Sunday, November 15, 2015

too many cooks in the kitchen? (not at all)

i've heard a lot of adoption stories, but the cooks have always had one of my favorites.

it was years ago, our connor and bobby cook were in preschool together at peachtree corners baptist. bobby's parents, martha and andy, were preparing to adopt a little girl from ethiopia. they had two biological boys and were adding this third child.

"wow," i thought. "so cool."
this was before our own adoption. but, you know how it is, when God is working on something in our hearts, He draws us to the stories of others. 

as the cooks were getting close to their travel date, martha told andy, "someday, i would really love to go back to ethiopia and adopt a second child from that country as well." 
andy, in typical husband fashion, answered, "we have YET to go for the first one. one thing at a time, martha. one child at a time." 

a few days later, andy was home and a call came from the adoption agency. it had been discovered that the baby girl they were matched with had an older sibling. would they take him as well? 
andy quickly told the woman, "yes, yes we will!" 
the agency woman hesitated and then (strongly) suggested he might want to speak with his wife about it first. 
"don't worry, we've already talked about it." andy replied.

and so came home sydney and andrew.

in the past couple of years this sibling group of 4 became 5 when little michael was born. the cooks' nest was full. as a fellow mom of five, i can assure you, no mother with this many children is looking around wishing she had more. i mean it happens. and it's good. but, typically, there's no time to be drumming our fingers at the kitchen counter and pining away for more small people under our roof.

but the cook-kid story continues.

this year, sydney cook and our bella are in 2nd grade together. several weeks ago bella came home from school with a prayer request. "mom, we really have to pray for the cooks. they are going to adopt five more kids... and soon! mom, that means they are going to have ten kids. isn't that awesome? wouldn't that be so much fun? i'm so jealous!"  
umm ... yes, fun. uh-huh. jealous. i wasn't sure i heard her correctly. "oh, honey, i'll have to ask mr. or mrs. cook about that. but, yes, we will pray."

i almost wrote it off as the outlandish tale of a couple of second grade girls.

andy is the director of Promise686 -- our adoption/foster care ministry. he and i were working together on the concert/fundraiser this past october. so, in one of our meetings, i asked him and he confirmed sydney's news ---- yes, indeed, God had crossed their path with a sibling group whose mother was dying of cancer. there was no father and these children would need a home.  

the children were part of a wonderful church community which was helping to care for them, but after the mom passed away (about 6 weeks ago), there wasn't one family who was able to bring all five under their roof. the children would have to be split up. (ages: 17, 14, 12, 10 and 2).

as director of Promise686, andy hears lots and lots of stories of kids in need. as martha wrote in her blog post, "typically when a family like this crosses our path through Promise686, we share with many others and watch it unfold for various people." but this time, this sibling group and their situation captured the cooks' attention ... took hold of their hearts. and the Holy Spirit began whispering into them ... "what if?" 

i think this would be a good time to tell you that andy and martha are two of the sanest, calmest, coolest people i know. they weren't drawn to the drama or the desire for attention ... not at all. they are just people drawn to Jesus who could not and cannot ignore His voice.

and in a just a few quick weeks the cooks have prayerfully come to the decision that Jesus was calling them to welcome five more children into their family. 

simple 2nd grade math: 5+5=10. kind of gives the saying, "too many cooks in the kitchen," a whole new meaning, right? yes, it's a lot, but it's not too many. martha and andy have been repeatedly reminded by their God that there is nothing too much or too many or too mountainous for Him. He has continued to give them an incredible peace in this situation and they know He's got this. He knows exactly the right number of kids for this family. writing this, i'm reminded,

"but even the hairs of your head are all numbered." 
~ matthew 10:30

"He determines the number of the stars; 
He gives to all of them their names." ~ psalm 147:4

and God also knows the exact number of cook kids in the kitchen!

i know some of you are reading this and feeling like that lady on the phone from the adoption agency years ago  --- "are you sure? don't you want to talk about this further? ask your wife (again)? put it all out on paper? process it? plan for it? prepare?"

i know all of your questions are good and logical and prudent, but andy and martha have given their answer, "yes, yes we will!" 

they aren't doing this to be heroic.
they aren't doing this because they think they can handle it.
they aren't doing this because they are currently holding it all together. 
they have said yes, because they've heard God's whisper and they know it is He who holds and handles and has it all. 

HOWEVER, that doesn't mean they don't need our help. 

andy is the director of a not-for-profit ministry and martha, is home caring for her kids full time, consider what that might mean financially. this isn't a family who is doubling in size because they happen to have excess funds squirreled away. not at all.
for just a minute, consider also what it might take/cost/require in your own home to bring in an additional five kids. i have been part of a team helping the cooks in the past couple of weeks and i assure you, it is monumental. 

it is also incredibly cool. i was at martha's a couple of days ago and i don't even know how to describe the scene. there's this amazing community of people coming around them: quick home renovations, new rooms for kids, walls down, walls up, meals made, appliances swapped out, babies watched, items donated, carpools driven. so much is being done ...

 --- and there's so much more to do.

these precious children arrive THIS COMING FRIDAY. 

how can you help?

below i am attaching a couple of links -- martha's blog, care calendars, needs, etc...)
please click on the cooks' blog below to find the "donate" button!

it's a wonderful opportunity to support this family who is trusting God for daily provision. i rarely use my blog to ask anyone for money, but i am going to blatantly do so now. if you've got a few dollars to donate ... this is, most certainly, the time and the family!

i'd also love to ask you to please SHARE this blogpost and/or martha's blog! 

the cooks' blog: surrendering to the unknown

all the information you need to pitch in!
CHILDCARE / ERRANDS : For those of you who wish to give your TIME: 
Point of Contact for this area:  Mary Michael Massie
Care Calendar #223725 code 3660

MEALS: For those who wish to use your TALENTS:
Point of Contact for MEALS:  Katie Gettman
Care Calendar #223753 code 3410

DONATIONS: For those who have the ability to give of their RESOURCES:
Point of Contact for Donations: Jen Style,
**link yet to be determined and accompanied with a list of items that need to be donated or bought.**

the cooks at christmas last year! can't wait to see the 2015 picture!
first time all the kids got together! 

