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    Beautiful Grace

    Thursday, January 5, 2017

    The fact that it's taken me three months to sit and write this post might say something about the pace of life around here these days.

    It's a good busy though and I wouldn't trade it for anything. It's not the filling up of white space with endless to do's but rather hardly finding white space because you're busy living.

    Little Bella Grace was born to us September 23 last year and I can hardly type those words without tears because I could have easily missed the joy of her being here. She was not my plan. Any child born to me at all again was not my plan, but it was His. As usual His plan is like it always is and that's so much better than anything I could have ever dreamed or imagined.

    "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

    Her name means beautiful Grace and she is all of that and more to me. She came to us at what seems to be the longest spiritual drought I have faced to date. It's a scary place to be and to be honest-I would rather wrestle my will against God's and come to terms with His good plan than to ever face that awful silence again. Spiritual silence is deafening.

    Two years ago when Tim and I began foster care classes I was sure that it would lead to adoption. We finished the classes and got our first placement, three little precious children who desperately needed a safe place. When I think of them a smile comes to my face. They were precious and they were deeply loved. We were just their holding place for a while as they got to where they were going.

    Then two more beautiful and I do mean beautiful children came a few weeks later. They reminded me a lot of TL and Q, being so close in age. That's always a handful but they brought each other so much comfort and joy. Again, we were a holding place though and the story of how the Lord took them to their forever family will never cease to amaze me.

    I often get text messages with pictures or see updates of both of these sets of children laughing, smiling and thriving, each of them right where the Lord intended for them to be.

    But for a long time I wondered, where does that leave us? 

    We put our home on hold with DCS and began to think and pray about our children and our future. I thought that because we hadn't gotten that one perfectly adoptable child for us that we had been a failure. Failure when you're walking the path that you're sure God asked you to walk is a heavy weight.

    I can look back now and see God's beautiful plan and how He was leading us and using us all along the way-but it didn't feel like that at all at the time. It's so unfortunate how the enemy can blind us from God's truth. For a while I couldn't see clearly and I let him steal my joy and cloud my view.

    Fast forward to about this time last year when I suddenly didn't feel too well and you know the rest of the story. I was ecstatic from the beginning even though this wasn't my original plan.

    I had more aches, pains, swelling and discomfort than my other two pregnancies combined but I think I began to come more alive the further along our pregnancy went. For me, finding strength and hope on the inside-and that's exactly what this baby was doing for me-is worth far more when it comes to feeling good than any exterior physical condition ever will be.

    We didn't find out the gender but Bella Grace, Beautiful Grace is the name we had picked out for a baby girl. All along the way the Lord was pouring out his lavish grace on me, fulfilling my desires to nurture a life again and do what He's made me to do.

    Sweet Bella has been nothing short of an absolute joy to add to our family. She's been a bit under the weather this week with a cold and congestion but she hasn't stopped smiling and grinning from ear to ear at us.

    The other day as she curved those little chubby cheeks up at me-I could feel the Holy Spirit say to me, "See, I knew your heart all along. Even when you didn't. You still had more love to give and I just had to show it to you. If you gave it to five children in a short time, you sure have it in you to give it to one more for a lifetime."

    Our story didn't begin here and I don't know if this era ends here either. What I mean by that is don't expect me to birth another sweet child anytime soon but my heart is wide open to any and all plans that The Lord might have for us as well.

    Something else that I do know is that He is faithful, He loves His children and whatever we are to do and wherever He leads us, He will show us that plainly in time.

    If you're reading this today and you're a bit confused like I was about what the Lord is doing in your life-be encouraged.

    He is there and He is working even when His plan doesn't make sense to us at all.

    Just because my measure of success wasn't what I thought it should be didn't mean that the Lord used us and our home to bring five precious lives into His wonderful plan. Now that the fog has lifted I can  say that without the shadow of a doubt that helping one child for just one day is success. And I would do it all again.

    A lot of people say, "Oh those kids were so lucky to have you," but I think it is the other way around. We were the lucky ones.

    They brought me perspective. Then sweet Bella birthed hope alive again in my heart-we might not have had her if the others hadn't given me a good set of glasses through which my heart needed to see.

