Monday, April 20, 2015

Hands Lifted High

A Note from the Author: I'm aware this post is more reminiscent of 3 posts in one.  I couldn't adequately make it flow like I would like, so I just wrote.... wrote from my heart.  I hope amidst it all, you feel that.

I am ruined.

What I had imagined and had been told has now been before my very eyes.

It's no longer a Compassion commercial.  It's no longer World Vision telling me about the needs of people in 3rd world countries.  It's no longer me being able to flip the channel or tune out the speaker at a concert.

It's real.  And I am undone.

While we fret over standardized test scores, complain about the nutrition in school lunches, and attempt to blame teachers for failures that clearly lie with the parents, they attend school here:

While we complain about needing a bigger house or having to clean ours, they're living here:

How do I know and come home and do nothing?

The answer?  I can't.

I look at this picture above.  They were thirsty.  They were asking us for water.  And while multiple kids were in the nearby stream, drinking muddy water, Michele began giving handfuls of water for them to lap out of their hands.... and they were happy.

Please don't rush past that last sentence.  They were happy to get a handful of clean water.  So how can I possibly come home and act as if I haven't witnessed these things for myself?

I simply cannot.

Can I tell you something?

There's a difference between us and them.  And as I sit here and type this, my eyes well up with tears.  Because they're happy.  They literally live in huts, often with no electricity or running water, and they're happy.  They were constantly smiling.  And more often than not, they literally ran to meet us.  They heard we were there and began pouring out of the woods and villages.  They were so excited to see us, to hear what we had to say.  They were excited about toothbrushes, pencils, and frisbees.  And oh did they listen.  They were quiet.  They were respectful.  They anticipated hearing about Jesus.  It didn't matter how hot it was.  It didn't matter that we were a bunch of white strangers.  They were eager to hear about Jesus.

There's something about this picture that touches me every time I look at it.  Part of it is that it's my husband and I got to witness him sharing the love of Jesus so many times while we were there.  Hand lifted high, he unabashedly proclaimed the Word as Manuel translated for him.  There's something about hearing the Gospel in two languages that is absolutely moving, particularly with Manuel's love for Christ so evident.  And the other part I love so much?  Well, it's their pure concentration on his every word .... HIS word.

We lack the awe they have for the Word.  And that's humbling, friends.... convicting.

So many things about Honduras have been convicting for me.  Like the way we often disregard our elderly.  That's in part why this next picture is one of my favorites... because I saw her coming, walking to the school from a ways off.  I watched her.  I watched others watch her.  She appeared to be revered within the village.  She walked straight up to me and smiled.  I was touched by her silent strength and openness towards us.

I asked "un foto?"  She shook her head and said "Si".  And here we are.  I showed her the picture on the camera and she just smiled and smiled.

As Mark went to help prepare for speaking to the children, she said "Soy Rita".  I said "Hola Rita.  Soy Phoebe" and my mom said "Soy Linda."

But it's what she did next that has profoundly touched me.  It has stuck with me and reverberated in my very soul.

She reached toward Heaven.  Hands lifted high.  She looked up, starring into the baby blue sky, then brought her hands back down, covering her heart.  She grabbed my hands and looked straight into my eyes with a smile.

No translator was needed.  Language barriers suddenly ceased to exist.

It was as if Rita was telling me she thanked God we were there.

And I was speechless.  Humbled and thankful for that moment we shared.  Two people.  Two races.  Two languages.  But one Savior.

All I could do was shake my head, acknowledging her kindness.

I watched Rita as a school room full of kids listened as they were told about Jesus.

I watched her as the kids poured out of the room to run outside and play with their new frisbees.

I watched her as the adults were invited in.  You see, there were so many adults that had come from the nearby villages to see what was going on that we couldn't pass up the opportunity to share Christ with them too.  One by one they began saying that the way to Heaven was by being good.  And it was in that moment that I was so incredibly thankful for the heart of the Director of EIM being sensitive to the Holy Spirit and having called all the adults in for an extra service so they could hear that the way to Heaven isn't by being good, but rather through the blood of Jesus and trusting that His sacrifice and their repentance is all they need.

Head bowed, praying, I watched Rita.

I prayed that God would speak to her... to the others.

