Uncertainty

The scary part about exploring the dark places of the soul and taking lids off of boxes long shelved is never being sure what will be found inside. We have walked some shadowy places in recent years and we have doubted everything we’ve ever believed. Is God real? And if He’s real….is He good? (Which is a far scarier question in my mind.) Is there truth? Is there black and white? Or is it all varying shades of grey? What are the absolutes and how can we be sure? Everything feels entirely upended and out of sorts.

It’s been almost two years since the winter that undid us. I don’t really remember what our marriage was like before that. I’m sure I don’t remember it correctly. We are remaking us – as individuals and as a couple. And it’s hard. It’s messy. And it’s terribly unknown.

It’s uncomfortable living in all the uncertainty. Being take-charge people who like to have a plan, a direction, these years in shadowy places – wandering, wandering, endlessly, aimlessly wandering – they make me anxious. My skin starts to feel too small and my breathing becomes rushed.

I still have no answers. We still sit in the shadows. But one thing I know – most things are only frightening in the dark. Bring them to the light and our fears become smaller. And we find we are not alone.

So that’s what I’m doing today. I’m telling you that we desperately love Jesus, but we struggle with our faith in the goodness and trustworthiness of God sometimes. And we love each other, but marriage is hard and we want to quit sometimes. And we don’t need to be preached at, but we would love to be walked with. In honesty and grace. Because I know we are not alone. There are others who wrestle with the questions every day and sleep with doubt every night.

When Matt turned thirty, his mom took him out for lunch and told him to be aware, because this was the decade when our friends would start getting divorced. And almost ten years ago, I think we found that interesting and maybe possible, but a little hard to believe. But now, at the other end of that decade, we see it. And we know the struggle and the temptation and how hard you have to fight for and work on marriage. Daily.

Something similar is true with faith. It doesn’t grow in a vacuum. It must be fed and nurtured. But God is big enough for our doubts, so we bring them freely.

The internet is a much scarier place to bring those doubts, but you all know that’s how I roll. So I bring them, and I invite you to bring yours. Let’s create a safe place to wrestle with these mid-life questions and walk in the uncertainty together.

These Disconnected Interwoven Things

She has this box she keeps locked in a closet in her heart. In it are all the hurts and pains and losses of the past thirty-something years. She used to carry them with her, as a part of herself, in a way that was healthier, more whole. Until the hurts became too heavy and she couldn’t bear up under the weight anymore. So she tucked them all haphazardly into a box and put the lid on tight. And she pushed the box into a dark corner of the closet floor, behind happier memories and lighter times.

Every once in a while the lid threatens to come off the box. A comment is made, a memory is triggered, and the lid gets tipped. But she reaches in fast and puts the lid back on. Because the risk of that lid coming off is too great. The pain stuffed inside is too deep and seems endless and she doesn’t know if she could ever find a proper home in her heart for all of it.

Yet she knows that box cannot stay there forever. Pain like that has a way of demanding to be dealt with; forcing its way into the light. But she doesn’t know where to begin. There isn’t time in each day to properly work through the pain, to walk through the memories and find a place for each of them to live in their own broken freedom. She has seen the damage hiding can do, but she sees no alternative. Showing her brokenness could break them all.

 

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Waiting.

I’m nearly forty now, neither young nor old, but I know this: I could spend my whole life obsessing over THAT THING I’m currently waiting for. Because the waiting? The searching? The wondering?

It never ends. There’s always something OUT THERE. There’s always something just beyond my grasp. Maybe this is what it means to be alive: longing. There’s always something I’m looking for, and sometimes I find it. But often I don’t.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

~ Shawn Smucker, via emilyfreeman.com

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I read Shawn’s post on waiting this morning and it resonated. And I find myself waiting to write again. Waiting for a happy ending to come out of that dark season. Waiting to be able to tell the full story. Waiting for full redemption. Waiting for all the pieces to come together.

But what if there is still a story to be told now? A story written in the waiting? The story of learning to laugh again. The story of watching God rebuild and restore my family. The story of fighting for my children and my marriage and my ministry. The story of wanting to throw in the towel but never backing down. The story of surrender and staying soft.

There is a story there. And it requires taking the lid off the box. The risk is great. But maybe the time is now.

For His Glory ~

Sara

When You Want to Go Back in Time

A friend sent me these pictures yesterday. Five years ago, when all our babies were still babies, and each of us had one more child yet to join our families.

And I had the urge to give in to the ugly cry, but I was about to walk out the door, so I had to hold myself together.

So often lately I have had an intense longing to go back. To rewind time to a simpler season. I’ve been longing for our old homes and old places in life. Our family has done some hard growing up this year and we’ve entered a new, inevitable season. It’s one we’ve been working toward and that is ultimately good, but it hasn’t come without a cost. And I think that has opened up a window in my soul that longs for the past. And even though memories can be good, an unhealthy longing for those days is not productive because the past is not where we live.

