Monday, December 31, 2012

Religion that's real

It's a little verse - one of so so many, but for us this verse has changed so much of what we are and do:

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this:
to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
~ James 1:27
Thirty little words that make all the difference.
In my Bible (which I have had since 2001) I put a star next to this verse Nov. thirty 2003, and then made a note Jan 24 2006 by the word orphan ("12,000 in Africa from AIDS").  But when we got married in 2009 and ever since this verse has grown and grown in importance to really become the direction and daily choices in our life.  Orphans have always been on my heart - even when I was a child.  And when I was 15 a burden for widows entered my heart.  For whatever reason God has not let me escape these burdens and calls on my heart even at times when I have wanted to very much.  Like tonight.
It's New Year's Eve - and of the 4 we have had since being married only one has been spent out with friends and family.  And tonight I will be home again (boo hoo) most of the night "alone" as Joshua has to work.  And the reason I can't go out is because I have chosen to look after widows.  It was my choice - it was my calling.  And I hate that my selfish little heart at times does this grudgingly.  And I hate that I feel sorry for myself when my friends are out on the town, or spending the evening with their kids, or doing whatever they want.  I am ashamed at my attitude - when in reality this is such a gift and such a blessing to me.  As we look toward caring for orphans (which at times feels so much more ... "fun" - oh how little I know) God has really been working on my heart showing me that caring for widows, and those who need our help and our company is such an important part of being who he wants us to be.  He has been showing me that even as this path is so different than most newlyweds - it is FILLED with blessings.  Filled to overflowing.  He is showing me that even though we thought we would be caring for orphans directly by now - we are fulfilling His great calling on our lives right now.
Being given to God for His work should be what each of us does as Christians - this is true "religion".  This life is NOT meant to just live for whatever makes us happy in the moment.  The verse says to "visit" orphans and widows in their distress.  I never really looked at it as I am now - but the verse doesn't say we should scoop them out of the distress, or even that we should take care of all their needs, or fix all their problems.  I think one reason my heart has had a hard time really doing what I am called to with wholeness has been that I was trying to shield myself from the distress.  To visit someone in their distress means it is going to probably be distressing for you too.  It's not gonna be easy - it's gonna hurt like crazy at times.  To visit someone in their distress means that we have to have open eyes to the pain they are feeling - and that will bring pain on us.  It means sometimes that we sit and cry with them because of the distress in their hearts.  It means giving extra hugs when there are no words to say that can comfort someone who has watched a spouse, or parents or loved ones die.  It means not pushing away the parts that are uncomfortable.  It means being 100% with that person. 
Caring for orphans is quite glamorized in our culture - movie stars adopting and volunteering to work in orphanages.  Youth groups building schools for orphans. ... And I am overjoyed that more and more of God's people are seeing the need for orphan care.  But what about the other part of this verse - what about the widows, what about the elderly grandma who can't take care of her home, what about the war hero who can't mow his lawn anymore, what about that neighbor who can't go out to get groceries?  What about the mentally handicapped guy who sits at the senior center just wanting someone to talk to? Where are the Christians then?  I have heard a certain sentence more times than I can count: "Bless you for doing elder care .. I could never do that".  Really?  We can't just pick the parts of God's commands that work for us.  While not everyone may be in a place where doing this full time is possible - every one of us should do something.  Even if it's visiting the nursing home once a month to sing hymns.  Even if it's writing to an elderly relative.  Even if it's loving that grumpy old man who never says a positive word.  We need to take it all or we bring shame on His great Name.  We need to enter in and be part of the lives of those who need us.  We are CALLED to do this as children of God. 
And yet - more times than I can count my heart wants to escape the things in life that are not always fun.  So, I leave this past year in somber remembrance of His grace to me.  His grace in keeping me here while I kicked and screamed.  His grace in allowing me to learn.  His grace in showing me what real religion is all about.  His grace in giving me a new year in which to do better.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Of Acceptance and a Lovely Grandma

The first time I met her she didn't say much.  I wasn't even part of the family - wasn't even dating my sweet Farmer Boy at the time when his Grandpa and Grandma Miracle came to visit and took us out for Chinese food.  They treated me just like I was part of the family, but I don't remember much about that visit other than thinking how sweet of them to insist that I join the family for lunch.

The next time I met them was on our wedding day.  It was a glorious sunshiny day and for me it was a day of a blurr and then moments that seemed like time stood still.  We had planned to have all the married people come to the dance floor and then exit based on length of marriage ("all those who have been married less than a year ...") until the longest married couple was the only one still dancing.  Unknown to me was the fact that Grandpa and Grandma Miracle had never danced together publicly and a cousin pressured them into joining the married dance.  It was dark except for the light from lanterns and the moon and stars as they danced in a group that got smaller and smaller until only they were left.  I remember my new Husband and I taking a gift of a framed quote with artwork to them as their prize.  The quote was: "Grow Old Along With Me, The Best is Yet to Be". 

A year later we planned a trip to go visit them in Southern Washington and I was nervous.  After all, I was still a relatively new bride and was feeling like I wasn't really fitting in with my new family. We were about an hour away when Grandma called and said that dinner was ready and where were we?  When we arrived dinner was ready and we sat and enjoyed home made beef veggie soup with veggies from their large market garden.  I began to relax as my Farmer Boy talked with his Grandpa and Grandma about farming and the growing season.  I fell asleep that night on the hide a bed feeling like maybe I had found a new set of grandparents who accepted me as their own (on the same trip I was able to spend a night with the other set of my Husband's grandparents who also accepted me as their own!)

The next morning Grandpa and Joshua went off to work at the local farmer's market and I was home alone with Grandma.  As soon as we were alone Grandma began showing me the pictures of family and telling me stories about relatives I knew and many I had never met.  She then surprised me by pulling out binders of family trees and pictures and memoirs that went back many generations.  She told me story after story of great uncles, great grandparents, parents, cousins and times my Husband spent with them working in the garden as a kid.  We talked about reading and how she always read the Little House books to her kids and grand kids - which were some of my favorite books growing up too.  She showed me Raggedy Ann dolls she had made for grand kids and we talked about my rag dolls as a kid too.  She told me how I am now a member of the family and how important it is to keep family history alive.  Most of all I remember the fact that she never once made me feel like an in law - but made me feel like her very own grand daughter.  I will treasure those memories always.

On December 21, my husband and I traveled again to that house full of wonderful memories and we listened as Grandpa told about saying good-bye to the love of his life as Grandma had passed into heaven quite suddenly.  I tried to hold back tears as I imagined what it would be like to know that your spouse was never again going to stand in the home you had made together.  I felt like of all of people there I was the one that Grandma knew least.  We only visited the once after we were married (something I will probably regret all my life).  And even though I knew her least of all - I still had been welcomed as her grand daughter. 

In thinking about the life of this godly woman I have been encouraged even more to love fully and to never pass up an opportunity to tell someone how important they are - and to show them that they are accepted and loved.  I want to be like Grandma Miracle - I want to read to my children and grandchildren, I want to care about family and keeping family history alive.  I want to remember birthdays (she would always post a picture of family members who had birthdays on facebook).  I want to make a cozy home for my Husband.  I want to cook nutritious meals.  I want to love fully.

So to the Grandma I only knew briefly, but loved deeply, thank you for inspiring me to be a better person.  Thank you for accepting me just the way I am as part of your family.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


I sat in shocked silence watching the news of the evil that took those lives yesterday.  It was painful to watch and know that the families of these children and adults will never be the same.  It was shocking because it was such a "perfect" town.  It was shocking because the children were so young.  It was shocking because Christmastime is supposed to be happy. 

All day I walked around in a daze, grieving in my heart for this horrific act of violence.  But I was also grieved over the deaths of so many children and adults who will not be grieved by many, will not be honored like they should be.  The people in The Democratic Republic of Congo are being wiped out by a rebel group of pure evil.  Acts are being done to innocent children that are unspeakable.  Hundreds are dying.  I don't have an actual count because I don't even know if anyone knows.  While every person in America today know the numbers from yesterday - children are being killed and not remembered.  Please understand that I am not saying it is wrong to honor and to grieve deeply over those 20 children and 6 adults who lost their lives yesterday.  We should grieve.  God does.  Every life is precious and no child should die especially from violence like that.  I wept as I watched the news.  The Bible says we should weep with those who weep.  But, today there are family members in the Congo weeping over the loss of children too.  There are people who have fled everything to live in horrible conditions in refugee camps.  They know that every person they loved is gone.  They may never be able to return to their homes (if they are even left standing).  They didn't love their children, wives, husbands, sisters, or brothers any less than the families of the Sandyhook school.   While the victims of the shooting yesterday will receive the highest honor in memorial services and be laid to rest among beautiful flowers, the children who die in the Congo may never be properly buried.  They likely will not have a beautiful memorial service attended by people who love them.  The family members may never even get a chance to say good-bye.  And it's not right.

