Saturday, December 28, 2013

Not quite narrowing it down. {A post about gratitude}

I have thought of this for days, this challenge to write about something for which I am thankful.
It was given to me by a woman named Heather who is an 8 year survivor of Mesothelioma...a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.
I'll admit when I heard the word "Mesothelioma" I immediately had visions of lawyer commercials on TV. We've all seen them.  But until I read Heather's story I had never "known" anyone with this disease.
But what a story she has to tell.
It is a story of courage, of determination, of the will to live and see her newborn daughter grow up.
It is a story of hope.

You may remember my precious friend, Arthanise, who went home to Heaven not quite three years ago after battling breast cancer.  Because of her, my heart is more sensitive to cancer.  My stomach lurches at the thought of a child growing up without their mama.  My chest tightens when I imagine a new mother fighting for more time, fighting for health so she can raise her babies.  And my lips turn up in a smile as I remember Arthanise's glow on her very tired face as she realized her Savior was so very near and, though she desperately wanted to watch her kids grow up, she could feel Him so close.
So very close.
And she trusted Him with her future and the future of her children, whether it was hours, days, weeks, or months He would give her before gently taking her home.

Yes, I have much for which to be thankful.  So much that it is extremely difficult to narrow it down to just one.
There are the obvious things...family, friends, health, home, God.  But I wanted to do this right.  To honor Heather's request with time spent in thought and prayer over this post.

So I narrowed it down by not really narrowing it down at all.

You see, I chose Grace.  God's great big all-encompassing free-to- anyone-who-is-willing-to-receive-it Grace.

I am thankful for Grace.

Grace that hung on a cross and bore my shame, despite the fact that I would fail again and again before accepting the Gift of Jesus.
Grace that saved this sinful woman and completely changed the course of my life.
Grace that made the cute guy at the BBQ joint notice me, despite the awful waitress' uniform.  Grace that saw us in a rose garden on Christmas Eve, him on one knee with a red rose held as an offering of forever.
Grace that walked me down the aisle in white, surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, unworthy yet made ready by the work of the Lord for this journey of marriage and family that has now lasted eighteen beautiful years.
Grace that rendered me infertile, forcing me to seek God's plan for our family and making me oddly grateful for an unused womb.
Grace that placed five children in my arms.  Grace that preserved their lives and health until we could get there.  Grace that carried our birthmothers through the unthinkable and gave them the strength to love beyond themselves.
Grace that sees me though each day, giving me wisdom in homeschooling and showing me when to slow down and just enjoy these kids.  Grace that allows my husband to pick up dinner on the way home when we have had "one of those days."
Grace that opens wide the Word of God with insight from Him, often allowing me to share what I learn with you.  Grace that allows me to pray, even when I have neglected to do so.
Grace that I can laugh when looking back on the hard times because God. Is. Faithful

He is always faithful.

Heather, I hope many people read your story and are encouraged as I was!  Thank you for including me in this opportunity to give thanks.    I pray God blesses you with a lifetime of health and love with your precious family!

And if you have read this, would you be so kind as to share it?  Let's finish December strong with a wave of gratitude across the blogosphere!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Love of Advent

Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty, Jesus, Love, Candle, Advent, Sin, Christmas

How timely that this week is about love.  As the world shouts in rage over what is sin and what is not, over who gets to judge and who does not, over whether it is "loving like Jesus" to speak hard against sin, we have lit the candle of love.

How timely.

What is love? 

John 14:15 says "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."

A loving God has given the Law.  Knowing that we will never be able to fully meet the requirements of the law, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  He lived the sinless life that we would never live and died in our place so that we could have eternal life.

Yet we are not without rules, without guidelines to a holy and God-pleasing life.  

Our perfect Father has done what any good parent will do, given us boundaries.
For our sake, when we want something that is not in our best interest, He tells us "no."

We don't like that word.  No child likes it, but it is so vital to growth and maturity to learn boundaries and live freely within them.

Love is patient and kind.  
Love does not envy or boast.
Love is not arrogant or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way.
Love is not irritable or resentful.
Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing.
Love rejoices with the TRUTH.  (empasis mine)
Love bears all things.
Love believes all things.
Love hopes all things.
Love endures all things.
Love never ends.

Look at this list taken from 1 Corinthians 13.  Look closely.  What is missing?
Weakness.  Love is not weak, love is strong.  Love is willing to do what is best for the beloved, regardless of how the beloved receives it.  
Love grabs the wayward child and yanks them to safety when they run into the street.
Love spanks the hand of a toddler who reaches for a hot stove in order to protect them from injury.
Love looks your brother or sister in the eye when asked the hard questions and tells the truth of God's word, knowing it may end a relationship or cause offense.

Because love is not selfish or pandering.

Love hopes all things...love hopes for the eyes of the sinner to be opened by the power of the Holy Spirit and prays for that very thing, but it speaks the truth.  Love remembers when we were in chains and how the Lord set us free.  Love determines to endure all things in order to bring life and hope to those who walk in darkness.

Love realizes it may be ridiculed or persecuted for being narrow and old-fashioned, but it is not irritable or resentful when the ridicule and persecution strike.  Love bears it and believes the Word of God...that HE is working out all things for good because we are called according to HIS purpose, not our own.  Love realizes that it is not about us, it is about Jesus and His plan for our lives.  We are His ambassadors, though faulty we may be, because God uses cracked pots.  

Love comes from God.  God IS love.  Love is not weak, GOD is not weak.  God is strong and He will give us His strength but we must continue in love.  We must obey His commandments and, like John the Baptist, in Luke 3...speak the Truth, the whole Truth, always with the goal of leading the hearer to a saving knowledge and relationship with Jesus.  Always with the goal of holding their hand and escorting them to the foot of the Throne of God.  

Christmas is the perfect time to begin, if we haven't already.  We are His people, the sheep of HIS pasture.  We are here to enjoy God and glorify Him.  We are bought with a price, a great and unthinkable price, which began on Christmas morning when the Son of God began the long walk to the Cross from the safety of the manger.  Christmas leads to Easter.  Both were necessary because of sin.  My sin.  Your sin.  Their sin.  

If I never recognize my sin, I would never know my need for a Savior.  
When it comes to eternity, knowledge is power.  

The Love of Advent is not warm and fuzzy.  It is tough love,  It is strong.  It is fierce and relentless and endless in it's pursuit of the beloved.

May we, the children of God, truly love like Jesus.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Joy of Advent

joy candle red advent light jesus

Joy
Unspeakable Joy

In the midst of darkness we await.
In labor we groan with longing for release...
for deliverance.