Those earlier years, five years ago, and even before, they were simpler times. Not easier. Not by a mile. Those days were hard. And, mamas, don’t ever let someone tell you otherwise. But there is a simplicity to the days of feedings and naps and early bedtimes. There is a simplicity to grade school and third grade math and schedules that can be contained. And ten years from now, I’m sure I will see that this season is its own sort of simpler time too.

I have a woman I look up to who told me once something along the lines of, “First you have babies and toddlers and it’s hard, but it’s the best thing ever. Then they get older and you have teens and it’s hard, but it’s the best thing ever. Then they grow up and go to college and get married. And they move away and you have grandbabies and it’s just you and your husband again. And it’s hard but it’s the best thing ever.”

Every stage of parenting is hard and exhausting. There’s no getting around that. Every stage also comes with abundant joys and rewards. Sometimes we just have to look a little harder for them. Life is about change; nothing stays the same. For those of us that don’t love change, that can be hard. But if we can learn to weather the storms and enjoy the beauty of each season, we just might find that change often brings the best things ever.

For His Glory ~

Signature

When Grace Shines Through

Barely old enough to buy the champagne we toasted with, we took vows and we promised forever and I felt safe and you had hope and we walked back down that aisle with grand plans but no idea what the future held.  And a decade and a half later we woke up in the middle of our hurried thirties with five kids and a business and a million responsibilities, next to a person we thought we knew too well but maybe didn’t know at all.

And we both broke vows and we broke each other’s hearts and you lost hope and I built walls to keep myself safe.  And we almost lost it all.

But hope holds on and safety can be found when we refuse to let go.  And for a year now we have fought, often with each other, but also for each other.  And we have learned that it’s possible to fall in love with the same person over and over and over again.  We’ve learned that forgiveness comes at a cost but it is worth the price because redemption is our reward.

And on nights when I want to give up and make my own safety behind those walls, on nights when you lose hope and we wonder if we will ever be us again, God reminds me that our surrender is to Him because our trust is in Him, and we must choose to stay soft toward one another and always assume the best.  Because this love is real and true and imperfect and broken, but in all those broken places, His grace shines through.

Sometimes I wake up with the sadness
Other days it feels like madness
Oh…what would I do without you?

When colours turn to shades of grey
With the weight of the world at the end of the day
Oh…what would I do without you?

A decade goes by without a warning
And there’s still a kindness in your eyes
Amidst the questions and the worries
A peace of mind, always takes me by surprise.

I feel like I’m walking with eyes as blind
As a man without a lantern in a coal mine
Oh…what would I do without you?

My imagination gets the best of me
And I’m trying to hide lost at sea
Oh…what would I do without you?

The difference between what I’ve said and done
And you’re still standing by my side
A guilty soul and a worried mind
I will never make it, if I’m on my own

So you’ve got the morning, I’ve got midnight
You are patient, I’m always on time
Oh…what would I do without you?

You’ve got your sunshine, I’ve got rainclouds
You’ve got hope, I’ve got my doubts

Oh…what would I do without you?
Oh…what would I do without you?
Oh…what would I do without you?

~ Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Rise

I just dropped these two off for a Shadow Day at Cair Paravel.  It was possibly one of the more surreal-feeling moments of my time as a mom.  I’m sure all moms go through this when their sweet ones are five and going off to kindergarten, or sooner for preschool or day care.  I know this is a common feeling, but I also believe it’s maybe a little different, a little unique, after years of home schooling to be looking at doing something different.

A week from tomorrow I head back to Haiti.  My third trip in six months.  There are few things more uncomfortable for me than traveling to Haiti and yet God keeps sending me back.  He has a funny sense of humor.

A lot of changes have been happening in our home, a lot more are to come.  Things have been quiet here because fear has locked up my words, quieted my voice.  God has been taking me deep places; places that needed to be walked through with just Him, but now transparency feels dangerous, even though so much healing has always been found there.  Some changes are still shadowy things that can’t be shared here yet, but big things are happening and will come to light soon enough and hopefully my words will come too.

God grows us if we are willing to let Him.  For years I have written of how He has used the small and unseen things of life to stretch me and make room in my heart for more of Him.  And more recently He has begun to work in the large spaces of our family life to shape us and take us to new places.  And it seems that in each of these seasons, He works in me to make me less, to burn me down, to make something new.

The legendary phoenix is a large, grand bird, much like an eagle or peacock. It is brilliantly colored in reds, purples, and yellows, as it is associated with the rising sun and fire.  Its eyes are blue and shine like sapphires. It builds its own funeral pyre or nest, and ignites it with a single clap of its wings. After death it rises gloriously from the ashes and flies away.*

Each of my tattoos tells a story, permanent reminders of the story God is writing in my life.  At some point I will need to find a new way to write that story, or I’m going to run out of skin, but for now, these are things I want to carry with me always and they each serve as an ebenezer (a stone of help), testifying to what God has done.

hope – an anchor for the soul that gives wings to the heart

vincens – latin for overcomer

because God makes me brave  – “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” {2 Timothy 2:7}

After this past season, after being burned down to nothing a year ago, I needed to tell a big story of a big God doing a big thing.  And so I began work on a large piece.

beauty for ashes {the rest will be filled in over the next several weeks; also – it is surprisingly difficult to take a photo of your own arm with your non-dominant hand}

The story of the phoenix resonates deep within me.  Burned down to be raised again, more beautiful each time it is resurrected.  God has used many things to burn me down time and time again.  He is faithful to make me less so that He may be more.  And He is faithful to make me new each time, hopefully always more like Christ than I was before.