Monday, October 19, 2015

a girl and her dad

last weekend, before my daughter's high school homecoming dance, a bunch of the kids got together for pictures. i imagine, that's a pretty normal thing all across america --- the boys, the girls, their parents all meeting up somewhere for half an hour or so of photos and flowers and chit chat.

it's possible, here in johns creek, georgia, we might tend to take that a little further than most. i don't know. that's probably a different blog post altogether.

anyway, there we all were: handsome boys in bow ties and beautiful girls teetering around the lawn in high heels. and the parents, us too. shoes a tad more sensible, but clunky cameras slung around our necks, right there in the mix helping pin flowers and arrange hair and make small talk.
doing the things we parents do.

mostly we were invited because someone had to come and click the shutter on all those cameras. it's okay, we knew our role and were perfectly good with it. i'm pretty sure there isn't a one of us who would want to go back to our sophomore homecoming dance.

so we posed the polished-up kids and did our own dance to the choreographed click click click of our cameras. 

i believe at one point, sarah's date, baxter, pulled out his phone and snapped a picture of the parent group crouched behind our lenses. (baxter, i'll need that ASAP).

but in the midst of all the homecoming photo hoopla, i noticed something ---

when i wasn't looking through the lens of my camera, i was looking around at the teenagers and their parents and i saw several of the girls taking pictures, not just with their dates, but with their dads.
pretty girls and proud dads. arms around each other. smiles on faces.

and it was beautiful.
it is beautiful.

tonight, editing through my pictures, the reality of this important relationship struck me.
what a gift to see my girl perched on the arm of her dad. don't get me wrong, the date thing was super cute --- really nice guy from a really nice family. plus, bonus! his mom and i are friends, too.

but these almost grown-up daughters and their dads. wow. that's just something special. and it's not something to take for granted. it doesn't always work out that way. it's definitely not a given. but when it happens, it's a tremendous gift --- for them, and, yes, even for us mamas.

julia and her dad, bill
marth ann and her dad, john
gracie and her dad, mark
sarah and her dad, john

in the past fews years, this has become so pressing on my heart. when i talk with young mothers in groups or one on one, it's something i stress --- the importance of fostering a strong connection between our husband and our daughters.

it's huge.

it's something worth working at.
something worth encouraging.
something worth fighting for.

and let's be honest, it's not always perfectly easy. it's a funny relationship, right? i mean are there any two people groups probably more different than teenage girls and middle aged dads? i swear sometimes i hear them communicating and it's like they are each speaking their own foreign language. i'm often caught somewhere in the middle -- sort of understanding both of them -- and trying my best to mediate.

mostly it's funny. sometimes it's frustrating. but always, it's worth fighting for.

i've been watching my three girls with their dad for all these years -- i've watched them fish and throw football, ride bikes and row kayaks. i've listened to them laugh at movies and sing silly songs on long car trips. tell jokes and stories and all about their day.  i've seen my girls snuggled up on his lap, safe in his arms and high on his shoulders. i've noticed it all ... their dad-daughter connection. their special texting and talking and teasing with each other. wrestling and wild. quiet and serious. sweet and supportive.

my husband gives to these girls. easily. quickly. abundantly.
yes, he gives the credit card for a new dress or an occasional trip to the nail salon, but it's the other giving that most matters --- the giving of his time and his attention. the giving of his approval and his heart.
even the giving of boundaries and consequences, "no, sweetheart, you cannot wear that outfit. please go back upstairs and change."
i don't doubt for a minute my husband would give his life for his girls.

and they know it too.

even when they don't see eye to eye, they know their dad would do anything for them.
i'm pretty sure they've never once doubted the depth of his love.

and as the mom over here in my corner, all i want to do is jump up and down and cheer them on wildly.  i long to encourage them both in the building of this incredibly powerful and important relationship, because i know how life-giving it is for both of them.

it's not just about getting to that moment when daddy walks his little girl down the fairytale wedding aisle.
it's about growing our girls into mamas and wives and women who know they are fiercely loved no matter what.

it's about girls being sure they have someone strong on their side.

someone in their corner.
someone watching their back.
someone safe.
someone solid.
someone sure.

i am grateful my girls have all of those things in their dad.

but here's the deal, i also know that some girls don't have that in their earthly fathers.
i don't know your stories or your situation, but i know, for certain, if that's the case, it surely must hurt.

we girls, we need our dads.
we do.

but, sweet one, if your story doesn't include this kind of man, i want to tell you something else i know with certainty ---- even if your earthly father is absent, your Heavenly Father is always available.

and there's no father with a more faithful, steadfast and unconditional love than Jesus.

  "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you." ~jeremiah 31:3
psalm 68:6 says describes God as "Father to the fatherless." that's not just for the orphan, but that's also for the girl who don't have a dad present in her life. be assured, God is present and He's pursuing you with a passionate love like no human can even begin to understand. and though having a physical dad's hand to hold is a gift, God's hands are truly what hold us and help us and shape us.

"but now o Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of you hand."  ~ isaiah 64:8

so thankful for our dad's, but need to post a few pictures of these cute kids and give a shout out to the great dates saturday night ... y'all are darling.

