Monday, December 8, 2014

Preparing....for the Prince of Peace

Every year at Christmas, I find myself deeply longing to feel some kind of Christmas Spirit. I dig out the Advent Calendars and books. I read the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus. Usually I make it to about day 5 before realizing that the Spirit of Christmas is something lost on me. Sure it's Jesus' birthday, I get that. But most December days don't feel any different than any other day of the year. I generally beat myself up over this and chalk it up to being a bad Christian. Well, this year - I've made it to day 8 of Advent and I have no intention of stopping. God has shown up in a very unique way for me this year.

Advent. (Noun) the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.

The past three years have held more despair and hopelessness then I ever thought I would face. After the adoption of our last child, I've been stretched in ways I never imagined - as a mom, as a wife, as a friend, as a Daughter of Christ. Not one aspect of my life has gone untouched from our "new normal". Over the past year, I have grown increasingly .... well .... hopeless. I have doubted God's ability to redeem the hard and broken. Scratch that - I have not doubted his ability to do so, I have doubted that He will do so. In adoption there are many wounds, much betrayal, hurts that run deep, anger, resentment and frustrations. And I'm not just talking about the child. In the words of Dan Allender, "Betrayal begets betrayal". Or more fittingly, hurt begets hurt. In other words - a vicious cycle full of sorrow and bitterness can quickly become the norm when parenting a child that has been taken from Plan A.

Plan A? You won't ever hear me say the words that God planned for my adopted children to be mine. At least not in the sense that those words at face value would mean. Adoption was never plan A. Our children who have come to us from another mother should not be with me. They just shouldn't. Their world's were broken. And in typical God fashion, He is redeeming the brokenness through adoption. But redemption comes with a cost. It comes with pain, loss, sorrow and much effort.

What does any of this have to do with Advent?

This year, the book I picked up in my effort to "get it right" was, Good News of Great Joy - Daily Readings for Advent, by John Piper. It has been like water to my dry soul the past 8 days.

For starters, on Day 1 - I was challenged to prepare. Piper writes, "...engage in sober self-examination. Advent is to Christmas what Lent is to Easter. "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" (Psalm 139:23-24) Let every heart prepare him cleaning house." He goes on to write, "Is not my word like fire, says the Lord! (Jeremiah 23:29) Gather 'round the fire this Advent season. ..... It is healing for a thousand hurts. It is light for dark nights."  I LOVE that picture!

(By the way, I'm writing outside by the fire at this very moment. I'm freezing. Oh, but the fire....)

In all my years of going through Advent readings and candle lighting's, I don't recall a year that the single word - Prepare - has actually hit home for me. Prepare for what? I'm not an Israelite. He already came. Am I supposed to be preparing for his second coming? What do I, as a 21st Century Christian, prepare for during the month of December?

A few days later, I was hit with this fantastic truth: "Do not think, because you experience adversity, that the hand of the Lord is shortened. It is not our prosperity but our holiness that he seeks with all his heart. And to that end, he rules the whole world."

In a season of feeling such failure and hopelessness - these words held much healing.

I could write you tidbits from each day that have been especially meaningful - but you should just download the (FREE) book for yourself.

You're probably wondering how these two worlds collide - the world of our growing family and the hardships that have come over the past three years and Christmas.

Allow me to tie it up with a pretty red bow.

Every year, the day after Thanksgiving comes and I am determined to "get it" this Advent season. I want to really get it! You know....Jesus is the reason for the season and all that jazz. But every year, my heart goes basically unchanged. Glittery things, yummy foods, party and presents all take over. Oh forgive me, Lord. This year, however, I entered December broken. Not just because of the hardships we face with a child, but because of many areas...remember all those areas that have not gone untouched? Yeah. Them. In this particularly hard season, I chose on December 1 to prepare him room. It's hard to prepare room for someone when you don't really think they will show up - but my hearts desire is for Him to show up, so I made the bed and vacuumed the floor. And guess what? He showed up.

In the past week, I have had a couple of moments with our daughter that I have longed for since the day she came into my care. Hard moments, but needed and good moments. And then it hit me. God came down to this very broken hers and my very broken world... to offer hope. Most years during Christmas, I haven't let myself reach broken. The problem with this is that Jesus didn't come to redeem the glitter and the gifts. He came to redeem the broken. He came to give us peace, and hope, and joy everlasting. But to see the areas of our heart that need such a savior doesn't feel good. And I want to feel good during December. So I'll just say the right words, go to the appropriate amount of church events and call it good. How backwards. I shudder to think that had I not prepared the way, this year would have passed like any other. And on December 26, I would feel just as lost and hopeless. But in my state of longing for redemption, of longing for a Savior....He showed me today in such a unique way that he indeed is redeeming all that I am walking through. It's what he came for. It's what he does.

He offers redemption. He offers hope. He offers peace. He offers joy. To the willing heart, he IS Advent....the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.

So this Christmas season I ask you - what are the broken and hopeless areas of your life? Where have you given up? Where do you NOT see his hand? Where are you waiting for the Messiah to come? Where do you need peace? Go there. Because these are the moments that Jesus came to redeem. I urge you, prepare Him the way!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Ghost of Christmas Past....and Present

I am often asked about how things are going with the new Church, how can people be praying, etc.... It has been a hard question for me to answer more often than not, but I do have something that has been on my mind lately that I wouldn't mind inviting you into.

The Holidays.

For the past 15 years, my children have lovingly been referred to by anyone who ever grew up in the church as, "Church Rats". What that has meant during the Christmas season specifically, is that our family traditions look very different than most. During the month of December, it sometimes has felt like we are at church more then not. Well, I guess the honest truth would be that it has felt like Aaron was at church more than he was home. There were various Christmas concerts to be planned and executed, other ministries that required his services (or mine), Town Holiday Parades, Caroling, Staff Christmas Parties, Worship Team Parties, Small group parties, and obviously - the infamous Christmas Eve Service (not to mention the Sunday before and after Christmas Eve). It was A LOT. Somewhere throughout the years I began to call Aaron, Scrooge. He would tire quickly of Christmas music and anything else remotely "festive" that was required of him during the month of December. All the meanwhile, I love the idea of tradition and all things Christmas, and have tried so hard to make our December's meaningful to our kids despite our weird schedule. I did not want them to look back on the Ghost of Christmas Past with disdain for the church.

December has always been an exhausting month. For the first few years at our last church, there was a family that had the sweetest gesture - they would bring us a Honey Baked Ham on Christmas Eve. Most years, I struggled with the gesture, as I had not expected the gift and had already purchased all the food for the next day. One year we had a particularly busy December, and I was so looking forward to our Christmas Ham...knowing that I at least got off the hook for the fancy Christmas dinner. The ham didn't come that year. I was so sad. We went out for dinner to Dave and Busters that Christmas Day. I cried. The kids loved it.

That story had nothing to do with anything..... sorry....

Now, lest you think I'm bragging to the World Wide Web about all we had to do and how amazing of a mom I am to make it special for our children, let me just tell you - I did not do it well. I would complain and sulk and huff over the hours that Aaron was away from us. As for the day of Christmas Eve itself, which most years required a 10 hour day for Aaron, myself AND our children - it took a lot of effort to go into that with joy. As long as I could sing my favorite carol, "Oh Holy Night" - I would find a way to settle down. (You think I'm kidding. My poor husband has had to deal with me for 15 years. I'm not kidding.) It took even more effort to get our kids to go into it with joy (admittedly so because of the expectations I had put on the season). . Every year they would moan (just like their mother) about how they just wanted to go look at Christmas lights and eat our Christmas Eve chili at 6 pm instead of 9 pm. Turns out, letting them have the run of the church, letting them eat the food I would bring for all the other volunteers, be a part of the band, and dress up as Nativity Scene creatures did the trick.

