Little things make me happy, like seeing brothers in the afternoon sunlight. It's a fine thing to watch while peeling vegetables at the kitchen sink.
Relationships being built or solidified... This has been one of my top priorities this month. Well, no, it is majorly important to me always. But this month, in new and formative ways, relationship has been at the forefront of my mind.
"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purposes."
Rom. 8: 26-28
It would seem that darkness lingers longer in the mornings around here as I sleep restlessly and wake many times before the sun comes up. I know I need rest, so let myself ease back into sleep for a while only to wake again while it is still dark. The sun comes up slowly, my sleep apparently lasting only a few moments. I talk to God again, just like I had been some 6 hours or so earlier. "Talk" is not really a fitting word. I've not always talked to God because the words have not always been there.
I am laid bare. At times I've been quite wrecked. Those late night moments and early morning hours... He just knows. He sees me-- my inner most being, my fears, my questions, my all. And He just knows.
In a sense I do pray because I just hold on tight. It is my simple, humble worship and petition: "God, you know. Help me. We need you..."
Morning light comes and the pounding of my heart and churning of my stomach sets in strong. I ask once more, "Show me Your power today. Let me know your presence. I need to see something of You today because I can't do this alone..."
And He is always faithful. Always. Even when I could have despaired, He was faithful still.
I hang on to small bits of truths throughout the day. Small bits, moment by moment, just keeping things simple in my mind and heart. The days and weeks and situations are not always simple, but the important truths need to be crystal clear and close to me at all times. My Bible stays open, the same passage is read again several times. At times I have hardly held on, only by a thread. Maybe God is showing me that in my strength I am unable, but He won't let go?
His Words. Simple and clear. I believe.
"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace in time of need."
Heb. 4: 14-16
"When you pray, better to let your heart be without words than your words without a heart."
It's hard to know where to start, what to say, what not to say. I have often struggled with balancing authenticity and maintaining privacy. If I can't be authentic, then this blog is no longer of value to me and I shut it down. However, privacy is obviously necessary, especially for those who have not volunteered for their business to be publicized, or in our case now, when we have a contract that restricts the sharing of the most basic information. So at this point I find it difficult to write honestly since I cannot provide necessary background.
There is seriously very little I can share: The children are here, and our goal is adoption. Most people know that these things take a ridiculous amount of time. Working with the state in this way is like working with the DMV in a grander scale: There is no end to the inefficiency! In the meantime, I cannot post pictures or release any information regarding identity, history of their past, legal status, etc. Two children are in our care and protection now, and I want to do that in a way that honors them.
(We were expecting them here for Christmas. This was in December when I showed the children's pictures for the first time.)
The last two weeks have been a wild ride. It feels like it has been two months at least. Of course we knew things would be hard and we prepared as best we could, but in the midst of this crazy transition and adjustment, the difficulty of it all seems so much more than I bargained for. On the other hand, things have gone remarkably well. Truly, it has been a crazy, crazy time. Every emotion has been present, and there is no simple way to describe this experience. There are adjustments being made on so many levels and for so many people, but on the whole I am so entirely proud of how everyone is doing. There is much to be thankful for.
I think the psycho-emotional-social (or whatever you want to call it!) has been the most challenging, but the logistical and functional aspects of our days have been out of this world as well. This past week: various social workers, appointments, school registration, meetings with administrators, injuries, injury reports, dentists, hours at the RE, flu virus circulating our home, lessons rescheduled, mountains of paperwork... oh, yes, and schooling and housekeeping and meals... and maintaining sanity throughout!
At the end of each day though, when discouragement would seem most likely, there is always enough good to be confident that all of this is just right. I have full confidence that this is right and good. There is so much I want to share: Things the kids have said (the big ones and the littler ones), times when Jon has given me both the grace I needed and the encouragement to press on, difficulty melting into manageability, evidences of God's work and presence... It amazes me how a simple moment can wipe away hours of difficulty.
Yesterday was a nice day. It was a nice break because nothing major happened. I've got to expect the unexpected now, but when nothing unexpected happens it's an unexpected pleasure! Ha!
It was Valentine's Day and I felt loved. Things have been too weird to plan much of anything, but seeing the day as it unfolded made me think of true and enduring love. Jon is my heart throb. Literally, my heart has been pounding for him! I think of him all the time! By breakfast time I am already feeling impatient for his return! Our current situation has not caused me to be distracted from him, rather I just can't wait to be alone with him. Yesterday we did not exchange cards and there were no gifts or flowers or sweets, but I felt so blessed to be his wife. I watched him work hard and patiently endure, and I felt his commitment to me displayed in his character. Romance is nice, but it is not what displays true love. Real love is steadfast love when life isn't easy, when loving isn't pretty. I am in love with this beautiful husband of mine...
(A simple gift from Jacob, who is my latest flu victim.)
I would like to thank all of you who have sent emails, texts, comments, etc. in response to my last post! I am sorry I have not been able to reply to everyone yet, but your words and sentiments are meaningful to me! Thank you.
