Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Found Faithful

Next to him was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite.  As one of the three mighty men, he was with David when they taunted the Philistines gathered at Pas Dammim for battle.  Then the men of Israel retreated, but he stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword.  The LORD brought about a great victory that day."  II Samuel 23:39

I don't know about you, but at the end of my life, I want to be found faithful.  I want to have lived my life with perseverance and dedication, running the race set before me.  I want to leave a legacy worth leaving.  I want to have honored Christ in all I do and it's that for which I wish to be remembered.

But if I'm being honest, there are any number of things or people or events that often threaten that from becoming a reality - because I often let them.

I love the verse above from II Samuel.  At first glance it doesn't seem like what we might deem as a "power verse" but it is so rich in truth and application.  Here, Eleazar was with King David while they were fighting the Philistines.  When the rest of the army retreated, "he stood his ground".  He was so dedicated, so faithful, so unwavering that he refused to give up in the face of adversity.  He was such a warrior that he fought until he hand grew so tired that it "froze to the sword".

Now that's a warrior.

I don't know about you, but I'm obviously not on the front lines of a full fledged, real life war.  Yet in small, often trivial ways, I feel like I am.

When I'm heartbroken for a friend;
When I'm left out;
When I'm cut off in traffic;
When my fears threaten to overtake me;
When one glance at the calendar overwhelms me;
When grief threatens to consume me;
When my patience has waned and my voice raised;
When every line at Wal-Mart is backed up;
When people are talking behind my back;
When the mailbox is empty, the phone silent, and I feel I've been forgotten;
When I've been asked the same question 86 times;
When I step on a Lego... again;
When the baby has a blow out;
When I'm laying in bed awake at night worrying;
When the kids are disobeying;
When I've had an argument with Mark;
When the cat jumps out and bites my calf and I step in his vomit on the dining room rug;
When someone hurts my feelings;
When the house is a mess and I feel like I can't do anything right;
When the trash *still* needs taken out;
When I feel like I've failed time and time again;
When a project doesn't work out;
When the baby has cried all day because she's teething;
When someone missed the toilet;
When the car breaks down;
When I break the garage door....again;
When the scale mocks me;
When the budget needs trimmed some more;
When I'm asked to do something I don't really want to do;
When the cat breaks one of my antique heirlooms;
When homework still needs to be done;
When we're running late and a certain someone is running particularly slow;
When I'm blamed for something that's not my fault;
When others judge based on things they don't know or understand;
When the phone rings and the voice on the other end says "Grandpa is dead.";
When I read the headlines of death and crime and war;
When the doctor doesn't have answers;
When I feel alone in the world ....

.... may I be found faithful.

May I be found determined and committed to standing my ground in the Word of God.
May I be found following His leadership.
May I give when giving is needed and stand firm when it's not.
May I remain calm and respond with grace.
May I be disciplined.
May I wear my Bible thin and come before the throne of God unceasingly.
May I lead well, follow well, live well.....

.... may I be found faithful..... may they say "she stood her ground" against adversity.  May I fight and run this battle so fiercely that I be found with my hand "frozen to the sword" and as a result, may they be able to say "the Lord brought about a great victory."

Sunday, July 13, 2014

To Our Son

To Our Son,

Although I haven't yet held you in my arms, I love you.  I don't yet know what color your skins is, what color eyes you'll have, or how old you'll be when you get to us, but I love you anyway.  I lay in bed at night wondering where you are.  If you're okay.  If you're being abused, neglected, or mistreated.  I wonder about your parents and although their mistakes are what will bring you to us, my heart aches for them.  Because our gain is their loss.

We're filling out paperwork.... and more paperwork.  We're taking classes and doing homework.  We're conforming our house to all the required standards.  We're childproofing and making plans for bunk beds and extra car seats, a double stroller, and another highchair.

We're waiting for you with such expectation that every time I think about it, my heart is overwhelmed with joy and anticipation.  You have a big sister, a big brother, and depending on how old you are, another (big or little??) sister who are beside themselves waiting for you to make it home... to our home.... your home.

And then there's us.  Mom and Dad.  I'm not naive enough to think you won't like us at first or that this is going to be a piece of cake.  I know you'll want your mom back or else your foster mom.  But I'm hoping that in time you'll know just how very loved you are.  That before we even got you, we were praying for you.  We pray for your safety.  We pray that wherever you are, that you're being loved and cared for.  We pray for your foster parents, because just like your birth parents will lose you, so will your foster parents.  We pray for them.  We pray that we will be good parents to you, that you will know and feel true love.  We pray that you will be our son and not the adopted kid.

