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." .

18 April 2014

in the garden

It seems fitting that this Good Friday morning is rainy and dark and cold. It fits the mood of this dark day. I generally want to rush past the horrors of Holy Week and get to the celebration of Resurrection Sunday. My faith hinges on the fact that He rose victorious from the grave. I know without his death, the victory would be lacking

I read about Jesus' time in the garden by way of my handy Bible-app and a lent reading plan. When I read the familiar verses, they seemed heavier than before. When Jesus said, "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with me." I couldn't comprehend Jesus, being so grieved that he said it was to the point of death. That is some heavy grief. I wondered immediately if Jesus was grieving because of His thoughts for us, or if He was grieving for what He knew His disciples would see + experience over the coming days, or was He grieving because of what He was going to face Himself? I'm not sure that you can pinpoint exactly what He was grieving. But isn't that the way of grief? Its messy, its edges bleed over into every part. It can't be neatly compartmentalized, it spills onto sunny days just as easily as it floods the dark night.

And to think Jesus felt this heavy grief as He prepared to do the very job His entire life was purposed for. He went on to ask "My Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as you will." Jesus, in His darkest moments, asked for a way out. In His deep grief, He gave us - His followers - this gift. If even Jesus, the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, the Perfect Lamb, asked God, if possible can we do something else here? He validates our desire for another way, and then He shows us how to accept the hard thing, "yet not as I will, but as you will." 

This whole garden scene just rattles my soul. He asked His friends to pray and they fell asleep. He asked God three times to take this cup from Him. He kept praying in the dark alone. He kept asking God for another way in the shadows. And somehow in the dark, lonely prayers, He accepted that it wasn't going to change. And He woke His friends and said, "behold, the hour is at hand." 

My Savior, my very-human-but-also-God-Savior, found courage through honest prayer. He showed His grief to His closest friends, and laid it out before God in prayer. His circumstances did not change, and yet, He was strengthened to face the task at hand.

So I slow down today to ponder those who grieve. I settle here before the celebration of His resurrection and I sense the heaviness of a world in the darkness. I want to put myself in the garden alongside the ones carrying the sorrow. I somehow want to muster more alertness than the disciples but also know I cannot remove the weight of grief from the one who carries it. I can only be present to bear witness.

It is heavy and yet holy. May we gently stand with our friends and family who grieve. May we not rush them through the depths, nor leave them in the darkness alone. If all we can offer is our presence in the shadows, let's do that. Let's not offer empty words, let's be near as they pour out their deeply grieved hearts - to the point of death. Let us honor their prayers that request another way.

Sunday is coming. But the darkness is heavy today.  I think its important to acknowledge it rather than rush past it.

* all verses referenced are from Matthew 26:36-46 NASB

15 April 2014

Judah's story

When we think about children in poverty,  I think its easier to distance ourselves.  We imagine that other cultures are so different from our own, that we somehow believe their sorrow is different too.  But the thing is, parents love their children. Whether their homes are like ours or not, their love for their children is.  They love their kiddos just like we love our kiddos.  Poverty doesn't change that.  It just complicates it.  Watch this brief video about Judah and listen to his mother's realization:



 There are so many things that our children have access to, simply because of where they were born.  And there are so many children that do not have access for the same reason -- where they were born.  In our global society, we can change that.  I encourage you to consider sponsoring a child through Compassion International.  You'll be richly blessed, and at the same time, you'll be a part of blessing another family in ways we can't quite measure.  You might just provide another mom the opportunity to tell a story like Judah's about her own son.  Click here for more information.

12 April 2014

funners

Wilson, Walker and I ran the Cascade Hills Twilight 5k together for the first time. This was Wilson's first 5k, Walker's third, and my fifth. They have both officially ran faster 5k's than I have.  Wilson blew my first 5k time by over 10 minutes.  I'm still going to take credit for helping with their training. . .but I suspect I might be a liability for them in the speed-department.

My friend, Amber, was kind enough to snap some photos of us and emailed them to me.  WJ and I ran together for the first 3/4 of a mile or so.  He stayed home from school yesterday because he had a low-grade fever.  Brad suggested he just run nice + easy.  He agreed to it.  Until he decided he was just going to go ahead and run his best.


I LOVE the thumbs up here.  Seriously, could that dude be any cuter?


