Living the Dash – Surprised by 20-13.

2012 was a year I was more than happy to kiss “good-bye.”

Overall, the year was a bit of personal insult…full of trials, physical set-backs & injuries, financial frustrations and found many of our kids hung-up in various battles, feeling defeated by apparent lack of clarity and vision.

To make matters worse, we got a gut-kick as the holidays approached with realizing we may have been dealt another blow: No more child support. I had to eat some bitter herbs over the ungratefulness I’d had towards receiving “so little,” to receiving nada. Ouch!

I had spent much of the year trying to get physically healthy. Suffering a rotator cuff tear, 2 labrum tears, developing frozen shoulder and debilitating sciatica found me in excruciating pain, confined to bed at times, and physical therapy seemed to be my new part-time job…hard to feel strong or hopeful when coping daily is a struggle.

Every one of our kids suffered injuries, also resulting in physical rehab. It turned into a “family affair” with sometimes three or four of us being worked on together. It did bring on a few jokes and laughs, but the physical reality just spoke to the greater truth; we were all struggling to fix and heal some broken places.

All our cars got damaged, ironically most were in our own driveway running into eachother, appliances quit working, all these unexpected medical bills and copays…it just seemed to go on and on.

One of those tough years that didn’t produce a whole lot of inspiration with all the challenges.  For me, it was just a messy, messy year.

There were a few incredible highlights. First, our oldest daughter successfully completed her 11 month commitment to The World Race, and came home safely and in good health. I’m forever indebted to those who journeyed with our family in prayer and support of Britni’s amazing adventure. Her arrival is one of those precious moments I will go to my grave smiling over!

Another stand out, Barrett already had to undergo hip surgery with a 4 inch titanium screw holding his left femoral capitol in place, when he began to show symptoms of the “good hip” also beginning to slip. He was at school one day and froze without being able to support his weight. “Here we go again” I thought. But we went to prayer on this and asked God to deliver and heal him. After meeting with his surgeon, the doctor remarked, “Well, interesting. I’ve never seen this before. It appears that his hip ball indeed was slipping, but if you look closely, see that ring? That indicates that the body began to heal itself of an evident slip. He won’t have any further worry of this happening again.”  We witnessed a bona fide miracle of healing and all credit belongs to Jesus!

And another, which seemed to kick-start some hope for me: I’d offered to help at church since Christmas was approaching and had just started to feel better. Though, I wasn’t fully confident I could actually pull off the commitment if they needed something. Since Britni had just gotten back, she also wanted to take part in serving. What started out to be a very minimal need, turned into a full scale staging event for the entire month of December. The freedom to plan, dream, and create with this team was incredible! I had no idea what I was getting myself into, it was scary, challenging, intense,  exhausting, exhilarating, extremely humbling, and just the thing God used to open my eyes and draw me close.

And Provide…I’m not saying God didn’t provide along the way, every day. But when you are wrestling face-down in the dust of life, it is often difficult to see the Son is Shining.

I saw incredible things through that difficult season. Leadership came together to facilitate as a team exampling diligent, passionate servant-hood. Our entire family got involved and served with hours of time and energy. My heart grew to overflowing in gratitude for the opportunity to serve, celebrating Jesus grew all the sweeter! The lives that were touched and blessed changed my year of challenge to end with a focus on what matters most. My disappointed, disheartened spirit was truly blessed. HE is Faithful!!!

And then 2013 took off with a wild gallop!!

It seems like ten years of fighting battles has finally broken through with a flood gate of answered prayers! And not just our prayers, but prayers of the Faithful who’ve stood in the gap for us and for our children. Who’ve pounded the Gates of Heaven on our behalf, to bend the ear of our Father to our soulish need, and HE has answered many….!

I want to give Him ALL the Glory for it!! And share the breakthroughs of 2013!! Someone out there needs this as it blesses me all the more to recount His Goodness! He is SO SO Faithful.

While I was recovering at home I was considering what else I could do that wasn’t as physically demanding as design work can be. I decided to get all my coursework done to renew my real estate license. I’d been impressed to take needed time off in 2011 (the worst market locally in recent history) and prayed whether this was something I should reinvest my time in? In the past, I’ve managed to do both design and real estate as they compliment the other.

The prayer went something like this: “God, I don’t know if this is the direction I should go. I don’t have time to waste! I’ll put my hand to anything you ask of me, what is it? I will take the first step, from there I ask you to lead me? If I succeed, it will be because you have knit and orchestrated my path. Also, I don’t want man-made success, I want to see You.  You bring me opportunity. You connect the people you want me to work with and serve. I want it to count. I want it to be meaningful. You open the door, I’ll walk through it. I’m trusting YOU to maximize my time. I choose to honor You with all my gifts and talents and trust YOU to make up the difference. Help me. I need You. I will know, without shadow, it is YOU alone who has done this, and I ask You help me to make You known and shine Your Light to those I meet. In Jesus’ Name.”

How much I’ve leaned on the knowledge and intuition of the Holy Spirit in the variety of scenarios and challenges that came my way could fill volumes of corporate minutes! I have so many stories where I was at total loss as to what to do next, where God Divinely showed up to give me solutions to ridiculous problems and issues, where He gave me peace to just walk it out. Where His wisdom came shining through. I have been learning so so much, and have just scraped the surface! He’s protected, sharpened me, challenged my thinking, allowed me to see Him move, instructed me to either act or refrain. And this is amazing since I’m so hard-headed and slow to learn. I don’t have time to stall out. I need to be a first-time listener!!

I’ve watched people take notice of Him. Those who don’t know Him, have become curious. He’s opened doors to share with others who would otherwise have no interest except to how deals affect them, and God showed up anyway. Acting towards their good and favor. It’s been so awesome! He’s taken it to the HNL! I’m just tapping into what He’s trying to teach me on a new level of life that maybe I was blind to or maybe too afraid to invite God into?

The more I grow and know, the more I realize I know nothing.

And it’s such a relief!

Here’s are some highlights from 2013. Many  dynamic, powerful miracles and God had everything to do with it!

When on The World Race God called Britni into medicine. It seemed outrageous to imagine how He was going to come through on that one! If fact, the onset of this dream was filled with only challenges and a little hope. She interviewed for the whole person scholarship at ORU and God began to piece His plan together which concluded with her acceptance into the Nursing Program and a fully funded opportunity. There are so many miracles within her story, but it is hers to write!! She is passionately and diligently succeeding at what she is called to do!!

Taylor won a missions trip giveaway to go to Uganda, her hearts’ desire came through in a miraculous and Divinely appointed way. Her name was drawn on a ticket she entered and she was reluctant to hope she’d be picked! She went to Nigeria and Uganda this summer with a team from 99 Balloons. She lost her heart there to ministry and  helping special needs children. God led her to change her major and enter the 5 year Elementary Education Masters program at University of Arkansas and is currently working for a special needs program in Fayetteville,  diligently pursuing this dream. So many awesome things have grown in her heart!!

