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If your household is too small…

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I stumbled upon a little something this morning. Right there in the middle of the Passover directions in Exodus 12, God told Moses and Aaron to tell His people to take a lamb for their household. But then He said this, “And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb.” 

All throughout the Bible we see how God knits together his people, how he created us with a need for community, to be poured into and to pour ourselves into others. This is just my own wondering, but it seems like right here in the Passover directions, we get another hint of that community He craves for His children. If the household was too small–maybe because of loss or infertility, maybe because of sickness or poverty, maybe because of waiting and more waiting–God guided Moses and Aaron to have that household reach out to its nearest neighbor and band together with them for their Passover lamb. It seems He didn’t want waste because later God gives directions that they are to let none of the lamb remain until morning.

There’s this quote I keep seeing around. “When you have more than you need, build a longer table not a higher fence.” There’s something there, don’t you think? And, if we’re being honest, who of us doesn’t have more than we need?

It’s only taken me eleven years to start looking at my neighbors as I think God sees them. Instead of being exasperated when their yard needs its weeds whacked (because, hello, who are we to talk?!?) or hurrying in to close the garage so I don’t have to let them see the fact that I basically wore pajama pants to take my child to gym class, I can see the person. I can smile. I can leave a happy on the door or plant bulbs they’ll get to look over and enjoy. And maybe I can even get up the courage to spread my Mamaw and Papaw’s table out far and wide with all its extra leaves and have them over to eat, to share, to break bread together.

No matter where we are–country or city, suburbs or downtown condominium–we can seek out our nearest neighbor, and perhaps during this Lent season we can share the Lamb.

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When God Remembers

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During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. Exodus 2:23-25

I forget a lot–forget my laundry in the washer until it starts to smell, buy jelly but forget to buy peanut butter, forget to write a thank you note or RSVP. So, when I suddenly remember something, it’s a jolt from my forgetting. But when God remembers it’s different.

“When the Bible says that God remembers someone or his covenant with someone, it indicates that he is about to take action for that person’s welfare,” says my ESV commentary. And in the second chapter of the second book of the Bible, we find God’s people groaning, a sound I’m intimately familiar with in this stage of our adoption. Their cry for rescue is heard and God remembers, not because He ever forget them, but because the sovereign moment has come for Him to take action.

This is our introduction to Passover and the blood of lambs across doors, to the exodus, to the parting of the Red Sea, and to the eventual Risen Lamb of God who would stretch out His arms for you and for me.

I find myself in a weary, groaning state as we count down the hours to Lent, but perhaps this is exactly where I need to be, acutely aware of my need for a Lamb, for rescue, for redemption.

In my search for meaning and remembering in this season, I came across Jennifer Naraki’s ebook Rich + Rooted Passover. I’m looking forward to sharing these activities with my family as we remember together how God remembered His covenant people.

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The Last Leg

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We are awaiting one more approval before we receive our court date. It’s now been five years since we first started this journey. We’ve done a half-dozen home studies, put together two complete dossiers, had our fingerprints taken more times than I could count, and the folder that holds all our adoption related papers now weighs more than six pounds. We are currently updating our home study again in order to extend our I-171 for the fourth time.

This last leg feels like it might kill me. Through tears I told my friend who has walked the entire five years beside me that it feels like mile 23 of my marathon. As we came up on mile marker 23, the pacer I had stayed with the whole race told me that if I wanted to I could pick up my pace for the end. I told him I wanted to give it one more mile. I knew I could keep a faster pace for a little over two miles, but I wasn’t sure about three. I stayed with him for one more mile, and at mile 24 I gave my legs every remaining bit of energy I could muster.

“The scariest thing,” I told my friend yesterday, “is that I don’t know if I have two miles left or ten miles left. I feel like I’m sprinting, giving it everything I have but I don’t know where the victory is.” I don’t know when we will get the call that we have court approval. The only predictable thing about international adoption is that it isn’t predictable.

