Monday, February 28, 2011

Sibling love

I'm quite confident this is one of the sweetest pictures I have taken of my two babes. I would like to include a quote and I can't decide between these two. Will you help me choose by commenting on which quote you think fits this picture better? Or by suggesting an alternative? Thank you.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Every careless word

Last week I started reading Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.

So good. 

And quite deep.

The kind of deep that requires concentration and brain parts that I don't seem to use regularly.

I am loving it.

The first chapter explores spiritual disciplines as a whole. I'll share some things I'm learning in future posts, but tonight I need to share a passage that I can't stop thinking about.

Matthew 12:34-36
"For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks....But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken."

Did you get that?

Every. Careless. Word.

Why have I not noticed this verse before? I am quite familiar with verse 34 but can't seem to recall studying much about verse 36.

I will have to give account for every careless word that has passed through my lips.

Every single one.

Convicting. So incredibly convicting.


Sadly, Ryan bears the brunt of many most of my careless words. Stress, tension, lack of time, fatigue, irritability....it doesn't matter what the cause is, these situations bring out the worst in me and I throw up ugly words all over my husband.

And he certainly doesn't deserve that.

I often try to think about Ephesians 4:29: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

I know this verse. It is a command. It tells me to only speak life-giving words and to restrict unwholesome talk.

But I frequently disobey this command and do not use my words to build up others.

Somehow reading that I am going to have to give account for every careless word is challenging me these days.

Foster's point in using this verse is that the true condition of the heart is revealed when careless words slip out...but when we are transformed on the inside (through the practice of spiritual disciplines), our words can reveal the kindness and goodness that is within us. The overflow of the heart will be beauty not ugliness.

I'm afraid I've got a long way to go before I'm celebrating the disciplines in this book. And I imagine the Lord has a lot to teach me on this journey. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thank you

Here I am...1:30 p.m. on a snowy Saturday afternoon. Everyone in the house is sleeping. Husband. Son. Daughter. Cat.

I just ate some really tasty enchiladas (not made by me) and am about to enjoy a gooey, chocolately brownie (not made by me).

I'm tired, and my bed is calling me for a quick nap. But I have chicken pot pie fixings simmering on the stove (made by me) and something on my heart to blog about.

So here goes:

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

For what you might ask?

For reading.

For commenting.

For caring.

For following my story.

For be interested in my journey.

For praying.

For your words of encouragement.

I don't know what you're all looking for when you come here, but for some reason you keep coming back. I'm nearing 100,000 visits.

What?

What?!

Who are you people?

Obviously that does not mean 100,000 unique visitors, but still.

I'm in awe. And humbled. And grateful. And filled with a grand desire for God to be glorified through this blog, through our story, through our journey as rocky and unattractive as it may be sometimes.

Lately, I think to myself, "If this blog were any more depressing, I might need to shut it down." I don't even want to read it some days. And I certainly don't want to write some days.

But I write anyway. And you keep reading - even though there are plenty of other amazing blogs out there to read. Like Pioneer Woman. Or MckMama.

So thank you.

Thank you for reading. For visiting. For sharing your stories.

Thank you for trusting in the One who is writing your story.

Thank you for following the journey of my family.

And most of all, thank you for faithfully running your race right alongside me, even when your side aches, you're dirty, sweaty and smelly, and the end is nowhere in sight. Your lives and your stories inspire me to persevere and I'm incredibly grateful.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why did you adopt me?

I'm in the bathroom getting ready this morning and Samuel looks at the necklace I am wearing - which is a gold cross - and asks what it is. 

I respond, "This is a necklace I have to remind me of God's faithfulness. I got it when we adopted you."

Samuel says: "Why did you adopt me?"

I was so taken aback by his question that I hesitated for a moment. Not because I didn't know how to answer, but because I was so shocked that he voiced such a mature question.....he is just under 2 1/2 years old!

I grabbed his sweet face in both my hands and said: "We adopted you because mommy and daddy had been waiting for a baby for a very long time. And then we got a call that a baby had been born in the hospital. Do you know who that baby was?"

Samuel: "Lauren?" (Which sounded like Warren?")

Me: "No it was you! And we got to take you home to be part of our family and we adopted you because we love you so much!"

And then I'm pretty sure Samuel responded with something like, "Where's daddy?" Because, at all times, my two-year-old must know where his daddy is.

I can't wait to tell Samuel over and over and over again why we adopted him and what a great God we serve.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pay it forward

Some friends invited our family over for dinner a couple months ago. They hosted, they fed us, they gave us some wonderfully sweet gifts - not only for the kids, but movie and dinner gift certificates so Ryan and I could go on a date.