Unspeakable Joy.

When clouds hover threatening and thunder rolls,
when we feel we will drown in the torrent...
we cry.

Unspeakable Joy.

As a shaft of light pierces the black,
as the veil of night spilts, shimmering in the promise of dawn...
we lift up our eyes.

He is coming.
He is coming.

This here and now, 
this struggle to trust as the world weighs heavy,
weighs down our tired feet,
this is not our final destination.
We have not arrived.

He is coming.
He is coming.

Our hearts beat with the imminence.
Joseph and Mary are packing their belongings.
She is heavy.  Tired.  Burdened.
They have set their faces like flint toward their destination...
BETHLEHEM.

The promise is sure.
The prophecies...they are true.  

Can you feel Him?
The babe turns and kicks and nestles down into position,
prepares to be birthed into a world that will reject Him...
a world that will crucify Him.

Unspeakable joy...
for the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
For those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them a light has shone.  (Isaiah 9:2 ESV)

Unspeakable joy...
Yes, we are a people of joy.
Despite pain and persecution,
despite the forces of darkness that try to turn our focus off of Jesus,
we are a people of joy.

We WILL see a great light.
His light WILL shine.
He comes to die, he dies to live.
He lives in us.

The promise is sure.
The prophecies...they are true.

We, the people of joy,
can light the candles and sing because
JESUS,
the promised one,
our King,
the Lover of our souls...
He is awakening our souls!

Sing..."A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!"

Yes, our Savior is coming!
Hold fast to the joy, the anticipation, the knowing!

You will enlarge the nation of Israel,
and its people will rejoice.
They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest
and like warriors dividing the plunder.
(Isaiah 9:3 NLT)

He will.  They will.  WE will!
The promise is sure.
The prophecies...

They are true.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Preparation of Advent

Advent Preparation Candle


For David said, “Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house that is to be built for the Lord must be exceedingly magnificent, of fame and glory throughout all lands. I will therefore make preparation for it.” So David provided materials in great quantity before his death.

In 1 Chronicles 4:5, we see David preparing his son for a great work.

He had planned to build the Temple of the Lord, but sin had robbed him of the privilege of completing the work.  God still desired an earthly abode, but it would not be the hands of King David that would construct it.  So David, knowing this, did all he could to prepare his son, Solomon, to finish what he had begun.  He called together his people and they spent what I can only assume were years gathering the materials need to build a house worthy of the Lord.

Then he called for Solomon his son and charged him to build a house for the Lord, the God of Israel. (1 Chron. 4:6)

The preparations had been completed by his father, and now the son would walk out the calling.  Everything was ready, all the materials were gathered and the craftsmen were poised to begin this holy work.  The King was in his last days and his final act of love to his God was to pass on to his son the calling of the Lord for his family.

"Build a house for the LORD."  

Did Solomon's heart beat a little faster when he heard those words?  Did he wonder if he was equipped for such a task?  Or did he know, because his father had prepared him so well, that he was absolutely able, armed fully and gifted for the task that lay ahead?

Because King David stayed hands-on in the life of his son, his son was ready to obey the calling of God.

And then there is this:
Only, may the Lord grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the Lord your God. (V. 12)

In other words, "Don't screw up the way I did, son.  Use the brain God gave you and obey Him even when things are easy and you are tempted to slack.  Keep your eyes and heart firmly focused on Him and seek Him in everything.  "

What a legacy David left for his son  What a model for me as I raise up my children.  What a lesson for us as we light the candles and prepare for the arrival of the Christ child afresh in our hearts!

Am I gathering a legacy for my kids?  Am I storing up treasures for them, Heavenly ones that will equip them for the task of walking with the Lord and shining His light in the darkness?  Am I focused on what is eternal, seeking how I may better prepare them for making hard decisions, taking a tough stand, sticking out like a sore thumb in a society that screams for confomity?  

As we light the candle of preparation, I pray we are doing these things.  I pray our children are being given every good tool of the Kingdom, clothed in the armor of God, and taught how to discern truth so that when they are grown and we are gone they can continue building upon the foundation the Lord has begun instead of having to start from scratch like too many of us have done.  

The preparation of Advent is more than decorating a wreath.  It is laying a path.  It is pointing with calloused hands toward the One for whom we live.  It is teaching our children and our childrens' children what it looks like to follow Jesus and making sure they have seen it modeled in our lives.  May our hearts beat faster in the anticipation of knowing that we are, indeed, equipped for the calling of God upon our lives.  

May we walk in the confidence of who we are in Christ right up to the manger where we teach our children how to fall on their knees and then rise to walk in obedience to our King!



Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Hope of Advent

It's crazy, really, this faith thing.
This looking and longing and remembering and choosing to stop and peer into a manger.
It doesn't make sense to a world gone mad.

We light the candles and sing of the Holy Night when the stars were brightly shining...
and aren't they shining still?
Aren't the stars twinkling bright and clear tonight as this first day of December draws to a close?
Doesn't light shine even brighter in the darkness?
Yes.  Oh, yes it does!

Hope.  We have hope because Jesus came.  He really came and was nestled against his mother's breast in perfect peace.  Even as the world around him began to hunt him down, he was safe in his Father's plan.
Nothing, not even the hatred and pride of King Herod, could stop what God had set in motion.

Hope.  Yes, we have this hope as an anchor for our soul, that the light of Jesus is shining despite the attempts to snuff it out.  We, his people, the chosen ones, are allowed to glimpse the hope of Heaven lying in a manger.  We are given the privilege of living out his mission, of finding satisfaction in God alone while the rest of the world scrambles frantically to create or purchase what God has already gifted.

Hope.  The promise of eternity wrapped in swaddling clothes.  The very love of God wrapped in flesh and stretched wide, bleeding on a Roman cross.  The light of the world refusing to be extinguished because Truth always wins.

Do you see that?  Truth always wins!

They may think we are crazy, they may call us narrow and primitive and accuse us of needing a "crutch" for our weakness, but one day soon our King will come and we will be clothed in His beauty, robed in white and dancing with our Groom.  One day the world will see the earthly glitter and tinsel fade and His beauty will be revealed and oh, won't it be lovely beyond words?  We will see our hope fulfilled, what the world is chasing blindly will be laid gently into our hands as we sit quietly at His feet.  Oh, that we would be still today long enough for Him to speak to our hearts!

The Hope of Advent is Jesus.  Light the candle, my friend, and watch the darkness flee.

Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
the holiness of your temple!

