Sunday, December 30, 2012

Tying Up the Ends--2012

The fact that I've blogged the least amount in this year is pretty indicative of how--crazy--this year has been! This Christmas as we cuddled up with each other and gazed out foggy windows at billows and blankets of crisp newness, I remembered Christmas last year, 2011. I got a stomach virus for starters, but otherwise, it was a typical Christmas. Presents littered our living room laminate floor--the one Matt and I had labored so tediously on that previous March. We had no idea how soon, nor how drastically, our lives would change for 2012.

The year began with a lay-off and quite honestly, a lot of panicking. What on earth would we do? Matt had started finishing his Bachelor's degree in the fall of 2011, and a random job just anywhere was not the best plan of action for our family, we were sure. But what we weren't sure of was where else a simliar computer technician, help desk job could be found in our area. The ones that existed were taken, and Matt knew he didn't want to be on unemployment. So, with a lot of "Holy cow, what are we talking about?", we started asking God what He wanted for our family--where did He want us? The answer came one cold morning when I went out to walk our new dog, Wendy. Matt stayed inside and looked on his computer at possible job opportunities, and he landed on the Life Church website. (While this never actually landed him employment with Life Church, it was the tool God used to show him the direction He wanted to take our family.) When I returned from walking Wendy, Matt just looked different, calm. He said he felt like God was pointing us toward going back to the city. I am shocked that I said, "Okay." Both of our families were at an arm's reach from us, our church was on the verge of something amazing, and our friends were just around the corner. How could God be asking us to let go?

It wasn't incredible at first--really, for a while, but we knew we had asked God where He wanted us and we knew He had answered in providing Matt employment in his exact field very quickly. So we loaded a U-Haul truck to the ceiling with our lives and migrated to Bethany, just outside the city. Our address was very humble for a few months, but we could tell why we were led to that neighborhood. We began piling our van (and sometimes the truck, too) with neighborhood kids to get them to Life Church so they could be loved on and told about Jesus. It wasn't the easiest thing, but having our home open to them practically constantly and taking them with us to Life Church was probably the biggest reason God had us move to Bethany. I think God puts us in the path of others often just for periods of time, and not always forever. Our period of time was wrapping up, I could tell at the end of the summer. Our house had finally sold one Friday the 13th in July, and so we knew we could start looking for our more permanent home at that point. Somehow we both knew that it would be Moore. Some of our best friends were already there, along with the non profit organization Matt was getting involved in, and a campus of Life Church was close. The first night we looked at houses, we found it. It was the least likely of the listings, yet it felt like home. We made an offer that very night!

The day we closed on the house also started a new, harder schedule for our family. Matt's job took a shift change, and I began doing it alone from 2:00 on each day. No help at bedtime, which was not easy! But God gave me strength I honestly had no clue I could have! We were thankful for employment period, and at least we had a new home where we could stretch our legs more.

It seems that out of nowhere, God set down in Matt's lap an opportunity that didn't seem possible for us! Just a month and a half into the new schedule and our new home, Matt had interviews that went excitingly well and in a matter of just a few days, a brand new job with ridiculous benefits. We were over the moon, to put it lightly! What a blessing it is and continues to be. I love seeing him in this new job, where he just fits like a puzzle piece they were missing.

We've started getting more involved at our campus at church, too. Finding community in the body of Christ makes all the difference. We begin our new small group after the first of the year, too, and we are so looking forward to it.

So, this year end has me thanking God for all He has done, for all He has brought to our family, for all we didn't know was possible. Last Christmas we had no idea what was around the corner for us, nor would we have believed it! The changes He's made in our lives physically are obviously pretty crazy, but the changes internally are no small matter either. We have been learning to depend on each other more since moving, to bond together more as a family, and to know what it means to let friends be our family here. We're blessed that we still are close enough to our families that we can visit often and they visit us as well. I pray that 2013 will be this blessed and that we will grow even more. I look forward to Matt's graduation and our children growing bigger and stronger, and our marriage growing deeper as we individually become more comfortable in our Maker's keeping.

