15 June 2014

father's day

A long time ago, there was a dad with two daughters.  His marriage fell apart and he was granted custody.

We could probably settle in here for awhile and examine all the ins and outs of this, but its the afterwards part that is inspiring.

The dad raised his daughters.  Sure he had help along the way.  But at night it was just him and his girls all tucked away in their rooms.

The dad did his best.  Although, I'm certain there were many nights when he laid awake and wondered if he had.  Wondered if it was enough.  If he was enough.

Isn't that the thing with parenting?  We don't really know in the middle of the hardest parts.  We wonder if we're messing it all up.

But as an adult, with children of my own, I know the answers for this dad. 

Dad, you did your best.  You always worked hard to provide for us.  We didn't have Girbaud jeans, but we did have new jeans.  I don't remember you ever saying you didn't have money for something I needed for school.  And you never asked for the change.  {or did you?}  You encouraged us to get jobs when we were old enough and taught us the value of working hard, too.

Dad, you did your best.   You must have been pretty tired from working all day and then dealing with your chatty girls.  You still found time for fun.  It must have been a ton of work to get ready for our annual camping trip, but you never skipped it.  You could talk like PeeWee Herman {before he was creepy!} and lip sync like Milli Vinilli.  You did crack some corny jokes, but corniness aside your jokes always made me laugh.  


Dad, you did your best.  Your marriage fell apart at a time when the Church was still really awkward with handling broken families.  I cannot imagine what it felt like for you, but you continued to get us to church.  When we threw tantrums about it, you didn't just throw your hands up and say forget it.  I think you made a brave, hard choice to stick with it.  I'm so glad you did.  While church attendance does not equal salvation, it is often a starting point.  I'm grateful you fought hard to give us a foundation of Truth.

Dad, you did your best.  I don't remember you ever once saying, "I cannot wait until you go to your mom's house."  I imagine 'her days' must have been some kind of break for you, but you never let us know it.  You let us go, but never made us feel guilty about it.  I know things weren't perfect with you + mom + shared custody and all that jazz, but the older I get, the more respect I have for you and how you handled that.  My children have relationships with both of their grandparents because of some of the choices you two made way back then.  I am so grateful.


Dad, you did your best.  You let us grow up.  You didn't try to hold us back.  It must've been hard to know when to give us more responsibility.  And harder yet, to give us second chances.  I wonder what was more difficult for you, when we were young and you had to do our hair for us; or when we were older and you had to let us leave the house with our hair all crazy. 


Dad, you were enough.  You still are. You aren't one to write mushy letters, or call and check-in every day or so.  But you have this one look -- the one that says everything.  Your mouth is pressed tightly into a smile, your eyes are a little squinty, but not so much that I can't see the tears glistening.  I know you love me and I know you are proud of me.  I hope you always know the feeling is mutual.

Dad you were enough, because you were never alone.  God carried you through and gave you wisdom when you needed it.  Your family is beautiful because you were faithful.  



Happy Father's Day, Pops!  I'm proud of you and I love you!



20 May 2014

an anniversary

Today is the day Josh + Alyssa were married.  I confess, I didn't know when their anniversary was until earlier this month. I wasn't there when they promised vows, I didn't even know them then.  Our friendship isn't that old.

I'm only becoming familiar with their history because I've waded into the depths of grief with Alyssa. I won't share her story here, it is hers to tell.  I can only share what I am learning as I bear witness.

Today would be their anniversary.

Tomorrow will mark 3 months since he last breathed earth air.

I still find myself at a loss.  I can't draw any conclusions about how this is good.  I can't.

But everything in me still believes God is good.  And there are days when I wrestle with this tension.  I shake my head and wipe my tears and beg God to be so near Alyssa and each of her precious children.

I've held her hands and prayed those desperate prayers, begging Him to be present, to be near, to hold close, to protect, and guard and make new.  I've desperately asked Him to just come back. . .to rescue us from this broken world.  I've flipped through His word, seeking Truth to share -- the kind that gives Hope on the darkest days.

I've cried so many tears.  And prayed so many prayers.  I know my offerings are just a sliver of what others have cried and prayed.

Nonetheless, God remains faithful.  The weight of grief is heavy and the darkness is deep.  The waves continue to crash for this family. 

Even so, I've seen these glimmers of His glory.  These faint shimmers of goodness and light.  This hope rising and this beauty emerging that is beautiful.

