Wednesday, November 28, 2012

coming out of hiding this christmas


the turkey has been eaten and now, for many of us, the stockings are already hung.  i know it drives some people crazy...the fact that the trees and lights and giant candycanes have crept right in to steal the turkey’s day of honor.  i honestly don’t mind.  for me, blurring the lines between thanksgiving and christmas makes perfect sense. 

a thankful heart at christmas…that's what i'm going for.

not an over-indulgent, shopping, spending, partying heart.
a thankful heart.

sometimes i wonder if we miss out on the real significance of christmas because we are too busy hiding behind all our 'traditions'.

2000 years ago the God of all creation sent his son as one of us.  he voluntarily entered into a hostile place filled with cheaters, murderers, liars, gossipers, self-indulgent sinners.  he came not as a powerful law-enforcing ruler, but...
as a tiny, tender baby.  

He became the light for a dark world.  
We didn't deserve the gift He offered and He didn't have to do it...but perfect love gives freely.  perfect love sacrifices for imperfect people.

today our world is still full of darkness.  we live in despair.  our days are not a perfectly seamless flow of time.  there are bumps and potholes and giant mountains that stand in front of us.

i'm afraid that for me christmas has sometimes meant 'pretty-ing' up the mess that is life.  with the right decorations, the right parties, the right party outfits, the right gifts...maybe this world will really be full of life and light.  we try to take it into our own hands...the saving of the world.  
we busy ourselves every december day trying to make it 'right'...but what we end up celebrating is all that we have done to make this holiday season so festive instead all that He has done to change the world.
what if we let our december days be like every other day and didn't try to hide behind all the fancy decorations.  

what if we acknowledged that no amount of tree trimming or pumpkin pie baking will take away the hurt in our hearts over loved ones lost, dreams deferred, families broken, wars waging, hopes crushed.  

what if we took an honest look at our dark, broken lives and then turned our faces to jesus.  

what if we didn't try to fix it ourselves but instead laid our hearts out as-is in the glow of His light.  

and what if the warm hope we received from that light filled us up and we found ways to pour its streams of brightness into others...what then?

then, maybe we would watch this christmas change the world just like that first one did in bethlehem.  we would position our broken and weary selves right there next to a smelly old animal trough and stare in awe at the precious life-giving gift that was lovingly offered in human form...
     and our hearts would be full of thanks.

worship fully.
spend less.
give more.
love all.
be light.

how are you going to turn this christmas upside-down?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

giving thanks :: day 3 {the promise of family}

yesterday's post got a record number of hits over a 24 hour period.
whenever there is unusually high traffic on my blog i know that i must have said something that connected with a lot of people.  i love connecting with people, don't you?

in this case it was linda's story that made all those connections happen.  
based on the comments, FB posts, and emails i have received i would say that, in particular, it was the evidence of linda and robert's faith in God and his complete faithfulness to them that inspired so many people.  it was also the area of their lives in which they have wrestled with God that struck a cord with so many...

family

it's often at the top of our list when we give our thanks.
everybody has a family.  every family looks different.  
some family trees are complicated with many branches.  some appear pruned and healthy. 
sometimes family is big and loud and boisterous.  other times it is small and quiet and lonely.  
some families look exactly like you would expect.  others defy all expectations.  
some families fill one another with love and grace and laughter...others pile on the hurt or fear or guilt.  
family can be a beautiful representation of God's love in this world.  it can also paint big, dripping strokes of darkness on our hearts.  

what does family look like for you?
it's an important question for all of us to ask...no matter how easy or painful it may be to face the answers.

not one of us loves all of our family well all of the time...but most of us would like to.  grace goes a long way when it comes to family...extending it to them and accepting it for ourselves.  sometimes the slate just needs to be wiped clean.

every role in a family is important but there is one that perhaps feels the weight of relational pressure more than the rest...the role of mothers.

i feel that pressure now and have some understanding for the weight my own mother must have lived under all these years.  from the time that my brother and i were a dream in her heart to the experience of being a grandmother...and all the good, bad, and ugly in between.

mothers hold so much together and take on the burden when it all falls apart.

maybe you are a mother with a nest full.  maybe all of yours have taken flight.  or maybe you are a mother who, like linda, has only conceived your children in your heart and you have yet to see their faces.  God holds out promises for each of you.  

