FYI

Talk about delayed response…ehmm…in case you haven’t discovered it yet, I have a new blog…as of a few months ago. Here is my new blog link if you haven’t found me yet. 🙂

musingsfromafulllife.wordpress.com

Thanks!!

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Christian Morbidity

My husband jokingly accuses me of teaching our daughter what he calls “Christian morbidity.” Well, you see, it started several months ago. We were talking about Jesus at some point in the day, and she blurted out, “I want to die.” “I want to go to heaven and see Jesus!”

Umm yeah. Brian might be right about the morbidity.

Not missing a beat, I exclaimed, “Me too! I can’t wait to see him! I am looking forward to giving him a hug.”

Not too impressed, she repeated, “I want to go to heaven.”

Again, I enthusiastically said something about how I bet Jesus will love swinging on the swings with her or something like that.

“I want to see Jesus.”

This went back and forth a time or two before she gave up, realizing the answer was “not yet”. I was rather excited for the interchange knowing that she saw Jesus in the correct light…open, warm, loving, eager to be with us. She was attracted to Him. And for very good reason.

Little did I know that this conversation would repeat itself over and over and over and over about twice a day for the next two months! There may be a kid more insistent on going to heaven out there, but I don’t know them! Sometimes she asked in a fussy way…like when I deny her riding an airplane and she is annoyed that I can’t make it happen. Other times, she stated the desire with a quiver in her voice and sadness her in face, and I just wanted to wrap my arms around her and tell her how stinking precious she is. Often, it was stated in simple passing…sometimes even off topic.

Recently, I realized that this wasn’t a cute passing phase. I think she truly was puzzled and frustrated with the fact that she couldn’t see the Jesus that we talked about and prayed to so much. I realized I needed to start uping my theology with a two year old. So cuddled on her bed after our Bible story I changed my normal answer to her statement.

“I want to go to heaven.”

“Me too, Aurora. But do you know why we can’t go to heaven yet? God has given us a job to do! We need to be here to love people and tell them about Jesus.”

I watched her little mind spin and then kissed her goodnight. As I walked away I marveled that I never thought I would be teaching theology to my toddler..but what a gift her inquiring heart is! Want to know the interesting part? This took place around a week ago, and although her enthusiasm for all things Jesus has not abated, I don’t think she has made the request since. It is as though she was waiting for me to give her a real answer. Crazy.

My girls humble me in big ways sometimes. Both of them remind me of how selfish I can be, and challenge me to be more “others focused” throughout the day. And having them and my babysitting kids watching me so many hours during the day both scares the crap out of me, and makes me want to show them what Jesus is like better than I do now. And these months of Aurora’s questions has made me think about how to help the kids understand a God they can not see right in front of them, but who is just as real as we are. But her request has also opened my eyes to something else…that it is possible that my daughter, who has not even accepted Jesus as her personal Savior yet, is more eager to be with Jesus than I am!

I think that is why Jesus talked about how it is impossible to enter the kingdom of God unless you have childlike faith. There is something so beautiful about it. Her knowledge of God is very limited. That we all do bad things. That Jesus is really nice and didn’t do bad things.  Jesus died for the bad things we did because He loves us. That He is alive in heaven, and people who love Him will be with Him one day. That’s the heart of what she knows. But she just seems to love Jesus. Her heart is soft to the things of God. (And don’t tell me it is brainwashing…there is a second grader I have been bringing to church for two years with a light Catholic background that has not yet made steps toward following Jesus). I truly believe that God listens to Mama prayers and that He is pursuing the heart of my daughter. And her childlike faith is beautiful. I pray that if and when she gives her life to God, she does not lose that.

Because guess what? I gave my life to God 19 years ago and sometimes this life on earth can get pretty comfortable. I quickly forget the verse “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, (Philippians 3:20).” This world is not my home. The goal is not for me to live a happy, comfortable life free of pain. It is not to raise moral children and enjoy a fulfilling marriage. Not to hone my cooking skills, have a blast with friends, keep a gorgeous house and garden, and have exciting vacations. Those things are great. And God is my Daddy and so He wants to give me good things, but ultimately, this place is not my home. My life is kind of like a single letter in a set of encyclopedia’s. Basically, my life is very short when comparing it with eternity. My goal should be EAGERLY awaiting my Savior and loving people toward Him in the meantime. It sure is easy to get side tracked…glad I have my toddler to set me straight!

Father, may our eyes be turned heavenward. Help us to see how short our days are and to live accordingly. Please give me the passion of Aurora. Help me to have childlike faith along with Christian maturity. Help me to spend my days with wisdom and point others to You by the way I live my life. Please be with the person reading this now. You know the thoughts on their mind and the burdens on their back. Help them to fix their eyes on you and lay their burdens at your feet. Thank you for loving each of us so personally. Thank you for our kids too. You give such a precious opportunity to teach them about You. Help us not to waste the days, but to make You beautiful to them…because You are. Amen.

A Miracle.

Ahhh…Kids Market Sale! I look forward to it like Christmas every year.! A consignment sale that is like a massive, well-organized garage sale just for kids items. I love it. A friend and I are hooked and have discovered quite the system to be able to get the best deals. The basic strategy? Volunteer for 4 hours to get into the earliest private sale. This is where you get the cheapest stuff and the most selection. I then hit the 50% off sale at the very end of the public sale the following day to get some things that were a little too pricey the first day. On top of it, I consign items myself with the hopes to get back some of the money that I spend that day. Ummm…yes. I may be a bit obsessive. But, no one can deny that I have it down to a science and have figured out a way to save some serious cash.

This weekend was the Spring Sale. Already things were different. I had not signed up to volunteer because of the expected move to the Dominican Republic (p.s. Don’t worry… you are stuck with us. See previous post if curious.). On top of it, I ended up being later than I hoped to arrive for the consigner sale (directly after the volunteer sale where a hundredish volunteers shop) and was at the very back of the line. Bad start. In the end, I had to throw in the towel on clothes until the 50% sale and just got books, toys, and 2 pairs of shoes instead. It was fun, but a little more anticlimactic than usual.

When I arrived home and started going through my items, I decided to recalculate the price tags as I had paid a bit more than I had expected when I was at checkout. I found the mistake. A toy that I had picked up for Aurora’s birthday had been charged for twice. I had paid $4 more than I should have! I quickly began coming up with a plan for what would be the best way to present my case to an appropriate staff member and the best time to do it. I could fix this.

