Sunday, September 29, 2013

"more of" ... a 31 day challenge for parents

so, i'm curious ... what is one thing you could do more of for your children?

let me first tell you what i think your answer isn't going to be ...

it isn't going to be...
   more laundry.
   more meals.
   more money.
   more treats.
   more driving.
   more privilege.
   more movies.
   more trips to the mall.

am i right?

i'm pretty sure none of you were tempted to go down one of those paths. for the most part, we already do an awful lot for our kids. we give them an awful lot -- perhaps, at times, even too much.

no, i'm not sure my kids need more of anything at the moment ... i mean clean laundry and healthy meals are good things, but if i had to be selective, i can't say i'd put them at the very top of my list.

now, i'm not assuming we all think exactly alike, but i have a hunch that a few of you might have answered you would like to pray more for your children ... maybe even pray more with your children.

so maybe it was just a few of you or maybe it was most of you ... regardless, i bet some of you do want to pray more.

funny! because lately, that's been on my heart too! (so glad we're talking here today).

perhaps it's because i have five of them, and somedays praying for (or with) five kids takes an awful long time -- we have a boatload of issues and needs to address in our household ... but, truly, i think it's mostly just a parenthood thing. doesn't really matter if you have two children or twenty, you probably would like to be better about bringing them before God's throne. because regardless of the number of children in your home, they all pretty much need to be prayed for. now, if you do happen to have 20 children shuffling around under your roof and calling you mom, please let me know, and sister i will add YOU to my prayer list for sure!

so, i have an idea:  (that phrase always worries my children) how about we do that! how about we join together and pray for our kids?

we are about to flip the calendar to a brand new month -- october! (my personal favorite). what if we all virtually come together, bow our heads, kneel before Him and cover our kids in prayer.

what if we even call it something special like a 31 day prayer challenge?

what if we make a commitment and even put our name on it? i don't want to stress you out, but maybe we even write it down! make it real ... draw our line in the dirt ... stake Christ's claim on our kids.

what if?

now before you slam your laptop shut and run away shrieking ...  just think about it.

consider joining with me this month and committing to a focused 31 days of prayer for our kiddos. i know commitment is hard. i get it. lately, i have a hard time committing myself to a one-a-day vitamin. i understand. but it really won't be between you and me ... it's between you and God. and it's for your kids ... and what's more, it works!

i mean, i don't know about you, but i could use a little revival in my house this month. i've got some kids (and they've got a mother) who need a little bit of prayer intervention. you know what i'm saying?  i'm hearing the grumbling, i'm watching the resistance, i'm aware of the attitude and i'm sensing the self-centeredness ... and i'm talking about me as much as i'm talking about them.

bottom line: i'm looking for God to do a holy work in this home. and i wouldn't mind some company if your'e willing to come along. whether you have a three year old or a 43 year old, i bet you still want to pray for your child.

i'll say it again, i am looking for God to do a holy work in this home. and after 17 years of parenting, i am more convinced than ever it doesn't begin with me and my mother-power, it begins with prayer and God's power.

many years ago, i read stormie omartian's book, the power of a praying parent. it's definitely up in the top of five of my must-reads for parenthood. half my book is underlined from my time spent in its pages. this gal may have a crazy kind of name, but, believe me, she's got some really good stuff to share ... she writes:

I believe that being a parent is becoming more and more difficult each year because of what our children are exposed to and bombarded with everywhere they turn. But we don't have to be worried sick, dreading what is around the corner, or fearing the worst. We don't have to be tossed to and fro by every new stage and age and trend and fad. We have the power to make a big difference in our children's lives through prayer. That doesn't mean we abdicate our responsibilities as parents. It means we partner with God to raise our children as we pray for every aspect of their lives.

Praying for our children doesn't mean that nothing will ever go wrong in their lives. But when it does, we don't have to beat ourselves up for not being perfect parents. Besides, it's not being a perfect parent that makes the difference in a child's life, for there are no perfect parents. It's being a praying parent that makes a big difference. And that's something we can all be."

so, would you join me?

i know somedays we are all so busy "doing" for our kids, we forget to stop and pray for them. if you asked me which is more important, i would surely answer you: prayer! but, even knowing (and believing) that text book answer, doesn't mean i am good at it.

i kneel every day to empty the washing machine or to tie a shoelace or scratch something sticky off my kitchen floor but do i truly remember to kneel every day on behalf of my children?

is it more important for them to be covered in clean clothes or to be covered in holy prayer? we all know the answer ... but somedays it's hard to put down the chores and rise up to the challenge. it's as choice. but i know how it works (at least in my home):   somedays we choose to handle it ourselves instead of handing it over to Him.

my plan is simple ...

each day i will post a PRAYER WORD on my even the sparrow facebook page  (please join me there if you haven't already). i will post one word and a scripture verse to go along with it. i'm sure that word might mean something different for each of you ... or even for each of your children. it's just a prompt. that's all. i am not promising anything here except a simple and committed prompt to pray ... God takes care of the rest. that's His department, not mine. (a-men)!

i'd love to hear from you. leave a comment. leave your favorite verse on prayer. let me know how it's going ... or just leave your name and a smiley face or a cute emoji and i'll pray for you as you pray for your kids. and feel free to pass this along to a friend or two.  let's see what happens in this harvest month of october when we choose daily to pray MORE.

"devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” ~ colossians 4:2
october prayer topics for our kids ....  heart * gratitude * character * gentleness *   peace * self-control * friendships * dreams *  health * generosity * patience * attitude * purity * confidence * boldness *  wisdom * unity * perseverance * joy * righteousness * future *  compassion * truth * willingness * humility *  love * prayer * passion * rest * contentment *  excellence

"and this is the confidence that we have toward Him, 
that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us.
 ~ 1 john 5:14 

again, here's the link to my facebook page where i'll be posting daily prayer prompts in this month of october. join me there or click on the following link which will also be updated daily with the prompts from my blog.

OR you can check out THIS POST which i'll update each day with new prayer prompts here on the blog! 

as my 5 year old likes to say, "easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy!"

Thursday, September 26, 2013

our new friend, phyllis

her name tag said phyllis.

but i didn't notice that at first. when you're at the supermarket and a woman steps from behind the deli counter and approaches you ... her name tag isn't the first thing you notice.

but phyllis was headed directly for me.

let me back up a minute. just prior to the advance of this deli counter-woman named phyllis, bella was running out ahead of my cart. i hadn't quite cleared the produce aisle and little miss had already turned the corner, camping out in front of a beanie babies display. a display which just happened to be across from the deli counter.

think grocery store layout ... you get it.

anyway, bella was rummaging through the beanie babies at the speed of an obsessed five year old. she was picking out one after another and clutching them closely to her chest.  and before i even reached her she was already begging.

"puuullleeeasseee mama... puuullleeeasssee, mom, can i get one. puuullleeeasssee!"

begging doesn't even begin to explain the full court press my kindergartner was laying on me.

beginning my hunt in the cheese section for the right sized wheel of brie, i barely glanced up, "no bella. no stuffed animals today."

"puuullleeeeaaase mama!"

"i said no bella. we have too many stuffed animals at our house as it is.  you don't need another one honey. now please go put it back."

"but mama ..."

"---no, bella. that's final." 

you know the scene. you've probably witnessed it a a couple hundred times yourself. it happens every day in grocery stores all across america, right? kids whining for candy bars and packs of gum and beanie babies. beanie babies??? what are beanie babies doing in the grocery store anyway???

she stomped back toward the beanie baby display with her stuffed ladybug swinging at her side. her chin at her chest, her arms crossed in dismay, and her shoulders slumped in complete disappointment -- her mama had said no.

that was when i saw phyllis heading my way.

"excuse me," she said approaching, "but would you let me buy her the stuffed animal?"

honestly, i just stared at her. it took a good minute or so to comprehend what she was asking.

was the lunchmeat lady from behind the counter really asking me if she could purchase a stuffed ladybug for my daughter? i felt confused. muddled. unsure.

why was she offering?

"you see," she went on to say, "i have $5 in my pocket and i would really like to buy that  for her. it would bring me joy to get that stuffed animal for your little girl. i like to do this from time to time..." she faltered for a second, "it ... it... blesses me."

i was speechless.

i kind of wanted to say no -- just for the fact that  bella was doing her very best to continue her almighty pout and protest over at that rack of stuffed critters. i shouldn't give in. she didn't deserve this nice lady's offer.

not to mention this sweet woman who worked at the deli didn't need to be spending that $5 in her pocket. i wanted to encourage her to save it for her break. buy herself a coffee or a soda or an ice cream. she didn't need to do this for my little girl with a bedroom full of beanie babies ... my little girl who from the level of her pout clearly hadn't been told "no" enough.

but phyllis looked me right in the eyes and said, "please. would you please allow me? it would bring me joy."

and looking into the eyes of this woman, there was nothing i could say except --- "yes."

" yes, that is very kind of you. yes, you don't have to do this for her, but yes, we accept your gift. it is very sweet. very generous."

i stumbled over my words.

i was overwhelmed with her kindness.

i was awkward in my gratitude.

i did my best to make sure bella knew that this lady that we didn't even really know was doing something exceptionally nice for her. and we hadn't even ordered one slice of lunchmeat!

i'm sure i asked bella to say thank you to miss phyllis no less than 15 times.

i just didn't know how to graciously accept this unexpected, undeserved, unmerited gift.

because sometimes we don't.

we just don't know how to accept something which is freely given.

kind of like with Christ.