today i am thankful for God's promises to families...

for i will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground;
i will pour out my spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.
they will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.

i will teach your children and they will enjoy great peace.

now the Lord was gracious to sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for sarah what he had promised.  sarah became pregnant and bore a son to abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised...

and the one linda has clung to all these years...
when a wife has no children, he blesses her with some, and she is happy.  shout praises to the Lord!

during this week of thanks may you find the treasures of family...even if you have to dig a little to uncover them.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

giving thanks :: day 2 {the promise of completion}

today i introduce you to someone special in my life.  her name is linda.

linda has blessed my family by serving as lucy's small group leader at our church.  she has made such an impact on my girl that we pray for miss linda almost every night.  she was also at the top of lucy's invite list for her birthday party this year...

{that's linda on the right at lucy's party...along with lucy's other leaders from church}
this morning i shed tears over the way that God is blessing someone who has been such a blessing to me.  i had one of those moments when i wanted to go out and cut cartwheels all down the street shouting 'yay God!!' {but i've never really been a good gymnast so this blog post will have to do}.

a couple of things you should know about my friend linda...

{1} God has given her a deep desire in her heart to be a mother.
{2} God has allowed the obstacle of infertility to be part of her story.

now i am not going to spend this post arguing whether or not God {or some other force or being} caused linda and her husband to be unable to conceive a child biologically.  the title of this post is not 'why bad things happen to good people' or anything like that.  these are valid topics of conversation but in this story they are moot points.  see...there is one more thing you should know about linda...

she believes God can be trusted...and so she does...she trusts Him.  with all of this...

linda and her husband, robert, have been praying about the possibility of adoption for years.  as anyone who has prayerfully considered adoption will tell you...God speaks in amazing ways when you approach him concerning this subject.  


for linda and robert the answers weren't completely clear at first but in hindsight they can see how God was guiding them all along.  at first the couple began researching different adoption agencies but doors kept closing, so they moved forward trusting that another one would open.  sometimes that is all we can do...turn our back on a closed door and take those brave first steps towards the next one.


last year linda had the opportunity to try IVF {in vitro fertilization} once her new insurance took effect.  she and robert thought that perhaps with the financial costs of this procedure covered maybe this was the way they were to proceed in growing their family.


that door closed too...and it was a painful one to face.  in linda's own words...this was what it felt like to face two failed rounds of IVF after years of desiring children...



i went through a very difficult time of doubting I knew ANYTHING about God's plan for me...that i had no idea how to hear him or know what i was supposed to do. i was never angry with God, but i questioned myself in many ways...was my faith not right, not strong enough, was i just not listening?  after our second failed round of IVF we took some time to recover, then plowed ahead again, feeling God was leading us towards adoption...

the couple soon found themselves with a conviction to adopt from the czech republic {where robert is from}.  there was one problem...there are no agencies that facilitate adoptions between the u.s. and the czech republic.  there are an estimated 92,000 orphans in the czech republic but it looked like robert and linda were not going to be able to provide a home to a single one of them.

this did not deter linda and robert.  they {along with a few of us privileged enough to be on this journey with them} kept praying.  and while we were all praying there was a little adoption agency in north carolina praying too.  the folks at the agency were feeling led to pilot a new adoption program but they weren't sure where.  amazingly God's answer to the agency's prayer was also an answer to our prayers.  the agency chose the czech republic...linda and robert chose that agency...and to make a long story short...

we are now all praying and waiting for the child {or children} we believe God has already chosen for this couple.  

robert has already traveled to brno with the agency director to help them navigate the czech systems and culture.  i think it is safe to say that this pilot program would not even exist without the prayers and help of linda and robert. 


this morning linda sent a message to let me know that the paperwork has arrived at the appropriate czech agency and now the wait for approval {and then referral} begins.  


it won't be easy.  

it won't be quick.  
it won't happen the way linda dreamed it would when she was a little girl.

but that's what happens when we discover that God is faithful and trustworthy.  we trade our dreams for his.  we let go of the ideas and expectations that have kept our stories so small and so safe...opening ourselves up to a bigger story that He has written specifically for our lives.