I sit here tonight, fingering the keys of my laptop with an inability to write, and contemplating putting off writing for at least another day. You see, this is the post I've been hoping to write for years now. Literally, years. It's the post I have often dreamed of delightfully assembling. It was going to be a cheerful announcement with enchanting pictures, and it would mark the end of waiting and the beginning of a new journey and calling. But now the long awaited time is here, and I'm simply paralyzed. My words are stuck, they are not even forming, and the grand announcement is not rolling out with the romantic sentiment I once expected.
The years of waiting and hoping did indeed mature me out of believing it would all be easy and only wonderful. Those years were not wasted, and the work which God did in my heart was entirely necessary. Some of these things I will eventually share because they are a significant part of my story now. However, I am discovering that my lessons have only just begun. This is not the end of one thing, only the continuation of deeper and more intimate instruction by my Savior. If there is a beginning, it is of me clinging to God in a brand new way and coming to know Him and His power more intimately. To me, this is the blessing.
But in my frailty I find myself unsure at times. I see myself in the big black eyes that look up at me each day, hesitant, scared, and wondering if I'll pull through for them.
There are eight chairs around our dining table. Our house is full. Two more children now call me Mom.
A big pot of chicken stock simmered all afternoon, the kids played with each other like good friends, someone drew silly faces on the bunch of bananas on the counter, and we had a "dance fest" to the introductory music of an audio book in the little boys' room before bedtime.
January has been good. I've had to skip writing much of this good stuff, but my heart overflows with thankfulness. Truly, sometimes it beats hard with anticipation and trepidation, but wonderful things are transpiring and there is goodness all around.
I've learned more of God's love for me in brand new ways this month. I've especially been struck with how He chose to set His love on me before I yet knew Him, and loved me despite all my sin and shame. He loved me before I knew Him and waited patiently for me to come. I've thought of the way He willingly entered my world, leaving His glorious heaven to enter my place of sin in order to rescue me from it. I've thought of how He laid down His very life for me, died and now lives victoriously, my freedom purchased by His blood.
The depth of His love and the magnitude of His sacrifice are in comprehensible, but bit by bit I am finding joy and abiding satisfaction in sacrificial love. Did Jesus not say, "Come, follow me"?
"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his live will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."
Luke 9: 23-26
Strong language? Maybe a little terrifying? Oh, but what a wonderful promise if we believe and live by it!
Some of my most favorite times this month have been in prayer with Jon, his end-of-day praise and petitions before we fall asleep. His leadership in this way, his words, his humility... they are a transformative thing for our marriage. Even though he is not speaking to me, his prayers to God communicate depth of love and unify us well beyond the minutes spent with heads bowed. And I believe God is in the business of answering prayer, so together we lay our petitions for Him to work out, trusting in His perfect love and His perfect timing.
I have such admiration for Jon. He is a confident man, yes, but can also be hard on himself. He is always striving after righteousness, for humble obedience. I see the Lord working in him, fruit of righteousness becoming evident in new ways. God has given me a great gift in this husband of mine.
Pictures from early January during the Christmas break-
Hiking after the rain
After a long ascent, a snack in the grasses off the trail
Sharing sunflower seeds with a brother
Funny how many pictures I took of their backs. They don't know how much I enjoy watching them...
Miss Long Legs waiting at the end
I fully believe life can be wonderful, if only we look for the wonder. There are certainly wearying things, hardship, sadness. But there is also much beauty, and joy, and contentment. Beauty is all around for those who look for it, joy is a fruit that can be cultivated, and contentment comes by way of discipline in thankfulness. Maybe you are depressed by the bleakness of a frozen winter, but by looking you see the beauty of God's creation in ice crystals and the joy of a cup of warmth shared in the company of a friend. Maybe you are going through a trial, but you remember the growth you've experienced in past sufferings, knowing that all things are for the good of those who love the Lord. Maybe your pain seems more than you can bear. Let me remind you that God's promises are true, His word never fails, and He draws near to those who call out to Him. And maybe now, for a little while, life is just plain good. Don't forget who to praise for it.
She is my Olivia, and she is a girl like me. We are more alike than not, I think, and this season of life has been so fun. We are now entering a new phase, one that will means more clothes and more sharing. This was her last Sunday: my boots, my coat, my dress (which I wear as a shirt-- it's so short!), and the leg warmers and cardigan (not visible) were also once mine. I can't quite wear much of her things yet, but I do borrow items like scarves, a vest, and other accessories. We love it!
Last night I lay in bed trying to solve a problem. This one has to do with Jon and Michael and all the black men's socks I have to sort, fold, and keep in the correct dresser. I'm having a hard time keeping things straight and remembering if the Puma socks with the emblem at the top are Michael's and if the ones with the emblem on the bottom are Jon's. Or is it the other way around? What about the ones I bought for Michael and ended up being used by Jon-- Which ones were those again?
