Like the fall leaves, brilliant and changing

Right now I smell crisp air and burnt autumn leaves. I see the bright orange branches dancing against a brilliant blue sky. I hear the crunching of a thousand maple leaves as I speed past on my bike. I feel the wind rushing through my hair and I feel alive in a season that is revealing its beauty through change and loss.

IMG_2884.JPG

I wonder if a tree looks forward to its time where its color and brilliance leave us staring up in awe at the wonder of God. Or is it saddened knowing that all its leaves will soon be dead and gone? In a Bible study (Bible Study Fellowship) I attended this morning, I am reminded as God’s beloved daughter, my suffering and loss is for a purpose and it only lasts for as long as it’s necessary to bring glory to Him. I also realized that God is completely faithful. Of course He cannot prove his faithfulness to me if I am afraid to risk and step out in faith. And His light and brilliance will not shine inside of me if I am not willing to let go, to let go of my leaves and be naked and bare before Him.

I am studying Exodus right now. Its unbelievable the faithfulness of God. In Genesis 15:13, God tells Abram, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years.” God knew the hard future that lay ahead for His people. He also had a plan to deliver them and carried it out on the exact day that He had promised. Exodus 12:40-41 says, “The people of Israel had lived in Egypt for 430 years. In fact, it was on the exact day of the 430th year that all the Lord’s forces left the land.” The 30 years when the Israelites lived in the land of Egypt but were not slaves was the generation of Joseph and his brothers. (Genesis 1:6-8) God fulfilled His promise to His people on the exact day He declared. His timing is perfect and reveals to me that He is in complete control of those who love and put their trust in Him. 

I have experienced suffering and I have experienced loss. All of us have experienced suffering and loss and hardship. And I have realized that it can shine God’s brilliant glory and faithfulness if I am willing. I am continually changing and being refined by a designer, a healer, a teacher, a Father. He is creating within me a heart that is drawn to others who are experiencing suffering and pain, a heart that is willing to risk and love unconditionally and a heart that says yes to Him no matter the cost.

There was one more thing this morning that hit me and I want to share it with all of you just like if I was sitting down with you at Starbucks sipping on a Pumpkin Spice Latte. I would look at you with sincerity and share how I have realized that I am apart of God’s family and I will choose to always be apart of God’s family but the relationship that I have with the Lord Almighty can change. I can choose to become more intimate and more dependent despite my circumstances or I can choose to slowly drift away from His heart. After a pause of processing these words I would then tell you that I am going to choose to fight for that closeness, that complete dependence and that vulnerable and intimate love with God, my Savior, and I need you to help me and pray for me in doing this.

Pray for me friends that my life will be like fall leaves, brilliant and changing, that I reflect Him in all His wonder and beauty.

IMG_2883.JPG

IMG_2887.JPG

Alive in the rain


IMG_2270[1]

The warm sun does wonders for your soul. My vacation to stay with my Uncle and Aunt in Maitland, Florida has been a beautiful change of scenery. The time has been slow, lazy, uneventful and nice. Gabby will usually wake up between 8 and 8:30, today it was a jaw dropping 10:30 when I looked at my phone. We had a quick breakfast of Dunkin Donut holes and frozen grapes, plus Mommy’s cup of dark coffee, always. It was off to the Maitland Park, a new world of God’s breathtaking creation. We ride a bike, together.  Gabby in a front toddler seat, her helmet leans against my chest. The morning bike ride has become routine on our vacation. I love how close we are when we are riding down the sidewalk, admiring the well manicured lawns and friendly neighbors waving as we ride by. The hot air clouds around us as we brake at the stop sign and then lifts with a breeze, tires spinning. I can’t help but smile and feel a little more alive.

When I took care of four kids I had two hours for myself as they visited with their mom. Then, bike rides were to “get away” and relax. Now, it feels like the most eventful thing in my life right now. Its when I feel most alive and free. Gabby feels it to. Picking up speed as we fly down the short hill to the park I hear, “Yee ay – ay!” She loves it and that ride has started to become such a routine in our morning that I am sure she will notice if it’s missed.

