Striving to live authentically while pursuing holiness

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Election 2016

For my own sanity, this will be the last thing I post about the election. And I'm going to TRY not to comment on anyone else's election posts. We'll see. I was gathering my thoughts about the election, and it somehow became a blog post in my head. Ever since 1992, my first election in which I ever voted, I've heard every four years that it was the "most important election in our country's history." America would fall apart if a democrat got into office. Well, that year, Bill Clinton won the election. I remember the fear and apprehension I felt when I learned the results. Afraid for my future and for the future of any children that I might have, I couldn't even fathom how there could be people out there who voted for those Democrats! When Obama got into office, I was told that he was going to turn America into a third world country. Literally. For real, people. Third world country. I was terrified again. The only sane voice I heard was my rock of a husband telling me that it would, indeed, be okay. I admit, I questioned his sanity, but thank God he stuck with me! 
I've voted out of fear. I've voted for people just to vote against someone else. I've bought into the hype, the hysteria, the insecurity that I've been told I need to feel. When I look back over this, I am sad and disappointed. Because most of the people who were telling me these things were people who should've been saying, "God is in charge. God is in control. God is our rock and our fortress. We can trust him." But I'm seeing the same thing again this election year. The pastors that are proclaiming that this is the one that's going to change it all. And I'm sure some of you will try to convince me that this year really is different. One thing I know is that I serve a sovereign God, who appoints kings to their thrones. He knows the plans he has for us. He holds the whole world in his hands.
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.....Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" Psalm 46 1-3; 10-11
Y'all, we can trust him even if the mountains are falling into the ocean!!! Do you know what kinda scary that would be?? Just think about it!! But we can trust him even then. Why?? Because HE IS IN CONTROL. He has the plans all written out. Not one thing can happen in my life, in your life, in the life of America or the world without his direction! Why wouldn't I trust him?? If I really believe that book that he wrote for me, why in the world would I be anxious right now? No matter who gets elected, he is still on the throne. He commands me not to be anxious. He tells me not to worry. He tells me that he will take care of tomorrow.
I will vote. I will vote my conscience. I will not vote AGAINST anyone. I will vote FOR someone. It will not be for either of the two major party candidates. I will vote knowing that my chosen candidate will not win, but I will sleep at night knowing that I didn't vote for any candidate that doesn't live by the character that I wouldn't want my children to emulate. I will vote with enthusiasm in my local elections. I will do what I can to change our country, starting with my own city. I'm proud that our governor said that TN would take Syrian immigrants because I believe that's what Jesus would do. I want to work with the immigration ministry in Knoxville to help these scared foreigners feel loved, welcomed and taken care of. I want to work towards racial reconciliation and unity in Knoxville and in all of America. I want to work toward a future America that's greater than it's ever been. To me, that means serving the oppressed, working towards justice for all, loving the least of these.
Maybe that's not possible. Maybe America is too far gone. But my desire above all things is to love God and love people. That's it. Maybe some people think that's too simple minded. Maybe it is. But it's what I see when I look into God's Word. The Word became flesh, and he dwelt among us. And when someone asked him what was the most important commandment of all, he said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself." So there you have it. Love God. Love people. When I look into the teachings of Christ, I see nothing about keeping safe or secure. I see that he tells us that we will be persecuted for his sake. I see nothing about making sure we have more. I see that he tells us not to worry about food or clothes or shelter for the future. I see that he tells us that life is precious. ALL life is precious, not just the unborn. Of course unborn life is precious! But so are immigrant lives, black lives, homeless lives, homosexual lives and all other lives that don't look exactly like mine. All lives are precious to him. And I don't find either party platform telling me that they believe that. 
Personally, I would think both options were pretty scary if I didn't know where my security lies. But I do know. I know because he has told me, and I believe him. I refuse to be anxious because I know that my Redeemer lives and he is in control even if the mountains shall fall into the sea. Even if Hillary Clinton gets into office. Even if Donald Trump gets into office. Even if all the next SCOTUS nominees are pro-choice democrats (because seriously, people, what have the republicans done about abortion laws in the past 43 years????) My Redeemer has a plan. He plans to give me a hope and a future. And I trust that his plan is better than anything I could ever come up with. And certainly better than anything any politician could!
So there it is--my unsolicited political opinion. And now I'm done. Come on, November, so I can stop reading all the crap in my newsfeed!! And Jesus will be glorified, no matter the outcome. He will still be on the throne.
"He has told you, oh man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God." Micah 6:8

Friday, August 19, 2016

Another Good-bye

You would think I would be used to these "good-byes" by now, but they just get harder. Each one seems a little more permanent than the last. I just watched him walk down the steps and into the living room first thing this morning for the last time in a very long while. He'll be gone for 17 weeks this time before coming home for Christmas. 17 weeks?? Do you know how long that is?? Because I can tell you. It's 119 days. 1/3 of a year!! I get by with telling myself that if I really need to, I can hop on a plane and get in a weekend visit. I honestly don't know if that can happen with all of the craziness here, but it's my comfort.

