Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The new thing

Marrying someone with big vision can feel like that moment a plane takes off when you close your eyes for a moment, take a deep, calming breath, and work hard to not leave fingernail marks on the armrests.

I have had a few people ask about S.'s ventures with Big Oak and I see their concern. I know they think after eight years of crazy paced youth ministry it's probably not wise to jump into starting a new business. We've had some ask how his anxiety must be now with the financial pressures and other strains of building a new ministry.

To that I must say...it's the strangest thing. It's strange that in the season that should be the most stressful, we've experienced the most peace. I recently told someone, "I don't know how this is going to turn out for us financially. Some months it seems doable and others it's completely overwhelming. But I do know that if at some point it all comes down, if we have to walk away from it because we can't make it work, we're going to be just fine. It wouldn't devastate us because for the first time our marriage is healthy, we have the same vision and are excited about moving in the same direction, our kids are healthy and thriving... and we are on our knees in prayer and focused on the Lord every day."

I wouldn't have been able to say that about our little family previously. Honestly, if I had my way I would have had some recoup time of stability, a nest egg, and other practical measures before venturing out into a vast unknown. But no matter how we tried, the Lord kept bringing us back around to this.

I told my sister last week, "it's amazing to me that every time I feel doubtful and discouraged- S. has a surge of faith and confidence in what God is doing. Then the days he's ready to throw in the towel, I'm determined that we are where we are supposed to be." That's something.

December & January were full of encouragement and financial support. February has been hard (it's not over yet!). For those dear worriers who wonder how I hold up under it all- I don't always (hold up) but I do have to say that the only thing I don't like about my husband's job is the not-knowing finances. I love every other aspect.

There have been some amazing developments with creating software that can put our devotional material on mobile devices for students. The details would take a separate blog to describe (and truthfully I'm not smart about how it all works...I'm the nerd that wrote the whole devotional with a pen and college ruled paper. I know- I'm old school.)

S. is partnering with a local church who sent their youth pastor on a few month sabbatical. The youth pastor had a similar crash & burn experience to S. a few years ago. Now S. has an opportunity not only to walk with his pastor friend, but also partner with the church in leader training, vision casting, and mentoring while his friend takes a needed rest.

We've had camp opportunities in abundance. One well known local camp has hired S. not only for speaking but asked Big Oak to give the camp a boost with marketing and networking.
It's also looking like Big Oak will put on a camp next fall for leaders and students in the area from multiple churches. The details are awesome (and as usual- slightly unconventional) but will also wait for a future blog.

This past weekend S. spoke at a camp at Mt. Baker. 3 nights of building relationships with a few youth pastors from WA, speaking 6 times to a group of 100 high school students, and a day of skiing...seriously?! This is work?! The kids, my sister-in-law Megan, and I went up on Sunday during free time to sled, drink hot chocolate, and meet some students and leaders.
By God's grace we are doing all of this and yet living a maintainable pace, taking time to play and rest, having time to bless others and eat meals together. We all work hard but we also turn it off and get to apply those great ideals of "margin" and "boundaries".

The verse this week that speaks to me on so many levels is Isaiah 43:18,19 "Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Love, Love

When I met S. I was anti-Valentine's Day. Maybe it was the non-conformist in me, maybe it was the overt commercialism, maybe it was the feeling of forced affection or the combination of pink and red. Regardless, I informed S. that I wasn't a fan of the love fest that is February 14.

He responded by an over-the-top romantic dinner, flowers, sparkling cider (with a custom label he made and glued on), a menu he designed with inside jokes incorporated, and lots of pink and red. He did this all on February 13 and called it an "Un-Valentine" celebration.

So...I lost that battle. As I've so obviously matured I do enjoy Valentine's but wanted to make it a family celebration instead of just a romantic night for S. and me. Last year a dear friend surprised Darla and me by sending a Valentine package- everything we needed to throw a party for the five of us. It began a fun tradition for the five of us. This year we were again surprised by a Valentine kit in the mail and set to work decorating.

Darla adores Valentine's. She loves the decorating, the creativity, the getting "fanced up" as she calls it, and mostly...the ice cream sundaes.
Loving on their valentine.

Notice that we managed one shot with nice smiles... except for S. looking tough...
When we say "smile for the camera" my kids think it means "pull a funny face and try to make everyone laugh"... which they apparently get from their father.
And of course- my valentine.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Surrendered passions

It seems to me that when the Lord plants a passion in a person, there isn't much way around it. All the rationalizing, predicting, and philosophizing doesn't matter.
I think of my Beppe who had a passion for Africa. There were many more reasons to not go but it still wasn't enough to keep her here. She packed her three small blonde daughters out to remote Nigeria to then birth two boys while there. In spite of near death experiences, language barriers, and malaria- she has such sweet memories from her time there.