Our Little Church Rats

She's with the Band

Oh night....Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevvvvvvvviiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnne.

I'm sure he was singing some Christ Tomlin song in this picture...or Barenaked Ladies.

This year, for various reasons, there is no Christmas Eve Service, programs or concerts for us. (Except for our 6 month anniversary/Christmas Party.....but that's just super cool.)  We will just be a normal family this December. Two weeks ago, my kids began to realize that this year would be different. We would not be at church all of December, but mostly all day on Christmas Eve....and they were not okay with this. They truly have come to view our 10 hour "work day" as tradition, and while we all complained about it every year to some degree - they loved it....who am I kidding ..... we loved it. We are all feeling the weight of our new normal, because the last 15 years is what we have known. It's what WE did. It has become tradition. I say weight because traditions don't come quick, nor do they come easy. This year we have to get to start over.

So there was my really long story about how you can pray for us. There has been an increasingly growing amount of "new norms" for us during this season....and I'm not always doing well with it. Whether it is because I miss the people, miss the places, or miss the traditions and am not sure how to start again....I don't know. Probably some of each. But it just doesn't feel like "Christmas" this year. And I don't like that. So pray we develop new traditions, pray we enjoy being with each other this December, pray our kids (and me) do not grow weary with the many changes, and I suppose same as before - pray they do not look back on the Ghost of Christmas Past with disdain for the church.

One special little gift I have from season's past was when Aaron and I had a band with some very dear friends. We made a little 3 song Christmas Album to gift to our church that year. Take a listen. And feel free to mock us.

Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel
 Glory to God
 Jesus Came to Save

And if you get nothing else from this blog post, know that your Pastor, Minister, Reverend, Father, going above and beyond this Christmas season....and his wife just may welcome a nice ham to take at least one pressure off. Me?? We'll be at Dave and Busters.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Old men, dope dealers and Pastors

When I was a kid, I remember the Pastor at our church being gifted a Cadillac. The only reason I know it was gifted to him is because he stood up in front of the church one Sunday morning in defense of his new, sweet ride. As I remember it, the rumor mill had begun about how in the world could the Pastor afford a new, luxury vehicle (Gasp!) - and he felt the need to defend himself. 1) It was a gift. 2) Even if it wasn't, how was anyone to judge how he spent his money. Sadly, I've come to understand over the years his need for such a defense.

A month and a half ago, Aaron's car (which had been basically gifted to us four years ago) died. So we've spent the last several weeks trying to find something that would fit into our budget. Unfortunately, our budget for a new vehicle is currently non existent. As I was perusing Craigslist the other day, I asked Aaron why he couldn't have been a Dr. or something. To which my cheeky son turned to me in reply and said - "Why couldn't YOU have been a Dr., Mom?" Touche.

When I told my parents that Aaron needed a new car, they offered to give us my dad's old, dying (a slow death) Buick. Um, thanks Dad - we're good. My mom brought up that childhood story about our Pastor and said that maybe someone would give us a Cadillac like Pastor Bob got. Haha. Very funny.

A good friend -a young woman at our church who also happens to live off the support of others - told us that she was praying for someone to gift us a car. Um. Right. Who does that? Outside of our close friend who gifted us her vehicle four years one really just gives someone a car, right? Well, my friend started spreading the word that people should pray for us to be gifted a car. Even Aaron and I joined in her prayers. Every day I sang in worship - "Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz!"

Philippians 4:19
And my God will meet all your needs according to the 
riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Mathew 7:11
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts
to your children, how much more will your
Father in Heaven give good gifts
to those who ask him?

This week some friends contacted us telling us that their Grandfather was needing to get rid of his vehicle. It only had 130,000 miles on it, he was the original owner and has taken great care of the vehicle. They would like for us to have it. What?!?!? Really God? WOW! You are really answering our prayers with this ....... you all see what is coming, right? A Cadillac. Not just any Cadillac. A 1989 Cadillac Seville. In the words of our friend who offered it to us, "it is the vehicle preferred by old men in their 80's and dope dealers". Well....apparently the Cadillac is now for old men in their 80's, dope dealers, and Pastors.

Isn't she a beauty???!!! (this pic is for you Angie O.)

That was a pretty story, huh? Just perfect! Isn't it so great how God meets our needs?

Yeah....let me tell you the rest of the story. Wanna know what is NOT pretty?

My heart.

When our friends first told us about this car, I texted my friend and asked why she couldn't have been a little more specific with what kind of car to gift us. Maybe a pretty Volvo Wagon? A sharp Honda Accord? A Mercedes? I told her I blamed her for the fact that we would be the new owners of a 1989 Cadillac Seville.

I have cried about having to receive this gift...and not tears of joy. I have begged Aaron to let me drain our accounts to purchase ANYTHING but this vehicle. A Princess doesn't drive an old man, dope dealing Cadi. Why does it have to be this car? I'm tired of being a charity case. I always feel like a charity case. Why is this our life?

Yes, that really was my response to God's gift. I looked him right in the face and spat on him. I denied his goodness. I wanted to deny his gift. I wanted better. Don't I deserve better? It took him all of about 5 seconds to give me a big fat spanking in the form of conviction. He longs to give us good gifts, and he had just given us one. A safe, reliable, FREE vehicle. Pay no attention to the aesthetics.

Into my heart he brought a wave of reassurance that in his love and provision for me, he gets to do it His way. And his ways are always best. God actually had different plans for the measly $500 we had set aside for that car, and I'm so in awe of how he orchestrated the entire thing. Once I saw the actual purpose for that $500 that he had, I couldn't help but stand in awe and give him all Glory. Now I'm moved to tears of joy and thankfulness.

There are a few things in my life that have been lingering for several years that I have been begging for God's provision, his gifts, for his hand to intercede. I wonder how many times I miss his gifts to me because in my Princess mentality - I don't see them as good enough. So I keep moping around, asking for him to provide, telling him that what He's doing just isn't good enough. All the meanwhile I'm missing the beauty of the bigger picture of how he is orchestrating everything. Oh what a wretched (wo)man I am.

So I repent. And I say thank you. I may never will never love this incredibly ugly, old vehicle - but I will love what my God has done through it. And every time I look at it or (shudder) have to drive it - may I be reminded that He is the giver of all things good. In His time. In His way.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Out of joint

There never seems to be a shortage of running or gardening metaphors when it comes to our spiritual lives. I like that.

As a runner (I hesitate to call myself a runner anymore, but I'm going with it for now) - some verses and analogies just make my heart a little clearer to me at times.

I was reading in Hebrews 12 today. (And all the other Runners are rolling their eyes right now...)

Heb 12:1 (ESV - emphasis mine)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us

Some translations would say - "let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles or ensnares us".

So that verse is kinda obvious, right? As I kept going though, another piece of chapter 12 stood out to me that never has before.

Heb 12:12-13
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

I've been in and out of this sport I've come to love for the past 2 years now due to some bad knees and shins. I've recently taken to Crossfit with the hopes that some muscle balance and strengthening will help me heal up enough to get back to running. So how very practical to read - "strengthen your weak that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed".

But then I started taking this running and joint metaphor and using it as a lens into my heart. I had originally been meditating on the first part of Hebrews 12...thinking through those pesky sins that cling so closely. So when I got to verses 12 and 13, I took pause. How does one, in light of the sin that entangles us, strengthen what is weak so that it may be healed? Training of course. Just a different kind of training.

I can't keep running to strengthen my weak knees. That just doesn't make sense. (Although I've known and read about many runners who do try that...) So in the case of sin, to go on sinning in the areas we know are sin obviously does not lead to healing. There's this thing called muscle memory, where our muscles find a way they want to be (or have been trained to be), and settle in a certain way....even if it isn't the way they are supposed to settle. This can cause all sorts of pain (and things being "put of of joint") if the muscle isn't healed and retrained. Our hearts are no different.