in her little girl dreams linda could have never imagined that God would use her to open up an entire country to the possibility of providing homes for tens of thousands of orphans.  she could have never imagined that her relationships with her friends, her family, and her God would be strengthened and deepened through trial and struggle.  she could have never imagined that she would breath these words about her husband...

i have leaned heavily on my husband's faith and prayer life. he is a rock. he has never wavered in knowing we were following the right path, he has "talked me off the ledge" several times when i would get anxious and start questioning everything we were doing. i clung to him, even in ways he is unaware, i stood on HIS faith many times because at times my own seemed so weak. he endured my outbursts, my doubts, my questions with a quiet confidence and assurance. And I KNOW that was God.

and these words about her church...
coming to new charlotte church again reassured me that God was carrying us through this. meeting you, the other ladies, volunteering with the kids, really becoming part of this church family...it is hard for me to explain it clearly, but the connection and the compassion, kindness, support...it was God. i can explain it no other way.

and these words about an unknown future...
even if for some reason God's plan is not for us to be parents, we know that this will be the pathway for SOMEONE, for a child who needs a family, and we actually are comforted in that.   i think that through other ways, he HAS put children in my life, he HAS blessed me with some.  i think specifically about the kids at church, about lucy wanting to invite me to her party though I had no idea she even knew my name, about the little ones who remember me and want to sit next to me or show me something, about my nephews who I adore, about my friends' children...but of course, these make me want to be a mom even more! 

none of these things were part of linda's little girl dreams...


...but they were the dreams of a God who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever imagine through HIS power at work within us.



today i am particularly thankful for this promise...
...and i claim it for my friend linda.  i can't wait to see where He will carry her next.

Monday, November 19, 2012

giving thanks :: day 1 {the promise of new}

:: eucharisteo  {to be grateful; give thanks} ::

i was first introduced to the word by ann in her poetic treatise.  remember the first gift given in that sad, dark season?  i've been counting them ever since.  sometimes on paper and more times in my heart and head...it changes the way you see the world.  i needed to change the way i see the world.  

we have been making what we call 'doorknobbers' for our farmhouse shop.  they are one of many items that we create out of reclaimed wood.  something that was old and then made new again.  


a few weeks ago i decided to make a few eucharisteo doorknobbers.  after we put them in the shop a woman called with a special order...she wanted several more of the eucharisteo doorknobbers.  i smiled.  she was giving them to her friends as gifts.  a gift of thanks.  thanks giving.

today i give thanks for the pieces of our lives that, like those little pieces of old battered beadboard, have been made new.  the chips and cracks are still visible but with some gentle attention from a Creator's hand they are made into something beautiful and worth displaying...a new creation offering words of life to the world.

this week as we step towards the great day of thanks i am specifically showing my gratitude for some of God's promises to me...and to you.  today i sing his praises for making me new...

leave a comment with something you are giving thanks for this week.  i will draw a name from all of the comments left before 10am tomorrow morning...the winner will receive a eucharisteo doorknobber!!


and just for fun...enjoy some of these free printables this thanksgiving week.  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

it's a dirty job {when parenting gets messy}

this morning i needed dirt under my fingernails.  i needed our saturday morning family time to include an opportunity to dig hands deep and feel earth.  
sometimes it feels good to do the kind of work that gets you dirty.  to do the digging and planting that leaves you messy...that makes your normally clean and manicured hands a little less presentable.  

a spray of the hose isn't enough to get that kind of dirt off.  you have to scrub.  and sometimes the scrubbing feels as good as the digging did.  with a little bit of time and a little bit of soap, those fingers are clean and ready for the keyboard.
parenting feels like that to me sometimes.  on a day like yesterday i felt knee deep in mud.  it wasn't an easy, gentle, everybody-is-generally-happy day.  it wasn't a day that i felt we were all cleaned up and presentable to the general public.  we were all wallowing around in the dirt...the mess...the moments of anger, frustration, guilt, fear...  
i was tired.  the kids were tired.  we were traveling.  we had spent too much time 'going' and 'doing' and not enough time 'being' over the past month...it caught up with us.

inevitably there are things that go wrong in our day...every day.  but then there are some days when it seems like everything goes wrong...all day.  on those days i feel like a failure as a mother.  yesterday i felt like a failure...even though i know it's not true.

before we crawled into bed last night my husband held me tight and whispered these words i needed to hear - you are a great mom.  i smiled and softened and then he said this - i've seen a lot of kids who behave much worse than ours do...they're not that bad.  we both started laughing.  sometimes you need to laugh.  i jokingly responded by saying - that's what i'm going for...'not that bad.'  hey - i'd like for you to meet my kids.  they're 'not that bad.'

being a parent requires you to get dirty.  and that's okay as long as you remember these two things...