Why is it that those who die in other countries are so easily forgotten and ignored?  Every life has the same sacredness.  Every life is precious.  Is it because of the poverty of the country?  Is it because of the danger of being in the Congo right now?  There aren't media swarming the place of the deaths in the Congo - is it because they are afraid for their own safety?  Is it because we don't live in Africa so it doesn't hit us with such force?  A shooting on US soil feels like a personal attack to us, while every day people are killing with guns hundreds of people in other countries and we don't feel a thing.  Why?

As I said before, I believe it is right to grieve the loss of life that took place yesterday in Conneticut.  We should be broken hearted over the evil.  But we shouldn't only be broken hearted over evil that is close to home.  My brother posted the following quote on his facebook wall the other day and it touched my heart because we are selfish people.  We wall ourselves off from tragedy that isn't our own.

                     "I see an innumerable crowd of men, all alike and equal,
                     turned in upon themselves in a restless search for those petty,
                     vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. Each of them
                    living apart, is almost unaware of the destiny of all the rest. His
                    children and personal friends are for him the whole of the human
                    race; as for the remainder of his fellow citizens, he stands alongside
                    them but does not see them; he touches them without feeling them;
                   he exists only in himself and for himself; if he still retains his
                   family circle, at any rate he may be said to have lost his country.”

                                                                                                  ~Tocqueville, 184

Oh God, let our hearts be broken for the suffering in the whole world - not just the suffering that touches close to home.  Let our eyes not be closed to the pain of others, just because our children are safe ... give us love and a passion for justice not only in our own country, but all over the world!

In closing I wanted to share a verse I read in my daily devotional - it was actually supposed to be for yesterday but I didn't read yesterday.  I thought it was very appropriate to remember that this time on earth is not all there is - and even when evil prevails in carrying out unspeakable crimes, there will be a day of judgement - and for those who believe there will be a new earth ruled by the Lord in which there will be not more tears, death and sin.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.
A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy peace and prosperity.

The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.
Psalm 37:5-13

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Different Kind of Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving was different than many in the past.  Yes, there was perfectly cooked turkey, creamy mashed potatoes and gravy, herb seasoned stuffing, pumpkin pie with pillows of whipped cream ... family gathered together, little voices laughing, hugs, games... but this year my heart was heavy.

I have been deeply grieved over the pain that so many people in our world are going through. 

On Thanksgiving morning I signed a petition to the White House to put pressure on a rebel group (called M23)  in the Congo who are doing unspeakable things to the Congolese people.  I couldn't see my sweet nieces and nephews happily eating, playing with each other, kissing uncles and aunties without thinking of little boys in the Congo being forced to carry guns and shoot people they know and love, or little girls being used as property, children hiding under beds, families split up - parents wondering if they will ever see their babies again. 

I can't eat or put on clothes, or use appliances - or do ANYTHING without wondering about the people who are forced to work as slaves to provide us with such a lavish lifestyle.  I'm looking all the time for ways to purchase fair trade and to not support slavery - but it is hard to find sources and it makes me mad that more people don't care enough to change what is happening in our world.

Closer to home, I am grieved about a dear family who was celebrating Thanksgiving with an empty chair at the table this year, having lost a treasured son, brother, grandson last month.  He was only 21. 

Even closer, I was grieved at reminders how short life is - and how times change and how sad I am that our children will never meet people like either of my Grandfathers.  I am grieved knowing that the possibility of our Someday Babies being out there somewhere grows more every day.  I hate to think of what they might be going through if they are alive already.  Are they in someone's tummy right now?  Are they an unwanted pregnancy?  Is their birth mother drinking and doing drugs?  I am heart broken for the people who will give birth to our Babies .. whatever they are going through is painful and it breaks me.

So, what am I thankful for this year?  Oh so so much.  I'm thankful for the undying love of my sweet Farmer Boy.  I'm thankful that he didn't make me explain when I cried through half of "Fiddler on the Roof" when we watched it on Thanksgiving night.  I'm thankful to my Daddy for wrapping his big arms around me when I felt like my heart would break seeing my Grammie holding her newest Great Grandbaby.  I'm thankful for my little nephew Luke who ran into my arms and was excited to see me.  I'm thankful for Bailey playing Battleship with me.  I'm thankful for my husband's grandparents being close enough to host Thanksgiving this year.  I'm thankful for godly siblings.  I'm thankful for SO so much!  But right at the top of my list is that I am thankful for a God who answers prayers - even when they hurt.  I have prayed more than once in my life for my heart to be broken for the things that break the heart of God.  And He answered.  I don't know what all this means.  I don't know what I can do to make this world better - but I am more determined and better informed than ever before.  I don't want to just go about my life doing things the way everyone else does them.  I want my life to matter.  I want my choices to make an impact.  And I am thankful that God wants that for each of us.

What are you thankful for this year?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Know Better?

Have you ever had a moment in life where time seems to stand still and you know you will remember this moment for the rest of your life? 

Yesterday I began reading a book for one of my college courses called: Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How we can Fight it by David Batstone. And I had one of those moments.  This book tells the horrible stories of human trafficking - slave labor, children sold as sex slaves ... just unspeakable things.  It's not like I didn't know this was happening.  My husband and I talk about wanting to not purchase clothing made in India, or chocolate ... bit the truth is it's difficult in our culture to change habits of spending and consumption. 

I read about a little boy and his sister who were sold and became slaves in a garlic factory - peeling tiny cloves of garlic (maybe to make the pre-cut garlic I like I buy because I'm to lazy to peel it myself?!?) hour after hour, after hour, after day, after week, after month, after year ... just peeling garlic and being staved and beaten and abused in every way.

And I could be PAYING the abusers of these children by my purchases and my comfortable lifestyle.

I'm ashamed.

So what can we do?  Well, for starters BUY LOCAL - but only produce grown in the US, work with local companies.  And here are some sites that are valuable resources too.  Is it easy to change?  No - we are so used to being consumers and getting what we want with little or now work - but can we really afford to NOT change?  I feel such a burden that now that I know what is going on I am even more responsible to fight and to be willing to sacrifice so that others can have a life.

Free to Work is a website that gives companies and brands a letter grade for if they are good (using fair trade methods and only purchasing from safe areas) or bad ( support human slavery).  Check it out - you might be surprised!

For items that support fair trade and help people keep their freedom check out: - there are food items as well as some pretty awesome gift ideas for Christmas coming up!

If we all do our part we can help free innocent children, women and men who are being treated horribly while they work to create the lavish lifestyle we live here in the states.

If you know better - DO better.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Yep, I'm going THERE (shudder, gasp)

I'm about to do something I probably swore I would never do.  I'm going to talk politics.  I have been cringing every time I check facebook because there are so many truly degrading status updates and just plain meanness on BOTH sides!  I literally hate watching TV because of the political ads and every time someone says something mean I almost automatically want to vote for the other person.  I think it's important to remember that all politicians of whatever party are human and humans are sinful so neither party is perfect by any stretch.  I wish that Christians would stop looking at their party (whichever one it is!) like the Savior - and judging those who vote differently!  Our Pastor on politics and told a story about a man who was wanting to becoming of Christian but in tears said he just couldn't accept Christ because he couldn't vote Republican.  How tragic that we are Christians have allowed politics to become so divisive that people feel they can't accept Christ if they can't accept the Republican party!  And in our day there are definately groups of Christians who camp in either the Democratic or Republical party - and judge those who vote differently.  Shame on us! 

