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 ~

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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 ~

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*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.

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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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Fifty years ago their story began in a Catholic church in northeast Kansas.  And while there are parts of their story I know they would probably rewrite or change if they could, every part of their story wrote our story. And their story has written a legacy of serving others, giving generously.  Their story has written a legacy of two children happily married, families serving Christ.  Their story is leaving a legacy of faithfulness and perseverance and hope.  Their story isn’t a fairy tale, but no true story is.  Their story is written in Christ.  And their story is redemption.

Happy 50th Anniversary to my parents.  Thank you for giving us a legacy of love.

For His Glory ~

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That Duggar Post: A Follow Up

Holy cow.  You all are awesome. Your love for my post on Friday regarding the Josh Duggar situation and my personal take on it caused it to take off.  The feedback I received was filled with grace and encouragement (eh, for the most part), and I thank you all for that.  That said, I feel like I need to clarify a few things.

When I wrote that post, I knew that it would get **some** additional traffic, due to the timeliness of the material and the incredibly personal nature of it.  But I wrote it for my usual audience, most of whom know me personally and know my heart and my mind on many of these topics.  However, I had no idea how much additional traffic it would get.  Had I known that, I may have been clearer about a few more things.  And because of that, I want to be clear: in absolutely no way am I condoning Josh Duggar’s behavior or (entirely) how his parents handled the situation.  As I stated in my original post, I have not read the police report for very specific reasons, but what I have read leads me to believe that the family dealt with the situation in a way that seemed best to them at the time. Does this mean that it truly was the “best way” or that everything was done that needed to be done?  Not necessarily.  Does that mean that airing the Duggars dirty laundry on Facebook, Twitter, and all the media outlets is the best way to promote healing for a family that is deeply troubled and hurting?  Absolutely not.

And that was the point of my post.  Not that Josh didn’t do anything wrong.  He did!  And not that his parents shouldn’t have handled it differently.  Maybe they should have.  (and their health and healing today.  And my point was that we are broken, scarred people – all of us – in desperate need of grace and love from one another and in desperate need of a Savior.  Even those of us that claim the cross daily live with the consequences of our choices, big and small.  And we all make terrible, sinful choices that affect others. And others around us make choices that affect us.  Hope and healing come when we speak honestly about those things rather than masquerading perfection.  When we live real, others can find their own hope and healing too.

I know this post won’t get the traffic the other one did.  But at least it’s out there.  And maybe it clears some of the questions up, maybe it doesn’t.  But I again call for us to show grace upon grace upon grace.  To each other.  It is up to the Duggar girls whether or not they will forgive Josh and / or their parents.  It is not our sin to forgive or judge.  But we win the most when we show love.

Mercy and forgiveness must be free and unmerited to the wrongdoer. If the wrongdoer has to do something to merit it, then it isn’t mercy, but forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting the forgiveness.

Tim Keller

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For His Glory ~

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Glory in the Mundane

I wipe crumbs off counters and scrub sticky honey from laminate and I look over at the to do list and the stack of projects a mile high and wonder when?!  And the door bell rings and a child asks for help and the dog barks and a text comes in needing to be answered.

And this is how we live our life.  Interrupted.  A constant stopping and starting.  And it’s hard to make progress when you can only chip away a bit at a time.

Perhaps you are very dissatisfied with yourself….Mediocrity seems to be the measure of your existence.  None of your days are noteworthy, except for their sameness and lack of zest.  Yet in spite of this you may live a great life.

Do the most everyday and insignificant tasks knowing that God can see.  If you live with difficult people, win them over through love.  If you once made a great mistake in life, do not allow it to cloud the rest of your life, but by locking it…in your heart, make it yield strength and character.

We are doing more good than we know.  The things we do today – sowing seeds or sharing simple truths of Christ – people will refer to as the first things that prompted them to think of Him.

