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Pharaoh Changed His Mind

Sixteen years ago, today, a woman gave birth to a baby boy in Guatemala. I don’t know anything about her other than her name. I don’t know what circumstances drove her to give up her child but, in her sacrifice, I have a son. A child that I could not love any more if I had given birth to him myself.

For this child we’ve prayed and the Lord has heard our prayers.

The rest of this story is small in comparison to that.

I want to frame this story with a lesson that God taught me early Tuesday morning as I was praying over a day that was to be a monumental. I was so angry about the events of the day before (see below) and I was feeling as helpless as I have in this entire process. God reminded me that this is his battle, not mine. This is not my fight. “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:13-14 With this reminder, my foot, that had been incessantly tapping, stopped. The vibrating tension in my body drained. God’s got this. But that didn’t mean that the day was easy.

One month ago, a judge ordered the beginnings of a change in Guatemala, he pushed a door open, cracked it for the possibility of a new chapter in international adoption between the United States and Guatemala. Seventeen days ago, an adoption agency agreed to put aside everything they knew to be true in order to help us. Seventeen days ago, a home study agency agreed to do the impossible in pulling together our entire report in a short two weeks.  We have filled out 150+ pages of applications, had fire inspections, the dog to the vet, obtained doctors reports, completed educational courses, and burned the candle at both ends to prepare for today. A 16th birthday is a milestone marker birthday in the world of international adoption. Adoption visas are only granted to children whose paperwork has been filed prior to this monumental day.  Today we have reached that day.

Last Friday, the day I boarded a plane to Guatemala, every last paper was in order to file our adoption application with the exception of a letter from Guatemala’s central adoption authority, CNA, to the United States central adoption authority, the Department of State. As the hours ticked by and the letter didn’t arrive, we needed to start making a plan B. Monday morning, Phil and I, and our attorney, showed up at CNA with paperwork in hand and a request for our “letter.” Even without an appointment we were granted an audience with the sub-director, the highest power in CNA at the moment. His immediate answer was no. This is something I have become accustomed to and our lawyer wasn’t going to stand for it. Each of the three of us had an opportunity to have our voices heard, and I had the chance to pour out my heart to the two highest powers overseeing adoption in Guatemala. When we finally left it was with the commitment to send a letter to both our adoption agency and the Department of State. As the hours again slipped by the letter never came. A phone call to CNA revealed that they had lied to us.  They had no intention of sending the letter and didn’t even as they ushered us out of their office. I have never experienced deception on this level before. I didn’t even know what to do with it…How do you hold the highest power accountable? Especially when time was our biggest enemy.

This is a man who has the power to help these children, to clear the path for their best interests, and he remains defiant.  All the passion and anger that rose up within me. I was seething.

A phone call to the judge unearthed his anger and he assured us that he would remedy the situation during our court hearing on the following day. We had 24 hours to have a letter delivered and our application overnighted. This was becoming a process of counting minutes.

Phil left for the airport in his rental car at the same time that we left for our court hearing on Tuesday. As we were nearing the court, I got a phone call from him. He had been pulled over in a random checkpoint and informed that Avis had not paid a fine on his car. He was being detained until someone from Avis could come and take care of the situation. As he called me, he said, I am sitting on the side of the road surrounded by Guatemalan police. I am not sure what to do. As time was running out to make his flight the officers informed him that if he wanted to pay the fine they would release him. I can only assume that the $40 that it cost him to secure his freedom will never make it to any official beyond those who were surrounding his car.

As I was sitting in the lobby of Children’s Court, I realized how in over our heads we are in this. We are doing this whole other thing down here that is beyond anything I would have ever even realized as a possibility. I was sitting in children’s court in Guatemala City, watching a parade of broken and hurting children, hot, loud, the tension palpable. I was feeling in way too deep, alone, while I waited on so many things, Phil to be released, a judge to speak justice into our situation, with zero language skills, the basis of my functionality. All I could do was pray, and even that was failing me, all I could come up with in the moment was a mantra of “Please, God. Please, God.” The last two days have been an extreme in living outside the realm of my reality.

