Missing

I read other blogs.  I see the  photos.  I watch my friends’ families.  And I feel a small sense of loss.

I have a twinge of sadness that my husband has no son to walk alongside him.  No one to pass on his trade to, his skills, his business.  No one that *really* wants to wrestle or throw a baseball or watch the NBA (*gag*).  I feel a bit of loss that I have no son to influence, no boy that will eventually eat me out of house and home, or who will one day tower over me and yet still be my child.  No sweet, tender boy to direct in the ways of becoming a strong, godly man.

A boy is not what God has chosen for us.  He chose for us to have four beautiful girlie girls.  He knew that we would reach four and feel our family was full, quite possibly complete.  He knew that my husband would have to enter the world of estrogen and only have his work as an escape.  He knew I would not have to work through the energy and the physicality that is a boy and that I would occasionally feel an ache when I see other families with their sons.

Sometimes the ache is replaced with an irritation.  Sometimes I am simply annoyed, even angered, that others would think our family is somehow lacking because we don’t have sons.  This comes from so many places.  Friends, family, strangers at the grocery store.  You gonna keep tryin’ til you have a boy? Seriously, is our proliferation really your concern?  God knew what He put in my womb.  He didn’t make a mistake giving us four girls.  Each one is an incredible blessing.  Each one is perfect.  And I wouldn’t trade a single one of them to have a son.

Most of the time I am content.  I am satisfied with my girls.  I thoroughly enjoy them.  Like I keep saying, God knew.  He makes no mistakes.  One day, if He wills, I will have four sons through our daughters marriages.  And perhaps grandsons.  But I know that’s not entirely the same.

I know that we are not necessarily “done”.  But we feel no leading, no calling to add to our numbers.  Not naturally.  Not through adoption.  That can change, but it’s where our hearts have been for quite some time.

I do not begrudge the eight “x” chromosomes that God knit together in my womb.  But sometimes I still long for a “y”.

Simple Monday, Simple Thanks

0753.  protection for my beloved

0754.  inconveniences

0755.  precious texts from a friend

0756.  apple pie deliveries

0757.  a great run

0758.  three and a half miles – no stopping

0759.  freinds’ gratitude lists

0760.  days that remind you how broken and sinful you are and how desperately you need God’s grace

From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.

~ John 1:16

Photos – the last group from our trip to Chicago.

Week in Review

What a week! I’m so excited that it’s Friday, because Friday means date night!!!!  And I am ready for a date night.  🙂

Lake Michigan

In the past seven days, we’ve…

Seriously cold water!

Been to the Windy City and back.

Had a long hard week of school.

Nearly lost Matt’s phone to his morning coffee.

Nearly lost Matt’s truck to an auto accident.

Had one really good run with a friend.

Entering the Sears Tower

Begun to think about how to manage our time well this year to maintain our sanity during what it seems will be a very hectic nine months.

Some views from the top

Realized our children are growing up.

Realized what a broken vessel God has chosen to lead these children to Him.

And given thanks for God’s endless grace that carries us through each day.

Have a great weekend, friends!  See you Monday!

Standing out on "The Ledge"

The view from the 103rd floor

A neighboring "Ledge"

Photos from our trip to Chicago; the last batch to be up on Monday.

Girls Getaway

Last Friday, I loaded up a borrowed Camry and woke our oldest daughter up very early and we headed out for Chicago.  A birthday gift for her tenth, a chance for her and I to get away and talk about the things a mother needs to share with her growing-older, growing-up daughter, away from the interruptions and inconveniences of littler ones.  We drove for what seemed an endless 9+ hours, hitting repeated construction and a few rain storms.  We arrived exhausted but excited for the adventure of a city new to both of us.

We had a great time and good conversations.  She was not quite interested yet in some of the things we discussed, but the door at least has been opened and I can only remain available for her to walk through it in the future when she is ready to talk.  I got to know her better – this girl who only had us to herself for sixteen months before the intruders (younger sisters) started entering the scene.  I confirmed my belief that she is a lot like her dad and a lot like me.  She asks questions that he would ask, things that would never enter my mind.  She stumped me many times and I responded a lot with, “Grace, I just don’t know.” The first thing she did upon arriving in our hotel room was unpack her suit case into the drawers and lay everything out perfectly.  I laughed as I saw a glimpse of my pre-child self.