Lucas. This one is a whopper!! When Lucas entered this world, he came out performing a somersault. But the umbilical chord was short and caught him mid-flight, securing him in a surrendered position in our doctor’s skilled hands. I have seen the tethering anchor of a Loving Heavenly Father holding steady all along. God has made a way, where there is no way. With a college GPA of 1.something, a highschool GPA of a little better,  an opportunity missed to quarterback for OU, and a myriad of other life challenges, what Lucas still had going for him was a hope that only GOD could see him through! Lucas has finally begun living his dream! God is so amazing and so good!! School had already started. Another year apparently missed to turn a new leaf? And then October came. Within a week’s time, Lucas was being invited to attend a D-1 school through their extremely limited “late-start” program to play rugby for a coach who believed in him and wanted him there. Obstacles, mountains, impossibility, were knocked over. Goliaths. Brought down by the Favor and Power of Almighty God. He went from starting school on Monday, to walking onto Notre Dame’s Rugby field by Saturday. By the next Saturday he was playing at OU and we got to see him start. By the next Saturday, he was moved to Varsity. By the next Saturday, he was invited to play on the Nationals team. It just so happens, Lucas’ stint with semi-pro Tulsa Men’s Rugby playing “Sevens” primed him for elite status amongst the traditional “Fifteens” players. The speed to which God has propelled him forward is mind-boggling and breathtaking. Lucas has worked diligently and has done all that he said he would do, including making almost all A’s this semester!!  He has been promised a potential full-ride scholarship as a Level One athlete if he keeps up the good work. It’s not about rugby or education, though those will be impacting as well.

It’s about watching God unveil His Goodness in the process.

Olivia. Precious Livie-Lou! Who would have ever imagined this? She announced she wanted to go to YWAM just weeks ahead of school starting. What?? Where did this idea come from? And God just kept coming through with provision. Divine Provision. We found ourselves boarding flights heading to Kona Hawaii  before we hardly knew what we were doing! (Also a huge miracle and blessing to get to celebrate our 10th Anniversary together that was simply Divine and a much needed break!!) Who would have dreamt the most powerful global storm ever was about to hit her destination? Who would have thought she’d be willing to go?? Or for that matter, determine she would go straight to ground-zero without a flinch. I’m still taking it all in. So amazing. So miraculous. So God!! Can’t wait to see what the next few months bring as she concludes her journey to the Philippines!!

The rest of the kids and family, especially my Mom, are the support system for us that make this a well-oiled machine that rolls some days at lightning speed. We’re watching Barrett & Cherish thrive and invest time in their gifts and talents as new opportunities begin to come forward. They are just true-blue good kids that have compassionate and giving spirits. We’re so proud of who they are becoming in their young adult lives!! Braeden continues to be such a Light and blessing. A precious, beautiful soul that is like having our own mini-ministering Angel in the house!

And so so much more! This isn’t about accolades, awards or “financial successes.” This is bigger. It’s about watching God extend Himself in a broken area of struggle for me and proving Himself Faithful. Within a few months beginning this year, I capped in sales at my brokerage Keller Williams Realty Preferred. By June I’d made top 10 in sales. What? God. When I thought this locomotive would slow down for the fall, it’s just pummeled straight on through. Defying all odds, I’ve experienced a “spring” market in the dead of winter. Impossible. Yeah. GOD. The most closings all year came in December. What?? God. There’s so much more to share, but the point is, I know my limitations. I know my insecurities and fears. I KNOW who is responsible. It’s ridiculous. And He does it anyway. And the greatest business testimony is this: I have successfully closed every single transaction for the year. 100% success rate. To not have a deal go “bust”? If you don’t know anything about real estate contracts or working with people, (sometimes very difficult people) that is phenomenal. Miraculous. God. And how awesome to partner with Him to facilitate people’s dreams!

The needs of our family are unending and expensive. The load and pressure financially can be defeating and overwhelming. Having new opportunities for our kids has stretched us beyond our capacity. When our kids are called to these things, it’s easy to have doubts and wonder if it’s really from God after all. How amazing that HE comes through anyway.

We understand there is much more to learn as we go forward….

There must be a greater purpose to all of this! Our stories are not our own.

There was a moment of realization when I asked our kids, “What do you think God could do in our family if we all got on His page, trusted Him, and together, prayed that His Will would be done in our lives and futures?”

Here’s what is at stake. His Kingdom. What is HE all about? What is HE trying to do? What part am I supposed to play? Just get in the flow and GO with Him.

I have NO earthly idea what 2014 will bring. I just know this, Living on the side of Resurrection Power is so much more awesome than living on the side of Repentance at the foot of His Broken Cross. Without the first, the second is impossible. I’m learning what this means. Sometimes I’m on both sides, sometimes one or the other.

I believe our Great Hope, is where Jesus is everyday, all day, and forever.

Empowered. Resurrected. Glorious. On Purpose. Fulfilled. Victorious. Where Love and Hope Reigns, Always.

I want to make this daily priority, to be crisply reminded, how short time is, and how important it is to make every moment count. And to fulfill the Call of God, whatever that may be moment by moment.

Love Him. Love Others. Shine His Light. Grow. Mature. Live beyond ourselves by truly living In Him.

Let 2014 be defined by “Jesus Reigns!”

He is Lord of the Harvest….

Happy New Year and Live Your Dash!!

Skeletons in My Closet

I have skeletons in my closet. LOTS of them. I knew my ugly habit was getting pretty ignored, but didn’t really see how bad it was until yesterday, when I began to unearth the load of them.

Every event or hasty clean-up has resulted in throwing or tossing whatever hasn’t yet found a place, into our master closet. I say “our”  with a tad of guilt, because the truth is, my poor husband has very little space for his own belongings. Not that he’s a self-acclaimed fashionista like me or anything.  In fact, out of all the hanging space in there, mine consumes every rack except for one, where ALL that he owns is shoved and squished into a tiny zone. And that’s with “Big & Tall” man’s clothes.

I’m ashamed to say, for the past probably two years, the only way to get in there is to push back the door and squeeze through, then find myself about two feet above floor height, standing on all kinds and sorts of……skeletons.

Call them life-lessons if you will. Here are some thoughts I pondered as I sifted through the dry bones of my entire wardrobe, piece by piece.

1. This closet, my closet, is where good fashion goes to die.

2. If looking at an item causes me to flinch, it should be burned.

3. Would seeing a friend I love wearing such a thing make me feel guilty? Do I need to shield said friend from my own fashion-folly?

4. If I die suddenly, my husband may shop this wardrobe for my viewing.

5. If said husband is no fashionista like I claim to be…..’nough said….

6. You know it’s time to clean your closet when….you find your husband’s moth-eaten slacks buried under your stuff ’cause you’ve taken up all the space.

7. I am not a twin. STOP buying two of everything.

8. Just because it’s on sale, doth not a bargain make.

9. Just because it’s a high-end brand, doth not good fashion make.

10. Seeing many still tagged articles reminds me of this phrase: “if I just lose that final 5-8 pounds, it will be perfect.”

11. Even much less sense when that number grows…..

12. Seasons and fashions change. Yearly….

13. What I wore to an event with my first husband should not make it to my second husband’s closet. ouch.

14. If I remember buying an outfit because I was singing a solo at an event…….let’s just keep that warm fuzzy memory and not the clothes.

15. If I think, “I guess I can buy my jeans in ‘longs’ since the sale wiped everything else out in my size…” just say NO.

16. Is what I buy myself really consignment worthy? Really?

17. For that matter, is what I buy my kids? Found 3 bags full of toddler clothes (with good intentions) buried underneath…

18. Have your daughters approve your wardrobe. It hurts, but do it.

19. When she crumples to the floor in hysterics, it has to go.

20. When another exclaims, “MOM!!! Was I alive when you wore this?” yeah. let it go….

21. If one or the other offers this advice…”Mom, aren’t you too old to shop in that store?” …..let it truly die.

22. Or, “MOM!! You have more than one of these? Why? Just WHY??” Then tears the article from your clenching fists & exclaims: we have got to spare the public & keep this OUT of circulation! You are NOT consigning it!!

