Tuesday, March 25, 2014

time marches on

Y'all. It's been too long.

Moving was hard. Settling in was even harder. But I can honestly come to this space now, nearly four months later, and tell you that life is good. So, so good. We still miss our Ohio friends and family something fierce and those rolling hills will always hold a piece of our hearts, but Kansas is now home. And I LOVE that our family of friends is expanding and there is not much cooler than looking at a map and seeing all of the different dots that represent people and places that we love. I never in a million years dreamed that Wichita would be one of our dots, but God did and I fully believe that he has been preparing us for this time and place for years.

Our family just returned from a life changing experience, also known as Tulsa Workshop. Never in my entire life have I ever seen so many Christians gathered in one place. The singing.... there are not words to describe it, except to say that I felt a tiny thrill at the thought of what it will perhaps sound like when we all finally gather in heaven before the throne of God. It was amazing. And the speakers were inspiring, encouraging us to count the cost that is following Christ, but reminding us that there is no greater calling than to live our lives for him. But my favorite part? My most favorite part was walking amongst all of the booths representing different organizations from around the world that are committed to furthering the message and the love of Christ. Carpenter Place had a booth set up and Boss did a fabulous job of sharing his passion for what he does with others. There were also booths for disaster relief, and baby houses in Africa, and Adventures in Missions, and really, too many passions and callings were represented to name them all. There is nothing I love more than people who are following Christ, and within those bounds, following their own passions and dreams. It's beautiful to me, and it reaffirms that we are all here with different strengths and different callings, but for one purpose: to point to him in all we do. It was a great weekend and one that will be filling my soul in the weeks to come.

This coming Wednesday we will pack up our crew once more and head to Ohio for CCFSA's annual children's home conference. To say I am thrilled that Mid Western Children's Home is hosting the conference this year would be an understatement. I often want to pinch myself to make sure that this new life we are living is real. But it feels good and it feels right and I am excited to see what God has in store for our family in the months to come.

Did you know that our oldest son turned four last week? Oh yes, he did. Sometimes, when I am tired, I think about what life would be like if we had stopped having children after the girls. Can I admit this? There would be no more diapers and no more bottles. And no one would need help buckling their seat belt and we would all sleep blissfully through the night. Sicknesses would not hang around our home as long, with fewer people to pass the germs too, and sometimes Satan tries to convince my tired self that this big family idea is a crazy one. But then God gently reminds me that children were his idea in the first place, and if we had never had the boys then there would be less laughter in our home and far fewer kisses. I would not have a little gentleman who loves to open doors for 'his girls' and who dances with me in the kitchen when one of my favorite songs comes on. There would not be superheroes flying around my living room at any given hour of the day and I would never step on Lego's or Matchbox cars. Without my sons, life would be less loud and joyful and full, and I am forever thankful that four years ago God saw fit to make me a boy mama for the first time.

What else? Boss is working long hours, but when you are following your heart it never really feels much like work. The girls are happy. They are in ice skating and Kate is playing soccer for the YMCA (that's a cool story in and of itself that I will have to share sometime, reminding me once more that God is in the details). Luke has finally started crawling and it's pretty stinking adorable. Always needing to do things in his own way and in his own time, Luke has his own little way of getting around. He crawls with both of his hands and his left knee, but he drags his right leg along like a little gimp. He is the best and I often times find myself wanting to smooch him all over. I still dream of more babies filling our home, but only God knows how our baby story will wind up, and for the first time in a long time I can honestly say that I am content with letting him write our story however he sees fit. (As if he needed me to say that. Ha.)

So that's what we have been up to.... in a nutshell. Sometimes our days are full, sometimes they are slow. Sometimes we do school, sometimes we don't and opt for real life learning over the workbooks. Sometimes we are positive and hopeful, and sometimes we are weary and tired. But we are always trusting that God has a plan and that he is worthy to hold the pen in the writing of our family story. Thank you, as always, for sharing in our lives.

Friday, January 31, 2014

settling in

So. We moved.