An hour and a half after our little band of warriors walked into court, they walked out with a judge’s order in hand that CNA produce a letter. We were now down to 4.5 hours before our paperwork had to be put in an overnight package to be delivered to a lockbox for USCIS. CNA had sent a rookie lawyer who was completely out of step with the judge’s previous orders from a month ago. In addition, CNA had failed to do any of the things that the judge had ordered them to. As of the writing of this, CNA has 48 hours to produce a list of children that would be available for international adoptions and to make that available to the Department of State. If they fail to do this, they will be breaking the law and the judge will hold them in contempt of court. For more than just us, this is so, so, so big.

As we arrived at CNA, both of the men that Phil and I had met with the day before passed through the area we were waiting and did double takes as they saw me. I wanted to tell them, you see? My God is bigger!

As the hours passed, we waited, and waited some more.  I introduced JC to the dot game and we passed the time connecting dots. CNA kept inviting us to leave and we kept declining their offer. Intent instead, to stage our peaceful sit-in, 4 of us, until we had in our hand the letter that was promised to us the day before. (We even ordered McDonalds to be delivered to us while we waited.) After 3 hours, as CNA employees were leaving for the day, a letter was finally prepared, and it was hand delivered to the US Embassy. We didn’t get to see it; we couldn’t have a copy of it. But we did receive a call from the office of the First Lady of Guatemala and were informed that CNA followed every detail of the judge’s order and assured us of their continued assistance in the process.

This morning we have received word that our application was received by USCIS and our adoption agency has requested a phone call with a supervisor of USCIS to try and talk though all of the minutia of this mess of a process.

Yesterday morning, I dug into Exodus 14. The chapter begins with Pharaoh changing his mind about letting the Israelites go. This felt so familiar. The edge of the Red Sea, no place to turn, nothing more that could be done except just sitting in faith and waiting on God to redeem the situation. The Red Sea parted, the Israelites were saved, and Pharaoh drowned. The victory belongs to God! But I really want to know, was Moses sad when Pharaoh drowned? I honestly want to see the Red Sea crash.

We weren’t looking for a fight, but we are on the front lines. The scariest thing, is to be standing there, bombs falling, and not be able to do a thing. God has made it clear though that this battle for me is though prayer, not in anything that I might be able to “do.” And in this His power and glory will be on display for all to see. I am longing to see the God of the Old Testament bring justice.

Beth Guckenberger wrote, “Noah’s story teaches us to listen even when what we hear doesn’t make sense. Abraham’s story says God is always ‘on time.’ “ JC’s story tells us that nothing is beyond redemption, and our God is still a God of miracles.

My mind, my body, and my heart are tired but I am rejoicing in all of the ways God is redeeming this child’s story and restoring justice. Tonight I get to light the candles on his cake and celebrate his birthday with him and no matter what else happens, we are already a family.

 

 

For Esperanza. Because of Love.

One year ago I started a new job…but it isn’t work. In the last year I have been to Guatemala, to what has become my second home at Casa Bernabe, 9 times. Over the course of the last 12 months I have become a collector, a collector of stories, of memories, of photos, a collector of tears and heartache, of side-splitting laughter and giggles. And I needed a place for all of it. A place to process it, a place to give voice to the good, the bad, and the ugly. A place to foster hope and grow justice, even within my own heart.

Let me introduce, For Esperanza. Because of love.

for esperanza

Part travel journal, part love story, where we look at the work that’s being done when we roll up our sleeves and push for justice on behalf of the most vulnerable.

For me this has never been about politics. It’s about doing what is good, and just, and right. Yet, I find myself being forced into a divided arena, driven towards the political and polarizing in this quest and we’ll tip-toe into that a bit as well.

I can assure you that when I first stepped foot on Guatemalan soil back in 2017, I had no idea where this train was headed! As a Run and Be Still follower, you know this! And yet, this is where I find myself today and it feels like it’s time for the next chapter. I am not abandoning my home here, however, these days you will find me much more frequently at our new online home.

Please join us as we transition. You can follow along on all of our adventures (like the time Mae and I were on a medical emergency flight back from Guatemala last March.)

