Friday, September 12, 2014

Adoption

Last week, God gave me a beautiful reminder of how He has adopted me into His family.

Through two high school friends, I know a family of missionaries who are moving from North Carolina to South Dakota. A few months ago, the parents (Michael and Nicole) drove their five daughters from North Carolina to South Dakota, to visit the church they are going to pastor. They needed a place to stay for one night on the way there and one night on the return trip home, and my high school friends asked me if I could provide a room for the night. Dan and I happily opened our home for the weary travelers.

The first night (on their trip to SD), I never even met them because they arrived and went straight to bed before I got home from a meeting. They were gone the next morning before the kids and I were awake for school. The second night (on their return leg), I got to meet the parents and daughters. They told me about their trip, their plans to move to a Native American reservation and lead a church, and their family dynamics. Their youngest daughter, Katey, is two years old. She is their foster daughter, and they were waiting to make her adoption official. It was going to become official somewhere near the beginning of September, and they were hoping to be moved to South Dakota just in time for that.

When the family left my house the next morning, I didn’t think I would see them again. I promised to keep in touch by text and maybe send them a care package once they arrived in South Dakota.

About two weeks ago, Nicole contacted me and said the family was making the big move the week after Labor Day. They were excited to be on their way, but the adoption process ended up with a little hiccup: the court was ready to finalize the adoption and scheduled the appointment for the day they would be driving through the Midwest. AAACK! Nicole was wondering if they could stop at my house and Skype with the judge at 1:00pm before they continued on their drive to South Dakota. I agreed and was here when they were ready to stop.

It turns out the courthouse firewall wouldn’t let Skype operate properly, so the family was lined up in front of my computer and ended up on a speaker phone with the court clerk instead.IMG_4965

Michael and Nicole were sworn in, and then they were asked a series of questions: Have you created a bond with Katey? Yes. Are you petitioning the court to change her name? Yes. Do you agree to take responsibility for her even back to the day of her birth? Yes. Are you aware of her developmental delays? Yes. Do you understand what it means to care for a child with delays? Yes. And then, the question that rocked my heart:

Knowing all you know about her background, do you still want her just the way she is?

Of course, Michael and Nicole answered, “Yes.

As soon as I heard those words, they reverberated in my heart as God reminded me He feels the same way about me. It’s as if someone asked God, “Knowing all you know about Elizabeth’s background – her delays, her sins, her waywardness, her disobedience, her brokenness, her faults and failures – do You still want her just the way she is?”

And God answered with a resounding, “YES!”

It is astounding to be reminded in such a literal way that God adopted me into His family. He bonded and grafted me on to the Vine, changed my name, accepted responsibility for me even before my birth, and agreed to take on the heavy burden of teaching me how to function in spite of my delays. He loves me that much! (And He loves YOU that much too, you know…)

I am honored that He looks at me now and says, “That one is MINE.”

“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (Ephesians 1:5 NLT)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Kingdom Ambassador

This week, I read chapters 7 and 8 of Derwin Gray’s Limitless Life book for the Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study. Chapter 7 is called “From Consumer to Contributor.” I had a butt scrunch moment when I read about psychologist Philip Cushman’s description of what he calls the “Empty Self.” I felt a little touchy when I read this:

The empty self is all about itself. Its hopes and dreams revolve around making its life better and more comfortable at others’ expense. It has very little concern for the needs of those around it unless meeting someone else’s needs helps it achieve its desires.

Scrunch! See what I mean? How many times have I made a decision in life based on my own needs? It’s happened countless times as a mother, daughter, sibling, friend, neighbor, employee. Yes, I know these moments aren’t what define me, but they are a warning that I can quickly take on the persona of what Derwin* calls the “Empty Self of the Consumer.” We can ALL take on that persona pretty quickly, can’t we?

Thank God that my Empty Self** doesn’t have to stay empty! God gives me a new label. This is the part of the chapter I really liked! Derwin reminded me that I am an ambassador: “an authorized messenger or representative of a higher authority.” And furthermore:IMG_3268

I started thinking about that: what if I lived my days like an ambassador of the King, and behaved like He was reflected in me? And then I did something crazy. I decided to wear a nametag that says “Ambassador” for one day, to see how it would change my perception of myself. I used one of the nametags I made for the photo above, and put it on before arriving at work.