We have a choice: to lean into sin, or strengthen what is weak. I can act out of anger, or choose to overlook a wrong. I can grow bitter or I can forgive. I can despair or I can hope. I can cling to my "vices", or I can come broken to the feet of Jesus. 

It's a choice. And as with everything, the Bible generally has the answers to my silly little questions. So how do I make straight paths for my feet? What is the Crossfit for my soul?

Proverbs 3:5-8
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

And in all of this, I'm ever so grateful that it is in repentance and rest that my salvation is found, and that quietness and trust is my strength (Isaiah 30:15), because I cannot say I've been strengthening these weak knees or lifting these drooping hands very well at all.

Clinging to new mercies today.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bowling Buddies

For as long as I can remember, my Mom has gone bowling every Thursday morning. Yes. Bowling. She's had a handful of friends that have lasted through the years. I remember our families getting together for outings and vacations, Christmas cookie exchanges, and Bible Studies that all included the same general group of friends. I don't know that I realized how sweet of a thing that was until recently.

Being an adult is hard sometimes. Jobs change, kids are crazy, friends move. It makes community hard more often then not. Darn adulthood.

With adulthood comes the analogy of settling down - letting your roots grow deep. I guess that's what my parents did. I don't remember many of their close friends moving away or leaving the "circle" (or heaven forbid, the bowling league). We moved away once, but came back after a year or so. The same friends were there to welcome us back.

There's a tree I saw in Uganda. It was a massive tree, but the roots appeared to all be above ground. Open to the elements. Perhaps easily destroyed? Strong, but exposed. Then there is the maple tree in my backyard. Huge. Lovely. Strong. Shelter. Home.

I guess I would say I feel more like that tree in Uganda then I do the 70 year old Maple tree in my backyard that has roots so deep it destroys the entire blocks sewage system. (Not really...I don't think.)

I've tried my entire adult life to set and grow deep roots. God has had other plans, I suppose. We've moved away from family, friends, churches and cultures (seriously - have you ever been to South Jersey? For this Nebraska girl - talk about culture shock!). We've changed jobs and churches and neighbors. I've lost track of how many children I have and where they came from. Life seldom has seemed settled. I find myself often wondering if that is just a thing of our generation and the time we live in, or if it is our choices and God's plan in our life. Whatever the case may be - it can often just feel lonely.

Thanks to the introduction of Facebook, one can have over 1000 friends and still feel very alone. Ask that person how many deep and meaningful relationships they have in "real life" and you may be shocked. But this isn't a post about Facebook. (However, FB hasn't helped....)

I don't believe I am alone in my pursuits to belong. Believe me when I say that I've tried it all. I've joined moms groups, Bible studies, play groups. business ventures, adoption groups, groups for Pastors wives, PTO, hobby related groups, running groups, cycling groups, and most recently CrossFit (Lord help me). It's how we - the human - move toward belonging. We search for those who are like us and we play the game. We cry out to know and be known. Sometimes the cry is heard, and other times it isn't. Most of my ploys for community have come up very short for many reasons. Maybe I should try bowling. 

Church planting has created an entirely new dimension to this. It's very strange to be living in the same town for 13 years....only to find yourself starting over (to a degree). I have not done well with this aspect of our new life. 

I wonder if the women of generations past have dealt with this. Didn't they just sit around knitting and quilting all day? That sounds glorious to me. Except for the whole knitting and quilting part. But to be with people all day who know us....and get this...still love us??? That sounds beautiful.

But today it just feels like we hide. We hide behind our kids, our jobs, our families, our status, our agenda. Mix that with the reality of life - new jobs, new locations, etc....and well, how many people feel alone? Unknown. Unnoticed. This is not good. 

Roots are roots, I suppose. Above ground or below. So I can try to choose to see my above ground roots as strong and meaningful... not as something to easily be destroyed, mowed over, climbed on and given over to all of natures elements. I have roots that stretch far and wide. I have roots in Nebraska, New Jersey, Ethiopia, Uganda, Cypress, Australia, Minnesota, California, Missouri, Florida, Alaska. Christ Community Church, CORE, The Lighthouse, Flatirons, Calvary and Gospel Life. I may not be leaving the same communal legacy my parents left for me - but I pray that our vast roots reach down to our children and their children as meaningful and purposeful. Oh, may I live with purpose. Be it alone or be it with a tribe.

Being an adult is hard sometimes. Saying goodbye, changing our worlds, it's just hard. And to be honest, terribly lonely some days.

Anyone up for bowling?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A mother's heart - for all the children we never could hold.

I saw a few posts today on Facebook about National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day. You know, one of those days you probably wouldn't know was a "day" until you did see it floating around on social media.

Well, I joined in. 1 in 4 women suffer from the loss of a child. That's a lot of women! And having been there, I believe it is something to mourn. Some women are effected by this loss more than others for various reasons. But that doesn't so much matter. A life is a life is a life. And with the loss of life, mourning and grief is called for.

Our oldest daughter was just shy of one year old when we found out we were pregnant again. I still remember showing Aaron the pregnancy test that evening. I remember calling our families. I was thrilled. We were having another child! Fourteen weeks later, God had a different plan. I found out the child in my womb had died. And because I was fourteen weeks along, they did not want me to wait to "pass" the child on my own. So I went in for surgery (but only after 6 ultrasounds to be SURE). A D&C is what they called it. At one point, the Dr. referred to it as a "spontaneous abortion". That didn't seem right. I did not choose this. I was heartbroken. This child had grown in me. I fell in love with her from the moment I thought she may be. Before that, probably. I had the procedure done, and all I remember is waking up from surgery with the most incredible void I have ever felt in my life. My womb was empty. My child was not safe with me where she belonged. She was gone.  Forever. That is a feeling that I cannot put into words. But I know I am not alone. 1 out of every 4 of you know what I'm talking about (assuming you are females).

I grieved. A lot.

A song called, Glory Baby, by Watermark was on repeat for months. I would drive the NJ Parkway with Providence asleep in the back and that song playing over and over and over.

Glory Baby, you slipped away as fast as we could say baby. You were growing. What happened Dear, you disappeared on us baby. Heaven will hold you, before we do. Heaven will keep you safe, until we're home with you. But I'll miss you everyday, miss you in every way, but we know there's a day when we will see you. So baby let sweet Jesus hold you, till mom and dad can hold you. You'll just have heaven before we do.

13 years later, and I just typed those words out from memory as if I had just thought of them. They hold fresh in my heart as if it were yesterday. Sara Allison Britton was my daughter. For 14 short weeks, I got to love her. I got to bond with her. I was the only one who knew her. Other than Jesus. He did knit her after all, however perfectly imperfect in my womb. And I believe that her days were known and ordained from the beginning of time - just like yours or mine. She is whole in the arms of Jesus. I'm jealous.

Over the years, I have had some dear friends suffer the loss of children in a depth far greater than I had to endure. It's been heartbreaking. So it seems funny to talk about what I went through. It really could have been worse. I suppose that's always true though, isn't it??? It could always be worse? But women everywhere who have to deal with the loss of a child at any age need to know that it is okay to grieve. A mother loves her child from the second she knows she is carrying the child - which is generally long before a test shows the little pink line. I actually took solace in this truth. If the greatest command is to love God and love others - what an amazing privilege it is as a mom ... I am the only one who knew my daughter - to be the one to have loved her. But that lost love left a broken piece of my heart that I will forever carry.

A mother's love is fierce. It is not to be reckoned with. I've never tried.  
Instead I will carry that brokenness and that love with me.

This is long and sad. Sorry. I'm not done yet, though.

So having experienced such a real pain, and knowing friends who have suffered more than I - where I'm about to take this feels risky. But here I go.

