Sunday, November 29, 2009

Glimpses of thankful hearts

Thanksgiving landed us in Long Beach, WA to spend a few days with S.'s dad and sister, Megan. Here is the how much "Grandad" loves his grandkids: he keeps these ridiculously large stuffed animals in his house for them to play with when they visit. He also keeps a shelf of Disney movies which was perfect for a Thanksgiving evening Mickey Mouse-a-thon. We fed sea gulls on the beach and had hot chocolate at the
Moose Lodge so Grandad could show off his grandkids. Grandad read to the kids and introduced them to the squirrel he feeds in the mornings. Hang out time with Aunt Meg is always a treat (Darla insists that Aunt Megan is really a kid...I know she means that she's as fun as a kid... it has nothing to do with Meg's maturity ;) ) Grandad also spoils me- he stocked the cupboard with Starbucks french roast coffee. Ahhh...Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Bread & Fish

“Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”… Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”… “And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.” John 6:5, 7-9, 11

Even though this is a familiar story to me, it came out of nowhere to hit me in the gut last week. I became very aware of Philip and Andrew’s different approaches to their dilemma. Philip was realistic in what it would take to feed the crowd- money they didn’t have. Andrew brought forth what they did have. Granted, it wasn’t enough to feed a crowd. He knew it wasn’t the answer but he acknowledged what he had in his hand. I asked the Lord, “What do I have in my hand that I don’t even realize? Am I looking at what I can’t do or am I looking at the little that you’ve entrusted to me?”

Two days later I was reading the newest book changing my life- Crazy Love by Francis Chan. He stopped me in my tracks with his perception on the same Scripture:

“Remember the story where Jesus fed thousands of people with one boy’s small lunch?... Jesus gave the loaves to His disciples and then the disciples passed them out to the crowd. Imagine if the disciples had simply held onto the food Jesus gave them, continually thanking Him for providing lunch for them. That would’ve been stupid when there was enough food to feed the thousands who were gathered and hungry.”

Yikes! How often have I hoarded a blessing thinking thankfulness is enough? How often has He had intentions to multiply what I’m holding as I’ve hovered over it, elbowing out anyone that might have a need? How often have I justified my tight-fistedness thinking what I could give wouldn’t stretch far enough anyway? After reading “A Hole in the Gospel” by Richard Stearns and now “Crazy Love” I realized that I have not properly acknowledged what an abundant life I live materially. It’s easy to see others who have a retirement fund built up, two nice cars, cell phones and a land-line, who take vacations that involve hotels and planes…and think we don’t have much as a family of 5 on a single income. Yet we still fall into the category of richest 1% in the world.

When I had my first baby sitting job in middle school my mom taught me about tithing. I’ve always done it, never hesitated in honoring God in my finances. For the duration of our marriage we’ve sponsored kids through World Vision. I’ve been willing to be obedient to the Lord with money.

Yet as I was reading the feeding of the 5,000 I knew the Lord was telling me I need to take a hard look at what He’s put in my hands. I knew what I’ve thought is there for me…isn’t just for me.

“What does that look like right now, Lord?” I asked this repeatedly the day I was immersed in “Crazy Love”. “We’re saving to adopt…we can’t even make that happen so what exactly are you saying when you’re asking me to give in a way that involves self sacrifice? I’m tithing; I’m giving…so why is this stirring such a deep part of me?”

Thursday night S. happened to call a neighbor with a question. They are a family we’ve been praying for since we moved in. The wife told S. that they are about to have their power shut off because they can’t pay the bill. Their car was repossessed and they are desperate. The husband was wishing he wasn’t alive…the wife was frantic. Their world has been crumbling and they don’t yet know the One that has answers. S. invited the husband over immediately and they went to talk about life over cigars. I began washing dishes and praying for their family. Almost instantly I was brought to tears and knew that God was asking me to take a substantial amount of money out of savings for them. I had a near giddiness over it…and then stopped myself momentarily. “Okay, Lord. I want to be open handed. I want to watch you multiply what I have. We haven’t even felt comfortable taking this money out for adopting. In fact…it’s the same amount I’ve managed to save this year. I felt like you were telling me to save it for us. If we are really supposed to do this I absolutely will, but please confirm it through S. so I don’t second guess. Build my faith?”

Half an hour later S. snuck in the house for a warm up on hot chocolate and said, “Shilo, we’re supposed to give them money.” He named the amount.

Nothing in me was surprised.
“Yep, I know.”

“Will you write the check and bring it to me with the hot chocolate?”

I did.

