Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Goodnight Story

For us, it's late.  We are not night owls by nature.  Josh gets up at four in the morning for work.  I get up in the night with a nursing baby. So sleep is all we want come nine o'clock.  And yet we seem to have a few children born to stay up late.

They seem to have a lot to say when all I want to say is "Goodnight, I love you" and turn the light off.

They have stories to tell, ideas to share, questions to ask.  Requests for water or the blanket left downstairs.  Sometimes I feel so bone-weary I just want to cry.  Sometimes I just want a few precious moments to myself and I don't think I can take any more talking, any more needing me.

There are nights like tonight when I get the baby to sleep, nursing as I watch an episode of Reading Rainbow with the older kids.  The oldest goes to bed with a request to turn his light off.  Brown-Eyed Girl goes to bed surprisingly easy.  But Petite has tears in her eyes. She's wants to color, to draw, to do  anything but turn the lights off and go to sleep.  And I'm so tired, I'm so in need of a few moments to myself.  But she snuggles up to me and I know that she needs me.  My little one who seems to get left behind so often.

So I lay the baby in his crib.  I choose a few stories to read.  And we snuggle up together and share the familiar stories.  I see her grin and hear her laugh as I read Kitten's First Full Moon.  After MamaDo You Love Me? she asks "Is that how much you love me?"  She asks for more.  One more, I say.

Two more?  she counters.

Just one.

She brings back two, saying she can't choose between Goodnight Gorilla and Merry Christmas, Stinky Face.  I give in and read both.

I think of how this is the second copy of Goodnight Gorilla we have had. It's always been one of her favorites.  I can't remember now if one copy was lost or destroyed, but I remember finding a replacement at Goodwill at just the right time.  And she still loves it.  She still grins.  She still loves to see the animals following the zookeeper to his house and up to his room to go to bed.

I am tired.  But so thankful God gave me the grace, the nudge, the last bits of energy to grab a few books off the shelf and spend these moments with my little girl.  I think that these are moments she will remember, maybe not specifically, but generally, someday, remembering how mama always read to her.  How she might be in Goodwill herself someday and come across a copy of Goodnight Gorilla and grin as she thumbs through it, remembering all the times we read it, knowing it by heart.

And I think that I made a lot of mistakes today as a mom.  But that this wasn't one of them.

Goodnight, sweet girl.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Dear Homeschool Mom:Your Kids DON'T Hate You

Dear Homeschool Mom,

I know it seems like it to you (it sure does feel like it to me), but your kids don't hate you.  They roll their eyes, yes.  They moan and groan, yes, yes.  They don't even try to hide the fact that they hate this school thing you do.

But they don't hate you.

They just don't get it.  They are young, immature, and primarily concerned with having fun, so they don't get how important all this school work is.  They have no idea how useful it will be to know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide some day.  They have no clue the great treasure  there is in knowing the story of this world or what makes things work in this world.  Even if they secretly enjoying learning history and science, ask them to write a sentence about it, and the sighs and complaining begin.

You may try to deal with this through discipline. Be like me and withhold use of electronic devices.  Or settle it in your mind that this is the way it is.

And don't take it personally.  They don't hate you.

They hate what you are making them do.  They resent the work they have to do, cause, hey, it's hard.  It interferes with all the free Lego play and conquering the next level of whatever the latest video game is.  It mean less time on Mindcraft.  It interrupts the reading of the book they can't put down for the book they loathe.  In short,  you are trying to teach them to deny themselves. To prioritize responsibilities.  To learn early on the value of hard work.

And they haven't learned any of this yet.

But they love you. They love that you make them dinner  and drag them into the living room to hear another chapter of a great story.  They love that you are there to drag their butts out of bed in the morning.  They love you even when you get cranky and frustrated and want to quit.  They love you when you have to remind them again to do their chores.

They just don't like what they have to do.

It's so very hard feeling like they hate you. It's so very hard to be the "bad guy".  I know you dream of just having fun with your kids and you might even think that would make your home the happiest place on earth.  No chores, no school work, no responsibilities.  Just letting everyone do what they want to do.  Maybe it seems to work for some of your homeschool friends.  Maybe it seems like other families are happier. And other kids don't hate their parents.

But they all have their moments.

You need to remember your moments.  The precious ones.  When the kids beg for another chapter.


When the big kiddo helps the little kiddo. When your girls get along and your son rocks the baby to sleep for you.   When they say "thank you" for taking them to McDonalds. When they come up and put their arms around you for no reason.  When they plant a kiss on your cheek and say "I love you mom".  All the times they don't put up a fight.  There are lots of precious moments.  Don't let the Jonah days get you down, Mom.

They love you.  Someday they might even thank you for making them do all this hard work.  Until then, love them dearly.  Be the one to apologize. Be the one to give the hug that bridges the gap. Be the one to remind them you think the world of them.  Let them have hot cocoa right before dinner.  Talk to them about something other than what they should be doing. Don't forget they are your children and not your students.  

Agape love is doing what is best for the person who is being loved, even if it doesn't seem best to them. All this work seems miserable to your kids, but don't let that deter you.  It is an expression of your love to teach them.  

Remember that they need you to be tender and tough.

And remember that they love you.

Now go give them a hug.



Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Small Days

I have just a few minutes as I sit on the deck with my coffee.  School is done.  I am tired. We are all grateful for a break.  I escape outside, to this fall-ish day, already cool with a hint of crispness.  The leaves are still green but soon it will be a colorful wonderland back here.

I am thankful.

Thankful for these few small minutes.

I pray the baby doesn't wake up. He doesn't like to sleep much during the day, but oh when he does... it's just a little bit of heaven.  We adore him, of course, but we all appreciate a little nap.

The introvert in me needs these small moments.  As I sit out here, I pray. I thank God for this day, because if I don't, it all seems like a crazy mess.  But when I do, it all seems just as it should be.  I pray for my best friend. For Pastor Saeed and his family.  For my baby. For my Petite who I feel is getting lost in the busyness of our days.  I pray for our upcoming trip. The flying, oh how I hate it. And I'm leaving my three oldest babies behind.

I tear up when I think of it.

I see a wispy little cloud float by.

And I think of how these are the days of small things.  Small moments like this when I get a chance to think, to breath, to savor a moment with my Savior.  Small moments of remembering that this is life and it is good.  Small moments in the midst of small things.

Nursing a baby.  Wiping the counters.  Reading lessons.  Making dinner, again.  Dust flying. Fingerprints on my mirror.  Half-eaten cookies on the table.  Floors that need to be swept and that rarely get mopped.

These are just little things I do, day in and day out.

