When God Just Won’t Leave You Alone

I got to see an amazing God ordained adoption take place….like front row seat witnessed it.  It forever changed me.  Ever since then I have had a nagging, notice I didn’t say gentle whisper, in my heart that perhaps we were being called to something like this.  I consistently resisted.  Come on God, we have three kids already.  We are a hot mess God. Have you met us?  You can’t be serious.  Perhaps we just need to volunteer at an agency that supports adoptive or foster parents?  Perhaps we just need to pray for these kids that need soft places to land.  That must be it.

But here’s the thing, God’s plan for our lives is like a swing.  We push it away but it keeps swinging right back to us, and if we push it away and assume it is gone it can hit us square in the face.

Examples of being hit square in the face.  My first time volunteering as sub in Sunday School at our church I ended up in a room with a lovely woman.  We were chatting while cleaning up toys and she mentioned that she was a foster parent and had helped to form the organization that supports the families in our county.  As if this weren’t enough, the sermon that Sunday was about allowing God to stretch you in your ability to serve.  After this, we literally couldn’t go anywhere without meeting someone who was fostering or had fostered.  My aunt, who didn’t even know we were debating this possibility, randomly suggested we look into it after a terribly local story was all over the news about a mistreated child.

God and I pushed this swing back and forth for about 6 months.  Meanwhile my poor husband is off to the side praying that this blasted swing will just go away.  It didn’t go away and after praying about it and talking about it we attended an informational meeting.  It was informative, sad, scary and exciting.  We came home and talked more.  We talked about what type of child we thought we could bring into our home.  How would our biological children feel about this addition?  How could we do this and keep them as safe as possible?  Could we even do this?  We are still struggling through that last one but we signed up for classes.  These classes begin tomorrow.  We may complete them and feel a calling to a different aspect of this ministry but we are marching forward.  We are scared and excited.  Everytime I think about beginning this process I get a little overwhelmed about how much this could change our lives.  The additional doctors appointments, the treatment for trama, the extra patience, the feeling of complete inadequacy is daunting.  But once I quiet some of that I begin to imagine our first child.  I imagine the difficult and challenging circumstances they may be currently experiencing or will be experiencing shortly and it hurts my heart so much that it makes me grateful that God and I are no long pushing the swing back and forth.

In the coming weeks and months we request your prayers for the following things:

-Pray for our child.  Pray for this little one that is going through something so hard that they need to be scooped up and placed in our care.

-Pray for our children.  Pray for their little hearts to expand to love one more.  Pray for this to be an opportunity for them to show Jesus’ love to another child with their own kindness and gentleness.

-Pray for Andrew and I.  We are terrified.  We feel unprepared and unworthy of this opportunity.

-Pray for a community to raise up to support us as we move forward.  We are relatively new to our local community and would love to experience additional support from those who are close by.

-Pray for the Mamas and Daddys that will be having their children placed into care.  I can’t imagine what that would feel like or the circumstances that you would have to go through to have it come to that point.

Inspite of the fact that I was a very resistant servant, I can tell you that we have experienced a peace since we signed up for our first training class.  If there is something that you feel God is urging you to look into, I would encourage you to investigate it.  Jeremiah 29:11 keeps coming to my mind when I get scared thinking about this new adventure.  For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans give you hope and a future.  I keep hearing those words both for ourselves and for our future foster babe.  Get with the plan.  Find the peace.  Stop pushing the swing.

He Marches to a Different Beat…and that’s okay.

DSC_4420This is my Benjamin.  He is so different from my other crazies.  He is busy and yet highly focused on what he is doing.  He is challenging and very loving and sweet.  He doesn’t follow instructions well but is very sensitive to correction.  He is cuddly and yet has a hard time receiving too many snuggles because he has so much to do.  He is hard to teach and coach but extremely curious about how things work and often takes things apart and puts them back together.  He even answers questions in unusual ways.

Benjamin, what do you want to be when you grow up?

A dump truck.

Do you mean a dump truck driver?

No, I mean a dump truck.

While coloring recently, I got on his case about how he holds his crayon and was encouraging him to try to color inside the lines.  He looked up at me with these big brown eyes and said, “Mama, those lines aren’t for me.”  He’s right.  They aren’t for him.  He just sees things differently.  He challenges me to try to see things from a new perspective.  I want so badly to understand him but he is so beautifully complicated.