So I lay there in the dark thinking: What am I going to do when all the boys wear men's socks? Will they have to have communal socks? What about the underwear?! There has got to be some sort of system out there...
It's a funny problem to have, I suppose, but I seriously wouldn't mind knowing what other moms do. Any suggestions?
Just a few minutes ago it was hailing outsiding. The sound of ice pelting against the house woke everyone except Jack, and we all stood at the sliding glass door staring out into the dark for several minutes. The house is now quiet again except for steady rain, some gentle crackling from the fire, and occasional thunder. It's a good time for writing here by the fire. I don't normally prefer tea, but maybe a cup would be nice, too...
The year is coming up to its end point, and I find myself unusually less sentimental. Typically I tend to look back and become somewhat saddened by the swiftness and brevity of time, and marvel at the coming date. Really? 2015! How can that even be? It's true the year did go by quickly, and I'm sure I missed a ton of moments I'd like to reclaim. My kids have grown, I have aged, and time seems to tick so darn fast.
But this year my focus is a little different. I don't find myself looking back very often, or lamenting the passing of time, or fearful of possible challenges around the bend. This change of perspective is more by default, not on purpose or by determination, but it's definitely a nice place to be. Yes, I much prefer being the kind of girl that can smile at the future. It makes me wonder what it would feel like to "laugh at the time to come" (Prov. 31:15). To smile is one thing, but to laugh takes faith and contentment and courage to a whole new level.
Throughout the month of December, I've found myself reading and thinking through Luke's passage commonly know as Mary's Magnificat. Several messages at church focused on this section; I was also asked to read the preceding section to the women at our ladies event several weeks ago. So many aspects about Mary life struck me, but the one verse I kept re-reading was her response to the angle Gabriel in Luke 1:38. She said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." Her magnificat - her ability to praise and exalt the Lord - could only come after she submitted herself entirely to the will of God.
Mary was an ordinary girl from a nowhere town. It's true that becoming the mother of Jesus would elevate Mary's humble estate and that all future generations would call her blessed (v. 48), but she did not experience those blessing during her lifetime. Instead, she would know a loss of good reputation and perceived moral standing, she would know fear (ex. the punishment for adultery could be death, she and Joseph fled to Egypt for safety from bloody murder), and she would probably feel confused and alone as the years went on. I wonder if she ever felt a little crazy, especially as Jesus' life and ministry was so different from what the Jewish people expected from the Messiah. Most importantly though, Mary would feel a sword pierce through her own soul (Lk. 2: 35).
But Mary's soul was submitted to God, and she had faith in His sovereign word. All the loss and pain did not matter in comparison to being used by God in the exact way He intended.
Mary was indeed a special mother. No other woman can boast of the same divine favor, or compare to her pain. And yet, somehow, I cannot help but see similarities between Mary's response to God's call on her life and the call God has on Christian mothers. Motherhood is a call to submission to God's will for my life, and I know it is a call that can lead to great pain. I must be willing to say, "I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word." I want to be that servant, the one who willingly lives out the work that God has prepared for me, knowing that there may be much pain and sorrow involved.
And there most certainly is sorrow in motherhood. It could be a loss of personal pursuits, the loss of health, or status in society. Sorrow could be the result of a child that rejects us, or even worse, rejects God. Motherhood unquestionably brings great vulnerability to great pain. Within the last few months I know two mothers that have lost their children: The 10-year old daughter of my best friend in Jr./Sr. High was killed in a tragic accident, and a mother in our church lost her son in a car accident this last Christmas day.
"Here is my heart and my very life. I will serve You according to Your plan. Do to me as You have purposed." Can I stand with Mary and utter those words wholeheartedly? I want my love for God and my trust in His sovereignty and lovingkindness to exceed the love I have for myself and my own happiness. May I live in a way that magnifies the Lord.
Special times with the kids on the 26th. Andrew was testing out his new football.
Michael. He goes out daily for a ride.
California. Definitely not a white Christmas. Temporary hail not counted.
Little feather pendant from Michael.
Olivia was away all of yesterday, so I took the boys on a little outing of their choice. We parked and walked/scootered/state boarded up the coast. The weather was blissful, and the holiday tourists were numerous!
Looking out to see what we could see. The water was so clear we could see tiny fish and the ocean floor rippled below in between waves.
A pelican glaring at my boy who badly wanted to pet him.
Racing me up the hill. I took the shorter, steeper route, and they took the longer, easier ramp. I won.
My boys. Couldn't imagine life without them.
Andrew admiring his favorite house. It's a tiny house, smaller and set further back in comparison to neighboring homes. He's thought of writing the owners to let them know he'd be interested in buying it when he grows up.
Our December plans were changed more than once in pretty big ways. In the end though, it was just right. The more-relaxed-than-expected schedule allowed for plenty of gatherings with friends, with late night conversations and games. Some among us have significant changes on the horizon, and it was good to huddle together and rehearse God's faithfulness.