I think most of us live in families, go to churches, and work in places where if you took a poll about the current election you might find that between all of you it’s like your vote doesn’t matter because you just cancel each other out. HOW can those in the same family, the same church, in the the same FAITH be SO divided? It feels so crystal clear what is and definitely what is NOT most representative of the Kingdom of God.
It’s tempting to want to wonder how in the world your parents, your relatives, your best friends, those in your small group at church, your neighbors, your co-workers, can at the same time LOVE JESUS and at the same time could EVER SUPPORT ________ .
If you’re anything like me you might find yourself wanting to back away from those individuals who not only possibly nullify your vote come November, but whose vote is a vote against what you feel like best honors Jesus. How can the person who shares your faith differ so and be so seemingly indifferent to the things the Lord has put on your heart, but the guy next door who doesn’t really understand or care about the Kingdom of God, but his politics supports and progresses your understanding of what will be best for our faith and families.
Just remember that Jesus continually surrounded himself and dearly loved those who came from various backgrounds. Even though they loved Him they still didn’t “get it” when it came to the kingdom and his purposes. They argued with each other, they misrepresented Him, They were vocal and eager for their idea of what “Christ’s kingdom coming to earth” should look like, but kept getting rebuked because it wasn’t what Jesus had in mind at all. At times the disciples represented polar opposites; a disciple who worked FOR the government (tax collector) and a disciple who HATED the government (zealot)… don’t you wish we had some of those fire side conversations recorded for us. Yet… these are the people He loved with all His heart, and He asked them to do the same for each other.
I think they ALL wanted Jesus to DO something when it came to their broken society/government/culture. I think they ALL wanted CHANGE! They ALL wanted the kingdom of God to reign…..And I’m sure they had various ideas of what that would look like. But, they knew it didn’t look like what they were living in currently.
None of them could predict or make sense of what His plan actually entailed or would require of them.
That was probably a grace given to them.
Maybe they would have tucked tail and ran had they known ahead of time.
God doesn’t look at America with any extra fondness or disgust than He did on Rome. He is still calling those to Himself who hold vastly different views on life and culture. And more often than we think we would get rebuked for our many stances on what the “kingdom should or shouldn’t” look like in our times. But again, He offers so much grace and places His love upon us and makes us brothers and sisters in one heck of a messy family. And over and over in His word calls us to love each other in the midst of the mess.
Trust me, I can relate with the desperate desire of the disciples for Him to CHANGE things in my country!
But I’m reminded that MORE powerful than the dominance of politics, the influence of the media, and the monopoly of the wealthy, IS the humble out pouring of His people’s lives, the countercultural acts of love and justice, the way we love our enemy ( AND our brothers and sisters who feel like enemies because they drive us crazy with their beliefs and convictions) even to the point of having less, losing the argument, being misunderstood and judged, laying down our rights, and overlooking a multitude of sins.
Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:35
If the disciples taught us anything, it’s hard to prioritize the Kingdom of God over the kingdom of our current situations and circumstances, but it’s what we have been called to. One is a greater Kingdom and a much more joy giving goal. It is not with out challenges and it might even cost us our life. It will definitely cost us our comfort, our time, our desire for those around us to see things the same way.
BUT, it is worth it!
This election will be but a teeny tiny blip on the scale of eternity and God is fully in charge of the happenings within.
So….. Vote knowing it’s a privilege God’s allowed us to have, Speakup and speak outwith conviction knowing that He desires us to cultivate and change our cities. Sharewhat God is laying on your heart with confidence knowing it’s Him that you’re called to please.
but also LOVE (also read as a patient, kind, long-suffering, bearing all things, believing all things, and never failing) your brothers and sisters in the faith who might also possibly, in the name of God, be voting and speaking and sharing for the “other guy” knowing that He’s commanded us to and HIs commands are ALWAYS for our JOY!!!
But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:21
It’s no secret. People with Down syndrome have been targeted for extinction. In November, the New York Post heralded “The End of Down Syndrome“ and profiled a new, safer test for pre-natal detection. Before this test was available, 92 percent of Down syndrome diagnoses (and many times false diagnoses) resulted in the mothers choosing to terminate their pregnancies. With these new tests, some experts foretell the end of Downs.
Why the rush to rid the world of people like Cade?
Certainly, it isn’t because his disability physically threatens anyone. Rather, Down syndrome children pose a different kind of threat to society — the in-your-face reminder that our aspirations for “perfection” may be flawed. People like Cade disrupt normal. Whether it’s his insistence that everyone he says “hello” to on the busy streets of Manhattan respond in-kind or his unfiltered ability to hug a lonely, wheelchair-bound, homeless man without hesitation: people like Cade bring new dimension to what normal ought to be……
Cade’s life, and those like his, offers an alternative view of the good life.
These individuals alter career paths and require families to work together.
They invite each of us to engage, instead of simply walking by.
They love unconditionally, asking little in return beyond a simple acknowledgement.
They celebrate the little things in life, and displace the stress that bogs most of us down.
They seem to understand what true life is about, more than many of us.
They offer us the opportunity to truly value all people as created equal.
That space travel really benefitted all of humanity in a lot of ways. Dan and I were watching Apollo 13 one night together and I commented about what a waste of money and talent just to say we went to the moon. Well, one google search later, I was eating my words and Praising the name of Space Travel and Research! #cellphonecamera #cleanenergy #scratchresistentglasses #waterpurification #catscans Just to name a few of the thousands of things that have stemmed from space travel development.
Newer doesn’t mean better. I was so looking forward to seeing Pete’s Dragon. I loved that movie growing up. But alas… it fell flat for me. It was meh! Which strangely enough I had this sense it would be as I watched the previews. Let’s put it this way, I enjoyed the preview of Beauty and the Beast more than I enjoyed the whole movie about Pete and his Dragon, a dragon who strangely kept giving me Neverending Story flash backs! This summer wasn’t a great one for movies… I actually left to go run errands in the middle of Independence Day 2, dumb dumb dumb. Looking forwards to THIS one… THIS one… and THIS one.
When my husband gets home from going to the grocery store it’s kind of like opening a basket on Chopped. It used to bug me to no end when there would be several things I’d never even think of buying but once I realized that his unique and adventurous tastes didn’t cost that much and also provided an opportunity to get out of my comfort zone, #blueberrypieoreos #pepperonciniflavoredchips #grapesherbet NOT SO MUCH. but #hotwingruffles #ohsnappickles YES PLEASE! I started actually looking forward to his discoveries! (Now that you know I’m on to you sweetheart and don’t mind your crazy little purchases, don’t go crazy now! 😉 )
I learned that I tend to post these “Things I learned” posts because it’s easier to write about things you yourself are learning instead of writing from a place of authority or opinion because doing that is scary and vulnerable and opens you up to potential and probable backlash and negative comments… maybe even loss of relationships. Ya’ll I feel like I have SO much I want to write about but I think I’m afraid to. Well maybe it’s 50/50 that, there’s also the fact that at the end of the day of parenting I don’t often have the mental energy to delve deep on things that require the level of depth I would want to apply to those subjects.
How to make the BEST No bake Cookies. You’re Welcome! The secret to really great No-bakes is to really make sure the sugar dissolves fully, so stir constantly over medium/low heat to bring to a boil. And EVERY other recipe calls for twice as much oats… but I like mine fudgy and shiny instead of like granola balls. I drop them using a cookie scoop for uniformity sake. These take a while to set up… but the wait is worth it. Also, adding a packet of instant coffee granules or a dash of cinnamon to the mix makes them super awesome and more of an adult treat.
I discovered that Luvs diapers work for my two babies!! Not sure if I just wrote them off when they didn’t work for Zoe or Jack AT ALL, so I didn’t try them again… but this summer due to budget cuts I tried them again and they work AWESOME for Abel and Isla! And I love how soft and squishy they feel! Target went and changed their baby wipes… and I’m not a fan, so I feel like I’m searching for my favorite kind of those, amazon wipes are fairly similar so I’m liking those so far.