I grew tired of being the navigator and missed Matt greatly for this reason, among others.  But I left feeling stronger and satisfied, having learned my way around (a very small portion of) a huge city by myself.  I learned how to hail and take a taxi, how to understand (in a very small way) the bus maps and schedules, how to take the free trolley to Navy Pier, and how to find lots and lots of things on foot.

It was a great weekend for both of us.  These are memories she and I will both cherish forever.  Here are a few pictures from the weekend.  I’ll share more tomorrow.

A girl on a mission!

A photo with Mia and Lanie

After her shopping spree - a new outfit and earrings for Mia

Navy Pier Ferris Wheel

More Ferris Wheel

The birthday girl

Waiting in line for the Ferris wheel

I had a lot of fun taking pictures of this thing 😉

Navy Pier

Reflection

Skyline

The Sky Swing

More ferris wheel 😉

Sky swing at night

Flyer

Carousel

One of my favorite

Have a great Thursday!  We’ll see you tomorrow!

~ Sara

My Ears Are Tired Button Information

To share my button on your own blog, copy and paste the following information to your page in the form of a hyperlink.  Thanks so much!!!

Note – I may have some stray code in here that is causing a small box to appear next to the button.  I will try to fix that later.  Right now I need to start school with my girls.  In the meantime, you should be able to delete the box manually.  I’m sorry for this little inconvenience!

Another note – apparently the code is not working now. I will mess with it more later.  Clearly, I am a writer and not a web designer.  😛

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Little Things

It’s funny how the small things add up into something so much greater.  This shouldn’t surprise me, as I teach my girls their addition facts, but on days like today you notice how it starts to accumulate.

It starts very early with crying, whining, complaining, and attitude.  And it starts with my beloved giving his Blackberry a coffee bath on the way home from the gym.  I give him my Blackberry and am left with no phone for the day, except his office phone, because both of our home phones are dead.  As in no-longer-able-to-be-charged dead.  He’s left with the use of a phone, but none of the data that he needs, like client phone numbers or addresses.  We’re reminded of the importance of backing up our phone data.  *sigh*

There are more struggles as we push through the school day and then I get a call from the ballet teacher that second child’s class has been canceled due to low enrollment and she needs to move to a Monday/Wednesday rotation for the school year.  That makes four nights a week at the ballet studio and four nights a week of anything for kids is a point I never wanted to get to, especially when they are still in grade school.  I try not to cry while I’m on the phone (Matt’s office phone) with the ballet instructor.

I contemplate calling Matt and figure it can wait until he gets home.  Then I get a call from him on the home phone, which is dead, but the answering machine works.  “Honey, I’ve been in a wreck.  I’m okay, but I need you to call my next appointment and tell them I won’t be there.  I think the guy that hit me is having a heart attack.” The girls and I take hands and pray.

I feel completely beaten by this day.  It’s not that anything huge happened.  Matt was not injured.  We did not get a call from a doctor saying one of us is terminally ill.  Our house is still standing.  Everything, in the grand scheme of things, is fine.  But it’s the little things of life that wear you down.  And this day has been one giant inconvenience of little things.

Except for two bright spot little things.  A sweet friend who sent me a text after all this happened and offered to come over and watch our kids so Matt and I could go out.  I cried.  I had to turn her down because Matt had meetings and Grace had ballet.  But sometimes, it truly is the thought that counts.

And just now, other friends stopped by with an apple pie.  Just because.

God is good.  He carries us on the days when the big things hit us and on days when the little ones threaten to overwhelm us.  He sees me.  He sees us.  He will get us through Matt having a broken phone and a broken truck, or maybe no truck at all.  He will get us through the decisions about ballet and schedules.  He will get us through bad attitudes and hard days.  He will carry us on the wings of His grace and the unexpected kindnesses of friends.