We love you.

I sit in classes, watching a video for parents who've had their children removed and what they have to do to get them back.  And as they give a fake date to prove a point, my heart sinks.  January 5th.  They lost them on January 5th... our sweet #3's due date.  And the lump in my throat swells until I think I might start crying in the midst of strangers.... because I can't lose you.

They say we could change and do Foster to Adopt instead of just straight Adoption, but I can't.  I know that might mean we would solely raise you from the time you're removed but it also means that I will love you and they could take you away.  So I can't.

Instead, I will wait.  I will trust the Father with your life.  I will wait until all parental rights have been terminated and you are free for adoption.  And for that, I'm sorry.  I just can't take another loss.  I do hope one day you'll understand that.  But what I do know is that you're safe in the Master's hands.  He will bring you to us when the time is right.

And we so very much hope that time is soon.

We can't wait to see you.  I can't wait to hold you in my arms and shower you with all the love, hugs and kisses that you should've gotten over your short lifetime but haven't.  I can't wait to choose a song for you like I have all our other children.  I can't wait to see which animal Daddy will choose for you.  I can't wait to see how much Anna, Eli, and Emilee will love you.

So, you see, while we don't yet have you in our arms, you are still so very much loved.  Just like we prayed for our other children while I carried them in my womb, we pray for you.  And just like we pray for our children each and every night, we now pray for you too.

You are ours.

And you are so very loved.


Saturday, July 05, 2014

I'm Tired

I have a problem.

I care what people think.

Don't get me wrong, on some level this is an appropriate response.  After all, I should care what my husband thinks.  I should care how my actions reflect our family and the Christ we serve.  I should care what those close to me think.

So, perhaps then I should say, I care too much what people think.

I've lived my life attempting to please people.  People, for the most-part, who at the end of the day could really care less about me.  I've done and done, all in futility.  I've chosen outfits based on what I thought certain people might think.  I've changed outfits because I thought they didn't look good enough or someone might think "Did she put on a few pounds?".  I've been overly harsh to my children when they've misbehaved to appear like I'm on top of things.  I've cleaned and cleaned my house, scrubbing showers and toilets, washing sheets and curtains, and cramming closets to get rid of the clutter so that my house would look less "lived in".  I've posted cute pictures of my kiddos to make it appear like we have a picture perfect family (and yes, in a lot of ways we do, just not the perfect part) when just minutes prior I had been impatient with them for acting up and not taking 'photo time' seriously enough.  I've bought clothes that I thought would make me look better, cover up this and that, or that would would make the kids look even cuter than they already are.  I've shied away from saying things that needed to be said for fear that someone might not like what I said.  I've listened to gossip because I was too much of a coward to say "stop, this isn't right.".  I've missed out on making memories with my kids because of the fear of what people might think if they see my less than perfect body in a swimsuit.  I've bought 6 or 7 swimsuits trying to find the one that doesn't make me look like I've had kids.  I've polled Mark and Anna on how they look.... then asked again to make sure their opinion remained the same..... then again when I narrowed it down to 1 or 2.

Ahem.  Yes, I have a problem.

That problem has extended to the core of who I am and what I believe about myself.... if people don't love me, then I'm not loved.

And that filters down to my children.

That's why the buck stops here.  Now.

I'm tired of caring what people think to the point of changing who I am, sacrificing what's right, and most importantly, believing a lie that I need people to like me.

I don't.

Christ loves me.  And He is more than sufficient, friends.

I'm tired of sitting in my office telling people that trying to please everyone only ends in futility while I'm still trying to do that very thing.

I'm tired of my kids asking if I'm going to swim with them, their eyes closely watching me to see what my answer will be.

I'm tired of being offended when Anna says my belly is squishy.

I'm tired of it friends.

Because that squishy belly is the result of my three babies.... and a few too many sundaes (just keeping it real).  But that's the reality.  When I'm mad at stretch marks, a Pillsbury dough-boy belly, and the varicose veins courtesy of Emi, then I'm relaying the message that I don't like the price I paid for my children.  And  I never want them to think they weren't worth it.  Lord, help me never relay that message to them.

I'm tired of opting for sitting out instead of jumping in head first.

I'm tired of clothes I like hanging in my closet because I think I look too fat in them.

I'm tired of being impatient with my kids so that we can appear like we have it all together.

I'm tired of compromising.

I'm tired of trying to please people.

Because doing so will never make me feel any better.  What it will do is assure that I miss out on a lot of memories and live my life in constant turmoil wondering what everyone thinks... because it's impossible to please everyone.