He has this amazing gift of grace for us ... eternal life, in fact ...and we dance around awkwardly thinking, "i don't need it ... everything's pretty okay here ... i can purchase it myself ... i don't need any help ... i don't deserve it ... why me? ... nothing is for free ... what's the catch?"

that's kind of how we feel about God's gifts sometimes, isn't it? because grace is exactly that -- unexpected. undeserved and absolutely 100% unmerited.

that's what makes it grace! beautiful catch-me-off-guard-at-the-deli-counter-grace!

"for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  ~ romans 6:23

"for by grace you have been saved through faith. and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God."  ~ ephesians 2:8

pretty amazing, huh?

so, i just had to share this story tonight.

nothing better than meeting a new friend at the meat counter ...

nothing better than being reminded of beanie babies ... free gifts ... and grace.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

basically blind {grace-words-wednesday}

it seems that overnight i've gone blind.

but, before i elaborate on that unfortunate situation, let me back up a few decades, because the story really begins there.

i think i was 11 or 12 when it became clear that glasses were necessary. i was excited for about one month. because, after all, when you're 11 or 12 it's fun to have something new or different. it's fun to be special.

funny how all that changes by age 13 -- that magic age of wanting just to be normal. average. ordinary. sometimes, even a little invisible.

because when i crossed into the not-so-sacred-place called teenager, i was sporting not only spectacles, but had also added to my facial landscape some good-old-fashioned acne. i'm not going to lie, it was a little rough for a while.

thankfully though, that was the time when the farah fawcett hairstyle hit the scene and i was able to turn all my teenage beauty angst into creating the perfect feathered, not to mention massive, locks. it took up quite a bit of my time. leaving me fewer minutes to dwell (obsess, really) over my skin and eyesight issues.

plus, i realized there was a silver lining to my lack of vision. if i took off my glasses before looking into the mirror, the acne sort of disappeared a little. the blemishes softened and i was instantaneously airbrushed.

yes, you can just imagine the pathetic teen girl staring (for hours) into the mirror at her fuzzy, pre-pubescent face.

in 2 corinthians 5:7 paul instructs us to "live by faith, not by sight." but he wasn't talking about the insecure girl who chose to walk around sometimes without her glasses. he wasn't talking about the vain teenager gazing into the bathroom mirror and liking better the blurry version of herself.

he isn't talking about that, but he is encouraging us to take our eyes off the temporal things - the little things we like to stare hard at which get in the way of the big picture. the acne went away (for the most part). and the glasses (thank heavens) got replaced with contact lenses.

those things were temporary.

but, for a period of time, i made a really big deal about them.

like i said earlier  --- i obsessed. in my defense, it's kind of what teenage girls, on occasion, are prone to do. you understand...

but, looking back, it is clear (at least now it is clear) i wasn't looking at the bigger picture of what God was doing in my life. at 13 and 14 i wasn't seeing much of anything with spiritual eyes, but instead, was scrutinizing and agonizing with my self-focused, earthly eyes.

now, i'm not recommending that we walk around half-blind. whether you're a teenager dealing with acne or a middle-aged woman dealing with wrinkles, i'll never encourage you to forego your glasses. you might not see the blemish or the wrinkle, but chances are, you'll also miss a few other key things ... like the door or the curb or (heaven forbid) the exit ramp.

i'm not suggesting we go blind, but i do want to challenge us to go better -- to choose our spiritual eyes.

we can focus with our earthly lenses on the little things in life, or we can back up a bit and focus with our faith.

when we don't choose the big picture through the perfect lens of Jesus, all we are left with is the small stuff through the flawed lens of ourselves. and friends, it's limited. and it's exactly why we can't get around the nitty-gritty details of our day. it's why we spin our wheels and worry and work and clamor and clutch hard at the insignificant stuff.

we are only seeing what's in front of our faces. we are focused not on faith in Him, but on our infatuation with our world.

i'm about to turn 45, and guess what? my eyesight hasn't improved!

in fact, where i was only near sighted at age 13, i am now neither near sighted nor far sighted. basically i am no sighted. kind of depressing if i think too much about it. now days, if i want to wear my contact lenses, i have to also keep handy my new, snazzy "readers" for the small print or detail. i know y'all are thinking "good grief, go get some lasik surgery, jody!"

someday, my eyes will be whole and my sight will be perfect. right now though, i struggle. i go back and forth between obsessing over the earthly things and striving to see the eternal.

when Jesus comes into our lives, He brings with Him new vision -- a new way of looking at life -- brand spanking new perspective! the bible tells us He literally gives us new sight!