I watched as one momma held her baby in her lap and long after the prayer had been prayed, she continued with head bowed, mouth speaking words to the Father above.

How can I have experienced these things and not be changed?

I came home and I find myself being angry.  Angry that people don't get it.  That I can't adequately relay what we witnessed.  That the pictures just don't do it justice.  Angry that while they're struggling amidst poverty and drug cartels that my kids are arguing because one is watching TV and the other wants to play the Wii.  Angry that they just need food and adequate resources and I spend money on Plexus.  Angry that our city is arguing about whether or not we need a dog park.  I'm just angry.

I don't know how to come back here and live with what I've seen.

Yet I felt Him speaking to me through the words of my friend, Jenny.

"Phoebe, anger is not the way."

"You were born here for a reason.  Use it for His glory."

And so it is.

You see, because it begins with teaching my kids because missions begins in my home.

We got word while in Honduras that our sweet Emi was sick.  She was/has been sick for quite awhile now.  And when we got back, all she wanted was her mommy.  Truth be told, that's all she still wants.

Do you believe that missions is about showing your own kids the love of Christ too?  Because I'm telling you, sometimes we can miss the big picture because we're looking for something huge instead of what's right in front of our eyes.

Hands lifted high, she just wanted me.

It was in those moments that God was, and is, teaching me things.  I can't be angry... but I can make a difference.  In my home.  With how I raise my children.  And with how we teach them to impact the world for Christ.  And oh, how I hope they have tremendous impacts on this world.

Because this little girl needs Jesus just as much as those across the world.

I don't yet know what this experience means.  I do know it means change.  We're still in the process of figuring out exactly what that looks like.

But what I do know is that starting in May, we will be donating a portion of Plexus money to EIM (Evangelistic International Ministries) to help further the spread of the Gospel.  We're praying that God would bless my Plexus business so that we can give more and more and that through His blessings, we could do something incredible for His kingdom with this money.

We're praying about future mission's trips because we can't imagine not going back.

We're talking about missions with our kids.

We're discussing how we can better evangelize right where we are - like showing Eli's best friend, David, from Mexico pictures from our time in Honduras.  He was so excited that they looked like him.  He asked to listen to a part of Mark talking to them about Jesus that I had recorded, so I let him.

Do you believe this matters too?  Because it does, friends.

It's that simple.  Just share Jesus, wherever that may be.

If it's on the mission's field in Honduras or Africa.  Share Jesus.

If it's in the grocery store.  Share Jesus.

If it's at work or in the classroom.  Share Jesus.

Because, with hands lifted high, I'm praying, beseeching that He would help us make sense of this.  That I could use the anger to propel me to make changes in my own life.  That I could just share Jesus, wherever that may be.

Hands lifted high, I'm thanking Him for this experience and His provision.

Hands lifted high, I'm begging Him to never let me forget.

Hands lifted high - praising the One Who made us all.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Waiting Game

As many of you know, we're in the process of trying to adopt a little boy.  We've jumped through all the hoops, taken all the classes, transformed our house to meet all their regulations, and are now just waiting.

And waiting.

....and waiting.

Can I be honest for a moment?

It's hard.  So very hard.  This waiting and waiting and waiting for a phone call.

We've been open for almost 5 months now.  We've received exactly zero calls.

This past week, we received an e-mail, asking if we'd be interested in a 5 year old little boy needing a home.  My initial response was "No.  We specified under 2."  And then I would think "But he deserves a home too."  And then back to "But he has this, that, and the other going on.  Be reasonable.  That's more than you can take on with already having 3 kids.  He needs more than you can give."  "Oh, but I would love him".  "Stop it, Phoebe.  You said under 2 for a reason."

And so I sent the reply, declining this sweet 5 year old little boy.

It was horrible.  Heartbreaking.

I look into the eyes of Eli and suddenly he's a 5 year old child needing parents who will love him, never mind that he's 7 and already has parents that love him.  He's now every 5 year old little boy needing a second chance... and it's so very hard.

I know God has a plan for us in and through all the waiting.

But friends, it's excruciating.  And I don't know how to explain this or put it in to words, so if I'm just rambling on, please bare with me.  But I know he's out there.  He's being carried inside his birth mom's womb, or he's already born - living in a situation that none of us would wish upon our children, or he's in foster care - learning to love and bond with another woman that will be devastating for him to leave.... and I just want him home with us.

