A return on my investment. Actually, I've been getting a lot of those, but this one was super significant. This one is my dream come true for today. A dream that lives in momma's hearts everywhere.
It's all my patient, and repentant when not so patient, parenting paying off. It's all the overcooked dinners and unread books because I have to stop many times to help work through conflict/resolution issues.
All parents must feel a special need to have their children love and care for each other. I imagine lots of parents discussing into the night: "how do we help these kids not hate each other".
I know Brad and I have despite the fact that they are wonderful friends and playmates. I feel the responsibility keenly. Maybe it's because my brother and I struggled. I am ashamed about how I treated him growing up. We drove each other crazy - on purpose. Or maybe it's because we are blending families here. I want both the girls to have such a good experience in bonding. I carry that responsibility as their caretaker.
I have thought of and prayed for blended families more since blending someone into my own. I have thought of and prayed more for families who adopt and foster. Not because loving a kiddo is hard - that's easy. But I can't heal heart wounds on either side of this blend. I can't put my hope and 35-year-old wisdom into these littles.
Life is theirs to discover. Life is theirs to learn. This is their journey.
And as it is, I'm their journey guide right now. For better or for worse. I'm what they get.
So often I must stop cooking dinner, and I go plop down on the living room floor. I take a deep breath and say again, "Can I help you two somehow? Would you like me to help you work through this?"
My forever, tearful Amia shakes her head yes and our graphted-in girl does too. I listen. Everybody gets a turn to talk, and I say, "You are allowed to say how you feel, but it matters how you say it." And I say again for the hundredth time in these past months, "How could you say that nicer? Can you try a different tone? Can you think about how she feels? Can you apologize? Could you forgive her? Could we move on? This relationship is too important to fight over this. Loving each other is worth more than ________."
These type of conversations are a daily part of our routine for months, sometimes more than once a day. Then today, there was a return.
I overheard a small disagreement in the living. Nothing major. Nothing to dry my wet dishwater hands about. Still, I held my breath.
And I heard one say, "How about we just quit arguing and move on?" Then, I heard the other reply, "Okay."
I heard, "Okay".
Be still my heart.
They resumed their play and that was that. I continued washing dishes beaming. I called into them after a moment of quiet thanks, "Good job, girls! You did a good job letting that go and moving on!"
I can't put into words my joy and gratitude. Months of pleading, praying, and teaching turned into a moment of, "okay". It probably won't tomorrow. It may not in 5 minutes. But, it did now. It's a glimpse of what is to come.
What I am going for here is the life long friend, the sisterly bond that is joy and giggles, the forever love of two blended girls becoming one family.
We will see what they will discover, and learn, and choose for themselves. I think today was an inkling. I think today was a promise of love.
I loved it.
It was a wobbly start even though my six-year-old looked confident as she
picked up her bike. A breeze whipped her hair across her face as she looked
over her shoulder to throw me a smile and to make sure I was there, watching.
She had protestingly donned jeans, ever my skirt wearer. Last year, she had
finished the best part of bike season fairly proficient. We had even biked
together, though a little precariously, in the addition where we live. Now, at
her first attempt this year, she expected the best. However, the bike wobbled
under her as her muscle memory geared up for the first time in months. She fell
over several times. It actually took a couple of days for her, but soon she was
riding confidently and feeling rather happy, I would say.
My bike wobbled too as my friend told me they were headed back to the
hospital with her little girl. I was walking along just fine when God asked me
to start riding again. I too glanced over my shoulder to make sure He was
there. I got out my bible and let truth sink into my heart from passages that
had sustained my life more than once in storms. A couple of the pages seemed to
fall open to these deep, life-preserving verses. Others stayed hidden deep in
my own rusty "muscle memory". A slightly easier season of life had allowed my
muscles to weaken a bit as I focused on other things. Now my heart demanded
them to do their job. I found myself reminded of my desperate need of
So with It is Well playing in the background, I got on my
bike. I flexed my memory, "Is it first Corinthians four or second Corinthians?"
I checked both and reread, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly
we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
I climbed back up on the bike and unsteadily rode toward Jesus. The process
of surrender and trust is a wobbly one at times, at least for me. The drive for
me to encourage my friend with life-giving truth and not just kind words makes
me get back up when I fall.
However, I gained strength and momentum in the riding.
Paul reminded me of my aim in Philippians 3, "that I may know Him and the
power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death." The courage God gave to the early disciples in Acts 14 gave courage
to me, "strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." Jesus' life itself begets strength in Hebrews 5, "Although He (Jesus) was a son, He learned obedience through what He suffered."
I continued reading reminding myself of our sovereign God, our great
treasure. As I focus my mind willfully on who He is, my heart fills with love,
adoration, and gratefulness. When the God of the universe promises Himself as
Abraham's very own shield (Genesis 15), when He guarantees the priestly tribe of
the Levites the inheritance of Himself (Deuteronomy 18), I find myself saying,
"Lord, I want You as my shield and inheritance!"
