Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Jumble of Thoughts...

I took my troubles to the LORD; I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer. -Psalm 120:1 (NLT)

I honestly don't feel worthy of writing this blog this morning. My heart aches over the fact that God continues to give me great things to say but I can't seem to follow through with the words coming through my own fingers.

I know that it is absolutely impossible to be "good enough" on my own and yet, I continue to aim for that goal. And it's an unachievable goal! Why do I do this? It only frustrates me and makes me a worse friend, mother, daughter, wife, sister, and any other label you can think of.

So I'm going back to these simple, wonderful words from the Psalms. I am again handing over all of my troubles because as much as I WANT to trust God with all of them, I keep taking them back and going over and over them! I need to leave them in HIS capable hands!

And one of those troubles is my sweet Gwen. I handed her over on Valentine's Day and took her back almost right away. There are no good excuses for that one. I did it and I admit it. Period.

My husband pointed something out to me AGAIN last night. God used Gwen in an amazing way while she was here with us. She was loved as much as humanly possible while she was here. And now, she is whole and perfect and happy in heaven with God. She is in the best possible place right now and will never have to experience the heartache of a life here on earth (and I don't care how perfect your life is, we all experience heartache along the line!).

So, as much as I miss her and wish I'd gotten more time with her, she IS in a better place and I WILL get to see her again!

Here's my challenge for you AND me this morning: Think about which troubles you're hanging onto in your own life...and then hand them back to God! I know I'm going to be doing that again this morning!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. -Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

This is all I have for today. Lean on the Lord with all of your burdens! He can handle it!!

Monday, February 27, 2012

February 24th

For everything there is a season,a time for every activity under heaven. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. -Ecclesiastes 3:1,4

This past Friday was Gwen's due date. Now the problem with that particular date is that it is not only her due date, but also the due date of the baby I lost a few years ago AND my nine-year-old son's birthday as well! So for his sake, I chose to ignore the giant elephant in the room and carry on with our day, focusing instead on something I thought would be easily attainable. A bracelet.

In fact, I obsessed over that bracelet to the point that when I wasn't able to find it at the store on Saturday afternoon (after continuing to ignore the elephant who insisted on following me around to dinner Friday night and then to my son's birthday party on Saturday morning), I broke down in tears. Now several other things happened to fuel the fire, but in the end I needed to acknowledge my feelings about that date.

February 24th will forever be a bittersweet day for me. On the one hand, it is a very special day to celebrate the miracle that is my second son. And he is absolutely fantastic! But on the other hand, it is also a day that I will always remember as the due date for 2 of my other children who never made it into the world.

I've been told that I should just move on already, that these deaths are in the past and that I need to focus on the present and the miracles that I have right here. And that sounds great. It truly does. But I can't just ignore my God-given feelings on this! The fact is that no matter what, I am sad for the babies that I will never meet this side of heaven. Yes, they are perfect in every way now and enjoying our Father's arms in heaven, but I still wish I could have met them, held them, loved on them!

There are many days where I feel okay and know that I will make it through this with God's help and love. And then there are all the others. There are also many days when I think it would be awesome if God would give us another baby and then there are the ones when I just don't want to open myself up to the possibility of this pain again.

I don't have any wise words (beyond the verse above) or pretty, gift-wrapped way to tie up this post. This is just what is on my heart today and I pray that it is helpful in some way to someone out there. Have a blessed day today!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Is It Still Lying if You Just Aren't Offering the Information?

Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed. -Proverbs 12:19 (NLT)

I've faced this question multiple times over the last few months. Sometimes it was with friends as they struggled with whether or not to share something with someone else. And sometimes, it was ME!

You see, my most recent experience with this was over breastmilk. I was absolutely terrified to tell my birth mama that we were planning on giving our sweet angel, Gwen, breastmilk for the first year of her life (if we could get enough breastmilk, that is!). Now, I nursed all of my babies and I know all the reasons why I wanted to give Gwen breastmilk. They were valid reasons. But sometimes people get worked up over this topic and I didn't want to make any waves with my mama. After all, she was carrying my baby and I didn't want to upset her!

