Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pity......Party

pity...party

So the past few weeks have been ridiculous with this 24/7 "morning" sickness...  Tried tons of different meds, had to get routine IV fluids, being hungry but knowing if you eat anything you will just get sick.  Being exhausted, having no energy, but somehow having to manage working, taking care of kids, and whatever else..

In short, it has sucked.

So much so, that I've been throwing a nice little pity party for myself on the inside...  It's hard to admit but it's true.  I've been angry with the way things have been.  I've questioned God on what it is He is trying to show me.  I've been crabby and withdrawn.  I have turned my lack of energy into almost zero energy.  I've been pissed at women who have the "pregnancy glow" when I am strutting the "pregnancy pale" from being dehydrated.  I haven't been a very nice person (at least in my thoughts).

Tonight I remembered last minute that I had signed up to take a foster mama of eight kiddos dinner who is battling a rare but severe type of cancer.  At first, I was angry at myself.  

Why in the world had I signed up to make dinner for someone when the mere thought of cooking or preparing food made me sick?

Then, I felt God say, "Oh Rach, you signed up to do it because it is SO not about you and your needs.  Stop this pity party...now!"

So, I marched my bruised butt in the kitchen and whipped up a tasty creation managing to not get sick in the process also :)

I packaged it up, and when Steve got home I told him I had to take it to them.  Their house is near Decatur.  Steve kept offering to take it, but I knew it was something I needed to do, and I also knew what awaited me... 

A long conversation in the car alone with my Heavenly Father.  

As I began to drive out in the crazy traffic, and winding roads I started praying.  It didn't take long for God to start answering back.  

"do you trust Me?"

Yes.

"then roll with it, my daughter, it's all part of the bigger plan."

Deep sigh...  I'm sorry for my attitude.

And right as I reached this epiphany, I realized I was coming up on my turn...  A very dark gravel road.

I made it back through the woods, just thinking with every dip in the road... I am not too pleased with myself these days.  Where is my joy?  

When I pulled up to their home, I was greeted with a big smile from this mama.  You could see joy radiating from her.  We spent a few minutes chatting about her diagnosis, and her pain and discomfort.  All the while she kept smiling, laughing, and pouring joy into me.

As I pulled away, I burst into tears... Here was this woman who was battling something horrible and although she was hurting, she still had joy...sovereign beautiful joy...

In comparison, my nausea and continuous vomitting seems pretty lame.  I mean, yeah, I'm horribly sick but I'm getting a baby out of it.  

Here is the amazing woman in excruciating pain taking care of eight children all the while with a big smile upon her face.

My prayer going forward is to embrace joy even the sickness, even in the things I do not understand, even when I don't want to :)

God is so so good and He always knows the very thing I need to hear or see.  :)

I'm so glad He is the God of second, third, and two thousand do-overs :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The gift/curse of being expected...

the gift/curse of being expected.

So, the past few weeks have been especially rough marked with days of severe sickness, unusual stress, job changes, additions to our family, lots of doctors appointments and me lost somewhere in the in between.

So here is my Rachel rant for the season, and it's not too merry.

I have built my life around being available for others, mentoring relationships, being present, serving our community and running six different directions at the same time and doing it amazingly (sometimes that is) well.  

The truth is the past few weeks I've neglected a lot of those relationships and friendships.  I haven't been too available and to be honest - I'm exhausted.  For the first time in a long time I decided that my own health and sanity were worth getting in order.  And so, I've said no more than I've said yes.  I've volunteered a lot less, and I'm learning that a lot of people don't care that I'm sick and feeling bad - I'm not as available as I once was which automatically makes me the bad guy now.  Wow.

True friends get it.  They get that by the time I get home and get my kids taken care of that all I want to do is put on pajama pants and call it a night.  They get that by me not calling or texting as often its not that i love them any less.  It is the craziness of the lives we lead.   They get that my kids are going through some rough transitions and I'm even more sensitive to their needs right now.

I've struggled with a lot of guilt though.  I've made commitments that I feel I've fallen short on, and although I have made apologies, tried to explain, offered sincere words, it's not enough.

This is the gift and curse of being expected.

Once you are expected in a person's life it means you have broken barriers, allowed for trust, and have proven and established presence which really means:  love.

However, the flip side of that coin is that sometimes becoming someone that is expected is you have become an enabler, a fixer, and sometimes (many times) it is an unhealthy dependence.  

It seriously hurts when I read posts on Facebook from friends who put things that I know are aimed at me, and my inability to be there for them as often as I once was.  What I really want to comment is:  "I've bent over backwards for you and sacrificed so much for you, and yet when I face challenge and need some time to refocus, I am made to feel bad for it". 

The reality is I cannot be all for all.  I wasn't made to be.  We all have our limits and I will continue to seek truth and God's path.  Praying I have the discernment to say yes when He wants me to, and no when He doesn't.  

It's a beautiful life.  Let's not spend it worrying.  

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'll take character over reputation...

So, I have to admit, as much as I would like to say that I am the girl that doesn't give a crap what others think (and typically I really don't) today I totally did.

As I told you the other night, we are in the midst of some court stuff with the kiddo's biological dad.  And I am still not going into details, lol, but I will say one of my friend's showed me something that was posted about me the other day on his facebook, and it urked me... especially all these comments from strangers (and a few "friends") that were targeted to make me sound like some kind of crazy person who did not want the kids to know their dad... NOT.  In fact, I would love for him to step up and do the opposite --- more than just say he does on Facebook, but really be there for them both physically and emotionally.  I pray that someday soon that happens.  I know how hard it is to grow up without my dad, and I have always encouraged that relationship regardless of my own personal feelings.

One thing that I have always tried to do is make sure that I am positive even about those who wrong me most, :) and you know what -- I am going to continue that.  I think it easy to try and make the other person look bad when you truly have guilt in your heart, and I refuse to aim below the belt that way.  I have been there, done that in my youth, and I will not do that anymore.  I am not that girl anymore.

As I have and will always continue to say, I pray daily for the strength to face my battles with joy and LOTS of humor. 

I pray great things over the many people I encounter both who I adore and love, and those who are a challenge to like, lol.   

God has a way of working on my heart especially with those challenging ones.  I don't have any sort of hate, resentment, or ill wishes toward anyone and that is all God (obviously).  I sleep well at night.  I want good things for those who don't "deserve" them, mainly because I am very VERY undeserving of all the blessings God gives me, and still by grace He somehow does.

I realize that those who try and make us suffer, usually are suffering pretty greatly themselves. 

So, today I got angry and butt hurt for a minute, :) and then I remembered this phrase:

"I'll take character over reputation.  Your character is what you really are, while reputation is merely what others think you are."

I don't live for the world, I live for Him... And I love my babies very very much.

Amen.  :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

once upon a bad week.. when we tossed ourselves aside

I am going to do a post for the "past" category... I have not done that in some time, so here it is...  I want to take you back to November of 2009.  This is a part of Steve and I's story that is a bit untold.  Most of the time people think we have always been roses and hearts, lol... Actually let me back up a little before that....

I had received the royal engagement in February of 2009 from a Prince who proposed to me under a castle.  We were engaged, and we had planned to marry in June of 2009.  I was really happy... I loved him deeply, and I knew he was my soul mate.

BUT then I was scared.  I had already had a failed marriage, and as a result I was a single mother of two very young kids.  I was not worthy of a Prince.  I pretty much tried to convince myself daily of all the reasons I was not supposed to have happiness with him.  I was undeserving.  I would never be able to give him, his "firsts" - first marriage, first child, first anything.  I had already done all that.  I had children.  I was too independent.  I was not lovable. I was ridiculous.  :) 

June was fast approaching, and I had cold feet.  I had come up with every excuse in the book as to why we should not get married yet and why I was not worthy of being his bride.  Steve was great.  He stood by me, as I spiraled into a sea of self-doubt and insecurity.  So, we prayed about it and changed the date to October.