I remember the days of big things.  Like planning our wedding.  And starting a Bible study in our home.  Of selling our house and settling into our new one.  Of special vacations.  I remember the days of our babies coming into the world and God's fingerprints over every single moment.  And the day I met my best friend who was brought to me by Him.

Those days and seasons when the Lord showed up in a big way.

But I find most days are like this.  Just little moments that require me to look harder to see that He is here.

That's why I need my coffee on the deck.  And that blessed hour after everyone has gone to bed.  And as many minutes as I can grab first thing in the morning with  my Bible and my journal.

To thank God for these small things.  And to be reminded that small doesn't equal unimportant.  These days matter, just as our youngest family member matters.  These days of throwing in wood, changing diapers, flushing toilets for those who forget, matching up socks,turning off the lights that always get left on, and reading books aloud, are no less significant than the wedding days, the birthdays, the holy days.

"Do not despise these small beginnings, because the LORD rejoices to see the work begin..."
Zechariah 4:10

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Planned and the Unplanned

I am staring at the sweetest little thing I know.  My darling baby boy, who will be five months old tomorrow.  These are precious days.  I am thankful for all the milestones he hits, like rolling over and laughing, but it is bittersweet because it means he is growing up oh so quickly.

Perhaps it is this little guy, his life, that is waking me up to the issues going on right now with Planned Parenthood.  See, I have always been pro-life.  I was raised that way.  I never doubted it was wrong to kill a baby in the womb.  I never doubted that, even as a "blob of tissue", it was alive.  And that it was created by God.  I have not always been a devout follower of God. Far from it.  But I always believed in letting life live.

I remember in my younger years, wrestling with so-called Christian views of what it means to be a woman.  It seemed so gross, so derogatory, things like submission and women not allowed to lead in the Church.  And it seemed like the world was so hostile to women, with its wage inequality, and images of beauty which produced vicious results in young girls and women.  Young and immature, not really knowing the extent of the term, I considered myself a feminist.  My freshman year of high school, in English class, this issue of abortion came up and I stood up for life.  A female classmate was appalled.  "Stephanie, I thought your were a feminist!" (oh, doesn't that sound silly now, between fourteen-year-old girls?).  My response," I am.  But abortion is murder."  I wasn't afraid to speak the truth back then.

And I'm a little ashamed that I haven't been speaking the truth, out loud, for anyone to hear, as an adult.

Yes, of course, I am still pro-life.  But I have let fear of man hold me back. I've let this become a complicated issue, when essentially, it isn't.  And I have silenced myself.  While many issues swirl around abortion, things like reproductive health and access to birth control and life of the mother, etc, the bottom line is that abortion is murder. It is destroying life that is made in the image of God.

I watch my young son smile at us. He follows us with his eyes. He thrives on our affection and attention. He laughs at us.  He longs to be held.  He knows instinctively how to suck to get nourishment, even fresh from the womb.  He has an emerging personality (extrovert, we think).  He is just so very precious to us and it is breaking my heart to think of the millions, yes millions, of children that have not been given the chance to live.

And let me be honest.  I have had an unexpected, and even unwanted, pregnancy.  The summer we were preparing to move, I was surprised by feelings of morning sickness and the smell of everything curdling my stomach.  A very familiar feeling.  I bought a Dollar Tree pregnancy test which confirmed my worst fear- yes, fear.  I had been married for 11 years, had three children, thought our family was complete, and was devastated to see two pink lines appear on that test stick.

I did not want any more children.

I didn't know how on earth I was going to handle having a new baby without the support of my friends and family in Lincoln.  We were moving to a new town, Josh was starting a new job, we hadn't sold our house yet.  This was terrible,  horrible timing.  I cried my eyes out when I told Josh I was pregnant. I felt numb when he prayed for our unborn baby that night.  I had absolutely no happy, joyful feelings about having another child.

So I understand, maybe just a little, about how it feels to be confronted with an unexpected pregnancy.  I understand how it feels to wish it wasn't so, to feel stuck with a circumstance I couldn't change.

Only, there is that option, that choice to change the circumstance of an unwanted pregnancy.  It is all too easy to find a local Planned Parenthood, or another women's clinic, and take care of this problem.

To be sure, having a baby is HUGE.  Pregnancy is not always glorious.  Infants are not always calm and easy going.  Neither are toddlers, tweens, or teenagers.  Children are not cheap to raise.  They change our plans, interrupt our nights, they  require massive change on the part of the mother (and involved father).  It is no light thing to carry life and then raise it.  And it's not just irresponsible women who find themselves pregnant without planning it.

But what I knew, is that my child was alive. I couldn't feel him or her yet. I hadn't seen an ultrasound picture. But I knew it was life.  And that while this life was interrupting my life, I would, eventually, love this child.

I realize not every woman who finds herself pregnant unexpectedly seems "qualified" to raise a child.  We have an overflowing foster care system because so many men and women are not able or unselfish enough to raise a child in a healthy, safe way.  I realize the teenage pregnancy rates are high and that high school and even college will be interrupted if they have a baby, even if they don't keep it.  I am not ignorant to how difficult it is to carry a life and raise it!  But none of that means it is okay to destroy a life.

Today, I reject what is commonly referred to as the feminist movement, because, honestly, it has served women so ill.  I reject the idea that  Christianity has a subservient view of women.  Perhaps religion does, but Jesus Christ does not.  Over and over again in the gospels, I read how Jesus set women free.  Women who were being used by men.  Women who were prostitutes, illegitimate, in poverty and medical distress.  He set them free!  He memorialized some of them! And this is where modern day feminism has it so wrong.

Abortion doesn't set a woman free.  It sounds so good, the ability to get rid of an unexpected pregnancy and all the complications it will bring. But it's a lie.  It's a sorrow women carry, sometimes their whole lives, because they know, yes they know, that this is life.

I have always been so confused about this.  If a woman wants her baby, it is fully alive from the very start. If she doesn't, it is merely tissue, a blob that can be disposed of.  Surely, if Planned Parenthood is selling body parts, doesn't that imply that there is a body, and if a body, a person?  And as a woman who believes we are created beings, not objects of random chance, I also believe that our bodies have souls.  And to kill a body is to kill a soul.

I know there are gazillions of arguments surrounding abortion.  I know it doesn't seem as easy as making it illegal, and I would agree with that.  Making abortion illegal would not end the practice.  It wouldn't change the hearts and minds or the behavior of anyone.  It wouldn't keep a woman from an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy.  It wouldn't solve all her problems.