So, how do I vote?  I have started to read a lot more about different issues, and in particular look at the voting record of those running for office.  Unfortunately - you can't always (or maybe never?) trust what comes out of the mouths of many politicians - and looking at specifically what has been voted for or against can give a bit more light to the standards and what that person thinks is important.  But, the most important research I do is look at what the Bible says on various topics.  There are many extremely touchy topics in this year's election that will could a lot of the direction of our country - and often it isn't popular to side with what the Bible clearly says about these issues.  What does the Bible say about the environment?  Life inside the womb?  Caring for the poor?  Caring for the elderly?  Respect for authority?  Finances and debt?  Marriage?  Child raising? ...  If we say that we follow Christ but then make up our own standards for living when He has set out how His followers should live there is a disconnect somewhere.  And that includes politics.  Should we vote the way someone else says we should or according to which candidate, what initiative etc. stands closer to Biblical values?

It is very hard when we see things that match with Biblical standards in both choices, or things that definitely don't - and sometimes it honestly feels like it comes down to choosing the better of two evils.  But we need to come before God and ask His direction and then vote as Biblically as we can - no matter what popular opinion says we should do.

So get out there and do your civic duty!  If you don't take the time to vote you really shouldn't complain about our government.  Be informed and be involved.  But DON'T settle for name calling and below the belt blows.  Yes engage in civil political discussions - learn all you can!  Act in a way that reflects the love of all mankind (yes even your opposing political party! gasp) as Jesus displayed - not that we can't disagree or call evil evil (Jesus certainly did!) but we should always be careful of what kind of witness we are giving to the world - and that includes in election year!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why adoption is not our last choice.

I often hear people talk about adoption like it's only the option after every other option has been exhausted.  Many go through painful rounds of infertility treatments only to be left with no possibility of every having biological children.  And then they begin thinking about adoption.

Having biological children is not impossible for us.  We would have to use a surrogate, but my one lonely little ovary is as fertile as they come (I find myself apologizing to it because it really tries so darn hard!).  But we decided before we were even married, that we would not pursue surrogacy even though we literally had people lining up volunteering their healthy uterus' to carry our baby.  (And I am incredibly humbled and touched by how people I love would be willing to do something like that for us!)  Our decision to adopt rather than try for biological babies was personal, and does not in any way judge those who have chosen to use extraordinary means to have biological children.  Families need to decide what to do in cases of challenged fertility and no one else should judge a couple's right to decide on how they will pursue a family. 

That said, this is why we are choosing adoption: there are too many children already out there who need us.  I am 100% sure that if getting pregnant was a natural option for us we would go that route.  The more research I do on adoption the more depressing it sounds.  Attachment issues, drug addiction, medical problems, behavioral problems, learning disabilities ... all of these are very often part of adoption - local or overseas.  I want our babies to trust us and be able to function well in life, I don't want them to be born addicted to drugs or malnourished or to have been abused or neglected early in life.  It crushes my heart to think of the trauma that they may have to recover from - when all babies should begin life in a safe womb welcomed by loving and trustworthy parents.  But no matter what type of adoption we end up pursuing our children will come to us from a painful circumstance.  I know that God can do amazing things and can heal and restore - but I hate to think of the pain they may endure.

Not only will our parenting be affected and probably more difficult in some ways, but the sheer amount of paperwork and invasive application process is daunting.  In reading over applications (we have put in a very preliminary application just to see where we might want to pursue) It's crummy how much information they need.  It feels like someone prying so deeply into our personal lives that it makes me want to scream.  Tax records, medical records, details on assets we have, details on where we live, what kind of discipline we will use, what schools we will send our children to ... details about our relatives.  It's all super invasive and annoying (I do know they are just trying to be careful because they want the children to go to good homes).  Over and over I keep thinking that NO ONE needs to have even the most simple interview to get pregnant.  It's a bummer and it feels unfair. And of course there is that feeling in the back of my mind that what if after all the paperwork they say we can't have the "job" - we could be turned down as parents.  So yes, if we could have children naturally we would probably do that instead.  NOT at all that we feel we could love biological children better - but just because adoption is such a roller coaster and so scary.  Not to mention expensive!   But adoption is not our last choice.  I have wanted to adopt since I was a child.  I hated the thought of children needing families and not having them.  But adoption is very hard, and that is probably why more people don't do it. 

Would I love to have a baby that looks like my sweet Farmer boy?  Definitely.  Sometimes when he doesn't know I'm watching him I imagine what a little boy with his hair and his hands and eyes would look like.  I think about how much fun a newborn would be - and the more I look into adoption the less likely I feel that I'll ever get a newborn.  And I hate that.  I want to be the first one to see my baby smile.  I want to nurse our babies.  I want to talk to them before they are born.  But even though all of these things could be part of our lives if we choose surrogacy, I just cannot go that route knowing that there are so many who need us.  God could have stepped in and stopped the destructive disease that took away my chance to naturally have children.  But He didn't.  And I can only believe that He didn't for a reason and that someday we'll see the beautiful redemption of the brokenness of our family.  He is the God who makes beautiful things from the dust of our lives and I trust Him with our Someday babies.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Of Autumn Leave and the Beauty in Disappointment

Everyone else was sound alseep as I crept around the house getting dressed and quietly snuck out to my car.  I would have loved to sleep in on this chilly Sunday morning (well ok, I did sleep in by many standards but since we don't get to bed til about 2 every morning it's all relative), but I knew it was my only chance to get out on my own to do a long needed grocery shopping trip. 

The sun was shinning as I pulled out of the driveway (trying to ignore the yard work that desperately needs to be done) and headed to the store.  There is something so freeing about driving all alone and enjoying the quiet alone time with God.  It's a rare time that I get to be out of the house on my own and I am trying to just enjoy the blessed little moments when God reminds me that even in this "waiting room" season of our lives there is beauty and joy and that even in the less than perfect life, He remains good.

Yesterday my Grammie and I took a drive to look at the leaves turning.  I remembered that last fall we had "accidentally" stumbled across the most enchanting road where the autumn leaves were completely covering the road like a brilliant tunnel of light.  Even though they hadn't all turned yet both Grammie and I were overcome by the beauty of this season and the reds, colds, oranges of the leaves against the blue and sunny sky took our breath away.  The season of Autumn is one of the most beautiful ones out there (well, in my opinion they are all beautiful in different ways) - but I can't help notice that the beauty of the Autumn leaves is the beauty of death.  The vibrant green of spring and summer is over and this year's leaves are dying and falling to the earth where they will rot and be forgotten.  And even that process is beautiful.  We wouldn't see the colors of fall if the leaves never died.  And that's kind of how I feel about this part of our lives.  I feel like every day I am dying to what I want - what I feel like I can't live without.  I am forced by our circumstances to not be in the place of life I wanted, that I expected and felt like I deserved.  I don't honestly know that everything will work out and we'll be parents ever.  I don't know that my husband will get a good job when he is done with school (we sent our letter of interest many weeks ago to a school we really wanted and have not heard back).  I don't know that we will ever be able to fulfil dreams we have of working overseas with orphans, or having a place to call our own - a little farm with a cute old fashioned house.  I don't know for sure what will happen with my health.  I don't know. And every day those questions make me feel a "little death" which is what disappointment feels like.  We're in this waiting room season of life when all our hopes and dreams hang in the balance and we cannot do one thing to make it go faster.  Is this season easy?  Nope.  Do we long for our Someday Babies with an aching desire every day?  Yep.  Can we wait for the day when we're both out of school?  Hardly - but we're working on it.  Is God good?  Always.  And in this time of waiting in our lives, when our dreams feel like they are dying more every day, there is great beauty that we would never see if it wasn't for this season of Autumn.  And we see His goodness even more because of the falling leaves.

The last 3 or so weeks have been a real challenge for me.  Since the battery died in one of my nerve simulators my pain level has sky rocketed.  I had secretly wondered if when it died I would be just fine - maybe the condition healed itself over these years - but when the pain came back I knew that this burden has not been lifted from me and it's a disappointment.  It's funny how I could forget within the last 5 years how much pain I used to live with every day that I don't have now.  It's at least double from what I experience on a regular basis.  It's been a shocker to wake up almost every night with searing pain again, and to have to breath through pain many times a day.  If any of you used to read back when I started the blog - my focus 3 years ago was to learn to live well with chronic pain - over the past few months I've started talking more about adoption and that process but chronic pain is (and probably always will be on some level) part of my experience.  And even though I would love to say that I never have pain that scares me with it's intensity, no matter how much I would love to be completely free from any physical weakness - I do, and I am not.  I'm super super happy for treatments like diet modification, vitamins, the nerve simulators etc.  I'm so glad that God has given me good tools that make living with this easier and allow me to be fully functioning (I mean I'm working 16 plus hours and on call all night every day of the week with an occasional break . AND completing my degree, AND owning my own floral business!!)!  Having the extreme pain again makes me so much more grateful that I don't have this every day anymore, but I sure would love to be free completely.   I would love to not need to have surgery every couple years.  Is God still good?  Always. 


