Monday, December 31, 2012

Resolutions in 2013? How about some real solutions?

Happy New Year!

Guess how I celebrated the end of 2012?  Helping my 6th grader complete his science fair project board!  Not glamorous or exciting, but it earned me a hug and a “Thanks for helping me with my project, Mom” at the end of the evening, which was very sweet.

With kids tucked in and the clock ticking toward midnight, my thoughts are finally turning toward the New Year: 2013.  I can hardly believe another year has come and gone.  For me, this past year was one of those where the thing I really wanted to happen didn’t, but lots of great things DID happen, and I am grateful.

The change of calendar year causes me to ponder changes I want to see in my life and goals I want to accomplish.  To be honest, I have some big goals for 2013.  It is easy to become overwhelmed and feel like giving up before I even start. 

I do know a bit about accomplishing goals.  In 2001, I ran the LA Marathon.  It was a huge achievement, one I am very proud of.  I definitely didn’t do it alone.  My friend Bonnie drove to my home three days a week in the morning dark to run the miles needed to be ready for the big race.  As we ran, we helped each other in so many ways.  We told each other stories, which helped take our minds off the pain we were feeling.  We made up silly songs to chant as we ran up the hills and, most importantly, we were faithful to be there week in and week out, mile after mile.

Running with Bonnie helped me reach my goal.  Having a friend, a coach, or a mentor come alongside us as we work toward our goals can be invaluable.  But we don’t always have a Bonnie nearby, someone who understands what we are doing and is willing to support us along the way.

Do you have a goal you want to accomplish in 2013?  Has there been a dream planted in your heart, and are you wondering how it will come to fruition?  Do you wish you had someone to come alongside you as you step into this New Year?  

Holley Gerth is a writer who has a true gift of encouragement and mentorship.  She has written an ebook called “The Do What You Can Plan: 21 Days to Making AnyArea of Your Life Better”.  It is a valuable tool for helping us meet our goals for 2013.  In her words: “Instead of resolutions, it’s time for real solutions.”  The book is both practical and dreamy.  She straddles beautifully the two sides of the goal coin: how will we practically achieve the goal; and what dreams in our heart are fueling the need to accomplish the goal? 

It is a book full of grace, realism, inspiration, and hope.  She also addresses bad days, the nay saying voices in our heads, and other pitfalls we may encounter along the way. 

You can read an excerpt from the book at Holley’s blog.  Or follow this link to download your copy now.

I read through "The Do What You Can Plan" once already, and I am looking forward to returning from my trip to Boston (leaving on the 2nd...yay!) and digging in to the book in depth.  I will be writing down my thoughts here during the 21 days.  Will you join me? 

Friday, December 21, 2012

in water and fire

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; 
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  
Psalm 23: 4

But now, this is what the LORD says –
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
And when you pass through the rivers,
They will not sweep over you.
When you walk though the fire, you will not be burned;
The flames will not set you ablaze.
Isaiah 43: 1 – 2

For years, I wore a small charm on a chain around my neck.  On one side it said, “I have called you by name, you are mine”, words taken from Isaiah 43:1-2.  On the other side were two tiny, silver baby feet.  A friend who understood gave the charm to me after our son, William, was stillborn four days past his due date on January 11, 2007. 

I had read Psalm 23 countless times.  It spoke to me of God’s kind provision as my Lord and Shepherd.  After that Thursday in January, I gained a terribly clear understanding of verse four of that psalm, of the valley covered in shadow and how long and dark and rocky a road grief can really be.

I heard this morning that bells would be tolling in Newtown today, one week after the terrible tragedy that put each of those parents and family members and townspeople on the path through the valley.  26 times the bells would toll, in remembrance and grief, longing and sadness.  Countless times in the past seven days I have thought of the parents of the children who died last Saturday, of the slamming reality they have faced this week, waking each day to the separation of death that now exists between them and their children.

Last Saturday, I heard Scott Simon on NPR’s Weekend Edition interviewing a rabbi in Newtown the day after the shootings, and he asked the rabbi, “What do you tell the parents when they ask why?  Where was God?”  I waited with bated breath to hear what he would say to this most important of questions: what do you as a person who has faith in God and in his Goodness, what do you tell a parent whose child has just been gunned down?  Tears flowed down my cheeks as I heard him answer, “I don’t talk about theology at a time like this.  I comfort them by standing with them, being with them and weeping with them.  That is what I can offer, to be right with them during this time.”