1 :: some tasks require you to get dirty...so put on an old t-shirt and jeans and jump right in there!  don't act surprised or frustrated when you have to walk them back to time out for the 10th time in a row...or you have to separate ANOTHER sibling battle...or you have to patiently endure screaming and name-calling as you come up with a meaningful consequence...or you watch in horror as two sets of little legs run wild ahead of you in the grocery store making a ruckus that gets everyone's attention.  {yes this ALL happened yesterday}  if you expect to get dirty you won't freak out and have a temper tantrum of your own when everything goes wrong.

2 :: if you want something beautiful to grow, you are going to have to dig around in the dirt first.  the truth is, when it comes to my kids, i am not striving for 'not that bad.'  in fact...it's not 'good' or 'bad' that are my standards of measure at all.  i just want my kids to grow.  i want them to grow in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  i know that's a lot to ask but i believe it's possible.  if i am willing to be diligent {and dirty} in the digging, planting, fertilizing, and watering...i know God will be faithful to provide the light that ultimately draws them out of the ground and out of their tight little bud as they gloriously open up to Him.
and so i'm working on embracing the dirt and the mess...knowing that it is necessary for the growth of my little seedlings.  in fact - i'm entering into a season in which i am keeping my old clothes on and rolling up my sleeves for the work that needs to be done in the life of my family.  i'm letting go of the false belief that we need to be neat and clean and presentable all the time.  sometimes others witness us with the brown clods still under our nails and the smell of earth still in our soiled clothes...and that's ok.  we will be scrubbed clean again.  
in between all the getting dirty and cleaning back up the growth takes place...sometimes so gradual that we don't even notice.  then...suddenly...one day...the petals fall open and reveal the beautiful fruit of our labor.  
and there they are...our children...stretched high on delicate stem, reaching up towards the Light that drew them from the ground. 

on thursday night i spoke at a beautiful women's event in south carolina.  i encouraged each lady there to: (1) let God's story be your story and (2) share your stories with others.  this is really the whole reason i blog...to help me see God in stories like this one and to let others in on the gift of that vision.

the women at ebenezer baptist were so amazing.  they were opening up and sharing right then and there.  i had the privilege of hearing bits and pieces of many of their stories and i walked away inspired.  if you ever want to share a story with us here at 'words and wonder' please leave a comment or shoot me an email.  i would be honored to share this platform with you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

new york :: new york

this was the chain of texts between the two of us over the weekend...

joey: just caught lucy helping oliver bury his pooped in underwear in the backyard.  nice.  what a great sister!

me: get out of town!!!  hilarious!

joey: for you maybe.  i had to hose him down in the backyard.

me: omg.  u r an amazing daddy!

and he is...simply amazing.  even after the whirlwind month that we have had my sweet husband took over kid duty for the weekend so that i could go to new york to celebrate my sister's birthday.  what a guy.
i haven't been to the big city since i was in middle school so there is not a lot that i remember.  the main thing that sticks out in my mind is my little brother belting out 'new york, new york' in the shower when he thought nobody was listening.  you know the one...start spreading the news, i'm leaving today!  
my parents and i were sitting on the hotel bed cracking up as he went through the chorus a second time changing the first letter of all the words...
dart deading da dews
dime deaving doday...
hilarious.  he will never live it down.

this trip left me ready to go back for more.  i am definitely not going to let another 20 years go by without making my way back to the big apple.