My viewpoint on Hell and the gift of Everlasting Life was ROCKED!! I learned that there is another throughly BIBLICAL evangelical stance on Hell which actually stems from a belief of where Eternal life comes from. All my life I grew up being taught and embracing the version of Hell that is Everlasting Torment for those who don’t know Christ, and it IS the majority prevailing held belief among evangelicals, BUT there is another theological stance that piqued my interest. After A LOT of research and reading (especially from the ReThinkingHell website.) and going to the scriptures…I find annihilation/conditional immortality to to be more of an accurate biblical stance. I understand why so many hold to the other, and LOTS of very theologically educated people would disagree strongly with me, but there needs to be room at the table for other biblical understandings. At first I thought… I could never say I believe this publicly, people will think I’m a heretic. I can hear it now, “she drinks, she uses the hashtag blacklivesmatter and now she doesn’t believe in hell she’s gone progressive, she’s a flaming liberal” (no offense to my “flaming liberal” friends 😉 ) …. But think what you want, the proof is in the pudding (or the texts are in the scripture). I DO believe in a literal hell and coming destruction for those who don’t have the gift of Eternal Life. And I promise you this stance holds firm to the authority of scripture – of which I believe has no error. As with many things (election, the sacraments, church policies, divorce, etc..) really smart theologians can go to the same scriptures and come away disagreeing on very important viewpoints. But I wanted to put this on here because I think we should never shy away from being women who study the word and think deeply about theology. Really enjoyed and learned a lot from this debate between Chris Date and Al Mohler on THIS particular issue.
Summers that have the Olympics are my very favorite!! I’m not sure if it’s because the year I lost my son the week later started the Olympics a week later and I guess it brought some normalcy to my forever altered life… but it was healing in a way. Since then… I LOVE spending the last of the summer evenings joining the whole world cheering on people who have spent a lifetime doing hard work that no one, save parents, are cheering for. It never ceases to inspire me to set goals and look into the future at accomplishing things that feel impossible today. I triple dog dare you to watch THIS video of families celebrating their champions and not tear up. AND if the hype about black americans winning is lost on you… watch the movie RACE and it will really help you see just how far we’ve come. (and yet have so far to go in so many areas still)
Aldi has a great Red wine called Artifakt (Red blend – $8) that I really like! And Trader Joes carries one called Bonterra (Cab- $12) that I LOVE! I can be sensitive to a lot of wines, they can make my face beet red and hot… but not these two. They are both great and super affordable.
I discovered #HomeschoolRyanGosling blog. Ya’ll… I found this blog searching for a meme… and it was late at night and I needed to laugh and laugh I did. I cried I laughed SO hard!! and the more I read the funnier it got. Dan just sat there and stared at me and wondered if you had to have been homeschooled to get the humor. OH my goodness… it’s just SO funny!!!
I’ve learned that it’s important to HAVE the tough conversations with those we love and call family. Be the one to bring them up… even when it’s awkward. One of my brothers is a Police Officer and one is a Police Chief. I LOVE these guys and I couldn’t be more proud of them. They are men who are sold out to Jesus and desire true justice for all. Over the summer we had several in depth good but hard conversations about the perspectives we have on society right now. (see previous blog posts about race/politics) And after having a few conversations we definitely agree on two things that these topics ARE important and that MORE conversations need to be shared between us. The goal isn’t always to agree but to share our hearts and challenge each other to walk in the others shoes and to be a voice for justice in light of the Gospel. Ya’ll… have the conversations. Don’t wait for others to bring it up, ask them what they think or feel or have been experiencing. Tell them how this is impacting your family and friends. There probably will be hurt feelings, tears, raised voices, shaken heads, misunderstandings, and plenty of problems left without solutions. But bring it up anyway. Don’t push away from the table.It’s worth it. So worth it.
If Isla were a cat… Evie would be Elmyra. That kid totes that baby girl around like it’s her job. And Isla has learned to holler when she’s wanting space to, i don’t know, breathe… so of course we all come running to her aid.
Netflix has the CUTEST kids series that came out last month. It’s called BEAT BUGS and it’s a cartoon that features the music of the Beatles in every episode. It’s like Henry Hugglemonster-ish with a much better soundtrack!
Praying this week for ALL you Believers out there who are having to have awkward conversations with your very Republican parents, family, friends, co-workers when the National Convention gets brought up and you want to have a good conversation with depth, because maybe for the first time issues matter to you more than they have in the past.
So you start talking and all of the sudden you don’t sound very Republican to them any more…. in fact all this talk about black lives mattering, religious freedom for muslims, embracing refugees, being against reparative therapy for gays, caring about transgender people, not joining in on the Obama bashing, pro-life meaning more to you than just being pro-birth, if you’re honest gun laws probably do need revisiting, and even… gasp, maybe we should care about the environment long term.
You can see it on their faces… you know the look, they don’t say it… but they are thinking it. You’ve turned liberal. You’re probably a democrat. You might not even be a Christian anymore, for all they know the church you go to is probably one of those wacko ones. What is happening to their daughter, friend, co-worker????
You start to feel like you wish you could gather up the words you just spoke and leave the table or get off the phone.
Don’t. Let me encourage you to pray for humble boldness and a genuine heart that is willing to have the conversations even when others think you’ve jumped the tracks.
Honor those who have different opinions than you but don’t fear their opinion either. I know this is really difficult when it comes to parents, because they can see disagreement as disrespect sometimes, but press through and trust that God is able to work in their hearts as well. It may not be that they ever fully agree with you. But over time they hopefully will see that your life is lived out with a coming Kingdom in mind. That those ‘controversial, wacko, liberal’ sounding views ARE really about trying to usher in heaven here on earth… not the opposite.
Jesus was willing to be misunderstood in so many things He said and did in his ministry. It’s not enjoyable or easy but so can we.
So, for those of you out there who feel really out of place on both sides of the political arena when talking about economy and social matters and you choose to speak up for what you feel are Kingdom economics and that all people are Image bearers…. Know you’re not alone.
Know that the Spirit dwells within you, and He will guide, comfort, convict, embolden, and humble you. It takes all of those to walk in such a manner that others don’t see in us a polictial party or label but they see a person who wants to see God’s glory made much of here on this earth, not just this nation, for all eternity, not just our lifetime.
Now what? You ask. What can we do to help be the Change that is needed? You ask.
Well, once you understand the facts and let it change your perspective and step into another persons plight…. Then, friend everything you DO will be part of the solution. Because what you do will be intentional with the framework of bringing justice and freedom to all.
It SHOULD Impact….
The people you interact with, the moments you speak up instead of let ignorance or prejudice rule.
The church you choose to be a part of.
What programs in that church you are a part of.
Where you work, who works with you, who works for you.
What street you live on. *when buying a house does anyone ask where they can buy in order to Better the neighborhood? even at the expense of your resell value to help the houses next to yours gain value?
Where you send your kids to school, how involved you get in your local schools, *how much weight is the score of the school vs. your impact on it or the reality within it?
What you teach your kids, what you talk about with your kids.
How you respond to inconvenience and to cultural things that are uncomfortable to you.
Having good but hard discussions with the law officers you know.
Using our access to access higher authority when someone we know has been abused or falsely accused. Demand attention.
What you post on social media. It may cost you followers, but it may gain you some friends you never knew you needed too.
Where you grocery shop. How you treat people there.
Who you invite over to dinner, what you talk about over dinner when your older relatives are over.
How you spend your money. How you give away your money.
Who you vote for, * local judges seem insignificant but are actually HUGE steps in Big changes!! know who they are!!
How involved you get in politics.
What you watch on tv and what movies you choose * so many movies are out there that are so powerful!
Looking into getting involved in foster care, being a respite family, a safe family, casa.
Adopt, and put ‘open to any race’ on your application… or better yet, find out what is most needed and commit to that ethnicity.
Volunteering in after school programs, hospitals, homeless shelters, food banks, and pregnancy centers.
It will mean talking to anyone and everyone you encounter in the course of your day to day life and having a deep commitment to justice for all even at the expense of your own comfort, “success”, peace, feeling of safety, security, convenience, and maybe even the expense of some relationships.
White Privilege: Often I think we get the wrong picture in our head when we think of this term. I wanted to share something that has helped me understand it more.
