Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pictures from Heaven

I remember it well although it's been over a year ago.  Eli had recently been diagnosed with Asperger's, ADHD, and a Sensory Processing Disorder.  The medication he's on requires blood work to keep check on his liver.  His initial test came back elevated.  And so, we were on our way to LeBonheur's in Memphis for further tests.

We were driving.  I was in my own world, as it was our sweet #4's due date.  Eli kept going on and on about this and that, of which I truthfully (and regretfully) didn't care one iota.  Ever just want to sit and ride in peace?  I was there that day.


My husband nudged me and told me to look back at Eli.  He was randomly blinking extremely hard, squinting those beautiful hazel eyes of his. We continued watching.  He continued blinking.


I guess the confused looks on our faces prompted him to explain himself. "I'm taking pictures with my brain and sending them to Heaven."


Oh.


Now he had me intrigued.


He continued doing this for several more minutes which led me to converse with him about Jesus getting his 'pictures' and how cool it might be if once we get in Heaven, if Jesus might have them and say "Remember when you were 6 and on your way to Memphis and you sent all these to Me?"


Anna decided to join in.  They continued doing this for a good portion of the trip, even taking "video" to send to Him. Eli thought it might be great if Jesus showed his pictures to #3 and #4.


And there I was.  Convicted.


Convicted that he sees picture worthy things all around him and I sat in my seat, being a grump, sullen from what never was while he's taking pictures with his brain for his sweet brothers/sisters to see in Heaven.


They got to see pictures of an army truck.  A tractor.  A semi truck.  Road signs.  Part of an airplane as it flew past.  A video of fields of crops and scenery.


Now, do I know if Jesus "received" his pictures and showed them to our babies?  No.  But with every fiber of my being, I believe He did.  The God of the universe Who holds our every tear was watching that day and I can't help but believe that He scooped up our babies, held them in His lap, and said, "Hey, take a look at these pictures from your brother."


What I do know is that I was changed that day.  I'm reminded this November amidst the air of Thanksgiving around us, that we have so much for which to be thankful.  I think we forget because we're so busy looking for the big and grand that we miss the obvious.  We miss that Army trucks and tractors are cool.  We miss that those in the military are heroes and revered by our children.  We forget that the fields and fields of crops are what feed and cloth us.  We forget how fun it was to watch crop dusters fly all around when we were kids.  We forget the magic of going to new places and funny shaped trees and being knocked down and kissed by a slobbery dog.


We forget.


And in our forgetfulness, we oftentimes lose the wonder of it all.


I'm finding more and more that joy is a thousand small things, not a few big ones.  We've taken our kids to Disney World, to San Diego, to Dallas, to Branson, to St. Louis... to a bunch of different places.  They mention those places occasionally.  But do you know one of the most consistent things Anna says to me is?  "Hey mom, remember when you used to play tickle monster with us outside in the fort?"


Tickle monster.


It's truly that simple, friends.


We consume ourselves with our losses.  We bury ourselves in grief and oftentimes, self pity.  I know that's often been the case for me.  We have misguided ambitions and goals, striving for more money and bigger houses and designer clothing when all that really matters is what's right in front of us.


Being a tickle monster.


I hope when I get to Heaven that God has a picture of one of those moments in my room waiting for me.  Because, the reality is that He gives us "pictures" each and every day.


Whether it's getting a giggle out of Emi's crazy bed head hair, or cheering on Anna in volleyball, a magnificent sunset, or a nail-biter soccer game with Eli as goalie, or sweet conversations over dinner.  Be it sitting hand in hand, watching a movie together or standing side by side cooking.  They're everywhere.


Because they're all just really pictures from Heaven, splashed out before us to see and recognize as gifts from Him.

The Father has bestowed gift upon gift to us, while we oftentimes miss or ignore them.


May we stop missing pictures from Heaven.


May we see the glory in the ordinary and obvious.


And maybe, just maybe, one day when we get to Heaven, He'll have pictures waiting for us.


I'm desperately hoping to see our sweet #3 and #4, walk into their Heavenly rooms, and see all the pictures from their brother.


Until then, I'm choosing to see the pictures all around me.


May you see them too.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Anchor Holds

I sat in class, listening.  A question was posed.

"What characteristics suggest God is "with" someone?"

Answers were given.  People being blessed financially.  A constant peace through circumstances that should dictate otherwise.  A time of respite from the trials of life.

Someone pondered "Why does it seem like some people never have any problems while others are overwhelmed with life?".

