Sunday, February 1, 2015

"Enjoy them."
"You will blink and they will be grown and gone."

"It goes so fast, so treasure every moment."

This is the most freely given advice in the midst of the chaos of raising a troop of children. 
Unfortunately, this has never ever inspired me to dig deeper and love harder. 
It actually always felt like one more weight to carry, one more area where I didn't measure up, one more item to add to my "to do today" list. 

Having young kids is like having this feeling of being both full and hungry at the same time- with people continuously offering which they think I should feel. 

I used to tell myself I should always feel full.  
"I have 5 beautiful, healthy children. I am blessed. I should not feel hungry for anything else. And there's really not time to be hungry for anything else anyway."
I worked hard at denying myself and giving to my children so I could feel like a good mom. 
I gave when I didn't want to give and tried when I didn't feel like trying.  
But their needs were endless, and everything I gave was still never enough to feel like I was enough. 
I was impossibly busy. Trying to parent well, trying to love my husband well, trying to hold on to my friendships, trying to keep my house from looking like 7 people lived there, trying to keep my body from looking like 4 babies had grown there. 
All the while hearing, "Enjoy this. Enjoy them. Do it well."

I knew I should be reading the Word and praying more, but amidst all of the need, praying and reading ended up on the bottom of the "to do today" list. 
I told myself that God understood.
He HAD to understand.   

When the kids were finally in bed for the night, I needed instant comfort and a break from having to think. 
I used TV, food, my husband, girls' nights out, blogging, facebook...
anything to drown out the hunger, the guilt, and the unfinished to do list. 
And I woke up the next morning feeling more guilty, more tired, more empty...

What I didn't know about that hunger was that it was never meant to be something to silence. It wasn't something that was wrong with me. 
It wasn't something to work harder at not feeling. 
It was an opportunity. An invitation.

My Father was beckoning me. 
I held "all that I was not" in between us like a wall- all the while He was saying, "Daughter, let me be enough."

My focus was on the children and on all of my inadequacies. 
He always knew it was too big of a job for me. 
He knew I would never get it right on my own. 
He knew I needed Him. 

And when I finally stood still long enough to really look at Him, He changed everything. 
I saw that He was near me and fighting for me. 
I saw that He was actually ENJOYING ME. 
Instead of disappointment and disapproval, I saw delight and desire.
He wanted an intimacy with me that I didn't know was possible. 
I needed Him more than I had ever known, and He was more than enough for my hunger and my fullness. His love filled me to overflowing, His Word came alive, His nearness became my new reality and my lifeline. 

He is shifting my gaze from "who I am not" to "Who He is."
He is changing all the trying and working to leaning and trusting. 
Sweet rest. Sweet Savior. Saving me from my sin and then saving me from myself. 

I see my children differently now.
My love for them is a reflection of His love for me. 
Their needs draw me to the Need Filler. 
It's not about feeling like a good mom, but about drawing from my Good Dad.  
Not about who I am to my children, but pointing my children to Who He is to them. 
Trusting that they are His, and He and I are in this together. 

So, before I ever tell another mom to enjoy her children while they are young,
I hope to tell my story of learning to enjoy Jesus and understanding His enjoyment of me while the children were young. 

He truly changes everything, and He is all we need in our hunger and our fullness. 


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Here's what I'm thankful for today.....

We are at the beach with my husband's whole family. 
We had a pretty rough couple of days leading up to this vacation. Lots of chaos. By the time we started packing on Friday night we were pretty exhausted. We were planning to pack, load our borrowed car, put the kids to bed, and then wake up at 2:30am to leave by 3am
After a long day I was overwhelmed at the thought of packing for the 6 kids and myself for 2 weeks, so I decided to make myself a smoothie before I got going. (Stalling :)
I had the blender full to the brim and running...I was helping things a long with a spoon....and then I pushed the spoon down too hit the blades and there was a smoothie explosion. 
Dave was walking toward me when it happened and he got to witness my smoothie shower. It was EVERYWHERE. The ceiling, the whole floor, the cabinets, my hair, and dripping down my face. 
We laughed until I cried :)
By the time the kitchen was finally clean we were way behind schedule. 

Before I knew it my friend showed up to come and get our mama cat and her 6 kittens to take care of them for the 2 weeks we were gone. 
We gave her all the instructions and the kids said their sad goodbyes. 