To stay in the know, like us on Facebook at For Esperanza or follow us on Instagram @ crazy_gringas (Find out what that’s all about here.)

For all of the stories and photos, take a look at the new website For Esperanza and if you subscribe, all of our adventures, shenanigans, and captivating stories will be delivered right to you inbox. You won’t miss a thing! We’d love to have you as part of our For Esperanza community as well.

In the meantime, here is the latest post, Heartbeat. (Just click to read it in it’s entirety.)

heartbeat

 

I’m asking for a friend…

I am coming to you today with an ask that I don’t usually make here but I feel compelled to try to help a dear friend, a woman who is standing in the gap for 13 boys whose mothers’ can’t or won’t.  I want to ask for your prayers, and also let you know about a specific opportunity to support my dear friends Luis and Nuvia who are house parents at the orphanage in Guatemala. I have spent many hours in their home over the course of the years that I have visited the orphanage. These are remarkable people who have given up their lives in the care of the boys in their home and I have come to love them dearly.

luis nuvia

This has been a challenging year for them because of some medical issues that have come up in their family. About 10 days ago Nuvia fainted and after examining her the doctors think she may have had a stroke. There are more tests that need to be done to determine what caused this and what care or treatment she may need going forward.

One of the biggest needs in this season at Casa Bernabé is to find ways we can better support and come alongside the staff there. The Casa Bernabé staff work incredibly hard doing jobs that are so difficult. They are all there because they feel called by God to this work, and each of them loves the jobs they’ve chosen, but this life is not without its challenges. One of those challenges is that all of them could be doing other jobs outside of Casa Bernabé and earning more money than they do working in a children’s home. The salaries of the CB staff do not currently allow most of them to save for unforeseen medical events like the situation Luis and Nuvia are currently facing. This is something their board is hoping to address and improve in the future, but for now, I want to share this need with you and ask you to pray about helping in any way you can.

There are a series of 10 tests Nuvia’s doctors want to run to figure out what is going on. Yesterday she had a multitude of blood tests done and today she will be having an MRI and an electroencephalogram. (Please be praying for peace though this entire process.) The cost of this testing will be $750, and that amount is beyond what Luis and Nuvia can afford at this time.

If any of you are interested in helping cover part of the cost of this testing for Nuvia, you can do so by clicking here. Your tax-deductible donation will be made through Love Runners.  No amount is too small, each dollar has the ability, when combined cooperatively, to have much larger impact. Cooperative giving is how Love Runners accomplishes meeting these needs.  “This is what it’s all about for us, serving in the immediate.”

We are also asking for your prayers for Nuvia’s health. Please pray for a clear diagnosis and course of treatment in her next few appointments. The boys love her, and we want to see her restored to her full health as soon as possible.
nuvia esperanza

A Blind Mile

It was over a month ago that I was sitting on the floor in the back corner of a church in Guatemala City, listening to Sunday morning’s message, translated so that I could understand it.  The message titled, A Mile of Faith, it’s subject, the walk of the blind man in John 9.  It’s this muddy eyed walk that I have been thinking about. Jesus is walking with his disciples and has cause to stop, stoop down, spit into the dirt and make some mud, then smear it on the blind man’s face. He then commands the blind man to go and wash it in a certain pool of water. Unseeing, (and since he didn’t ask to be healed quite possibly thinking “Um ok, what in the world just happened?”) the blind man trusted and with mud smeared on his eyes, he walked to the pool. He didn’t get halfway there and stop deciding it was a fools errand.  He didn’t just turn and wipe the spit and dirt from his eyes, thinking to himself “crazy man.” The blind man trusted and he walked.  He obeyed and he gained miraculous sight.

How hard is to keep walking when we can’t see where we are going?  How difficult is it to be obedient when the path is long? Blind faith…it looks different for all of us.

What a path I have found myself on. Not one part of it makes sense to my orderly, obsessive compulsive mind.

In the last 12 months,

We moved to my “never house”  in an effort to “do more with less.” This was a sacrafice for all involved and required a buy-in from the entire family. Our project house is still in various forms of completion. 

