Learning to embrace change.

We went through a lot to have Owen and Emma. It was heartbreaking and emotional, and an emotionally high stress pregnancy…but in the end, we ended up with two beautiful and healthy children. God is good.

Over the years, I’ve come to accept that Owen and Emma would be our first and last children…but it took a lot of grieving. I grieved that we went from 0 to 2 so quickly; I just didn’t feel that I had the chance to enjoy their infancy because I was in constant survival mode as a new mom and a mom of twins. I honestly hardly remember their first year of life. I felt like I missed out on a lot of “normal” mom life and activities because having two babies felt like such an insurmountable task. Play group as a chance to visit with other moms? Forget it. Play dates? Heck no. Spontaneous anything? No way. An event downtown that would require me to take the BTS? Never. Grocery shopping? Tell me first how you pull a double stroller and a cart while dealing with crying babies…or where you put the food you’re buying if you only have the stroller…or how to get home in a taxi (we have a car now, thankfully) with all the food, 2 babies, and a stroller that is too big to fit in the trunk of a taxi that has a natural gas tank. A morning at the coffee shop with a sleeping child? Whatever. Even as a mom, I envied other moms; moms who “only had one child.” And while I adore my children and have grown into my role as a “twin mama,” life just SEEMED infinitely easier for most new moms of singletons.

I had finally gotten to a point where I had accepted that and simply was grateful instead of bitter about certain things. Life has clearly gotten easier as the twins have gotten older and I think we hit our stride when they turned about 3.5 years old. I have said numerous times to friends how we are finally reaping all the benefits of having twins because they are finally playing well together and need less and less intervention from me. Most mornings, I spend my time on the couch reading while they color or play together and brew up new imaginary adventures. It’s pretty rad, actually. I remember wondering at one point in time during their infancy if I’d ever read again. 😂 Travel from Bangkok to Minneapolis (24-30+ hours) and back again was a breeze this past summer. Taking them places alone and not worrying about one running left and one running right is no longer an issue. Play dates and play group has become a regular and fun part of their lives (and mine). Their personalities and interests have emerged and entertaining them with coloring, crafts, and “school work” (all things that I love) is a breeze. Honestly, I’ve really been enjoying my last year at home with them before they start K4, but was also getting mentally ready to jump back into the teaching world again at ICS. Life has been good, stable and predictable…exactly how I like it. 😝

And then God moved and surprised us all with a new plan.

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I confess, it has taken time to wrap our minds around this surprise. When I found myself taking a pregnancy test and two lines popped up, my first thought was, “Waaaaait….two lines means not pregnant, right??!?!” The shock was so tremendous that I honestly found myself grieving all over again. We were done. This was not part of our plan. I grieved my own plans and expectations of what I thought life held for us. I grieved having to start all over when we had purged everything baby related. I grieved going back to infancy when we had finally hit our stride. I grieved not returning to ICS to teach. And I grieved that as I have not felt well, I haven’t been able to give more time and energy to the twins in their last year at home with me. This was SO not part of the plan.

The extreme grief and shock lasted about three weeks. And then when a close friend found out we were expecting, her words bubbling with excitement for us hit me hard. She simply said, “Wow. God must have extra big plans for that baby…I can’t wait to meet him/her.” And she’s right… I have always asked God to let me witness a modern day miracle to help bolster my faith. Her words jolted me out of my grief and helped me to realized that God not only allowed me to witness a miracle, but to even be a part of it. A baby…a baby against all odds. This baby may have been a surprise for us, but s/he certainly was not for God.

And then there’s sweet Emma girl. I joke and say she prayed this baby into being and that she’s not allowed to pray anymore. For many months this sweet child has tenderly prayed every single night for a “real live baby in our home.” I had never told her “no,” but had always said that Mama and Daddy were done and it would take a miracle for that to happen so that it probably wouldn’t ever happen. Mind you, that little girl kept praying anyway. Prayers have no boundaries.

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And so here we are…over a third of the way in. Some moments I still waiver. Some moments I still wonder if this was just a test of faithfulness or a dream that I’ll wake up from. But we are learning to embrace. To embrace this good gift. To embrace this new life. To embrace the changes that will come. To embrace this modern day miracle. To embrace growing pains. And to embrace God’s clear plan and sovereignty.

“Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses.”
-Ecclesiastes 3:1 (GNT)

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And the things of earth will grow strangely dim: learning to live simply.

