years in my life, but how her love and her faith changed me. I remember.

He's working outside. Hands in the dirt. Planting. Building. Always busy. And even as my little legs struggle to keep up with him, his heart was never too busy for me. On our walks and in his garden he taught of love, responsibility and family. As I look out the window at my garden I know why I am drawn there...that's him in me. I remember.

And there I stood. Scotch taping my heart. 

In my hurt I cry out to God. Why? He doesn't answer.  I ask over and over on the three hour drive. Question Him. His plan. He doesn't answer.

As my eyes burned from the tears hidden in the dark, from somewhere in the depths of me I wailed to heaven. What can I do??? 

And I recalled a blog I read the other day. (Ann Voskamp's A Holy Experience) about love and using your words when that is all you have to give. That love itself is radical and God filled. And even as the tears stream down my face as I write I know God answered me last night. 


I can't turn back the clock. I can't change the circumstances of my grandparents' life right now, but I can love them. I can show up with stacks of the kids' art for their walls, I can call and tell the same stories over and over again, and I can hold their hands when there is nothing else to be said. Love. I can do that.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

Monday, June 13, 2011

I almost missed the moment

Her little hands held a small booklet. An answer to a mommy prayer. A moment I almost missed.

As I begin planning next year's homeschooling, many goals, hope, and ideas have popped into my head. And as I prayerfully sort through all my what ifs, one has continued to pop up.

Beginning the morning with the Lord. A moment with the God. Helping my children learn the habits of rooting their days in God's word. Turing their eyes to Him.

This morning as was I bustling around preparing for the day I began thinking of all the ways I could implement a morning devotion with the kids.

And then...there she was holding the moment I have been trying to capture.

Isabel sat on the couch holding a small booklet of devotions her grandmother gave her. Three steps past her I realized I was missing the moment. My daughter's heart was searching for truth and light already and if I took one more step I would miss the moment designed to answer my prayer and feed her heart.

Snuggled on the couch together I listened to Isabel read today's paragraph on waiting on the Lord. After she read I asked her if she understood it, and she said "kind of, but Mom can you read it now so I can listen, ask questions and understand it?"

What a sweet moment hand delivered from God, an answer to prayer and lesson all in one!

Open your eyes and hearts today friends...may you not take one step beyond the blessings of God!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Thanking God on Friday

After a busy week where I met myself coming and going, there's nothing better than stopping to count our blessings.

lighting bugs
tomatoes on the vine hidden under fragrant green leaves
the smell of the living room
the feel of my hubby's hand on the small of my back
Paxton's wave from the poolside where he sits in swimming lessons
Isabel reading every word that comes in front of her
making notes in my Bible
windows down, radio up, singing at the top of my lungs
plan b
cold ice cream on a hot brownie
the view of my home, yard and life as I kneel in the garden
countdown to She Speaks
the smell of coconut conditioner
the dribble of strawberry juice on little chins as they indulge in fresh off the vine sweetness in the garden
the dripping wet tennis ball delivered in the dark by a wiggling, hopeful dog
a cool breeze after record breaking heat
Paxton's little legs half running, half kicking as he discovers he can swim
falling back to sleep on hubby's smells like him
saving a bunny from sure death at the teeth of our dogs
backyard bbqs
squirt guns
warm homemade chicken pot pie
American Heritage Girls
a new purse
the smell of sunblock
sun-soaked laughter and childish fun with a good friend
fresh milk duds
Will saying "Hey sweets"
the sound of the camera shutter
singing in public restrooms with Paxton trying to get him to relax enough to "go"
my long-bitten, stubby nails are growing
when the right song comes on the radio at the right time
bubble baths
peanut butter toast
scooping compost out of the bin for the first time
counting blossoms on veggie plants, anticipating the harvest 
cooking for others
putting the finishing touches on a dress for an orphan
LIFE group

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lessons in Faith from a Five Year Old

Her little hand clutched in mine we lay on her bed. The house was still and quiet. As evening set in around us, she began to pray.

{we'll get to the prayer in a minute}

Perhaps one of the things that amazes me most about being a mother is how much God uses it to teach me. Motherhood has become my training ground for patience, kindness, truth, love, every imaginable skill (and some I never imagined I would need or learn) and faith. I come face to face with Jesus and the truths of God on a regular basis -- out of the mouths and hearts of our children.