I am so thankful for moments like yesterday and moments like this morning when I feel an almost tangible hug from my God and I know that He is forever good.  I'd not mind getting up while the world sleeps every day to be reminded of this truth.  And I'll never look at the falling leaves the same.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Timing and Sunsets

Timing in life is sometimes annoying.  For example - over five years ago I had two nerve simulators implanted into my low back to help treat the symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis.  It's been GREAT and so helpful for me over these five years.  So in October I am really busy with lots of events happening in the family - and of course one of my batteries died and needs to be replaced as soon as possible. 

So it feels like all I am doing is going back and forth trying to figure out how to get time off work and manage getting everything else done that needs doing - oh and did I mention that I am taking college classes too?  There have been plenty of months that have been pretty low key - and it is frustrating that the time I need to have surgery is one of the most busy months of the year!

I was feeling so overwhelmed this evening when I remembered that I promised my Husband that I would water the yard (we've had a very dry late summer and fall so far).  So after serving dinner I went out to try and water quickly before it got dark so it would be done when he gets home later tonight.  As I looked around at the lawn that needs mowing (a job I have taken over lately and enjoy for the exercise!)  and dodging mole hills (by the way if anyone knows how to get rid of moles let me know!) when I happened to glance up at the sky.  We live in a valley so don't usually have much view of the sunset - but tonight when I looked up I saw the most beautiful sky.  A bright teal blue with little fluffy wisps of pink cotton candy clouds.  It literally took my breath away.  And suddenly I knew that everything is going to be ok.  This surgery will work out in God's timing.  My days for recovery will work out, all the events we have will work themselves out and I will make it through this month.   If I hadn't HAD to water the plants - and if I hadn't been so busy all day that I forgot until 7 pm - I would have missed that beauty!  Thank God for HIS timing - when my timing feels so impossible.  Thank God that He brings beauty out of even a crazy day!  HE is good!

It can be so difficult when life gets messy and crazy and since I don't like stress it can make me get so focused on just getting through that I loose sight of the beauty and peace that is available to me if I just slow down enough to see.  There is no situation that is too much for God and if I stop trying to manage my fear, my responsibilities, and the craziness that is all around I can partake of the peace and joy that is offered. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Of Attachment and a Big God

I'm back in the adoption book reading frenzy again. :)  I'm just devouring books, blogs, articles about adoption.  The topic I am looking into most is how to help an adopted child form healthy attachments.  In a nutshell, when a baby (even a very young baby) learn to mistrust the adults that should be loving him/her that baby puts up a wall and it can be very difficult for that baby to learn to attach to adoptive parents.  With every week a child is trained to not trust his/her caregivers, the attachment problems can grow.  Every child is different, but it is clear that abuse and neglect, learning to love and then being abandoned affects the development of a child.

I told my Husband this week that every time I start digging deeper into adoption, preparing and praying, my heart breaks a little bit more.  The thought that our Someday Babies might even be out there already, and their little hearts will be hurt breaks my heart.  I love these children, and I feel desperate to find our babies and bring them home.  I don't want them to have one more moment of the pain of not belonging and not being loved by people who will be in their lives forever.  I am sure I will feel this way until we bring them home - and then the real work will begin, teaching real lasting love to a child who very possibly will not know what that means. 

This would be impossibly hard, if I didn't trust that God is bigger.  He is big enough to heal and we are praying already that God would protect and heal the broken hearts of our babies.  That God would prepare us to be exactly the parents these children need.  That God will lead us to them quickly.  That He will provide so that they don't have to wait longer once we find them.  Many times I wonder how anyone could live without God - and this is one of those times.  This is such a difficult part of opening our hearts to adoption.  I don't want to think about the pain our babies are or will face before we get to them - but I believe that God is the redeemer, and He can do far more than we ask or imagine.  We would appreciate you joining us in praying for our Someday Babies and God's miraculous protection over their precious little hearts.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Honestly confronting suffering through the eyes of C.S Lewis

This year - and in particular the last few months my heart has been grieved over and over again by the suffering of this world.  The brother of my sister in law - a healthy 21 year old who had battled cancer at age 15 and won - had an accident in June and is struggling to regain speech - and the whole family is aching and longing for him to become well again - his situation is a roller coaster as one day he will show signs of improvement and the next day he will be fighting for his life.  I want to take this away for my sweet sister in law - but I can't.  Another friend is facing divorce - two wonderful children suffering, and the whole family wanting to take away the pain.  More than one of my friends are facing custody battles and dealing with issues of abuse and it feels so helpless.  I want to take the children and protect them from what they are going through - but I can't.  There are friends fighting cancer, unemployment, loss of a child, loss of a parent ... and so much more and this is just in people who are close to me! 

Well, about now you are thinking what a downer I am and wishing you never came across my blog.  But, we all know that this is true!  Life hurts, there are days when it takes everything to keep going - to keep believing that there is something better that comes later, that will be make it out to the other side, that there will be joy that comes in the morning. 

C.S. Lewis wrote a little book (A Grief Observed)- it's more like a journal actually, when his wife Helen died of cancer.  It is shocking in it's honesty.  It's painful to read - but at the same time it's healing.  He is brutally honest about the agony he is going through and for some reason that is a relief.  If you look at the Psalms you will see that David went through times when he just wanted to give up, where He questioned God, where He felt utterly helpless.  So, why do we tend to think it's not ok to be honest when life hurts so bad we can't breath?   Lewis ended the book much as it started - in pain longing for the one he loved and lost.  It isn't a great resolution to the question of suffering, it's a true recount of one man's suffering and struggle to hold onto God.  It's hard to read his pain because it is a mirror of thoughts probably every one of us has but are too afraid to say out loud.  It's a comfort to read because he held on to faith through his agony. Here are some quotes from the book:

"I have gradually been coming to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted.  Was it my own frantic need that slammed it in my face?  The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just the time when God can't give it:  you are like the drowning man who can't be helped because he clutches and grabs.  Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.  On the other hand, "Knock and it shall be opened."  But does knocking mean hammering and kicking the door like a maniac?  And there's also "To him that hath shall be given."  After all, you must have a capacity to receive, or even omnipotence can't give.  Perhaps your own passion temporarily destroys the capacity."  (p 53-54)

"You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.  It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box.  But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice.  Wouldn't you then discover how much you really trusted it?" (p 25)

I'm not here to try and solve the problem of suffering - but I think we all can use reminders that it's ok to be honest, and that there are others who have gone before us through dark, wicked suffering yet who came out on the other side and still had/have faith.

If you are reading this in the middle of your own suffering - hold on.  And when you don't have the strength in yourself to hold on, let Him hold you. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

gratefulness as a weapon

Last week our Pastor preached on the commandment: "thou shalt not covet" (Exodus 20:17). ( link to sermon) I already knew that this was an area that I had to be careful of in my life (see two posts back: "Life isn't Fair").   I fight against being jealous and coveting what others have that I don't have.  I know it's wrong - but it's so easy!

One of the points Pastor Jonathan made was that we can fight the sin of coveting by being grateful.   I have known for a long time that gratefulness was a good weapon and that being content was a continual discipline, but his sermon was a very good reminder to keep it up and to find more ways to cultivate a grateful heart in my day to day life.

So, here is one of my tools for practicing a grateful heart:  I write lists on our bathroom mirror.  We have always had dry erase markets in our bathroom and we often write notes to each other on the mirror - or to do lists, things to remember etc.  So lately I have been playing the " Glad Game" (from the old Pollyanna movie with Halley Mills)  I try and think of something new every time I look at the mirror that I am glad and grateful for.  Sometimes, when the day feels like it is impossibly hard it is amazing how taking the time and discipline to write down what I am grateful for will change my mood and outlook on life. 