But I also know that abortion only causes greater problems and does absolutely nothing to truly set a woman at liberty.  Abortion, itself, is a grave injustice toward women.  That there is nothing better to offer a woman who is pregnant and doesn't want to be than an abortion is a disgrace.

The truth is, there are other options.

Back to my story.

It didn't end well.

I carried my unexpected baby for twelve weeks and then had a miscarriage.  I had a miscarriage many years before that, yet very early on, but this one was so much worse.  Even though I had not fully embraced the idea of having another baby, even though I wasn't emotionally attached to that baby, losing it was a devastating process. It may sound crude, but it felt like I was delivering my baby in a toilet.  It was so, so wrong.  And yet, it was "spontaneous", as the doctors describe miscarriage.

I can only imagine how much more wrong it is to deliver your child at twelve weeks on purpose.  Planned.  Sold a lie that it will lead to freedom.

If we want to talk women's liberation, then abortion as the first prescription for pregnancy needs to end.  The alternatives may not be easy, but they will protect babies AND women far better. I don't have all the answers.

Yes, crisis pregnancy centers.

Yes, birth control.

Yes, caring for women in marginalized areas.

Yes, sex education.

Yes, it's going to take money.  Tax money, private money.

Yes, Church, wake up and reach out and dig in your pockets and adopt and foster and love like crazy.

Yes, support life after birth as well (education, food programs, child care, etc.).

My story of babies and pregnancy doesn't end with that miscarriage four years ago.  As I said, today I have a five-month-old baby boy who is an absolute delight to our family.  He has taken over our life.  He wants to be held at inconvenient moments, he wants to nurse all the live long day.  But he just loves to smile at us, and be loved by us. He brightens our home in the most incredible ways.  My children are experiencing the gift of life through this child.  They felt him moving in my womb. They saw his pictures while he was still in the secret place.  Their young hearts and minds knew this thing inside of me was fully alive. And they were fascinated.

How heart breaking to me that the fascination of bringing life into the world, one of the very things that  make us as women so very feminine, is so long gone in our culture. While surely women are made for more than bearing children, we were never, ever made for abortion.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ducks Out of Row, Trying to Go With the Flow

This morning I made a list of twenty things I wanted to get done today.  Yes, twenty things.

Blogging wasn't one of them, but here I am.

Vacation is over. Well, our week away full of late nights and fun to the max is over.  And my hubs is back to work (thanks for that, Babe!).  And that means I have a very, very messy house. How is that possible when you've been away for a week?  I don't know, but it is.  And hence, my list of twenty things, which could easily be fifty.

But I'm devouring a salad and trying to type at the same time.

Truth is, I'm a little overwhelmed by my kitchen and the inability to get it cleaned up.  The same is true of the living room and the dining room (which still has blue painter's tape on the walls).  Goodness, I'll just admit I'm overwhelmed by  this whole house.  I can't get a thing done, or when I do, it quickly gets undone.  My list of twenty things includes tiny, minuscule items like marinating the roast for tomorrow night.  Things like using up the leftover frosting from the Fourth of July cupcakes and reading aloud to the kids.  Little things to check off to make me feel like I got something done today.  Because I sense that even when the lights go out tonight, the kitchen will still be a wreck.

I know in the grand scheme, these things don't matter.  But I am Ducks-in-a-Row Mama.  I make my lists and I check them so much more than twice. I like order, predictability, and clean countertops.

Why then, four children?

Why then, do I homeschool?

Because I've come to this place- wait, I'm still on a journey to this place- called Surrender.  My life isn't my own.  It's God's. And He has a plan for it that will stretch me and make me need Him like no one else.  Four kids is part of it. Homeschooling is part of it.  And apparently, all my ducks out of order is part of it, too.

And all the crumbs, lest we forget.

I think my lists are something the Lord smiles at. After all, He made me this way.  An ISTJ, according to Meyers-Briggs.  I think my lists are part of my way of bringing glory to Him, just like this unexpected blog post.

But I think He smiled a little bigger when I put everything aside and sat at the kitchen table with Petite today. I had to stack up the laundry that was covering it and move aside a pile of coloring papers.  I had to dig out some of my scrapbooking supplies.  And together we made a birthday countdown chart so that she will know exactly when her big day is.  We put Sleeping Beauty stickers on it and of course the paper was pink.  It wasn't on my list, but it was important.

I don't think I will ever be Go-With-the-Flow Mama.  But I hope that I learn more and more to take a time-out from my schedules and lists and let the frustration over the messy house go.... and just enjoy this very, very short season.

Of four kids.

And homeschool.

And everybody interrupting everybody at the dinner table.

It is all good, if not orderly.

There will be other days for order.

Monday, June 22, 2015

June 22, 2013

My sweet little promised one.

Two years ago, God whispered a promise in my ear as I read 2 Kings 4.

"About this time next year... you will hold a son in your arms." vs 16

This sounds sort of mystic, perhaps, or maybe you know just what I am talking about. When God speaks to you.

In this verse, the prophet Elisha is speaking to a woman from Shunam.  She and her husband had built a little apartment for him to stay in when he was travelling through and he wanted to do something kind for her in return. She asked for nothing, but Elisha's servant mentioned that she had no children.  And no doubt the Lord told Elisha, I'm going to give her a son.  Tell her.

A couple thousands of years later, God's Word spoke the same promise to me.  Like the Shunamite woman, who said "Don't mislead your servant, O man of God!", I wondered for over a year if the Lord really had promised me this.

I had decided to leave it in my husband's hands, for one. I prayed that if this was true, he would be the one to say, "Hey girl, let's have a baby."  I tentatively broached the subject maybe twice, but got very little feedback from him.  So I let it go. 

And I wondered if I was just being a little emotional about this whole promise.

Because just a month before the Lord even spoke these words to me, I really had no desire for another child.  We had lost a baby at 12 weeks in late summer of 2011.  That baby was a complete surprise, coming at an extremely difficult time for us as we were in limbo waiting for our house to sell so the whole family could move to be with Josh near his new job.  The loss was very difficult physically and emotionally, and I vowed I would never ever go through it again.  We both felt our family was complete.

But at a ladies retreat that year, the Lord began to stir things up in me.  At first, I just surrendered and said "Okay, Lord, if you want us to have another child, I will. But I don't want any more."  Within a week, everything I was reading, circumstances around me, so many things were softening my heart and making me say "Yes, Lord, I do want another child."

 I remember thinking "But we don't even  have the crib anymore!  All our baby stuff is gone!" And thinking we so didn't have a plan!  But also thinking, who cares?  

Last spring, I started running outside.  I would pray and dream for this baby. I would doubt that I really heard God right. But deep inside I knew I had.

