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Somewhere Between Donuts and Blueberries

Enjoying and Sharing the Goodness of God

Updates and Interruptions

4 months

There is a lot to process. Most days are good, mostly. Everyone is fed and clothed and we can say I love you at night and even mean “I like you.” I said most, not all. Because some days I don’t even like myself much less these whiney, arguing, snack needing, amusement seekers who have 360 questions each. I am fielding over a thousand questions a day and I’m exhausted. Because only 900 of those have actual words. The rest are a combination of grunts, signs and words that don’t really mean what you think they mean.

“Mama, mama” is her favorite. Since she doesn’t really have many words that could mean “pick me up” or “look at this” or “I want what my brother has.” If it’s the latter I can usually guess by the yell and angry eyes she throws in his direction.

She can now say “sit” “down” “done” “sí” “agua” “sissy” “eat” and another few I can’t remember, but just because she says them doesn’t mean she meant it. She’ll let me know I guessed wrong by yelling at me again and usually with another “mama” or 5 thrown in for emphasis. But gosh is she the cutest!! Her little glasses and curly pig tales and squealy little laugh will get me EVERY TIME! Her big hugs and her “mas ticko” for more tickles just melt my heart. She is a gift to us all and I can’t imagine life with out her!!!

This is why God made two years olds cute. So you love them even when they are exhausting.

I hate conflict. I like to anticipate other people’s needs and preferences so I can become what they need or want and avoid as much conflict as possible. I’m not saying it’s healthy it’s just what I know about myself.

You can’t avoid conflict with children. It’s everywhere and it’s constant. And no matter how much I anticipate needs there are still 5-28 more in the next minute that I didn’t see coming or couldn’t move fast enough to prevent. And I can’t just let them have what they want all the time. Saying nothing of the monsters they would become, but because most times what one wants is in direct opposition to another sibling. Guys four kids is a lot of opinions and attitudes and demands.

I’m just so tired. Mentally. And physically, but mostly mentally. My brain is going as fast as it can. By God’s grace and wisdom we have more routines and rituals and schedules in place to help keep things as predictable as possible.

The crazy feels more manageable when at least you can predict it. Because then you can also predict the end, or at least have hope for it.

We know that new people, social worker visits, and visiting other people’s houses will make sissy more squirrelly for an hour or 36, or something in between. But we also know that hugs and holding her and telling her how special she is can calm her down…mostly.

We know that a lot of new or a lot of memories

(That’s where I left off last month. Since the big kids are in school and therapy got cancelled today I finally have time I’ll pick it back up now…)

might mean bed wetting. She has lived so much life before us and though we have bits and pieces most of it is a mystery. She tells lots of stories and we don’t know what’s true and what’s not. What’s fantasy and what’s real. We had something really fun here one day and then the next week she told us of a memory that was exactly (and I’m talking detail for detail) the same only it was with bio family. We know it’s not true because they have never been to our house before. It sometimes feels like new happy things get sent to them and old tragic things get blamed on us. It’s not easy, for any of us. But it’s not all bad.

Something easy and wonderful has been school! We had no idea how it would go sending two to kinder, but we have been shocked by their willingness and happiness to go. Granted by Thursday they are tired, grumpy and over it, but they do it and after the weekend are usually excited to go back. And no one needs me to walk them to class!! I am in the drive through drop off line and it’s barely September! This is a miracle! Having Sissy and Avery in separate classes helps I think.

Baby girl has grown about 12 months in the 5.5 months they’ve been with us. This is amazing. Her gross and fine motor skills are almost the same as her chronological age. Her self help skills are catching up. Her words are not. So we continue speech therapy twice a week. We have our first IEP next week and I am excited to see what the plan is for her. She is smart and kind and empathetic. She has much passion and will gladly cuddle me if dad is not available. She loves hard and we are thankful.

Somethings are so good. Most things are hard. Sometimes my compassion runs out and I yell and hate it and myself. Sometimes I can let it all roll off of me and sometimes I take it all personally. We have a lot of highs and lows and the lows are lower than I’m used to. But we’ve lived through it and will continue to do so. We look forward to one day finalizing, but we don’t know how long their case will be stuck in appellate court, 3, 6, 12 months more?

If I let my hope be in anything else but Jesus I am a mess. If it’s in my comfort it’s non existent, if it’s in their behavior it’s uncertain at best. If my hope is in me having things together it’s hit and mostly miss. I need Jesus so bad. I need His peace and strength and steadfastness. Since He can calm the physical storms I’m banking on Him calming the emotional ones in me.