I recognize God's Spirit within Alyssa.  She writes these profound and moving words on FB from time to time that just about take my breath away.  All I can do is offer praise to God because it is evident that He is holding her.  So close.

I don't have any understanding.  Yet my faith finds this soil fertile too.

Please pray for Alyssa today, and tomorrow, and as often as God brings her to mind.

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV

If you haven't donated to the fundraising page, it is still active.  The goal is $25,000 per child so there is more to be raised. 

19 May 2014

work day

We had our first work day at the office of Brad's new job.  Let me explain that a little bit because I was asked a few times about this.  The organization, The Cora Reid Greene Home for Children, has two facilities.  One is a house {where we will live!}, the other is a commercial building.  The commercial building is home to:  Brad's office, a kitchen, a meeting room, and a clothing closet.  It has been used for a number of purposes and has been the catch-all for donations and other "useful" items.  It is 4000 square feet.  It hasn't been used on a regular basis for about a year.

Brad's daily work over the last few weeks was getting the place usable again.  It took him a day or two just to get his office space cleared out enough so he could begin to make phone calls and take notes.  He knew he would need help in getting the rest of the 3800 sq feet in working condition.

He set up a FB event and spread the word.  He arranged for a dumpster to be delivered. Thankfully, I think God sent the exact right number of people to help.  Too many more people and we would've been stumbling over one another.

Later Saturday evening, I asked Brad to really consider what it would've been like if it were just our family trying to clear out the place -- or just our family plus the family that volunteered to watch our littlest dudes.  The work would be so tedious and our progress would be so slow.  Shudders.

But like I said, there was the just-right-number of helpers.  The kitchen got a good deep cleaning.  The chest freezer from Montgomery Ward was removed.  Broken desks and well-worn couches were carried out as well as the surplus furniture that filled the common space.  The furniture that was still in good condition was placed near the road in hopes that somebody would be able to use it. The bins of toys were sorted so there were no longer broken and random parts mixed in with the good toys. The damaged books were removed from the shelves.   We began sorting the bags + bags of clothing that lined the walls of the clothing closet.  We didn't even begin to sort the clothes or shoes that were already on display.  The stuffed animals were all piled into a bin, they had the familiar smell of musty old building that is near impossible to remove.  The building was getting empty and the dumpster was getting full.

Eventually, people came to look at the furniture pieces near the road.  Children came to play with the stuffed animals and broken toys.  People started peering over the side of the dumpster.  There was a little confusion inside-the-building about what was happening outside-the-building. I looked out the window from the second story and was mildly surprised by the scene.  There were easily 15-20 children climbing on the furniture, each carrying a stuffed animal with them.   I saw one child carrying a chair upside down over his head.  I think he turned around about a-half-block-away to bring it back.  Cars pulled up to the curb and rolled their windows down to inquire about this furniture the kids were climbing on.  Some of the guys went out to let people know they could take whatever furniture they wanted.

Before long, lunch was delivered.  We stopped the work to give thanks and break bread.  It was nice to hear just a bit more about some of the other volunteers' stories.  There were a couple foster parents present as well as foster-parents-to-be.  There were board members too, and I was grateful to finally meet a few more of them.  One of Brad's former co-workers and his wife came out to help.  There was a good mix of folks from Cascade Hills, the community, and hard-working kiddos too.  I enjoyed just looking around the room at the people that were gathered.

A few minutes after the work resumed, a gas leak was discovered.  That put a quick halt to the work.  A handful of us sat outside chatting awhile, waiting for the gas-leak-checker-guy (not the correct job title) to arrive.  A very animated man inquired about the furniture that remained.  I didn't hear Brad's answer, but I heard the man reply, "Good Lord, I'd love to have that in my living room!"  They moved aside his selection and he made plans to come back for it shortly.  And he did.  Whoever he found to pick up the items took a few pieces as well.

There were a few items still sitting in the parking lot near the building when I left.  I figured they wouldn't be there the next day {which was fine.} 

The gas-leak-checker-guy did end up finding two gas leaks.  He was able to shut off the gas and thankfully it wasn't worse.  Brad, Wilson, and Walker were the only ones around when he left so they just shut everything up for the night.

