Colossians 3:17

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Four Months

I can't believe that we passed the four month mark last weekend.  I am amazed and excited to carve out a moment to celebrate small victories.  I realized recently that things are going more smoothly because we have battled for (and sometimes with) the babies in order to get them to where our family functions well.  Where we used to have to correct and explain our expectations for their behavior for every little thing, now these behaviors have become just what we do! Here are some of our wins that used to battle through and are now just living into:

  • Not eating soap (baby girl...power struggle at its peak)
  • Using condiments like sour cream and ranch for dipping, not eating with your fingers (both)
  • Brushing teeth willingly (baby boy)
  • Establishing a bedtime routine (both)
  • That there will always be food (but parents decide what we eat, and when) (both)
  • Delayed gratification (eat this before you get that) (baby boy)
  • Leaving milk at the table (no more walking around with sippy cups!) (baby boy)
  • Potty training completed! (baby girl)
  • Staying in bed at night (baby girl)
  • Staying seating until done eating, asking to be excused (baby girl)
  • No more violent fits (baby girl)
  • Love of books! (both)
  • Lessening anxiety with the comings and goings of family (especially mommy) (both)
  • No longer gorging (baby boy)
  • Loving church (both)
  • Letting mommy have a few moments to herself for a shower (both)
  • Helping clean up (both)
  • Clicking carseat belts (baby girl)
  • Keeping outside toys outside (baby boy)

Many of these do not seem important but when I think back to the intentionality of our interactions with the babies and how they are now living into these expectations, I am so excited to see evidence that our hard work is paying off.  And the more battles we win, the less time we spend battling, which is so much better!  Here are a few more milestones to celebrate:

Baby Boy
He finally got the doctor's orders to be taken off liquid thickener, which means he can drink normal milk and water and saves us the step of adding a thickening agent to his drinks.  He has grown!!! He is almost 2 inches taller now than when he first came to our house! He used to look (and function) like a 1 year old baby but now with his full head of hair, his thickened limbs, and his added height, he is looking more like a solid 2 year old.  He is actually 3 years old so he has a ways to catch up, but the progress seems rapid. Just today we went to our last scheduled doctor's appointment for a month! (I just counted and between the two babies, I have taken them to over 20 doctors' appointments...yikes!...and so glad to have it slowed to just a few follow up appointments in the upcoming months).  The appointment today was to look at his skin to see if he needs any treatment for the discolored patches, but the dermatologist said they are just healing scars and no treatment or follow up is needed.  They have already faded so much that they are barely noticeable (especially since he has nice thick hair now!).

His language skills continue to improve (although I am still looked to by others to interpret much of the time).  He has down his shapes, animals, animal sounds, and is now stringing together 3-4 word phrases.  This boy loves walking up in the morning and snuggling with mommy (I love it too).  His laugh is the best sound the world has ever heard and he uses it frequently.  He loves to be mischievous, running away when called (laughing), tossing toys in the sink (laughing), sticking his fingers up my nose (laughing).  He is always on the move and does not like to sit still (which is why the morning snuggles are so special).  My favorite new thing with Baby Boy is checking on him after he has fallen asleep at night.  He used to sleep on his knees in a fetal position but now when I check on him, he will be laying on his back, head on his pillow, and he has pulled his blanket up over his legs.  He is looks and acts, waking or sleeping, like a normal, happy child and it is a joy to see.  This Saturday we went to the zoo and as we watched him run around the splash pad (laughing), I said to Adel, "Five months ago, that baby boy was starving to death."  The four months in our home plus one prior month in the hospital has altered the course of his life in a drastic way.  He is an amazing little miracle and I am so very thankful for him.

Our next things to work on with him are:
  • drinking out of a big kid cup
  • sleeping in a big boy bed
  • potty training (ugh)

Baby Girl
She likewise is growing and looking a little closer her age.  She is now in the 4 year old class at preschool because she has mastered potty training.  No more accidents!  She is a little behind in find motor skills and speech but is learning to draw simple figures and talks all day long (so I'm really not worried about speech).  She truly loves books and could be read to all day long.  She is very snuggly and could also be held all day long and never grow tired of it.

She is the most challenging child under our roof, very similar to the girl in the nursery rhyme:

There was a little girl who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead
When she was good, she was very very good
And when she was bad, she was horrid

Describing a child as horrid is pretty extreme, so let's just say she is fully committed to whatever emotion she is feeling!  But, as we are battling about fewer and fewer things, we are having more and more enjoyable moments.  