    And for your enjoyment, I'll end with what Grace looks like in our life at the current season.

    Isn't it beautiful?!

    If I Had It All To Do Over Again

    Friday, March 4, 2016

    Today is the last day my little girl will be five.

    Somehow this birthday just slipped up on me right out of nowhere. I went to buy her some nice little gifts yesterday and the fact that I spent most of my time searching in the little teeny bopper section at Target just didn't seem quite right.

    Five is like a right of passage.

    It's a big year of first's for the child and lot of letting go for the mama. I've watched my baby sprout wings proudly this year. She's learned to read well, deepened her little friendships and the coolest thing is that I think she really get's it when she prays. The way she talks to God just amazes me. She grows me because she makes me want to be more authentic with Him.

    But at the same time those happy feelings have been mixed with me finding a year of a new normal. Yes, I admit that I have settled into a routine that I like just fine. Having time to work a little, actually clean my house through fully and have lunch with a longtime friend....well those are all things I have enjoyed.

    Somedays though, I find my mind going back to those first few days of motherhood and recounting it all. There are many, many memories that I wouldn't trade for anything. Then, like most women would probably honestly admit, there's a few things I'd do differently.

    If I had it all to do over again I'd start taking a chill pill the minute I got home from the hospital with a newborn. Not a literal pill of course, but I'd just change my perspective a little or a lot and not jump up and rush to do whatever it is that I thought needed to be done right then and there.

    I'd sit and hold that baby longer, I'd snuggle him/her tighter and I'd buy a big fat fluffy rocking chair because I would be doing a lot of that a whole lot longer.

    I wouldn't worry so much about whether or not they had a cute, current room with all the bells and whistles. Because quite honestly, the baby is never going to remember that room anyway. I'd be flying just to get them to sleep through the night in it, much less make it cute.

    I look at the pictures on my walls of Tanner and Quinley and yes, I do count them as priceless treasures. But if I had it all to do over again I probably wouldn't dress them so fancy especially before the age of one. That was cute and all, but it was for me. I probably only made them more uncomfortable.

    I wouldn't compare myself to other mom's so much and just focus on my own mothering and who God has called me to be instead.

    I'd seek out the advice of older women who I admire and think have raised their children well, earlier and more often.

    I'd trust my instincts more and stop googling everything.

    I try not to get frustrated and raise my voice because all that does is make a child anxious.

    I would definitely swallow my pride call on my little community of friends and family to help me more and not expect to do everything all by ourselves.

    I would pray more because looking back on the little years of Tanner and Quinley's life, that is the single most important thing that has made the biggest difference.

    Of course I would still spend a lot of time at the park. I'd made random trips to Dollywood to hear the squeals of laughter. I would even visit Disney again at an age too early for them to have a recollection of. Because they might not remember the trip but I will never forget the way their little chubby hands felt in mine watching the fireworks light the night sky over that castle.

    Motherhood is hard work, it isn't all magical like a day at Disney. A lot of things you have to live and learn and figure only after the fact what your hindsight has told you was the right thing to do.

    But it is the best work. And while every day isn't magical, it is marvelous because it is shaping a little life and it is shaping you into the beautiful creation that God destined for you to be before you were even formed in the womb.

    I'm a little older and maybe a tiny fraction of a piece wiser now than when I had Tanner and Quinley.

    And the cool thing is that even though I NEVER thought we would, we are indeed doing this all over again. Our new little one will arrive in September and the four of us are overjoyed.

    I hope to do a few things a little better this time around.

    The Unexpected Slow

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

    I'm sitting here eating breakfast this morning, enjoying the view of all of the beautiful snow on the pine trees across the road. I can hear my little boy, my early riser, in the room next to me already enjoying the day at home.

    Tim asked me late last night what I had planned for today and I looked at him with a big blank expression and said, "Nothing."

    Oh how different that would have been if not for this gorgeous snow. When the weather man brought in this winter system late Tuesday night, he might not have known it but he also handed me a clean slate for the next day or two, void of responsibilities outside the home. And with that, a bonus of unexpected little blessings from a few people that I'm very fond of.