We started a non-profit in an effort to love on others (LoveRunners.org, please check it out if you haven’t yet) and Do Good.

We opened a store (something I said we would never do)  to help fund said non-profit. (And having already been there 6 months have  just agreed to extend our lease another 6 months.  This is for real now…no more “playing store.”) (You can check out our online store at DoGoodStudio.org. Our online inventory is always changing as does our brick and mortar location.)

Through the generosity of others in this venture, we have funded 6 causes – in Columbia and Zambia, Guatemala, South Dakota, and locally in both Sandusky and Norwalk. And I am excited to share that we are well on our way with another 3!

Most recent, and most impactful, was the trip my 14 year old daughter and I took to Guatemala City for a week to serve at an orphanage. 


We had our eyes opened to a heartache that has changed our world.  We had to see it to truly understand it. All the reading, researching, and memorizing of statistics fall short of the reality.  David Platt said “orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names…see their faces…hold them in your arms.  But once you do, everything changes.” 


 I believe that the same can be said for the poverty that they have come from. Once you see it, everything changes.   For so many reasons, I keep waiting for my heart to settle back down after this trip, and one very special life-changing encounter, but it hasn’t.  I am not sure it ever will.

None of this is about me though. To God be the glory in all of it. He has made this possible. This is His work.  I am just trying to walk obediently, blindly but trusting. He is using my “nevers” for His purposes – His good. If this had been left up to me, if the past 12 months had followed my plans, this is not what it would have looked like.  Suddenly, a passion and fire have been ignited, fueled, as I begin to see where this path may be leading. But, it is on the horizon still, and until I get closer, until my eyes are opened to seeing the fullness of it, I will just keep walking towards it.

What does your path look like?  What would happen if you had the courage to walk blindly in the direction that God has called you to?  Where would you be standing 12 months from now?

I would encourage you to have the courage to start, and to have the patience and fortitude to keep walking when you can’t see, so that you may experience the exhilaration of first sight as you travel your own path. 
 

And oh yes, Happy Valentine’s Day!

An aching heart

At this moment in time I am struggling to make sense of what has happened over the last 48 hours. I am now 37,000 feet in the air, somewhere over the ocean and my heart is aching and my eyes won’t quit leaking. The only thing I know for sure is that God is great and He answers prayer. Often times in the most unexpected ways.
I left the orphanage on Wednesday afternoon to buy an ace bandage and a few random groceries and was thankful for a bit of a reprieve. Quite honestly I was feeling like maybe I wasn’t in the right place. Feeling like maybe this whole thing was not God’s plan for me. I had been praying that in our remaining days He would reveal if in fact I was in the right place, doing the right thing. I expected when we got there to have my world rocked, assumedly by the babies. But truly, being a stranger in a strange land where I was unable to communicate very well, I was out of my comfort zone, feeling in over my head, and even a little homesick. So, when I had the opportunity to go to the grocery store I jumped at it. 

We had been invited to take part in delivering “mail” to one of the boys houses. (“Mail” is when, a few times a year, sponsor gifts are delivered to the kids.) In going to the store I was going to miss this particular delivery but figured I would go to another one. It was Mae who needed the ace bandage for a twisted ankle (graceful is not a word I would normally use to describe her) so she said she would stay and go to the boys house. I told her to take pictures and let me know how it was. 

I got back to find her still there and the Sponsorship Director heading back to the house with a Bible for one of the boys who was struggling. She told me he needed “some love” and invited me to join them. On our way into the house said that Mae had said we would sponsor one of the boys. (We had already decided we would. We just didn’t know who.) The director assumed it would be the little outgoing ball of energy that also lives in this particular house. But Mae had other intentions. The older, quiet boy, that needed “love” was already who Mae had chosen. Unbeknownst to us this Godly young man has spent the last 3 months praying, with the director, for a family. Being 13 she didn’t have a lot of hope for finding someone for him. 