Over and over again since this first came up back in December (before we lost Gwen), I have encountered friends who are wondering if they should share something or other with someone else. Essentially, the question had become: is it still lying if I'm just not offering up the information?

And here's the truth that I've felt God has been whispering into my life: YES! By withholding the information, keeping it a secret, whatever you want to call it, you are saying that what you are doing is wrong. Period. And worse, if God is convicting you on it, you are telling God that you don't trust him enough to bring you through whatever happens as a result of your honesty.

Last night, though it really makes no difference now, I told my mama about the breastmilk. And you know what? She laughed! She absolutely didn't care that we were planning to give Gwen breastmilk. Here I had worried about telling her for months and it didn't bother her! I truly wish that I had followed that nudge to be honest from the beginning and just told her our plans.

Here's my challenge for you and me this weekend: What information are you withholding that God has been convicting you on? Maybe it's time to come clean!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Seeing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary!

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” -1 John 4:18 (NLT)

Living your life without fear is easier said than done. Believe me. I KNOW I shouldn't live in fear about anything because my God is bigger than anything that could happen here on Earth. But sometimes, when things get tough, I forget. I get so wrapped up in myself and my own world that I forget that God knows what he is doing even in the scary times.

Now I'm not saying that I actually believe that God makes the scary, testing things happen. No way! My God isn't like that! I am just saying that God works even through those things. He can carry us through the hard times, through the scary times, through the worst times of our lives if only we would let him!

It's amazing to me to look around in those times and see him at work everywhere. He is even able to use YOU in those times! Most of the time he uses us without our even realizing it. I can't tell you the number of times that someone has done something or said something to me that has stuck with me in ways that they don't even see. I know they don't see it because they move on with life as though nothing extraordinary has happened at all! And in reality, they've just done something that has so affected me as to change my perspective from here out!

I would love to believe that maybe I've had that affect on people sometime or another but at the same time, I think that's why we move through life without realizing what God is doing through us. It keeps us humble.

So here's my challenge for you and me today: Let God use you in an unexpected way! Just don't expect to know that it happened. Hahaha...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Blessing in Disguise!

You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. -John 14:13 (NLT)

This sweet little lady was used in a big way yesterday! Her name is Selah and she is just 3 weeks old. Isn't she gorgeous??

On my way to her house yesterday, I could feel the sadness and jealousy trying to take root in my heart. I begged God to take those feelings and help me to see the blessing in the day instead. And you know what? He did it!

I don't know why I'm surprised. He answers all of our prayers, though most of the time, he doesn't answer them in the way you'd expect.

I spent about 4 hours at my dear friends' house while my youngest babies napped upstairs with her other children. I think I got to hold Selah for almost 3 of those hours! And you know what I didn't do? I didn't feed her. I didn't change her diapers. I didn't do anything but breath in her wonderful baby scent and enjoy her.

And as my time with Selah drew to a quick close, I realized how truly blessed I am to have such a dear friend who would share her daughter with me like that. I also realized that if Shaun and I never have another baby of our own, it will be okay. God will bring me hidden blessings like yesterday and carry me through.

And you know what else? We have four kids already so odds are, I'm getting at least one grandbaby in the future!! And you better believe I'm going to be one involved, in-love grandma too!

So here's my challenge for you and me today: Instead of looking at everything through a negative filter today, see if you can find the hidden blessings in your day. I promise they're sprinkled everywhere if only you look for them!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Love Unending!

God's love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic, His purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic. Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost; Not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks. -Psalm 36:5-6 (MSG)

I absolutely love the translation of this verse in The Message! The New Living Translation says "your unfailing love is as vast as the heavens" but this translation explains it in a way that is a little more concrete to our human minds. And that makes me smile. :)

In our most trying times, God still loves us. On our worst possible days, God is still there loving us. In our deepest pits, God is still there loving us and offering a way out! On the best days, God is there loving us. His love is unending!