Thanks for loving and supporting us. Thanks for praying for us and helping. Pray for me and the kids. I have yelled way more than I ever planned to as a parent. I want to stop. Pray for more connection with each one and strategy to pour into each one.

Pray for the girls’ case to move along the system and not get stuck and that as we wait we would grow in love and grace more and more.

Pray for Evan in his nut allergy program. He is doing well but as we updosed pistachios to 250mg last week he is starting to have tummy aches. It makes me afraid for what 1/8 teaspoon will be this week.

Pray for Avery and that we would find outlets for his energy and emotions so they don’t come out in screaming and hitting.

Pray for Gunn and I as he is traveling more. We want to be a good team that loves and appreciates each other. Pray for us to keep our eyes on Jesus.

Baby Steps and Celebration

We are two months into our new life and we are still alive to tell about it. Let us rejoice!

Though the days are long, and I mean LOOOOOONNNGGGGG, there is grace to sleep and get up and do it again in the morning. We are seeing some huge improvements, which would probably look like baby steps to the casual observer, but they are making life sweet.

The girls have adapted well. The boys are adjusting. We have found a new normal that has even allowed for a real, actual date night for Gunn and I. The kind where you shower and leave the house!

Can we just say THANK YOU to all of you for the support. Seriously, the prayers, the hugs, the meals, the rides and babysitting have made life possible. Thanks for sending messages and checking in and inviting even though we’ll probably have to say no. Thank you Lupe Lopez for weekly foldling our laundry and picking up our house and Cory Chapon for watching the kids, mostly late at night, so we can put the girls down to sleep and sneak out. Friends, thank you for just loving us well!

Here’s some of the updates and highlights:

Baby girl is leaning words and using them. Since the girls are bilingual we choose the language based on the shortest available word, ie “si” for yes, “up” for up, etc. And where there used to be a perpetual frown, there is now a mouth making a noise or forming a semblance of a smile and it is so beautiful! She loves “dada” most of all and is almost always up for a hug or snuggle before asking “dow” to get down and run about again. She is crying more often and fight us more, but we take that as a good sign. She is more comfortable to let us know when she is upset. She called me “mama” last night for the first time and it was awesome!!

Big sister is growing in self regulation by leaps and bounds. We are still working a lot on safe and healthy boundaries and helping her realize mommy and daddy are her authority, not herself or every adult she encounters. This is a tough one because she has had so many different caregivers. So don’t be alarmed or offended with us if she asks you a question and we cut you off before you can answer her to let her know she needs to ask mommy or daddy not the other adult. Help her understand that mommy and daddy are going to take care of her by redirecting her to ask us before giving her what she requested. We know it’s weird, we hate it too, but we know it’s helping her, so we’ll keep going. She continues to be sweet and super helpful. She likes to sing and pretend and “read” her books. She loves well and hard and we are thankful to receive her love. We have learned that rocking her before bed is a huge benefit to her behavior by helping fill her heart with love and some security.

Evan is doing well. His seasonal allergies are hard this spring, but he is rocking his food allergy program like a boss. He and baby sister have a sweet bond. He will read to her when she brings him a book and they look for each other first thing in the morning. With school almost over I can’t believe he’s almost done with first grade. I’m excited to get some more one on one time with him come summer because the two middles will continue preschool 3 1/2 days through mid July! He’s a fun boy and a great big brother.

Avery was having the hardest adjustment and though he and big sister still have a lot of big emotions, overall he has settled down. He and sister are constantly playing pretend, their favorite is wedding (thanks to Uncle Marcus and Auntie DeeDee’s wedding). They dress up and walk all around arm in arm. His smiles are big, his hugs strong, and his pouting is rivaled only by big sister’s. As he gets closer to turning five my heart feels very thankful for his life and the privilege of knowing him and raising him from birth.

That’s a hard thing about fostering/adopting. We are trying to learn our new kids, love and support them without getting to know who they were and how they got here. The other day I was feeling overwhelmed by some attitude and what felt like constant questioning to every decision I made. I just wanted a break! I was thankful when Gunn got home and i got to run errands ALONE! As I was driving by myself I realized that with Avery starting kinder soon I was no longer going to have that care free, un-hurried time we used to have. And I never had that time with sister. It was like a light bulb from God to help me realize that she needs more play time from me than any of the others right now. And that’s hard, because I hate playing. I like accomplishing things and being super productive. Make believe is my least favorite. But that is what she needs which means that’s what I need. So here’s to playing Anna and Elsa for the 324th time.

When I’m tempted to believe that my life is being hijacked by everyone else’s needs and attention I want to remember all over again that to live like Jesus means to lay down my life for the sake of another.