In the moments that followed the offer of sponsorship there were hugs, tears, a few pictures and a translated conversation. He has gained more than just a sponsorship though. He has a family, more I am sure, than he bargained for. I can only tell you that in the moment that he hugged me something happened. A hole that I didn’t even know was empty was filled. My heart was wrecked and overflowing at the same time by this young man who has never known a family outside of the orphanage. His, a heart-wrenching story that we didn’t know until after the fact. At a point when I was wondering what I was doing there, feeling like I was floundering, to get an answer to prayer, and be an answer to prayer…God is so good!


I didn’t go to Guatemala thinking this would happen. I would have not believed that a 13 year old boy would so capture my heart. I would not have thought that now I would worry for him, worry for his future in a country that is so poverty stricken.
We had the opportunity to make an emergency trip to the store only hours before our flight back this afternoon to make sure that he has everything (and more because Mae and I couldn’t help ourselves) that he will need as he starts his 7th grade year in school next week. Oh, the smiles and the laughter, as he opened everything and immediately began trying on some of his favorite things. I just want to keep that in my heart forever. And I just kept thinking I needed more time, and wished to be fluent in Spanish. 


And so here I sit, in the middle seat, wondering when (and if?) we will be able to see him again. Wondering when my heart will stop hurting and at the same time hoping that it never does. Hoping that people will understand in me something I don’t understand myself. Wondering what in the world God is up to but knowing that He is sovereign and has a plan. 


Oh, sweet boy, who “needed love” my heart is overflowing with love for you in a way that I cannot understand. 

A Season of Transition and Milestones

My heart is a little bit in my throat tonight.  I knew this day was coming and yet I was no where close to ready or prepared.  After hours and hours spent in a car with my son over the last months, tonight, he took the keys and headed out on his own.  Dear Lord, there are just no words…

You see when I look at him this is what I see.  My heart has frozen him here in time.  My little tow-headed guy who had the funniest little smile.

my little man

The changes now are coming so hard and fast.  Blow after blow and every now and again my eyes are opened and I see him for who he is today and it is like a gut shot. He is this amazing person that makes me laugh, challenges my way of thinking, continually inspires me to be a better person and on nights like tonight makes me cry for the passing of time. He is such a good kid and I am so thankful God has blessed us with him!ty grown

The following letter was actually written by Nate Pyle and published on A Holy Experience.  Dear Hurting World: How We Need To Raise Our Sons To Be Man Enough, wonderfully powerful, a version of it is sitting on my son’s pillow for when he brings himself back home this evening. A must read for anyone with young men in their lives.

Hey Son,

If there’s one thing about being a man I can teach you, it is this:

You have nothing to prove. Christ has deemed you worthy.

Do you remember that I drove you to pre-school last year? Do you remember that I held your hand as we walked the hallway to the “parrot” classroom, and that I gave you a hug as your teacher met us at the door?

This year you walked me to the street corner, then you turned to talk with your friends, and finally you waved at me before climbing the steps on the big yellow bus.

You wouldn’t know this, but new parents are told to enjoy the early years of their kids’ lives because they grow so quickly. And wow, I’ve found that to be true with you.

This year you’re stepping onto a bus; before I’m ready, you’ll be stepping across the threshold into a dorm room.

I’m not sure I’ll be ready for that step when you are.

In my mind, it signals something important. It’s a transition to adulthood – at least one of them, anyway. I don’t think any parent is ready to recognize that their children have become adults. But if I can’t be ready for you to become a man, I want you to be fully aware of the pressure you’re going to face along the way.

Every boy making the transition into manhood is scrutinized, questioned, and challenged to prove they’re man enough.

In our culture, manhood is earned. Something has to be accomplished, some award achieved before the title ‘Man’ is hung around your neck. At least that’s what we’re taught.

Win the fight. Do it without crying. Earn lots of money. Get physical with a girl.

Please hear me on this:

Sex doesn’t make you man.

Fighting doesn’t make you man.

Earning lots of money doesn’t make you a man.

Mountain climbing, fixing a car, playing sports, driving fast – none of these things make you a man.

Being a man isn’t about what you do; it’s about who you are.

You are called into the image of Jesus, into the fully human, fully alive life. Be that man – the one who imitates Christ in all he does – not who others tell you to be.

Be that man – the one who imitates Christ in all he does – not who others tell you to be.