One of the most memorable parts of the evening was when our host explained to us why they were doing what they were doing: a few years ago they too went through a difficult season financially. They also have two young children and when they couldn't pay their bills, they were blessed with help from other people.

This so greatly impacted our friends, that they felt compelled to 'pay it forward' to us. And pay it forward they did. We were blessed by an evening of fellowship, delicious home-made food, gifts and being in the presence of friends who did not judge, only listened and encouraged us. They validated us, our marriage and our struggles. It was a night of unexpected blessings.

I was able to 'pay it forward' to a friend a couple weeks ago with a small gift that blessed her heart. Today coworkers (and friends!) paid it forward to me with the most simple, wonderful things...a diet coke and some Dove chocolate from one friend, and an iTunes gift card from another.

Small things. Sweet things. Wonderful acts of kindness for a friend.

Sometimes paying it forward is through a financial or a gift that tells a friend you love her and are thinking of her. Other times it's a selfless act of service - caring for someone's children, helping a friend with a task (like organizing - love you D!), making a meal for someone who is sick or having an extra busy week.

I am so encouraged by friends who have learned through their tough times and are now paying it forward.

I am so grateful I can continually learn from the generous acts of others.

I am so amazed at how God creates us to be community for one other - to live out His calling in caring for one another. 

I am so incredibly challenged to pay it forward - even in this season where finances are tight. I am learning to be creative in the ways I pay it forward to others.

May we all strive to pay it forward...for a co-worker, a friend, a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a neighbor...in small, simple acts that show we care and that demonstrate the love of Jesus.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happiness

A couple weeks ago I met a friend at a local bookstore. I wandered around a bit before she arrived, and came across a pack of cards as I was strolling through an aisle.

The card pack had four different sets of phrases written on the cards. One phrase read: May you be happy always.

I did a double take to make sure I read that correctly. 

May you be happy always.

My first thought was, "What?!"

My second thought was, "Are we really printing this garbage and selling it to people?"

Who decided that life was about being happy always?

Ideas such as these appear in and on just about everything we read and listen to these days.

Billboards. Commercials. Print ads. Electronic ads. Packaging. Mail. Radio.

It's everywhere.

Phrases like "May you be happy always" have penetrated our lives, our homes, our families. We live in a world saturated with entitlement (that's a post for another day), and happiness is something we feel we are entitled to.

If this is the material being published and promoted by our American culture we are in heaps of trouble.

That is, if we believe it, buy it, and share it with others.

Should my ultimate goal in life be happiness always? If I achieve happiness always, then what?

As someone who loves Jesus, I don't believe this is Biblical. Christ came so that we might have life...abundant life! He didn't come so that we might be happy...always.

Being happy always would make life so much easier. I'd love to be happy always! But in the midst of being happy, I'd also be shallow. And self-centered. And lonely.

Friends, if we're not careful, we'll start buying into these myths and they'll soon become our foundations of belief.

If I designed and published a set of cards, they might read something along the lines of:

May you love the Lord your God.
May you trust in the One who calls you by name.
May you experience the peace that passes all understanding.
May you know Christ and the power of His resurrection.

But that's just me.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

2011 Book List

I've been meaning to post this for weeks.....I've edited my list a bit and I think I'm ready to go now.

My 2011 book list includes new books. Recommended books. Books I've borrowed and haven't yet returned to friends. 

I need to read. I love to read. It's good for my heart. Good for my soul. Good for my relationship with Jesus. While I love reading, due to having two babies enter my world in the last two years I have not read as much as I would like. And a lot of what I have read has been baby/parenting related.

So I need some accountability in reading...I need to start some of these books. I need to finish others. I'm going to strive in 2011 to dust off some books piled (literally.....growing cobwebs) next to my bed.

They are in no particular order. I plan to (hope to?) share things I'm learning from my book list.

If any of you want to join me in reading any of these books, please let me know! I'd love to read them with you.

1. Pray Big for Your Marriage - Will Davis Jr
2. Plan B - Pete Wilson
3. Bittersweet - Shauna Niequist
4. Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood (birth to six years) - Jim and Charles Fay
5. Growing Grateful Kids - Susie Larson
6. When God Doesn't Answer Your Prayers - Jerry Sittser
7. I Promise: How Five Commitments Determine the Destiny of Your Marriage - Gary Smalley
8. Celebration of Discipline - Richard Foster

I do not own these two, so assuming I purchase them at some point this year, they'll complete my list:
9. If God is Good - Randy Alcorn
10. Shepherding a Child's Heart - Tedd Tripp

I've got some fun fictional reading I'll be doing as well (hello Hunger Games series!), but the above 10 books are sure to impact me more as a mom, wife, and woman of God.