When we chose our family verse years ago, it seemed so honorable and right. But reality seldom feels easy or right.
"Like arrows in the hands of a mighty warrior are the children of ones' youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." Psalm 127:3-4
 Arrows aren't meant to remain in a quiver. Good arrows are molded and shaped to shoot far and fly straight. My first arrow is ready to fly. And he's flying far. He's seeking the life to which he feels he's been called. He will be learning, living and working with people who most likely grew up a lot differently than he did. They will most likely look, talk and act differently as well. These are the people to whom he feels led to love. He is not about sanitized Christianity in any way. He sees every person (no matter how well or badly they view themselves) as a broken, hurting soul, beautifully made in the image of Christ, in need of a Savior. And he loves them where they are. He struggles a bit with loving the "good" ones, the ones who think or act like they have it all together. He's learning that he needs to give grace to them just as most of us need to learn to give grace to the hard hearted sinner. Give him an ex-con any day over a church goer who can't accept differences in others.

Some people haven't been able to get this or accept this about him. That's okay. He's not always been easy to get! He's not exactly what you would call a rule follower. He does things and says thing to which many Christians cringe. Sometimes I think it's to prove a point. What 19 year old doesn't want to prove a point? He's got a hard exterior, and he can look kind of scary sometimes. He definitely has a "resting bitch face" (which, I'm not sure what you call it when it's a guy!!) and that keeps people from getting too close. If you are able to get close, you find a loyal friend for life. He doesn't look like what cultural Christianity says he should, but he's good with that. He doesn't think Jesus did either. He does not shy away from striking up a conversation with anyone about his beliefs and their need for a Savior, and every person whose life he's touched over the last year knows where he stands. He seeks out those whom he feels God has placed in his path to share the gospel. He's got a hard exterior and he's a bit rough so those are usually the people he attracts.

I didn't write this to extol his virtues, and I'm very well aware of his vices!! But most people who know him know those all too well so I don't really feel the need to balance it out with those! And for right now, I'm feeling somewhat nostalgic and sad that he's leaving so I'll leave it at this. I've really enjoyed the conversations we've had over the past few weeks and months. I see him digging into God's word, dissecting it, and struggling with living it out. I've seen him get angry and impatient and slip back into old, sinful habits. Then I've seen him realize, repent, and change. That's been super awesome to see. That's something that only the holy spirit can do. Because heaven knows, I was never able to. It's beautiful to see God working in your child's heart.

I am beginning to see how some parents are okay with just letting their kids live in their basement forever!! I think I might be good with that right now as well. The other kids keep telling him to stay. They don't want him to leave. Last night we spent hours watching old You Tube videos that he had made when he was 10, 11, 12. It was so great! Back before his voice changed. Every time I watch them, I see a little more into his soul. I think of all the dreams he had back then. I think of how he's been hurt and changed since then. He understands that everything that's happened has been a part of God's plan and shaping him into who he is to do the mission that's been set before him.

If you're a praying person, I'd appreciate prayers for his safety. He shared with me that's he actually nervous. He's never nervous. He knows how dangerous this profession is. It seems ironic that his most hated childhood saying, "safety first," is what he needs to remember now. We laughed about that together yesterday, and he realizes it's truth. So I pray that he will always remember "safety first." I do feel much better knowing that he is mature enough to take this seriously. And even with how nervous his is, he knows this is his calling. He will pursue it with purpose.

And tomorrow we will shoot our first arrow straight and far--far off to Prince Edward Island, Canada--to pursue God's will for his life. I pray that he will always listen to that still, small voice to lead him in the way he should go.

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Psalm 22:6

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Parenting through relationship....not Fear

I've been convicted recently to start blogging again....blogging about things that have been on my heart, things that I have been struggling through especially as my kids are getting older.