Do you remember that baseball game we went to a couple of years ago? We sat just beyond left field in the lawn on blankets, and we stretched out our legs. Do you remember that you began playing with the boys on the blanket next to us? You had brought a toy, the half dinosaur and half robot one, and the boy next to you just stared at it.

You gave it to him to play with and watched with generous pride as the boy played and wondered over it. That was you being you. You see, son, you’re more generous than I am.

I watched you give away your toy freely, but I bet you had no idea my stomach was twisted in knots. Was he going to break it? Was he going to take it?

You being you has taught me so much about me being me.

Generous, compassionate, tender. This is who you are.

You grow into a man when you grow into yourself in Christ. And when you find yourself in Christ, you’ll be a man.

You grow into a man when you grow into yourself in Christ. And when you find yourself in Christ, you’ll be a man.

It’s easy to say, “Be you.” But I’ve found it really hard to do.

You’re going to feel the pressure from every side to be something you’re not.

God gave you a gentle and sensitive heart. Gentleness is a fruit cultivated by the Spirit, but seen as weakness by men.

Our world does not seem to like men who appear weak. Unfortunately, men are often mocked for their weakness by being called women, as if being a woman is less than being a man. You don’t have to be afraid of women, and more than that, you don’t have to be afraid of being seen as weak.

Don’t be afraid of weakness.

Lots of men are afraid of being weak because I think they’re afraid of being less than a man.

Being afraid of weakness is like locking yourself in a prison. It keeps you from trying anything new, or doing anything that requires faith, or admitting your failures.

Here’s the secret, son. Being willing to be seen as weak means you are willing to be vulnerable.

And vulnerability requires an incredible amount of courage.

Men talk about running into burning buildings as courageous, and it is. But so is weakness, risking, and being honest. That’s the kind of courage we see Jesus model again and again. So what seems like weakness to others, is actually a sign of your strength in Christ.

So what seems like weakness to others, is actually a sign of your strength in Christ.

Every man has something they have to hold on to as they resist the pressure to be something they’re not.

Your challenge is to hold on to the characteristics God gave you.

You’ll want to trade them in and try to be like some other guy, but don’t.

Your gentleness is a gift this world needs. Do you know that?

We need more men who are willing to tenderly sit with people who are hurting, and fewer men telling them to shake it off.

We need more men who are willing to find strength in weakness, and fewer men who try to convince everybody that they’re physical strength makes them strong.

We need more men who are willing to leave behind the anxious pursuit to prove themselves as men in order to more fully imitate Jesus.

Take on the hard things of life. Be confident in who you are. Never give up. And when it gets hard and you’re weak and you feel like crying, it’s okay. You have nothing to prove. Jesus taught us that in our weakness we will find His strength.

Resist the temptation to convince your peers of your strength by bloodying someone’s nose. You have nothing to prove. Christ taught us true strength is found in making peace.

Speak the truth when it costs you to say what’s true. Friends may mock you, others may leave you. Stay close to who God made you to be. And when the mocking voices and loneliness set in, you can be sad. It’s okay. You have nothing to prove. Your identity is in Jesus.

Son, there’s nothing to prove because Christ proved it for you. I want nothing more than for you to rest in the grace of God. The Father’s grace that adopts us as sons despite the fact that we are not worthy of that title. Like the prodigal son who has returned home, the heavenly Father places his signet ring on our finger to tell us we belong in his household.

We belong.

Let this truth sink deep down into the recesses of your being: God does not require proof to accept you. All the needed proof comes through Jesus.

No longer is proof required to show that we belong, because we are already accepted. As one reborn in Christ, you are made new, already deemed worthy.

Don’t you see? You have nothing to prove.

God has declared in Christ: You’re already man enough.

A Six Year Anniversary of a First Thanksgiving

  Six years ago, just days before we were to gather around the Thanksgiving table we were saying goodbye to, and burying my grandfather, one of the greatest men I have ever known. That Thanksgiving was a “First Thanksgiving” and everyone since then has been a reminder…Just yesterday I read this from Jen Hatmaker. For all of you experiencing a first or second or 6 year anniversary Thanksgiving there is a wealth of wisdom in her words. 