The next day I recalled my thought, “I felt you were telling me to save it for us.” Wasn’t I presumptuous to assume that God was telling me to save it for us? He told us to save it…He never said it was for us. He clearly told me not to take it for our adoption. It was earmarked for a power bill. I just didn’t do the earmarking.

How gentle of the Lord to teach me about being open handed before the opportunity was in front of me. Previously I would have thought, “We don’t have that money. Yeah, we have savings but what if something happens to us?” What a ridiculous thought while our neighbors would have lived in the dark. I would have thought, “It’s a drop in a bucket! It’s not a permanent solution. We’ll hardly dent their situation.”

When Jesus fed the 5,000 it was only one meal. It was one meal that pointed to who the Bread of Life is. It was one meal that demonstrated God’s provision, His love for His children, His ability to meet needs far beyond today. Oh, to quit analyzing the financial repercussions, the weight, or need of my gift. Oh, to just shut up and obey. There’s still enough bread for me. (And gluten free bread for S….)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

One of a Kind

Last year I wondered what the problem was with Darla coloring. Her cousin Pearl is 6 months older than she is and impeccable with a crayon. I didn't expect for Darla to keep up. Not only is Pearl older but she inherits from her parents this eye for perfection that Darla's parents definitely lack! Darla quickly loses interest in coloring; a few scribbles suit her fine. While I didn't expect her to be like Pearl, I did at least expect some interest!

Recently I have discovered why Darla isn't a coloring book kind of kid. After watching S. draw cartoon characters, with next to no instruction, this little 4 year old started whipping out all sorts of inventive pictures. Each has a storyline and characters. She isn't worried about specifics. Once the big idea is on the page, it's ripped off and piled on my desk with everything else that "is just for you, Mom!" Apparently she feels restricted and bored coloring something that has already been created. She wants to be the creator, which is why her new favorite accessory is a magna-doodle.My niece Pearl is taking piano lessons. Her ability to focus and perfect a skill is causing her to excel far beyond a 5 year old level. She is so bent on 'getting it right' that the morning of her piano lessons she looks ahead at what will be introduced so she can practice what she isn't expected to know yet. She thrives in piano and now ballet lessons.
Last night I asked Darla if there is a class she wants to take in the spring. We talked about many options. I expected her to pick piano and ballet because she adores Pearl. Instead, Darla enthusiastically threw her arms open wide while declaring she wants to "act!" She added, "and maybe be on TV so people remember how funny I am!" Holy buckets, what do we have on our hands?! She then mentio
ned that soccer would be fun, too.

While watching Pearl and Darla interact yesterday, my sister Jasmine and I admired how unique our girls are. Jasmine is teaching Pearl that it's okay to fail; it's okay if it's not right the first time. I'm teaching Darla to follow through; don't neglect the details!

Our parents had to teach each of us the same things (I still cringe over details & Jasmine still can't let something go until she's mastered it). I've always been thankful Jasmine and I are different. We were taught by our parents to admire each others' strengths. We were never compared to each other and there was never any reason for competition. Our parents celebrated our unique giftings, encouraged us to pursue our interests, and never expected the same things from each kid. They encouraged Jasmine to quit college and attend beauty school with the same zeal they encouraged me to finish my bachelor's degree in elementary education- because they understood we were wired differently and created for different work. (A smart move, too...Jasmine's made far more money with her cosmetologist license than I ever made with my bachelor's degree. Oh, wait. I'm still paying that off.)Watching Darla & Pearl made me evaluate the way I cheer my kids on & the way I challenge them to grow. May I always throw myself into whatever interests and passions are implanted in my household. May I encourage my kids' passions and interests so that they don't have to default to the 'norm'. May they serve God in individual ways- the ways He has created them to. May I always be surprised and delighted as I learn new things about my kids.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Well...hello swine flu

Well...hello swine flu and thanks for stopping by the week S. is out of town. All year I've rolled my eyes at the sensational news coverage H1N1 has received. I guess I technically can't say it's H1N1 that has invaded because I haven't had any of the kids tested...but I can say that even with Tylenol we've fought to keep temperatures below 102. Achy little bodies have been strewn on every couch, headaches and terrible coughs have kept Darla and Hudson up in the night. S. was teaching at a Luis Palau conference in Portland this week and I was determined to have a fun week with the kids to make the time go fast. 2 hours after S. left I looked at Hudson and wondered at his glassy eyes. 3 hours after S. left I pulled out the kleenex for his nose. 3.5 hours after he left I cuddled a burning hot little boy and sent them all to bed.