We actually did it. Two months ago our family pulled away from our beloved Ohio hills and we now call the great plains of Kansas home. It has been an adventure, for sure. This jumping and trusting that God will catch you is not for the faint of heart. Tears have been shed, loneliness endured, and a general stretching has been felt by each person in our family. The first week we were here, I would rise early each morning with a pounding heart. The darkness would surround and I would wonder what in the world we had just done. What were we thinking to leave our family, our community, our safety net behind? But deep breaths and long talks with Boss helped to ease the pain and the fear deep within. And prayer. Prayer sustained me those dark mornings and I wondered once more where people who do not know God find comfort. Because amidst all of the change, my relationship with God and my family are my forever constants.

But other things (namely ice cream, ahem) helped, too. In a place totally new I can still hang a familiar picture on a wall and feel at home. I can walk into a church building, sit on pews and sing songs and read scripture that I know, and feel at home. I can still go to Target, order a tall Chai tea with soy, and browse the isles and feel at home. Because (in our family) home is more of a feeling within. Home is traditions, and comfort foods, and discussions with those that you love, more than it will ever be a particular place. This I am learning.

So that is what these past two months have been. A slowing down, an embracing of our more quiet days, a strengthening of our dependence on God and each other. And as we are slowly beginning to leave the moving fog behind, I can honestly see that though the process has been hard, it has also been good. And I am still confident that being right here in the center of the United States, has put our family directly in the center of God's will for our lives in this particular season.

You should know that Boss is perhaps the happiest I have ever seen him. He is more energized, more full of life, and more excited about how he now spends his days than ever before. It's amazing how dreams realized can inspire a person towards greatness! Sometimes we pinch ourselves to make sure we are not still dreaming, and then we smile because we remember that this new life is our real life. And we thank God for the blessings. The children have made some new friends and are hopeful for more to come. Each new week brings more smiles and fewer tears. Every Tuesday afternoon the three big kids lace up ice skates and head to the rink for lessons. We figured a bold new move required being bold and trying our hand at a brand new skill! I am so proud of how my children, despite their sadness at saying goodbye to the old, are embracing the new and are discovering more of who God has created them to be in the process.

I count my children as one of my greatest blessings in this life and I am most thankful for the closeness and the amount of time we have spent together as of late. Our lives were good in Ohio, but they were busy. And sometimes, amidst the crazy busy of all things good, it is so easy to lose sight of what matters most. But our new, quiet days are bringing us back to the very best, and that is time spent together. I am sure as the months pass and our lives and connections here begin to expand, the busy will creep back in, but for now I am thanking God for this current quiet season we are in.

As for me? I am enjoying lazy mornings with a warm blanket curled around and a big mug of coffee in hand. Having no place to go most days has done wonders for the stress the last decade of being a grown up had brought into my life, and I am enjoying my mornings with my children like never before. I am loving taking the time to stare at my tiny baby who is growing bigger. We practice standing, and crawling, and we laugh and clap hands. Clapping is a new favorite. My little guy has finally gotten his first tooth, and I am trying to relish it all.... the daily small things that so often go unnoticed in the busyness of a full life. We still do school around the table each day, and there is more time for explaining long division and reading aloud. I must confess that I have felt burn out on the teaching front, but as of this last week, we seem to have found our groove once more.

The move has been hard, but it has also been good. A clean slate, if you will. A chance to slow down, regroup, and press on towards those things that are most important. I just wanted to let you all know that we are still here and all is well. We are settling in to this new life we are living and we thank God daily for directing our steps.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

darling daughters

(Sisters. Best Friends.)

My darling daughters. It's late. I should be sleeping, but I cannot rest. My heart is sad, because your hearts are sad, and it's a fact that mama's hurt when their babies hurt. In three days we pull away from the only place you have both ever known as home, and tears are falling daily at the thought of saying goodbye to all that you love. To all that is comfortable and familiar to you.To all that has made you, you. And it's scary.

And my secret is that I'm scared, too.

I have NO idea if we have made the right decision. All I know is that I see God's hand everywhere, and I felt more pain at the thought of saying 'no' to God, than I did when I thought of saying goodbye. So we go, and it feels like your lives are over, but I promise you that they are not. In fact, your lives are really just beginning. In Ohio your roots dug in deep, grounding you to your God and to our family. But in Kansas? In Kansas, I pray that you learn to fly.