Were we holding cups, even our saucers would be spilling over! :)


Peace of Christ to you,

Friday, August 17, 2012

I Blinked

I've done this before; it's no big deal. 

I peeled back her polka dot covers and whispered in her ear, "First day of school!" She jerked straight up, grinning with sleepy eyes. "Today?!" she squeaked. "Today." I smoothed her hair and told her I had muffins.

We walked the two blocks to the school, her eyes shining, full of wonder and anticipation all the way. We dropped off big brother and then moved toward her building. I parked the stroller, scooped up Caleb, and we walked through the two doors. Her classroom painted in red was happy and pulled us into the swarming of young ones and their picture-snapping parents. We saw "KATE" on the table with a fresh sheet of white paper, waiting to be decorated. Though she wanted to play first, she finally resigned to scribble first. For a moment, I wondered how it'd turn out--she looked a few seconds away from tears. But my big girl took a pink crayon and didn't miss a beat.

The sting didn't wait for me to get outside; it hit as I stood up to let her stay. I shuffled back to the stroller and asked why this was hard. I've done this before; it's no big deal. How did she get here already? Wasn't she only two just last year? Didn't she just learn to use the potty and brush her teeth on her own?

I blinked.

Back to the quiet house with just the baby. I'm watching the minute hand for when I can be with her again. I know that the next day will be easier, and by the tenth day, I'll be thankful for the quiet time and the chance to wash dishes, grade papers, fold laundry.

But on this first day, my heart misses my baby girl.

Peace of Christ to you,

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Reason to GRIN

Remember this? And this?

God has a sense of humor. He must be cackling over us because sweet Abigail took 10 years to show up--and less than 10 months after her debut, she's getting a sibling!! I am so squeaky excited! I am finally allowed to tell everyone in tarnation about it, so here I am!

Won't you grin a little with me? ;)

 Peace of Christ to you,

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Desperation of Need

Today has been one of those days. And it's not even 3:00.

So many things are whirling around me, so many deadlines, due dates, obligations, meetings, payments. "Hurry up and do this so you can sit and wait" pretty well sums our life up right now! We have found a house to call our own for as long as God allows, and it is about 30 minutes away from where we currently are. So, quick trips down to the new-to-us house are not quite so "quick." I can count three days this week that I will make the drive with my three kids!

This morning I knew we had to go in order to get the kids pre-enrolled in the elementary school so that after we close on the house, they'll be ready to start there. I rounded up the kids, remembered my phone, my keys, the contract on our house, their files with birth certificates and shot records, and of miraculously all three kids! The drive takes me about 40 minutes because I have what you may affectionately call a little case of "road fear." Traffic makes me sweat. My heart pounds. My breathing sky-rockets. My sweet mommy voice evaporates into that snappy, quick-tongued mother. You know the one? Anyway, we pulled into the school parking lot (after a 40 minute drive, remember) and I looked down between the seats to grab my purse.

Wait a minute. Where's my purse?!! 

No amount of "just take a deep breath" was going to fix this one. I had driven the entire way with no driver's license, and--in my opinion what was WORSE--was that the school required my DL to enroll the kids. The final drawing for Pre-K is tomorrow, and the last day to get a name in that drawing was today. 9-11 and 1-3. It was 10:40. I ushered the kids inside and filled out all the incredibly redundant paper work. They made copies of everything and said I had to bring the DL back before she could be placed in the drawing. Perfect.

When I got back in the van, I realized I was low on gas. No, I mean really low. As in the gas light was ON. I drove on, "what if"ing us closer and closer toward our destination. I was angry. At myself mostly. But I have to admit, I was also a little frustrated at the Lord. I know it was not at all His fault; after all, I'm the idiot who couldn't get my act together. I felt like a 14 year old who needed a permission slip to go to the mall. I imagined us on the side of the road, out of gas. No money. Husband at work. Hot August day. Perfect.

Every mile, I breathed out a plea that He would somehow make the van perform a miracle and just make it. But with every stop sign, around every turn--I disbelieved Him. I didn't think He would really do it. The tears fell down my cheeks as I waited for the moment when all hope would flee.
I found myself truly surprised when we rolled up along the curb in front of our house. And even so, I got out of the van, and as I ran inside to retrieve my purse, my steps said, "Oh, you made it to the house, but you won't make it to a gas station now."