Unlike here on Earth where love is often very conditional, God loves us despite who we are and where we are on our journey! He is our perfect example of extraordinary love. And best of all, we have the honor of being the recipient of that love! How could you not smile about that? My heart even feels a little lighter thinking about that. So again, I smile. :)

For me, this means that God loves me when I'm getting life right. He loves me when I make a mistake. He even loved me when I walked away! And it continued right through my return to him. Amazing! I don't have to pretend to be anyone else for God! He loves me for me and that's awesome!

Here's my challenge for you and me today: Is this easy or difficult for you to believe? No matter your answer, repeat after me: "God loves me for being me!"

Friday, February 17, 2012

Busy, Busy...

Don't waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It's a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ. Wake up from your sleep, Climb out of your coffins; Christ will show you the light!So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! -Ephesians 5:11-16

We've been very busy around here today and when I went to find a good verse for today, these are the ones that stood out! So, while I don't actually have a lot of time for a long post today, I DO want to share these words from the Bible with you and give you some things to consider as we head into the weekend.

Before you devote your time to something consider whether it's really worth the time you're putting into it, whether this is something that honors God, and whether there is something else that would be a better receiver of your valuable time. We only get so much of it while we're here on Earth! Don't waste one precious moment!

A song that spoke to me today:

Here's my challenge for you and me this weekend: Don't be too busy to stop and thank God for all he has given you! Every moment, the good and the bad, are gifts from God. Thank him for them!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Moving Forward

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. -Romans 12:2

If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. -Matthew 10:39

I've been lying to myself for weeks now. I've been telling myself I'm okay, that I'm ready to move on, that I'd be ready if God handed us another baby right now. And I've been wrong. Shaun, God love him!, tried to point this out to me, but I didn't want to hear it. Instead, I buried my hurt and pain over the loss of Gwen and tried to barrel onward. No more! The only way through the pain is through it. I can't go over it, I can't go under it. I can't bury it and pretend it didn't happen. I can only deal with it and hand it to God to take care of.

A couple of days ago, I followed the nudge to put Gwen's things away in our attic. I cried my eyes and my heart out as I struggled to take down her crib and overfilled boxes with adorable baby girl clothes that we may or may not ever use now. I couldn't understand why God would ask me to do something so hard when I was so not ready. I didn't understand.

This morning, I've been working through my devotions on Ruth again for Bible Study tonight and man! They are convicting! We're talking about loss and mourning and releasing the past to God so you can move forward into the future HE holds for you.

I've been hanging onto Gwen for too long. I can't have her here on Earth. She belongs to God and I need to let go of her. I love the way that Kelly Minter, author of the Ruth study I'm working on, puts it: "Take off the old, put on the new; take the risk of being available."

Days later, I now realize what I did when I took that crib down. I'm telling God, now in front of anyone reading this, that I am available. I am ready to move forward! I am releasing all of the dreams I carry for my own life and am completely willing to follow through on HIS! HIS dreams for my life will be better than I could ever imagine!

Before you go on with your day today, please take a moment to listen to this Barlow Girl song, Surrender. It is so powerful and is exactly where my heavy heart is this morning:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Goodbye, Gwen...

Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”
“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”
The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”
So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”
“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.
When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice.
At that moment the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”
“Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” -Genesis 22:1-12
I did something really hard yesterday. I put away Gwen's crib, her clothes, everything that she would have used if things had ended differently. I didn't do it because I wanted to; if I'd gone with what I WANTED to do, her crib would still be up in Lily's room and her clothes would still be bursting from the drawers. No, I truly felt like God was asking me to do it. And so I did. And my heart is aching.
As I was putting that stuff away, it occurred to me that God often asks us to do things we don't want to do. Many times, too, he asks us to do things simply to see if we will be obedient to him. I've said yes to several things over the years that never came to fruition and that's okay, because I was still being obedient.
God asked Shaun and I to do two things this past fall. He asked us to love our sweet Gwen's family and to adopt that little girl as our own. And while we willingly accepted both tasks, only one of them actually came to pass here on Earth. While I wholeheartedly embrace Gwen as my second daughter, I don' t get to enjoy her here. That will have to wait until we all meet again in heaven.
And all of that made me think of Abraham and Isaac. As you can read for yourself up above, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his one and only son Isaac in order to test him. But here's the thing about this verse that isn't written here. Not only did Abraham love Isaac more than can possibly be described here, but God had promised to give Abraham descendents through Isaac that outnumbered the stars! Abraham knew all of this and still, he went forward.
When God knew that Abraham would truly follow through, he stopped him. He didn't have him go through with it. Abraham said yes even though he didn't want to!
In a similar way, God asked me to let go of Gwen the rest of the way by putting away her stuff. I am trusting him completely with my daughter who is in his arms even as I write this. It's not easy and it doesn't feel very good right now, but it is the right thing to do.
So here's the challenge for you and me today: What has God been nudging you to do? What are you trying to ignore? Maybe it's time to give that a second look today.