I was reminded of the verses Isaiah wrote telling us exactly where God is during those horrific times in our lives…he is with us. 

God came to us.  He came into the deep waters and burning fires of this world and we celebrate Emmanuel at Christmas.  God with us.  God comes to us as the waters of grief close over our heads.  He is with us and He never leaves us.  He is with us in the valley, as we walk in shadowed grief.  He is with us as we burn and rage at the Whys?  Why?  Why?  Why?  We burn and rage and the fires don’t burn us up because He. Is. With. Us.  He is our Emmanuel, even in the most terrible reality that can be in life, the death of our child.

I have prayed all week for those dear people in Connecticut that the presence of God would give them the ability to wake each day and take one step, and then another.  That they would know somehow that He is there with them, in the times of wailing grief and in the mundane realities of life that uncomprehendingly still go on even when your own life has completely shattered to pieces. 

I knew before my labor was complete that our son had already been born, not here into this place where children can be shot in their elementary school, but into heaven, into the arms of Jesus. I sat in the hospital bed holding my son’s body, longing to hear the lusty wails of a newborn infant and hearing only silence.  “No, no, no,” I whispered, I wailed, I shouted, “Not my baby!”

Five years have passed since that day, and it is in the looking back that I can see the truth in those words penned by Isaiah so long ago, and I pray for the families in New Town now,

O Lord, may they find as they look back on these horrendous days, 
that You were there, in the valley, in the cold, deep water, in the fire.

Friday, December 14, 2012

pondering hospitality

The silence in this space is in direct proportion to the dizzying whirl of band concerts, dinner guests, cookie baking, caroling parties, shopping, cooking, and trips to the post office that have filled my calendar this week.  I yearn to write, so I am willing my girls to sleep just a bit longer so I can tap out some thoughts this morning.

I mentioned a bit ago that I am a part of a group of women called the God-Sized Dream Team, which was put together by Holley Gerth.  Holley is an author and a life coach and her blog is one of the most encouraging places on the internet!  Her most recent blog post is all about God-Sized Dreams and the new year that will soon be here.  

To begin the process of honing in on the dreams in our heart, Holley had us determine our top two or three strengths using a guide she wrote.  It was hard to believe that I could find something on the list to describe me, but I did eventually find some that resonated true: Hospitable, Gentle, Resilient.

With a gathering happening here this evening, my mind and heart are turned toward hospitality.  What does it mean to be hospitable?  It certainly doesn’t mean that my house is magazine-worthy or that my cooking would win prizes.  As my eyes scanned down the list of strength-words and landed on the word Hospitable, I was reminded of the many times people have said to me: I love coming to your home.  It is peaceful.  I feel at home here.  You make me feel welcome. 

After hosting groups in my home weekly for years now, I have learned that people feel at home when my floors are dirty or clean, when the food is delicious or just so- so, and when the activity progresses as planned…or not.  What does make people feel at home is welcoming them genuinely, inviting them to help as you work in the kitchen, asking questions and engaging them in real conversation, and serving them in love and generosity.

Tonight we are hosting one of my favorite gatherings of the year, our third annual dinner and caroling party for the college students who are a part of a weekly Bible study in our home.  This is the last day of their finals week and they are all worn out and tired from all-night studying sessions and the stress of exams.  So tonight we’ll gather them all in our little house, fill them up with warm chili and cornbread and then bundle up and head out to spread some Christmas cheer through caroling.  We will return to our house for hot cider and cookie decorating, more singing and lots of talking and laughter, I am sure.

As I prepare my home to welcome friends tonight, I offer my service and love to the One who has come into the world and for Whom we wait in anticipation during this Advent season.  May my heart be a place of hospitality for Him, and may my home be a place of refuge, love and peace for those weary ones He brings my way.  

Friday, December 7, 2012

an unexpected journey

This post is the beginning of a series I am writing about adoption, how our family came to be a certified and waiting adoptive family, and what we have learned along the way.  I hope to post weekly on this subject and look forward to comments and questions along the way!  