After my divorce I had done counseling and felt really healed, and yet it was not until this moment that I realized that there were still some things that had to be processed through.  Scars from my past, and my unwillingness to see God had truly wiped my slate clean.  He had forgiven me, but I had not truly forgiven myself.

By July, I was too overwhelmed at the thought of October, so again we moved our wedding date now to February 2010.  A solid year of being engaged.  We both knew we wanted to be with each other forever, that was never the question....   The question really was, "would I be ready to really let go of who I used to be, to be willing to be who God was leading me to be?  Could I really move past it all?  Would I ever think I was good enough?"

Then, we began pre-marital counseling, and it was awesome and hard and good and messy.  We had to be really honest with ourselves and each other.  We both had a peace that February was God's perfect timing, until...

November 2009 came.

This whole time I had been the one freaking out, coming up with excuses, etc.  but in November Steve had his turn.  We had never "broken up" - we were never one of those couples that were off and on, we were always on.  But that November we did break up, for a whole week.  Lol.

It was the worst week of both of our lives, but it was also really great for both of us.  We realized how stupid we both were, and how miserable we were apart, and how we needed to let go of our insecurities and really commit to working through our stupid stuff - that we loved each other more than anything.

We were happily married in February of 2010.  We love each other, even when we don't like each other :), he is the one God put on this earth for me, and I almost let myself ruin that.

So why I am telling you all this?  Well, because God laid it on me to tell you for some reason.

I think a lot of times we let ourselves get in the way of our own happiness.  We focus on the negative, we worry, we doubt ourselves, we don't feel worthy... What if we did a better job in not sweating the small stuff, in picking our battles. 

Let yourself love, and give yourself a break.  It is okay to let love in.  Everyone deserves to be loved, and His grace covers us all.

Monday, November 28, 2011

tip tap...zoom forward

I have not blogged in a while... for a number of reasons, but I will start with these few :) :

1)  I have been tired
2)  life has been crazy
3)  I have had a lot of unspoken stress

I cannot go into a lot of details about number three, other than I can say that we have had some issues come up with the kiddo's biological dad, and we have been in the midst of court stuff which is not too fun by any stretch.  The good news is that we are not going to court for anything we have done or have not done, and I will continue to have full custody which is not being debated --- just other stuff.   Today was our court date, and I was so excited to get it over with and have some resolve, but instead it has been continued to February.  It is not a bad thing other than we just have to wait until then to see what happens... and you know how I feel about waiting :)

That is all I can say about it, but I would ask that you continue to pray with us.  It is unneccessarily stressful and I want to let go of my worry or concern.

In other news, if we are Facebook friends that I suppose you have heard our SUPER BIG announcement, lol, we are expecting!!!  and yes, a baby that is...

Baby will be here sometime early summer, and we will know more details after my appointment in December.    You only thought we were crazy before, hahaha!  We are excited.  Steve has never got to experience this part of fatherhood before, so he is in for some fun surprises.

I have been extremely sick with this little tike, and although I guess this is a great sign the baby is healthy, I am not digging it too much.  So, if you see me heaving or gagging please look away --- immediately :) it is the fun 24 hour "morning" sickness.  I keep reminding myself that this, too, shall pass...

Other kiddos are doing well... Green baby is loving ballet, Jakey is getting into wrestling which he loves and scares me to death, and our teen is having her baby shower this weekend.  She is due the first week of January, but I think he will be here before then.  Our lives are crazy, but that's how I like it most of the time.

I am trying to remain obedient to Christ's calling in our lives regardless of all the super fun changes.  I keep thinking that God never called us to a life of convenience, yet He guarantees a messy, broken, beautiful road.  I am blessed to be on it, regardless of how crazy it looks on the outside.  Somehow, I tend to see the inner-connectedness of all of it and cannot help but praise Him for His ongoing provisions and discoveries. 

So, now you are up to speed.  I am going to try and get back on here more.  I always have a lot to say :)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

my Christmas wish...

Each year I pray for God to place someone or something on my heart for the holidays... This year I kept thinking and praying ---  some years we sponsor a kid for Christmas, or a family, or a single mom.. Some years we just give money to organizations, or take dinner to someone or work in a soup kitchen, but this year God kept inching me somewhere else....and I feel Him saying:

"I am putting all your friends on your heart this year.  I want you to encourage them to serve, to give, to spend time helping others in the community.  Ask people to commit to something, encourage people, show them opportunities.  I can use you to help one person or family, or I can use you to motivate several to do the same... So get going."

So, here is my Christmas wish this year:  that all of my friends would commit to doing something they have never done for someone or something that they may have never felt comfortable with before.

- Sponsor a family through Single Parent Scholarship, or just a single mama - 479-254-8550 ask for Karen

- Bless a teenager with Christmas presents through the Teen Action and Support Center - 479.636.8272 ask for Chloe

- Donate a vehicle to Havenwood for their moms and babies to use in emergencies - 479.273.1060 ask for Jackie

- Take a sack of groceries to Samaritan Community Center - 479.636.4198 ask for Shannon

- Go meet your elderly neighbors and invite them to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner

- Buy a winter coat and take it to any elementary school in the area - I promise there is a kid who needs it!!!

- Buy some laundry detergent and donate it to Cobblestone Project to help wash our homeless or hurting neighbors so they can have clean clothes - email info@cobblestoneproject.org

- Go volunteer in the soup kitchen/cafe one Saturday at Samaritan - call Laura 636-4198

- Become a mentor for a young lady at Saving Grace or just volunteer to cook for them sometime - 479.636.1133 ask for Becky

- Grab an angel off the tree at any local Walmart

- Become a voice for a child in foster care through CASA - call Dianne at 725-2213

- Give money to any non-profit in NWA, even $1 helps.

- Donate a suitcase or pajamas to kids in foster care through The Call - email Ann at bentoncounty@thecallinarkansas.org

- Sponsor a horse out at Autumn's ReRide (therapeautic ranch for kiddos at-risk) or go volunteer there - email Rebecca at arryr@ymail.com

- Setup a time to go and read to kids at a local Headstart in your town.  They LOVE people to come read to them

- Host an international student into your home for the holidays (when the dorms close they have nowhere to go) - call the U of A at 575-2000 and ask for their International Students Counselor

- Pick someone at your job or church who you know is struggling and just give them a card with cash (even better -- make it anonymous)

- Cook a meal for your local Fire Department.  Those firefighters serve for 24 hours for days at a time and practically live at the fire station - they always would welcome a home-cooked meal

- Grab a package of diapers at Walmart and take it up to the Bentonville High School Building Bridges for their teen mothers who are working hard to graduate

- Call 7 Hills Homeless Center and find out what you can do to help the homeless this winter (their needs change often) but things like blankets, socks, etc. are so crucial this time of year - call Jon at 251-7776

- "Adopt" a widow at work or church and write them encouraging cards this year. 

- Buy tickets for a family that has never been to the movies or to the Walton Arts Center or to a Razorback basketball game and just bless them with it

- Offer to babysit for someone and do NOT charge them

- Take someone a Christmas tree who isn't in the Christmas spirit

- Go volunteer at a local hospital the week of Christmas (no one wants to be there that week)

- Take Christmas cards to a local nursing home and spend time in conversation with some residents there (you may be the only family or smiles they see)


The list goes on and on... It does not matter who you are, what mistakes you have made, how much money you have, YOU have something to give to someone.  BLESS someone this year with the gift of yourself.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Guts and grace :)

Guts and grace :)




I've seen this poem a few times this season, and it got me thinking about the beauty of grace and the ugly of sin:

Being a Christian is like being a pumpkin. God lifts you up, takes

you in, and washes all the dirt off of you. He opens you up, touches you deep inside and scoops out all the yucky stuff-- including the seeds of doubt, hate, greed, etc.