You won't make it.
He doesn't care.
He won't pull you out of this one.

 When my tires reached the pavement of the closest station, my heart leaped. But then it just as quickly fell again as I saw the sign on the pump: "Cash Only." Are you kidding me? My "Thank you, Jesus" praises only five seconds ago had already turned into, "Oh, I should've known." It does turn out that they took my debit card, with a 90 cent fee, of course. But I was too desperate to think about how odd that was.

I needed gas.

Now that it's later in the day, and I'm safely at home with my toddler snoozing away in his crib and my older two catching up on some seriously needed movie time (for me anyway!), I can see how desperate I was. I had one thing to hold onto, and that's it. There would be no other savior. There would be no other way for us to get home. I had nothing to offer anyone.

What a vulnerable place. All I could do was constantly and without ceasing shout out my plea to God. He HAD to hear me and He HAD to come through, or I knew we'd be in so much trouble.

And He did. I wish I had trusted Him more. But I didn't. I doubted Him every single turn of the wheel. I asked Him if He loved us; I asked if He cared. I'm so thankful for His patience with me.

Because this trip isn't just what happened to us today.

It's unfortunately how I live my life. 

Doubt. 
Fear.
Disbelief.
Waiting for the next bad thing.

I know that even if we had run out of gas, He would still have been good. I probably would not have told Him so in the moment! But still, He would have been good. And He would have sent someone to help us. Because He does love us. He loves you. He is in all the moments.

Two days ago, my hands raised to praise Him, and He was there. And today when my hands raised to question Him, He was there.

I'm so glad.
Peace of Christ to you,

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Meeting ANGIE SMITH!!

So, today was basically the best birthday I've ever had! My amazing husband sent me to the Women of Faith conference here in the city because we heard that my favorite author would be there. I was excited simply about being in the same arena with her and only dreamed of actually meeting her. I'll admit that I asked God a few times to let me get a chance to see her! ;) Oh, how He delivered!

I actually had to leave her talk session a few minutes early so that I could go stand in line to wait for her signing time (ironic, I know, but I was not about to miss this!). She has meant so much to me in my walk with the Lord for the past 4 years. She always seems to say what it is I was just too afraid to say. She always points to the Savior, never exalting herself, and this is truly what I adore about her (among so many other things, of course). So, I sat myself down on the tile floor against the wall where she'd be signing later, and I waited.

Oh how it was worth it.

I was sweating as she walked to the little round table where she'd be signing, and she looked up toward me, giving her "all clear" to come get my book signed. The first thing I said to her was, "So, I feel like I'm you and you're David Crowder." I knew she'd get it. (If you don't, it's something she shared a few years ago about her chance to meet her favorite singer and chickening out! She immediately laughed and said, "Shut up. Do you have sweaty pits and everything?!" I said I sure did and she said to give her a hug! Of course I had to tell her it was my birthday also, which evoked another awesome expression from her (I seriously love her personality)! She started signing my book, and in the middle asked if my name was spelled with a K or a C. She had spelled it with a K and when I said it's a C, she tossed my book down and said that wouldn't do--that she wanted to do it right. She asked a security guy to go grab another book for her to sign for me. Seriously! She was THAT nice. And genuine. And exactly what I hoped she would be. Real. So, I got to hang out right there and wait for them to bring another book. Well, the one I had brought was not one they were selling (I Will Carry You), so they didn't know what to do. She told them to take me to the book counter and pick out what I wanted and bring it back to get signed. I'm still amazed at the way God did this, to give me a precious gift, and of all days, but my 30th birthday!

When I walked over to the counter, I could hardly believe what I saw. I didn't know her new book was out yet, and they handed it to me to have signed. So here I was getting her brand new book that I in no way expected, and I was getting it signed! So, they ushered me to the front of the signing line where I got a book signed again and saw and talked to her again. She said she was sorry that she messed my book up, and I beamed, "I'm not!"