There are those blessed with resources, those barely managing to make it week to week, yet God's hand can be seen in all circumstances.  Those who are facing difficulties and those who are enjoying a good season, yet His hand is still upon both.

I know this to be true.  I remember sitting in my best friend's living room talking about how great life was and how so many people were facing trials yet I wasn't.  It was shortly after that that we lost #3.  It tore me apart in ways I can't even fully describe.  There's something unexplainable about knowing something is wrong yet waiting and waiting for it to be confirmed, all the while praying and petitioning God on behalf of your baby, hoping and asking for a miracle that you know only He can provide.

Yet the Anchor still holds.

I was still in the middle of the storm, but He was still the Anchor holding and securing me, reassuring me that His "no" didn't mean He loved me any less.

The Anchor held.

A year later, I stood holding a pregnancy test, excited that we had another chance.  And a few days later we starred at a blank ultrasound screen.  My heart sank.  I couldn't even look at Mark because I knew I would lose it.  And all I could see was a tiny little dot in my right tube.  Our baby.  My baby.  We waited for more tests, another ultrasound, more calls.  Our baby was already gone.  And what I said I couldn't endure again... well, now I was enduring again.

But the Anchor still held.

I may have rocked and tossed about in the storm, but the Anchor held firm.  He never sways, dear friends.  Never.  Not even a little bit.

During that time, I lost my grandpa.  Mark's grandma fell and broke her hip.  Mark had surgery on his hand.  My appendix ruptured and I had emergency surgery.  And #3's due date was upon me.

But the Anchor held.

We've since had our sweet Emilee.  That pregnancy was such a struggle for me, desperately trying to do everything right for fear of losing her too.  And just 2 weeks after having her, Mark had an emergency appendectomy too.

The Anchor held.  He was never, not for a moment, caught off guard.

Now here we are waiting for a call to hear they have a son for us.  We wait expectantly, with great hope.  And for me, at times, with great fear.

But He knows.  The Anchor knows I'm scared and He loves me all the same.  He reassures me that what He has called me to do, He will equip me to carry out.  And so, with great anticipation, I wait for the call each and every day.

He has and does and will hold steady.

When your family is in turmoil... the Anchor holds.

When lies abound and hurt equally matched... the Anchor holds.

When anxiety threatens to consume you.... the Anchor holds.

When there's plenty... the Anchor holds.

When there's not enough .... the Anchor holds.

When there are arguments and division ... the Anchor holds.

When there's death and caskets and funerals .... the Anchor holds.

When there are tests and surgeries and procedures .... the Anchor holds.

Because the Anchor never moves.  It's planted.  It remains.  It steadies.  It holds in place.  It secures and protects.

Because the Anchor anchors.  He is incapable of doing anything else.

I don't know what you may be facing tonight, friends.  But know this, whatever it is, the Anchor holds.

When all you have is God, He is more than enough.

Hold firmly to that, because the Anchor is firmly holding on to you.

Rest well, dear friends.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Least of These

We've been asked why we chose to be open to adopt a little boy of any race.

The answer is simple:

Because his race doesn't matter to us. 

I wonder how that if God loves us all the same why we have to have restrictions on who we love because of their race.

I know that when you say we'll have to learn to love a black baby, the reality is that you just don't have a full understanding.  Because, truthfully, the reality is that we're all going to have to learn to love this baby or toddler.  He wasn't carried inside of me for 9 months, he's not going to look like us, we have no relationship or bond with him. We know nothing about him at all.  I'M going to have to learn to love him and bond with him..... and that has absolutely nothing to do with the color of his skin because it'll have to happen whether he's white, black, brown, or green.  He will have to learn to love us and us him.  I only pray that happens quickly and fervently, for all of us.

And believe me, I hear you.  I understand that our 3 children may face challenges if we adopt a child of another race.  I understand they may be made fun of.  I understand that likewise, he may be made fun of as well.

But hear me loud and clear.  Our choice to adopt has nothing to do with giving our kids the easiest life possible.  Rather, it has everything to do with being obedient to the calling of the Creator to care for the least of these.

If my kids are made fun of, let it be because we opened our arms and took him in as our own.

If they're ridiculed, let them grow stronger in not seeing color, but only hearts.

If they're bombarded with questions and attacks, let them learn to stand up and defend that which is right.

If he's made fun of for being adopted, let him remember how loved he is and how much he is and will be continued to be prayed over daily.

If he sticks out in family photos and outings, may his differences shine brightly so that everyone else can see just why we love him.

And if kids are cruel to my kids, let it be because they have loved extravagantly and without any racial barriers.  