This morning I received a text from my friend, “There’s a picture of that sweet girl on my treadmill that I see every single day. You and I both know that the last stretch of the race is the hardest. I’m running it with you. And if you start to slow down, or can’t see the end, I will hold your hand. We are on mile 24, and I’m with you and for you. Your faith is going to be made sight. And if we have to crawl on our hands and bloody knees over that finish line–the race will be won.”

We would appreciate your continued prayers, especially since the crossing of one finish line means the beginning of another journey–the journey of helping our daughter heal and process and grow as she lives out the incredible story God is writing through her life.

“For am I already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:6-7

 

*photo by my dear friend Robyn Smith of abideinhimphotography.com.

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Dear Daughters, Who should we let in?

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There’s a lot going on in the news these days. One of you doesn’t even like to hear the news. You cover your ears when it comes on. I know. It’s hard to hear how broken our world is. But never ever forget, sweet daughters of mine, we have the Hope. We have the Light. We have the Love. His name is Jesus.

There’s a lot of talk right now about who we should let in and who we should keep out. Here’s what I’m doing, girls. I’m waking up every day and asking the Holy Spirit to fill me, to take hold of every selfish, prideful thought and action I’m prone to and replace it with sacrifice and gratitude.

There’s this quote from Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way I keep circling back to…

We could all be the ones outside the gate. We all could have been Gordon, fallen on hard times into hard ways; we could have been the ones fighting the Lord’s Resistance Army slitting our child’s throat in the middle of the night; we could be the one born into a slum, violently raped and left for dead, the one born into AIDS, into starvation, into lives of Christless desperation. The reason you are inside the gate for such a time as this–is to risk your life for those outside the gate.

Are there risks in this sort of a life? Yes, absolutely. But hear me loud and clear, beautiful daughters, we are not here to live a safe life. We are here to be clothed in the armor of God with the Living Sword in our dirt-crusted hands and bruised and bloodied knees. We are not here to look pretty. We are here to say to the cast-out, the forgotten, the left behind, “You are beautiful, child of God.” Does this put us in the bulls-eye? Yes. Does this mean we might go somewhere scary, live somewhere less desirable, and sometimes stare straight in the face of evil? Yes, it does. But you have nothing to fear. The devil wants you to think other people are your enemy. But we know who the enemy is, and we know who the Victor is. We will take the gospel at His Word. We will refuse a life that is bubble-wrapped, sanitized, and shiny.

We will risk our lives for those outside the gate. And if in doing so, our Sovereign God should call us home, we will know we used up every breath, every drop of sweat, every beating pulse of this earthly heart to show a broken world a Savior who stretched out His arms on a wooden cross to spell out L-O-V-E.

Go forward, my beautiful Esthers, and show God’s life-changing love to a desperate world.

I love you,

Momma

 

 

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Friday Favorites {game changer caffeine, bullet journaling, good reads, a homeschool idea, and how to make a roast chicken}

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It’s been a while since I did a Friday Favorites, so this one is all over the place! (Much like my brain these days. Ha!)

Nespresso + Aeroccino//Our hotel in Quebec had a Nespresso machine in every room. We loved it (and every other part of Quebec), so we asked my parents for one (the Nespresso, not Quebec) for Christmas. Ours came from Costco and included the Aeroccino machine which turns milk of any kind into something magical. There might be unicorns that live inside it. I can’t say for certain.

Bullet Journal//I have recently sent this blog from the Lazy Genius Collective to many friends who wanted to know more about how to bullet journal.

Power Sheets from Lara Casey//After seeing a friend recommend these, I did some research. I liked the idea of having ONE page each month that listed my goals. And I like that I can remove it and stick it on my fridge so I see it all day. The Power Sheets plus the Bullet Journal are helping me feel much more sane as well as bring shape to the goals that rattle around in my brain. As a stay-at-home + homeschool mom, it can be easy to get lost in the day to day tasks but not really see the big picture. The Power Sheets are lifting my head so I can see the lasting purpose of the day to day tasks.

Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner//You all know slow is an anthem for our family, especially in this season. I loved this one.