Friday, October 2, 2015

{october things} when life doesn't make sense (31 days of God's promises)

{october things} ... 10/1/15

i'm beginning a new series this month. y'all know how much i love this time of year. october! almost everything about it appeals to me. yet, it is a month which doesn't quite make sense.
we know "octo" means eight. yes, the number 8. 
but what month is october? yep, the 10th. 
uh-huh. that's right -- TENTH.

dear calendar-making-people, i'm sorry, i don't mean to be difficult, but that just doesn't make sense to me. and like the crazy exceptions to phonics' rules she's dealing with, it doesn't make sense to my 7 year old either. 
but it's kind of what we have and, at this point, i doubt anyone is going to argue it out too passionately.

odd as it is, we've all just kind of gotten used to the idea.

and so starting today, in this 10th month (which means 8) i am beginning a new series: 
{october things} prayer and praise even when life doesn't seem to make sense.

everything in your life making sense these days? that's awesome. 
then this series isn't for you. but if you're at least a little bit like me, then i bet you have your moments of wondering what it all means, where it's all headed and what in the world we are supposed to do.

"the unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple." ~ psalm 119:130

october isn't just a month with the wrong name or number, but it's also a month where we begin to see daylight close quickly. 
gone are the summer days full with long hours of sunshine. 
october arrives and our days darken a bit.
and so we look to the light: the moon up above, a candle on our counter, the blaze from first fires. all simple reminders that even when life seems to be a bit blurry, there is light and truth and, yes, even understanding.

it won't be found in ourselves or in our circumstances, but we can look to God's word. through daily prayer and praise, His promises become clear ... 
EVEN when life doesn't quite seem to make sense.

please,  join me for {october things}.

{october things} ... 10/2/15
i can’t think of a better place to start this series than with the truth: 
He is for me.
this knowledge is what allows us – you and me -- 
to step into the arena of all that other stuff.
the confusing stuff. 
the hard-to-understand stuff.
the it-doesn’t-make-sense stuff.
the i-don’t-like-it-one-bit stuff.
yes. all. of. that.
and, these days, there seems to be no shortage.
but, oh gosh friend, knowing that we have a God who not only deeply loves us, but also completely HAS us … HAS our back. HAS our hand. HAS our heart ----
what message could be more encouraging when we feel as if everything else is going against us.
“if God is for us, who can be against us?” ~ romans 8:31
“can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?” ~ romans 8:35
no. nothing. nothing can separate us from Christ. He is For Us and He promises to be All In All the Time.
i want to encourage you to write these life giving words in your heart. not my words, but His: “He is for us.” 
give praise and make them your prayer today.
write the words on your heart, on a notecard, above your kitchen sink, in your journal, across your forehead … 
write them and repeat them. often. as the verse in they picture says, "this i know ..."
my prayer is that we would Know It --- 
when we turn on the news or open the paper or get in line at the grocery store.
when we feel discouraged or disparaged or defeated in the midst of your day ...
we might know this truth and hold fast to Him.
God is for us. always and forever.

Jesus ~ thank you for being For Us. there are days when we feel like everything is working against us -- like no one is really on our side. thank you for the reminder this morning that we are not alone, but have the Holiest of Advocates in all of heaven – Jesus. Lord, teach us to live and find life in the fullness of that promise. a-men.

{october things} 10/3/15
i’m going to be honest, this one is hard for me.
i don’t like to be weak.
i mean, i REALLY don’t like to be weak.
damsel in distress? no thank you.
my dad raised me differently.
strong. independent. determined.
a do-it-myself-kinda-girl thank you very much.
ask my husband. 
how many times has he come home to find me up on a ladder, 
out on the roof, pushing a piece of furniture across a room or pressure washing some surface.
i’ve got this.
no, really, i do.
except i don’t.
except God’s design is different. 
He’s a father who desires His daughter’s dependence. 
when He created us He knew what would draw us closer to Him --- our weakness, not our wonder-woman-ness.
i know the world tells us something different.
but, the crazy thing is, this weakness, it's not wimpy. that's the part that makes us go, huh? no, it is our very weakness which wrestles out the try-hard-self and makes space for the One True Savior.
when we empty of our own broken effort, we are filled with the strength of His beautiful embrace.

Jesus ~ empty us of ourselves that we might better know your grace and power. turn our eyes from our try-hard selves and teach us to trust what you are already working in us. it's the open hand. the bended knee. the broken heart. we bow all of us before you, El Shaddai, God Almighty. a-men.

{october things} 10/4/15
something about this verse whispers the word: patience.

patience in the becoming
patience in the getting.
patience in the growing.

and patience is hard.

i see this in myself when i am hurrying children through breakfast or homework or out the door and into the car
come on. come on. COME ON!

always in a rush to arrive somewhere else.
only a symptom of something deeper within ---- 
that need for the next thing and that desire to know just how it is all going to happen.

and, yet, God whispers into our wild and wanting selves: 

patience, child. patience.
you don’t know the answers or the plan or My provision, because we are not yet there.

stop rushing.
start resting.

you will be like Me. someday.
but not now. not yet. 
right now ... be My child. 
hold My hand … I hold your heart. 

there’s no need to run out ahead and worry.

I’ve got this.
you’ll get this.
but not yet.

be still and know … you are, simply and beautifully, My beloved.

when I appear, you’ll be like Me.
but, patience, dear child.
not yet.

Jesus ~ oh, Lord, that we might stop rushing around and start resting in you! that's the prayer of my heart this morning. you created us in your image, but we are still works in progress. show us, even today, how we can be patient for what it is you are doing in us. that, like a trusting child, we'd simply hang on to your hand, confident of your holding. today, Father, i claim for each one of us, the deep knowing that we are the beloved children of God. a-men.