So strong on my heart was this truth: that the only thing we could possibly carry into the next life with us is our children. Everything else would be left behind. And Josh agreed.  And then... we got pregnant.

I look at this little boy of ours, the son God promised me two years ago today, and I am just blown away that He speaks to us.  And that He puts desires in our heart and then fulfills them.  I am reminded how personal He is.  And this promise fulfilled gives me hope that the others not yet fulfilled... one day will be.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

These Are My People

My little family of six, we sit in the back row.

No pews here, just chairs linked together, sitting on a concrete floor.

This is where the shy folks tend to sit. The visitors, or the ones who aren't quite sure they belong.  The ones who want to escape out the door as soon as the last song is sung.

But my people are fidgety and they whisper and they often have deep thoughts to share (about Minecraft or Pokemon) just as soon as you raise your hand in worship.

They can be distracting, so we sit in the back row.

Our church doesn't look much like a church.  It's a building with fake windows and a log cabin with bathrooms.  There is no steeple. No bell.  It's not even white.

But here my people meet.

This week we had visitors. They sat in the front row.  Some of them were up on the stage leading us in song.  We sang words like "I need you Lord"  and "I want to be like a tree planted by the living water".  I had tears in my eyes.

My son asked me if I was crying and I nodded slightly.  He was very concerned and he wondered why.  I shrugged it off.  I assured him I wasn't sad.

Several of our visitors shared with us their story.  The young lady leading our worship, she said she was so broken, even doctors didn't think she could be fixed.  Another young lady, a local girl, the daughter of one of our church family, she told us how she decided to stop trying to please everybody and she descended to the pits of hell using alcohol and drugs.  The man who taught us from the Scriptures out of Mark 4, he was from Jersey. We knew it before he even told us.  Yeah, he had that accent.  He told us about all the crazy stuff doctors and experts and other people trying to help had him do to try to cure him of his addiction to dope and not one of them worked.

The turning point in each of these people's lives was Jesus.

Yeah, these are my people.

In that room were addicts, prostitutes, murderers, thieves.  Sinners and saints, every single one of us.  There's not one of us that hasn't done something that we're ashamed of, something so bad we don't want anyone to know.

But we sing of our redemption- how the terrible things we've done have been forgiven.

And that's why the tears are in my eyes.

Because I sometimes, often, forget the depth of the pit I was pulled out of.  I become a stone-thrower instead of grace-giver.  But that morning I remember.

These visitors up front, they remember.  They know how terrible they were, how messed up their lives were.  And now they sing of the mercies of the Lord, who wiped the slate clean and made them a new creation.

These are my people.

We call ourselves Christians. Not because we are perfect, but because we are so very messed up.  But we have been made a completely new person in Christ. So we bear His name.

What a bad deal for Him, I think sometimes, to have us  representing someone so perfectly lovely.  Because even as Christians, we mess up big time. We don't always reflect His loving heart and His grace-filled life.

 We are liars, thieves, murderers, addicts, prostitutes, immoral,  but He calls us His own.

We are HIS people.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Wear It On Your Sleeve

It's one of those days when I have a lot to say. A lot to get off my chest.  That's why I write. I have this NEED to  get things out, and until I write them out, I still carry them around, like burdens.

I want to write a break-up letter to Facebook. You know, the kind you write, but never send, cause you're just not ready to do the damage yet.

I want to address all the frustrations of postpartum dressing.   Nothing fits, on top or on bottom.

Goodness, I want to address all the frustrations of the postpartum period... period!  Hot flashes, night sweats, leaking, birth control, calories, sleepless nights, emotional roller coaster rides.

Weariness. Physically and emotionally.

I'm not quite sure what this post will become, but this is what is mainly on my heart:

We need to be real.

I don't believe in covering up the truth with made-up happiness and plastered on smiles.

Why is it that we feel the need to do that? To pretend everything is okay when it isn't? Even if it's a small thing that isn't right (like pants that are too tight?), why are we so afraid to confess it?

For my own part, it's because I don't want to be a complainer.  The last thing I want to do, in the precious days following the birth of a sweet child, is to be complaining about all that goes along with it.  I didn't want to complain my way through the discomforts of pregnancy, either.

But isn't it okay to talk about the realities of these things? Like varicose veins, leaky breasts, and the worst part of having a newborn, which is worrying about getting pregnant again.

Words have a spirit in which they are said.  And therefore, they are received according to their spirit, not so much the words.  I'm no fan of complainers. Lord knows part of my reason for wanting to break up with Facebook has to do with the complainers. I want to start a campaign called "Can't We Just Keep Facebook Fun?"  But at the same time, there is a spirit in which we can speak the hard things and be real, without being a complainer.

We just had Easter Sunday at church, and part of my role is making sure our children's ministry is staffed and running smoothly.  Easter Sunday can be a hard time to serve, for many reasons, but often because it is THE Christian Holy Day and we all want to be in the service, partaking with others in the celebration of the resurrection of Christ.  Serving in children's ministry can feel isolated and lonely and maybe even anti-climatic for such a special day. And I fully understand this.  A sweet mom, who was scheduled to serve, confessed these things to me. And later wrote me an apology for complaining.

Her words were not in the complaining spirit at all. They were just real, flowing from a heart that was weary and a little sad and lots of other real things. But not complaining.

There are those whose default is negativity and complaining.  They don't even realize it, I think. But then there are those who will never admit their struggles, pains, sorrows, and daily realities because they are afraid it will drive people away or that they will be judged.

I have made no secret about the difficulties I have experienced since we moved over three and a half years ago.  I don't pretend, nor will I, that I am perfectly happy where we are and with what is on our plate right now.  Yet, I don't dwell on these things continually and I try to check my heart to make sure I'm not complaining.

I am extremely uncomfortable with people who are always positive, whose lives are always wonderful, who will never tell you the hard things they are going through, or ask for prayer.  I can't live up to that.  Frankly, I am desperate. Every. Single. Day.

I don't want to dwell on the difficulties, but I don't want to dismiss them either.

I have many incredible joys in my life right now. And many struggles too.  I want to write about them all, and I probably will, but some of those will be the things that don't get published.  Not everything needs to be shared.

But the things I do share, even if if they seem wrong to you or you disagree (no comments on birth control, k?  I've told you nothing.) just be gentle. Just listen.  Just realize I am a REAL person who is not perfect and not a clone of you.  Or stop reading my blog (smile).

And please feel free to be real with me.  No, I don't want to listen to your laundry list of complaints and injustices, but I do want to listen to your heart.  Wear it on your sleeve.