I once heard it described more like a Monopoly Game that was started by our great grandparents. (much longer ago than that but for this illustration we are going with four generations)
Four gentlemen sit down to play, 1 black man and 3 non-black men. But once they started playing they said to the black man, “oh, you aren’t allowed to have a turn and actually the guy next to you gets your turn and to use your game piece, so basically he gets to play twice as much but you can’t play at all but you’re still in the game.” SO the game continues…. Then the next generation sits down to play and they say to the black man, “We are SO sorry for how our dad’s treated you, of course you get to play, as long as everyone here is okay with you playing. And sorry but you can’t buy any properties or buildings. And we pick up where our dads left off financially.” So the game continues…. Then the next generation sits down and says “We are SO sorry for how our dads treated you, you are allowed to play no matter what, and you can buy properties in certain locations (if there are any left to buy) and wait, you owe the banker quite a bit still from your dad spending time in jail and/or claiming bankruptcy. And don’t try to cheat to get ahead, we are watching you.” Somehow he’s able to buy a property and even buy a house, he’s heard of other black men buying a lot more but he’s still happy with what he has. so the game continues… Then we sit down to the game, We say, “we are SO sorry about how our dads and granddads treated you. You are free to play just the same as we are, no restrictions, no boundaries, YOU are equal in every way to us. We want you to have the same opportunity to win this game as we do.” Then the black guy looks at the board and sees his one property and his one house, not really much money has been saved… He brings up the fact that the deck seems already stacked against him, and that it’s really not fair and that he doesn’t have the same opportunity as they do. “you don’t want the property I own and there’s no way I can buy, much less afford the rent of what you own” We look at him and say, “quit being a victim, stop complaining, It’s not our fault our dads did what they did. We already apologized for how they played, but we won’t apologize for having all we have. Just play the game and make something of yourself.”
And so the game continues…..
* This is not a perfect analogy, it’s just something that has helped me understand what people are talking about when they say white privilege. There’s really a lot more we benefit from than just this illustration provides, but again… it helped me. Nothing takes the place though of reading actual facts and stories of black history. It changes you. It changed me.
It is a great resource of stats that is FULL of systemic issues that we CAN do something about? The data are organized into 12 categories: Police, the War on Drugs, Prison (Mass Incarceration), Criminal Justice/Courts, Education, Employment, Wealth, Workplace, Voting, Media, and Housing.
Don’t let this information overwhelm you to the point where you can’t let it sink in as reality, but also don’t let it paralyze you into thinking you can’t do anything about it. You can.
Read, Listen, and…. then ACT. It will take a willingness and commitment to listen, compassion, involvement, time, sacrifice, creativity, deep thinking, money, political involvement, incarnational living, life on life discipleship, being pro-life not just pro-birth, doing what the bible says is true religion, and a heart of boldness and humility….and oh, it will takes years if not our whole lifetime!
Every now and then I join up with Emily Freeman and we talk about what we learned the previous month. It’s been so helpful for me because it’s made me develop a habit for noticing and being aware of the things that happen or that are new and make me think.
April is my very favorite month in Texas!!!! I actually really REALLY like Texas during the Spring. ( I tend to tolerate this state the other months of the year.) It’s the month I feel most alive. It’s the month I keep the door open and drive with the windows down. It’s the month of Bluebonnets!!! It’s the month Abel was born. I just love it.
I LOVE Cabbage. Roasted (I drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with cajun seasoning!! SO good!) , in soups, or Slaw, in a box, with a fox… it’s definitely become one of my favorite veggies. And I totally prefer Cabbage/slaw on my taco over lettuce. And yes, I just learned that in April.
My oven is on a tilt…. actually I think my whole house is. I didn’t know that until I baked a sheet cake for small group the other week. The cake was very thick on one side and thin on the other… but all of it was delicious!! I made the Pioneer Woman’s Texas Sheet Cake. and it was Divine!!!
What’s worse than doing Laundry: Doing it with Unscented Laundry detergent. In an effort to try to minimize chemicals in our home I have been using unscented soap. And I have discovered that it zaps what little joy there is to be had in doing laundry right out!! I want to be mindful of how many household chemicals we use but this is just one area I can’t sacrifice in. What’s your favorite laundry soap?
The BEST Lice remedy: Zoe got lice back in March and I used Rid shampoo but it didn’t seem to get rid of the problem completely. (and with lice… you want COMPLETELY!!) Besides the fact that getting rid of nits in her curly afro hair was such a pain, I wanted to use something on her that I knew wouldn’t hurt her hair and would help me with the nit issue. Thus researcher Casey kicked in… ya’ll, me in research mode is cray cray. But this time I found what I was looking for. A magical formula that would be a one step fix all for her itchy head! Helps with killing lice, itchiness, loosening the nits, and taking care of the hair.
You will need:
a bottle of coal tar oil shampoo (I use Neutrogena T-gel Shampoo, Selson Blue I think would work too) and a bottle of cheap conditioner,
A bottle of Tea Tree Oil and a bottle of Eucalyptus oil. (I had both of these already) and white Vinegar.
Now, I whipped this up in my Blender. (you just want to wash it well afterwards but it worked like a charm for me)
I used 1/4 bottle of shampoo, 1/2 bottle of conditioner, 3/4 cup of vinegar, 25 drops each of both essential oils. Blend.
When you use it just dampen the hair with water, dump it on… It made a lot so I just used as much as I could on her. Leave it on hair for 5-10 minutes, then rinse it out really well. Dry the hair with a towel, brush/comb then use a nit comb. * With Zoe’s super curly fro I combed through with a big comb… then blew dry it straight, sectioned it off and flat ironed it small section at a time THEN went through it with a nit comb. Flat Ironing it also works to kill any nits that are on the hair. Then I let her wear a pony tail for a few days. So far…. so good.
Shower Cleaner Tip: One of the household chores I hate the most is cleaning the shower/bath tile walls. Not only is it a lot of work, I feel like I’m inhaling a billion strong chemicals. Well, I read a tip a while back that said to wash your shower with dish soap and a washcloth! So I did and the dish soap cut right through everything that gets on the shower walls and it smelled good and not like I’m breathing in a cloud of fumes… and those walls sparkled like a newly washed wine glass when I was done. So… that’s my go to method from now on. Your welcome!
FRESH AIR is my favorite NPR show: I love NPR…. I wish, I wish, I wish Christian radio was more like NPR. I feel like Christian Radio these days is like going back and drinking a frappuccino after you’ve developed a taste for good strong black coffee. (I also learned how to spell frappuccino just now… never would have guessed the u in there.) I really enjoyed THIS episode of Fresh Air on the 30th of last month as they interviewed Tom Hanks.
Bridal/Baby Shower Trend: Speaking of showers…. I found out this month about a new (to me) trend that’s being included on invites. It says to Not wrap your gifts when you bring them. And, I think I have mixed feelings about it. Pros: Saves time and money, Lets people spend more time on visiting with each other instead of opening gifts. Great for brides/expectant moms who are more introverted and don’t like being the center of attention. Cons: gift wrapping can be so much fun and pretty, opening gifts allows giver to see the joy on the guest of honors face and words. It’s a way to focus on the reason we are there to celebrate. What do you think about it?
Reading: My friend Abbey Smith’s Blog. I LOVED this post on Beyonce’s new album. My favorite paragraph was:
Why don’t the Christians write songs about their bad marriages? Their fear? Their anger with the government? He says that his suspicion of Christians stems from this unwillingness to be emotionally real. And I whisper “Amen” as I think of the angsty songs I listened to sitting in that dark cemetery. Secular songs because there was no Christian music that mirrored back at me my grief and confusion and pain, no Christian soundtrack to make me feel seen and known and safe in my process from heartbroken to healed.
Watching: We watched an episode of United Shades of America the other day where the guy went and visited with the KKK. It was sobering and I think my mouth hung open most of the time I was watching it.
Dexflex comfort ballet flats are my go to all time favorite shoes. I mean, like wear right out of the box shoes! I wear them out and then just go to Payless Shoe Source and buy a new pair. I even tried to find higher end ballet flats…. but none could compare with the comfort of these! Right now they have cute gold pairs too… perfect for spring!
Dr. Suess Day at school (which is usually on his birthday March 3rd) is doable when you have four kids in elementary school. Dr. Suess WEEK however…. is stressful and makes me feel like I need to hold a fundraiser or ask for sponsors or something. You should have seen the look on my face when Jack’s teacher said… “Hey, Monday is Wocket in my Pocket Day… so lots of Pockets!!!” What the heck??? I think I muttered something like… “okay, because pockets all over outfits are so easy to come by”
I’m pretty positive that Dairy gives me sinus infections. As much as I like drinking lattes or Brahms hot fudge sundaes whenever lately I’ve had several dairy things close together… bam! sinus infection!
