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We are a family of fifteen: eight already with Jesus and seven in desperate need of Him. This is the story God is writing in our lives. Proverbs 16:9

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mothering in the Hope that He is Enough

We pour ourselves out--- mind, body, and soul. We give nutrients. We give hugs. We let them in. We point them outward. We hurt with and for them. We reason calmly. (We speak sharply.) We encourage. (We discourage.) We play. (We tire.) We smile. (We weep.) We understand one another. (We belabor points until the other feels belittled.) We are patient. (We are clearly impatient.) We spend time making sure they know we love them. (With one stern glance, they question.) We train. (We neglect to train.)

At the end of every day, there is one haunting thought:  In the gamut of all that happens in a day, is what I did to mother, to nurture, to love enough? Did the good balance out the not-so-good?

The answer is always ---No.

We cannot love our children as only God can love them.

In his book Sacred Parenting, Gary Thomas says, "God had called me to focus my efforts on introducing my kids to God, even using my own failures and inadequacies as compelling causes for my children to find their refuge in him."

For mothers, the bigger question becomes, Is what God has done for me enough? If you and I could believe that it is--- He is enough for us, we could believe it for others, particularly for our precious ones--- our children.

The hope of all mothers who hope in Jesus is that His life, death, and resurrection and pronouncement of "It is finished" is enough for us.

And it is enough for each one of our children. He is enough for our children.

His perfect love frees us to mother as best we can. The balance will always shift in favor of us pointing them, not to us and our efforts, but to Him and to His.

This is Christian mothering-- not to say all the right things, do all the right things, even as much as we would like--- but to sing over our children the Good News that Jesus is enough for us all. The Son of Mary is the hope for all sons and daughters.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Relating and Remembering

The world has been an anxiety and sadness-producing place in the past many months. Stories of more people being slaughtered by ISIS, shootings and uprisings, constant political banter, and some of the saddest stories I have ever heard inundate my news feed. I have been grieved--- sometimes physically ill ---as I empathize with those suffering.

These things are terrible. While "God works all things for our good," is ultimately true and seeks to steady my gaze, it doesn't always ease the pit in my stomach when I see and hear the things so unsettling. And it shouldn't. Sin and suffering should grieve me. Sovereignty is not meant to extinguish empathy. My neighbors need someone to weep with them.

All of this turmoil leaves me thinking in desperation, "What can I do?" Because we all want to do something. I have heard a lot of opinions, none suggesting the state of the world and it's challenges be ignored. Yes- there is a lot to read. But words and opinions left on the open space of twitter and Facebook don't cost me anything and leave me feeling unsatisfied. As I sit in the quiet, safe and warm, wondering if anything I do from these walls will matter anyway, I remember that God works in upside-down ways. There is a quiet confidence in His manner that is executed in the unexpected. When the world wanted a king, God sent a baby in a manger.

I hesitate to make this so formulaic, as we all find ourselves at different places on the journey. I certainly am no one of importance--- except for the fact that God loves me and keeps showing me the depths of His affection. I am a housewife, a sister, a friend, a wife, a mother. Many of these things I have said before--- But are worth repeating. They are the constants God continues to use to take a hold of me most distinctly right now. They weave in and out of life, increasing our knowledge of God and His Law, and bringing to us the Good News.

The God of this part of history is the same as the portions before. While the canon of scripture is completed, God is still moving. We haven't exited the story He is writing through the ages. He still preserves His word and hearing it still brings about faith.

I think of Deuteronomy 6:6-9 in light of the revelation of our One God, revealed in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Speak of the salvation of the Lord. Tell the Old Story. This is the perfect season for it.

For unto us a child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder,
And His name shall be called 
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 

Of the increase of His government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. 

The kings and judges of this age will pass away. We wait, as those first listening to Isaiah (above ref. ch. 9) hope set outside us, not among us. Point to Him. Confess Him.

Elijah's Baptism

The quill still rests in the hand of the Author of the story of redemption. Sinners are still brought in by the blood of His Own Son and in the power of His resurrection. He makes His enemies, His friends. He makes orphans, sons and daughters.

In life, all sufferings confront me with my own failings. It is true that the state of things on the whole grieve me, as my groans join those of the earth longing for redemption. But I haven't only been grieved as a person looking at all those other people---God speaks to my soul too.

I think of all the times I haven't functionally valued all human life as reflecting the image of God. I haven't always loved all my neighbors in a way that would seek their good above my own. Sometimes I don't even know how to do it. I get caught up in the broader debate rather than see those closest to me.

