Formula for Courage

image of the cross mexicoInspired by Psalm 28. Thank you, David, for sharing your heart!

I praise you, Lord.

I tell of your goodness and power.

I speak words of love and adoration aloud.

I bring to You my needs.

I petition You and You lean in to hear me.

You hear me and You strengthen me.

You empower me and You protect me.

Trust wells up in my heart and praise breaks forth from my mouth.

I gladly sing of your goodness.

Blessed be the Lord,
Because He has heard the voice of my supplications!
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him.

Psalm 28:6-7

Women of Peace

I wrote this many years ago after my Great Grandma passed away. I wrote it as a way to remember the love and respect between my Great Grandma and Grandma and to remember the faith they helped instill in me. Today is March 12th, my Grandma Betty’s birthday. She is celebrating in heaven. 

“Momma, why don’t you come over here and rest your legs for a while?” Grandma asks as she scoots past the rounded counter’s edge.

“I just need to get these rolls in the hot oven, dear. I’m fine.” As my Great Grandma leans her head towards mine she add, “She’s always fussing over me,” and then she smiles a slow smile.

“Oh, momma, I’m not fussing. I just think you must be tired and ready to rest by now.”

My thoughts stay focused on these two amazing women I have been blessed to spend time with, but instead of listening to them I begin to marvel over them. As I look at Great Grandma, I see her eyes behind her thick glasses looking closely at the dough she is forming into perfect shapes. “She’s not tired,” I think to myself. After all she had rested her eyes for a few minutes in the comforts of her recliner, which almost envelops her small frame. The time she had spent in the warm sun in the garden, combined with the efforts of her body had caused her to feel fatigued. But, she would not admit that to anyone, especially her daughter. Great Grandma looked forward to the time she had each day, albeit short, to spend in the yard.

“It’s a battle,” she’d say, “trying to keep up with those pesky weeds. Do you know that last month when I spent a week in the hospital, my hydrangea plant was eaten by slugs!” She’d try to say it in a gruff voice, but the kindness inside of her would get the best of her and she would chuckle at the end of the sentence.

“Ma, they’re just plants! We just don’t seem to have the time to keep up with what the good Lord has blessed us with. That yard is a jungle!” Grandma knew the importance the yard held in her mother’s heart, but she also loved her momma so much. Much of their bickering was due to Grandma trying to protect Great Grandma from overdoing it, and Great Grandma stubbornly continuing in her ways. The doctor had suggested Great Grandma begin to take it easy in the yard. She chose to ignore that advice from the doctor, but Grandma had listened closely and taken notes as to what would help her mother continue out her long, full life.

I let my thoughts drift back to the sunny kitchen where an enjoyable feast was being prepared for me, the so-called guest of honor. With feet planted firmly on the ground, arms outstretched, Great Grandma twists the knob to the perfect baking temperature. The sunlight from the nearby window shines awkwardly on the timer so that when she goes to twist the knob she has to gently turn her head to the side to avoid the glare. She sniffs the mild scent of unbaked bread dough and continues her chore.

Finally, Great Grandma is finished in the kitchen. Deliberately placing a hand smoothed by warm dishwater, on the edge of the counter, she steadies herself, and then continues to use the counter as a guide as she makes her way to the living room. She doesn’t say anything, doesn’t admit that it is time to rest, but she settles into the large recliner. Grandma is quiet and offers a relieved smile, as Great Grandma slumps into the chair. Grandma has lived with her mother’s stubbornness for a lifetime and learned the importance of allowing her the freedom of taking care of herself whenever possible.

At least once when I am with my Grandma and Great Grandma, I gaze at them with amazement and wonder. In my mind I formulate a list of all that I love about these women. The very best part of being with them is listening to their stories. Now that they are both comfortable in their cozy living room, I know the stories will begin to be told. Years had gone by when I didn’t appreciate their stories and the wisdom I could glean from them. But God knew the day would come when my heart would open up and I would see that listening to the wise women would change my life. Along with so many life lessons, I am learning about true contentment from my Grandma and Great Grandma. Though many of their stories told contain hardship, they are always told in the context of hope. One of their stories may begin by sounding like a story of loss, but midway through I will begin to see that it is really about strength to persevere and faith that God is in control.