But even more than that, when I'm focused on everyone else, that means I'm not focused on Him.

It means I care more what they think than what He thinks.

And for that I am ashamed.

Anytime I go to the Bible, it's plum full of verses reminding me of His love for me.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  I John 3:1
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well Psalm 139:14
“I have loved you,” says the Lord.  Malachi 1:2
I have loved you with an everlasting love;  Jeremiah 31:3
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  John 15:9
"Abide in my love".  I love that part.  The victory is found in abiding in Him.  It's in realizing that we don't have to please people, only Him.  It's in knowing that His love far exceeds any that could be given to us from those around us.  It's in acknowledging that when we're upset about our flaws that the Creator of the universe personally took the time to create us.  One of my favorite verses is Psalm 139:13: 
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
I love it for multiple reasons.  One being that when I hear the word "knit" my mind goes back to being a little girl watching my grandma knit and crochet everything under the sun.  I remember her intently working on her projects, putting in a lot of time and effort, creating different patterns, stitches, intricately weaving in and out different colors to create something of beauty.

Friends, He did that with each of us.  It doesn't say "He spoke us into existence."  It says "He knit us together in our mother's womb".  Even in the Garden of Eden with Adam, He had previously spoken everything into place.  But with Adam, He created him out of the dust of the earth, forming him and then breathed life into him.  He's into the details because He loves us.  We're His creation, formed and fashioned by His hands.

When that's my focus, pleasing people seems to fade into the recesses of my mind.  It suddenly has less of a grip than it did yesterday.  I find myself feeling free to be myself.

I'm wearing swimsuits and swimming with my kids.

I'm posting pictures of me in a swimsuit in the river with all my kids.... with my less than ideal body.... with no makeup.... without my hair fixed.

Why?  Because beauty isn't tied up in how small I am, what size my swimsuit is, or even what people think about me.

It's in knowing that the Creator of the Universe formed and fashioned me.  It's in knowing that He loves me.  That He laid down His life as a ransom for me, despite knowing there would be times I would care more what others thought than what He does.  I'm loved, friends.  So very loved.

And so I'm tired.  I'm tired of trying to please people based on what I think they might think.  Because the reality is they may think those things, but they might not either.  And I've wasted too much time worrying about it instead of just living life and loving those around me.

So, today I'm "abiding in His love".

I hope you'll join me.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Leaving A Legacy

Mother's Day is here  That means the stores are stocked with a wide variety of cards for the choosing: some funny, some generic, some sappy, some heartfelt.  Flowers are neatly displayed.  All the ads on my email and Facebook pages have suddenly turned into billboards for flowers, restaurants, and jewelry.

Don't get me wrong.  Mother's deserve to be celebrated.  It's by far the hardest job I've ever had.  Yet I can't help but feel that there's more.

At the end of the day when the flowers are wilted, the meals are over, and the jewelry is gingerly placed in the jewelry box until the next special occasion, I want more.  I want something that money can't buy.

I want to know that I'm leaving a legacy worth leaving.

I recently sat in a large sanctuary filled to the brim with people there to mourn the loss of an incredible woman.  The sheer number of people there was a testimony to the impact one life can have.  I watched as her son got up to speak about her, to tell of her love for everyone she came in contact with.  And then I watched the impossible - her husband of 54 years get up to preach her funeral.  Proverbs 31 kept coming to mind: "her children rise up and call her blessed", "let her own works praise her in the gates".  This was true of her.  I remember having conversations with her where she would talk about how she was raised, what it meant to be a wife and mother.  I always left feeling refreshed.  She had the innate capacity to breathe life into those around her.

She left a legacy worth leaving.

We'll all leave a legacy.  Those who do nothing leave a legacy.

It's leaving one worth leaving that matters.

And let's just be real, there are days that I feel like I've been sucker punched in the gut and that the legacy I hope to leave is nowhere in sight.  Motherhood can do that.  All the early morning hullabaloo just trying to get everyone fed, dressed, and out the door on time.  The remembering to do nightly reading, sign their school folders, and teach them how to count currency... accurately.  It's running late only to find that the baby's diaper has leaked and all the bottles are dirty.  It's being tested with open defiance and having the stand down of the century until he/she decides to comply.  It's being told "I wish I never had a mom" and catching the lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes until a more private moment to shed them.  It's standing my ground with discipline and feeling like I'm losing ground all the while.

