"It is a safe thing to trust Him to fulfill the desires which he creates." ~Amy Carmichael

Monday, June 12, 2017

Are you sure?

When asked by an acquaintance how things were going, I honestly answered that life is busy and overwhelming. Later in the conversation, I mentioned that the adoption should finalize sometime this Summer.

“Are you sure you want to do this?”
I laughed. “Well, it’s a little late for that now.”
“Not really. You could change your mind. I mean, foster kids are used to being moved anyway, right? At least that’s what I have read.”
“They don’t get used to it. Every time they are told they will live with someone forever and then are moved, it damages their brain’s ability to form relationships.”
“Yeah, but you know what I mean. They kind of get used to that.”
“No, there is not really any getting used to that. Yes, they expect it, but that’s the problem. Every time changes their brain more. The only thing that will correct how their brain responds and allows them to have relationships in the future is for someone to not pass them on. For someone to stay.”
“But are you sure you want to do that?” She prodded.
“We already made that decision when we brought them home. When we chose to bring them home as our children, that was us making a commitment to them. The same kind of commitment as saying “I do” at the altar for marriage. There is no decision now except to stick it out no matter what.”
“I just don’t understand it. I really don’t.”

No, I suppose she really doesn’t. Foster children are not theory or philosophy. They are not a news article or a book. They are children. Little people. People with hearts and minds and memories and hopes and fears and dreams. They have friends and family and loved ones – even if they can never see them again. They have names and faces. We have spent six months creating memories with our girls, spending our every day together. There is no such thing as saying, “Never mind. I want to go back to how things were.” There is no going back as if you did not just build relationships, such as they are, with three individuals.

The first time we met our children, we were overwhelmed, overstimulated and terrified of the idea of bringing these strangers into our home as our own. We knew it would change everything and our life would never be the same. And we knew in our hearts that it would be impossible for us to walk away. These were our children. They are our children.

Technically, yes, we still have a choice. The papers have not been signed; they do not yet bear our name. This life we have chosen is hard. It really is hard. There are many days when a large part of me wishes I could run away from the heartache and overwhelming exhaustion of it all. But there is no running away from your own children, your own heart. They walked into our lives and into our hearts and we were right: we are not the same. Everything has changed and I am honestly overwhelmed by it. And I would never go back.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

All These Things

But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

I feel responsible for so much these days. I feel the weight of responsibility to teach and train and clothe and feed and de-escalate and diagnose and connect and grieve with and piece together histories and hold and love and attach…and carry in every way the children who have been entrusted to me. And it is heavy. So heavy. The weight of it all is crushing when held on shoulders not created to bear it.

When I finally asked God what in the world I am supposed to do with all of it, this was his answer. Seek first his kingdom and all these things shall be added. All these things?

The dirty floors and the paperwork and the diagnoses waiting to happen? The piles of dishes and laundry and the vanishing food that I can’t keep up with? The research and therapy and handwriting that needs to be corrected? The tantrums and tears and the weeks when everyone is coming apart at the seams for days on end? The balancing sensory loads and energy outlets and reading practice? The heaviness of the diagnoses and evaluations as they come in? The weight of the case files and disclosures and decisions that will effect your child for years to come? The process of attachment and exhaustion and being desperately needed when you have absolutely nothing left to give? The grieving and anxiety and long nights and hard memories? The navigating minefields you don’t even know exist? All these things?

But rather seek the kingdom of God.

Adoption has broken me as I have tried to carry the weight of a load he never asked me to bear. He asked me to seek His kingdom and to love his children with the love that he gives through me. He asked me to trust him with their every need, as he loves them more than I ever will. He offers mercies, new every day. He promises all sufficient grace. All these things will be added.

Attaching to near strangers who take everything you have plus some (and then some more after that) is hard. Making big decisions on a regular basis is hard. Normally small daily decisions becoming big ones as you maneuver fragile emotions is hard. People around you not understanding that is hard. Handling meltdowns out of nowhere and disruptive tantrums and frequent tears (and more tears, and a few more tears) every. single. day is hard. Feeling pressure to respond perfectly to it all is hard. Undoing years of trauma, literally rewiring brain connections, and catching up on missed developmental areas is hard. Nothing about life being normal (neither your own normal or the standard normal) is hard. Going to great lengths to create felt safety, and scrutinizing the smallest changes and every event or outing through that filter is hard. This life is hard.

But seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you as well. All these things.
I don't want to continue to strive for the impossible. I do, however, want to live an impossible life within his hand, by his strength and filled with his grace. Not my own. This is what I desire more than anything else.

“And you will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart.”

 Jeremiah 29:13

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

‘Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.’”

Luke 12:22-31

Sunday, May 21, 2017

If not us, then who?

I had a conversation today standing beside the vinegar in a Walmart aisle, while trying to prevent my three year old from blocking every passing cart as he sorted the macaroni on the shelf. An acquaintance who does not know the Lord and who is aware of our adoption was simply baffled by our family makeup. The conversation went something like this...

Lady: "I just don't know how you do it."

Me: "By the grace of God and taking one day at a time. When it's your life you just do it I guess."

[Sometimes one minute at a time, to be perfectly honest.]

Lady: "I mean, you did choose it though."

Me: "Sort of. When God tells you to do something, you kind of just say okay and go with it. He was pretty clear about this one."

[Ignoring God seems ill advised. Ask Jonah.]

Lady: "But adding THREE children at once? Why would you do it?"

Me: "Well. If not us, then who? Who else is going to offer these children stability and a home? After all, why not us?"

This. This is the honest why behind what we do. If not us, then who? If not you and I, the church of God, then who else? Who else will welcome his beautiful children with open arms and an open door? Why not us? Because we are exhausted and don't have great health and already have kids and don't have experience and aren't wealthy and we have dreams (good dreams!) which include a normally functioning family and...and...and...yeah. We tried those reasons. We did. His response was always the same. If not you, then who? Who else is going to love them no matter what? Who else is going to let them fight and scream and cry and rage and still be there when they're done? Who else is going to laugh with them every day and notice that sparkle in their eyes? Who else is going to stick around long enough to find out who these precious people really are inside? If not you, you for whom the Father has looked beyond your fighting and raging and defiance and has sacrificed his own Son in order to welcome you into His own family by adoption...if not you, then who? 

The how is Him. The how is always Him. The who, though...that is us. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Glimpse Into Our Journey

I really wish that I had the time, emotional energy and mental capacity to better chronicle our adoption journey. Here or in my personal journal – anywhere! I saw a mother’s journal that piqued the idea of maybe just grabbing a notebook and jotting down a sentence or two every day. Perhaps that might grab some of the biggest highlights and lowlights. I feel like I’m going to eventually look back and wish I had tracked SOMETHING beyond the legalities and paperwork. So here is an attempt at summarizing just a little bit of our journey thus far.

Some portions from my blog on January 2nd, 2011
"It is a safe thing to trust Him to fulfill the desires which he creates." ~Amy Carmichael
Amy Carmichael said well the thoughts which have been going through my heart and head in recent weeks. If God has placed a desire in our hearts, will he not fulfill the desires he creates? Will he not satisfy the longings he builds within us? I must believe so. Does ever he call and then fail to equip? Has ever he failed in faithfulness to those who take a step of obedient faith? I think not. 
…All that to say, we are praying and working towards adoption - hopefully in the near future, though we do not know what God's timing will be. Whatever the timing, we do believe this is the direction we are to go. So we are doing what we can to prepare and to walk in that direction now, believing that he will open the doors when the time is right. 

…Some may think us crazy (or naive) for jumping into this so quickly after getting married. Perhaps they are right. But I am okay with being crazy if it means allowing God to do as he pleases in and through our lives. I honestly don't know how soon things will start moving. It may be awhile yet anyway; but for now we are praying and preparing. 
Ah, yes. All that.
When I wrote that post we had been married just shy of a month. We would find out within approximately two weeks of this announcement that I was already pregnant (!). At that time I had no idea it would be six years and two children later before the door to adoption would finally be flung wide open.

We put off pursuing adoption when we found out I was pregnant. I remember when Addy was just a few months old it occurred to me that our children might already be out there somewhere (three of them were!) and that I could start praying for them then, even if it might be a long time yet before we met them. I wish I could say that I was consistent about this being on my heart and a part of my prayers. It wasn’t always in the forefront of my mind or prayers, but it was often.

When Addy was 10 months old we heard about three little girls who were waiting on a forever home. We made about a gazillion calls and then spent a good chunk of money to push through a private home study within two weeks’ time in order to be considered for placement, even though we were not technically licensed yet through the state. For whatever reasons their case was politically charged and we suspect Nathan’s job had a lot to do with us not being selected. Most of the next year was spent submitting our home study over and over and over. To multiple state, open to all ages and most needs. Nothing.