I have now birthed three children, and adopted two. I remember vividly during our first adoption process having a conversation with a man who asked me how I knew I could love my adopted child as my own. We joked about how guys need to see and hold their child to begin to actually love THEM (rather than the idea of them), and women just know and love. I laughed - remembering Sara. While Aaron was a rock during that time - he did not KNOW Sara as I knew her. I told him it was similar to that. While I knew and loved my children from the moment they were growing inside of me, the same was true for my adopted child. I didn't need to see him or hold him. I just knew that I knew that I knew that he was to be mine, and I loved him with this fierce love that claimed him as so.

When Aaron and I began the adoption process the second time around, I very nonchalantly blogged about HOW we started the process, and the two boys involved in bringing us to the place of adopting again. So here is the part that seems calloused to say after having lived through miscarriage and the pain I've seen my friends go through  .....

I was asked this summer what made us pursue adoption the second time around, and for some reason - I began my story talking about these two boys. And I began to cry. WHAT?!? Where in the world did that come from?

The last few weeks, these two boys have come back to my heart and mind in a way I cannot explain. I have cried for them and prayed for them. The good news is, they were probably adopted by someone else. So they are, Lord willing, living a good life. But wow. My mom heart had taken these boys in as if they were my own. If there is such thing as an adoptive miscarriage - I had one with these boys. When we decided to not pursue adopting them, I told Aaron at the time that it felt like I had lost Sara all over again - that is how deeply I loved these boys. But I pushed their memory aside, and for some reason - it has returned. They too, left a piece of my heart broken - never to be whole again. And I don't know what to do with the sorrow.

I know that last paragraph came out of left field (who am I kidding....I know nothing about sports  - what does left field even mean?). But it's where I have been the last few weeks. And it is an awful feeling. So today when I saw that it was National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day, my heart was to encourage moms that it is OKAY to grieve the loss of your unborn child. And maybe even to tell myself that it is okay to grieve the loss of these two boys. Maybe? I pray they have a mom and a dad that love them as much as I did. Do.

For all the Glory Babies:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Though You Slay Me

If Bloggers blogged (what a funny vocabulary the Internet has brought about) about a bad day, or a hard season, or a friend struck down, or a marriage that was struggling, or loneliness, probably would feel pretty uncomfortable, wouldn't it? Yet every single one of us goes through seasons where we feel uncomfortable....where we feel broken. So why is it uncomfortable to read of someones suffering, I wonder?

In response to some stuff in my own heart right now, and also those around me that I am seeing wrestle through things un-imaginable to me - a song has resurfaced that made its way around the inter-webs a while back. So if you are in a tough season right now, may this bless you.

My favorite line from John Piper in the middle of the song is this:  "Every millisecond of your pain from the fallen nature or the fallen man...every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that."

Did you catch that? "In the path of obedience". Obedience is HARD when you are slain.

Still let our song be:

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fighting for Joy (even when you aren't happy)

**I'm breaking the rules and putting an update BEFORE you read this. Reading through my post, I decided I sounded kind of preachy. Please know I'm preaching to myself. Full's been a tough season - give or take 3 years. So these thoughts, while gleaned from the world around me, are mostly a full reflection of my own heart. I hope you leave here encouraged.**

Joy. It's been on my mind A LOT lately.

I've decided that Christians are some of the most depressed people I've ever met. Now before you get your panties all up in a bunch, just hear me out. We know Jesus. We are called into joy. We are taught through suffering that joy and happiness are two very different things. The Bible doesn't call us to be happy, it calls us to have joy. For those who don't know Jesus, they probably don't have much joy either - but they are really good at faking happiness (or actually just BEING happy), so it often appears that they have more joy. (That sentence made my head hurt. Sorry about that.) But Christians seem to feel the weight of this world, and it robs us of our JOY to the point that we can't even fake happiness. Isn't this world supposed to be better than this? We have Jesus. Surely there is more. Surely it shouldn't feel this hard.

But there in lies our fault.

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, for I have overcome the world." John 16:33

I've been pondering a few reasons why it is so hard for Christians to have joy.

1) We fall into a belief that because we follow Jesus, because we've committed everything to Him - that He in turn will remove our sufferings, our sorrows, our pain, our troubles. I mean, really God? I give you everything! The least you can do is take this cup from me. There's two problems with that. One being that He TELLS us in His word that we will have troubles. Why we expect different is beyond me. The second being, He didn't take the cup from Jesus when he was facing death on the cross for the entire world. But us? Somehow we truly believe that we should not have to face the sin and suffering around us.

2)  We think that because God seems to have miracles working in everyone else's favor, and everyone else's lives look better than ours - that somehow we got the short end of the stick. We have some pretty huge spiritual Giants that show us throughout History what the "short end of the stick" really is. Sarah (she waited for just a few years - give or take 90) for her hearts desire to come to be....that of having a child. I was depressed and questioning God when I had to wait one year. In the world of our hearts desires and dreams though - time is a big issue when it comes to joy. Noah had to face all sorts of extremes (including Rock People, apparently) while he waited for the earth and humanity to be renewed. Most of us can't handle when the sun doesn't shine for 3 days straight. (If you suffer from weather related issues, remember this dude.) David was obviously a man of sorrows, depressed, bi-polar, name it. Solomon? Don't get me started. Men!! Think of having that many wives? Tell me your heart didn't just sink from the thought alone! And besides that, have you READ Ecclesiastes? "Nothing new under the sun" doesn't exactly bread hope and joy. Job? Duh. Paul? When is the last time you were in prison for spreading the Good News? Jesus. Ouch. Yeah....we have it pretty good.  (Disclaimer: I KNOW our lives are still hard. Stay with me.)

The other major flaw in this is that we quickly become "one-issue voters" (as Aaron likes to call it). We have one thing we cling to so tightly .... if God would just heal me, heal my child, heal my marriage, heal our family, pay off this debt, provide what we {think we} need ... THEN I would believe he loves me and truly is for me. We become so engrossed in these thoughts that we forget the many areas he HAS showed up. In this, we are called to REMEMBER the wondrous works he has done (Psalm 105). They are many.

If we choose to cling so tightly to the one area God isn't showing up the way we want and forgetting all the times he has, we've now reduced the size of the cross to fit neatly into our back pocket only to be pulled out when we need it....but it's hard to bring it back to full size when we've shrunk it for so long.

3) We think that if we struggle, it means we lack faith. So we muster up strength....we pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, put on our big girl panties.... We put on a smile and act as if. All the meanwhile, true joy is plunging further and further into the darkness. There is help and there is hope. And we live in a world where often times help and hope can be accessed by taking a tiny little pill on a daily basis. But if we do, its best that the other Christians don't find out for fear that they will see our weakness and question our faith.

This one I take many issues with. I've always prided myself on being the strong girl, so it's taken me a while to get to a place of "issue", but I'm finally there. Joy comes in the morning! And for many (including myself at times), that joy came in a prescribed bottle. There is no shame in this, Christians! Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and a myriad of other mental health afflictions are REAL. We do not have permission to use them as a crutch to avoid the hard, but we do have permission to (through Dr. supervision, counseling and/or Gospel community) deal with the mind so we can deal with the heart. I've decided it takes a much stronger person to admit their need for help than it does to pull up those bootstraps.

4) We live in a society/church that has two theological camps to chose from. Either we believe in prosperity theology, or we believe in martyrdom theology. Both are wrong. Jesus doesn't promise to give us everything, and he doesn't promise to withhold everything. For those who struggle with joy, finding a solid middle ground is trickier than one might think.

5) We lose sight of eternity. We blind our eyes to Gods sovereignty. Bottom line is this - How long will He leave us here? It's all too much. We can't handle when life is hard, because what does that mean about God? Is he causing this? Is he allowing this? If he dictates our successes and failures, then why try? He already knows the future, so what good are my prayers?