We are ridiculously excited to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey when the movie comes out next week.  The beloved Tolkien stories The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were our companions on long car trips last year, and we spent many evenings gathered after dinner listening to my husband read the words aloud.  It feels like a Christmas gift for our family to have the movie to look forward to during this season.

So many of our journeys in life begin like that of poor Bilbo.  We plan for a nice quiet evening at home but are interrupted by a table filling up with dwarves eating our food and a wizard talking about things we would rather ignore. 

Our unexpected journey down the road of adoption began in the busy waiting room of a large medical clinic.  That day, I sat watching the door, waiting for the nurse to come out and tell me what I already knew.  As I waited, I wrangled three kids, the oldest having just had shots in order to attend kindergarten, the two younger ones along for the ride in the double stroller.  For some reason, the doctor who administered the shots thought it a good idea to give the kids blow up balls to play with.  Now here sat in a full waiting room, trying to keep three kids under the age of five in some semblance of order but the balls were flying and my heart was racing and I sat there knowing in my heart what the nurse would come out and confirm: I was pregnant.

It was April of 2006.  My youngest daughter was barely a year old.  Her sister, two years older than her to the day, and their brother, a busy five year old on his way to kindergarten in the fall.  I was tired, to the marrow of my bones tired and when the test came back positive I just stared at the nurse. 

“Really?  OK…Wow.” 

I walked out of the waiting room in a stupor, pushing the stroller into the elevator, managing the button pushing routine, winding our way out to the minivan, all the while in a kind of shock.  Another baby?  After having our third neither my husband nor myself felt we wanted to do anything permanent about birth control, so theoretically we were open to this new life.  Still, the news hit me like a literal ton of bricks and I felt buried, feeling that I just couldn’t do it.  And I stayed in that place a very long time.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

tuesdays unwrapped

Hearing Christmas music being played on the piano accompanied by a certain amount of girlie giggling, I peeked around the corner from the kitchen into the living room and saw this:

A sister duet complete with twin lollipops! 

During the Christmas season, the kids' music teacher gives them Christmas music to practice.  I love how it adds to the festive atmosphere in our home.

Yesterday was the third day of Advent.  After dinner, at which the kids tried potstickers for the first time (and liked them…yay!) we lit the candles, read our Jesse Tree devotion and an excerpt from the Advent Storybook: 24 Stories to Share Before Christmas.  The kids ate their third piece of chocolate from our Trader Joe’s Advent calendars.

My to do list is threatening to become overwhelming, the shopping is barely begun, the Christmas cards sit in a large pile waiting to be addressed and mailed out.

I am grateful for moments to stop, listen to the music and remember the journey we are on, to Bethlehem, to celebrate Him.


Emily at chatting at the sky is hosting Tuesdays unwrapped for the month of December.  I am going to join in because more than ever in this busy time I long to be unwrapping the present of the precious daily moments, not getting caught up in what they should be or what I wish they were, but really looking and really seeing the gift of my ordinary moments this Advent season.

Monday, December 3, 2012

gift after gift

It was a bit of a flurry this morning as we woke up late and had twenty minutes to get our son up, dressed, fed and to band practice at 7am.  With teamwork, I managed to drop him off at 7:01 with lunch packed, bagel eaten on the way, and a smile on his face.

Now I am back home, trying to slip back into the slow, sipping hot coffee and counting His gifts on this gray, rainy Monday morning…    

:: gathering with folks from church to help an elderly couple take their Christmas decorations out of their shed and into their living room, awaiting grandchildren to come and decorate their tree
::  soup simmering on the stove
::  the Professor home after his weekend of Navy service
::  the table set for nine, good friends coming to share the bounty
::  Dennis’s chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven
::  a long heart-to-heart with my almost-twelve year old
::  new mercies every morning
::  the Sunday household chores of taking out the trashes and putting the cans out by the curb…signal that a new week is coming
::  giving Jesus gifts for His birthday
::  a pile of towels, freshly washed and folded
::  special seasonal opportunities to serve
::  singing along with our guests as the kids played their Christmas piano songs
::  the comfort of Christmas lights shining through the blinds at day’s end
::  the first candle of Advent, the candle of  Hope

linking up with Ann and the 1,000 gifts gratitude community...visit Ann's blog to read other Multitudes on Mondays posts