When S. fell in love with youth ministry, there were many reasons to find something more professional in his projected field of speech communications. Reasons like- you should stop pulling all nighters when you get to a certain age, the money is typically not there, who really wants to get panicked middle of the night calls from teenagers who aren't yours?, no group of people think they know so much and really know so little... and the list goes on. The list doesn't matter to S. He may have battled anxiety, never had a normal weekend, spent nights away from home counseling students and days counseling their
parents, but the thought of youth ministry still brings an excited grin and a stream of creative ideas.

For me it's adoption. I was six when my brother was adopted so it must have started some time after that, but it feels like it was always there. Of the 45 of us cousins on my Dad's side, nearly half are adopted. I never tired of hearing the details of each story.
When I was in high school, my best friend's parents did foster care. I loved spending time at their house watching his impassioned mom love on kids and ultimately adopt a handful of them.
I've watched numerous challenges arise from families adopting but no matter what I see and hear, I can't make it deter me. It's too ingrained to be severed with reasoning.

Over a year and a half ago S. and I decided to act on it and pursue adoption. For the first time we were both on the same page (at the same time) and excited to see where the journey would lead. Then we moved, then we were pulled a thousand directions, then we moved again, changed jobs, and for much of our year had nothing to call a 'job'. At different times we stopped and started the process to get our foster license with the ultimate goal of adopting.

For most of my life I assumed of course God wants me to adopt. He tells us to care for orphans, I've seen Him work some amazing stories for so many children...surely we'll have our own story. Yet as God has given me this passion, surrounded me with an amazing church body adopting children left and right, with my own sister adopting, with resources, and a degree in education- He has also been teaching me to hold my hands open. I am understanding that even the dreams He has given me need to be surrendered to Him.

An interesting way He has been leading has been through children who we anticipate having in our home. In the course of our marriage, 4 times we have thought "maybe that's the child we'll have in our home!" Each time we have known the child's name, his or her story, and prayed fervently for God's best in their life. We've come to a place- each time- of being willing to swing the door open and add to our family. Each time we think we are swinging the door open... it swings shut instead.

In January I was able to hear an update on one of the little boys we had thought we might adopt. I learned he was adopted by a couple who loves the Lord and are unable to have biological children. Hearing about how events transpired allowed me to release all my questions about the situation. I had a great peace knowing God had called me for a season to intercede for this little guy until he could get home.

I had needed the encouragement because in September we were told we were getting a baby girl. I waited to get things ready because I know how these things go in foster care. The social worker called and said she'd have her to us within a couple hours... but then other events transpired. I tucked the car seat back into storage and trusted that for whatever reason I was again called to pray for a little one I'll never meet.

A week and a half ago we got a call. Again. We were guarded yet knew we were called to pray. Again we were told "you'll have her later today". Still not ready to get hopes up, we waited. When the social worker called and said, "I'll be on my way within the hour" I finally pulled out some blankets and pajamas to wash.
Half an hour later we found out "not tonight- hopefully tomorrow". More events transpired and it's not looking probable that she will be a Taylor either.

I don't pretend to comprehend the roller coaster of a journey we are on. I don't even pretend to know which way is up. I do know that the Lord doesn't waste these experiences. Our prayers for these kids do not go unheard. I know that even without adopting ourselves, the Lord is using our family to pray on the front lines. Listening to my kids pray for the last little girl brought me to the brink of tears multiple times last week.

We have been required (by the grace of God) to hold everything with open hands and I trust that even if our hands are never filled up the way we anticipate- our passions will still not go to waste.
In the meantime, I am thoroughly enjoying this little trio.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Superheroes and Snow Leopards

Last night my boys dressed up as Spiderman and Batman. I heard Hudson (Batman) say, "Everett- say, 'send out your best soldier'"!
Everett (Spiderman) complied.
Batman responded with "I come at you in the NAME OF THE LORD!"
I came around the corner to find Batman and Spiderman facing off...with punching gloves on.
"Were you guys just quoting David and Goliath?"
Batman the plagiarizer looked up sheepishly. "Yeah, David said that. But I'm Batman."
Oh. Clearly.

This morning the superheroes were back at it. Darla was feeling left out and sulking accordingly. I suggested that she use her own dress up to be a princess superhero. Eagerly, she put on her Christmas dress.
"Mom, I kinda look like a snow leopard with the spots on my dress. Huh. I think I'll be Queen of the Snow Leopards. I'll live in the Arctic. When it gets too cold and dark then I'll migrate to the rainforest." (Can you tell what she's been learning about?)

So... running up and down the hall, up and across my bed, 3 very unique superheroes saved some snow leopards and subsequently ruled over them.

There you have it. Today's plot, courtesy of the Taylors.