We Can't Understand It All!

The LORD directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way? -Proverbs 20:24 (NLT)

Time and time again, I am amazed at God's ways and the small portion of His master plan that I have the honor of watching unfold around me. No matter how much I think I understand, I never fully grasp what God is doing and that's okay. Everything always works out in God's perfect plan, even when we, as humans try to get in the way. He uses our mistakes and missteps in the plan.

I was working through my Bible study on Ruth again this morning when I was given the verse above. It was right there in the pages and when I read it, I just knew that today's post needed to be about this particular verse.

Today is Valentine's Day. There are so many people in the world right now who are single. Single because they haven't met their spouse yet, they've recently lost their spouse to death, or even to divorce. So while Valentine's Day is often exciting and wonderful for those who are married and/or in a relationship, it can a truly hard day for others. Perspective!

It's easy for the happily married to tell these people to be patient or that God has a great plan for them. It's much harder for the people living this daily to do that! We want what we want now. We don't want to wait and see where God takes us, especially when we have no idea how long we'll be waiting. If we only had an idea of the amount of time involved, the amount of heartbreak we'd have to endure as we wait, maybe THEN it would be easier.

But as this verse so clearly says, we don't get to know what will happen along the way. We must allow God to direct our steps and trust that God knows what he is doing!

Here's the challenge today for you and me: Don't surround yourself in the negative or the disappointing of your life today. Embrace the good that God has placed in your life!

Monday, February 13, 2012

God's Unending Grace

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. -Romans 5:20 (NLT)

It's absolutely amazing and awe-inspiring for me to consider the idea that, though we continue to sin day after day, God continues to offer us his grace day after day too. At church yesterday, we discussed this idea of God's unending grace through the story of Adam and Eve. The song above was played at the end of the service and it spoke to me. I truly hope you've listened to it before reading, or at the very least, while you're reading. When you're done listening, listen again. Honestly. Some of these musicians just inspire me. These are one set of them.

When I was a teenager, 17 to be exact, I completely turned my back on God and my family. I was angry at the entire world, God included, because my world had been turned upside down and shaken up when my parents went through a divorce. But this post isn't about that. I just want you to see where I was coming from.

I didn't turn back again until the rest of the world crashed down even harder. After a series of events that left me broken and only able to turn my face back to God, I finally did and I haven't regretted it since.

Turning away should have meant a death sentence for me if I'm honest. I should have been in some sort of accident or something. Instead, God gave me the most amazing, God-fearing husband a woman could ever ask for along with four beautiful children. I have the honor of staying home and raising them every single day. I didn't deserve God's grace in my life at all. Especially after the way I turned away for years. And yet, he gave it.

That's the very definition of God's grace. It's a gift we can never, ever earn and yet he gives it to us. No strings attached. And he doesn't just give it once. He gives it over and over and over again. As many times as we want it or need it.

So here's my challenge for you and me today: Stop trying to earn God's good grace. Just accept it and then show him you appreciate it through your actions.

Have a blessed, grace-filled day today! Amen.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hidden Blessings

On a good day, enjoy yourself; On a bad day, examine your conscience. God arranges for both kinds of days so that we won't take anything for granted. -Ecclesiastes 7:14 (MSG)

I've been out of bed for about an hour now and have already changed two very stinky diapers. Add to that the fact that my head is already starting to hurt, there are no episodes of Diego to be found on demand for Ian, and he is walking around with yet another whistle (I thought I'd hidden them all!) and you can see that the morning is not shaping up quite right.

