22 December 2014

when Christmas feels heavy

On the Monday before Christmas some lists feel impossible.  The weight of it unmeasurable.

Maybe your to-buy list was longer than your budget allows.  And you're anxious about what to do for those last names you've written down.  You feel a little knot inside as you fight the inner battle of heaping guilt on yourself for not planning better and wishing  you had a bigger budget. 

Maybe you are staying with family.  And its tense.  But nobody wants to talk about it because all the talking doesn't bring resolution. Feelings have been hurt by words that were said in the past.  You struggle against guarding your heart so tightly that neither joy nor sorrow can get near you. 

Maybe this Christmas has an uninvited guest.  A diagnosis that holds on to each moment.  Maybe this is your 5th Christmas with that same diagnosis and you flail between resenting that it is still present while rejoicing that you are still beating that nasty disease. 

Maybe you are in an in-between place.  You don't know what is next and you are tired of trying to answer the questions that are repeatedly asked.  You long to hold on to some concrete answers, but all have are open-ended possibilities and no guarantees that they will work out.

Or maybe this Christmas is your first without your loved one.  You are bracing yourself against what might come on that once magical day.  In some ways, you just want to get it over with, and other ways you wish it wouldn't come at all.  You prepare the best you can, knowing full-well that the grief will arrive unannounced and likely forcefully. 
--
We struggle days before Christmas with this weight that we would love to just brush aside.  But it is too heavy to get out from under and too near to pretend otherwise.  We clench our fists and dig in our heels, bracing for the whirlwind.

And I wonder.  What was it like in Heaven in the days before our Savior came?  The angels that announced His coming said, "Do not be afraid."  Is it because they were just on the other side of witnessing something terrifying themselves?  Our Savior that came willingly as a helpless infant --He left gleaming perfection for dirty earth.  And heaven watched it unfold.  The words that describe heaven in the Bible leave us wondering, because our earth-words don't come close to capturing all-the-glory we will one day know.

He left Glory for this mess.  For you.  For me.  He sees our hurting places and knows the weight we carry today.  He is with us now.  He is God with us, our Emmanuel.  We can unfurl our fists and relax our guarded hearts.  We can trust that He is enough for all of our to-do-lists and struggling relationships.  He brings victory to the broken places, even before all is well.  He came to be with us for these moments.  So give Him your heart and ask Him to hold it.  Trust Him to make you strong and courageous.  Believe that the angels' message was for you too, "Do not be afraid; for behold I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."


Our Savior has come.  He is with us.  He goes before us.  He carries us through. And even as we continue to trudge through the deep, dark, brokenness we have this hope.  He has walked where we walk and He goes to prepare a place for us.  His love shines in the darkness and promises to bring us home.

18 December 2014

a messy curve ball

It has been almost two years since Brad sent an email to our former caseworker asking how we could help support their office.  Almost two years of working in the Foster Care Emergency Clothing/Supply Closet on the 5th floor.  Almost two years of typing up lists of things needed, then celebrating as the items are donated.

There are days that I've wanted to be done with it.  Days when I have wrung my hands because organization is just not my gift.  But God is faithful.  He has sent people to come work with me when it feels too much.  He has brought order to a place that wasn't orderly.  I can't take credit for any of that. So I keep going, because getting to work in there is a privilege.

This week a big curve ball came.  This week is not the week for curve balls, in my opinion.  Curve balls shouldn't come the week of Christmas parties, and travel plans, and last minute runs to the store for One More Gift. God did not ask my opinion though.

I saw the prep-work over the last month or so.  The stick-on baseboard had been peeled from the wall - tearing away parts of the drywall.  The receptionist mentioned last week that they were getting new carpet.  This made me panic a bit.  New carpet means moving EVERYTHING on the floor.  There is A LOT of stuff in that closet. But I was also excited because for almost two years we have talked about some better strategies for organizing in that closet.  Specifically some built-in closet rods for hanging clothes. This would be the perfect time!

I asked if they would let me know when they planned to do the carpet in that room because we would like to do a few upgrades.  She even told me there were some shelves we could have if it would be helpful.  She called me the next day to tell me they had a temporary room picked out to use while awaiting the carpet.  I asked her is she had a time frame, she said no.

Brad and I planned to run in together Tuesday morning to check out this temporary room and figure out how many folks we would need to ask to help us move everything.  Brad ended up having to go to the doctor so I went solo.  I only had a handful of minutes to run in, because I had another meeting on post.

When I walked in the office, I saw that the waiting room had new carpet.  I mentally congratulated whomever chose carpet squares because that is just perfect for the 5th floor. As I waited for the receptionist to come back to her desk, I noticed the hallway had new carpet too.  Someone recognized me and let me into the office, as I stood outside the closet door, I wondered how they got the carpet squares from the hallway under the door to the Emergency Clothing Closet.  For some reason I tried to shove my toe under the door to see if I could feel where the carpet squares ended.

Then the receptionist came around to unlock the closet door and told me, "They put the carpet down last night."

My heart sank.  The room was a wreck.

last week/this week

last week/this week

I could only glance around a minute or two.  There was no place to start. Moving things around now would be senseless.  I knew this job would require help.  And a lot of it.  All I could think was that Christmas was coming and everyone is busy.

When I got down to my car and started driving toward post the tears threatened to spill heavy.  I thought about all the work that would need to be done and wondered where to start.  But that didn't get me choked up.  This is a short-term problem and it will be resolved.  God will send the workers and the funds and it will be better than ever. No doubts.

But I thought about kids that might come in to care this week.  I worried because it would be hard to find what they need in that mess.  Children removed from their homes days before Christmas.  This thought is what triggered the eyes-full-of-tears.  I stopped myself short of a full-on ugly cry.  Mostly because I was driving. I tucked away that thought behind the busy hustle of a Mary Poppins play and tracking down wrapping paper and making dinner.

In the midst of kids mentioning "oh, and I would also like...for Christmas" and parents asking, "did we get everything we needed to?"  There are children getting picked up and taken from their homes through no fault of their own. They ride away with strangers to a building they aren't familiar with and wait to go home with someone they have never met.  And I pray that maybe this year, maybe in our county this year, it won't happen.  But the holidays are some kind of hard with all the magical expectations that are impossible to fulfill and sometimes the weight of it can just make a body break.  And the truth is, the best thing that can happen for some kiddos is to be taken away from all that they know for a time.

And when that happens, I desperately want them to be given a bag, and some new clothes, and a toy to call their own.   

