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 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.


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! 


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.


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.


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.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sweet Slowdown

Finding time to write has proved difficult lately.  Life has been busy.  Too busy for my liking.

I am definitely NOT a Type A personality.

Schooling five is challenging enough, but add in basketball, soccer, clogging, ballet, piano, guitar, occupational therapy appointments, youth group, tutoring, and laundry and this mama has felt like I was going to blow.

The older I get, the more I need order.  I find it hilarious (not really) that I have developed that need as my kids enter into what will most likely be their most active years!  Order is hard to come by these days, but I am fighting for it nonetheless.

This week is turning out to be an unexpected respite.  Over half of our usual activities have been cancelled because the local schools are on Fall Break.  We suddenly have long, unhurried least for a while.  I will enjoy this while it lasts.

October cool has settled into the mornings and the trees are beginning to reveal their glory.  My dogs love to lie at my feet as I meet with Jesus before the children awaken and I just breathe in the calm.  I love Autumn. This morning, when I stepped out of my front door, I noticed something unusual.  A tree in the center of our front yard had a beautiful mist curling up the trunk.  It was backlit by the morning sun and I realized the moisture from the early morning dew was rising from the sunlit side.  It was absolutely beautiful. Mesmerizing.  It only lasted about ten minutes and I was so thankful that I had gone out in time to see it. Parables and proverbs ran through my mind as I watched the curling tendrils of steam dance up the rough bark of the tree.   Nature is so rich in lessons, so adept at pointing us to the Creator.

My children are happily outdoors as I type.  I am sitting in my happy place, our porch swing.  Our school day ended around 1:00 today and the sun is shining.  My big girls went for a run, their new favorite sisterly pastime, and are now munching the last of the summer popsicles.  The littles are out back with swords and backpacks and there is apparently a "bad guy" in the shrubs.  Much bossing and commanding is going on back there and I laugh at how much they have become like twins.  At only 3 months apart in age, they very nearly are.

My teenager is just a few houses down, basketball in hand, playing their version of NBA with his friends,  I can hear them yelling all the way down here and it makes me laugh.  They really have no idea how loud they are, my boy especially!  I'm sure the neighbors love it.  Ahem.

I marvel at these quiet moments when I have time to contemplate the miracle of my family.  I am so grateful for this privilege of motherhood for it came at great price.  On the hard days, and there have been many, I am tempted to doubt my abilities and to worry that I am scarring them for life.  But then I catch one of them smiling at me or one moves in to steal the seat next to mine.  A child yells "Look, Mom!" just wanting to see my eyes on them, smiling in approval.  Another comes to me with a long, detailed story because it is important to them that I hear it.  This bond is so solid, so real, so unexplainable apart from the glorious riches of God's grace.

And then I think back on the beauty of the mist rising from the tree this morning.  An otherwise ordinary tree was warmed by the sun in a way that none of the others around it were and the result was beautiful.  Had I been in a hurry I would have missed it.  Just like these ordinary days.  They are plain in many ways, nothing to "write home about" yet the warmth of God's love creates something magical.  If we hurry we will miss it.  I am determined not to do that.  I am determined to slow and rest and let my eyes settle on the gifts God has lovingly tucked all around me.