Brad went by yesterday to pick some stuff up that he had left.  He spent a good chunk of time re-collecting trash from the dumpster that had been distributed throughout the parking lot and the adjoining yard. He said it took him about 40 minutes.  He did the same thing this morning, too.  There was also additional trash added to the parking lot near the dumpster.  Thankfully, the dumpster should be picked up today.

Brad was really encouraged by the amount of work that was accomplished (even with the additional trash collections).  It was encouraging to me to see him so encouraged.  There is still so much work to be done, but it is obvious that God will send the right workers at the right time. 

I'm not yet able to put words around how proud I am of Brad, or how grateful I am that God chose Brad for this job.  Exciting seems like such a flimsy word to describe how we are feeling, but these are definitely exciting times.

02 May 2014

celebrate the small!


I'm celebrating some small things today.  Join me?

  1. Operation-run-with-the-jogging-stroller-again is underway.  I've done it twice now and I can still walk and talk.  Celebrating that!
  2. Two little dudes are dressing themselves -- two days in a row without being told!!  I can't even begin to tell you what sort of freedom that is for me.  Sure, some things were on backwards and nobody had underwear on today but I'm still celebrating the progress.
  3. Brad is home for breakfast.  For four-and-a-half years, Brad had to leave the house before 6am almost every Mon-Fri.  Now that he is has begun his new job, and still gets to have breakfast with us, we're all pretty happy.  Although, the non-morning-people are still non-morning-people even when he is here every morning.
  4. Post-wide garage sale tomorrow!  Half of our garage has been full of half of our stuff (slight exaggeration) for some months now.  We weren't sure if we would be here still for the post-wide sale or not. But we are!  Naturally, we are hoping to sell, Sell, SELL!!
  5. I wrote my five-minute-friday post on Friday.  Its the little things, I tell you.  You can read it here.
  6. Happy.  I just cannot hear that song and not feel happy.  I don't care if its cliche, we'll shake it like freaks up in here every time we play it. Every. Time. Thank you Pharrell.  
  7. Speaking of music celebrations.  You can't make me stop playing the new NEEDTOBREATHE album.  Or the Ellie Holcomb one.  Back and forth, over and over with those two.  Perfection.
  8. It's May.  My favorite month of the year since birth.  It's my birth month, Brad's birth month, Mother's Day, the end of school, and the beginning of summer all rolled in to 31 days of lovely.  What's not to celebrate?
What are you celebrating today?  It can be small, or big, or just fun.

five minute friday:: mess

I'm writing my five-minute-friday post on Friday, AGAIN.  Although I skipped last week, so maybe I shouldn't pat myself on the back too enthusiastically.

Five Minute Friday 

 If you would like to join in on the fun, check out all the details here.

Today's prompt is :: mess.

***go***

Messy-bessies.  That is what I call my boys sometimes.  I, myself, am a self-proclaimed messy-bessie on most days.  We often find ourselves in a state that can be classified as a "mess."  I've come to be at peace with that.  Which technically, wasn't all that hard of a struggle because I have never been called a "neat freak."  Ever.  But as a stay-at-home mom I always put a certain amount of pressure on myself to make sure Brad came home to a clean house.  OK, clean-ish house.

A home with twin toddlers is a bit more of a challenge to keep clean-ish, I think.  One particularly rough day, Brad came home and nobody was happy.  Crankiness, shouting, pitching-fits -- and that was just me.  After the bliss of bedtime rolled around Brad and I kind of unpacked the day.  I talked about how frustrating it is to try and get things done before he got home and how I hated that I never felt like I could keep up.

He said, "I would rather come home to a messy house, than a bunch of screaming."

Y'all, that about set me free.  I no longer put pressure on myself to try and get things done, nor did I let guilt settle in if I saw unfolded laundry in the basket or tons of freaking grass on the carpet.  Peace in the home was a better choice.

Don't get me wrong, I'll always struggle with keeping a clean-ish house and I certainly didn't accept his statement as a free pass to never do any housework.  It just set me free to do the work at my pace and with peace.

***stop***

25 April 2014

celebrating small

Just a quick list of little things I'm celebrating on a Friday afternoon.