I walked away laughing out loud at the ridiculous gift God had just handed me! I asked for a brief signing chance with her, crossed my fingers for a picture, and God gave me this. For me, this was bigger than just getting to see my favorite author.

It was God whispering to me, "I do care. I am still here. I do love you deeply. Let me show you."

I still can't stop smiling.




Peace of Christ to you,

Monday, June 18, 2012

Worth More Than Sparrows

I didn't know it would be so hard to raise them. I didn't know it would be so hard to protect them. I didn't know I could feel so helpless. I didn't know I could feel so angry on their behalf.

When they are wronged.
When they are shunned.
When they are made fun of.
When they are ignored.

Many of us have felt these very things (I do not escape this label), but when our own flesh and blood, our own fruit of labor, our own delicate hearts whom we pour ourselves into hourly--when they are wronged...our hearts crumble.

Mine does.

Because I can't fix it.
Because I can't control others.
Because I can't create a perfect world for them.
Because I can't shield them like I thought I could.
Because I can't stop the tears.

I was made fun of in school. I was told I wasn't wanted in the "club." I was blatantly ignored. Maybe you were, too. I remember the way it made my heart tremble and my chin quiver. I see the same quiver on my eldest son's chin as he tells me what is said, that doors are shut in his face, that he is not wanted. I engulf him in my arms and tell him he is wanted, fiercely. I tell him that sometimes others don't understand what they are doing and how it can tear us apart. I tell him how Jesus loves him more than any other could love him.

And he still hurts.

I hang towels on the line and watch the birds as they dance from branch to branch. I remember His promise that we are worth more than the sparrow. I have to look it up because I can't recall the location, but when I do, I weep as I read His words: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows" (Matt. 10:29-31 NIV).

So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

He cares when our hearts hurt. As I finish the basket of towels, I realize that He cares because He's been there.

Of course.

His son was wronged, shunned, made fun of, ignored.

And so much more.

More than I can imagine. And I was in on it. I was His enemy once, yet He reached out to me to save me...even while I was hurting His son.

Now He calls me His child, and His heart crumbles when mine breaks. He is sad when I cry. He knows every part of me, even those I don't know myself.

He loves me when I've been the one who hurts and when I'm the one is hurt. This is what relieves my prone-to-anger heart--that I've been the one who hurts, yet He loved me the same.


Lord, may we love like You love. May we give Your love back, even when we hurt.


Peace of Christ to you,

Thursday, June 7, 2012

10 Years

Today is our 10th wedding anniversary! 

We're a rarity. And 10 years is really not that much. But even so, we're a rarity.

But not in our kids' eyes. This is how it's supposed to be. This is what Moms and Dads do. Isn't it?

A couple of weeks ago while driving, Kate asked why her neighbor has only one car while we have two. I told her that they only need one car because there's only the little girl and her mommy--one driver. We need two because we have two drivers--Mommy and Daddy.  I could hear Kate's heart sink in her deep, sudden gasp behind my seat. "That's too bad, Mommy!" "I know," I agreed. "Why don't her mommy and daddy live together? They're a family!" "Well, some people don't stay together like we are." "That's so sad! I love my mommy and daddy so much." I told her that we love each other so much and her brothers and her as well. I told her that 10 years ago, Daddy and I made a promise that we would live together our whole lives, as long as God gives us life. And I told her that I promise this same thing to her as well. We will always work out our problems, we will always both live together with them. She said, "Thank you, Mommy. That makes me so happy."

I love her innocent little heart that believes the world is just as it should be--that "I'm sorry" and a hug can fix any problem.

And at our house, it can.

Peace of Christ to you,

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Under my Nose, Into my Heart

Life in our new abode is flowing with brilliant chaos and perfect insanity! (I really do say this with a smile on my face.) If we're more than brief acquaintances, then you surely know that nothing in my life happens slowly, so why should anything change now, right? :)

The entire moving process was so fast, I barely saw myself coming and going. I admittedly had some days in which I threw a fit or two (okay, I laid myself on the floor and sobbed, which is actually quite funny to me now), but when I finally shut my whining up and asked God what He was doing and why...

He answered.

Who'd have thought? Ask God and He'll answer? No!