Here are some of my current glads:

I'm Glad:

* above ALL the love of the Creator of the Universe ... if this was the only thing on my list I would still never have a reason to be anything but grateful.
* My husband is almost done (238 days!) with school!
* I am going to FINALLY get my degree!!  (Bachelor of Arts in Ministry/Biblical Studies) ... this was a long time in coming!
* we have a cozy place to live
* the understanding of friends and family during this time when we are not as available as we would choose for social things.
* the days I have with less pain
* the days when I have worse pain - because it reminds me to be humble and depend on God
* what a beautiful Summer it's been (still is!)
* all the veggies we have gotten from our garden (and even our tomatoes are starting to ripen! - a huge challenge in our area!)
* two cars that run (and that I am finally learning how to drive on the mainland - such an island driver!)
* all of our fun and cute nieces and nephews
* dairy free ice cream!
* naps
* flowers
* good books (currently reading: Born in Our Hearts: stories of adoption by Filie Casey and Marisa Catalina Casey - and Love and Respect - by someone but I'm too lazy to go find the book)
.... the list could go on and on - because when I think about it I have SO much to be grateful for and so much that makes me glad.

What are you grateful for today?  Be intentional about being grateful and maybe buy some dry erase markers and start a glad game on your mirror. :)  It's a very useful and powerful weapon against being discontent!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Of Sprinklers and When God Says: "NO"

I am 23 months younger than my big sister, and I have lots and lots of memories of things we did together as  children.  One of the earliest memories (I am guessing I was between 2-4) was when both Elisabeth and I looked outside and saw a brilliant sun.  Our conversation went something like this:
girls: "Mommy can we go outside and run through the sprinkler - we already have our swimsuits on!"

mom: "It's really cold outside, so you should probably wait until summer"  (I think it was something like March - in Seattle)

girls: "It can't be cold because we can see the sun!"

mom: "well sometimes you can see the sun and it isn't close enough to be hot outside"

girls: "PLEEEEEASE!  We really want to run through the sprinkler!!!"

mom: "ok. go for it".

So two little girls went running out of the screen door to run through the sprinkler on that sunny day.  I remember so clearly the minute we stepped outside we were shocked by how cold it was!  I think we may have tried to be brave for a couple moments and stood on the patio thinking about our next move - shivering our little behinds off with the spring chill in the air.  Finally, we went back to the door and announced that we decided it was too cold.

I don't remember what Mama said to us after that - I doubt she said: "I told you so".  But it would have served us right.  She knew it was too cold and we would be miserable outside in our swimsuits.  She wasn't in fact trying to be cruel to tell us "no" originally - she was trying to help us make a wise decision that would save us being uncomfortable.  But we didn't care, because in our childish wisdom we definitely knew better.  I mean, how silly can you be Mom - we SEE the sun is shining!

I think sometimes we blame God for things we do in the stubbornness of our own "wisdom" - and then say that He is making us suffer.  In reality He has told us what to do - but we are just so much smarter and go our own way.  Or sometimes we get mad at Him telling us clearly: "NO" to something that we were excited about doing.  We think He's a mean parent - holding us back from the fun of running through the sprinkler. 

Oh, if only we knew. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Life is not fair

When we were just little kids I remember either my siblings or I would often say: "That's not fair" about something, like the fact that our friends got to eat sugar, or that one sibling ended up staying up later on a particular night, or that someone had more toys than us (just your run of the mill selfish kid stuff).  Mama's classic answer every time was: "Life's not fair".  Sounds cruel, yes?  I don't think so.  Because you know what?  Life indeed is not fair in many many ways. 

I find myself on nights like this telling God that life is not fair.  I see people that I love getting hurt, while others' lives seem to be perfect with no pain.  I see children suffering, while others have every blessing you could imagine.  I see people get pregnant on accident, while friends and family of mine struggle with infertility.  I see friends who have longed for years to get married remain single into their late 30s - 40s, while others meet and marry practically before they are out of high school.  I see hard working men get laid off, while others have to turn down multitude of job offers.  ... Holy cow.  Life really is not fair! 

And I hate that I'm a selfish person.  I hate when I find myself comparing my life to others (which I know by the way is stupid on so many levels). And so often I look at my own life and hate the unfairness of it.  I'm after all the one who always wanted children.   And here I am another year older, and it feels like we're no closer to adoption than we were when we first got married.   We spent tonight with a group of friends all of whom are years younger - many of whom are on their 2nd or 3rd child.  And it doesn't feel fair.  And I hate myself for even feeling this way.  I honestly love that God has blessed these girls with these perfectly beautiful babies.  These girls were from a group of high school girls I led in a Bible study when I was a young college student.  I called them "my girls", and I love each one.  And I would be so heart broken if one of them couldn't have children, so I really am overjoyed at how God has blessed them.  But, that selfish part of me just wants to lay down and scream and kick my feet and say: "IT'S NOT FAIR!!!" 

Why does God let life be unfair?  I mean, He's God right?  He could snap his fingers and make everyone have equal blessings and make everything fair.  But you know what?  He knows better.  He didn't, after all, make us all the same.  He also knows that this life isn't all there is for us, He's making our place in heaven more perfect than anything we can imagine here on earth.  And I think that maybe, just maybe, He allows different experiences, different suffering, different joys, different challenges to grow us in ways that are only possible through the pathway of unfairness. 

And you know what else?  There IS part of life that actually is fair.  God offers us all the exact same relationship with Himself - the majestic Creator of the universe.  He promises to hear every single prayer, He promises to be with each of us 100% of our lives, He loves each of us without playing favorites.  He forgives all our sins no matter what that sin is.  He sees us through the blood of Jesus and makes us holy.  He is fair and just and perfect.  And I am so so so in love with the God who would love me so much.  So much that He knows I'll grow more because of the yucky and hard bits of life.  So much that He cares more for my spiritual health than He does for my physical comfort and momentary happiness.  He sees the bigger picture.

I don't need life to be fair.  Because I have a God who is fair with His love.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What Legacy will you leave?

I have one grandparent still living.  The other three plus one step- grandma have gone to be with Jesus years ago.  Lately, all of them have been on my mind and heart.  I find myself weeping over how much I miss them, and remembering the things that made each of them unique and precious to me.  I've also been sitting back and watching my siblings have children, watching as my parents become grandparents, watching how my nieces and nephews interact with my parents - and longing for our children to be part of this family soon.  Here are some of the things that stand out in my memory about my grandparents who have gone before me to heaven:

Grandpa - my mama's dad.  He had a fun and unique sense of humor - always making jokes.  He and my Grandma Edith always came to visit us and never failed to bring a bug box of doughnuts.  He was my first grandparent to pass away and sometimes I feel scared that I will forget the sound of his voice, the way he smiled, the way his eyes twinkled when he joked with my mom.   He loved his children and grandchildren and was always ready with a hug.  My favorite thing he used to do was go to orchards in Eastern Washington and ask the farmers if he could glean the leftover fruit at the end of the season.  Then he would load up his orange Dodge truck and bring boxes and boxes of fresh apples, peaches, tomatoes, cherries, apricots to us.  I remember eating the best apple I have ever had when I was about 11 years old - it was pink inside and deep red outside, and I loved my Grandpa for bringing it to me!  I edited (and produced!) a family newspaper called "The Hagen Herald" when I was about 12 to 14.  Grandpa loved getting his monthly edition and he would send me fun facts and articles that I could use in the paper.  I looked forward to every envelope addressed: "To the editor of the Hagen Herald".  I don't know if I appreciated his individual attention as much as I should have at the time - I was shy and sometimes his jovial joking intimidated me.  But he found a way to reach out to me through encouraging my writing.  I'll always remember his eyes that were perpetually laughing.  I see him when I look at my brother Nathanael - who ended up with Grandpa's eyes.  Grandpa had gone through a lot in his life and made some big mistakes, but I never questioned his belief in God.