So I need your help.  If you are willing to move around a bunch of stuff, let me know.  If you have installed some really great closet-orgainizer-system-thing that works well, let me know {or if you know someone with this area of expertise, let me know!}  If you love to walk in to a mess and organize that bad boy, let me know.  I need you.  We need you.  We can do this together.  I don't have a firm timeline yet.  I will work around the schedule of whomever can help.  We may be able to carve out some time tomorrow or Monday or we may need to wait until after Christmas. 

So join me?  Pray hard this week for the kids who may face the unimaginable?  Pray that they will be comforted in their brokenness.  Pray that the caseworkers will be able to locate what they need in that mess. 

And pray too, for the ones that are going to willingly take on this messy closet.  We need your prayers.

12 December 2014

#GiveHope

A single LEGO by itself is pretty small.  And insignificant.


{although it will pack a powerful punch when hidden in carpet.}

It's amazing what a bunch of small pieces can become when put together.



Each Christmas Russell County DHR requests a wish list from every child in its care, and then attempts to grant these wishes. This year Cora Reid Greene Home for Children is launching “Give Hope” to aid in this mission.
We are collecting new toys, electronics, and clothing items to be donated to Russell County Foster Children as Christmas presents. We’re asking you to partner with us in “Give Hope”, and provide a meaningful Christmas experience for some of the most vulnerable children in our community.

 
Your small gift to The Cora Reid Greene Home for Children's "Give Hope" campaign can become something amazing for kids in foster care this Christmas.  Our small pieces -- our gifts that come in different sizes and shapes -- combine to create something bigger.  A gift to unwrap that says, "you are loved, you are remembered, you matter."  You can donate securely via paypal using this link. 

This is a busy time of year for a lot of people, so if you are thinking about doing it, maybe carve out the 5 minutes now to get it done?  Click here.

If you are local and you would rather do a little shopping yourself, here are the details for drop-off:

Donations will be collected at 1606 5th Ave Phenix City, AL 36867 (Next to Trinity United Methodist Church) starting December 1st. Collection Hours will be 9am-12pm (Monday, Wednesday, Friday), and 1pm-4pm (Tuesday, Thursday). We'll also be opened Saturday December 13 from 10am-12pm to receive donations.
Please contact us at (334) 560-3062 or at helpus@crghome.org for additional information or to schedule an alternate drop off time. All donations are tax deductible.

And this part might feel weird, but if you are on social media, consider following The Cora Reid Greene Home for Children here:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/crgh4c
Instagram: http://instagram.com/crgh4c
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CRGH4C

Social media is an incredible instrument for getting the word out to people that may not know about #GiveHope.  It works best when y'all participate in sharing posts, etc!

Tweet, update your status, post instagram pics as you shop and use the hashtag #GiveHope. Retweet, share, and tell your friends!  As always, if you are unable to give today, I get it.  I truly do.  Your prayers are a gift.  Always!

09 December 2014

give a little bit {or a lot!}

I had to run in to Target last night to exchange something we had purchased earlier in the day.  Of course, it was from the holiday section so I had to walk across the store.  As I weaved through the aisles and passed-by the endcaps, all I could think was, "This place is a wreak-hole."

Seriously.  It wasn't just a little messy.  Please note, I am not one of those people that is generally put-off by a mess.  It looked like someone asked Lincoln + Franklin to remove everything they could reach from as many shelves as they could in five minutes.  And then try to hide it in a new place nowhere near where it belongs.


{Not my picture, but you get the idea, right?}

Total mess.

I felt so bad for the workers.  I can only imagine how long it must take to re-set it all for the next day.

I wondered if I should stop and fix an endcap.  But I had five guys waiting in the van for me so I thought that might be a good idea that would end horribly. I did however think that if we all tried our best to leave stores neat this season, wouldn't that help with the mess?  Wouldn't the mess be a bit more bearable if all of us did a little bit to help?

And then an idea hit me.

As you know, Brad is working hard to gather donations for foster care kiddos this Christmas season.  The county he works with directly has especially asked that he work toward gathering items for teens in foster care.  Gifts for teens often cost more. . .in homes with already-squeezed-tight-budgets this makes it hard to fulfill those wish lists.  I have read some painfully sad articles this week about what Christmas has been like for some teens in foster care.  They open gifts that are for younger kiddos, knowing no one was thinking of them when it was wrapped.  Or worse, they open nothing.

I want to help.  But our budget is small too.  I feel like the gifts I could buy wouldn't be much more meaningful for the teens either.  I don't want to add to the heartbreak.

But then I walked through that wreak-hole Target last night.  I thought about my not-huge-budget and I know some of you have a similar budget too.  Sometimes we are afraid to give anything because what we'll give feels small.

So instead of holding back, let's just give small.  Let's put things back on the right shelf at Target, and pick that shirt up that fell off the hanger at TJMaxx.  And let's donate toward some bigger gifts for teens.  Your $5 + my $5 plus some of our friends' $5 will eventually be enough to buy a Kindle. And a $100 visa giftcard.  And some Beats.  And an iPod touch.{Please note::  You can absolutely give more than $5!  And you can even give less than $5.  If you can't give today, pray!}

So my challenge to you today is to give small.  Give your little bit.  Watch it add up and we can all celebrate together.  Let's do this together.  Let's lock arms and let go of expectations of buying the best gift and instead give the best we can together.

You can click here and safely donate specifically toward Christmas gifts for our local foster care kiddos. 


{And let's smile genuinely at those store employees every single time we run out this season.}

If you aren't already following The Cora Reid Greene Home for Children on social media, here are the links.
The Cora Reid Greene Home for Children

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/crgh4c
Instagram: http://instagram.com/crgh4c
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CRGH4C

Share any + every post on your social media pages.  The more the merrier!  I will post updates of total gifts we receive so you can see how it adds up!

24 November 2014

multiply your spending power

In my National Adoption Month post, I promised to make a list of places you can shop + see your purchase multiplied as it benefits children in crisis.  Christmas feels like a great time to spread some of that purchase power around.  I know its not always practical to purchase items like this for people on your list, so don't really consider this as a gift-buying guide, although it would be nice if it works out that way for you!

I feel like I might first need to let you know something important.  There are a lot of children in orphanages with living parents. They are called 'poverty orphans' by some.  The children are placed in an orphanage because the birth mother/family feel like they cannot provide for their basic needs.  The parent(s) believe the child has a better chance to survive in an orphanage rather than in their arms. This is unimaginable for a North American birth mother, I know, but before you throw your rocks - open up your heart. These parents make an excruciatingly difficult decision because they feel like there is no other option. By spending your money differently, you can help provide some options.