I know that may not make sense - given we don't know him yet.  We don't know if he'll be days old, months old, or approaching 2.  We don't know if he'll be white, black, bi-racial, Hispanic.  We don't know anything other than our longing to have him home.

And so when I see pictures of other adoptive parents getting the call and holding their new baby, it hurts.  Not because I'm not happy for them, but because somewhere, some place, our son is waiting just as we are.  Because I'm tired of waiting and long to meet him, to hold him, to call him mine, and it just hurts, friends.

I do not presume that it will be easy once we get the call.  We'll all have to adjust, particularly Emi - who doesn't like for mommy to hold anyone else.  But I know this and suspect that when that time comes, I'll be blogging through that process as well.

So, when you ask where we are in the process and we say "still waiting" - know that what we really mean is "The waiting is so very hard."

When it's our turn to share prayer requests and we say "Us as we wait for the call" - know that what we mean is our patience and endurance through this journey - that we could trust His timing and plan - that we're asking you to pray for our son, even though none of us yet know who he'll be.  It's not a trite request - it's a small snippet of what we're experiencing as we play the waiting game.

And to our son - wherever you are - know that as we wait, we pray for you every single day.  I can't even get through this sentence without the tears flowing because we're so ready to meet you.  We have such hopes and dreams for you.  Daddy's already picked out your stuffed animal for you - just as he did for your brother and sisters.  We've already bought you some pajamas and the cutest little toboggan in that animals print.  We bought them bigger to make sure they'd fit.  We took Christmas pictures with an empty rocking chair so when you get here you'll know you were always on the forefront of our minds - that we were waiting and preparing for your arrival - for the day we'd get the call to bring you home and have you in our arms.

You are loved.

You are prayed over.

You are worth the wait.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Why Plexus?

Have you ever felt like you were drowning, just barely staying afloat each day?  Like you're failing at everything.  Failing your husband.  Failing your kids.  Failing your family and friends.  Failing as a Christian..... failing yourself?

I was there.

I struggled day in and day out just to make it to bedtime.  I lived for the moments when Emi would take a nap so I could take one too.... for when the kids would go to bed, just so I could rest.  I literally was sleeping almost half of my life away, yet never feeling rested or refreshed.  And I'd get up and do it all over again.

My kids got to where they wouldn't even ask me to do things with them and if I said yes, they knew that really meant maybe - maybe if she's not tired or if she doesn't have a headache.  I hated this.  I despised it, yet I felt powerless to change it.  

We bought Advil in bulk at Sam's.  I would have headaches 3-5 days a week, at times so severe I would be vomiting and in bed a good portion of the day.

I was dealing with anxiety regarding multiple things - some significant, some trivial - to the point I would give myself diarrhea and begin vomiting.  I would wake up in the middle of the night, shake Mark in a state of panic thinking someone was in the house.... frequently.

Add to that dealing with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) that I've had for 14 years, frequent UTI's, fever blisters, pink eye, and then to top if off, my hair began falling out after I had Emi and 18  months later it hadn't stopped.  It was severe enough I went to the doctor ..... and he recommended I start Rogaine for women.  Yeah... that last sentence was really hard for me to type.

I hated that my wedding rings didn't fit anymore.  The only way I could wear them is because they were literally stuck on my finger.  I asked multiple times if I could just have them sized up a 1/2 - 1 size, although I didn't know how I was going to get them off.  And those of you who know Mark will get a kick out of his response: "Do you know how expensive gold is right now?!"  He was right.  It was ridiculous to want to re-size my rings bigger instead of just fixing the problem.

Problem was - I tried to fix it.  It just wasn't working.

I would exercise and cut back on sweets, yet never be able to lose more than the same 10-15 lbs, which always seemed to find their way back.  And oh did I love me some sweets.  I craved them.  I felt crabby if I didn't eat them.  I loved to buy the 3 lb (or is it 5 lbs?) tub of chocolate chip cookie dough at Sam's.  Then just frequent the refrigerator throughout the day for a few bites.... or for some late night chocolate ice cream topped with cookie dough and drizzled in chocolate syrup.  Never mind the brownies I had eaten that day or the cake earlier in the week, or the mini reeses peanut butter cups, or the stops at Sonic for a cherry Dr. Pepper..... it was always something.