The Rest of Us
Adel is working extremely hard right now, taking 2 classes in his Master's program and then coming home from work and being a fantastic dad of 4.  What a busy season we are in!  We have had a few  lunch dates since the babies arrived so we're doing our best to stay connected.

I am getting pretty worn out!  For the first month or so of having the babies, I did not have time or wherewithal to spend in God's Word, but the last few months I have been waking up early to read a devotional during my bath time and I'm reading my bible while the babies sand I eat breakfast.  It's not as quiet and peaceful as I'd like my "quiet time" to be, but God still speaks and His Word continues to encourage me.  I am so thankful that I was able to sign up for the YMCA this week so that I can start working out and having time to read while the little ones are in the child watch playing their hearts out.  It will be good for them and good for me! 

The big kids are hanging in there.  We have been taking as many opportunities as we can to have little  one-on-one dates with the big kids.  The grocery store, lunch at school, running errands...we just always bring a big kid along so that we can have special time with them.

The Case
Still no news.  A few big dates coming up in May, although I'm really not expecting progress to be made for a long time to come.  Please continue to pray with us that this can be a forever home for these babies!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Two Months

Today marks two months with the babies!

Baby Boy (3 years, 2 months)
He is growing!  When we first got him, his 24 month footie pajamas sagged off his bottom and the legs had lots of slack.  Now he is filling the legs out completely!  I feel so proud of him!  His latest trick is walking backwards, which he does with a goofy, sweet, proud-of-himself smile on his face.  In addition to his growth, his hair, which he largely lost to malnutrition before or at the hospital, is all grown back in and boy is he handsome! (A face only a mother could love?  I adore him.)

He is having less trouble sleeping, is waking less, and is now sleeping on his back or side instead of fetal position on his knees and tummy.  He is completely happy going into his crib (no tears at all), and does less rocking and head-banging during the night to self-sooth.  I pray he continues to grow in trust and peace in order to learn to sleep through the night.

His words are still booming.  He can sing about a dozen songs (in an intelligible-only-by-mommy sort of way, sort of sounds like a slurring drunk but the song is there, tune and all).  And his latest phrases are: "clean the floor" (I swear, I don't make him do this), "in the chair," and "I'm hungry."  He also just yesterday learned how to answer the question: What's your name?  (Before that, he either didn't answer, or said his sister's name instead of his own.)  He has started calling me mom-mom, which melts me.

Baby Girl (4 years, 3 months)
I can claim now that she has mastered potty training!  She asks and goes in all situations, holds it for long car rides, and keeps her panties dry through the night. I am SO VERY glad to have that stressor behind us.  I am not a fan of potty training.

Her behavior had been improving until the babies both had a court-ordered visit with birth-dad.  That seemed to rock her stability and we are rehashing the boundaries we have set with behavior.  Her clinginess and separation anxiety, which had been steadily improving, have also taken a step back with the reintroduction of birth-dad whom she has said she does not want to see again (of course this is not up to me).  Although that sounds bad when you write it down, she is still overall happy, bonding well with the family, and adjusting to her new life.

She still overall is gaining in learning her manners, and that throwing a fit will NOT get her what she wants in this house (can I get an Amen?).  The three of us girls have had a couple of nice girls-only outings together: one to buys Easter dresses, and one to a tea party with some friends.  She loves to sing and will make up songs about whatever we're doing.  Aunt Lindsay says her life is a musical, and I think that's true, complete with the drama and highs and lows.

Big Sister
Abby has turned a corner in the last few weeks. After the honeymoon phase passed, Abby was growing resentful of the two too-cute attention-getters.  For a while she was refusing to have anything to do with them, especially Baby Girl.  But after a conversation in the car about how Isaac had to learn to be a good big brother, she rallied and has been trying to be a good big sister, at which she is quite phenomenal when she tries.

Big Brother
Isaac has been on a downward trend, mostly taking his frustration out on Abby, who mostly acts out her need for attention by annoying him.  We met with the counselor today for some coping skills and mostly just time for him and I to spend just the two of us.  Adel and I have been taking little opportunities here and there like this to spend one-on-one with the big kids so that they would still know how much they are loved even though life is way crazy right now. As a family, we have weathered harder storms than this and I know Isaac will rally as he has done before.  He is an amazing, kind, and gentle-hearted boy, and even though he's having a hard time at the moment, he is still glad to have the new siblings in our home.