And so as I feel the fiery trials burning around us once again, I know that He is giving us beauty for ashes.  He is good and we will rise.

For His Glory ~

Signature

 

*http://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/ancient-symbolism-magical-phoenix-002020#sthash.IzgIVIcR.dpuf

A Story Without an Ending

About eight weeks ago it was the week before Christmas.  Finals were over.  Shopping was done.  The house was decorated.  And I was ready to relax and enjoy my Christmas break.

And then I got a Facebook message from my friend Connie.  It said this:

Hey Sara, this is Connie. I am looking for a speaker to join our program for the January Expresso. I apologize for the late notice, but I’m having a hard time finding the person God has for us. Maybe you? There is absolutely no pressure as i want this to be a God thing. As I was working on in, I thought since TBC sponsored Haiti Lifeline for their Christmas project maybe you sharing some of your experiences and story would be perfect. Melissa [G] is lined up to share that night and I would love it if you would give this some prayerful consideration. It is January 12th and I would be happy to help you in any way with questions, format etc. Let me know what you think {smile emoticon} Merry Christmas!!!

And I cussed in my head.  Every cuss word I could think of.  I may have even made some new ones up.  Merry Christmas, indeed.  *humph*

And though I firmly told God “no”, still I spoke. I spoke on Haiti and our involvement and those feelings I had cloaked and closeted for six years.  And I got vulnerable in ways that I desperately needed to but hadn’t in a very, very, very long time.  And God broke my heart so badly again but then He began healing me and putting those pieces together.  The balm of transparency and Christian sisterhood is like no other.  That night, as hard as it was and as hard as I tried to get out of it, was a gift.

Below is the script from what I shared that night.  For those that know me personally, the audio link can be found on my Facebook page.  This may be the one and only time you’ll hear me say that I feel like I spoke better that night than what I wrote, so listen if you have time.  But if you’re like me and would prefer to read, or don’t have access to the link, keep reading.

Good evening! This is our family. My husband Matt, myself, and our five girls.  Many of you are familiar with our family, particularly with Matt and his involvement in and leadership of Haiti Lifeline here in Topeka. I gave my testimony here at Expresso seven or eight years ago and that was hard as I shared about my history of abuse and less-than-great life choices before marriage. Then I shared a couple of years ago at iMom about modesty and that was hard because my views on that topic don’t always line up with the more conservative lines of thinking, so I was nervous to share in church. But I can honestly say that tonight’s topic has put me on my face before God more than anything I’ve shared about before. And the good news is, that means He’s still molding me and shaping me and giving me new experiences to help me grow. The bad news is, I’m really not very old yet, and I’m slightly terrified of what He might put in my life for my next Expresso topic! Haha

When Connie asked me to share tonight and she asked me to specifically share on our family’s involvement with Haiti, I laughed. Really, really hard. Then I copied the Facebook message and sent it to Matt and he laughed with me. And then I firmly told God “no” and I told Him this was too much to ask. My feelings on this topic were too fresh, too raw, and this was just too soon. I may have spent the past several weeks pouting to God that this just isn’t fair.

My story of our involvement in Haiti is uncomfortable and unexpected. And most people aren’t quite ready to hear it when I start to tell it. But Connie assured me you all could be brave with me as I unpack how God has used this ministry over the past six years to remind me again and again how desperately I need Him.

Talking about our involvement in the ministry makes me feel like this:

To give a little background for those that may not know, Haiti Lifeline Ministries began in 1999 in answer to a call to support the orphan and widow, to meet the need of the helpless and fatherless. HLM exists to provide food, shelter, education, and medical care to those in need.   We exist to share the love of Jesus with the people of Haiti, to be His hands and feet by meeting tangible needs such as food, clothing, medical care, shelter, education, and more.

Our family became actively involved in Haiti Lifeline Ministries in 2010, right after the earthquake. Matt’s brother and sister were on the ground in Haiti when the earthquake happened, six years ago today. Their team (traveling through HLM) was stuck there for two or three days as everyone in the country scrambled to find a way out and we sat at home watching the images of pain and suffering roll endlessly across our television screen. We, like many, felt driven and compelled to give, to act, to do something. So we organized a citywide garage sale with all proceeds going toward the ministry. And God showed up in amazing ways – through the use of a local church building, through more donations than we could hold, and through overwhelming community support and generosity. Upwards of $18,000 was raised that weekend and we were in awe of our very big God and His very big love for this very small nation.