Finally we chose to try to have another bio child, as adoption was not looking imminent and we felt that Addy needed a sibling before she got used to being an only child for too long. We let our home study expire and started out on what would turn into an INTENSE two years of struggling through the complications of that pregnancy and Elijah’s infancy. He has been such a delightful baby and little boy. He’s had such a pleasant disposition even in spite of his chronic pain and difficulties. He introduced us to the life of digging for medical answers for our children. I’ve lived that for a decade myself; it is very different being on the parent side of it. He taught me that God can give very specific direction to get the help needed. That I could be stretched beyond anything I thought I could. And that we could make it through some intense seasons. Getting us out the door for therapies multiple times per week and driving hours to see the right specialist who could help us became a normal part of our lives. Those were foreign, intimidating things before…and then they just were.

Eventually he began to stabilize and we began to stabilize as a family. Early in 2015 we found out that a STARS class (required foster parent training) was scheduled for Saturdays, which could be a rare schedule find at times. So even though we were only barely coming up for air we decided to go ahead and take advantage of the more convenient class times so we could have it taken care of when we were ready down the road. After all, maintaining a license until we are ready is no big deal, right? We took the class with the intention of waiting about a year. Maybe the following Spring we might start seriously pursuing adoption. Turns out we are not all that good at waiting. As soon as the classes and home study were finished we started looking at the waiting child galleries online…and couldn’t help but start submitting our home study.

By Summer of 2015 we started visits with a teenage girl with whom we all quickly fell in love. Initially I really wrestled with the idea, but after spending some serious time praying about it I agreed to the visits. I’m so glad we did! Our time with her was so precious and we would have brought her into our home and family in a heartbeat. It broke our hearts when politics and Nathan’s job position once again wiggled their way in and completely slammed the door shut on our ability to have any relationship with her. The situation was taken entirely out of our hands and we were left with only the ability to pray for her from a distance and grieve the loss of what should have been our child. We were remodeling our newly purchased house at the time of doing visits. I still look at the walls she worked with me to paint and think of her exclamations, “This color makes me just want to hug the walls!” She never got to see it after it was all finished. I am so thankful for the memories we made over the few short weeks we had with her and I don’t think my heart will ever not miss the opportunity to have her a part of our family.

After that, we were pretty discouraged about the possibility of being able to ever adopt while Nathan worked for the state children’s division. He began seriously looking around for other job options as we wrapped up our remodel and settled in. After the high stress and physical labor of pushing through the remodel on a tight deadline, while Elijah was still not sleeping, my health totally gave out for the Winter. Thankfully, God again gave direction and guidance and 2016 was spent figuring out what I need to be healthy and then inching my way back. I’ve learned a lot in this past year about my many years of chronic illness. Throughout that season, the Lord was also working in my heart. Teaching me what faith is and that it comes from him not from within myself. I learned to begin to ask him for the faith to believe that he is who he says he is and that he will do what he says he will do. I still struggle to trust well, yet I am learning to bring that struggle TO him and ask him for the faith that HE can build in my heart. Eventually we started half-heartedly submitting our home study again. We wanted to be ready, but knew we were not quite there yet. Nothing came of anything until after my health had significantly stabilized.

Also during this time, we began to realize that what we had always suspected was almost certainly true: Adalynn struggles with sensory processing disorder (SPD) and for whatever reasons her struggles with that really peaked for awhile. This thrust us into studying and learning and seeking out those who are further along in the journey than us, with both adoption and special needs (since those so often go hand in hand anyway). In the process, it has totally reoriented how we approach parenting in general and her needs in particular. We have grown immensely because of it, as parents and as individuals. The difference in how I view people in general now compared to what I did even six months ago is amazing to me. I am thankful for the people God has placed in our paths to help us to grow in our understanding of a variety of needs and in how to respond to them.

In August, for the first time after an accumulative 2+ years of submitting our home study for literally dozens upon dozens of profiles we were actually selected as one of a few families to go for an interview to be considered for the placement of two little girls. We were uncertain about going for it with my health having been so poor so recently, however, after much prayer we felt like God was asking us if we were willing to say yes to him. So we said yes and asked God to either open or close that door as would be best. He closed that door and, surprisingly, I was mostly okay with that. Again, Nathan’s job had played somewhat of a role in make it a complicated situation and we wondered anew if he needed to find another job in order to pursue this thing we knew that we knew that we knew that God has put in our hearts. Again, God closed doors as Nathan applied and nearly got a new job.

