Friday, July 30, 2010

Valley Dwellers

I imagine that after God restored Job's losses and was blessing his latter days, Job was the friend you would go to when you were down and out.
Here is a man who had seen it all and lost it all. Not only was he acquainted with grief, he had well-meaning friends who shook the salt shaker over his wounds.

Job's response to his dark situation was to bring his brokenness to the Lord. His immediate response was, "Naked I come from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21
He didn't harden his heart or curse God. He didn't take his situation as liberty to rebel and "get his". He acknowledged the depravity of his situation and took it to the Lord (even in praise).

I know people like this. Transparent, soft-hearted, God-fearing people who have experienced the valleys and have emerged blessing God, with an eternal perspective and empathy for other valley dwellers.

I imagine Job wouldn't say much to friends at their lowest. He wouldn't tritely console, "God won't give you more than you can handle" or "smile- everything works for good!" He would have taken a seat next to a griever in the mud, perhaps ripped his own robe in empathy, and had a long sit. For God can be sovereign with a wonderful plan ahead, and we can still need some good, puffy-eyed crying and wailing.

It is our tendency, isn't it, to try to shield the ones we love from too much hurt? Isn't that what leads to trite "cheer up" statements and attempts to distract someone from dealing with where they really are? "You just need a drink"..."a night with the guys"... and on and on until we find ourselves trying to skip the whole 'valley' season. The idea that to be filled with faith means not struggling is not found in Scripture. Anywhere.
I'm not discussing self-pity or wallowing, I'm describing the hard work of grief, loss, speaking Truth to previously held wrong beliefs, searching God and your own soul.

A soft-hearted, God-fearing valley dweller knows that as heart-wrenching as it is, the dirty work needs to be done in the valley. It's not a place to rush through. They celebrate with a friend who has a breakthrough but aren't put off if the next day is a giant leap backward. They speak truth in a way that acknowledges the heightened sensitivity that brokenness brings. They put away their own wish that 'everything would be normal again' and get comfortable in the mud.

Unfortunately, you don't become a person like this without experiencing your own valley. In fact, you can walk through a valley and still not respond with the dependance on Christ that brings forth soft-hearted empathy.

My husband knows grief. When he meets a fellow valley dweller he is eager to share Habakkuk 1:2, "O Lord, how long shall I cry, and you will not hear? Even cry out to you 'Violence!' and you will not save."
It doesn't sound like the voice of encouragement but it is the voice of acknowledgement: "What you are going through is real pain. You have real questions. God allows you to wrestle. God wants you to take your anger, pain, hurt, and drop it at His feet." That is something we can understand even with mud in our eyes.
By the end of Habakkuk he says, "The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet, and he will make me walk on my high hills."
Habakkuk didn't magically come to that conclusion. He experienced it in the valley. The Lord brought him to truth because he was honest; he was holding onto the Lord and not letting go. The book of Habakkuk isn't simply a question with an answer. It's a journey.

My constant prayer for myself and loved ones is not to skip the valleys but to allow God to work miraculously in them. My prayer is that we not become hardened or defensive but would respond with soft, pliable hearts willing to be broken and restored.

Imagine how we will then hear the voice of God and subsequently walk with others as they too hear.

I completely realize that this picture negates the tone of my post...but I can't help it. This pathetic little guy depicts what it feels like to go through a "valley". Henceforth when I go through life's turbulence I will be imagining this scraggly creature- he may have had the *#@! beat out of him but his head is held high!


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Bull in my China Shop

As I was making my afternoon coffee I realized that there are mud streaks all over my white kitchen cabinets. What in the world? I then vaguely remembered Hudson proudly telling me that he would get himself cleaned up before naps. Sure enough, he must have used his muddy hands and feet to climb to the counter and wash up. I am confused as to how the mud is on 5 cabinets but I'm sure there's reason.

Let me be clear that my house is far from a China Shop. We believe in durable, kid-friendly, washable interiors. Now that we've completed our home study, it's also extremely safe. We have a hideous baby gate around the fireplace (too bad we waited until the day after Hudson tried to warm his fleece blanket directly on the fireplace. Much smoke, a hole filled blanket, and tears later, we think the lesson was learned), we have a locked medicine cabinet, outlet covers galore, and a fire escape plan in place (Hudson is aching to try it by pushing a screen out of a window).

Hudson, my four year old bull, is not intentionally reckless (usually) and not malicious (mostly) but things have been happening in his wake.

Yesterday in an attempt to find a remote control car, he quickly dumped out 3 large bins of toys. After they were strewn about the house I reminded him that every bin dumped needs to be picked up by the dumpee. "No fair! It's too much! Argh!"
Most of the time I help the kids when they willingly clean, but he has been warned about the massive dumping of toys often in the past week. "Sorry Hudson, it's all you. When you are finished picking up you may choose something else to do."