I had a lot of my coworkers ask me, “What’s up with your nametag?” and I got to tell them about Derwin’s book and the reminder that we are all Ambassadors. (I work at my church and all of my coworkers are Christ-followers, so they are Ambassadors too.) But, honestly, the nametag wasn’t for them. It was a reminder to me that I am not my own; I am God’s daughter before I am anything else. One of my tasks that day was to write a stack of notes to a group of people in my church who are being baptized this Sunday at our annual baptism celebration. I sat at my desk, reminded myself to be an Ambassador, and poured out prayers for each of the baptizees. It was a good way to spend my workday.IMG_3166

Derwin also writes this in Chapter 7:

When you signed up to follow Jesus, He gave you the ministry of reconciliation. You are a reconciler. Your life is a bridge over which people walk from death to life.

I can’t explain how badly my soul needed to hear that reassurance! I am in the midst of feeling disqualified in various arenas, and this truth reminds me: no matter what my title is, no matter who I live with, no matter if my parents are living or dead, no matter who stopped being my friend… I am a minister/caretaker/reconciler of souls. God gave me that honor and responsibility long ago. It has been easy for me to fill my days with other duties and quickly lose sight of this priority. I pray I can remember my qualifications as a reconciler.

 

*Yes, I write about Derwin as if we are on a first-name basis. Humor me, y’all!

**Does anyone else envision an empty shelf every time they read the term “Empty Self?” I keep imagining my life as an empty shelf before Jesus came to fill it! Maybe that’s just quirky imagery in my mind.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Eleven

Dear Katie,

Good morning, my girl, and happy 11th birthday! What a great day it will be, and how blessed I am to celebrate another year of your life.

I just spent the last few minutes reading through past letters I’ve written to you and posted on this blog (five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten), and seeing the years fly by through those letters makes my eyes teary and my heart achy for the girl you used to be. I look at the photos of you and see six years of immense change, and can honestly say you are a different person now. (So am I!) I had a hint of this last week, when you and I celebrated your birthday a bit early.

We had a day to ourselves while Jackson was at camp and Daddy was at work. I called up your best friend, Sylvia, and asked her mom if they could join us for the one thing you requested to celebrate your birthday: ZIPLINING!!! Surprisingly, they were available and met us at GoApe, a nearby adventure course. You’ve been talking about GoApe since (at least) last fall, and asked if that could be your birthday event for this year. So I knew you were excited, but figured you’d get a little nervous when you saw the course and realized how high in the trees it really was.

For the record, let me say: I WAS WRONG.IMG_2766

From the moment you stepped into your safety harness, you were ready to conquer the course. If I had to pick one word to describe the day, that word would be FEARLESS. You climbed the ropes like a monkey, jumped off platforms like it was second nature, and – when presented with a choice – begged to do the extreme course every time. I shrieked in fear quite a few times, but you pushed every limit you knew. I saw a side of you I have rarely seen and I was shocked at your courage and sense of adventure. It was one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve had as your mother.

The other best part of the day was seeing your spiritual gift of encouragement come shining through. When Sylvia was afraid, you stood on the other side of the obstacle and coached her through it. You told everyone around you, “You can do it! You got this!” and even did it for me a hundred couple of times. You are naturally optimistic. Combine that with fearlessness, and the world will be full of adventure for the rest of your life.IMG_2779

Oh, Katie. You are the kind of kid parents dream of having: considerate, helpful, responsible, enjoyable, generous, interesting, smart, obedient, beautiful, observant, and Christ-centered. I think God made a masterpiece when He created you, and you will be already are a tremendous tool He will use to build His kingdom on earth.

Thank you for bringing joy into our lives and love into our hearts. You bless me in ways you will never know, so I pray God gives me many years to be able to express that to you. I love and adore you, and I’m so glad you’re mine!

Love, Mommy

Friday, June 13, 2014

“Jesus transforms us to see people through the filter of His love.” ~ Derwin Gray

It’s gotten pretty laughable lately: in an effort to squeeze every productive moment out of every minute of the day, I have been carrying a bag of reading material with me everywhere I go. [Laughable because sometimes I carry TWO bags! And I do it WAY more than necessary.] I do it in desperation in the hopes that I’ll be able to steal just one five minute chunk of time for my own mental development, amongst all the other detritus of life (packing lunches, tidying the house, library visits for the kids, and driving to Point A from Point B).

It’s in that last bit of detritus that gives me the highest hopes, especially when my husband is driving and I get to ride along in blissful downtime. That’s where I found myself on Tuesday night, as we drove (for one! whole! hour!) to pick Jackson up from camp. The bad news is we were driving in a pretty bad storm. To keep my adrenaline from shooting through the car roof, I grabbed Derwin Gray’s book Limitless Life from my bag and tried to focus on chapter 6 instead of the wet roads and inattentive drivers around me.