Second to listening to their stories, is listening to them talk to each other. Speaking with genuine kindness just seems the natural way to speak for this mother and daughter. They truly respect each other and it shows in every aspect of their relationship.

Through these women, God taught me about love. Love so full that just being in the room with them I am able to catch what overflows. When I am with them I feel like a parched sponge, hanging on to each spoken and unspoken feeling, hoping to be saturated with love.

As individuals, each woman is amazing. Great Grandma has fully lived 93 years of life on this earth. She has lived through wars, marriage, childbirth, many moves, a serious car accident, grandchildren and great children’s births and countless surgeries. Great Grandma has learned how to hope, love, have faith, patience and true humility. She seems to always have a story brewing of one of her experiences. It wasn’t until I had entered into my 20’s, that I was able to appreciate all that her stories did for my soul. I finally began to notice that if I went to see Great Grandma with something negative consuming my mind, I would leave wondering what had ever troubled me. Her stories always gave me a different perspective and helped me to feel thankful for my life. Now, rather than escaping the conversation and heading to the dirty dishes that waited in the kitchen, I could follow her back to her chair just to listen. Until recently, Great Grandma had been able to tell long tales, with all of the parts connecting to form a lesson I need to learn. She has grown quieter recently. There are more frequent pauses. When I am searching for the next light topic to talk about, Great Grandma will amaze us all by thinking deeper and saying, “We are so lucky!” She keeps our conversation headed in the right direction, focused on the wonder of life. Great Grandma is a woman full of peace.

My Grandma, being equally as wonderful, is someone I have always admired. “Your grandmother is beautiful,” my friends would always say, commenting even further after spending time with her. She is outwardly lovely, and inwardly splendid. On the outside my Grandma has the most soft, delicate hands I’ve ever felt. Feeling her hands is like touching a velvety, summer rose petal. Often when we come together after not seeing each other for a while, she will grasp my hands and I will be taken back to when I was a little girl. I was fascinated with those hands. Those hands could gently french braid my hair. They could pull strong weeds from the yard. They could lightly brush away a tear on my cheek. Her hands could push the lawnmower around a steep, hilly yard. My grandma has hands filled with a balance of love and strength. On the inside she is all that she is on the outside combined with a joyful heart and a keen mind. She has endured both good and bad in her life, and chooses, like her mother, to focus on the good. Grandma must have learned a lesson from her mother about life, because she exuberates peace.

My grandma and great grandma have lived together, just the two of them, for about 9 years now. With each year, a new strength is added to their bond. Their partnership in this world seems to grow more established through each circumstance they face. The faith they have come to trust enables them for each coming day. All of what makes up these women is shown with each minute I spend with them. My grandma and Great Grandma are extraordinary women who have changed my life and fill me with a most precious gift, a peacefulness that I will always cherish.

Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you.

Isaiah 46:4

Looking Up

I am downcast when I look to myself

I am lost when I look to myself

I am defeated when I look to myself

Oh, but when I look to You…

You are my Shepherd

You are my Maker

You are my Truth

When I look down, I see myself

I see my faults, my needs, my weakness, my inabilities

I look to the sky

I need to tilt my head, my gaze, my mind upward toward the heavens

The treetops, the clouds, the sky all remind me of You

My Shepherd, my fulfilling Creator, my Sovereign Truth

cross and skyflowers and skypalm tree in windpalm treessky above ruinssky at beachsky at pyramidssun on water

Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:3

A Perfect Heart

When I seek mercy and justice

When I offer mercy and justice

When I receive Your mercy and justice

My heart is renewed

My heart is cleansed

My heart is healed

When I seek Your way

When I offer Your love

When I receive Your Spirit

I behave as a woman following You

I love as a whole person

I give from a complete vessel

When you come to me, oh Lord

When you walk with me, oh Lord

When your Spirit fills me, oh Lord

I am set free

I am made alive

I will walk with a perfect heart

I will sing of mercy and justice; to you, oh Lord, I will sing praises. I will behave wisely in a perfect way. Oh, when will you come to me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. Psalm 101:1-2

What I Learned in January

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

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What We Read This Month:

My Father’s Dragon Trilogy by Ruth Stiles Gannett and Robert Serva

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater and Florence Atwater

Indescribable by Louis Giglio

The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos

What I Read or Listened to This Month:

Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado (I love Max Lucado. This book will not disappoint!)