Don't get me wrong, this is far from my worst day. It's actually a pretty normal day. My point is that God has given me this day and instead of complaining about it, I need to thank him for it!

Sure, I've changed two stinky diapers already, but at least Ian can go. He doesn't have any sort of illness or major bowel abstruction. His digestive system is quite normal and I praise God for that fact!

There are no episodes of Diego on demand, but Ian is learning a valuable lesson from that: we can't always get what we want when we want it. Sometimes we have to practice patience and wait. With video on demand, that lesson is not learned often from the TV. And that is yet another reason to praise God!

The whistle, however, is going to be harder to thank God for. But I'll give it a go. "Thank you, God, that my son is able to blow into a whistle and make the sound come out! Thank you that he is alive and well! He is a miracle and you did AMAZING work on him! He is a blessing to our family every single day! Amen!"

I'm going to go finish my coffee and get started on school with my other little miracles, but before I go, here's my challenge for you and me this weekend: Let's praise God and thank God in the good times as well as the bad! After all, he gave us both kinds of days. Both are a blessing. :)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Give Cheerfully!

You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” -2 Corinthians 9:7-9

This is a subject that has been placed in front of me over and over again lately. Maybe it's because I am simply to blog about it, but more likely, it's because I could be giving more than I am giving.

I'm not talking about money here. I'm talking about time, effort, caring, helping. I don't really have any more money to give, but I do have the ability to give of all of those things I've just mentioned.

God calls us to "share freely and give generously." And if I'm honest, I haven't always done it cheerfully as he requires.

As an example, I can cheerfully give my time crocheting and/or knitting for others. In fact, after Gwen, I told the hospital where she was born that I would make them some hats. But have I done it? No. Part of the reason for that is that I can't bring myself to take out that yarn. My plan has been to use the rest of the skein from the one hat I made her to make others for stillborns that arrive at her hospital. It sounds like a great and noble thing when I read it back written like that. But I can hear God whispering to me. "You don't have to use only that particular yarn to give to the hospital. Other women could use a kind act like that too, regardless of the yarn choice."

It seems silly, I suppose, to imagine God caring enough about yarn and my feet-dragging about it; but I know he truly does. He's willing, able, and wanting to join me where I am. And this is where I am. Close to tears over yarn.

So instead of considering using that yarn for my first donation to the hospital, I need to stop with the excuses and use a different one. I have a ton of it. There is no reason I can't use something different. Maybe one of my hand-dyed yarns that I have been saving for a "special project." What could be more special than blessing another parent in the same way that someone else blessed Shaun and me?

Here's my challenge for you and me today: Let's stop making excuses and choose to give cheerfully today!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Do What's Right, not just What Feels Good!

Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. -Philippians 2:4

Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don't have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn't yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.

You wouldn't think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you'd be asking for what you have no right to. You're spoiled children, each wanting your own way.

You're cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn't care? The proverb has it that "he's a fiercely jealous lover." And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you'll find. It's common knowledge that "God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble."

So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet.

Don't bad-mouth each other, friends. It's God's Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You're supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others? -James 4:1-12

It's come to my attention today that we live in a world where perfection, happiness, and what feels good is our aim. This isn't to say that we haven't always lived here, because we have, but today it's especially obvious to me.

The world we live in airbrushes our size 00 models so they look "perfect." Our stars get married and divorced again as though it's a race to see who can have the most exes. We have entire newspapers and magazines devoted to gossiping and tearing each other down.

And it's easy to get sucked into all of that. In my mind, it makes sense to want to do things that make you feel good. It seems like that would be great. But what about all of those important things that we have to do that DON'T feel good? What about the diapers I have to change, the fights I have to break up between my kids, the endless hours of Lalaloopsy dolls as my daughter tells me how to play? What about dinners and puking kids and mountains of laundry? None of that makes me feel good. Should I just stop doing it?

No! In my Bible study on Ruth today, the author talked about the fact that God loves the humble. He works through the humble. And sometimes, he brings us to a humble place to prepare our hearts for future blessings.