He views the world in a very different way than anyone I have ever met.  In 1st Peter 4:10-11  it says, God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.  My sweet Benjamin is a gift to me.  He challenges the way I see things.  He encourages me to seek understanding over judgement.  He draws me in because I want to know him more.  He’s right.  The lines aren’t for him.  He marches to the beat of his own drummer because my drummer is either too fast or too slow.  His differences from me are so beautiful and mysterious.  What a blessing he is, not just as my son, but as a constant reminder of how our uniqueness is not a mistake but a plan for us to better serve others and serve God.  He will grow up to challenge the way we think about the world and for that I am grateful.  Color outside those lines little man.  Love you.

This Parenting Thing is no Joke!

A few months ago I took a very scientific approach to finding out what parents were hoping to instill in their children….you know….I asked on Facebook.  I got a variety of answers.  Some were hoping for their child to have a love of learning, to be successful, to work hard.  I spent a lot of time thinking about what my hopes are for my kids and I found myself floating between things that the world says are great and things that are Spirit-filled.  I hope for my children to be financially stable, for them to fall in love and stay in love.  I hope for them to find something that they love to do as a career.  I hope they will take care of me in my old age (wink).  I hope they are successful.  We spend a lot of time instilling these concepts in our kids.  We work on our letter and numbers.  They have chores they need to complete.  We try different sports and activities to see what they will be good at, but when I really slow down and think about the things that will make me the most proud of them, it isn’t their success at a sport or in a career.  It isn’t their ability to find and hold down a steady job.  It isn’t even that they will be “happy.”  It’s more important than the stuff that comes from a “good life.”

I really want them to be good people.  In Galatians 5, Paul lists the fruits of the spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  Ever since I memorized these as a child, I have always thought of the fruits of the spirit as what should come out of you if you are full of Jesus.  Some of these I feel like we work on with our kids on the regular.  Concepts like patience are constantly coming up in our home.  “Be patient with her, she’s grumpy in the morning.”  We love well and we laugh hard.  We even talk about kindness and what it means to be kind with our words and actions.  I think that some of the more counter-cultural concepts are faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  Our culture doesn’t love these concepts.  We constantly hear about marriages breaking up due to unfaithfulness.  We praise aggressiveness in sports and winning at all cost in business.  We are bombarded by marketing that encourages us to buy now, eat now, drink now.  I think its hard to raise gentle kids who don’t get walked all over.  I think it’s hard to raise kids with self control and patience when so much around them is about instant gratification.

Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we don’t try.  Perhaps we could raise a kinder and gentler generation.  My hope for them is that they love others the way Jesus did, holding nothing back.  My prayer for them is that they put others before themselves and take care of others recklessly.  I’m going to look for these fruits in my kids this week and put just as much energy into encouraging and pointing out their success in these areas as I do when they write their names with no backward letters.

We are NOT our Problems

My sweet 3 year old is struggling with seasonal allergies.  Gross Alert:  Everytime he sneezes he shoots snot down to his chin and little tears roll down his cheeks, not because he is crying about these impressive snot rockets but because they are just so watery.  Poor guy.  This morning we were all snuggling in bed and everyone was coughing and sneezing and sniffling and Christopher sighs, “Mommy, we are allergies….all of us are allergies.”

And although he is correct, we are so much more than that aren’t we?  We are sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, mommas and daddies.  We are hopefully, at least on a good day, helpers, encouragers, hardworkers but goodness, some days I just feel like my issues.  Some days I feel like an allergy.  When my kids have days like this, I try to remind them of their blessings.  I know it’s so sad that I can’t get that cup of water this instant because, heaven forbid, I am going to the bathroom, but look at this nice house we have with the clean water that comes out of our faucets.  Life is not so bad kid.  This never works on them and most times it doesn’t work for me either.  I usually can’t intellectually talk my way out of a self pity spiral but when I try I think about this.

It’s not who you are, but whose you are that counts. -Joel Osteen

There will be days when the snot hits the window in the car when you sneeze (seriously) and the tears roll down your cheeks, but even on your worst day, you are loved by a Big God who loves you just like you are His kid.  You are not an allergy you are a son or daughter of the King.  Mind Blown…..not to be confused with Nose Blown.

 

Starbucks Sermons from my 5 Year Old

Recently while driving through a Starbuck drive thru I struck up a conversation with the employee working the window.  She started to hand me my coffee before I paid, apologized and said she was having a rough day.  She talked a little about it then took my money, handed me my coffee and I rolled up my window and pulled away.  My 5 year old asks, “What did she say Mama?”  I told her that she was just having a rough day.  Without skipping a beat Abigail said, “Wow, she must have even more kids than we do!”

I almost sprayed my coffee all over my window.  I guess she’s noticed that I’ve been a little stressed.  Between the running around from activity to activity, my hubby traveling for work and working myself I’m just about maxed out.  For every crazy moment when I feel like I might freak out, there are moments like this one or their snuggles and unsolicited I love yous that bring joy, unspeakable joy to me.

