Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Year

It's been about a year.

A year of bringing darkness to the light.
A year of mist and cloud.
A year of seeing God in the midst of it.
A year of questioning why, then realizing that the answer doesn't really matter.
A year of failures, so I can see God's Grace.
A year of inability, so I can see that He is able.
A year of frustration, so I can see that my own striving gets me nowhere.
A year of learning to embrace God's will for me- whatever that is, however different that may look from where I thought I would be- and seeing that His Will is always Good.
A year of beginning to understand, not just on a surface level, but deep down to the very depths of my soul, that God loves me.
A year of beginning the journey to embracing His love and acceptance above all others.
A year of trial.  Of doubt.  Of struggle.  Of (almost) despair.
A year of Fighting.
Fighting to rejoice.  Fighting to Hope.  Fighting to have gratitude.
Fighting insomnia.  Fighting the tidal waves of anxious thoughts.
Fighting the enemy who has waged war against my soul.
A year of trying so hard to "fix it", then realizing that all I have is Christ.
A year of wanting what was, then realizing I would never want to go back.
A year of going from living based on what is seen, in my circumstances,
to living based on what is unseen - what God is doing in the midst of my circumstances.
A year of learning to count it Joy.
A year of healing from the inside out.
A year of learning that Jesus is better.
Better than health.  Better than my hopes, or dreams, or plans.
A year of learning to begin to Trust.
To trust that Jesus is better.

The walls are beginning to crumble.
But they haven't fallen yet.

I know that my God will supply all I need - Himself.
I know that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion.
He who has promised is Faithful.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Reason to Sing

I have recently been so thankful for the music by AllSons & Daughters.  Their music is raw, and real, and full of hope as well.  Here is a video with them discussing their song "A Reason to Sing".
A great example of resting in God's Grace in the midst of mess...admitting we don't always have the answers, but we can still have hope knowing that He's "still holding the whole world in [His] hands...That is a reason to sing."
Sometimes we have to be reminded that that is reason enough to sing.
And when we do sing in the midst of unanswered questions - THAT is a sacrifice of Praise.

And here is the full song:

"Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What Do We Really Need To Hear?

What do we need to hear when we're having a rough day? Rough week? Rough year? Rough life?
When waiting and hoping for a good report?
When there isn't a good report?
When there don't seem to be any answers to our struggle?
What do we need to hear when our days all run together - when it's hard to get out of bed?  
When getting out of bed is the hardest thing you do?

What do we need to hear when we lock ourselves in bathrooms to have just one minute away from the noise that surrounds us - when it feels like we're standing in the middle of a spinning colosseum of roaring lions?

When a child's crying, whining, and arguing turns into a new battle every moment for an all-day affair, after a night of only 4 hours of sleep, and feels like an all-out assault- and you're fighting on fumes- Running on empty?

What do we need to hear when addictions won't cease?  
When those we love are hurting themselves or others?  
When life we felt inside of us dies?
What do we need to hear when no matter how hard we try, we just can't do this, do that, shake that thought, let go of this hurt, and move on?

What do we need to hear?

Do we need to hear sympathy? Do we need to hear empathy? Do we need someone to defend our case? Do we need to hear "don't worry"? Do we need to hear "breathe in and count to 10"? Do we need to hear "work harder"? Or "just forget about it", or even...
...those "godly" sayings like "God's in control", "God loves you", and "this too shall pass"?

What do we need to hear?

We need to hear the Gospel.
Good News.

When we suffer, we need to know that Jesus suffered for us. That He suffered most of all.

When we're lonely, we need to hear that Jesus was abandoned by all of his friends, and was separated from the Father while bearing our sins on the cross.

When we're anxious, we need to hear that yes, God is in control, but we know that He is because Jesus rose again. When everything seemed hopeless and hopelessly out of control- when Jesus was in the grave- God was still in control.
We need to know that being anxious is our way of wanting to be in control, but feeling out of control, because we're failing at that whole being in control thing.
And because we know and believe that He is in control, we don't have to be.
And breathe a sigh of relief.

When we feel inadequate- that we don't measure up, we need to hear that Christ was perfect for us. We don't have to be. We can stop working so hard to be perfect, and rest in His finished work on the cross. It was enough. once and for all.

We need to hear that God is good. That he has our best in mind. That we know this because He willingly bore the cross and the weight of our sin on our behalf.

We need to hear that putting our hope, our fear, our trust, or our worth in anything else but Jesus will fail us. Will leave us empty. Will leave us asking or begging or longing or working way too hard for something to satisfy us that never will.