Before that sale I had wanted to become involved in HLM for at least a year or two already. I wanted to travel. I wanted to go serve and get plugged in. Matt was busy with work, he didn’t have time, nor did he have a desire. He loved to give, not go. But I needed an outlet, something that got me out of stay-at-home-mom mode and made me feel like I had an identity and Matt supported my desire to go, to be involved somewhere, anywhere. I really wanted HLM to be my outlet, my “thing”.

In the days and weeks after the sale, however, others began to approach Matt about going and I would practically stand in front of him and say, “No, wait, pick me! Pick me!”, all while he stood in the back saying “No, I can’t go. Work is too busy. I’m sender, not a go-er.” Yadda. Yadda. Yadda. But it was like they never saw me. No one ever asked me to go. No one even recognized my desire.

So I stepped back. I laid that desire on the altar and began to push Matt to go. I could see that the Lord really did want him to go and that he needed to go. And so, with much reluctance and a lot of persuasion, he went on his first traveling team (along with TBC’s Tim Shultz) in January 2011. And God got a hold of his heart, like God does on trips like that. Matt came home charged up and on fire. Driven by the need they had seen and their compulsion to act, Matt and Tim and several others that were involved locally, began to meet to establish and implement new programs.   And because my gifts are administration and organization, I thought I had found my place to serve. I was going to get plugged in!

Meanwhile, we also decided to adopt after Matt’s first trip. On that trip in January, he had been texting me photos of the kids, of Haiti, of everything. And one day this tiny girl popped up on the screen of my Blackberry and I knew – KNEW – this was my child. And Matt knew it too, but neither of us said anything to each other until after he got home and we had time to debrief and download together. But we agreed and we knew that bringing her into our home was the next right step. So in addition to home schooling and assisting in the GR office, I was also now the chief executive officer of adoption paperwork and we were unknowingly beginning a two year long pregnancy.

Because of my multitude of responsibilities and being wired in such a way that I don’t often rush, I didn’t move quite fast enough for Matt and the things I was tasked with in the ministry he would usually end up doing himself. In his defense, I know he felt like he was just taking something off of my already full plate. He was never intentionally pushing me out of the ministry, but slowly that’s what happened.

I don’t know at what point exactly I began to check out of the ministry and the business. I’m sure it began when I started to realize I wasn’t really needed. Then, I came home from my first trip in February 2012 simultaneously moved and impacted and also completely disillusioned with the entire experience. Looking back, I know that my experience and take-away had more to do with how God created me and the environment that I was placed in, but at the time Satan capitalized on the opportunity to convince me it was because there was something wrong with me and doubts were planted in my mind and division was planted in our marriage. And Satan was patient to let them both grow, faithfully feeding the doubt and the division for three long years.

I would end up traveling to Haiti two more times before fully checking out. I felt an expectation – mostly from myself – to be engaged, to love this place and this ministry as much as my husband did. I felt a deep deep insecurity because we weren’t doing ministry together like we had always thought and dreamed we would, and it felt so much like we were drifting apart. But every time I returned from Haiti I became more discouraged about my role in the ministry and its place in our marriage, and to protect myself from my own sense of failure, from the discomfort that came from the disconnect, I built walls and decided I didn’t care about it. But then those walls began to expand into other areas of our marriage and relationship until we were finally living more like roommates than lovers and best friends. And there’s a certain sense of shame that comes – at least for me – when your husband, your family, sort of became the face of an organization that you care about and support and are deeply invested in, but also kind of sort of secretly wish it would just go away so you can just stop talking and hearing about it – being reminded of the mistress it has become for your husband – filling him in ways you no longer do.

During this time Matt had also hired help for the office – both the business and the ministry. And so, the small role I had in both of those arenas was now given to someone else. And these changes were needed and had (and still have) my full support. I could no longer do the amount of work that needed to be done because of the girls’ school commitments and other obligations, but I had no idea the impact relinquishing that role would have on my confidence and sense of security in our marriage.

As Matt continued to excel in both business and ministry – becoming more deeply involved in HLM’s daily operations while maintaining his growing business, I began to sink farther down. I was homeschooling our children – a calling, yes, but one that left me feeling empty, drained, and like a failure because I couldn’t meet my own expectations or the expectations I felt from the world. I felt myself becoming invisible, unseen, insignificant. It seemed that my role was to hold down the fort at home while Matt chased dream after dream in the marketplace. Meanwhile, the online world was telling me to chase MY dreams, to fulfill MY purpose. But I didn’t know what that looked like anymore or how to do that while home schooling four (and eventually five) children.