Sometimes goodbyes are hard, but not this time. We said farewell (or as it good riddance!?) to this one today…

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We bought it as an upgrade from our very very old Toyota Corolla. We were excited about the space that the new car would provide for our family and the reliability of being a good 10 years younger than the Toyota.

But as with many things in life, circumstances involving this car did not go as expected and we found ourselves pouring tons of money into it from the very start. I found myself wavering between anger, frustration, exasperation and tiredness. We didn’t even have the chance to try to sell our other car since the new one was constantly in the shop.

Starting in April, we tried to sell the car and had several serious buyers fall through at the very last minute. It was so frustrating. Then we brought it to a mechanic/dealership and found out that there was actually so much wrong with it that we couldn’t possible sell with integrity. So they bought it off us today for a ridiculously little amount of money to fix all the problems (at least I really hope they will fix all the problems first ) and then re-sell.

Now we are at the end of this journey, and while I am bummed that this was how it unraveled, I confess it has taught me a lot and has revealed to me (and to my husband 😳) ugly parts of my heart:
-I crave reliability
-When things don’t go the way I expect, hope or want, I am easily frustrated and angered.
-I don’t trust God enough with my finances.
-I cling to too many things/idols that I shouldn’t.
-External circumstances shake me.

Things I had to remind myself of/was reminded of during all of this:

-Nothing is truly mine; all things are gifts that I have been given/entrusted with.
-It’s just stuff/money, none of which I can take with me to heaven…so hang onto them loosely.
-Having things (a bigger, newer car) do not define me
-God provides–we have never been in want this year.
-Consider it a bad investment (all investments take risk) and move on.
-The amount of money we get back from the dealership today is “x” amount more money than we had yesterday.

So today we walk away with a little money in our pocket, feeling relieved and trusting that this was all a part of God’s plan to help us not cling to things of the earth so tightly and to live simply.

As we’ve thought more about what it means to live simply, we have started purging toys and clothes, but I’m trying to find other ways I can cut back and live more simply. What does living simply mean to you? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Funeral planning and roots.

I haven’t blogged for ages. The majority of this post was actually written this past October, but I just couldn’t publish it. Part of it is just that it is a busy season of life with 3 year old twins. The other part of it is that this blog post has been a long time coming…but I just have needed time to continue to process.

A high school acquaintance of mine was found murdered in her home in February 2015. Her death was tragic, unexpected, and continues to be a mystery. The news of her unexpected passing stirred the hearts of many, and people came out of the woodwork to share memories, give their condolences and unite in their grief. Her Facebook wall, even 13 months later, continues to be flooded with messages for this sweet soul. Former school friends and acquaintances, college friends, peers and co-workers all echo the same sentiments–she was one of the most kind and sweet people one would ever meet.

This outpouring of love from people around the country, and maybe even in different parts of the world has been so beautiful. What struck me most though was the idea of roots. She grew up in Minnesota, went to college out of state, and then ended up living in said state post college—so her roots in those two states were seemingly deep. She was connected. She was loved. She was in community.

As I grieved for her and her family, and continued to process, it made me wonder how deep my roots are. They often do not feel deep. Part of it stems from the insecurities I have faced over the years of having been adopted, and wanting to feel grounded and connected to others because it equated to acceptance and love to me. Other factors contributing to these feelings of uprooted-ness include studying abroad my junior year of high school and taking a few post secondary classes at the U of M my senior year (so not being super involved at my high school beyond 10th grade), going to college out of state (but graduating in 3 years so not getting as connected),  each summer during my college years were spent elsewhere (Alaska as a camp counselor, New York for a medical program at Columbia University, and Louisiana as staff for a Youthworks site in New Orleans), and then later moving overseas to Thailand.

Come March 2015, my life was turned upside down by a very sick husband with meningitis. I will be perfectly candid: The first few days, I was literally funeral planning in my head, and thinking through what life without him would entail. (It’s hard to believe that this was a year ago…)

And in the midst of funeral planning in my head, 3 things happened. 1. God graciously, and in His loving kindness, met me where I was at and showed me that my roots are deeper than I thought: I was OVERWHELMED by all the emails, messages and texts, the offers to help with our kids, meals prepared, groceries purchased, the prayers, the advice from friends in the medical field, the people who came to just visit with me while Mike slept to make sure my heart and soul were not withering, and the general concern of friends and acquaintances from literally AROUND THE WORLD–from Africa to Asia, to Europe, and to North America. 2. God reminded me that this world is not my home and that no matter where I live or what I do, my roots will only go so deep. 3. He also gently reminded me that if I am firmly planted in Him, my roots are therefore in Him…and He is always more than enough. He brought to mind a few verses that talk about being rooted in Him.