Then He carves you a new smiling face and puts His light inside you to shine for all the world to see. This was passed on to me from another pumpkin. Now, it is your turn to pass it to a pumpkin. I liked this enough to send it to all the pumpkins in my patch.



----------



Yeah, sounds pretty simple... and I didn't really think about it too much until a couple weeks later when I began carving my annual pumpkin :)



As I began scooping out all the gross slimy seeds, it hit me. This really is a good metaphor. I mean, I have a lot of ugly in me, and every now and then I require a total cleansing and need to be re-carved a bit (or pruning as I like to call it).



So oddly enough, as I started scooping all the junk out - I started naming different strongholds and sins as I threw them down the drain. In a very weird way it was a total therapeutic experience.



I was able to really think about the ugly parts of me. And then instead of using a cool design or a pattern out of our carving book, I really felt like carving the word grace on it.



I don't think any of us will ever be able to fully comprehend the word "grace" on this earth, but I will say that the beautiful mystery and promise of grace is what I'll always strive to be.



To serve a God who loves the broken, the messy, the ones with lots of disgusting guts, the weary, the fatherless, the sinner --- it is a beautiful expression of what true grace is.



It's pretty amazing to know the God of second chances, the God of do-overs, the God of love and not of judgement.



I pray His light shines bright in my pumpkin full of grace. :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

to have faith like a child: (His love doesn't have boundary)

to have faith like a child: (His love doesn't have boundary)

While renting a movie from redbox this evening, my four year old daughter, Greenlee, saw two women kissing each other and was immediately shocked - which led to one of our many light bulb conversations...

She asked me, "why are those girls doing that?  Are they bad people?"

My response, "No, honey they aren't bad at all.  God made each of us and He loves us all.  He also gave us the ability to make our own choices on things and feelings.  Some people love different than others and it doesn't make them bad.  Each person has the right to make their own choices."

She paused for a moment (I could tell she was thinking hard) and then said, "Well, that's good that God loves us all.  When I grow up I'm going to marry a boy, but maybe one of my friends will marry a girl, and I'll love them like Jesus loves us all."

...

And that's all that needed to be said at that moment.

You see, when I was little homosexuality was thought of as an "extreme" sin - we didn't really talk about it other than it was very "bad" "gross" and not something we should ever be around.  

In church, we were told to put up boundaries against that.  Kids in school who acted "gay" were called derogatory names, and you didn't want to be seen with them because then you would have been thought to be gay too (like it was a contagious disease or something).

Most "Christians" that I knew when I was younger explained homosexuality as perverted people.  And many MANY times I had heard the connection that "gay" people were all going to hell and were child molesters, or pedafiles and in no way could "they" be Christians...

The message was always connected back to hate and back to sin.  

----

As a young adult, (and late teen) I just didn't feel like those messages were biblical in any way.  In fact, the few people I knew that were open to share that they loved differently were many of my greatest friends since early childhood.  I found it very hard to believe that somehow God would choose to hate them or not love them because of their choice.

I also quickly realized that so much of what I had been told was from a place of judgment - not a place of grace.

How could the God that I love create us as His children and then choose to just stop loving us when we make a decision that may or may not be biblical?

It was over the course of these few years that i really started questioning my faith.  If being a follower of Christ meant judging those unlike me, I really didn't want to be any part of that.   Was it really our "duty" as Christians to point out others sin?  To create walls of separation?  

Someone during that time told me "hate the sin, not the sinner"

I get what they were trying to say, but seriously why not say that to everyone since we are all sinners in some way?

It wasn't too much later that I became a teen mom who had a child outside of wedlock.  Would God hate me too?

Well, of course not.  I'm still His child.  No different than the next person.

He created us all to be very different and gave us the free-will to choose what path we each take.  He also did NOT create us to be the judge of anyone.  He calls us to LOVE one another and to live for those who may or may not know Him - not to cause division between us.

--

Point being, what kind of "Christian" do you want to be?  

The legalistic kind?  

The judgmental kind?

The closed-off unapproachable kind?

OR the one who loves what He loves:  His children?

We were all made for a greater purpose, and by grace we can each make our own decisions and those decisions and their "judgment" comes from only Him.  

Some of my greatest friends believe different than me, love different than me, look different than me, and think different than me... And each of them are still children of the Most High.

Being a true Christian means accepting that we all are broken, we are all undeserving, but because of the love and grace that our Lord abundantly offers we get to be accepted as His kiddo.  And He does not make "junk"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

being a kid for three months.





It is really hard sitting where I am sitting. 

I guess I should first preface this with what I always preface these posts with --- the amazing girl who lives with us is not in foster care, so we have the opportunity to actually share a few things about her (not that we want to disrespect her privacy, lol, but what I am trying to say is that if she was in foster care we would not be able to share anything about her).  Fortunately, our sweet M is part of our forever family now.

So, back to my actual blog....

It is very hard when you take in an amazing teenager, when you are able to give them a place to feel safe and secure, and let them finally be a kid, full well knowing her life is about to be forever changed.  See, our sweet amazing seventeen year old, will not have the chance to be a kid for long as she is having a baby in just three short months.  I have no doubt that she will be a wonderful mama.  I was only a year older than her when I had Jacob. 

I somehow feel now that I have a glimpse of what my own mother must have felt.  The pain of seeing such a young woman have to grow up so incredibly fast.  The worry of how hard her life will probably be, and all the things she will probably struggle with or may never achieve because of the added responsibility a baby adds to the mix....Having to watch your child just get by, and letting them do it on their own because that is the only way they will learn. 

(deep sigh)

Now take those emotions, and think about a seventeen year old that has never had the chance to truly be a child - never had the chance to play or shop or do "normal" things that most of her peers have done.  Now, think about finally being able to give her that chance and let her get excited for things and feel like a kid.  Then, think about having to completely turn that off in just a few short weeks when she has to grow up way too fast and become a mom.

She is not complaining.  She acts fearless, but I know deep down that she has to be scared shitless.  Wouldn't you be?  I know I was.  I still am sometimes, :).  I also am a closet curser.  It is true.  :)

The reality is these are the types of situations that are completely heart-breaking.  I love her so much.  I know she will be okay.  I just hate feeling like you can't solve something for your kids.

When I worked at TASC, I hated seeing my students struggle or hurt, but now being in the "mama" role it is truly a different game.  It is more than just the sympathetic emotion that you have for a kid, it is like watching a part of yourself head down a road that is all too familiar. 

She is such an amazing girl, and I am honored to get to be a part of her life.  I know she can do anything she sets her mind to, but it is so so hard watching and waiting and knowing that her childhood is almost over, and it had really just begun.

My heart is broken tonight.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

the 100th post... [food for thought]

I noticed as I opened up my blog, that there were 99 posts written so far this year... So, it only seemed appropriate to celebrate this 100th one.  So, yay!  Ok, enough celebrating :) now back to the original intent of this post... food for thought

I have been pretty open with you all about my struggles with food... and not with food in general, I mean food as an idol.  I love it.  a LOT.  I eat when I am happy.  I eat when I am sad.  I eat when I celebrate.  I eat when I am stressed.  I love food.  I love cooking.  I love creating.  I love eating.