After two miserable, cooped up days I packed all the kids to spend a night at my sister's house. Everyone there already had the flu and were on the mend. We never miss the Country Music Awards so we gave a round of Tylenol to the troops, put them to bed by 7:30 and had a popcorn party in spite of the misery.

While I was there, Jasmine received a book from our adoption agency showing pictures of many children in their Ethiopian orphanage. Lance & Jazz have sent their dossier to Ethiopia and now will spend the next months waiting to be matched with a child. We are further behind in the process, also waiting...for funds. We heard from our agency that there have been quite a few new children at the orphanage, specifically little toddlers. Jazz and I lamented together: her because now a long stretch of time stands between her and a new baby. Me because money seems to be such an obstacle. We brainstormed a few new ideas for fund raising but overall I was weighed with discouragement.
On the way home with 3 bleary eyed, scratchy voiced children I kept surrendering it to the Lord, asking Him to lead and show us if we are supposed to be working hard to fund raise, if we are supposed to wait in faith, or if we're not seeing something that He's putting in front of us.

When S. got home from his conference he excitedly shared about having dinner with a good friend who always refreshes and challenges us. S. then handed me a card from our friend and his wife...with an enclosed check for $500 towards our adoption. I'm teary, humbled, excited, with renewed faith and motivation today. I'm watching people come forward to be involved in this journey: some with prayers, some with emotional support and their own adoption stories, and some with means to do it. Praise the Lord for His well-timed faithfulness.
***we're discussing doing a dessert auction in January for the next fund raising idea... just to put the bug in your ear :).

Disney on Ice

Some good friends of ours treated Sean, Darla, Hudson and me to Disney on Ice last weekend. Sean & I could hardly watch the first half of the amazing show because we were enthralled with our kids' reactions. We don't watch many movies and because Darla is highly sensitive to what she sees, she's never seen Lion King, Cars, Little Mermaid, or Tinkerbell which were all featured on ice. It seemed to add to the allure & magic of the experience because the kids are familiar with the characters and storyline and yet have never seen it come to life. Darla wore her "princess skirt". Hudson couldn't let her dress up without being her prince, so he chose his ring bearer outfit from a wedding he was in this past summer. These two never even took advantage of having a whole seat to sit back in; they were perched on the edge for the two hours of Disney bliss that passed in front of us. (As you can see from the pictures, Sean and I were equally entertained)

Monday, November 9, 2009

That obnoxious term; "Me-time"

Whenever I hear someone speak of needing “me-time” I find myself bristling. I was analyzing this reaction yesterday as I read yet another article advising me about my needs as a mother. Why do I immediately suppress an eye-roll when I hear this term? I’m not opposed to having time in which I choose what I do. I have “me-time” when I work out at 5:15am. I have “me-time” when I brew the first cup of coffee & curl up in my rocking chair with my Bible and journal. I have “me-time” when I have a hot date with my dream-man. I have boundaries. I believe it’s essential to be healthy regardless of my role in life: to eat healthy and consistently, to exercise, to spend time at the Lord’s feet, & to have a growing marriage. So in this sense I suppose I’m an advocate for “me-time”.

Then it struck me. It’s the way I have heard “me-time” used, not the actual time of me being by myself. This is best illustrated by a moment this summer in which I noticed the contrast. To celebrate my birthday (& celebrate for the first time in over 5 years none of us was nursing a newborn) my sister Jasmine, my cousin Sommer, and I had a weekend at my Dad’s timeshare in Desert Canyon, WA. We were lying by the pool with our coffees when a group of people our age showed up. My sister knew one of the women so we started talking with them. The woman said, “So cool you get a girl weekend! Isn’t it so great to escape the kids? Oh-my-gosh I just so need these breaks or I go crazy!” They then proceeded to haul out their cooler of beers, stack of trashy magazines, and sat at the pool making fun of their husbands.

We looked at each other and my sister said, “I don’t feel that way at all. I’m not escaping anything.” It was an A-ha! Moment for me. We weren’t at Desert Canyon because we felt like “I need to get away so I can do what I need, want, etc.” or “I want to be ‘myself’ & I need to go somewhere else for that”. We’ve never thought, “I need to remember who I was before kids” (side note: seriously, if raising children makes you forget ‘who you are’, you had a pretty shaky identity to begin with.)

We had a ‘girl’s weekend’ to share our lives and have companionship. We went to expose the deep parts of our lives, and to pray boldly in faith over each other’s needs. A big part of why being together is edifying and challenging is opportunity talk about what God is calling us to; in marriage, in raising children, in our own surrendering to Him. We also happened to go out to dinner, get some tanning accomplished, and laugh hysterically during our not-actually-slumbering party.