A few  months ago we became aware of Isabel's love and passion for orphans (or as she calls them children who don't have any parents -- she does not like the term orphan. But that is conversation for another day.) In an attempt to nurture this godly spark our family set off on a new project -- read Whose Child Is She? and ...a Little Child Will Lead Them to learn more about what we're doing and how.

Last week God brought a new friendship into our lives that has the potential to change the shape, if not the course, of our very lives. And while it remains to be seen how this will all play out, I can tell you that next week our new (already dear) friends will be coming to dinner -- to tell us of Africa, orphans, the missionary life they are called to. And even more than that, they are coming to hear Isabel's heart, see her passion and her dresses and help fan the godly flame growing in her wee little heart. I don't know what God is going to use this for, but I can tell you whatever it is it is already changing us. Her. Me.

Back to her prayer. As I read Isabel James 1:27 {Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.} and talked to her about what she wants to do for the orphans I saw a different look in her eyes. One of sadness. An ache almost.

In her sadness she told me about how it makes her sad that they don't have parents. That they are missing the love they could have like our family. And before I could say a word, she smiled and said "they need Jesus. He's our family from God. We can help with that." Humbled. Tears pouring down my face I sat there on her bed and nodded. What more was there to say.

"My turn to pray," she chirped and grabbed my hand. "Dear God, thank you for my mom and dad. Thank you for our new friends that are coming to dinner next week. Thank you for helping us to do things that we don't even know are in the Bible. Thank you for Jesus. Help us give Jesus to the orphans. Amen."

Through tears I saw her little blonde hair fall over her tear soaked dimples. Where does that passion come from? With a deep sigh she turned her big blue eyes back to me. "I love you mommy." "I love you too baby girl." And there we laid hand in hand on the bed with Jesus. Trying to understand the truth of His love, of our place in this world, and the realities of children who don't have parents. It was one of the sweetest, heaviest, holiest moments I have ever been a part of.

These moments of motherhood are humbling and amazing in one breath. God is using Isabel to teach me and remind me that He is all we need. And He is what we are to give others -- in whatever form that, dresses, hugs, help, prayer, truth, light, joy, etc.

Will you join us in prayer? Pray for the children who don't have any parents. Pray for our family as we begin this new adventurous chapter. Pray for Isabel that she will be lifted up and encouraged to follow her heart. Pray for a mama who feels terribly under qualified and in awe of the baby girl she is raising. Pray that we find ways to give Jesus to the our the world.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Lost is Not Lost if You Know Where You Are

Six months ago I knew where I was, knew where I was headed, and knew where I had been.

Every thing was in its place.

In the past two months I have felt like I was at the center of a cosmic game of 52 card pick up. Only the cards were the pieces of my life that had been neatly ordered and set in a row.

I was lost.

Am lost. Still. Kind of.

I still have no idea where God is leading in this season of change and transition. Some days I weep for the emptiness of friends, serving and calling. When you pin labels to yourself in search of definition, meaning and worth what is left when the winds of change blow away the words that make up you? Is my calling a thing of the past now that my seat sits empty in a hall that doesn't miss me?

And yet! In the midst of uncertainty and insecurity. I find myself leaning into a great big God. I find joy in the bubble covered laughs ringing from the hallway bathroom. The sing-song echoes from under the green canopy out back chant of rain, wetness, a spring refreshed and alive. My husbands eyes are wild with love and a childish fire, so green and piercing it takes my breath away. The feel of sewing scissors in my hand as they carve a path through cheery fabric on a voyage in a young girl's dream makes me feel hopeful and capable. The delight of cooking, creating, growing and tending falls a new on a tired, recoiling soul.

Inside this great big God. Enveloped by His love and grace I am alive and whole. Not burdened or hurried.  Not beat down or wound up. I am me. I am what He has called me to be.

Somewhere in the heavenly whispers of love I find a moment so pure and beautiful it aches to be expressed. To be breathed and lived. Love. Hope. Grace. Mercy. Jesus. Me.

As I sit smack dab in the middle of days marked with a search for what is the new normal He has created for us, I begin to wonder how to live both. If these doors opening around us and opportunities laid in front of us are what our new callings, service and ministry look like. Is there a way to know before you know? A  way to try it on without stepping front of the mirror?

Probably not. And that's okay.