"then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly." ~mark 8:25

but keep in mind, it's a process. we have new sight, but, because we are still sinful, we don't always choose to use our new vision. we still struggle with our natural instinct to rely on our own weak eyes. there's just something still in us that longs to look at the little stuff...even the stupid stuff.
"so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 corinthians 4:18
but wait a minute, that's nice and everything, but how do we do this?
"looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith..." ~ hebrews 12:2
we look to Jesus. when we find ourselves focusing on the ugly details of the day -- whether it be acne or those little annoyances -- we need to take off our earthly glasses and "look unto Jesus." not because He doesn't want us to see our sin, but because He wants more for us to see our Savior's face.

turn your eyes upon Jesus,
look full in His wonderful face
and the things of this world
will grow strangely dim
in the light of His glory and grace.

{grace-words: sight*new*eternal*vision*restored*faith}

Jesus, we long to see you. in the midst of this week, in the mess of our lives, in the middle of the mundane ... help us to put aside our earthly eyes. this limited vision which trip us up and keep us from focusing on your greater good. Lord, thank you for the new sight you've already given ... help us to put on our spiritual glasses in all things. we want to see clearly with the eyes of  you, Jesus. a-men.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

please come visit!

hey there even-the-sparrow friends ~

just wanted to let you know i started a facebook page for my blog (finally). you can click on this link:  even-the-sparrow-facebook-page ... and it should take you there. if it doesn't work (because sometimes technical things just don't work --- for me) ... you can click on the link in the upper right hand corner.

i'd love for you to "like" it and join me there.

i'll be using this page to post my writing, scripture, photography and ideas.

i'll also be posting a weekly devotional each wednesday: grace-words-on-wednesday.

please, stop by and say hello!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

sweet sixteen

i was informed recently that boys don't have sweet sixteens.

i beg to differ.

i mean i know all that stuff about girls being "sugar and spice and everything nice ..."  and boys being made of "frogs and snails and puppy-dogs' tails." i get that. i, too, am familiar with the old, 19th century nursery rhyme, and perhaps there's an argument here -- depends, i'm sure, on the day you ask me. because let's be clear, though i love my girls, the "sugar and spice and everything nice," thing doesn't always perfectly fit the females in our house either.

but this past weekend, our boy had a birthday. he turned 16. and i have to tell you, it was sweet.

his dad and i couldn't be more proud of him. i don't care if he's rough and tumble and even sometimes smells like fish, this boy is sweet. sinful, for sure, but he really does have a tender heart.

of course he has some ugly moments -- we all do. but on this weekend, we are celebrating one of God's richest gifts -- a child who is growing into a young man pursuing the things of Christ.

nothing, and i mean nothing --- not even a pair of super cute shoes -- brings me greater joy.

not when he gets an A on a test or scores a goal in his soccer game.

not even when he says "yes mam" or takes out the trash without being asked.

i love this kid's heart. it's something pretty special.

when Jesus lives there, the sweet fragrance of His love covers even the stinkiest kid ... even the boy with fish guts under his fingernails. that's what He's doing for tyler ... that's what He does for all of us when we invite Him in.

"walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us,
 an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling fragrance." ephesians 5:2

i have captured his quick 16 years of childhood in a a short (one song, i promise) video. honestly, though, i am just as excited to see what God's going to do with him, in him, and through him in these next 16 years.

happy sweet 16 ty! you are a blessing and we love you!

Monday, September 16, 2013

and there's not a darn thing you can do about it ...

many moons ago, before there were kids running around our house, rick and i had dogs. two, to be exact. two big dogs, to be even more exact.  -- no surprise there, i'm sure.

meet bailey and her pup, madison.

madison                                                       bailey
adorable, right?

and oh how i loved them.
and oh how i loved photographing them.

then emily came along ... and guess what? i loved her too! and, what's more, i loved photographing her! a baby, i assure you, was even more fun to dress up and photograph than my dogs ... imagine that.

(clearly, we liked hats).

i even photographed all three of them together!

keep in mind this was long before digital photography. long before i had the ability to evaluate what my camera had captured. this meant after somewhat-blindly shooting a roll of film, i would drop off my little black canisters and be forced to wait a week before knowing what kind of pictures i actually had. each picture counted. because each picture cost money. you paid for every photo in that paper envelope regardless of how good or how bad the quality. and let me tell you, there were always more bad than good.

because sometimes you have to wait a little to see how things turn out.

kind of like parenting.

i guess that appears incredibly archaic to me now ... now we take a gazillion pictures and it costs virtually nothing --- well, sort of nothing. (let's pretend we aren't including the cost of our snazzy digital cameras). now when i snap a picture my littlest one hurries over to me, tugs on my arm and asks me to show her the LCD screen on my camera. she knows she can view the image immediately. she even knows how to push the correct buttons to scroll through the photos.

things have changed.

it seems excruciating to my girls (my boys never seem to care very much) to have to wait even five minutes while i go load the photos onto my macbook. i can't hardly explain to them how it "used to be." they look at me blankly when i tell them i once used film.