The bottom line for me is the goal. The goal isn’t that I escape- the goal is to equip. If I have time for myself I don’t want to waste it on frivolous things that make me come home resenting my responsibility instead of embracing it. I want new tools in the way I relate to S., the way I love my kids and pursue Christ. My gauge in getting away is the way I return. Do I come back wanting more “me-time”, feeling entitled and unsatisfied in my role at home or do I come back ready to delve into my calling?

Our self-indulgent American culture is not where I look to be a good parent. I am bombarded by messages: “you owe it to yourself” “you should be happy…you deserve this.” “Have you had your break today?” Advertisers love these kinds of lies that get us to spend time seeking superficial happiness. We get this bloated sense of self that makes us completely delusional about what parenting should look like. We get confused about what our legitimate needs are because we are clouded by what we think is owed to us. I'm not opposed to spa days, working outside the home, to having other interests aside from parenting. I am opposed to using these things as a way to escape, a way to indulge narcissistic whims.

I am thankful for my mom because among the valuable things she has taught me about parenting, she showed me that sometimes when I think “I need time for myself!” it’s actually a different problem entirely. Sometimes my problem is that I’ve been going too hard, too fast and what I really need is to turn off my phone, shut down the computer, and play cars with my boys on the floor. Sometimes I want to head out to sit at Starbucks when I need to address my daughter’s whining instead of escaping it. Maybe for “me-time” I don’t need a glass of wine….I need to sit down with a seasoned mom for some perspective. Often I start to feel a need to escape when S. has been for many consecutive nights. What I’m really craving is quality family time; we need to pop some popcorn and laugh at our kid’s antics.

I’m grieved by how many moms I see living for the next night out. My desire is to be fully present, fully engaged in each season of life. When it’s time to send our kids out of our home I want to know that I was intentional in the time I spent with them: sacrificing myself and my agenda to train them up in the way they should go. That doesn’t happen by default! It’s not automatic that my kids run to the Lord first, that they scrub a toilet meticulously, that they serve others before themselves. I have few years to impart a lot of life skills & I refuse to look in hindsight, wondering why I spent all that time thinking about pleasing myself. May I never neglect the severity, the seriousness of what God entrusted to me when He made me a mom!

Today my early morning "me-time" was interrupted by a snuggly 3 year old wanting to tell me about his adventurous dreams. My getting-ready-for the-day time was combined with all three kids in the bath. Instead of listening to music I listened to; “Hudson’s splashing!” “Argh! Everett wants every toy I have- HELP!” “The bath is getting cold!” “Get Everett out first, Mom!”
My attempts to help S. with a message he is giving this week were thwarted by puzzle piece emergencies. Finally Hudson took my advice to “solve it yourself first”… but solving it involved knocking his little bro on his butt when they couldn’t come to an agreement.
Our grocery store trip was a quick one because Everett has this problem with confinement in a cart. If we’re there too long he arches his back, turns his face red, and soon the whole store knows that he wants down. My attempt at "me-time" during naps turned into Darla emerging every 10 minutes for potty breaks, water breaks, and “Mom, has it been 30 minutes yet?”

My day has not been wasted. In fact, it hasn’t even been that frustrating. My 3 year old is so big that I’m daily reminded our moments of snuggling won’t last long enough. All 3 kids got clean and I am wearing makeup. Hudson is a puzzle-pro and I’m excited that he has an interest that can be done semi-quietly. Hudson is also learning to work things out. Sometimes it lands Everett on his rear, but honestly sometimes Everett needs that anyway. Our fridge is full of groceries and these kids had a chance to work on manners by thanking the clerk, got to help fill bags with produce, and did a great job declaring items “healthy” and “not healthy.” Darla didn’t nap…but that means the house will be quiet by 8pm. Some day down the road our house will be empty of these noises and I just might be left with me-time that suddenly doesn’t sound so appealing. So instead of staying on this computer with my thoughts, I’m popping some kettle corn, warming some milks, and enjoying the wake-up from nap time with 3 little Taylors.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I Count It All Loss

I vividly remember years ago coming across the verse that shouted to me because it described my desire so accurately, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” Philippians 3:8, 9. I immediately committed it to memory because it resonated so deeply with who I am.