That being said my new drink of choice at the ‘bucks…is a Iced Tall Decaf Americano with a splash of soy! (I know, soy is not ideal… but it’s the lesser of several evils. I may eventually do almond milk, but… for some reason it doesn’t carry the flavor as well as soy)
“Get that pervert out of our Christian school, he has no business being around or teaching our kids. He needs to be fired!” (and he almost was)
“We need to go wash our sheets that he slept on because we don’t want our family to get AIDS.”
“Dan, do not talk about your past with people here, because you and I both know the minute you do, your ministry here is over.”
“Don’t you wish he lusted after women? Wouldn’t you want that?”
“If we had known he would have ongoing struggles with same sex attraction we’d never have given you our blessing to get married. We wanted better for our daughter”
“You know he’ll never amount to anything important in the Southern Baptist Convention because of his past. There will be so many churches who will never have him on staff because of this.”
“It’s tough in a normal marriage with normal kids… I can’t imagine how hard your marriage is and add on to that having 6 adopted kids (so issues there).”
“I feel sorry for women in marriages like that (where one spouse struggles with SSA), I wouldn’t know what I would do if my husband didn’t love me”
“Dan, if you would just love Jesus more than you love yourself then you could stop being same sex attracted today.”
All of these statements were said to us or about us by well meaning believers… believers who I call friends and family. Thankfully God has surrounded us with a ton of amazing people who see through the lens of the Gospel and who have come along side of us and who speak life giving truth and grace over our lives and marriage. I do not share these so that you will feel sorry for us or be offended for us. Rather, I want to point out that, while these statements aren’t ones I’ll soon forget and they do hurt, I know that often they stem out of fear and a man centered view of life.
I wanted to take some time to blog about my marriage. Not to set anyone straight or to prove anything but just in hopes that it will encourage you where you’re at in life, especially when that life doesn’t look anything like you once thought it would.
I’ll never forget our first date when Dan shared with me about his recent departure from a life that involved having a boyfriend and an identity that was wrapped up in his sexual preferences. We both knew that neither of us were ready to pursue something serious at that time and I’m so glad that God gave us the next four years to cultivate a friendship that would be the bedrock of our marriage to come. I remember journaling one time during those 4 years… “while marriage might not be in our future it’s clear that God’s hand is obviously on this guys life and I can’t wait to watch it unfold.”
God was gracious and gave us chemistry together. But I will say over and over that it was our walk with God that ignited our hearts and pulled us together. Chemistry without a Greater Love is something that can fade and prove weak when it comes to weathering the storms and temptations life throws at us.
On our wedding day we went into marriage with eyes wide open and hopeful hearts. We didn’t know what would come our way by way of trials and temptations…. honestly, we didn’t fully know how the experience of intimacy would go. I think we just trusted that God was leading us into covenant and He was big enough to handle all of our fears and whatever marriage together would bring. Both of us had taken the time to pray and seek wisdom when it came to getting married and neither of us felt pressured into getting married to prove anything.
Now, like most marriages, I think we went into marriage with great optimism and hopeful that our sin struggles wouldn’t rear their poisoning heads. BUT of course marriage is fertile soil for conflict, selfishness and unmet expectations. Both of us have struggled with sexual temptations. I would be lying if I said that Dan’s same-sex attraction hasn’t impacted our marriage, because it has. But, so has several of my ingrained patterns of sin. Often sexual sin gets the spotlight while self righteousness or laziness or a host of other sins slips under the radar of others looking in. When left unchecked, oh how that can do great harm to a marriage as well. However, the problem is not when Sin is in a marriage but when a sinners heart is hardened to the Holy Spirit or lacks the belief that we have a Savior who wants us, in all our sin and shame, to run to Him. When we choose to identify with him because of being united with him, we begin to experience not the absence of struggle but joy giving freedom in the midst of it! As we continue to say yes to Christ, our yes to each other deepens and our covenant with Christ is the basis of our ongoing covenant with each other.
Everyday we have to choose each other, say yes to each other. Everyday we have to die to ourselves. Everyday we have to see marriage for what it truly is; a shadow, a temporary shadow of what is to come. You see, marriage isn’t ultimate. It’s not the end all. It’s not a mark of christian maturity. It’s not better than singleness and it’s not forever. It’s a daily outworking of a true and better picture that will one day be our eternal reality. It’s a catalyst for refining and accountability and togetherness. It is matrix for joy and pleasure! Dan and I find that when the focus is Christ in our marriage then those blessings abound. God transforms our natural desires for pleasure, for comfort, for ease, for a life that makes much of ourselves into desires that find pleasure in holiness and putting others before ourselves, that finds fulfilment in the struggle of living out a life that isn’t primarily about our needs and wants, that finds great comfort in trusting the sovereign creator of marriage and abundant joy when every aspect of our lives strive to make much of our Savior!
I didn’t marry the kind of man my parents prayed I would, I didn’t marry the kind of man I prayed to marry. Because I didn’t pray that I would marry a sinful man who would teach me what it looks like to fall on his face in repentance. I didn’t pray that I would marry a man who would be tempted in a way that would force him to battle shame and guilt with the truth of the gospel (where there is NO place for shame or guilt). I didn’t pray to marry someone who we feared if churches or schools would shun him if they knew his story of coming to faith and his ongoing struggle for purity and holiness. I didn’t pray to marry someone whose story and call to ministry would give me eyes to see the marginalized and outcast.
I’m so glad God didn’t give me exactly what I prayed for. He gave me so much more! The theme of loving the giver of all good things instead of idolizing the actual good things started with my marriage and has resounded again and again in grief, in parenting, in ministry and in so much of my day to day walk with Jesus.
I’m sure we will get plenty more of well meaning questions and concerns in the years to come. Hopefully, it’s not by our wisdom, or any system of sanctification we’ve found, or by our experience that we will respond. Rather, we will respond that it’s God’s wisdom, and sovereignty, and His power that we can stand and say that He was made strong in our weakness. He made beauty in the brokenness, His mighty hand lifted us out of darkness and into the light, He made sense of the confusion, He gave us an identity that is rooted in something far greater than any identity we could take on otherwise!
Now, I know that many reading this might be in marriages where your spouse.. or you isn’t finding your identity in Christ. That their/your sexual desires are running rampant and are causing great harm to your marriage. That everything in them/you says this marriage isn’t what you were made to feel/experience and that it feels more like a prison than a place of happiness. And please know that I don’t minimize the impact that same sex attraction or having a homosexual orientation has on a relationship. But I do know there is hope. And that hope is found in a body of believers who will point you to the only One who can change hearts and make sense of the brokenness. You need people in your lives who will not place shame and guilt upon you or your marriage and will speak the gospel into your life. You need a family who will be there when things fall apart or when plans go so painfully opposite from what you ever dreamed. If you don’t have that kind of church…. contact us through the Identify Network. We want to be here for you and point you towards His Gospel and His People!
HERE is the Full Series of my 2016 Goal Setting Posts. So far I’ve taken a look at hard things that God brought us through, What DID work, some of my favorite things about 2015 and exciting things ahead. Now I’m going to jump in a write about what did NOT work. These aren’t necessarily things that are bad that happened, or things I didn’t enjoy or I’m not glad I did… they are things that upon retrospect aren’t what’s best right now for our family or for me personally.
Wanting to have a back up plan: For the few few months of starting The Identify Network Dan and I were often combing job sites because we didn’t know how this was going to work. We felt like when we were doing that we were only one foot into this ministry that we were beginning. It left us spending energy we didn’t have on fearing that this wasn’t going to work out. It’s tough, we’ve had months that going into the month we had under two thousand dollars for everything! Rarely since starting has the finances made since on paper or go according to plan. God worked on our hearts and at some point even when jobs called us back for follow ups we said… no, we don’t need a net. If God wants this to go in a different direction then we will go in that direction but it won’t be because we were scared to walk down this path all the way it led.