3 things i loved about nyc...
{1} the food :: this aspect of new york blew me away.  the bagels, the pizza, the homemade pasta, the fresh ingredients, the abundance of non-chain fast food.  you could spend years in the city and never eat at every good restaurant {but i'd like to try!}.  some of our favorites?
ess-a-bagel {the line is typically out the door but they are efficient at getting people in and out and savoring the best bagel and cream cheese you ever had is totally worth the wait!}
pepolino's {my entree was one of the best i have ever had and you MUST try the cheesecake!}
french roast {breakfast, lunch, or dinner...delicious dining with regular new yorkers}
piccolo {the most wonderful surprise!  a tiny little place with a lot of big flavor.  if you like lemon, try grandmother's cake for dessert}

{2} the parks :: i could have spent days in central park.  i love the fact that right in the middle of this bustling giant city there is over 800 acres of green space that contains surprises around every turn - ponds, castles, gardens, benches, boats, trees, farmers' markets, an art museum, professional bubble blowers. 

and i would have loved more time in some of the smaller parks too...like bryant park and battery park city.  these were the parts of new york that made me actually dream a little about what it might be like to live there.

{3} the people :: you heard me right.  the people.  i found new yorkers to be incredibly helpful, hospitable, and kind.  nearly every time i pulled out my map to figure out where we were headed someone stopped and asked if they could help.  and pretty much anyone we asked for help was glad to give it {after they got a good laugh over our southern accents}.
{FYI - this was NOT posed.  i don't know why everyone thought we were tourists?!?!}
well...i'm still a small-town southern girl at heart but my trip to the big city did me good...i can't wait to go back!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

my surprise sister

sometimes 'family' doesn't look exactly like you think it will.


my own family has taken on a variety of forms through the years and still changes depending on whose home we are visiting for the holidays.  I have a mom, dad, stepmom, stepdad, brother, 2 half sisters, a stepbrother, a stepsister, an adopted daughter, a biological son, grandparents step-grandparents, birth grandparents…and the list goes on…

you would need several family tree diagrams to figure it all out.

sometimes God gives us unexpected gifts in the formation of our families.  

as a newlywed i can remember dreaming about what my own family would look like.  there are some significant differences in that dream and today's reality.  as our own little family was first forming there were many unknowns...many twists in the road...many situations i never thought i would face.  as a wise friend once told me - we plan and God laughs.  the process is often unexpected {and in some cases painful} but His best for us requires that we surrender to the road He has set beneath our feet.

as a child growing up i never had a sister.  10 years ago i acquired this one...
when her mom and my dad got married haley was an adorable 10 year old little girl.  today she turns 21 and is one of my very best friends.  she is a safe place for me to share my heart, an encouragement to my spirit, a sharer of light and laughter in my life, the world's coolest aunt to my kids...she is my family.  she is a precious gift that God has given me during this season of my life because he knows what we need...when we need it...and he knew haley and i would need each other.  

happy birthday my sweet sister...NYC here we come!!!



Saturday, November 3, 2012

oliver

We named him peace...and he has brought it to my heart.
The ability to be still...to bring calm into chaos...he gets that from his daddy.

We named him protector, defender...and he has a fierceness to his spirit.
This part is all his uncle Robert. Just last week at his rehearsal dinner it was said of my brother that he is a defender of others...that he provides safety and protection to those he loves.  I pray that virtue for my son as well.

A boy who in one moment can fight off dragons with a sword in his hand and in the next gently crawl up to fit his body next to mine.  Our Oliver William...

Tomorrow he turns three and so you finally get the post I promised over a week ago.  A snapshot of the one shedding the last bits of 2 year old baby in exchange for 3.

Oliver...
:: smiles in his sleep
:: is quick to forgive
:: runs and hides when i correct him because it is so hard for him to face his mistakes
:: melts into me and i don't ever want to put him down
:: knows the words and sings along with joyful abandon
:: lets me breathe him in
:: the wanderer
:: plays 'rough'
:: a loyal best friend
:: makes a beeline for babies and animals {and then observes them until he is finally pulled away}
:: gets away with way more than he should because of that smile
:: sometimes hits his sister and sometimes asks to marry her
:: has rubbed a hole clear through mickey's ear {proof of the comfort he has found there}
:: has a spirit that is currently steeped in defiance
:: is happiest with a tool in his hand and a project to complete
:: has a little man voice that kills me
:: can flat out dance {video evidence of this coming soon}

Tomorrow we continue our Disney vacation with a day full of celebrating our big boy. As I tucked him into bed tonight I told him I couldn't believe that he was going to be 3 tomorrow...couldn't 
believe he wasn't my baby anymore. Don't worry, he said, you will still be my mommy...my sweet 
mommy.