By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, 
O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas;
the one who by his strength established the mountains,
being girded with might;
who stills the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples,
so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.  
Psalm 65:4-8
Ann Voskamp Cradle to Cross Advent Wreath


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

In which we hit the road, Jack! (Packing tips for moms of many.)

girl packing suitcase

Packing makes me crazy.  I become hyper-focused on organization and not forgetting anything to the point that I forget to be excited about exactly why I am putting myself through this.  But, it is finished and here I sit in my jammies while my kids sleep.  As soon as they wake up (well, we'll have to blast the teen out of bed of course!) we are heading out to a lakehouse in the hills of Tennessee with our dearest friends for four days of food, fun, and relaxation!

Anyway, I thought I'd share a few tips on packing for a big family without losing your cool.  Not that I've ever lost my cool.  

But enough about me.

#1.  Invest in a suitcase for each child.  
       They don't have to be expensive, but it helps so much if each kid has their own "space."  Now we have done short trips where I combined two kids' clothes into one suitcase, but that always ends up in confusion and crazy messy hotel rooms as they dig through each other's stuff in an attempt to find their own.  Having their own bag helps contain the explosion...somewhat.

#2.  Teach them to pack themselves.
       DJ and Katie are packing pros and I am still working on fostering that skill in my youngest three.  If I call out a list ("6 pairs of pants, 6 shirts, toothbrush, etc.) to the younger ones I may or may not get out of the house with their necessities.  I once made them mistake of letting Drew pack on his own because he really, really wanted to.   After he pronounced the packing "done" I checked his bag, and it's a good thing I did!  He had 5 pair of socks, 1 pair of underwear, and 3 shirts.  I'm not kidding.  
     This time, instead of having to repack their packing attempts I had them bring their suitcases down to me one child at a time.  Then I sent them upstairs for one type of clothing at a time.   It went like this:  "Drew, bring me 6 pair of long pants.  LONG pants, not shorts.  It's going to be cold."  Up he went.  A few minutes later he came down with the 6 pair of pants.  I showed him how to roll them and we put them in the bag.  "Ok, now go get 6 shirts...socks...underwear...etc."  One item at at time.  It required several trips upstairs for him, but isn't every parent's goal to tire their kids out?  Especially in winter?  
      I went through the same process with Mari and Gracie and it worked perfectly.  They got the thrill of "packing themselves" just like their older siblings, but mama kept control of the inventory.

#3.  Realize you will forget something.
       You will.  You just will.  No matter how much I check and double check something always slips by and we end up at a remote gas station in Nowhereville, TN paying too much for a pair of socks or underwear.  It's just part of the adventure.  

#4.  Don't worry about coordinated outfits.
       Ok, let's be real. I used to plan out all my kids outfits for the perfect public presentation and they were just so cute and put-together.  Now?  I am lucky if their laundry is clean.  Seriously.  I had to get over it and let them choose their stuff (within reason...I do have veto power) to keep from stressing out.  A mama can only control so much.  Their clothes are what they are, mismatched and stained, and I'm ok with the fact that they will grow up and wish they had listened to me when I advised them not to wear the turquoise jeans with the red sequin top.  

#5.  Have fun.
      I admit it is easy to forget this one.  I can get so focused on the task at hand that I lose sight of why we are doing all of this.  In their excitement my kids can get wild.  Then my voice begins to raise and then they are all banished from the room and told to JUST. CALM. DOWN this is not a zoo and since when is it ok to run through the house screaming and making your sister cry??
      Ahem.
      They are excited for a reason.  We are going to have a lot of fun!  So bring them in close and talk about what your are going to do when you get there.  Dream a little.  Laugh a lot.  Take a break and look them in the eye and smile because once you are on the road the hard part is behind and you can enjoy their happy chatter (or the blessed silence if you have a DVD player in your vehicle) and look forward to a few days of downtime and fewer distractions....and food.  Thanksgiving food in all it's glory.  
      Yes, my friends, keep your eye on the prize!  

Happy Thanksgiving! 


Friday, November 22, 2013

What's that SMELL?

They piled into the car one by one.  Me, the chauffer of four teenage boys heading to Youth Group.  My big boy and I were making the rounds, picking up his friends.  They chattered amongst themselves...voices deepening, tapping on phones and I-pods, all very cool, or at least trying to appear so.

I smiled as I listened in on their conversations.  School, sports, friends.  Their laughter and friendly ribbing was a welcome sound as I realized the privilege I had been given of being present for this moment, this season, this emerging from boyhood into manhood and all the awkward moments that they will experience in between.

Just as my heart began to wax poetic, I became aware of...

a scent.

Wait.  No, that is not just a scent.  It is an odor.  And it just keeps getting stronger.
Oh my word, what is that?  WHO is that?  Did someone forget to shower?  Or put on deodorant?
And how the heck do they not smell themselves?

I stifle a cry for help and try to decide if it would be rude to roll down the window.

I can hardly breathe now.  I hold my breath as long as I can and when I am forced to inhale I do so through my mouth.

BIG MISTAKE.

I am nearly gagging now, and the boys are still talking...completely oblivious to the horrid, putrid smell emanating from one of them...
or maybe all of them?

I turn on the air conditioner.  I crank it up to HIGH and try to direct the fresh air toward my face.  I look over at my boy, next to me in the front seat, and wonder if he notices.

Surely he notices and is just being polite, right?

Finally we arrive at the church and they all clamber out, a mass of body odor, AXE body spray (which apparently does not mask aforementioned body odor!), and swag.  I roll down the window and inhale deeply, trying to clear my infected lungs.

And I realize that I am knee deep in a new season of life.

Praise the Lord and pass the Lysol.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bedtime



So my sweet Drew is a touchy-feely one.  He loves cuddles and holding hands and long full-body hugs. That makes his mama very happy.
He is growing at an amazing rate these days.  Only 7 years old but the size of your average 9 year old, it is easy to forget that he really is a little boy inside.  Especially because he is freakishly strong!

Tonight I was saying goodnight to the three younger kiddos.  Our bedtime routine is not elaborate at all. With five busy kids and after a full day of homeschooling and chauffering to various activities, I have zero energy for a long, drawn out routine that involves multiple stories, games, etc.  Bedtime in this house is pretty much to the point.  The kids put on jammies, brush their teeth, and get in bed.  Then Daddy and I come up to pray with them, smother sweet faces in kisses, and say good night.
So, anyway, I went into DJ's room (where Drew sleeps.)
Yes, Drew has his own room.
No, he rarely sleeps in it.
DJ has a trundle and the boys like being together, so we just go with it.  I got down on the bed with Drew and wrapped my arms around him, pretending to munch on his delicious chocolatey neck.  He was pretending not to like it and giggling so I snuck a hand into an armpit and tickled him like there was no tomorrow!  He went nuts, laughing so hard he could barely make a sound, kicking and fighting (but not really, because he loves it) and finally yelling "Mercy!"  I stopped, feeling the smile stretch my cheeks as he caught his breath and said emphatically,

"I love you!"