In October of 2016, I took note of an email from our licensing worker with a profile. We had begun looking seriously again and had submitted our home study probably a dozen more times. Typically, if an emailed profile is not within certain boundaries I immediately delete or archive it and go on. What we will consider has been WIDE open, however, if it was more than 2-3 siblings it usually got immediately archived. For some reason I actually opened that one. Not only did I open it, but I really read it. In my memory, I thought there had been a picture enclosed in that first email – Nathan is certain that the picture did not come until after we had asked for more info. Which makes it even more odd that I paid attention (because, seriously, who can ignore a picture??). I have no idea what possessed me to even be open to considering it, but I responded and asked for the long profile with more info.

Long story short, we ended up one of two families who were considered for this sibling group. They needed to find a home ASAP so we didn’t have to wait long for the decision. Nathan, who had previously been open to larger sibling groups really dragged his feet about it this time initially, however, God really impressed these particular kids onto my heart so he prayed about it rather than write it off. I knew that whoever received these kiddos into their family, the kids will be such a blessing to them. That’s not *normally* my early thoughts when thinking about adopting a larger sibling group. No, my thoughts normally are along the lines of, “That would be crazy!” Still, I couldn’t help feeling like these kids are a gift and some family is going to be so lucky to get them. The Designed for Life conference was right about that time and the entire conference my heart was centered around adoption and, in particular, these children. Every prayer time, the cry that God placed in my heart and gave me the faith to pray was, “God, bring our children home.” Even though the case worker liked our home study and what little she knew about us, the team selected the other family purely because of the ages of our kids versus the other family’s. We were mostly okay with the decision, figuring that it must have been more than we could really handle – after all, FOUR kids!! Still, what God gave me the faith to pray at DFL became my reoccurring prayer for the following months: “Please, Lord, bring our children home. It is time. Bring our children home.”

Fast forward to December. Another emailed profile in our inboxes…only they were the same children that we had been considered for in October. We were devastated to learn the attempted placement had not worked out and that they were again seeking a home for them. It was so frustrating to know that someone had committed to the kids and then did not follow through. Again, we prayed, uncertain if we should even initiate contact with the case worker again and open that can of worms. God had closed that door already, hadn’t he? We cried and prayed and maybe panicked a little. Then after a few days, I called. One thing led to another and before we knew it, the team was asking if we would meet the kids. Yes. We met them and were overwhelmed by the number and the energy and the needs…and we left that visit knowing there was absolutely no way on earth we could just walk away now. More visits. More panicking and sheer terror at the enormity of it.

How do you even commit to something so big and so permanent when you cannot even fathom what forever means? Yet the Lord keeps whispering, “Will you love my children? Do you believe that I am big enough?” And you know your heart is already gone.
Prayer became like breathing. Day and night and night and day.
 “Are you sure God? Is this a terrible idea? Can we do this?”
“You cannot do this. But I can. Trust me.”
“You will really, really be with us? Will your strength and wisdom really carry us every moment of every day?”
“Trust me.”
“Is it really you I am hearing? Or is this all in my head?”
“Trust me.”
“Okay, Lord. I trust you. Bring our children home.”
And he is. After six years, he really is bringing our children home. Oh, how thankful we are for the journey it has been. We are not the same people we were six years ago. We still have a long ways to grow (so long), but we are vastly more prepared than we were then. Elijah’s medical needs, Adalynn’s behavioral and emotional needs, Nathan’s job, my illnesses. They have all made us who we are today. We are still terrified and overwhelmed. The confidence in our spirit still wrestles with the fear in our flesh. However, as we get to know our children and begin with these baby steps of learning to become a family, we are also excited.