And I hated it.

Stick with me here.  I told you all of that to get to what I really want you to glean from all of this.

I hated that I couldn't seem to get a grasp on the self control and self discipline I so desperately wanted and needed.  But worse, that began flowing over into thoughts about my faith.

"You're so weak."  "You're not trusting God enough."  "Good Christians have self control and don't struggle with these issues."  "You need to rely on Him more and these things wouldn't be an issue."  "Your faith is so shallow."

What I didn't know was that there was a reason behind all those things.

A little thing known as candida, or for us regular folks, yeast.  And to be more precise, an overgrowth of yeast in my gut.  Our American, super-processed, high fructose corn syrup, sugar-y diets feed this yeast until it begins taking over our guts and cravings and demanding more sugar.  And this overgrowth is what causes what is referred to as a leaky gut.  And what does a leaky gut cause?  You guessed it.  About everything I had been experiencing as well as a host of other things.

So, when people ask me "Why Plexus?".  This is why.  It works.  It goes to the core of the problem and fixes it.  It doesn't band-aid it, cover it up, or mask the issue.

Since starting Plexus, naps are now a treat, not a necessity.  I go to bed and sleep like a rock.  I wake up feeling refreshed, often before my alarm even goes off.  I'm doing more and more with my kids, so much so that Anna recently told someone they should try Plexus because I used to be tired all the time but now I'm like SuperMom.  I have headaches probably 2-3 times a month now instead of 3-5 days a week.  My anxiety has drastically decreased and has interrupted my sleep maybe 2-3 times in the past 4 months.  I no longer have IBS, fever blisters, recurrent pink eye.  And you know what.  I did NOT start Rogaine, but I did start on Plexus' XFactor vitamins and now I have new hair growing like crazy.  And that weight problem and struggle with sweets?  I had lost 14 lbs prior to starting Plexus but couldn't get the scale to budge anymore.  I have now lost an additional 20 pounds on top of that and am down 14 inches.  My wedding rings now spin on my finger and won't even stay in place.  And when I'm super cold, I have to be cautious when washing my hands that they don't slip right off.

You know about the only thing it didn't solve?

Hang with me here.  This is my whole point in this post.

It didn't solve the attacks from Satan on my faith.

I still struggle with feeling that needing something to help me means I don't really trust God.  I struggle with the influence that Mark and I have among our friends and family and petitioning God that we always use that wisely.  I've struggled with me going public about Plexus and if that's affected people in a negative manner.  If they've somehow believed that Christ isn't sufficient, if they've thought that casting all our cares on Him isn't good enough, if they've thought that running to something else means that He isn't the Great Physician or that knowing and quoting Scriptures aren't effective enough.  I've wondered if they're in need of a Savior if my promoting Plexus is band-aiding their true problem.

Oh how I've struggled with this, both in testing what I truly believe and in praying that I never lead anyone astray.

The truth is that He IS enough - He's always enough.  And if He's all I ever have, that will be more than enough.  Had I never heard of Plexus, He would still be getting me through each and every day, just like He did 4 months ago and continues to do every day since then and will continue to do every day the rest of my life.

I've had to come to the realization that we only have one life - and I want to live mine abundantly.  And I believe that Christ wants us to live an abundant life as well.  I think living in survival mode does more damage to our testimony than taking supplements designed to help get and keep us healthy.

I had to realize that if we wouldn't tell someone with high blood pressure or diabetes or high cholesterol to not take medication, then I shouldn't worry about needing a product that kills the yeast overgrowth in my gut to help me not have  to take medications for headaches, IBS, hair growth, etc.

But more than anything, I'm learning that His grace is sufficient.  He's teaching me that although these products have been life changing for me, that I'm still in need of His grace daily.  He's teaching me what it means to come alongside people and genuinely care for them in a way that's much different than I'm used to (ie. my counseling office).  He's teaching me to trust Him on this journey.  I don't know where it will lead financially for us.  That's scary for me.  Both the prospect of it bottoming out and the prospect of it taking off and doing well.  So I trust Him.  Trust that He'll provide however He sees fit.  Trust that He'll help me be successful should that be His desire for us.  Trust that He'll work all things out if it doesn't.