1.  Riding with the windows down.  Brad used the van to load up pack-n-plays, car seats, and whatnot for the foster care office supply closet.  The little dudes were delighted to have their car seats in the Aztec and control of the window buttons.  They remind me so often, "its the little things."  {You can barely see a little hand reaching out that back window!}



2.  Friends and family to pray with.  I know this isn't small.  But sometimes I forget to celebrate the treasure that it is. . . that I can send an email or a text and ask for prayer.  Or grab a few friends at bible study and ask them to come lift another friend in prayer.   I was just thinking about what a great, great treasure that is.

3.  Trash picking.  Brad is a reluctant trash picker.  I have no problem with it because it is a very 'green' thing to do. Anyway, when he got home from Bible study he asked Wilson to come help him get two tiny bikes from the trash.  This morning two very happy boys shrieked with joy.   And the landfills are that much emptier. Boom.



4. Ankle crossers.  Irresistible.

 
5.  Easter candy.  I can't help it.  I've already eaten all of the Gobstoppers and Bottlecaps but we still have some Nerds left.  Don't worry I keep it in a bowl on the fridge so the boys won't get sick from eating it all.

 6.  Kitchen Success.  Y'all.  I'll never be a food blogger.  But I have got to tell you how amazing dinner turned out last night.  It was almost an hour late, which I think always adds to the deliciousness of it.  I spatchcocked my chicken because I forgot to put it in the crockpot in the morning.  I slathered it up with some olive oil and s+p and popped it in the oven.  I then chopped up my sweet potatoes because I knew the chicken wouldn't roast long enough to bake the potatoes whole.  At the last second, I decided to rough-chop a yellow onion.  I tossed the potatoes + onions with some olive oil and s+p, then put them on the baking sheet with the chicken.  I didn't even stir them while it all roasted.  {Did I mention Brad wasn't home?}  45 minutes later and the world's most delicious sweet potatoes emerged.  Oh my word.  I didn't want to share any of it.  Even the-boy-that-refuses-to-eat-a-baked-sweet-potato ate his entire serving.  I didn't offer seconds.  The chicken was fine too, but it didn't change my life.


7. Teachers.  WJ's teacher asked him to wear his medal today.  I'm giddy over the fact that she wants to celebrate his efforts.  WJ + WC both told us about the morning announcements Monday when they said, "Walker Lutz ran his first 10k over the weekend."  


What small things are you celebrating?

22 April 2014

celebrating Brad's next job!

You likely know by now about Brad's new job at the Cora Reid Green Home for Children.

I can barely figure out how to put into words the magnificent way this came together.  Brad did not submit an application for this job.  Nor did the board of directors post an opening.

Sometime last fall I asked Brad about what his preferred job would be.  Without hesitation, he listed off working for a CAFO organization or working for a non-profit here in town in the field of orphan care/foster care.  So, when he got an email two weeks ago about this job out-of-the-blue; we knew God was revealing His behind-the-scenes work.
 
"The steps of a man are established by the Lord, And He delights in his way." Psalm 37:23 NASB

Brad will have a lot of work to do in order to get the organization up and running.  It has been in a bit of limbo for awhile.  The original intent was to provide a safe place for children that come in to foster care.  As you know, sometimes children sit in government offices all day waiting for a foster home.  In some counties, they may end up waiting at the police station.  The Cora Reid Green Home was started to ensure no more children would have to endure that situation.  Over time, they have expanded to include a variety of services and resources to foster children.  They have decided its time to refocus on the original mission.  Brad will be writing a business plan in the coming weeks to build a solid foundation for what comes next.  {I will be organizing a prayer team for the organization, hopefully by the end of the week.}

We'll be living in the home that the organization owns.  We've been approved for an extension to stay in our home on-post until the other home is renovated.  Which means the boys will finish the school year at their school and we won't have to drive across town for drop-off + pick-up.  Also, the board of directors has said that we can pick paint colors and what not.  Brad and I have never ever painted a single room in any of the homes we've lived in.  This is just one teeny-tiny detail that astounds me.

We found out on February 5, 2014, that Brad's last official day in the Army would be April 29, 2014 - one week from today.  Yesterday, God showed us that He had provided for us beyond what we could've imagined.  I'm giddy and grateful and flat-out amazed.  I'm replaying my prayers over the last six months or so, lingering over sacred moments of assurance that He generously gave me along the way.  I'm delighted that God has chosen this for our family.  I'm so proud of Brad for following hard after God; expecting Him to provide something just-right. 

What do you do when you can't stretch your hands high enough to the heavens to show your praise?