{october things} 10/5/15
it's kind of a mystery.
it doesn't always make sense.
but, if we've ever given it a try, we know it works ----
loving others with servant hands and willing hearts
draws us closer to God's love.
not in a "works" kind of way.
not in an "i earned it" kind of way.
God doesn't love us any more 
if we serve and love others,
but WE (somehow) love HIM more.
it's the win-win of God's agape love.
simple equation:
more love for others = more love for God.
serving others leads to softening hearts. 
softened hearts lead to deeper love. 
deeper love leads back to serving others. 
a beautiful circle of God's design and desire for us.
"as you did it to the least of these, you did it to me."
plain and simple, loving others is an expression of love for our Jesus.
who are these "least?" 
look around. take your pick. 
in our broken and bruised world, there is no shortage of
people to serve and love.
"we love because He first loved us." ~ 1 john 4:19

Jesus ~ even today, would you bring opportunities for us to love others more? would you open our eyes that we might see the least, the lost, the lonely? we are thankful for the gift of your agape design. you knew the blessing it would be. Jesus, you love us so well. your love is steadfast, faithful, and patient. thank you for loving us with your everlasting love. a-men.

{october things} 10/6/15
i had an appointment to get new contact lenses today.
for some reason, seeing the eye doctor stresses me out.
it's not really that big a deal, but all those questions they ask in that dark, quiet, tiny room translate into some kind of anxiety ---
is 1 better or 2? 2 or 3? 3 or 4?
better now? or now? click. click.
is this clearer? or that? 
do you like A or B? B or C?
click. click.
and half the time, i honestly don't know.
i feel like i'm kinda-sorta ... guessing!
plain and simple, i just am not comfortable with 
the success of my eyesight being left to my judgment. 
what if i get it wrong? 
what if i choose 2 and the better answer was really 3?
the truth is, most of the time it's not very clear.
kind of like life.
we've had our share of some major decisions in the past several years. and i'll admit, i've also had my share of anxiety in the midst of them.
this or that? is 2 better or 3? 3 or 4? click. click.
i don't know! i'm not sure. what if i get it wrong? 
what if i mess up our lives because i guessed incorrectly?
my friends, it's not out of the realm of possibility.
a couple of years ago, when we were living in minnesota, i snapped this picture. 
the weather had moved from rain to mist to a soft fog. 
as i drove down that minnesota backroad, i caught sight of this
beautiful barn. 
it wasn't perfectly clear off the road, but, just the same, it was beautiful.
we were in the midst of some pretty big decisions at that time and coming across this barn was somehow comforting. 
i was reminded that i didn't HAVE TO SEE IT ALL CLEARLY. 
i didn't have to know it all perfectly for it to be all right.
the answers weren't all on my shoulders.
our future didn't rest in my decision making abilities (or lack thereof).
God's plan is better than that.
we do our best to discern God's will for our lives, but i sort of think it's not about making the right decision as much as it is about trusting Him in the midst of our decisions.
maybe this is where you're at right now. certain things feel unclear and uncertain. there's a thin mist or blanket of fog covering the 
path up ahead. i just want you to know God's in it. He's there. even if you can't quite see His face or His outstretched hand, know that He sees you.
maybe it's not about choosing 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 ...
but, about choosing to trust Him.

Jesus ~ so often, decisions are hard. it seems sometimes, no matter how many pro and con lists i make, i can't seem to figure it all out. the choices are blurry. but Lord, let us see even the blessing of this blurriness as it brings a greater trust in you. a-men.

{october things} 10/7/15
if there's one {october} thing we don't understand, right now in our world, it's the syrian refugee crisis. 
we've seen the photos and heard the stories.
we've imagined the horror ... the pain ... the desperation.
the magnitude of this kind of tragedy often leaves us
asking the question: what can i possibly do?
a couple of weeks ago, while at ‪#‎theopendoorretreat‬ i met kendra and kristin of As You Wish Design . these two artist/designer moms love to use their jewelry to make a difference.
they, too, have asked that question: what can we do?
and so, out of their talents, they've created a "do one thing" necklace to remind us that though we can't do everything ... though we can't solve the whole problem ... we Absolutely Can Do One Thing.
regardless of the crisis, we aren't ever allowed to look away. as Christ followers, we are called to do some thing. one thing.
for every "do one thing" necklace sold, the as you wish team will donate a blanket to world vision to help a refugee.
do one thing.
one thing.
{just} one.
let this necklace be a reminder ... a little push to play our part.
so often, i sit and stew over the enormity of a problem or the hopelessness of a situation --- and i end up doing nothing.
i love the encouragement to find one thing ... and do it.
i am reminded of the micah 6:8 verse:
"and what does the Lord require of you?
to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly
with your God."
Jesus ~ it seems lately the tragedies are quick to overwhelm us. they keep coming and coming. often i am left with a sense of hopelessness, feeling like there's nothing i can do to make a difference. but that' not the message you've written across our hearts. you, the full hope of heaven and earth, desire to dispel that rumor. there is no person or problem or situation completely without hope. as your children, Lord, help us to get in the game and do our "one thing." amen


{october things} 10/8/15
if i let them, my kids would eat around the clock.
all day.
i used to think that was a toddler thing, but now, 
with three – soon to be four – teenagers in the house, 
i know it’s a children-in-general-thing.
tiny to tall, makes no difference.
they love to eat.
let me be even more specific, they love to snack.
they would be perfectly content to snack happily away 24-7.
and whether dealing with toddlers or teens, 
we know what snacks do to the real meal.
"wait for dinner," i tell them. 
but they want what they want when the want it. 
(i suppose kids aren't the only ones ...).
same thing is true for all of us spiritually.
we want our needs met and our answers answered.
and we want it when we want it, right?
but God’s word tells us that He gives what we need in due season.
“in due season,” doesn't necessarily mean when we desire.
it doesn’t mean when we have a hankering or a craving or nothing else to do.
it means – in the appropriate time. 
in his time.
yes, God is available 24-7. absolutely!
and He is a God who faithfully, abundantly provides.
but that doesn’t mean His answers
are always right there at our fingertips.
no, sometimes His good answers and His very best gifts
arrive in the waiting.
the holding. 
yes, even in the hungering.
Jesus ~ thank you for your perfect timing. your gifts are so good .. and your seasons are so timely. i'm sure i'd just fill up on any old thing, but you want the very best for your children. when we can only think of our rumbling wants, you have a better plan. teach us to be patient for your provision "in due season." amen.