One thing that I see all around me and have to fight against myself is parenting out of fear. It's ironic because most of the people I see doing this are Christians...those of us who claim to believe that God is sovereign over all. We claim that our children are not our own. They are God's. We claim that God is the only one who can change hearts and behaviors. And yet we live and parent so differently.  Looking within my own self I see why. We are conditioned to believe from very early on that WE are responsible for how our children turn out. Of course, if asked, we respond differently. We say we know it's all God, but we parent like it's us. This is usually because we are afraid of the judgement that comes from the rest of the Christian community. We are told that our children should look a certain way, act a certain way, live and love a certain way. So we pretend that God is in control while secretly we prod, pray and even punish to make sure our kids fit the good Christian mold.

The Bible doesn't say much directly about parenting. I think this is on purpose so that each of us must seek Him and listen as he leads us in parenting our own children. But one example that I've gone to over and over is the story of the Prodigal Son. The Father, that Jesus claims is just like our Heavenly Father, never demanded his way. He loved and loved and continued to love. He gave grace and mercy even when it seemed ridiculous. Tim Keller claims in his book, "Prodigal God" that this story was less about the two sons and more about the Father. The word prodigal doesn't mean "wayward" as we so often would guess. But it actually means "recklessly spendthrift."

As Keller says, "It means to spend until you have nothing left. This term is therefore as appropriate for describing the father in the story as his younger son. The father's welcome to the repentant son was literally reckless, because he refused to 'reckon' or count his sin against him or demand repayment."
The Father recklessly gave grace, love and mercy to his son who had used him, taken everything from him and basically told him he wished he were dead. I'm wondering if this father was worried about what everyone around him thought when he gave into his son's demands that he give him his inheritance now. I also wonder if the son would've returned to his father's home if his father had made sure he knew he was wrong, written off, no good? What made the son think he could actually be forgiven by a father that he embarrassed in front of the whole community? The only answer is Grace. He knew his father would give him grace.

I'm pretty sure this son didn't up and demand his way one day. I'm pretty sure he must've had a reputation for doing just that. He was probably the defiant kid with angry eyes, crossed arms, and pouting lips about having to sit in worship. He was probably the kid who crawled through drainage pipes, jumped over fences and scaled the playground equipment to stand at the scary top when all the mothers were freaking out about how dangerous it was. He was probably the kid who decided to punch the wrong doer because he didn't want to be a tattletale and thought he needed to "take care of it himself." He was probably the kid who walked miles and miles to his girlfriend's house without anyone knowing where he was. He was probably the kid who used bad language and went barefoot to church. He was probably a lot like my oldest son.

And so maybe this father, like me, had to make a decision that his relationship with his son was more important to him than blind obedience. Maybe he had to come to the realization that he could never change his son's heart. Only God could do that by using his earthly father to show him the grace and love of our Heavenly Father. Maybe he decided that it mattered less what other believers thought of his parenting and more how his parenting affected his son.

I'm so grateful that God taught me so many of these things early on in my parenting. I'm grateful that he showed me that I needed to get to know my child and what he needed rather than to worry about what others thought. Oh, I can't say I was perfect at that. I failed miserably at times. But thankfully, I learned. I'm still learning, but I'm so much of a better parent today to my kids still at home because of what I learned in the early years. Do I still fail?? Um, yes. Fearful parenting shows up in a lot of different ways....

In this day and age of social media and internet, there are LOTS of things of which to be fearful when thinking about it from the world's point of view. Everywhere we are bombarded with people's opinions and warnings about what our kids should and shouldn't look at, participate in, etc. I'm not saying these warnings aren't good or helpful. As parents it's our job to know what's going on with our kids, what they are involved in and especially what is going on in their phones, computers or other electric devices!! But I've become aware recently that I had given in to the fear again.

My 14 year old daughter has been asking me if she can have snapchat for months. Literally, MONTHS!! She let me know that she was the only one of her friends who didn't have it. Who hasn't heard that one, right? She said she was feeling really left out and asked me once a week why she couldn't have it. Well of course my standard answer was that it was a dangerous app. Of course I trusted her, but I couldn't trust other people who might send her things. She told me that you have to accept people or at least give them your snapchat address. But all I had heard were scary things, things out of my control, things that made me want to shut her up in her room (without her phone) and keep her there until she was 25!! Yes, she has an Instagram. No, she's never given me any reason not to trust her. Actually, quite the contrary. She's made some really mature choices for a kid her age. Choices that I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to make when I was in middle school. But still....snapchat is from the devil, right???