Let him always know that he's ours and that we have chosen to live and love unconditionally and without reservation. 

Because, afterall, we're reminded:

"And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased."  Hebrews 13:16

I see no mention of doing good to others if they're the same race as me.

You see, we're told that:

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."  James 1:27

We're to care for the orphans because that's what God accepts as pure and faultless.  And last time I checked, there are orphans of every race imaginable desperately waiting for someone to take them in and love them as their own.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one  of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  Matthew 25:4

Because, aren't we all adopted into God's family?  What if he said, "I'm sorry,  Not you.  You're a Gentile."?  There would be a whole lot of us condemned to an eternity in hell.  But He reached down to all of us, Jews and Gentiles, black, white, brown, red, and everything in-between because He loves us.

It's that same sacrificial love I hope to have for our son.  To love him regardless of race, regardless of past, regardless of the history he brings.  He may be white.  He may be bi-racial.  He may be black.  He may be Hispanic.  He may be something else altogether.  But it doesn't matter to us.

Because at the end of the day, when we get our son, whatever race he may be, may it also be said of us, that we chose to live and love extravagantly and without any racial barriers.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Losing Our Wonder

I stood at the window watching.  The back yard was full of kids, only 2 of them ours.  A mix of diversity.  An intense game of soccer was underway.

Eli was holding a chicken, standing next to the shed, watching them.  Oblivious to the fact that he stood out.

I smiled.



They continued playing, now engaged in a fierce game of kick ball.

He knelt beside the garden, digging for worms, careless to the game going on beside him.

They bickered and fought, as kids do.  "No, that's not how you do it."  "You were out."  "No I wasn't."  "Yes you were!"  "I'm not playing anymore!"

He came inside, got 2 pieces of paper, taped them to a stick, and created a white flag.  He waved it when they argued.

He marches to the beat of his own drum.

He carried a bucket, emptying the rain water along the edge of the shed.  He stood, watching.  They beckoned him to play.  He denied their request.

And no one dared say a word to him.

I stood, watching, waiting, on guard to protect him from those who would seek to harm him for not just marching to the beat of his own drum, but creating a different beat.

But they're okay with him.  He's their friend.  He's who they ask to mediate who was really out or not, to referee the game.

This sweet boy --  my boy -- who sees the wonder of life in everything - his favorite hen - the red one amidst the others.  The worms wiggling in the garden.  The locust shell that suddenly moved when he went to pick it up.  The rollie pollies and slugs.

The next day I sat in my lawn chair watching him play his first game of soccer - his first real game of anything since his attempt at flag football at the age of 4.  He beamed ear to ear.  He really doesn't have a good grasp of how the game is played, but his anticipation more than makes up for it.  He was goalie.  He was ready.  And he was incredible.  My heart swelled with pride, sitting there watching him have fun.  I tend to be hard on my kids about sports - because if you're going to play, then you had best play.  But this all boys team was made up of so many characters, it was the perfect match for Eli.  While I worry about him paying attention and rocking, I watched one kid fly airplanes across the field, another doing cartwheels, and one turning circles just trying to figure out what he was supposed to do.


I laughed.  We see a soccer game.  They see opportunities.  Because, really, isn't doing cartwheels and flying airplanes fun when you're 6 or 7?

I laughed harder when Eli changed positions and continued picking the ball up on the field as if he were still goalie, confused about what he was allowed to do as goalie but not on the field.

I overheard one kid's grandma say "This is the best laugh I've had in a long time."

They help us find the wonder.

This past weekend we went to the Memphis Zoo.  We have a little over an hour drive to get there and the whole way Eli was talking up a storm.  The girls were sleeping.  "Look Mom!!  An airplane!  It's a crop duster."  Yep.  I see it.  "Look mom! An Army truck!!! Do you see it, do you see it?!!?"  Where? Yep, that's an Army truck.  Truth be told, I really could have cared less about the mass of crop dusters we saw or the Army truck, or the tractors, or the vehicles he found unique and interesting.

We passed the FedEx Airport and he was excited to see a commercial plane - a jet, as he kept calling it.  And something stirred within me.  An article I had read.  I remembered her talking about how we're so busy and task oriented that we've lost our wonder.

We fail to see the majesty in the mundane, the beauty in the normal.

But he doesn't.

He hasn't yet lost his wonder.

I don't know when this happens.  If it's just a part of getting older and busier.  If it's part of living in a country where even the poor among us are rich compared to people in other countries.  Maybe it's that after life deals us a series of blows, we become calloused and blind to everything around us.