It reminded me of the summer I turned 14. My closest friends were changing and I had tough choices to make. I knew if I attempted to go along with the crowd for the sake of clinging to these friendships, it would ultimately lead to compromise. I had hoped that I could choose to follow Christ and still go with the flow but the fork in the road was too distinct. I experienced the ultimate embarrassment of eating lunch alone as a freshman. I felt abandoned, angry, and exhausted at the inward battle going on. Yet it was at that age of 14 that I realized if God is who He says He is; I’d have to sacrifice my own comfort to be who He was calling me to be.

A unique thing began to happen. Instead of confiding in a best friend or talking on the phone in the evenings, I journaled. I prayed like I never had to pray before. I confessed my fears and dreams to Christ and for awhile, no one else. I cried. What began as obedience & duty soon turned into joy & anticipation of what my Savior would share next. Lonely days turned into one l-o-n-g prayer. At the time I thought I would always resent that season as one of lost friendships and awkwardness, but I now remember it as a sweet season of my life that defined who I am.

It was while I was hitting tennis balls up against the barn wall angry at not being able to please other people, while I was skipping school because I couldn’t face the darkness I felt, while I was curled up on my bed writing and pouring out my heart, that I learned all things are loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ. For a 14 yr old, friends turning their backs, lost popularity, knowing you’re missing out on what’s happening over the weekend- is loss. Giving up those things was my first lesson in dying to me and being found in Christ. I will always grieve the loss of dear friends but what I gained in Christ is incomparable.

I resolutely decided that even if I had to be alone for 4 years of high school I would be willing for the sake of being found in Christ. Oh, but God was so gracious & generous with this emotional, fragile kid. I didn’t eat lunch alone forever…and in fact stumbled upon an eclectic group of students who similarly had lost friends, surrendered to Christ, and were willing to follow Him regardless of what everyone around us chose. What started as “thank God I at least can sit with these people and not look like a complete loser” turned into “thank God for these lifelong friends who hold me accountable, know me & my family inside and out, whose loyalty and prayers have carried me through the past 15 years. What looked like loss ended up laughable compared to all I gained.

Me & Heather- the friend from high school I loved so much that I set up with my cousin. Now not only friend of 15+ years but also my dear cousin.

Kristi & Jill...we proved last month that we haven't outgrown slumber parties.

Greg & Kristi- still high school sweethearts and Greg still thinks I'm 14...I guess some things you can't outgrow. only

one of these men I've been friends with

since I was 14...& the other is my husband. No one can tell them apart anyway so they both get a shout-out in my


At age 17 I rediscovered what it means to lose all and be found in Him when our family filed bankruptcy,

watched our suburban drive away without us in it, and moved north for a fresh start. I watched my parents in humility and brokenness try various jobs to make ends meet, accept help, and pray for groceries weekly. Ahh…but the excellence of knowing Christ was so deep and so real. As a family we chose to count the material things as rubbish that we previously valued. My parents modeled for us what it is to be found in Christ; completely dependant when there is no pride or bank account to stand on. There is something raw, terrifying, and yet awe-inspiring when outward things are stripped away to leave me standing with exposed heart in front of a God who is Enough.

As the Word of God works, it is constantly fresh, immeasurably deep, always speaking to where I am. Last week this verse came to mind again and I realized that Paul says he ‘counts ALL things loss’…not merely the vain things, not just the habits and sin we die to when we choose Christ. I’ve had seasons of losing friends, losing popularity, losing material things… but I’ve realized in the last couple weeks that sometimes God calls us to die to the good dreams, too. I expect to die to the sinful, unappealing parts of myself. I know God requires me to be ‘transformed’. But sometimes I have beautiful ideas and aspirations (they even include God!) that have to be counted as loss.

I’ve talked to two dear friends in the past week who have had to suffer the loss of good things- of beautiful dreams. Now empty, left with the question, “Is Christ enough?” When I think I’ve answered this question it comes again in another form. Or I pray and watch as someone I love wrestles with it.

“If I never marry and never have companionship on earth…” “If I do marry and my marriage sucks and might always suck…” “If I never get to use my gifts the way I want to use them…” “If I never complete an adoption even though I’ve believed God’s put it in my heart…” "If I keep losing babies & fear pregnancy..." “If anxiety always causes me to walk with a limp…” “If people I care about believe lies about me and my reputation shatters from all I built…” “If I never see rebuilding and restoration in my lifetime on earth…”

Is He still who He says He is? Am I willing to say even good things are rubbish compared to gaining Christ? Can I die to myself to simply be found in Him? Can I grieve my losses and still praise Him because I know the excellence of the knowledge of Him? Is Christ alone still a gain? Is He Enough?