Your Teenager is Not Crazy by Jeramy Clark (When your almost teen recommends you read a book she heard about, it’s usually a good idea to listen to her!)

New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul Tripp (This has quickly became my favorite devotional, ever!)

Launch (a podcast on iTunes about an author going through the steps of writing and publishing a book series)

My Learning This Month:

Bracelets = Time Together

Exactly a year ago, God began working in me to establish one on one time with my girls. I wrote a blog post called, Talk Time. Almost immediately after implementing Talk Time with my girls, I saw benefits: more peace between my children, more peace between me and my kids, more compliance from my kids, a greater knowledge of my kids’ interests, and an overall smoother running home. So why in the world would a mom ever fall away from this wonderful solution? My kids didn’t stop wanting this time with me. We didn’t stop enjoying this time together. We never saw the benefits of this time together diminish. But, one day, our schedule was full…too full, and Talk Time got pushed aside. Then, 2 days passed and still no Talk Time. Then stress and tension began to creep back into our home, and suddenly time together was the last thing anyone of us wanted.

Fast forward a year and we are back to the beginning of January 2018. Much learning and growth has occurred in our family in the last few months with the help of an amazing adoption parent coach. But, my one on one time with the girls was NOT happening regularly. The parent coach shared with me the idea of using bracelets for the girls to exchange for time with me

This is how this works: Each morning, I place three rubber bracelets on the breakfast table at each girls spot, along with their daily vitamins. They place the bracelets on their wrist. When they want time with me, they are to come to me and request time with me and hand me a bracelet. Each bracelet equals 10 minutes of uninterrupted time with me doing something of their choice. They may even choose to use all 3 bracelets at once, equaling 30 minutes of time with me. The key is that it is just me and the child, it’s their choice of activity, and they must request it. So, when we have family game night, they would not need to use their bracelets for that. Also, going over to the park as a family, would not count.

bracelets

So rather than just setting the good intention of having Talk Time, we now have the visual, tangible reminder of the bracelets right on the girls wrists. As well as the plan for them to initiate and take the risk of asking me for time. I do enjoy this time, but I have to admit that when I am about to start the laundry and one child comes to me and says I want to use a bracelet now, I do struggle at times. But, what I have found is that 10, 20, or even 30 minutes of time goes quickly! I am able to pick back up what I was doing, or what I was doing gets pushed aside, while time with my girls does not get pushed aside.

A wise, good friend, has encouraged me several times with the phrase, “You will never regret time with your kids. You will never look back and regret the energy you put into your kids.”

Is sibling rivalry rearing its ugly head in your home? Are you having a hard time remembering the last time you had individual time with your child? Is your schedule so hectic it seems impossible to carve out time with your children? I encourage you to implement the bracelet plan.

Let us remember our children are gifts from the Lord!

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

 

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It Is Finished

I seem to readily welcome the wrestling with my past sin and shame. I open the door to my thoughts and allow them to take up space in my mind. Those thoughts then dictate my attitude and behavior throughout the coming days.

This time of year when so much is focused on Jesus‘ birth, as it rightly should be, my heart is drawn to the cross and His sacrificial death. I can’t seem to focus on his birth without jumping to the end… And what His life resulted in.

As I allow shameful memories to cloud my freedom, I am living as if something more needs to be done. As if Jesus’ life and death were not enough. As if the Lord wants me to walk around weighed down in guilt and shame as an additional sacrifice to the price He paid on the cross.

Years ago, at Christmas time I asked my daughter to paint me a couple of pictures for my prayer closet. I said I would love one of Jesus’ birth and one of the empty cross. Each morning as I spend time in my prayer closet, my eyes and heart always turn to these paintings. I need this reminder each day. I need to remember multiple times a day that there is nothing, nothing I can add on to Jesus’ life or the sacrifice He paid for me.

It is finished.

Finished is the same as paid in full.

Jesus came to finish God’s work of salvation.

In the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ sacrificial death, you will find the words it is finished. As I read those words each time, I am struck by the finality of them. It is not open ended, segueing into a need for further sacrifice or work. No. I read it again. The words read, “It is finished.

Because of Jesus’ life and ultimate sacrificial death on the cross, the Lord sees me as righteous and I am secure.