I see you, reader. You are shaking your head in disbelief.

“$4????!!! She has written three paragraphs to tell us of a mistake of $4?!! That crazy woman!”

I agree. It is crazy. But you see, us savers have a dark side too. We are often applauded for paying off loans quickly. We run nice tight grocery budgets. We are admired for staying out of tight financial positions. Those are all good things. And there is wisdom in being wise and responsible with the money God gives. I want to be a good steward of it because I know that ultimately it is God’s money. But, like I said, I have a dark side to this strength.

Control.

Lack of love.

Frustration and worry.

I have regrets that I look back on. Things like bargaining for an unreasonable price at a garage sale, and driving away in my car feeling convicted that I took advantage of someone less fortunate than myself. A Dominican Republican man that I wish with all my heart that I would have given a better tip to, but now can only pray from afar for God’s rich blessing to him. Countless wasted moments fretting over lost deals that DO NOT MATTER.

So, as I began making my plan to best seek reimbursement, God spoke gently to my heart.

“Heather, why not let this one go? You can choose either way, but I want to use this.”

I reasoned,”Well, if you aren’t commanding me to do this, I don’t really want to. This was my most expensive purchase that I debated over. I certainly don’t want to pay double for it.”

He responded,”There is a person who sold this. What if that extra money is a blessing to them? Who knows how I could bless in a way that you would never know. Or what about the portion of the sales that go to local charities?”

I continued, “Well, God, I would prefer to just give money to a person or charity that I know. I don’t want to give to some random number. I don’t know them!”

Believe it or not, this internal conversation with the gentle voice of God went back and forth a few more times. Finally, I acknowledged how ridiculous it was that I was not releasing control in such a small matter. It was selfish and stupid. I threw all the receipts in the waste basket and didn’t think much more about it. If nothing else, I knew that this was a good way for me to grow in obedience in the small stuff.

Fast forward to a few hours ago. I was needing to pick up the items that didn’t sell and planned to get some more diapers while I was out. I checked the prices online at Walgreens and compared it with Walmart to make sure they were compatible enough to not drive out of the way to Walmart. “Sweet! An in store coupon for $2 off Luvs. That works!” But, when I checked out the baby isle I was disappointed to discover that they didn’t carry Luvs in that store. Ugh. Annoying.

An employee was standing nearby and I calmly explained the situation to her.

“Is there any chance that you would be willing to accept that online coupon for the Walgreens brand instead?” I asked.

“Hmm…Sure. That would be fine. Just tell the staff up front that you talked to me.”

“Great! Thank you so much!”

I headed to the check out with my diapers in hand and eyed candy bars while waiting for my turn. When it was my turn with the cashier, I quickly gave the run down again of what the manager had said.

“No problem! Go ahead and type in your phone number….okay….huh. Interesting. It looks like it is just accepting the coupon anyway. How much were these diapers again??”

“They were $6.99.” I responded casually.

“Well….I don’t know why, but it is saying you just owe $2.14!”

Without a second of hesitation, God brought that $4 double charged toy back to my mind. I knew. Without a shadow of doubt. This was not some Walgreens computer error. This was God. There was no other explanation. No points saved up. No typo by the cashier. Nothing.

God in his infinite love and mercy chose to do a small miracle just for the sake of wowing me! The God who created the universe took the time to bless my small, reluctant obedience! I can’t put words on it. I am simply amazed with God. I am amazed at what a patient teacher He is to such a difficult student. I am amazed at how personal such a big, powerful God is. I am amazed at what a kind, loving Father He is. I am simply, and profoundly, amazed.

I have two readers right now.

First, my brother or sister who loves Jesus. Friend, walk obediently to God! He is seeking to make you more like himself. Take the time to learn to listen to the voice of God and to obey. It is then that God can begin wowing you more and more by little and big miracles. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.… (Matthew 10:29-31) He sees you. He knows you intimately. Every detail of you and your life. And He loves you. Trust Him. Love and get to know your Daddy better. I am amazed at just how amazing our God is. Aren’t you?

Second, my friend or family member that does not yet know Jesus. Perhaps you and I have talked about spiritual things before. Perhaps we have talked very little because as much as I want to talk more with you, I am seeking to respect you and where you are in your spiritual journey. Can I be honest with you for a few minutes? I write this blog mostly for you. Thank you for reading. I love you so much. So much. I pray for you often. By name. Why? Because I am scared for you. I am sure you have come up with dozens of reasons for why you don’t think the God of the Bible is real. Or why you don’t think the Bible can be fully trusted at face value. Or why you think it is unfair or unloving that God is a Just God that has the authority to not let people into heaven. Or why you think it is narrow-minded to think that faith in Jesus alone is the only way to God.

Friend, this God of the Bible is real. I am sure of it. I have many stories of God showing up in ways like I described above. I have researched my faith and am intellectually satisfied. But, the reason I follow God with the passion that I seek to is because I have a relationship with Him.

Many a time in prayer I have pleaded with God in tears. “Please…show me what to do to help them see! You know I would do anything! You know that I would gladly give my physical life if it would grant them spiritual life! I would do it in a heartbeat!” And in response, God has said. “Yes, I know. But Jesus already did that. It is their choice now.” Oh how I wish I could choose for you! If only you could step out in faith for but a moment to see how beautiful Jesus is! How much He loves you! How rich life is when you walk with Him! But, it is your choice. You need to lower your pride in creating a god of your own choosing. A god that allows you to live life however you want. A god that is loving and nice, but would never send anyone to hell. A god that fits into a nice package of how you think he should look and act. I am sorry to say that your god is not real. On the day of judgement you will stand before the true God without excuse. He has done everything needed. You just need the reach out in faith and accept the gift.

“But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,”that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved (Romans 10:8-10).”

Please. Please. Don’t gamble with your eternity. Ask God to open your eyes. Read the book of John over and over until you meet Jesus. He is not far from any of us. All you need is the faith and humility to see Him.

I know I have spoken with a lot of boldness and may have offended some people. I am afraid I can’t apologize for that. I care about each of you too much to not do everything within my power to share truth with you. And don’t hesitate for a moment to ever call or message me.