23. With uncontrollable giggles….”Your WHOLE outfit matched??”

24. Reality check: high-end “by invitation” parties can turn into something akin to “The Emperor’s New Clothes” fashion event.  Add alcohol-inducing opinion to giddy hostesses benefitting from said party….These items made my girls laugh like hyenas.

25. If you have to use the excuse, “I’m saving that formal  just in case you play Cruella De Ville at some future moment….”

Conclusions:

Never consider your wardrobe a  “good investment.” It’s an investment alright, but they’re just clothes. That eventually will turn into your fashion skeletons. Let them be buried in someone else’s closet before they’re found in yours.

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not?

Nothing brings thoughts about love and romance like Valentine’s.

Hint: Guys, this is the perfect excuse to ask her out!

Mr. Dreamy seems to come to mental life, placing him in picture perfection right…about…..now……sitting across the white linen-dressed table: he’s the epitome of studly perfection and looking fine, flashes his strait pearly whites your direction with a smile that says “She’s Mine!” You have on the cut.est.outfit.ever and those daily workouts have paid-off girl. Shimmering hair that’s never looked better, make-up done like angels themselves painted a masterpiece, manicure and pedicure showing off–music floating overhead, wrapping your evening in romantic deliciousness. His dream-boy eyes lock into yours…your heart puddles at your feet, under your favorite heels of course….he signals for the waiter who presents the loveliest vase of red roses, three to be exact. You have won him. He leans towards you reaching his hand across the table touching yours, your heart skips a beat and begins to race, glancing briefly at your empty ring finger, he lifts those steamy, ocean-blue eyes to meet yours, takes a deep breath in and says your name, you feel heat rushing to your neck and cheeks as he says, “I’d like to ask you something? I’ve given this a lot of thought…..I want to ask, would you…..”  Your mind is abruptly challenged and begins to fog. Suddenly caught in confusion, trying to focus you shake yourself.  Wait…wait….what is he going to say! You look towards him. His face begins to lose definition. Straining to see clearly….”what were you going to ask me?” Your voice feels hollow, thinning to a mutter. Leaning forward you grip tighter on his hand and repeat, “What, what were you going to ask me?” A familiar, annoying tune begins to rise in your ears.  Your view awakens to an empty ceiling-the morning alarm announcing it’s time to get up and start your day. Ughhh. Why are the best moments only in dreams?

Most days, that fuzzy outline of Mr. Perfect may pass unnoticed. But with Valentine’s approaching, whether with excitement or loneliness, we girls have a laser-focused, keen eye as to our state of current affairs.

If this Cupid-inspired day comes without event, and you hear about all your friend’s “special moments” with their sweethearts, romantic pictures flooding your world unannounced, it can really try your romantic patience. Wall Flower. No one special. Nothing to celebrate. For.the.love.

Where is Mr. Right?

Our home is lively and full. I’m in love with each of my four lovely daughters and three adorable sons.

With this houseful of teens and young adults, it’s a wonderful thing to have the cutest ever 7 year old son, who keeps life footloose and fancy-free.

Our girls, whom I have the great privilege of mothering and mentoring, are often in deep conversation over a host of things life brings to them, like boys, like who’s dating whom, who just got engaged, and guess who’s getting married this weekend? Sometimes, more heart rendering things like who’s pregnant, whose heart got broken – watching life unfold for others that now seems different than ever dreamed.

Hot topics around here!

They are standing on the edge of the future, looking intently outward into the abyss of the unknown, and wondering….

Every girl dreams about being The Princess, and to someday meet her Knight in Shining Armor, The One who sweeps her offer her feet and they begin Happily Ever After. Every girl wants to be “that girl” and every girl wants to be The Bride. The One who stole his heart. The one picked amongst all the fair maidens. She stands high above the rest, The Fairest of All.

It’s a God-shaped dream to desire to be loved.

Cherished. Esteemed. Adored.

I very much look forward to Valentine’s Day. My Sweetheart proposed to me on Valentine’s and I’m so thankful he did! Celebrating each year is that much sweeter. We treasure our special moments and how perfect that day was. I’m so happy he picked me and that I said “yes”! We often go back to the places he took me that incredibly dreamy night, kind of like taking a “tour of our love.” He’s such a romantic! He plans fun surprises for me and most of the time I have no idea where we’re going – just like he did that lovely day leading up to when he got down on one knee, asked me would I marry him, and could we do life together?

He has made me high on his priority list, and he makes every intention of letting his love for me shine!  He steals my heart!

But there was a time my story was not so sweet. There were many years of grief and heartache. Valentine’s Day only represented a shallow grave for what I thought life with a man would bring me. A grim reminder how short my marriage fell from what I had hoped. Love and trust shattered beyond recovery.  Misshapen inspiration. Misplaced dreams.

So I’ve had the great privilege of watching and being fascinated with who a real man is, and what his life looks like from the inside.

Our oldest kids are looking at that magical bridge of “marriage” and wondering when they will cross it. Many of their friends are planning weddings or already hitched. All of my girls have talked about their future weddings. None of them currently are dating. We simply have fun dreaming together and looking out for fun wedding ideas and discovering their personal style. The perfect month to get married and what kind of wedding dress they like. I’ve even started collecting odds and ends, hanging on to ideas in anticipation of this blessed event.

We just can’t help it. We are girls.

Until that day comes, this God-shaped dream is simply that. A Dream.

My girls are beginning to realize the weight of the decision of going into a relationship. From hard lessons they’ve learned through their own hurts and personal disappointments, to their vantage point of friends or other girls who have picked wrong guys, ending up broken and stranded. We have deep talks about how should a relationship look as a Christian, and what qualities and character traits should be present in someone to be “datable”?

Let’s not ignore the fact: we girls are emotional. We can get sidetracked in all sorts of ways. We can be easily infatuated and sucked in by a guy’s cuteness or talents or smile. Or his nice car, great job, or need I say, amazingly fit body?

I’ve been privy to this downfall. It’s so easy to justify giving a guy a chance, or believing the best in him even though his poor reputation is well-known, or move past a red flag and still want to give someone time to prove himself. After all, maybe “I’m the girl” who can make the difference in his life and change him for the better?  We are really good at wrestling with our emotions and heart-strings, allowing them to win, brushing wisdom and conviction completely aside.

And suddenly find ourselves lost in the territory of “dangerous love.”

Jeremiah 17:9 states

“The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?”

Funny how God our Father knows us so well!!

I have to look to Him and His Word for advice. I have to look at our best example, the life of Jesus, to see how things stack up alongside His ideas. Relationships can be confusing. How easily swayed from a determined course our emotions can take us when our heart is being tugged by someone who’s captured our attention? We are all too willing to let go of Who anchors us to The Dream in the first place, latching on to something that makes us feel good in the moment instead.

I’ve been inspired by a thought that’s stuck with me.

“We can love, because God first Loved us.”

Think about it and let it soak to the inside.

If God extended Himself first, to love us, how did He prove Himself?

His Son Jesus demonstrates God’s love through servant leadership. He proved His love through Sacrifice.  He gave freely and selflessly.

Isn’t this why we fall in love with Him?

In fact, isn’t that why we trust Him?

How can we relate Christ’s example when it comes to dating and marriage?

