Peace in the Process

My blogging friend Kristin Hill Taylor has had my attention for the last few years. I love her writing style and her heart most of all. Down to earth. Real. Busy Mama. Jesus-follower. And not afraid to talk about the messy parts of life. I love how she takes us down whatever road she’s walking at that time. This is why I read Kristin Hill Taylor’s blog. But there’s another reason. We’ve walked similar paths with infertility and adoption.

I just read Kristin’s book, Peace in the Process: How adoption built my faith & family . It tells their story in such a beautiful way. She says, “I have a testimony of God’s faithfulness – something I wouldn’t trade for getting my own way when I thought I knew what was best.” I love that spirit of trust and humility.

One thing I love about Kristin’s book is that she tells their story which is incredible but she also invites others to share parts of their story. She calls these sections: “In their words:: ”  I enjoyed reading these stories as well and gained some neat insights about parenting, faith and adoption. Oh and she invited me in to share in one of these segments which was kind of cool too.

If you or someone you know is struggling with infertility you’ll find encouragement and hope in this book. And even if you’ve completely unfamiliar with infertility and adoption it still might be a great read for you as surely you have friends in your sphere of influence who have or are walking this road.

“Free of Me”

I read some great books in 2017 and wanted to share about one of them today.

Free of Me by Sharon Hodde Miller is a brilliantly deep yet practical book to read. I’ll be honest, it’s not an easy read because she hits on some hard areas that can sneak up on us if we’re not careful. But exposure to what is keeping us from a closer relationship to Jesus is a good thing.

Sharon talks about how we can make God about us. In ways we don’t even realize. From books and Bible Studies about self esteem to long looks and focus on our identity it’s easy to slip into a fast track of self absorption even when reading our Bible and seeking God. But don’t think this is a book that beats you up. Not so. Grace is laced all through this book as Sharon speaks hard yet beautiful truth which is a true gift.

I want you to hear a bit of Sharon’s voice through one of her chapters: When you Make God about You. 

“What is really interesting about the Christian self-help approach is that it’s markedly different from God’s. Moses felt inhibited by his weaknesses. He didn’t feel capable of speaking to Pharaoh or of leading the Israelites out of Egypt, because he only saw his disqualifications. And how did God respond to Moses’s doubt? Not with a self-help pep talk. He didn’t affirm Moses’s leadership or his talents or gifts. He didn’t hug him and cheer for him and speak encouraging words over him. God didn’t do any of those things, but instead he changed the subject. God affirmed his own strength, his own leadership, has own self, because the outcome never hinged upon Moses. This story was not about Moses’s strengths, and Moses was never meant to be the hero. Only God could deliver the Israelites out of Egypt, so he directed Moses’s focus back to him.” 

Later Sharon speaks of bitterness and defines it this way: “Bitterness is the fruit of believing God owes you. We witness this bitterness in the prodigal son’s brother, who begrudged his father’s mercy. If you believe faith is payment for living a moral life, bitterness will creep in whenever life doesn’t work out. That doesn’t me we can’t feel anger about tragedy – the Psalms gives us plenty of freedom for that!  – but bitterness is an anger we welcome to stay. Bitterness is the anger we nurture and cultivate, until it grows into something toxic and consuming. Rather than making a way for healing, bitterness produces even more woundedness….How you respond to God when your plans don’t work out, or how you respond to Scripture when it challenges your lifestyle – these response are a litmus test of the kind of god you follow.”

I hear Sharon is writing her second book now so I’m super excited about reading that when it comes out. I’m praying for her right now as well and if you happen to think about it pray for her too. She has two little boys and with a baby due in the next few weeks and she’s writing a book. If the thought of that hasn’t sent her into labor yet I’m not sure what will. So yeah, we sisters need to be praying for each other – even if we don’t know each other and will never meet….on earth.

So what’s on your bedside table to read this year? 

How to Pray for our Children’s Future Spouse

I’ll never forget our son when he was quite young talking about marrying a girl he was sweet on at the time. Of course I was having a full blown conniption fit over the conversation and started peppering him with questions like how he would pay for bills (chore money) and where would he live. I’ll never forget hearing his cute little voice coming back with, “We’ll live here of course. In my room.” It was a no brainer in his mind.

I figured right then it was high time I start praying for that boy and his love life because he was only in elementary school having this conversation. But this just paved the way for a good conversation on the “leave and cleave” aspect of marriage and how his room will be turned into an ART room the second the door hits his little fanny when he leaves. Kidding.