I am passionate about this and over the course of a few years we have slowly been making changes in our purchase patterns.  We are still slowly making changes, even if you just choose to buy one thing from an alternate source this year, it matters.   Most of the time, these items cost a bit more than if you just picked something up at Wal-mart -- which is why it has been a long, slow process for us to make changes.  However, an added benefit of shopping with intention is that you whittle away some of that constant feeling of not having enough.  When you carefully shop and select products that benefit someone's entire family, it reminds you of how much you truly have. Honestly, even those of us on tight budgets have fairly fat closets compared to most of the world.

For us, it started with coffee.  I have written about it here before, so I won't go in to too much detail.  We drink coffee every single day, so we felt it was important to know that the people that grow our coffee are given a fair wage. When farmers receive a fair wage, they are able to provide for their families safely and with dignity.  This is a small change that makes a big difference. {and I am certain the coffee is better!}  Currently, we buy our coffee from Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Co which provides life-changing work for communities in Rwanda.  That is a pretty big benefit just from switching coffees!

Land of a Thousand Hills slogan sticker
From there, it moved to accessories.  There are so many options for purchasing accessories.  I have a few scarves from fashionABLE and I love them.  Of course, they cost more than a scarf you'll find at Wal-Mart or Target, but they come with a handwritten note from the woman that made them.  I am OK with having fewer scarf options, knowing that the scarves I wear have made a big difference in the life of someone else.  It is the same with jewelry and handbags. I have a bag from Freeset and a bag from JOYN, they are well-made and I get compliments on them.  They aren't cheap, but the money I spent on them helps a mother provide for her family or helps a victim regain dignity through work.  That matters.  I have jewelry from 147Million Orphans, Bead For Life, and the ApParent Project.  All of it has been worn for years and I always get compliments on it. Always. It is unique and often one-of-a-kind.  It reminds me every time I wear it that my small choice can make a big difference. 
cuff bracelet from 147 million orphans
One of my favorite make-a-difference-purchases has been my Sseko sandals.  I really adore this company and their passion for empowering women in Uganda.  Every graduate from their classes has gone on to university.  That is huge in their country.  Once when I posted a link for Sseko Tie Sandals on FB someone commented that they were "pricey."  And I get it, I do.  They are the most expensive sandals I have ever bought myself - {a clue to our budget}.  They are so worth it, though.  I have had them for two years and they show no signs of falling apart.  Plus I can purchase new ribbons and accessories quite inexpensively.  They are the absolute best shoe to pack on trips {in the summer!}  They are comfortable enough to wear all day and can be styled to wear to a wedding or a day at the park.

ssekos in the family pic!
Recently, I signed up for a monthly box from Fair Trade Friday - a perk of ditching my iPhone and its expensive contract!  You can also purchase one-time boxes which I think would make awesome gifts!  100% of the proceeds from each box goes to the empowerment of impoverished women as an avenue to introduce them to the Gospel. Pretty great return on investment there!  Everything in the boxes comes with a tag stating where it was made, and often has the artisan's name on it.  Also the items are packaged in such a way that they could easily be re-gifted.  Win, win!

see all the awesome in one box??
Unfortunately, I am not super smart with tech stuff, so I only know how to add links through words.  Someday I might learn how to embed them right into the post, but for now, I thought a link to my pinterest board with all of the above websites (as well as a few others) would be the easiest way to allow you to browse around.  You can click on it, and it will take you right to it.   If you ever have any questions whatsoever, please do not hesitate to ask!     Follow Amanda's board shop with a purpose on Pinterest.
 

22 November 2014

National Adoption Month

National Adoption Month.

By now, surely you know this is a thing.  Right?

Remember I wrote it about it here?  And reposted it last year.

I wanted to refresh the post a bit today.  There is a big push this year to #FlipTheScript for National Adoption Month.  In some ways, I get it; but in other ways I just want to get people to know there is a script at all.  I am desperate for folks to know there are ways to be involved in the arena of adoption and orphan care without ever adopting.  My agenda will never ever involve convincing someone to adopt.  Never ever.  {And I know they say never say never and songs have been written about it but still, I think its safe to say that is not my job.}  [I found this article yesterday after writing this part of the post.  I think it is lovely.  Warning, there are some curse words so if that will turn you off to the whole thing do not click through.  It is honest and true and touches on the variables of adoption and the discussions around it so very well. Click here to read it.]

So I'll start with this. . . Technically, National Adoption Month began as a campaign to recruit folks to adopt via foster care, I think.  However, it has become a much bigger conversation starter. There is so much more to orphan care than just adoption.  Obviously adoption is an important part of it, but adoption alone leaves gaping holes in the lives of vulnerable children.  And every adoption story begins with great loss, and that great loss can be carried for a lifetime. Keep that in mind always.



So what can you do?  Here are some ideas:

1.  Pray for an adoptive family/foster family.  Do you have friends that are adopting?  Do you know someone that is waiting?  Pray for them.  Often.   Pray that their hearts would be encouraged as their soon-to-be child(ren) wait.  Pray for hope in the heart of that waiting child.  Maybe take it a step further and send them a note telling them you are praying?

2.  Encourage an adoptive family/foster family.  This could work either pre- or post-adoption.  Send a gift card for dinner out.  Celebrate with them! Throw a shower! One friend handed me a wordless book at PWOC one week for "our child," this was months before we got 'the call.'  This simple gesture reminded me that I wasn't waiting alone. 

3.  Pray for a waiting child.  This will require bravery.  Look at your state's photolisting.  Find a child with whatever parameters you choose and pray hard.  The children listed here are legally-free for adoption which means the parental rights of their birth parents have been terminated.  You can find the listing by clicking here.  Pray for the just-right family to open their home to him/her.

4.  Support family preservation by sponsoring a child.  This is critical.  We can change things dramatically by starting here.  There are many places that do this well.  We sponsor through Compassion International.  They are just one of many that do this effectively within the local communities via local leaders. Sponsoring a child allows that child and his family to have basic needs met.  This alleviates some of the tension these families face which then allows the children to get an education. An education opens doors that wouldn't normally be opened for these children. Sponsorship is a long-term commitment with long-range outcomes. Research an organization to ensure you want to partner with them for the long haul.

5. Pray for foster care programs that are starting in other countries.  Yes, our foster care system needs work, but when done well it serves a good purpose.  Some parts of the world are just starting to build foster care programs.  Pray earnestly for them. I have friends on the ground in Guatemala that are ministering alongside a foster care start up.  You can click here to learn more about it.