Now let me tell you, this was no ordinary "I love you."  This was the you've-just-filled-up-my-love-tank-and-I-can't-inhale-again-until-I-pour-out-these-words-on-you  I love you.  It was music to my ears and the kisses from my happy boy were plenty as I tucked him in, still breathless.

A while later the big kids headed up.  Katie graced me with hugs and DJ kind of kissed me in a 13 year old boy sort of way.  "I love you," I called up the stairs as their footsteps pounded away.  "I love you, too," they both replied.

Then DJ followed up with "You're young!"

Wait.  What?

I'm not gonna question that one.  I'm just gonna go with it.



Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When I Forget...gathering the stones of remembrance.



All of my children have a story unique to them.  Each of them came to us with a story only God could have written.
In one case, there were particular words spoken...words of promise and hope.  A glimpse of God's plan for that child.  In the case of others there were tangible, measurable miraculous interventions of the Lord.  In all of them, He was near and walked the journey to becoming family with us more closely than we could have ever imagined.
And, much like Mary, I treasured these things in my heart.  (Luke 2:19)  Throughout the years I have gathered stones of remembrance as God proved himself faithful over and over.

Much time has passed and motherhood looks very different to me now.  Instead of diapers, formula, sleep issues, tantrums and potty training, my conversations and questions focus on character issues, building relationships, healing wounded hearts, the onslaught of media in the lives of my children, and navigating what it looks like to walk with God as a young person in 2013.

I now realize the toddler years were piece of cake.

As I monitor my big kids' Instagram accounts and check in unannounced while they "chat" with friends, worry rears it's ugly head.  I could throw out the computer, but the problem is more widespread than that. Just think about it.  How in the world does a young man keep his heart pure when the simple act of driving down the road introduces him to the equivalent of soft porn?  How does a young woman see herself the way her Heavenly Father sees her when airbrushed plastic images of women are on every newsstand?  Is it really possible to protect them, to shelter them from the evil storm that rages around them?

The world around us will tell us NO.  "They" will tell us not to expect too much, that most kids are basically incapable of true maturity or spiritual depth until they have "sown their wild oats."  They will tell us not to waste our time raising kids according to "archaic" standards of purity and holiness.  They will tell us to expect the worst and buckle our seatbelts for a rough ride.

Ah, but God.

God is not archaic. He is relevant, real, present, and will always hold the answers we seek as we raise our kids. God, the perfect parent whose children have all rebelled, understands the necessity of looking ahead and seeing the end from the beginning. Isn't that exactly what He did when Adam and Eve disobeyed?  He already had a rescue plan in place.  The wheels had already been set in motion that would usher in the Son of God, the messiah, the One who would make all things new.

So when I worry about my kids growing up in this dark world, I pick up a stone of remembrance and remind myself that they are HIS.  Each of my babies has placed their faith in Jesus at a young age, just as I prayed they would from the time they were born.  They are safe, eternally safe, in His hand.  He sees the end from the beginning and He knows exactly what they must endure, what they must experience in order to become who He created them to be.
I pick up a stone of remembrance and trust the One who came through for me time and time again to do exactly the same for them.

In 1 John 2:12-14 John speaks to God's people.  He speaks to them, to who they are, to who He wants them to be...

I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake.
I am writing to you, fathers, 
because you know him
who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children, because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers, 
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men, 
because you are strong,
and the word of God abides in you, 
and you have overcome the evil one.

Do you see it?  Do you see what God is doing?  I can pray for my children using these very words!  I can tell the Lord that I KNOW my childrens' sins (past, present and future) are forgiven.  I can calm my anxious heart because my babies know him who is from the beginning.  I can pray in faith that they have and will continue to overcome the evil one.
I can remind my babes that they are strong and pray for the strength to be made manifest in their lives.  
For, the truth is, the word of God abides in them and they have overcome the evil one...because of that very Word made Flesh, because of the death of Jesus Christ and the power of his resurrection!

Oh, sisters, we must remember this.  We must remember God's promises regarding our children and hold fast to them through the storm.  We must pray in faith, knowing who God is and trusting what He says.  We must look into the face of an angry child and speak WHO THEY ARE, who GOD says they are, who we choose to believe they will become.  

It is no accident that we are the parents chosen by God for these very children.
He knew.  
He knew and equipped us to do this work in His strength, never our own.  
He knew and we must know that He is the author and finisher of not only our faith, but theirs as well.


For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Cor. 4:5-7)

Yes, not to us, but to HIM will be the glory as our children grow into adulthood and we watch the Lord do what He does best in their lives.   I will continue to gather the stones, keeping them near when fear threatens my heart and worry steals my joy.  




Saturday, November 16, 2013

Recognized

So if you know me, you know I have this side of me that has "rock star dreams."  I guess we all do.  I love music, I love to be around musicians, and I enjoy concerts immensely!

This past year, my hubby and I have been on quite the concert-going kick.  We have seen Andrew Peterson, Jars of Clay, Toad the Wet Sprocket (90's shout-out!), I went to the Dove Awards and just last week we saw Ed Kowalcyk (formerly of the band Live...another 90's throwback!).  It is always so fun to actually meet the musicians and, being an extrovert I make sure we do if at all possible!

Now the neat thing about this last concert we saw is that Ed K. is a relatively new Christian.  We heard he has given his life to Jesus and have kept up with his songs and albums over the past few years (though we don't hear them on the radio) and we were excited to have the chance to see him perform!

Talk about talent.  He rocked, literally.  The man performed solo and blew us away.  He sang new songs full of worship, and old ones peppered with new lyrics...celebrating the Lord.  The people in the room who were there for the old songs, who didn't know about his conversion, were probably impressed with his "spirituality."  But we knew...we knew the change that has taken place and we knew to Whom he was singing!
Afterward, we waited in line for the chance to meet him and take a photo.  I knew what I wanted to say and looked for the chance.  The drunk girl in front of us was kind of dominating him...bless him.  He was so nice. She was so...not.  I seriously thought she was going to throw up on him.  Finally she was dragged out by her man friend stumbled out and it was our turn.  He smiled, signed the t-shirt, and my chance was there.
I put my hand on his arm and said, "I love how Jesus has affected your music."

His eyes suddenly brightened and he smiled genuinely as he looked straight at me.  A look of recognition, of realizing that someone "got it."