Streams in the Desert, February 24

And so I daily learn to embrace this interrupted life and I do those “everyday and insignificant tasks” knowing God sees.  Thirteen years into parenting and nine years into home schooling and it still it does not come naturally and this life it only speeds up it seems.  And I want life to be more than this everyday mundane but then I realize that may not be what God has for me.  At least not now.  And to walk in obedience in the daily monotony may be the greatest training ground of all.  Because in the big things there is action and activity and movement.  But in the small things there is the daily sameness and washing of counters and washing of feet and washing hearts and minds with the Word.

Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this Man was true.

John 10:41

And Big Things and miraculous signs are not God’s plan for all of us. Some of us are called to live our days (or at least seasons) in obscure mediocrity.  But when these days end, may our children, our loved ones, our families and friends be able to look back and say that all that we said about this Man was true.  May they be able to see through our broken and sinful flesh to a life that was characterized by pointing to Christ.  May a true and genuine love for the Savior wash over the mistakes we make.  And like John the Baptist, may we not all perform miraculous signs and wonders, but may all our days point to Jesus.

For His Glory ~

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There is always something to be thankful for….

It’s a day that starts grumbly and I want to pull the covers back over my head and go to sleep because good sleep has been elusive lately.  And all my goals and ambitions and hopes and plans, they seem tall and towering and unattainable today, and I want to laugh at myself for thinking I could ever achieve such things.

But I choose to speak truth to myself, even though my voice feels small next to the condemnation in my head.  And I push on, just doing the next thing.  Coffee.  Quiet time.  Breakfast for the kids.  Start the school day.  Give direction.  Pound out the miles on the treadmill.  Answer questions.  Shower.  Help with school.  Read with the littles.  Answer more questions.  Lunch.  Give more direction.  Plan the week.  Plan the grocery list.  Comfort a child.  Answer still more questions. And on and on and on goes the day.  And I look for adventure and I look for joy and I find them in the sun shining through the windows and dancing off mirrors and in marking things off the daily list, even if it’s just one goal accomplished today.  And I find them in a candle lit in the window and music playing softly on the piano.  And I find glimmers of adventure and joy and hope all around, if I will just open my eyes and my heart to see.  And I remember there is always something to be thankful for. So I list the gifts to start the week and shift my mind and change my heart and my home…..

 

 

2845.  Legos, magazines, and blankets – signs of togetherness taking place

2846.  words that encourage us to pray hard prayers

2847.  long week coming to an end

2848.  watching a heart be changed slowly by God

2849.  Come to Me on repeat

2850.  sunlight pouring in windows and dancing off mirrors

2851.  a heart and mind reset

May your week be an amazing adventure, friends.  And may your heart give thanks at every turn.

For His Glory ~

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A New Year, A Fresh Start

January 1 – that day that we all hang so much hope on.  And it begs us to start fresh – a whole year ahead with seemingly unlimited potential.  And some years I have concrete resolutions and some years are more ambiguous ideals.  This year calls for some concrete goals.  After a year of feeling like life was all over the place and yet so many things in life gaining momentum as 2013 came to a close, I am excited about the potential that 2014 holds.  So, goals have been set – ten different facets of life, five typed pages of goals and plans (held loosely, of course, because God has His own plan and mine make Him laugh, I’m sure).

I won’t share my whole five page plan, but I will hit the highlights of each area.  If I remember, we’ll recap in 11 months and 28 days or so.

First, my word of the year – gentleness.  In the fall, the Lord laid this word on my heart as something to focus on in the coming year.  I am not always gentle, particularly with my words, and I am learning that the truly strong and the truly Christ-like are models of gentleness.  I am praying the Lord will help me grow in this area this year.