It helped, immensely.IMG_2824

Chapter 5 is called “From Damaged Goods to Trophy of Grace.” Three truths that spoke to me from that chapter: 1) Jesus unifies that which man divides. 2) Damaged people attract the heart of God. 3) The Gift and the Gift-giver are a package deal. I am thankful for the reminder that I am no longer damaged goods and am now a trophy of God's grace!IMG_2866

(For the record, I could write lots more about those three points above, especially #1. Oooo, baby! Man tries so hard to categorize and divide his existence, and it is so painful to be a dividee – and also a divider! Yes, I fit both descriptions.)

Chapter 6 of Limitless Life is called “From Religious to Grace Covered.” Almost exactly six years ago, I walked into a church that – after some time – helped me to understand how I had been living a religious life and not a Christ-centered life. I finally had a true “religious experience” – albeit heavy on the “experience” and light on the “religious.”

Making this slight focal shift unraveled me and grace frayed every edge of my neatly tied knots. It gave me clarity I had been missing for decades, and I fell in love with Jesus. Slowly, Jesus started transforming me and He hasn’t stopped. Like a rough gemstone, He’s been polishing me and I’m learning to reflect His light. He’s purifying me the way a silversmith might purify his treasure which, honestly, can sometimes be pretty painful. But I trust that He won’t leave me in the fire too long. I love what Derwin Gray wrote on page 124: “Jesus transforms us to see people through the filter of His love.”IMG_2921

A few years ago, I remember singing the worship song “Hosanna” by Christy Nockels for one of the first times. The lyric that says, “Break my heart for what breaks Yours” reverberated inside me and I began turning those lyrics into a prayer. And now, some days I ask myself, “WHY DID YOU DO THAT?!” because some days, that heart-breaking can really freaking hurt. But, like Derwin writes, Jesus is transforming me to see His world through His filter.

P31 OBS Blog Hop

Thursday, June 5, 2014

God’s Masterpiece

P31 OBS Blog Hop This morning, I don’t feel much like a masterpiece. I feel skittish and my eyes are filled with the various obstacles I know I’ll approach today. But, I’m going to literally force my eyes to stop focusing on the obstacles and instead focus on Jesus.
This week, I’m continuing to read Limitless Life by Derwin Gray as part of my Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study. Our key verse for the week is Ephesians 2:10. I love The Voice translation, which says “For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago.” Mmmmm… that poetry part captures my heart and speaks to the writer inside of it! The artist, too… so I made a little art as part of the Map It P31OBS challenge. I’m following it up with the photo art I’ve made for each of the four chapters so far.
IMG_2570a
Chapter 1, page 9IMG_2496
Chapter 2, page 34IMG_2498
From Chapter 3, page 62. On page 60 he talks about how an oyster is wounded, then spends 7 to 8 years forming its pearl in response to the wound. The 7 to 8 years is the pearl's full life span. That puts my pain in perspective and reminds me it will take my entire lifetime to turn my mess into God's masterpiece.IMG_2566
From Chapter 4, page 73 “When we wallow in self-pity, the pain or event that caused the pain only gets worse. It magnifies. And did you realize that whatever we magnify, we worship? And whatever we worship, we resemble? If we wallow in self-pity, we will become more pitiful and limit our lives. If we stay in Jesus and meditate on what He's accomplished on our behalf, we magnify His great work, and as we do this, we worship Him.”IMG_2568

Thursday, May 29, 2014

He is Mine

In January of 2012, I wrote this post about lies that swirl around me and threaten to overwhelm me. I shared the art I created to help me replace those lies with God’s truths about me. Here’s the “funny” thing: that blog post was written more than two years ago. You’d think I would have grown and matured in that time, right? Oh, sure, I changed in the last two years, but the lies simply shape-shifted into new nooses. The lies continue to repress me and flatten me. They take the wind out of my sails. They hinder my soaring. They shackle my courage.

I have never questioned or second-guessed myself more than I have these past two years, and it is a scary thing to feel like the one “thing” that is dependable (my own self!) is not. I know my own heart, right? Because of this, I assume my own heart is the one place where I am always safe and always innocent. Oh, but how I’ve found that to be the opposite sometimes! My heart is fickle and selfish. It will always choose self-preservation over future pain (picking a fight with my husband instead of asking for help because I don’t know everything [Yeah, shocker!]). It would rather strike out at others than admit vulnerability (yelling at my kids instead of admitting I’m overwhelmed). Some days, my heart is faulty and undependable and untrustworthy.