IMG_2268[1]

A rusted red boardwalk comes into view winding through the wildness of Florida’s swampy forests. The sounds of the untamed wild carry on their daily chatter all around us. No longer am I a broken person, but a creature created by almighty God. I am in the midst of His wildness and it’s wonderful. The path into the park is from the crushed shells of the ocean. The sun illuminates the road traveled through palm trees and exotic shrubs. Shadows and light dance on our skin. I breathe deep, “Ahhh . . . This is good.” and I lift up a prayer of thanks, “Thank you Father, this is very good.”

I hear a distant groan of thunder and we start heading toward the exit. Two minutes later it begins to rain, the tennis players are gathering up their balls and water bottles, the mom’s call their kids from the playground and runners start picking up their pace. The wet drops begin to hit our skin, and my senses awaken. IMG_2284[1]The rain picks up and we are gliding down the boardwalk as we leave the park and enter a neighborhood leading us home. I forgot how much I love the rain, how much I love the feel of water splashing against my bare legs peddling us up the hill. The dark clouds split apart above and the rain came in heaping bucketfuls down on our faces. Gabby and I were soaked with the smell of fresh rain as we pulled the bike into the garage. She didn’t make a sound the whole way home. I unstrap her from her wet cushion seat and a smile beams across her face. She wraps her arms around me, not noticing how wet we both are. I knew she was brave, like all 14 month old babies, but resilient? I was beyond happy she enjoyed this as much as I did.  IMG_2287[1]

Speaking now to you friends who have been walking with me, I ask that you share in this even more. Pray for me as I adventure with Christ in murky waters. Pray that I will have a teachable and patient heart as I wade in the shallow dark sea longing for the sun and the waves to crash over me. Pray that I will not be stagnant and become overwhelmed by my circumstances. Pray I will not succumb to distractions and numbing pleasures in a world I am surrounded in but continue to wait in the silence. Continue to wait in the silence if that is what is required to be close to a God I cannot ignore. Pray that I will drink in the words of Christ in Matthew 11:28-30 so that I will not become dehydrated.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

A boy loved

Dear Gabby,

Your Mommy likes to read.

I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I do one day.

Right now I am reading a book about a boy who lived his whole life in a prison camp until he was an adult and then escaped. I can’t even imagine this happening to children now that I have you as my daughter. This little boy’s first memory was when he was four and saw someone killed, executed. He did not grow up with love, he grew up fighting his mother for food. He had to in order to live.

Right now, you have 4 teeth and enjoy crunchy crackers, discovering the juicyness of blueberries, and smacking your lips to Mommy’s favorite, Peanut Butter.

This little boy ate the same two things every day, corn and cabbage. He survived by eating his mommy’s food, the food he was given was not enough to live. When he grew up he scavenged for food, including corn kernels in cow poop. This boy is older now, but there are still precious little babies who live like this today, or who don’t live at all.

These little ones plague your Mommy’s mind and heart constantly because this little boy could have been you.

It is quiet, and you sleep peacefully in the bedroom next door.

No worry. No Danger.

When you cry, I come and pick you up. We snuggle together in your dancing monkey pajama’s. After a couple minutes you put your hand to your mouth and look up at me. Its your sign for “food please”.

Immediate satisfaction. Full belly. Needs are cared for.

After lunch we play with your Playskool Poppin’ Pals or your Fisher-Price Rockin’ Tunes Giraffe or your V-Tech Sit to Stand Alphabet Train. These toys are just at Grandma’s house, we have a ton more at home.

Active imagination. Carefree Childhood. Smiles. Laughter.

I can only imagine how much this little boy is loved by God and thousands of others who live like he did. I can only imagine how much it breaks God’s heart to see them suffer. The pain He feels for His beloved children has been felt by me. Your Mommy doesn’t know what to do but pray and give to people that can help in some small way.

As your mother I am beyond blessed to be able to care for you, provide for you, create a nurturing environment for you fully of learning and possibilities, and love you as a mother should be able to love her daughter.