We need to hear the Gospel.

Weather we believe the Gospel is absolutely true, or struggle to believe it, or down-right don't believe it to be True - we need to hear it. Because none of us believe it all the time. Because what we do shows us what we believe. Out of the heart, the mouth speaks. Out of the heart, the mind thinks. Out of the heart, the hands do.

We need to be reminded of who we are. Of Who's we are. To be reminded of Who God is. What He's done. What He is doing. How we fit into the beautiful love story that He is writing, and we get to be a part of.

We need to be reminded that the Gospel isn't just about a time in the past, or a time in the future, but that the Gospel is the answer to any and every situation, hardship, temptation, and tragedy in this life.

Right now. Right here.

Speaking the Gospel into our lives and the lives of those around us is a much-needed breath of fresh air.

It gets to the heart. It cuts deep.
It brings to light those areas of unbelief.
It speaks truth and sheds light in the very place we need it most.

I'm learning. I'm wrestling.
And my eyes are being opened.
The way I talk to myself. The way I talk to others. The way I discipline my children.
I'm changing.
Because the Gospel is penetrating my heart, deeper than it ever has before.
Because it really is Good News.
And I can rest.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Thankful for the Beautiful

Sometimes the Lord gives me those breathtaking moments...

This one is from our vacation in Pagosa Springs, CO.  A little neighborhood of cabins...and then this.

Heaven and earth are full of His glory.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


A 10-day road trip to Pennsylvania and back went surprisingly well.
Why Pennsylvania?  Neil's brother Jonathan was getting married to a pretty fabulous gal from PA.
We decided if it was going to take us 3 days to get up there, we may as well make the trip more fun for the little ones.  Bella and Balian have been on a huge camping kick.

During the winter, we had a couple of "camp outs" in our living room with sleeping bags on the floor and roasting marshmallows over the fire in the fireplace.

Then, when spring hit, and we knew we'd be making this trip, we went on a 1-night campout as a family as a sort of "try-it-out" kind of thing.

After that trip (and Neil and I not getting a lot of sleep) we realized that there were some things we needed to get before heading out for our big trip - like cots!  Apparently we aren't as young as we used to be.

We left on Saturday, May 25th, and camped for 2 nights on the way to Hershey, PA.

On our last (3rd) day of driving, we were trying to find a place to let the little ones run around an play at lunchtime.  We stopped at a tourist info place outside of Marion, VA, and they pointed us in the direction of Hungry Mother's State Park.  It wasn't exactly "on the way".  More like 10 miles out of the way, but it was gorgeous!

A beach, on a river, in the middle of the mountains.  ahhh...

The littles spent some time on the playground, and we walked around on a little trail, and just admired the beauty from a dock.

Along with Neil's parents and our niece, Maris, we stayed in Hershey for 3 nights, and had some vacation time.
We went to Hershey's Chocolate World, and went through the "tour".  It was essentially a simulation of the chocolate factory, and some history about Mr. Hershey and how chocolate is made.

Then, we went on a trolly ride of Hershey - again, all about Mr. Hershey, his trials in his various endeavors, and how he eventually figured out something that worked.  The trolly ride was pretty entertaining, actually, with actors/singers making it more interesting...and we got some chocolate samples too :)

Interesting facts:  Mr. Hershey wasn't hoarding all of his money for himself.  He pretty much built the town of Hershey, so that his factory workers had a town to live in.  He built a school, a park (Hershey Park, which later became the theme park it is now), and he began an orphanage for boys.  But he wasn't hands-off with the orphanage.  An orphan boy ate dinner with the family at his home every week.  After Mr. Hershey died, he put all of his company's stock into the hands of a trust.  Because of this, the Hershey Factory, Hershey Park, Hershey World, etc. are all linked, and profits from the Hershey company continue to pour into the school for orphans that Mr. Hershey began.  So....when you buy a Hershey bar, you are actually helping contribute to boys (and girls) that are either orphans, or at-risk, receive a quality education.  Never knew that one!

We also went to The Hershey Story Museum and took a Chocolate Lab class with the 3 bigger kids.  We learned the origins of cacao, how cacao turns into cocoa, cocoa butter, etc., and how everything works together to make chocolate.  Then, we got to make our own...sort of.  We got to put melted chocolate into a mold and add our own add-ins, then learn as our chocolate set.  Then, we got to take home our chocolate that we made :)

After Chocolate town, USA (aka Hershey), we headed on to Erie, PA for the wedding.