Because here's the thing.

You're still you. No matter where you go, you are still you and we are still us. And God is already there, so what is there to fear? And even though it looks like nothing good could possibly come of the next three days, when you feel despair my darling daughters, I want you to remember the cross. Remember that once the entire world lost hope, too. And when it seemed like everything was darker than dark, really, the miracle was just beginning. Because on the third day, Christ ROSE from the dead! And it was nothing the world could have ever imagined, but it was EXACTLY what this broken world needed. It took death for the new life to come, and it's the same for us. We are saying goodbye to the old, so that God can create something new. But we have to go all in. No holding back. We must give our all, if we desire God's hand to be over all.

And I am thankful, my darling daughters, that God gave you the gift of each other. The road is so much more bearable if we do not have to travel it alone. Lean on each other. Support each other. Make each other laugh when you only feel like crying. And when you think you might have lost your way, just reach out your hand. Your sister will be there to grab on tight.

Girls. Remember where you came from. Remember the people that you love, this place that you love. Store the memories up in your heart. Memories of porch times and frog catching, learning to ride your bikes around and around the circle and cookie baking with the big girls. But remember to leave room for new people and new places, too. I promise you that your heart is big enough to hold it all, both the old and the new. Remember that God KNOWS the plans that He has for your life and remember that God is good. He can be nothing else.

My darling daughters, a new chapter is beginning. And with this new chapter comes a new setting, a new cast of characters. But your story remains the same. God is only adding to it, making it more rich, and more beautiful, and more vibrant than the chapter before. One day you will have the pleasure of looking back and seeing how God has woven your story together, page after page, but today is not that day. So today we just grab hands, and press on. And we remember that the miracle is just beginning.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

the one on hats

For 31 years I have worn hats.
Many years and many hats. And it's funny, because I'm not really even a hat girl. Sure, some of the hats I wore well for awhile before tossing them to the side. Some of the hats I tried out were attractive and suited my personality, but others were a complete bust. A totally wrong fit. Not the look that I was going for at all. And some of the hats I timidly tried out in the past, I still wear today. Now a completely comfortable fit, they are a part of who I have become.

I wear the hat of 'wife', and I do believe that hat suits me well. Sometimes wife looks attractive on me, and other times not so much, but I am learning as I go that it is not really about how I look in that hat anyway. It's about him, the other half to my whole. My partner. I don't wear the hat of wife to make myself look good. I wear my wife hat for Boss. To bring warmth to his life.

I wear the hat of 'mother'. Definitely a hat I tried on timidly at first, but now you couldn't pry that hat from my head if you tried. And sometimes my mom hat is frumpy, and it flops to the side, and certainly there are times it has seen better days. But sometimes my mom hat is so colorful and bright and I know in my soul that the best years are still to come. I love both versions of my mom hat because they are me on this journey, and I will wear that proudly all the days of my life.

I wear the hat of 'Christian'. You notice that I place this hat third, and not at the top of the list where it rightly belongs. This in the name of honesty. Because the truth is that my Christian hat gets pushed down. Every day. All the time. It's somewhere at the bottom of my increasingly crammed closet, but I do make sure and pull it out for special occasions. Like Sundays. And when I need something. I definitely wear my Christian hat when I need something. And it fits awkwardly, like it's not actually sure if it belongs on my head or not, but I slap it on anyway and hope that it fits 'good enough' to fool the masses, without ever really stopping to consider the fact that it does not fool God.

I wear other hats, too. I wear the 'homeschool mom' hat and the 'mom of a big(ish) family' hat. I wore my 'foster parent' hat for seven years. I have tried on the 'photography' hat and the 'runner' hat (that was perhaps the funniest hat of all), before deciding that neither hat was for me. I have worn the hat of both 'nursing mother' and 'bottle mother' and honestly, I liked both looks (gasp, to admit that in written word). I have never worn the 'have your child on a schedule' hat. I should wear the hat of 'homemaker' and 'cook' more often than I do. I wear the hat of 'reader' quite often, because other's hats always seem to be better looking than my own. I dream of wearing a 'writer of words that people read' hat. And if nothing is looking quite right on any given day, in any given season, at any moment of the year, then I go shopping for new hats. Because heaven forbid I should leave the house with a naked head. Because then people might see the exposed me, and then they will know. If I don't have a hat to hide behind, then people will know the truth: that I have no clue who I am.