6. Help your local foster care office.  We had an 'in' with our local office so I was able to find out quickly how we could help.  Their immediate need was getting that emergency clothing closet up and running.  Other offices may have other needs.  I surely appreciate every single thing that has been sent to us for our local office.  But if you have been itching to do something local - now is the the time. If nobody calls you back (because they might not, they are busy folks) then you march down there with a Wal-mart gift card and a few backpacks or warm hats or something.  Attach a note that says you want to help support their office, tell them you bought the gift card so the caseworkers could get things for children that come into care.  Ask them to contact you about how else you can help. Also, maybe mention that you appreciate their hard work on behalf of children.  They will call you back or email you shortly.

7. Read. I still highly recommend Orphan Justice and Adopted for Life as good starting points.

8. Shop Smarter. This is huge.  The dollars we spend at this time of year can potentially multiply if we spend wisely.  I am going to make a list of places to shop in the next day or two.  I will link to it from here when I finish.  Promise.  Here it is! Click here.

Thanks for reading this far, I know it is a lot of information.  And really just the very tip of the iceberg.  Adoption has forever changed me, but not because it is a real-life fairy tale.  My faith has been stretched in the waiting and in the loving and in the day-to-day.  My heart has been softened to the struggles of children that carry so much weight on their shoulders.  My perspective has changed about our government agencies that have been tasked to play the role of 'guardian' for children.  I am burdened for the Church to know the many ways they can support children in crisis and then to act.



If you aren't sure about how you can get involved, feel free to ask.  I would love to chat with you more about it.  The need is great, the opportunities are vast, and our God is able.

21 November 2014

For the love of Christmas

So I am working on a National Adoption Month post that is morphing into a big, long link list that will need to be broken into separate organized posts. . .which cannot be done while the dudes are awake.  So it will wait.

But this, I feel cannot wait.

I stumbled upon a bunch of lists for "Elf Alternatives" yesterday.  And the absurdity of it just hasn't left me.  The online Christmas wars give me a lump in my stomach.

There are a million ways to celebrate Christmas.  Can we just be confident that the way our friends choose to do it is best for their family?  Can we trust that our decisions for our own family are good and not feel defensive about them?



I really do not care if you elf or not.  I don't think 'elfing' makes you a more fun parent nor do I think 'not elfing' makes you a better Christian. {Yes, I made 'elfing' a verb.} If you copy and paste someone else's elf ideas I do not criticize you for not being creative.  If you dream up 25 over-the-top-out-of-the-box elf schemes I will not accuse you of having too much time on your hands. Promise.

Let's give space for our friends to do Christmas the way that works for them + their people and not throw rocks if it looks radically different from our own Christmas traditions.

If a friend laments about needing to find one-more-gift for her sister-in-law, rather than launch into the story of how your family just draws names, look her in the eye and tell her you hope she finds the just-right-gift-in-her-budget + without a lot of stress. This will be a gift to her.

While in the check-out line, turn off your cell phone.  Put it in your pocket or your purse and make eye contact. If the store clerk tells you "Happy Holidays," you smile warmly and tell him that you hope his shift is full of the kindest customers.  This will be a gift to him.

If you hear someone say that they hate Christmas music. Don't shut them down by telling them about how you listen to it year round. Ask them why.  There might be a whole lot of heaviness behind that statement and finding a safe place to unload it might just be the best thing for this person. It will likely be a gift.

While scrolling through FB, if you see a picture of a child with Santa, tell them how precious that child is rather than mentioning that you choose to keep Christ in Christmas and therefore lock Santa out. Also, if a friend shows her nativity set online, please refrain from criticizing how many wise men she has there - or the fact that they are there.  {Believe it or not a lot of us have FB friends that aren't Christians and the online bickering about our differences is weird + confusing.  And also ugly.} Be kind, this will be a gift to your FB friends' friends. 

Now hear me on this, if your friends are posting about all the Random Acts of Kindness they are doing, or if you see pictures of these advent activities that make you whither a little inside because of their grand scale, break out some Taylor Swift and 'shake it off.'  Decide not to judge the people that choose more elaborate plans than you, rather give yourself grace and trust that you are choosing just-right for your people.

Of the millions of ways to do Christmas, the most important one is to see people where they are and give them some love.  Celebrate the ways that we do it differently.  Make eye contact, linger long in conversation. Ask about your friends' traditions. Pray for the things that stress your friends out - even if you have chosen to unload those things so you won't be stressed. Look for ways to be a gift to someone else.  Refrain from posting articles that condemn other people's Christmas traditions. {Please for the love, refrain!}

It isn't as complicated as we tend to make it. Love God. Love people. Especially at Christmas.

"He said to him, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:37-39

16 November 2014

balloons


Have you ever watched a child with a helium balloon?  Sometimes I forget how much bang you get for your buck with balloons.  My boys love them.  They potentially bring delight for hours (days if you pay for that extra stuff they spray in them!)

I have to say 'potentially' though, because there is a little bit of a dance we need to do when we get balloons.  It involves trust and what seems a bit like loss of control.  If the boys let Brad and I tie the ribbon around their wrists, the potential for fun increases dramatically.  There have been a handful of times that one of our sons has refused to have his balloon tied to his wrist.  This usually leads to wailing and gnashing of teeth moments later when the balloon floats away to the clouds.  Usually that same son will be the first one to have his balloon tied to his wrist the next time balloons are around.  Sometimes, though, he'll still be afraid of losing his balloon so he'll hold the ribbon tightly anyway.  Or worse, he'll clutch it tightly to his body, which greatly decreases the fun potential.  This strategy can backfire instantly when the balloon pops under pressure.  Again with the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

If our boys trust us to tie their balloons to their wrists - and also trust that the knots we tie will hold - then they can fully enjoy their balloons.  They run freely across the yard and watch their balloon dance behind them.  The balloon can follow along on a bike ride or up the steps at the playground and zoom down the slide.  Sometimes they'll just sit and watch their balloon float lightly above them swaying in the breeze.  It is crazy how much delight this brings the boys.  Of course, when they are delighted so are we.  It might be as fun to watch them play as it is for them to actually play.

It starts with trust though.  And what feels a bit like loss of control.

Isn't that the way it is with us too?  When God gives us a gift, something He knows will bring us delight?  If we cling tightly to it and don't trust Him with it, we risk losing it immediately.  Sometimes we trust Him a little bit, we tell Him we trust Him but our actions don't send the same message.  We smother our gift for fear of losing it.  Or we hold it so close that we aren't really free to enjoy it.   But if we really trust Him?  If we allow both hands to be open and believe the way He gives it and the way He secures it is best?  Then we are wide open to delight, to run free and laugh and climb high and sit still.  Whatever we choose, if we have trusted Him freely, we are free to delight.  Not only does this bring delight to our Father, but those around us can't help but smile at the scene too.

13 November 2014

brilliance

The fall colors in Ga-Bama this year are breath-taking.  I am certain they are the best I have seen since living here.  Brad said it too, and he is not one to throw around "best ever."  That's more my thing.