“Father, thank you for amazing me tonight. Thank you that sometimes you call us to walk faithfully to you when you feel far away, but you are always right beside us. Thank you though, that sometimes you make yourself very known just to wow us. I worship you for being who you are. Thank you for loving me and not giving up on teaching me how to walk in a way that is more like your Son. I pray that you would be with those who have read my words. Thank you for bringing them to my blog to read today. I pray that those who know you would be wowed by you, and look for ways to worship you too. I pray that you would sanctify your church to be more obedient to you. I pray that we would be known for our love. Our generosity. Our faith. May we bear much fruit for you in this world where people are so blinded by the evil one. I pray for the person reading my blog who does not have a relationship with you. I pray that you would draw them to you. I pray that you would convict their heart of sin. I pray that you would draw them to want to read the Bible to try to get to know you. I pray that you would do the big miracle of bringing a soul from darkness to light. From death to life. Thank you for loving them so much that you died for them. Thank you for loving them enough to pour your book of Ephesians blessings on them. Thank you for pursuing them. Thank you for what you will do. Because of Jesus, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Warsaw, Indiana??!!!???

Stepping on that first airplane heading toward the Dominican Republic truly felt surreal. We were on the way toward what we believed would be our new home with bubbling excitement and with a suitcase that I had meticulously packed with items that we planned to leave behind for when we came back to live.

Your prayers for travel mercies were answered. An airline challenge or two was inexplicably solved by no efforts of our own. In Miami, a Wendy’s mishap made for a close call catching our flight, and in the storm of hurry and stress, we found ourselves seated in the middle of a middle school mission trip where kind parents, teachers, and students made faces at exhausted Nadia and read books with bored Aurora. Then to top it off, a small miracle. We got disoriented in the DR airport and I soon found myself motioning and pulling out every spanish word I could remember to try to ask where we were to go to get our bags. I must have been completely impossible to understand, but the man was captivated with smiling Nadia. He went up to the desk and managed to convince the staff person there to let us skip the line and check in at the diplomat table (the extend of our disorientation was that we were actually at customs and would have needed to wait through a very long and slow moving line to fill out a customs paper to get to where our bags even were!)!  God’s grace was so present in many ways that day. Finally, after 10pm that night, we hopped into a van taxi where palm trees grow freely and Spanish permeated every radio station and street sign. We were in the Dominican Republic!

The hotel room was clean, but smaller than expected. So, we quickly made two beds for the girls with towels and blankets, and then guzzled/rationed juice boxes before bed after realizing that we had forgotten to fill water bottles in a place where the water was safe to drink. The next morning I was first up and sat outside our room to read my Bible for a bit, memorize as much Spanish as I could, and regurgitate said Spanish to ask which direction to walk for the beach and where to buy water and breakfast. The day both flew by and dragged past at the same time. Communication was really tricky and navigating restaurants, finding bathrooms, and politely turning down solicitors was tiring. The food was delicious though, (culture note: Dominican food is savory rather than spicy. Rice, beans, and chicken are very popular, although fish is cooked wonderfully there too. Fruit and Veggies are cheap, and in a pile of avocados, you can find some almost as big as a baby’s head. No kidding!) and Aurora loved the time at the beach although it felt way too short.

We were picked up by a Spanish speaking Caribbean Mountain Academy (CMA) staff member that afternoon. I asked the handful of “getting to know you” questions that I knew, and then we spent most of the rest of the three hour car ride sitting quietly and entertaining the girls (culture note: although the traffic laws are supposedly the same as the US, they are only enforced when an accident happens or when an officer wants to fine. The police officers are paid less than full time nannies there…under $50 a week…and so are often “corrupt” to make ends meet. Quickly we fell into the habit of the locals and American families of rarely using the car seats that we brought. This is helpful in fitting oodles of people into a car and calming a crying baby…although I still like American car seats as it is nice to not have to constantly be on alert for a sudden stop). The drive was HOT and we were so so glad that we went with a CMA driver instead of driving it ourselves. We surely would have gotten in an accident or would have had to make the trip the 6 hours rather than 3. We ate dinner when we arrived, met a flurry of people, let Aurora play outside as long as it was light, and then collapsed in bed as soon as the girls were asleep.

The first full day at the school went by like a blur. Brian disappeared into meetings and school activities while I checked out the elementary school/preschool Aurora would go to, went to grocery stores, met families, took Aurora to the park, and ate meals on campus. My mom was a life saver with the girls and tried to use the Spanish that she learned as best as she could. From what I could tell, life would have its challenges, but I could make life work for our family there.

Late that night, Brian and I shut ourselves into the bathroom where we could talk for the first time while everybody was in bed. Moths swirled around the room as I sat on a towel and asked the loaded question I had been sitting on all day…

“What do you think?”

His answer took me by surprise, but for some reason I had an odd sense of calm. He explained that as he had went through the day, and the challenges of it, he kept praying about living there, but just didn’t feel peace that God wanted that.

Now, you have to understand that this peace he was speaking of was not some wishy washy ideal that had led us through our process getting to the DR. No. This was a unshakeable, steady, confirmation that never wavered once in Brian while we started making decisions, had difficult conversations, and waited for a passport that we wondered if it would ever come. This was the “peace that passes understanding” talked about in Philippians 4:7 that had guided us to do what seemed crazy, but was totally logical because it was guided by God. And that peace was now gone.

As we continued talking, I admitted some discoveries throughout the day that had been unsettling to me, but I had pushed aside. One of the big, important ones, was a lack of optimism when I had mentioned securing a three bedroom house in order for my mom to live with us. The school was already almost out of housing and so such a large living space did not seem to be conceivable at the time. Slowly it began to dawn on me that the planned move would likely not happen.

In the midst of my world being turned upside down again though, something strange happened. That “peace that passes understanding” returned. The realization felt heavy, but I didn’t feel distraught or angry. Our confident, careful plans of moving out of the country had been overturned in just over 24 hours. Ludicrous! We decided to continue to ask questions and knock on every door possible the next day, but we also began asking the next question.

“If God didn’t want us to move here, why on earth were we here?!”

The answer came quickly the following morning. We had a conversation with a family that was truly struggling and was honest with us in that struggle. As the day progressed, with each person and family we met with, we noticed need. Financial need. Need for prayer. Need for a listening ear. A conversation with my mom confirmed that we were all in agreement to not move down. We began to focus our whole attention on listening for need and planning ways to fill the needs.