I have no idea what our future holds, except that we will certainly grow and that God will follow through on his promise to be with us. This is all new territory and all we have studied and learned and practiced over the years suddenly feels so insufficient. We have no idea how to be parents to our children or how to manage this transition for all eight of us (eight?!). There have already been hard things. Really hard things. Constantly I find myself thinking in my head as we face yet another scenario that should not even be: Adoption is not normal. It is common, but it is not normal. There is nothing beautiful about adoption. It is the piecing together of brokenness and trying to make sense of it all. It is messy and ugly and heart wrenching. Often there are no good answers and you are left to just pick the best there is and work with it. But our children are beautiful and our God is faithful and his redemptive story is working. I know there will be dark days ahead. Probably more than I can imagine. I also know there will be blessings of which I never even thought to dream. This IS crazy, this doubling our family and venturing into such a vast unknown. And these children are blessings. These children who have a hold on the heart of the God of the universe. And we get the awesome privilege to have these beautiful, beloved children in our lives. We get to be the ones to fumble our way through the dark days with them and, by God’s grace, learn to dance with them on the bright days. Adoption is brokenness. God’s redemptive plans are beautiful. And we are incredibly privileged as the ones he has called to be family.   

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Strong Enough

I don't really know what to write. I rarely do when I begin. Rather like life in my experience. God rarely lets me in on more than the next step. The road ahead is usually obscured, with only the first step made clear. Sometimes that first step looks like applying for a job or getting an adoption license or submitting a home study. Or sometimes it is as simple as opening a blog and beginning to type. It is knowing the next right step, taking it and then trusting God with where it will lead.

In the past few months we have been led to take first steps in various areas at an unusual frequency and, as of yet, most (all?) of the reasons for those first steps are fuzzy and the paths where they may lead are yet unclear. Some of them we may never get to see in this life. It has been interesting to seek God and listen for his direction, step out with confidence and then...nothing. Repeatedly. Well, nothing visible anyway. I would be fascinated to know what has been going on in the invisible realm. Then again, maybe I don't really want to know! It is enough to know that God is working and he is moving in us. Whether our circumstances change or our external paths lead anywhere is not exactly the point anyway. Our hearts are changing and that is what matters. Our faith is being stretched and molded and shaped and I am glad for it. More than anything else I desire for my heart to be made steadfast in him. Life is hard. Some times it is harder than others. My greatest desire is to be firmly planted in him no matter the season.

I don't say this from a position of sitting in a bed of roses. It can be easier to share that God is doing work without sharing the struggles in the midst of it. Honestly, I have been really overwhelmed with life of late. For going on a month now, I come to the end of each day and my reoccurring thought is: "I feel like I've been run over by a steamroller." Pastor John posted on his Facebook today something about it being difficult to be spiritually strong when you are physically weary, so choose to rest. I wanted to cry when I read his post. Because it is SO INCREDIBLY TRUE...and I rarely have the option to not be physically weary. And he is right. It is so very difficult to be spiritually strong when physically weary. So very. I am glad that it is not all on me to be spiritually strong. 

This week in particular has been rough. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, this week I felt like I was spiraling out of control, feeling the curtain of fog settle heavily on my brain and spirit once again. The smothering darkness that I have battled time and again amidst the unending fatigue and physical pain that are a part of my life.  But grace. Unmerited favor. His grace has been strong enough. Again. There are no depths to which I can fall where he cannot reach me with his grace. Even if I have fallen there one hundred thousand times before. The whispers in my ear are not greater than his voice yet alive within my weary heart. It is not without battle, but as the song says: grace wins every time. Because I am his and he is strong and it is not by my own strength that I live. It is not by my own righteousness that I belong to him. In my weakness he is strong. Not in spite of my weakness. IN it. In the midst of my weakness his grace is present and strong. There is so much room for him to work when I am relying on him for each hesitant, tenuous, weary step. And he does. Because grace. 

If you hear his voice calling, don't turn away because you are weak or because you are weary or because you are not enough. Take him at his word, step out past the edge of your own strength, and trust that his grace is strong enough. Because it is.

 In our weakness, He is strong. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Clearing the Cobwebs

It is difficult to make my brain focus on much these days. Often it feels like a scattered blur inside my head able only to focus on whatever task is at hand - if even that. I am not sure how much of it is a result of my body struggling to sleep so much this past month (I am finally sleeping restfully more often, which is a wonderful thing!), or still adjusting to the restricted diet we are on, or some combination of hormones and supplements, or the fact that life itself has been genuinely scattered of late. Regardless, I do not like the feeling of sludge in my head and I am working on ways to clear it up.