For 31 years I have worn hat after hat, all in the name of finding myself.

And then yesterday, this:

"I stopped trying to find myself and decided to seek God." - Mark Batterson from his book All In.

To think that it really could be that simple. That there really might be a divine reason that I actually don't look good in a variety of different hats. To think that less really is more, and God really is more than enough. To think that in the releasing of the hats is where I would find God, and in Him is the very me I have been searching for all along. Oh, goodness gracious, the freedom I think I could find if I could really let it all go.

And simply seek God.

It's worth a shot, I do believe.

Lookout, Kansas, my naked head just might be coming your way.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

the story of kansas

(Image found HERE)

So. Have you heard? Our family is moving to Kansas.

Oh, goodness gracious. Kansas! Three weeks from today, our family of six will pack up this darling duplex and head west to a state that never before existed to me outside of the Wizard of Oz (one of my girlies favorites, thanks to their Grandma).

I wish we could go to a cute corner coffee shop, grab a cup of chai tea, and I could share with you all of the incredible ways God has made himself known in this move. For sure and for certain, I've never known His presence more than I have in these past several weeks. It's a crazy peace that I have, despite the sadness of saying goodbye to our home and our family who will remain in these Ohio hills. But the way that I see it.... is that sometimes you just have to jump. In order to make room for God to work, in order to chase a crazy dream, in order to be obedient to God's call, sometimes you just have to jump and trust that He will catch you on the way down. So, we're jumping.

The crazy dream began nearly a decade ago.

 Boss and I were newly married, our oldest was then a one year old baby, and we were already tired of climbing this worlds never ending ladder. We were tired of the long hours spent on things that held no meaning, tired of spending our days, hours, minutes on gaining possessions we are promised will pass away. We longed for purpose. So, we flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico and there we found what we were looking for. We flew to Albuquerque to become house parents, to live with children who were not our own. Children who had been handed a rough lot in life and who needed the love and structure that only God's design of the family can fill. We served in Albuquerque for two years under the direction of a good man. A quiet leader with a sparkle in his eyes. Ivy Harper taught us what it meant to be selfless, to spend your days giving away the best that you had to offer to a hurting world. Ivy has passed on from this world now, but I wish that we had told him how his leadership greatly impacted our lives. How he shaped our vision for the future. I wish Ivy could know how he touched the life of my husband. From the very first time that Boss sat across from him in his home office, he knew that one day he wanted to lead like Ivy. And when he came to bed that night he told me as much. But we were young, and restless (and more than a little bit foolish), and after almost two years we moved on. We moved here, to our home in Ohio, where we have served with Mid Western Children's home for the past seven years. Mid Western is more 'home' to me than anywhere else on this earth, and our years here have been some of the best of our lives, I'm sure. But the dream of leading never left Boss' heart.

Fast forward to the middle of this past September, and a few crazy connections and one Christian Chronicle ad later and Boss had applied to be the CEO of Carpenter Place, a Christian children's home in Wichita, Kansas. Two days later they called for a phone Interview and two weeks after that we were heading down as a family to visit Carpenter Place in person. And all I can say is that God was there. We saw Him all over the campus, in the faces of the people that we met. And while our hearts literally broke at the thought of leaving 'home' and the life that we have built here, there is no denying that God was saying GO. So when they called to offer Boss the job, we said YES.

During his interview they asked Boss 'why Wichita'? And Boss answered, why Houston? Why Albuquerque? Why Pleasant Plain? Because we go where God calls. We try and follow His leading. We jump and trust that He will catch us on the way down.

That's the story of how Kansas came to be. That's the story of Boss' dream come true. And we are confident that right in the middle of the United States is right where God wants us to be.

So, we jump.