"You are my portion and my cup...indeed I have a beautiful inheritance,"
Psalm 16 declares. "May all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You! May those who love Your salvation say evermore, 'God is great!'" Psalm 70:4 sings. "You are good and do good; teach me Your statutes," Psalm 119:68 reminds.
I am biking hard now in hot pursuit of God instead of my own understanding,
and there is indeed the fullness of joy in His presence.
Seeking out a quiet moment, a quiet corner in the bustling hotel lobby for reflection. Desiring not only quiet for my ears, but a quiet for my heart as well. The past month has seemed in many ways like a bad dream. Trouble upon trouble seemed to be heaped upon those we love.
Sometimes words just don't suffice.
My heart is heavy and even the most carefully chosen, thoughtfully descriptive words cannot convey the its emotion today.
I've many times thought about narratives from the Bible - how much unrecorded agony (and joy) are left to be imagined by the readers. Years passed with Joseph in prison, long agonizing hours of Christ on the cross, hundreds of years as slaves in Egypt - summed up in mere sentences.
As several dear families in our life live through their own valleys, I carry a burden for them. A burden to be heard and understood, to not be forgotten. To not have their sorrows be a short sentence in our life at present.
I remember an amazing moment years ago when I was sharing with a dear friend some of the struggles that we were going through with Brad's health at the time. She stopped and asked me to wait as she imagined what it was like to be me. She validated the gravity of my emotions, the stress of my life, and attempted to put herself in my place.
That was a monumental moment. Many people offered sympathies or encouraging words at appropriate times. But, she tried to walk with me.
And in a time when I was convinced I needed to be strong, it felt good to be weak and needy.
She wept with one who was weeping inside.
I would ask you to pray for my nephew, my cousin, my dear friend's daughter, my tornado victim friends if God reminds you.... but I also know that you have your own friends with their own needs.
Church, our brothers and sisters around us are in desperate need for support.
Body of Christ, the lost and dying world is in desperate need of love and hope.
As hard as we may look for the perfect Christmas gift this month, let us look even more dedicated for those in need and then lay our lives down to love.
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:18
Rejoice with those who rejoice,
weep with those who weep.
the day that china came to us felt special, but i didn't know how special.
i picked our exchange student up at the airport in great excitement. she was sweet and kind. i am mesmerized by her culture. i am intrigued by her family and her life a world away.
but what floored me was my american. my little american gave up her bed, her room, access to some of her very most important toys without complaint. i watched her as she walked unknowingly in Christ's footsteps, and i marveled.
while i've been trying to prepare my american for the losing of "life" that finds true life, i was not expecting to see the beautiful reflection of truth in my young daughter's eyes yet.
while there's lots of sad news - hard news in the world, i look at my daughter and see hope. i see good news - The Good News.
welcome, our china doll.
"For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Matthew 16:25
the sign out front says sold now. but in my heart that transition was well under way over a year ago. it began the day that brad and i sat across from each other and answered the question: how do we give Jesus more?
even after the decision was made and it was what i wanted to do, the mystery of human emotion kissed my memory with recollections of gatherings with friends and family, amia's first steps, euchre nights, warm fires on cold nights. lots of memories were made here in our first home.
these are sweet things - treasured things. however, all of that is tapered with the biblical idea that this world is not our home. for me personally, leaving this place is indicative of that. it is a tangible reminder to my intangible soul that i don't live for me.
these treasured things are tucked tightly away in my heart as i look with anticipation at an unknown future.
the death of this way of life is not painful, as i anticipated, but joyful. perhaps noisy neighbors will make it painful... or any number of other commonalities of apartment living. :)
but i suspect that perhaps the expansion of God's kingdom in me personally will be its own consolation and among my most treasured things regardless of what situations come.
God, please make it so.
may God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that Your way may be known on earth, Your saving power among all nations. psalm 67:1,2
"For whosoever would save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it."
Jesus' words from Luke 9 rattled around in my head like a jar full of change that had been dropped on the floor. Pennies and nickels of scripture rolled down the stairs of my life and continued spinning and rolling in every direction in my mind - under furniture, down registers, and continued into the hidden places in my heart. It was loud. When it all stopped and lay still and silent, I could not deny its effect.
It was a mess. My life had been simply sweet. Even with the heartaches of our infertility and Brad's continued health issues, we were grateful to God and truly happy about life and love.
However, nearly a year ago, I surveyed my life and found that I did love my life and my family - which is wonderful and godly - but I was loving it more than Jesus. Which, according to plenty of scriptures, is not true discipleship.
OK... (deep breath)... so I confessed to Brad my thoughts and inhibitions. As it turned out, he'd been having his own similar struggles. It felt incredible as our conversations shifted over the course of a couple months from the disconnect we felt between the scriptures and our lives to what course of action should be taken to rectify it.