I have looked for men and women, money, comforts, and peace to satisfy my soul as only God is able. Comfort is an idol. An easy life is too. Sometimes I am afraid.

There is enough in me that warrants my own returning the Justifier and again, hear the Good News, and be humbled as the justified--- every day. I literally need mercy every morning.

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed, 
by what we have done, 
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will, 
and walk in your ways, 
to the glory of your Name. Amen. 

Continue Prayerfully
I pray for mercy as I feel the pressing in of the brokenness around me. Even if just for a moment, to be reminded that I have a place to go with all my thoughts and fears, and remember that Jesus is praying for me.

In the context of the moment, I also pray for love for my neighbors. There may or may not be ways I can influence a vote or ideology but I can always ask for eyes to see my closest neighbors should a need arise. In some ways, it is easier to talk about policies rather than within my own sphere of influence. I have heard over and over again, "Jesus would..." Well, He might. There are certainly stories of the ways he dealt with his neighbors and enemies. It is true that He always had their best in mind. He rebuked and healed and always loved in ways that were appropriate. He still continues today. But we, friends, are not Jesus. He did not come to primarily be an example for broad political policies. He came to save sinners. When I try and value all those who need Him and their good (both the attackers and the attacked), someone will always be left out. When it is my turn to love, I need wisdom. I need the Omniscient One. He always hears me when I ask for help.

I forget these things mentioned here more often than I care to admit! And I am always led back to the Good News. The Gospel ensures that the success of all of this does not rest on me. Phillip Cary says that the Gospel is a story, that contains a promise, that is for you. It cannot be undone. His book, Good News for Anxious Christians is a great read, by the way.

If I can ever presume love at all, it is in being reminded that I have been loved in ways that are illogical and unfathomable.

In the face of the darkness, I look for the light as I have been given a glimpse of the end of the suffering (that doesn't arrive in the completion of another election), especially during this week of gratefulness. Andrew Peterson has written a very timely album, The Burning Edge of Dawn and I cannot recommend it more. It looks bravely at reality but never without hope.

I've been waiting for the sun
To come blazing up out of the night like a bullet from a gun
Till every shadow is scattered, every dragon's on the run
Oh, I believe, I believe that the light is gonna come
And this is the dark, this is the dark before the dawn
(The Dark Before the Dawn)
So set your face against the night
And raise your broken voice

Lord I believe, continue to help my unbelief.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


I am always inspired by large bodies of water. And I am always always in need of rest. Combine the two, and the amount of rest, even while it remains static, seems rejuvenating. A few weeks ago, Micah and I carried our five very busy children to the coast for some focused family time. The work of keeping everyone alive does not cease (you think I am trying to be funny--- I am not! These people are cr-azy!), the focused time in a beautiful place without distraction is a great blessing and gives way to more feelings of joy.

Life has been particularly relentless over the past few months. The work wasn't bad, in fact, it was very good. The opening of Chick-fil-a, multiple house guests, a trip to NC, and the beginning of school has occupied time and energy.

And did I mention my three three-nagers (as my mom likes to call them) plus one pre-teen? I keep thinking that as seasons change and they get older, I should sleep more. I absolutely do not. Since the triplets have been in big people beds, at least one, if not two or even all three, have slipped, stealth-like into bed with Micah and me almost every night. They like to sleep in an H-I-W pattern. I awake each morning clinging to bed sheets at the bottom corner of my bed with at least one foot in my back. One day I will miss this, I know. It doesn't lend itself to good sleep, though.

I digress. I have been so thankful we could have time for vacation in Destin, Florida. We have not been on a family vacation in years. I had forgotten what a blessing it is to be out of the rhythm of normal life for a week.

I love the Gulf.  It is a beautiful display of some of my favorite blues and greens. The water, white sand, and even the architecture give way to picturesque moments. Micah gave me some time to walk on the beach alone on our last full day. I haven't felt so driven--- even to write---in a while. As I meandered through sand and surf, my soul was nudged by each bubbling, breaking current as it became background music for the rising, morning sun. The waves, though smaller in the gulf, overlap the land in a seamless dance. They smooth and paint, gather and sow. They do not cease. They do not tire. They move, constantly.

The verses fresh on my mind as I walked were motivated by our trip. Jesus told the crowds, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." For just a moment, the reminder brought me rest. Creation plus vacation pointed to the Creator of these good gifts.