In the past I would see one or two trees worth noting and then a handful of leaves scattered here and there that are colorful.  But this year I am wanting to snap little pics everywhere I look.  Its a fun surprise.  God is such a creative artist.  {And we are made in His image, so what does that make us?}






One morning as I was running I thought to myself how great it would be to collect a bunch of these leaves for decorations for our fall retreat.  Of course, Brad pointed out that the colors won't last because the leaves are dying. 

And I haven't stopped thinking about it since.

The colors are so vivid right before they die. Their brilliance is most radiant proceeding death.

And this year even more so.  I am not a chemist but I think it has to do with the cold snap that rushed in over night.  Since then we've had cooler-nights combined with still-hot-days. 

I know I am not a leaf or a tree, but here's the thing, I want to live a vivid life.  As we shift in different seasons of our life, I don't want to slowly fade away like the leaves usually do around here.  Even if that means circumstances have to jolt me to brilliance, like the cold-snap that snuck in.  I want to be OK with the unpredictable -- if that is what makes my life brilliant so be it. 

Of course, there is more at stake than dressing in layers to accommodate for the cool starts and the high-heat afternoons.  Much more at stake.  But the brilliance I long for is infinitely better too.  This brilliance is the kind that lights up and points out God's glory.  I shine because of His work in me.  I am most brilliant when I allow Him to work creatively through my circumstances, unpredictably and without barriers.

When I lay down my boundary lines and I let loose of conditional agreements then I am able to freely shine His light as He accomplishes His good work in me. There will be struggles, there will be set-backs and there will be trials.  The brilliance will shine all the brighter as a result.


"The Scriptures say, “God commanded light to shine in the dark.” Now God is shining in our hearts to let you know that his glory is seen in Jesus Christ.  We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. The real power comes from God and not from us. We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up." 2 Corinthians 4:6-8 CEV

08 November 2014

girlfriends

One of my friends ran a half marathon today and stopped at mile 7 to nurse her baby.

Let that settle in a minute.

This is just one succinct snapshot that captures the level of awesomeness that my friends embody.

I was thinking today about how grateful I am to have these amazing women in my life.  They are bold and brave and real.  Here's a wider glimpse into the circle of friends I have around me: One friend believed God would bless her with a baby when the doctors told her it was impossible - she chronicles the joy of being the mom of 2 boys almost daily in facebook status updates.  Another friend is a skilled cook, and she has taken her talent and invites other women to her home for freezer cooking so they too can feed their families home-cooked meals.  My friend, Alyssa, is daily teaching me lessons about living life with hope.  Another friend is fighting hard for her marriage, believing God can restore the broken places.  And still another has recently completed classes to become a foster mom even though she thought she would be married before she became a parent.  I have friends that are adopting from far-off shores, and other friends that are figuring out the best strategies for helping their special-needs children.  One friend is balancing momming seven kiddos while also finishing her college degree.

These women, these risk-takers and faith-walkers, they inspire me.  My friendships with each of them make me braver and bolder.  I grow from seeing them grow.  I celebrate their wins as if they are my own because, in a way, they are.  I have had the great privilege of praying with my friends through their struggles and triumphs.  Part of what makes them such excellent friends is that they ask for prayer.

There is a tendency in female relationships for competition and comparison to take-over.  We build walls and put on masks, pretending all is well and good and easy.   I can honestly say that I don't see this with my girlfriends.  And I was thinking today about what a gift that is.  Truly.

Don't get me wrong, I struggle sometimes with not feeling adequate and all that business, but its not because my friends make me feel "less than."  When I saw the mile-7-breastfeeding-pit-stop-picture today, I got tears in my eyes because I am so proud of my friend.  I didn't for a minute think, "I could never do that." {Although there is a real good chance that I never will breastfeed a child whilst running a half marathon.} Nor did I assume my friend was posting that picture to brag [or any other ugly-ulterior-motive that folks like to attach to things that make them feel less-than.]  I just celebrated her awesome accomplishment with joy.

Friends that inspire do it naturally, not by convincing me to do what they do, but by living their calling fully + freely alongside me.  Our callings don't match, and the way we walk out our faith looks differently at times too.  Celebrating our individual gifts and talents is the best way to encourage one another.

I was listening to TobyMac the other day in the car and the song "Thankful For You" came on, and I think I may have played it three times in a row.  While belting it out.  And car-dancing.

----tangent----
Have you seen the video of the anchor man dancing and his co-host shooting a side-eyed glare.  That is basically what happens if Brad and I are in the car together and a TobyMac song comes on {or any pop song from the 90's} Of course, our roles are reversed, I am the anchor man and Brad is the annoyed co-host.  (Click here if you haven't seen it yet.)
----resume topic----

I love this part of the song:

They say you become who you hang out with
Well I can tell you for sure
You make me a better man

And I can say without a doubt
I never had it figured out
Lord you've opened every door
I've stepped through yea
And I try to keep my head about me
So thankful for the friends around me
I'm thankful for You yeah
I'm thankful for You yeah
I'm thankful for You



 One of my greatest hopes is that I will be the kind of friend that inspires my friends too.  I want to always be ready to pray them through a challenge - even if it is unlike any challenge I have faced.  I want to always be ready to celebrate a win -- even if I'll never have that same victory.  I want to be ready to offer wisdom based on truth; not advice based on my preferences.  I want to speak the Truth wrapped up in love and I want to love so much louder than my words.  Because I have had such excellent role models, its easier for me to know what this kind of friend looks like.

Friends, I am so thankful for you.

30 October 2014

crave

"Hope is what we crave,
And that will never change
So I stand and wait
I need a drop of grace
To carry me today,
A simple song to say
It's written on my soul:
Hope's what we crave" - For King and Country


I have likely mentioned {and linked to} this song before.  I couldn't attempt to write for 31 days about stubborn hope without writing about this song though.  Hope is what we crave and that will never change.  It keeps us looking upward to our Savior, it keeps us seeking in prayer, it keeps us calling out His name.  It's written on our souls, Hope's what we crave.



29 October 2014

for the children that need us to be brave

I only had a hand-full of minutes to run in to the foster care office yesterday.  I had another meeting during Mom's Morning Out but I wanted to drop off the new donations, knowing they were needed.  I didn't want another week to go by.  I texted my 10 am meeting and told her I might be late, depending on how long I had to wait to get the closet unlocked.

I didn't wait long, thankfully.

I dropped my bag of donations and went to work collecting the empty hangers from last week.  There were more than I expected.

As I re-hung a few items that had fallen, I heard a cheery voice behind me say, "Hey!"