I always find myself in this situation of "wanting to take a stand"  "make a stand" "lay down this idol" "break this stronghold" and I do well for a while... and then I fail, and I get discouraged, and I fad diet, and I kill myself at the gym, and then some sort of crisis always happens in my life and I get off of it for a while.  Then, of course a week of being off turns into three months of being off, which turns into another 10lbs. I need to lose, which goes back to vicious cycle of self-loathing, hating my body, pretending I don't care about my health, pretending that settling with my body is okay with me, and then wanting to do it all over again.... It sucks.

I have learned about myself that I cannot diet anymore.  I just can't.  Or maybe a better word is "won't"...

I want to be healthy.  I want this stronghold to break.  I want to trust God with the same faith I give Him with other things and follow-through with this, but I struggle daily.  The truth is I want --- I want --- I want...

I sound like a nagging child whining about things.  The bigger truth is, I need... I need my God to deliver me from this.  I need my God to fight this one for me.  I need to stay patient.  I need to commit to the long-haul.

I don't know what else to say on the topic other than - on a daily basis people often remind me of how blessed I am.  I am so entirely blessed, but I fight a daily battle with myself, and satan is getting way more victory than he should from me.  People often say how encouraged they are by me, and the truth is I am encouraged so much each day by what the Lord is doing in my life and the people and opportunities He brings to my life, but one thing slows me down and gets in the way every single day... and it is me... It is my brokenness, my idolization of food, my self-image...  I struggle and sometimes staying busy is what helps me to not deal with that one part of me that I can't seem to surrender.

Today I found out that there was one more opening in a bible study that I have been hearing about called Savor....

It is a cooking study that teaches us recipes, but also teaches us how to savor on Him.  It is not a diet or anything.  It provides daily scripture that is setup to help us thirst and crave Him more than anything else.  Most women are not doing it for a health thing.  But I am, and not weight loss health.  I am doing it for heart health.

I want to crave Him before anything else.  I don't have all the answers.  I just know that each day I have to keep laying this at His feet.  I have to keep trusting.  I have to not let it consume my thoughts because then it goes from an idol of thinking of food, of filling your day telling yourself not to think of food.  I cannot do it alone.  I have to rely on Him..

Tonight we made an apple cake... I had two pieces.  I will try again tomorrow :) and the next day and the next day and I will surrender this thing.  I will learn what true savoring of my Savior really is.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him

I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. (1 Samuel 1:27 NIV)




When Steve and I first started the foster care journey in opening our home, this was the verse that God kept filling us with. He still fills us with.



This verse always makes me think of people praying for their little babies. But not in our case.



I see a lot of my friends cling to this verse in their adoption journeys, but we clung to it in our foster journey. Because we pray for the children God will lead to us whether they are ours for a day or for a lifetime.



It's not a coincidence that in all the crazy delays in getting open as a home we were able to open our house to a young lady to prevent her from going into care. His timing ehh?



This whole time we have prayed to be open to help kids in care (which we believe God will eventually still open our home to do) but for now His plan was to use us to prevent a child from going into foster care.



If we had already been open, we wouldn't have been able to help her. So, she is not a foster child. She chose us, and we chose her. And "legal guardian" doesn't sound too cool.



She is our seventeen year old child that we have been praying for. She isn't ours, but she is ours. We may only have her for a few months but God has granted our request in sending her to us.



I have prayed for her. I have longed for her. I have spent many nights crying out to the Lord on her behalf. I have spent nights worrying for her. I have prayed on His timing.



So my sweet 17 year old girl, here is to you.



You have our hearts.  You have our love.  We have waited for you.  We have prayed for you.  We have loved you.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Bye Bye Toyota, Hello Blessings

Bye bye Toyota.  Hello blessings.

A couple days ago I was pulling out of my garage in my new SUV, that was parked next to my old Toyota camry.

Everyday I park next to my old car that's not being used, but haven't had the heart to part with it.  When we got our new car, steve and I had decided to keep my old car in case we got a foster kiddo who needed it.

The girl who is staying with us now, doesn't drive and actually has a car waiting for her when she starts to.  

I started feeling really convicted as I pulled out of our driveway the other day, "this car is just sitting here as an extra and there are many people who don't even have one vehicle."

Then, it occurred to me... The girl I mentor from saving grace has been saving up for a car.  And this girl has been such an amazing example to me of God's strength and love and will.  For a 22 year old, she exudes wisdom way beyond her years, and way beyond my years, lol.

So I called my husband... "honey, what do you think about giving Sweet M the car?"

 I expected he would probably have some kind of hesitation not because he isn't compassionate lol, but because we could sell it for a couple thousand if we wanted to.

Without any hesitation, "I love that idea... I've been thinking the same thing."

So, this weekend we are getting the old girl ready.  This car has been with me through both kids, through a marriage, a divorce, college, my first big jobs, my first house, my amazing marriage to steve, and much much more.

Now it's time to let someone have life in it.  

God has been so good to us, I can't help but feel compelled to be a good steward of His blessings.  

Bye bye Toyota.  Hello blessings :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

away she goes

away she goes.

When I was younger, I filled my junior high and high school days in student government, mock trial, model united nations, girls state, and was named a Senate Youth Scholar (the one and only still to date named from Northwest Arkansas), I've had chances to do mock debates on the state and national senate floors, and walk up and down the government hallways over conversation with some of the greatest and brightest in politics all before the great age of 18.  I had opportunities most will never have.  I don't say that in a cocky way but in a "I know I've been blessed way."

I prayed and planned that someday I'd have a chance to go into the field, but then I became a young mom and a lot of those prayers and dreams went up on the shelf... then college happened... then life happened... But that prayer has never left me.

Today someone called me out of the blue and said, "rach, have you ever thought about going into the house of representatives because you would totally be great at it"...  

Have I??

So, I'm still praying and listening to God on this one.  The election wouldn't be until November 2012 which gives me lots of time to plan and raise support, but damn... 

I want this.

The real question is, "does He?"

I would finally get the chance to have a real hand in our community.  A real hand in shaping the future of our area.  And I do believe we can do better for ourselves and our kids.  We need more resources for kids, more resources for those living in poverty, more help in breaking down cultural barriers and creating a community that embraces diversity.  

I want to be part of it.  It's time to decide who I want to be, and I want to be one of God's kids that brings Him smiles often regardless of where He leads me.

So please pray for me friends :)

Exciting steps ahead regardless of which direction.  

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The well will not run dry...

The well will not run dry 

I'm tired, but I knew I would be.  We have had a full week of court appointments, additions to our family, lots of work stuff, and some really hard/good/hard stuff this weekend that I can not go into.

Probably the old Rachel would have thrown her hands up in the air by now and cried and gave up...  But I'm not the old Rachel.

The old Rachel would have looked within and tried to pull herself up by the bootstraps and accomplished everything herself until she got so tired that she ran herself into the ground or got extremely ill....  

But I'm not that girl anymore.

The kind of strength and renewal I cling to now doesn't come from me, or my strength or abilities.  I can't run dry anymore.  My source for energy and strength and joy and persistence can only come from Him.  I've grown to be so dependent on Him that I can sit and say:

 I'm weary, I'm tired, I'm worn, but You are my strength and my portion and through You I will rest and refill my cup.

This well will not run dry, because His love endures forever.

So friends, if you are tired, broken, stressed, hurting, or empty you don't have to do it all alone anymore,

Let the God of peace carry you... I am certainly having to rely on being carried at this point.  And it feels good to rest in a Savior's arms and admit I can't do it without Him.  

Peace and love and sleep :),

Rach

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

we will hold ourselves to a standard of grace, not perfection.