If you’ve been a regular reader of LIABOW then you know I love my Mom’s in Prayer group and reference it often in this space. My MIP group takes the month of February every year to pray for our kids’ future spouses. It has grown to be one of my favorite months of the MIP year because we find ourselves praying in unique ways for our children and their future mates or potential singleness.

Some ways we have prayed for our children and their spouses:

  • To grow up in a home where Christ is honored and loved
  • If not in a Christ-centered home that God would provide godly influences around them
  • Salvation of our children and their future spouse
  • Protection against pornography for our kids’ future spouses
  • A loving Mother and Father that is instilling godly principles
  • To remain pure through dating and engagement
  • God’s help in releasing our children into healthy dating relationships and marriage
  • To be patient in waiting for the right person God has for them
  • Future Son-in-laws to be hard working providers
  • Daughter-in-laws to love and respect their future spouses

If we still have kids at home in school it’s just hard to imagine them with a potential spouse but most likely it’s going to happen and what if……what if we had been praying for our future daughter-in-law or son-in-law years in advance. What difference might that make? I don’t know but I trust that God is hearing my prayers and I won’t stop now.

Give one of the greatest gift you could give your child and future in-laws in 2018 – the gift of prayer.

 

On Kissing Santa’s Armpit…

Our teenage son is getting to write an essay every time he gets a not-s0-great report from the Orthodontist ie: not wearing his rubber bands. He’s also getting the opportunity to save his money to start paying for any Ortho visits that don’t produce a good report.

What I love about Mitchell is his easy going disposition even when facing opposition. His humor keeps us going around here. Today I’m sharing with you Mitchell’s response, with his permission, to two of his recent essays on why wearing his rubber bands and brushing his teeth are important.

“Yesterday I went to the orthodontist. They told me to wear my rubber bands more. I need to find a way to remember to wear them more. One good way to remember them would be to tell myself repeatedly in the morning and after I eat to put them in. Another way to remember them would be to put them around my pinky finger after I take them out, so that the blood circulation will be cut out, ad once i realize how numb my fingers are, and how close they are to falling off, I’ll be like wanting to put them back in that instant. I could also write a note on my hand. Or I could write a sticky note and put it on my computer. If I had a phone (which I don’t yet) I could just set a reminding notification that will scare me into wearing them. I would rather kiss santa’s armpit than to get crooked teeth. M m I ain’t doing it.”

Would rather kiss Santa’s armpit? Really? I’m not even sure it’s worth that dude!

And another one he wrote the other day….. (I’m not sure how many essays it will take)

“…I also got a new color of bands. It used to be green, but now I got blue. If I brush more (which I’m doing just fine on right now) I will also get to keep the color of my teeth. They are a vibrant white right now, I do not want them to turn yellow. I would also have to pay for half of my appointments. (good heavens) I would rather wear four rows of these rubber bands than to get yellow spots on my teeth. Nooooooooooooooooo way!!!!!!!! I ain’t doing it.”

I think some of his inspirational quotes are coming from this hilarious chick that we can’t seem to get enough of right now. We laugh so hard at her videos. Oh muh-word I love her so much.

If you have any tricks of the trade on braces, bands and brushing let us know – Mitchell would be so appreciative.

 

Much needed laughter

You know sometimes you just gotta rare back and laugh your head off. And last night we got to do just that as a family. Nothing fancy for dinner but we used our Christmas china and ate in the dining room.

After dinner we tried to play a new to us board game – “Clue”. Whatever! That game was so stinking hard to figure out that we played our own version of it that lasted about 2.5 minutes. Together we  have 11 years of college education and neither of us could figure it out. We decided Uno would be the game of choice so we ditched Clue and grabbed the cards.

Well somewhere along the way we got slap happy crazy and Randy and I started being slightly funny-naughty in front of the kids and poor Mitch and Sophie were in shock. We decided for the good of everyone involved we needed to play the quiet game which brought on a whole new level of silent  insanity.

Still deciding to play Uno during the silent treatment game Randy gets to where he only has one card left and is totally screwed because if she says, “Uno!” he loses the quiet game but if he doesn’t say it he has to draw a card and can’t win at Uno. So the game went on for an eternity with nobody willing to win at the cost of losing the quiet game. For an extremely loud family this was pure torture. And it just wouldn’t end.

Randy finally concluded the game by yelling, “I’m DONE!!”

I thought the perfect way to end the night would be to color a beautifully sketched Christmas design. I had made copies of a Christmas tree made up of 25 Christmas ornament balls.