Not having a menu plan: I think this was on my what didn’t work last year too. Maybe this year with the kids in school this might be a little more within my reach. Maybe. I think maybe having theme days might be more my speed. I am however so grateful for the meals that were provided to us once we brought Isla home! Such a blessing.
Weight watchers: I joined. I went every week for 3 months. I was encouraged. I loved it. I just didn’t DO it. So I couldn’t justify spending more money on it. Dan and I have very different eating habits that often sabotage each other. So we have to find something that works for us both. Generally something more paleo is more helpful for both of us.
Cleaning Cloths: Cloth Napkins work for us so I thought let’s get rid of paper towels all together and use cloths for cleaning and such too. I grabbed a big pack of yellow rags from Costco and we used them for probably 5 months. But they just aren’t for me. Once they get wet they get gross and too hard to keep what was on them separate… like, did this rag I’m using to wipe the table come into contact with raw meat during dinner prep? So I’m going back to Paper Towels and not feeling guilty about it.
Stress/Weight Gain/Hives… So I guess the last three things probably should just be grouped together. I’m going to blame the adoption process on this one though. Stress. My body has a freaky weird way of letting me know I’m stressed without me actually realizing I am. One morning I woke up and was covered in head to toe hives. I tried everything I knew to do, as hives were not a stranger to me back in my working days as a wedding photographer, but nothing was working. NOTHING. So I ended up in the E.R. and they gave me four medications that I tried the lesser of until I finally had to take the Steroids. That took care of it pretty much that day… but by day 3 of my 5 day script, I had to stop. I was turning into a crazy lady. But they didn’t come back thank goodness. Since then I’ve been doing things to help with the stress load I’m carrying, little by little. A few weeks ago Dan and I went to a 2 hour professional counseling session and it was SO GOOD! (I think EVERYONE should go to counseling! But we had just let life take over.
Being critical of my husbands purchases: You guys, adoption processes are notorious for making you want to control something, because you often feel so out of control about the adoption. I battle with wanting to be in charge and have things my way in our marriage already… but the past few months it was in super mode. Particularly in the area of making purchases. He’s a spender, I’m a saver. Both have it’s benefits and downfalls. Mine is that I nit pick everything he gets and can be so critical about it. I can justify my criticalness in the name of wanting to be wise, but really most often it robbed me of joys and blessings that God wanted for me. (and often I conveniently overlook all the areas he has made sacrifices). For example, He bought a set of CD’s at a Shane + Shane Concert we went to and I thought we had a few of them already and commented about that in a critical way. Turns out we didn’t, and those CD’s have been like water to my soul the past month. God knew I needed the word sung over me in a way that my heart would listen and respond. Another instance was before I brought Isla home, he went to Target and bought a few throw pillows and a foot ottoman. I felt like it was not essential in such a time of financial unknowns…and fear kept me from being excited about them. But guess what, I’ve used those things with every single one of Isla’s feedings and they have been more useful than a whole host of nursery stuff, like I’ve even told new moms to register for those things! When will I trust that I have a lavish God who is at work in even the things my husband buys instead of feeling like God’s provision is based on how cheap we can be.
Being cheap with God’s resources: I went to SC/NC to visit some mom friends and in both homes I was overwhelmed by the trust they have in a God who they are dependent upon to provide month to month. My friend Mandie Joy, She is a single mama who is raising two adopted girls from Uganda as well as being a foster mama to whomever God brings into her home. Her trust in a lavish God struck me hard and showed me how often I bring God down to the size of my essential needs and not trust Him with the desires and dreams of my heart as well as believing He is the One who places those very things in my heart! She moved into a bigger house because God was giving her more people that needed a home. She wasn’t worried about the higher rent… or when she was, she took it to Him, trusting that He will come through. This isn’t to say that wisdom and sacrifice isn’t needed in our day to day views on finances…it is. It is to say that God’s provision for me isn’t based on my frugality or to say it another way, that my sacrifice somehow earns His provision. So I want to dream in Big ways (which might be in small things) and trust a Big God with the finances of it.
Homeschooling: IF both my husband and I were a committed unschoolers then this year would have been a success. I probably lean that direction (it’s a beautiful philosophy of education) but I’m also married to a teacher who loves structure and systems and so we kind of balance each other out in this area. I don’t regret one moment of this past year of studying my children and watching them learn. I just know going forward a change is needed. I tried doing Five in a Row thinking it would be a good starting point… and for some reason it wasn’t. I wanted it to be. And I do think that if I weren’t struggling in so many areas when it comes to discipline and order and health and ministry admin then it would probably be a good fit. But for now… education is going to be an area that we outsource to our neighborhood public school. Maybe that will allow me to focus on these other areas and live to homeschool another day… and maybe this will be what works for us year by year.
Music Camp: Zoe LOVED it her first year!! And so this year we sent Zoe, Jack and Ezra to this week where they learn a whole musical and perform it at the end of the week. I want to say it worked for us. But honestly, It was a brutal week. It definitely wasn’t Jack’s cup of tea and even Zoe found the whole of it to be kind of overwhelming. That’s not a bad thing per se but looking back… I just don’t know we will do it again this coming year. It wasn’t as life giving for our kids as VBS was.
obviously ezra’s mohawk didn’t work…well not for mama! he loved it.
Not having Cable: Y’all we cut cable in order to cut our budget and it was fine and we didn’t miss it too much. But we found after 6 months we would end up renting shows or movies and that cost us about the same. We are movie/T.V. people I guess. Dan and I often unwind watching shows in the evening. So we turned it back on…. and Dan’s kind of a political junkie so going into election season, well… we wanted to have it. Shows we are Loving right now are Madame Secretary, Code Black, and Blue Bloods.
We are also letting our kids watch the last farewell season of American Idol. I could just hear them in a few years going “what’s american idol” and realizing they missed out on almost 2 decades of the making of a musical star each year. So we record it and we watch it on Friday nights.
Texting/Emailing to try to solve conflict: Doesn’t work unless it’s something like an office/work/communication type of situation and it can often make things worse. It’s frustrating because you can’t hear tone and you have something to read and re-read over and over thus making the hurt and confusion all the more lasting. As a writer I tend to want to try to explain myself through words and thus can forget that face to face when possible is always a better option.
Letting Gratitude Paralyze me:
This one I wanted to emphasize because it was a huge one that did NOT work this year…or in the several years past. And it HAS to change in the coming year! There was so much that others did for us that I wanted to show my thankfulness in a way that really let them know just how grateful we are. SO… that started a reaction in me that wanted my Thank you to be on par with their generosity. And if I felt like it was inferior or small compared to what they did I would feel like it wasn’t worthy and thus would put it off until I felt like it was. This led to delayed communication, confusion to the giver as they probably felt like it wasn’t worth our time to say anything, being overwhelmed because I didn’t get the right card, didn’t have the right penmanship, didn’t have anything to offer back as a blessing…. so it would just go undone because I wanted it perfect. See how distorted it gets??? But it’s something that I struggled with a lot. This even applies to how I feel about God’s generosity to me… as seen in some of my above confessions. It’s not understanding how grace works at all.
For 2016 I want others generosity to free me to live out this life God’s given to us. I want to humbly enjoy to the fullest when others bless us and let them know even if it’s just a short text or email that they are loved and appreciated!! To trust that God is a much better blesser and knows their heart and their own needs and will abundantly bless them through their obedience and provide joy for us all!!!
One of my favorite things (among many) about this time of year is the reflective nature of looking back and the excitement of looking forward. I’ve always wanted to be a goal setter and a planner… but my fly by the seat of my pants/spontaneous/ENFP personality always seemed to get the better of me and then all those grand goals and ideas would stay swirling in my head making me even more less likely to focus and do all the things I knew God had created me to do.
That was until I met Lara Casey and attended a Making Things Happen workshop. Since then I’ve been writing out my goals and dreams and fears and just really being intentional about what I want to see happen in my life and in the life of my family. Have I accomplished near what I would have hoped to, nope… but have I done things that I never would have had I not followed these steps…you bet I have! And trust me you don’t have to have read her book, gone to the workshop or have the power sheets… although they all are incredible tools. Just go check out her blog and follow along and do her steps in a notebook if you want to. I promise you, if you’re anything like me, your brain will thank you for it.
Here are my posts from 2014. 2013 and 2012 are written on moleskine notebooks! So come along with me. As Lara said… “Thinking these things don’t count…. you have to write them somewhere.”