“A quick word to everyone for whom this Thanksgiving is a sad first. First Thanksgiving after you lost someone precious this year, after a divorce, after a hard move, after a job loss, after something broke apart.

Thanksgiving (and the Christmas season) are wrapped up in traditions, but when an important person or place is missing, everything can feel disoriented and broken.
I love you. God loves you and sees you. Praying this morning for new joy, fresh enthusiasm, the creation of new memories. Asking that grief does not rule your heart and mind this year.

You are strong and capable and still able to fill your days with laughter and joy. Jesus is the best. People love you. You matter. There is still so much ahead.

God gave us an amazing tool to mitigate sorrow and seize joy by the collar: gratitude. It is a crazy effective trick.

Maybe we can bear witness for each other here today. For those of us who suffered a loss this year and those of us who just love you. Let’s list it, name it all, as a sheer act of courage and trust in the face of struggle:

What are you thankful for, in spite of everything, dear ones?”

Welcome To The Terrible Twos

  

Run and Be Still is officially two years old. Break out the party hats, cake, and ice cream. (Any reason is a good reason to celebrate with sweets, right?)

I have this thing with old pictures…I love them. I love the stories they represent, the old memories they hold within them. I can get lost in them, laughing and crying and remembering.  

I spent a period of my life scrapbooking, putting together these beautiful pages of memories when my kids were little. They are now 15 and 12…the scrapbooks stop at about ages 3 and 6. I always meant to get back to them but life happens and time passes. (And any fellow scrapbookers out there know how time consuming and messy this process can be.) But I absolutely treasure the ones that I do have. These books represent our past, they tell our story as a family and individually. Our triumphs and struggles. The faces in the books that are no longer with us, existing and living on only in our memories. 

And then, the past has this inexplicable way of making us look to the future. Wondering how the babies that we just held are about to be taking to the road on their own. Gasping at having blown through our elementary years and wondering what the house is going to be like when it’s quiet. 

Today I got lost in Run and Be Still’s memories for awhile. This is our history, something that you have been a part of in a very real way. The idea that just by coming together in writing and reading, responding and sharing, we have this connection…we are affecting and shaping each other’s days. 

This past year we’ve had squawking chickens and floods. We continued to celebrate our answered prayers in the miracle of Hannah. We’ve recently tried to answer tough questions like “Is Jesus alone enough?” I gave away some books and we laughed along with Sarah. In October I was blown away by your response to my post Standing With The Trees. Last summer we decided on not taking ourselves too seriously, and I made a public apology for the weeds growing in my flower beds.  

Overall we have shared 209 posts, had 7533 different visitors with over 40 countries represented! We are sharing life and God and struggle and celebration. We have a history, and there is a big and unknown future for us. 

I don’t know where the next year will find us but hopefully our little RABS (Run and Be Still)  family will be a little bit bigger, our embrace reaching a little bit further. 

Dear Me,

Today you need this reminder. 

On days like today as I look back I have realized we don’t always see the mountains moving in front of us, sometimes it’s a slow process and it’s only as we look in the rearview mirror that we are able to appreciate how far they have moved and how far we have come. I find myself continually amazed at God’s goodness and provision, in sickness, fear, and grief for certain, but also on the good days. He is right in our midst, everyday, if we open our eyes and ears, and soften our hearts to His presence.

How much more could God do with us if by His grace He can move mountains with mustard seed faith and He causes great oak trees to spring forth from tiny acorns? This next year, I pledge to stop wondering “What if?” (And all the other questions I ask myself like “Is anyone listening?” “Does anyone care?” “Am I making a difference?”) and induce my faith, let God take the reins, and continue listening, sharing, and putting one foot in front of the other even when I am weary and it doesn’t make sense. Then I can rest confident in that fact that if I reach one or one hundred thousand it has been exactly God’s plan. I love what Mother Theresa says, “God has not called me to be successful. He called me to be faithful.”
~Happy Birthday Run and Be Still, 5/29/14