Of course, my heart is all those things when it is powered on its own strength. When I try to rely solely on my own judgment and righteousness, my heart – and my self – fail. Through all of this, I’ve discovered one magnificent truth of life: I am not enough. When I depend on me, I always run out of fuel. When I turn to myself, my self lets me down. When I try to tackle obstacles on my own, I end up flattened on my back with the air knocked out of my lungs. I desperately gasp for breath.

Two years ago, lies rattled around in my head and I believed I wasn’t enough. Today, that “lie” has become truth for me, and I realize I really AM not enough! But instead of letting that truth consume and choke me, it has caused me to turn to the One who is enough. There is one Person who is everything I want to be: Selfless. Righteous. Whole. Unbroken. Humble. Courageous. Truthful. Dependable. Trustworthy. Beautiful. Giving. Worthy.

His name is Jesus.

And He is bigger than all those lies, bigger than my failures, and bigger than my mistakes. And what’s more? He died to make me all those things that He is and I am not. Do you get that? Can you understand that?

As a companion piece to the art I posted in 2012, I made another piece of art in 2013. I’ve never posted it here, but I think now is a good time to do so. My 2012 art described me, but this art describes Him. The first art is called “I Am His” and this one is called “He is Mine.” We exist together; a statement that not only could be an entirely separate blog post, but a life calling.He Is Mine, copyright Elizabeth Koziatek

This art goes so well with something else God brought into my life this past April. A friend of mine shared the new MercyMe CD with me. It’s called Welcome to the New and it has become a guardrail in my life. The entire CD is God’s truth set to music, and it is SO. VERY. GOOD. Along with the CD, my friend sent me a clip from the album release concert MercyMe had on JoyFM on April 10. I transcribed the entire 14 minute clip, and have listened to it repeatedly as well. Lead singer Bart Millard talks about the way grace has transformed his life, and how Jesus’ sacrifice for us makes us flawless. (If you want to listen to something very similar, click on this link to listen to the K-Love concert and forward to the 16 minute mark.) This is one of my favorite parts of the JoyFM clip:

In the past, I would get up and say stuff that I hoped would connect but I’m so confident in this message that I know for a fact it’s gonna connect with a lot of you when I say things like, “I struggle every day with the enemy telling me every day that I’m disqualified and that I’m not enough and that if ‘they’ knew what you’ve done in your past they would not listen to a word that you’re saying.” So much so that there would be mornings I wouldn’t even get out of bed because I felt like I was already defeated. And sometimes the enemy sounded a little bit like the Holy Spirit. I would take things like, “You should just be glad that God knows you. That should be enough.” I thought that was a good thing! But that’s not the gospel. Your identity is not what you do or what you’ve done. Your identity is not the guilt and shame that you choose to carry with you throughout your life. Because if you know Christ, the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead now dwells inside of you 24 hours a day. He ain’t leavin’! And because of that alone, everything changes. You are not someone who cannot be trusted. You are not one that has a wretched heart. We’ll write worship songs and get up under the banner of nobility and say, “God, we just stink as individuals. We are unworthy. We are unrighteous. We are horrible. If I choose, I will choose something other than You every time so I just need You, God. I’m nothing without You.” That last part is true. But as far as the rest of it goes, is it possible that Christ is standing there saying, “You know what? You used to be unworthy. You used to be unrighteous. You used to actually stink pretty good. But because of that whole big deal I made on the cross, you’re a brand new creation.” You are not a bad person trying to be good. You are holy as He is holy. You are righteous. You are redeemed. You are a child of the Living God. If you’re just bad, trying to be good, you’re gonna have your little mountaintop moments but you’re gonna go back to believing you’re this sorry person and if you believe it long enough, you’re gonna live like that when Christ is saying, “No, there is nothing sorry about you.” You have the heart and mind of Christ. How can you be worthless when you are an heir to the throne? When you are a child of the Living King? (emphasis added)

It’s one thing to know God and know His attributes. And it’s another thing to know how completely contrary my heart is to God’s goodness. But when I take His holiness and allow it to cover my wretchedness? When I stop turning away from Him in shame and run full-fledged to Him in gratitude and freedom? Oh! It’s liberating and life-changing and tremendously earth-shaking.