Grampy - daddy's dad.  My Grampy was a gentleman.  I always remember him being so gentle and quiet - washing dishes in the kitchen on Christmas Eve.  I remember that once he let me help mow the lawn (with an old fashioned push mower!) - I felt so very proud to be "helping".  My cousin William and I used to put on his big work boots.  I loved seeing his art studio in the basement (the same basement that is now my home!).  I can still see him playing the harmonica his hands and mouth working together perfectly to make the cheerful yet melancholy tunes.  I remember him praying in Norwegian to bless our holiday meals.  I watched him bounce my little sister and brothers on his knee singing "Ride a Little Pony through the town" in Norwegian.  When I was in my mid teens I remember one Christmas Eve I wore a cream floral dress and for some reason I was feeling unsure of myself and self-conscious.  I wanted to be a lovely lady - but that awkward teen thing hit me hard.  As we got ready to leave I went over to the white sofa that Grampy was sitting on and kissed him good-bye.  He took my hands in his and said: "You look pretty tonight", then paused and said: "beautiful".  It's the first time I remember being called beautiful as a young woman, and I think somehow Grampy knew that I wanted to be more grown up than just "pretty".  I know that Grampy believed in God even though he wasn't a deeply religious man.  He knew that Jesus was the way and I think he spent a lot of his last days seeking what he had believed in his youth - as I sang softly to him as he lay dying I saw the peace that only Jesus can bring in his face, and I believe he found what he was looking for.

Grandma - mama's mom.  Grandma lived upstairs from us in the first childhood home that I have clear memories of.  We lived in the basement.  I remember going upstairs and eating sugared cereal (which was taboo in our granola only household ;) ) I loved her children's records and watching things like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with her.  She loved root beer floats and sugar free chocolate.  Once I spent an afternoon visiting her and we made Christmas tree ornaments using foam balls and glittery sequins and pins and ribbon.  She taught me how to cross stitch and I remember her and mama talking about making Easter dresses and my hot pink overalls - I had such wonderful seamstresses in my life!   She loved her grandchildren and I remember looking at her long hallway and seeing pictures us kids had drawn for her - we felt famous being on her wall!  I became her caregiver when she needed someone to be with her as she struggled with memory loss.  Those years were a deep blessing even when it was hard at times.  She had such great stories of her childhood that she shared with me.   She deeply loved music and was always sure to listen to hymns on Sunday.  She and I would watch Ballet and Opera.  Once she fell beside the bed and she wasn't hurt but neither of us could get her back on her feet.  I called 911 and then sat down on the floor beside her and we just laughed and laughed that the firemen were coming to help pick her up.  Living with her was a changing time in my life;  for the first time I was "on my own" living away from my parents.  I enjoyed cooking for her and she always loved what I made.  Grandma had a faith in God that I would call childlike - she knew he loved her and she accepted what He had done for her.  Even though her life held some heart break she had faith.

Grandma Edith - mama's step mother.  For my whole life Grandma Edith belonged with Grandpa.  She was always by his side.  I remember how she would always bring sugar free pink chewing gum and give it to my little sister who loved it.  She was always cheerful yet quiet.  She always seemed like such an adventurer as she traveled with Grandpa and she had a cute little cap that she would wear.  Her hair was pink and I always thought that was pretty cool.  When Grandpa died I felt like I needed to help take care of Grandma Edith and I went and spent a couple weeks with her one summer.  I helped her with the garden and she was so loving to me.  I remember going to the grocery store with her and all the yummy food she had for us to eat!  Grandma Edith and I would write letters and cards back and forth and in those letters we talked about all kinds of things and especially we talked about God.  Her faith was evident in what she wrote.  She was lonely missing my Grandpa - and I was so grieved to have him gone.  I think we comforted each other through those letters and I will always treasure them and her.

All of these grandparents have gone before - and I miss each of them at time so deeply it takes my breath away.  Our time on this earth is fleeting - and I just wonder what those who come after me will remember about my life?  I want to leave a beautiful legacy like my grandparents have left for me.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lessons from a locked car

I locked myself out of the car the other day and spent several hours in a parking lot (I was borrowing my mama's car).  It was hot and I had already been tired after a long day.  I was ready for a shower and sleep.  But, when I found out that I was locked out I called for help from my brother - and he assured me he would come when he got off work.  Unfortunately, then my cell died and I didn't hear back and didn't know when he was coming.  It was a long and complicated story (we'll just not focus on the fact that the number for roadside assistance was on the window and I didn't see it!) involving running back and forth to a pay phone several times.  I literally sat on the curb by the car for HOURS.  I was in a busy parking lot - and I was shocked that as I sat there many people drove or walked past me yet NOT ONE person stopped to ask if I needed help.  I felt so alone and so helpless. 

Waiting is hard!  I think one reason it is especially hard is that often it's something that is out of our control.  For those of you who are doers like I am, you know how hard it is to know that there is nothing you can DO to make the waiting go faster.  It's just a lesson in trusting.  I had to trust that my brother would indeed come to my rescue (and he did!).   So much of life is like sitting waiting in a hot parking lot.  We may trick ourselves and others into thinking that we have everything under control.  But ultimately, we don't!  We need to be ok with waiting.  Joshua and I were talking about my experience in the parking lot, and he reminded me that a lot of my adult life I've been in a place of limbo.  And I don't like limbo!!!  I want to feel for once like I'm not dangling precariously over a ravine!  But, maybe this life on earth is full of waiting because God knows that in the times of uncertainty and questions we have to depend on Him for our security.  If I could really control what happens in my life maybe I wouldn't feel like I needed Him.  And oh how I need Him! 

The other thing that I couldn't get out of my mind as I sat on that curb was orphans.  I don't know if our Someday Babies are out there already waiting for us or not.  But I know that there are millions of children all over the world who need forever families.  They are waiting and maybe watching other children get picked, and like I noticed in the parking lot - so many times people close their eyes to those in need, driving by without stopping to help.  My heart breaks for children who are loosing hope today - watching people go about their lives without even acknowledging the need.   Sometimes I want to close my eyes because seeing children in need of the most basic things breaks my heart, and it hurts.  I don't know how God will use us to help orphans .. I hope He will let us be parents to some of them.  But I want to do more.  And I want the Church to do more.  We can't keep closing our eyes to the parts of life that are uncomfortable, or that might change our lives if we get involved. 

My brother was my hero that day in the parking lot.  He came as fast as he could and gave me the biggest hug.  At that moment it didn't even matter how long I had been waiting, or how desperate I felt.  Children are waiting for love.  May God make me one who stops to help.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Keep Going!

I've mentioned how the past several months have been exciting for us on the health front because we have had blood test results that brought clarity to what is behind all of these health issues I have been facing for my whole adult life.  Some answers lay in a blood disorder caused by a genetic mutation, some were found in looking more closely at my blood cells and why my body has so much inflammation (blood tests confirmed that there is a strong auto-immune component which my doctors had suspected for years) and some were found in an allergy test.  Years ago when one of my doctors began to wonder if I had something auto-immune going on she told me to read a book called the Anti-Inflammation Diet.  Up to the past few months this was the most helpful thing I had found to reduce some of the joint pain.  I don't even like tomatoes anymore because I know that they make me hurt.  When these resent allergy tests and the genetic testing suggested I should go off gluten and dairy among other things I found that again, diet can be so helpful in managing chronic pain caused by inflammation.  I have been able to function on a much higher level, have gone off a lot of medication, and sleep so great and feel so much better!

Yesterday I decided that I didn't care and that I just wanted to eat the old way - so I had a gluten and dairy day. 

 So NOT worth it!  I was so uncomfortable I couldn't get to sleep until 3 am.  And my joints have been screaming at me all day.  I know that it won't be the last time I cheat on my allergy diet.  But it's exciting for me to see what a huge difference it makes for me to avoid the foods that add to my inflammation!   This diet will be part of my life forever, and I'm actually ok with that.  It's so empowering to know that I can help myself feel better and function on a higher level by being disciplined in what I eat.  At this point it doesn't look like I will ever be totally free from living with a chronic condition - but I can manage it so much better!   I know that I can't control a lot of things that happen to my health - but it is a blessing to know that God has given me the knowledge to help myself in this way. 

I think having to keep going every day with eating healthy, getting sleep, getting exercise is a great picture of the way we have to keep going in our spiritual life.  We can't let our guard down for a day!  We need to be disciplined to spend time in the Word, and in prayer - we need to watch what kind of things we allow into our mind ... It's a continual discipline. 