"I feel it too," he said.

"It is fabulous...amazing."

"Thank you.  Thank you so much."

And I took my hubby's hand and walked out, amazed.

Why?

Because I had just spoken with probably one of the biggest rock stars of the 90's, but all I saw when I stood next to him was a fellow believer and God had given me words for him.   How often do we meet new people and instantly recognize Jesus in one another?  Is it not the sweet gift of Grace that connects us all as believers, no matter what walk of life from which we come?  I am just an ordinary girl, a mom who likes to sing in the car and embarrass my kids, and God allowed me to encourage a brother in Christ and tell him that we can SEE, we can see the change and it is good and right and keep it up.

Your message is strong.  When you sang "I believe in you" and looked up to Heaven, we did too.  Don't stop, even amidst drunk groupies and middle-aged fans who think they are still 25 when you sing "The Dolphins Cry," the light of Christ is there.  How I hope more artists and musicians see the Truth for themselves and become Christians, glorifying God with the gifts He has given them!

And knowing people like him will be there makes me even more convinced that Heaven is going to totally rock.  :)


Friday, November 8, 2013

Trusting Him with Them



I longed for a baby for years.
I begged for just one and God gave me five. I loved their little years so much, and I often wish I could do it again...just one more time.  I miss the baby smells and the chubby toddler hands, the kicks and giggles of diaper changes and the late night cuddles with a sleeping bundle of love on my chest.  Those were sweet years.

Now I find myself looking ahead, figuring this teenage thing out as I go along.  Babies never scared me.  I had babysat from the age of 12 and I knew babies.  Heck, I even knew toddlers and our toddler years, though exhausting, were wonderful.  Oh, the stories I could tell!  But I have to admit I have entered this new era of motherhood with trepidation.  The world is so different than it was when my oldest was born.  The pressures on teenagers are on a wholly different spectrum than the ones we faced in the eighties.  The ability to protect our kids has been hampered greatly by social media and Hollywood and I grasp desperately to God's promises regarding my children as we learn to navigate these years.

Attitude, disrespect, dishonesty, anger....yeah, we've dealt with them all.  I have failed epically already. There are times when my kids have seen me lose my temper, yell, stomp out of the room, cry, and generally suck at mothering.  I have forgotten to pray, neglected the life offered in God's word, and tried to do it in my own strength.  Yep, name the parenting mistake and I have probably made it.

But despite all of this, despite the fact that we have no idea how to raise teenagers yet we have one (almost two!) of them, despite the doubt and fear and failures...
God is raising up my babies into young men and women.

He is taking hold of them, shining through them.

When my son tickles his little sister, delighting in her laughter, God shines.  When my daughter washes her sisters' hair and fixes them up like little princesses, God shines.  When my little boy emulates his big brother because he thinks he is the coolest guy in the world, God shines.  When my teenager plays with his mama's hair, affectionately placing his cheek against mine, God shines.  When my daughter talks my ear off, God shines.  When my son trusts me to take him for a major haircut and clearly believes me when I say he is devastatingly handsome, God shines.

When they are embarrased by my, um, comic abilities in front of their friends, God shines.  When they join me in my favorite reading chair and climb onto my lap because they want to cuddle for a minute, God shines. When all five of them sit together, laughing at a movie and sharing popcorn, God shines.  When my children pray for one another with sincere hearts, God shines.

It is all Him.  At all times.  There is nothing I can point to as far as my "awesome" abilities that can explain these kids.  Regardless of the struggles they face, regardless of the hard days and the teen angst, God gently reminds me over and over they they are His.  They always have been.  It is not about me, it is about Him and His plans and purposes for their lives.  They will struggle and suffer and grow and stretch because that is how God molds us into the image of Christ.  Hard days are part of it.  Ann Voskamp refers to the "hard Eucharisteo"...the trials and struggles for which we should and must be thankful...and I see the truth in her words.  I want my sons to grow up to be strong men.  I want my daughters to be strong women.  If I successfully protect them from all harm, all the negative, they will not be strong.  They will be overwhelmed by the flood of the world and drown.  But if, through the power of the Holy Spirit, my children are taught to be light in the darkness and to stand when no one else is willing then they will be powerful in God's Kingdom.

My job is to pray, to trust, to love them, walk with them and gently (gently!) teach them how to navigate the rough waters.  I cannot force their hands or hearts into obedience.  My greatest tool in this phase (and truly, wasn't it my greatest tool in all phases?) of their lives is prayer.

This is where my faith as a mom grows feet.
When my children start to pull away and wrestle with who they are and Whose they are, my faith (or lack thereof) is made crystal clear.  I have to wake up each morning determined to trust the One who placed these gifts in my arms and choose not to freak out when they sin just like every other human being in history. I have to believe the same Holy Spirit who brought me out of the pit is alive and well in my children and can be trusted.

Do I trust Him?  Really?

Do I?

Oh yes, Lord, I do!  I believe!
Now...would You please help my unbelief?



Thursday, November 7, 2013

What if we do this?

An article passed through my newsfeed today.  It was from Focus on the Family and is about how a man prayed for God to shut down various porn shops in his city over the years and every time, every time, it happened.  God answered and came through and shut the doors of these evil places.

I will confess I have passed shops like this many times, but not once did it ever cross my mind to pray for God to close their doors!  Duh!  How many young girls are exploited in places like this?  How many marriages destroyed?  How many strongholds reinforced and hearts grown stone-cold as a result of the filth that is sold in these shops?

So I shared the article on my Facebook page, and it got a response from several of my Christian friends.  I felt like God was challenging me...challenging you...to take this seriously.  What if God's people pray?  What if we take this challenge and stand together?  Why don't we as the body of Christ link arms and hearts and pray the filth out of our neighborhoods and towns? Do we not believe God can do it?  I do!  Today, I choose to believe that my God can do whatever needs to be done to close the doors of the local porn shops and I challenge you to join me!
Share this with everyone you know and then link back here so we can stay connected. Look up the local establishments and start storming Heaven's gates, praying against them by name.

Why?

Because I believe that behind every seedy shop, there are daughters and sons.  There are children and young women being used and abused and I guarantee these place are associated with sex trafficking in one way or another.  If the market closes, the traffickers and sex-pushers will be forced to go elsewhere to peddle their wares.  Let's do this.  Share your prayer here and let's join together in expectation of what God IS going to do!  I'm starting with the Body Shop here in the heart of our beautiful downtown:
Lord, shut it down.  Clean it out and replace it with a business that is strengthening to hearts, to bodies, to families, to faith.  Father I pray in the name of Jesus that you will shut the doors of the Body Shop and every house of porn, every hot-bed of prostitution and trafficking and raise up our city in purity and holiness for YOUR glory.