1. Spiritual growth

  • Read through the Amplified Bible this year.  I’ve read through the Bible in the past, but I’ve never done this translation.  I love the nuances of the Amplified, so I’m excited to see what new light this sheds on God’s word.
  • Get back to rewarding the girls for Scripture memory.  I don’t like bribing my children, but if I’ll pay them to clean the yard, it’s probably worth incentivizing them to hide God’s word in their heart.  Time is slipping away and they need that truth deep within.
  • Limit mindless screen time.  I wasn’t sure where to put this one, but the spiritual growth category seemed like a good place because this has the potential to impact every area of life.  And this may be one of my hardest goals for the year.  Matt and I both have a **horrible** habit of zoning out on our phones and I’m watching it bleed over into our kids and it just.needs.to.stop.  So, I’m starting with me.  I’m not proposing never being on my phone or never zoning out with it, but I am committed to being more intentional about when I am on a screen.  Some of my other goals will require more screen time, but it will be purposeful.  Staring at Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest multiple times a day for no reason other than to zone out – that needs to stop.

2.  Marriage

  • I won’t be specific here, but as I’ve said before, our marriage took a beating last year.  My goal this year is to make it a priority to nurture our relationship and restore it to what it was and make it even better than it has been.

3.  Parenting

  • Practice gentleness (see above).
  • Slow down to hear the girls’ hearts.
  • More consistent times of reading aloud.  All of my girls still love to be read to.  This is important and I need to make it more of a priority.
  • Continue to seek out times to spend with each girl alone.

4.  Fitness

  • Continue to improve our eating habits and work on helping the girls understand why real food is important.
  • Build back up to consistent running and workouts; 2013 was brutal in this department.
  • Train for and run a half marathon.  Due to injuries and illness and the fact that the Kansas weather decided it was January in November, my January one is not happening unless I walk most of it.  I really want to do one again for real.

5.  Intellectual

  • Read 1 book/month from a different genre.  I have a list of different topics to read on; I’ll share as I reach this goal.

6.  Writing

  • This place is a haven for me.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to come here and share and for the encouragement so many of you offer by sharing your lives with me.  I am hopeful that I will be able to post somewhat more consistently this year and possibly grow this space, if the Lord wills.

7.  Essential Oils

  • A year ago I would have never guessed what a huge part of my life essential oils would become or what a blessing they would be to my family.  I am hopeful that 2014 will bring a greater understanding of oils and how they work with the body systems as well as more opportunities to share oils with those around me.  God is opening many doors in this area of my life.  As long as He opens them, I want to keep walking through them.

8.  Computer Projects

  • I always have a rather healthy list of things that need to be done on the computer.  I’m hoping that if I chip away at that list systematically this year, I will start 2015 with a clean(er) slate.  My biggest challenge is always the digital photo clutter.  Since I make all of our photobooks on the computer and haven’t made any in about two years, I have some catching up to do.  **sigh**

9.  Home Projects

  • A new house means lots of projects on the brain.  I know we will get some things knocked out this year, but I want to be somewhat systematic about it so we don’t end 2014 with a dozen partly-finished projects rather than a few completely finished projects.  And then there’s Pinterest, my constant tempter with its new ideas of things to spray paint and hot glue.  I’m looking forward to summer and the chance to do some of that again.

10.  Friendship and Hospitality

  • One of those areas we struggle in but want to do better.  Life is so busy and we often feel like just keeping the seven of us that live here connected is a full time job, but one of our reasons for buying this house was the opportunity it would afford us to allow the girls to have more friends over and encourage us to have more friends over as well.  So here’s to a year of hopefully seeing more of some of you!

So, that’s my (abbreviated) list.  It’s ambitious, but I’m hopeful that if I’m diligent at least some of it will get accomplished.  What are your goals for 2014?  Don’t feel like your list has to be this aggressive.  I absolutely love Ann’s list yesterday.  I plan to use her printable as a guide for my days this year.

More than anything, I want to go where God leads this year.  That’s what this whole thing is about anyway.  I’ve been praying over this list for a few weeks and this is what the Lord gave me.  He may also take it all away tomorrow.  But I know that a loosely held plan is better than no plan at all, and so the plan is laid out and offered back up to Him.

For His Glory ~

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