This time off has taught me that lost is not lost if you're lost in a big God. Where there is no beginning or end, just love and a holy fire. And, perhaps, our world was rocked so that we could stop doing for Him and remember what it is to be with Him. To breathe Him. To love Him. To sing with and for Him. To lean into Him.

So lost, is not lost. When you know where you are. Kind of like being a are always at home when you carry Home with you.

Father, thank you for the moments of uncertainty and the loss of all that seems familiar in safe. In the day in day out of this life it is easy to miss you and lose you and turn away from you. But when all is stripped away and there is no work or serve or do...just You. Life is sweeter. Slower. Pure. Help me to stay lost in You, even when I know where we're headed! Amen.

Friday, May 6, 2011

In the Warmth of Grace

I wish you could hear the peace of this place. The late afternoon calm that descends on our backyard like sun-kissed grace wrapping around us.

Alas, no video could make you feel the warmth of the sunshine or the kiss of the slow breeze across your bare shoulders. No recording could do justice to the song of the birds in the trees or the tinkling giggles of the windchimes.

And I realize as I sit here drinking in the afternoon that perhaps there is so much more in these moments to experience. Perhaps the grace of this life is so much sweeter for the days that have come before.

Tomorrow is birthmother's day and every year it brings a somber cloud into my world. The painful echoes  ushering in Mother's day. Celebrating what I have and reminding me of all that I gave up. I haven't known how to meet that. Deal with that. Live that. Reckon with that. Celebrate that.

But this year, as I sit in the afternoon peace I realize that perhaps I've missed the mark on Birthmother's Day. Perhaps instead of trying to find a way to celebrate its loss, emptiness and a wound forever open. Perhaps I should learn to honor it. Honor a choice. Honor your life. Honor life. Honor change. Honor an emptiness only God can understand and only Jesus can redeem.

So, I write to you this day, my sweet baby girls. I know you are so much more than baby girls now, you both stand on the threshold of womanhood and your futures are dawning on the horizons. What would I tell you if sipped iced tea with me here in the late afternoon sunshine?

 Learn to dream. To laugh. To accept the grace that God wants to pour into your life. To be comfortable in your own skin. To know that growth comes from rain and dark days redeemed by sunshine and the warmth of hope. To ask for help when you need it. To give help when you can. To jump in puddles, soak up the sun, touch the ocean and climb in the mountains. Fall in love. Share an ice cream cone with a puppy.  Serve your husband breakfast in bed. Carve a pumpkin. Grow a garden. Go sledding. Dance when you're asked. Sing in the shower, in the car or wherever the words and the mood strike you. Swim with dolphins. Howl at the moon. Take pictures, fill albums and cherish memories. Call your grandparents. Send a friend a card to lift her spirits. Study anything and everything that strikes your fancy, even after school is long over. Smile....

Most of all, I wish for you. Jesus.

I pray that someday you'll sit in a peaceful spot reflecting on the life you have, the days you've lived and the moments marked for celebration. And in those moments you'll come to understand that life is what it is because the Savior knew your name, your face, held your tears and knew the paths you would choose. He loved You anyway. He came for you. He stands with you. And He redeems your mistakes, missteps and dark moments and gives you sun-kissed moments of whispered love and grace to remind you that He will never leave.

I will never dry your tears or hold your hand. I'll never talk lay on your bed and talk about boys. Or help with homework. Or cook your favorite meal. Your mother does that. Will do that. Jesus chose her for you...and connected our hearts. Celebrate her! I do.

Tomorrow I will plant a tree. In honor. In honor of shoes never tied and giggles never heard. Of moments a birthmother misses. I'll remember your first cries, the look of your little hands in mine, your tiny toes and the moments you were mine. And each year as it grows and blooms it will symbolize hope. The hope for somedays and relationships yet to come.

Let me tell you, as I finish writing this with tears in my eyes, the sky has grown dark and there is a storm moving in. But the sun still shines over my shoulder and I can see to the other side of the is temporary. A rain that makes flowers grow and readies the ground for our tree.

Tomorrow, I'll plant our memories of hope.

joyously full and overwhelmingly empty in the same breath

The stretch marks across my belly are like a road map into the past.

My belly.

Despite my weight issues, I love it! I love the memories of the blessings my belly has held.