Wilson used the watch for pacing himself.  He knew he wanted to run under 28 minutes.  When we passed each other at the first turn around, he said he was running "an 8-something pace."  So proud of him. He finished in approx. 27:58 min.


He made it look pretty effortless.  When I saw him as we passed one another on the second loop, his form looked perfect.  Unfortunately, he claims it wasn't that fun and doesn't want to run the 10k next week with WJ and I.  It's the one we've been training for since January.  We're hoping he'll change his mind, but we aren't going to force him. 


Walker almost always runs negative-splits -- which means he runs faster as he goes.  He beat his last 5k time by at least 6 minutes, maybe more.  He finished last night right around 31:00 min.


I struggled.  I am choosing to blame it on the fact that I gave blood the day before, but I think it might just be in my head.   Amber's husband circled back and ran part of the last bit with me.  I took a walk break and then both Wilson + Walker came out to meet me.  They were shirtless + adorable; saying encouraging words like, "you've got this!" + "you've got more in you, mom!"  I finished around 38 minutes.  I think that might be tied with my first 5k time or might be slightly slower.

All of our finish times are our best guesses because Brad was doing a lot of chasing during the race.  He is pretty sure his back would've felt better if he had run the 5k rather than wrangled the little dudes (after bedtime, in a crowd).  Amber caught a picture of them trying to make a getaway in the golf cart by the finish line.   All you can do is laugh, right? 


My step-dad commented on facebook that "family runners = funners".  I think so for sure.

The best part about the whole thing was that this benefits the local foster care community.  There were a handful of caseworkers and other employees from the DFCS office and it was awesome to see their delight over the turn out.  A lot of folks brought donations in for the supply closet too.

So even though I didn't run a stellar race, my heart is brimming with joy over the whole thing.  God is so good, and we are so privileged to get to be a part of this church, blessing this community.

11 April 2014

five minute friday:: paint

Wow. Things are getting crazy around these parts!  Its Friday AND I'm writing my five-minute-friday post TODAY!  Yesterday, I was early to an appointment (and neither Brad nor my grandma was with me!).  What next?  

So anyway, as you know Lisa-Jo Baker invites the internets to write along with her for five minutes on Fridays.  You can read about it here, if you want to jump on board with her.

Five Minute Friday
Today's prompt is -- PAINT.

***GO***

It is sort of a hassle.

Something to cover the table.  Make sure the shirts are OK for the mess.  Track down various size paint brushes - and make sure the bristles aren't falling out all willy-nilly.  Get little cups out for water and carefully fold up a paper towel for dabbing off excess.

And let them paint.

They'll sit still for a long stretch.  Always dipping their brushes in color, then water, then slipping it across the paper.  Next color.  Then the next.  After they've swiped a little of each color, the colors start mingling.

Dipping, slipping, dripping across the paper.

Its messy.  But they are creating and they are happy about it.

I don't ever want the fear of a mess to cause me to hold back the boys' creativity.

Paint is one of those mediums that just spreads and moves so effortlessly.  Let the brush fly and the colors burst and there is almost always something beautiful in the aftermath.  Even if only to a mother's eye.

Messes happen.  But often the beauty is hard to find before the mess.  So let the mess come and watch as the beauty unfolds.  There is joy along the way, and also some learning opportunities when I take the time to listen in on my little artists.  You know, "oh look what happens when the red and blue blend together!"

Yes, its a hassle.  Sure, its a mess.

But the effort?  Its worth it.  And if I don't have artwork for my wall at the end of it, at the very least, I  have a memory to hold onto.  And so do my little creative dudes.

***STOP***

and who can write about her messy artists and not include a picture?  


good things

You guys.

