Friday, November 28, 2014

give thanks

A couple of weeks my connect group & I joined in with some other ladies from church in an effort to be intentional about giving thanks over the course of the next month using journals.  With these journals we are creatively expressing our gratitude through Bible verses, prayers, quotes, etc.  Some of us also began the new She Reads Truth study "In Everything Give Thanks", and this has really set the tone for an "attitude of gratitude" for me.  I have so looked forward to spending time each day expressing thanks to the Father and carving out that time to just create.

In the midst of feeling very pregnant this week, read hormonal and full of mood swings,  I have been finding it refreshing to think upon the things that I have to be thankful for when it comes to Jesus and what He's done for me.  It's been refreshing to get into the Word and find it come alive as I read it with a thankful heart.  And last week we got a phone call that sent my level of gratitude through the roof.

For about 6 weeks we had been in a period of waiting and wondering and hoping and praying in regards to our baby girl.   At our 20 week ultrasound they found something that had them concerned and so began a series of blood tests and another ultrasound and a meeting with a genetic counselor and the waiting.

Finding out you're pregnant brings on such a rush of emotions: you're elated yet fearful; anxious yet hopeful; excited yet overwhelmed.  Everyone prays for a healthy pregnancy; everyone wishes for a healthy baby.  Then to find out something might be wrong, something might not quite fit into the plan you have have for this baby, suddenly the emotional roller coaster does a loop de loop, and you're wondering which end is up.

When we first heard this news of further blood tests and meeting with genetic counselors, we weren't quite sure what to think other than to immediately begin praying for the Lord's hand on our baby, as well as praying for the Lord to help us trust Him and His leading as we walked this road.  As hard as this blind journey was, we rested in the knowledge that He formed this baby, and He has a purpose for her.   My husband, who is the worrier in the relationship, was at peace, and that for me was confirmation that the Lord was working.

One day my devotions led me to Philippians 4:6-7, which is one of my favorite verses.

Whenever I am faced with anything remotely scary or might trigger worry, I immediately hear this verse in my head, with a large emphasis on the word "ANYTHING".  ANY.THING.  It's something that I believe with my whole heart, that we should be anxious over NOTHING!  And if we refrain from being anxious and worrying, we receive the peace of God & it guards our hearts and minds.  I mean, isn't this a sweet exchange for the awful side effects of worrying & being anxious?? i think so!

I found it fitting that after reading this verse, we got a phone call from the genetic counselor with great news about our baby girl.   It was the greatest birthday gift I could've gotten, and it was a great reason to "shout to all the peoples" about what God has done.

But I know full well that we don't always get the answers we want hope to hear.  I know that sometimes the test might come back positive and sometimes we find ourselves walking a path that we just would not have chosen ourselves.  What I am daily being reminded of is the fact that no matter what He is still good.  He still loves us. He still welcomes us to bask in His mercy and grace. He still calls us His own & desires to walk with us every step we take in this life.  And more & more, I find this to be the thing I am most thankful for in this earthly life.

Last night as Mike & Eli & our niece and nephew sat down to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws house, my mother-in-law went around the table asking the kids what they were thankful for.   When it was Eli's turn, he blew us away and said, "Jesus."  Later when we were driving home high-fiving each other for the "parenting win", I began reflecting on his answer.  Really, is there anything else more important to be thankful for?  I mean, it pretty much sums it up.  Because of Jesus, I have everything.  Because of Jesus, I am who I am, and because of Jesus, I can walk through this life with abundant blessings and feel secure knowing I am His.  Because of Jesus, my future is secure, and I have hope beyond hope.

Because of Jesus.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Is there something wrong with me?

Ok, we won't even talk about the fact that my last post said I was going to do 31 days of blogging.  I failed.  Boom. That's all there is to it.  Ok, maybe there's a little bit more, but let's just celebrate that I actually have the ability to form some coherent thoughts and have something to write about today, k?

As we drove home today from our 3 hour long doctor appointment, I told my husband that today was going to be the day that I broke out of my blogging slump because I got some things I need to get off my chest!   

From the get go, I knew this pregnancy was going to be different.  I knew pretty much from the start it was a girl because I experienced symptoms I did not experience when I was pregnant with Eli.  I questioned at 20 weeks how I was going to continue for 20 more weeks with the symptoms I was experiencing.  Those symptoms have since gone and I've had some reprieve for the last 2 weeks, dare I say I've felt really good for the last 2 weeks and have enjoyed being pregnant!  But one thing has not changed that I was totally not ready for.  Apparently I should start using a cane and ask for a senior citizen discount because that is how I am being treated with this pregnancy!