I love that the above words from Matthew are woven into the liturgy of my church. I need to hear them. They are a deep breath at the end of a very long sentence, first proclaiming the demands and precepts of God then heralding the essence of the Gospel. From the first time they were emphasized to me in a worship service setting, they have deeply resonated with my soul.

Rest, God commanding it and even desiring it for His people, is a common theme in scripture. The first reference is the seventh day of creation, when God ceased to work to spend time enjoying all He had made. Rest was instituted in the Commandments and was a day of remembrance. In Levitical law, it was again commanded and was tied to a day of Atonement. Later in Joshua, those who had wandered for years and years, finally moved in to the promised land. Rest took the form of a place where God's people ceased wandering for generations. But all points forward to the Person in Whom rest is accomplished.

I think about rest a lot. The first reason is very primal and one I have already addressed. I need rest. It is the way God ordered the world as well as my limited physical and mental abilities to work. I get tired. I wear out. My finite nature directs me to the Eternal, Infinite One.

The second reason these words bring tears to my eyes is that resting is the most difficult thing to accomplish! Imagining that the Christian life is about resting is counter-intuitive when all around me screams the imperatives, "Do! Work! Say! Run! Be! Act! Think!" (just to name a few). Rest is illusive and has to be provided for over moving around. Then, there is the rest my soul longs for, outside the angst of a broken, fallen, world. Often times, I join David in Psalm 22:2 in lament, crying out to God, finding no real rest. Just read on down the Facebook news feed if you aren't acquainted with what unrest feels like these days.

Life, work, and rest that does not fully satisfy reminds me every day that I cannot provide that which my soul ultimately longs.

The good news is there is one requirement for the person to whom Jesus is speaking. His invitation implies that those who would come for rest are those weary and carrying heavy burdens, and in context, the burdens of legalism and religiosity. The weights of life press in, even the good ones.

As a person raised in church and having heard hundreds and hundreds of sermons, my soul is sensitive to what I ought to be doing, pursuing, feeling, and thinking as informed by scripture. Imperatives are constantly informing circumstances. But outside voices are not even the ones that are the loudest. As God has written His law on my heart through the years, my God-given conscious is active. I burden myself with what I know to be true of real, whole-hearted obedience. Knowing how to obey isn't the problem. It is always the execution. I am usually not at the end of not trying--- it is at the end of trying. This is the way I am wired.

What I find interesting is that God uses these things to bring me to the end of myself and to Jesus. There is no amount of work that will satisfy the demands of my Holy Father. My own estimations of effort upon inward reflection will always be unsatisfying. There is no enough. In my personality as a rule-follower (with a false sense of control with a side of wanting to be her own boss, I confess), even if I outwardly obey, pride often follows. Trying to assimilate all the laws of God all the time leaves me weary. Yet this is not what He asks. He says, "Come."

Yet this is where grace -Jesus-, again, finds me--- always falling short, reaching the end of my abilities, welcoming me to repent and pray for increased faith.

Rest is a Person. It is the person who invites and secures a safe place for rest. Jesus also spoke words from Psalm 22, "My God, why have you forsaken me?" right before he provided eternal rest for the souls of men in His death and resurrection. Christ Jesus sat down at the right hand of God the Father, finished with the task of working to the glory of God.

Resting or working, my life is hidden with Christ in God and in His finished work. The thing that Jesus asks is the most difficult to "do". As I travel down the ancient path where the good way is that leads to soul rest (Jeremiah 6:16), the One who leads is gentle and lowly in heart, sympathizing with my weaknesses (Heb. 4). As His words are revealed to little children, it seems such good news that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Like the waves washing the shoreline, the Lord continues to work, bringing me to Him. The hope of salvation is entering the rest that is to come, and by the grace of God the Father and the work of the Son and in the fellowship of the Spirit, I will.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Destin, 2015

The triplets' first time at the Gulf

Elijah, sizing up the waves

Andrew, growing taller ever day

Time with Papa and Mimi

Shooting the seagulls trying to eat their snacks!

Isabella's "Garden"

Saturday, September 19, 2015


Another school year begins and I suddenly have a 6th Grader and a 4th Grader. Something tells me the teens are right around the corner...

Then, there is the annual NICU reunion. It never fails to remind me that with each ordinary day, change happens, seen and unseen, that gives weight to gift of life and glory to its Creator and Sustainer.