As the article said, it's a plane.  A PLANE!!!  A hunk a metal flying in the air, carrying hundreds of people across the country in a matter of minutes and hours.  It's a crop duster, spraying fields that help produce food for all of us to feed our families.

It's everything.  And we've so lost our wonder that we miss it.

At the zoo, I kept seeing pregnant women, one after another.  When did we get to the point that we can see women carrying a child, a life inside of them and not stand amazed??  And lest we forget the greatness of the human body, this video is an incredible reminder of how intricately we have been formed, held together by the cross of Christ - or medically speaking, what is known as Laminin.  Seriously, take the 15 minutes to watch it.

When did we become so busy that we fail to see the absolute creative genius of God in His creation?  Things like this fish.


Or this... with its odd snout.


Or spiky here, with the bulging eyes.


What about even the most basic of things - a sheep.  A sheep that He created that grows wool that we in turn use to make clothing and bedding.  A sheep!


Or cotton plants.  Seriously, a plant that grows cotton - the stuff we use to take off our toenail polish or wipe a boo boo or use to clean our ears with a Q-tip.  The main thing our clothing is made from.  He created it and everyday we take no note of it, no consideration, no thought to all He's done to provide for us.


What about the simple things- the beauty of plants and flowers that he gave us to look at and admire?  Eli loved these - walking up to them smelling them and taking in how different they were.


He hasn't yet lost his wonder.

And I hate that I have.

But you know what's great about losing your wonder?  You can always get it back.

Sweet friends, we can get it back.  We can re-claim the wonder, step by step, moment by moment.

And all it takes?  Open eyes.

Eyes to see and a heart to acknowledge it as the goodness of our Creator.

Because everything is a gift if we choose to see the wonder in it.

May we reclaim what we've lost.  Eyes open.  Hearts full.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

I Blinked

There are days I like to be nostalgic and remember all the sweet memories from the past that I can, particularly those of our kids.

Other days, there's a deep echo calling me to remember.

Today is one of those days.

Oftentimes life can knock us down.  A kid can be acting out, causing us to question where we've gone wrong, to doubt our parenting.... ourselves.  Life can be overwhelmingly busy and in the busyness we forget what really matters.

If I let myself, I can begin to believe the enemy.  I can begin to believe that I am unarmed and unequipped.

The truth is that, armed with God's Word, I have everything I need.

He gently reminds me of this truth, urging me to get back up, and keep trying.

And then He calls me to remember that life is but a vapor, a mist - here one moment and gone the next.  What trials I face right now won't necessarily be the ones I'm fighting a month or year from now.  Just like the baby I held 'yesterday' is now 8 1/2.

Time passes.  He heals.  He restores.

I blink and another day is gone.  I blink and a decade is behind me.

I'm more aware of the brevity of life than ever and have since begun asking God to sear memories in my mind.  To help me remember.

Because.....

It was yesterday that we loaded up into my GrandAm and headed to the hospital to have our firstborn, our baby girl, Anna.

I blinked.

And now that 8 lb. 13 ounce baby is in 3rd grade.

16 months later we loaded up again and headed to the hospital to have our son, Eli.

I blinked and my 8 lb. 8 ounce little fella is a second grader.

It seems like 2-3 months ago I had Emi, and now my baby girl is 13 months old.  She's walking - well, running and full of the sweetest little giggles ever, pointing with her index finger and saying "dat, dat" (that).

And all I can do is petition God to help sear memories into the deepest recesses of my mind.  Memories that I can pull on the dark days.

Memories like our first night at home after having Anna, with my sister standing beside me as I rocked her.  All I could do was stare at her in awe, tears streaming down my face, whispering "It was worth it."


Memories of her waking up in the middle of the night, me coming to get her, and her always pointing to the kitchen saying "Pup, pup, my pup" and off we'd go to retrieve her sippy cup.  We'd make our way to the recliner to rock into the wee hours of the morning until she was no longer scared.

Memories of singing her song to her each night before bed, her snuggled up to me in the rocking chair.

Memories of her seeing Eli for the first time and leaning over to give him a kiss.


Memories of her cutting her hair .... twice and being so proud of herself as I cried.

Memories of her being the sweetest little hula girl in the church Christmas Play.


Her first day of Kindergarten and how she walked so independently, not a fear in that pint size body of hers, while I was inwardly a ball of mixed emotions.

Her getting all dressed up as a princess at Disney World to go eat dinner in Cinderella's Castle.