And so that’s where we are. Trying to triage the needs still and being aware of who needs what, most, and when. Bless you mamas with lots of kids, this is hard work. These people are relentless!! But praise God, so is our God. I am seeing over and over that strength comes from Him. That in every challenge He is still with me.

We are still learning our new normal, but with each day we are celebrating our baby steps and believing the best is yet to come.

Week One and Some Change

So here’s the deal, we added two girls to our family and as you can imagine, it’s not easy. We are nine days in and here’s a little insight to our life.

It’s was one of the hardest weeks of my life. I thought I had grieved giving up what we had and could embrace something new with open arms. I was wrong. I cried so many tears last week. I cried for the girls who are having to learn a whole new life. They have had so much change over the course of their short lives and now they have to come to a new house and a new family and learn four new people! When I rocked baby girl to sleep and she cried because I’m a stranger putting her to bed in a strange room, I cried. And when big sister runs to another room and tries to hide because she thought she would be in trouble my heart felt so heavy and I cried.

I cried for the boys who are having to learn a whole new life. They had such an easy, predictable, secure life. Their routine was solid, if there were variations I could almost always tell them before hand and prepare them for the change. No amount of telling can prepare you for two new little sisters.

I cried for myself because so many kids were crying and I just felt so overwhelmed. Also, I think being on my period didn’t help. I cried because Gunnar is the best man and husband and father in the world and when he said, “what have we done?” I was like, “I don’t know, but if you are unsure then ah crap, what have we done?!?” Good news, it was only for like one night and then we recovered and remembered that God called us to this and will continue to be our hope.

When I had the time to process I realized the hardest part was how hard the boys were taking it. And it hurt my heart for a couple reasons: 1.Seeing them hurt and feel over looked and knowing I caused it sucked. 2. Knowing the girls have hurt and felt overlooked and rejected and didn’t have parents healthy enough to hold, hug and help them process was heart breaking.

So every time Avery asked to play legos and I told him, “hold on I have to help sister,” or Evan asked for something and I asked him to get it himself because my hands were literally and figuratively full I would start crying.

My emotional stability was non existent last week. But then somehow God interrupted my sad narrative. He reminded me that we easily worship the idol of comfort. And our life was so comfortable. It’s not wrong that it was, but when we refuse to do new things because we prefer our comfort then that is idolatry, and I don’t want it. So even though it hurt to see my boys struggling, I could help them see that what we are doing is actually good for all of us. The girls get a safe, loving, and maybe forever home (waiting on some court dates in the next 6 weeks to confirm that) and we get to do hard things that are going to help us love and live like Jesus. We are going to lay down our lives for the good of another. I’m reading in Genesis and see how even when Joseph’s life looked scary and out of control he still trusted God and God used him to save a family and propel a nation. What if fostering-adopting is going to be the best thing that could have ever happened for the boys? What if the hard they live through now prepares them to do hard things in the future, for the glory of God? What if seeing mom and dad try hard at living lives of praise in discomfort shows them a good pattern to follow?

Then maybe I don’t have to be so sad. Maybe this is going to be hard, but really worth it!

And really I don’t have to make every decision in fear. I can instead live in the confidence of who God is, what He’s said and not worry that everything I’m doing is going to jack up my children for the rest of their lives.

So here’s where we are now:

I think I have the calendar set enough that I can help kids know what to mostly expect the next day- who’s getting dropped off where by whom, who has therapy appointments, who has visits, who’s getting picked up by whom, on which days 🤪

We have meals set up a couple nights a week by church for a month and are so thankful!

I have a friend coming a couple times a week for the next month or two to help me with house stuff that I can’t yet get a handle on.

Here’s what we still need:

Prayer, just so much prayer. For all of us as we learn each other and adjust. Wisdom and discernment to know how to triage the needs in the moment and of the day.

All the dairy free chocolate, Enjoy Life brand or Lara bars chocolate truffle bites (ok I don’t need them, but I won’t say no either).

Continued grace in every way.

Occasional help picking up Evan from school or watching Avery at home so he can have some peace and quiet while the girls and I are at an appointment.

I love me some words of affirmation so feel free to send the text, or Marco Polo or whatever other means of communication you prefer to let me know you love me. I’ll take what I can get.

Thanks for caring and supporting us. Thanks for praying for us.

Thanks be to God who has continued to sustain us and strengthen us. Thanks be to God for giving us a vision and hope for our family and our future. Man, I need to keep coming back to that and I’m fairly certain I will for years to come.

Matched and Moving

We have been certified to foster-adopt for 11 months, but now the wait is over, our girl is coming! And by girl I mean girls! So this post is both to share the story and for me to always have something to look to when the going gets tough, that God was in it all the way.