February 2012

September 2015

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Remembering and Hoping

What I will remember most about my Grandfather was his care and concern for those less fortunate. I will remember the simplicity of chocolate ice cream in a cone and the tender way he prepared it. I will remember his ability to quote poems and scriptures. I will remember his laugh. I will remember his bold fashion choices--- plaid pants and bright colors suited him.

Two weeks ago, after suffering mini-strokes and dementia, he left this place and went on to the next. The "Lasts" blog I recently posted, I read again with him in mind.

Toward the end as his body and mind failed him, he couldn't remember that he and my Grandmother were married. It became a great concern to him! She recounted this story with a teary-eyed laugh. He wanted her to pick him up at 7 a.m. and take him to the church. Her concern was who would come to a wedding that early in the morning!

Even his generous spirit was quieted by his conflicted brain activity. It became important to remember that dementia was a part of him, but not all of him. At the end of his life here, he wasn't himself.

Sometimes, a persons overt and apparent neediness reminds me of this truth in a way that causes me to hope.

Isn't that what we all need? What we all hope for? That as our flesh and hearts fail, something else is true of us? There is another reality--- not just the one we see with limited vision. While it is a different context, I find the epilogue of Psalm 73 fitting. In all times, the nearness of God is my good. The older I get and the more I see my frailty of life, it makes sense. In some way, perhaps truth is easier to believe in closer proximity to the one who is making all things new. The further I am away, the more difficult it is to believe, yet is no less true.

If life is a continuum, birth to death, always moving closer to eternity where death is no longer the end, the ultimate gift for those in Christ is God. It is His nearness wholly realized. The promise that I am being made like Him in the process--- even as my body is wasting away --- is a comfort to my soul. He is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Not me and my grasp of truth (especially when my mind may fail) but Him. Surely strength doesn't originate in me. Lasting endurance in the face of all that is this life is found outside of me.

Sometimes I wonder, am I moving closer to God? Then I remember the words of Jesus, "Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world." In the story of redemption, God draws souls to himself.

My grandfather knows what it means to be bodily near God. His flesh and heart are whole and new.

I am but a whisper of the girl I really am. Simultaneously saint and sinner. In the in-between space. I am not myself. Praise God.

In Memorium
Donald Leroy Abernethy

Friday, July 24, 2015


It happens quietly. The days turn to weeks, weeks to months, months to years. I usually speak mid-season evaluating the feelings therein, then the season has passed. The firsts are usually celebrated. Sometimes the lasts, but not usually. I don't always sense the lasts until they are a memory

I recently found myself in the midst of a post-last conversation. I was talking with a friend about something new-momish--- and her response signaled that I am no longer a part of that division of motherhood. Apparently, I have moved past that already. Have I? I think she is right! I felt a little sad. The season ended without my knowledge and especially not my permission! Had I known, I would have done something to extend the time into a more indelible memory. My mom, another gal well versed in lasts, says there is a book that voices this sentiment. Even this morning, I read of a different mom, feeling the weight of lasts voiced the same thought in a beautiful way. I am not the first.

I am sure that on the last days, I did not know them from others. The significance was lost in the excitement of what would come, the business of what is current, or in the stillness of the work behind me. The fact they were comes later when something causes me to remember when. Then, it hits me. Sometimes the realization is sweet--- and sometimes, it stings.

The last gaze out my childhood window.

The last figure eight on my bike in the backyard.

The last time we were together, sharing dreams and making plans.

The last drive away.

The last time I was called by my unmarried name.

The last time we went to a restaurant together as a family of two.

The last hiccups, felt some inexplicable place in my belly.

The last grasp of my finger with that tiny hand.

The last time he slipped into our bed in the middle of the night.

The last time she called me "Ma-ma".

The last time he rested his head on my shoulder, arms and legs draped at my sides.

The last walk out of that room.

The last conversation this side of eternity.

I am sure, the lasts shape me. There are some moments I feel ~somewhat~ satisfied when something has ended. But I almost always I wished I would have done {blank}, and I am left feeling unresolved.  Usually, sadness is a signal. But I can't go back. I cannot relive parts of history. There are chapters that are closed.

Mixed into the sadness is joy. The new movie, Inside Out, is brilliant in painting a picture of our maturing natures and the complexities of how experiences shape us. Micah and I took the kids to see this one, but it was really for the adults.