Life is messy. God makes something of messes. Life is hard. God offers a light burden. Life is sad. God makes beauty from ashes. Life is unfair. God brings about justice.

So Christian - I ask you this..... what is stealing your joy? I remember when I had young children. They were needy. To say the days were long would be an drastic understatement. I thought that diapers, fits, sleepless nights, long and lonely days, and Lego pieces scattered everywhere would be the remainder of my days. (The Lego one I am still wondering about.) Joy seemed out of reach. Mundane was the new normal. Lonely was the new black. And hopelessness was forever my companion. But that season has passed. Every seasons passes.

Are you committed to fight? Our joy was bought with a price. We deceive ourselves (correction, Satan - who came to steal, kill and destroy - deceives us) when we  think life is only hard for us. We deceive ourselves when we grow bitter in our sorrows. We deceive ourselves when we think everyone has it better. We are each uniquely called, uniquely gifted, uniquely pursued, and uniquely crafted in the Image of God to be a part of something bigger than we can imagine. I'm not saying you have to be happy about this. But God's word makes it clear that there IS joy in it. And honestly, to know the truth that our lives will measure up to be better than we could have prayed for or dreamed of??? Well, THAT is hope! It's up to us if we choose to cling to the joy and hope at our disposal or not.

We go to war with our sorrows with the truth of the Gospel ... so that joy may abound. Martin Luther nailed it when he said we must beat the Gospel into our heads continually. For it is through the Gospel that hope, peace and joy are at its fullest.

Brothers and Sisters.....may we CHOOSE joy today!

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may about in hope." Romans 15:13

Monday, May 26, 2014

The End of a.... Decade.

Yesterday marked the end of an Era in our family. More accurately, the end of a decade.

For the past 10.5 years, we've been at a great church in Boulder, Co where Aaron has served as the Pastor of Worship and Music; and more recently included Pastor of Young Adults.

That sentence felt very formal and resume-ish. Enough of that.

Yesterday was our last day serving Calvary Bible Church. It was incredibly bittersweet. I'll just get it out of the way now and admit that while I sang our last song (All To Us), I was a blubbering mess. For those of you who don't know me, this can be quite shocking for some. So much so that one friend after service stopped me in the hall and declared, "You cried!!!!" Another friend took the opportunity to snap a photo of the moment. There you have it. I have a heart. I feel. At least once every 10 years. The rights to the following picture belong to my friend, Michelle. I'm sure she grants all permission to use and abuse however you see fit.

We've had some amazing experiences over the past 10 years. We began at Calvary with 2.5 kids (one child in my belly + 2 on ground). We were 10 years younger. We added 2 children from Africa to our brood. We bought our first house. We started small groups and left small groups. We journeyed through the world of Orphan Care with many. We saw friends marry. We walked through sadness and life and joy and heartache with more people than I can count. We were blessed.

Over the past few years, it's been a growing desire in Aaron's heart to be involved in more "Pastoral Ministry". (I never much appreciate it when he says this - because I've never seen a Worship Pastor with more of a Pastor's heart than Aaron. It was evident in all he did. But that is neither here nor there.) So we have prayed and talked and prayed some more over the years. He brought it before our Pastor about a year and a half ago and together they began to talk about what this might look like for Aaron. A couple of months ago, it reached the point in our conversations with God that you just can't help but put that first step in the direction you believe he has for you.

So off we foot in front of the other. We are so thankful for the generosity and blessing that we left Calvary with. Healthy partings in churches, sadly, are a rare thing. This was just one of the many confirmations for us that we were heading in the direction God was asking of us. (There were many other confirmations...but you don't want to be here all night.)

There are a few questions that I hear repeatedly from people when they find out this I think I'll use this as a forum to answer them.

1) Are you crazy?? Yes. Yes we are. But with good reason. Leaving the comfort of security and embarking on the scary (yet exciting) road of the unknown is a crazy kind of thing that can only come from God ..... let's call it faith.

2) Where will you start your new church/Are you moving? We are not moving. God is planting us right where we are at. (I'm so tempted to begin to make numerous gardening metaphors. I'll save them...for now...) The neighboring town to us has not one single church in it. True. Not one. Um - we live in America right??? You know, the land where you can generally throw a rock and it will hit a church somewhere??  Yeah...not here. There is work to be done. The Gospel has corners to reach.

3) How do your kids feel about this? WOW. This was a hard one for me in the beginning. I had many sleepless nights over how our children would respond to this plan. With one child going into High School and one going into Middle School - we know that they are at important phases of their Christian life...or maybe their church life?? (That's probably another blog post...) What an answer to prayer it was when we actually talked to them about it for the first time. Aside from the cruel joke that Aaron played in beginning the conversation by telling them that I was pregnant (WHICH I AM NOT!), they all had such soft and open and even excited hearts about the idea. My favorite question was probably from Malachi - "Will there be a playground at the new church?" THIS is crucial to ones spiritual life. Seriously though, the kids have been amazing through this entire thing. I don't know why I get to be their mom....but I'll take it.

4) How are you? This question always makes me laugh. Um. Good? I don't know.... Scared, excited, nervous, hopeful, anxious .... it depends on the second you catch me in. I have all sorts of emotions wrapped up in this deal. Me and Jesus are working through each of them. All I know is that with my ever changing emotions - not one of them is unseen by him or left hanging. I will tell you this - seeing your husband do something that is so obviously from the Lord, and something he has longed for .... well, that's pretty amazing to watch. I'm glad I get to do this with him.

5) How do you start a church? This question is maybe my favorite. I really have no category in my brain for church planting. I've never done it. What I am finding so far, though - is that planting a church is much like anything else God asks of you - you put one foot in front of the other and pray HARD.

Logistically, we are finding there is much to be done. We form a 501(c)3. (I don't even know if I have the parenthesis in the right place on that!) We pray. We deal with Federal and State stuff. We scour garage sales for nursery/kids ministry items. We pray. We start to gather a Core group of people who are just as crazy as us and are willing to run with us. We pray. We begin fundraising. We pray....and then we pray some more about that one. We find a meeting place. We pray. We begin purchasing all sorts of things that one takes for granted when sitting in a pew on a given Sunday morning. We pray. We set up a home office (even if the pastor doesn't think this is necessary, the secretary does). We pray.

To sum it up..... one foot in front of the other and a whole lot of prayer.

I won't lie. Fear sets into my soul  very quickly at any given moment and with no notice at all. I have grown accustomed to the comforts of what I know. So this is scary work to me. BUT...all in all, I'm excited for the road before us. I'm not sure why God keeps calling us (me) into things that I just don't feel all that equipped for, but I suppose I'm not the first in history to feel such a weight. I'm so thankful for the many HARD but GOOD roads that God has lead us down over the years....especially recent years. I have the memory and proof of His faithfulness readily available to reflect on as we walk this new road.

With that...I leave you with the song that has been on repeat in my mind and on the stereo this past month. I've decided it's the song not of this past decade, or the next one - but of my life. (If you were in the second service at Calvary on Sunday, you now get to be left with TWO of my theme songs. You're welcome.) to update my blogging resume to include, Church Planting Wife. (eekk!)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Death to Political Correctness (a guide for adoptive families in talking to non adoptive people)

There has been a little video floating around Facebook lately - "If you wouldn't say it about a boob job (a guide for adoptive questions)". After 300 of my friends posted it, I caved and watched it. (I have to be honest, I was a bit turned off by the title. You never know what you will get if you click on a title like that....) The video really was cute and made me chuckle. As an adoptive mom, I've heard more times then I can count the things that people really do say to adoptive parents. (The same goes for the various lists out there of what to say/not say to adoptive parents or parents of large families. There's a PC list for everything!)