This isn't a new phenomenon. Parenting has always been scary. For my generation, my parents did everything they could to keep us away from sex, drugs and rock and roll. They probably parented a lot out of fear as well!! It's a lot of pressure thinking the way your kids turns out is all on you! Each generation has it's own dilemmas. Thing is....ours seems much scarier. I mean, it really is, right? How do we control this thing we call the World Wide Web?? How do we make sure that our kids don't fall into the social media trap and ruin their future lives by posting half naked, drunken pictures of themselves for the world to bring up in 10-15 years? How do we make sure that we keep our son's (and daughter's) eyes and minds pure and away from the porn that bombards them with just a few easy clicks? How do we keep our daughters (and sons) from being lured by child predators lurking on all the new apps that we don't know about....the ones who know just the right things to say to teenage girls looking to be loved and wanted? How do we keep the cyber bullies away or keep our kids from being the bully? As parents of this generation, we are on the front lines. We've been thrown in to this with no preparation and every now and then someone warns us of a new app, some new social media, a new way that the evil world can seep into our children's minds.

Last summer when all the craziness about Josh Duggar molesting his sisters and then cheating on his wife with prostitutes came out, I remember reading an article written in The Gospel Coalition that was spot on. It said (paraphrased) that while Josh Duggar's parents were so busy trying to keep the world out of their home, they forgot about the sin that was already in it. Our kids have sinful hearts. It's there without anyone having to show it to them. Parenting out of fear, keeping everything away from them, in my opinion breeds rebellion and breaks trusts. So what is the answer?

Well, I'm still trying to figure this out like everyone else. But something that I've learned from my earlier years of parenting is definitely....don't parent out of fear. Parent out of relationship. I determined early on to have relationship with my kids. I wanted open communication ALL.THE.TIME. So at our house, we talk about everything. We talk about things that others might be uncomfortable with. We talk openly about whatever subject comes up because I want my kids to know there is NOTHING taboo to talk to me about. This is something that my husband had a little bit of a hard time with in the beginning, but man, he is awesome. When my 14 year old daughter talks about her period or asks him to go get tampons, he mans up to the task. He endures the conversations with patience and understanding. We don't have cutesy, silly names for body parts. We call them what they are and discuss them openly because that's exactly what they are--parts of their body and nothing to be ashamed of, but some parts are definitely to be kept private, and they know that.

A quote that is so familiar that I absolutely hate is this, "You aren't supposed to be your kids' friend. You're supposed to be their parent." I know people will disagree with me here, and that's okay. But I would challenge you with this. What is your most important role in eternity with your child? Being their parent or being their sister or brother in Christ? I would say that it is absolutely possible to be your child's parent AND friend. You see, my daughter who had been asking for snapchat for months knew she could talk to us. She needed a little prompting by her older brother (who she had texted for advice) but she came to us Sunday night and told us that us not letting her have snapchat made her feel like we didn't trust her. She said she felt like we were being overprotective and unfair. She said it all very respectfully. *After talking to a friend whose daughters had snapchat and finding out some other information a couple of weeks ago, I had decided to let her have it among just her girl friends. She informed me that they were the only people she wanted to use it with anyway. So she had been using it for about two weeks at this point but she still was feeling distrusted.* We've also recently gotten "Circle" which is great for controlling the amount of wifi each child in your home uses. But it also has filters that just come on it. Some of those we've taken off. Others of them seem to filter things that are crazy or unknown to us. So we didn't have any of this stuff in place because we didn't trust our daughter, but she felt that way. She felt like we were treating her like she was 10 by not allowing her to have snapchat for so long and by having all these filters in place. That wasn't true at all, but one thing I've learned in parenting is that it doesn't really matter what your intentions are. What matters is how your child interprets it.

Our daughter felt that we didn't trust her and that we weren't listening. She came to us, plead her case and told us the reasons that we should be able to trust her. She told us that she felt we were being unfair and unreasonable. We listened. We heard her. We talked. We needed to apologize for things, and we also explained to her our reasons. We explained that it wasn't that we didn't trust her at all. It was that we didn't trust others. We knew of the dangers that lurked out there, and we wanted to protect her from that. My husband also explained that as parents, we were learning daily. No generation of parents had ever had to deal with this stuff before and it was scary. She listened. She heard us. She understood. But she also said that she would always come and talk to us first if anything ever happened. And that's when I realized it. I was parenting out of fear. I knew this about her. How did I know? Because she had done it over and over. She's shown me texting conversations that she's felt uncomfortable with and asked my advice. She's shared things with me that sometimes I'm not so happy about, but I don't overreact so that the next time, she continues to share. She's told me time and again that she's thankful that she can talk to me and tell me things. We share these things because we are friends, we are sisters in Christ. Yes, I am the parent, but I'm also her friend.