You're prettier when you do.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Story Isn't Over Yet

"It's Friday... But Sunday's coming!"

The message of the past two years of my life has been "The story isn't over yet."

Maybe this has been the message for *all* of my life.  Because how many times have I thought I'd come to the end?

Thinking nothing good was ever going to happen again.

The present so dismal and dark that the light of the of the future just couldn't penetrate.

I'm so serious, that way.  I always have been this way.  I don't see the world with rose-colored glasses and I sure wish I could.

It's been job losses and baby losses.  It's been Wall Street failing and the outcome of elections.  It's been having babies and raising babies.  It's been standing still and it's been moving.

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about the depression (and I hate to admit that's what it was) that I had been in since we moved three and half years ago.  I was at the place of dreading each day, waking up to the same discouraging circumstances, the same loneliness, the same old story.  And I wrote about how I decided it was time to live again.

And the Lord was whispering "The story isn't over yet, girl." (And HE is the only one who can call me "girl". Cause he says it with such love and sweetness.)

And my story wasn't over yet. It isn't over yet. Why, we've just had a baby, so hasn't it, in some ways, just begun again?

But this week, as I have sat on my bed pondering, and as I have sat on my nursing couch, mulling, again, this voice, that lying voice, whispers, "This is it.  There is no more.  Things will never change."

And I wanted to cry.  Such a heaviness on my heart when I listened to that voice.  But thank God, I've got HIS voice.  It straightens things out, it makes all things new.

In my heart, maybe not even in my head, I think I asked God for the truth.  And this is what He said. And, oh, He is the sweetest.

"Remember not the former things;
nor consider the things of old.
BEHOLD, I am doing a NEW thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert."
Isaiah 43:18 and 19

I came bounding down the stairs, thinking these words, this promise, over, and He said it again.

"The story isn't over yet."

And isn't that the message of Easter?

Think of it.  The disciples, they have lost their Teacher, Master, the one they dared to believe was Messiah.  The women, they have lost their Hero, their tender Rabboni.  All they had dared to hope in Him, and believe about Him, all the love in their hearts for Him, and He was now dead. In the tomb.  No doubt about it, cause they watched him beaten and literally torn apart. They watched him dragged off the cross and tossed into the cave haphazardly,  They saw the stone no one could move rolled into its place, sealing the grave.

It was over.

The two men on the way to Emmaus from Jerusalem, they just trudged along despondently.  Along came another traveller who asked why they were so sad.  "We had hoped he was the one..." they said.

And Peter and Andrew, James and John, what else was there to do but go back to their fishing gig?  The one they had given the last three years of their lives too, he was gone.  Dead.

 It was over.

No hope for tomorrow.

But the traveller on the road to Emmaus was Jesus, come back from the dead.

The one calling to the fishermen from the shore was Jesus,  risen from the grave.

He showed his hands and his feet.  Yes, that part of the story had been real,  But so was this.  He was alive!  Death could not hold him down.  There was no power stronger than him.

And there is much more to the story.  The book of Acts, the story of the disciples afterward, that is only the beginning!

What it is I long for in the pages of my life, I cannot even say.  All I know is, my heart cries for "More!" and it has pleaded for this for so long, and the promises seem so far off at times, that I despair.  But then Jesus appears to me and renews my hope.

"The story isn't over yet, girl."

There is this old hymn I used to love to sing in my growing-up days.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future.
Life is worth the living just because He lives.

This is the Easter story. HE LIVES!

And because HE LIVES, though there is death and sorrow, there is also life and joy.  And so long as I live, there is a story unfolding.  It is not over, nor will it be, until my own glorious resurrection, from earth to heaven.

And even then, my story just begins.

"May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." Romans 15:13

Happy Easter!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Setting Apart and Celebrating

Yesterday, Brown-Eyed Girl asked me why I don't like to celebrate Easter.

What she was really asking, was why I didn't want to have an Easter party at our homeschool co-op.  We had a Christmas party and a Valentine's Day party, why not an Easter party?

It was Palm Sunday yesterday, the beginning of what I call Holy Week.  I explained to her my thoughts and feelings about this precious time of year. The sacredness of the days leading up to Easter Sunday, in which I like to follow Jesus on his path to the cross. And lay aside other things in order to truly seek him and realize afresh what his death means.  It is a Holy-Day, a holiday in the truest sense.  A time to set apart.

But shouldn't we celebrate Jesus dying for out sins? She asked

Oh, we will celebrate! I assured her.  We will celebrate Jesus being resurrected from the dead on Easter Sunday!  That is a day of celebration!  But this week, we will follow him to the cross.

Growing up, Easter was a really big deal. At least to my little girl heart.  Yes, it was exciting to get new Easter clothes ( a dress made by mom,  new shoes, socks with lace trim or tights that weren't an inch thick).  My brother and I set out Easter baskets that were filled by the  Easter bunny. We would wake up to discover candy hidden around the house or come home from church to an egg hunt.  But it wasn't just these things that made Easter a big deal.  I don't think I realized it, but as a girl, I loved hearing the message of the resurrection on Easter Sunday.  It was the one sermon of the year when I clung to every word of the pastor.  He would always bring out the big guns, so to speak, and the message of Jesus dying for my sins, and then coming back to life, always gave me tingles, from my head to my toes, and left me in awe and wonder.

We make the traditional hot cross buns on Good Friday... but no currents in ours.  Often, it's chocolate chips!
There were the Sunrise Services. The church breakfasts.  The special Easter cantata sung by the choir. The hymns about Jesus being alive.

There was a time when I rejected all the Church-y things in my life, beginning in high school. But even then, I loved Easter Sunday.  It would tug on my heart to come back to the cross.  And finally, it was an Easter Sunday, in1999, that I did come back to the cross, lay my burden of sin down, and began walking a new path, the one that followed hard (yet imperfectly) after Jesus.

This time of year has deep meaning for me.  When Lent comes around, I long to mark it with significance.  Not necessarily by giving something up, but by focusing those forty days on Christ in one way or another.  There is no mention of Lent in my church or from most of my friends.  A few people I know participate, but typically by giving up chocolate or coffee or the funny papers.  We don't wave palm branches on Palm Sunday.  We don't have Maundy-Thursday services to remember the Last Supper.  We don't go to a Good Friday event.  Even Easter often seems like just another Sunday.  I often feel that in our rejection of Church tradition, we have lost some things that are rich and valuable.

Passover lap books from 2014.