We’re at that incredibly immature stage with the kids that if you say the word balls in any context you get the side eye and snort-laugh. For some reason I  thought with it being in reference to a Christmas, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” coloring page that this would be an exception. Like there might be a holy reverence that would allow my family to skip over the fact that I just said with all the glee inside of me, “Let’s color some Christmas balls you guys!”

But oh no. Of course not. Everyone busted out laughing and made fun of my choice of words. In addition nobody, I say nobody, would color with me.

Well we certainly enjoyed our family time while it lasted and then we all scattered among the house – Randy watching football, Sophie watching a Hallmark Christmas movie and Mitchell playing a video game and me… coloring my Christmas balls ornaments alone in the dining room.

And I rare back in laughter at the reality of this situation. It’s just us and I love us.

 

God’s provision in unlikely places

My week had been messed with in all kinds of crazy ways and as I sat in my red chair praying to God for a stranger I’d just met I found myself praying for her provision. That he would give her exactly what she needed that day and the days to come.

If you were to turn the pages of my prayer journal back you’d read where I was crying out to God to provide our own specific needs. A washing machine that blew up, a mouth guard, a big car repair, leaking toilet and…..well, you live on this earth so you know all about unexpected expenses and how when it rains it pours sometimes. We just weren’t sure how the month would play out as far as being able to meet our budget. It wasn’t looking promising at all.

But this particular day my focus was on this woman I couldn’t get out of my head and heart. I made an umbrella prayer for her in my journal and decided I would do a deep clean in my kitchen starting with the cabinets. The ones we call the black hole for a reason.

As I was pulling stuff out and organizing something white caught my eye in the waaaay back. It was a bank envelope. As I opened the envelope and started counting out the cash I realized what it was. We had lost an envelope with $575 cash over a year and a half ago. It was money we had stashed away little by little and it was in a drawer and had fallen back into the cabinet below. To be found on a day when I wasn’t sure how our own needs were going to be met but was praying for God to meet a stranger’s needs.

Overwhelmed with God’s perfectly timed provision I sat there and cried.

Then I called Randy and tried to act all nonchalant and said, “Can you meet me for lunch? I have to tell you something in person.”

We meet up for lunch and I hand him the envelope to open. Immediately he knew what it was. And his deep sigh of relief about blew me into the next booth over….which takes a lot of gusto.

I needed to talk some things out with him though. I told him about praying for the woman I had met and for God to provide her needs. I also told him about a struggle I’d had the week before that in giving to a special cause that we really didn’t have the money to give to and I didn’t want to give to. I argued with God about it. Told him we didn’t have the money and our own kids were going to get  jipped so other kids could have something (which was dramatic and not true anyways). I felt like God spoke to me saying, “And that’s okay, Melody. It’s okay to give when you don’t have it yourself. It’s okay when someone else has something you or your kids don’t have.” He settled my heart and I knew it was the right thing for us to do.

So I told Randy – I don’t want to think I had anything to do with this money being found and with an unexpected check that came to us that same day from a speaking engagement. But I can’t help but see a correlation when we give something that is hard to give or pray on someone else’s behalf for something we need it ourselves how God ends up providing in the most unusual and unexpected ways. He’s always so faithful to do this for us. And yet it surprises me every time. I don’t know what to do with it all. I know it’s all from God’s hand and nothing short of his grace. But is it wrong for me to think there’s a connection between praying for and giving to others when it’s a true sacrifice and seeing God’s provision for us? Not like we’re the ones who brought this provision on but somehow the giving, the praying for someone else touched God’s heart maybe?

Randy listend and said, “I don’t think you’re wrong. I hear what you’re saying and it’s okay to recognize when God responds to us and how he responds. It’s the right thing to give him praise for that.”

So it’s out of a full heart that I post these things. It’s out of heart that is learning how to navigate need yet giving generously and the right response to God’s provision. Not saying we get it right even half the time. We don’t. But we desire to honor God with our money and in our giving.

Lord, thank you for being our Provider. You’re so good to us.

What that woman walking down the street taught me…

My friend and I were on the way to a coffee shop in town to catch up and reconnect. We’d tried several times before and either sickness or schedules prevented us. This particular morning I texted her knowing I didn’t have time for coffee but also trying to practice the discipline of biblical friendship. I texted and she said Yes.

So we’re about 1 mile into our short trip to the coffee shop (hello small town) when we noticed a woman a little younger than us with long blonde hair pulled to the side walking down the street in a bed sheet with very few clothes underneath. She was carrying a white plastic bag and she looked miserable as it was freezing outside. The whole thing just wasn’t right.