There are times when I've had to do things that didn't seem "friendly" like take away her phone or keep her from an activity she wanted to do. I've struggled at those times because I knew it was the right thing to do, but I worried about how it would affect our relationship. The thing is that it hasn't. It hasn't affected our friendship at all. That's because respect is a two way street. I respect her enough to listen to her and parent her as an individual, and she respects me enough to know that sometimes I have to do the hard stuff to keep her from falling farther behind in her school work or making wrong decisions. She knows I don't want to do those things. She knows it kills me to make her sad, but I sometimes do it because we all need discipline, and it's not easy to inflict that discipline on ourselves. Sometimes we need others to do it for us.

I felt compelled to write this today because of realizing that so many around me parent out of fear. Once again, I find it mostly among those who claim that they believe God holds the future. If that's what we really believe, let's live like it. The better relationships we have with our kids, the better we will be able to parent them. No, it's not always easy to have those relationships. Some kids are easier than others. With my first it was a huge struggle to keep that relationship. There were definitely things he didn't tell me on his own. But when I would go and sit in his room and prompt him, he would talk. No matter what anyone else's story was about him, I always listened. I didn't always agree, but I always gave him space for his story. And now that he's gone and meeting new people and seeing things in a different light, he thanks me. Every so often I get a text that just says, "Thanks for getting me" or "Thanks for listening to me" or "Thanks for letting me be who I was and not trying to make me into what you wanted me to be."

Our kids are going to be who God is making them to be. We cannot thwart his plan. Let's live like that. Let's give our "prodigal" kids a reason to come back home one day. Let's show our kids that they have our love, trust and friendship. Let's let them know that we make mistakes too and apologize when we do. And let's strive to always listen and let them be who they were created to be.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A different stage of life

It looks like it's been over a year since I've blogged. So much has happened, and I probably can't even remember half of it!! But the biggest change, of course, is that my first arrow has graduated from high school and is now on the Appalachian Trail for 5-6 months. He's given me permission to start a blog about his travels so if anyone is interested, I'll post it soon.

The next biggest happening I guess is that Cedar (arrow #6) is turning 5!! These two things coinciding have given me much pause over the past few months, and it definitely feels like a much different stage in life. I've never grieved over my children getting older--probably because I always have younger ones still coming up. But this time feels very final. There are officially no more babies in my house. Maybe he hasn't been a baby for awhile, but five just feels old. I've had a hard time taking it all in and accepting that there will be no more babies in our family. I don't think there will ever be a point in my life where I don't want more babies!!

Speaking of babies, I've made another big decision. I'm not going to be re-certifying as a doula. My certification ends in December. I've loved being a doula. It's been so fulfilling and has given me a place to grow a part of myself independently. I've learned so much about myself over the past couple of years, and I think I'm ever changing. At least I hope I am. I hope I'm always changing to look more and more like Jesus in every way. More loving, more patient, more accepting of others' differences. In part of this growing I've realized that with having a new teen, an almost teen and a tween (with two more following) life is way more hectic than it's ever been. Trand was never as busy as any of them. And now I'm the only day time driver. When Liza-Hill asked me recently if I had any doula jobs coming up, I told her "no." Her response was a relieved, "oh good!!" It's not my kids' job to sacrifice their time so that I can feel fulfilled. So for now, I'm done. I don't know what the future holds for me. But I need to focus on my home life right now. I will miss it, and I will miss the delivery room. But for right now, it's the best decision for my family.

God has been teaching me so much about giving it all to him. I've never been a worrier by nature. I've said many times in recent years that God made me this way because he knew he was going to give me Trand for a son! No more has that ever been true than now. Waiting on his phone calls every 5-7 days has taught me much in patience and reliance on Jesus. I have had much time to reflect this summer over my last 18 years with him. I don't want to make this a post about homeschooling or make anyone think that I'm saying everyone should do it. I totally and completely think that every family should make their own choice about schooling for their own kids. But over the years I have questioned whether or not we were doing the right thing for Trand. Would he be more social if he were forced to be with more people? Would he have an easier time making friends? Would he be happier? Would it spur him on to conversation more? But every time I would ask him if he wanted to go to school, he would look at me like I was crazy. So we didn't make that change. And I'm so thankful we didn't.