Amen!

It's your turn, my friends.  Let's start a chain reaction that resonates through the Kingdom of God!  Share your prayers in the comments below.  Let's DO THIS!  

And let's not forget the abortion clinics.  I hope we all get sore knees from praying!  "On Earth as it is in Heaven, Lord!"


Monday, November 4, 2013

Beach Bummin' Days 3 & 4

Daddy arrived Thursday morning, along with a thunderstorm:

The kids and I watched it roll in from the ocean, torn between the awe of witnessing it's arrival (a day early) and the disappointment of knowing the planned kayaking and sandcastle building would most likely not happen.

Nevertheless, his arrival was met with squeals of joy and much wrestling and this mama was so glad to have him there.  

We watched it rain and trekked out onto the sand when it finally cleared up for a while after lunch.  There were treasures everywhere, driftwood, tiny shells, a huge beetle,

and countless jellyfish.  The kids were morbidly fascinated with the shiny globs of weirdness.  I was just grossed out.

We decided to walk down the road to the Blue Mountain Creamery.  Handmade ice cream, sorbets, frozen yogurt, and waffle cones.  Need I say more?  

This, my friends, is a blueberry, cranberry, pomegranate sorbet.
In a still-warm waffle cone.
There are no words.


A little while later the rain began again.  Bummer.  But Drew had a great idea...Scrabble!
Now remember, he is in first grade and not exactly a spelling prodigy.  Daddy and I didn't keep score really even enforce rules, we just let him go at it.  He won.  :)
What you've never heard of a "pugtrain?"
"People of the world, join hands, start a pugtrain...
a PUGTRAIN!"
Well, we thought it was funny.  Drew didn't know why Daddy and I kept laughing.

So the day ended as it began, with rain beating down and kids watching TV.  But we kept the sliding doors cracked open and were lulled to sleep by the rhythm of the waves crashing.  All in all a good way to end the day.

Day 4 promised to be fun, and it was!  Mari has a friend from Ethiopia, TJ and his little sister, whose family has become dear friends to us.  They live in Alabama and we decided to meet up in Pensacola at the Naval Aviation Museum.  Seeing my sweet girl reunited with her friends, the familiarity of them...the memories they share that I will never know...takes me right back to the Transition Home and the hope that these kids would have a home soon.  Little did I know that I would have BOTH of them in my car, laughing with Mari and TJ's arm draped over Drew's shoulder in that beautiful sign of Ethiopian friendship.  My heart was full.

We met them at Whataburger (per my hubby's request...and it was so good!) and escaped before our ten kids dumped ANOTHER drink on the floor.  (My apologies to the girl with such patience.  I hope you make more than minimum wage because you really did your job cheerfully.)

We drove to the Navy base and explored the museum.

It was amazing, it was FREE, and it was a field trip!  Win-win!  If you are ever in the area you must go.  It will remind you why you should be PROUD to be an American.  Our military just makes my heart swell.  Those guys are the cream of the crop in my book and always will be.

And then there was the ride home.

We were on 98, scoping out restaurants for fresh Gulf seafood.  Traffic was very heavy and suddenly came to a standstill.  We stopped, the big pickup truck behind us stopped (barely) and I said, "Whew, I though he was going to hit us."  Katie turned to look back at him and BAM.

Seven car pileup.  We have a dented bumper, the truck behind us had minimal damage, but the lady behind him (who shoved him into us), and the cars behind her were totaled.  Because Katie was turned around during impact her neck was hurt so we got a nice little ride in the ambulance to the local ER.

Thank God she only has whiplash, but it was scary seeing her strapped to a backboard and loaded onto a stretcher.  As we rode in the ambulance I just kept thinking of all the babes whose mamas have watched fight for their lives back there and thanked God that this was only a precaution in my girl's case.  Still, I was relieved when the doctor said everything was intact and she could go home.

By this time it was 9pm and my hubby arrived after three hours at the scene with the other four kids who were now STARVING.
We ended up at Chick-fil-a.  Not exactly seafood but we were so hungry we no longer cared.

The next morning I awakened to this, after two days of cloudy skies the Lord gave me this.

My heart took it as a sweet love note from my savior.  A reminder of redemption and the new mercies of every morning.  Then we drove home and arrived to a Tennessee in full Autumn splendor!

And though I would love a redo of those last two days, sunshine and safe travels, I am thankful.  We had a great week, we witnessed the glory and the power of God in creation, and we were cared for by a wonderful, friendly medical team who joked along with my girl when she mused about the possiblity of this being on "Untold Stories of the ER."

Yep, I figure the mystery will be how this fashionista ended up in their ER!  Oh yeah, and I found selfies on my phone.  She was sending pics of herself in the neck brace to her friends while we waited for X-ray results.

Love. Her.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Beach Bumming...Day 2

I could live here.  Really.  I'm generally a hills and tall trees kind of girl, but two days into this beach vacation and I am thinking I could get used to the big skies and brightly painted sunsets of Florida.

I mean, look at this y'all...


We have had such a wonderful time so far.  Today was 80 degrees and sunny.  The kids played for hours in the sand and along the water's edge, at least until a boy down the beach walked up to show us the HUGE jelly fish he had just caught.

Mm hm, that kind of put a damper on the fun.  Suddenly our eyes were hyper aware and we realized there were little balls of clear, shiny goo dotting the sand.  Darn.  So out of the water they came but they still had a lot of fun playing in the sand, then the pool, then the hot tub.  We feasted on sandwiches and chicken nuggets for lunch, played in the sand, then the pool again, and then gorged on frozen pizza for dinner.  Time is moving wonderfully slow and I am loving the fact that I can look out on the balcony and catch one of my kids just staring, enraptured by the beauty of the ocean and sky.  

Tomorrow Daddy will arrive to join the fun.  These kiddos are very excited that he is coming!  Not that I'm chopped liver or anything...
ok, well maybe I am.  
But that is fine.  I love that they love him so much.  And with him here, maybe I will get a chance to start the book that I brought along.  Believe me, not a whole lot of reading can happen with five kids in the water! 
I'm either yelling, "You are too far, come back this direction!" or they are yelling, "Mom, look at me!" every five minutes. 

Another adult with watchful eyes will be a very good thing.  And holding my hubby's hand while the sun sets and the skies declare God's glory once again will be even better.  

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Beach Bumming...Day 1

You might think I'm crazy, and you might be right, but this morning I awakened my babes at 5am, piled their sleepy bods into the car, and hit the road for the sunny shores of Destin!