When Amania came home I once again faced the chasm between expectation and reality. Other than minor hiccups, I think most of the family, most people that know us, would say Amania fit right in like she’s always been here. Except with me. Our connection feels anything but natural and I haven’t yet experienced that “knitting together” or real sense of bondedness that is often alluded to in adoption literature. An awkward distance hangs between us, an elephant in the room that I’m sure we both recognize, and my other girls as well. And I often remind myself of that day in January 2011 when I saw that first picture and my heart and my spirit said clearly “That’s my child!”. But Satan does not fail to water those seeds of doubt and fear and failure as he tempts me to build my walls ever-higher.

The summer after she came home, we moved. Because we are crazy people. And we left the house I loved and that had been our home for nearly ten years to move to one that made a thousand percent more sense for our family, but felt nothing like home. And instead of spending that summer resting and healing and bonding as a family, we spent that summer repairing and packing and finding our way.

This was the pattern we continued in for another year or so – Matt dreaming, leading, going; me fading, dying, staying.

*****

It’s important to know that I’ve carried depression as part of my story for twenty years now, beginning with a major depressive episode when I was in high school, then settling into a predictable seasonal sadness that was manageable with supplements and essential oils and trips to the tanning bed.  But then November 2014 came and it was as if I was pushed, emotionally, off of some great cliff into a darkness that still escapes description or explanation.  And I wrestled for weeks, months, to grasp hold of something, anything to make sense of it all. The ministry had truly become Matt’s mistress and we both seemed resigned to living parallel lives, clinging to our marriage because we knew it was the right thing to do; going to bed every night with Satan whispering to us both “You should just leave. It would all be so much easier if you two were apart. Everyone would be happier.”

This continued all winter and as February wrapped up and March entered in with hope of spring and sunshine and relief for my worn out soul, every time I thought I was making progress, gaining a foothold, getting on top of the wave that was this drowning depression and dying marriage, it was as if someone would come and physically shove me back under, to the bottom.  Until I decided I was done fighting whatever, whoever, it was that was holding me under.

I felt like a pawn in someone else’s game.  I had prayed with no response.  I had asked God to show me what sin or error might have put me here.  Silence.  I asked others to pray for me.  Relief, then back under.  So finally I surrendered.  I was in a pit and I was going to sit there until God came back to get me. My faith was crumbling, but I had just enough left to believe He would.  Eventually.  Only because He had done it before.

CS Lewis writes, “It is not trying that is ever going to bring us home.  All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, “You must do this.  I can’t.”

So I decided I would sit.  Because I couldn’t strive anymore. But I was angry with God.  So angry.  I was empty and defeated.  I had no kind words to say to Him or about Him.  I felt completely abandoned.  I felt like He had turned His back on me.  I didn’t understand what was going on and I truly didn’t know if I could continue to trust a God who played people like chess pieces, who allowed broken hearts and broken lives.  Who allowed devastation around the world and in my own home.  It felt like too much to bear.

Ellie Holcomb wrote at Easter last spring:

“Betrayed. My stomach turns at the word. I remember vividly when someone I loved dearly and deeply turned into an enemy. There was a proverbial knife in my back and I was hurt, angry, and aching. I wonder how many of you have walked through betrayal. It is awful. You’re powerless to stop the pain and you keep wishing in vain that it could somehow be a different story.

Jesus wished it could be a different story, too. Just before this scene in Mark where He is betrayed by Judas and arrested, He was in a garden on his knees in deep distress, begging His Father to take the cup (Mark 14:35). Jesus knew what was coming and that it would feel unbearable. He’d asked His three dearest friends on earth to pray for Him, too—but three times, He comes to find them asleep. In His deepest hour of need, dreading what lies before Him, His friends can’t even keep their eyes open.

Son of Man, Son of God, Living Word—betrayed for our sake. He drinks the cup of death that we deserve, so that our cups might overflow.

He was arrested so we could be set free. 

He was deserted so we could know we’re never alone.

He was betrayed so we could be held in the arms of Love.”

While I sat in that pit, Jesus was writing a different story, a deeper story.  He was writing what He writes best – redemption.  While I wrestled and strived with God, Jesus began a miracle work of healing and restoration.  Because He knows what it is to feel as though God has turned His back on you (although we know God never truly does).  As He prayed in the Garden and all His friends slept, and then ran away.  As He hung on that cross and God turned His own broken heart away for the sin Christ bore…..Jesus knew what it was to be completely alone in the darkest place imaginable.

Sometimes we don’t understand the things that happen to us.  Sometimes the hard things in our life are part of a story God is writing in someone else’s life.  But sometimes He gives us the opportunity to choose the direction the story will go.  I thought this past winter this ministry would cost me everything – my mind, my marriage, my faith.  I had nothing to hold on to. God allowed that.  And that’s still hard to rest in nearly a year later.  But God has allowed other dark seasons in my life, seasons that I also thought would cost me everything – truly right down to my life.  But He wasn’t finished writing.  And He isn’t still.  As a writer, I understand that stories often take unexpected and painful turns, and if our characters were humans with free will, they would no doubt rail against the author in anger and confusion.  And while human authors write countless different stories with good and bad endings, my God only writes one kind of ending in the lives of His children – restoration and redemption.  Truth, beauty, and hope.  He will restore what the locust has eaten. He will redeem.  He will make all things new.