I’ve wanted to adopt since childhood, Gunnar hadn’t thought about it, but while dating he said he wasn’t against it so I knew God could work with that. We were in no rush and wanted to have a kid biologically first. After Evan’s traumatic birth I was ready to adopt but Gunn wasn’t. During Avery’s pregnancy Gunn agreed we should probably grow our family by adoption from them on, I’m not one to suffer silently and pregnancy is not my favorite.

We are in a community where adoption is very normal. I love that in our church we have watched and walked with dozens of families who have fostered and/or adopted through the local county or internationally or through private domestic adoption. There are so many ways to get involved and there are so many kids that need a home. So over time Gunnar moved from “if we adopt” to “when we adopt.” But it wasn’t until a dream where he heard another child, maybe a girl, calling him that he felt like God said, “There’s another one that calls you daddy.”

And so we started the process in fall 2017. We got certified in April 2018 and then we waited. Evan had been praying for a sister for a couple years already. We knew we wanted Evan to stay our oldest so we set our parameters as one girl, 0-5 years old. Maybe a sibling set, but that maybe was really slim.

We got called in June, August and September of 2018 and said yes to each of those girls, but never got called back which means their social worker chose another family as their match.

Evan started his allergy program in September 2018 and I asked God for no calls until we had at least two appointments under our belts and we knew what to expect. And then because I’m greedy and didn’t want to cancel plans I asked him to hold off until after the holidays.

On our way to my parents’ for Thanksgiving I told Gunnar, “I feel like when the new year comes, our daughter is coming.” I had no audible word from God, I had no sign. As we were driving through the Tehachapi mountains I just had a feeling. Just like I had a feeling Evan would be born early (37 weeks, 2 days) and Avery would come early and be big (37 weeks, 7.5 lbs which was way bigger than Evan’s 5.5lbs at birth). I don’t get them often but I thought maybe God was giving me that feeling to help prep my heart.

After a lovely Thanksgiving weekend we were back home and back to normal. As we tucked in the boys and prayed one night something special happened. As soon as we were done Evan sat up and said, “I think I heard sister is coming in a month and 20 days.” Surprised but also believing, Gunn told him, “that’s awesome that you heard that, mommy’s going to go write that in her journal right now.” And while I was writing he ran over and said, “or maybe it was two months and 20 days?” I hugged him and asked how he heard that and he said, “I think I heard God say, ‘Evan, sister is probably coming in a month and 20 days.'” So I took out a calendar and marked Jan 3 and Feb 23.

When we didn’t get a call on Jan 3 I was bummed. But I know God has more information than I do so I wasn’t worried.

On January 25 I got a call and it was for a sibling set of 2 little girls. Normally I hear out the social worker and politely say no thanks knowing that both Gunn and I were feeling pretty strongly about just one. In fact we had discussed it again just a few days prior. But after listening to the social worker I just felt like I could say yes. I warned her Gunn would probably say no but agreed to call him anyway. When I called and gave Gunn the run down he quickly agreed that he felt yes too!

So I called the social worker back and asked her to submit our profile for consideration. In 10 minutes we had both gone from “only one” to yes for these little sisters. With the county they are from the social worker warned us that they are pretty quick, so we should hear back in the next week or two. If we don’t that means they chose another family.

So as we counted down to February 8 we planned and dreamed. We asked friends to pray with us and we told our family all we knew, which wasn’t much, about them. I mourned a little the family we had up to this point. The boys are as predictable and easy as they have ever been, why would we sign up to make life so much harder?

When February 8 came and no call I was equally sad and relieved. In the next week we said yes to two more calls to of one girl each and I thought for sure one of them was ours, but alas, no call back from them either.

I was getting weary. It felt like our yes didn’t even matter because no one ever chose us. But in the claim of my mind I felt God say, “your yes matters to me.” Over the next week I felt God showing me things in my heart, judgements I made both consciously and unconsciously about the system and other foster families and about God himself. I said He was sovereign and I could trust Him and His timing, but there was still a part of me that felt anxious and unsettled.

Then on February 20 I got a call from our social worker that the county called and we were chosen for those sisters! I couldn’t believe it. It was too far after the 2 week deadline. That hope was dead and yet here it was, alive again. We scheduled the disclosure meeting for the next week.

We talked, we prayed, we cried, we rearranged rooms. We went to that disclosure meeting and heard a lot about their story and we praised God for their current care provider who had taken great care of them. We said yes within the hour. After picking the boys up from the baby sitters we took them to dinner and told them the news. They cheered and celebrated and asked if we could get them the next day.