We spent some time at a State Park right on Lake Erie - again...a beach.  But the water was like ice!  no swimming for this crew!  But we still had a lot of fun playing/jumping/digging/walking in the sand.

Bella posing...oh dear...

The one picture of me from the trip.

We found some unused lifeguard stands...

There was a huge mountain of there was much jumping.

Later that night, we were back at the beach for Jonathan and Jess' wedding ceremony.  Praise the Lord we were able to have a beautiful ceremony before it rained.  It started pouring as soon as we got into our cars!  But the rain held out :)  It was beautiful!

Bella and Maris

This is our beautiful niece, Ellie (Jonathan and Jess' daughter):

Isaiah spent his time during the ceremony doing this:

Then, after the ceremony, the kids all spent their time doing this:

The reception was at an old mansion.  Beautiful place, but there was lots of really old stuff that couldn't be touched.  Balian was thoroughly confused when I told him that he couldn't sit on a couch.  Poor kid just didn't understand why a perfectly good couch couldn't be sat on.  But, alas!  There was something the kids found they could do!  There was a train in the basement that they could control - moving the train, and causing the whistle to go off.  The boys LOVED it!

The next day we started our 3-day journey back home.  We stopped in Louisville, KY and in Hot Springs, AR.  The little ones had the most fun in Hot Springs, mainly bc we were able to spend some extra time playing in the morning, since we didn't have as long of a trip our last day.  They loved going on the trails, back and forth, back and forth.

over a bridge...

and just having fun. 

love those boys :)

There was another family just down from us and they had 3 kids, twins that were 5 and a 2-yr-old.  They were instantly friends.  We had a hard time pulling the kids back into the car to leave that day, even though they knew we would be home that night.

We had a ton of fun, but let me tell ya...there really is no place like home.  Even if you have to tackle the mile-high laundry mountain the next day.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Trust and Obey: Part 2

The Lord has been taking me on a wild ride.
If you recall from this post, God asked me to step down from Praise Team.

Back up to about a year ago.
I was feeling discontent, disconnected, and was kinda "going through the motions" when it came to Praise team.  For some reason, I just wasn't happy.  I was torn as far as what to do.  Do I step down?  But why would I step down?  I didn't even know where the discontentment was coming from.
I remember feeling a nudging from the Holy Spirit.  A "whisper", if you will.  It was simple.  The word "nursery".
I remember mentioning to my friend, Crystal, that I wasn't sure, but I thought God wanted me to step down from Praise Team.  She asked why.  I said I kinda felt like He was calling me to the nursery.  To teach the babies.  To teach parents and the other nursery workers that discipleship is entirely possible from birth on up.  To take back the time those little ones were in the nursery, and use it for teaching, rather than simply babysitting.
A month or so went by.
Finally, I talked with our children's pastor about stepping up into a teaching role in the nursery.  She said I was an answer to prayer!
At this point, even though I felt discontent, I didn't feel released from Praise team.  So, every Sunday I would sing during Worship, then once the grade-school kids were released to go to their class during the teaching time, I would go to the nursery.  I started out just doing music time with them.  I turned on a CD, let the little ones play with kids' musical instruments, and we sang or danced or shook egg-shakers or whatever.  After about a month, I started teaching them simple Truths about God.  So I would take a passage of scripture, and tell it to them in a way they could understand (hopefully), we would have a short prayer (like, a sentence), then we would have our music time.  This lasted about 20 minutes, tops.
While I was doing all of this, I just kept having this thought in the back of my mind.  I need training.  Yes, I have 3 kids.  Yes, these little ones were receiving teaching when they weren't before, but 15 minutes just didn't seem to me to be enough.  Perhaps because I was seeing first-hand how my kids were being taught at BSF.  Teaching happened during play, while diapers were being changed, while walking down the hall...teaching wasn't simply a Bible story, a prayer, and some singing.  It was teaching character.  It was the way they speak to the kids, and encourage them to "choose to obey".  I had this thought in the back of my mind that it would be so great to receive training through BSF as a children's leader.  I mean, if nothing else, it would be training me to be a better parent!  The end of the school year was approaching, and the Leadership team would be praying about who to ask to step up into those roles.  But even though the thoughts of training were there, I kept thinking that there was just no way that I could make the commitment required.  An additional morning for leadership training every week while trying to homeschool seemed out of the question.  And I had only volunteered in the children's area once or twice, ever.
Well, they didn't ask me to step up into leadership.  Part of me was bummed.  The other part of me was relieved.
At the beginning of the year, I signed up as a volunteer in the children's area whenever they needed someone.  They always need volunteers.  But the ironic thing is that I was never asked to volunteer. 