Homeschooling gave me a chance to know my son like I never would have otherwise. He's a hard kid. He always has been. He's strong-willed and determined. He's adventurous and loves an adrenaline rush. I'm so thankful that we didn't push him into a mold that society said he should fit. You may find it surprising that I was the one who encouraged him not to pursue college right now. He hated school work. He hated classrooms. He is an excellent writer, but that's not something he wanted to pursue for a career. He, like most upper middle class American high schoolers, just thought going to college was "the next step" even though he wanted to be an underwater welder--something that takes a commercial diving certification that requires a year of trade school.

I am not sure that Trand could've learned the life lessons that he's learned if he was in school. I'm not sure he could've grown in the ways that he needed and been ready for a 2200 mile trek at 18 if he had been in school. My goal in homeschooling has never been academics first. That's no secret. My goal has always been to help my children find their purpose, their passion, their reason for living and do it full out for God's glory! I want them to live BIG! Not in a box that our culture says they should stay in. I'm not saying college isn't for anyone. I fully believe that our other kids will go to college. They are geared that way. I don't know that Trand won't go eventually. But right now, he's got different things to accomplish.

It's not my place to share all his plans with the world. I've probably already shared too much even though I've read and reread and erased and typed over and over. But it's enough to say that he has plans! He has big plans, and I couldn't be prouder of him. I'm proud of how he's sticking to this trail even though he's wanted to quit so many times already. I'm proud that he's allowing Jesus to change him into the man he has planned for him to be. I see his heart softening. I hear it in the words he speaks and how he is inviting me into his heart in our conversations.

And I will stop because he would not want me to share more about him. I will only say what I have said his whole life--that he is the biggest source of sanctification God has ever used in my life. I am thankful. It's been a hard 18 years. What I wouldn't do to be able to have a do-over at some points of it. But it is what it is. God has taken it all and will use it all to shape us all into the people that he has planned for us to become. I'm so thankful that I serve a sovereign God that I can trust because he loves my children more than I do. I will continue to trust that he will keep him safe and sound, and he will continue to mold him into a man who looks like the very face of Jesus.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Giving up my Sanity

As the season of Lent is upon us, I feel very unprepared for it. This is the third year now that I've been in a church that talks about and celebrates Lent in a very meaningful way, and I've had the desire to participate the last two years. But this year I am worn down. This year I don't know what else I have to give.

I considered the big one--social media--again this year. I did that two years ago, and it was a great time of growing and dwelling with Jesus for me. But I quickly decided against it. With the adoption and hosting looming, Facebook is the only way I have to stay in touch with people who have become my "family" in all of this. No, this year, social media will stay in my life.

I thought about giving up some sort of food or fasting for a few days. I may still do that. One meal or even one whole day a week certainly wouldn't hurt me right now. But I tried a few weeks ago to start a new program by Beachbody, and I failed miserably. Just not my time right now with the busyness and stress in my life.

This morning I felt like God was saying, "I've asked you to give up, and you have. I asked you to be willing, and you have. You've given up time, money, emotion, and sanity!" That's what I want.

The past few days I've waffled between so many emotions. From excitement to questioning, from being sure that this is what we should do to wondering why I ever got into this. This is hard stuff. We want to give her a home. We want to love her and show her the love of a family that she's never known. And yet, she's never met us. She has to choose to come live with a family she's never met. Will she want to come to America, to freedom, to a better life so much that she's willing to trust these strangers--who will have just written her a few letters, sent a few pictures and tried to invest into her life from thousands of miles away? Not even to mention the fact that the country she is in is in political upheaval and could go to war any day. The news reports change every day. The country could be shut down. The airspace could be closed. Anything could happen.

It's crazy. It's reckless. And it certainly doesn't make sense.

I keep hearing in my head and in my heart,
"I never said it was going to be easy. I never said the Christian life was safe. I never said to make sure you had everything planned out for the future. I said to be willing. I said people were going to hate you and think you're crazy. I said it would be difficult. I said, "Deny yourself. Take up your cross, and follow me."
And so with that, with those words, I move forward. I keep running the race. I get one, two, three steps closer to finishing this home study to moving onto the next step. All the while, I question. All the while, I wonder, "How do I continue to give all of myself--time, money, energy, emotion--and still guard my heart so that it doesn't break in the end if she says, "no"? The answer is, "I don't."That's the conclusion I've come to. I can't. I can't give it all and still guard my heart. My heart will break if she says, "no."