His life demonstrated a love that was entirely about everyone else! Not about Himself. He didn’t “lord over” even in His Lordship.

Instead, He loves. He pours out. He lavishes. He covers.

He loves humbly and compassionately.

On my best day, I don’t deserve any of it. He loves me, in spite of me, and because of me. Enough so, that when He died on the cross, I was on his mind. A Loving, Living Sacrifice.

His love swallows me so whole that He is blind to my disabilities. I’m completely “lovable” to Him. Isn’t that a powerful kind of love we can sink our soul into?

This is what makes Him so irresistibly captivating!

God is so in love with you! If it’s up to Him, He’s not going to settle for anything less than what He has in His heart for you! God is on the lookout for His Girl. He’s going to be watching, waiting, perfecting His love in your life, nurturing your heart with His Truth and Light, and protecting you from harm’s way and from relational failure….IF you will first hide your heart in His!!

You may know this recent quote suggesting that in order “for a guy to find me, he will have to seek God’s Heart deep enough to find me there.” Have you hidden yourself in God’s Heart? Have you been willing to give him all?

Christ loved first. Do you love Him back?

Is your heart held captive by God? If so, you will be a satisfied and fulfilled prisoner willing to hear His Voice, and to obey His Perfect Will.

Be made whole in Him. Seek His face about love and then wait it out. Look to Him and trust Him with His opinions.

What this means is that your Righteous Pursuit of God’s heart will lead you into God’s Divine Will for your future. This may mean your Father will shield you from a guy discovering you until God’ knows he’s ready for taking on the responsibility of your life and capable of offering true godly love.

Is he solely dependent on God? Is his level of commitment as hearty as your own?

Maybe you’re in a relationship and asking yourself, does he love me, or love me not?

I believe how God expects men to love His girls is this: He loves first.

What does this God-kind of love look like?

He leads by example.

Does he love selflessly? Does he know how to love you with his heart in a spiritually connected way, without a physical relationship?

Does he honor God?

Does he honor and respect you? If so, he appreciates the fact that you belong to God, and he keeps his hands to himself.

Is he truly a friend? Does he push you to higher things in life, like inspiring you to love God more fully and intimately? True love that lasts begins and ends on this level. Passion is both the icing on the cake and also the first thing to leave. It will never be an anchor that holds a relationship together or will ever last. And it’s completely out-of-order if it’s before marriage.

We girls need to be Righteously pursued. We need the confidence that we’re worth fighting for!  A smart girl will allow a guy to work hard at winning her heart. After all, it is being held and guarded by God. If his actions don’t line up with what you know in your heart is true, do both of you a huge favor and pass this one by. He is not the one. Don’t wait around for him thinking “this day will surely come” or “I’ll teach him how to do that.”

Look to Jesus and how He loves. Does this person live up to that kind of love? If he doesn’t yet have the capacity for whom God intended him to be, then he needs to wrestle with God about that, alone. You can’t help him. If a guy is still wrestling with his weaknesses and level of maturity, don’t even waste your time! You’re created to be a wife, not his mother.

NEVER date “potential.” E.VER.

If you’ve gone past friendship or courtship into physical intimacy and you’re not married, no matter your age or marital status, you must break off this relationship and get alone before God. Let Him reset your focus. Your dependency is off-course. You are not ready for a relationship,  marriage or re-marriage. Your hope and confidence need to be restored in Jesus. There is brokeness that needs mending of the spiritual kind, and no man can do that for you.

Being dependent on Jesus alone makes His counterfeit unnecessary.

Prayer. Pursuit. Passion. Praise.

We can love, because much love was first given. It’s the same thing with a solid, lasting relationship.

A real man, knows what he wants, and his trust is in Jesus. He will find you, because He has been found by God. If his heart is truly buried in Jesus, then it’s only a matter of timing that God will bring your lives together.

I don’t believe dating websites, singles memberships and things that lead us on a chase to find “true love” are necessary.

I believe in God: the Ultimate Matchmaker. Seek Him. Find Him. He’s your Heavenly Father that will withhold nothing from His kids. He desires to lavish your life with Love beyond imagination. This is the only life worth living. Why settle for less when your life is worthy of so much more?

In my story, I had come to a place where if it were just me and Jesus, I was more than good with that! He is truly the Lover of my soul! But God was more than gracious! Where personal heartache, brokeness and loss once defined my life, my loving Father chose to send me hope, love and adoration through this amazing guy I get to call my husband. I have enough years behind me to be able to speak to these things with due diligence and proof.

Take this from a girl who can honestly say, at one time, all I knew was one who loved me not.

Once you know real, true love, it’s so easy to spot the counterfeits. The imposters.

No need to shred the daisies. He loves me? He loves me not?

I have tested God. I have found Him Faithful. This gift in my life is the sheer gracious favor of my Heavenly Father. He is teaching me so much!

My husband loves me like True Love should! He LOVES me. He is kind. He is patient. He is giving, serving, grateful.

He loves first. He protects. He shelters. He shows up. He covers our family and provides. He is a wonderful father. He is submitted. Prayerful. He soaks in God’s Word and waters his life in praise.

His love is pure. Wholehearted. Jesus-centered.

His life is marked by integrity and character.

He is honest. His eyes are clear and bright.

My hero.

Heaven-sent.

What is in a man’s heart matters.

God knows what you need.

Trust Him.

Prayer. Pursuit. Passion. Praise.

Father Knows Best.

He Loves YOU!

Read Psalm 37:3-6 NLT:

1 Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong.

2 For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither.

3 Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.

4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.

5 Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.

6 He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

7 Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.

To Delight in The Lord means, He has become my identity!

He has clothed me with a robe of His Righteousness, thus your innocence;

His Garment of Salvation like a Bridegroom adorns His Bride!
Feel.The.Love.

A Pot of Gold

We live on a delicious slice of earth nestled down a long private drive through a small forest of oak trees. With over an acre of land on the outskirts of our city, we see all sorts of interesting creatures; bats, fox, coyotes, bunnies, snakes, turtles, Bald Eagles, neighbor’s stray dogs, squirrels galore, a tarantula or two, and apparently, Leprechauns.

Our 6 year old Son was born into this lovely place. Each year has been an adventure with him getting a bit more brave, exploring our yard and taking note of fun things to do outside. For a few months now, he’s been eyeing an adventure stretched beyond our familiar back yard. The original home to this once cattle grazing property, is situated a few acres away.

At night, the place looks a bit creepy. The low slung 1950′s abode is in serious lack for attention and complete disrepair. We don’t know  whether the wife has passed on, but her husband died a few years back. It seems a bit haunted, other than our back yard view being interrupted by a soft glowing light from a lampost stationed somewhere at the end of their home.

Braeden has been looking at that Golden Glow all summer… and thinking. Imagining. Dreaming.

On a few recent occasions, he’s asked if we could go over to that light and see what’s over there. I’ve been reluctant. First, there’s a dry creek bed that cuts through the property with a crickety old bridge to cross over. Second, that’s the end of our property that connects to the creek that connects to the deeper woods, that connects to the river, that paves a pathway for all the coyotes we’ve seen coming up to our yard. Third, the owner’s grandson, who has quite a reputation around here, has a gynormous Mastiff we’ve met up with on a few unexpected and unfortunate occasions. And last, we’ve befriended this cranky, elderly and ill-healthed couple, and I wouldn’t want to scare anyone into their grave just because of our curious boy.