So, back to the start of this post. All those lies that still rattle around and shake my foundations? They’re still here. The last two years of struggles and questions? They haven’t ended yet. Life is still LIFE, y’all. It’s hard and bumpy and painful and fluid and changing and harsh. But God is bigger and He gets the last word. He keeps deflecting those lies by dropping things into my life like the MercyMe CD, my new Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study book (Limitless Life by Derwin Gray), and my friend Stephanie’s book (Cultivating Peace). Each one of those things helps God uproot a few more of the weeds that choke my fickle heart. He uses these things to keep me on His path and following His light.

I’m grateful for His passionate pursuit, and undone by the fact that He never gives up on me!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Healing in a Target Parking Lot

Almost six years ago (5 years and about 11 months, to be exact), I wrote a blog post about forgiveness. It was a huge step for me to forgive this person, J, who had deeply hurt me, and the blog post I wrote was a catharsis for me. The physical act of writing the post was the culmination of the emotional act of forgiving J, and posting it enabled me to truly forgive and let go of the pain.

I didn’t forget the pain, but it hurt less after I forgave. When J would come to mind, over time I felt less and less vinegary toward him. I remember the day I got a Facebook friend request from him. It took me a full 24 hours of prayer and pondering before I was able to accept the request, but I did it. Then I started running into his wife at stores around town. It wasn’t awful, and I was even able to be friendly to her. But in the back of my mind, I always wondered what would happen if I actually ran into HIM.

Late last year, I got the news on Facebook that J was fired from the same ministry where we worked together. I reached out to him, told him I could relate (and not in a mean way, I promise!), and reminded him of his value in God’s eyes – and not because of his employment, but because of God’s gracious adoration of us. J shocked me with his response, asking me to forgive him for how he was involved when I lost my  job, and even admitted that he wanted to reach out to me back when it happened but felt his job would be in jeopardy if he did. I replied that I had forgiven him a long time ago, but his asking for my forgiveness meant more to me than I could explain. It was beautiful and courageous on both our parts to move past our shared history.

Still, I wondered every now and then how I might react when/if I ever saw him in person. And… I found out tonight!

The funny part is I was shopping at Aldi and saw a woman who looked a lot like J’s wife. I realized it wasn’t her, and then thought to myself (as I have many times before), God, when are you going to make THAT happen in my life? And I chuckled inwardly, not realized God was chuckling right alongside me.

IMG_2049Because about 20 minutes later, I was pulling into the Target parking lot and saw his wife walking toward their car. She was following a man I realized was J, and there was a child too. I made the split second decision to honk and wave at her, knowing that would invite interaction which would lead to me seeing J, face-to-face. As I parked and stepped out of my car, I said out loud to myself, “Okay, God…” and then I did something the 2008 Elizabeth would not have done:

I embraced the person who wronged me. And, man! It felt good!

I asked them both about their lives, and they asked about mine. We listened to each other and I felt like we genuinely cared about each other’s answers. I asked how his job search has been going, since I have been off Facebook and wouldn’t know. He told me he’s been working a part time retail job, and also started a home improvement business on the side with another pastor (he’s a pastor too). That was NO coincidence, since my neighbor had been asking me just yesterday if I know of any contractors who could fix a leak in her roof. And guess who does that? Yep, my old boss J! I got his contact info (which I have already passed along), and then talk turned to our former employer. He said he was glad to get out alive, and I told him I could relate. But I said as painful as the departure was, I am grateful that God brought me through it. The pain was used to bring me to a point where I could surrender to Jesus, even though some of the pain still haunts me today. (Literally, today at my current job I had a fear bubble up that I know comes from that specific position and firing I went through.)

I needed to say these words to J’s face. As much as I feel like he needed to hear them to understand my forgiveness, I needed to say them as a way to place that pain in its final resting place. It’s buried. It’s gone. And there is no longer weeping at the graveside! Instead, my weeping has turned into dancing because it’s another instance in my life where God has turned “into good what you meant for evil.” (Genesis 50:20) It’s another signpost in my life of God keeping His promises and granting me the beautiful perspective of seeing how He can truly redeem the unforgiveable.

As I drove home, I smiled and thanked God for giving me that gift tonight. I gave Him the glory and said, “You did this, God!” And, immediately, I heard His response in my head: “But you LET me.”

That’s when I realized truth: God did it, but it couldn’t be completed until I surrendered and let His way become my way. He is gracious and gentle because He modeled forgiveness to me, but that only goes so far until I take the conscious step to choose His way over my own.