{october things} 10/10/15
it's saturday.
not sure if your day is looking rain-filled like mine 
or full of sunshine and blue skies.
unless you're planning a picnic, playing baseball or getting married
makes no difference.
the weather: we either rejoice in it or we resent.
like most things, it's a choice.
but we get what we get, right? 
not much say over what arrives each day, 
but certainly some control over our attitude.
like most things, it's a choice.
maybe your saturday has it's share of burdens and busy-ness.
maybe you're already up wondering how you'll get it all done.
maybe you're not too busy, but feeling a little bruised by life.
maybe you're waking anxious or under attack.
most likely, this saturday, there's some hurt in your heart or some heavy work in your hands. 
i know ... me too.
this psalm reminds me not to look at my own hands, 
but at His. 
when i focus on what i can or can't do ...
when i fret over what i must or mustn't do ...
i'm left tired, joyless, overwhelmed.
but when i open my eyes to see the works of His hands, 
it's a game changer.
it changes everything. 
it can even change my song to joy.
what are the good things God's hands are on in your life?
look at them.
list them out loud.
give praise for them.
"at the works of your hands i will sing for joy."

Jesus ~ it's saturday and we want to see you. though our to-do lists might be long, let us put them away for a few minutes and consider what you have already done. remind us of your good works that we might sing for joy --- rain or shine. amen.

{october things} 10/11/15
"WHEN you walk through the waters ..." 
notice it doesn't say "if."
WHEN you walk through the waters.
WHEN it feels like you are in over your head.
WHEN you can't find your footing.
WHEN drowning seems certain.
when, not if.
the waters and rivers, well, they are part of this living.
walk around as we might try, we can't avoid them.
they are running right through the landscape of our lives.
problems, pain, pressures, panic ... swirling deep in these places.
but even in the most wild water, God whispers peace ...
1. I will be with you
2. you will not be overwhelmed
His promises.
deep waters. overwhelming oceans. rising rivers.
yes, they will come.
and it will be easy to only see ourselves sinking.
but, dear ones, remember His words of peace and promise:
"I will be with you ... and they will not overwhelm you."
Jesus ~ oh, how we all know what it feels like to have the waters rise up in our own lives. foot slipping. lungs gulping. hands reaching. the waves of panic washing over us. 
BUT YOU, JESUS, right there with us. like a father holding his small child in the ocean. "i've got you and it's going to be okay." we'd never make it through on our own. and the beautiful news this morning; we don't have to. Father, you are right here even in the rushing river of right now. thank you, Jesus. amen.

{october things} 10/12/15
"because He lives
i can face tomorrow
because He lives
every fear is gone
i know He holds my life,
my future in His hands."
we sang these lyrics in church yesterday morning.
though i grew up with the old school, southern baptist, 
bill and gloria gaither song,
we sang matt maher’s more contemporary music.
doesn’t matter which version you’re singing ----
the words are life giving.
before Jesus left this earth, He told His disciples in john 14:19,
“before long, the world will not see me anymore, 
but you will see me. 
because I live, you also will live."
it’s that plain.
it’s that simple.
because He lives, we live.
because He is risen, we can have rest.
when the gaither’s first penned these lyrics in the 1960s, 
life was not going so great.
they were under personal attack --- illness, false accusations, and the tremendous unrest of the1960’s world.
gloria, pregnant with their 3rd child, couldn’t imagine
bringing another baby into the mess.
it was new year’s eve and she was battling
anxiety and hopelessness.
but when she began to pray that evening, 
God’s peace came over her and these lyrics flowed out.
God reminded her and He wants to remind us,
He is our hope for tomorrow.
our only hope.
yes, the world we are living in is an absolute mess.
yes, i cannot imagine the issues my children
and grandchildren will face.
and, yes, we sometimes feel like those
disciples --- wondering where did God go?
but, dear ones, be reminded ... our Redeemer, He lives.
He holds my life, my future in His hands.
because He lives, i can face tomorrow.

Jesus ~ i'll be honest, i don't always live like i serve a Living King. i am in fear and feel the anxiety of all that is wrong with this world. Father, help us to rest in your resurrection. help us to hold fast to the Hope of your redemption. no matter what tomorrow brings ...

{october things} 10/13/15
sunday, my son’s discipleship leader (also one of our worship leaders) sang this david crowder song, “come as you are.”
i started to video it on my phone ---
but because i struggle with technology (and, apparently, eyesight)
i inadvertently hit the “slow-mo” button.
not the desired effect, i assure you.
but, the lyrics have stayed with me since sunday morning.
powerful and very present.
this message to the wanderer.
this good news for the one who has walked away.
this gospel for the world-weary.
you are never too far. never.
“can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?
does it mean He no longer loves us if we have
trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry,
or destitute, or in danger …
no, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours
through Christ, who loved us." ~ romans 8
“come out of sadness from wherever you’ve been.
come broken hearted, let rescue begin.
come find your mercy. o sinner come kneel.
earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal.”
i know these song lyrics aren’t scripture, but they are biblical.
they are truth.
they are worth singing.
maybe there's something in your life which is so incredibly unholy or so terribly huge that you are just sure God would want nothing to do with it or, even that, God has nothing to do with it.
maybe it feels like that, but friend, that's not what His word says.
He promises ... "despite ALL THESE THINGS overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us."
nothing can separate us from it. nothing.
doesn’t matter where we've been.
doesn’t matter the brokenness or the sin or the sadness …
earth has no sorrow that Heaven can't heal.

Jesus ~ thank you for coming and loving us so unconditionally that "overwhelming victory" can, indeed, be ours. Lord, we want to live believing your promise of rescue even in the midst of our unholy and huge stuff. you came for the sinner, for the sorrows, for the situations which are desperate and ugly and awful. you came to rescue. and, oh Jesus, we are a people needing rescued. amen.

