Lovely Life

Life is really lovely, isn’t it?

Sometimes I get into such a funk and it’s hard to enjoy life’s loveliness. Of course, we are broken people living in a broken world…

But when I slow down and look around, it doesn’t take long to find the loveliness again.

A friend recently shared about how she wanted to stop talking about how busy she is. Something about what she was saying resonated deep in my soul.

I hate the I’m-busier, I’m-tireder, I-have-more-going-on game that we all seem to play with each other.

As I think about it, Scriptures come to mind– about resting and being still. So opposite of the hustle and bustle we act like we love so much.

In repentance and rest you will be saved,

In quietness and trust is your strength. (Isaiah 30:15)

Cease striving and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46:10)

So I’m stopping.

When asked about how I’m doing or how my life is going, I do not want to answer “Ugh, I am so busy!”, or, “I’m just really tired.”

Because who isn’t?

I’d rather tell about how good the Lord has been to me. Or how joyful I feel. Or how I have seen something super beautiful in creation.

Or what I have been reading and learning in the Bible and prayer.

Because life really is lovely, ya know?

And it’s so lovely to be alive.

Advertisements

The Ransom is Paid!

I’ve had so many thoughts stirring in my head as Easter has approached this year. In light of our earthly adoption process, I’ve been thinking about my adoption by God.

Let’s be honest for a minute– international adoption is expensive. Like really, really expensive. No agency can tell you up front exactly how much you will pay during an international adoption. If adopting, you sign (many!) forms agreeing to the amount you will pay for each part of the adoption process, and saying you understand that there will be “extra expenses” and they are solely your responsibility. At my bare minimum projections we will spend over $20,000 when it’s all said and done and Lovebug is at home with our family.

That’s a crazy lot of money. It’s a great debt we will gladly pay to ransom our daughter from a life void of hope. Without paying this money, Lovebug would remain in her current state– family-less– indefinitely. We have to pay the debt required in order to be able to bring her home and call her ours.

At Easter, we remember a similar ransom that was paid a long time ago. You see, I was lost in sin and utter darkness. I was an enemy of God. I was an orphan in the world- without hope, without love. But Someone came and gave even more than $20,000 as a ransom for me. He gave His life.


As His blood– His pure, precious blood spilled down over rough wood and pooled at the foot of a Roman cross, my adoption fee was paid in full.

Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. Without payment, there is no adoption into God’s family. Without great cost, there is no salvation for the lost. Without the debt being erased, there is no redemption from the old life. Without Jesus, there is no hope for the future.

The mystery of the cross I cannot comprehend
The agonies of Calvary
You the perfect Holy One, crushed Your Son
Who drank the bitter cup reserved for me 

Your blood has washed away my sin
Jesus, thank You
The Father’s wrath completely satisfied
Jesus, thank You
Once Your enemy, now seated at Your table
Jesus, thank You


By Your perfect sacrifice I’ve been brought near
Your enemy You’ve made Your friend
Pouring out the riches of Your glorious grace
Your mercy and Your kindness know no end
(Jesus, Thank You by Pat Sczebel) 

He paid the price to redeem my soul and then He conquered death! He died to bring us life! That is the sobering, awesome, gruesome, blessed hope of Easter. Praise the Lord.

The very good very bad Day

It’s Good Friday. But it all started with Bad Friday.


Jesus knew it would be a bad day.


“Father, if you are willing, remove <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BK)”>this cup from me. <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BL)”>Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”  And there appeared to him <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BM)”>an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BN)”>being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.


He was mistreated and slandered.


The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(O)”>treated him with contempt and <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(P)”>mocked him.


He was completely innocent, but He was numbered among transgressors– hanging between two who deserved their punishment.


…he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors…Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(AP)”>And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(AQ)”>one on his right and one on his left. 


He struggled for breath for more than three hours as darkness covered the face of the earth. Creation watched, breathless, as Jesus breathed his last and surrendered His soul.


 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. Then Jesus, <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BP)”>calling out with a loud voice, said,“Father, <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BQ)”>into your hands I <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BR)”>commit my spirit!” And having said this <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BS)”>he breathed his last. 