"film? what's film?" 

film which required me to stop into a store, fill out an envelope and wait several days for processing. film which required not only processing, but a good dose of patience.

like parenting.

my girls can't quite process that concept. they're like, "mom, but why didn't you just use your iphone then?" perhaps i am exaggerating a wee bit, but you get the idea.

times have changed.

i mean, we still have two big dogs and i still take a gazillion pictures, but other things ...

like that first born girl ... she's changed. a lot. and that thought, my friends, seems even harder for this mama to process than those old vials of film. the little girl who i used to dress up and prop up and photograph (like it was the only thing i had to do in the world) ... well, i blinked, and that first born is now a senior in high school.

and it doesn't much matter if i'm taking her picture with film or with digital photography ... because i don't need pictures to tell me she's grown up.

last weekend it really hit me. my dear friend, diana, emily and i headed for downtown minneapolis to shoot her senior pictures. emily wanted "something different." (of course she did). we all liked the idea of a cool, urban setting. three peas in a pod we were traipsing around in 95 degree heat. all of us enthusiastic though and up for the adventure ... even at one point climbing into an abandoned warehouse just because it had a cool fire escape! and it was fun. not stressful at all. we laughed and joked our way through the hot-as-blazes-day. we were all in our element. diana is amazing behind the camera and em was amazing in front of the camera. i, like a good mother, did my job pretty well too,  holding outfit changes, lipgloss, powder and water bottles ... while cheering them both on! i also had to work at holding back a few tears when i watched my girl getting her picture taken. she was wearing the wedding pearls rick gave me 23 years ago.

when your husband gives you pearls on your wedding day, you just can't imagine your teenage daughter asking to borrow them for her senior photos one day. i mean, you just can't....

but there she was in her jean jacket, cowgirl boots and my wedding pearls ... and at one point i couldn't bare to watch, so i counted cars passing by. really, i did. i was determined not to cry onto the blue silk blouse of her next wardrobe change...

more has changed than how we process film. and i am no closer to wrapping my brain around this passage of time than my girls are in understanding archaic photography.

it just happens.

even when you're looking, it happens.

i never looked away. really, i didn't. Lord knows i've kept my girl right in front of that camera lens for the past 17 years. right in the center of my viewfinder ... right in the middle of my mama-beating heart.

but somehow ... she grew up anyway.

and there's not a darn thing i can do about it except embrace the change,  embrace the moments, and, more than anything, embrace the girl.

because she's not only grown, but she's going to be gone in less than a year. and those of you with kids who have already flown the coop, you know... you know what i'm about to face. you know the emotional current running underneath everything she does in this final year of high school -- every bowl of cereal at my kitchen counter, every volleyball match, every late night talk on the porch, every prayer whispered by her bed, every hug, every time i hear her singing in her room, every time she asks my opinion on a hairstyle or outfit, even every load of her laundry ... you know the bittersweet mixture of pride and joy and fear and excitement and grief.

you know the heaviness of my heart and the sound of my sighs ...

she says to me all the time, "mom, don't cry. you know i don't like it when you or dad cry."  of course she doesn't.  and of course, i am careful. and of course some times when i'm in the middle of watching her, i have to turn away and count cars ... you know it.

and so we do our best to capture, to embrace and to begin letting go ...

i've heard it said that motherhood is a continual letting go. from the time our babies leave our bodies we are required to release. we pray for that to be gentle ... and sometimes it is. when we walk our child into their kindergarten classroom and the sweet teacher is waiting with open arms and a big smile, we know she's in good hands and she's going to be just fine.

but sometimes it isn't. like the times when we drop off our child and we're not quite sure. like when we just have to wait and see how things will turn out.

last year, when we moved to minnesota, i had a moment like that with emily. our plane landed and 3 hours later she had to walk into an unknown gym, meet an unknown team and perform in a pre-season scrimmage for an unknown coach. she didn't know a soul. she was 16 and she had just stepped foot into minnesota.

she played in the scrimmage that night like a deer in the headlights. i stood off to the side of the gym with a lump in my throat, knowing this was one of those hard "letting go" moments of motherhood.

i'll never forget that hot night in the gym knowing i couldn't do a thing for her. she was on her own. she would have to sink or swim and all i could do was be there.

we don't know where emily will end up for college next year, but i am pretty sure, that lump in my throat will be there the day we leave her in her dorm room and hug her good-bye ... i'm pretty sure i'll have to look away and count cars or count something ...

but i'm also pretty sure, this is all a part of the motherhood-blessing.  the holding, the releasing ... the providing, the pushing ... the savoring and the surrendering.

and though we might do our best to capture a million moments with our cameras, we must ultimately learn to let go.