The Case
We are learning more details of the abuse these babies endured.  Their older sisters, who are in a foster home near us, are beginning to open up to their foster mom and are reporting some pretty extreme abuse by their stepdad.  It is very sad and shocking, especially now that we know and love these kids so much, to hear what they endured before they were removed from the home.  But the fact that all of the siblings are so sweet, and so willing to adapt and be successful gives great hope for their future.

This has been a ton (and I mean a TON) of work.  Not just caring for the babies, which is a HUGE task in itself, but also the seemingly endless doctors appointments, phone calls and emails on their behalf, and ongoing paperwork. Some days I am barely holding it together.  Other days are just a happy (though active) day with a sweet family of six.  While I don't like the stress, the not knowing what our future holds, and the appointment and paperwork part of fostering, I am absolutely feeling like I am right where I'm supposed to be.  I love these kids and love them as part of our family.  I believe with all my heart that our family is their best option and I pray that we will get to be their forever family.  The court still has to rule on that, but I know that God rules over the court system and everyone in it.  I would love for you to pray with me that we can be the safe, stable, and loving forever family for these two sweet babies, and that we can maintain a close family relationship with their siblings in the other home as well.

How I wish I could post the scores of pictures and videos I have taken over the past two whirlwind months!   But someday, God willing, these babies will really be ours and then I can overshare all the many many sweet photos we have taken.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Six Weeks

Baby Boy
He continues to grow stronger and faster.  We got a doctor's order to take him of pediasure as he has doubled his weight from when he entered the hospital.  He has learned how to open doors, which is a big milestone for him and caused a few extra troubles for me.  Several items were deposited into various sinks, bathtubs, and toilets before we got the child safety door locks in place.

He continues to wake often during the night and either rocks himself to sleep or bangs his head on the mattress, which makes me sad.  But for the most part he is happy and peaceful even in his restless sleep.  I am praying he will grow out of the restlessness and the head banging.

His language is continuing to blossom.  He still learns new words and phrases daily including "take a bath," "go night night," and "I don't know."  He also does a really awesome "evil" laugh "mwahahaha!" which makes us all laugh. Yesterday surprised me by correctly naming four shapes. I had been working with Baby girl on shapes and had no idea that he was close to catching on.  He also had a brief, but catching run of saying what sounds like di-ja (like did'ya) before some key words such as di-ja-water, di-ja-ball, di-ja-bath.  I'm not sure what it means but forever we will say those words amongst ourselves.

Baby Girl 
She is continuing to hit milestones as well.  She is still sleeping in her big girl bed and she is staying in bed (as long as she doesn't have a nap) and sleeping soundly all night long.   She is making progress in potty training too.  She has had several days of dry panties and really her only hangup is not wanting to leave the fun to go potty, or occasionally a battle of wills with me.

Speaking of wills, she continues to spend a few minutes a day in the "time out" chair, where I sit with her until the timer is up.  If she is throwing a fit, sometimes including spitting at me, kicking or hitting me, we wait until she is calm to start the timer.  The biggest cause of our disputes is over her overaggressive "friendliness" to Bitsy.  Poor old dog sometimes looks at me with "help me!" in her eyes.

Other than that, Baby Girl is bonding well with everyone in the family and is generally, happy, sweet, and affectionate.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Babies

Tomorrow it will be three week since we brought home "the babies," as we call them.  Oh what a difference three weeks makes!  These two are for the most part the happiest little people and such a joy for our family.  They truly seem happy just to be alive, and fed, and loved.  Everything we do is a joy to them.  It breaks your heart and heals it, all at the same time.  I can truly say these babies are THRIVING and it makes all the hard work (and it IS hard work) so worth it.

Baby Boy -

When he came home, he was hardly talking.  If he wanted something he would let you know by cries and grunts and he maybe had 10 words that I heard him say that first day.   Now some of his favorite phrases are: "Door open it!"  "Be quiet!"  "Where's (his name)? There he is!"  "Turn on light."  He talks constantly, sometimes still baby babble, but often he will fixate on a new word or phrase for a day and then file it away as he moves on to the next one.  You can just see his mind soaking language in, spongelike.