It took a half hour for him to complete the task between distractions, giving up and laying prostrate on the floor for sympathy, and the whining...oh, the whining.

As soon as he was done he sauntered into the kitchen where Darla was doing a craft with beads. In an attempt to catch her attention and snatch a bag of beads off the counter, he spilled them all.
Another half an hour later the job was done and he was exhausted. Somewhere in there he broke an arrow (more tears). I sent him outside to play (but soon had to discipline him for peeing in the gravel where kids play instead of the designated 'pee tree').

This morning I was hoping for a fresh start for my bull. I was in my room applying makeup when Darla's motherly voice was heard, "Now look! HUDSON! You broke it!"
Do I even want to know?
After a few deep breaths I came into the living room to find a lamp broken on the floor.
"Hudson was climbing on the half wall and being an animal and he knocked that lamp and your computer and he broke it! I know it's broke!"

A broken lamp is expected with a four year old, even in a "child proof" house. Unfortunately it's the third one he's broken this year. The first one was as he reenacted the scene from Lady and the Tramp where the Siamese cats destroy Jim Dear & Darling's house. Were they not thinking of pre-school boys when they made that movie!? Fortunately I stopped him before he ripped my curtains.
The second lamp was broken while innocently stacking books on a nightstand and knocking it over.
Now this one.
More unfortunately, I have yet to replace the others. I now have 3 lamps on my list.

He went to play the drums and I made some lunch. When I peeked my head around the corner I saw him with a drumstick in one hand eyeing the side of the piano (might it make a resounding thump if hit by a drumstick?) and promptly sent him outside again.

I love raising boys. I know that the Lord often uses little wild at heart boys to teach their mothers to hold things (like china?) loosely, to ensure that we have spaces for creative play, to keep us thinking outside the box, and to make us fall in love with muscles again.
I just hope it stays summer forever because while my house remains little, my bull will not... and I can't quite imagine a winter's worth of bucking.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord

As we conclude our 7th month of this strange space with work but no official "job", of living with a stack of boxes ready for what might be next, of not feeling normal life and at the same time feeling like new normal is much better than anything we knew previously... I sometimes laugh and sometimes cry at this juncture.

I was asking the Lord at the beginning of the month, "Is there anything we're missing? Am I supposed to be doing something, praying something, confessing something, searching something?" Sean has been hard at work getting Big Oak off the ground but we still don't have a salary we can live off. I was scratching my head wondering about stones unturned, asking "why, if we are in obedience, are we still on this stretch of the road?"

My dear cousin Heather sent me a letter that spoke deeply to my questions and in it mentioned the story of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20 saying, "this was a riveting and wonderful illustration to me of a man who flung Himself to the mercy of a God who is capable of saving...and God did." (If you want some deep truths written eloquently and transparently her blog is

I read the story of Jehoshaphat and it has been the theme of July.
Some men came to Jehoshaphat and told him that there were armies coming against Judah. He knew they didn't have a prayer. "And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah." 2 Chron. 20:3

Jehoshaphat knew his place and he knew the One to appeal to when he had no hope of victory in himself. Next, this king humbles himself in front of his nation. He publicly prays, "O Lord God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven, and do you not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in your hand is there not power and might so that no one is able to withstand you? Are you not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham your friend forever?" 2 Chron. 20:6,7

He goes on to say that God will hear and save, acknowledges that they have no power to defeat their enemies, and asks the Lord to claim His victory. I love that Jehoshaphat first proclaims who God is, what He has already done and then asks the Lord to intervene.

The Spirit of the Lord comes down and says, "Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's. Tomorrow go down against will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem! Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you."

In reading these passages I acknowledged that I obviously have no power to even orchestrate the smallest details of my life...and felt the Lord was telling me I may stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.
What humbled and convicted me was what Jehoshaphat does next. He bows his head with his face to the ground, and led the people in worshipping the
Lord. Instead of hiding under a table, cowering, "I'll wait for the Lord right here...knees shaking!" he "positions" himself in praise. He sends praisers and singers ahead of the army and they were saying,
"Praise the Lord,
For His mercy endures forever."
Jehoshaphat was active in his waiting, never forgetting where victory would come.

"So when Judah came to a place overlooking the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude; and there were their dead bodies, fallen on the earth. No one had escaped. When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away their spoil, they found among them an abundance of valuable on the dead bodies, and precious
jewelry, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away; and they were three days gathering the spoil because there was so much." 2 Chronicles 20:24-25

Judah's enemies had destroyed each other before Judah was even on the scene. The battle was won and Judah arrived in time to gather the spoils and enjoy God's victory. No one could say it was Judah's victory. It was God's alone; a prophecy fulfilled, a humble plea answered and a miracle for all to witness and celebrate.