What do you do when you can't bow your face low enough to show your awe?

I just keep praising Him.  Its enough to make me come undone.  I'm humbly grateful for every prayer offered on behalf of our family throughout this process.  I cherish each text, phone call, and FB "like" that has celebrated this good news with us.  I just keep praising Him for the good gifts He has given us.  Ever aware that we deserve none of it.  

Of course, I have a song to go with it.


Multiplied - NEEDTOBREATHE

Your love is like radiant diamonds
Bursting inside us we cannot contain
Your love will surely come find us
Like blazing wild fires singing Your name

God of mercy sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design
May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Hallelujahs be multiplied

Your love is like radiant diamonds
Bursting inside us we cannot contain
Your love will surely come find us
Like blazing wild fires singing Your name

God of mercy sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design
May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Hallelujahs be multiplied

19 April 2014

running in the rain

So Walker and I both ran our first 10k last night.  {Wilson stuck to his decision not to run it.} It was the "Light Up Columbus" run which was in support of Autism Speaks.  This was the run that we marked on the calendar in January.

It poured all day yesterday and the temperatures were unseasonably cool.  Not the weather conditions I had hoped for our first 10k.

pre-run selfie

We were so close to bailing.  Even when we parked to walk over to the event start, we had it in our minds that it would be fine to just get back in the Aztec and drive home.  Walker stepped right into a huge puddle when we got out.  We tugged our rain jacket hoods up over our heads, pulled our fists into our sleeve cuffs, and crossed our arms tightly in front of us.

If you aren't from Georgia, you won't believe this, but when its cold + rainy:: It. Is. COLD.  Seriously.

We walked two blocks over to the glow party, though, and our thoughts of bailing drifted away.  We found some free cotton candy and decided we were going to make some good memories.

A few minutes later we spotted Walker's PE teacher and Walker beamed.  She's the one that organized the Loyd Running Club and has faithfully devoted her Saturday mornings to us this entire school year.  She loves to see people enjoy running, and she has been such an excellent encourager - not just for the boys, but for me too.  Her genuine excitement for the kids' achievements is unmistakable.  I'll always be grateful for her generosity to our family.  Every child should have a teacher like this in their life.

It was a tough 10k.  Poor Walker had to take a few walk breaks on account of running with slow momma.  There were places where the rain puddles covered the entire course and the water splashed high as we ran through it.  The course volunteers all cheered for the "little dude" whenever we passed by.  I asked Walker why he thought they all cheered for him and not me, he just laughed.  He actually looked for puddles to run through, rather than avoiding them.

As we hit mile 5, we were exchanging adjectives about how our bodies felt: cold, heavy, tired, wet.  But then I switched it up and started throwing out words like: impressive, amazing, fierce.  It was enough to keep us going.  We stopped on the pedestrian bridge to take in the view of the wildly, swirling Chattahoochee River.  It felt like we were the only ones out there, even though there were course volunteers on both ends of the bridge.  It was almost magical. 

We finally glimpsed the finish line, and the volunteers yelled, "its just up the hill!"  As we came up to the last block we could hear someone yell out, "Here comes Walker!"  Then, the remaining spectators started chanting, "Walker, Walker, Walker!"  I so wish I could have got a picture of his face when he realized what they were saying.  Bright eyes, big smile and a whole lotta determination.  It was awesome!  I could feel that thick lump in my throat and tears filling in my eyes -- but there was no way I could finish the last block if I lost it, so I just kept looking at WJ and savoring the moment.  Of course, Walker's teacher was in that crowd, and he was so thrilled to see her at the end.

We headed back to the glow party and got ourselves some blue popcorn and a banana.  We danced to "Happy," and decided we should head for the car.  But then they started passing out awards, and I was pretty sure I hadn't seen anyone else on the 10k course that was Walker's size.  I decided we should stay and see if he might get something for his age group.  When they called his name, I got to see that look on his face again for a split second.  And the entire cold, wet, windy run was so worth it.

2nd place in the 14-and-under division
post-run-pruney-piggies





When we got back to the car, I called Brad ASAP because it was late.  Then we took off our wet socks and put on some dry ones.  As I climbed into my seat, I told Walker that I was really glad he ran with me, because I probably would've quit if he wasn't out there.  He said, "I'm glad you ran with me, because I probably would have quit without you too." .