But why did God chose to have us discover needs by coming all the way to the DR? Why convince us that we would move?

Well, I think God loves stretching us and developing our faith any chance he can. I also truly believe that we would never have known the families we now know and would never have wanted to support this ministry much. It just wouldn’t have been on our radar. Want to know what I think the biggest reason is though? To stretch us to be more generous. We had this carefully laid plan to pay the house off first and then be big financial supporters of missions. What we realized through being down there though, is that there were needs today. Needs that we could meet now rather than in 3-5 years. Yes, we still needed to be wise. Yes, getting rid of debt could enable us to give in bigger ways later. But, we could meet needs now. God had packed our whole family to move to a different country in order to open our eyes to needs that He wanted us to meet. I also looked at my suitcase that I had strategically packed with things to leave behind for my family…my girls…my wants and needs. “Well, God. Obviously you didn’t have me pack all this stuff for us. Who do you want me to give it to?” In the end, I left behind about half of what I had planned to leave. Only it was left behind more purposely than for just us. Books would now be read by a school worth of kids rather than just my two girls. Diapers that I could buy cheaper in the US was given to be a blessing to a family. Some paints and canvas’ were given to a family with teenagers that were still feeling a bit lost in such a new place with few connections. God is so good. He didn’t waste our efforts. He multiplied them.

The trip was not easy, but it was a gift. It changed all of us a little…each of us taking away a new appreciation for things or a deepened purpose. Following God with surrender truly is an adventure, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Not even a little bit.

 

The Dominican Republic??!!!

We arrived almost on time with a tray of brownies to share. I love going over to people’s homes to get to better acquainted, and so I had been looking forward to this dinner with Brian’s coworkers all day. They ushered us in with warmth, we chatted for a bit, and then situated our 6 collective kids around the table or in baby friendly places. While keeping our munchkins from behaving like primates, the topic surrounded their decision and preparations for a move to the Dominican Republic. They would be taking on the role of the directors of a Christian boarding school that Lifeline/Crosswinds had in the DR. While the wife and I cleaned up dishes together, I asked about challenges they were facing and things they were excited about. As the bedtime for the kids approached, the conversation by the front door took a twist.

“I know this is probably really crazy, Brian, but is there any chance you would consider moving down too? A therapist position is opening up in May and I can’t think of anyone better to fill it.”

As they talked more about all the ways it would be a wonderful fit for Brian, I politely listened while trying to get Aurora ready to head out the door. As they apologized and joked that I probably never expected such a conversation to be raised, I just laughed along with them. You see, as Brian was agreeing to pray and think about it, I was already disregarding the idea. It was obviously preposterous. My role was merely to play the good wife by humoring the idea for him until he saw how it crazy it was for himself. Easy. Just keep my mouth shut and wait it out.

The next morning though, he brought up the topic again. He was serious.

“Heather, what if this is what God is calling us to? For some reason it feels like all the experiences in my life have led up to this position. What do you think?”

I gave a rather calm response that it didn’t make sense that God would want us overseas when He had just gave us the go ahead to settle down and buy a house. I said I would be willing to pray about it, but didn’t see this being the best choice.

After work, again it surfaced. This time, I didn’t dice words.

“Hunny…honestly, there is not even a tiny part of me that likes this idea. Not even a little bit. We bought a house a year ago and I like it. I like our life. A lot. I also don’t know why God would want us to give up our plans of paying off the house in just a couple more years so that we could give like crazy to different missionaries and ministries. Why would He want us to totally flip to being in a place of financial dependence on others instead? If God wants us to, I will, but it just doesn’t make much sense to me.”

To some of you, this may come as a surprise. You see, I have been overseas on mission trips several times. My plan was to be a missionary. But God said, “No. Don’t major in missions at college.” So I studied as close as I could get…social work/counseling. When Brian and I were dating, I made my intentions clear that I didn’t want the American dream. I wanted to serve God overseas if He so allowed. Brian agreed that he wanted that too. Shortly after Brian and I got married, we pursued moving to Atlanta to do mission work in the diverse immigrant community there. But God said, “No.” The last thing I wanted was to buy a house and settle in Warsaw, Indiana. But every time we knocked on a door, God’s answer was, “No. I want you here.” But with time, I came to love Warsaw. I saw his fingerprints of blessing everywhere. We prayed for a house in a neighborhood that we could be on mission. We got involved in church ministries. I did mentoring. Mere weeks before, we accepted an invitation to serve as deacons in our church. I loved the community for the girls. Life wasn’t always perfect and easy, but it was good. We were ready to die in that house serving those around us and being financial senders for others.

Apparently though, God doesn’t always work as we expect. And sometimes His seemingly obvious “No’s” are actually, “Not yet.” And sometimes He is totally okay with flipping our world upside down to work on us and use us to accomplish His purposes.

The next day I had a heart to heart with God. By His grace, all the kids napped at the same time for two hours, and I was able to just pray and think. My prayers started with cold obedience. “I don’t want to do this, but I am your servant and will do whatever you say.” Slowly though, God changed my heart. The turning point was when God spoke quietly to my spirit, “You aren’t just my servant. You are my daughter. If I call you to do this, you will find gifts and blessing in it.” Gradually my eyes were open to blessings everywhere. Brian’s gifts being used beautifully. The girls growing up in a beautiful, ministry setting in the mountains where they could likely become bilingual. Getting to disciple American teens who were at the crossroads of life…about to go down a dark path, but given the chance to receive therapy, get out of their toxic influences, get to know God, and serve the underprivileged. To live in a close community of like-minded families all seeking to walk obediently to God and share Jesus. The blessings kept coming and coming. All at once my prayers became joyful rather than cold.

This was a little over 2 and a half months ago.

So much has happened since then!

Our first checkpoint was telling my mom. We decided that in discerning the will of God, we needed to first obey His Word when it said to honor our parents. We prayed and decided that if she was not excited to either come with us to check it out, or happy to stay behind, we would consider it a closed door. God answered that prayer mightily. My mom, who struggles a bit with anxiety, was more open to the idea than I was! She is now teaching herself Spanish, beginning to purge the house in preparation for the move, and is ready to step out in faith to see where God takes us…and her! Brian’s parents also graciously told us that as hard as it would be for us to go, we should go wherever God told us.