We got to meet the girls a few days ago. They are precious and lovely. We know there will be so much work to do to connect with them and build trust and love. We are feeling confident that God has led us into this. We are trusting that our friends and family will be an army of support – physically, spiritually, emotionally and tangibly.

So, here we go! We have a few more visits with them over the next couple weeks and then they move in. Please pray with us and for us. Please pray for these little girls! Pray for the boys to love them fiercely. Please give us grace if we are late to respond or forget to call back. We plan to have 4-6 weeks of bonding here at home and we’ll see how we go from there!

If you see us with the girls don’t be offended if we don’t engage with you and introduce you, we’re trying learn them and them us, we’ll be keeping interaction outside of family to a minimum for a bit. If you ask us about their history we will ignore your question and change the subject since it’s their story and not ours to tell.

Thanks for your love and support along the way. Thanks for being in this with us!

Waiting and Celebrating

Today is my birthday and I have celebrated hard. Donuts and iced coffee, swimming and FaceTiming, pizza and reflecting…just so many lovey gifts in one day.

We have been an official resource (foster) family for four months now. Since we are doing matched adoption through foster care we wait for our social worker to find a child in need of a forever family. When they see one that looks like a good fit they call us, if we agree they submit our profile and home study. The child’s social worker then looks at all the families submitted and matches the child with the best family for them.

We have gotten about 6 calls. We have said yes 3 times. One case got put on hold. One we never heard back so it’s safe to assume another family was chosen. One was last night, so we wait…some more.

Today a friend asked me a pearl of wisdom that I gained in my 35th year of life. I loved that it was easy to answer. I am learning the beauty of an open handed wait.

Each yes has been exciting and scary. I have her whole room and first visit planned before I hang up the phone. I imagine the transition and the sleepless nights. I pray that the boys will love her fiercely and fight for her and quickly embrace her as one of their own.

I know four months isn’t long in the scheme of things, but so far the wait has not been hard. And that feels like such a gift.

Somehow I have been able to remember that God knows more than I do on each of these girls and that has enabled me to relax. Though I think we would be a great family for these girls I am able to say, “You, God, know what they need most in their life to know You best,” and then to really believe it.

I can consider this wait as a win-win. We get a daughter, or we go on vacation. We get a daughter or we cherish another month as a happy family of four. We get a daughter or we get a few last weeks of summer full of predictability and plans.

This is incredible since I am typically a plan ahead for scenario A, B and C type of person. Right now I am making plans with the anticipation that we will cancel all of it if we get the call we are matched. But I’m stopping there. I am not making contingency plans and dreaming out every what if and alternate ending. And so the wait feels light and easy and surprisingly peaceful. And then I wondered, is this how all my life could be if I truly trusted God’s goodness and faithfulness in every part of my life? Could my life be this much less stressful if I considered that God has more information in every situation from my son’s attitude, current behaviors and fears than I do and that He will do what’s best in their lives to know God best.

I am fully aware that I have literally no control in the wait. If I was as aware of this truth in my day to day challenges would I believe that God is fully in control and act like it instead of just saying it but trying to manage every outcome of every what if?

This sincere believing God will do what’s best for these children and our family has allowed me to rest and not be frantic. It has helped me acknowledge the disappointment when we weren’t chosen and declare that God has been good and faithful to us and will continue to be.

It gives me the opportunity to pray for these kids by name, since in some cases that is literally all I know about them, and to pray God’s abundant blessings over them. Though they are not mine I am believing that in the waiting my job is to think about them, pray for them and believe God’s best for them. I have no control over their lives or their story, but I celebrate their life, I pray for their future and I praise God for the life He’s given each of us to live.

I don’t know how much longer our wait will be but I am thankful for this pearl. I pray that this lesson in patient endurance will continue to grow in my heart and soul. When my faith is small and the wait feels hard and heavy I hope you will remind me of this post. Or when the discouragement feels sad and lonely I ask that you sweet friends will remind me of these truths and help me celebrate the goodness of God and the gift of open handed waiting.

Feeling Crazy and Surrendering

When I was pregnant with Avery I had a few months of feeling crazy. I felt afraid of everything. Part of me realized I was being irrational, but it also felt like I didn’t have the power to escape the fear.

I prayed and I asked others to pray, but it didn’t all go away, or at least not as soon as I wanted it to.

My most incessant fear was that my husband Gunnar was going to die before this baby was born. It made me scared every time he drove to and from work. It made me afraid the whole time he was gone. It made me fear when he was home because I knew he would be going to work the next day. It started to consume me.