Reading through Jehoshaphat's story I was first relieved, "This isn't my battle to win. I'm in over my head and the Lord will do what needs to be done", and
then convicted to bow my head to the ground as we lead our family in worshipping;
"Praise the Lord,
For His mercy endures forever."

Friday, July 23, 2010

I have not seen the righteous forsaken...

"I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lends; and his descendants are blessed." Psalm 37:25,26
This verse has been sitting on my heart for the past two weeks, perhaps because in my own life I can say that I have not been forsaken. In my 30 small years God has been ever merciful. I've been in some strange predicaments but I am certain they have been purposed because a merciful God has pursued me, wooed me, and ultimately glorified Himself through my story.

Our little family spent 10 days on the road and experienced God's mercy every stop of the way. When we discovered Sean was officiating his cousin's wedding at Mt. Hood one weekend and then speaking at a retreat in Oregon the following weekend, we decided to fill the days between with some quick visits with family and a few friends instead of trekking back home. We were apprehensive of the long car rides, the money spent on trips like this, and of course the amount of sleep when we only sleep 2 nights in each place.

Oh, God's mercy! We were blessed materially by many costs covered, a check came that we didn't anticipate, friends and family making spectacular gluten free meals for us (a true sacrifice if you've ever seen the way my kids can eat!), and a bag of hand me down clothes for Hudson.

We were blessed by having some time with Sean's family at Leah's stunning wedding along with plenty of playtime in the resort pool and playground. We had much encouragement from dear family and friends throughout the week. The Lord prepared some amazing prayer and counsel for us to receive from my Uncle Cal and Aunt Julie. (If you want to read about their life changing prayer ministry check out

Our kids got to play with my cousin Sommer's kids (while I "played" with Sommer, which translates into "coffee time" when you've outgrown barbies). We also spent time with our dear friends Shawn and Jill, which equally delighted our kids who have developed friendships with Charlie and Kate. We laughed hard and had much needed catch up time with Joel & Kate Robnett and S. managed to squeeze a few Big Oak meetings in with people in Portland.

By the time we arrived at middle school camp we were exhausted but encouraged and filled by our conversations and time with everyone throughout the week. Thankfully, the Lord showed mercy again by an adventure in a motorhome (much smoother than anticipated with 3 little ones and 100 loud middle schoolers across the campground!). 44 students committed their lives to Christ and S. was able to encourage their leadership. We arrived home dusty, smelling like campfire, deliriously tired, and yet with a cooler still full of food, a couple checks to help pay some bills, and words of conviction and challenge from the Lord.

Everett was a trooper in his car seat...yes, I let him dress himself again.
Grandad brought suckers, coloring books, and a brand new tractor to the resort. This was as much a gift to S. and me as it was to our kids.
Hudson is our water lover.
Did I mention having some time with my amazing sister-in-law?
John & Leah
Everett is definitely Grandad's boy.
Quick! Family shot while everyone is clean and cheerful!
Taylor was my flower girl 10 yrs ago and was a stunning jr. bridesmaid for Leah... here with me, Darla and Megan.
My husband who looks go-ood in a suit.
Splash park with Silas, Jewel and Sommer. Silas generously sharing a tractor with Everett.
Darla loving Jewel and convincing me that a little sister is in her best interest.
Hang out time with Charlie and Kate at the Weidmann's house.
The boats on Triangle Lake in Oregon. 11 ski boats, 100 middle schoolers, and sunny skies!
Hanging in the motorhome while S. speaks to students.
Everett taking driving the boat very seriously.
A new hobby- all 3 kids fell in love with tubing.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I See You

The necklace I'm wearing is one I spotted while perusing quaint stands in Maui the year before Darla was born. S. noticed my eyes linger a little longer on this necklace. I'm very cautious about purchases for myself and had no intention of buying anything, or even mentioning it. Unbeknownst to me, S. had been waiting for me to show interest in something and wasted no time sneaking back to the stand to buy it and surprise me with it later.
3 weeks later I surprised him with a positive pregnancy test.

A couple years ago S. bought me real pearls. They are beautiful. However, this is my favorite necklace.

Looking forward to sharing some family pictures soon...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Home and Hungry

Day 4 of home in the United States. I called Jasmine this morning and she reported that Gage and Jude each had 5 pieces of toast with a heap of eggs for breakfast. Moments later I heard Jude approach her and ask for more bread. Looks like this might be a "2 loaves a day" family for awhile. It seems fitting since God is in the business of multiplying bread and He has been faithful not only to multiply the Ellis children, but the funds and resources to do it.

The transition has been turbulent this week: James and Eve have both had
the stomach flu. Gage and Jude seem to have a parasite which has meant never ending bathroom trips for all the little ones (not to mention loads of laundry done in the middle of the night). Gage has an ear infection and scalp fungus to top the list of ailments. Perhaps more than the care, medicine, illness, and jet lag is the realization that these handsome little ones need eyes on them at all times. Great curiosity leads them to run unannounced from the living room to the middle of the street, brings fingers to touch the stove, and discovered with excitement the knife drawer. A language barrier and 5 little personalities is entertaining... yet exhausting!