We had finally started making some progress with the packing- amidst 6 hyper, excited children running around, teasing each other, fighting, giving too many opinions on what goes and what stays- when my friend texted and asked me to call her. 
I walked back to my bedroom and called to see what she needed. 
She was crying. 
She could hardly get out what she was trying to say.....she had gotten home....her boyfriend had opened the car door before she was ready....mama cat jumped out....and ran into the street....right as a car was coming....she was killed. 

I could not believe it. The 2 1/2 week old kittens were now orphans. They still needed milk. How do we tell our kids?!?! They loved that cat so dearly!

Amidst sobbing and sadness we made the decision to go get the babies. My kids were begging me to bring them back so that they could see that at least the kittens were ok. 
I drove off to go meet my friend. 

She was a wreck. She was sobbing as well. She couldn't stop shaking and crying. I felt so bad for her!! I held her while she cried and kept telling her that it was ok. We were ok and it was not her fault!!!

She asked how we could possibly be ok, so I shared my faith with her and my belief that all things are in God's hands. No matter what. 

When I got home the kids were still crying and so glad to see the kittens. Shaeya begged me to let her bring them with us on the trip. 
I looked at her...her heart broken...she was asking how she was going to be able to take care of them and give them what they need...
My mama heart was moved by her pain. 
I put my arms around her and told her we would bring them. 
I said, "Baby, you are not alone in this. I love you so much and I am right here with you. I am on your team. We will work together and give them what they need. We won't care what anyone else on the trip thinks about us bringing them because this is about you and me and them and no one else. It's gonna be ok. Got it? It's ok."

We wiped our tears, pulled ourselves together, and started packing up the kittens and packing the rest of the car. 
There was no way the kids were going to sleep at that point so we finished packing and got straight into the car. 

It was midnight by the time we pulled out. Dave and I, 6 kids, and 6 kittens with a 14 hour drive ahead of us. 

I took over driving around 4am. By that time everyone in the car was asleep. It was just me in the dark silence on an empty highway. 
It was finally my time to talk to my Dad. 
I told Him how overwhelmed I was. I told Him how hard it was to do everything required of me. I told Him how I was struggling to love our foster child. How I was worried about Neiko's bad behavior and how our family would appear to everyone else on this trip. I was worried our chaos would turn people away from us. Concerned that I was forgetting something we would need.

And clear as day my heart heard Him say....
"Everything you said to your daughter tonight when her heart was breaking is everything I'm saying to you now. I feel the exact same way about you. 
I love you. 
I'm proud of you. 
I'm on your team. 
I'm with you. 
This is not all on you- we are in this together. The two of us together and it doesn't matter what other people think. You are not alone in this- I am right here with you and I am helping you."

And my heart soared. The pain and chaos and worries of the last few days melted away.....

And THAT is what I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving. This year- more than any other year of my life- I am so aware of His presence, His nearness, the way He sees me, the love He has for me, the trustworthiness of His plans for me, His faithfulness, His goodness, His provision, His grace for my failures, and His help. 
He is such a good, good Father and my heart is overwhelmed with gratitude. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. 
Praying we know Him more and more in the coming year, and that we live with thankful hearts grounded in the truth of Who He is in every moment. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

I'd like to come out of hibernation to tell you a story. A story about a little girl, her mom, their Father, and her.....ok, I don't know what to call myself in this story, but it's not really about me anyway.....

It all started with my sister saying 'yes'. Yes to taking in a 2yr old little girl- KaLeigh- who needed a temporary home. 
She stole all of our hearts in the almost 3 months she was in the family, and when it looked like she was going to need a forever family, Dave and I said yes. 
I had 8 weeks to wait and see. 8 weeks of wondering if she would be mine. 8 weeks of trying not to get my heart too filled up with the idea of being her mom, and asking Jesus to lead the way and point the way to what He was doing. 
And in that time He spoke to me. One of those amazing, life changing moments when His voice is clear and powerful and water in the desert. 
Exodus 23:20-33
He told me He is giving me the desires of my heart, but at the pace that He knows I can handle. 
Such precious words to a weak, small minded daughter. 
And I told Him that I trusted Him, and His Word would be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. 

And then, just when it looked like we would be taking this precious girl through the transition from my sister's home to ours, there was a glitch. 
Some lost evidence and a court hearing and little KaLeigh was abruptly sent back home. 