Looking back it looks a little ridiculous. But it’s also completely possible. No one is promised another minute, much less another day. We are not owed a long and happy life. And if you think you are then you are setting yourself up for some real hurt and disappointment. But it’s not all bad news, we have hope because of Jesus.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 (ESV)

We were made to worship. To be in awe and to give our lives. What do you worship? Answering that one question helps us see where our greatest fears lie. For where we worship we resist change and surrender.

I want to worship God. The creator, sustainer, never-ending, never-changing God. What I tend to worship is my family, my plan and control, my comfort and security. See the problem there? I’m worshiping things that can change and with that change comes uncertainty and chaos.

Today as I was reading Acts 20 I was in awe of Paul who faithfully followed God into some scary unknowns.

And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:22-24 (ESV)

It gives one much hope and encouragement as this whole life is one of unknowns. I mean, I like to plan the best I can, but I cannot see the future. I have no idea what’s ahead of me!

As I have been talking and praying with friends going through some really rough stuff: cancer, miscarriage, depression, just to name a few, God has reminded me of some tools He’s taught me along the way. And I wanted to share one with you.

Instead of preparing for the worst and hoping for the best, I am learning to surrender the worst and trust God for the best.

This is what I mean. I used to have a scary thought and think “oh no I shouldn’t think that” and then just try to change the subject in my mind. But I’m realizing God is OK with me thinking those scary thoughts as long as I don’t set up camp and live in them. In fact He even lets me finish that thought all the way through to get to the root of the real fear.

For example, this week I have caught myself slipping back into fear about Gunn dying. I don’t know if it was his monthly work trip or the fact that we are adding another child to this family through adoption that triggered it, but however it came, it was there and needed to be dealt with.

If I walk that fear all the way out, it means I would have to manage all our finances and figure out if I stay in Visalia or sell the house and go back south. I would need to get a job and my kids would grow up with out a Dad and I would have to figure out how to live life without my best friend. Those are the things I’m really afraid of.

And what those fears tell me is that I don’t trust God would provide for me and comfort me and take care of us.

And so I come to a place where I see the depth of my fear and surrender it. I get to the “even if” part. And once I’m there I can really acknowledge who God is and who He promises to be. It allows me to say even if that happened then God would be the wisdom I need and would provide for us every step of the way. God is my provider and my comfort, not Gunnar. Gunn’s just a bonus! And it helps me see that he’s been a gift the whole time, not a right I’m entitled to but a privilege entrusted to me for a time. And that perspective let’s me consider every day together a sweet and precious gift from a generous Father.

So I don’t know what fear is trying to hijack your sanity right now, but I encourage you to acknowledge it, dig into it. If that happened what are the implications that are perhaps the greater fear? What do those fears say about who you believe God to be? Can you get to an “even if” place and believe the true things about God? Who can you share these things with? Don’t be alone in this place, invite others in to hear, to know, to pray, to remind you of truth. Sometimes we are too tired or afraid to fight for truth so we need our sisters and brothers and friends to fight on our behalf.

Above all Jesus, sitting at the right hand of the Father, is there interceding for us.

You are not alone. You are seen and cared for. Even if the world feels like it’s falling apart we have a God who is holding us together…so we can be a little crazy and still surrender.

He has equipped us to fight and empowers us. So let’s go! I’ll fight for you and you fight for me. God is with us and we will prevail!

Seasons and Declarations

The seasons change, but the Lord remains the same.

Seasons of the year.

Seasons of life.

Seasons of friendship.

Seasons change, circumstances change, but God remains.

I’ve been thinking of this lately because I have been processing the reality that I am enjoying a season of relative ease, especially in regard to parenting. I love it, but almost feel afraid to enjoy it. Often I wonder when and how it will change, not enjoying and appreciating it, but living in dread for the future. In an attempt to fight the fear I instead thank God for this season and praise Him for His goodness and generosity. Then I am not nearly as afraid of the change because I know He will be good and generous in the next season as well.

This has been a theme in my journaling lately and when I read Psalm 23 recently, I was struck by the fact that these descriptions of different circumstances could represent different seasons of life.

Psalm 23 (ESV)

The Lord Is My Shepherd

A Psalm of David. 

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

forever.

The first and the last verse I see as bookends, as constants of who God is no matter where I am.

Verses 2 and 3 look like a season of peace and ease. There is visible calm; it’s easy to feel and see God. It’s a time of rest where my soul is restored. That’s where I feel like I am now. Parenting feels the least overwhelming it’s ever felt. My kids feel predictable or at least more predictable than they’ve been. When there are melt downs we are recovering quicker. These are green pastures and still waters and I am in no rush to change this!