Sometimes we get so busy that we don’t laugh, experience complete joy or have moment of gratitude for the little glimpses of awesome that happen each day.  I can tell you in detail the last three fights I broke up between my crazies today but I can also tell you that they arranged themselves like they were getting their picture taken and said, “See Mommy, we look like a sweet family.”  After one of their fights, one apologized to the other and got a hug and an, “I forgive you.”  After I dropped dry spaghetti all over the floor, my son called me a silly goose and helped me pick it back up.

So much joy can be missed if we rush.  I’m going to make an effort this week to see the times when God shows up around me and in the hearts of my children and I’m going to enjoy them completely.

Breaking my Mommy Heart

This week I cut my daughters hair, stitched up a hole in her special blankie she has loved well since she was a baby and prepared clothes for a consignment sale.  In short, there has been a lot of cry this week.  It is so true that the days are long but the years are short.  As I think about our oldest heading off to Kindergarten I’m filled with anxiety.  Is she prepared academically?  Have we done what we need to do to prepare her?  I’m also filled with sadness over how fast these baby/preschool years have gone.  As I’m filled with anxiety and sadness she is overwhelmed with excitement.  She is curious about what school will be like.  She can’t wait to ride a school bus.  She is anticipating all the new friends she will make and all the cool things she will learn.

Joshua 1:9 says, “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, do not be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

The older I get the harder it is to embrace this idea.  Change is  frightening but knowing that we don’t have to go it alone is comforting.  So as I cry over her curls, patch her blankies and stare at clothes that can’t possibly be too small for my baby girl, she is ready to attack these new experiences.  God, please give me half her courage to not only weather changes in my future but to embrace them.

Circles and Straight Lines

I find myself all the time saying, “When we get there?” or “When this happens?”  When the boys are potty trained life will be so much easier.  When the kids are in school, things will settle down (don’t worry, all my mom friends with older kids have set me straight on that lie I have been telling myself).  When we move or when we have the money…

Recently, a guest preacher spoke about Exodus and Moses’ journey through the desert.  He spoke about how we all have a desert of sorts to cross.  This could be a lay off at work, a delay in our plans to grow our family or a death in our close personal circle.  He spoke eloquently about his own personal deserts.  He even used visual aids.  Each week he had a jumbo pad of paper and a black marker and he would make a diagram of the journey that Moses was on and how it was not dissimilar to the one we are on too.

I’m pretty sure he wanted us to leave encouraged.  If Moses, who killed a guy, can be used by God then so can you.  Journey on to your Promise Land.  Trust God.  March forward good and faithful servant.  And don’t get me wrong, I got all those things but the thing I noticed the most about his talk were his visual aids.  Every single diagram he drew was a circle.  First this happens then this happens then you come back to here.

Hold up preacher man!  You’re telling me my life is not a straight line or even a curvy line headed in a distinct direction but a circle.  I’m out.  Next.  Bring in the next guy.  Kidding.  Kind of.

So often I find myself focusing so fully on the destination.  When we get completely out of debt we will be superheroes!  When the kids get bigger we will be able to take amazing vacations!  When I lose weight I’ll be happier!  When my house is clean my friends will think I have it all together!

What if life is not a straight line headed to a destination?  What if it’s a cycle of closeness to God, hardship and renewal?  What if it’s caring deeply for someone, being hurt, crying and then caring deeply for someone again?  What if its teaching our kids by example, failing, talking through the failure and then teaching our kids by example again?  In lieu of viewing this as a hamster wheel, how freeing is it that all we have to do is our best in this moment?  Tomorrow we may fail but today all we have to do is try.  Regardless of the desert we are crossing there will be a promise land coming up next that will renew us before we hit our next desert.  The things that are most important to me are things that never come to an end until I come to an end: loving others deeply, parenting my kids, serving others in a way that Jesus would have enjoyed.

No destination to race toward.  No deadline to hit.  Just beautiful circles.

Halloween Candy…..Stop the Madness!

Halloween candy is the worst thing ever!  Not only does it juice them up the night of Halloween but it lingers for weeks after as a source of constant conflict.

Can I have a piece of candy Mommy?

No

Why not?

Because there are healthier options.  A kid cannot live on candy alone.

But I have been so good!

Yeah, well you are supposed to be good.

Drives me crazy!  Yesterday my daughter asked for candy before lunch.  I told her she could have a piece if she cooperated for quiet time.  She proceeded to whine, wake up her brothers and not rest at all.  As I gave up on a quiet time and headed downstairs she had the nerve to ask for candy.

No Abigail, you broke our agreement.

Moments later, I look over and she is walking across the kitchen with her hand behind her back.