Or when she got her first kitty, Harley - still very much a baby, so much so that he had to be bottle fed.


I blinked.  She's a beautiful 8 year old now.  Full of energy and life and happiness.  She's in the Gifted and Talented program.  She's getting braces in a few weeks and in love with soccer and volleyball and Justin Bieber.... and I merely blinked.

Yet my memories remain.

Memories of seeing Eli hooked up to more wires and machines and tubes than I care to remember, but standing at the window to the nursery loving him more than I could ever possibly explain.


Memories of sitting in the dark with the moonlight shining in his room as we rocked together before bedtime.  Memories of me singing his song to him and when I got to the part "til the thunder sounds no more" how, without fail, every time he would get tickled and laugh when I said the word "thunder".  He still smiles to this day when I get to that part.

Memories of him being a momma's boy, crying when anyone else tried to hold him.  All it would take was me sticking my hands under his arms and he'd stop before I even got him up to my chest.

Or when he was in his first church Christmas play and wouldn't stay where he was supposed to - running in place while someone held the back of his shirt.  Or when he got loose and crawled up to the girl singing the solo, with her knee-high socks and began slowly rolling them down to her ankles.  I must say, she kept on singing like a trooper.

Or when we went to Disney World and he poked Mike Wasowski in the eye and then screamed as Mike began chasing him.


Memories of Ariel kissing him at dinner and him blushing like crazy, proudly wearing his lipstick mark the rest of the night.



Or when he walked up to the life sized "toy" soldier and began unbuckling his belt, then ran off in terror when the "toy" moved.


I blinked and now he's a 2nd grader, full of life and mischief and loves all things Lego's and tractors and is attempting his first real season at soccer.

It's amazing how blinking can somehow seem like years have been lost.

Yet I have these memories.  Such sweet, glorious memories.

Memories of pregnancy tests and excitement for our #3 and #4.  Memories of hopes and dreams for them.  Memories of how insanely excited Anna and Eli were.  And I wouldn't take anything for those moments.  I don't regret telling them because I remember the pride and joy they had for a few weeks.  Such absolutely precious and irreplaceable memories.

Memories of waiting and waiting for Emilee after losing our other two sweet babies.  Memories of how stubborn she showed us she was going to be - being so incredibly large and refusing to come so much as a day earlier than she was scheduled.  Weighing in at 9 lbs and 13 ounces she wanted us to know she came in big and likewise will make a big impact on this world, of that I have no doubt.


Memories of laying in the operating room, waiting to hear her cry, then crying when I did.  I don't know why I remember this so much.  I honestly don't remember Anna and Eli's first cry.  But I remember waiting so expectantly, desperate to hear her cry and know she was okay, then laying there with tears streaming down my face as I heard her for the first time.  She was loud and determined - still very much the same today.  She didn't quiet until Mark brought her to me and I talked to her, her cry hushing as I took my first look at her and said "Hi Emilee.  Shh, it's okay.  Mommy loves you sweet girl."

It's seared into my memory and I'm oh so thankful for that.

Memories of how insanely proud Anna and Eli were of her as they looked at her for the first time through the nursery window.



The smiles on their faces as they held her for the first time.


Memories like it and how this sweet girl used to have the craziest hair that we could never get to lay down.


How fiercely independent she is, rarely sitting still long enough for me to rock her or snuggle with her.  But in the rarest of moments, she'll slowly settle in and fall asleep in my arms.  I remember the first time she did that since she began walking and how I specifically asked God to sear it into my memory.... and He graciously did.

Memories of her saying "Momma" first - the only one of our 3 to say it first.

Memories of her waking up in the middle of the night crying.  I scoop her up and she lays her head on my chest.  I rock her in my arms, her face aglow by the blue nightlight of the monitor.  She's peaceful and content in my arms.

I blinked and a year is gone.

I blinked.  Really, it seems that's all I did and the time was gone.

But my memories serve to correct me - that years and months and days and hours and minutes were lived inbetween those blinks.

So many memories beckoning me to remember not just all the sweet moments but that each and every second serves as a reminder of how quickly time passes.  Time that should be embraced and lived and breathed with love and purpose and with the passion to live out our days honoring and glorifying the One who created us and who gave us these memories in the first place.

Memories of working on this post and Anna coming in and looking at the pictures.  She started sobbing.  I asked her what was wrong and she said "They're happy tears."

Indeed, memories serve as happy tears reminders of just how great our God is!

And that's one memory I want seared into my heart - how faithful and loving and great our God is.

May I blink a thousand times and never forget it.