And so, as a wife and mother, I set apart Holy Week for my family.  We set aside the usual school work and do something special.  We follow the Scriptures from the Triumphal Entry to the Last Supper, the agony in the Garden, to the ascent up Calvary, to the sealed tomb, and to the empty tomb.  We make hot cross buns on Good Friday.  We take communion as a family.  We have driven nails into wooden crosses. We've washed each other's feet.  We have studied the Jew's Passover celebration and seen how it all points to Jesus, the Lamb of God who was slain for our sin.  This year we will read Dangerous Journey, Oliver Hunkin's version of Pilgrim's Progress for children.  I pray that my children will be enriched spiritually by this allegory of the Christian's journey to heaven.  And that I will be too.

We will eat ham.  I will hide plastic eggs filled with candy.  My children will have something new to wear.

Lil Miss Petite in her new Easter clothes 2013.

We make memories, we mark days, we day-by-day build a heritage that can't be fully seen as yet.

We set apart. And then we celebrate.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Postpartum Thoughts

It's been a long week.  And a whirlwind of a week.  Funny how that seems to happen with the best things in life.  Both fast and slow.

Pregnancy seemed so long.  I was happy to deliver Baby  B three weeks early, just to be done with the giant belly that prevented me from bending over, from sleeping, from normal digestion. And now, a week out of pregnancy and into being mama to a newborn, I think "It wasn't so bad." And it wasn't. But it does still seem long.

Here we are.  Healing from the c-section.  Still in various degrees of being sore.  Sweating profusely every night and waking up freezing (this is normal for me after giving birth).  Trying to find something that fits.  Sleeping like a rock- hallelujah!

It's been an emotional week.  Discouragement on day two because I felt so much discomfort.  Elation when my baby was sleeping skin-to-skin.  Crying and laughing at the same time on Monday night because the postpartum emotions were overflowing as wildly as my milk was coming in.  I have come to know it and expect it after four babies... and it makes everything feel like too much.  It is hilarious at the same time as it is real.

I've shed some tears this week.  I've got a five-year-old that has been just a wee bit naughty since baby brother came home.    I can't seem to follow a recipe anymore, as evidenced by two fails making pies for Pi  Day (3.14.15).  And one pie was a kit from a box.  My family went to church in a snowstorm without me and I cried, thinking they'd be killed in a car accident and that would be the end of our newly begun, precious family of six.

It may all be irrational, and that is to be expected.  I just had a baby, after all.  I am elated, on cloud-nine, blown away by the miracle of this little life entrusted to us.  And then hiding in my room, crying about something I saw on Facebook.  I've used nursing pads to wipe my tears.   I've laughed at my first "christening" by Baby B.  I've looked lovingly at the drawings stuck to the refrigerator and looked the other way at the Lego mess.

My first full day home, I wrote myself some reminders regarding this postpartum season, and I am publishing them here to re-remind myself of them.

-Be easy on yourself.

- This body will take time to heal and to recover.

- Don't worry about your size and weight and clothes right now.

-  But try to feel pretty.

-Take time off from all the "shoulds" and responsibilities.

- Take time to bond with each child.

-Take time to bond with Josh.

-Seek God everyday for even one verse to dwell on.

-It's okay to cry and be a ball of emotion.

- Anything outside your family doesn't matter right now.

-Take breaks.

-Don't multi-task too much.

-Eat to nourish your body; not to lose weight.  You and your baby need nutrition right now, not a diet.

-Say "yes" to any offers of help.

Pregnancy and the postpartum period are vulnerable times.  We tend to want to overlook that fact as a culture.  We want to be the Superwoman who leaves the hospital in her pre-pregnancy clothes.  We want to juggle the responsibilities of home, work, and a new baby without dropping the balls.  We want to look like we got a great  night sleep.  We want to resume all our previous commitments.  All of this is most likely because of the pressure we feel from the outside.

It's a time to rest and be taken care of, as long as anyone is offering.  And if no one is offering, it's time to put our feet up and take a nap with the baby on our chest, put in a tray of chicken nuggets and fries, and let the older kiddos watch a movie.

This time will fly by.  Superwoman can wait.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Welcome Baby B!

If you've been following along with the story of our "placenta previa" pregnancy, you can find the  blessed outcome here!

Monday, February 9, 2015


The other day I realized, with some surprise, that it was February. February!

What's so surprising about that? you may wonder.  

Usually, there is nothing surprising about February.

But it wasn't really February, the month, I was realizing.

It was the fact that we've made it this far!

We've made it to 33 weeks, and beyond, in relatively normal pregnancy fashion.

You see, back when I found out that I had placenta previa, and did some research on it, and got referred to an OB specialist, I really wondered how long we would go.  Without a serious bleeding incident.  Or before I was put on bed rest.  Or had to call the ambulance and spend a few nights in the hospital.

I thought for sure that by February, I would be on bed rest.  That I'd have to have someone near all time, just in case.

I figured I would be like a ticking time bomb, waiting to go off.

But it's February!  Just 25 days til the baby is delivered.  We've made it this far!

The planner (okay, control freak) in me stressed greatly over the whole third trimester before it even began. 

I wasn't sure what to do about the homeschool co-op, as I lead it and teach two classes.  I wasn't sure if we could proceed in the new semester.

I vowed not to lift anything heavy, including nursery kiddos at church.

I decided not to venture far from home, as it just wasn't safe.

I prayed a lot about how on earth to approach this precarious season in my life.  I didn't want to stand still, paralyzed by fear. But I also didn't want to over commit and over stress myself.

But then I realized, life just had to go on.  My doctor gave me no major restrictions regarding my activity level.  (My mom didn't want me to mop my floors before Christmas.  So I asked my doctor if it was okay.  He said normal, every day activities were just fine.)  I decided that I would proceed with life as normal, anticipating the best, but ready to make big modifications if I had to.

And here it is February. We're about to have our Valentine's Day party at co-op on Friday.  No bleeding.  No drama.

All I can say is, God is so good.

Because when I read the real-life stories of previa pregnancies, there is usually drama, sometimes even before the third trimester, and almost always when you hit 30 weeks.  Of course, every story is different, and I haven't read of one story not turning out well in the end, but we have made it further than most without incident.

And I'm so thankful.  And hopeful that we'll keep counting down, 25... 24... 23...22... all the way to B-day, when our baby boy will be born safe and sound.

It is so like me to want to stand still in fear.  To hold back based on the "what-ifs" in life.  But I'm learning to keep moving.  Even with the little things.  Even if I'm still afraid.

February might still hold some surprises... but each day is another day closer to March 6th!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Notes From a Not-So-Cute Pregnant Lady

At the start of this pregnancy, I had high ideals. I always do.