I hope that when you are old enough to read all of my letters to you that my prayers and desperate heart for “the least of these” children has not diminished but has grown from what it is now. I hope that these children will feel like brothers and sisters to you for how much they are talked about in our home. I hope that one day I will be able to tell them myself that they are not forgotten; that they are loved.

Love,

Mommy

_______________________________________________________________________

The boy is Chin Sung Hyuk and his book is “Escape from Camp 14” An article and a link to his book are below.

Article about the book “Escape from Camp 14”

Image

“Escape from Camp 14” from Amazon

ImageImage

 

Envy in a Broken world

 

20140510-223311.jpg

This will probably be my most vulnerable post yet. My hope is that those of you who can relate to my story will not feel that you are alone, because I sure hope I am not the only one.  Along with the loneliness and sadness, I have felt recently some unexpected feelings of envy. It doesn’t stay because I talk about it with God, laying it bare before Him. Looking back I can picture my confusion as a child confessing that he has no idea how to get all the vasoline off his hands. I am assuming that this is normal, but its weird to me and I didn’t like it, so I asked God to get rid of it. In my weakness I have learned that its important to bring everything before God who already knows, but also trusted friends or family who don’t already know. I cannot be open and honest with God if I am not willing to be open and honest with others. So, I have already shared with a close friend my struggle and now I am sharing it with you.

A few days ago I listened and laughed and cried (later that night) to a life story from a couple of friends of mine. Married now with 4 beautiful kids, a heart to serve others and a deep love for each other, I allowed the thoughts of, “thats not me any more” to settle in deep. So many stories they shared I could relate to the same feelings, the same struggles, the same joys Chris and I had together. The same hardships in their marriage were very similar to ours, and we also experienced a deeper love and understanding of each other as we came out of those hardships. Their heart for God and desire to serve was one both Chris and I possessed as well. Hearing their adventures of faith, laughing together and choosing joy rather then focusing on the struggles took me right back to my life as a wife and even back to my life as a mother of 5.

On my drive home I battled with envious thoughts. “More than anything, I wish I could have that life back.” “I wish I had my husband back.” “I wish I had a house full of five kids running all around, laughing.” “I wish I had a life that was chaotic, full of life but dependent on God for what we need.” I knew I was wanting something else that wasn’t mine, I knew I was wanting it because it use to be mine but was taken away. I surrendered this to God but its still hard to be joyful, content and satisfied with what God has given me and what God as taken away.

Today I struggled with envy again, only in a little different way. One great thing I have realized that has come out of all of this is time for things I would have never had time for before. Tonight I saw a movie with one of my 13 year old friends 🙂 I don’t feel so old when I hang out with middle and high school students. Being a widow kinda makes you feel old. So, we went to go see “Heaven is for Real”. The movie was good, the book is way better, like most of the time. Afterwards, I am at home and Gabby is fast asleep. I think about Heaven. I think about Jesus and His love for me and wanting to be with Him. I think about Chris in Heaven and wanting to be with him. Then, I think about how Chris is there . . . with Jesus, but not me. My want and longing is so strong.  I feel anger and I feel envy. My anger is stemmed at Jesus and I ask Him, “What on earth could be so important for having me stay here when all I want is to be with you?” And my envy is at Chris. He’s there and I am here.

And then I ask God to help me with my discontented heart. “Father, help me to not be jealous of what my friends have here on earth in their relationships and love for each other.  Help me to say yes to your will with joy and peace and patient endurance. I look forward to being with you one day, but I know you want me here right now so I will be patient.

Life in the Woods

Dear Gabby,

 

This morning, as you were napping soundly with your little gray bunny, I stepped out into the sunshine.  Its light was streaming down to the deck outback of your Grammy and Grandpy’s house. I stood there very still. There was so much life happening around me, and I felt that after a season of hiding indoors, I was the alien. There were Robins calling back and forth to each other across the wood, a woodpecker’s lunch preparation echoed loud, the Looking Glass River, only about 50 yards away, moved with a sweeping force over rocks and toppled trees.