I would love to entertain you with endless stories of my new little nephews but this is also Lance and Jasmine's story to tell.

Jasmine expressed at the beginning of the adoption journey that she didn't merely want an
"easy road" for her life, she wanted to see the face of God. She wanted to be obedient and willing even when the cost seemed high. I have not a doubt that God will be revealing Himself to them as they mesh this colorful family. I know that Lance and Jasmine will continually find that they are at the end of themselves and propelled only by the Holy Spirit. I am confident that God's grace will change and transform the Ellis 7.

Now it is cheers to 5 baskets at the front door holding shoes, sunglasses, and hats, 5 bikes in the driveway, 5 car seats in the suburban, a truckload
of bananas on the counter, and a town full of support and encouragement on this road of faith and adventure!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Getting to know you

This picture was taken on the best day this year- my 30th birthday. It was the best day because my wise husband put aside his grand plans to whisk me away to Seattle or B.C. and spoil think instead about what I would enjoy in a day.
I love having a husband who is intentional about pursuing me instead of assuming he already knows what I like.
We went to Fairhaven, took a long walk on the docks over to Boulevard and spent the afternoon watching sailboats and people- coffee in hand, naturally. As much as he wanted to do something elaborate for dinner...we had a coupon for Red Robin and he knew I'd relax if I wasn't worried about spending too much money. Truly, I am strange- an $11 dinner for 2 made my day. We took our Cold Stone ice cream to a private golf course (a little trespassing) for a good view and deep talks. We considered listening to a parking lot band but they were lousy so we jumped back into the car for a drive. We drove through some areas we like to scope out all the houses we dream about living in (this is easily a favorite pastime in my family). My gift was having some family pictures taken by a good friend and excellent photographer. I can't wait to post some and I can't tell you how thankful I am that my husband knew me well enough to not spend a lot of money.

In the fall I will have known S. for 12 years...and it is downright exciting to be getting to know each other.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Almost Home!

My sister, Jasmine and brother-in-law, Lance, booked tickets and are leaving this Sunday for Ethiopia. Everything possible with this adoption has gone fast and has confirmed to them that these are the boys God intended for their family. They were expecting to leave at the end of the month so everything has been thrown into a frenzy (a happy, giddy frenzy) to get things ready in time. I can't wait to post pictures of Gage and Jude with their new family... within 2 weeks!

Monday, July 5, 2010

The crib is up

The crib is up.
We have no idea what that might mean for us but it is put together with sheets and a dust ruffle, regardless.
When we intended to adopt last year, I signed up to do foster-to-adopt classes this past January. Then January came. I had the rug pulled out from under me, S. was on sabbatical, nothing was certain and we were pulling all nighters to work through it all. An hour before my foster-to-adopt class began I told my sister on the phone, "I don't think I should go. We don't even know if we're going to have a job. Everything is falling apart. Who am I kidding? We can't think about adopting when we're such a mess!"

My wise sister (who had already been praying about this for me) encouraged me to go anyway. She reminded me that it's something I'm passionate about regardless of when/if it happens. She spoke her prayers to me. I cried and determined to take the classes anyway.

My passion for children, for families, for these situations intensified. My own world felt broken and it caused me to weep for children with broken worlds. Who knew a DSHS class could bring me to tears!? As we talked about uncertainty, failure, a need to be safe, protected, and provided for, I realized that my empathy for others was deepening in unexpected ways. I believe that while the timing seemed laughable to me, the Lord allowed me to go through the class at that time so that I would draw connections to my own need to be safe, protected, and provided for. It gave me something outside of myself to pray for and invest emotionally in.

The class ended and we put our adoption intentions on hold.

In May within a week's time we felt like we were being nudged to continue the process after a conversation with a friend, a blog I happened across, and another conversation. At the end of each instance we thought maybe we should continue with foster licensing even if we can't take a placement until our own lives are settled.

Our paperwork is done and our homestudy is on Thursday. Ironically, When I scheduled the homestudy I thought, "Surely we'll have a set income by July 8." Well, it's looking quite possible that we won't have a set income. Regardless, we have a homestudy and have done what we believe God put on our hearts. What He does with that might be another matter entirely. As with everything in our lives right now; we have been obedient to where we believe He has led, we are waiting, and we have hands open.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Our construction worker/fireman/streaker makes his debut

The sun had emerged (temporarily). I said, "I'll fill up the kiddie pool. Go get your swimsuits!" Cheering and running, Darla and Hudson ran in to get changed. Everett followed.

Apparently Everett's idea of "swimwear" is quite different. He is prepared...for something.