Sure I've got some gray hairs creeping in, but Friends, I am about to turn 36.  Upon leaving my doctor appointments, however, I feel as though I have unknowingly advanced in age and am about to turn 76!  Prior to this pregnancy, I thought maybe we might just try for a third, but now I'm truly afraid.  Not because I would be an older mom or anything like that.  I'm afraid they would require me to use a wheelchair and them to use a megaphone to speak to me in fear that my hearing aid wasn't turned on.

Can I tell you that I honestly feel like there is something wrong with me every time I leave an appointment?  Like, is "old lady having a baby" in that big ol' medical book with all the current medical conditions?  (I know it has a name but I didn't really know what to Google to figure it out!)
Should I start wearing a medical alert bracelet? I know, along with my glucose test, it's probably gonna be issued at my next appointment.  

Imagine the poor woman who our doctor told us about at our very first appointment who she had just come from seeing who was 52!?!?!  God bless you, my geriatric sister-friend.  

So now that they've got me worrying my baby is going to come out with 3 heads and have this syndrome and that syndrome and I'm elbow deep in blood tests, I'll just go on my merry way, me and my gray hairs and all my 36 years.  

If you know me at all, you know I use the term "worrying" quite lightly because I'm not really worried.  I'm not a worrier!  It's just that this is the most insecure I've felt in a really long time.  It's not so much the pregnancy cravings that require me to keep ice cream in the freezer at all times, it's the insecurity I feel after every appointment!   

I'll tell you what I am 100% secure about though.  That God has formed this baby. He knit her together, knows her inside and out.  She is fearfully and wonderfully made.  He has appointed this time in my life to carry this little girl for a purpose.  He has chosen me as her Mommy and He has chosen Mike as her Daddy, and I couldn't be more thrilled that He chose Eli as her big brother.  She is a gift to us.  She is so loved already, and I can't wait to meet her!!  

So, I'll just remind my doctors at my next appointment that Sarah was 91 when she had Isaac.  They'll probably be appalled and drop over, but I'll just tap them with my cane as I skip on out of the office!   

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

31 days

the other day when i realized that october was about to knock on our door, i recalled last october when  i participated in the nester's 31 days challenge.  it was a great experience, but surely i would not be participating this year, as i certainly have nothing to write about.  i mean, last year at this time was pretty eventful.  the Lord was doing lots and lots of stirring and moving and jarring and chiseling in my heart, there were things to talk about and things to process and write about.  no, this year i will just sit it out.  maybe find someone else's 31 day journey to tag along on.  

then yesterday as i was sitting in a quiet coffee shop, ear buds in, getting some work done, i found myself logged on to my blog and suddenly contemplating, "if i were to write for the next 31 days, just what topic could i explore....?"  i even began editing a picture to use for a graphic trying out different fonts and phrases to see if my random typing would magically create just the right title for my 31 days series.  sadly, it did not.  

i woke up this morning saddened by the thought that i had not come up with anything and that perhaps this month would go by and my blog would sit untouched for yet another 6 months because i have not had the discipline to sit down and write the thoughts that have been stirring over the course of the last 6 months.  i really thought that if i was able to join in this 31 days challenge, it would force me to get back in the game and give some much needed lovin' to my little corner of the internet.  

throughout the day, i kept coming back to my unfinished graphic in my head trying out more titles.

"31 days of...... just writing whatever the heck i want to and hoping people don't get bored with my random thoughts for the day."

yeah, i know that seemed a little long.  but really, that's what i wanted to do.  just write.  i want to find my voice again and maybe it would mean just recalling my day and finding some beautiful lesson in it or sharing something difficult or something funny or something mundane, but just writing.  maybe just trying to find the joy in the everyday moments so that i don't forget that it's there.  

then it came to me. 

it occurred to me that lately i've been kind of just coasting through life.  my entire summer was a complete blur.  i'll probably share more about that later on, but the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014, God did SO much in my heart and there had been so much that i wanted to share and write about and just didn't.  i shared with a few people that if there could have been a soundtrack for my life at that time, it would have been "the art of celebration" from rend collective.  every single song spoke volumes as to what the Lord was doing and what i felt like He wanted me to experience and learn.  i literally listened to nothing else for months on end because each time i heard a song, even if it was for the 18th time, i found a new lyric to attach myself to and allowed it minister to me in a brand new way.  it was enlightening and refreshing and comforting and encouraging in the most beautiful way.  