But this was no ordinary death.


And behold, <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BU)”>the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BV)”>the earth shook, and the rocks were split. When the centurion and those who were with him, <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(CA)”>keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(CB)”>“Truly this was the Son of God!”


And He was buried in a cave-like tomb as some of His loved ones watched.


And Joseph bought <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BQ)”>a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BR)”>laid him in a tomb <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BS)”>that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BT)”>a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus saw where he was laid.


But the story doesn’t end there…




{Quotations taken from the ESV version of the Bible from Luke 22, 23, Isaiah 53, Matthew 27, Mark 15}

Chasing the Moon

Hubby is gone for a few days for work, so tonight the kids and I called a cab and headed out on an adventure to the mall. I’d like to give a shout out to my new best friend, IKEA, for their free child-care, and warehouse full of cheap housewares for me to breathe and browse while the two oldest Bugs play.

We ate dinner, played at IKEA, looked for a baby gate in another store (I really need one to keep Doodlebug out of the kitchen, ya know), shared an iced (decaf) coffee, looked for pants for Stinkbug, ran to the bathroom because MOMMYIREALLYHAVETOPEE,I’MGONNAPEEMYPANTSRIGHTNOW happened. And then we hopped into another cab with my IKEA bag (I got a new pillow), and rode home.
As we exited the highway my eye caught sight of a huge faintly glowing orb hanging low in the nearly black sky. I pointed it out to the kids, and they tried to track the moon from the window as the taxi turned and turned before depositing us outside our building.
The Bugs were still asking about the moon when we got out of the cab, so I asked if they wanted to hunt it down and see if we could catch it. Ears perked, eyes brightened. Imaginary flashlights flickered on and we were off. We walked and walked and I was worrying a little that because of the mess of cars and buildings and city life, we wouldn’t be able to glimpse the moon again, but we turned one last corner and there it was. Glorious harvest moon. Breath-takingly beautiful in the dark night.
We stopped to appreciate its hugeness and then the kids ran off to try and get closer. 
Come on, mommy, we have to catch it!
At last, we tired of stalking the moon (we had expended a lot of energy at the mall already…), and we trooped back home. On the way, Stinkbug keep asking me to point out the moon to him. He wanted to catch every sight of it he possibly could before it disappeared from view. I smiled at his amazement, a good reminder for me to stop and enjoy.
As I went through the evening chaos monotony routine (potty, brush teeth, pajamas, devotions, track down loveys, get water cups, potty again, kiss goodnight), my heart just felt lighter. I’m glad I went on a moon-chase whim tonight. It felt good to throw normalcy and schedule to the wind, and click on my imaginary magical flashlight (Ladybug’s idea) and hunt down the big, beautiful moon.
That particular moon– the glowing orange ball, as perfectly round as a dinner plate, hanging eerily low over our city– will never exist again. But it will forever live in my heart– along with Ladybug’s eager running ahead to catch a glimpse, and Stinkbug’s wild exclaiming about the size of the moon. 
Let us not forget as moms to hold our routines, our normalcy, our sanity, our plans in open hands, and instead hold tightly to the little ones who will forever be slipping like water from our fingers. Chase the moon. Seize the moment. Enjoy your kids.

Feeling Down?

Is anyone else tired of being good at NOTHING? Maybe it’s good for nothing. Maybe it’s both.

Almost seven years ago, I put on a white dress and some flip flops (yes, truly!) and marched down a flower-littered aisle to my college sweetheart’s waiting grin. I wasn’t prepared to be a wife- who is?– and at almost 29, I still don’t feel ready to be a wife some days.
Four and a half years ago, after all day labor that I didn’t feel prepared for or good at, and a C-section anyway, I was handed a nine pound pink bundle of little girl. I felt like I was guessing and playing the trial-and-error game as we faced breastfeeding, diaper changing, mobile baby days, solids, sickness, and getting pregnant again not too long later. At the end of most days I can look back and point out some way I failed as a mother- yelling, cooking from a box, not disciplining, disciplining too harshly, letting a teachable moment slide, forgetting a promise, letting the kids eat candy, turning on the TV so I could have a moment to myself… you get point.
Two years and some months ago, we moved overseas and I became a language learner. “Language learner” might sound like an exciting title to you, but it actually sucks when it’s yours. At first I survived everything- the grocery store, visits with friends, the pharmacy, riding a bus, putting money on my metro card, ordering at restaurants- with pointing and grunting. Humbling to say the least. Nowadays I know some words and sentence structures, but often my words tumble out in the wrong order with wrong verbiage I has kids three and wife at home stay. I even ask my four year old vocabulary now because she has surpassed my language skills. Embarrassing, right?

