When the person you love changes…

We met when we were 18 years old. 5 days after college arrival. So young. So wide-eyed.

Within a month I was planning our wedding.

Our future dreams included having a couple kids and living in a fancy house overlooking the golf course Jeremy managed.

Then we turned 19. And God said He had plans. Plans that changed college degrees and took us away from the golf green. Plans involving the scary word “ministry.”

At 21 we got married. Began ministry with students we loved (LOVED). Had 2 kids.

At 27 we moved. Began ministry with kids. Welcomed 3 more kids.

At 34 we moved. Began ministry with families. Watched our kids go from littles to bigs.

And now we’re here. And there are 5 kids and 2 dogs. And a great house without a golf course. And still that sometimes scary word “ministry.”

Jeremy and I have had our highs and lows. We’ve laughed. And cried. And had marriage counseling. And faithful friends.

I look at him and realize how much we’ve changed. Both of us. From 18 till now. And there are still (God-willing) so many years of changing ahead.

But the constant has been grace. God has been faithful. Every step of the way. Through the low of almost losing everything in 2007. Through the high of bringing Esther Grace home in 2014.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written. But today felt necessary. To remind you that God really is faithful. When your calm day ends up hectic. When your dreams become impossible.

Breath deeply, my friend. He is not surprised. You are worth Jesus to God. He sees you and loves you through every change.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’.” (Psalm 91:1)

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THIRTEEN…

Stephen,

What we have is strange. And I know it’s mainly me.

Sometimes I look at you and feel such pain. I see you laying in that hospital room. Helpless. Looking around for a familiar face.

Other days I marvel at you. That you’re here. And healthy. And minus that scar up the back of your neck, seemingly unphased.

On school days when you get frustrated at your Math, I get angry. How could someone who’s faced so much crumble at a simple multiplication problem?

When I look back at your baby pictures I feel confusion. Why can’t I remember it? How could one moment wash away so many precious memories?

During those moments when I catch you picking up trash you didn’t drop. Or taking the dogs out without being asked, I feel relief. And thankfulness.

Because we were clueless when you were born. We forced you to fit our routine. We held on too tightly till God forced open our hands.

But through it all, you somehow became you. The person God created you to be. The little boy with strength enough to face hard things.

Son, I have failed you throughout the last 13 years. I’ve ran when I should have hugged. I’ve cried when I should have laughed. And I’m sorry.

But man, what a gift you are to me. What a marvel.

Thank you for being our firstborn. For letting us mess up time and time again. For being gracious. For being patient.

One day you’ll understand how hard we tried. How much we loved you in spite of our mistakes.

Happy 13th birthday Stephen! You are grace to us.

Love,
Mom

 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) 

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When weakness is strength…

“Her greatest weakness was actually her greatest strength.”

That’s the conclusion the kids and I came to after reading The Country Bunny.

Cottontail was told she couldn’t become an Easter Bunny because she had 21 kids. But those 21 kids became the key to her delivering the year’s most important egg.

The lesson hit home for all of us.

One of our boys has fought dyslexia since he was 5. And now, he’s a stronger person because he’s learned to overcome.

We’ve got daughter who’s already looked racism dead in the face, picked up her pride, and moved on. And now, she’s a bolder person than I’ll ever be.

Maybe in the past, I felt like Cottontail. Like having 5 kids was holding me back. Like they were my greatest weakness.

But I was wrong.

Our kids have taught me patience. They’ve taught me how to rely on God. How to love. How to forgive.

What we see as weakness is actually strength in the hands of our all-knowing Father.

You want to know my greatest weakness? It’s my sin nature. And I hate it.

But without it, there’d be no grace. There’d be no cross. There’d be no mercy.

Jesus laid down His greatest strength to transform our greatest weakness. He became what we weren’t so we could become God’s child.

It’s not just that His strength is perfect. It’s that it’s sacrificial.

For you then. For you today. Grace.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (II Corinthians 5:21)

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My 12 minutes of sanity…

12 minutes.

It takes that long. And that little.

All you runner people will cringe. Laugh maybe. But 12 minutes is my mile number.

And I try to run it EVERY DAY.

I slip out of the house at some point. Kick the boys off Spotify. And decompress with every footstep on the pavement.

No. I can’t run a marathon. No. It’ still not easy. Yes. I sweat like a mule.

But I come back better. Refreshed. Claiming something small as mine and for me.

I’m not sure how much free time you have. I’m not sure where God has put you and what you do every day. But I can bet you get overwhelmed. And frustrated. And desperate for a break.

What if you joined up a couple 12 minute moments every day? 12 minutes in the afternoon on a run? 12 minutes in the morning with Him? 12 minutes at night with a good book?

My walk with Christ is like a 12 minute moment that I keep stacking day after day. We have a relationship that’s not hit or miss. Or on one week and off the next. It’s real. And it’s predictable.

Not because I schedule it. Not because I check off the Bible reading plan taped to the wall. Or because I scribble in my flowered journal most every day.

My relationship with Christ is based on grace. And His faithfulness to me. During 12 minute runs. Or 5 minute cry-fests.

When we fail, He doesn’t. When we quit, He doesn’t.

“Jesus’ compassion never holds us to a standard of perfection, but always holds us in His arms of grace.” (Ann Voskamp)

On 12 minute runs. In 12 minute traffic. During 12 minute meetings. God’s love will be with you today.

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

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Clinging not Cruising…

Last February it hit me. Like a tidal wave. Out of nowhere.

Two months before we’d decided not to “cruise” in 2018. To throw our arms up and embrace the ride God was calling us to.

Anxiety wasn’t part of that plan.

Step 1: Meet with the doctor
Step 2: Take better care of myself
Step 3: Embrace Jeremy’s comforting words “You do you”
Step 4: Memorize verses like Psalm 46:1-“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
Step 5: Do hard things (especially ones that make my heart race and palms sweat)
Step 6: Believe that this doesn’t define me

It’s been almost a year. There have been bad days, good days, and great ones.

II Timothy 1:7 has been my background music for months. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

When fear takes the joy from our days, we embrace the tiny moments as grace.

And we worship.

Hard things don’t have to stop us, friends. They can cause us to pause. To fall on our faces. And to let His strength show itself perfect.

Because He faced the hardest thing, I can face hard things. You can face hard things.

Planned. Unplanned. Let’s cling. Not cruise. And find His grace totally sufficient.

“And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.” Colossians 1:27b

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