How do we give Jesus more? How do we give more time to those hurting? More money to those in need? Both of us quickly realized that we needed to get out of this house. Even though we knew that the house upkeep took time and money, there was another element. It provided a place for us to hide. We could love each other, invest in one another here in this home as we worked to maintain and improve it. To us, it began to feel so... small. Our family of 3 in a world of 7 billion. We knew God was calling us to something more. The idea of moving intimidated and excited us. We discussed it and prayed about it for a couple months until we could avoid it no longer. It was our next course of action.
Jesus' words seem weightier.
Paul's admonitions seem more real.
Our hearts are embracing the idea of not only, "Life is short, " but also, that what really matters is eternity. We've decided to flesh that out with a sign in our yard.
I don't know if there will be a buyer.
Regardless, I know we are different.
And that doesn't feel good, it feels great.
it's the end of the roll.
are you going to change it?
yep, that's my question.
after living in the miracle of last summer in my life, after awakening to the truth of my lack of surrender and finally surrendering, after basking in the relaxation and the "warmth" (for lack of a better word) that is His presence, i've reached a new "end of myself" with Him. it differs tremendously from the painful experience of last summer's initial surrender. this one feels more matter of fact and less emotional - there's no other choice but to change it. and while it's not a comfortable change, it is something i want to do.
have you reached a point in your life when you said to yourself, "it's do or die." you felt the pressing of the Spirit, perhaps the conviction or the questioning, the true reflecting of your life which requires change. you have left the sermon, the quiet time, the recently read book, or an intense conversation challenged to change. you sensed the unsettling in your soul that kept you awake at night and greeted you again in the morning. although, in the morning the greeting is quieter. and given a couple days you can silence it all together.
with the passage of time and the distractions of life, what at one time felt like a "must" starts to feel like maybe a passing idea and eventually is forgotten all together.
i fear that with the current stirrings in my heart... that's why i am wholeheartedly pursing the path less traveled in my life. i'm changing the roll because i don't ever want to be satisfied with something less than full.
full life. abundant life. do you have it? it's not only a truth for eternity beyond this experience in the world, it's for now. it's worth the change. it's worth the surrender. truly experiencing Him and genuinely knowing Him is worth the commitment and risk of doing what is now's "must". don't delay and miss the "must" that pulls you into the abundance that Christ promised. hold me accountable in the same; i beg you.
I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10
through these months of silence, i've experienced some of the deepest valleys of my emotional life. i cannot compare my experience with those of others that i know personally who have also suffered much more than i have. however, it was, for me, suffering all the same.
it was deep darkness. it was complete isolation. it was, at points, despair.
just when i doubted i could take another breath, i did. and then somehow, God sustained my life for another... and then another.
you know how people say all the time that "God is a gentleman" and "He won't barge His way in" and what not? i can't subscribe to that theory as a Christian. i suppose there is the proverbial door at which Christ stands and knocks (to the church in revelation 3) waiting for them to open it. although, my question now is: was it meant as a light rap or as a pounding?
while it is true that God is a gentleman in the sense that He is gentle towards me, there has been little of what i wanted in my life of late and a whole lot of what He did. that sounds more like Lord than a polite, mannerly acquaintance.
the past 8 months (and in retrospect, well before that) have been ones where God has completely pushed me into a corner and waited out my fight or flight reflex. psychologically speaking, i had a process to go through as part of the work He was purposing in me.
part in which was the complete act of surrender. while i knew a lot about it and wholeheartedly believed in it, it was becoming clear to me (once shoved in the corner) that i wasn't. i clung to any resemblance of normalcy and sprinkled the Word on top. it wasn't intentional avoidance of surrender. it was just me, being the best version of myself that i could, coping through the most difficult time in my life.
the other part of the process was really believing with all my emotions what i believed intellectually about God. my heart did not trust God or run to Hiim for help when life was troubled.... i created a response from my self-persevering, survival mode which did not embrace the bigness of God, the power of God, nor in reality the love of God.
so He backed me into the hardest corner of my life, stood right there the whole time saying to me, "there's another way to live," while i totally despaired because of my disbelief. and finally, when emotionally, psychologically, physically i could stand it no longer in that corner, in that despair, in that pain, i said, "okay."
and though that may not sound very gentlemanly to you, it was the kindest thing He's ever done for me. in that moment and in the weeks that have passed, my life has radically changed. the pain is still there, but it is lessened in His brilliance. as i stare in awe at the Author and Finisher of my faith, the One who gave His life, the Sustainer of my soul, there is more joy than sadness, more beauty than ashes, more life than death.
the joy is unspeakable and full of glory.
and the "suffering" feels more like the light and momentary affliction paul talks about in corinthians.
i can't say it enough: thanks, God, with all my heart.
in this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6-9
emily... just plain emily.