I am so glad we chose to leave before the crack of dawn because we were able to hit the beach, pool and hot tub after our 8 hour drive and a quick jaunt to the local Publix for beach-friendly (read: minimal prep) meals!  Happy, happy, happy.

We drove through the beautiful hills of southern Tennesse, through farmlands blanketed in early morning fog.
Through the mist the light of a farmhouse glowed and I wished I could stop and watch the farmer's world come to life.

We watched the sun rise as we crossed into Alabama and I consumed a giant cup of coffee to combat the consequences of a late night of packing combined with the early morning alarm.  Kids slept off and on for the first few hours and then we stopped at Whataburger in Birmingham because, well, this mama loves Whataburger (childhood memories...I'm sure there is some Freudian explanation) and there is not a single one within three hours of home!

By this time, in the world of a 7 year old, we should certainly be "almost there," right?  We got back on the road after eating breakfast and I am not even kidding when I tell you he asked if it was time for lunch!  I had told him earlier that we would get there "after lunch" so I guess he was trying to speed up the process. We drove and drove...
and drove...
and I listened to talk radio.  Lots of it.  The little kids were zoned into their movie and the big kids had their ipods so it was just me, Glenn Beck, and Fox News with a little Dr. Laura mixed in for kicks. (If you had any question as to my political leanings, I guess I just answered that.)   Getting fired up over politics and bad decision making is my guaranteed and preferred method of staying awake on long drives.  Yes, I sometimes argue with the radio.  Out loud.  My kids are used to it.

Finally we arrived at beautiful Blue Mountain Beach.  We checked in, unloaded, bought the above-mentioned groceries and walked out onto the pristine white sand.  The kids ran to the water, screamed, and ran back...it was COLD!  But, as any kid will attest, rarely is water cold enough to keep little bodies out for long.  They adjusted to the temperature and were soon jumping waves and turning cartwheels as the sun descended behind the glimmering horizon.  I snapped photos right and left and smiled as they laughed.  We found a seashell and a section of sand dollar before they wanted to try the heated pool and then the hot tub.

At last we went up to our room and my sweet Katie said, "Thank you, mama."

"For what?"

"For bringing us here.  It is so fun."

And it has only just begun, my girl.

Dinner was supermarket sushi and fruit, then we settled down to tackle a bit of school.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention this is a "working" vacation!  I even packed my electric pencil sharpener!  Little kids worked on math and big kids tackled science, math, and a little journaling.  I face-timed my dear hubby who will be joining us on Thursday and teased him with a photo of tonight's incredible sunset.  He responded with a photo of his office.  Bless him.

Now the littles are in bed, the bigs are winding down, and here I sit journaling while watching an episode of Sherlock on my Kindle.

A good day, don't you think?

I leave you with this...a bit of inspiration after watching God show off in the form of sunset over the ocean.  Being near the sea always, always brings this song to my mind and heart.  There is nothing like Creation to draw us near to the majesty of our endlessly creative God!


And a couple more...just to rub it in.

Not that I would do that.

Photo: What a view:)



Photo: Takes my breath away.

Beautiful.  Simply beautiful.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Bit of Random.

And suddenly it is full-on Autumn.  Cold has crept into the mornings and jackets come off midday.  The trees have begun to show off and that warm spot in my bed is awfully hard to leave in early morning.
Fall is my favorite.
In the midst of this autumn happiness, though, I have planned a trip to the beach!  Off-season, half-price, and a needed break before we hit the last month of homeschooling and close out the semester in time to really, truly relish the Christmas season.
I can't believe I just typed the word Christmas in the same paragraph as beach.  :)
Our countdown is on.  7 days til our toes are in the sand.  Katie needs a swimsuit.  I have to be sure everyone still has flip-flops that fit.  Sunscreen.

Coffee.

Oh yes, you knew that was coming.

A drive through the deep South in the glorious peak of Autumn, punctuated by a stop at the Whataburger in Birmingham (Because there IS no such thing in these parts.  Sadness!) in which I indulge in all things Taquito, 4 days of beach laziness (for the kids...because we all know mamas really don't "rest" on vacation) and even a sweet reunion with Mari's best friend from Ethiopia who will come with his family to join us on Friday.  Yes, there is much to look forward to this week.  Much incentive to stay focused and get things done so we can GO!

Oh, and in the midst of all these busy preparations we found a puppy.  A puppy! 

LIKE. I. HAVE. TIME. FOR. A. PUPPY!

She was wandering around behind a restaurant and the kids were all "MOM!"  and I was all "Puppy?  What puppy?"

Yeah.  Trouble.

One thing led to another and we brought her home.  She is a black lab mix, very sweet, and loves the zoo that is my house.  BUT we can't keep her.  I do not have the time it would require to train her in this season of life.  I have a couple of people interested in her so hopefully she will have a home in the next day or so.  Because, remember,  we are going to the beach!  Next week!  And my girls have already named her.  You know what that means.

When "Lily" goes to her new home there will be some sad little girls.  I warned Grace to "not get attached, we are just babysitting her" and her response was...
"Oh, I know, Mom.  It takes me a long time to get attached to something."

Mmm Hmmm, like five minutes.  Add in the fact that she has written up a contract for potential puppy parents to sign, promising to take care of the pup and I am afraid we are in for a painful separation.

Sigh.

The beach will be great medicine.  :)

At which point I end this rambling, random post.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Little Prayer Warrior

If you know my youngest son, then you know he is a little guy with big personality.  I often refer to him as my "lover boy" because he is always near, touching, hugging, smooching his mama.

Floats. My. Boat.

He is now seven years old and in such a sweet phase of life  He loves to help, loves to be with me, and loves to pray.  And when I mean pray, I mean PRAY with a capital P.R.A.Y.

"Jesus, YOU are Lord.  Jesus, YOU are king.  Jesus, YOU can heal and help us and, Lord, we BELIEVE in YOU for YOU have the power and YOU love us.  Yes, you love us!"

I am not kidding.  This is how he prays.  Holy Spirit fire rainin' DOWN in this house!  

Yesterday we went to what my sweet hubby affectionately calls "Krogers" to get gas.  My boy was in the back watching "Thunderstruck" on the DVD player and trying to draw Kevin Durant in his notebook.  I absentmindedly put the nozzle in place and pressed "start" then leaned against the car to wait for my SUV to suck my wallet dry fill up.  Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a woman walking to her car from the kiosk in the center of the gas station.  She was using a walker and could barely lift her feet to walk.  She was bent with osteoporosis and leaning dangerously to one side.  It was horrifically obvious that she was in unbearable pain.  My first instinct was to go help her, but what if I offended her?  What should I do?