So why am I writing a blog post if I personally thought the video cute/funny? Well - because I think we (and when I say we - I'm talking specifically here about adoptive families) need to relax a little bit on how people speak to us about our life. (I think I'm about to lose half of my FB friends...)

Maybe instead of being so concerned with how others speak to us about our life choices, we could view the opportunities to speak truth about what adoption IS. My fear is that the many lists out there that give the PC way to speak to adoptive families (and videos like the Boob job video) only scare people away from asking us any questions at all. People who really want to know, even! I recently sat at dinner with some friends - most of us adoptive moms, but a couple not. One of the "nots" voiced that she saw the video and felt bad. She said she has so many questions about adoption, but doesn't ever ask them because she's afraid she is going to ask the wrong thing or in the wrong way. That broke my heart! If the adoptive community wants to continue to raise awareness, we have to be okay with people talking in whatever language they know lest they cease to ask! We can then answer them with whatever verbage we feel they need to know. (Personal example: "Do you have your own children or just the adopted ones?" "We had three biological children prior to adopting our two children who are now our own.")

I see adoptive parents CLINGING to this desire to be spoken to or about in such a way that even I get confused by. I've seen adoptive parents go off because another adoptive parent asked them questions that we should just know better then to ask. I feel a little bit like my non adoptive friends sometimes. I'm scared to ask! For instance, there is an obvious adoptive family at our school. I've often wanted to approach them - and an easy enough conversation starter would be our children who (*GULP*) look different then us. Very different. But I am afraid! I hear the voices of the adoptive families scolding other adoptive families for being so inconsiderate. I think that is messed up.

One last argument I hear from adoptive families surrounds the desire for adoptive comments, questions, or anything of the like to not be voiced in front of our children. I don't get this either. (I've now officially entered the contest as worst adoptive mom ever.) WHY? Why can't our kids hear the questions of others - as naive as the questions seem to be? PARENTS! We are doing our children a disservice if we shield them from the hurtful things people will say. We personally have had plenty of hurtful things said to us, about us, and all in front of our children. Should I shy away from those conversations or blog about how stupid some people can be? Or instead, maybe I could just respectfully interact with people who maybe just need a little bit more information, and explain to my children later that while these comments may feel hurtful to us (them) in the moment - they really don't need to be hurt. Maybe I could view these as amazing teaching moments for reminding my kids of the sovereign hand of God in their life, about how loved and treasured they are, and teach them to laugh at the world around them. Our children are going to grow up and always be faced with these hard questions/remarks from the outside world. Maybe we can choose to equip them with how to handle such moments gracefully. Maybe.

Whatever life choice you make, if it is visible to others - I do not believe you have the right to quiet the inquiring minds around you just because they say the wrong thing at the wrong time all out of curiosity. Yes, adoption, big families, homeschooling, insert other "weird" life choices here are private and very personal decisions. But we live in a public world. We can't have it both ways. We can't hope to raise awareness, want people to support/encourage us in our lives, or even help people understand us if we decide it is more important to mold them into this little PC person (thereby actually silencing them). My hope is that we would remain open to the questions around us - because you never know when one of them is the next adoptive family just not yet understanding our little world! (Disclaimer: Of course there are those obvious idiotic moments where the crazy person you don't even know in the store says the most offensive thing ever ... like the check out clerk asking me if my child has AIDS because he heard most kids in Africa do.... these are not the moments I am talking about. In those moments you just let your jaw drop and stand there staring at them until they realize how big of a fool they just made of themselves.)

Okay. That's all. I will step off my soap box now.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


According to the Jody English Language Dictionary, the pronunciation would be

Pan A Cookin

A friend recently posted a recipe on Facebook for an Apple Pannekoeken. I sat there looking at the word not knowing what in the world I was looking at. Then my 6 year old self reminded me.... my family lived in Minnesota for a short while when I was a child. There was a restaurant there (Pannekoeken Huis, I believe) that we would frequent. The big hit there was the most glorious fruit filled, fluffy pancake one could eat. As they came out with the piping hot dish, you would hear the waiter(s) yelling PAAAAAANNNNNEEEEEKOOOOOEEEEKKKKKKEEEEEENNNNN all the way to your table.

So I was excited to give this recipe a shot. I honestly don't remember if it is anything like what I devoured as a child, but it sure was yummy tonight!!! So I thought I'd share!

(Original recipe is from

Apple Pannekoeken

1 stick butter
1 1/2 c. flour
2 apples, peeled & sliced thin (I did NOT peel mine)
1 1/2 c. milk
6 eggs

Cinnamon & Sugar mix (I doubled)
        1/2 c. brown sugar
        1 t. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter in 9 x 13 pan, tilting to cover the sides. Beat flour, milk and eggs together until liquid consistency and pour into the pan. Arrange apple slices on the bottom and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mix. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 min. Pannekoeken will puff up in the oven and deflate rapidly when serving. Pass the syrup, and sausage for an easy supper.

You can use any fruit you want, really. My sister has been using banana's. blueberries, etc... I would not recommend tomato. Also, we did not use syrup due to doubling the brown sugar topping. I would like my children to sleep tonight.

It was so fun watching it come out of the oven big and fluffy and deflating once we cut into it. And you better believe that as I was walking from the oven to the table, I yelled:


Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Every small group has the Devil's Advocate. Last night I decided to play that role in a small little online study that I know, like several thousand small.

There's a book that I've been reading through that is doing AMAZING things in my heart and mind. It is EXACTLY the book I needed to read in where my life is at these days. It's called Restless, by Jennie Allen. Last night they launched a live online book study. To take part in the study, you just watch online, and you can tweet or send questions/thoughts via Facebook or Twitter. (hashtag restlessproject)

The point in this little post of mine today is due to a tweet that I made during the study. I was a little nervous when I posted it, knowing it would broadcast to a world of people who were not a part of the live study, and could easily be taken out of context. Here was the tweet:

Caution: If God is asking you for now to be "JUST" a wife and a mom, that's a huge calling. Don't think otherwise!

Well, I was right. It sparked a little fire as I suspected. Very little...but because I love ALL my Mom friends, I wanted to just put a few things on the table. And I'm going to throw this out there RIGHT NOW..... this is NOT a post about Working Moms vs. Stay At Home Moms. I urge all women to read to the end.

First, I want you to know the context behind why I posted what I did was because, as I said - I chose to play Devil's Advocate (but with good reason. Hang tight.). The live call was very much, in my opinion, stressing BIGGER dreams, and moving in our callings and our dreams even if it means we may have to stop being home with our children (if that's what we've chosen to do). The book itself processes through the emotions I, and many other women have surrounding such statements, but I was nervous for it to be just "out there" like that on Twitter with no other context. I started to shrivel up a bit at the idea of dreaming "bigger". Because for many of us, maybe instead of dreaming bigger, we need to start viewing what we are doing as bigger. And as for those specifically who have chosen to stay home with their children, buying into the lie that our life is worthless is an easy thing to do. There isn't much fame or glory in "JUST" being a wife an a mom, and can often times feel like we are dying a slow death more than living out a "calling".

Okay, so all of that said - I realize that my need for balance last night comes partly from my own insecurities. I won't lie. I've spent the last 14 years of my life feeling .... well .... worthless. I've had victory some days in drowning out such a lie, but it's probably safe to say that I sit in it more than fight it. I NEVER want a young mom to begin her career/calling as a wife and mom with such passion and conviction that she KNOWS she is doing what God has asked of her, only to be suffocated rather quickly by the monotony of it all. I don't want this because I know how awful it feels. So while I was so longing for this balanced perspective last night, it was my own thing. The book, Restless, is not written for people who are confidently living their callings. So the author has no reason to reach a balance. (Yet she really does do an amazing job in her book with it!) The book is written for those longing for purpose and change.