It's enduring loss after loss and hoping, nay praying, that my faith will not only sustain me but leave a lasting impression on their tender little hearts.  That they will see faith in action.  That they will see all my flaws and imperfections as their mom and love me in spite of them.  That they will hear me apologize, rest in my embrace, and grant and accept forgiveness.

Those are the things worth leaving behind.

I want them to know that they're loved beyond comprehension.  I want them to know that from the moment I saw two pink lines that they were loved.  That I loved growing as they grew inside me.  That I loved watching my stomach move as they kicked and turned and had the hiccups.  I want them to know that I loved delivering them despite the pain and recovery.  That I loved feeding them and changing them and rocking them and singing to them.  I want them to know that on the hardest of days when we're butting heads and tears are shed that I love them... that my love isn't dependent on their behavior or performance.

I want them to know that I love their daddy.  I want them to see us laugh and giggle, to kiss in the kitchen and stand at the door giving goodbye hugs and kisses as he leaves for work.  I want them to know we bicker and argue and love each other all the same.  I want them to see commitment first hand.  I want them to understand mutual respect and submission.  I want them to see faithfulness.  And I want them to know that one of the best things we'll ever give them is our marriage and love for one another.

I want them to know these things so that in turn they'll understand just how much their Creator loves them.  I want them to know and see and live in the understanding of just how loved they are.  That all that I've sacrificed to be their mom is nothing compared to what Christ has sacrificed for us.

I want to guide them straight to the Father's feet when their life turns upside down.  And it will.  It always does.  More importantly, I want them to have seen me do the same thing.  I want them to have seen love in action.  I want them to see what caring for the widows and the orphans means because we're doing it (I guess it's official now, we turned in the adoption paperwork this week).  I want them to have seen me get slayed time and time again and yet say "Though he slay me, yet I will trust in him." Job 13:15.  I want them to remember #3 and #4 and to glean from their losses that He is faithful.  So faithful.

I want this to be my legacy.  I want them to know their mom was faithful.

I don't care if they can say they had the best house, clothes, toys and gadgets.  I don't care if they can say that they had cool parents and fully funded college accounts.  It doesn't matter one iota if they remember perfectly decorated rooms yet missed the whole of life.

I want them to remember learning at the feet of their momma.  I want them to know how to cook and clean and sort laundry.  I want them to remember baking together, family walks and movie nights.  I want them to remember holding hands in church and singing songs together around the piano.  I want them to remember losses and how they drove us straight to the foot of the cross.  I want them to remember praying over meals and for ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars as they fly past us.  I want them to remember being corrected and disciplined and come out on the other side of it saying "Thank you for loving me enough to correct me."  I want them to remember family devotions and us sitting on the sidelines cheering for them.

I simply want them to know they're loved.

I want these things, yet I also know wanting is insignificant if not coupled with work.

When I'm in the trenches or on top of the mountain, may I always be found working.... faithfully serving my family.  And one day, just maybe, they will be able to rise up and call me blessed.

Now that's a legacy worth leaving.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Mirror Mirror

Just this morning I was online perusing little girl swimsuits for Anna and Emi, after all, there's a mega sale going on today.  Yet what I saw was so disheartening.  It's the same thing I see every year, swimming suits made for little girls that should never have been made, that barely cover their little bodies and that attempt to highlight areas that haven't even yet developed.  Chest showing, midriff baring swimsuits.  And lest you think I'm only referring to Anna's age, I'm not.  They come in as little of a size as 6 months.  And what little girls shouldn't wear, mommas shouldn't either.

I realized I'm likely in the minority here.  I don't care.

I will blazingly walk this path because I believe it's critical to a healthy development in my daughters and how they eventually end up viewing themselves.

Because how they see themselves should never be based on what society says.

I want them to see their worth through the lenses of Christ.

For me, that means teaching them what true beauty is.  That comes in 2 main areas.

1. It means saying no.  No, you cannot have those high heels.  Because you're 8 and they're too tall.  No, you cannot have those earrings.  Because they're too big and distracting for a young lady.  No, you cannot wear that tank top.  Why?  Because it's too low cut and we don't show our chests.  I don't care if so and so bought it for you.  It's going back to the store.  No, you can't have those shorts.  Because they're entirely too short.  I don't care if you're tall, we'll find some that are more appropriate.  No, you can't have a swimsuit that shows your stomach, nor one that's low cut, or ties on the sides of the shorts.  I'm sorry you think I'm mean.  No you may not wear makeup.  No you may not have those pajamas, because they're too skimpy.  No you may not wear that dress.  Because it's too revealing.  No.  No.  No.  Is this hard?  I'd be lying if I said it wasn't.  But I believe it'll be more than worth it, so I persevere.  Not only are they not allowed to wear these things, they're also not allowed in our home.  I've heard people say "She'd never leave my house in that."  The reality is, it never should have entered the house in the first place.  This is hard because when you have other people that buy for them you have to constantly be on guard.  There've been several things that have been returned or exchanged and I make no apologies for that.