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah//I love all of Hannah’s books, and this one was no exception. I especially loved learning about Leningrad under Stalin’s rule. Hannah captures both historical nuance and human relationships so beautifully.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi//Through various viewpoints and spanning generations, this book tells the story of two half-sisters and the twists their journeys take both on the Gold Coast of Africa and in the southern United States.

Morning Basket: I got this homeschool idea from the Learning Well IG community. The idea is to gather a basket of good reads that the mom reads aloud to the kiddos to start the school day. I was drawn to this idea 1. because I love reading and 2. because starting with workbooks just didn’t seem very inspiring. The routine we’ve been trying out since starting back in January is breakfast>Mom does Bible and coffee while kids play>morning basket>morning chores and get ready for the day.

Right now in our morning basket we have…

Adoption Prayer Cards//I read the verse and prayer prompt, and one of the girls prays for E. (Thank you, Linda, for sending these to us!)

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones//This is a devotional book by the same author as the Jesus Storybook Bible

Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan//With my word being Altar this year, I bought this book of hymns along with the story behind each hymn. We pick one each day and read the story and sing the hymn.

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein//I want at least one book of poetry in the basket each month. The girls love the silliness of Shel.

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet//A children’s biography of our favorite author. We just finished this one today and loved every page.

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder//I wanted to be Laura when I was a kid. There are quite a few hilarious stories about this, but I reserve those for really close friends.

Three recipes I’ve made every week of January that all lean on each other. Healthy and delicious!

Easiest Roast Chicken: This recipe comes from Matt’s step-dad. It doesn’t get much easier than this, and don’t let a whole chicken scare you! Take your whole chicken and remove the little package inside it. If it scares you, just throw it away. If it doesn’t you can put what’s inside in your bone broth (see below). Wash the chicken under cold water and then pat dry with paper towels. Place the dried off chicken in a cast iron skillet (cast iron skillet is important!) breast side down. Liberally coat the exposed skin with a good layer of salt. The salt forms a crust that keeps all the juices inside. Cut a lemon or two in half and stuff in the cavity. Then put it in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. At the end of the 30 minutes, remove the cast iron and flip the chicken so the breast side is now up. Cover that side with salt and put back in the oven at 350 degrees for another 30 minutes. When that timer goes off, leave the chicken as it is but bump the heat to 400 degrees and cook for a final 30 minutes. (1.5 hours total cooking time.) When your last timer goes off, remove the chicken and let it rest for 20 minutes before slicing.

Homemade Bone Broth: After dinner, remove all the meat you can from your chicken and save any leftovers for Lemon Dill Soup (see below). Then, take the carcass and place it in your Crock-Pot. Throw in an onion quartered, a few carrots cut into big pieces, and some celery cut into big pieces. (No need to chop these small or anything.) Add some garlic, a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, and fill the remaining space in the crock pot with water. Cook on low overnight, 12-16 hours. The next morning, pour the liquid through a strainer into jars or a large bowl with a lid. You will get roughly 4ish cups of yummy broth.

Lemon Dill Soup: Now, you need a way to use that bone broth. Enter this delicious, easy, and healthy Lemon Dill Soup from Shauna Niequist. It’s really just a basic chicken and rice soup with a bright touch added from the lemon and dill. I use all the leftover bits of chicken from my roast chicken.

Have a great Friday!

 

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I chose a nap today.

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I chose a nap today. Few things seem as luxurious, as absolutely extravagant as a nap these days. But I did. And it wasn’t the first time this month. Or week. I glanced right over the scattered toys and microscopic Perler beads on the floor. I laid the book I’d been reading on my chest and closed my eyes.

But I haven’t written in days. The laundry is sitting wet in the washer. Nothing has been marked off the bullet journal in at least three hours.

And I closed my eyes.