What God doesn't love is the proud. What he never pushes in the Bible is "do only what feels good and makes you happy." What he DOES encourage is to love your enemies, help others, serve others. It's a totally different message than what we are served daily from the world.

My challenge for you and me today: Serve someone else today. Let God use you in another person's life and you'll be surprised how rewarding it truly is. If this isn't something you'd normally do, choose someone easy. But do it. Pick up another mom's child from school, grab an extra milk and take it to your friend who just had a baby, pay for the person's coffee behind you in line. Just do something with an attitude of helping others!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Love This Family

So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love. Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, Doesn't have a swelled head, Doesn't force itself on others, Isn't always "me first," Doesn't fly off the handle, Doesn't keep score of the sins of others, Doesn't revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. Love never dies. -1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

We went into this with one instruction from God: Love this family. As we said “yes” to Chrissy about adopting sweet Gwen, it was easy to love her. She was giving us something so precious, so wonderful: a daughter, a sister for our little girl, a new baby for our house! I didn’t even know I
wanted another child and yet, here we were!

When we lost Gwen, I could still hear those words resounding in my heart: love this family. But it was harder now. Every instinct in me wanted to cut ties and pretend it never happened. I wanted to pull back and stop talking to everyone I knew or who knew about Gwen. If I pretended it never happened, maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much.

But that wasn’t what God was asking of me. More than anything, God wants me to show this sweet woman true, unselfish love. By loving her despite this loss, I am telling her she has value for being her. I don’t need anything from her to love her. She doesn’t owe me anything.

If Gwen had lived, the love would still be easy. It would still be so obviously because she had given me something and we all would have missed this most valuable lesson. God’s love isn’t about what we can give him! We can give him nothing! And still he loves us! We are broken, we are imperfect, we make mistakes every single day, and still he goes on loving us!

When we chose the name Gwen, we chose it because it means “blessed.” We thought we were referring to the fact that she would be so blessed to have so many people who loved her. In fact, we are blessed to have known her at all however short the time may have been. She brought us together and God used her in a powerful way while she was here with us: He reminded us just how much he loves us.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Where is God in all this Nonsense?

God! you walked off and left us, kicked our defenses to bits. And stalked off angry. Come back. Oh please, come back! -Psalm 60:1 (MSG)

There have been so many bad times in my life when this verse is the exact attitude I jumped to. It's always someone else's fault when things go poorly. It could never be mine. So why not blame God? It's not as though he's ever verbally argued with me. And besides, he controls the whole universe. If it's not HIS fault, then who else can I blame?

In July, it will be three years since I had my miscarriage. I was 9 weeks along when we found out that Christian (that's what I named him) was gone. I think the worst part about it was that Shaun and I didn't even want him to start with. We were trying NOT to get pregnant. So it had taken a couple of weeks to get used to the idea that we were going from a five person family to a six person family. At that point, I still felt very convinced that the number of children we had was up to us.

When I lost Christian (and I say "I" here because I still sometimes blame myself, though I know in my head I did nothing wrong!), my first thoughts were: "Why God?" "Why would you get us pregnant when we didn't even want to be only to take him away from us?" "What did I do wrong?" "Didn't we love him enough for you?" "Did we say something or do something to make you change your mind about trusting us with another child?"

But that's not the way God works. He doesn't tempt you to do the wrong thing. He doesn't tease you. He doesn't punish you in the worst possible way. That miscarriage was an awful, awful thing. It's taken a long time to get past it to the point that I can talk about it without feeling horrible and without wanting to run away.

Here's what I learned in that dark time:

God was with me through it all. He was sending people to be a comfort to me. He was sending women who'd been down this road themselves to walk me through. He helped Shaun to show me compassion and to be patient with me as I cried. He drew Shaun and I closer than we were before (which I though was impossible considering how close Shaun and I already were). He helped me get through it in the quickest way possible. He gave me a doctor that reminded me over and over again that this wasn't my fault.

I also learned that no matter what I think is true, I am not in control. God is. I don't know what's best for my life, HE does. You know, after that miscarriage, I totally appreciated my pregnancy with Ian. Every movement, every sick day, was a blessing.