Late last night our son got his wish. “Mom, where are the flashlights? If I find flashlights, will you take me across the bridge to the Gold Light? I think there’s a Pot of Gold over there! Let’s go see, please?? Let’s go find the Pot of Gold!!”

Needless to say, he was asking me this on the first eve of our long weekend break. My heart for adventure in the moment was going back to down-filled pillows and sweet dreams of nothingness. I’m not sure whether I suggested another night, or “go ask your dad about that…”  but shortly, he comes to the side of the couch and presents his and Dad’s flashlights, proudly announcing “We’re going over to the Gold Light to find the Pot of Gold Mom.”

Pure Preciousness.

Just like his dad, he’s always game for some type of adventure or exploration, and a warm summer’s night is always a perfect excuse for such things.

Now I’m awake, but kind of relieved I don’t have to be eaten by throngs of blood-thirsty mosquitos. I turn my attention back to the TV. Shortly, I hear someone trying to get in our back patio door. It’s pitch black out, but I can see our little guy trying to turn the handle. I go over and unlock the door letting him in.

Little Man steps in, flashlight dangling in hand, shoulders drooping and looking to the floor. Running past me, he dives into the pillows on the couch, facedown where I can hear his muffled crying. I turn him over trying to sit him up, his sweet little Angel-boy face staring back at me, he tried to look away, embarrassed, and in a very choked up voice, “Mom, I’m so disappointed. There wasn’t a Pot of Gold. There was nothing.” He went limp as a noodle as I pulled his little body up into my lap, wrapping him up in a tight Motherly cradle. He laid his head on my chest and I could hear his whimpered heaving, trying to recover from the knowledge of his lost dream.

How I love this Boy.

If I could move Heaven and Earth. If I could create a Leprechaun, a Rainbow, or a Pot of Gold…..

I felt his heart-broken pain. The loss of innocent expectation. My Mommy-heart ached with his, that familiar bruising of at least a million unfulfilled hopes and dreams. And at least half a dozen dashed to pieces in the shattering of life.

Disappointment went through his tiny body…completely limp with loss.

On the outset, Braeden was lit up with excitement, “Dad! Let’s go on an adventure to find the Pot of Gold! Let’s get flashlights…it’s dark outside! We’ll go find a bunch of Gold!”

Apparently, he’d been talking of this with his sister night after night, looking out into the darkness and focusing on that light. It was drawing him in, wooing him towards what he thought would the greatest treasure of all. Somehow, he’d convinced himself that there was truly a Pot of Gold under that magical Glowing Light.

As they ventured out into the moonlight, he starts to get nervous, “Dad, will you carry me? What about the coyotes? Are the coyotes out there tonight?” We’ll be alright Son. We have flashlights and they don’t like the light.

“Dad, I’m a little bit scared. Are you sure there aren’t coyotes in the woods?” It’s going to be just fine Son. We’re on an adventure, remember?

“Dad, what’s worth more, Gold? Silver? Diamonds? Is Gold worth the most?? We’re going to find so much gold Dad! We’re going to have like a whole bunch of Gold!”

Out across the grassy field they forged, closing in on the crickety bridge. When they started to cross it, Braeden stopped, trying to be brave and holding his father’s hand…”Dad we’re almost to the Gold Light.” He overcomes his fear, and up the hill they went, Father and Son.

“Aaaaaaaahhhh! That’s not GOLD!! Uuuuuughhh! Let’s go back. It’s not Gold at all. There’s nothing here….let’s just go back!”

I adore how bright and hopeful our children imagine. I love the impossible things our Littlest Son can dream up…like wanting to learn how to run on top of water, or to fly up to the clouds and play. To be able to talk to the animals and they can talk back, or be the Superhero he thinks he is with a Magical Cape that really works, or inventing creative space machines that can fly to the moon or visit other planets.

I love the pure-hearted preciousness for him to believe that he really would find that Pot of Gold underneath the Golden Light.

The uninhibited imagination to Dream.

Dreams that ignite in the Imagination of our God-Breathed instinct, before the harsh realities and toughness of life have a chance to douse it out with floods of disappointment and loss.

What would it be, to live a life truly free, unchained to even time, space or gravity…to fly, to soar, to see the impossible, possible?

Boundless. Limitless. Heroic.

Divinely Inspired.

An innate sense that there is Something bigger than what we see, more Wonderful than what we know, something Magically Miraculously Divine that keeps us pressing forward for more. Something God-Breathed. Our hearts ache for It. Our souls are empty without It.

Dreams of a perfect world absent of evil, dreams of peace and absence of war, dreams of a stable life or a guaranteed future, dreams of finding a knight in shining armor who can rescue and set life straight, or dreams of a perfect marriage or family, or a business successful beyond measure….

What drives any of us searching for these things? What makes us want to find or attempt to create our own slice of Paradise?

We often suffer from “The Pot Of Gold” Syndrome. My husband chuckled about Braeden’s thinking and said, “It seems he’s been sucked-in to a ‘Get-Rich-Quick’ scheme at his tender young age.”

I believe God Created our desire for fulfilment, creativity, imagination and life-giving abundance when He breathed into Adam’s lungs, Divine Breath of Life. It’s in our DNA. But much like Adam and Eve, we turn our desire from the very Creator Who breathed in us His perfect gifts, and our focus often becomes everything in the garden of life, forgetting the Life-Giver who Authored it.

Braeden’s genuinely felt defeat  reminds me of times where I’ve fallen into a heap, battle-weary and on the brink of giving up. And of my Heavenly Father, patiently picking up the pieces of my shattered faith, broken dreams and lifeless soul, and holding me close to His heart. Hemming my life in under the shelter of His care and comfort. Giving my life peace and meaning even while storms rage at me from all sides. If I could love our son as much as I do, how much more bountiful, beautiful and perfect, does God love us? And He beams with pride when we trust Him just like we do when we can fulfill a promise for our own children. I believe just like any parent, He aches over our disappointments, He grieves when our hearts break, He laughs when our joy is made full. How much more willing is He to prove Himself faithful to me?

But it takes child-like faith to trust.

If life’s difficulties overwhelm my focus, I’ll get caught in the trap of  expectation when life falls short, not realizing that this experience as a whole is a journey, not a destination. To view life on a grander scale, realizing that the only thing worthy of my trust, is in God Alone.

I think when we are willing to step past what’s comfortable and achievable, we step in to a partnership with God. He Inspired The Dream. It’s beyond our capacity. That’s the whole point. We need HIM to fulfill it. Learning to trust Him to do the impossible…that’s where His Glory comes in. That’s where we disappear and HE Shines. He is the Light in the Darkness, sparking grand curiousity and imagination…illuminating that which inspires us, leading us, wooing us on life’s pathway to Him. When our experience becomes all about Him, He becomes our Treasure. The scope of our desire, our “Pot of Gold”.

This is Kingdom Business. Where my Faith is being tested. What my heart beats for is to be made capable, not because I think I am, because most days all I can see is all my own insecurities and self-doubts, but because God Himself trusts the dream He’s placed in me. The Author and Finisher of my Faith. The Lampost Shining in my Garden of Life.

It’s raining outside this early morning. Our sleepy-headed-blue-eyed blonde just woke up. I heard him say, “Dad! It’s raining outside! Do you know what that means? A Rainbow is coming! Do you know that at the end of the Rainbow, there’s a Pot of Gold?”