The theme was profound. Most of life is a mix. I don't have many (maybe any?) memories that are purely joyful. Even the most joyful are lacking in something, especially within the expanse of all of life. It may sound depressing, but ironically, the more I am okay with this realization, the more joy seems accessible at any given moment. When the pressure is off to have any part of this life experience ultimate, the joys taste a little sweeter.

The Bible speaks of many lasts. Our lives are full of them. There will be finality for us all. More lasts are approaching. I think it is one way God has set eternity in our hearts. Augustine calls it restlessness. Others speak of it as well.

Someone calls Himself the First and the Last, the Alpha and Omega, Lord of Eternity, the Beginning and End, Who Was, and Is, and Is to Come. Regardless of the direct implications of His name, all things unresolved will find completion in Him that will be perfectly satisfying. As life brings me moments to reflect on my allotted portion of lasts, I ask for continued faith to believe that what (or rather Whois to come will be even better than my best joys and repent of searching out ways to hold on to hope here. Like John in Revelation, one day I will worship in light of Unending Love. And for the sadness, in His presence, all that is sad will come untrue. And all the joys, will be made fully and wholly complete.

This is not the end. These are not really the lasts. Thank God.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Opening of Chick-fil-a Jefferson Commons

On Thursday, June 18, the doors opened to Chick-fil-a Jefferson Commons, with my sweet husband at the helm. The weeks leading up to this day were packed with hiring, training, preparing, praying, and growing in increasing thankfulness for the opportunity to serve the community in Okolona we have come to love. Here are some of the highlights:

Premier Night ~ with the addition of our nephew Caleb (although he fits right in with that Childs smile;))

Backstage Tours

Dedication Dinner ~ Passing the Batons to Our Team

Thankful to share this with Family and Friends

First 100 Event

A Visit from Dan Cathy

Micah's Dad, his first paying customer.

Micah's First Evaluation;)

Dedicating the Playground with the "Play Area Supervisors", Andrew and Elijah

A little suspicious of the Cow...

Our Grand Opening Supervisor Extraordinaires

It has been a whirlwind! And we are so thankful. And tired. But mostly thankful.

Monday, May 18, 2015

~Some~ Lessons Learned (for now) Installment 1: Toys

There have been a lot of lessons learned over the years in regard to systems of home organization and while I am absolutely still learning, there are things that I thought might be helpful to someone somewhere. My hesitation is that any suggestion would either 1) make me seem like I have it all together (I do not) or 2) make someone else feel like they don't have it together. This is not my intention. This is simply a way to adjust if you ever find yourself, like me a few weeks ago, outnumbered and starting to lose your mind over all there is to do all the time. And I am not talking stuff that can wait until later. I mean "we cannot function here people!" kind of stuff.

Sometimes, I am asked how I do it all. "Do what? What am I doing" I wonder. Then, I remember. I homeschool and have five children. The honest truth is, I don't do it all. "I am finite, I come to an end," to quote Sara Groves. One of the sure things that daily bring me to my end is all the cooking, cleaning, teaching, training, running, and constant moving. There are days when the "to do's" make me cry, crash, and pray.

One day, it hit me. A season had passed and the mess was a bigger burden. I felt like I was spending all day every day talking to the kids about cleaning up after themselves. I remember looking particularly at Andrew, as he is growing by the minute, and saying, "I don't want to be taking to you about this! I want us to have conversations about something--- anything else. I want to hear from you today." I also was exhausted from of all the time spent picking up. I want to learn stuff, dance, and play! And so do they. Having a bit of a system has helped so much. We still have days where it feels like the walls are caving in and a five-child tornado has passed through, but even then, we have a plan in place to help everyone get back on track. It really does take everyone. Now that the little ones are utilizing their opposable thumbs in bigger-toddler fashion, they are better helpers too.

That in mind, I make these suggestions with this caveat:  we all have different philosophies about play and life in general, and while some ideas may make life easier, it still doesn't mean they are for everyone. And every Mom is wired a different way and is given to her particular children to love. There is a lot of freedom here in respect to what works for different families.

Regardless of the lot, it is hard work. The pay is horrible. But there are bonuses--- moments when God grants the mercy in the mess to look up and see Him and then look around and see them. He gets His "to do" list done all the time, thankfully, and one of those items is sustaining and deeply loving me.