I kept on with praise team.  I kept teaching in the nursery.

Then God asked me to step down from Praise team.  The nursery and BSF children's leadership were there, in the back of my mind, but I suppose because nothing had changed, and I was already doing nursery while continuing on praise team, that I had just gotten comfortable being there.  We had been working on the CD, God had continued to bless me with songs, and music was feeling "right" at the moment.  I guess that's why it was such a struggle.  I suppose I was simply blind to what He was doing.  And oh, don't forget how forgetful I can be.  I wasn't even thinking about the connection with nursery.
So I stepped down in obedience, but received little no direction otherwise.  I just had to wait.
In the meantime, the nursery director and myself were on the same page, wanting to pour even more into the little ones.  We got a curriculum and started alternating weeks teaching.  Yay!
This went on for about 2 months.

After realizing that other ladies in my BSF class had been asked to volunteer in the children's area multiple times, and I still hadn't been asked at all, I finally asked someone about it.  Apparently my volunteer form had been misplaced somehow, but they got my name again, and said they would put me on the list.

My BSF group leader calls me weekly on Tuesdays.  About a month ago, she called me on a Monday.  I didn't think much of it, and our conversation went on the same as our week was going, how the lesson was kicking our butts, and if I had any prayer requests.
Then, out of nowhere she asks if I would pray about stepping up into a children's leadership role.  Not a volunteer, a regular teacher.  I hadn't even had the chance to volunteer yet!  I said I would pray about it.
Of course, it didn't take long to get my answer.  But I was so torn.  But being torn always means the same thing.

TORN- the state of battling between what I want and what God wants.  Being torn between flesh and spirit.

Usually when I feel torn about something it's because my flesh is saying one thing, and the Spirit is saying another.

I saw the impossibility.  I thought about my responsibility to teach Bella.  How would I get everything done?  Forget cleaning the house!  I was looking at my schedule, and I just didn't see how I could possibly commit to Tuesday and Wednesday mornings...and how I could possibly get to both of those days even earlier, when I was hardly ever making it to BSF on time as it was!

But God...
How many times do we see those words throughout Scripture?  Countless.

The Lord encouraged me to open up my planner.  To truly look at how I spend my time.  How much time do I waste on meaningless things?  how much time was I wasting simply because I was stressed out or worried?  Was it truly impossible?
God never fails to amaze me.
When I sat down and actually looked at all of the necessary things that needed to be done, there was room for it all.  All of Bella's schoolwork, without cutting corners, free play for the kids, Bella's Gymnastics, chores, BSF, BSF training, and I even discovered extra time that could be set aside for play dates or trips to the farm for milk!  
Neil gave me his support, so I set up a time to meet with the BSF leader.  In that time, I just kept receiving confirmations.  We tried out our tentative new schedule, and we loved it!  I felt less stressed.  I felt like I actually had some free time.

After meeting with my leader, there was all kinds of paperwork, background check, references, etc. that had to be done...but, The Lord caused everything to get filled out, approved, checked, and people called almost overnight.

Last Monday, Neil attended his first BSF Men's class ever.  

Last Tuesday I attended my first Leadership meeting.  I left in awe.  I felt like a dwarf among spiritual giants.  How in the world did I receive the absolute privilege of being spurred along by such amazing women of God?  And talk about training in prayer!  Oh my goodness!

Of course, spiritual warfare had to come in at some point.  Neil having more accountability and getting into the Word more...ALL of us studying the same thing in the Word, causing much different conversations to take place at dinner and everywhere.  me stepping up into leadership.  all in the same week?  
But to me it was just confirmation.
On the way home from training, I started feeling like I had fever...a couple hours later the body aches started...great.  But God used my homeopath to heal.  By 11:45pm, no chills and no body aches.  By morning, I was feeling wonderful, minus a runny nose.
So, I started classroom training during regular BSF.  Observing the co-leaders.  Watching how they handled discipline, teaching, and everything they do.

More spiritual warfare.  Everyone was battling sickness.  Neil got the flu-like symptoms I had gotten.  Again, God used Homeopathy to heal.  We still have sniffles.  All of us.  The enemy has attacked our home - the atmosphere, children's obedience, my moods, attitudes, etc.  I left Leadership training this week in tears.  Not because of being overwhelmed with what I need to learn, but because the enemy was attacking me with condemnation.  Making me feel like I was in no place to teach children.  Bringing on the guilt. 
BUT...God has a way of transforming us and we are never the same.  Two months ago, I would have given in.  I would have started feeling guilty, condemned, and had a horrible attitude.  Not this time.  I stood on God's promises.  I claimed God's Truths.  That He had called me to this place.  