processing...patience...prayer ... and then, letting go.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

an adoption story

every now and then i come across a story which tugs at my heart.

i bet that happens to you also.

i know we can't contribute to every fundraiser and every financial situation and every friend in need ... i mean, i wish we could. because heaven knows there are lots of opportunities to come alongside someone -- there are lots of people in need.

heaven knows, many of us have been that family in need. sometimes it's about money. sometimes it's about more.

mark and mindy's story is like that.

mark and mindy had plans for a family. dreams.  but after many years of infertility and various treatments their desire for biological children seemed more an impossibility than a dream.

they began to look into adoption, something which mindy always had a heart for.

they made a decision to be done with the infertility treatments and move on to the adoption process. after saving diligently, mark and mindy were able to completely pay for their son's adoption in 2009.  they joyfully brought isaac home at three days old.

and they rejoiced!

this couple with dreams for children soon became even more convinced that adoption was God's intended plan for their family. some believe that for couples dealing with infertility issues adoption is a "plan b" approach or a lesser opportunity to become parents. like, "well, if this doesn't work, you can always adopt, right?" believe it or not, i've heard that a time or two.

but that wasn't the case with mindy and mark. it might be different in method, but it was just as much a part of God's perfect provision as having them the old fashioned way. and really, truly adopted children are just as much our children as biological children. i know some people have a hard time believing that ... trust me, though, it's true.

recently when i was writing about our own family i made the comment that we had four children naturally and one supernaturally.  i think that fits perfectly! and there's just nothing secondary or "lesser" about that.

so mark and mindy decided to move forward one more time. another domestic adoption was on the horizon. after waiting for over two years, they were finally chosen by a birth mom. the situation was complicated and there were some concerns, but nonetheless, they went forward with the adoption. and on december 18th, mindy was in the delivery room when their baby girl, ava rose, was born. they brought her home in time for christmas and they rejoiced in the gifts of these two beautiful children. mark and mindy and isaac welcomed this little dark haired beauty into their arms and they became a precious family of four.

except that four months later, the birth father dramatically disrupted the adoption. ava rose was taken from them and returned to the birth mother.

can you imagine? can you imagine this family's devastation?

mark's sister, lynne, (my dear friend), wrote this:
 "The heartbreak was crazy... like a death.  We were all reeling when it ended the way it did. That was in April.  Since then M and M have been so faithful to trust the Lord to bring good out of this incredibly painful situation. They have really been grieving, but through their grief wondered when they would be ready to have their profile shown again by their agency. Just when they had decided maybe they would call and tell the agency to go ahead, they got a call saying they had been chosen.  It's much quicker than they were thinking... but sometimes God's timing is that way!
mark and mindy were surprised when the agency called them this summer and said another birth mother had chosen them. would they consider? YES! they are thrilled to be matched again and confident God is leading them back down this path. though vulnerable and a little fearful, they are trusting in the perfect timing of their heavenly Father. they trusted God's plan in their infertility, in their first adoption, in the loss of ava rose, and now they are stepping boldly into that humble place of complete trust once again.

here's the deal though, friends: adopting babies takes money. we all know the natural way is much less expensive. but adoptions require big funds. and for this sweet family, they had already used the money saved on the adoption of ava rose -- the adoption which didn't happen.

now, this new baby is due in october and that doesn't give them much time to come up with the money needed.

mark, mindy and isaac would love to move forward in this new adoption, but they are in need of support. i don't know how much or how little you could give ... but, as a friend to this family, i would love to ask you to pray about it and consider. 

i write a lot in this blog about children. sometimes i write about the inconvenience of children and the weariness of motherhood. yes, that's reality, but stories like this one make me ashamed of those feelings.

children are a precious gift from God.

i can't explain why He chooses for some of us to have them easily and uneventfully, while others have to struggle financially and physically to become parents.  i don't get that. it doesn't make sense to me, but, i assure you,  it is one of the questions on my when-i-get-to-heaven list! 

mark and mindy desperately want this baby. they need some help to quickly come up with the funds for this adoption. would you take a look at the fundraising page and prayerfully consider? some of us are called to adopt children. some of us are called to pray. some of us are called to help provide the funds. all of us are called to something.

 please take a minute and click on:  erdmann adoption

children are a gift 
of the Lord ~ psalm 127:3

Sunday, September 8, 2013

the day i cried in my closet (some thoughts from a stay-at-home-mom)

i taught my last english class 16 years ago. i loved teaching high school. in fact, i was one of those strange people who actually loved teaching high schoolers.

yes. yes, really.

but after our second born, tyler, hit the scene, the chance came for me to stay home full time.
and i did.

and i have never regretted that decision. not once.

not even on those days when the baby was crying and the toddlers were clinging and the dog was, at that very moment, Lord have mercy, stealing my lunch right off the kitchen counter.