He is learning to trust us.  When he first came home, we could not take his sippy cup out of his hand, even to refill it, without the most mournful crying.  Now, he happily hands it over and asks for "more please." He has learned to trust that we will not take his food away.  He used to have to have it in his hands (actually the whole first week he carried two full sippy cups in his hands at all times) as assurance that he had a next meal.  Now he plays for hours at a time without thinking about his next meal.  He has learned to trust that it will come.  When he first came home, he would cry that same agonizing cry when we put him in his crib, as I'm sure it brought back awful memories of his abandonment.  Now, he may protest for less than a minute, and half-heartedly at best.  He has learned to trust that we will always be right there.

Before he came home, the report that I read said that, although he was three years old, he could only crawl, not walk.  When he came home, he was walking, but he was very unsteady on his feet, like a one year old, toddling around, needing the parent right there.  He could not pull himself up to standing without assistance because his legs were so weak.  The first time he stood by himself, we all cheered.  Now, he stands by himself without anyone even batting an eye and, oh my, he is fast!  If we leave the bathroom door open, whatever was in his hand will be in the toilet before we can say "no wait!"  He has learned how to get off the couch safely by himself, how to get down the little step from the back door to the patio by himself, and he now instinctively catches himself with his hands when he falls.

I cannot wait to see what kind of growth the next three weeks hold for this little champion.

Baby Girl -

When she first came home, she identified me as "mommy" right away, which of course I love.  She became very quickly attached and any time I would need to leave she would cry.  Now she is able to handle my leaving with the trust she has gained that I will come back.  Up until three nights ago, she was sleeping in a pack-n-play in our room but she has slept peacefully and all night long in her big girl bed the past three nights and has done so wonderfully that I could just dance for the joy of it.  She feels safe in this house now.  She still gets anxiety about going to her "class" at church but does well there and likes it, although she cries pretty brokenheartedly when I'm one of the last parents to come pick her up (a side-effect of working for the church).  I pray that she will learn to trust in that situation as well.

She is completely adorable, and she knows it.  She talks with her hands in the cutest possible way and  happily performs songs and her own jokes (when we took her to the zoo, she said "the giraffe has chicken pocks. bawk-bawk, bawk-bawk!").  She also has a feisty side and will throw a little temper tantrum on occasion.  But even her tantrums are getting more manageable now that she knows the drill and has learned to trust the consistency of my response to it.  She is learning to ask politely for what she wants, to be patient as she waits for it, and to sometimes not get what she wants.

One of the most exciting things to see with her is a newly awakened interest in books.  When she first came home, she had a few books that were given as gifts from the hospital, but I'm sure none of the nurses had time to read to her, and I'm certain no one read to her before the hospital.  She would pick up a book and ask me to "read" it, but as soon as I would start, she would get up to play something else.  I finally got her to sit through one book.  The next day she wanted to read it (but only it) again.  I finally got her to sit through a second book.  Now she has two books she asks me to read.  Today I read her a third book and tonight I read her a fourth book, and she was still and interested as I read.  She is beginning to realize the treasure of the stories they tell.  So amazing.

In three weeks she has learned new shapes, new colors, new animals (she had never seen a squirrel until last week).  (Baby Boy still calls all animals "dog" and says they all say "woof woof," but we'll get him there).  Her mind is growing daily, and what a pleasure to be along for the ride.  How much we took for granted with Isaac and Abigail that just our every day interactions with them are what helped them learn so much.


Lest you think we have thrown Isaac and Abigail to the curb, let me also report on them.

Big Sister -

Abigail, who has always said that she wanted to stay the baby of the family, is actually the most phenomenal big sister.  For the past eight years she has performed constant silly antics for the pure joy of annoying her older brother.  Now she uses her mad skills of annoyance to perform silly antics that endlessly entertain her younger siblings.  Oh how they laugh when she does her "beaver dam" dance or hand puppets and funny voices.  As an added bonus, she is not currently annoying her older sibling since she is too busy entertaining her younger ones.

Big Brother -

Isaac has been waiting and praying with us for many years for his new siblings.  He seems to love being the eldest brother to this crazy brood of littles and he does a great job of protecting them.  He helps carry his baby brother in from the car, fetch whatever he needs, and push his stroller (even better, he knowns how to unfold and refold the impossible umbrella stroller).  We have told him more about the babies' history than we told Abby, and he is very compassionate toward them.