Plant your roots in Christ and let him be the foundation for your life. Be strong in your faith, just as you were taught. And be grateful. -Colossians 2:7

Stand firm and be deeply rooted in His love. -Ephesians 3:17

I think there will always be a part of me that struggles with the idea of roots. My humanness longs for security and depth, connection and a place to call my own. But I’m continually reminded to look heavenward, because that’s really where home is.

Belly up, belly laughs.

It was one of those mornings. The kind where my child wakes me up much earlier than I want to be woken up. The kind where I was awake in the wee hours of the morning with child #2 for 1.5 hours, and then child #1 is outside the door ready for his day to start when child #2 and I have just barely fallen back to sleep again. The kind of morning where I just want a re-do when my feet haven’t even touched the floor.

I tried to get the two to snuggle in my bed, hoping that MAYBE, just MAAAAAAYBE they’d fall asleep again. Giggles ensued and I knew the day had started with me dragging my feet and rubbing my tired eyes. I sent the two hooligans to their bedroom to play and read books for a few minutes while I re-focused the start of my day.

Over the monitor I heard fits of laughter, happy screams and squeals, and some thumping noises. I left them be as I continued my typical morning routine. A handful of minutes later, I hear the pitter patter of little feet running my direction. I meet expectant and excited eyes in the living room…belonging to the sweatiest little boy ever. I mean seriously DRENCHED in sweat. “Why are you so sweaty, buddy?” “Mama!” he yells in his excited (not at all indoor) voice. “Mama! We got a gecko!”

Great. I hate geckos…they jump out and scare the daylights put of me (and leave poop trails everywhere). “Mama!” squeals my little girl. “Mama! Come see! Come see! Come see the gecko!” she begs, as she tugs at my hand and pulls me into the bedroom.

I enter cautiously. Where is this gecko? Did it run away and hide already? Will it jump out and scare me? “Where’s the gecko, sweetie?” “Mama! It’s over there! We got it! It is dead! We got it with the big blue ball. It just fall over, Mama…just like that.” And there he is…belly up…and all that can be heard the rest of the morning are my belly laughs, because seriously, that is SO stinking hilarious.

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When there aren’t enough words.

Found this blog post from last February…

There are just not enough words to convey the heavy sadness that my heart feels.

Last week, a high school acquaintance was found murdered in her home. She was 31.

Last March, a college friend lost a battle to cancer. He was also 31.

This past fall, a former student whose life I had been heavily invested in, was sentenced to life in prison for mistakes he made. He is 23.

In all honesty…I’ve been wrestling with God in the unfairness of it all, screaming at Him for his seemingly ridiculous plan, running at Him with closed fists–ready to throw punches, tantrum throwing, crying and wondering why He, who is supposedly omnipotent and sovereign and just, did not intervene.

Last Sunday I was reminded by a friend how we are only able to see a minuscule part of the whole picture. In my heart of hearts, I know that. But the prideful part of me says, “I could write this story better if I had the control.”

Another friend has been encouraging me and holding me accountable to reading truth in this time where I have simply wanted to run the other way. We’ve been reading the “she reads truth” Lenten series together. The text for day 8 is from Mathew 6:33-34. The Message Bible version says,

“Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

I love how it talks about steeping your life in God-reality, God-initiative and God-provisions. When I think about how a tea bag steeps…it just simply rests. All too often, I don’t rest and steep my life in His goodness. I think it comes down to me not trusting that somehow good will prevail. It’s me not believing that somehow these circumstances will bring Him glory. It’s me doubting that these situations are part of a bigger picture. It’s me wanting control of life circumstances and wanting them to measure up to my ideas of what “fair” is.

I’ve seen Him deal lovingly and generously with my unfaithful heart time and time again. I know he’s holding my heart in his hands now, when grief seems to know no bounds and there simply are not enough words. Grasping onto the giver of hope.

I need words as wide as sky
I need language wide as this longing inside
And I need a voice bigger than mine
And I need a song to sing you that I’ve yet to find
I need you, oh I need you
I need you, oh I need you
To be here now, to be here now
To hear me now, to hear me now

-David Crowder I need words

Why Mother’s Day makes my heart ache.