Our hearts were broken. My sister and I cried many tears over this brokenness and pain and loss. Little one who had finally adjusted to routine and love and physical needs being met was back in chaos, neglect, filth, second hand smoke, sex offenders, poor diet, rotting teeth, up all night and sleep all day...

And I was angry with God. I pleaded with Him. I poured out my confusion, my anger, my doubt. 
How was He good in this?
What about His promises to love and care for His sheep? What about my willingness to change everything for this little one?

And He spoke to me again. 
Isaiah 55:8-13
He told me He knows what He's doing. And His thoughts, His ways of accomplishing His will were much bigger than I could comprehend. What I see is just one small piece of a huge and intricate puzzle. 
Once again I told Him I trusted Him. 
And I also told Him that if there was anyway I could find her or visit her I would. If I could help the family I would. If I could speak of Him to them I would. 
I asked for this. The impossible. 
And I thought that was the end. 

A couple of weeks later my sister had a voice mail left on her phone from KaLeigh's mom inviting her back into KaLeigh's life. 
And when my sister mentioned the voice mail to me, I KNEW. It was for me. It was a one in a million chance connect with KaLeigh and her family. 
She gave me the phone number and I talked with Jesus about it for a few days. 
KaLeigh's mom was not going to know me, and I was going to be asking if I could be the one invited in to their lives instead of my sister.  
I asked Jesus to please pave the way!!

And He did! 
KaLeigh's mom was happy to hear from Amy's sister, and said yes. Yes I could be in their lives, yes I could visit, yes I could be as involved as I wanted.

Only Jesus. Only thoughts higher than ours. Only ways different than ours. 
Sweet miracle worker doing what He does best. Oh how I love Him!!!

But the first time I visited I was shaken. It was worse than I imagined. Bad. Ugly. Scary. Unlike anything I had seen before. In a neighborhood I would never ever normally find myself in. 
The sex offender who was not supposed to be staying there was there. And he was just waking up for the day. KaLeigh was still sleeping and it was almost lunch time. My stomach lurched. 
I had a long conversation with K's mom as we got to know each other, and she said I could have as much time with K as I would like. 
I ended up taking her home with me for the night.
Mom said to keep her as long as you want.
She didn't know I wanted forever. 

Fast forward through more visits. More getting to know everyone. More heartache at home situation. 
And one especially awful night with K at our house coughing and wheezing and throwing up- which I believed was a result of living in so much second hand smoke- and crying over pain from rotted teeth. 
More of my crying out to Jesus. 
And my secret hope that mom would be turned in to DCFS again....or arrested....or something. 

And now here we are at last week. 
I was handed a card at church to give away. An invitation to 'Back to Church Sunday.'
It turned in my heart to invite K's mom, but I pushed it away. 
Until Dave mentioned it too. 
He was right. I should invite her. She lives close to our church and had mentioned wanting to come visit sometime. 

And to my surprise she accepted the invitation! 
So, the next Sunday morning I dropped my family off at church and then drove to go get them.
K's mom sat beside me during the service and had tears streaming down her face the entire time. 
I could feel her soaking Him in and Him pouring into her and filling her in a way she hadn't been filled before. 
And when Pastor asked if anyone wanted to come forward and open their lives to Jesus, I knew. 
She waited, quietly watching while others went forward and then when Pastor gave one final invitation she was up and moving forward. I followed her and wrapped my arms around her and we cried together. 
Sweet Jesus once again doing above and beyond what we could ever think or imagine. 
From the first day I met K, to the day I thought she would be mine, and then the day she was abruptly returned home, and my first visit to their home so shockingly broken, I could've never dreamed all of this up!
My heart was so focused on saving K while His heart was wanting to save so much more. 
So much more. And only a small part of which are these His three daughters. Saving one from abuse and neglect, one from the grip of the world, and one from her narrow minded, judgmental, uncompassionate heart. 

I took K's mom to meet with our Pastor on Tuesday and then to church on Wednesday night. 
She is so hungry for the truth. She is soaking it up, asking tons of questions, and she read through the whole book of John in one night. 
She is seeing things differently and anxious to learn more. 
And then there's me. Loving K. Watching her, holding her, praying for her.
And my heart is heavy. 
Oh my heart! 
Jesus, deal with this heart!!!
This heart that has to go from seeing her mom as the problem to seeing her as a sister in Christ. 
She is a believer, but still doesn't know how to take care of her child. K still lives in smoke, still has rotting teeth, still eats only junk food, still stays up all night and sleeps all day....
And the mama in me wants to be angry and judgmental and still hopes to have K as mine someday.
Help me, Jesus!! 
It was more comfortable when I didn't think I had to really love her mom. It was easier when she wasn't sitting next to me in church.
And yet I know I wasn't called to 'easy' or 'comfortable'. 
And I know now that the best thing I can do is to let Jesus love K's mom through me. And let Him teach her how to love and care for KaLeigh through me.
A changed mom means a changed family. 
And Jesus can turn everything around. 