We have been working constantly and VERY hard in taking care of these babies, and Isaac and Abby have had to be patient and helpful, and receive less attention than usual.  But, we make it up to them in little ways.  Isaac is learning to go along with whichever parent is running an errand to get some one-on-one time.  He and I had a quick dinner just the two of us tonight and got his hair cut.  And Abigail is at this moment asleep next to me in my bed, and I'm sure next week we will sneak away for a short mother-daughter "date."  They both adore their younger siblings and although they are having to work through their own loss and adjustment to the new order of things, they are (if I do say so myself) two most amazing individuals.

Lastly, lest this picture leave you with the idea that everything is coming up roses, let me also report on some of our bloopers of the past few weeks.

Last week at Mimi's house, Baby Boy woke up from a late-in-the-day, very deep nap and I could tell that he was grumpy and about to lose it.  So I suggested we go eat, as dinner was in progress.  We sat down at the table and the only thing on his plate was...salad.   He cried the most brokenhearted cry and did not stop for the next 15 minutes.  Even though an army of family members ran around trying to offer him any other food we could find, he was too mad to take any of it until he had cried off the salad insult.

This Saturday, he had a diaper blowout on my fabric sofa AND pooped in the bathtub on the same day.

This Sunday, both Babies fell asleep snuggling with me on the couch after lunch.  I took lots of pictures because it was so sweet and so cute.  An hour later they both woke up crying inconsolably.  They wanted to be held but were also mad so they were fighting being held, which played out as five minutes of both of them wailing and writhing on top of me.  At first I earnestly tried to console them, but it wasn't long before the impossible situation had me laughing until I cried.

So, the short answer to how we are doing is, we adore them and we are loving (almost) every minute of this joyfully hard work.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Fall Snapshots

Abby's 3rd grade choir performance.  They were little doggies. 

Our hibiscus finally is happy after the too-dry summer.

Realizing our family cruise is coming soon.

Isaac's picture.  Cat, Cat, Cat, Cat, Darth Vadar Cat.

Isaac ready for the 5th grade trip to the symphony.  He was so excited since he has been loving his piano lessons. 

Friends on a rainy day on a wet trampoline.

The persimmons from Lolo and Lola are here!

Date with this guy.

And another date with this guy.

Saturday, October 31, 2015


This year, we let Isaac and two friends have the run of the neighborhood without us escorting them for the first time.  They LOVED the freedom and ran around for two hours collecting a ridiculous amount of candy.  So fun.  Abby trick or treated about 20 houses with us and then enjoyed passing out candy while we waited for the boys.

Monday, October 19, 2015

What a Great Weekend!

Two years ago yesterday was when I watched my dad take his last breath.  It was a holy moment and a bittersweet moment.  In anticipation of it's anniversary, for a few weeks prior, I had been sinking into a depression, my mind focusing on the awful emotional journey that brought us to his deathbed.  And there is no doubt that death sucks and grief sucks.  There's no sugar coating it.  

Nontheless, God is good.  He walked with me through those awful days two years ago.  He walked with me all that first year of grief.  He has walked with me again as I have relived painful memories.  And He walks me right on through to the other side of grief.  Into and out of the valley of the shadow of death every time.  This weekend turned out to be beautiful and was filled with some of my favorite people.  
Started with a good 10k race with Jen, Josie, and Uncle Joe.

 Then, a pumpkin patch and fun time hanging with family at Dd's house.

Ended with a bike ride (3.5 miles each way) to Kemah!

God is good. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Grief and Rejoicing

For many years, I have rattled off "Jesus wept" as the shortest verse in the bible (John 11:35), mostly as an irrelevant bible factoid to wow people with my biblical knowledge.  Me: "Hey, did you know that 'Jesus wept' is the shortest verse in the bible?"  Them: "Wow."  Something like that.

I have often thought of that verse with comfort.  I found it especially comforting since I entered a season of grief two years ago when my dad passed away, a season that I believe will continually change and get easier to bear though it never really ends (I think we can never stop missing one we love so dearly).  It comforts me that even Jesus, who understood God's plan better than anyone, still wept at the death of a friend.  It tells me that my grief is right and good, even in light of God's receptive promise of eternity.