Reading and writing are things that force me to think beyond the moment. They require enough focus that the cobwebs begin to scatter and my thoughts gain just a little bit more clarity. This is why I have done so little of it most of the last several years. I began this year resolved to read more - anything remotely edifying, as long as it was words on a page and was longer than a blog post. Simply because my brain needed to be exercised. I quit reading again through the Summer and now I am back to forcing myself to choose a book over another activity if I have some time on my hands. Technically, I have always loved reading, but reading really is work! Especially if it is anything of substance. The other day I listened to a podcast by Sally Clarkson where she talked about feeding our own minds and being in a state of continual growth ourselves in order to be able to teach our children well. Also, she referred to worshiping the Lord with our "mind, heart and soul" and that putting effort into keeping our minds active and fed is a part of doing that. It was the motivation I needed to continue following through on tasks and ideas which feed my mind and direct me toward the fullness of a life lived for Christ. Not just in my heart and soul, but in my mind also. They really do go hand in hand and if one of those areas are neglected it holds the other areas back as well.

So here I am typing away at whatever comes to mind in an effort to exercise my mental focus and communication. I think that is one of the areas where I have struggled most both with my chronic illnesses and being a parent. My brain just...stops. And I let it because it is easier that way. Easier, at least, until I get lost in the fog of life and I can hardly think straight enough to keep my days and weeks sorted out and moving in a moderately stable fashion. The daily rhythm of keeping children fed and alive, the perpetual choices of how much do I push myself before I crash and where, trying to tame the chaos of life...it keeps me spinning until I no longer know which way is up. I am choosing to learn (albeit slowly) to press the pause button and ask God which way really is up instead of guessing and increasing the speed of the spin cycle.

If you can at all relate to this struggle, here are some things I am doing lately to help clear the cobwebs:

- Listening to podcasts, as mentioned. Listening regularly to a series of podcasts is one of the best things because I don't necessarily stumble on trying to find a topic of interest. I simply listen to the next one in the series and usually find it holds my attention anyway. The fact that it makes doing housework more interesting is an added bonus.

My current favorites: At Home With Sally (this is seriously like having tea with a wise friend and a breath of fresh air all rolled into one), Focus on the Family and Family Life Today.

- Reading.
Picking up a paper and ink bible; there is something about reading the familiar, well-marked pages of my real bibles instead of a bible app on a screen.
Downloading free books as I see them on my Kindle app and choosing that over facebook in down time.
Purposefully opening the few books on our shelves that I have not yet read.
Frequently getting new children's books from the library so that I can enjoy and engage in reading aloud to the kids. 

- Listening to worship music. Before I had kids, I listened to music AAAALLLL the time. Then once I began the life of perpetual multi-tasking that is parenting, I stopped almost entirely. It was too much to handle at the same time. Thankfully, my kids are now getting old enough that I now have frequent periods of time where I can handle the added stimulation of music and it is so refreshing to my heart and soul. My most frequented Pandora station is Lauren Daigle. The songs speak so much life!

- Refreshing old skills. For me that comes in the form of working a bit on the side again. Office work and some content writing. Sometimes it is hard to get my head in the game when I need to, but overall it has been refreshing to dust those parts of my brain and refresh my skills in these areas. I really do not want to let my skills stagnate to the point of one day being useless.

- Learning new skills. Confession: I watch a lot of cooking competition shows. I really do glean so much from them and I try to implement new things that I learn as I go. I would love to take a real cooking class one of these days to learn better techniques and improve my knowledge of flavors and seasonings.

- Organizing my life and getting some of the scattered areas out on paper. Making some simple goals for the week and planning a reasonable schedule instead of stumbling through it because everything is up in the air. Often lately it really is all up in the air and there is nothing I can do about that, but written lists can help sort and prioritize the chaos anyway.

- Last, but not least, writing. Facebook statuses killed my blogging years ago. Why write a whole blog when you can throw out your paragraph-sized thoughts at any time of the day or night? I am going to try to get better about saving some of those thoughts to develop into something worth writing. In the meantime, if I pull out the laptop and tell myself "Just start typing. ANYTHING." then I'll continue to manage to get some things out there. :)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Not On Our Own

I have been reading a Kindle book called, “Trees Tall As Mountains”. The book is a compilation of excerpts from the author’s blog. Initially I downloaded it because it was free and I was fairly skeptical about it holding my interest. However, the author? I get her. Her writing style is familiar and she seems to process life similarly to the way I tend to process. I do not write very much anymore, yet every time I read her book I end up with my life floating around my head in blog style. That has hardly happened for many years! Reading her simple writing makes me want to write. So here I am, writing. This is mostly for my own purpose of processing and practicing putting things into words again, but perhaps some of it will speak to someone else as we go.