This journey has led me to prayer, time and time again.  Praying for those under me.  Praying for my customers.  Praying for those interested.  Praying that God would give me wisdom to share but not be pushy.  Praying that God would let others see Him through me and that Plexus wouldn't interfere but could be another means for me to share His faithfulness.

Because what I've also come to realize is that those who know me ... well, they know me.  They know that I would never elevate Plexus to where only God can be.  They know that if someone is in need of Christ that I'll be there to answer their questions, pray with them... for them, and that by the end I'll be crying tears of joy for them as I have so many times before.  They know when times are tough, they can come to me.  They know if they need help moving, if they need a friend to sit with them in a waiting room, if they need prayer about a concern, or want me to just sit in silence with them as they grieve - they know.  They know I'll be there.  And at some point, I had to realize this and tell Satan to just shut it.

Because Plexus will never change who I am at the core.  It won't change that I'm a wife and mother, a friend, daughter, sister.  It won't change that I love Christ and fully trust Him, not just with this, but with all things.  It hasn't changed how I quote Scriptures to myself throughout the day or pray for those who come to mind as I go about my day.

It hasn't changed me.  It's only changed how my gut functions and in turn, how I look and feel.  But those things aren't me.

Because as I step foot on the airplane to Honduras in a few weeks, I can assure you it's Scripture that I'll be quoting and prayers I'll be praying to the One who holds all things in His hands.

So for those who know me, not much has changed other than how I look and feel.  And for those who don't know me all that well, maybe this will help answer "Why Plexus?".  

Because for me, it's really kind of changed into "Why not?"

Friday, March 06, 2015

Eyes on Him

Recently, Aldi's opened a store here in town.  I love Aldi's and the bargains I can get.  My kids love it for another reason.... putting the quarter in the shopping cart and then getting it back out.  Eli, in particular, loves to just drive by to see if there are carts in the parking lot he can return so he can pocket a quarter.  And being as cute as he is, several little old ladies have given him their cart to return.  He's quite the entrepreneur.  ;)

But something recently ruined this for him.  We stopped by to pick up a few items after church one Sunday.  I was staying in the van with the girls.  Him and Mark were going in.  But there was one of those glorious carts in the parking lot, so he was going after it.  Mark went up to the cart area to wait for him.... only Eli didn't know this.  I knew immediately what was coming.  When you have a child with Asperger's you just kind of learn their triggers and then tailor things in a way to prevent instances such as this.  Only it was too late.  Mark was out of his sight.  He didn't know what to do or where to go and panic flooded his face.  Before I could get out of the truck to stop the full blown meltdown, he was in tears, running back to the truck.... pushing the cart with him.  I met him and tried to tell him it was okay, that Dad was right up there waiting for him.  He refused to go.  He was sobbing and inconsolable.

He no longer cared about the quarter.

He'd lost sight of his father and panic ensued.

I get teary eyed just recalling that day.  It may seem insignificant, but I remember the fear in his eyes.  I remember rushing to try to avoid what I knew was inevitably coming.  And I remember how he lost the excitement for finding carts and gleaning a shiny new quarter.

The truth is, I'm often just like him.

I lose sight of the Father.  I focus on the problems in front of me and inevitably, panic and worry ensue.

As most of you know, we recently signed on to go to Honduras on a mission's trip.  It's something we've always wanted to do and what's so great about it is that a.) we're finally getting to go b.) I'm getting to go with my husband, mom and best friend c.) we're getting to go with my home church I grew up in.  I'm excited and looking forward to seeing what God does through this opportunity.

But it hasn't been without trials and disappointments.

You know how they say that when God is in something you can expect opposition?

That's been proven true, time and time again.

I've been so down here lately.  Fundraisers not doing as good as we had hoped.  Having to cancel a fundraiser due to the weather forecasting rain and then it not raining.  And now the 8 inches of snow outside has forced us to cancel our upcoming yard sale fundraiser and reschedule another one.  I don't understand.

But then again, I don't have to.

One might begin to question our decision to go.  We have not.

We believe that when He said GO that He meant it and that it doesn't mean just a select few but rather everyone who professes Christ.  That might mean next door, at work, in your city, across the country, or it might mean leaving the country like we are.  But we're all called to go.