I turned and saw a boy.  Likely older than my boys, but I can't be sure.  I wondered if a caseworker was going to come in behind him.

He was a bit of a ramshackle mess.  As a boymom, that is more delightful than pitiful to me.  He had a camo tank top on that was partially tucked-in his underwear -- this looked more like a haphazard accident than a fashion statement.  His pants were a little big around the waist so they hung a little low.

My boys have walked around our house like this more times than I can count.  "Get dressed" is accomplished as quickly as possible without a thought for checking to make sure waistbands aren't twisted and underwear aren't showing.

I smiled and said, "hi there!"  He turned and left. I was simultaneously relieved and disappointed.  Relieved because I had no idea if I had the right sizes of clothing for him.  Disappointed because it might have been fun to see him pick out clothes - if I did have the right sizes.

I don't know his story.  I know nothing about him, other than he is a boy that likely gets dressed like my boys.  And he's friendly.

Then later in the day, I read this article.  It's titled "The Child I Didn't Adopt" and it was written by a caseworker named Liz Curtis Faria.  Click here to read it all.

I couldn't get through it.  I was bent over on the floor, trying not to audibly sob.  For the boy in the article.  For the boys and girls like him.  For the caseworker that carries this weight.   For the families that have fostered children and couldn't keep them for always.  So many parts of it undid me.  Wrecked me all over again. This part in particular:
Nine-year old Stephen grips his report card in sweaty hands. We’re headed to an adoption event, where we will meet families who want to adopt an older child; families who do not automatically rule out a boy like Stephen with all of his long “history.” And he wants to impress them, these strangers. He wants to win them over, and so he brings his good report card along as tangible proof that he is a child worth loving.
A child should never have to prove they are worth loving.
This boy, called "Stephen" for the article, he is not an isolated case.  I briefly thought about the boy I had crossed paths with in the clothing closet.  The foster care crisis in America is a mess.   My part in all of it feels so small and inconsequential when I am weeping for the children without homes.

But I know the God that made my heart hurt this way for these kiddos of His.  I know He sees this sorrow and He - even in His goodness - has put it there.   This soft spot that refuses to grow hard.  It breaks open easily and often.  I pray it always will.  I do not want to grow numb to these hard truths.

I believe, I hope, I pray that these kinds of stories will be fewer because the Church will grow bolder.  That we will love in the hard places.  That we will pray circles around the families that are waiting to adopt.  That we will hold the hands of the children that need a person to call their own.  That we will stand with and walk alongside the ones that take the classes, and get fingerprints + background checks.  That we will comfort the foster families that have said good-bye and add our prayers to theirs that the reunification will lead to wholeness.    That we will make space in our hearts, our homes, our Sunday School classes for the hurting, the scared, the lonely, the left-behind.  That our bravery will lead us to love with abandon the children our God loves so dearly.  That we will see these children the way He does.

God help us.

Let our tears lead us to action.  Let our hope stubbornly follow where He leads, whether it makes sense or not. Believing every step of the way that the One who calls us is faithful.


28 October 2014

when it almost feels impossible

She sent me a text in the afternoon and asked me to pray.  I was at the commissary so I pulled the cart to the side and texted back a prayer.  When I got home I checked back in to see how she was doing.  Not good.  I asked her if she wanted me to come pray with her.  She said, "yes."

I had been to her house a few times the week before the funeral to drop off clothes for the kiddos.  I didn't go inside and I didn't see her either time, which was fine.  I just did an exchange in the driveway.

So, that afternoon, I knew where I was going, but I had no idea what I was doing.  I remember praying out loud almost all the way, mostly begging God for wisdom as to what to say.  I also asked him to help me be strong, because I was a full-on mess.

We were just weeks out from when Josh died.  It was all raw and horrific and impossible.  What do you even say to a young widow with six kiddos?

Nobody answered the door, unless you count the dogs.  I think one of the older kids told me she was on the couch.  I went to her and all I knew to say was, "Jesus."  So I held her hands and I said His name.  Over and over.  Through tears mingled together.  There was a clingy baby climbing up into the prayers and a three-year-old that didn't mind getting a little attention either.  A sister-in-law walked through and swept them up and we just sat and prayed some more.  Begging for His presence to be evident.  Pleading for protection from the enemy.

I can think of nothing more brave or more beautiful than turning your face to Jesus in the middle of the unimaginable.  It did not feel particularly strong or powerful that afternoon on the couch.  We didn't end our prayer with a victorious fist bump.  The sorrow was heavy and the weight of grief was overwhelming.  I drove home with as many tears as I had before.  I continued to beg Him for wisdom.

Even so, the defiant act of seeking Him amid this horror is stubborn hope in action.  Whether it feels like it or not, just saying His name is enough to allow Hope's root to grow deeper and further.  I have seen it with my own eyes through tears.

27 October 2014

When your yes threatens to overwhelm you



You said, "yes."  You didn't feel quite prepared or ready or even necessarily like the just-right-candidate.  But you were willing.  And you felt a tug.  A call to your heart to say "yes," for this time.

But as time wears on, you wonder a bit, "did I hear correctly?"  "Is this what I was supposed to say 'yes' to?"  "Should it be this hard?"

I can't say for sure, but oftentimes the answer is another 'yes.'  You did hear correctly.  This IS what you were supposed to say 'yes' to.  It should be this hard.

God doesn't call us to walk the easy road - we can find that road on our own.  He asks us to follow Him to hard places.  He chooses us to say 'yes' to the things we can't quite handle on our own.  We walk well when we walk relying on Him.  We do this best when we are in a hard place, doing a thing we feel quite unprepared for.  When we find ourselves here, and we turn to His face.  We see Him provide.  We see Him lead.  We see Him hone our gifts and talents in ways we didn't think possible.  We glimpse His glory.

This takes stubborn hope -- to say 'yes' and then answer the subsequent doubting questions with more 'yeses.'  He gives us this hope in His word and through His Spirit.  We just need to listen, so carefully, to the the Truth.

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed" 2 Corinthians 9:8 NASB

26 October 2014

a baby girl + stubborn hope

I remember sitting at the computer.  Stunned.

My friend had just sent me a private message on FB, telling me she was pregnant.  That she had just found out that morning.

I didn't know how to reply.  I prayed.

She had lost two babies in as many years, at about the 20 week mark.  The most recent loss was fresh in my mind as it happened in a way that took days.  And we had prayed hard.  People all over the world, prayed.  But our prayers were answered in a way we didn't expect.

She didn't know how she felt.  And she was afraid to feel anything.