What I didn't realize when God called me to step down from praise team was this:
He was calling me to give up something that wasn't growing my faith, so that He could put me in a place where I have to have utter dependence on Him, so that my Faith could grow.
With praise team, I was going through the motions.  I wasn't depending on God to help me accomplish something.  I had been singing and doing praise team for so long that it was just simply what I did.  It wasn't growing my faith.  It wasn't requiring dependence on Him alone.

The battles that I have fought haven't been for nothing.  If I felt like I was Mom of the Year, I wouldn't be as dependant on God right now, and He wouldn't receive the glory for everything going on.  But because of the struggles, because of my feelings of unworthiness, God is able to show me that He does not choose us based on good works, or how powerful we are, or the strength of our character.  No.  His Grace is based on His Goodness, not mine.  He reminds me that I am hidden in Christ (Col. 3), so that he no longer sees me and my filthy rags, but instead sees the Righteousness of Christ.  I can't claim to understand it, but I stand on it, in Faith.

I also know that the enemy has a way of attacking God's people in the exact place that God is calling them to.  His goal is to discourage.  To make us feel as though we will never be able to do the very thing that God wants us to do.  I have had to battle with thoughts of "how could I possibly teach other people's kids, when I don't even feel like I'm doing anything right with my own kids?"  Isn't that so sly of the enemy?
Months ago I journaled this thought: 
"Could orphans be my destiny?  Could taking care of many children be the very thing that You want me to do?  Children have been my passion, yet it is with my own children where I feel the most vulnerable to lies from the enemy.  Could you be pruning me back, testing my patience, and building my character with my own flesh and blood, so that those children that are not from my own flesh receive true love that embodies and exemplifies Your Nature? "

God uses every bit of it for His Glory.  He uses it to draw us closer to himself.  To prune us.  To refine us.  To put us in a place of complete surrender and complete dependence on Him.  To put us in a place where prayer is necessary, then see how prayer works.
And where is God proving Himself to me right now?  Prayer.
I heard a quote from C.S. Lewis that ended with this: "prayer doesn't change God; it changes me."

It changes my thoughts.  It changes my attitudes.  It prepares me for Battle.  It draws me closer to the Savior.  And God uses it to prove Himself faithful.
He is always faithful.

He is causing all things to come together for Good.
He always does.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Conversation with Bella

  I know this is a very random post considering how long it's been since I posted anything, but this just brought my heart a strange Joy, and wanted to share.

Bella: Mommy, where am I going to live when I'm a mommy?
Me: I don't know, Bella.  You will live wherever God wants you to live.
Bella: Maybe I'll live in Granbury.
Me: Or somewhere else in Texas, or Louisiana, or New York...
Bella: Or South America!
Me: Ha!  Yes, Bella.  Maybe South America.
Bella: I think when I get big I'm going to give food to children that don't have any.  What's that place called again, Mommy?
Me: South America?
Bella: No, no... The place we talked about yesterday.  The place where kids don't have food to eat...
Me: Are you talking about starving kids in Africa?
Bella: Yes!
Me: Bella, there are starving kids all over the world, even in America.  Not just Africa.
Bella:  yeah...I know, but I think I'll go to Africa.  Since the kids don't have any food, I'll just take a LOT of food with me to Africa so I can give it to them.
Me: you're going to take all the food with you?
Bella: Yes!  They need food!

The day before, Bella had complained that she was "STARVING".  I have issues with that term, because some people are truly starving, and we use the word so lightly to describe a slight discomfort when we haven't eaten in a couple of hours.  I'm sure I'm guilty of it too, but I suppose I'm noticing it more lately.
Anyway, I told Bella that she may feel hungry, but she wasn't "starving" unless she had gone a whole day or more (that is difficult enough for her to fathom at the moment) without eating, because she didn't have any food, or any money to get food.  Like kids in Africa that don't have food.  I then mentioned that there are children everywhere in the world starving.  America too.  This wasn't our first "talk" about those who don't have food, but apparently Africa stuck with her.  Apparently Bella is going to Africa.  And she's taking a lot of food.

But it makes my heart glad to see and hear her concern for those that she doesn't even know.
A child understands injustice and wants to do something about it.  Hungry children were obviously on her heart.
What is on mine?