A short while ago, in reading the book of 1 Thessalonians, I came across another "shortest verse in the bible: "Rejoice always" (5:16).  This one at first glance caught my attention because I had believed that "Jesus wept" stood alone as the shortest verse in the bible.  Clearly I was wrong.  But what kept my attention beyond that first realization was the contrast between both two-word verses: Jesus wept, Rejoice always.  They seem to contradict one another.

Like so many things in the bible, these two verses could give fodder to those who seek to discredit the bible based on seeming contradiction.  Or for someone like me, ready to believe all the bible teaches, they can at least confuse.  How can we rejoice always when clearly grief is so real and so painful that even the Son of God grieved?  This is a concept I have been struggling through the past two years and I believe I am beginning to understand.  Grief and Rejoicing.

The first piece of it is that grief is right and good.  It is not a lack of faith in God's promise.  It is a response of love for the one we have lost.  It is even a command: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15).  Again, weeping and rejoicing smashed together in God's word.

The struggle for me at this point in my life has more been on the rejoicing end of the spectrum.  There are so many things that are easy to rejoice in: the beauty in nature, the laughter of children, the love of a good man, conversation with like-minded friends, delicious food.  But what about those days that are swamped with hard things, with wave after wave of brokenness and bad news?  There are those days too and what do I do with the other shortest verse in the bible: "Rejoice always"?

I believe God gave me a glimpse of this right after my dad's death when I read Joshua chapter 1.  God gives a command to Joshua to be strong and courageous as he enters the battles of the Promised Land.  I have heard verse nine quoted many times: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."  People find comfort in God's promise to be with His people.  But what struck me the most was what God told Joshua in verse three: "Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses." "I have given to you."  Joshua hasn't even entered the land yet, but God claims to have already given it to Him, and He asks Joshua to proceed as if the gift has already been received.

This is how God works.  He speaks a promise and asks us to rejoice as if we've already received it because, Believers, we have.  Though grief and brokenness surrounds us, our God has promised victory and healing and joy that will cover it all.  He commands us in faith to rejoice always, even in suffering because by faith His word is as good as true although we have not yet received it.  We can rejoice in our grief because we have faith in His promise.

This Sunday, the message challenged us in the midst of a broken world to "live into the promise," and that is exactly what "Rejoice always" means in light of "Jesus wept."  When I am overwhelmed with troubles and grief, I can lift my eyes above it to the promise of everything restored, everything made right, and rejoice in the God who loves us so much that He can turn our weeping into rejoicing.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Waiting Place

2015 has been a waiting place for me.  I don't know about you, but I don't like waiting places.  After Matthew moved back to his birth mom in January, we decided to wait until Adel started his second semester of his Master's courses before we tried to find a new possible foster match for us.  Then, right about the time we would have been open to foster kids again, we followed God's undeniable call on us to move and downsize.

That move has been a huge blessing and we love our new home and our new neighborhood.  Contrary to what I thought before we moved, I feel that our new home is actually better equipped for our future kids than our old home was.  After feverishly getting settled from our move, we waited until Abby felt settled and happy in her new school.  Now we are waiting until our family (grandparents, my mom, and my sister's family) goes on the cruise we have booked for Thanksgiving week (yay!).

I had not realized how much I was just going through the motions of my walk with God until a few weeks ago, and until more of the pieces dropped together this morning. A few weeks ago, I noticed my relationships with others were out of whack.  Greater still, I noticed a great longing in me that I can only describe as the awareness of a disconnect with God.  Not that He had left me, but that I had strayed, ever so subtly from intimacy with Him.  I began to slow, to not just rush through the morning reading of His word, but to seek, longingly for His message to my heart.

I have walked on both sides of that narrow path so often, between the mindless legalism of spiritual routine and the passionate communing with a personal God, that now it is much easier for me to see and feel the difference, at least once I'm back in line with Him. As I began to truly, prayerfully seek Him, He drew near to me again and has been slowly opening my eyes to the way He sees my circumstances and my heart.

His message to me started with a Sunday message about work and just going through the motions rather than working for the Lord.  Yep, doing that.  The Sunday following that one, I felt like I did when I was newly hired to run the children's ministry: humble and aware that it was much bigger than I could ever manage, ready to simply let His love flow through me to the parents, volunteers, and kids who crossed my path.