i never regretted staying home, but it wasn't always easy -- especially when the children were really young. there were days. oh, let me tell you friend ... there.were.days.

though much of it remains a blur, i do remember in those early years hitting the wall a time or two (or twenty ...).  one day in particular stands out in my motherhood memory. it was just after our third child, sarah, was born. i was in that supremely idyllic season of breast feeding the newborn, potty training the toddler and trying to keep the mischievous first born alive in the midst of incessant blouse unbuttoning, training pants removing and diaper changing.

you get the picture, right?

i hadn't lost the baby weight, i hadn't figured out how to successfully operate three children on limited sleep, and i hadn't had a chance to shower much that week. it's easy to see some traces of desperation around the edges when you add into the equation that i had zero family in town and a husband often on business out of town. on this particular day, it seemed like child number three wasn't going to ever get the hang of this nursing thing, child number two wasn't going to ever stop wetting his pants and child number one, i was convinced, was going to grow up with serious issues of neglect because i was constantly attending to her two needy, younger siblings.

and then there was that dog ... i swear, always eating my lunch off the gosh-darn-counter!

one morning, after snapping wildly at my firstborn (because she didn't understand why i couldn't add finger painting to the afternoon agenda) i climbed into my closet, and with a defeated spirit, a couple of leaky breasts and a big ole flabby stomach, i laid full on the floor and cried my eyes out.

i cried and i cried and i cried.

but i knew in the back of my mind in the back of that closet that even my pathetic breakdown had to be tightly scheduled. the baby was napping, the toddlers camped out in front of a cartoon, and both, said nap and cartoon, were bound to come to an abrupt end any second. i had only a few minutes to spare on some uncontrollable sobbing and my gargantuan self pity before i would have to cowboy up and return to my stay-at-home-mom status.

i would have to go back down those stairs.

as i heaved my tired-mama-body off the floor, i found myself standing in the middle of my "teaching clothes" section of the closet. i am not sure why i still had these outfits, but i did. just in case, i guess -- tucked away in plastic, way in the back, hidden behind my elastic waisted maternity pants and loose fitting dresses. so there i was -- a red-faced, runny-nosed, out of shape stay-at-home mom staring at my size two suits and my cleaned and pressed professional blouses. there i was staring into the face of my former life.

yep, you know it  -- i started to cry all over again.

there was no way my body was ever going to fit back into those suits. and if i did somehow manage to squeeze myself into one, i was certain it would be covered with breast milk, peanut butter and finger paint in about five minutes flat. right?

i felt like such a mess.

i felt like such a mess up.

even on a bad day of teaching school, i still had on cute shoes and a reasonably nice outfit.

but on this bad day of motherhood, i was slightly overweight, barefoot, leaky and hiding out in my closet. (that, by the way, is the other version of "barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen...").

at that moment of feeling like the world's worst mother and a completely lost-cause-kind-of-woman, i remembered (or God reminded me): i had chosen this.

this. this stay at home and stay in the kitchen and stay with the kids and stay by the potty and stay nursing on the couch and stay in my maternity clothes and stay always within an arm's reach ... this.

this is where i chose to stay.
this is where God was allowing me to stay.
this is where God wanted me to stay.

this is where i wanted me to stay.

but there were some days when this just wasn't easy and i needed to be reminded not of my former life and my size two suits, but of my choice.

and of my promise.

years ago, when we decided i would stay home with the kids, i made not only a decision, but i also made a promise. i made a vow that i would be grateful. i would not waste it. i would not take it for granted. i would not live as woman who deserved it, expected it or was entitled to it.

i would see it for what it was ---

a gift.

even on the hardest, messiest, ugliest, dirtiest days ... i would stop in the midst of it all and i would, with open hands and a grateful heart, give thanks.

but some days it was harder than it should have been.

somedays, in fact, i said my "thank yous" with clenched fists and through clenched teeth (which, on somedays, i hadn't found time to brush).

because some days, even when we've been given an amazing gift, it takes more than it should to say thank you. we have to dig deeper than we ever thought possible for those two simple words.

when i was feeling less than grateful, i would literally remind myself that there were other women out there trying to juggle jobs and kids and errands and dinner time. i knew women who wanted desperately to be home with their young ones, but weren't able to swing it for one reason or another.

and there i was struggling to stay home and struggling to say thanks.

since those days of having really young children, things have gotten easier -- physically easier for sure.  i'm still home full time with them and still incredibly grateful. i'm thankful for the chance to kiss my high schoolers good-bye in the morning and i'm thankful to meet my kindergartner at her classroom door each day at noon. i'm thankful to have the opportunity to throw tyler's soccer jersey in the wash when he needs it or to run up to school a left behind lunchbox (not often, but on occasion). i'm thankful to have the opportunity to be in and out and all around the lives of my school-aged children. i'm thankful i can be available and i'm happy to be here.