Weekly documenting my children’s lives. I was a part of a group of DFW photographers who weekly captured their children with their Big cameras. Having a weekly goal was super helpful in making myself stay in the habit of having my big camera out and ready. It also gave me lots of opportunity to capture video and thus giving me clips to make into our Video -Highlights!! HERE is our spring one and I’m still working on the ones from this summer/fall. Here are a few favorite images from my year with the DLC!
Going to the Linger Conference in Dallas. It was wonderful. It’s so refreshing. I have to be careful to expect each year to be the same experience for my soul and thus setting myself up for disappointment if it’s different or if God’s wanting to do something I’m not prepared for. But this year it was wonderful. I went with a friend who is a foster mom here in fort worth. I met new friends. And just had a great time of refreshment. I’m so excited that this coming year I get to bring my husband with me! (and a few friends I’m working on talking into coming as well!)
Going to see my brother at his army base. Ya’ll bringing a carload of kids anywhere is exhausting. The idea of going somewhere is grand but once it comes time to get them ready, pack the car and make sure you have what you need for the day away… well, it’s a lot. BUT I’m SO glad we headed to Fort Hood and got to spend the day with Uncle Mikey and Aunt Jyssica!! The kids got to see vividly where Uncle Mikey was serving and what it looks like to live on an army base. (even if we did get pulled over by base police for having too many kids not in carseats in Mikey’s car…. it was just to go a few blocks) He’s deployed to South Korea so be praying for him and his awesome wife Jyssica as she’s here holding down the fort.
Bible Explosion and VBS! Because well, it’s like a ton of fun and a lot of Jesus! Both McKinney and Redeemer did a great job of loving my kids and showing them a big God worthy of our worship!
Visiting other moms. Ya’ll I’m a visual learner. I need hands on practice. So something I’ve found SO helpful is going to visit friends who are rocking this mom thing… well, rocking in the sense that they need a Big God to help them get through each day and they are showcasing His goodness even in the toughest of situations! I want to watch mamas like that and phone chats and texting are great, but I want to be in their homes, I want to talk on the couch over coffee, I want to know their kids in person! So with the blessing of an awesome husband, I got on an airplane and hopped in my car and made it possible to spend time with a few mamas like that this year. They make me a better mom and a better child of God!! Each of them are so different and have vastly different ways of parenting and living and those differences are so good for me to soak in and try out and incorporate into my life. I’m a gleaner when it comes to parenting wisdom… We glean from many places and then with Gods help Dan and I customize it for our family!
Being IN photos. Truth be known, I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been and not proud of that fact. 2 losses and 6 adoption processes have not been kind to my waistline. But I am loved right now for who I am… and I want to document my life for my children and to look back on and remember. So I got in the photos. I hope to do more self care this coming year but this last year… I cared for others a lot and I’m in the picture to remember those moments of joy!!
Being a guest podcaster. Can I just say I LOVE PODCASTING!!! When I have the time I really like to listen to episodes, I’m hoping to have more time this year to listen to more. But I LOVE speaking on them. It’s like having the most fun conversation with a good friend that’s being recorded. Check out the one I did for the Influence Network HERE and for my friend Tiffany over at A mom’s mission field HERE.
Fundraising. After bringing two kiddos home from Africa, I didn’t know if I had what it took to do a fundraising campaign again. It’s A LOT of work!!! But when we were matched and had time on our hands and fees in front of us, We knew it was something we could do and just trust that God would provide as He always had before (with or without our fundraising efforts… HE ALWAYS COMES THROUGH!!! Just wanted those of you who are in the thick of it to read that and don’t ever forget it!!) Well the Best of Baskets were a big hit again and through the 3 we did not only did we help bring Twila home from China but we completely paid for our adoption fees and traveling and living in another state for a whole month! God used so many people in and through that as well as people and churches there in Las Vegas and here in Fort Worth!!
For those of you in the thick of raising money, I’m working on putting together a pdf on tips I found helpful in fundraising and doing the best of baskets. I highly recommend Julie Gumm’s website as well.
Getting the girls hair braided. Dan took the girls to Ya-Ya’s African House of braids the day before I brought Isla home and they got their hair put into braids with curls on the ends. We had put off doing anything like this before because 1. I knew they would instantly look older and I didn’t want them to grow up so fast! and 2. the money. Hair care for these gals aint cheap, but natural hair care is also super time consuming and tear producing. So with bringing a baby home we thought this was one area that we could help in the adjustment! And it was tough on them at first… but these girls have LOVED their long hair and it’s been so easy!! We will probably get them done 2-3 times a year and then let them go natural in the summer time since they are in the pool so much! I love watching them have so much fun with their hair. It’s worth every penny!
Pouring out my heart to friends when my brain felt like mush. More times than I’d like to admit I’d have a friend over to visit and we’d be sitting on the couch or at a coffee shop and my brain would just feel like a pile of mush. I would start thinking I have nothing to chit chat about… heck, I can’t think of anything to really say that’s interesting except what’s truly going on in my heart right now, and that’s not always pretty and it’s also full of drama and things personal to me. So I just gave up trying to think up stuff to talk about and dove in and just shared my heart and struggles… And I’ve never regretted it. I felt vulnerable doing it… but they always left with me feeling like, at least they know the real me right now. messy, weak and needing so much of Jesus… and most often they were such a source of encouragement and hope to me!
Switching to Pink Salt: I just filled up all our shakers and containers of salt with Pink Himlayian salt and we haven’t looked back. It’s filled with so many great minerals and tastes great. It’s a small change… but one I feel good about.
Watching The West Wing… the whole series! This is probably Dan and My 3rd time through the whole series and every time we fall in love with the characters and the writing is so good. With it coming up on election year and the rumor that Netflix was taking it off it’s line up (they aren’t) we dove in and watched an episode or two every night… okay some nights it was like 3 episodes! I’m actually in mourning now that it’s over. There’s just nothing else out there that compares to it. And I mean what TV actor wasn’t on that show at some point. All of my favorites for sure!
Watching the old Star Wars Trilogy with the kidsI don’t remember when I watched them originally but watching them this time was so fun and seeing the kids love the story and characters was so awesome. We’ve had lots of light saber wars around here. They loved going to the theaters to see the last one! Although it was a little tricky when the yellow words started going up the screen and four little heads turned around for Daddy to read them to them out loud and we just had to tell them to turn around and that they would figure it out.
Taking holiday Photos WAY before the holiday. Because we didn’t know when Isla would be born and if we’d even be here for Trick or Treating, we had to start thinking costumes and such in September. Nesting energy really came in handy about then. So when I tried all their costumes on them to check fit and such, I took them outside and shot a few pictures of them together and I’m so glad I did. Come the actual day which I was able to be here for, I was able to be present and just go with them and have fun without the pressure of getting cute photos or them being picture perfect. It worked!! Having a trial run for Easter and Going Early to see Santa worked as well!
Listening to NPR. I learn so much from that radio station. I find that when they cover the news and talk of lands far away who are facing turmoil I can better understand and pray for friends of mine who are over there serving and sharing of the good news. When they have interviews and stories about people and things I never would have considered before and it makes me think! In a way it’s really taught me how to listen to people with perspectives I completely disagree with but yet I learn from them and come away from it seeing it at least from another perspective even if my belief/opinion stays the same. I feel like that’s so valuable.
Shopping at Trader Joes. I’m more of a costco girl when it comes to shopping and in the past haven’t really done much at Trader Joes… it felt like one more store to add. BUT this year changed that. I don’t know how they do it but they have hired the most incredible employees who not only don’t look down on my crew of kids… they celebrated them with smiles and conversations and suckers!! They also are always so helpful and last week I was in there and had the best conversation with a cashier and it came up that it was my birthday and before you know it she was handing me a huge bouquet of flowers…. I cried. So T.J., keep up this kindness and excellence and I’ll be a fan for life! If you’re doing Whole 30 HERE is a great video of 25 approved things from there.