He is whispering that He's not done yet. He tells me to watch and see what He will do. He can heal blind eyes and hard hearts and He is making all things new.

Jesus, change me. Help me to stop ever thinking that I know best. Help me to stay right where you are- not a step ahead and not a step behind. 
Just right with You. 

The end of Isaiah 55 says this-
"Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off." 

I believe it for KaLeigh. 
And it is all pointing to Jesus. 
For the fame of His name, for an everlasting sign. 
It is so much bigger than me. Or KaLeigh. Or her mom. It is HIM. 
It will always be HIM. His plans are bigger. His eternal perspective so much clearer. His love so much purer. 
His grace so much deeper. 

Father, have Your way, and glorify Yourself in us all.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

So we have been a bit swallowed up in life over much going on......I'm sad that I've let the blog slip!

Here is my quick catch up!

-guess we are going to be on TV :)
we start filming 9 more episodes in just a few days......crazy.....and one episode will be filmed at our house. Praying that we will be drawing from Jesus and not from the world, and that we will show His love and His heart TO the world.

Lake Life is ours in case there was any question...;)

-our kids are growing and changing so quickly!  They keep me very busy and they are my DELIGHT.  Love them so dearly!!! Tyden will be 13 in September!!! Shaeya is 10, Tekoa is 7, Wren is 5, and Neiko will be 4 in July.

-we have 13 cats.  no joke.  13.  Remember the days when I couldn't even keep ONE alive??
Haha we have learned a very important life lesson over here about getting cats fixed!! Both our cats had kittens, so we have 2 litters at once.  11 kittens.
You all know I am not an animal lover, but these kittens are awfully cute.....and they keep my kiddos very busy. :)
They will be up for grabs at the end of July so let me know if you want one! They are well loved!

Oh the beauty of loving another's as your own ;)

-while all my kids were at school this past year I started getting very immersed in worship and worship leading.  At home, at church, my aunt's church, and the Greater Peoria House of Prayer.
I've been on a journey with Jesus as He has been teaching me what it means be a worship leader and teaching me to drop the "performance mentality" that I have always struggled with.  He is so merciful and kind!!!
And I also learned how to play piano and Jesus blessed me with a beautiful Yamaha Keyboard.

                  House of Prayer

-we were so blessed a few months ago to have a beautiful foster baby named Kaylee for a week and a half.
she was a super sweet little 5 pound angel whom we had a very hard time letting go of!
Having her here has sparked a desire in us for more orphan care.

We were close to being given that opportunity with another Ka'Leigh and we were praying that she would end up in our home.  (This mamma was already dreaming of loving her and showing Jesus to her.)  And then there was a court case and some evidence was lost and she went back home to birth mom.  An unsafe home.
I am still praying and still believing that with God all things are possible.  Pray with us for Ka'Leigh! She will more than likely be removed again at some point and we are praying it will be sooner than later and that somehow she could end up here.

-Dave and I are feeling so blessed.  Full to overflowing.  Every day is a new adventure and we never know what's around the corner.  Our Father is so good and He is so trustworthy.  He is teaching us to let go of our sense of control and to let Him lead.  And He is so gracious to show us how, lead us, and help us.

We will be celebrating our 14th anniversary next month and we are so thankful for how far God has brought us.  He is so good.  :)

       I love this pic! A day in the life of him!!!      

                                                   Working at the church :)

Always getting my hair done! :)

Love these crazy kids!

Sunday School!

Monday, May 12, 2014

I've been thinking and praying about the 'bread of life' lately because we started studying the book of John at church. Thinking about the state of being hungry and the state of being full.
And this morning I felt the Lord speaking to me about my marriage and how the same truths of hunger and fullness also apply in this area.
I realize that when I am hungry at home I soak my husband in. I can't get enough of who he is and what he does. And even the friction from our differing personalities seems to be smoothed over and made beautiful.
It sets the tone for so much peace and joy in our home. It flows over onto our children and our friends and so many other areas in our lives...