today as i was cleaning up from lunch, thinking about our morning, i caught a glimpse of a picture i had taken from our time at the library.  eli had asked us to find "monster truck books" and when my husband delivered on the request, he was so incredibly excited.  my husband called me over from another section of books to snag a peek at eli who was excitedly poring over the book he had been given.  it was a moment i just wanted to tuck away and remember the joy on his face.  

thinking about this moment, i thought back to the idea of the "art of celebration" and how in the recent months, i've missed out on so many opportunities to practice the art of celebration.  i had just been learning what it looked like for me and our family, but without the practice, like any art form, it slips away.  

that's when the lightbulb went off and i realized that for the next 31 days i could revive the art of celebration and take each day to practice this amazing art to find beauty in the everyday moments and find ways to celebrate even in the midst of what seems like a seemingly uneventful season of life.  

and there you have it.  welcome to day 1 of my 31 day series. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

a birthday party, a getaway, and the greatest love we'll ever know.

a few months ago i turned 35. i shared my thoughts here, maybe you read them?  at the time, i had really wanted to share what my husband had done for my birthday.  i have a post that i started and never got around to finishing because life just got the better of me.  i tell you what friends, that husband of mine is setting the bar pretty high lately with his creativity and gift giving. first, he threw a progressive dinner surprise party.  it was awesome!  at each location there was a host of new people and food and drink and fun. (i believe he had help on this one!)

then to top off the night, he gives me one last present.  inside was an itinerary for a weekend away set for february.  he informs me that he has arranged for us to go away, kidless, with 3 of my best friends & their husbands.  at this point, i begin bawling.  i couldn't even speak.  when i was finally able to get words out, i explained to him that secretly what i wanted for my birthday was to go away with some of my friends.  i never told this to anyone because i figured it would be too difficult to try to arrange schedules and make it work, so i just didn't even bother putting much thought into it or bother bringing it up.  as i sat there with tears streaming down my face, all i could think was "only God".  only He could arrange the details and prompt my husband to initiate such a gift.  i was in total awe!

so, last month we finally had our weekend away (minus one couple because in the end, schedules did not quite align).  it was such a sweet retreat, and God provided the most glorious weather that weekend!  we didn't have much of an agenda other than eat good food, drink some wine, play cards and enjoy the fact that we would have a whole weekend where we could live right next door to each other!

sadly, we did not get a group shot

these friends of mine? they are some of the good ones.  my friend jess and i are big shauna niequist fans and got to hear her speak at the influence conference back in september.  during her talk she shared how important it is to get things on the calendar.  if it doesn't make it to the calendar, then most likely it will never happen.  as someone who i feel has written the book on community and how to do it well, i heed her advice without second thought.  we decided that weekend at the conference that we would schedule monthly dinners with our respective families and our friend Jen's family.  it's something we have done for years and years now, our families having grown over those years, but more recently they have become much more sporadic.  when we are together though, gathered around the table sharing a meal and catching up, it just feels right.  it feels like home.  it's such a rare, beautiful thing that i cherish so deeply.  i think there was one month since october that it didn't work out, but this gorgeous february weekend made up for that!

and of course, having time for just mike and i, strolling hand in hand down cobblestone streets does a little for the soul too.  we don't get too many opportunities to go out just the two of us, and honestly, sometimes when we do get an opportunity, we allow eli to tag along because we love being with him so much!  but this weekend was so refreshing for us as we got to talk and dream and soak up togetherness.

as we strolled along the river, and i stared out at the horizon where the river appeared to blend with the skyline, i was reminded of a song we had listened to on our drive down to virginia.