{october things} 10/14/15
if you're planning on a visiting us this week,
i'd suggest you bring your boots.
this is our front yard and driveway.
uh-huh. it is.
it's a long story, but suffice it to say, we are moving our
driveway and re-landscaping the yard.
so the cement company started this on monday
because the forecast finally called for a perfect week with no rain.
except we woke around 3am to the sounds of thunder and torrential rain. 2 hours -- no let up.
not at all in the forecast. a total surprise.
and now we wait for the sun to dry it all out.
no idea how long this might take.
i assure you, that wasn't my plan.
in a perfect world it would have all been done in just a quick couple of days. i saw myself planting flowers by friday.
but that perfect world? yeah, it's not exactly where we live, is it?
so we wait for the sun.
we wave at the curious neighbors.
we demand shoes be removed.
we do our best to deal with it.
and we remember, things don't always go as planned.
in his book, Of Mice and Men, john steinbeck said,
"the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry."
and God is pretty clear on that issue too.
"the heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps." ~ proverbs 16:9
we can make all the plans and predictions we want,
but, like it or not, we just aren't in control of the outcome.
not in the small stuff like our driveway and day to day designs.
and not with the big stuff like the very number of our days.
our plans might go awry, but, be encouraged, God's plan is always perfect. He loves us and He knows what is best for us.
maybe it's not what we would choose --- like a 3am torrential downpour --- but He is in control and it is completely in His hands.

Jesus ~ oh Lord, you know my struggle here. i am a woman who just flat out likes her plans ... likes to call the shots and control the setting. thank you, Lord, even today with my disastrous driveway for the reminder that You are the one who is running this show.
let that not be frustrating, but, instead, freeing. amen.

{october things} 10/15/15
it’s after 10 pm and i am just sitting down
to write today’s {october} words.
been that kind of day.
you know. you probably had one too.
i didn’t have a verse or a post planned out.
but, tonight at the kitchen sink,
as i was running dirty dishes under hot water,
this verse was running through my mind.
"my flesh and heart may fail" ----
will fail.
it’s what happens.
it’s what is happening.
can i admit to you, tonight, i am tired?
we only have these bodies for so long.
they are only so good.
they will only get us so far.
exhausted evenings like this, well, they remind me.
“therefore we do not lose heart.
though outwardly we are wasting away,
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
~ 2 corinthians 4:16
and even in my worn-thin and worn-out,
that’s what i really want to remember at the end of the day ---
there's an inward renewing when i fill my empty self up with Jesus.
doesn’t matter that i’m gonna crawl under the covers
in a few minutes, a weary woman.
this is just my earthly position for now.
but, Jesus, He is my eternal portion for ever.

Jesus ~ thank you for your promises. thank you for being my portion. you are more than enough. amen.

{october things} 10/17/15
yesterday i attended the funeral of young mama.
i didn't know her well.
our children attend school together.
but i listened ...
i listened as her friends described their friend.
i listened as her husband described his wife.
and it was clear: this mother of four, lived a life
abundant with the fruits of the Spirit.
though, most days, she dealt with chronic illness,
she demonstrated constant joy ... love and peace.
heartbreaking to see her husband -- one small child in his arms, three more at his side -- he honored his wife beautifully with his words, but oh, the wrench in all of us watching ... listening ... wiping tears.
why Lord?
this stuff is so hard to understand.
i didn't know her well, but, nonetheless, climbed into my
car and wept.
talk about things which don't make sense.
and joy in suffering? i'm not entirely sure how that all works either.
and yet, story after story, example after example, describing this woman as always joyful ...
loving, kind, gentle, good, gracious, content, patient.
that's not of our human spirit ... that is the Holy Spirit.
"we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces
endurance, and endurance produces character, and
character produces hope, and hope does not put us
to shame, because God's love has been poured into our
hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
~ romans 5:3-5
and because beautiful jaye, knew Jesus she knew love, joy and peace in her living, as well as in her in dying.
her hope, not in her humanity, but in her heavenly Father.
please, friends, do keep the drake family in your prayers.

Jesus ~ we don't know how all this works together for good. but, Lord, we trust you. we trust your heart even when we don't see or understand the movement of your hand. you are good, Lord Jesus. always. all the time. in everything. oh, that we might live in your Spirit and be abundant in fruit ... like this sweet mama, jaye. amen.

{october things} 10/18/15
everything in me wants to highlight or boldface or underline
that tiny little linking verb { IS }
"blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust IS the Lord
we trust in so many little things, don't we?
wishes and dreams and fairytale thinking.
we blow out candles.
we wish on stars.
we pick dandelions.
all the while hoping these things matter.
strangely believing they just might make sense.
secretly wondering if maybe this time they'll work.
recently, i received a dramatic email informing me that if i copied and pasted something and sent it out quickly to 10 of my closest friends i would be immediately blessed ...
lol. really? seriously? like, are you for real?
who goes for this sort of thing?
that email was beyond ridiculous, but, emotional emails aside, it is sort of how we operate in life, isn't it? perhaps we are too savvy to respond to the copy and paste thing, but we certainly put our hope and trust in some crazy, fleeting, fly-away stuff.
we clutch the dandelion in our hand of hope, but often ignore the real mountain right there with us.
we settle for the small wishes and forget the power and majesty of our Maker.
blessed is the man whose trust IS the Lord.
blessed is the man whose hope is with the Most High.
"in the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it." ~ isaiah 2:2

Jesus ~ it's easy to become mesmerized with the small stuff --- with faulty fairytales and weak wishes. distraction is easy, but we want to plant ourselves into the solid rock of our Redeemer. help us to see past the little things we clutch and look to the One who has already claimed us. yes, our trust IS the Lord. amen.
{photo: took this at the grand tetons this past summer}!