We both noticed her immediately and said something like, “She looks like she just left the hospital.”  We drove through several lights both uneasy with what we just saw. At the next light I looked at my friend and said, “We need to go back and see if she needs help, don’t we?” She said, “Yeah, we really do.”

We made a quick turn around and uttered a short prayer out loud of, “Lord, show us if you want to use us to help this woman today. Show us what this looks like.”

We pulled into McDonald’s and saw her walk in while we were parking. As we entered the McDonald’s we didn’t see her and decided she was probably in the bathroom. So we waited for her in the bathroom. Prayer pal stalkers gone wild. I was beginning to feel bad for the hospital escapee because we were about to pounce on her with some Jesus-lovin’ smothering grace. Lord help her.

As the woman came out of the restroom I cut to the chase ever so awkwardly and said, “Hi, we saw you walking and turned around not knowing if you might need a ride.” She seemed grateful and said, “Yes, but can you take me to “said town” about 15 minutes away?” We agreed.

We were all hungry so we all grabbed a bite and sat in a back booth.

As we listened we learned that she was battered by her ex-boyfriend and had a seizure. Stitches from a bite mark and a brace were only the surface problems she had at that moment. Suddenly I was thinking to myself, “Okay, we just committed to take this woman home and we know nothing about her, what’s in her little plastic bag or if “angry ex” is still on the scene.” I prayed silently and continued to assess the situation to decide if we could indeed take her home.

There was no question God was nudging us to take this woman home and so we did.

On our twenty minute ride there we talked about all kinds of things. She randomly brought up prostitution which was really wild because my friend and I are in a Bible study right now about a prostitute. Her name is Gomer and it’s all in the book of Hosea. For real – go read it!  So it was a natural lead in to talk about the things we were learning. How really – we all play the part of unfaithfulness to God. And in his love he is still there for us with the purest love waiting to buy us back.

As we pulled into her poverty stricken neighborhood she said, “Just look around at this mess. How will I ever get out of this?”

We told her she couldn’t do it on her own but with God’s help and practical steps forward she could do it. We told her about resources we knew about in her community that could help her and encouraged her to make one particular phone call.

My friend grabbed the woman’s hand and said, “Baby, I’m gonna pray over you before you leave.” And she prayed the sweetest prayer I’ve ever heard over a sister deep in pain. I’ll never forget it. We gave her one of our phone numbers and she left. This was two weeks ago. We’ve prayed for her ever since.

As I look back on this day a few things have settled in my heart:

  1. When I choose to do things I don’t have time to do (or don’t want to do in some cases) but do them anyway out of obedience God tends to show up in some pretty wild ways.
  2. When I think I’m in the front seat “helping” someone in the back seat the book of Hosea reminds me that we’re all in the same seat before God. We’re all spiritually unfaithful and messed up. Nobody is better or more loved than another.
  3. Although we’re all in the same seat before God sometimes he calls us to drive and take initiative. When we sense that moving from him it’s best we lean in and go with it even if it’s a little scary and uncertain. I think this might be what faith looks like.

Friends, look for God this week. You’ll most definitely find him in his word but sometimes you’ll find him in the lending of a hand to a girl walking down the street in a bed sheet.

Ya’ll I got freed!

Every year for the last seven I’ve made a fabulous frozen punch for our church open house. It’s a grand recipe I got from a friend years ago but it is extremely time intensive. I borrow a large stock pot from the church every year to make it…. you dissolve stuff and add a million ingredients and then pour up into a thousand ice trays because I quadruple the recipe. I’ve never minded making it but this year I seemed to be running behind.

This past Friday I was walking out of Mom’s In Prayer and my friend and I were talking about our plans for that day. I told her about the punch I was about to make. She looked at me and said, “Why do you do that?” I was all like, “Uhh well I think it’s because….” She stopped me and said with all seriousness in her voice, “You need to stop that and make a different punch recipe. Here’s a great one…..” And she gave me the equivalent of a fabulous punch that cost half the price and takes about 75% less time to make! I took that permission and ran all the way to the grocery store to purchase my newly discovered, two-ingredient punch.

My friend assured me that once I made this punch I’d never go back. And she’s totally right! We lapped up every ounce of four rounds of the Christmas punch and I will never go back because it was so good.

Sophie and her friend did a great job seeing punch. They graduated from last year which was staying their punch post for a whopping 20 minutes before getting bored and ditching the punch bowl to go play nerf guns upstairs. This year I reminded them they were older and could stay longer. And they did a good job of serving punch for an hour before I released them. You should’ve seen them bolt. The next thing I knew Sophie had on her muck boots and a school sweatshirt (over her dress mind you) throwing snowballs at the boys outside. No really.