On Sunday, Mother's Day, I will celebrate with two of those little blessings. Being a wife and mother were dreams I didn't know how to dream and now they are dreams come true everyday.

But the day before Mother's Day there will be another celebration. One marked by quiet reflection, whispered memories and bittersweet tears. Saturday is Birthmother's day.

Just days after my first daughter was born (and placed with her adoptive parents) I laid in my bed. Hands on my deflated belly and cried myself to sleep. I didn't want to hear how noble my sacrifice was or how I did the right thing...I wanted to know if I'd ever stop crying. If life would ever feel normal again. If my deflated belly would ever not remind me of pregnancy, baby kicks, the sound of a newborn's cry, and just how empty my arms and heart are.

And truthfully, I am very much that same young day a year. 364 days a year I live a life full of laughter, princesses, army men, dogs, homeschooling, and love! I wouldn't trade it for anything else, but that doesn't mean I don't know what I am missing. Birthmother's Day echoes the emptiness my choices left me with.

What would it be to know the sound of laughter of my two daughters who don't call me mom?  Our table seats 6...I imagine their faces and tales of early teen life filling our dining room. What are their favorite meals? What would it be like to snuggle with them? Will they ever want to know me?

The truth of our lives is quite different and always will be. They have beautiful, strong, amazing women to call mom. Women that God hand picked and placed in my path. Funny, that I "chose" their parents. I looked at profile after profile searching for the women my babies would call mommy. For the women who would nurse their wounds, help them with their homework, teach them to love, and share the everyday things that bless a mother's heart.

I am blessed to be a mother. I am keenly aware of the fleeting moments with our small children. That they grow at the speed of life and before I know it our halls won't ring with giggles and we'll be remembering our todays as long ago yesterdays. I'm thankful for every moment.

And, I am blessed to be a birthmother. For with the ache and the emptiness comes the truth that the babies I once held in my belly and briefly in my arms are where God intended them to be...with their mothers. And I am thankful to two women who fought paperwork and legal battles. Who faced down infertility and circumstances they couldn't control. For on the other side of that painful mountain, I met them. They became mothers. And they became my friends...

So celebrate the mothers (and the birthmothers) in your life this weekend! For it is a true gift from God to be called to the sacrificial station of motherhood. Oh, and the blessing of being loved by your mother!!

Father, thank you for letting me play a part in the lives of four of your children. And while my roles for two of them are far different then the others I believe you will heal those scars and fill those empty places someday. As I live this life that is joyously full and overwhelmingly empty in the same breath, please walk with me. Remind me of the daily blessings you have given me and hold my heart when it beats a broken beat into the past.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I Come to the Garden

With dirt under my finger nails and sweat dripping off my forhead I sit down. A moment's rest, earned and appreciated.

Tiny plants in the ground in front of me. It is planting time. 

Oh how I love this time of year. When the flowers are blooming, leaves are returning to the trees and it is time to begin the garden. Even for all the new growth, beauty and goodness springing up around me I realize that this time of year is my favorite...but this year the reason why is so clear. And so different from any other year.

The past few months have been emotionally draining and just plain tough.

And then came the garden. do I share with you what happens there?

Do you know the old hymn "In the Garden"?

Read the words...

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

That's it! That's what happens to me. I am calmed by the presence of God in our garden. As I dig in the dirt, water the plants or dig new beds I find that it is in Him I am dwelling. Something that has been difficult for me lately. As the emotional toll of the last few months has been difficultly leaning into God.

So this spring, as I find every possible reason to be outside. Every possible reason to sit with my God in our garden. I am growing food for my family and rekindling a romance my Jesus. 

Where does God beckon you? Are there places where you feel closer to Jesus? Places you go to recharge?

Father, thank you for your gift of love. For the ever blooming flower of grace. I'll wait for you in the garden...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Bucket is Leaking

Have you ever been through a season of life where everything just seems off? When those major components of your life are just not right?

I'm living in one of those seasons now and I have concluded that my bucket is leaking. The emotionally trying days of church issues, family drama, fractured feet, ministry hiccups and routines tossed out the window are taking their toll on me.

If I was a bucket of love and encouragement to be poured out into my life, I would be the bucket above. Holes. Patches. Leaking. Emptying fast.

And yesterday as the rain streaked our windows and tears ran down my cheeks and puddled in my heart, someone stopped by to fill my bucket.