This week + our God = awe.  Truly.  Here are some highlights:
  • First and foremost, a FB message from a friend Sunday night telling us her husband accepted Jesus that day!!! I still break into a wide smile every single time I think about it.  So grateful for a Savior that loves us and pursues us.  This could easily be the end of the list.  So much happy wrapped around this! {If it were possible to interject a confetti cannon into a post, this would be the spot!}
  • The response at church Saturday night and Sunday morning was really fun.  You may not know this, but Brad and I are socially awkward.  {I know a lot of you already knew.}  We are terrible at meeting new people, and are often quiet and a little stand-offish in group settings.  After the services this weekend we had to stand at the info table and we shook so many hands and shared so many stories.  We both talked to different people most of the time.  I think each of us had at least a couple prayers whispered into our ears.  We held hands with folks that held back tears.  We conspired about the BIG things God is doing in our community.  We weren't even a little bit awkward.  We were just doing what we were supposed to be doing. 
    • Here's a great new album for the kiddos. {Click here}.  This is music geared for kids, but it doesn't make you feel like your ears are bleeding.  If the songs get stuck in your head, you won't be annoyed you'll be encouraged!  Winning! Funny story, a couple weeks ago I had a lyric stuck in my head.  I thought it must've been a song we sang at church or at PWOC that week.  I googled, "for our God is faithful, He can move mountains."  But I kept coming up with the wrong song.  Yesterday we were listening to this album and when we got back in the car that lyric played.  Its from the song "Mustard Seed."  
    • I'm reading a really good book.  It's actually kind of two books in one.  You start at one side, reading a narrative about some kiddos for a week.  After that you flip it over and read some principles about love over time.  Its written for anybody who will do anything with a kid or teenager this week.   Here's a quote I adore:
    Our attraction to immediate results can keep us so busy we never engage in work that has lasting impact.  We get so pre-occupied with what we can measure, we don't give attention to what we can't measure.  -Reggie Joiner, Playing for Keeps


    • We've been sorting through our house a bit over the last few weeks in varying degrees of urgency.  The fun part about this is uncovering forgotten things.  I am a note-jotter, scrap-of-paper-chicken-scratcher.  I have an uncountable number of notebooks stashed away -- with haphazard tidbits written sideways across lines and sprinkled randomly thoughout the pages.  I found this in one of them.  Sometimes I'm glad I'm a notebook-hoarder. 


    What are some good things you've noticed in your week?

    07 April 2014

    that time Brad spoke at church

    My thoughts are still swirling about Brad speaking with our Pastor at church this weekend.


    I think I either had a dreamy-smile on my face or I was wiping  away tears throughout all three services.

    Yes, because I love that man that was up there.

    But even more so because I love our Father who called that man up there.  And hearing the story this way, just captivated me all over again.

    I wish I could say that I have been 100% on the same page every step of this journey.  There were times that Brad would tell me something and I just thought, "Well that seems a little unrealistic."  When he told me he walked around the church 7 times praying circles?  I don't remember exactly what I said, but I know for sure I didn't say, "Wow! that was a super idea!"

    As God started opening doors -- by opening hearts for these foster-care-kiddos -- He opened my heart too.  I began to grasp that Brad's passion for children-in-crisis was placed there by God, and I surely didn't want to get in the way of that.  Sometime in the fall, God and I had a distinct heart to heart about our circumstances.  I was praying over something very specific + time sensitive asking, "God please work out the details."

    Not a moment went by and I felt the impression that He replied, "I already have. Pray that your eyes would be open to how I have worked them out."

    It was a bit of an "ouch!" but it quickly faded into a smile, because, of course, God.  And also? These specific details would have to be worked out within 24 hours anyway.  So I felt that sense of God confirming things.  However, He added one more thing.

    "Same with Brad's next job."

    Wait, what?  We had no idea when his final-out date would be at that point.  This was going to be a lot more waiting with a much bigger question mark at the end.  My response was considerably more stoic and a lot less warm + fuzzy.  But I treasured the moment. 

    Since then, I have repeatedly prayed about Brad's next job, reminding myself (and if I'm honest, reminding God) that He has already worked out the details.  Begging Him that my eyes would be open to how He has worked them out.

    Meanwhile, God has been blowing us away at every step.  We still do not have a definite plan for housing or employment; but I have no fear.  I promise that is only God.

    Honestly, I feel like if I added a list of the things God has revealed to us in the last couple weeks it would sound like bragging.  I mean really.  God has been over-the-top in little + big ways reminding me that He knows every detail.  Well.

    Brad speaking at church yesterday was just a moment to take in God's glory.  Brad has never had the goal of speaking.  He never hoped to be on stage.  He just followed God's lead.  If a door was in front of him, He knocked  + prayed + waited until God opened it.  Then he walked through the door with confidence because he knew Who opened it.  It has been so amazing to watch.  And fun!

    My husband, the recently-medically-retired-E5-Army-medic, spoke at the biggest church in Columbus, Georgia yesterday.  Only God makes that sort of thing happen.

    He has big plans and it is such a humbling honor to be a part of this work.

    If you want to see a bit of our story and hear about how our church is stepping in to care for our foster care community, you can watch the video here.