A Tangled Mess And Chicken Thoughts

magicRadio silence…and where to begin.  There are so many thoughts flying around in my head right now, so many changes around the corner.  I can’t even begin to fathom.  I have this tangled up knot of thoughts and feelings and emotions and “what ifs,” and worries, and fears, and dreams.  I have been trying to untangle it, following each thread to see where it may lead.  Then I have these stray thoughts that go flying through my head like chickens, squawking and flapping and making a huge ruckus, distracting me from the progress I had been making on untangling the other mess. (I don’t know why chickens.  I am telling you, I am a wreck.) You see, this is what happens when you set a “wow” goal at the beginning of 2015 and find that God isn’t going to waste anytime getting to work – on you and for you.

Let me back up and see if I can untangle at least one thought line for you. I don’t usually buy into New Year’s Resolutions.  Mine usually occur in the back-to school-season. (That’s when I make my grand plans for all the Good Things I am going to accomplish as we transition from summer chaos to school day chaos. Er, I mean school day orderliness…sorry random thought thread.) But this year I did kind of jump on the band wagon with a nod to setting a “wow” goal.  And that’s when the wheels began to come off of the comfortable I had set up for myself and the knot started compounding exponentially and the chickens came to roost. (Read A Reflection…A Resolution for my “wow” goal inspiration.)

Have you ever felt like you were a spectator in your own life? Over the past week that is exactly where I have found myself. I gave my “wow” goal to God at the beginning of the year and figured we would have a nice, steady, 12-month, slow and measured movement to it’s completion.  Instead, I have found myself quickly face to face with “wow” and God. Major career change, a brand new business opportunity-maybe, and this huge blank slate (optimistic) or hole (pessimistic) that I don’t know what I am supposed to do with.

I know (in my head) that to live in obedience we go when God says go. Abraham didn’t know where he was going but God told him to pack up and move out and he did. (And this wasn’t just taking a walk around the block. He had tents and animals and people and all of their stuff that they packed up.  He left behind everything that he had known, aka comfort and safety.) Abraham was on a need-to-know basis with God which meant only seeing as far as the next step and even that was cloudy for him at times.  That scares and exhilarates me at the same time.  This is what faith and complete dependance on God look like.

Unfortunately, no matter how much I want to respond like Abraham, I feel more like Jonah. Jonah didn’t want to go. I was ok with just kind of going.  I wanted both, safety and following in faith and I had lots of excuses, just like Jonah, about why I couldn’t just step out.  But when God say go, you go.  And if you don’t He will take every excuse away and kick you out anyway.  So now I am kicked out and I don’t know where I am going.  Make sense?  It makes no sense and perfect sense at the same time. That’s why I am a tangled up mess with chickens running around in my head.

Who knew that God moving could be so terrifying?  But there is another side to this.  And this is the side that has kept me from losing it altogether and quiets the chickens.  I am not alone and this is not my plan to figure out. Outside of my comfort there are amazing things waiting for me.  God-things are waiting for me!

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.  So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.”(Matthew 6:31-34)

These are Jesus’ words meant for comfort and instruction. His promise to us.  I am learning to live in what author Nicky Gumbel calls “day-tight compartments.” One day at a time.  As Corrie ten Boom put it, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrow; but it empties today of strength.”  We are called to change our ambitions and priorities and take on a new set that are both exciting and challenging: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Being on a need-to-know basis is shaking up everything that I knew and 2015 is going to be an adventure. This…this “wow” thing that is beginning to take shape is not at all what I thought or expected, but it is leading me directly into the presence of Jesus.  There is so much more…more to say and share and discover but it’s still all tangled up.  Will you adventure with me and see what surprises lie in the great unknown?

How is your 2015 going?

These are a few of my favorite things…

“Where you send me, God I will go. You’re the answer I want the world to know. ”

So excited to be heading to upstate New York this week to share in an intimate gathering of women.
I am looking forward to sharing some of life moments with them and starting a new project that I can’t wait to share with you once I get back.

“Sometimes it’s the same moments that take your breath away that breathe purpose and love back into your life.” Steve Maraboli

I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. (Colossians 2:2 NLT)