Checkpoint two. Seek godly counsel. “Are we crazy to think God may want us to do this? Does our gifting match this? We think God wants us to rent the house instead of sell…does that make sense? Do you think we could raise the support needed? Will people want to support this? What challenges do you see for us?” We have yet to talk personally with everyone that we wanted too, but whether it was a close friend, an older church leader, or those in similar ministry positions, the answer continued to be the same. “Yes. We can see why you are thinking God may want you there. ” We have talked with several dozen people at this point (again, so sorry if I haven’t had the chance to talk to you personally yet. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you), and we have only had one person respond negatively and we have not yet gotten the chance to talk fully with her yet. For as crazy as this whole idea is…pretty darn good!

Checkpoint three. Answered prayers. I wish I had time to tell you all the different specific ways we prayed and saw God answer. For me, many were relational. Conversations that should have went terribly, but actually went terrific. My baby sitting kids that I have come to love having the perfect solution if we ended up moving…at the perfect timing. For both of us, peace that passes understanding. My mother-in-law wisely said that Satan cannot counterfeit peace. He can certainly help bring about every negative emotion we can imagine, but peace is not up his alley. We continue to have peace when it does not make sense to have peace. Throughout this whole experience Brian has often said that we prayed for open and closed doors, and we have yet to even see a door…much less a closed one! The only challenge we have had is with Nadia’s passport. It has come across about every mistake that the agency could have possibly made with it, and is only now due to come in tomorrow! Brian says it doesn’t surprise him. Although he enjoys venting about the insanity that is the passport agency, he happens to think that God likes doing things at the last minute possible because it produces faith in us. Phew. Lots of phone calls, tears, and prayers about our dear “Hadia’s” passport, but when it comes in a mere day or two before we leave, I know my faith will be stronger.

So…where are we now? Well, God-willing, we leave Wednesday! I have been dying to write this blog, but Brian thought it would be wise to wait. Now, I am thankful for all the prayers so close to our trip! Could you please take a moment to pray for us?

Pray for travel mercies for my mom, us, and our two littles. It is a looong trip. Thank goodness Aurora loves airplanes!

Pray for wisdom for our family as we are there. It is completely possible that God has orchestrated all of this to grow us and give us a greater sympathy for the missionaries He wants us to support. It is possible that my mom will look around at life there and say, “No. I’m sorry. I just don’t think I can do this.” It is possible that as we ask questions and explore the ins and outs of life there, and then we see a big closed door…”No, this isn’t wise for our family to do.” Honestly, though. We doubt it. We believe this is where God wants us for a time. But, please, please pray that God gives us the wisdom to discern what He wants. Whether He wants us there or here, we just want to be obedient to Him.

Lastly, if God does end up saying “Yes.” Can you begin praying for the details of getting there? So. Many. Details. We need good renters for our house. We need God to call people to come along beside us and support us faithfully with prayer and finances. We need to move not just our lives over, but my moms’ as well. We need grace to balance life present and life future. Too many details to handle on our own. We need God. But, we know that if God wants us there, He isn’t intimidated by the details.

If you made it to the end of this, thank you for taking the time to read our life over the past few months summarized in 1,891 words…and counting. 😉 Thanks for caring. And praying. And loving us. I can’t wait to tell you what we find out. Either way, God is good and He will use us where He wants us. And one more thing…I know what you are thinking… yes, if I can figure out a way to pack sunshine in suitcases, I will pay extra to get it here. 😉

Trials

Three coats and three shoes successfully slid on. One tired baby snuggled into her car seat. Diaper bag. Check. Snacks during play date. Check. Release the monkeys to the backyard to run around for 3 minutes before getting into the van. Check. Grab my coat, shoes, cups I forgot, while rocking crying baby. Check. Get four children secured in van. Check. Start engine.

No Check.

To be honest. It doesn’t even surprise me anymore. Our van is by far the most unreliable vehicle we have ever had. In its short usage it has required new breaks, a new battery, and another little thing or two. We have purchased one of those jumper packs that repair places have just because I am always wondering if the car will choose to start on a given day. I could go on, but I will cut the fuss.

So, I tried starting the car a few more times for good measure and then got out the handy dandy jumper pack to start charging. I texted the poor mom that we would likely be standing up AGAIN (it’s always when we are going to her house for some reason!) and then started passing books around and snacks. I checked the battery gauge level, prayed aloud, and then turned the key. Nothing. Singing time in the car next (I’m telling you, these kids are pros now at flexibility). We were now hitting 20 or 25 minutes of them being buckled in so I decided to try one more time before calling it a no go. I prayed simply aloud, “Father, can you start this van if you are okay with us going today?” The van didn’t start.

I showed just enough disappointment to empathize (Aurora was the most downhearted), and then quickly redirected to the extra fun fantastic thing we would do instead. The kids bounced back quickly with just a little work on my part and the mom graciously came to us in the afternoon. I was still a little bummed though. For one, I was annoyed the van was giving us trouble again. For two, it was the first time I had prayed aloud in front of my kiddos that God hadn’t answered yes.

Guess what verses the kids and I are memorizing currently?

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).”

As we were experiencing the van challenge, I was attempted a learning moment. “Wow. This is quite the trial isn’t it?!” [My four year old babysitting cutie often uses that word now if she hurts her finger or something. 😉  ]  I honestly wasn’t sure if I would get the question, “Why did God say no?” I guess that question comes later for all of us. Kids are a bit more humble than us adults sometimes. They hear “no” from loving adults and just accept that sometimes “no” happens….well….accept on their good days. I didn’t get the question, but I did have to answer it for myself.

“Why say “no”, God? Why “no” when my kids were listening? I don’t want them to doubt you. I don’t want to doubt you.”

It was at this moment that God brought that verse back to my mind. A verse that talks about the bigger picture of our suffering. Sometimes “no” or “not yet” is to produce character within us that we wouldn’t have developed if the answer was “yes”. Did I want character that morning or a reliable van? A reliable van. But praise God that He wants better, richer things for us than we want for ourselves. Praise God that He sees the bigger picture of what He is doing…even if it means going through pain that we would not have ever chosen to experience.

The theme of trials has been very real in my life recently. I personally have experienced little stuff like the van or several frustrating challenges the past week and a half. More than that though, I have encountered several deeply hurting people that are going through things that I wish I could save them from. Life is really hard. There are no pat answers to soul wrenching trials. There just aren’t. But there is so much hope in God. He cares for each of us so very much.