“You can’t write what you haven’t lived.” I don’t remember who said it or if she was the originator of that pearl of wisdom, but it lodged. And every time I hear the whispering scream to “do more, be more, have more, share more, say more,” I whisper back, “No thanks, I’m living this one small and wonderful, messy and beautiful life. This season–with a flurry of little girls around my feet and in my lap and barnacled to my left calf and with a wall held up in prayer and Scripture and drawings made by big sisters and a husband who somehow keeps getting more and more interesting, what with his fun socks and newfound love of fountain pens–it’s ripe for living. And then napping.

So, to the world it might look like less. Less productivity. Less doing. Less to show for all my effort. But to the heart and soul it looks like everything.

So you gathered with girlfriends and ate chips and salsa by the gallons and laughed until you thought you might need Depends but no one took a picture. Or you realize when your child is two that you never wrote a blog for her first birthday and you think surely you’re giving her material for the therapist she’ll visit in her 30s when she describes her third child problems. Or you close your eyes and nap. (Because sometimes the living happens in the middle of the night potty trips and tuck-ins.)

Just because the moment wasn’t captured on your phone or task list, doesn’t mean it wasn’t captured where it matters. In your heart and in your soul. 

 

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Word of the Year 2017

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Back in September when I was struggling in our wait for E, I read Psalm 43.

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 43:3-5 ESV, emphasis mine)

The word altar snagged in my mind like a thread pulled so that you notice it over and over again.

Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord(Genesis 12:7-8 ESV, emphasis mine)

God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem. And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. And Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother. (Genesis 35:1-7 ESV, emphasis mine)

These I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56:7 ESV, emphasis mine)

And in the middle of the hardest days of this past year, the Holy Spirit whispered to me that the altar isn’t about my getting what I want. The altar is where God reveals Himself to me. The altar is His grace-covered invitation to dwell with Him. And when God reveals Himself, the only reasonable response is awe and worship. The altar is stacking the stones where He has shown Himself faithful.

Since those hard days of September, I’ve had the word altar lingering. I’ve been looking for it and studying its uses.

Merriam-Webster has these two definitions for altar. 

1:  a usually raised structure or place on which sacrifices are offered or incense is burned in worship 

2:  a table on which the eucharistic elements are consecrated or which serves as a center of worship or ritual

That first definition stands out because of the reference to incense. In Luke 1, a favorite passage for me, when Zechariah’s name was chosen to go into the temple he has a special encounter.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. (Luke 1:8-11 ESV)

When I was writing about my prayer journal, I started studying the relationship between prayer and incense, especially in the tabernacle. In this passage, we find Zechariah at the altar of incense praying when he encounters an angel with a message from God. God revealing Himself through prayer has been a huge theme in my life the past few years, and especially as we have walked this adoption journey. Also, “the whole multitude of the people were praying” reminds me of our tribe who prays so faithfully for E.

The second dictionary definition reminded me of the words I wear on a leather cuff around my wrist many days–break and pour. A visible reminder of my mission to break and pour like Jesus did.

I’ve got all of these thoughts swirling around as we begin this new year, and I’m excited to dig into them over the coming months. One thing I know for certain–He is always, always worthy of my worship. Gathered with my church family with beautiful songs or circled around the dining room table with my family or simply when I open the backdoor to see the sunrise–no matter my circumstances or my emotions, I can always go to the altar of God. I worship and remember and praise Him not only because of what He has done for me, though certainly the weight of that flattens me, but because of who He is.

Practically, I’m looking at our morning routines and changing those up a bit. I’m looking for ways to start our mornings with more meaning, more worship. My daily time with my Bible cracked and hot coffee in the morning has become my manna, my sustenance from God. I want to invite my girls into a morning space of worship as well. And when God gives us the call with a court date, I want our hearts and home to be full and ready to be a safe place for E to experience the love and joy of our Great God. For certainly He has used our journey to her to reveal Himself in new and life-changing ways. I pray this year you find us stacking stones and moving with eyes of wonder. We aren’t just building a life or a legacy. We’re building an altar. For He is Worthy of our praise, forever and always.

Psalm 43 says it well, “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.”

Word of the Year 2016

Word of the Year 2015

Word of the Year 2014

Word of the Year 2013