I walked down closer to the river. I am drawn in like all the trees that bow to the life-giving source. Dead leaves crackle and crumple beneath me, and new stems grow up beside me. The light shines through the wooden giants creating beautiful long shadows throughout the area. My thought was to come out here and think. And I did but it was not in the way that I thought. I was distracted by so much life. In the cold months it is still and peaceful. There is no life. It is dead. And then spring comes, awakening new life. The life was not ever dead, it was hibernating, waiting, on hold for the sun and the warmth to break through. But this life is never the same, it is renewed after every stilled winter.

I sat for a long time out there, hoping that all this new life would rub off on me. I observed the sparkling river flowing at a continual pace through the forest. It had carved its own way. Close in front of me as I meandered through the wood, was a stagnant pond that had collected in a pocket of earth. Its murky waters were still and content. It had made its home and made no attempt of moving. Both made of the same element and they are so different. I am drawn to the river. It gives and brings forth life by its continual persistent force. It’s wild and dangerous and cuts through the earth. I am repelled by the stagnant pond. For even though it seems to give life, it brings disease and death often results.

I don’t know what the future will look like for us, I have so many questions I ask myself every day. I try and ask God my questions and allow him to answer them in His own time so I am not prone to worry. The life He has already created helps to answer some of those questions. When you are older and you have questions, I would say to try and sit and listen and observe of what God has already made. Knowing that He made everything skillfully, creatively and with unquestionable love we are left with ears and eyes open and our mouths shut.

Since you were sleeping, I took some pictures for you of what I saw as I was thinking of all of this. I love you princess!

ImageImageImage

Image

I had to add this picture too. This was you later that day on your new princess bike. I don’t know what you were laughing at but you though it was really funny.

New Life from Dry Bones.

Easter for me is all wrapped up in tradition. Not tradition from my side of the family, tradition from Chris’s side of the family. There were some traditions that we held this year, but it took great effort, like Grandma baking her “to die for” rolls. Motivation in keeping the traditions alive was dead. There was no fire this year and frankly I think we all thought, “What’s the point?” and “It’s not the same.” Chris was the one who felt so strongly about tradition and fought for it. Now, can we really keep the same traditions? Should we, in order to keep it alive, to keep the memories alive? Today, as I was with family, it was like we all just got through.

One think I do know, is that my focus was not on family and traditions this year. This year was quite different. In my remembrance and sorrow of not having Chris here, I clung to the wonderful weight of the Spirit living inside of me. I wept with joy over the story of Jesus raising to life the widow’s son because of His great love and compassion for her. (Luke 7: 11-15) And all of my thoughts keep coming back to how utterly lost I would be without Him. This easter was very different then it ever was before. I was not as busy, distracted, self dependent, and put together. It brought me to my knees realizing the incredible gift that was given to me. Without His sacrifice I would be blinded with darkness and despair. There would be no hope, there would be no life.

But He has created NEW LIFE, by rising from the dead and bring us out of the grave. His gift was new life, because of His great love for us. (Ephesians 2:4-5) Its hard to even put into words. I am overwhelmed by the whole thing and end up in silence because I have no words. The gratitude in my heart is overflowing, and its because of my dependance, my entire identity in Him. He is the one, and only one who has saved me, and He is constantly creating me into something new.

 

 

my soul cries out
my soul cries out for you

these bones cry out
these dry bones cry for you
to live and move
only You
can raise the dead
lift my head up

Jesus, You’re the one who saves us
Constantly creates us into something new
Jesus You’re the one who finds us
Surely our Messiah will make all things new

A birthday and a hope.

Dear Gabby,

DSC_0025-2Happy Birthday my big one year old! Wow, what a day! Did you realize that 38 people came to celebrate your life today? Did you also realize that all of your friends, “brothers” and “sisters” (the kids) outnumbered the mommy’s and daddy’s? Just so that you are aware, we are not doing this every year. You will not  have your own memory of this day, so I am going to do my best in giving you some of my favorite highlights.