(here is love // matt redman)

and i just thought, thank you, lord, for knowing me and loving me.  because there is nothing on this earth that compares to His love.  He knows us, like really knows us, our hearts' desires, our deepest longings, our innermost thoughts, our heartbreaks, our sorrow, what brings us joy, what brings us peace, our deepest needs.  He knows. He knows it all, and it's a beautiful reminder to stare into the distance knowing that the God of the universe, the Creator of all things, knows me and loves me with a love vast as the ocean.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

excuse me while i gush.

do you ever have a moment when you just want to shout something from the rooftops so that all the world could hear you?  you want to make sure that every single person and their mother hears what you have to say?  well, i am having one of those moments right now.  and while i would love for the whole world to know, i'm afraid of heights and my rooftop is pretty icy right now, so i will settle for my virtual rooftop right here.  (plus, people would probably think i was crazy if i was shouting things from my roof and yell inappropriate things back at me, better yet, in my neighborhood they would just turn off their hearing aids, and i would be yelling to deaf ears and just get really cold.)

so i shall take my place on my virtual rooftop here, coming out of my unintentional blogging hiatus, to tell you, rather shout to you,


people, i am so darn proud of this man!  today at church they had a surprise planned for him and for the last few days, it has been driving him crazy not knowing what was going on.  i also did not know, though probably for good reason because if i knew, he would inevitably find out.  we kind of have this thing, "if you don't want our spouse to know, don't tell us."  while secretly he was planning his acceptance speech for when they offered him full time employment in a huge celebration in front of the church, i suggested that perhaps he should not set his expectations too high, you know, just in case.  so we joked about all the things it could be, "here's a set of keys to your new children's ministry trailer..." (as we are a mobile church), "surprise, you're preaching today...", and from a dream he had about it "we have cooked up a feast for you to eat in front of the whole church, dig in...."  whatever it was they had planned, we were just excited to find out!  

then last night as i sat on the exam table at express care and heard, "contagious for the next 24 hours after beginning meds" i immediately sent a text to mike saying no church tomorrow with an obligatory super sad emoji face.  but we decided if i snuck in the back just for the presentation, i wouldn't be harming anyone.  no matter what it was, even if they just smacked him on the back and said, "good job", i was going to be there.  i may not always be the best wife in the whole world, but i do not miss an opportunity to gush over my husband.

and gush i did! as i stood in the back and they brought him to the stage, my heart swelled with pride.  that's my man, my baby's daddy! oh how i wanted to scream so loud so he could hear me, but the pain in my throat just wouldn't allow it.  i wanted him to know i was there, and i would always be his loudest, proudest and most adoring fan!  they honored him today with a certificate of ministry excellence and explained how proud they are to call him our church's children's ministry director, to express gratitude for the work he does each and every sunday to make our children's ministry a place they feel honored to send their children each week.  

as i stood there listening to the words spoken about my husband, i thought, you know, he truly is a great man.  i thought about a bumper sticker we saw yesterday that said, "my son is a fire rescue emt. he saves lives. what does your son do?"  mike's mom then asked him what her bumper sticker would say.  he said, "i write newspaper articles".  but i was thinking, no, your son saves too. (or at least plays a part because only Jesus saves)  before i could correct him, he realized the error in his statement and said he does in fact help save lives too. he is a children's ministry director.  his mom replied, "but that guy is an emt"  to which i responded, "there won't be fire rescue in hell."  now, i was kidding....mostly....i'm really not a fire and brimstone kind of girl.  but if we're talking eternity, i'd just love to know that the kids we work with each sunday will be dancing with Jesus someday, whenever that day comes, and to me, that's just way more important.  

but here's a man whose heart's desire right now is to be a full time children's ministry director.  if you are not familiar, people in ministry do not make a lot of money, nor are they compensated for the amount of time they pour into their job on a daily basis.  full time ministry is really full time.  it's messy and exhausting and just plain hard.  but it is also the most rewarding and encouraging gift one will ever know.  and my husband wants nothing more than to dive right in, and i love him for it.  

it's kind of a running joke around our church that whenever he talks in front of people, whether it be the congregation or just a small group of new people checking out the church, he cries when he explains his role at the church or talks about children's ministry.  it's his thing because he is so incredibly passionate about what he does.  i have never seen him more passionate about anything besides eli and i.  he loves Jesus and he loves kids and his passion is too instill a love for Jesus in those kids.  and when you see him with those kids, loving on them and interacting with them, you just know.  you just know that this is exactly what he was made to do.  

and on that day, when he gets "the call" the big one, you better believe there's gonna be a party up in here!  (he has mentioned running up and down the streets naked, screaming, but don't worry folks, i won't let him get too carried away.  probably wouldn't look too good for the cm director of a local church to be found naked on the streets!)  there will be lots of tears though. lots.  

so i'm thinking of creating a new bumper sticker.......

i'm kidding....mostly. no, totally kidding.  i'm not into bumper stickers.  and you're husband, if you have one, is probably super cool, and you should most definitely be proud of him.  you can have my spot on the roof if you'd like.