Read Matthew 6:16-34

Motherhood Stretches: Hanging On While Letting Go

This morning, in anticipation of our daughter coming home after being gone for nearly a year, I was browsing through photographs taken along this journey. Photos of her trip’s beginning, mixed with other family snapshots of what we were doing while she was gone. They sort of ping-ponged their way across my memory as I very clearly am reminded of the many emotions and thoughts I’ve had, taking this trip “with” her around the world, via internet.

I’m re-impressed with the feelings of that day. It’s kind of hard to admit it, but I’d made her go outside for an official “photo shoot” taking pictures of her at every angle..her profile, right side, left side, straight on..smiling, not smiling. Literally, I was thinking of the most potentially tragic end…just to make sure I’d thought of everything before she left us, and are separated by oceans and continents. Oh “ye of little faith.”

I just posted a picture of our last hug. I completely swallow her in the photo, with her back turned to the camera, my Mother-Bear arms wrap around her tightly in a grip I wasn’t too ready to release. She is a grown young lady by this time, glowing with Purpose and Divine Adventure, heading towards her 23rd birthday.  My teary eyes are closed tight while my mouth is praying words like…”God protect you and keep you, His Angels walk before you and behind you, let evil have a blind eye to your presence and pray God’s Perfect Will and Plan lead, guide and direct you every step of the way…..” and in my mind my real level of faith is screaming…”Oh My God…please keep her safe, please protect her from all harm…please don’t let her suffer or be killed or tortured or imprisoned…..please bring her home safe!!!” (My Husband’s Fatherly look in the background kind of says it all.)

We’d made copies of ID’s, passports, birth certificates, driver’s licenses, bank accounts, vaccination records…gotten all the medications and vaccines A-Listed for the unknown-to-us countries she was leaving us behind for…

She was “Called” to go on this trip in November of 2010. At our church’s New Year’s prayer service, God confirmed to her and us, that she should “GO!” We started gearing up, ever so feebly in January. God continued to prompt and lead forward. I kept thinking, “there’s just NO way this is possible…where is the money going to come from?” She kept saying, “MOM, if God has called me to this, it’s going to happen.”

I love how our kids teach us..the pure, unadulterated Faith of a Child.

In the midst, we watched her life go through a total stripping down of everything secure and meaningful to her.

Five months before departure, she had to leave her job due to the company’s instability. Her salary was supposed to pay for a huge chunk of her trip. She lost a house she’d been planning to purchase prior to “The Call” and her monies invested in it.  In 2010, God had reached out and scooped her life up in His Hands, and Called her to a time, specifically for one full year, of cutting her life off from everything familiar. No dating, no socializing, no old-friend groups. He gave her a list. He was bringing her life to a place of total consecration and devotion to Himself. A.MAZ.ING. (Many hard-fought prayers answered here!! Sorry to admit it was shocking to us when God pulled through! =/)

By the end of this first full year, she was leaving to embark on a journey of a lifetime! I’ve joked with her about how cool God is, to ask her for one year of devotion, that she did such a great job, He ended up taking two!

She came home to live with us and save money. Those months back together as a family was a precious time of Sweet Redemption.

We started out with ideas for fundraising her trip with The World Race, which outlined multiple required “cut-off” dates for the missionaries to get their funds in. Together, our family did car washes, held a dinner/silent auction by raising donations and gift cards from local businesses and many home-crafted items, got the word out to friends and family members, and a myriad of other things including selling gold.

I wish things would come easier financially. That we could’ve just said, “Oh, we can give you that $16,000 for your trip. Done.” (All in all more like $22,000.) But it was the very struggle of learning to trust God, even in the funding arena that grew both our, and our daughter’s Faith necessary for her journey, that God WAS going to provide, and we watched His crazy ways of doing so!

Her very first $150 needed to secure her spot, was paid by a dear friend whom God prompted to give her exactly that amount. On another deadline, a friend’s teenage sister who lives out of state, was told to give her $110. This was all the money she had. Our daughter opened the envelope exactly when she needed it, in exactly the amount to meet the next deadline. A gift from her Great Uncle came in unexpectedly which gave her the first huge leap forward. Is this really going to happen?

Our Pastor, while Britni was away in Tennessee for her debrief/training camp, found out about the trip and was very interested in seeing what the church could do to help. I received a phone call from the church secretary that a check was waiting for her. Afraid to open it, I literally pulled over to the side of the road trying to see through the envelope, not knowing if I first should call her or not. When I pulled the check out, I burst into tears…a huge chunk donated that allowed her to cross the deadline for the greenlight to actually “GO!” I called her immediately and got to announce, “YOU’RE GOING!!”

From there, we owe eternal thanks to other ministries, other friends, lots of family, (and we know who you are!) who kept faithfully plugging away at her final deadline to be “Paid in Full” by midway through her trip.

It’s been amazing. Humbling. God is SO Good!! Consistent monthly givers funding her missionary account, allowed for us to be able to fund her personal expense account. The team lives on a bare-bones $100 each per month for food. The rest of the funds raised covers travel and lodging expenses.  With her trip expenses being taken care of, God seemed to give us just enough extra, for her to have what she needed, when she needed it. For instance, leaving Mozambique at 115* and arriving during the iciest of European winters in Bulgaria wearing flip flops. Unexpected shopping necessities. Very cool to watch God Provide.

I have a new appreciation for Mothers who send off their children to fight for our nation. Going to war zones, unfamiliar cultures, unpredictable places and encountering third world perplexities.

I feel the cut-to-the-gut anxiousness of being totally and completely out of control, and yielding myself to jump off the cliff of the unknown, and simply free-fall, trusting that somewhere down there God’s Hands await to catch my lack of whole-hearted faith, trust and understanding.

We had our first taste of testing after the teams spread out for their first ministry month in the Philipines. She was stationed in the high mountains of Mindanao working in an orphanage..the facilities were primative, but relatively safe. Wanting to know more about the region after-the-fact, I came to know that in recent past, radicals have raged through the islands seizing farmlands and forcing children to be soldiers and slaughtering dissenters. There continues to be some radical anti-government groups that present some risk from time to time. And, my first time ever to only be in touch when sketchy internet allowed, on her day off when she could connect via skype. Just the beginning of stretching our spiritual muscle.

Our first real conversation happened before leaving Manila. “Mom, we’re heading to China. I’ll call you from Hong Kong.” I vividly remember our HK conversation. Behind her I could see the hillside and jets parked by the ramps, and parts of her team on their computers inside the terminal. This sums it up. “We’re having to go down with all communications. I don’t know where I’m going. The teams are all spreading out. It will just be the seven of us and I think we go on a 42 hour train ride, then a bus for like 6 or 8 hours, then I think we take a cab or something…sounds like a long trip and I don’t know what we’re doing there. I’ll talk to you in a month!”

No word. For 5 1/2 long weeks. Believe me, I checked and scoured the internet day and night. Nothing.

She was dead serious. NO communications. In the midnight hour of Faith. Where are they? Who are they with? Where are they staying? Who knows Chinese?? This is only month 2!! What are they thinking, taking our babies who know nothing into a place like this???