When all three of my “main jobs” are suffering and stuff feels out-of-whack… Hubby and I have a disagreement, the kids are acting like lunatics, and my tongue is too sluggish to say my name much less share a spiritual Truth with someone, it’s easy to feel plain ol’ down and depressed.
Sometimes I think that’s exactly where the Lord wants me.
For some reason, when things are going my way, I tend to think I had something to do with it. I get this big ol’ head thinking that life is going just right because I am some kick-butt awesome wife, mom, language learner. I actually think that things are smooth and cool because I am somehow good and can do all my jobs on my own. I stop seeking and trusting the Lord and start to juggle everything on my own strength. Usually that lasts all of about three days before I find myself back in the valley gazing up at the sky.
I try to be thankful for my down days, my days in the valley, because words have never been truer than these I read often in The Valley of Vision:
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, 
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, 
where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights; 
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory. 
Let me learn by paradox 
that the way down is the way up, 
that to be low is to be high, 
that the broken heart is the healed heart, 
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, 
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, 
that to have nothing is to possess all, 
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, 
that to give is to receive, 
that the valley is the place of vision. 
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, 
and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine; 
let me find Thy light in my darkness, 
Thy life in my death, 
Thy joy in my sorrow, 
Thy grace in my sin, 
Thy riches in my poverty, 
Thy glory in my valley.

Christmas Thoughts

She wasn’t married. But she was pregnant.

In her time, in her society, pregnancy outside of marriage was not acceptable. It caused more than curious glances and shoulder shrugs by passersby.

It was a crime punishable by death.

And yet this was the way He chose to reach out to humanity.

~~~~~~~~~~

He was a hard worker. A faithful man, and yet it appeared his betrothed had not been.

His dreams for a future and a family, crushed beneath the weight of an unexpected baby.

But a Rescuer, expected and anticipated by all of fallen creation.

~~~~~~~~~~

As beautiful and serene as we try to paint the Nativity, it wasn’t. There was sweat and blood pooling around Mary as she pushed her Savior into the world. He didn’t land in a confident midwife’s arms, but in the outstretched, calloused hands of plain, hardworking Joseph– the only one there to catch the baby, who would one day stretch out His own arms to save broken humanity.

~~~~~~~~~~

God didn’t send the angelic choir to give the news to the most important people of the day– most of us would have invited the governor, the senators, the city councilmen, the temple priests, the doctors and lawyers– instead He chose to tell a rag tag group of shepherds. Men without beauty or wealth or fame. The most ordinary of ordinary. 
And He sends us a message with His message– there is no one lowly or unworthy for this baby Savior… Come see! Come believe! Come be saved! Come all! Come seek the baby Savior!
~~~~~~~~~~

A King for all mankind, not robed in purple, but swaddled in plain cloth.

A Savior for the people, not hailed by the masses, but adored by dirty shepherds in a dingy stable.

It’s a story riddled with scandal. If we hadn’t have heard it so many times before, it might surprise us– the way God chose to wrap Himself in flesh and present Himself to the world. 


But as we gaze upon the baby in a wooden manger bed, and see through His story, to the hard wood of His cross etching its marks forever upon His body of flesh, we can rejoice and with the angels sing

Joy to the World the Lord has come!Let earth receive her king!Let every heart prepare Him room!

I Won Today

I won a blog giveaway today.

I won $100 cash to give away to someone else from Nancy Ray Photography. Isn’t that awesome and christmas-y and fun??????