I was going to eat the Trim Healthy Mama way. (Essentially, no fat with carbs and always protein).

I was going to look cute. Every single day.  Do my hair. Do my make-up.  Wear something nice. Every. Single. Day.

I was going to savor every little moment of pregnancy.

I don't know how many days I went before reality set in.  Maybe I even went weeks.  My first trimester wasn't too exhausting.  I didn't gain very much weight, though my belly popped unexpectedly soon.  I was tan because it was summer.  I had been running and lifting weights, so my body felt strong and ready for this.

But I was ravenous, as I always am in the first trimester.  But then I'd eat and feel nauseous.  Everything I thought I wanted to eat, after I ate it... I never wanted to see it again.  I still feel that way about the Mexican place we ate.  At the time, it was great.  Now? Never again.

First trimester craving for Mexican food.  Oh those chile relanos were delish...  But how can I ever go back without flashbacks of early pregnancy nausea?

I wasn't exhausted, but I was tired by noon. And it hasn't let up, even now that I'm in my third trimester.

I'll be honest. I've got varicose veins.  First time ever.  I've got melasma (the mask of pregnancy)- dark circles under my eyes due to hormones.  I look exhausted and pale, even after applying foundation and bronzer.  My digestive system is whack.  Nuff said on that.

The truth is, there is no season quite like pregnancy to lose control.  My meaning is two-fold.  You'll have no choice, no control over so many things.  So you might as well give up control. Lose it.  Let it go.

I would never choose the things that are ailing me and disfiguring me.  I certainly wouldn't choose the placenta previa, the low amniotic fluid, the blood pressure that's higher than normal.  I wouldn't choose the c-section.

Even though I've made many wise choices this pregnancy regarding supplements I take, medications I don't take, foods I'm eating for nutritional quality, and getting enough rest, none of it has prevented the unwanted from happening.  To a very large degree, I am out of control.

And I have to make peace with that.

Having a "high risk" pregnancy is teaching me a lot.  I have moments of guilt that come out of nowhere- Did I do something that caused this?  Thankfully, I don't dwell on this as I know there isn't, but it makes me think of all the other women out there who have less-than-adorable pregnancies, or complicated pregnancies, that also feel the guilt.

The guilt of gaining "too much" weight.

Of getting gestational diabetes or preeclampsia.

The guilt of a possible birth "defect" that was detected via sonogram.

Guilt for the exhaustion. For wanting to just stay home in stretchy pants.

Or guilt for needing to get OUT, even if it is in stretchy pants.

Guilt for the roller coaster of emotions you take everyone in your home on.

I look at pictures of myself, even from those first weeks of pregnancy, and I think "I was so cute! I was so in shape! Now look at me!"  I feel giant. Inflated.  I've never been a skinny minnie, but compared to how big I feel now, I looked like a size 2 just a few short months ago!

But I can't live there. I can't dwell on that.  I've had three babies previously and I know... that body can come back.  Kinda. Sorta.

I hear tell that the nasty blue veins will diminish after the baby arrives.

I don't do bikinis, so a Cesarean scar is no big deal.  I hope. Right?

I want to tell all the pregnant girls, Chill! Let it go!  Don't let yourself go, but don't try to control. Stuff is going to happen that you don't like.  Accept it.  Make peace.  Focus on your health and baby's.

My very dear friend and I, due just a week apart!  We have been friends for over eleven years!  I joke that we are Elizabeth and Sarah from the Bible, two old ladies having babies.  I'd say we look a little tired, but we do have a certain glow as well.
Take a nap if you can.

Give in to that craving and for goodness sake, stop mentally calculating every calorie!

Moving, getting out, putting on some make up really will help you feel better.  But it only goes so far.

Embrace the growing belly and the stretchy pants that so comfortably enfold it!

Dream of how much better you'll feel postpartum, but enjoy this glorious process of creating life.  The hiccups (my babe's got em right now!).  The kicks.  The hard spot you can nudge and that responds by moving.

It is such a short, short season.   And I'll be you look a lot cuter than you think or feel.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

I've Got a Date

I am officially in my third trimester!

Every week of this pregnancy seems like a victory, and has that strange sensation of going both fast and slow at the same time.  I am in limbo- I want to enjoy the time remaining, but I am also anxious to make it safely- and without drama- to the finish line.

Today I had another doctor's appointment and another sonogram to check the location of that pesky placenta of mine.  I am almost 29 weeks gestation and it had been about seven weeks since my last ultrasound.  When we last checked, the placenta was fully centered over my os (the medical term for opening which sounds less revealing than the word "cervix".   When you're pregnant, it seems all things are a "go" to talk about.)  Today's appointment began with a sweet glucose cocktail that tasted like Hawaiian Punch and then another precious view of my baby.

First things first, the placenta hasn't moved a millimeter.  But it has grown incredibly in size. I was amazed, and alarmed, at how much bigger it is than when I last saw it.  I don't know why the size of it upset me, but I started to feel queasy and hot and out of breath. It was probably the glucose cocktail, combined with laying on my back for the ultrasound.  Thankfully the sonographer caught on and had me roll on my side.

 I admit, I really didn't expect that the placenta would move... nor do I think it will.  The sonographer said it looks like I am the less than 1% of cases when the placenta doesn't move.  It is a complete previa.  And again, that placenta is gigantic.  I'm reminded that with each of my three babies, I've had giant placentas (well nourished babies, my midwife always said).

So, even though I expected this news... and I've expected that this pregnancy will end in a c-section... I was disturbed by all this.  Partially, again, I wasn't feeling well from the glucose drink.  But then I heard the sonographer utter the word "acreta".  That's when the placenta attaches to your uterus. That's when they can't remove the placenta without removing the uterus.  That's when I start freaking out.

No, she wasn't saying I have this condition.  But she was looking for signs of it, admitting, however, that it is very hard to diagnose.  In my favor, I have never had a c-section or any other type of uterine surgery, so this makes my risk very low.

But I'll admit that things are feeling more real now.  I've been reading up, preparing myself for a c-section.  What it entails, what I can expect in recovery.  I don't like what I read.  But I like to be informed.  After gathering as much information as I could handle, I decided to switch gears and start planning for the positives: a new baby!  Gosh, I've had three of them before, but somehow I've forgotten what a baby needs.  Or maybe, after three, I realize how much they don't need.  I've been collecting onesies and gowns and jammies and diapers.  A sweet friends gave me lots of her little boy's outgrown baby clothes and blankies.  I bought an oversized purse at Goodwill to use as a diaper bag (I never used all those diaper bag pockets).  I've also been reading up on breastfeeding, something I truly love doing and something that cheers me right up when I think about this little guy arriving.