Finally, I learned that my beautiful children are a miracle. Each one of them. The fact that they are here when so much can go wrong in a pregnancy is a true testament to God. Only HE could have brought my sweet babies through such a scary, unknown time in their lives. I tell Ian all the time that Jesus did a wonderful job on him. He is absolutely precious.

Here's my challenge for you and me today: Instead of dwelling on the negative of the trial you're walking through right now, look around and see if you can find the ways God is helping you through it. Is there someone special who's been there all along? Are there a bunch of coincidences that you now see add up to God working?

Remember, God adores you! Let him show you that he adores you today!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Your Past Led to Your Present!

God's wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don't find it lying around on the surface. It's not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. -1 Corinthians 2:7

If you'd asked me 15 years ago what my life would be like as an adult, I promise I never would have described it as it currently is. I would've told you that I'd be teaching kindergarten in a wonderful elementary school (because, don't you know, kindergartners are adorable, haha). I would've said that I would be married with lots of kids, probably working on the fourth and final because I have always said I wanted 4 kids. If you asked when we had our first, I would tell you that I was just 25. I also would've said that my husband, who I met at the church I grew up in and still attend to this day, lives with me in an amazing house and our children go to a great school. At 16, that would've been my idea of a great life.

But many of those things are absolutely not true. Yes, I have an awesome husband and we DID meet in the church I grew up in. But we don't still go there and I wasn't 25 when I had my first son. I was barely 19, thanks to lots of questionable choices and God's infinite wisdom. And while I am a teacher, I am a homeschool teacher. Oh, and to be clear, kindergarten is NOT fun to teach all the time! ;) Finally, while we DO currently have 4 children, I refuse to limit God by saying I'm done and happy with 4. I know I'm not alone when I say that Shaun and I would happily welcome a fifth and even a sixth-however many God wants us to have! We WANT to do HIS will; it works out so much better than our own!

I spent many years ashamed and even regretful of my past. But you know what? If I'd detoured off that path anywhere, my life wouldn't be what it is today. Changing my past would change my present and I'm happy with my present. God took my screw-ups and bad choices (and okay, the occasional good choice) and made it into this awesome life that I am privileged to live today!

A few years ago, Shaun and I experienced our very first miscarriage. I was just 9 weeks when I found out but I'd spent nearly a month getting excited about that baby, picturing his/her life with us, only to lose him/her. I was devastated and couldn't understand why God would give us that precious little life only to take it away again!

But I know now that God doesn't work that way. He didn't take that baby from us. Miscarriage is a very sad reality that is in our world because of sin and because this world is absolutely not perfect. But God did use that miscarriage for good. Becuase I went through that, I was able to help out friends who went through them. I had empathy for them that I never would have had without it.

I learned something else through that miscarriage too. Life goes on, even in a tragedy and God is there for me even in the worst times. He sent woman after woman who had been there to talk to me. He walked through it with me even when part of me wanted to push him away. He stayed by my side. He was faithful. And he still is.

My challenge for you and me this weekend: Be proud of the person God is shaping you into and allow him to make the changes necessary in your life to bring out the best in you! The person you are is a person that God adores! Let him adore you!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Live Well, Don't Just Coast

Looking at it one way, you could say, "Anything goes. Because of God's immense generosity and grace, we don't have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster." But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well. -1 Corinthians 10:22-24 (MSG)

Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom. -Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NLT)

There have been many times in the last year when I've done exactly what the first part of these verses says: Done enough to get by. I'm sure we've all been there. We have busy, crazy days, too many people asking too much from us, and we coast. We do the bare minimum to make people happy.

For me, it's doing just enough laundry that everyone has underwear and socks. Or doing the dishes just before Shaun gets home so we have forks for dinner (seriously, where do they go?? We never have enough forks around here!). You know, it's even smiling and waving at the neighbors and then quickly getting back inside before I get detained outside.