Are you walking around with guilt and shame this Christmas season? Are you allowing your past to take up space in your heart and mind? Is yesterday weighing you down? Can you begin to consider that the word is true, it is finished. You can rest in knowing that Jesus’ work is complete. You and I can walk in freedom. We can rest in peace. We can count on the truth of his saving grace.

Psalm 7:9 O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure.

A Diagnosis Changed Everything—Our Adoption Story Part 1

In honor of National Adoption Month, my friend at Rich Faith Rising is sharing real life adoption stories. I was honored to share our story. Be sure to hop over to Rich Faith Rising to read inspirational adoption stories.

Oh, I was certain I was ready to be a parent. I began babysitting as soon as the neighbors allowed me to watch their children. I had worked at daycares and preschools. I had my own classroom in a public school for 6 years at that point. I was ready!

Oh, the naivety. Oh, the denial. Oh, the trust from the Father!

Shortly after getting married, my husband and I learned that it would be incredibly risky for me to get pregnant due to an ultra-rare blood disease I have called, aHUS (atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome).

I wasn’t very surprised that the doctor strongly suggested considering other methods to become parents, but it still felt very final and heartbreaking all at the same time.

I wasn’t raised to give up, so I immediately began considering different possibilities. Surrogacy, adoption, fostering? My husband wasn’t ready yet. He needed time to process that our story was not going to be the typical story of getting married, soon after getting pregnant, and then having babies.

It didn’t take long though and after about a month he was ready to talk about it again. I can remember we were driving home from our one year wedding anniversary vacation, a road trip to Glacier National Park in Montana. We were almost home and I said, “Just think a birth mom could be pregnant right now with our baby!” Little did we know, she was!

Through divine intervention we learned that a good friend of ours had an uncle that was a well-known adoption attorney in Seattle. We were told we could have a free consultation appointment with him. We wrote down all of our questions and went to meet him. He explained the differences between independent adoption and adopting through an agency.

My husband would say I have always had too much energy and focus so the independent route sounded perfect for us because it would keep me busy! We would create our own website, business cards, posters, and profile with a photo album to get the word out to birth moms that we were ready to adopt.

We completed our home study with a social worker and on December 23rd 2004, we were all signed off and ready to fully commence our search. Everyday I tried to leave a business card someplace with our contact information. We received several calls from birth moms considering placing their unborn babies for adoption. Each time my hopes soared! One birth mom even told us we were the ones she had chosen, only to never hear from her again. I am not going to lie, this was devastating. And not proudly, I instantly began to doubt God’s plans for us.

After that fail, it was literally 2 weeks later we learned about a lovely birth mom that wanted to meet us that coming weekend. We learned that their had been drug use during the pregnancy. We also learned that the birth mom had a previous child two years prior that had many problems at birth as well as a definite birth mark. We had said to ourselves that due to my health condition, we would not be adopting a special needs child and this included any babies who were impacted by drugs and alcohol. So why were we both drawn to this unborn baby immediately? Because she was to be ours! We went to meet the birth mom and one week later, less than 5 months after completing our home study, our baby was born!

She was perfect. The nurses gave her a 10 on the Apgar test and claimed they never do that! But this one was perfect. My husband and I could not take our eyes off her. We stared at her in the hospital. We took turns staring at her on the drive home. And, then we stared at her once we got her home.

This perfect baby of ours cried a lot. There was little that consoled her except getting out of the house and moving around. She loved being in the front pack and being on the move. She absolutely would not sleep without cuddling, swaddling, and rocking for hours. She was so unlike my friend’s baby whom I had taken care of for months. My friend’s baby would sleep any where. The car, the couch, the stroller, the floor! Literally anywhere. My baby would not sleep. She could not shut out the world.

Looking back, I was in denial. She was very healthy. She was born full-term. All of her fingers, toes, and organs were fully developed. But, this inability to self-soothe and prolonged crying was not normal. Looking back, I wish we had sought help from a doctor who specialized in adoption. I wish I had been able to look at her and trust that God would help her and us and not just deny the problems.

But, God is so very faithful.

Little by little, as we’ve grown in our walk with the Lord, we’ve been able to look more humbly at our need for help. We’ve been able to accept our daughter’s imperfections as well as our own. The Lord continually shows us that we are the perfect parents for our daughter and she is the perfect child for us.

Nothing has grown my faith and trust in the Father and nothing has yielded fruit as much as parenting my children has.