Yes.

So, since that moment when I decided it may not be about me after all, He has been on a steady track of showing me so many things. I'll explain.

Let's just say that we slightly downgraded on the housing situation. And yes, slightly is quite the sarcasm shining through. This would be most of my source of whining about our move. I asked God to help me see why He would put us here. Literally, within the next week (in my quick-life fashion), God showed up in these ways:

1. I discovered a HUGE mulberry tree in our backyard. Picking them gave me something new and exciting to do, and it strangely drew me closer to God. (Hard to explain, but being out in His nature, doing primitive things always cause me to feel His presence more.)

2. I discovered two awesome clothesline poles that hold 4 clotheslines in our backyard. I have wanted to hang clothes up for years, but it was one of those things I just never did. These poles are from the 50's and just plain cool! And here again, hanging up clothes is calming and gives me quiet moments with my Savior.

3. I realized how richly shaded our backyard is and how wonderful it feels to sit out and watch the kids play for hours. We recently put a little pool out there, so the fun has increased dramatically!

4. By far the best: One day I was in and out of the house doing things and upon entering one time, I found two random children in my house playing with my kids--one boy and one girl. They were right at home, Kate putting her dress up dresses on the girl and Keagan sharing the Wii with the boy. I asked their names and they played and played. Not even an hour later, I had 6 kids at our house playing, riding their bikes in our driveway, running around our yard, wandering around our house. A gaggle of girls followed me around, oohing and ahhing about what a "beautiful home we have" and what a "great decorator I am." I chuckled so many times. They were intrigued that I can sew and wanted to know if I would teach them one day. I fed them, I gave them drinks, and I let them help me do things in the kitchen. They wanted to know if they could come back. I was amazed! As I was continuing doing things around the house, it was as if I heard the Spirit talking to me:

"Here's a pretty good reason. What will you do with it?"

Since that moment, they've been here nearly every single day, and the group has grown. It was so fast, but it feels like we've had them here the whole time. Probably one or two days after they first showed up, I thought: How cool would it be if we could one day take some of them to church with us? I wondered if that would ever happen, if their parents would come to trust us that much. I laugh now at God's speedy work because that very week we took one of the boys to church with us on a Wednesday night. I didn't push, much less ask at all. I told him we were getting ready to go to church, and his little eyes lit up. "Can I come?" His uncle (whom he lives with) almost said no as we stood on their front porch asking, but he finally smiled nervously and said, "Well, not dressed like that." I was so excited! He loved it, and then the next week we added two more kids. Then the next outing, we added two more! Sunday morning we checked in 8 kids! The child check-in servers bugged their eyes and asked if they were all ours.

Maybe they are.

The hours of swimming, eating, dress-up, and short outings to stores with them have given me peeks into their lives and what they face each day. Their homes are very broken. Some have no dads. Two have a dad in prison, and they're waiting on another man to get out of prison so their mom can marry him. Some need constant reassurance that they are not getting on our nerves. Some have wild stories to tell. Some say things with such nonchalance that just tear my heart out. But all of them are precious and made in His image. They love coming to church with us; they say it's "Amazing!"

I'm so glad God loves me enough to be patient with me and give me answers I so rudely demand. I am learning that I better really mean it if I ask Him to change my heart and give me one that looks for ways to serve Him, because He WILL deliver!

Thank you, Lord, for taking what was right under my nose and grafting it straight into my heart.

Peace of Christ to you,

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Happy Birthday to the BEST

This is for my sweet husband for his 30th birthday:

I met him when I was 15 and started dating him at 16, so we've been together for nearly 14 years. And I'm still crazy about that guy. I feel like God for some reason just decided to reach down and lavish a blessing on me, even when I didn't deserve it. When you're as young as we were, oftentimes you don't know how a person is going to turn out--who they're really going to be when they "grow up." You just fall in love and you go with it.

I'm so glad I went with it.