If you recall this post back in December, I wanted to kick of 2011 by reading Bittersweet. Well I finally ordered it last week with an Amazon gift certificate and it came in the mail today.

i.am.so.excited.

I read the first two four chapters today (read two more while trying to write this post....) and I think I could ponder the content for weeks. So many good nuggets of truth and words of wisdom.

Clearly, Shauna Niequist has dealt with some tough things and yet she's growing and being challenged by them. She is sharing the lessons she learned and what she is still working through.

Most of all, she's open and authentic and vulnerable.

And if you can't be those things, then go to your room, shut the door and come out when you're ready (as one might say to a two-and-a-half-year-old when he's being unkind).

Shauna writes about change - how it's good, how it's incredibly painful and how God uses change to bring us to the place we need to be.

"I wanted an answer, a timeline and a map."

Oh, that sentence could have been penned by my hand. These words, these pages...they speak to my heart because it's right where I'm at.

I knew my friends were recommending a fabulous book. I just didn't know how fabulous it was going to be. Or timely. Or relevant.

As I said back in December, won't you read it with me? I'd love it if you would journey along with me through the pages and stories of Bittersweet.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A different chapter

I just read my friend Stacey's blog. She recently changed the name of her blog, because after 6 miscarriages she now has a healthy four-month-old baby girl. In describing her decision to rename her blog, she wrote: "This is the same book, but a different chapter."

That's how I feel about this season of unemployment. It's the same book....it's our book, our story, our journey, but it's a different chapter. Our story includes chapters on miscarriage and infertility, chapters on waiting, chapters on adoption, chapters on pregnancy and childbirth, chapters on parenting...and now chapters on unemployment. And, much to my dislike, these chapters on unemployment include more waiting.

I find it interesting that the Lord has us going through a trial that includes a lot of waiting. Then again, maybe all trials include waiting?. When you're looking for a job, you wait for jobs to be posted, you wait for interviews and then you wait to hear from potential employers. You wait, wait and wait some more.

And, if I am brutally honest, I am incredibly tired of waiting. I thought my waiting season was over once we got Samuel. I never expected God would allow us to enter a season of waiting again...or at least so soon.

But we are. And we have. And it's clear that this chapter will also be a defining one in our life, our marriage and our family.

I'm not sure why I didn't think we would wait again? Waiting is referred to so frequently in the Bible, that clearly waiting should be an expected part of life.

It's amazing to me that this chapter so closely resembles our waiting/infertility chapters. We are on an emotional rollercoaster with each potential job. Hope, excitement, waiting, disappointment. While waiting for kids, we rode the rollercoaster every single month. With our job search it's not a rollercoaster that revolves around a monthly cycle, but it's a rollercoaster all the same.

We trust. We hope. We strive to be obedient in our waiting. We pray. We cry. We hope some more. We see no end in sight. We wish we could see how this chapter concludes, but that's not for us to know.

So yes it's a different chapter. This one is titled unemployment. But the lesson is the same as so many other chapters in our family story: We are ultimately waiting on God. All it takes is a barely audible "yes" by my Creator, or a slight motion by His hand, and Ryan could get offered a job today.

The Lord opens and closes our wombs. He directs our relationships. He is in control of our careers.

I'm striving to trust and believe this chapter will conclude in God's perfect timing...and I can't wait to see how He writes the ending.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Commitment

Today is Valentine's Day...the chocolates, the roses, the jewelry.

I'm expecting all three when I get home from work today.

Kidding.

My friend commented about writing something inspirational for loving our spouses...that combined with an article I read last week has got me thinking.

While waiting for my dad at his doctor's appt on Wednesday I picked up a copy of some celebrity magazine. I only read these while sitting under the dryer at the salon or at doctor's appts when I don't have a book with me. I paged through and came across an article about a couple who is separating. I can't even tell you the name of the couple because I didn't recognize them...yeah, that's how much I follow celebrity gossip.

What struck me with such disbelief were the statements in the this particular article about how much the couple loved each other. They were quoted saying something along the lines of "We started this relationship loving one another and we end it loving one another."

They cited working too much and not seeing one another, along with growing apart, as reasons for the divorce. They had been married for two years. 