It would be if I wasn’t such a wretched, sinful being.

You see, the original giveaway was for an iPad2 PLUS $100 cash to give away to someone in need. All you had to do to enter was leave a comment saying what you would do with the $100 if you won. Cool, huh?

Note: Honestly I would never pay for an iPad. I have an iPod touch (although the screen is busted) and an iPad just seems like a toy to me… a toy I could never justify paying that much money for. But to win one for free from a blog giveaway? Cool. I’m down. Hubby said that if I won (a long shot at best!) we could sell the iPad and put the money into our adoption fund. So I entered- hey everyone else online was doing it.

I mentioned here that Hubby was doing disaster relief work a couple weeks ago. He was helping to build shelters for families who have been displaced by a major earthquake in Van, Turkey. As he told me about how cold he was (wearing three layers of bottoms and four or more layers of tops… edit: Hubby just told me he was wearing SIX layers on top!), and sent me pictures like this…

…my heart was saddened. These kids don’t have any coats on! (And it had started snowing while Hubby was there! It’s cold y’all!) As a mama, my heart aches when I see children in need around the world. Children going without the things- like coats– that my children (AND ME!) take for granted every single day.

So on the iPad giveaway blog, that’s what popped into my head! I would take the $100, buy as many kid-sized coats as I could, and I would cargo them to one of the men Hubby met while working in Van. It sounded like so much fun as I thought about it… Of course it would be a family affair to take the kids out, bargain for the coats to be cheaper (I love living overseas!), talk to the Bugs about how wealthy we are compared to the rest of the world, and how awesome it is to be able to give to others… yada yada yada.

(I don’t mean yada yada yada like this isn’t important. This is very important.)

The problem is that I have a wicked heart and tonight I glimpsed again just how wicked.

My friend called me to tell me I had won a giveaway on Nancy Ray’s blog. NO WAY! I exclaimed and laughed as I pictured myself checking Facebook on my brand new iPad. Visions of the kids and me cuddled up watching Mickey Mouse episodes together on the shiny iPad screen danced in my head.

She went on to explain that it wasn’t the iPad I had won, but a generous anon had given an extra $100 to be given away and I had been chosen to give that $100 away.

SAY WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?


Inside, my mini-me sinner started stomping her feet. No iPad? Her lips pursued into a pouty grimace. No new toy for me?  Her sense of entitlement screamed– only $100 to give away? But what about ME? What do I get?


I am ashamed to tell you about all this. It’s hard to realize (yet again) that I am a sinner, and to be transparent with others is even harder. But I can’t just let you read my comment on Nancy Ray’s blog and think– oh what a great little Christian girl! She’s so happy to buy coats for those poor children and bless them this Christmas! Her first thought is probably simply for others as she spends her life working overseas.

Because that ain’t how it went down y’all. But I’m happy to report that with the help of the Holy Spirit, I was able to recognize my thoughts and attitude as sin, and ask God to forgive me. I was being selfish, petty, self-centered, entitled, jealous, and I was coveting a stupid iPad. And tomorrow morning, we will bundle our three little Bugs up in their coats, we will head over to the local bazaar and I will bargain my heart out to get as many coats as I possibly can with that $100. And we will talk to them about needs and wants and how important it is to care for the poor and the helpless and the widow and the orphan. And I’m pretty sure as we walk home with all our coats in hand to box up and send, I’ll realize what a precious gift this experience has been to me.

So anonymous donor, whoever you are, thank you. Thank you of course, for making it possible for some kids in Van in the snow to have new warm coats.

But thank you from me too. If you hadn’t given that money for the extra giveaway, I would not have had the chance to see my sinfulness in this way, and be forgiven. I maybe would not have seen so clearly this Christmas how selfish and petty my heart (still) is. And I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to step outside of my self, my family, my Christmas, my life for a few minutes and experience the awesome joy of doing something generous for someone else. And I might not have had the chance to have those important conversations with my kids. So from the bottom of my heart, Thank You and Merry Christmas!

(I will hopefully have a chance to blog this week about buying the coats and mailing them off…)