Then comes the Valley of the Shadow of Death. That sounds terrifying. It feels scary. God says He’s there. He’s still a shepherd leading and guiding but it’s hard to see Him and it’s hard to feel Him. As I draw near to God all I feel is a rod and a staff- both hard things. There’s nothing comforting about that to me. Yet I’ve lived through the valley of the shadow of death – when Evan was born and the doctors didn’t know what was wrong that first week in the NICU, they couldn’t tell us anything. They just said they would stabilize him and we would wait to see if he could recover from the trauma of birth and the loss of blood. It wasn’t easy, but we survived and we grew in faith by the grace and mercy of God. His presence was with us and it was comforting. And I know the next time we walk that season it will be hard. But I will have to bank on God being there even when it’s hard to see and feel Him.

Verse 5 looks like a season of discomfort. We are sitting at a table, the provision is obvious, but we are there with our enemies. It isn’t easy; it’s awkward and uncomfortable. But God is with us and we can feel His presence just like oil on our heads. His Spirit fills us. We are secure even in fear and discomfort.

We are promised His presence even when we don’t feel it. We declare out loud that “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house the Lord forever.” Because that is where our good Shepherd leads us. Into the place He’s prepared for us.

As I’ve been navigating the idea of seasons and change, God continues to meet me at every turn.

How sweet and gracious of God, because this week the fear of the next season started to creep in again.

We met our adoption social worker on Tuesday for the first interview of our Home Study. We have prayed about adopting for years and are getting closer and closer every day. We have heard horror stories and we have heard miraculous stories and the optimistic realist in me is preparing for something in between. But before long, the “hope for the best prepare for the worst” part of me started to think of the worst case scenarios. Quickly God reminded me that no matter the season He will definitely be with us. So as we went to bed Tuesday, we prayed and we surrendered our family, our plans, our comfort and our expectations back at the feet of Jesus. How sweet it was to be greeted in the morning with the truth of Ecclesiastes 3, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven,” and that “He has made everything beautiful in its time (v1,11a).”

So I will rest, once again, knowing that He is in control of the seasons. Because He doesn’t change I can declare again, SURELY GOODNESS AND MERCY WILL FOLLOW ME ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE, AND I WILL DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER!

Expecting Leftovers

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but somewhere in the last six months my garbage disposal-ish child decided he no longer liked eating what I served. At first it was concerning, then annoying and eventually plain infuriating! Most meals were turning into some sort of negotiation and battle. I don’t enjoy cooking; I like it even less when it is wasted. Wasted food is a quick temper button (probably a whole post on it’s own, but I digress).

Finally, two weeks ago I had an epiphany. Evan also did that at three years old. He went from eating a lot of diverse foods to small portions of a select few. I got angry then too, then I just changed my approach – serving smaller portions of foods he mostly liked. There was still waste but significantly less. I was reminded of an article I read last year about marriage and expectations. I can’t remember any specifics, but I do remember a point was if a situation isn’t changing, then change your expectations.

That seems easy enough. When it comes to feeding a three year old it has helped tremendously. If I expect him to eat a little bit and leave some on his plate, then I won’t be irritated when he eats a little bit and leaves some on his plate. In fact, if I anticipate it then I also serve myself less and plan to finish his left overs. And if he surprises me by eating it all, it’s a win for everyone. I read John 6 yesterday, Jesus is all about the leftovers; providing beyond the need.

Like most parenting lessons this makes me think of God and how He sees and parents me.

Is He disappointed, frustrated, or annoyed? I am prone to think so, since I often project myself on Him.  And then I remembered that expectation is believing something will happen in the future, but not being completely sure. There is an unknown associated with it. And so God must not have these expectations. He is beyond time and already knows. He is not disappointed because disappointment is an unmet expectation. Oh sweet relief to have a God that is infinite and not bound by time! I cannot really wrap my mind around the fact that He knows the end from before the beginning.  To Him it is all the present because He is outside of time.

I need not put on the guilt and shame of disappointing God. If God’s not disappointed in me, where is this coming from? My own disappointment in myself. Did I think I was going to get this life perfect? No, that’s not the case. But maybe I expected myself to live up to the expectations I put on others because if I don’t, that makes me a hypocrite and I certainly don’t want be one.

God does calls us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16 ESV) and some passages even say to be perfect as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48 ESV). How do I strive to live a holy life and not get caught up in my failure? As humans in a fallen world we will fail, miss the mark and sin. What are we to do then? Repent. Simply acknowledge our short comings and go again. How gracious of God, how kind of the Father! He offered his perfect Son to pay the price for our sins. And we get to live life, a holy one, wholly devoted to Him.