Two.

They still love each other.

What?

At the two-year mark you've barely been married folks. You've only dipped your toe into the waters. You've only taken a tiny sip.

So here's what I've been pondering...marriage is about love. You gotta love the person you choose to marry. 

But more than love it's about commitment. Because it doesn't matter how much you love someone if you're not committed to them.

Come hell or high water.

Love or hate.

Mountain top moments and deep, dark valleys.

Winning the lottery or declaring bankruptcy.

Perfect health or a fatal diagnosis.

Or just year after year after year of living life as two sinful people trying to love Jesus. 

It's hard. Really hard. And that's why it's not about how you feel. It's not about your emotions. It's not about getting your needs met. It's about a commitment.

You made a commitment. You said I do, I will, I promise.

That means you change your career if you aren't seeing your spouse enough. You rearrange your life to make it work. You go see a therapist. You become authentic like you didn't know was possible. You ask someone to pray for you and your marriage. 

You do whatever. it. takes.

He doesn't love Jesus? So what. You love Jesus with all that you are, follow hard after Him and pray to God that your husband might be won over by the godly behavior of his wife.

When divorce is off the table...when it's not even an option - it will change things. Communication and openness will reach a deeper level.

Do you have a couple close, wise friends with whom you trust to talk about marriage? Friends that will encourage you, pray for you and speak truth into your life? Friends that will inspire you to pursue commitment at all costs? If not, find them. Seek them out. You need people to cheer you on in your marriage. It's not a race my friends. It's a marathon and it lasts until the moment Jesus calls one of you home.

In 10 years of marriage we've faced infertility head on. Now we're walking through the valley of unemployment. I have no idea what our future holds, but I know I've got the love of my life walking with me every single step of the way.

Two years? That's nothing. I'm sad for this celebrity couple because they barely experienced marriage. They opted out long before they experienced the sweetness of commitment. Maybe they think they made a mistake marrying that person? That doesn't matter. God could have turned their mistake into a marvelous love story if only they would have let Him.

So this Valentine's Day I challenge you to tell your spouse not only that you love him/her, but that you are committed to him/her no matter what life brings. Come hell and high water, highs and lows, health and sickness...I am committed to you.

We love because He first loved us. May you experience the wonderfully glorious love of Jesus this Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Our God - Chris Tomlin

I am a bit obsessed with the song Our God by Chris Tomlin. I have been listening to it quite frequently lately and the lyrics are so meaningful...powerful...timely.

I have people in my life who need physical healing, emotional healing, spiritual healing, financial healing, relational healing.

The chorus is what makes these lyrics so relevant:
Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…

I am claiming and praying the truth of these words. If you need words of encouragement today, truth to combat lies, a reminder of who Our God is or just an impromptu worship session - listen to the video below at least five times. It will do your heart good.

P.S. Crank it UP!




Our God
Water You turned into wine
Open the eyes of the blind
There’s no one like You
None like You
Into the darkness You shine
Out of the ashes we rise
There’s no one like You
None like You

CHORUS
Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…

Into the darkness you shining
Out of the ashes we Rise
There’s no One like You
None like You.

Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…
Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…

BRIDGE
And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
What can stand against?

Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…
Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…

And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
And if Our God is for us, then who can ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
Then what can stand against?
Then what can stand against?

Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…
Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Creative stump

I'm sitting in bed, snuggled under my down comforter, with my laptop in front of me. This is one of my very favorite places in the entire world to be...what can I say? I'm a writer and my creativity comes out in full force about 9 p.m.

But tonight the creativity is lacking. 

I just told my hubby, "I should blog because I haven't blogged all week, but I don't know what to blog about."

I got nothing.

Nothing.

Creative zilch is all that's coming out of me right now. 

It's not that nothing is happening in my life. There is a lot happening. Maybe too much and that's why I'm creatively stumped right now.

My mom had a total knee replacement this week. She will get out of the hospital tomorrow. I've been visiting her and planning meals for her and checking in on her. My dad is sick with some strange bug/illness and we're awaiting test results to determine what his diagnosis is. My husband had a phone interview today and has a follow-up interview with the same company tomorrow...not to mention another phone interview with a different company tomorrow (can I get a woohoo?!). And I'm working Mon, Wed, Fri this week.

There is plenty going on.

And then I have these little people. They take up a lot of time. A lot of energy. A lot of my creativity.

And yet, they are my inspiration and the basis for so much of what I write. They make me smile, giggle and occasionally laugh out loud....or pull out my hair. Depends on the hour.