Dan’s PhD. I know I said this last year too. But It is. I braced for year two because everyone said it’s a doozey and while it’s brought it’s challenges with it, it’s really been great. I love watching him flourish and learn and then come home and regurgitate so much of it back to me. I learn so much from him. His cohort has been so kind and supportive of us and isla’s adoption this year. DBU has been super about really everything involving classes and schedules. He’s got one more year of course work then a dissertation to write. Honey, I’m SO proud of you and I love that you’re getting to use the incredible mind and heart that God’s given you to not only impact the world around you but that you come home and use it to bless your wife and little ones. There’s no one else I’d rather be on this adventure with. We love you!
Depending on God and His faithfulness to meet all of our needs: Starting a non-profit has been challenging to say the least but it’s been so rewarding and fulfilling. I remember thinking… between our adoption needs and our living needs we are going to run out of resources and people are going to tire from us asking them to give. But then I remember that God has unlimited resources and He uses people in crazy awesome ways to bless us and provide for us. I could write a whole post on friends and families generosity to us!! One day I was thinking about how much the boys needed warmer pajamas and within that week a friend dropped off a bag FULL of boys PJ’s and underwear! We brought Isla home and knew our vehicle wouldn’t fit us all… we visited a car dealership and had a terrible experience there, and we really knew that going into year two of this ministry we preferred not to add a car payment to our monthly expenses at least not right now. So we prayed and we waited. Not only did a family in our church offer to switch us vehicles for a time but we had a friend call us on Christmas Eve and tell us that they were on the way to a dealership to get a new family car and they wanted to give us their 9 passenger Suburban!! We now can all fit in the car to go places!!! What a blessing and a confirmation that God hears us and sees us right where we are. It’s also very humbling… but I’ll save that aspect for another post coming up.
Favorite Blogs to read:Sayable and Cup of Jo and two longtime friends that are newer to blogging and I’m so proud of them for creating their space and pouring out to their readers: Cynthia Stuckey and Lisa Burns
Favorite Wine I’ve tried this year under $20:White: Simi sauvignon blanc & Villa Cerrina Chardonnay Pinot Grigio and Red: Canyon Road Merlot
Listened to over and over: Shane and Shane Psalms 2, Lauren Dagle, and of course… Adele! And this Spotify Mix I made.. “Hope for the Weary Heart.
Best New show on TV:Code Black. It’s SO good! Other favorites: Call the Midwife, Madame Secretary, Goldbergs, Fixer-Upper.
Favorite Phone Apps: Vsco Cam for photo edits, Two Dots for mindless activity, and Dubsmash for endless fun with the kids! And the GIF keyboard…. if a picture speaks a thousand words then a Gif is worth at least a few thousand!
Baby Baby:Baby Tights by June and January Oh my… these are so thick and will last forever! And the colors. Swoon!! I was gifted a Lily Jade Diaper Bag by Lily Jade Company because they so lovingly support adoptive mamas and do a give away once a month. I’ve been carrying it everywhere and holding back on a review until I saw how it weathered the use… and so far, I’m sold!! I love it, it’s been so useful and high quality. I’m hard on diaper bags. And I’m pretty sure I’ve met my match with this one. (I’m hard on my camera bags too… so if you are too then Kelly Moore Camera Bags are by far the best I’ve ever had!!)
This post is going to be a reflection on the theme I chose at the beginning of this year and how that’s worked itself out in the past 12 months. I wish this was going to be an upbeat fun post… and those are coming next week as I take on Goal setting for 2016 (following Lara Casey’s Make it Happen Process). They will include the best of moments and my favorites of this past year as well as what worked and didn’t and my big dreams for 2016.
I’ve so enjoyed looking forward and getting excited at all that is ahead. But I’m just going to start off with the hard post and the post that’s weighing so heavy on my heart. Some might think me crazy for writing publicly about these things, and maybe I am. But if you’re a writer then you get when you just have words inside that must come out and in being written actually help you process and heal. So read along, pray for me as I continue to process and heal, know that through all of this a very good God sustained in amazing ways and that I wouldn’t trade any of it for a year that was smooth sailing but had little growth.
I am more than ready to say goodbye to 2015! I am. I’m ready to have this year be something to look back on instead of going through. It was not an awful year, in fact it was an epic year. It was also a hard year Maybe my mistake was having my year’s theme be DO HARD THINGS! what was I thinking?? I’ll tell you what I was thinking.. I was thinking like work out more or brush the kids teeth religiously or get up earlier…that kind of hard. But that’s not what the Lord was thinking. I think His focus was more on the hard things my heart would come to encounter, knowing I would need Him to change me and mold me in a way I never have had to before.
Here are some of the life changing Hard Things that 2015 brought our way.
When my brother lived with us: In February my brother, who is 18 years younger than I am, moved in with us for a short time. We knew it probably wouldn’t last long but we knew it was a moment in time with him that we might never get again. It was so good and it was so hard. I loved having my brother doing life with us, watching us do life as a family with lots of littles, my kids viewed him as a human jungle gym and constantly wanted his attention. There are things that I know he was dealing with and things he needed to deal with and wasn’t. No matter how hard we wanted him to care about taking responsibility for work, phone, bills, plans… he just wasn’t there yet. It was hard to be his sister but having to act like his mom. I battled resenting that. But with him always there I couldn’t stay mad at him and his needs were constantly there in front of me reminding me that Jesus loved him far more than we did, far more than our parents did, far more than even Tony knew. I prayed so much for him in those weeks and still do. In a matter of weeks he found another place to call home for a time. But we laugh now because God crosses our paths with him in the craziest of ways these days. I love that kid. And I’m so glad God put him into our family.
When Felicia went crazy: A year and a half we moved onto a street that quickly brought us relationships with our neighbors and their kids. One neighbor, Felicia we met on day one as she asked for money and cigarettes. We didn’t give her that but we did welcome her and her kids into our home on almost a daily basis going forward. I asked her one day to tell me the stories about her many tattoos and she told me many chapters worth of hurt and heartache and loss and mistakes made. We helped them get stuff for back to school, halloween and Christmas. I baked her son’s birthday cake when she didn’t. Again, it was probably one of the most frustrating relationships I’ve ever had because she took and took and took and I continually had to give the idea of her changing or becoming responsible back to God. I wanted to give without the hook of her having to change as a payment or condition. I am tearing up just having to type this out because watching someone who truly did become my friend turn to drugs and slowly go out of her mind and lose her kids who had become friends with my children, was one of the most heart wrenching things to watch and be involved in. Being for her and also for her kids and knowing that advocating for them both meant putting them all in situations that would tear apart their family and yet be the only way to provide opportunity for help and healing. They got evicted and aren’t our neighbors anymore. Her children are in foster homes. I see her on a rare occasion when she really needs something. She’s in denial about her need and she is moving on. I will miss her and her kiddos so much. I worry about them but know that it’s out of my hands and that again, Jesus loves them and knows exactly what is going on with each of them. But much like my friend April in Raleigh, I wonder if in the friendship who needed who the most. Because as hard as it was, I’m a different person because of her.
When my husband quit teaching high school and started a non-profit ministry: Not that Making Things Happen was the reason Dan decided to pursue what God has laid on our hearts for over a decade now, but as his wife it made me his biggest cheerleader and co-founder!! We have wanted to do this years before but we knew it was risky and that there would be rejection as well as so many unknowns as far as provision went…especially when you have 5 kids and are in the middle of an adoption process! But you know it’s something God wants you to do when He won’t leave you alone about it and He almost throws you into it. We knew now was the time. We knew we were ready… and in the areas we weren’t ready He would be there for us and He would sustain us. If you want to know more about this ministry check out our website HERE. But, in a nutshell we started The Identify Network as a ministry to come alongside of churches to help equip them to counsel, communicate and love those within their families who struggle with Same sex attraction or gender identity issues, and how to love those outside of their church walls who are in the LGBT community.
Yep, not a subject that’s easy or fun or popular to talk about in any arena. We’ve lost LGBT friends who think we are wrong and harmful for our views on biblical sexuality and we’ve lost relationships with believing family who think our story is an embarrassment and that our ministry dirties grace because we emphasize love. It’s messy…it’s easier to put up walls instead of having hard conversations…. but it’s SO full of hope!! In the six months we’ve been a network we’ve met with and talked to countless people who want that hope and want to navigate this subject in a way that makes it about people to be loved and not issues to be won. It’s been hard…. but it’s been so so good!