And so I move forward with hope. I move forward trusting that the God who has called us this far will not leave us. I move forward with faith that he holds true to his promises that he has "a plan and a future" for us, and it is good. And I move forward with the knowledge that yes, my heart might be broken. She may say "no." We may lose a lot because of this. But I know with every fiber of my being that this is the road I'm supposed to be on. This is exactly where God wants me this Lent season.

Giving up my sanity.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Living with abandon

This past week life has played havoc with my heart. Most of you know that we hosted an orphan from Eastern Europe over Christmas. I don't think I've even written about that on here since the day before she came. I've thought about it, but I just couldn't get the words to come out right. It was just easier not to say anything. She is a part of our lives now forever. That will not change--whether she ends up permanently here or not.

We are friends with her on VK (a European FB of sorts) and we are also friends with some of her roommates. Jon and I both seemed to fall in love with one of the little girls in particular and thought about maybe hosting her this summer along with A. We felt like we could commit to adopting them both if that's what they chose, and we were happy with that. But that was in the future.

We found out last week that the other little girl will be 16 next month. It's at that age that the kids "age out" of adoption. They aren't able to be adopted anymore. Our hearts sank at the news, but we felt like we should go ahead and pursue it even though we had never met her and she had never met us!! We called the adoption agency and they put in a request last Friday to find out her availability. We still haven't gotten that answer back, but now we've found out more news. She has a sister. Her sister is 14. This would buy us time to adopt the older sister. But we found ourselves in a position of thinking about adopting 3 teenage, non-English speaking orphans who carry A LOT of baggage! Wow!! When you decide to step out for Jesus, he takes you places you never thought you would be.

I have never loved my husband more. I have seen him over the past six months go from someone I didn't think would consider even adopting again to someone who was totally willing to do what it takes to bring 3 teenage orphans into our home, making a grand total of 9 kids!! This weekend was full of prayers and long talks. It was full of rethinking plans and moving rooms and furniture around in our minds!! It was full of questions and anxious thoughts. In the end, there was peace. Because when you live in the middle of Jesus, he brings peace in all situations. 

Although my husband had a pretty easy time saying, "yes" to all these girls, (should they decide to come) I was the one that was having the harder time. All I want it is to live my life unabashedly for Jesus. I want to give him my whole heart. I want to say, "Do with my life what YOU will!" My true desire is for His Kingdom to come and rule my life on earth as it is in Heaven. So I don't want to make any excuses for not doing the hard stuff! All weekend those were my conflicting thoughts. 

"Jesus, you know my heart. You know I want to give it ALL to you. I don't want to hold anything back. I know orphans are close to your heart, and they are close to mine. I know you place the lonely in families, and I want our family to be your hands and feet. But, Jesus, at what point is it too much? At what point is there a place for practicality? Is there ever a place for it? Is there ever a time for just "being smart about things" or is that just a cop out? Another excuse? And yet, you've given me these six right now. You've called us to homeschool. That's not an easy task, and it gets harder every year. I don't want to cheat them. Yes, I know the experience of serving three of 'the least of these' is invaluable and yet is it worth not giving them what they need?"

Y'all, ALL WEEKEND! 

Back and forth. Back and forth. The Casting Crowns song "Somewhere in the Middle" kept playing over and over in my head. I don't want to live in the middle. I don't want to live between the hot and the cold. The lines of that song have always stuck with me: "Fearless warriors in the picket fence; Reckless abandon wrapped in common sense; Deep water faith in the shallow end. Are we caught in the middle?" That sums it up!!! Do I have reckless abandonment to Jesus and yet it's wrapped in common sense? Common sense doesn't play much of a role in the Christian faith. Do I have deep water faith but am I just staying in the shallow end? Am I training to be a fearless warrior and yet staying in my picket fence?? THIS is what I don't want. And yet, I'm not alone in this. I'm a mother of six. I manage and take care of a family of eight. I am the educator of these children as well. And that's what I've been called to do first.

So after lots of praying, talking to Jon and to some other friends who homeschool and also have a heart for adoption and orphans, I felt like I needed to take my cue from my kids. I was already feeling that. My girls, of course, were completely thrilled and on board. But for them it looked like sunshine and roses and every night's a slumber party!! My 10 year old was a little hesitant, but I think he would've gone along with it. My oldest thought we were out of our minds. He was totally on board with adopting one and maybe even two. But three???