So that brings me to now. 10:52 p.m.

Three days without a post. Wanting to write. Wishing I could write. Lacking something to write about.

Feeling grateful for my many blessings. Wondering if I've entered the stage of life where I will soon become my parent's care-takers. Hopeful that these interviews might lead to something. In awe of friends who work 40+ hours and still care for their homes and families.

Maybe some creativity or inspiration will hit me tomorrow. Or Saturday. Or Sunday.

But I got nothing now. So I'm just checking in. Letting you know I'm still here. God is still good. And blogging is still one of my most favorite things in the entire world.

That's me...how are you?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Running the race

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3

Tonight Hebrews 12 is the prayer of my heart. God may we continue to run this race with perseverance. Not walk. Not jog. Not saunter. May we run to you Lord, with our eyes fixed on your face. Give us strength to persevere when the road is long, the journey is tough and the hope seems depleted. God grant us the determination to not grow weary and to not lose heart. May we face each "no" from you, with grace and dignity. May we accept your timing and your plans with a persevering faith that does not waiver. God fix our eyes so steadfastly on you that we cannot be swayed by the temptations of this world. May we be encouraged by your example of enduring the cross. Let us run Jesus, every step, every day, let us run the race.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Gotcha Day

Today we're also remembering...but this time we're remembering the court room, the judge, the sweet baby boy in our arms.

We're remembering 11 a.m. - our court appointment.

We're remembering the tears that flowed... tears of happiness.

We're remembering our family and friends who came to share in this special day.

We're remembering our long journey to parenthood and the sweet sweet joy of celebrating the official adoption of our son.

We have two children. We love them equally. It makes no difference that one shares our DNA.

They both call us mommy and daddy. They both run to our arms for comfort. They both fill our hearts with so much joy. They are both beautifully and wonderfully made.

Samuel has been running around all day yelling, "Gotcha Day. I got you!" He knows we're having a little dinner party when he wakes up from his nap. He's excited he gets to eat cake :) He doesn't understand adoption but we're talking about it and teaching him the words. He knows we're celebrating him today and he feels special.

Gotcha Day is a family celebration. It's a chapter that we are so very thankful is part of our story.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A day of remembering

It’s February 4, and today I’m remembering.

I’m remembering the joy of my first positive pregnancy test.

The sweetness of handing my husband an early Father’s Day card to announce he would soon be a dad.

The excitement of sharing the news with my in-laws as we brought them to the exact spot where his mom told his dad they would be expecting their first.

The fun of wrapping up a onesie and giving it to my parents.

Thinking of names.

Wondering about the sex of the baby.

Counting out the weeks until my February 4 due date on my calendar.

Choosing my clinic and making my first doctor appt.

Waiting for pregnancy symptoms or signs to appear.

Waiting.

Waiting.

Waiting.

Noticing signs that something wasn’t quite right.

Bright red blood.

Tears.

Heaps of tears.

Calling the doctor. Ultrasound. Hearing the words that confirmed our fears and the medical diagnosis – a blighted ovum.

Overwhelming sadness. Incredible physical pain. Emotional heartbreak.

Crossing off February 4 on my calendar and hoping that by my due date I would be pregnant again. 

Remembering that I didn't write my story. Because if I had, it certainly wouldn’t have gone like this.

God wrote it. I’m living it.

And today I’m remembering.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I don't know what to say

Last week I shared some really hard news about a friend of mine.

Today I called my friend.

I prayed before I called. I asked God to give me the words because I don't know what to say to a friend whose husband has died. I have friends who have lost parents and grandparents...but this is my first friend to lose a spouse.

And it's tough.

I wanted her to answer, but if she did I didn't know what I would say.

But I called anyway because I know there are many people who aren't calling...simply because they don't know what to say.

In my hard times I've learned one thing: the most hurtful of all things was when people didn't acknowledge my pain. The people who avoided me and the ones who acted like I wasn't going through a heart-wrenching struggle...that's what hurt the most.

So I called.

I fumbled my way through a voicemail message...trying to communicate my grief, sadness, love and hugs over the phone.

I didn't know what to say. But I called anyway. Because that's what you do for a friend.

Dear God, hold my friend tightly. Minister to her as only you can. Fill her with a deep peace and sense of your presence. Surround her with people to love her, comfort her and grieve with her in these dark, dark days. Teach me how to be a friend to someone who has suffered a devastating loss. Give me words to say. Help me to be creative in loving her from afar. And most of all Jesus, begin to heal the broken pieces of her heart.

God's Best