When we got matched with Isla’s birth mom months before she was due: This was our first adoption where we had to wait for our baby to be born. I never knew how nerve wracking and emotional that wait is before then. We had time so I wrote her and poured my heart out to her about our family, about our hearts desire in adopting another child with down syndrome, about our love for our children’s birthparents…. I didn’t expect her to write back and equally pour out her heart to me about her own desires and fears and hopes and dreams for the little girl growing within her. I didn’t expect to fall in love with the family she wrote about and her rich heritage. I didn’t expect her words to be written in such a way that I felt like I knew her and could feel her hearts cry and the hurt and love she had so abundantly. I didn’t expect for my heart to be torn into two knowing I would be heartbroken if she kept her baby but I almost wanted her to more than to give her to us…and I told her that! I knew that’s how powerful her love for this child was. But I also trusted that a mothers love like that could look towards the future and make difficult choices that were what was best despite crushing pain in the present.
Thus began our relationship that would cultivate into something far more beautiful and far more difficult than I could ever imagine as we met and bonded over OUR daughter in a Las Vegas Hospital. Her and her husband became fast friends with Dan and I, we clicked. The four of us advocated for this little girl in a way that made the NICU staff scratch their heads and ask questions about how this worked? This wasn’t the way they typically saw the adoptive couples interact. This was so awkwardly beautiful. The hard part was that we all loved Isla, we all wanted her, we all wished we could hold her and bond with her… us for the purpose of bonding and beginning to attach and them for the purpose of beginning to let go. But due to Isla’s medical issues, neither of us could do that so we just loved each other more and talked and filled in more of both of our stories that had started months earlier.
That first week of knowing them and my new daughter in person was beyond wonderful and insanely heartbreaking at the same time. I cried so much… I’m crying now just writing about it. We are still navigating what loving and healing between us all looks like right now. I know once time has healed and with it colored the sorrow and what if’s with joy and acceptance, then doing this the hard way… making room in our hearts for each other will be one of life’s sweetest gifts!
When I lost the support and approval of my parents: Losing Asher over seven years ago I was immersed in a process that couldn’t help but to change me and I embraced the grief with all I had… because in doing so I not only felt closer to my son but I found healing there. With loss of relationship with my parents and close family friends that I’ve experienced for over a year now… I have done everything but embrace the process. I’ve fought, resisted, raged, cried, tried to figure it out or a way out, defended and explained till I’m blue in the face, I’ve let it color my world with despair and confusion. How could God lead us through so much “hard” and us find Him to be so good in it, only to have what felt “good” turn out to be our biggest source of opposition and discouragement? How can those who I’ve been so proud to be apart of be so quick to part with us?
I love my family, I love my faith, I love my denomination. I have even come to love a life often viewed with much controversy….due to adoption, social justice issues, ministry and a walking out of our faith that goes beyond the church bubble many of us have grown up in. I just somehow have to find a way to embrace the difficulty, rejection, and misunderstandings that will undoubtedly come without letting it break my heart and crush my spirit. Because honestly, right now… I feel broken and crushed. Yes, there is joy… but I’m ready for healing to come. I’m tired of having an overarching feeling of sadness…and the tiredness that brings with it. If I’m honest, I don’t know really even what to do. I want to put up walls and boundaries because my heart is always hoping and wishing and begging for things to not be the way they are and I’m tired of getting hurt and rejected over and over. I’m tired of having to defend or wanting to prove that God’s at work in the life of my husband and in the hearts of my kids. I know that the Jesus told us that people would reject us, hurt us, and misunderstand us….When we started our ministry I expected that, I was just looking a different direction for those attacks to come. He spoke plenty about family and His calling colliding…I just couldn’t imagine it would collide with MY family. I want a relationship with them so badly and I want their approval probably even more but right now I can’t have it and live out the life Dan and I feel like we are supposed to live.
I can’t change Dan’s testimony and ongoing struggle… I can’t change the challenges that having 6 adopted kids brings with it…. I can’t change the theology we cling to… But I do know that we can boast in our weaknesses, we can try to honor God as we succeed and fail often in raising lots of littles…. I do know that if I’m going to err it’s going to be on the side of God’s grace towards us….and as much as I want to keep these words, this life of mine, private and inside a journal by my bed or the walls of my home, that’s not what I feel like God’s asked of me.
But this I do know, I walked through the storm of losing a child and look back at the person I used to be before that journey and don’t wish to ever go back to who I once was. I’m more than ready for the kind good hands of the Refiner to bring about change in me, to emerge refined and molded and thankful to be beyond the confusing and painful days of grief and into a time of redemption and trust in the One who understands situations like this, even if I never do.
When we had to explain difficult things to our little ones: I mean, pick one of the situations above… any of them, they all have impacted our children. Our kids are home with us every day all day…. they are very observant…. and they ask a kabillion questions a day! So we get the crazy questions… the funny ones… and the very hard to answer ones.
Explaining that their neighbor friends wouldn’t be coming over to play anymore and yet their mommy was still coming over on occasion was heart wrenching. My kids cried. I cried telling them. But I was able to tell them about a God who is everywhere at the same time… that He was going to be their friends mommy and daddy until He brought them a new one! Explaining why Tony left all of the sudden and wasn’t coming back… that was hard. But again, to tell them that God loved their uncle more than they did (which they love LOVE uncle tony) they got that!! Explaining why Daddy wasn’t a teacher anymore…. well, they loved that… explaining what we would be doing instead, interesting but a great way to point to the provision and care of God. And How important the Church is!! Explaining why grandparents aren’t around and why they aren’t a part of their lives…. that’s hard. But living in a home where conflict and differences abound, they are starting to understand why we need Jesus to forgive others and the beauty of grace and mercy needed in our own lives. Explaining why mommy and daddy needed to be in Las Vegas for so long and that Isla had a birth family who loved her… and the many conversations that inspires about the many birth families of all of theirs we love and the ones we wish we knew so we could love them by name… That’s always hard. But Oh, I hope they never tire of the picture we are able to paint for them as we tell them of mommy and daddy’s adoption by God through Jesus and the price He paid to make us His own children!
When I had to come to the realization that I’m not in a place to homeschool right now: I’ve always wanted to homeschool my kids. I remember talking to Dan about it far before we started talking about marriage or even kids. I was homeschooled and loved it. I love the culture of homeschool, I love the opportunity homeschooling provides, I love the many options out there for homeschooling curriculum. But right now…. with where we are in life and ministry and family, I’m not in a place where I can homeschool them and have our family thrive in a way we want us to. My failures as a wife and mom are many and when I look at my desires and hopes and dreams for my family and home, I can’t homeschool and reach for those goals at the same time. At least not right now.
Dan and I have talked about this for some time now as we intentionally parent and discuss how we are raising each of them. And I think adding Isla when we did in many ways was a confirmation in the direction we were praying towards. I still battle not feeling like a failure in this area….and I truly do think that this is something that will allow me to teach them another day. I know that there is a many areas that I’ve neglected the past 7 years that are crucial to being the kind of mom I want to be to them. I hope this will give me the time and opportunity to pursue those areas with intention. God has given us this incredible ministry and as we start off I know it will require more of me than I would have to give if I had education on my plate as well. I wouldn’t trade a bit of the past 7 years with them every day for anything… and I can’t wait to see what adventures lay ahead with them. But for right now… for the next 5 months, the Chappell kids will be going to the public elementary school down the road from where we live. I want to sob my head off and dance a jig all at the same time. Ah, the emotions of motherhood. Ya’ll it’s HARD! But GOOD!!!
So that’s my Do Hard Things List. I feel like it’s a saga of sadness in some ways but I know that in the years to come they will also be stories of struggle that were life defining and are things we wouldn’t go back and change even if we could. I hope you not only know how to pray more for our family but also see your own struggles and imperfections in a new light and feel the hope and goodness of a sustaining God in all of it. I learned when I started blogging as I navigated a journey of grief followed by incredible joy and healing that although it’s not all pretty and easy to write about it’s all part of the good story that a Good Author is writing and that we can keep turning the pages knowing that the end is worth living out each chapter…. no matter how hard it may be.
Now… off to pick a new theme for 2016. I think I’ll go with something like…. rest a lot, or rejoice… or something not involving the word Hard! 😉
Check back next week for a series of posts all about my favorites and highlights of 2015 as well as the hopes and dreams for the year ahead!