Undeserved Gifts

We pass them on the street – all men, mostly black, holding their cardboard signs – “Hungry”, “Homeless”, “Please help”, “God bless”, “We’re all God’s children”.  They rattle their cups, asking passersby to contribute their loose change.  My heart turns inside me with each one I pass.  A general rule of never giving cash, I keep my eyes focused ahead and pray.  I pray for wisdom and discernment for me, provision for them, and that God would be speaking both to me and to the ten year old girl with me what the right response is.  One woman, toothless and hungry, asks me to buy her a sandwich.  So we back track a few steps to the 7-11 and I buy her a sandwich and a drink.  “When I was hungry, you gave me food to eat…” Oldest child asks why they don’t go to the mission to get a meal, why they don’t go inside the store that says “Hiring”, why they sit there and hold their signs.  I have no easy answers.  I have no answers at all really.  “I don’t know, Grace,” I say, helpless.

I am thankful that I cannot pass them and feel nothing.  I am thankful for the work God is doing in my life and the lives of my children.  I am thankful that, even though I feel small and helpless and confused in these situations, I serve a God who is big enough and I trust Him for the answers.

Giving thanks for just some of the undeserved gifts….

0741.  three days away with my oldest daughter

0742.  my dad’s fuel-efficient Camry

0743.  safe travels

0744.  memories made

0745.  the city of Chicago

0746.  suggestions from many friends

0747.  husband who supports my renewed love for road trips

0748.  kids finally old enough to make road trips fun again

0749.  coming home to house clean and ironing done

0750.  talking until 2 am

0751.  being reunited with the one I love

0752.  welcome home hugs from little girls

Tomorrow

I won’t be posting today. I returned late last night with the oldest daughter from three days in Chicago. I will return tomorrow to count the blessings. Today, I need to sort my thoughts and my laundry. And love on the little ones I missed a lot.

Have a beautiful Monday!

Week in Review

It’s been a normal (but busy!) week in our home.  We’ve picked back up with ballet schedules and I’ve run twice and not been able to sleep worth a darn.  Another week of school is in the books, so to speak, and the weekend awaits.  By the time you read this, I will be well on my way (Lord willing) to Chicago with our oldest daughter.  A mother-daughter getaway, a gift for her tenth birthday.  I look forward to uninterrupted conversations with her, this one who needs my love and words so she can learn to become a woman.  And I look forward to just getting to know her more and more.  She’s beautiful and amazing and I love the heart God is growing in her and the way she wants what He wants in her life.

Have a blessed weekend, friends.  I plan to see you on Monday and I cannot wait to count the blessings with you.

~ Sara

Radical – My Take Away

This week I finished Radical by David Platt.  It’s one in a series of books that have wrecked my normal way of thinking.  Books like Crazy Love and Mercy Rising, that God has been using to force me out of my comfort zone.  Here’s what I want to remember from Radical:  (I found this book to be amazing.  I am only including some of my highlighted points, and this is still a terribly long post.  My apologies!)