And He has, little by little. Because He is faithful, even when He makes no sense. Matt and I both began to see how we were destroying our marriage – him with his all-or-nothing drive, me by building walls and checking out. And he committed to putting some of that energy back into us. And I committed to re-engaging and tearing down walls again.

This past year has been a gradual rebuilding both of our faith and our marriage – often two steps forward, one step back. After a clear and precious sign from God that it was time for me to try again – when I who never gets letters from Haiti got a letter from Haiti the day after praying for a sign! I traveled to Haiti in November and can honestly say I still don’t “get it”, I mean, I get it, but I still don’t connect like others do, but it was the best team experience I’ve had and I will go again because it is important to my marriage and because I believe God is using it in my life in ways I still don’t understand. And I’m learning the power of being small and that it is okay to dream small dreams – like simply being a housewife and loving on and serving women in the best ways I can – through words and transparency and sharing real life. He’s teaching me to stop feeling invisible and unseen and instead recognize that I am but small and hidden in Christ. That sometimes the world needs some smaller dreams and smaller goals – people who are willing to sit in the shadows or stand on the sidelines, who will do the work that goes unseen. Because God sees. And God has purpose in it all. And I’m recognizing the life- and death-giving power of expectations and the importance of whose expectations we are living for. The world’s expectations will only wear us down and bring death. But God’s expectations, His perfect plans for us, bring life and hope and peace.

And as I look back on our past six years of ministry involvement, I can see God’s hand in many ways:

  • A child sponsorship program instituted
  • A medical clinic built and stocked
  • The involvement of more churches across the state and across the nation (including TBC)
  • Countless people involved, including dozens from TBC
  • TBC’s incredible, generous giving this past Christmas to the One Body project
  • Hearts changed and eyes opened to the deep needs in the world
  • Growing from 2 teams in 2011 to 9 this year
  • Our fifth daughter joining our family
  • Lifelong friends made through ministry and adoption
  • My children given hearts for Haiti and a vision for need around the world
  • A bigger view of God and how He rarely gives us what we think we most want, but always gives us what we most need, and how He may lead us to the bottom of the pit, but He will wait with us there and carry us back out.

God is big and mysterious and His ways are higher, and often harder, than our ways.  And sometimes that’s scary and confusing and hard to swallow.  But He is good.  And He is true.  And when I had lost almost all faith, that is what I clung to.

Restoration is not complete for me and as I met with Connie last week to talk about tonight, I told her how much I wished I could wrap this all up with a nice big bow and tell you how we’ve come full-circle and how this ministry is as fulfilling for me as it is for Matt and that I can’t wait to go back and that I see all the purpose in all the pain through all the years, but this time I can’t. This is a story in progress and God is still writing the ending. I will tell you, though, that I’ve come to believe that if we are willing to go to God with our hurt and our pain and release it all to Him, He is faithful to create glory out of it. My God, He writes redemption and He writes hope and He writes truth and goodness – even in the midst of the pain. And so I know that He is writing a good ending for this story too.

For His Glory ~

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Brave Trust: Stay Soft {One Word for 2016}

2015 gave the word brave and it had its own anthem:

I stand before You now
The greatness of your renown
I have heard of the majesty and wonder of you
King of Heaven, in humility, I bow

As Your love, in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us
You are not against us
Champion of Heaven
You made a way for all to enter in

I have heard You calling my name
I have heard the song of love that You sing
So I will let You draw me out beyond the shore
Into Your grace
Your grace

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way

Bethel Music – You Make Me Brave

And that theme carried me through the year as God called me out into the water and the unknown again and again and again.  And in November I began to get a feeling for what His word for me would be for 2016.  It was trust but it wasn’t.  So I kept asking, seeking, praying.  And God showed me how my fear, my lack of trust, causes me now to throw up walls, to push people away, to become hardened, almost in an instant.  And then I knew, my word embodying the idea of trustand taking a cue from a friend: soft.  A softness that signifies being open, being vulnerable, being free from chains and walls and fear.

And already, only nine days into the year, it feels He’s asking too much and fear wants to wrap its ugly arms around my heart, and truth fights to keep the walls down, to keep my heart set free, and soft.  And 2016 is given an anthem as well.  A song to carry me through the unknown days and uncharted waters that lie ahead….

Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at Your feet
Every moment of my wandering
Never changes what You see

I’ve tried to win this war I confess
My hands are weary I need Your rest
Mighty Warrior, King of the fight
No matter what I face, You’re by my side

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So, in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation; the rock on which I stand

Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go, You’ve not already stood

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

Lauren Daigle, I Will Trust in You

“There’s not a place where I’ll go, You’ve not already stood”  – Whatever this year holds, He’s already been there.  Whatever tomorrow brings, He is good.

Here’s to 2016: a year of brave trust and staying soft.