I don’t know if anyone who is reading this is going through a very difficult trial or walking with someone who is. If you are walking through one, sometimes you want to be alone and sometimes surrounded by others. Sometimes you want words of comfort and sometimes warm silence. Sometimes you feel hope and other times you feel angry or want answers. My personality-bend turns toward digging out answers to hard questions when I am hurting or confused. God and I have had many a conversation over “why” questions. In case you are similar to me and appreciate philosophical input into difficult times, I am putting two links below that relate to the question of why God allows suffering.

The first is a link to a webpage that attempts to briefly answer the question of why God allows suffering. It then links to several other similar questions of suffering, grief, and trials. The second is a link to a minute and a half video of Joni Tada speaking about suffering. I have so much respect for her because she speaks out of experiences of suffering and yet has such joy. If you like her, she has also written a book called “A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty.” If you are interested at all in it, just message me your address on Facebook and I will make sure you get the book.

Still not sure what with the pictures? Well, sometimes when you are going through a hard time, a devious two year old and a cute baby make things just a little easier. At least I think so. 😉

https://lifehopeandtruth.com/life/evil-and-suffering/why-does-god-allow-suffering/

http://www.joniandfriends.org/blog/why-does-god-allow-suffering/

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Bye Bye Baby

Christmas carols. Baking a Jesus birthday cake. Eating lots of extra hot chocolate and treats. Opening gifts. Spending time with people we love. It was such a rich season this year. I loved it. Christmas truly gets better every year as our girls grow and the meaningfulness of the season grows in my heart.

Something else happened over Christmas this year too. The purchase of a Frozen pillow and blanket in order to transition Aurora to…

DUH!!! DUH!!!! DUHHHHHHH!!!!!!

A big girl bed.

My hubby and I had picked up a bed at a garage sale over the summer, but just didn’t feel like she was quite ready. Nadia keeps growing though, and as we looked toward the future we decided that it was time to give it a try. So, Christmas came and along with toys I had found at our local kids consignment sale, we fed Disney’s piggy bank. [Side note…can you imagine the killing the company has made on Frozen?! Good grief!!]  Along with a handful of Frozen branded toys, she unwrapped her Anna and Elsa bedding. We oohed and ahhed and told her how fun it was that she had a big girl bed. Night time came and I explained that her big girl bedding would be staying on her big girl bed and she could be a big girl and sleep like a big girl and it would all be so stinking big girl exciting! After finishing my quick spiel, I looked at her in great anticipation. Without a MOMENT of hesitation she vaulted into her crib and explained, “I sleep in crib.” Matter of fact. Don’t even try to convince me otherwise, mom. I laughed with Brian about how flat our carefully weaved plan had fallen.

Night two. I had spent extra time with her in her room throughout the day and intentionally played with her on the bed to make it feel more cozy. To no avail. Aurora climbed into her crib before I even had a chance to begin my motivational speech. She even patted her crib and said, “my bed.” Christmas was over. I had my mama boxing gloves on now.

“Let’s try it!!!!” I bubbled joyously as I flung her onto the bed and began tucking her in goofily. “I know!! Let’s snuggle and read a book on your big girl bed! Whoa! So comfy!!” Luckily she stayed under the blankets. “And guess what???!!! If you are brave and stay in your bed tonight, then in the morning you get to watch Frozen during breakfast!” This was a sweet deal and she knew it. Then came the moment I had been dreading for literally a year. She looked up at me with her beautiful, innocent (at least at that moment 😉 ) eyes and said, “Pacie?”

You have to understand. This little girl of mine never bonded with a blanket, bear, book, or any other sentimental thing. Nope. For her it was her pacifiers. Her idea of a dream come true was to have one in each hand and one in her mouth. On the rare occasions I did that she would literally play in her crib with those and a toy or two for over an hour. You pacifier parents know the drill. Contorting your arm backwards on long car rides. Searching under the crib for the elusive little booger in the middle of the night. Calming tears after a bad fall. The list goes on and on. Her and that pacifier would have been inseparable if I had allowed it. As time went on, I slowly limited her pacifier time to just naps.  But even as she reached two and a half, I just didn’t have the heart to take it away. She loved it so stinking much and I was concerned about if she would ever nap or take breaks in the same way again.

But the moment had arrived. The question had been asked. Without missing a beat I exclaimed, “Nope! No pacie in the big girl bed! But guess what you get instead!!??? A big girl treat! How about a marshmallow??!!!” (I know. I know. Don’t judge my insanity. Okay…I will settle for you judging quietly.) An elephant could have choked on the amount of fake enthusiasm emanating from that room. She considered the offer and I inwardly sighed with relief as she accepted.

That night she was up until after midnight and twice during the night. But thankfully with very few tears. Just lots of promises to check in every few minutes to see if she was sleeping. Brian and I took turns going in. I let her chose a song for me to sing to her each time I went in (the first was Jesus loves me and a few later she asked for a Frozen song which I executed terribly, but thought was adorable because I knew she was thinking about the promised breakfast incentive in the morning). In the end she made it!

Not only has she slept through the night and napped without a pacifier at our house, but also two other homes due to the holiday season! What a trooper! I am so incredibly proud of her. I know I don’t break two-year habits in a week! Although sleep times have not gotten back to quite as smoothly as before, she is doing so great for the short time frame. No more media incentives, but still a big girl treat of some sort whether a sweet treat or extra books at bedtime. It’s official. Bye bye baby. She is growing up. (Now for potty training…I wonder how far I can stretch this Frozen incentive….) And I am in awe of what a beautiful little girl she is becoming.

You know those moments when love for someone just washes over you? You feel like your heart is going to explode? I feel that way for my girls sometimes. Sometimes in those ballooning heart moments I dare to believe that God could love me that much too. That not only could He, but He does. And not only that much, but infinitely more.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesisans 3:17b-19, NIV). 

God’s love is too big for us to understand. Far from being an aloof or sadistic god, His heart bursts with love for us. And I think that is the kind of love He loves the whole world with. The type of love that didn’t leave us in our sinful mess, but came to save you at a great cost.

And dare I go one step farther? I think that those of us who have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins and have been adopted as His children, I think that just maybe God is proud of us. A bigger proud than I was when Aurora slept through the night without her pacie.