  • I could not help but think that somewhere along the way we had missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable.
  • This is where we come face to face with a dangerous reality.  We do have to give up everything we have to follow Jesus.  We do have to love Him in a way that makes our closest relationships in this world look like hate.  And it is entirely possible that He will tell us to sell everything we have and give it to the poor.  But we don’t want to believe it.  We are afraid of what it might mean for our lives.
  • This is where we need to pause.  Because we are starting to redefine Christianity.  We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist Him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with.  A nice, middle-class American Jesus.  A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have.  A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts, because, after all, He loves us just the way we are.  A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes, and who, for that matter, wants us to avoid danger altogether.  A Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperity as we live out our Christian spin on the American dream.
  • We desperately need to explore how much of our understanding of the gospel is American and how much is biblical.
  • The gospel reveal eternal realities about God that we would sometimes rather not face.  We prefer to sit back, enjoy our cliches, and picture God as a Father who might help us, all the while ignoring God as a Judge who might damn us.  Maybe this is why we fill our lives with the constant drivel of entertainment in our culture – and in the church.  We are afraid that if we stop and really look at God in His Word, we might discover that He evokes greater awe and demands deeper worship than we are ready to give Him.
  • We spurn our Creator’s authority over us….Everything in all creation responds in obedience to the Creator… until we get to you and me.  We have the audacity to look God in the face and say, “No.”
  • The gospel demands and enables us to turn from our sin, to take up our cross, to die to ourselves, and to follow Jesus.  These are the terms and phrases we see in the Bible.  And salvation now consists of a deep wrestling in our souls with the sinfulness of our hearts, the depths of our depravity, and the desperation of our need for His grace.  Jesus is no longer one to be accepted or invited in but one who is infinitely worthy of our immediate and total surrender.
  • As the American dream goes, we can do anything we set our minds to accomplish.  There is no limit to what we can accomplish when we combine ingenuity, imagination, and innovation with skill and hard work.  We can earn any degree, start any business, climb any ladder, attain any prize, and achieve any goal.  James Truslow Adams, who is credited with coining the phrase “American dream” in 1931, spoke of it as “a dream…in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are.”  …But underlying this American dream are a dangerous assumption that, if we are not cautious, we will unknowingly accept and a deadly goal that, if we are not careful, we will ultimately achieve. …While the goal of the American dream is to make much of us, the goal of the gospel is to make much of God.
  • God delights in using ordinary Christians who come to the end of themselves and choose to trust in His extraordinary provision.  He stands ready to allocate His power to all who are radically dependent on Him and radically devoted to making much of Him.
  • Instead of asserting ourselves, we crucify ourselves.  Instead of imagining all the things we can accomplish, we ask God to do what only He can accomplish.  Yes, we work, we plan, we organize, and we created, but we do it all while we fast, while we pray, and while we constantly confess our need for the provision of God.
  • It is the great why of God.  God blesses His people with extravagant grace so they might extend His extravagant glory to all peoples on the earth.
  • The message of biblical Christianity is “God loves me so that I might make Him – His ways, His salvation, His glory, and His greatness – known among all nations.”
  • We have subtly taken ourselves out from under the weight of a lost and dying world, wrung our hands in pious concern, and said, “I’m sorry, I’m just not called to that.”  The result is tragic.  A majority of individuals supposedly saved from eternal damnation by the gospel are now sitting back and making excuses for not sharing that gospel with the rest of the world.
  • We have seen that God blesses us so that His glory might be made know to all nations.  But an all-important question remains.  How do we make God’s glory known in all nations?  If God has given us His grace so that we might take His gospel to the ends of the earth, then how do we do that?  …With the task of taking the gospel to the world, He wandered through he streets and byways of Israel looking for  a few men.  …The megastrategy of Jesus:  make disciples.
  • Disciple making is not a call for others to come to us to hear the gospel but a command for us to go to others to share the gospel.  A command for us to be gospel-living, gospel-speaking people at every moment and in every context where we find ourselves.
  • Disciple making is not about a program or an event but about a relationship.
  • We are, by nature, receivers.  Even if we have a desire to learn God’s Word, we still listen from a default self-centered mind-set that is always asking, What can I get out of this? But as we have seen, this is unbiblical Christianity.  What if we changed the question whenever we gathered to learn God’s Word?  What if we began to think, How can I listen to His Word so that I am equipped to teach this Word to others?
  • Good intentions, regular worship, and even study of the Bible do not prevent blindness in us.  Part of our sinful nature instinctively chooses to see what we want to see and to ignore what we want to ignore.  I can live my Christian life and even lead the church while unknowingly overlooking evil.
  • So what is the difference between someone who willfully indulges in sexual pleasures while ignoring the Bible on moral purity and someone who willfully indulges in the selfish pursuit of more and more material possessions while ignoring the Bible on caring for the poor?  The difference is that one involves a social taboo in the church and the other involves the social norm in the church.
  • Wealth is not inherently evil.
  • Much error would occur if someone walked away from this chapter thinking that money and possessions are necessarily bad; they are actually good gifts from the hand of God intended for our enjoyment and the spread of His glory.
  • That Jesus did not command all His followers to sell all their possessions gives comfort only to the kind of people to whom He would issue that command.
  • He doesn’t give options for people to consider; He gives commands for people to obey.
  • Are you and I looking to Jesus for advice that seems fiscally responsible according tot he standards of the world around us?  Or are we looking to Jesus for total leadership in our lives, even if that means going against everything our affluent culture and maybe even our affluent religious neighbors might tell us to do?
  • There is never going to come a day when I stand before God and He looks at me and says, “I wish you would have kept more for yourself.”  I’m confident that God will take care of me.  When God tells us to give extravagantly, we can trust Him to do the same in our lives.
  • What if we took a serious look at them (those in need) and actually began to adjust our lifestyles for the sake of the gospel among them?  What would that look like?
  • If people are dying and going to hell without ever even knowing there is a gospel, then we clearly have no time to waste our lives on an American dream.
  • The question, therefore, is not “Can we find God’s will?”  The question is “Will we obey God’s will?”  Will we refuse to sit back and wait for some tingly feeling to go down our spines before we rise up and do what we have already been commanded to do?
  • Do we believe the reward found in Jesus is worth the risk of following Him?
  • We think, If it’s dangerous, God must not be in it.  If it’s risky, if it’s unsafe, if it’s costly, it must not be God’s will.
  • You will be hated.  The reality is that if we really become like Jesus, the world will hate us.
  • The danger in our lives will always increase in proportion to the depth of our relationship with Christ.  Maybe this is why we sit back and settle for a casual relationship with Christ and routine religion in the church.  It is safe there, and the world likes us there.  The world likes us when we are pursuing everything they are pursuing, even if we do put a Christian label on it.  As long as Christianity looks like the American dream, we will have few problems with this world.
  • Jesus reminded His disciples that their safety was not found in the comforts of this world but in the control of a sovereign God over this world.  We can rest confident in the fact that nothing will happen to us in this world apart from the gracious will of a sovereign God.  Nothing.
  • We have settled far too long for “Bible lite,” both as individual Christians and in the community of faith.  We have adopted a Christianity consumed with little devotional thoughts from God for the day, supplemented by teaching in the church filled with entertaining stories and trite opinions on how to be a better person and live a better life in the twenty-first century.  Meanwhile, we hold the matchless Word of God in our hands, and it demands a superior position in our lives, our families, our small groups, and our churches.  If you and I are going to penetrate our culture and the cultures of the world with this gospel, we desperately need minds saturated with God’s Word.
  • When God chose to bring salvation to you and me, He did not send gold or silver, cash or check.  He sent Himself – the Son.  I was convicted for even considering that I should give money instead of actually coming to Sudan.  How will I ever show the gospel to the world if all I send is my money?  Was I really so shallow as to think that my money is the answer to the needs in the world?  If we are going to accomplish the global purpose of God, it will not be primarily through giving our money, as important as that is.  It will happen primarily through giving ourselves.  This is what the gospel represents, and it’s what the gospel requires.