This has been a week. 

Sunday, I woke up fried from the birthday tea party we hosted for Addy and all the preceding birthday activity. It was fun and went well, but I was tired. I debated going to both church and life group. Then I went anyway. I met new attendees at life group, had a delicious breakfast-for-dinner and was encouraged through our discussion and prayer time. 

Monday, I crashed. I yelled at my (whiny and also crashing) kids, struggled to keep everyone fed and we generally dragged through our day. Then a nap happened and we woke up ready to face our day – even if it was 3:00 in the afternoon. I read aloud while the kids played outside, we cleaned up from the birthday party and then ended the day with a relaxed date with Nathan. Naps are amazing things.

Tuesday, I woke up in pain after only four hours of sleep. At 6:30 I was certain I could hardly get out of bed for the day, never mind get the kids and me all out of the house so I could go work at the office with a probable migraine heading my way on top of it. Then I did. And my headache never made it to migraine status. After all, sitting at an office desk requires less energy than caring for children anyway, right?

Wednesday, I had my first good night’s sleep in a week and a half. My plan was to rest and be with the kids and catch up on some laundry. I began thinking about when would be a good time to invite my Russian neighbor over for tea and God asked, “Why not today?” Well. Why not today, indeed? So I did. The day was spent putting dinner in the crockpot so I could not worry about it later (total flop, no one liked it), baking zucchini bread and catching up the house from being gone Tuesday. Knowing that I would never get everything done to have a perfect company setting, I simply prayed that God would make her feel welcomed and comfortable here in our home in spite of all that I lacked. You know, the little things like a perfectly cleaned house and the ability to speak Russian. And he did. It turned out to be a lovely afternoon. I don’t know for sure if God made her feel welcomed and comfortable, but I think he did…and, as God tends to do, he went beyond my prayer for her and put me at ease myself. We managed the language barrier just fine and now I have a new friend. Funny how sometimes we think that we hear God calling us to bless others when really he is as much calling us to step into a blessing for ourselves.

Thursday, began on the heels of a sleepless night. We had various appointments scheduled at 9:00, 2:30 and 7:00 and somewhere in there I needed to get groceries. As my morning began, I was sure that was an impossible schedule with next to no sleep and there was no way I could do it. Then I did. The kids were amazing at each of our stops, even when we stayed at one appointment for three hours! Well, unless you count Elijah’s whining, “Mommy, I still tired. Mommy, up me?” on repeat through. the. entire. grocery. store. All things considered, that seemed a reasonable allowance for a child who had been awake from 1:30-5:15am and then was repeatedly dragged out of bed to leave the house that day. We made all our appointments, got a brief nap slipped in the middle, met some sweet people, and were able to pick up the groceries needed as we began a restricted diet for the whole family; a diet that we are unexpectedly doing all the way through mid-December instead of the 4-6 weeks we had anticipated. As an added bonus, God recalled to my memory that a certain supplement had previously kept Elijah awake for hours during the night when I took too much of it while breastfeeding…right before I gave it to him at bed time. I HAD given it to him at bed time the night before. No wonder he was awake half the night! He slept much better that night.

Friday, started with Elijah getting up at 5am and I wondered why in the world I do crazy things like decide to have company three times within one week, on little sleep, when I am overwhelmed with adjusting to working a bit each week and struggling to keep up with the basics. I started to let myself get stressed by all the things on my plate and the house not being ready for company yet again. Until I reminded myself that this is a friend I have not seen in nine years, coming to visit me and meet my family – not coming to see my house or the clothes my kids were wearing. So I let the dishes go, dressed the kids in whatever was clean already and focused on the paperwork I needed to finish before they arrived. Then we proceeded to have a wonderful visit with wonderful people. It is a pity they happen to live on the other side of the world.

Sometimes you have weeks where grace is seen more tangibly than others and this was one of those weeks. Timely conversations, resolutions for problems brought to mind at vital moments, circumstances lined up just so, a specific sense of purpose for each day…and most of all the grace and strength needed to keep doing the next right thing. It is encouraging to see the blessings and favor that comes from walking in step with the Spirit. We are not on our own. 

It was an exhausting week. It was a blessed week. And I probably ought to finally go get that laundry clean.