I prayed that she would feel OK with whatever she felt.  I prayed that if she felt excitement creep into her heart, that her mind wouldn't condemn her and chase it away.  I prayed that her hope would be stubborn.  That when she felt hopeful that she would lean in to trust the One that brought her here.  I prayed that she would take each day moment by moment.

And it almost felt like holding our breath for that 20 week mark.  Like all of heaven was leaning over to peek in on this momma that was letting hope grow in her heart as that baby grew in her body.

We kept praying on past that 21 week mark and 22 week mark.  Felt almost celebratory when the 30 week mark was reached.

At just the right time, that baby was born, a sweet baby girl.  She is healthy and loved and just nearly perfect.

Every new picture I see of this baby girl is a marker for my faith.  A reminder of those moments of sorrow mixed with excitement and hope and help-me-Jesus-prayers.  He is faithful.  I feel so privileged to have prayed with this momma for this baby.  We weren't promised that what we asked for would come about.  But we believed that if we asked Him with pure hearts He would not abandon us.  No matter what.  Stubborn hope draws near even when the answers are unknown.

"The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love." Psalm 147:11 {NIV}

25 October 2014

wasteland

"there's a crack in the door filled with light and its all that I need to get by" - Wasteland by NEEDTOBREATHE


 

 This line in this song, always inspires me. Seriously, just "the crack in the door filled with light" it is enough. Such a great lyrical image of stubborn hope!

22 October 2014

even when I'm judge-y

When I walked out of the DFCS office yesterday, my heart was carrying a heavy load.  As I neared the main entrance of the building, I tried to shake it off.  I saw an itty-bitty baby all squenched up in an umbrella stroller, nearly laying sideways on the seat.  I exclaimed a little too loudly and with too much delight, "awe! so tiny!"  The infant's mother glanced my way with an expression that stated quite plainly, "you have got to be kidding me lady." {I read glances better than I read lips.}

This is not an uncommon occurrence.  For one, small talk is not my thing.  For two, nobody in the government offices is looking for a friendly face while walking in and out.  Honestly, I think I am the only one that is attempting eye contact most days.  And this is only after being a regular in the building for over a year.

This is so far out of my comfort zone.

This encounter with this tiny-baby's-momma though, emphasized an ugly part of myself.  Its the judge-y part.  The part that notes, "I have never seen an infant in an umbrella stroller."  But then just after noting it, goes on to think, "I would never put an infant in an umbrella stroller."

And I hate that this part of me still lurks around. Because the truth is, its really hard to love your neighbor when you are judging her.  This is that kind of judgement we carry around with us and keep quiet.  It spills out in passing and we if we notice it, we brush it aside hastily.  It might be called bias, it might be called prejudice.  Whatever you call it, my tendency is to pretend like its not there.

But yesterday, my heavy heart collided with my judginess and the tears filled my eyes.  How long will I walk these halls before I just love?  How long will I look to make eye contact while chasing away my rush-to-judge-thoughts?

It isn't disapproval behind this prejudice, so much as ignorance.  I cannot relate, so I judge.  Every time we've been in need {or first-world-want} someone has met that need.  We had infant carriers and travel systems and boppies and bouncy chairs and high chairs and play mats and all the bells and whistles.  No one in our circle wanted us {or more accurately - our children} to be without.  What we couldn't afford, someone else gave to us. If it wasn't purchased new, it might have been thrifted or found from a friend whose child had outgrown it.

The idea of strapping an infant into an umbrella stroller is foreign to me because it was never an option for me. My grandmother or my mother or my mother-in-law or my aunt or my sister or my friend or my friend's mom or fill-in-the-blank -- any of these folks would have provided me with another option.  I am privileged to have a wide circle.   I didn't build this wide circle or carve it out or even seek it.  I inherited it. 

But I sense Him calling me more and more to walk the hallways where the inheritance isn't always the same.  The circles are small and the choices are fewer.  I know that is where He would be, for sure.  So that is where I want to be too.

I just wish it were easier.  And isn't that the kicker?  Even in following Him to harder places, I want it easy.  Gross.

But He keeps calling me, and He doesn't condemn me.  He quietly points it out through awkward encounters and He asks me not to brush it aside.  So I look up to Him and my hope grows because I know He is at work, even in my judge-y places.  He is so faithful to cultivate my heart to be more like His.  So I stubbornly follow, believing He will complete this work in me.  And one day the bias and prejudice will no longer clamor up to the surface and I will see with eyes that love His children like He does. 

"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6 NASB

21 October 2014

even in the lack

Its been a month since I last went to the emergency clothing closet.  I would prefer it to be every-other-week but with a move and fall break it turned into a month. It happens.

When I walked in to the space today, I was greeted by stacks of backpacks, and they were b-wap - a company Brad had contacted about being a community partner.  Of course, at the time they were not accepting new partnerships.  So it was doubly fun to see that the bags made their way to the children in our local community via another source.  A local church - The Road UMC - must have donated them, because there was a tag attached to each bag.  I didn't count them all, but I think 50 is a low estimate!


 Its always fun to walk in and see some new donations waiting to be sorted.  There wasn't really anywhere to move the bags to, so I got started on doing an inventory of the clothing items.  The fun-feeling faded quickly as I went through the little girls' clothing rack.  Its the time of year where it really matters if an outfit is too summery. There wasn't much left in the smallest sizes, and there were quite a few empty hangers -- an indication that a lot of kiddos have come in to care. 

The toddler boys' rack was more promising.  Although it fell apart as I pushed the clothes aside to do my inventory.  It took a hot minute to clean that mess up. 


It is always a little overwhelming to do the clothing inventory. I begin with the smallest sizes and work my way through to the biggest.  After that, I move on to shoes.  As I write down what is "in stock," I can't help but start a mental tally of what we lack.  By the time I get to the school age clothing, it feels staggering.  There is such a great need. 

Earlier, I had spoken with one caseworker in the hallway while I was waiting for the room to be unlocked {they don't want those donations walking off!}  She said there are about 380 kids in care right now.  That number blows me away. 

It is a battle to keep myself hopeful as I make my notes on the inventory.  As I finish up with the bigger sizes, things get a bit messy.  Truthfully, we could have kids that wear adult sizes come in to care.  I sort of stop tracking after kids' XL because it gets complicated.  I just look it over so I have an idea in my head of what is there.  Under one rack are boxes and bags of "excess items."  I remember last spring tucking away some Christmas shirts and pj's - I didn't have time to dig them out this morning.  I feel it press in a bit, this sense of lack.  That not only do we need a lot of stuff, but that this space needs help too - and more than I can give it.   You can see that the place is a bit of a shambles.




Before I leave, I bag up a few items that shouldn't have been donated and label the bag "trash" before setting it out in the hallway. 