And while I want to remember the things that I have taken away from this book, I also want to step back and be wise in my application.  Are books like this one just the new movement in Christian literature to sell more books?  Are they Spirit led or emotionally driven?  Because I cannot read these books and not be moved emotionally.  But emotion does not equal the Holy Spirit.

I found this post in Matt’s printer tray a few days ago.  I’m not sure if it fits here or not.  I am including it because I believe that in our efforts to live a “radical” Christianity we may be inclined to abandon traditional church in the name of something more “progressive”, to leave the structure of Sunday morning in our efforts to find social justice.  I agree with some of the post.  I agree there is a movement in my generation to abandon formal church for something freer, more open, and I agree that it poses its dangers to the believer.  I disagree in the sense that we do need visionaries and radicals to spur on those of us who may be content to plod along forever.  We all serve our purpose in the Body; but we must be an active part of the Body to serve in the greatest capacity.

I do believe there is truth in the words of David Platt, Francis Chan, and others.  If we look at Christ, He does look very different from the average American Christian.  There are countless reasons for this, but one significant one is the fact that we have bought into the be more/do more/have more philosophy.  I think America is a great nation.  I think our Founders were led here by God to begin a great experiment that would lead to a great leap of progress not only in science, medicine, and technology, but also in the spread of His great Name throughout the earth.  We, as American Christians, need to give thanks for the great nation we live in, for the freedoms we have, for the prosperity we enjoy.  And then we need to use those freedoms and that prosperity, not to make our own lives more comfortable, but to pour ourselves out for others for the sake of the Kingdom.

Lord, help me to consider how to live a radical faith, how to follow hard after your Son.  Help me to discern feeling from wisdom, emotion from Spirit moving. Help me to do whatever it takes to do what you have called me to do.  For your Kingdom and your glory.