By God’s Grace Mom knew not! Britni’s team of seven was given a note only of the name of their hotel, and their city. That’s it. They went on their 50 plus hour journey alright. Ended up in the wrong town with no contact and no translator and no place to stay with no signs posted in English. The only white folks these locals had ever seen. After miming their way through to find where they were supposed to be, only to realize the contact had left the country, so again, no translator, no place to stay, no way to communicate not even to their team leaders, in the freezing winter at the base of the Tianshan Mountains, a primitive predominantly Muslim place, providing no place for outreach, and having no hot water or heat. The rest of that story is hers to tell. Once they got out, she said, “Mom, when you see all these pictures of me wearing the same clothes, it’s not just one day, it’s the entire month. We were freezing and went the whole time with no showers. I tried to wash my grease-stricken hair once, but it was the worst decision ever.”

And the highlights continue. God moved in her heart and life in so many vibrant ways. I treasure every step, ache or pain, or heartache in the missing of my precious daughter. What a rich adventure!! She’s spent many of her months in the most difficult hardships, living amongst the people, serving, giving, loving, holding, playing, laughing, feeding the hopeless, starving and dying. And experienced some personal suffering as well.

We knew they were in some dangerous places. When passing through South Africa, her team literally drove the entire coastline via sketchy transport from Cape Town up through Mozambique. About the time of their arrival, some of our friends living in Johannesburg had two friends who served Mozambique, get hijacked for their van, taken up a mountainside, doused with gasoline and told to turn around to be executed. They prayed. Guns fired, but no bullets. The gunmen took off stealing the van, but thank God their lives were spared.

We knew of her teammates traveling together leaving one northern European nation to serve another, unknowingly sitting on a weapons cache underneath their train car seat, caught in the middle of a political undercurrent and in the middle of the night rude-awakening to foreigners ripping them to their feet and having no idea what on earth to do about it but pray.

Another adventure had to be cancelled for her team while in Central America to go see the Ancient Mayan ruins, because some people staying at their hostel had taken the tour the day before, and the tour bus was hijacked, the busdriver shot in the face, and the bus emptied with all the tourist belongings stolen. Some of her team had been attacked and had bags, passports and money taken from them on drive by robberies.

Stories like these, stretch me. I have been a complete and utter wimp. Inside, I’ve fallen to pieces. Faithless. Would God call her to an adventure like this to be put in harm’s way? Maybe. What can I do about it??

I’ve wrestled and analyzed and re-thought this decision to “GO!” a thousand times over this past year.

Brought back to the old-familiar place of Letting Go. WHY is this so hard? At the end of the day, what really are any of us in control of?

God asked me some very simple questions along the way:

“Are you a Miracle Worker?”

No.

“Are you a Perfect Heavenly Father?”

No.

“Do you see what I see, the present, the past, the future?”

No.

“Can you do anything at all to save or spare your Child from where you stand?”

No.

“Do you possess the Power to Save, Heal, Deliver or Move Mountains?”

Only YOU Lord. Only through You.

Have you been around this Mountain? It seems I’ve been round and around it for a lifetime. When I finally get to the end of everything I can possibly do, in any or all human power, and relent to the fact, that ONLY through Trusting God, for everything and anything, am I able to rest in His Confidence, that HE Alone, is God, and I am not.

I’d make a terribly miserable, wimpy god. I can do nothing at times, except PRAY, and lean hard on Him, learning to give Him all my hopes, all my fears, all my anxious thoughts and mixed up Mothering-emotions.

And ALL My Children.

So today, I am a grateful Mother, and a grateful Child.

God pulled through! He has answered more prayers than I could even think of to Pray. He is Faithful.

I CAN’T WAIT to hug our daughter! And then, maybe I’ve learned to hold her a little more loosely……?

We shall see.

ps. I’d do this all over again, and would love nothing more than see each of my kids take this journey!

$TWENTY DOLLARS$: IN GOD WE TRUST.

It was a rough time.

A desperate time.

And a very lonely place.

Five children, aged two through eleven. A single mom. Left to deal with hungry tummies, a half-million dollar house with utilities turned off during our steaming Oklahoma summer; low on gas, inspiration and with nothing left but a little Faith.

We’d fed our oldest son’s “birthday gift bundle of fluff ” Samson, cereal for long enough. Does anyone else who owns a pet do this? This is no ordinary pup. What started out as the most innocently pure puppy-love, morphed into a genuine child-gulping, slobbering 100 pound dinosaur by the tender age of four months old…a St. Bernard that could eat as much as any grown 250 pound man.

At the time, I most definitely preferred the dog.

We were out late one night in our LaBomba Suburban..yeah, the Suburban SupremeXLT decked out with fancy running boards, leather package, roomy four person Captain Chairs, the back in the day B.O.M.B family-driving-Ma.chine…..all fine and dandy until you’ve lived in it with five young kids, three in car seats, multiple spills and flying french fries, loose running Skittles, and popsicle sticks left over from a yesteryear-summer’s fun. AND, until Divorce. When you can no longer afford the 80 plus gasoline gallons it can hold, let alone feed the kids that ride in it every day to the private school that’s all they’ve ever known with all the friends they’ve ever had, trying to “keep it together” for their sake, hoping that at least ONE thing can remain stable in their small little innocent world. And scraping every known penny to do so.

YES, I’ve dug through the couch cushions, checked the vending machines, scoured under the carpet pads and seats in the car, looking for enough change to pay for some tiny item on the eternal list of toddler-hood needs.

At this point, our transportation was as vital to us as the air we breathed, and as useless to us as a Sherman Tank…actually, now I can think of a few great uses, but then this story would read a whole lot differently.

SO, desperate for dog food, and after the many chidings of my oldest, smartest kid that “You’re going to kill our dog!!” We find ourselves parking in the handicap spaces right front and center of the grocery store entrance. I’m exhausted. It’s hot. I look “healthy” but on the inside I’m completely incapacitated. It’s not fair.  I do NOT want to unload three tiny tots, two older kids who will want everything off the shelf if they go in, and I need to get some sleep!! So we park and roll down all the windows to enjoy the steaming sauna of the outdoors. I have to save gas after all.

I turn to my oldest daughter, who’s quite bright and responsible. These are my instructions: “Sweetheart, would you please do Mommy a HUGE favor, I need you to buy the cheapest, hugest bag of dog food in the store, so you’re going to have to look at the prices. And, I need you to get a gallon of milk. Will you do this for Mom? I’ll stay in the car with all the kids, please try to hurry, it’s so late and we have school in the morning. And, PLEASE, be sure to bring me all the change, put it in your pocket okay?” She nods in confidence and cheerfully hops out to do my errand.

I sit there, steaming. Steaming in my mind. Steaming in my emotions. I look at my sweet, cherub faced darlings. They expect so much from me. I’m it. I’m all they have at this point. No one else is looking out for them. They’re beautiful. Amazing. I’d do anything on the planet for them. There eyes are wide and happy. They have no idea what we’re up against. I breathe out. God. Please do something. This is the last bit of money we have. I gave her my last, precious $20 bill. For dogfood. Hits me in the gut. I’m disgusted. Angry. The kids are getting wrestless in their car seats. I notice we’re all sweating. I’ve been lost in my thoughts. Where’s your sister?? I’m noticing it’s taking her awhile. Now I’m growing impatient. I look through the windows straining to catch sight of her. Nothing.

After what seemed another 15 minutes, she comes to her side of the car. Her face says it all. She opens the door….”Mom, I can’t find the money. I thought I put it in my pocket but when I got to the counter it was gone.”

Now, this is a clarifying Mommy Moment.  I realized this also could be one of those clarifying childhood memories that would either scar or heal. I breathed in, VERY deeply, exhaled. On the inside, I was flooded with frustration, hurt and weariness, but thanks to the Grace of God, I remember consciously choosing my words, after all, the kids were painfully blameless in our situation.