In the end, I pray for a healthy baby and to be in good enough medical condition to fully bond and adore on him after his birth.

Thankfully, he looks great big and healthy, just over three pounds thus far.  Because there is no way he can get out "naturally", his Birth Day is scheduled for March 6th, at 37 weeks gestation.  So I've got a date with the OR.  I'm praying he is in the seven pound range at delivery, but again, I just want us both healthy enough to love and snuggle unhindered.

I mentioned before that I didn't- and don't- expect the placenta to move. I've heard of placentas moving as late as 36 weeks, so it is a possibility. And I do not doubt for a moment that God can move it in an instant.  But I have also felt all along that this is a journey the Lord wants to walk us through.  Yes, the circumstances are becoming more real and the details more unpleasant, but what doesn't change is the peace I have.  I was talking to Josh about this on the way home.  If we never go through anything that challenges us or our faith... we are weak and often without compassion for others who are facing hard circumstances.  We may have a lot of words to offer, but little experience with God's faithfulness ourselves.

I would ask for your prayers for a few specifics:

That the baby won't arrive dramatically, before his scheduled delivery.  (After Josh told our doctor I was alarmed by the size of the placenta, he said it is actually a really good thing as it better distributes the weight of the baby over my cervix.  So this turned out to be good news.)

That he will be fully developed and able to breath on his own when he is born.

That my c-section will be undramatic, without the need for a blood transfusion or, worse, a hysterectomy (the bottom of the uterus does not contract on it's own, so excessive bleeding is not unlikely).

That I will recover well and be able to nurse and bond with baby soon after his arrival.

After all today's happenings, I got to have a lunch date with my husband at an Italian cafe my brother recommended.  I thumbed my nose at the glucose screening by getting a giant white chocolate and lemon bar.  I took a little nap once I got home.  I'm nursing a nasty sinus headache right now, but a lavender and eucalyptus steam bath helped a bit with that.  Now I'm going to stay up late with the kiddos on a school night and watch some silly Netflix as we all five snuggle together and keep warm on this cold winter's night.

We've got eight weeks to go til we meet this little guy!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Remembering 2014.. and So Excited for 2015!

2014 was the first year I ever had a "word".  You know, a word for the year. A word that is supposed to be the focus of or the goal for the year.  I didn't really mean to have a word, but as the new year rolled around, I sensed deeply that it was time to live again.

And so the word for 2104 was LIVE.

What do I mean by "live again"? It sounds slightly morbid, or like I went through a terrible ordeal that I needed to come back from.  It sounds... dramatic.

In truth, it's not so dramatic, it's just real.  At that point, we had been in our new house, our new town, at our new church for two years.  And it had been two years of misery for me (minus the six month honeymoon period- getting settled, unpacked, with notions in the back of my head that when all that was done, the reason why we came here would be waiting for us.)  It had been two years of tears, discouragement, despair,   I was starting to think I was depressed enough to need medication.  But then we went to Florida for three weeks and everything was perfect and I snapped right out of the despair.  So I knew it wasn't a chemical problem.

But as soon as we were back home, I was right back where I had been before.Overwhelmed. Discouraged.  Longing to escape.  Escape what? Just... life. And circumstances.  I remember asking Josh "Was I this overwhelmed in (our former home)?" because I wondered if it was just me.   But he could see it too.  Gentle as he is, his answer wasn't "Yeah, you're losing it" but he did admit he noticed I was overwhelmed and not myself.

I remember Christmas Day, trying so hard to hold my emotions together and just enjoy my family, the gifts, the time together. But there was this cloud over me that threatened to ruin every day, even the best of days.  And I had no idea how to move it.

So entering 2014, I just prayed "Lord, help me LIVE again!"  I didn't want to get up every day and sigh and say "This is my life. It will never change. Just accept it and deal with it and get through it." I didn't want to be one of those people Thoreau spoke of when he said

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.

Not me!  Like George Bailey at the end of It's a Wonderful Life, I prayed 

I want to live again!

I know, it sounds so dramatic. Like a scene from a movie.  It kind of makes me snicker at myself to recount it all this way, but it's what was going on in my heart.

And I didn't know how to change things.  But the Lord did.

2014 began with a long, bitterly cold winter that just wouldn't quit.  I'm no winter-hater, but I really started to after days and days of snow so deep it literally covered our downstairs windows.  And cold so frigid we just couldn't seem to stay warm.

One Sunday morning in February, we bundled the kids up and loaded them in our truck to go to church. At the end of our road are cornfields, barren and flat in winter of course. As we made our way down the road, the wind was howling and veering our big SUV.  It was blowing snow wildly across the road in front of us.  I was cold and cranky and sick of winter and in my heart I thought bitterly:

What are we doing in this God-forsaken place?????

And in an instant, everything changed.  I know, more drama, but it's true.  In that moment, God spoke to me.  Quietly but oh-so-clearly. He said

Look at these fields! They are white for the harvest. Literally white!  Do not call forsaken what I call a harvest.

Wow.  I can't properly express what happened in my heart in that moment, aside from saying that peace and even contentment came in.  Those words from the Lord, spoken to my discouraged, bitter heart, brought me back to life.  They were an assurance, a promise, that God did, indeed, have work for us to do here. That he wasn't done with us.  That a harvest was coming.  And so much more that is still a mystery changed for me.

When I look back on 2014, I am so incredibly grateful for those words from the Lord and for the work that he, only he, could do in me.  I think of how he used the strangest things to start bringing me back to life...

A new family to our church lost their baby at 21 weeks gestation. They had to go through the labor and delivery, the dealings of death.  We went to their home the night before they had their little girl and brought pizza and it all seemed so meager, so weak.  Yet in loving on them, life came back into me.  As we drove home, I cried.  God was using us. We were making new family here at last.

We have a few relationships that are beginning to grow and deepen.

God called me to start a homeschool co-op and has given me perfect peace to let him build it and grow it and add to our numbers as he sees fit.

Our school year is going so much better.  I'm not the crazy, wits end mama I was before.

We're having a baby, a new gift from God.  How about that to LIVE again?

We went to Florida again and this time, I was so thankful and excited to come  home.

Because there is a harvest for us here.  We are sowing right now, sometimes seeds of unknown origin. What will grow of all this, we don't know.

But I look over this past year and see that God is faithful.  What he has promised, he will fulfill.

Looking at this new year that is ahead of us, I am EXCITED!  The cry of my heart is "Lord, I am so hungry and so thirsty for more! Fill me, Lord."

And I fully expect that he will do this work too!

Happy 2015!