I'm raising ladies, not women.  And there's a vast difference.

2. I have to be mindful of what I'm showing and telling them, either blatantly or inadvertently.  When I stand in front of the mirror, give a big sigh, and grumble about a wrinkle, or wobbly arms, or a blemish, I'm telling them something.  When I remind myself that beauty is inward, not outward, then act in such a manner that I find myself saying "well, I don't like that Phoebe either", I'm telling them something.  When I have clothing on and return in different clothing, then in yet another outfit with Anna asking me why I keep changing clothes, she's learning something.  She's learning insecurity based on my insecurity.  She's learning that apparently wearing certain clothing can cover up what you don't like about yourself..... as will makeup.  When they ask why I have a pudgy belly I have to be mindful to be truthful that it's a combined result of having kids, loving food, and not exercising enough without relaying to her that my size is what will or will not make me beautiful.

Because the truth is that no amount of clothing, jewelry, exercise, makeup, or bared skin will make someone beautiful.

Because beauty isn't any of those things.

Beauty isn't found in how much skin is revealed.  How bare your chest is.  How much of your breasts can be shown or bulge out of your clothing.  It's not how flat your stomach is or how toned your arms are.  It's not how perfectly you apply your makeup or the perfect jewelry you found to accessorize with an outfit.

Because reality is that I know a lot of beautiful women that aren't beautiful.  They're fit, have nice bodies and beautiful faces, but they're not beautiful.  Their hearts are ugly and therefore make them ugly.  One only has to look to Hollywood to see the truth in this.  Yet this truth is before us each and every day with people we know and interact with.  They're searching and seeking in all the wrong places.

I want my daughters to know and understand the beauty of modesty.  I want them to grasp the importance of leaving something to be desired.  I want them to know that the kind of man they want and need to marry is not the kind that will google eye over all they're willing to show him but rather will respect them and love them enough to not want others lusting over them.

But most importantly I want them to know that their beauty comes from Christ.  That anything and everything beautiful about anyone will always come from above - from His inner workings in our lives.  I want them to write these scriptures on their hearts and live and breathe their truths.

But most importantly I want them to know that their beauty comes from Christ.  That anything and everything beautiful about anyone will always come from above - from His inner workings in our lives.  I want them to write these scriptures on their hearts and live and breathe their truths.

"And let not your adornment be merely external-- braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God."  I Peter. 3:3-5

"But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." I Samuel 16:7

"Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised" Proverbs 31:30

"Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works"  1 Timothy 2:9-10 

I want them to know that while man may look at the outward appearance, God does not.  He looks for a gentle and quiet spirit, the heart, women who fear Him, who dress in respectable clothing and with modesty.  He sees beauty not in braided hair and gold jewelry, not in expensive clothing or a trim physique.  He sees our hearts.

Our hearts are what matter, friends.

So when we're standing in the mirror criticizing the wrinkles, the double chin, the gray hairs, the bulgy belly and the thunder thighs, we're wasting our time.  Because God cares about matters of the heart.  When we're searching and seeking to buy outfits that highlight our best features and cover up those we despise, it's in vain.  When we're applying makeup and wearing jewelry, spraying perfume, and finding the cutest little pair of matching shoes.... it's all futility.

We'll never find satisfaction in those things.  Never, friends.  We just won't.

I've been 128 lbs and well, much more than that.  I've worn cute clothes, revealing clothes, short shorts, and thought it would make me look and feel beautiful.  But it didn't.

I've never felt as beautiful as when I'm resting in His promises.

When I'm serving and loving others.  When I'm gentle and quiet, respecting my husband.  When I'm worshiping and praising Him.  When I have a reverential fear of Christ.  When I'm more concerned about living my life to honor Him instead of worrying with how I look.

And I desperately want my daughters to know and live and breathe these things.

I want them to hear "Mirror Mirror" and laugh at the absurdity because they know the real Truth.  I want them to know that there's nothing more beautiful than a woman who loves Christ and lives that out day in and day out.

Am I in the minority here?  I have no doubt.

But I'm resting in His promises that despite the opposition and despite the backlash from our culture, that His Word is truth and stands eternally.

And that my friends is beautiful.