What is true of all Moms who hang their hope on being justified by Jesus is that we are continually loved and accepted. ((Notice that period, it is there on purpose)) Doing this, that, or something else, doesn't make us good Moms. Jesus makes us good Moms. In fact, we are Perfect Mothers in Him (Saints) even while we still struggle and somedays, throw in the towel (Sinners). What is far more difficult than running a home is believing that the Gospel is for me, today, when all my best laid plans fall flat. Without it, redeeming the time (Eph. 5) and working toward discipline in running a home becomes a burden that I cannot carry. Jesus was always timely and intentional. And His record is mine. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.

Having made that as clear as I am able, I humbly offer this first installment. After weeks of trying to deal with clutter, I am going to focus on toys today as this is where I am finally seeing some progress. Others have probably implemented similar systems and even written about them with better clarity, but here goes anyway.

Recently, the children and I gathered every toy that they own and put them in piles by subject. It was like a page from the The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room. For real. We got rid of the broken things, the things missing pieces, the things that no one even likes or plays with anymore and discarded or donated them. Some sets, I sold for the kids in a local "Buy, Sell, and Trade" group. Then I split the money between those to whom those toys belonged. I have five children, but we really don't have that many toys. I am ok with that. I love for toys to serve more than one function. If all it does is use up a battery, I am not sure it needs to stick around. Micah and I have spent many days and nights trying to beat the last life out of a nearly dead toy that just won't quit. Toys that require imagination are my favorite for them anyway.

Then, I went to Target and bought bins with detachable labels. Each bin comes with two labels and I really liked that they could serve us in the future if the boxes needed to change function. I also like their aesthetics. as opposed to clear ones. All the kids and I sorted and stored all toys in these bins. I also added whatever toys might fit in the closet among the bins that go along with some of the sets. This has been a game changer. No more do I find ridiculous amounts of toys all over the house--- and if you have children, especially many children, you know how toys can end up everywhere. Doll shoes, Minnie Mouse Plastic Dresses, Beyblades, Matchbox Cars, Legos, in the closet, under the bed, in my sock drawer, behind the dresser, under the stove... everywhere.

I do have a similar but more exhaustive system for Legos. My children love Legos and they can be difficult to manage. They are in a separate location for the big kids and are in clear bins by Lego type.

Whenever playtime is near, they choose a category of toy. They love to play with the sets especially when all the pieces are right there. And when they are done, they cannot have a new set until they pick up and put the first away. Sometimes, I let them have a couple out at a time. It really depends on if they can be played with together. I am not terribly rigid, only partially, as I have witnessed all to often too many toys out at one time, getting thrown, dumped, and generally slung from here to Timbuktu. If people want to sling things, we can go outside and throw a ball or something else throwable. Inside, I generally give them what makes sense, they play, pick up, and move to the next thing. This makes it really easy for them.

I also am trying to have areas in our home where other sets make sense and are stored. For example, coloring books and crayons are stored near their craft table. Playdough is stored in a bin in the kitchen where the hard floor and countertops make cleanup as easy as it can be. Stuffed animals and dolls are stored in large bins in their rooms. I do have a place for some toys in the living room that fit into one large basket. They are mostly the "B" toys and are easily identified and grouped together when pick up time comes around. We also have a music area so if I or one of the big boys go to play some instrument during the day, people gather 'round and play something to add to the band.

The garage is the (almost) same. I have been working on this one more lately. Bins for sidewalk chalk, bubbles, sports equipment, etc. One group of items at a time. Everything has a home.

Even though the system might sound solid and even simple, there are times (many times) things are misplaced and still end up all over. After breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I set a clock for 5-10 minutes. The kids go over the first and second floors (I split them up) and clean up all the toys they find. There are two designated bins (different from the toy closet) they use to collect toys. If a toy is too large for the bin, it is immediately put all the way up. Everything else, goes in the bin. At the last meal at home for the day, either lunch or dinner dependent on our evening plans, the bins are emptied and all the stuff is put back in its appropriate home. Even my threes can do this fairly well with some help. Elijah calls it "a tornado, in reverse."

Sometimes with prompting, I will help with whatever is left. I don't always get everything of mine picked up all the time so it would seem reasonable to give them some help. Sometimes, it does gets donated if it floats around too long or it is obvious no one really cares about that particular thing anyway. You get the picture.

If you have any suggestions or thoughts, please feel free to leave them in the comments. I love when I hear brilliant ideas, even if I store them away for a new season of life. You never know, I may suddenly need a new plan if I begin to lose it again.