A sweet girlfriend braved the dark and stormy night to sit on my couch and pour into me. To laugh. To understand. To encourage. To listen. To fill my bucket.

And as those moments ended in hugs and promises of phone calls, I realized just how blessed I am. I felt vulnerable and small. Normally, when I feel like that I struggle to change the circumstances, crack a joke to hide my discomfort, or ignore how I feel. But for the first time, maybe ever, I took the encrougement and friendship and knew that life is like that some times.

Sometime your bucket leaks. 
Sometimes your bucket is empty. 
Sometimes your bucket overflows. 
Sometimes you are the one filling others up out of your overflow.

Funny the lessons we learn when we sit in the moments God creates around us. When we live in the circumstances God draws us to - leaning in for His heart and whisper.

God taught me this week that vulnerability leads to deeper love. That sometimes I'm empty. And that He'll fill my bucket with His people, His words and His love!!

And how much more will I enjoy the overflow when the echoes of emptiness still hang in the air?

Father, thank you for the times that make us weak and small. Thank you that You use those times to remind us of Your power, Your plans and Your blessings. Thank you for sending friends to love on me when I'm a wreck and fill me up. I'll cling to you in the midst of this storm, and how I can't wait to overflow again!!! Amen.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rejected or Chosen?...Both

"Wait to go Chubs!" 

"Your turn, Chubs." 

"Can't you do anything Chubs?"

The summer before third grade my family moved across the country. I was in a new state at a camp before school chance to make friends. And a boy I didn't know started calling me "Chubs". It caught on.

Before I made a single friend. Before school even started. I was marked. It was a mark that would not wash off. A mark that would linger into adulthood.

I have never been skinny. Or thin. And I certainly wasn't that summer, but I didn't want to be known for my belly. Or my little girl thunder thighs. I just wanted to be known, but by the end of that camp I wished I was invisible. Unknown.

It was a cycle I would repeat most of my life. 

Confident. Ready to be someone or something. And then in a flash it would disappear. Someone's painful words would derail my plans. Someone's insensitivity would prick my low self esteem and I would bleed and gush emotion.

How I would like to whisper back in time to her little ears! "You were not made to be labeled by them. You do not wear their mark. You wear His! He calls you daughter. He calls you worthy. He calls you beautiful."

I don't know what it would have changed in my life. And I'm not one that often goes down the "what if" or the "if only" trail. But, I can tell you this has changed my life as an adult. God's love has whispered into the darkest moments of life, the most painful memories, and the dusty neglected corners of my soul. 

I'm still not thin or skinny. And while I am on the first leg of a long journey toward getting healthy I am highly aware of who I am, what I look like, what the world would say and what the One who ransomed my soul says.

I am short and fat. By the world's standards I nothing remarkable, in fact am not worthy of a second glance. Any commercial, magazine cover, movie trailer or website drives that home. And there have been days, weeks, months and more that I have lamented that. Pained that I don't measure up.

The truth is I'm not measured by the world's yardstick.

In 1 Peter we find a verse about the yardsticks used to measure Jesus. The living Stone - rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him. (2:4) 

By man's yardstick, Jesus didn't measure up. He was rejected. 

But! (aren't God's conjunctions beautiful...they deliver God's grace to an unmerciful world) 

He was chosen by God and precious to Him!! (need I say more??)

In the very next sentence of 1 Peter it says "you also, like living stones." Do you see that? Jesus was the living Stone; we are like living stones. We are like Jesus. We are chosen by God and we will be rejected by humans.

At some point (or maybe lots of points) in our lives we all have face rejection - job loss, breakups, gossip, name calling, getting picked last for kick ball. Whatever it is, whatever form it takes, rejection is painful. It leaves a mark...some of those marks we carry with us. We wear like badges of courage and anger. We justify our hurts, our bad behaviors, our anger, our lifestyle.

As we get comfortable in our labels we let the world's yardstick become our yardstick of justification. And that can change our lives. That changed the life of a third grader who bought into the mean words and lies strangers pinned to her.

I can't whisper to her. I can't change the course of my days or deflect that hurts the world would hurl at me. But I can take the woman she grew into and measure her with a yardstick that says Jesus calls her worthy of His life, His blood, His love.