I don't know how this will all pan out.  If it's going to be Mark working overtime to pay for it, if it's going to be my Plexus business taking off (although doubtful since we're 4 weeks from the trip and 1/3 of what I make goes straight to taxes), if it's going to be our fellow Christians, friends and family helping be the hands and feet of Christ by giving towards this trip or by some other means.  I don't know.

But again, I don't have to.

I just have to trust Him and keep my eyes on Him, never losing sight.

Because time and time again, I've taken the long, hard road of losing sight of the Father.

Times when my feelings have been hurt and my focus turns to the accuser instead of the Comforter.

Times when those comments have caused me to look at myself and work, work, work to change it so it won't be true anymore instead of turning to what He says about me.

Times when I've been heartbroken and wallowed in self pity instead of running to the Savior.

Times when I've begged and pleaded, petitioning for the lives of my babies, the lives of my friends' babies and was angry when the answer was no, instead of remembering that for everything there is a season.

Times when I've relied on Phoebe instead of the One who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Times when I've looked at circumstances instead of the One who holds all things together.

Times when I stepped out in faith only to become like Peter and look down, questioning my decision instead of keeping my eyes on the Father.

So very many times.

I wish I could say this wasn't true.  But it is.

What's also true is that a quick shift in focus can change everything.

Peter looked up and called out for help.  It was that simple.  Eyes on the Father, Jesus reached out and pulled him to safety.

I often wonder what all Peter would have experienced had he never taken his eyes off of Jesus.  And that begs the question:

What all do we miss because we've averted our eyes to something else?

Probably more than I dare imagine.  And that gentle reminder is what beckons me to keep my eyes on Him each and every time I feel the sting of disappointment.  Each time I'm hurt, each time someone's words cut deep, each time I've let myself down, each time I'm fretting over something out of my control.

Eyes on the Father, friends.  

Eyes on the Father.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

He's Waiting

I remember shortly after I had Eli, I had put him in the swing for a nap and ran to take a quick shower.  I got out to find the front door wide open.  My heart sank.  There was Eli asleep in the swing but Anna was gone.  At that point I didn't know if she had gone out on her own or if someone had taken her.  I was desperate.  I ran into my bedroom, threw on some clothes (completely skipping putting on undergarments) and yelled to Mark who was asleep from working night shift "Anna's missing!!!".  He bolted out of bed, threw pants on and we ran outside searching for her.  We were desperate. I didn't care that my hair was wet, that I didn't have a bra on, that I was in pajamas, no makeup, yelling "Anna!  Anna!  ANNA!"  I did not care one bit.

I just wanted my daughter back.

Every worst case scenario ran through my mind and just as we were getting to the point of knocking on doors and calling the police, I saw her little head bobbing inside the van.  She had let herself out, gotten in the van, shut the door, and was sitting there putting on my lip gloss.  She was so proud of herself.

I cried.

I hugged her.  I held on to her.

Relief flooded me as I finally had her back in my arms.

And then we bought a chain for the door.

That last little line is funny.  The rest.... well, it still makes my heart sink remembering that day.

I don't know why this came to mind a few days ago, but it did.  And as I sat there thinking about all those emotions we felt, the Holy Spirit whispered "That's how He feels about you."

I wonder if from the moment He weaves us together in our mother's womb (Ps. 139:13), if He begins longing for our return.  If He feels that deep ache of being separated from His children.

I imagine that my love for my children pales in comparison to His love for us.  And that's hard for me, because I love my children more than life itself.

Yet He whispers "So do I.  I have the scars to prove it."

I wonder if He aches, wanting us back in His arms.  If that's why He says it's a precious thing when one of His saints is called home (Ps. 116:15).

We're left with the loss and heartache when we lose someone, yet I imagine Him waiting, longing for our return.  For the day those who've trusted in Him will be reunited.  When we'll fall face down in adoration and worship, and when He'll embrace us, take us in His arms, and say "Well done".

What an incredible thought this has been for me.

I don't know where you are right now.  If you're missing a loved one who has already gone on to glory.  If you're in agony, awaiting someone you love to make that journey home.  Or if you just need to hear this simple message:

He's waiting.

Arms open wide.  Waiting for your return.  Like we long for our children, He longs for us.

And that my friends, is a message that never gets old.