Where are you disappointed now? What expectations have not been met? What were you expecting and why were your expecting it? Our disappointments often show us expectations that we were not even cognizant of or the desires of our heart that we may not have ever acknowledged. They show us idols we had no intention of lifting up so high. They can even show us what we really think about God.

As we answer these questions we get to admit them – to ourselves and to God. We get to surrender these desires and ask God to change our expectations to the things He has in store for us. We get to look forward in anticipation to the good He will teach us and the maturity He will grow in us. In His word we are fed and filled. By His Holy Spirit we are transformed. I want lots of Jesus, the Bread of Life, and I don’t want to leave a crumb behind.

Throwing in the Towel…or the Toilet Paper

What’s the point?

My two year old was out of his bed for the fifth time claiming he had to go potty. We were on day 4 of him only ever “needing” to go potty if he was supposed to be in bed. I rolled my eyes and trudged over. “Why!?!? Why are you doing this?” I thought. I might have muttered it under my breath, but for sure I thought it. 

“I’m done!”

“I can’t do this any more.”

“For crying out loud!!”

I caught myself saying this a lot this week. The arguing, the whining, the accusing about who took which lego from who, the complaining about every meal I made…I was just over it.

There were probably better ways to handle it, a mommy time out, a child banishment to the room, all of the above? 
Instead I said screw it. 

Screw it all!

Screw the potty training and screw the disciplining. Screw the food. And for the love of gluten, screw all the dietary restrictions. Bring on the dairy-laden, sugar-full bowl of cookies and cream!
Daddy was going to be at work late and I was done. A person can only handle so much. 

I ate more chocolates than I can count and I wallowed in my self pity and mom guilt. With a glazed gaze I basically let my children do whatever they wanted (within reason, I’m not a totally negligent parent).

What’s the point? And with those three words a series of pain points came flooding through my mind. 

When I was in college and felt overweight and my eating felt out of control. 

When I was a new mom and trying to navigate postpartum depression.

When we moved to Visalia and I was so lonely I would make a pan of brownies and say to myself “at least this will make me happy.”

And right behind the memories came truth ringing loud and clear. The same phrase that has followed that thought many years now…”to honor God.”

The point is always to honor God. 

Ugh, I wasn’t ready for that just yet. I just wanted a little more time to stew in my self pity and blame shifting. This was a bad day and it was everyone’s fault that it was bad!
But I know better than that. 

How did I get here!?! Unrealistic Expectations. Being tired. Doing my agenda and not asking God for his. Doing God work without enjoying God. 

How do I get out of this mess? Admit my failure. Humbly accept my limitations.  Rest and reset, and a maybe solid cry for good measure. Sleep more, plan less. Enjoy playing and not distracting myself at any and every opportunity.

I’ve been walking with God for over a decade and every so often He has to reteach me the lessons I’ve often forgot. 

The point of this life is to love and honor God. And it’s always possible. He is not asking for perfection in the execution he just asking for a willing heart to attempt the task in front of me. 

And speaking of execution, that’s precisely what I need to honor him. To die to myself- my self ambition and vain conceit. To submit my “great” plans to God and ask what parts of my day or to do list are what he wants and what parts he wants me to leave for another day. 

I am so thankful for God’s word that always gives us the truth we need. Thankful for His Spirit that reminds us and makes the word real. 

“Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:8-9

In my flesh I am naturally selfish and wanting the whole world to revolve around me. My plans, my desires, my ideas, my timeline, my success and certainly my comfort. This will clearly lead to my destruction because I am not all-knowing, powerful or good. 

And so I must submit all the things I hold dear to my God. My good and gracious God. My all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly good God. And when I yield my will to His something beautiful happens. My heart is not as frustrated, I’m not as prone to throw in the towel and yell “screw it” to all the things that seem too hard or unattainable. When I surrender to Him and trust Him then there is always more grace and more strength and more perseverance. It’s obviously of God because I just don’t have that on my own. 

I started writing this post last week and got distracted, probably by a potty incident. I am back at it as I am currently on “poop watch” and loathing it. What a good place to come back to. I am teaching a child a life long lesson. This will benefit him the rest of his life. I can’t just stop because it’s hard and not as successful as I thought it would be. 

I am so thankful that when I am weary that I have a God who is with me and for me and offers more grace and strength and endurance. And that he promises a harvest for these days of hard work. 

Where are you wanting to give up? When are you saying, “what’s the point?” May you hear the gentle answer, “to honor God,” and may He give you the strength, the grace and endurance to keep going, for your good and His glory. 

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