Then He gave me a clue in my morning devotional time.  I am in the not-so-interesting part of the book of Joshua, where the land is being divided up between the tribes (yawn).  As unlikely as a personal message could be found there, God spoke.  Joshua 17:14-18.  The children of Joseph are whining to Joshua about their puny inheritance since they were "a great people" (Their words. In other translations it is "numerous" people, but "great" is so much more fun to make fun of).  Joshua tells them If they are a "great people," and if the mountains they inherit are not enough for them, they can have any land they can win from the Canaanites in the valley.  With his use of if, I feel a little eye-rolling in his reply.

The children of Joseph then tell Joshua that the Canaanites of the valley have chariots of IRON.  Maybe it's because I have kids, but this sounds so whiny to me!  I hear them in a whiny voice: "But Joshuaaaaaa, they have chariots of IRON!"  In their defense, as foot soldiers, I can see that chariots of iron would be pretty scary.  Joseph's response to them is that they can have more land for their numerous tribe: "but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.” (Joshua 17:18).  In his response, which simply repeats his first command to them (as any good parent of whiny kids would do), Joshua tells them to get down into the valley and face the chariots of iron.

As I read this, I noticed the exchange as unique among all the land-distributing that was going on.  This was exceptional because Joshua was requiring the children of Joseph to fight for their own land against a formidable foe.  As much as they sound a bit like whiney-behiney's I felt that they had a decent claim to whine.  Why was everyone else handed land already conquered and this tribe had to fight on foot against iron chariots to claim their promise?  That's where I left it, just a mental note in my morning reading, until my devotional reading today brought it all home.

This morning I was reading My Utmost for His Highest, a daily devotional by Oswald Chambers.  Today was one where God used Chambers' words to reach out and squeeze my soul.

What first caught my attention with this devotional was that it describes the difference between the soaring mountaintop experiences with Christ, and the daily drudge through the valley of humiliation.
The second thing that caught my eye was that it was about a passage God had used to speak to be a year ago (see Christ's Mission, which is kind of hilarious...or humiliating...because it's pretty much the same message as I received today).  But what really grabbed my soul was when it asked, "what about the thing that is a humiliation to you right now?" I thought about it for a moment and then, wham, I realized my humiliation was my waiting place.

When you make a big mountaintop announcement like, "we're going to adopt" and then you don't...for a year...and the foster workers are wondering if you're really in it, and friends you know who started after you are getting placed with children before you, and there's so much uncertainty and doubt about the calling and the future of this crazy plan, I'd say that's humiliation.  I don't mean, and I don't think Chambers means, humiliation as in embarrassment.  Rather I mean it in the sense of knock-you-to-your-knees humbling.  The waiting place is humbling.

But the waiting place is what it's all about.  As Chambers says, "The height of the mountaintop is measured by the dismal drudgery of the valley, but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God."   Yes!  And how that helps my heart while in the waiting place and the drudgery days.  This is the living out of the calling, the waiting and the working and the struggling toward the mountaintop vision.

That's when God brought me back to the passage in Joshua 17.  The children of Joseph are me!  Given the vision and carried only so far as the border of their inheritance, they have to work to gain the promise while others are given their promise before them.  Like them, I have been grumbling about the work of trudging through the valley, of packing and unpacking during a move, of Master's classes and ministry challenges and foster training classes, of waiting for the right time to claim the vision God had given me.  And, ugh, how much have I thought myself "great" that I should expect God to deliver the right children to our family at the time of my choosing?

As if to knock it all home, while I was even writing these words, God struck me through the words of a song that's playing on the radio (Abide by Jenny and Tyler): "The labor of God is to trust in the Son."  I have been wanting so much to get to the labor that God has set before me of adopting children that I have forgotten and forsaken the true labor of God, simply trusting in the Son.

What a beautiful and empowering reminder to trust in the Son in the valley of waiting.  Do I trust Him with the vision, with the timing, with my family, my hopes and dreams?  Do I trust that He has me right where He wants me at this moment?  Will I follow Him through the valley?  When you put it like that, the answer is of course yes, and thus only by trusting in Him, my strength returns to do so.   I am in awe of God's great love for me that He would encourage me when my heart can be so very far from His.  He is so good.  He is worthy of trust in the waiting place.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Chick Fil-A Family Night: Bingo

Adel was out of town so the kids and I stopped by Chick Fil-A and accidentally timed it for their family night. We had fun and won a hat and an umbrella.  We won another prize but we were winning so much that it was getting embarrassing, so we gave the prize away and decided to call it a night!  With our luck, should of gone to Vegas.