Those who have known me for a while know my past is working with teens.  Teens from all types of backgrounds, economic status, some who made excellent choices, some who made really poor ones, some who just could not find their way, some came from really supportive homes, so came from no home, some had crappy attitudes, some were on student council, some were in a gang, some smiled, some cried, some liked me, some did not, and we treated them all the exact same.... with a clean slate and with grace.

I say all this leading up to what is about to happen:

We are hoping to have our girl home with us on Friday.  Our girl, meaning the seventeen year old that we just got guardianship of who will be living with us this year.  She is not foster care, so that means when the time is right some of you will get to meet her, or maybe see a picture of her, or learn her name, or become a crucial part of her support system and we can share more details about her than if she was in foster care. 

She is going to be a part of our forever family, and she is a girl I have known for a long time.  A girl I have grown to love as my own.  A girl I could not bear seeing go to foster care, especially if we could not open yet to take her.

I got to visit with her a couple days ago, and I put on my "mama hat" and said "now we need to talk about the expectations we will have when you come home."  She asked me, "will it be like a step system, where I have to earn things or earn trust?  I can do that, Ms. Rachel"

I had forgotten.  Most youth programs/shelters in our area treat kids like criminals.  :( 

So, when she asked if she had to earn our trust, what she was really asking was:  will I have to go through the steps like at some places she was used to- such as, earn the right to get to wear make-up, or brush her teeth without someone watching her, or make a phone call, or watch television, or get a snack, or be able to read a book, or have earrings, or perfume, or have friends....etc...etc...?

Because everywhere else puts you on the lowest level when you arrive, and you have to work as hard as possible just to be able to get to do common ordinary things that you and I call ---- dignity. 

Apparently, a lot of places who "help kids" have forgotten about the word dignity.

Mind you - this girl - is a good girl.  She has made a couple poor choices (but I have seen A LOT of kids in my day, and she has not even tipped the ice burg in things she could have done), and for those couple bad choices she has paid severely. 

So, back to our conversation...

I paused for a moment, and then remembered something I put on my Facebook a week or two ago, "Girl, at our house we hold ourselves to a standard of grace, not perfection."

I then continued, "in our house we practice do-overs, we practice forgiveness, and we practice honesty, and when you enter my home, you enter it with a clean slate and you enter it with my trust."

Tears swelled up in her eyes, and she then smiled, "I really want to go home." (and home meant with us)

How could we not love this young lady and want to hug her neck and root for her? 

She faces some unique challenges, and it will be a very growing season when she comes to stay with us, but she has a beautiful heart that needs redemption, love, grace, and restoration, and I think this may be the core of what God has led us to.  Being the family that offers second-chances, means cutting through all the messiness and loving and seeing what God loves and sees.

Bless her heart, she has already filled a big chunk of mine.   

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

bella.


The word bella in Italian means beautiful.

For whatever reason, that word keeps circling in my mind as we are about to leap into this new season.

Bella.

Making the things that are broken bella through courage.

The really beautiful things and people in life are not necessarily the ones who have never been hurt, bruised, or made bad decisions.  It is the ones who overcome those hurts and find healing.

I want to live a crazy and beautiful life.  I want God to use my brokenness to help others.  I want God to use my brokenness to submit to His will for my life.

Let us all not be afraid to do the unthinkable, the scary, the crazy to achieve His kind of beautiful.

Our home will soon welcome two more to it, and it will be messy and crazy and scary and exciting and above all else... bella

At the end of my days, I want God to say, "la sua una vita bella".

It was a beautiful life

Sunday, September 18, 2011

yield

yield (ji:ld):  to submit, to surrender; to go on another path; a return on investment; to wait



For those who have been following our foster journey, you know that we have been in a "waiting" period.  And although we try to embrace this season, it has been difficult.  We have had all our ducks in a row and been finished with all our training, etc. since July, and have just been waiting for our final home-study which is something DHS has to do. 

They need homes to open badly.  They have far too many kids, and not enough homes, but they have even fewer social workers to manage getting these home-studies finished and homes opened.  It is frustrating, for both sides.  We have been prayerful though.  We know that everything about this has been part of His plan, and we have been called to submit, called to yield, and now we continue that, but the road is turning.  Turning in a TOTALLY unexplainable and unplanned direction.

Over the past two weeks, we have been approached to take guardianship of two children.  One is a newborn baby that we will only be caring for for a couple months and have temporary guardianship over, the other a seventeen year old who used to be my student and who is trying to finish up her senior year.  Neither kid is in foster care.  AND in fact, had we already opened as a home, we would not even be able to consider helping them.

I cannot help but believe that this was all part of His timing.  Maybe He was not ready for us to help kids in foster care, but help two kids stay OUT of it.  We find out this week on the teen, and next week on the newborn to finalize the guardianship paperwork (and there is still a small chance they will not stay with us) which is why I am choosing to continue to be vague about them.  They deserve the right to have privacy over their situations.  But both kids are wonderful, I am just sayin'.

Never in my life have I ever been approached about becoming a guardian for someone, and I find it hard to believe that both of these circumstances within the same time frame are by coincidence.  Steve and I took some time to pray over both children and the direction God wanted us to take, and decided that this is the right thing to do.  So, as long as the court stuff goes as planned our family will soon be doubling, ahh!

We are excited and scared, joyful and anxious.  What does this mean for our foster journey?  It means we yield.  It means we surrender it, and we wait.  We will wait until God shapes this out and maybe that will mean we don't open as a foster home for a while.  But, in our hearts we will already be doing it.  For Steve and I, it has never been about the measley little stipend you get from DHS.  It has always been about helping kids and families rebuild, and we have been presented two opportunities to do that NOW. 

So, we continue to wait, to pray, to love.  Once we get the final word on these kiddos, I will let you all know, but in the meantime we ask that you pray with us as well.  It is about to get real, quick.  :)

Our journey to foster care = unknown
Our journey to helping and loving kids = more real than ever

Thursday, September 15, 2011

divine appointment(s)

divine appointment

About a year ago, it occurred to me that all the great coincidences I had with people were more than just by luck or chance but indeed what I used to consider coincidence was most likely a divine appointment :)

So I want to challenge myself and anyone who reads this to ponder the following:

- what seems like a small gift from us to someone (a cup of coffee, a smile, holding a door open, a compliment, an hour out of our day, a card, a meal, a hug) could mean the world to someone else.  Our little things can be mighty to someone else.

It could be the only happiness they see that day.  It could be the one ounce of encouragement that gets them through.  It could be life-changing, redeeming, beautiful.

- I read a quote the other day that went something like, "what if we woke up tomorrow with only the things we gave thanks to God for today."

Be so grateful.  Each day I challenge myself to practice gratitude.  Sometimes that is so tough.  It's hard in the culture we live in to embrace contentment and gratitude and I struggle daily with it, but when we can embrace it and be thankful I find God blesses us that much more

In gratitude we make what we have be enough and in fact use what we have to overflow to others.

- live today for eternity.  When we start living for our eternal purpose rather than our earthly one we find our true calling.  It's not about a job title, a fat check, or possessions - it's about investing our time, our talents, ourselves in the eternal mission we are placed with

- be intentional - it's not about how many people you invest in... It's about how intentional you are while walking alongside of those who cross your path.  It's not about saving people.  It's about loving people.  It's not about fixing things for people, it's about restoring hope and dignity.  It's not about you, it's not about them, it's about Him.

Divine appointments are not just divine for the ones we meet, they are divine for us.

Be blessed in being a blessing.  Serve before you lead.  Find beauty in the broken.  Judge no one.  Let love heal you. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

When there is no happily ever after..

When there is no happily ever after..