Fast forward a bit to a totally different topic that comes up a lot in this book - Comparison. Jennie Allen is quick to call out our sin of comparison. The comparison HAS TO STOP. All it does is either keep us from moving forward in our dreams, or cause others to feel lesser for having an appeared "smaller" dream.

Let's wrap this around to the working mom/stay at home mom issue. (Yes, I'm going to call it an issue. Because church??? We've turned it into an issue. I've never once heard it preached in church that women should stay home with their children. Yet as moms, we put up our bristles and feel the need to guard against attack ...but who is attacking??) Nowhere in the Bible have I found that women have to stay home with their children. We are told in Titus 2:5 to be "workers at home". I have seen lots of SAHM's who are NOT workers at home. I have seen lots of women who have a career outside of the home "work at home" in a way that puts me to shame. But what I mostly see is a comparison and a guilt that we have put on ourselves that divide women in either category. It.Has.To.Stop.

The heart of that matter is not what you do with your days. As with anything, it is WHY. Jennie Allen talks much in her book about checking your motives. So as a SAHM or a Working Mom, we SHOULD be checking our motives. If we choose to stay home or work a job all the while being driven out of fear, discontentment, guilt, selfishness, or identity issues - then we are sinning. In that, we may or may not need to redirect how we spend our days and seek what God has for us rather than what we have for us. To pull from the book, "We often desperately chase knowledge of "God's will for me" at the sacrifice of God's will." We cannot hide behind what our job is or isn't. We HAVE to lay it all before Jesus and ask HIM to be what guides our days.

Maybe God has you as a CEO of a company right now, maybe he has you as an amazing author or speaker, maybe he has you as a Doctor or a Lawyer. Or maybe he has you as JUST a wife and a mom. Why we throw the word "just" in there when it comes to being a wife and a mom and no other career on the previous list is not really helping. There is no "just" in any of our callings. If you are "just" a janitor, or "just" a Barista, or "just" a Sales Clerk - if we are living what God has asked us to live, then there should be joy and peace, not discontentment and struggle and a longing for BIGGER (which we translate as better in our comparison mindset).

Comparison, calling, dreams, passion, career, identity, purpose - these are all very loaded words that come with a lot of weight and angst for many of us. So find some friends and prayerfully dive into whatever God is asking of you. And if what he is asking is contentment for today - thank him and do whatever you are doing well. If he is asking you to come out from what is comfortable or known to you - thank him and run hard after what He has next for you. But let's just be careful to not put OUR callings on those women around us (unless you are a Hit Man, then I'm gonna go ahead and tell you that you are way off track). And lastly, as Jennie Allen is also such a fan of - let's CHEER EACH OTHER ON! Enough of the comparing and feelings of worthlessness and fear. I want to specifically direct that word towards the moms. Working out of the home or not ..... let us CHEER EACH OTHER ON toward a life submitted to Christ and HIS purpose for us. No guilt, no shame - only full on abandonment of self that we may replace with Jesus.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Embrace the pain

Would you rather live like a Zombie but pain free, or live in pain but feel ALIVE?

(For the record, I HATE the would you rather game. Because the answer is always - NEITHER!)

I'm in one of those weird places right now where my physical being is practically mimicking the emotional. So bear with me. Cheesy analogies and strange rants may or may be a part of this post.

I've battled physical pain for many years. Most of the time it doesn't interfere with life. Sometimes it does. Since June of this past year has been one of the "does" times. I've gone to various Doctors, undergone lots of expensive tests only to come up with nothing. I was most recently referred to the pain management clinic. The goal was more diagnostic than one of actually managing the pain. Long story short - I left the clinic without having the intended procedure done, but only after crumbling to pieces in front of the Dr. "It's just so hard to live in so much pain and not know why", was my cry to him. (No really, I cried. Shoot me now.) He was very compassionate and kind, and sent me on my way with some more drugs to experiment with. This would be all fine and good if I hadn't reached a point in January where I decided I was done with experimenting and certainly done with the drugs. I was feeling more and more like a Zombie...only I STILL wasn't pain free.

Sometimes it's just time to embrace the pain.

As for what this has to do with the emotional realm...allow me to {attempt to} tie my world together for you. (No pretty bow on top will be promised though.) Aside from the physical, I've found myself in some intense emotional pain over the past 2 years as well. I've slowly been crumbling to pieces because like I said to the Dr. earlier today - it's hard to live in so much pain and not know why. (Okay, so obviously I know WHY I'm in emotional pain...I just don't know WHY God has me here.) Following in suit with the medical world - I've examined, cut away, talked to all the specialist (AKA: the friends who are brave enough to enter into my drama), only to find myself heavily medicating...trying desperately to make it just go stop hurting.

We all do it at times. We look straight in the face of pain, be it physical or emotional, and immediately look for the closest Exit. Makes sense. Who wants to be in pain? We reach for the drugs (prescription or not), the alcohol, TV, books, sports, work, sleep, noise....ESCAPE. But let me just tell you that when you add all these things together (or even on their own), you can and will grow numb enough to not only block out any pain, but perhaps any good as well.

Enough with the silly analogies. I was a mess. I am a mess. (So are you, so don't judge me.) The medications, alcohol, food, running (physically and emotionally) has gotten me nowhere other then rock bottom. So like I said - in January I decided to be done medicating. Done with the drugs, done with running (emotionally). It was time to embrace the pain.

If it's true that there is supposed to be joy in the journey - it will be impossible to have such joy if all you are is numb.

I want to reclaim joy. (After all, the Joy of the Lord is my strength. Sometimes you don't really know what that verse means until you are lacking all joy and all strength at the exact same time.)

Getting to the place of being able to embrace the pain is NOT an easy task. There's no manual for it. But when God is asking you to stand broken, bloody and bruised before him - well, you may as well just do it.  He will not be fooled by the band aids. This could mean standing still. Or it could mean battling. For me, the last month in a half has required being silent. I needed the rest. Because now? Now it's time to battle. I will not let the pain win. My God is bigger.

Some would say: "But, Jody? It's too hard. I don't know where to start. Which pain/issue do I tackle first?" (Remember, we're talking about the emotional pain at this point. Keep up, folks.)

I don't know the answer to those questions. I do know it's not easy. When I take pause to look at the many areas that are broken, I can either become paralyzed by them, or just start fighting. For instance - the physical pain.... The absence of drugs means I have to learn to modify my life to do what I can. I don't like having physical limits. But I do. For example, my knee has stopped working for the past 7 months. (Which when running is your drug of choice...this is NOT helpful.) But I KNOW I feel better physically overall when my diet and my fitness are at an optimal level. Do you think I've enjoyed doing water aerobics or running 1.5 miles when I KNOW I'm capable of a MARATHON? Not at all. So I battle. Do you think it's easy for me to extend grace and love to the one person who is the hardest person for me to love? Not at all. So I battle. Is it easy to pursue my dreams and passions when everything around me seems to want to kill them? Nope. So I battle. Is it easy to stay when all you want to do is run away? Certainly not. Battle!

But the battle is not mine alone. I am not in this alone.

If it's true that God's power is made perfect in my weakness (again, one of those verses that is really hard to grasp more often then not) - then maybe it's time to embrace my weakness. Instead of running from who I am (the good, the bad, and the ugly), or dulling my senses when it is all too much - maybe it's worth a shot to let HIS strength and power be made perfect. How fascinating it would be to see HIM win the battle when I am tired, broken, afraid, lonely, and bruised.

 (**cheesy analogy alert**)
 JESUS is the ultimate pain management specialist. He can handle us crumbling to pieces. He is okay with us denying the fact he wants us to. He knows the full diagnosis even when we don't. And he isn't keeping it from us because we are a medical mystery (figuratively speaking) - sometimes he's keeping it from us because HE is strong and we???? Well .... we're not.