But it's so worth it. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Guess How Much I Love You

Last weekend I had the chance to spend the night with my sweet little sister and her two boys (my brother in law is off fishing in Alaska).  I just love spending time with this little family - and the boys never cease to make me smile and laugh.  After some fun with cowboy hats and a spider man costume, some singing and brushing teeth, it was time for bed.  They climbed into their incredible "ship" bunk bed their dad made for them and after kissing their mama and aunti they begged mama for a story.  She pulled out the sweet bunny story Guess How Much I Love You.  If you haven't read this story the book is about a baby bunny and a big bunny going back and forth tryig to express how much they love each other.  It end with the baby bunny saying: "I love you right up to the moon" .. and the big bunny replies: "I love you right up to the moon - and back".  As my sister read this to her little boys I found myself trying hard to hold my emotions together.  All I could think of was my Someday babies, and how I long for them.  I wonder if anyone will read to them and tuck them in before we can meet.

Lately, I just can't shake the thought that one or more of our Someday Babies is already born - or will be born before we are ready to adopt.  This thought haunts me, and I find myself pleading with God to watch over our little one(s).  I pray for someone to be there to love them, I pray they will be protected, that they will have food, that they won't be sick and without someone to comfort them.  I know that adoption exists because of tragedy and pain in the world, and my heart hurts to think that before we even meet our babies will experience something very painful.  And I won't be there to kiss the pain away. 

I am so grateful that God will put people in the lives of our Someday Babies to help them and step in to bring our children to us.  I pray for the foster parents, for orphanage workers, for friends, for nurses and doctors, for social workers ... I just want to cover each person with prayer.  I pray for the birth parents, grandparents, siblings .. whatever the reason this family will go through something very difficult and painful.  I want so badly to do more - but right now prayer is the only tool I have to help - and I know that prayer is powerful. 

I don't know what the point of this post is - except maybe someone else in the same situation will feel encouraged that there are others who feel the same way about children we have never met.  Maybe someone reading is facing the hard decision to give up a child for adoption.  Maybe social workers, or foster parents, or nurses and doctors will read this and be encouraged that people out there are praying for them as they work with children who need forever families.  Whatever the reason, I just felt like I needed to write this.  Maybe it's just for myself to process these complicated feelings inside as we wait until the day we are ready to adopt.  Maybe it's for our Someday Babies to read one day and know that their mama was thinking of them and longing and praying.

Whatever the case - I know that when we meet I can't wait to read Guess How Much I Love You to them.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Grief Over Colorado Shooting

My heart has been aching all day since I read the news about the horrific tragedy that unfolded in that theater in Colorado.  I wanted to share this first hand account and thoughts from a mother who survived with her two teenage daughters.  I was humbled at her faith in a good God after coming face to face with pure evil.  I am challenged by this woman's beautiful belief and nothing I could say on this day could express what I know to be true about God's character and the question of evil.  Her testimony holds so much more weight because she was there.  And she still believes.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Summer Berries and Contentment

I'm kinda like a wild bear when it comes to summer berries.  We were watching a nature show about bears tonight and how they eat something like 10,000 berries a day, and I found myself wishing that I had 10,000 to see how many I could eat in a day.  I just adore berries and my favorite of all is the raspberry.  The layers of flavor, slightly tart and totally sweet, the ease of eating (no stem or seed to deal with), the way you can eat more than one at a time ... oh wow.  I think I need some right now.

The funny thing is: sometimes I let berries go bad.  I'll buy a lot of them and put them in the fridge where I will forget about them, or become too busy to eat them until I find them moldy and yucky.  How stupid of me! (not to mention wasteful!)  I literally could eat only berries for meals at a time - but when I have some I sometimes loose sight of them until it's too late.

This reminds me of this season of our life.  Last week I sat down and wrote every number from 1 to 299 in my calendar.  The official countdown has begun.  The countdown that ends when my Farmer Boy will be out of school and we can begin adoption and all the other parts of our life that have been put on hold over these past 2 years.   I don't really think that doing this countdown is wrong.  Right now we both feel kinda like we are drowning in a sea of work, school, and responsibilities, and we miss each other.   I miss having dinner with my sweet Husband.  I long for the day when we can go to bed at a reasonable hour together - and wake up together.  I miss having friends over or being free to go and visit people we love more often.  I'm tired of declining invitations to dinner, Bible studies, church activities etc because we are just too busy.  I cannot wait until we can actually apply to adopt and be closer to our Someday Babies.  This is a needed and blessed season, but it is at times unbelievably difficult.  The countdown is helpful because it reminds us that nothing lasts forever and someday we will be free to actively pursue the dreams God has put in our heart.  We need a rope to help us keep our heads above the water - and the countdown is one strand of that rope.  But it can also be dangerous.  Because it can be an enemy of contentment if we let it.

And one of the hardest parts of this time, is that I want to be content so very badly.  I know that this day could be my (or any of our) last.  I know that the plans we make may never happen.  And I also know that there is joy in this season, and there are many blessings all around us.  We just have to look for them, and be open to them being different than the blessings we long for with every breath.  Just like berries being pushed to the back of the fridge  - they are HERE and if we don't appreciate them it will be too late and we'll be filled with regret.

I am also learning that contentment is a moment by moment choice.  It's (just like most good qualities) not something we can get and then just keep forever without lots of prayer and diligence every moment.   Today I played scrabble with my precious Grammie - and her deep joy over this simple game (which might have been deeper because she beat me!) reminded me again that there is so much beauty and pure bliss all around us and even because of this season we are walking through.  Every single day I am filled with deep satisfaction and thrilling joy that comes out of the blue - when I do my job well, when Joshua tells me he got another A, when I make a yummy meal for those I love, when we harvest veggies from our little garden, when another rose blooms, when I hear of the witness my Husband is in his workplace, when it's bedtime and I'm exhausted but proud that we all made it through another day.  I don't want to miss out on the opportunities to be filled with joy and contentment because parts of life hurt and I'm too busy looking ahead to the blessings we don't get yet.

Lord, help me savor this day, this moment, and not let the beauty of tomorrow steal away the contentment and joy that is right in front of me.  Let me rejoice in every blessing you have put right in front of me (including the blessings in disguise)- just like ripe flavorful raspberries.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A taste of our wedding 3 years ago!

We just celebrated our 3 year wedding anniversary on July 4!   Thanks to one of our friends (Matt Schmiesing) we now have the entire video on DVD and he also did some great editing and adding of still pictures.  This is the end of the video which he created a great music video of our wedding.  I wanted to give you all a little taste of what that day was like! Enjoy! 

By the way Matt Schmiesing is a singer/songwriter and his music is available at

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Of Waterslides and Not Fighting the Journey

The higher we climbed the more nervous we felt.  It didn't help that occasionally we would hear the fearful screams of those who had gone before us.  I tried not to look down for too long.  I didn't want to chicken out after all!  Finally we made it to the top and peered inside the black tunnel which we were about to enter.  The water slide was called "The Purple Haze", and others told us that it was the best water slide at the park.  I originally had no intention of even trying to go on this slide.  A few things made it very intimidating to me: #1: It was entirely enclosed in a dark tunnel.  #2:  It was the steepest slide at the park.  #3: It was a TIGHT tunnel.  But somehow my stubbornness egged me on - and I followed my husband (who was challenging me to join him in conquering this slide) up the steep hike to the top of the tunnel.  As we stood for what seemed like way too long to have the option of giving up, our friend told us that the ride takes exactly 23 seconds.  That felt like a huge relief.  I could hold my breath that long.  Somehow knowing it wasn't going to last very long made the fear facable.  Almost anything is bearable if it doesn't last long.

As we came home my Farmer Boy and I were talking about our life.  In so many ways we are in a tight spot that sometimes feels like a claustrophobic tunnel filled with water.  He is so busy with classes and working every chance he can get, and I am busy with my work and home responsibilities - we feel like we are two ships passing in the night.   This is not the "newlywed" experience we would have chosen (not that it isn't filled with all kinds of blessings!)  BUT, we know this season in our lives is only for a time.  It's not forever.  Joshua will be done with school next year at this time.  Lord willing we will be able to begin the adoption process as soon as he gets a teaching job.  Things won't always be the same as they are now (not that we expect them to be easy - that's really not what this life on earth is about!).  Someday we will be able to sit and eat dinner together, go to bed at the same time ... and having something exciting to look forward to helps us get through this water slide experience. 