 

I was holding you as the majority of people came through the door and as a mommy’s girl you were not quite ready to be passed to another person’s arms, but I know a trick. You love to walk, and although you can’t quite do it on your own yet, its a great way to warm up to someone (someone being everyone who isn’t mom) by holding their hard and showing off your developing agility and gusto. Your tiny feet pitter patter along the hardwood floor and your face lights up along with whoever is holding your hand at your joyous ability. It works every time.

All the kids were your favorite, and it was a favorite of everyones to see you enjoy them. A kiss from Charlotte and giving back one in return would produce three room full’s of “Aww!”

 

DSC_0126
You love sugar! You would have eaten that entire cake if I would have let you. Your baby hands were covered in vibrant pink icing and your face became all of a sudden a very rosy glow. Cameras were going off left and right, and we never got bored of watching your inquisitive and comical expressions as you discovered a new love for sweets. I jumped into your messiness and allowed you to give me a big kiss.We together enjoyed the same taste of the sugary deliciousness of cotton candy. (The icing was cotton candy flavored)

DSC_0117

You were much more involved with opening presents then you were at Christmas. You grabbed that paper at the top and ripped it all the way down to the bottom, the only problem was that you had several helpers who also liked to open presents. Knowing you were not quite as fast, they volunteered to “help” you. Your helpers were Selah, Nevaeh, Lorenzo and Regan. And you, being the kid lover that you are, had no problem with it whatsoever. In fact, having your friends help you open your gifts was the same as playing together and for you it couldn’t get any better. Just remember that when your older.

 

IMG_0386Wrapping paper, bags, clothes, ribbon, toys and people gathered all around. You had just started pulling the tissue paper out of the small gift bag resting in between your legs when Lorenzo, who was sitting next to you, reached out for a toy that was being touched by a toddler. He declared, “Don’t touch that toy, thats DSC_0054my sister’s!” (Lorenzo is my crazy 5 year old who I had the privilege to be a mom to for a year and a half. He is now back home with his real mom along with the rest of his brothers and sisters. This amazing moment shows the closeness of our forever foster family.)

The last memory I will leave you with is the result of eating too much cake. I’m sure your tastebuds were singing for joy at 3:00 but your tummy was pounding its fists on the floor at 5:00. Your grunts and groanings lasted until you fell asleep on your Mommy. I love cuddling with you, so you just slept as I continued to talk with friends. Poor Sadie who was sitting next to me, for by that time, you were only asleep because the mess was in the diaper. But today was a special day and that indulgence was worth it.  Which is why I gave away all your cupcakes for people to take home, it’s only worth it because it was special and out of the ordinary. We can’t do that every day.

The rain came as everyone was leaving. The rain came as wet drops on the grass and pavement outside, and the rain came as a dead and quiet fog inside a big house. It came as it seeped into the loneliness of a widow’s heart. This day was very special, which is why your Mommy cried listening to the patter of rain on the windows.  Your Daddy was not here to smile at me while you were zonked out on my chest. He wasn’t here to push you around on your pink flashy princess car from your Uncle Matt. He wasn’t here to pick you up and help you dunk your ball in the Easy Score Basketball Hoop he specifically picked out for you. He wasn’t here. A heartsick and despondent tune played strong in the wind.  It tangled my hair into knots. DSC_0147The celebration of your one year of life was over and he missed it. Then a blow of consciousness slashes at my heart as I realize He is going to miss everything. There will be many of your special days and there will be no Daddy. And all I can say after the celebration is, I’m so sorry sweetheart.

And as much as I would love to promise you that I will always be there to watch you blow out your candles, I can’t. Life is precious and uncertain and a gift. So, my dearest daughter, you will have to let God be your Daddy. My hope and prayer for you is that through the pain and loss of your Daddy, your relationship with God will become one of complete dependence and love like you have never known before. I also pray that you will trust and feel deep within you the immense love that God has for you. And don’t believe it because I said it, God said it to you. “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! . . . 1 John 3:1″ So when you are sad, let God be your comfort and let him love on you. He might take away your pain and He might not. Don’t be angry if He doesn’t take away the pain, for it’s through your pain God is able to be so close to you. He is getting me through, and he will get you through as well.