{october things} 10/20/15
in this october series, we’ve been talking about
some things which don’t quite make sense.
like the word october which means 8,
but, for some crazy calendar reason, is the 10th month.
and this "first and last" thing seems to fall
in a similar category. at least at first glance.
if you don’t agree, try explaining it to a 5 year old.
i did that once.
--- but honey, the first shall be last and the last shall be first.
(insert foot stomp)
end of story.
i’m not in kindergarten,
but there are times when i feel exactly the same.
we have some innate sense of justice that
life should work a certain way ----
if i’m first in the door, i get first dibs.
if i’m first to the performance i get the front row.
if i’m first to the table, i get the choice meat.
if i’m first on the playground i get the best swing.
on and on ... this kind of thinking goes.
and by kindergarten most of us have it all figured out.
the early bird gets the worm.
there’s reward for our work.
there’s a prize for being punctual.
except it doesn’t always go this way in God’s kingdom.
sometimes, in fact, it seems to move in reverse.
like opposite day! my kids always loved opposite day in pre-school, but, truth is, none of us like it in life. no, we simply like things to go the way they should --- or at least the way they should in our minds.
this would be like camping out for two days in front of wal-mart
for the black friday sale (which, by the way, is another thing I Don’t Get At All) and then, when the doors open, discovering the people at the end of the line get to go in first.
ever been there?
been in the wrong line?
waited the longest, but end up being last?
just this week in target i was in a long line and when the
extra cashier came up front to help she took the people closest
to her, not those (like me) who had been waiting the longest
and, i’m not going to lie, i immediately felt a sense of
injustice rise up in me.
wait just a minute, missy, i was here first!
(insert foot stomp).
and the parable from the vineyard (matthew 3)
kind of shows the same thing.
no, God isn’t trying to make us all mad, but he’s pretty clear
he gives us what we need, not what we want.
not even what we think we deserve.
it is possible, dear ones, that on occasion,
what God does in our lives looks a little bit
unjust or inaccurate.
but it’s not. not one bit.
God is a God of justice and he makes no mistakes – not ever.
our human minds, however, are incapable of completely
understanding. what seems to be paradoxical is, instead,
the perfect plan of our all-knowing God.
it’s not about whether or not we understand our Savior’s decisions,
but more about our decision to trust our Savior.

Jesus ~ oh these lessons we all need to learn. some of us (me) over and over and over again. teach us, Lord. let us make the decision to trust you even when we don't always understand. amen.

{october things} 10/22/15
so, i’ve got this thing for gates.
seriously, like all gates.
any gate.
this picture’s gate is from the house we
lived in while up in minnesota.
though i see gates as something aesthetic --
interesting, beautiful, cool --
i suppose they are typically installed to be functional.
(well, if you say so …)
clearly, the primary function is containment ---
either in the keeping out or the keeping in.
raising 5 babies and multiple dogs along the way, i get this.
i assure you, we had ourselves some gates.
and an open gate?
well that’s just a clear invitation to come on in,
sit down, have dinner, sip sweet tea, make yourself at home.
(i live in the south y’all).
in john 10: 9, Jesus not only says, “i am the gate …”
but also immediately provides a function or purpose:
“whoever enters through me will be saved.”
walk through = be saved.
it’s that simple.
it’s that simple, but it’s also that specific:
it’s the only way in.
there’s to be no scaling the walls or walking all they way around.
no drilling or dynamiting or breaking down of the stone ...
nope. nothing we can do. only find Jesus and walk through.
He mediates us in … He makes us welcome … He died so we
could enter in … sit down … make ourselves at home.
the gate metaphor is about salvation, yes!
but it is also a reminder that Jesus is accessible.
He's the good gate.
He's the gate which beckons us to grace.
He's the gate which woos and welcomes and is always, always open to us.
He's the gate which provides protection and peace from the
turmoil everywhere else.
Jesus is there.
Jesus is the gate.
"your gates will always stand open, they will never
be shut, day or night ..." ~ isaiah 60:11

Jesus ~ thank you for making your invitation so clear. for welcoming your children and for offering your protection. you knew the world we'd be living in ... you knew the struggles, the sin, the heartache, the heavy ... thank you for this opening which simply says, "come in." we love you, Lord. amen.

{october things} 10/26/15
this promise from proverbs comes in two parts.
often, we focus in on the 2nd part -- God's part:
"and He will make straight your paths."
i love that promise and i love to zoom right in on it.
yes. thank you, Jesus, go ahead and straighten away.
i'm all for it! ka-boom! ka-bam!
we like the result.
we like His rescue.
but, we forget our responsibility.
if we back up a little and look at part one, we read
about our role in this relationship ----
"in all your ways acknowledge Him."
i cannot go through my days acknowledging
only my own wants, needs, desires and decisions
and then magically just expect God
to show up and straighten it all out.
no, i have a part to play ---
and it's in acknowledging God and accepting God
and including God in All My Ways.
not in some.
not in a few.
not in the things i choose.
but, in all things ... in ALL MY WAYS.
from the very small to the incredibly big, God wants
to be intricately involved and specifically invited.
don't get me wrong, He doesn't need our invitation,
but He wants it.
He wants His children to want Him.
He desires His children to desire Him.
as a parent i get that.
at any time i can insert myself into the activities of my kids.
but it is so much sweeter when they invite me in.
i've experienced both.
"mom, what are you doing here? and when are leaving?"
and ...
"mom, can you come help me with this? or mom, let's
go to a movie or out to lunch!"
different seasons and ages, you can probably make some wild guesses.
today, this monday morning, think about the ways in which
you can acknowledge God. you've got a road out there ahead
of you this week. turn to Him. look at His lead. acknowledge the truth of Jesus in the big and little, and see where it takes you.
receive the gift of how God sets things straight when we set ourselves on Him.