He is the best friend I've ever had on this earth, and I can't imagine my life without him. I know it sounds sappy, but I really do love being with him. He's my safety, my comfortable place, my steadfast rock that I know will not move, my encouragement, my biggest fan, my team mate, my love. And all this is not to say that I worship him; I just so deeply appreciate the Lord's love for me that He would give me someone so remarkable to share this journey of life. I'm certainly not unaware of the immense blessing I have of being able to pour my affections into someone whose first affections belong to Jesus.

I go places and I see elderly couples. They quietly peruse through newspapers over breakfast. They walk slowly through the mall. They Sunday drive down the expressway.

And I think: Jesus, would You give us that? I want to be 90 with this godly man that You gave me. I want to love on grandchildren together, to drink our coffee on the porch at sunrise because we're too old to sleep in! I want all that You'll give me, Lord.

I know that He may not. But I'll ask anyway, because I'm still in love.

Happy birthday to the best.
Peace of Christ to you,

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Quite the Step of Faith Here

Cannot believe months have gone by since I updated my blog! So I'll just jump right in. Most of this will sound crazy, but I'll write it anyway!

Matt was laid off his job in January. To say that we were shocked by this is a gross understatement! Talk about a gut punch. We didn't even have an inkling toward this happening. He was working so hard at his job and was quite involved in every aspect of it, with big dreams for its expansion and future improvement. And, well...

Moving on...

This was very hard for us to swallow, but we immediately began asking what our next step would be. We'd been talking for months about how amazing it would be to one day buy the business ourselves, and we'd been dreaming about how we'd work hard to make the business grow and improve (it was a good business already). The owner mentioned being willing to sell the day Matt was laid off, so we started seriously toying with it. Short end: we heard God say no. So, we walked away.

No job. But God didn't miss a beat in His provision for us. That very next Sunday I had to kind of drag Matt to church (he was hitting the "I can't believe I'm such a worthless joke who has no job" stage). And I know good and well he's not worthless or a joke, so I knew he needed to get out of the house and hear from God. So we went. Talk about a reward we got for making that decision: At the end of church, we were given about a month's salary in cash. A stack of anonymous $100 bills. Seriously! I cried like a baby because it was so overwhelming that He would love us that much--that He hadn't forgotten us, and He wasn't punishing us for something.

I don't want this to be too long, but here's the story: Slowly and steadily God spoke into both of our hearts that He was calling us somewhere else. This has been something that's welled up inside of us for some years, and we believe it was never the right time, but that He was steadily speaking to us about a vision for our family that couldn't happen unless we go to a city. Our desire toward missions in some form just will not go away. We bury it over and over, stuff it down and say "maybe some day." Recently our church studied the book of Nehemiah and developing vision in our lives--asking God what His vision is for our lives. Well, the vision that just doesn't leave us in that of starting a nonprofit organization with some close friends that will help missionaries in various ways, namely through video and media. Matt was asked to be on the board for this organization about a year or so ago. It's not on the ground rolling yet, but God's been progressing it over the past few years and we're excited to see it bloom! It's neat because even before we knew about our friends' vision for this organization, Matt had one for the missionary in our church, Rhonda Baxter. He has always wanted to travel where she is in Kenya and do video projects for her to bring back and show to churches to raise support for her. (Wouldn't you know, this is exactly what our friends' vision for the nonprofit organization is!) So, after calling this a coincidence and saying how cool that'd be for a while, it has finally hit us that God really does want us to submit our hearts to this.

It just didn't ever seem possible. And wouldn't you know that God would make it possible? Enter Matt being laid off due to cutbacks in his company. All of a sudden, we are available.

That word elicits both excitement and fear out of me. Excitement because I want to be in God's will and to raise our kids in God's will. Fear because my human side wants to raise our kids right next door to their grandparents and to live comfortably. I know a move to OKC is not a move to Africa, so in essence, it will still be comfortable. But I figure you get the idea.

The overwhelming peace that we feel about this change is confusing even me, and I find myself packing our house up in faith that God will continue the good work He has started in us (Philippians 1:6) even though we're still only in the interview process job-wise. So this is where we are. We're making a trip for a few days starting tomorrow for interviewing and other explorations. Like I said, I'm excited but nervous, and so we would LOVE prayers from our family and friends. Thank you for reading this far and for praying for our family!
Peace of Christ to you,