But why have I been like this? If I'm honest, it's because I see all of these things as inconveniences and interruptions to my day rather the very real opportunities that they are. When I do ALL of the laundry, including folding it and putting it away-because let's face it, having all the laundry clean is absolutely useless if you're just digging through all of it searching for what you need!-anyway, when I do ALL of the laundry, that is an opportunity for me to show God that I value the job he has graced me with and that I can do it well. It is my opportunity to show him that I CAN handle more should he choose to bless us again in any way.

I know, I know, I'm getting all of that from doing laundry? But it's not just about doing the laundry. It's about doing whatever job God has placed in your path with a happy heart. If I do all of the laundry, but do it with a negative attitude and an irritated soul, then I'm not really doing it the way I should. And this can be applied to anything we do!

I've mentioned before that I'm studying the book of Ruth for my Bible Study. Well, yesterday's reading included Ruth 2:4-7. I'll put it here so you don't have to hunt:

While she was there, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters. “The LORD be with you!” he said. “The LORD bless you!” the harvesters replied. 5 Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?” 6 And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. 7 She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”

So, notice that when the foreman describes Ruth, he adds more information than Boaz asked for? He adds that she is a hard worker! For him to add it must mean that she went above and beyond in all she was doing that day. He HAD to have been impressed with her! Her hard work got her noticed. And remember, Ruth was not only a Moabitess (totally not something you wanted to be in Israel at the time when God specifically told his people to steer clear of them!) but she was also a widow with no sons. She was pretty much as low on the social totem pole as you could get. Sad, but true.

I'm also bringing these verses to your attention because I want you to notice that it doesn't say anything about her doing all that hard work with a bad attitude. Ruth was grateful to have the work to do. She sought it out on her own! She purposely and happily followed behind the harvesters to gather dinner for her small family (which included her MIL Naomi and herself). I have to say that if that were me, I wouldn't be nearly so glad to do it and I would've taken way more breaks! And if I'm being completely honest here, I'd be complaining to whoever would listen DURING the break!

So here's my challenge for you and me today: Let's do our best to do whatever work God has given us with a happy heart and to the best of our abilities! Let's prove to God that he made the right choice in trusting us with what we've been given!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, "Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?" Jesus replied, "Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven. -Matthew 18:21-22

In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God's part. -Matthew 6:14-15

I got a friend request this morning on Facebook. I'm sure you're thinking, "so what?" at this point. Well, this friend request is a person I have been friends with on Facebook and then NOT friends with (because this person keeps unfriending me and then sending me a new request) at least 4-5 times now. Again, I'm sure most of you already have the easy answer at the ready for this: hit "decline."

That would be the simple way of dealing with it, I suppose. Except that this person is a good friend to one of my best friends and odds are, I will see this person at her house, at church, and all sorts of other mutual functions. And besides, declining someone on Facebook simply because I can seems petty and sends the message that I'm refusing to forgive this back-and-forth friend.

Now, in my opinion, that scenario is fairly easy to forgive. But what about the tough ones? What about the friend who has run your good name into the ground? Or the husband who cheated on you? Or even the aunt who has cut herself off from the rest of the family and refuses to talk to anyone? Do you have to forgive them? Do they deserve to be forgiven?

Forgiveness isn't about the other person. It's about you. YOU are the one that has been hurt by them. YOU are the one that is carrying their words around as though they are truth. YOU are the one that is reliving that awful night over and over again, growing more and more bitter to everyone around you. Odds are, the person who wronged you isn't as affected by what they did as you are.

"But they OWE me an apology!" No, they don't. The apology isn't for you! We have this so backward in our society. While the forgiveness is meant to make the offended feel better, the apology is about making things right in the offender's heart. You can forgive without an apology!

Forgiveness is about freeing yourself from the hold that negative event has on you. It's about saying "I refuse to dwell on this any longer and I refuse to be bitter for the rest of my life. I am NOT going to let this person destroy the rest of my life."

By not forgiving, you are giving your betrayer the power to hurt you over and over again. Does that mean that you have to allow the offender back in your life? That's not what we're talking about here. I'm talking about simply letting go of your anger and hurt toward that person and forgiving them.

So who are you feeling moved to forgive? What event have you been holding tightly to? Are you ready to let go? Have a talk with God! It won't be easy, but it will be right! Good luck on your journey toward forgiveness!