Then from the back seat I hear my little boy.  "Mama, that lady's legs hurt."

That was all I needed.  "Yes, you are right.  I'm going to help her."

I walked over to her, careful not to startle her, and asked if I could help her get into the car.  The look of relief brought tears to my eyes.

"Oh, yes.  Thank you.  I really shouldn't be out her like this."  Then she gestured to the two boxes of cigarettes she had just tossed into her front seat.  "And I really shouldn't be buying these either.  But they are my stress relief."

Who can blame her?

I helped lift her into the car, reassuring her that I wouldn't let her fall.  She talked and talked after that, telling me why she was so ill.  Y'all, no one should have to live in such a twisted body.  It is absolutely pitiful and so very sad.  I nodded and listened and realized my boy was right beside me, guarding her walker.  He helped me fold it, never taking his big brown eyes off of her, and I put it into her car.  I asked her if she had anyone to help her, any family.  She told me she had a couple of friends, one of whom I happen to know, who had called or checked in on her recently.

"So you have people looking out for you," I said.

A light passed over her expression, as if the realization had just dawned on her.  "Yes, I suppose I do."

She told me how her left leg, which has been broken twice, just will not heal.  "And if it doesn't I don't know what I'm going to do."

"Well, we are going to pray that it does, ok?  We are going to pray for you to heal and feel better."

She thanked us profusely and I fought down that darn lump in my throat as I turned to take hold of her car door.  As I closed it my boy spoke up for the first time, loud and clear.

"GOD BLESS YOU!"  

Excuse me while I melt into a puddle of tears.

We went home with burdened hearts.  We gathered to pray at bedtime and my boy wept, big hot tears for this woman and I realized we never even asked for her name.  (But Jesus knows.)  He wept because she hurts and his little heart is full of mercy and compassion.  Yes, I definitely have pinpointed one of his spiritual gifts...mercy, feeling the pain of another, taking on their burden.  My athletic, muscular, rough and tumble boy has a beautiful, soft heart for the broken.  Oh God, You never cease to amaze me.

So, Father, won't you heal her?  For her sake, for Your sake, and for the sake of my son?  Can we see her again and find out she is walking tall and strong because you heard the prayers of a seven year old who absolutely believes you can heal and help us and that YOU alone have the power?  
He does, Lord.  
So do I.

Friday, October 11, 2013

On mission

So often I have wished God would call me to Africa.  When we brought our daughter home from Ethiopia I just knew I would be making yearly trips back to that beautiful country.  I just knew my future had been changed and that I would be at least a part-time missionary, going to love and serve the "least of these."

It has been three years since my feet left U.S. soil.

Attachment has demanded I stay right here, never more than a phone call away.  Her security has depended on her ability to know I can be home within hours, that a shotty internet connection would not keep her from hearing my voice from days on end.

So for a while I struggled.

For a while I watched my fellow adoptive moms travel back and forth with ease.  I fought the green-eyed monster as I wished it was me on that plane, me in that orphanage, me serving the soup to the hungry.  I struggled with what I was supposed to do with what I learned in Ethiopia.  What do I do with the knowledge of poverty and suffering that is forever embedded in my memory?  Where do I tuck the raw pain I felt when a dozen brown arms encircled my neck and begged me for kisses and hugs?  How does the desire to alleviate suffering play out in my life, in this city, in this neighborhood?  For until my youngest is old enough to handle the rigors and emotions of a mission trip I must stay here.  Either we all go together or we don't go at all.

The Lord is so faithful.

He opened my eyes to the local ministry which I have mentioned before, a ministry to the homeless, the destitute stuck in seedy motels, and to victims of human trafficking.  He showed me that there is a huge mission field right here and that He has gifted me to not only serve when I can spare a late night away from the kids and my sweet husband, but to be an encouragement and prayer support for those who are on the front lines every single day (and night).  Often my friend who leads this ministry comes to mind and I am burdened to pray.  Often I just want to be around her, to be a friend and fellow adoptive mom who understands and wants to help shoulder the burden of this huge responsibility she has taken on by lifting her family up in prayer and encouraging her as she fights against the powers of darkness.

He showed me that we can be a help to His people, His servants who have been called to "GO" and spread the gospel around the world and we can support them, we can give them a place of respite and love while they rest from their lives on the mission field or prepare to go and leave this country for the glory of God.  He showed me that I am sent right here, right now.

In the past year and a half since we built the apartment above our garage God has brought people into our lives that have made our world bigger, missionaries from South Africa, a young woman from Malaysia, and most recently a family going to Belgium.  We have been blessed with friends that we would have otherwise never met.  Our kids have friends all over the world and the internet makes keeping in touch so easy and fun! We wept last Sunday as our friends who are moving to Belgium packed up their things from our garage apartment and said the long-dreaded goodbyes.  They have lived here for six wonderful months and we had gotten used to their presence in a very sweet way.  It is awfully quiet around here without their three blond-headed cuties peeking in my back door, looking for a playmate.  They became dear friends and their kids are sorely missed by ours.  These soul-ties were forged on the foundation of Jesus Christ and that is because God blessed us with the gift of being on mission here, in our home.  It may not be glorious or glamorous, but I am so grateful for the gift because we get to glimpse His heart for the people of the entire world.  Jesus is coming soon, (hallelujah!) and God is sending out warriors right and left.  If I am not called to sell everything and become a missionary in another country, then I am called to equip those who do.
Tomorrow a new family moves into our apartment.  They will be here for a few months and then they will move to Ireland.  Ireland!  (Oh come ON, Lord!  You know I would totally move to Ireland for you, right? Green, lush hills, rocky cliffs, beautiful accents...but I digress.)  I am excited to get to know this new family and their kids.  It will be such a great learning experience for us as we hear about God's call on their lives and what life in Ireland will look like for them.  And I'm sure friendships will be forged between us and our children.  It is bittersweet, growing to love a family that you know is only here for a short time.  But it also makes the promise of Heaven that much sweeter.

I will confess that I still look at the photos of my friends traveling to Africa on Facebook and wish I was there.  I can almost smell the coffee in Addis and hear the sounds of the children running to touch my skin and play with my hair.  I can imagine the feeling of my heart bursting as I whisper "Jesus loves you" into a filthy little afro.  But the longing is different now.  It is a knowing that the time will come eventually, but I am right where I am supposed to be in this season of my life.  If the Lord tarries, I have no doubt my family will set foot on African soil once again, but until then I am thankful that He has allowed me to see the mission field in my own back yard.