One last note,  if you have a community of friends you can help with a project such as this, I can imagine it is much more fun as a team. If you find that one way is not working, friends can be great at helping problem solve. Most of all, we need friends that point us outside of all the work, give us a means to relax, and the are the best at loving us in the struggle and success.

This toil will not remain forever. There will be a day when I will miss my little mess-makers. For today, there is rest- not in systems or in plans but in the One who carries us through the gamut of the calm, challenge, and chaos of raising children. God help us so that all our burdens, big and small, be light and joy remains outside of us, drawing us in.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

It Happened in My Kitchen (A Tale of Theology in Practice)

I want you to first know that the below narrative is true. I have wondered what might happen if the persons described read this blog. In some ways, I hope they do. Even though I was minding my own business, this drama found me. It weighed so heavy on me, I felt compelled to write about it. And by now, you all know me--- and that I don't shy away from the serious stuff. I do not claim to have all of this together, but I do think it important to share my thoughts.

A couple of mornings ago, I had two men here doing an odd job for me in my house. The first was an older gentleman who was very quick to share his faith with me. In the course of about a half an hour, he told me of his service at church and shared various opinions about life. I was surprised at his openness. One thing he highlighted was his desire to make sure the children at his church are ready for worship, sometimes speaking to them in front of their parents about their behavior as they walk in the door. He added this bit of information as one of my children was having a "moment". He was a nice guy--- just intense and opinionated.

The second was a bit quieter. He is an apprentice. He is also from NC. In fact, his brother was a former Tarheel Basketball player. It was nice to have someone outside of the state share my affinity for Carolina. He is in college and was working his way through. He had worked at UPS for a while sorting boxes in the middle of the night, as did Micah. It was clear this young man would do whatever he could to make it in life.

As I listened to the two of them speak back and forth, it was clear that the religious man was intent on informing the younger man of his downfalls and then the way he should be, all in the name of Jesus. In between lessons, he would send the young man out to the truck to get supplies. The young man did so over and over without complaint.

Honestly, I sat in my living room, in shock that all of this was taking place in my kitchen.

Toward the end of their job, I entered the room. I tried to encourage the older gentleman. Not much of what I said was received without some interjection that was teach-y. Then, it was implied that the young man had a child. I inquired a bit and he told me he had a son. I congratulated him and affirmed his efforts to care for him.

"He's not here anymore... you don't want to hear about that," the older gentleman added.

"Oh my--- what happened?" I said, trying not to make this guy feel like he had to tell me anything but would welcome what he might have to say.

"He... died," the younger interjected, with a quiet, solemn tone.

This young man shared freely that he had gotten a gal pregnant in high school. She had the baby--- a little boy. But somewhere in his story, he lost custody and the boy was murdered by his mother's boyfriend. He missed his son. And the perpetrator was only sentenced jail time.

There are moments in life when odd jobs and basketball don't matter. They are sacred moments, when heaven might break through. I wanted to hug him (had that been appropriate) and weep with him over the loss of his son. Acknowledging his guilt and pain, I wish I could have shared with him that Jesus came to save sinners and offer hope to the grieving in conquering death. But instead, the older man took control of the conversation. His words were a jumble of things--- all admonishing this young man getting his act together. He spoke of sacrifice and moving on. "Jesus is good, but you have to do something with Him". And then, they left.

I am here to tell you, friends, that is not the Gospel. This young man had endured suffering--- some admittedly by his own choices. But he didn't need to do more right stuff to be right with God. He cannot do enough. Even if he did everything the older gentlemen suggested (and his suggestions were biblical) he still would fall short. He doesn't need biblical morals. He needs a substitute. He needs to know Jesus is right with God and so are those who believe Him (John 3:16). And goodness knows that before we even offer this truth, he needs compassion.

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Galatians 2:15-21

I have been in the position of the older man many times, seeking to reform behavior instead of offer a Savior. There is a point when the Law of God does and must condemn. It is the reason we see our need for a Savior. Sadly, Law is often downplayed as something we can attain to, as if it can fix us. If that were true, then why the life of Jesus and the cross? The cross is a clear sign that we could not and cannot save ourselves. It offers hope to those condemned and should be like a drink of water for the thirsty, a balm for those who need healing. When we realize we are dead without it, it breathes life. The Good News of the person and work of Jesus Christ falls softly on the broken hearted. It brings rest to the weary and heavy-laden (Matthew 11:28). If it comes across as anything else, it is not the Gospel. When we meet weary souls along the way who have been condemned by the Law, we must offer them Good News.