Zephaniah 3:17, “For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs (NLT).”

This verse was to written in the context of Israel, but I think it applies to us too. He delights in us. He rejoices over us. And what connects most with me right now…He is a perfect parent. In the moments I am getting things a little right, He is that a million fold. He loves us perfectly. When we are walking closely to Him. When we are straying far from Him. His heart bursts with love for us. And He is proud that we are part of His family.

What an amazing God I serve.

Let the Little Children Come to Me

Recently, we had a Christmas party at our house. We planned food and activities and set out to relax with friends. What we did not realize was that in just the passing of one year from last years’ party, the number of kids at the party had more than doubled! Whereby the previous year, the focus was more on the adults, this year that proved to be almost impossible as they almost outnumbered us! People walked away from the party saying that they had had a good time, but my hubby and I quickly agreed that if we were to do it again the following year, we would need to run it vastly different!

I had created a play area for the kids upstairs and asked our loving parents if they would take turns upstairs. They graciously agreed, and I didn’t consider for a moment that it wouldn’t work. Grown up time. Grown up games. Grown up conversations. Grown up fun. hahahahahahahahahahaaa! What actually happened, was the kids were uncontainable! Their enthusiasm and energy ran rampant and slowed down and interrupted plans again and again and again. And guess what?

That’s okay.

Again and again the theme replayed itself for the next two weeks. Another party that was just a touch different with the multiplication of our collective children. Days that I was unable to accomplish my plans because a child didn’t nap, or my four month old was fussy, or one of my munchkins needed lots of extra snuggles. Even at church lately my quieter moments have vanished as Aurora has been joining us in the sanctuary due to a funk she has been going through. My days are filled with toddlers crawling on my lap asking to be tickled, feeling lucky if i don’t smell like spit up by the end of the day, and cherishing laying in bed with my hubby whispering back and forth praying our temperamental cherub doesn’t awaken for the fourth time in the last half an hour. Even now, I am typing with one hand, and rocking said cherub with the other, as sleeping more than 15 minutes did not fit her fancy this evening.

And yes, that’s okay.

I’m not saying that we need to live child-centered lives all the time because I don’t think that is healthy. I know I desperately need that grown up time and quiet time for my sanity (it’s amazing…some days toward the end of lunch and right before naptime I am thinking….”ahhhhhhh!!!! I’m going to kill them!!!!!!!”…twoish hours later I am saying…”awww…come here! Did you have a good nap?” Breaks are important!!!!) What I am saying though, is that my mindset is vastly different than Jesus when I view kids as an annoyance or interruption.

“People were bringing the little children to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant and told them, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them! For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (mark 10:13-15).”

I love this passage. It challenges me so very much. In the midst of Jesus’ busy preaching, healing, and world changing ministry, he was not too busy for kids. In fact, he was deeply frustrated that the disciples would think to turn them away! He not only paused to love and pray for them, but he lifted them up as an example to all of us of how to approach God. Humble. Trusting. Enthusiastically. Kids teach us so much and I have much to still learn. I want to grow to see more and more clearly the great gift in having my days surrounded with kids. Do you remember the WWJD (what would Jesus do?) fad? I think I need that a little more throughout my day.

WWJD when blessed (doesn’t feel like a blessing at the time!) with yet another correctional/teaching moment for the hour?

WWJD when I hear the chair scrapping up beside me at the stove because my daughter wants to help me with dinner, but I don’t want to be slowed down?

WWJD when something of mine is carelessly broken and I look down at a little face and make the choice between a gracious response or a frustrated one?

WWJD when I want to just hurry through bedtime routine, but I recognize that my child is longing for a little extra attention?

wwjd when my shift key barely works anymore because kids keep touching the computer even though i tell them a million times a week not to touch it? just kidding. but seriously. 😉

I think it is time for me to revisit the  WWJD fad or remember the verse painted on the canvas in my living room…” Imitate God in everything you do because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ (Ephesians 5:1-2).”

In this season of life, loving little children is my job description most of waking hours. But, it is a good job. And I am thankful that Jesus will continue to patiently teach me how to be more like Him as I continue down the journey of motherhood.

 

 

Lessons from Room 104

I verbally prepared my two-and-a-half year old in the car.

“We are going to a home where Grandma’s and Grandpa’s live.”

“Grandma’s and Grandpa’s?!”

“Yep! Some are sick and some are sad. We are going there to cheer them up…make them happy.”

“Make em happy?”

“Uh huh. We are going to be Jesus’ hands to give hugs to sad people and say hello to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s that are sick or lonely. We are going to talk to a lady named Jenny.”

The dialogue went back and forth several more times in the nature that it does with two year old’s. Lots of questions. Lots of repetition. Lots of excitement.

I am going to be honest. As nice of an idea as it sounds to take your kids to a nursing home during thanksgiving weekend, it wasn’t written in my plans. I had planned on eating lots of food, giving Aurora and Nadia lots of time with extended family, and us continuing the tradition of helping Grandpa and Grandma Faust cut down the Christmas tree for their house. I had planned the making of Christmas cookies, the painting of two Christmas canvas’, and watching a Christmas movie. A majority of this did end up happening, but as all of us know about life, plans change.

In the midst of the joy and fun of the three days we stayed with family, there were also heavy, hard moments. Moments of sitting around the Thanksgiving table hearing families share about blessing, but also deep sorrow. Quietly drinking coffee with a hurting elderly woman while listening to her share about the loss of a loved one the night before. More coffee, more listening to stories of poorly run nursing homes, struggles with illness, and the last breaths of souls on this side of eternity. A sudden phone call springing a waterfall of tears to a loving teacher who had just learned about the third student death in the school’s Senior class that year. Tissues were passed, prayers spoken, and life continued on. The days passed with a dance of sorrow and joy. We watched kids play, cooked food, and danced with babies. We also sat with hurting people, struggled with difficult questions, and continuously lifted treasured people on our minds to our God who ultimately was in control.

Which brings me to that car ride talking to my daughter.

It was the last day that we would be with family before driving home late Saturday night. My mother-and-law, Teresa, and I were about to visit the family’s dog groomer, Jenny, that often asked about me and the kids. We hadn’t been able to make the time to visit her house the last time or two that Brian and I were in town, so I wanted to make it high priority to stop by to chat.Teresa decided to give Jenny a quick call to let her know we were coming over and I began putting on coats and grabbing toys for the kids to take along.