Another thing I learned through the water slide adventure we went on was that if you fight the slide you get hurt!  I hit my head a few times because I was afraid of the slide and didn't want to get water in my face - but if I would have relaxed it would have been less dangerous!  It's the same with going through trying times in life - if we fight what God is letting us go through we will likely get hurt.  It is much less painful if we can relax and go for the ride of our lives.

What is your purple haze experience?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

EXCITED about Allergies???

So a few months ago I had an allergy test taken.  Here is what I learned that was so incredibly helpful for me:

There are 2 types of "allergies" the IgE allergies which are TRUE allergies - these are things that can cause serious life thretening and sudden reactions like anaphlactic reactions.  Then there are IGg "allergies" which are actually not true allergies at all - they are food sensitivities which are more transient than true allergies.  The reactions IgG sensitivities cause can take longer to show up - a few days, and they can be a wide range of symptoms.  They can even cause inflamation that doesn't seem to have immediate symptoms but that can make your body have a heavy load of inflamation over the years. 

All these years I though that if I ate a food I was "allergic" to and didn't have a reaction that I could tell was a reaction than it wasn't a big deal if I ate that food.  When my doctor sat down and explained how even the inflamation I have that might be caused by auto-immune disease (which they have now confirmed by blood tests I do have some type of issue with my immune system) can be made worse by eating the foods I have sensitivities to - it was a lightbulb moment for me.  I did have three true allergies (which are not too hard to avoid considering one is shellfish which I hate anyway) but I had some other IGg sensitivities too.  So I began avoiding my allergies and sensitivitives religiously.  And I have noticed a BIG difference in how I feel - in particular in my fatigue and achiness and joint pain. 

I was perfect on my allergies for about 2 months before I let myself think that the change in how I was feeling was because of avoiding them.  I have "cheated" a few times lately - and I definately feel it when I do!   I'm not saying that following a strict allergy diet will take away every problem with my health, but I am just so thankful that I have one very good tool to help manage everything and feel a LOT better!   It feels so freeing to know that I can control some of my symptoms somewhat through what I eat.  This couldn't have come at a better time as my work and home responsibilities are a lot right now.  I thank God for leading me to a doctor who was willing to take the time to explain in detail how things like different allergies can affect the inflamation level in my body.

So, if you have had allergies tested and don't feel like eating the foods on your list makes you feel a lot worse - remember that it may be that eating your food sensitivities is building up in your system and causing things or making them worse that you think are just a "normal" part of your life!  Take the test seriously and see what happens!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Father's Day and Growing Carrots

I have heard a lot of talk around Mother's Day about people who are infertile and how hard it is for the woman longing to be a mother to handle Mother's Day.  While I will admit that I do long to be a mama - Mother's Day is really not that painful to me.  I focus on celebrating my wonderful (best EVER!) Mama and my sisters who are also amazing moms.  I do long for the day when I can be in this exciting miraculous club of motherhood - but Mother's Day isn't the hardest for me.  Father's Day is much harder.  Maybe it's because I am the reason my Farmer Boy is not a Daddy.  Maybe it's because I see him playing with our nieces and nephews and I know he would be an incredible father.  Maybe it's because I am overwhelmed with his love - that he would choose to give up ever having a biological child to be my faithful husband.  Maybe it's because sometimes, when he doesn't think I am watching, I see that look in his eye when my nephew lays his little head on his shoulder, or when our godchildren run up and hug him.  I know he is experiencing pain and the uncertainty we are facing.  I know he wants to be a Daddy.

And I hope he will be.  I do feel that in his heart he already is a father - he loves our Someday Babies so deeply, and he reminds me so often that he is thinking of them, praying for them, and working hard to find them and bring them home.  He deserves to be honored on the holiday dedicated to fathers.  So this year I went shopping and found something just to let him know that I appreciate the love he is giving already to our unknown children.   I didn't know what to get - but when I found a tiny board book that was published in 1948 - I knew it was perfect.  It was called "The Carrot Book" and told the story about a little boy who planted a carrot seed.  Everyone told him it would never come up.  But he faithfully watered and weeded the garden.  Everyone discouraged him and kept saying it would never grow.  But he didn't give up.  And then one day - it came up!  He had never given up and he grew a beautiful big carrot.  Silly story maybe - but I thought it fit and described everything I was feeling about my brave and determined Husband. 

He will be an amazing Daddy someday.

Oh and have I mentioned lately how head over heels in love I am with my Farmer Boy?  :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Living for Jesus

The style of this hymn shows how unpopular it is in current circles - I literally couldn't find a more modern version on UTube.  When I was little my parents used to introduce us kids to a new hymn every week.  I chose this one as my life hymn.  I think it was because my name means "truthful one" so the fact that this hymn says: "a life that is true" felt like it was made for me.  I remember dusting the living room in our little house when I was about 12 and singing this hymn and feeling so close to Jesus. 

Somehow with adulthood it is harder to hold onto that childlike simple faith.  Things get busy, responsibilities weigh so heavily sometimes I feel like I will break under to weight, the pain of those around me weighs me down ... But i want that childlike simple faith.

Recently my sweet Farmer Boy played this hymn for me on his guitar and it reminded me of that childhood feeling of deep faith and simple trust in my Lord and Savior.  And I realized that it isn't just a child that can have that kind of faith.  The important thing is to let go and trust.  A child doesn't have as many things to let go of - so maybe faith and simple trust comes easier.  As an adult I have to decide to let go of my concerns and worries and trust that the most important thing I can do with my time is to live for Jesus a life that is true.   I'm learning that if I don't put that as my top priority I don't have the strength and peace to get through the rest of the messy adult stuff.  

My greatest treasure the light of His smile.  That's the focus I need every day.

Monday, June 4, 2012

How God used a baby girl to teach me His love

I was overjoyed to be out of the house and at our wonderful church service with my Farmer Boy, the sermon was great, the songs were worshipful, even the announcements made me smile.  One second I was singing: "He Loves me, oh how He loves me ..."

...and then I saw her.  

She was about as far from where we were sitting as she could be - all the way on the opposite side of the sanctuary - and she was so tiny in a room so full of people it's crazy that I even noticed her.  A perfect baby girl - she looked only about 2 weeks old.  Her mama was supporting her little head with her hand as she slept on her shoulder - all wrapped up in pink and looking so peaceful.   And suddenly I couldn't seem to swallow.  I am ashamed of the first thought that popped into my head as I kept trying to sing the words that now felt like they were choking me: "He loves me ..." - but in my mind I heard: "He doesn't love me because He hasn't given me a baby". 

I knew immediately that that lie was not from God but from the enemy and the father of lies.  I know that God's love is not limited or only expressed through the gifts He gives to His children.  I know fully that sometimes God's love is even experienced best through times of suffering or loss.  I know all of this, but that didn't stop that lie from resting for a moment in my mind.  I choked back tears through the rest of the service.  Partly because I couldn't stop looking at that baby but mostly because I was sorry that that thought had even crossed my mind.  I was frustrated that seeing a beautiful baby from a distance could bring back so much grief - shouldn't I be over that now?   I want to be done. 

And maybe it was more powerful last night because over the past few weeks God has been doing something new in my heart.  Ever so gently over and over I have heard Him say: "Would you follow Me wherever I ask you to go, even if you didn't have a guarantee of there being a baby at the other end?"  For so long I used my infertility as an excuse - like because God allowed me to loose my one deepest desire on earth, that I could hold it over His head - "God you can't be asking me to go there because You after all know that my main goal now is to become a mama", "You know that I can't do that because it would be putting off what we've already put off and I don't want to have kids when I'm much older than I am now!"  Now, while I do believe God guides me through circumstances sometimes, I also believe that if we get to attached to our plan we can miss out on what He has for us that might be so much better than anything we could imagine! 

So last night God used a tiny pink baby to pry my fingers off the last thread of my own plans.  To test the truth that He loves me even if I never do have a baby to call my own.  To make me believe all over again that He loves me even if life doesn't go my way.  His love is not less when His blessings are deeper than what we can see at first glance. 

None of this means we are stopping our pursuit of adoption - but just that we are seeking His plan and not holding Him hostage or putting Him in our box of how the next 5 years should look.  This doesn't change the longing in my deepest heart for a baby.  It doesn't take away the feeling that I'm a mother without a child. 

But -

"He love me, oh how He loves me."
I believe this with all of my being tonight.