Jesus ~ thank you for this new week with new challenges. thank you for giving us everything we need (In You) to navigate whatever comes. Lord, open our eyes to your lead and our ears to your voice, that we might walk confidently in the path-straightening power of your truth. amen.

{october things} 10/27/15
what is it that brings you joy?
go ahead.
make a list.
i don't know about you, but i can easily come up
with a quick list of all kinds of small earthly things ---
my favorite candle, the colors of fall leaves, a cup off dark roast, morning snuggles from my littlest, a good book, kind words, window boxes, new shoes!
yep ... easy stuff.
and those are all good gifts.
joy-gifts worth giving thanks for.
but what about the joy of God's salvation?
isn't that the biggest and the best one imaginable?
sure it is! most of us would be quick to agree.
but i know, doing life in this let-down, broken-down kind of world, can also quickly zap our joy. yes, even the joy of our eternity.
it's why our earthly joy-gifts only last so long.
no matter how much we love a good cup of coffee or a great
pair of shoes, our joy is pretty short lived. (well, maybe if they are really, really, really great shoes ...)
but our salvation? that's a whole different thing.
that's forever. that's for keeps. that's for life.
that's joy.
in psalm 51, however, david asks that it be restored.
clearly, he is feeling a lack or a loss or lethargy in his
maybe you too?
yes, i surely can relate.
like david, i've known seasons which have
been in desperate need of restoration.
and i'm not talking about a quick trip to target ...
but something deeper, lasting, life-giving ---
the JOY of God's SALVATION.
sometimes we are fast to fill up on the quick fixes of this world only to discover they are surely not enough.
if that's you this morning, then join me in asking Jesus to
come and do a work of restoration. He can.

Jesus ~ you know the dry places within us. you know how easy it is to feel burnt out and beaten up --- even joyless. we've got so much for which to be thankful, but that doesn't mean as humans we don't struggle. would you use that struggle to draw us closer and restore unto us the incredible, energizing JOY of knowing you, Jesus. amen.

{october things} 10/29/15
growing up, i heard the story of abraham 
taking his son, isaac, to mount moriah … 
not on a cool father-son adventure or
for a fun-packed bonding weekend …
but to sacrifice.
i didn’t get it.
i still kinda shudder to read it.
it didn’t make sense in my little girl brain
and it still doesn’t quite make sense to my mother heart.
even the way God asked abraham ---
the way he asked him to 
“take your son, 
“your ONLY son isaac, (just to be clear)
the son whom you LOVE…”
i would have had so many other options for God.
i can just hear my arguing … my pleading …
my insisting on another way.
but nowhere in this passage (genesis 22) does it
discuss how abraham felt ... we only read what he did. 
“so abraham rose early in the morning …
saddled his donkey …
took his son …
cut the wood …
and went.”
like i said, it’s a hard story to wrap ourselves around.
would God ever ask us to sacrifice something so precious?
you answer that.
i am startled by God’s request.
i am amazed with abraham’s response.
but i am astounded in the final result.
after abraham, broken hearted in his obedience, 
readied the fire and raised the knife, God provided the ram.
that, my friends, is a chill-bumps moment.
there is no script or cinematography which 
could possibly compete with this scene.
abraham obeyed the request.
God provided the ram.
“so abraham called the name of that place,
Jehovahjireh, the Lord will provide.”
what has God asked you to lay down on his altar?
what sacrifice?
what surrender?
maybe you are still in one of those life moments of fire-readying and knife-raising …
maybe you are feeling like this time God has simply asked too much ...
maybe you can’t see the ram in the thicket of thorns waiting to rescue …
but this story reminds each one of us that God is with us on the mountain of sacrifice … the place where we lay down our isaacs and surrender in obedience.
the place where God meets us ... and provides.
Jesus ~ some days it does feel like you ask too much. i can give up this, but not that. i can surrender here, but not there. and yet, you call us by name to follow you in obedience. Lord, as painful as some of these moments are, thank you for reminding us of the ram in the thicket waiting to rescue. thank you, Father, for sending your Son -- the perfect sacrifice -- as atonement. amen.

{october things} 10/31/15
all week i’ve been thinking about what
verse i’d want to use as i wrapped up
this {october things} series.
i had settled on john 16:33 a few days ago,
but hadn’t written a word of this post yet.
yesterday, my daughter, home from college
for the night, shared with my husband and i
some things she had been learning and journaling.
the verse she referenced? yep, john 16:33.
no coincidence.
our oldest, emily, has always carried with her some anxiety.
from the time she was a little girl to now, she’s battled the troubles of this world, the fear it brings and the peace she so desires.
she’s not alone.
i feel like that a lot.
you probably too, right?
but recently God has been reassuring her of His Truth.
one reminder after another has crossed her path ---
messages at church, words from encouraging friends, scripture.
all of it pointing back to God's desire for her to live without
the fears of her childhood and to leave behind all traces of anxiety.
a few weeks ago, she found this bracelet ---"without fear."
and has been wearing it to remind herself that though we
live in a world with a lot of scary stuff, we aren't designed
to live in fear.
and john 16:33 just underlines all of this for her ... for me ... for you. a note tucked away for each one of us when we feel weary
from the troubles of our times.
Jesus whispering into our ears:
yes, you live in a broken, mixed up world.
and, yes, you will have trouble.
but (i love this phrase) TAKE HEART!
(don’t give up, don’t worry, have hope, be encouraged).
it might feel overwhelming for you,
but, dear ones, it’s nothing for me.
I’ve got this. I've already conquered.
love, Jesus
oh, yeah, this world, it doesn’t make sense.
i can’t begin to wrap my mind around all the things
going wrong with it -- the injustice, the insanity, the incomprehensible pain.
but, like my daughter in her journal, i cling to God’s
Word knowing he has written these thoughts for
times like these and for people like me.
live without fear.
take heart.
and have peace.