Everyone likes a good story.  We grow up craving stories and become storytellers in some way or another. Some of us are better at it than others, while some have a hard time telling them.  We tell stories about experiences from our own lives, radical things we have seen or heard, or retell other people's stories.  But we are all guilty of being storytellers in some way or another.  

A few years ago I noticed all the chick flick movies I would go see started having terribly bad and depressing endings.  You know the type, like ones you would see in "real" life.  Stepmom, the notebook, the time travelers wife, my sisters keeper, the list goes on...  People died, relationships were left up in the air, hurt dwelled...

The truth is, we as a culture, whether we are someone who considers themselves spiritual or not are addicted to the idea of "good versus evil" and most of us root for the "good" guy or the "happy" ending.  

I would like to say that is because we all genuinely wish for the good in things, but I think an even bigger reason is we are all terrified of the happy ending not taking place... Being stuck.  Because that means pain is involved in some way or shape.

I've heard a lot of people say how great it is that I now get to have a happy ending to my story about reconnecting with my dad, and believe me, I praise God daily for the healing that's taken place... 

But for many (myself included for so long) the happy ending in failed relationships or deep wounds never comes.  And what happens then?

Well, lots of things can happen, but I'll tell you that the greatest happy ending is not ever going to take place here on this earth.

For years, I had resolved that I would never know or reconcile with my dad, and I would never get what I wanted from a relationship with him. It just wasn't in my cards.

At first I acted out, then I denied it, came to grips, reached a level of forgiveness, and opted for happiness in other areas hoping and praying that void would be full from God alone.  Sounds a lot like grieving to me, and it was.

When we don't get our happy endings we grieve in some way or another - it is healthy!  And I do believe God never takes us to something that He won't carry us through.

Sometimes I realize how much of a sucker I am to our worlds version of "happily ever after" and forget that the eternal one is so much sweeter.

If you are hurting, lost, confused, or just having a hard time coping with something that isn't what you signed up for or anticipated or wanted, let yourself grieve.  Let yourself feel, and then let God carry you.

Our true happily ever afters can only be found in grace.  And sometimes God rewrites the endings to something even greater.

Monday, September 12, 2011

masterpieces


a piece of wood I found in my backyard
a 79 cent bottle of paint
some clothes pins
and some lovely masterpieces from your kids
=
a lot of fun and an easy way to display their lovely art

me or Him?

me or Him?
I often wonder if God allowed me to make so many mistakes in life so I could fully embrace His grace. My past is full of things I'm not proud of: having a child outside of marriage, marrying someone impulsively to prove people wrong, divorce, failures, bad relationships...

I know God doesn't lead us into sin... but sometimes I wonder if my path into all the wrong things was in some way divinely planned...because if I hadn't come from that and experienced His true grace and healing, I may not have the heart that I do now for those who are walking a similar path...

Lord knows I probably would have never gone into social work, or understood what showing and receiving compassion could look like. I would never have a heart to help the orphan, or the teenager, or the single mama... Or met the man of my dreams who had his world rocked also by the thought the he would never date someone with a kid.. Just to marry someone who had two. Lol

In many ways I question whether God had it planned out this way from the start. Did He plan for me to go through so much challenge and darkness so I could know Him and love Him? Or was it my sinful nature that embraced "free will" and just made a mess of things?

I don't know. I ponder the question often though. I'm a believer of pre-destination in the sense that God knows my beginning, middle, and end before I ever walked this earth. That thought makes the idea of free-will a question mark at times.


Yes, the Bible says we have free-will in the fact we choose what we do, etc... But the Bible also says He chose us, He knows everything about us and what choices we will make.

He knew before time began that I would write this blog. :)
So was it God's plan that I screwed up my life so I could feel the true love and mercy from my failures and be redeemed in His victory?


These are questions that I may only have answers to when I reach His kingdom, but these are the things I can't help but think about.

If my life was lived more "Christ like" from the beginning would I know Him -- truly know Him-- like I do now...?

Would I appreciate His grace this much? Would I go seek out the ones who are hurting the way I once did?

I just don't know. Either way I believe God brought me here, whether it was always His plan or the new plan, :)

I continue to question His methods out of love and a healthy fearing reverence. I tend to believe He was always steering my ship even in the rough waters, so one day I could embrace healing to show His love to others.


I tend to believe it was Him all along.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

soon or SOON?

soon or SOON?


A couple weeks ago we were told that we should hear about getting our final home study soon. This is the last step in our foster care journey before we can officially open as a home... Well, we are still waiting for soon, :)

Through this I am continually reminded of timing, choices, patience, the beauty of the wait, the increased longing it has given us... But a thought occurred to me this weekend that the wait is the journey.

 
This was the most integral part of all of this. It wasn't the classes, or the fingerprints, or the 100s of papers we had to fill out that grew us and helped develop us. It was the continual trust we have to keep putting in our lives that God has this all perfectly mapped out. I think He knew that I needed this time to lay myself, my need to control, and my lack of patience at His feet.

So, we still wait, and we still pray, and we still love.

We aren't sure how soon, soon, is, :)

But I continue to trust soon will be here right when it needs to be. In the meantime, I'll keep embracing all He keeps putting before us.

For waiting has proved itself to be a beautiful time of faith building and endurance that we will surely need in the next lap of the race :)


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

joy.

Today has been better...  Thankful for all those who have been praying, I have felt those prayers.

I wanted to take some time to post some pictures that brought me joy to look at today:














Tuesday, September 6, 2011

in the storm.

Steve and I got some tough news today, the kind of news you never want to get, the kind of news that I don't know what to do with, the kind of news that I have to trust God has because I don't...

Recently, Steve and I found out that we were going to have a baby and we hoped to share this exciting news with all of you in the coming weeks as I progressed, but we hesitated since it was so early on... Today I found out that this baby is not going to be coming.

I was only a few weeks along, but we were excited.  I know that God has it under control. I KNOW that. 

I was going to keep this news private, but it felt better to write it out, to not be isolated as I lay here feeling so many mixed emotions. 

Honestly, I have laid here thinking of all the reasons this may have happened:

- was there something wrong with the baby?
- were we not ready?
- what is this supposed to be teaching us?
- is this so we will appreciate fostering even more?
- is this a sign to try again or to stop trying?
- how can God be glorified through this?
- was I pushing myself too hard?

And then it hit me that I do NOT need to be thinking or questioning or anything right now... I need to rest, that is it.
And, I am tired, friends...I know I will find the rest I need here in the arms of my sweet Jesus.

We appreciate your prayers, as we quietly rest and heal.  My heart already feels more peace than expected from those who have already prayed.  We love you.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

sucker punch

The past few days have been rough for me... I haven't felt well, and there have been a number of things that just have been off with other areas in my life. 

Friendships that have become rocky, when they shouldn't be, and other relationships that I wish would go away altogether but I am stuck with for the next several years are even more on the decline than normal...which is something I pray will be easy but hardly ever is.  That one is probably easy to figure out without going into detail. 

Bottom line, today was a sucker punch, and my initial reaction was to fight back, to defend myself, to further explain, to scream, to make them understand...  But, God said, "no".

And every time I wanted to send a text or call or post on Facebook or stand up for myself, God said, "no".

And now I sit, crying... because even with a life full of blessings and happiness, my past life of failures still connects to present through my two beautiful babies who are my greatest blessing, and my job is always to protect and care for them regardless of how it makes me look, or how it comes across, and I don't have to defend that part of myself - even when I feel I need to or want to.

I know this blog is vague, but I just needed to write. 

Now, I will put on my smiley face, start a kid movie, and pop some damn popcorn...

Tomorrow is another day, :)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The edge of my comfort zone

The edge of my comfort zone..