2 Corinthians 12: 7-10
7 ...... for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to [b]torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast [c]about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with [d]insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

**Please know that I have NO problem with taking prescribed medicine to manage pain. I believe God gave us brilliant Doctors and science to help us. But for me, I'm in a season where I feel he is asking me to....well...just embrace the pain.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Musings from a "recovered" Bulimic

Being underweight (by choice) is just as unhealthy as being overweight.

This year, for the first time ever - I followed along with the show The Biggest Loser. I'm inspired by the transformations and stories of how people get to unhealthy in the first place, then return to healthy. I just am. Because I am one of them.

However, last night I couldn't go to sleep after watching the finale. And I awoke to quickly run to the computer in hopes that TBL was addressing what everyone was feeling last night. The winning contestant did NOT look healthy. (To put it into perspective, I read that she is the same height as Karen Carpenter but weighed in 5 lbs less than Karen was at when she died of anorexia. Not sure if that is accurate, but the picture paints it well.) American's watched what quickly turned from inspiring to uncomfortable and concerning. The look on the Trainers faces said what we all were thinking. And yet she was rewarded for what is the opposite of the shows beliefs - being healthy. But this post isn't about TBL show, per say.

I promote weight loss, health, and athleticism for a living. So don't get me wrong - HEALTH is important. So why the disappointment with last nights show?? Well, because I also battled an eating disorder for 9 years of my life. Along with that, even though I can say I am "recovered" from the physical act - the battle in the mind of someone with an eating disorder is a hard one to win. So I was just sad for Rachel. So sad. To get to obese doesn't generally happen for no reason. Neither does anorexia or bulimia. There are issues that need to be dealt with in both scenarios - again, I speak as someone from both ends of the spectrum.

When battling overweight turns obsessive, well - you are securing yourself a need to start an entirely new battle. Same story, next chapter. Unhealthy underweight. Both are driven out of just that - obsession. Watching Rachel's story unfold from TBL, she was the "fat" girl who hid behind food. She secluded herself from the world and let food be her friend. Next thing you know, she is in the spotlight week after week as she regains her life. As much as I was a fan of hers all season, I did often wonder about the mindset of people who shift from being known as the "fat girl" to being known for their new found health. It can be a slippery slope.

Here's the thing. Our identity is NOT a number on the scale. Our identity cannot be and should not be how fat or how thin we are. There is just no way to stand up under such a weight. (Pun intended.)

The glorification of the scale needs to stop. The admiration and obsession that our culture gives to people who look like Rachel did last night HAS TO STOP. It's time to shift our focus from a number, to a picture of HEALTH.

Healthy looks different for all of us. Do I still battle weight at times? Yes. Because my frame is just unhealthy at a certain weight. But finding the way to take my mind off the numbers because I didn't know it was possible to FEEL so healthy has been invaluable in battling my mind. I have finally grown okay with the fact that I will never be 105 lbs. Because what it would take to get ME there would most certainly be unhealthy and miserable. Heck, I'd be miserable much under 145 because it is just not natural or healthy FOR ME. Watching Rachel last night as she tripped up the stairs, missed the fact that she had won until being told .... she just looked miserable. And that made me sad. Having your heart hide behind your overweight self is just as sad as your heart hiding behind your new underweight self.

So if you are still reading, and especially if you are a woman - know that you are beautiful. Find a way to get healthy without obsession. Process through the battle in your mind that takes you to extremes and FIGHT it. Fight it with making one healthy choice after another, and dare I say - allowing yourself an unhealthy choice every now and then. You WILL win.

(Shameless plug - I would LOVE to tell you about the Nutritional Cleansing system that has honestly FREED me from my obsession and drawn me to view HEALTHY as beautiful more so than the number in my head or even on the scale. It has been a game changer for me!)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

#slaverystillexists : RISE UP CHURCH !!!

Here is a Facebook Post I made attached to THIS recent article : ( the article!)

So sad. Get educated, and rise up. #schockingtruth #superbowl #slaverystillexists

A very funny, beautiful, intelligent friend asked me how I was planning to rise up. I responded with, "Pray, educate others, and take a stand."

Her response was a good one...and one that most of us Christians FEEL more often then not.

She said, " I don't know. That's why I get frustrated. I think it's absolutely horrible, and yet I feel helpless.

I wondered if there was something you're actively doing (praying is totally active...I guess I mean out-there-getting-dirty-doing). Getting educated and spreading the word is great...I just feel like it's not enough. Ya know? Frustrating."

When it comes to something as sickening and harmful as sex trafficking, if you let your heart feel the weight of it, you can't help but feel ... well, helpless. I do believe, however, that this is a lie from the Enemy. We are NOT helpless.

If you've been around the church for any amount of time, you've probably heard the phrase - "Either you are called to go, or you are called to send." Most of us aren't called to go anywhere. (Don't get me wrong, that doesn't mean we aren't called to do work for the kingdom, we just get to do it right outside our front door.) But when it comes to the modern day slave trade??? Most of us are NOT called to be "out-there-getting-dirty-doing". There ARE some great organizations, however, who ARE! Get familiar with them. Support them. Pray for them. Pray for the women and children being trafficked. And honestly??? RISE UP and SHINE THE LIGHT.

It's hard to kill sin when it's allowed to just dance in the dark.

Let's start flipping the light switches. We have voices, we have the power of social networking like never before. USE IT! The men (and women, I suppose) who will be buying what should never be sold this coming weekend think they are doing so in secret. Somewhere deep withing, they HAVE to know it is not right, but like any other sin that we can fall/walk into - don't ask, don't tell. Do their wives know what they are doing? Their mothers? Their sisters? Their fathers? If they do - do they feel powerless to have a voice for the grotesque act being done? Do they even know the problem that exists? If we all yell loud enough, I do believe we can make a dent in what is now the largest slave movement ever to exist. Imagine if everyone who cared about the Atlantic Slave trade deeply just stayed silent because they felt helpless. No...never mind...stop imagining that. It's dark.

So let's PRAY, pray hard! Make some noise, and raise some awareness!!! It's NOT nothing!

A few bits from the article I linked to above, in case you forget to go to it:

*According to the Huffington Post, U.S. sex trafficking, which it dubbed “America's dirtiest secret,” garners approximately $9.5 billion a year. {It's time to unveil the secret!}

*Despite growing advocacy movements in recent years, Super Bowl and large-scale-event sex trafficking remains a major yet little-talked-about issue. {START TALKING!}

Some links to just a few PHENOMENAL organizations called to GO.


Don't let the Enemy tell you that you are not doing enough. The 10,000+ women and children need our prayers and our voices more than ever this weekend!

Friday, January 24, 2014

PREACH it son!!!

I've blogged before on my wrestling with prayer. How to, when to, what to.....

I recently picked up a book that I've heard rave reviews on. I'm four chapters in, and if the book weren't attached to my Kindle, I'd throw it out the window (or burn it). This book is causing me much confusion and angst. Probably a good sign I should stop reading it. Anyway...I was processing through some of the things I was reading with Aaron by reading bits of the book aloud.

Here's the scene that went down:

Enter into the room: my 9 year old son.

Coming out of a passage of the book reading about the blind men who obviously wanted to be healed, but Jesus still asked them what they wanted of him, I read the following out loud:  " wasn't because Jesus didn't know what they wanted; He wanted to make sure THEY knew what they wanted...... What if Jesus were to ask you this very same question: What do you want me to do for you?"

9 year old son of mine: "SAVE US!"

Me: "There ya go! You don't even need to read a book like this and you know the best answer!"

10 year old son: "Of course I don't need to read THAT book. I just read the Bible!"