For His Glory ~

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Farewell, 2015 {And Don’t Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out}

It’s been a quiet year here.  This post will make seventeen for the whole year.  There was a time I would post that in a month.  And I miss this space, I miss the writing, I miss my readers.  I miss sharing and growing together.  But the words just haven’t come.  It’s been a year of quiet introspection and working things out with pen and paper and God. And it’s like my public words are locked in some great vault and they are numerous – so many things I want to say and share – but I wait for someone to come and turn the key.

But as I look back on this last day of 2015, on a year that I am more than happy to see go, on a year that has taught me more than I was ever brave enough to ask about myself, my relationships, and my Jesus, I know that I am ending the year with deeper appreciation for all three, a deeper understanding, a deeper peace in Christ than I knew to be possible twelve months ago.

Sometimes God takes us places we would never ask to go, places we think He would never ask us to go, and in those places we learn things about Him and about ourselves that we never would have known otherwise.  And we can choose to become bitter or we can choose to let Him make us better; we can choose to nurse our hurt and shut the world out or we can let Him use those places we would not go to lead us to places we’ve always wanted to be.

This is…what God desires of each of His children. He wants us to be ‘more than conquerors,’ turning storm clouds into chariots of victory. It is obvious when an army becomes ‘more than conquerors,’ for it drives its enemies from the battlefield and confiscates their food and supplies. This is exactly what this Scripture passage means. There are spoils to be taken!

Dear believer, after experiencing the terrible valley of suffering, did you depart with the spoils? When you were struck with an injury and you thought you had lost everything, did you trust in God to the point that you came out richer than you were before? Being ‘more than a conqueror’ means taking the spoils from the enemy and appropriating them for yourself. What you enemy had planned to use for your defeat, you can confiscate for your own use.

~ Streams in the Desert, December 18

Looking back on the past twelve months, fear has wanted to shut the world out but God has reminded me to be brave and so I keep tearing walls down and letting God do what He needs to do in my heart.  And looking back on the past twelve months, I see the spoils I have taken from the enemy.  What Satan had planned to use for my defeat, for my utter destruction, God has confiscated for His own glory and my good.  And He has taken this hard, dark year, and made it a thing of incredible beauty.

As we look forward to 2016 so many things feel unknown, as they should.  And my heart, even after all I’ve learned this year, my panicked, terrified heart wants to guard itself and enforce every measure of control I can imagine in my little world.  Yet, I know that’s not God’s way or God’s best.  So I keep tearing down walls, I keep being brave.  I choose to stay soft, to trust, to follow Him, wherever the next twelve months take us.  Because I know He is good.

For His Glory ~

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Week in Review: 2015 {August & September}

Oh, hi there little blog.  I’ve missed you.  But it’s been good to continue to process some things alone and on paper for a while.  I hope to get back to posting soon, but for now, just a quick recap of the past two months plus pictures and some counting of the gifts, because I’m reminded how much my soul still needs that.  Daily.

August started with Grace’s birthday.  I didn’t do a post on her this year and I’m conflicted about that.  The girls don’t love our social media presence, so I tried to respect that by not doing a whole post, but it’s been tradition and a way I try to honor the girls every year, so I feel like I skipped part of the birthday experience.  She’s still one of my favorites, even if I didn’t write about her.  :-)

After that was back-to-school.  I may have had my own little temper tantrum over it all and seriously questioned our decision to keep them home again.  But then I pulled on my big-girl panties and chose to embrace it all, and so far, the year is going very well.

I started school the week after the girls.  I’m having a great time stretching my brain with Human Anatomy and Applied Behavior Analysis.  I’m still so thankful for the opportunity to take classes again.

September came with Matt’s brother getting married and Labor Day and my birthday.  Also, our 4th annual Capitol Craze run and time with friends from out of town.  The rest of the month flew by and now I find myself on October 6th drinking coffee and reflecting on the first 7 weeks of school.

Life is good.  God is good.  Even when life is hard.

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This sweet bird took refuge under Ellie’s chair at dinner after one of the owls in our backyard tried to make it his dinner.

Ellie’s depiction of Heaven based on the book of Revelation.

The throne of the River of Life.

Yep, that’s Hell. #speechless

This book, a gift from a friend.  Books that touch hearts make the very best gifts, in my opinion.

A new planner makes the idea of a new school year more bearable.  And I’m still seriously in love with this planner.

Copy all the things.  Homeschooling isn’t “green”.

Last day of summer break perfection.

And the first day of school.

Love notes to give me courage and make me laugh.

A little bit of studying.

Wondering why my human anatomy class doesn’t include making models of an osteon from food….

Product testing by the 15 year old.

Testing out the race slide.

Relaxing with Ellie while the others rock it out withe LeCrae.

Fall sunrise

This quote stays with me and I find it’s something I’m still learning….