but still, even now, i need to be reminded.

because after all these years of staying home with my kids, i'll be honest, it is easy to forget that it's a gift. even though the maternity clothes and leaky breasts are long gone, i still sometimes need a reminder. i can feel it deep in my bones. i can sense it seeping out in my actions. i have watched myself, on occasion, teeter on that line of entitlement.

it's in the small things.

it's in the way i just kind of expect things to go my way when the kids head out to school. i kind of expect to have my day to myself. i kind of expect to have control of the outcome...control of the hours.

like they belong to me.

like i've earned it.

like i've put in hard time with young children and now it is my time.

i cringe writing that because i know how ugly it reads.

this past week i had one of those moments. i was sitting in the hair salon with a head full of highlight foils when i got the message from my girlfriend, diana. "school is closing early due to some kind of electrical issue in the building. do you want me to get your kids?"

it was 9:30 in the morning. i should have had hours. but instead i had a head full of foils and only a handful of minutes -- my kids were heading back home. soon.

this wasn't my plan for the day.we were just coming off a three day weekend and i was really looking forward to just a little bit of uninterrupted time. i had a list.

and i'll admit,  my first thought was not about the safety of my children, but about the state of my highlighted hair. (don't judge). just to be clear here, from my friend's text, i knew the children were safe ... i didn't have to go THERE -- to that place of extreme mother-worry. but, i also didn't go the place of "oh goodie, i get an extra day with the kiddos!" i just didn't. (neither did my friend, by the way).

(okay, stop! i can feel're judging!)

when we talked a few minutes later though, she said to me ... "i have to run quickly to the grocery store, but then maybe i'll take the girls to the zoo?"
"the zoo?" i thought."really, the zoo?"
i had planned to do some shopping ... i had some errands to run.
i didn't have any spontaneous desire for the zoo. i just didn't.

did that make me a bad mom?

did that make me less of a stay-at-home kind of mom?

because isn't that the mark of a successful stay-at-home mom? a mom who when school is cancelled can whip right out of her back pocket some kind of fun day parade? i used to think that. i used to think that because i had the privilege of staying home full time i also had the responsibility of making things perfect full time.

i thought, because i was home, then i should always: cook healthy dinners, volunteer to bake cupcakes, have organized closets, video tape every event, grow my own produce, provide piano lessons, photograph every moment, make homemade applesauce, sew beautiful clothing, update baby books daily, smile at everything, host coffees, lead multiple bible studies, remember everyone's birthdays, make my own candles, always be happy ...



maybe some of you stay-at-home moms feel that way right now. maybe you're feeling since you aren't bringing in a paycheck you should sure as heck be bringing up perfect children in a perfectly smooth life.



right now.

take off that poor pathetic attempt and hang it up it with your supermom cape in the corner of your closet...behind your former-life-suits or your maternity mumus or your whatever.

and, then ...  shut the door fast.

and run.

stay-at-home mom: you've been given a privilege. a gift. an opportunity. and, by all means, be grateful! BE GRATEFUL! but don't think for one minute that the present is going to stay perfectly wrapped and the bow is going to always be pristine.

being home with our kids is like the christmas morning aftermath. it's a mess, right? there are gifts all over the place, but so is their mess all over the place. and somedays you can hardly find the gifts in the midst of all that the midst of all that undoing! we don't line up our gifts neatly on shelves ready for display, nope, we're all over the living room and all over each other and all over everything.

and when we see that kind of mess through eyes of gratitude and with a heart of grace ... we see, not something perfect, but something beautiful.

friend, see something beautiful.

some of you reading this are stuck in the closet crying ... some of you are juggling jobs outside the home ... some of you are hurried at the hair salon ... some of you have hours on your hands and aren't sure what to do with your day.

there are different seasons in this journey. but i know for me, whatever the season, i have to remind myself of my choice --

the choice to look through the lens of gratitude and grace ... no matter what.

no matter where we are.
no matter what we're doing.
no matter how it looks.

--- every season. every day. a gift.

(by the way, just in case you were wondering ... no one went to the zoo).

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

guest blogger at faithful devotions today : stolen moments

hi friends ~ just letting y'all know that i'm a guest blogger over at faithful devotions today. click on the link and check it out!

Why is it when we step into the shower or sit down with a cup of coffee or attempt to catch five minutes of peace on the porch we are needed so desperately? With five kids ages 5 to 17, I have learned this is just how it works. It is how it will go down no matter what tactics we use to duck and take cover. I could stand in my command center kitchen ready and waiting for the great-beck-and-call of my kiddos and there would be nothing. Nada. But given the chance for a stolen moment, a thin slice of time to myself, and a frantic summons is a sure thing...(read more) ...