This morning in church, all the mothers were recognized and prayed over. As I stood there, my heart sank as I remembered the years I was childless and yearned for my own children to love and hold. My heart ached as the feelings of devastation of the early miscarriage before the twins stirred and re-surfaced. I stood there thinking about those who would love to be wives and mothers, those who have had to deliver angel babies, those who have walked the difficult infertility journey, those who are waiting to adopt, those who are out of options for having children, and those who have lost their own mother or child. I stood there thinking about a high school acquaintance of mine who was murdered a few months ago and how her mom is even coping today. I even thought about my biological mother, wondering how she feels on a day like today after being brave enough to give her child a better future. My heart aches in the brokenness, the sadness, the pain, the unfulfilled dreams and unmet expectations, the difficult choices, the questions, and the loneliness.

Should we pray for and encourage the mothers of the world? Should we recognize them and edify them? A resounding yes. But don’t neglect to recognize other women’s feelings, stories, dreams, heartaches, and journeys. So post your pregnancy announcement, a pic of your sweet children that made you a mother, or even a pic of your own mother. But remember to give a squeeze to those that may be fighting a silent battle of grief and sadness today…they need to be recognized and validated too.

Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day has never been a significant holiday to me. I have always thought it ridiculous that we have a day in which we are “required” to go out of our way to express our love to another. I want “just because” flowers or a “I know you stayed up late with our child and I love you for that” hand written note. I want “I saw these and thought you’d like them” chocolates and a “let me continually pursue you” date night. So each February 14 has really been just another day.

This year though, as Valentine’s Day approached, I contemplated the love our Father has for us and meditated on 1 John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.” As I examined my own heart, I realized how recently my heart had not been filled with love…it had been filled with bitterness and anger. I attribute that to not enough time being bathed in the Word, not enough prayer or forgiveness, not enough of me anchoring myself and finding my identity in Christ…really, just too much of myself.

Little things triggered wasted hours of raging and feeling overly hurt and sensitive. And instead of drawing near to the cross…instead of examining my own heart and ugly sin, I sat in a filthy pool of bitterness. My flesh cried out a that I was justified in my anger…that I had EVERY RIGHT to feel hurt and bitter. My flesh cried out that it was okay to continue to roll around in the filth, and it begged me to find ways to intentionally exclude and hurt the offender in the same ways I had been hurt.

…but we love. We love because HE first loved us. The cross begs to fill my heart with affection and perpetual forgiveness and kindness. It asks that I find my identity in Him alone, instead of relationships. It asks me to set aside my pride, my ambitions, my selfishness, and my life and instead pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace (2 Timothy 2:22).

I’ve been going through the Lenten series at http://www.shereadstruth.com. day 3 struck a chord…

We are sinners. On our own, we are diametrically opposed to the way of Christ and when given the chance to be selfish or selfless, we choose selfish every time.

Honestly, it would be nice to skip over the hard parts of life: these cold, wintry seasons of hurt, anger, of loss. I just want to hide under my blankets and shut out the ugly and difficult parts of life. I don’t want to fight with the people I’m supposed to love!

But I’m so afraid that God uses bitter, icy times times to reconcile us to Him. I’m scared that I have to go through the winter of the soul so I can enjoy the springtime of the soul.

When I peek out from under the covers, I know the truth. I know I have to give up my own will, repent, and be reconciled to God, or I’ll never see springtime, I have to do more than hide and wait for winter to end; I have to allow God to change my heart.

During the season of Lent, we try to give things up to train our raw fingers to let go of old ways. But to reconcile to God and to breath in the springtime, we have to do more than just let go. We have to replace our icy vices with the good, warm things of God.

I’m forever stuck in the winter of sin until I let go of myself and receive the good things of God, Christ is the best gift of God–He is worth more than anything we could ever give up.

We don’t make this happen. We just cry out for help and our Savior thaws our bitter hearts. I don’t understand how it happens, but I believe that He is our only hope to free us from our sin…

I shared with my accountability partners this week that it is so much easier to just sit in pool of filth than it is to forgive and let my heart move forward. It’s easier to be bitter, wallow and avoid. But how beautiful it is when we allow Christ into our lives and He frees us from ourselves and thaws our bitter hearts.

Here’s praying, dear reader, that you allow Christ to work in your life and soften and thaw the areas of your heart that are hurting and begging for redemption and reconciliation.

Christ Himself is a real answer to the cold ache of our souls. It’s not an easy answer, but He is the answer that actually addresses the heart of my need. He is the relieving thaw of spring.

This Lenten season, let’s do more than suspend our vices–let’s run to Christ. Let’s be brave, come out of hiding, and be reconciled to Him.