This one part, this standing between the donated trash and the precious kiddos, this exhilarates me.  And reminds me, it is no mistake that I am in that closet on some Tuesday mornings.  God will provide in one way or another, and likely in a way that surprises me. So I do the best with the time I have there, then I tell you the story.  He takes my time + my words and somehow provides for these beloved kiddos. 

I know He will do it again.  Even when I feel like I am lacking.  It is this stubborn hope that keeps drawing me back to that closet. 

So here is the list of current needs:

We also need diapers, especially size 3 and up.  And pull-ups in all sizes. Underwear (including bras) and socks are also always welcome. 

I added a lot of pictures this time, mostly because I am hoping that someone sees it and thinks, "oh my word that place is a wreck, I wonder if I could help her use that space better!"  The answer is "yes, please!"

20 October 2014

Ragamuffin + stubborn hope

Sometime in the last week or so, we watched "Ragamuffin" on netflix with Wilson.  It was a movie about Rich Mullins.  I liked the movie, Wilson and Brad, not so much.  There was something intriguing about it, this man that wrote these songs that I have sung so often.  He wrestled with the darkness and hard times throughout his life, but he kept coming back to Jesus.  I can't know for sure how accurate the movie was, but the transparency of it was compelling to me.

Of course, the next day we had to jam out to some, "Awesome God."  And of course, "Sing your Praise to the Lord," and "Hold Me, Jesus," and even some "Screen Door [on a Submarine]."  I ended up keeping Rich Mullins cued up on my phone for most of the week and listened to his songs off and on throughout the days.
One lyric from the song, "If I Stand" reminds me of stubborn hope more than any other.  I'll give it to you in context:

So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That You will pull me through
And if I can't let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
If I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
But if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home


"If I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home."  I think it stands out to me because I have wept as a man longing for home.  Have you?  When all is broken and lost and a mess and you just want to be home with Jesus?  I love a lyric that can capture a moment so succinctly.  You might know that about me already though.



One more thing, that is kind of fun. Even though Wilson hated the movie, he has been singing the songs around the house.  While I was making dinner tonight, he came in to tell me that he had downloaded 4 of Rich Mullins' songs.  Then while we were cleaning up dinner, he brought in his nexxus to play them for me.  When "Hold Me, Jesus" came on, he said, "I feel like I knew this song even before I knew it."  I told him it was probably because it was on my deployment playlist and I played it all-the-time while his daddy was gone for 15 months. 


19 October 2014

when it's all good

Every once in awhile, everything just feels right.  Or even better than what you imagined right could be.

Sometimes, in those moments, fear creeps in to steal away that settled feeling of contentment.  It plants a lie, "this won't last."  Or worse, "you don't deserve this."  It hisses it right into the middle of your happy moment and with a heavy-kind-of-false-authority that almost comes off as legit.  Have you felt this?  That feeling of dread sinking into the joyful occasions?

As you know we just moved.  I haven't told you too much about our new house, mostly because it feels like bragging.  It is seriously that nice.  And beyond what we imagined we would find in our price range.  I was almost giddy, although tired, the day the movers brought all our big stuff over.  I decided to take a bath in our big bathtub - by far the biggest we have ever had in a home.  I poured in some sweet pea body wash in hopes it would suds up enough for a bubble bath.

As I slipped into the water, for a split second I nearly heard a lie.  It's too good.  Something bad is going to happen.  The weight of it threatened to settle in.  But then I heard a True voice, the One that knows all the details.  And He whispered, "this is for you, enjoy it."

And the truth is, I don't deserve it, and it might not last -- but I won't let that keep me from savoring these good moments in this place for this time.  Sometimes, stubborn hope grows in the good places.

18 October 2014

silver stars will shine



The lyrics to this song have been floating through my brain all month long.  Truthfully, longer than that.  They have lodged themselves deeply into my thoughts.  And I don't mind one bit.  There is an especially lovely part that I keep on repeat.

Even through the night
Silver stars will shine
Hope of glory's light
That will wake us once again

Those silver stars?  That is stubborn hope, right there.  If you have 3 minutes and 24 seconds today, I know you won't waste them listening to this song.  Maybe you'll get lucky and the lyrics will get lodged into your brain too. 




You can read Ellie's words about this song by clicking here. 

17 October 2014

light in the dark


When the darkness is heavy and the Light is a faint glimmer

you squint to find hope in your midst.

You are so tired, your eyes worn out from tears

even so, you continue to blink hard against the darkness

searching, searching for the Light you've always believed to be with you

the darkness weighs in heavier still.

Breathing is hard and your hands feel weak

still you know the Light is there

the flicker is faint, but it is there.

Just a spark in the night is enough for today.

It reminds you that it is always enough to beat away the darkness.

16 October 2014

when the ground is dry + dusty


No matter what the circumstances say, we press on.

There are times when we just have no idea what to think.  Nothing seems clear and nobody seems to have any idea what to say to you about it.

We just recently walked through this when Brad transitioned out of the Army.  Your timeline is sketchy at best, planning seems out of the question.  Every one wants to know what you are doing next.  Then they stare at you with a mixture of sympathy and disdain when you tell them you haven't a clue.

Everything is changing, yet you have no idea what the new will look like.  You just know it will be so very different.  For starters, your husband will need a whole new wardrobe.  And this is the easy part.

Of course, these transitions happen in the civilian world too. I just relate more readily right now with that big jump from camo to business casual. The truth is, though, we all face these moments.

With our feet standing in the present we have no clue what the future is going to look like.  Nothing is certain.  Our circumstances are murky and our conversations about them tend to feel even more questionable than the circumstances themselves.  Utterly void of any evidence that things are going to evolve into something better, we do what we must.

We grasp for hope.  And, friends, this is a brave move.  There is nothing more enjoyable than hearing someone say, "I have no idea how this thing is gonna shake out, but I know God has got this."  To hear someone say it, to know they believe it, it is electrifying.  My own faith grows when I stand in the presence of a hope-grasper.

This is the fertile soil for stubborn hope.  When the ground is barren and there is no sign of rain clouds on the horizon and not a sprinkler system for miles.  We kick the dirt and watch the air around turn brown.  But we believe that if we stand here long enough.  If we wait, we will see the soil break forth with new life.  Not because of what is evident in our physical world, but because of what we believe to be true about our God.  He will make it happen.  He always does.  He always will.

If your toes are covered in dust and your throat is parched from breathing the stale and dusty air.  Reach bravely for hope, friend, because God is doing a work even now, under your feet.  He will bring it to pass.  I know it.  My faith grows from watching you stand firm.

"Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."  1 Corinthians 15:58 {NIV}