(started this a couple days ago but it needed a good ending)

It's been a while since I've done one of my greatest loves, which is:  this.

Typing, channeling, giving words to my thoughts, scribbling something out of nothing, speaking emotions into life...  

I've been missing this, but I have been busy.  Busier than normal.  Busier than I normally would care to be.  But a different busy than I have ever experienced.

Chances are on my best day, I'm accomplishing about half as much as I want to be, but...  Each day I'm learning my limits, my strengths, my weaknesses, and when to say yes and when to say no.

There have been some things that I just can't commit to, and other things God has stirred for me to get involved in that I never thought I would.  

This new season of life has been a wonderfully wild adventure.  I love it, I'm highly uncomfortable with it, but I really really love it.

I'm learning that God grows me when I'm not in my comfort zone, when I dare to step out of my regular, and when I realize where I am is indeed where He wants me...

I get this resounding feeling that this is all prep work for the next season of my journey.  I don't know if that's our foster journey, my mentoring journey, my work journey, or all-encompassing, but I know He is teaching me just the same.

As we add to our family in the coming months, I pray for the understanding and peace to rest in the unknown journey.  

I keep thinking about one year ago, where I was physically, mentally, and spiritually and how I never thought I would find fulfillment in anything other than what I was doing - and now I realize in such a profound way that::

It has never been about me... Not what I do, where I work, what activities I involve myself in, where I volunteer, etc etc etc...

It's about seeing His glory in each and embracing that it is all about Him and where He leads me.

I went from investing myself a little in a lot of things, to now honing in to a few things that I invest my time and talents in greatly... For that is the true commission.

And that is where He wants me in the beauty of His unknown.







Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The "f" word...failure that is - hehe

The "f" word...failure that is - hehe

For many years of my life my greatest fear was failing.  Failing at sports, academics, relationships, friendships, work, personal goals, who knows what else but add any other ideas here and you would probably be right.

This past spring before I quit my job, I felt like a failure... I hadn't worked there long, but I hated it.  I didn't want to stay but what would everyone think - that I failed?  

And then I realized I had failed...  I was a big.. fat.. failure..

The fact I was worried what others thought and pondered sacrificing my own happiness  over staying in misery because of what others might think was the "f" word to a T.

[And yes I am kind of enjoying saying the "f" word in this.  It's cheesy but great -- so sorry... Now back to it]

Failing is ugly.  And I was ugly.  But if we don't fall down sometimes then we can never learn or grow or thrive.  And honestly, it's those failures and bumps in the road that make for really great life stories.

The most compelling people I know, are the ones who aren't afraid to share their big mess-ups.  In fact, the best of the best are people who aren't afraid to risk a little, open their hearts, and admit their brokenness.

Failure isn't forever, and success isn't either.  Don't be afraid to dare and stretch and grow.  You will still be loved.

We are all pretty screwed up, and I'll let you in on a little secret:

He likes us messed up ones best.

ps:  the "f" word isn't that bad :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

we wait, we pray, we love...

Many of you have continued to ask where we are in our foster journey, and the answer still remains the same:

We wait, we pray, we love...

We are done with all we needed to do, but for the last seven weeks we have been waiting on our home study, and we still are not sure when that will take place.  There are a lot of unknowns...  But that is the last step, so when our name tops the list we will have a social worker complete it, and then presto - we are open :)

BUT here are some things I do know:

- we pray for the empty chair(s) at our table each night

- we were given an abundance of things we needed this past week for the room - a second bed (in case we get siblings), a chest of drawers, and I was able to purchase a VERY nice car for a heck of deal that came with a 3rd row seat

- we feel at peace that it is all in His timing

- we have a lot of people who have committed to praying for us

- our love grows for the unknown child each and everyday

We are so incredibly grateful for all those who have reached out with a hand of encouragement, have supplied us with things for the room, and who have helped us embrace Him and His timing in this.

You are ALL beautiful.




Sunday, August 21, 2011

I think God smiled today...

Today I watched as dear friends old and new showed up to support a young lady they did not even know at a baby shower here at my house.  Blessing after blessing of essential items she needed, and the greatest of these was LOVE...

Every woman in the room showed up with smiles, warm embraces, and practiced two of my favorite words:  "dignity" and "grace".

I think God smiled today at what He saw here.


Intentional love and giving and relationships are messy and at times inconvenient and they stretch us... BUT when we can take brokenness and turn it into beauty - His love and light shines through.  Today was a beautiful mosaic of a young mama trying to better herself, who comes from a hard past, but is fighting for a chance at redemption and she felt that she had to do it all alone - and instead she was met with 25 women who stepped up beside her and committed to sharing the joys and struggles with her.

Thank you to a community that follows after His heart... To friends that trust mine... To all those who give, and love selflessly.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Stuck in the mud... // reflections from @csprojectfarm

Stuck in the mud...

As I write this I sit waiting for my husband to drive to Fayetteville to pull me and the creepy van out of the mud at The Farm.

Once again, he will save the day and be my hero, but as I sit here with lightning all around me and rain flooding the path, I can't help but remember God always knows what He is doing - and I felt like this metaphor of "being stuck in the mud" was worth writing about.

Although I am literally stuck out here right now :) I often find myself figuratively feeling stuck.  Stuck waiting, stuck watching, stuck without control.  

The Farm is the perfect example of having to put total faith in God and His work without having any control. So, the fact that we have had a hard season here of too much rain in the spring and too much heat and dryness in the summer isn't a coincidence either.  

God still has this little 10 acre gig in His hands.

And if you ever doubt God's sense of humor, get this:  I have been praying day in and day out for us to have rain and cooler temperatures - and the first week I come out that we do -- 
I get stuck....

My prayer for rain was answered, and now I sit stuck in the mud still with no control at a Farm that was never ours to control to begin with...  

And yet sitting here looking at the green fields, the sweet smell of wet hay and grass, and the magnitude of light and sound God has dancing all around me - I couldn't feel more blessed.

We are so small in this... and He keeps answering our prayers in His perfect timing as always.  

So, I will keep waiting, and watching, and embracing my lack of control in this and I will find joy in this season of "stuck-ness"... 

Here and beyond

Sunday, August 7, 2011

every child should feel safe & loved in their room...

Today we began decorating the room that our foster and/or adoptive children will live in someday...

We were going to wait to do anything to the room until we got a kiddo here, but both Steve and I couldn't wait any longer... So whether we get a girl who is a princess, a rocker, an emo chickie, a tom boy, a glitzy girl, or a girl who even hates pink, lol, we want this room to be somewhere she can call her own and feel loved and adored and safe and secure. 

(AND if we end up getting a boy, I bought a bunch of stuff to switch it all out, :) )

All we need now is a dresser and a night stand - (let us know if you have an affordable one)

We wait patiently for you, lovies...



Our prayer for you...

Dinner is made and the table is set
We saved a spot for you
And we haven't even met

Day by day, we sit, we pray
We wait for you to come
And whether you're here for a day or a year
Our house will be home

We pray each day that you're okay
That the world won't take your beauty away
And grace finds you in the brokenness
And love restores you from your loneliness  

Someday soon we will meet, and we pray we can 
help you find the healing to feel complete
Because you are our child
whether for a day, a year, or a lifetime

You are loved...

Agape,

Steve and Rachel    





Friday, August 5, 2011

There are some nights...

there are some nights...

There are some nights that I can't sleep while I lay wide-eyed in bed in prayers over teenagers out there without homes, or in bad ones... Thinking of the numerous kids young and old who have been shuffled, beaten, starved, neglected, and broken who live here in my backyard and community.