“It’s okay honey, let me park the car, and we’ll come in and look.”

The store was nearly empty. Now, we are on a hunt. Actually, all the kids were very excited. This, another family adventure! Carrying one or two of them, we retrace all her steps. Where did you go first?? Where did you go second?? Are you sure you went down this aisle…we look, we go by the milk aisle, find our way to the dogfood aisle. We go back and forth a half dozen times. Oh. My. Gosh. I. Feel. So. Desperate. My eyes sting with tears.

HOLD IT TOGETHER GIRL. These innocent eyes are watching YOU!!! What are you going to do about it!

We pass down another aisle back on our way to revisit the dogfood, and I pass by a store clerk who’s wearing a red apron. I stop and turn around. “Ma’am, we’re looking for a $20 bill that my daughter dropped. Have you happened to see it?” She looked at me and shook her head “No”, then a glance to the floor, then back up at me…and with five other pairs of hungry eyes staring at her…her hand seemed to involuntarily move towards her front apron pocket…out came her hand holding our twenty dollars. I caught my breath. “Thank you! Thank you for being honest. You just don’t know how much we need this.” She seemed to regretfully hand it over. The kids yelled and cheered. Britni’s laugh bubbled out in relief. YAY! The starving pet is saved! Yay! We have milk for our cereal in the morning and don’t have to ration any for Samson!! Yay!

All is well.

We get to the checkout line where our measly shopping list has been awaiting payment. I hand over the $20. The clerk hands me back the change.

I look down at the last dollar bill she lays in my hand, and in bold blue block letters was written “JESUS LOVES YOU!” It lept off that dollar with a defining shout-out to my soul “Jesus Loves ME!” I laugh out loud and burst into tears. The kids look at me like Mom’s really losing the marbles out of her bag. And I was.

How does God do this? How is His timing so infinitely perfect? We talked all the way home and for months and years thereafter, about our “Family Dollar.” We kept it in our daily calendar by the kitchen sink, so that anytime we are up against a financial struggle, and trust me there have been and are still many! We are reminded, of the day that God taught us a lesson about Himself. I have often pulled it out of its hiding place to hold it up to the kids, reminding them of God’s Faithfulness to us.

He is our Perfect, Loving, Providing, Caring, Sheltering, Comforting, Trustworthy, Almighty Heavenly Father. He never abandons. He never forsakes. He is the God Who Sees.

And HE loves US!

As for the fate of Samson. When that 40 pound bag of dog food was empty, I decided he’d become a real man, so we married him off in great ceremony, his bride even wore a pink bow and they met with a double-dosed-sloppy-wet kiss…..and that also put an end to the daily-dozen dinosaur piles in our yard….the grass grew back from his digging and the kids no longer feared The Slobbering Giant.

In God We Trust.

ps. Jesus Loves YOU!

The Inside Scoop:This.Is.How.We.Roll

SO, today was the first day of school for four of our crew of seven.

It’s been a wild start to the school year we’ve been putting off. We moved our second eldest to University of Arkansas 10 days ago, and our second youngest daughter to a local university last weekend, and we’re awaiting the return of our oldest daughter from a one-year trip around the universe, so it seems, to finally get home, which was bumped from this past Tuesday to the weekend after next.

In the meantime, we are scurrying about with this framework in our heads as we are trying to imagine being ready for today.

First-time college freshman had her first university course, our two highschool sophomores had their first day at the “big” high school, and our sweet Little Man entered his first day of elementary school into the First Grade…aka all grown up on us and all.

Our little guy, who has no imagination for all the “needs” of school shopping like the endless requests we are getting from most everyone else, sometimes gets the brunt of the lastminuteness in our world. His shopping list: (in the cutest handwritten note you’ve ever seen, ever) ckowse, towis, hswse = clothes, toys, shoes. It’s been a long summer’s break since phonics.

The last day of true “Summer Break” our soon-to-be-firstgrader says to me, “Mom, tomorrow the world is ending. So what should we do for today?” I stop what I’m doing. To be honest, he has a deep spiritual sense, and I wonder if somehow he knows something that I should? “What do you mean son, why do you think the world is ending tomorrow?” “Well, you know, school starts tomorrow, so what should we do today for fun?” We pack up our stuff, with snacks and sandwiches, and head out for an afternoon poolside, enjoying our last stretch of summer freedom.

After getting our sophomores launched successfully, $5 each in hand for lunches that I didn’t have the foresight nor energy to shop for, I turn to this sweet, innocent blue-eyed blonde for this morning’s inspiration.

First grade. Wow. Our little bumpkins IS growing up. Determined to make sure we are on time and NOT set a late-every-morning trend like we did in Kindergarten, I impress myself with a shower suggestion, brush teeth option, and fresh, spanking new cloths. Check. We are doing GOOD!

Lunch? What about it. Well, there’s left over PBJ’s from our snack at the pool yesterday? Hmmm…as I snoop through the pantry I’m delighted to stumble across 1 package of fruit chews, 1 applesauce to go cup, some peanutbutter crackers, also from yesterday’s snack, and gleaning through the fridge, dig out 1 tiny cheese round..you know the kind in the red wax covering…he loves those!!

Suddenly, it dawns on me…where is his back pack??  Didn’t even think to put that one on our shopping list! Where did I put last year’s Captain America?? Thanks to his outstanding Grandmother, he has all his school supplies all tidied up for his first day, but I’ll be danged where to find his backpack from Kindergarten? We run upstairs to his closet, where his older two brothers also throw just about anything they don’t want. I dig. To no avail…and then, something shiny blue and strappy catches my eye…Thomas the Choo Choo…he’s always there when you need him…this was his little pack to go to Grandma’s House way back in the day.

He didn’t seem to mind. Not in the least. He even was excited to unzip the front round “Thomas” faced portion to tuck in his tiny cheese round and fruit chews for today’s snack. Tragedy avoided, we load up and are off on-time for his first day of First Grade.

I sent my precious Little-Big Man to school with Thomas. And a day-old sandwich. And school snacks probably from last year..but wasn’t that just a few weeks ago??

Feeling nearly guilty by pick-up time, I think, “Oh…he has his swim lesson right after school and will probably be starving.” Hmmmmm….yup, another PBJ from yesterday’s pool snack. Grabbing this and his swim stuff, I dash to the school…there’s our sweet little guy so happy to see his mom! So, “How was your first day at First Grade?” “Well, people toot alot at school Mom.” First Day’s Impression. I laugh. We talk on. Time to change in the car and shuffle through the gym maze for his lessons. Potty break. Sometimes he still needs help. As he bends over for the “motherly chore”, I notice something on his cute little bun. “QC #9″ Thank you GAP, for sticking your stamp of approval inside his brand new underwear…he asks, “What are you doing?” I show him his “sticker”…”Did I wear that all day?” Mom…why didn’t you take that off my underwear? How was I supposed to know??

Swimming commences. He’s dawdling, backflipping, frontflipping, bobbing about…off in his own little world as his instructor is handling the other boy who won’t stick his head in the water. He is perfectly content. He does anything he’s asked…and doing fairly well by summer’s end.

We finish our day with a swim in the “Big Pool” I think a pretty great way to complete our first day of school: Mom, Littlest Man, and Sonshine.

After drying off and getting ready to go, he turns to me, “Mom, I just want to be able to run on the water.”

This is how we roll.

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