    Like this beautiful hilarious little picture Quinley drew and handed to me with the declaration that I am to, "Never throw anything away EVER that I draw again!" 

    And  sledding down a hill with the kids and their friends and hearing the sound of their giggles over and over and over.

    And baking cookies AND brownies and drinking hot cocoa in the middle of the day because why not overload on chocolate on a day off?!

    And playing Uno and Old Maid and sharing pots of chili and meatballs with dear friends who live close by and could get to our house safely.

    I realize that we couldn't do this every day and expect to function well in the real world. But I've also realized over the last thirty six hours that without pausing to live like this every once in a while, it's easy to lose perspective about the little things in life that matter most.

    With every snowflake that falls, also falls the blessing of the reality of today and really living. 

    I hear there's more snow in the forecast and instead of stressing about how many assessments I can get finished or how many loads of laundry I can get done today-I'm going to enjoy my family and the slowness that this time brings.

    A few friends of mine were discussing back and forth on a group text late last night about plans for our bible study today and what that would look like if school was cancelled. One of them said, "I love the pause this time brings."

    Well said dear friend. I couldn't agree more. 

    Now I'm off to put on my snow boots and bundle up again for the next stint in the beloved snow.

    Point The Way

    Wednesday, September 23, 2015

    Angel Varney

    Point The Way

    The weekend had been a nice and long one with three days full of good times and laughter and void of a schedule. 

    It was a holiday, the first one of the school year to be exact. Time was spent backyard barbecuing, dipping in the pool and watching fireworks at night. For a while mom even got to sit at the waters edge and chat with friends while the littles swam, splashed and dove to their hearts content. 

    So when Tuesday morning came and those littles of mine had been dropped off at school I pulled into a parking spot, cracked the windows open and turned the ignition off to breathe and reminisce for a bit. 

    (Please tell me that I'm not the only one who finds her vehicle a good place to pray, read, answer emails and just find five minutes of refuge some days.)

    My five minutes turned to fifteen before I realized it and I quickly got out and hurried to rush inside. 

    But before I even reached the front door I saw her struggling there and knew that I wouldn't be making it to the morning exercise class that I had intended to go to. The Lord had other plans. 

    She was wearing a look I'd now recognize anywhere. The look resembles a deer in the headlights kind of fear mixed with a bit of blankness that comes from depression. 

    She looked so very tired.

    She was me.

    Five years prior I had walked that lonely road called depression and by the grace of God I'd vowed after coming out of it to reach out to whomever I met struggling with the same foe.

    She has big dark eyes and as I looked into them and saw my reflection it was suddenly me standing at the kitchen sink, or the checkout line, or by my car at any given place on any given day. The heaviness can sweep over you in an instant anywhere or anytime and make you feel as if a cloud the size of Texas has settled over your life.

    I shook my own shoulders knowing all too well that my light needed to invade this darkness settling over my friend.

    "Here, let me help you," I offered. I reached for something she was trying to carry and she burst into tears and fell into my arms.

    That's how you know that you are one step closer to real help and freedom from this beast. When you can feel the brokenness and let the river of tears flow freely then your heart is good and ready for a revival of sorts instead of hardened and calloused to the pain.

    I stood there and listened. I let her cry. I said not a word as she told me how angry she was at the disappointment her life had become. I rubbed the back of her head like she was my five year old child and listened some more.

    If there's one thing I've learned through the years about an  encounter of this type,  it's that people often avoid helping or reaching out because they are afraid they won't know what to say.

    The beautiful truth of it all is that transformation takes place not so much in what you say-but how well you listen to others that God puts in your path.

    When she was finished talking we prayed together and I shared with her a bit of my story, because although I might not be able to fix what is wrong in her life, I can point the way to the One who fixed mine.

    John has always been my favorite of the Gospels and I particularly love how in the opening verses of the fist chapter John the Baptist is described as a witness of the Light.

    Not to be confused with THE LIGHT, he was just a good teacher of the way to the One who could set men free from darkness.

    We were never meant to walk this path of Christianity alone. When we open ourselves up to testify and share with someone who is experiencing a pain that we too have experienced before?

    It’s like turning a big chandelier on inside of an old musty cave. Light expels darkness every single time.