I’d have to learn a different kind of dancing, the kind that stands still.  The kind that leans into the sure arms of a mysterious and unfathomable God and allows Him to lead, even when she doesn’t know where He is leading.  Because sometimes God fights for His girl in ways she never imagined.

Michelle Cushatt, Undone

And the gifts…..

3261.  restful weekends

3262. a fifteen year old

3263.  a school year almost ready to go

3264. messes and projects and practice seeing past them

3265. sweet middle of the night texts that encourage

3266.  taking a step back and giving thanks

3267. citronella oil and bug spray

3268. poolside date and a bottle of wine

3269. the slow winding down of summer

3270. early classes and the easing back into routine

3271. sunshine, ice cream, and pool time – end of summer break perfection

3272. beautiful Fridays

3273. a school year under way

3274. the glory that surrounds the everyday

3275. Sundays

3276. and Mondays

3277. songs that speak love and life

3278. school

3279. brisk mornings; a sweet taste of fall before summer really ends

3280. errands and good talks with #2

3281. almost-perfect weather

3282. good, normal days

3283. time to walk at the lake

3284. long weekends

3285. taking a deep breath

3286. perfect weddings

3287. birthday blessings

3288. perfect weather

3289. soft sunsets

3290. Capitol Craze #4

3291. tests to study from

3292. hard marriage weeks

3293. surgery and a recovery that doesn’t go as planned

3294. excellent care from doctor and family

3295. soup deliveries

3296. happy scores on tests

3297. slow healing

3298. disappointment and a God with a plan

As I look back on that list, I see a choosing to give thanks in the every day for the every day.  Life is not always glorious or glamorous, but it is always good.  And God is always good.  Even when life is hard.*

Happy October, friends.

For His Glory ~

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 *yes, I intentionally wrote that twice in one post😉 Because I need the reminder every day.

2015: Week in Review {June & July}

Does anyone else find it funny that I’m still calling these “Week in Review”?

The past two months have been a wonderful level of slow and uncommitted, interrupted by brief pockets of hold-onto-your-hats busy.  There have been a lot of pool days and no schedule and figuring out meals as they happen.  It’s the disconnect my soul needed.

June and July, in pictures and captions….

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It was the gift of this Bible study this summer.  So thankful for the She Reads Truth community.

It was these two baking up something in kitchen.

It was a loooong day of clothes shopping and some very worn out girls.

It was a pair of adorable, naughty bunnies taking refuge in the bathroom.

It was a little (or a lot) too much time on screens.

It was these beauties and endless rain and flowers that are still alive on August 7th.

It was time with girls and God-glory shining everywhere.

It was a lot of this view.

It was Matt on the go-kart that wouldn’t go and the “family fun night” that was exactly what I needed that week.


It was celebrating the life and legacy of fifty years of marriage.

It was the installation of my new favorite outdoor space.

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It was this girl turning 12.

It was the #BurritoLife #FundraiserLife #SendGraceToHaitiLife.

It was a power outage and making the best of things.

It was strolling the pet store and these puppies living the life.

It was lunch with #2 at my favorite coffee shop.

It was coping with the discovery of two dead mice in the storage closet. (Sidenote: I didn’t actually drink the whole bottle of wine….)

It was Camp Enosh for these two.

It was dinner at our favorite local burger joint.

It was burning through this book and being left really mad at the author.  I can’t take these novels with the bad endings.  :-|

It was an evening in the ER with this guy.  We never really defined what happened, but all signs point to heat stroke.

It was celebrating 16 years of marriage.

It was my foodie-photographer-in-training.

And it was never getting enough of this.

And never stopping giving thanks and listing the gifts…

3225.  Summer Sizzle – year 4

3226.  getting words on paper

3227.  sunshine and humidity

3228.  flowers, birds, green trees

3229.  blue water and an open pool

3230.  words to ponder and pray over

3231. patio weather and long date nights

3232. long weeks, time by the pool, and the things that did get done

3233.  shopping days with five girls

3234.  space to clear my head

3235.  beautiful skies and time outside

3236.  two solid miles with a friend

3237.  God-glimpses into a bigger story

3238.  surviving the crazy and savoring the slow

3239.  deep words that speak truth about God – His faithfulness, HIs trustworthiness, His goodness

3240.  thunderstorm and candlelight

3241.  timely, specific, God-gift answers to prayer

3242.  time with my oldest

3243.  long date nights

3244. friendship

3245. journaling and words

3246.  summer heat waves

3247. high school missions trips

3248. my people

3249. the promise of sleep

3250. rain and thunder

3251. a chlorine reading on the pool🙂

3252. daily notes from my beloved

3253. unconventional anniversaries

3254. Camp Enosh

3255. school ordered

3256. friendship

3257. sunshine & deck chairs

3258. cool weather, screen porch, and the oldest on her way home from Haiti

3259. a husband on the mend

3260. baby steps toward a new (school) year

May your weekend be filled with just enough sunshine, just enough shade, just enough work, just enough fun, and a whole lot of God’s goodness.

For His Glory ~

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