And then I have times when my husband is not the main course for me at home but just another side dish.
I let life creep in and fill me.
Children, extended family, friendships, ministry, wants, my needs, my view, my goals, my comfort....
When I am filled to the brim with all of the above, then I have no appetite left for my husband. Every little extra thing he needs or asks is an annoyance.
I get critical of his actions and even his attempts to fill me.
Because I am already full.
Even the best meal is rejected because I can't possibly fit any more in. I only want to be left alone with my fullness....
And that spills over onto our children and into every other area of life too.
The joy in our home is gone and we are left with keeping up appearances and striving harder than we were ever meant to.

So here's the thing- when I'm seeking first and only the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, when my desire is to make His name great and my name small, when I'm emptied of my love for myself and full of Jesus' love for me, and the walls are down, lies replaced with the Word, and I'm walking forgiveness- then I am so very hungry for Jesus and for the incredible man He has given me to make me more like Him.
And every other thing takes it's rightful place as just another side dish.

"One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet." Proverbs 27:7

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My sister and I were having a conversation yesterday about orphan care. We were sharing the challenges and the beauty....but what stuck with me was the confession of the hard. The hard places it sometimes brings us to. The ugliness it can reveal from within.

And for the first time in my life I feel freedom to reveal the ugly.
I'm so thankful for that freedom. I'm so thankful for the Word of God which has been showing me that I am not defined by what I do or don't do.
I spent so many years trying to protect myself from feeling 'less than' by performing perfectly and not showing any of my flaws.
When I don't understand that I am loved despite what I do, I hide behind a wall of self-defense.
And I have learned that I am called to something much greater than all of this hiding.

There is such freedom and beauty in confessing the hard. Talking about the ugly. Especially with the One who desires to use it as an avenue to bring about repentance, dependence, and gratefulness.
I'm learning that I can hand Him everything- the beautiful moments and the moments that come from something broken in me.
He wastes nothing. He orchestrates every moment. He leads me into the hard and straight into the ugly and He is wanting me to worship Him through it.

But it is in those moments when I stumble and fall that my flesh wants to shrink back. I want to find a dark, solitary place to put my own bandage over my shame.
And my Papa actually desires to stay close to me.
He wants to pick me up so He can wash the scrapes and cuts.
He knows there has to be a washing first to prevent infection and scars, and that it hurts, it's humbling, but it is followed by healing.
And He is asking me to stay right with Him in the light during that painful washing. To keep our relationship in the truth of who He is. He wants me to be in the heat of His presence, in the pain of the pruning. To stay faithful through the intense filing down of my flesh.
To remain, endure, persist.
To not withdraw into myself.

He desires repentance from me. It is beautiful to Him. And learning to own up to and hand Him the ugly, and then to allow Him to help me turn from it is life changing for me. The thought of it makes me breathe a little freer and fills my heart with gratitude for His amazing love.
And then gratitude for the circumstances that reveal my inadequacies...
Thankfulness for the child whose behavior shows that he needs a bigger love than I am capable of giving in and of myself. Thankfulness for the messy days of motherhood and marriage.

And I'm learning that sometimes it's in those moments after the scrapes have been washed clean that He gives me the grace to let Him hold me the closest.
No, I am not defined by my performance....but I'm either taken deeper into Him or deeper into myself by my response to it....

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything."
John 15:5

Friday, April 25, 2014

Last night Neiko wrapped his arms around me and whispered, "you're the best mom I ever had."
And my sweet boy has no idea what he is actually saying to me....
I smile.
I think about his first mom, the mom whose body bore him and whose features are reflected in his face....
I think of her, and I am well aware that the only difference between her and I is the gift of Jesus' righteousness and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
And so out of gratitude- gratitude for that imputed righteousness and gratitude for perfect gifts- I lift up my hands.
I raise my hands and my heart to the Best Father I ever had.
The one who brought in an orphan girl, washed her with His Word, covered her with His robe, gave her His Name, and is preparing a home for her.
He changed the whole course of her life, and changed her orphan heart to that of a chosen and beloved daughter.
And I am so very humbled and honored to be the one who through God's grace gets to reflect all of THAT to my son.
By ways and thoughts much higher than my own, that former orphan boy now has my name and my home and my heart forever.
I get to be the best mom pointing the way to the Best Father.
"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.
Because I live, you also will live.
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you." John 14:18-20