God kept bringing to mind that it's my son's Senior year next year. It's his last year at home. There are lots of things that I am called to do as a mom of a Senior to help him get ready for college. There are lots of plans that we've made as a family to spend that last year as well as we can together!! I owe it to him to be present. I owe it to him to be completely here for him. He needs me even if he doesn't think he does! And if he thinks we're insane for adopting 3 girls, I don't want the affects of that on his last year here.

And so, it's with peace that we've decided we will not be pursuing adoption of 3 teenage Eastern European orphans. Jon was pretty disappointed. I could tell. I think he already had the plan in his mind of exactly how things were going to work. I'm thankful. I'm thankful that God has worked in his heart in ways I could never imagine. I'm thankful to be able to testify to the fact that about two years ago I started praying that God would "break his heart for the things that break God's." He's as shocked as anyone at this change in himself. ;) I'm thankful that the way he wants to spend our 20th anniversary trip is not going to Italy, like we once planned; but instead traveling to Eastern Europe to work in orphanages and pouring out ourselves and our resources into the children that society has thrown away. I'm thankful that he wants to give them Jesus in every way.

We will still pursue adoption of A. We will pursue as long as it takes until she says "no" or the adoption doors are closed. There is a possibility of hosting her for 8 weeks this summer instead of only 5. We are thrilled!!! We are focusing on that right now. We are focusing on making her part of our family and continuing to show her Jesus. Maybe one day we will feel the nudge again to pursue another orphan. I have the feeling that we will. I have the feeling that this isn't going away! But for now, I can know that I am living with abandon to Jesus. I want to give it all. And I've got the best opportunity in the world to serve him right here in my home EVERY day.

And we will continue to help change the world, one orphan at a time.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Forever Changed

Tonight is the "eve of my life being forever changed." I am expecting that tomorrow will be one of the most amazing and one of the most anxious days of my life. Tomorrow we meet a little girl that we have been praying for, planning for, and thinking about for months!! The thing is that we have had months to think about her, study her face, pray for her, learn a few words in her language, etc. We CHOSE her. She didn't choose us. She gets whoever they hand her! I hope she'll be okay with who she gets!

I can't even describe how I'm feeling right now. I should be doing so many others things and yet here I sit. I just want to get my thoughts out. I just want someone to know how I feel. I know there's no way she can know, but I pray that in some way I can begin to show her.

Right now she's riding on a train to her first flight destination. She'll be traveling for almost 24 hours by the time she gets here tomorrow. She will be exhausted and disoriented. And she'll be met with the worlds' craziest family hugging and kissing all over her!! She'll climb up in our big ole van and head to Knoxville to spend a month in our family. I can't even imagine how she's feeling right now. She still doesn't even know who we are. She won't know until she boards the plane at 11 pm tonight (our time.) It will be 6 am their time. And then she'll have just a few hours to look at our pictures, read the few words there on that page and wrap her head around all of it before falling off of the plane and into our arms.

She's a brave soul. They tell them bad things about Americans. And as crazy as some of them sound, the kids believe it. Because it's coming from people that they trust many times. All these kids coming to America are brave. They are leaving everything they know, everything familiar, their language, their friends, everything to come and hopefully get what they long for--a family, even if it's not "officially" their forever family. They get a connection with what a real family is. That's what this program is about. It's giving these kids a chance to see how functional people live in families and in this world. It's giving them the love of a mom and dad--even if just for a short time in person. They will have those families, in most cases, to communicate with forever. What a precious gift for them.

But I can't even begin to imagine what it's going to do for our own family. My prayer is that God would use it to change us forever. My prayer is, of course, that she will end up in our family forever. But that's way down the road at this point. Right now, we're just looking at the next month. We're looking to love her and pour into her all we have.

We are so blessed. I am overwhelmed at the outpouring of love and prayers we've had from friends and family. There are so many people supporting and loving this little girl and us through prayer. Thank you from the bottom of my heart if that has been you. As anxious as I feel right now, I know that it will all come together, and I know that it's in God's hands. No where better to be. So we go into this with a thankful heart, blessed beyond measure with friends and family who love us so much!! And I know that if she does end up being ours forever, she will be blessed beyond measure as well. She will come to America with so many people loving her!!

I can't wait to be able to share our adventures and memories that we'll make while she's here. All of you who have prayed, this is your journey too. Thank you for contributing! Thank you for loving us well!! I feel completely covered and even at peace as I finish writing this. Yes, that is why I write. Thank you, Jesus, that we can always lay it all on you.

My Eastern European princess is on her way, and I couldn't be happier!!!