Heavenly Father, it is you who made me and you determines my worth. Please whisper that to my heart whenever I listen to the world's harsh and judging voice. Help me to be the healthiest me I can be, at peace with what the scale says and able to look to You for how I measure up -- not the push-up bra clad, half-starved models on tv. Thank you for making me unique. Thank you for my curves and my body that you have made to birth my children, snuggle with my husband and hug my friends. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Can We Pray For You?

Monday morning my email inbox was full. Super full.

While that fact is neither new or terribly remarkable it was the content of many of the emails that moves me to write this morning.

As I moved from email to email I was floored by amount of prayer requests I had received. So many are desperate and hurting. I need of their family (real or virtual) to step in the gap and hold them in prayer and in love.

And it made me think of all of can we pray for you? Is there something we can walk through with you in prayer?

Leave comment. Join me in prayer for others and share your prayer concerns.

My request: as I walk through the pages of Made to Crave I have been strongly convicted about my food issues and the problems I have. Yesterday, I made bad choices, all the way around when it comes to food. Today, will be a better day! But I ask for prayer as I teach my body food is for maintenance (although enjoyable maintenance at that) and I am made to be filled with Jesus!

My prayer: Father, how humbled I was this morning the pain, hurting and need that met me in my inbox this morning. My heart broke for all the friends and family who are in need. And so often I feel helpless to help them, but I know Father those hurts where never mine to fix. They are yours. Their hurts are yours. Their hearts are yours. Their days are yours. Father, we ask for your peace. That we would feel your hand upon our lives, that You would deliver your wisdom and grace in the moment when it is most needed. Thank you Father, that you allow us to come to You. Thank you for Jesus and His presence in our lives. Amen.

Will you join me in prayer today?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Eplanner Winners!!

Thanks to everyone who visited and commented yesterday. Seems like so many of us are searching for the "right" system to get organized. For today's winners I hope that ListPlanIt's Home Education Planner is that system.

So here are our winners (drawn out of a knight's helmet by my kiddos)....
 ~ Katrina
~ Julie C
~ Valerie
~ Brenda
~ Anna

Ladies, I need your full name and addresses to give to ListPlanIt so you may receive the prizes!! :) {if you don't want to leave it on the comments you can email it to me, my email is listed at the bottom of the page}


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Organization is my Peanut Butter

Have you ever eaten a peanut butter sandwich with really crumbly bread. Somewhere toward the end of the sandwich the peanut butter is really the only thing holding it all together.  It isn't pretty, but you get through it and enjoy it for what it is. A sticky, crumbly mess of yumminess.

Well, yesterday was totally a crumbly peanut butter sandwich homeschool day for our family. It seemed like everything we tried just didn't come off quite as planned. You know - grumpy kiddo, not "fun" subjects, interruptions, allergies...all sorts of things were off.  And yet, we held it together. Actually, what held my day together was the fact that I was organized. In the midst of chaos I could keep my eyes on where we were and what was next. Organization was my peanut butter. (okay, yeah, I know...but you get the picture)

So today, let's talk about it. Organization. Keeping your homeschooling pointed in the right direction, hitting your goals and keeping on top of the details. I want to hear from you...your pointers, your ideas, your troubles. I'll share mine, and, of course....

...we have a GIVEWAY today. Actually not just a giveaway - 5!! I'll pick five winners randomly from the comments and you'll win ListPlanIt's Home Education eplanner.

{total side note here -- go visit It is an amazing resource. It has lists for projects, trips, events and more. Not to mention great advice from professional organizers. You know, I love lists. I love lists of lists so this is totally my kinda place, but really if you are a person who is struggling in this area and are looking for resources, check it out, they've got ya covered!!}

Now, this eplanner is full of useful pages...

~ record sheets for attendance and grades
~ goal setting sheets (by subject and student)
~ a daily planner
~ monthly unit planner
~ a hourly schedule for each day
~ resources list
~ book report pages
~ books read
~ inventory
~ field trip log
~ portfolio contents
~ and so much more

I have been privileged this week to review and use the planner myself. The curriculum I use (Sonlight) comes with a great plan, however I find that often need to write (or try to make) supplemental pages for added subjects (ie. math). The eplanner totally solved it for me. I just added the "home education plan" page to my notebook. Filled in all the added stuff for the week right there. One page. Nice.