Abigail, do you have a piece of candy?

No Momma,

Last chance to tell me the truth.  You will be in bigger trouble if you lie than if you just tell me the truth.  Do you have candy in your hand behind your back?

No Momma, my back just hurts.

Seriously?  She’s five and she bold faced lied to me.  She’s advanced for her age, what can I say.  It broke my heart.  She’s too little to be covering things up.  Have I not created a safe place for her to be honest?  I was so hurt by her lie.

How often do we do just that to God?  How often do we cover up something and try to hide it when God is looking at us and saying, “I see that hand behind your back.  It will be easier if you tell me the truth.”

What’s in your hand behind your back?  I could be a past experience that you can’t talk to God about yet?  Maybe it’s an addiction that has taken the place of God in your life.  Maybe it’s stress instead of trust in God.  Perhaps its judging others instead of loving them.  It’s different for all of us.  For me, I feel like it’s often a cupcake instead of self control or snapping instead of patience.

Whatever it happens to be, God is offering an easier road in exchange for our honesty with Him.  Remove the hand from behind your back, open your palm and accept the plan.

Very Big God and Very Small Problems

I’m sure this NEVER happens to you, but sometimes I get a little wrapped up in my own crap.  Sometimes I lose my mind over the state of my home, being late to preschool, my husband leaving dishes in the sink.  Sometimes I find myself losing sleep because my son doesn’t use his fork as well as his twin brother.  Is he falling behind?  What do we need to do to improve his fork skills?  I should probably google that to see if we are missing something.  I’m sure you NEVER sound like a crazy person but sometimes I do.  Sometimes I get so anxious over the most trivial things.

Occasionally I gain perspective because I have to endure something that really IS hard or witness a friend or family member go through a tragedy.  Last week I gained perspective in a different way.  We got to spend a week on the gulf side of Florida.  This was the first trip to the beach for our crazies.  They were so excited.  I was a mess of worry about the whole trip.  I couldn’t get past the idea of a 17 hour drive….while potty training….twin….boys.  I was concerned about the expense of this big of an adventure.  I was worried we would forget something.  I was worried about our dogs that were being dog sat by a new person.  I hadn’t seen the ocean in almost 8 years and all I was doing was worrying about everything with no anticipation of the awesome that was about to happen.

The trip went way better than I could have ever expected.  The only thing I forgot was sunscreen, which, believe it or not, you can buy in Florida.  The boys had zero accidents on the drive down and back.  Nobody drowned in the ocean.  No one required an urgent care visit.  No one puked.  And everyone had fun!  Somebody pinch me!

Our first morning, we woke up and had breakfast on the balcony overlooking the ocean and as we enjoyed the view we saw a beautiful rainbow.  Sometimes I forget the vastness of the world while I’m wading through my own crap.  Looking out at the seemingly endless ocean put things into perspective for me.  I thought about how trivial my worries are compared to many others in the world.  I thought about how amazing it is that in this vast world that we live in God knows and loves me.  Even as everyone else works through their own stuff too, God loves me.  Even as I let my worries consume me, God loves me through it, all the while loving everyone else through their stuff too.

I feel like the childhood version of myself had a better understanding of the “big-ness” of God.  The God who throws rainbows in the sky and molds the earth in His hands.  I found myself much more in awe of things then.  I don’t want to lose that childlike faith and awe.  This week I will look for times to be in absolute awe of this BIG GOD who loves little old me.

Rainy Day Crazy

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These two have been a challenge today.   It has poured all day today and we are incredibly dependent on our ability to go outside and get our wiggles out.  I pulled out my best stuff today.  We made a pirate ship, went on an umbrella walk, they helped make lunch, we read books, watched Sesame Street, we made telescopes out of toilet paper rolls. 

As I tried to make beds this afternoon they both jumped and pulled on the comforters of each bed and tossed pillows down as soon as I put them in place.  It was like making beds with drunk, belligerent frat boys. In my I mean business mommy voice I told them to go downstairs and play in the playroom.  As I finished up the last bed, I heard uncontrollable giggling coming from downstairs, which usually means someone is playing in the toilet.  I ran down the stairs to find them tickling each other (in a completely nonviolent way). 

It was so sweet.  When we found out we were having twin boys, after I got done freaking out, I reassured myself that we would have moments like these.  Sometimes in my day I let the crazy, not fun parenting stuff outweigh these moments in my mind.  I get so negative in my own thoughts, and then there are moments like these that are so filling and refreshing and humbling.  It still blows my mind that God gave these sweet, challenging, strong-willed, ticklish, screaming and amazing crazies to me.  Most days I think He believes I have more patience than I do, most days my children humble me but everyday with them is a blessing rain or shine.