Teresa broke the next set of unexpected news to me of the weekend.

“Jenny isn’t home anymore. She had a stroke in October and is now in a nursing home.”

The visit felt even more urgent now. Life on this earth is so short and eternity is so very long. We prayed on the ride over asking God to give us wisdom to know what to say or not say, and how to love her well. I then started preparing Aurora and getting her excited to love the people we would run into.

The four of us walked down the quiet hallways and said hello to a nurse or two, and a woman in a wheelchair before finding room 104. We came in quietly, but cheerfully as I prompted Aurora to say hello. She welcomed us excitedly, but we very quickly realized two things. First, that she was doing much worse than we expected. Second, that she had no idea who we were. Praise God for kids. If it were only for small talk, the visit would have been much shorter and a touch more awkward. Nadia filled the role of the quiet sleeping baby to admire. Aurora filled the role of never letting things get too quiet. Or boring. As they had over and over again during the past few days, they instantly brought sunshine wherever they were…well, most of the time. 😉 Kids just bring joy.

Part way through the visit when we were running out of things to say and Aurora was getting bored, I pulled out the book I had brought along. Both of my girls were by her on the little bed as I held out the pages for all to see. She gently played with Aurora’s hair as she encouraged Aurora to make all the sounds in the book. “This is the best entertainment I’ve had all day!” We read it twice. Then I asked Aurora if she wanted to sing a song and she immediately said her favorite, “Jesus!” (Jesus Loves Me). ABC’s, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and other classics followed. When the time came around to leave, I asked if it would be okay to pray with her and if she had any requests. She readily accepted and thanked us afterward with a large smile. I then chased Aurora around as she looked for other “Grandpa’s and Grandma’s” to say hi too. When we returned 5 minutes later with a meticulously colored snowman from a gentleman we chatted with, Teresa had gotten Jenny to a table to eat some lunch, and we proceeded to give last goodbye hugs.

Teresa assured Jenny that she would visit again soon, and I resolved in my heart that this would not be the last time my girls would see the inside of a nursing home. In fact, I promptly did an online search for the worst nursing home in our home town and made the goal to visit with the kids at least once a season. By God’s grace, I truly want to follow through with this. Regardless of what happens in the future though, in room 104 of that nursing home, and throughout the thanksgiving weekend, I was reminded of how often joy and sadness dance together through life.

The verse that came to mind was Ecclesiastes 7:2…

“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart (NIV).”

Let’s be real. Ecclesiastes isn’t the most uplifting book of the Bible. If not taken in context with the rest of Scripture it can be a real downer at points. And I have always felt that way with the above verse. But then I realized something. A realization of death or the harder aspects of life should not cause us to become depressed, but to make the most of our life. To enjoy the beautiful parts a little more. To hug our kids a little tighter. Love people a little better. To not give into despair when life is difficult, but to treasure the good moments because life is so short and precious.

Life is precious. Although I still continue to pray for the people on my heart that I interacted with this last weekend, I am also thankful for the lesson. God is present in the midst of the hard, and the hard makes us treasure the good even more. Life is precious.

 

 

Sunshine.

It was just another week in the life of being a mom.

Changing diapers. Making meals. Kissing hurt toes. Playing doctor. Searching the house for the special cup hidden in the most unlikely spot. The normal stuff.

Then I got all four kids buckled into car seats to go to a play date and the van didn’t start. Again. (we have now invested into a kind of traveling jumper pack because who knows what is up with this van! haha). Then the water heater wouldn’t light and after consulting a professional learned that the entire thing would need to be replaced. Then the kids were more clingy than usual. Fighting more than usual. Driving me a bit more bonkers than usual.

Cue Wednesday (I think! haha) afternoon…

Three kids were crying in different rooms of the house. I had exhausted my normal techniques of keeping the peace. My responses were starting to get more snippy and impatient. In that moment surrounded by tears and tantrums all I wanted to do was give up and plug in a kids movie. Now pause for a second. I am not about to say that using movies or other media is bad. I think they can be a great tool in moderation. I love playing spanish music/Jesus music/BabyBum, almost always put on a kids show in the 30 minutes before lunch, and we do a movie every Friday. Sometimes something to watch and calm down to is a great “reset” button for everyone. I don’t believe media is a terrible thing to use occasionally. Okay, unpause. In that moment of chaos around me though, something within me was fighting the urge to just give up and put on that kids movie I wanted to. For some reason I knew God was calling me to something different. Better.

So, I did what I felt I had no energy to do. I prepared four kids to go on a walk. Shoes. Snack. Nadia in carrier. Jackets. Everyone out the door. And then we walked. We crunched through leaves. We talked kid talk. I passed around pieces of fruit to my baby birdies. When we reached the park, the kids ran loose to play in the sunshine. And as I sat down and snuggled with my baby and watched the kids play, I thanked God. I thanked God for their laughter and for the warm light in their hair. I thanked God for climbing legs, brave slide goers, and imaginary mulch campfires. Most of all though, I thanked God for giving me the strength to do what was harder, but what was so much better. As I hug a blanket on this cold afternoon, I am so glad that we took that walk. The rest of the day wasn’t perfect. (In fact, we ended up just relaxing and watching something when we got back to more quickly pass the time until my babysitting kids’ mom came). But, I am warmed with the memory of kid’s laughter and sunshine and am so glad I didn’t rob us of that time in order to do what was easier.

So many things in life are like that. Often, the things that are most worthwhile take the most effort. Is it easier to surf Facebook for a few minutes or write a note of encouragement to my hubby? Is it easier to put on some music and encourage the kids to dance or to get up and twirl and jump around with them? And when it comes to my relationship with God, a vibrant relationship takes effort. It takes skipping the things that give immediate gratification sometimes to draw near to God. Making the choice to give the “first fruits” of naptime to Him feels like a sacrifice some days. Quieting my mind enough to actually pray and focus on Him takes time. Memorizing scripture takes effort. But just like that afternoon in the sunshine was worth the extra push, so is being intimately close with the Creator of the universe. It is a beautiful privilege. Some days I put in the effort, some days I don’t. And God’s love and grace is there both days. But, oh how I want to walk more closely with Him more often!

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:5).”