 I love that I can open it up on the computer and just fill out the pages right there in Acrobat. I do think some of the boxes might be kind of small if someone was to print them and try to handwrite it, but that might just be my big crazy handwriting.

It also got me thinking about inventorying what we have in the classroom. I never know what I have, although I think I might have an idea. One page...or two...and I'll be able to track what we have. Then I can keep my eyes open for sales and opportunities to restock!! Love it.

Seriously I could go on and on, but I want to hear from you too!

Want one? I hope so! It is great. Easy to use, customizable, and ready to go. How great is that??

So, now it is your turn. Tell me about how you are organized.

Do you have a planner? Does your curriculum/teacher's guide lay it out for you?

Do you set goals for your year? How do you record them and keep track of progress?

For those of you who are homeschooling multiple children how do you keep organized (btw, the eplanner has a page for that, too!!)?

This is my first official homeschool post and discussion starter. I'm so excited. I can't wait to hear from you and glean your knowledge.

I pray that God blesses your efforts richly and that you find ways to have peanut butter on your crumbly bread kinda days!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Giveaways Tomorrow!!

Okay, so I love planning...anything. But I especially enjoy planning our homeschooling. Day. Month. Week. Year!

Well, tomorrow I am so excited to be able to offer the Home Education eplanner (from ListPlanIt).

It will be a homeschooling organization party!! Woohoo!! Great timing to winner one of five eplanners, as I know many of us have started to plan next year or begin to look for our supplies and curriculum. 

So, comeback tomorrow. Be ready to share your homeschool organization tips and enter to win!

Cya Wednesday!!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Hard Thanks

Death came to call this week.

When it left grief and pain hung in the air, and life seemed scarred and hardened.

As I look for sense in madness, for love where it was rejected, for reasons where they are hidden unto eternity, I cry. From sobs to lone tears to that ugly cry that makes your face contort, your nose run and your eyes ache. Each tear a plea to Heaven.

With the sting of death (why do they say is more of a whap or wacking or slap or a stab...definitely not a sting) we turn to remember a life well lived, usually. To reach back into time passed for memories that will narrow the chasm of eternity. For memories that remind the heart of what love filled that now empty hole.

Instead as my family begins to process our new normal we have been met with moments of frustration, regret and rejection.

How painful the sting of death is when the bitterness of rejection is poured on the wound!

I continue to meander my why through the pages of "One Thousand Gifts", finding challenging honesty and incredible truth in the poetic language. 

Perhaps what amazes me more than the book is God's timing in the steps of my life and the pages in my hand. As I head into each chapter I find that week I will be practicing the concept. As if everyday becomes an application step of the words that I draw in like a deep breath the night before.

And as I read the words, "The hard eucharisteo." (the hard thanks or thanksgiving) I began to ponder what that looks like. In the times when life is hard, painful, dark, lost....what does giving thanks look like? What does being present in that moment with God look like? And could I do it?

Little did I know by the end of the week death would knock, rejection would stab and my world would tilt in a painful limp that changes perceptions and bleeds pain.

But it did. It has. And here I am.

My own list of 1000 gifts sits open on the kitchen counter. Waiting. The pen lays upon the page ready to record a my thanksgiving, a gift, a moment with God.

Faced with the raw truth of my anger and hurt I didn't know how to give thanks to God.

For what?

And while I was still pondering the 'for what' question I felt the urge. The tug. The Holy nudge in my soul. As if God himself whispered in my ear, "For what? Come on now."

For what...

81. a voice from my past
82. family
83. the promise of heaven
84. a hug and sweet words whispered
85. snuggly little boys
86. dancing, twirly little girls
87. homemade dresses
88. prayer of friends
89. a clean counter
90. little girl giggles
91. tiaras, feathers and princess moments
92. "I love you, mommy"
93. a whisper to my soul

Even as grief and pain linger in the air, I look for the joy. It might be little. It might be quiet. But it is here. And being fully in a moment with Jesus means taking in all the blessings...even the ones that hurt along the way, the ones we don't understand, the ones that leave us slackjawed and heart aching.

Father, I can't begin to understand all that has unfolded in our life and our family in the past few days, and You know that I am hurting. Thank you for the blessings that You continue to pour into my life. Please help my family in these days and weeks that start back to our new normal, help relationships to be restored and Love to shine out of this darkness.