I have spent the last couple of days praying that someone else will speak to this young man--- That he will hear that Emmanuel sympathizes with us in our weakness, there is a Comforter that is with us in suffering, and a Father who makes sinners sons and daughters.

I also pray for the older man--- That God he would learn of God's love for Him in a way that gives him a love for his neighbors.

I also pray for me--- that God would forgive my lack of love and remind me that my attempts to communicate the Good News are perfected in the cross and made discernible by the Spirit. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

To Iowa

As you may recall, I have not been a fan of public speaking. Editing is my friend. Goodness knows, I need some editing in life in general.

However, the last time I spoke for something, one of the veterans at the event gave me a piece of advice:

Find something you are passionate about, and speaking will come naturally. 

I had the opportunity, thanks to my friend Jaime, to speak to the ladies of Oak Hill Baptist Church in Humbolt, Iowa last weekend. I have never been to Iowa before so the trip in and of itself was so much fun! Nor have I ever seen so many fields in my life. Micah and the kids went along. It was quite an experience with three newly-potty-trained people in the car for 11.5+ hours. Whew! Thankfully, we had friends almost exactly halfway between our home and our destination who didn't mind taking seven in for an evening on the way there and the way back.

It was a honor to speak about adoption and the Gospel. If there is anything I am passionate about, it would be these things. It felt like the engagement flowed out of what comes naturally to me in this time and space. I still sit back and marvel at God's mercy on us. He writes the best stories.

If you are interested, the church was kind enough to provide the audio from the event on their website. You can access it here. I have to say, my friend Jaime's introduction is so very kind and a bit embarrassing! She is such a sweet friend and I am thankful that God has given me her friendship in the midst of both suffering and joy in life.

And just in case you hear Jaime's intro and are wondering, I am writing a book. I hope to have it finished by the end of this year so stay tuned;) 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Time Has Come...

The kiddos are three and ready.

I have not been necessarily ready. With visions of public restrooms with my three, touching, grabbing, and licking everything in sight, I was quite content just letting them live in diapers.

But they are determined to grow up. I guess I can't hold them back forever.

Having trained two boys, the first with trepidation and the next with second-child confidence, I have---eh---had a good plan. It is one that has worked in the past (because the child was physically ready... that is important). I like the plan. It is also one of the first parent/child authoritative yet collaborative efforts that says to them, "I am mom, you can do this, and now we work on it together."

But I don't have one to train, I have three. There is always the possibility of the plan shifting to another plan (like all my best laid plans in the land of parenting and especially parenting triplets). There is a pretty funny article on how to appear smart in a business meeting that suggests asking, "Will this scale?" Well, that is actually helpful around here and it is, indeed, smart.

So we go for it. The first four hours are like an episode of Full-House--- or I guess like 8 back-to-back Full House episodes. There seems to be music playing, resolving all the potty-training conflicts as all three are 6 for 6. Micah is astounded at how easy it all is turning out to be! I have employed Daddy because, again, three... scale. He wasn't around for the first two experiences but here, we do everything together as a team. Two on three are better odds.

It is simple (for them). Go potty, get "One, two, three chocolates!" Do it again. And do it again. There are extra chocolates for the longer potty time. One child realizes she can spread her potty successes out to get more chocolate. Smart girl.

Then I leave to run an errand and people start forgetting. Poor Micah.

The rest of the day is a little sketchy. There were a lot of "Oops!" and "Ahhhhh!" moments. And some more "Yay!" and "Woohoo!"

Day two--- they start getting creative.

Imagine (or see below visual aid) all the littles lined up on their Ikea, green potties. One is successful. The second, happy for the first, lifts bum mid-potty (verb this time) to celebrate. The third, not wanting to be behind, stands and hoists potty (noun) in the air to show the rest.

The next go-round, the potties suddenly liken to racing cars and the trainees begin scooting them across the bathroom floor.

Sometimes, before I can clean all the potties, one or two gets kicked, knocked over, or something from the bathroom, that is more than likely mine, gets thrown in.

The rest of the time, Micah or I am continually herding people around the bathroom so they don't go too far away.

Remember also, this is co-ed. That also makes things interesting. That's all I have to say about that.


As I wake to tomorrow's light, ready to go at it another day, at least the bathroom is entirely cleaned and sanitized.

A Few Pics

It has been a while since I posted pictures. Enjoy!