There are some nights that the weight of the problem consumes me and I feel helpless just waiting here for our home to open.  I find myself randomly praying over these kids.  A dirty kid with a mom who is screaming and cursing at them at Walmart - will he be in my home one day?  And if he isn't - is he ok?  If he is, will I be ready to give him the support he needs?

The little neighbor girl who is 4 and her parents let her go in and out of all the kids' houses (including ours) without even knowing us.  Will she be ok?  Will she be in our home someday?

The teenager who I run into at the gas station with cut mark scars on her arms... Where are her parents?  Will she be ours someday?

The numerous kids who I see walking up and down the busiest streets in town who can't be older than 6 or 7 without any adult supervision.  Are she and he my future children?

There are some nights that I just lay here and pray and cry and hope.  Every day is a step closer...  Who does He have waiting for us?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

when your "faith" becomes a barrier...

when your “faith” becomes a barrier….




So, let me intro this with a warning that you may not like what I have to say in this one… in fact, I will probably be surprised if I don’t get a call from a family member or friend on the topic. And the topic is “tolerance vs. loving without judgment.”

When I was younger I was drawn to the people in school who were not “like” me… People who were “different” (different in some eyes, not my own) – by different I mean: people who loved differently than me, who thought differently than me, who believed in things different than me, who connected to the Lord differently than me, who wore clothing different than me, who had different color skin than me, who by the world’s standards were not like me at all. AND all my life I have been told that I am “too tolerant” of things than I should be regarding these areas.

I have always been very offended by the thought of being “too tolerant” when loving my friends in a way that Jesus would.

I laugh thinking that maybe the same people who think that I have been “too tolerant” wonder if they have been “too tolerant” with me? I mean, I was the girl who grew up without dad, who got pregnant as a teen, married as teen, divorced as a young adult… Were they “too tolerant” with me when they showed me love?

I guess this really surfaced when three things happened when I was in my adolescent years and I have never been the same since:

1) I fell in love with someone of a different race and many of my family and friends did not support me because of what it “might” look like to the world and how would God feel about that?

I think God would be totally okay with loving another believer of Him… Regardless of age, skin color, ethnicity, or status. His love knows no boundaries.

2) Several of my closest friends came out to me that they were gay or homosexual. Should I love them any less? Should that change how I thought of them? Are they any less of God’s creation than I am? I had several people say I was/am way too accepting of the gay/lesbian lifestyle.

I know in the deepest parts of my heart, that I am not to judge anyone for how they love. If you truly love your friends and family, than you love them without conditions. There is only One true judge, and I cannot help but believe that He will search all of our hearts and that all sin is equal in His eyes. By promoting legalistic attitudes about who should love who or how one should love another then we are missing the point--- by doing that we ARE limiting God’s love which we are commanded to show to the world. It is about our own love and our own journey with Him that matters, not our critique of others emotions or choices.

3) Many of my friends do not consider themselves followers of Christ… In fact, I would say the majority don’t. I have often heard the statement, “don’t become tolerant of that because _________ is, and they don’t go to church…”



I know it is important to surround ourselves with the Christian community for support and healthy relationships, but I think someone missed the boat on not associating themselves with those who believe differently than we do. You can’t be a light to the world if you are always hanging with the other candles. A light shines brightest in the darkness. Isn’t this the whole point of Jesus? He hung out with the hurting, broken, and those who believed in everything BUT Him. This is the Great Commission. If that means, I have to go drink a margarita with one of my girlfriends to talk about life because that is the only time she hears about God’s love – I am okay with that. AND I feel no conviction about that. (I should add I don’t do that often) but still God places certain convictions on certain people.



AND maybe that is the point of this entire post. CONVICTIONS…

I don’t feel tolerant when I feel like I am doing things God has commanded me to do. Maybe my methods for showing His love to others aren’t safe enough? Maybe I am not conventional enough to just invite my friends to church like “normal” Christians do?



But, I would rather go down as being one of those “Dangerous Christians” – have you heard of them?



They are the kind who aren’t afraid to take some risks for His kingdom. To go where the people who need Him most are – with no hidden agenda – with no ploy to get them “saved” – with every intention of loving them and walking alongside of them, and sharing your life with them… just like Jesus did it.



May my faith NEVER become a barrier from showing His love to someone….

Monday, August 1, 2011

215 days...and the "d" word

I started this blog 215 days ago... It started out as a New Years resolution to re-discover myself and to get back to one of my greatest loves - writing... 

215 days ago I was in one of my all-time valleys/lows.  I had decided to leave a job I loved for a job I thought I would love more.  A job I ended up hating... I was grieving.  I was having an identity crisis.  I could not understand my emotions, and it quickly turned from feeling sad to feeling nothing.  The end of 2010 and beginning of 2011 was marked by me really searching myself, and searching for God to show me who He had made me.  For the first time in my life, I knew I was probably the "D" word...

Depressed...there I said it :)

I was no longer sad, I was blah... I felt hollow and miserable but could not explain why I felt either.  Night after night I would beg God to tell me what I was doing wrong?  I would read Bible verses, I would surround myself with positive people, I would quote encouraging sayings day after day.. I kept clinging to all my blessings.  I kept thanking God for the good things...

 I was searching for some sense of identity again.  I knew God had me (logically, I knew) but emotionally I felt bankrupt.  I couldn't explain it to people, and the few I did try to explain it to couldn't understand how I, of ALL people, could feel "depressed"...

I don't like the "D" word.  It made me feel like there was something horribly wrong with me.  I went to the doctor 3 different times thinking:  1) I must have a hormonal imbalance 2) or maybe I have cancer or something 3) maybe I have thyroid problem, or I am pregnant, or diabetic 4) or maybe I really was one of those walking commercials for a medicine I never wanted to take

My favorite doctor looked me in the face, and said "I think maybe we should try some anti-depressants."  I immediately burst into tears in his office and felt like a total failure.  I got my prescription filled, and within two days I had convinced myself that they made me feel worse and refused to ever take such a thing again.  I have never gone back to that doctor since (even though he was my favorite)...

I was determined that I would not be bound by a pill for my mood...  With that said, I have several friends who do take them and I think that anti-depressants are an extremely wonderful tool when used as last resort.  But it wasn't my last resort yet, and I wanted to get out of this funk on my own.  It wasn't until I realized that was not possible, and that God was the only way out that He really started inching me out of the huge pit I was in.

I started a new approach, the "trust God" approach.  One day I felt God literally say, "Go talk to a counselor, Rachel."

So, I did.  The counselor was great, and she guided me in a way that was unexpected - "if you hate your job, quit it.  If you are too scared to quit it, come up with a plan to get you out of it.  If that seems to big of a problem, just keep taking it day by day until God tells you different.  One day at a time, one moment at a time.."

It seemed funny that some of the same advice I give to others was exactly what I needed to be fed.  When we pour all we have into other people that we are left completely bankrupt. 

I started making a list of my dreams:

1 - to stay home with my kids
2 - to be able to financially be ok with not working or working less
3 - to love and serve a husband who was just getting the "leftover" parts of me
4 - to feel content and happy again
5 - to be a better friend
6 - to have energy
7 - to find out what Rachel wanted not what "work Rachel" wanted
8 - to let my love for the Lord radiate again
9 - to not dwell in the pit - to keep moving forward
10 - to soul search joyfully

And day by day, God started answering my dreams... The first was the day I knew I needed to quit my job.  And once I actually did, the fog of my depression went from fog to an ascending cloud.  And day by day, moment by moment, God carried me out of the pit I was in. 

One day in late Spring, I remember waking up one day and feeling happy and joyful and peaceful.

He always uses our valleys to make the peaks that much more victorious.