You’ll notice there’s not one ounce of greenery to decorate the punch bowl which is slightly disappointing but I flat out ran out of time not to mention there was snow covering all my greenery outside so it just didn’t happen this year. But the good news is that we all lived even though the punch bowl wasn’t decorated. My Mom might not have lived through it if she was here because she’s the queen of decorating and would’ve found something green to put on that punch table.

So here’s your new easy punch recipe that the whole world quite possibly already knows about. I’m typically about ten years behind on a good day. But if I have a soul mate out there that is equally behind you’ll be glad to know about this punch recipe that will save you lots of time and still produce a good punch your guests will enjoy.

Punch (1) 2 litre cheer wine; (1) can of pineapple juice.

Mix together. You can freeze the pineapple juice to make it slushy. Just pull out a bit before serving.

No really. I’m not kidding. That’s all.

Oh well there is the ice ring should you choose to use.

The ice ring:  Mix a packet of lemon-lime Kool Aide according to directions on back and pour in a jello mold then add a few cherries to make it look like a wreath. Mine didn’t keep the green color though. As soon as I put it in the punch the whole thing turned red. I had to chip at it to make the green show up.

My friend who gave me the recipe showed up to the open house and we were talking by the punch bowl. I was waxing not so eloquently about the process of making the punch and how much I loved the recipe but that my ice ring wreath wasn’t green and the whole time I’m chipping away at the ice ring with the ladle to unveil the green underneath. She’s still standing there the minutes later patiently waiting for a cup of punch. Finally I realized the mesmerized state I had put myself into and said, “Oh my word, you’re waiting on punch. So sorry!”

My 11 year old did a better job of serving the punch than I did.

I’m so thankful my friend freed me from my seven year punch bondage and that she waited ever so patiently for a cup. Maybe it was worth the seven year wait.

Go make yourself some punch friends! I’m toasting to you as I type.

 

Cultivate what Matters – Lara Casey

Hey ya’ll – are you super excited that a brand stinking new-never-been-here-before year is right around the corner? I am. I love me a New Year and New Beginnings – probably because I mess up so bad and it’s a great fresh start for me every single year. Whoo-hoo!!

I wanted to post about this planner because I simply love it. I’ve spent the last few weeks evaluating and making plans for 2018 with help from this little treasure of a book. It has helped me uncover a plan based on what is close to my heart. I’m so glad to have discovered Lara Casey and some of her resources. She’s a Christ follower and a busy, working Mom so she understands the importance and the difficulty of cultivating time for what matters. She offers some great tutorials and has other products that are really neat too. In fact my Bible Study group is looking at her Write the Word journals as a supplemental option for us this year. Her stuff is too good not to share.

 

So do you have a way you get organized for a New Year? Or a tradition in setting goals and resolutions? I’ve love to hear.  I guess nowadays the big thing is your “word of the year” which I find harder than listing resolutions because I love bullet points that don’t have to come to an end. One word is flat out hard for me to do because I’m a rather wordy person. I can’t even text anything less than a paragraph which is not cool. So yeah I’m still working on my word of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making room for Friendship

A recent conversation has been stuck in my head and has made me evaluate some things. A woman was saying positive things about another person to me but she said something sandwiched in between and in passing that struck me. She said, “I’m so impressed with this, that and the other…..but she doesn’t have time for a friend.” She didn’t mean it in a negative way. Just matter of fact.

I’ve been evaluating this statement and wondering if I fall into that category. I can see how easily the “friendship” action plan gets pushed way to the bottom when you add family, work, game schedules, spiritual growth, etc to the mix. Who has time for scheduled coffee when you’re simply trying to do life. I get it!

I read a book this Spring with my very busy small group and it really opened my eyes to how important simple friendship is. The book is called Messy Beautiful Friendship.

And it brings us back to the age old question of why we’re here on this earth and it’s grow in Christ and to point others to him. We can’t do that if we’re too busy for friendship. Because often times it’s over those cups of coffee and ice tea that we let our guard down and talk about the grit and grind of doing life. It’s in those times we remind each other of the truth of Gods words. We come away realizing we’re not the only ones struggling like our enemy would like to make us think.

So these thoughts rumbling around in my head nudged me to ask a good friend if she wanted to meet for coffee last week. I didn’t have time. She didn’t have time. But we set aside our busy and said yes to friendship. We talked and laughed for one hour. That’s it. But we both came away refreshed by the spirit of friendship.

And that’s what friends are for. Let’s not be too busy for it.