I think it’s nothing short of extraordinary that God has painstakingly worked on this lesson in my heart for THIRTEEN years. I pray I can remember the waiting is as much a part of the change as the actual end result.

God, I am humbled tonight that You allow me such sacred glimpses into Your heart. Thank You for seeing me as valuable and worth rescuing. Thank You for not leaving me in the pit of bitterness and anger I used to live in [and, let’s not kid ourselves, some days I go visit it still]. You lived in it with me, and then climbed out and threw a rope down to help me climb out, too. Over many years You put people in my life who could demonstrate surrender and release to me, which dismantled my resentment without me even realizing it. I didn’t realize You were changing me, but You never stopped Your relentless remodeling of my heart. Oh, thank You, God! I am so glad I am Yours. Amen.

This makes me wonder: what other remodeling projects is He working on even right this minute that I haven’t noticed quite yet?!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Fabulous Magnificence

I thought I was following God’s leading. I thought He laid an opportunity in my lap – literally brought it directly to me when I wasn’t even searching for anything such as this – and so I thought this new opportunity was truly His will for my life.

I fretted about it. I sweated it. I asked God a lot of Are-You-Sure questions. I sought wise counsel. I weighed the pros and cons of this risky step – risky because I was exposing myself and had no backup plan. I sat on it and tried to squelch it until I deeply felt God’s leading that the time was right and I needed to open my tightly-closed fists and take a step into the unknown.

So I did.

My heart pounded. I thought I might throw up, but I didn’t. I took the step and I survived it, and that step led to a period of waiting. The waiting wasn’t bad at all. Truly, even for an impatient control freak like myself! I felt more peace over the whole thing once I took that “tiny” step, and felt the Holy Spirit giving me a high five for the trust and obedience I demonstrated.

The waiting didn’t bother me because I felt like I was exactly where God wanted me: I was surrendered. With open hands. And a peaceful calm. And a trusting heart. And excited about my future because I felt like I had clarity.

Until today, when an answer of “not now” came. All that peace, trust, calm? It’s muddied with confusion now. And self-doubt, because I’m second guessing and wondering where I misheard His leading. I thought it was so spot-on and circumstances had converged to make His path overly apparent to me.

And now there’s a “Dead End” sign. With a “Do Not Enter” sign AND a “U-turn” sign as the cherry on top of the bowl of confusion. What do you mean, God? You want me to turn back? How? Where do I go now? You want me to just stay here?! All of that for all of this?

I am bruised because I patted myself on the back for following His will, because I thought His will had an end result in mind. Today, I’m guessing that His will isn’t so much about an end result as it is about the experience along the way: the surrendering and the opening hands and the calming peace I found when I submitted to His leading.

And yet, all those words are balm I use to soothe the ache I feel over a lost dream that I tried on for size – and felt so lovely when I looked at myself wearing it. I’m sad. It’s painful when hope dies, no matter what sort of hope you cling to (relationships, children, retirement, careers, even the town you live in.) And I question and wonder, all along knowing He’s okay with me questioning and wondering. No matter what, I still trust because His track record with me is one of unflagging faithfulness. He always has my best in mind.

The truth is this: my plans for the future seem pretty fabulous when I map them out. [And, for the record, I don’t feel like this was solely MY plan. From the get go, I felt it was HIS plan too!] And then I look at His grand design and realize settling for fabulous is pretty darn stupid when He has marvelous magnificence in mind. Fabulous is pretty good, but He takes that fabulous and enhances it – intensifies it - magnifies it – into untoppable magnificence.

I want what He wants for me. And I trust that His “no” on this topic translates to “I have something better in mind.”IMG_1940

Finish What He Started by MercyMe
I don't have to know you
To know that you will go through
Hard times - it's just part of life.
Don't let that moment blind you
And don't let it define you.
Take heart, that's not who you are.
Our God is able,
More than capable
To be faithful
To the end.
He'll finish what He started.
No matter what you've done,
Grace comes like a flood.
There's hope to carry on.
He'll finish what he started.
No matter what you face,
His mercy will not change.
He's with you all the way.
He'll finish what he started.
Remember you're forgiven
So there's no need to give in
To the lie
That you're disqualified.
Our God is able,
More than capable
To be faithful
To the end.
He'll finish what He started.
No matter what you've done,
Grace comes like a flood.
There's hope to carry on.
He'll finish what he started.
No matter what you face,
His mercy will not change.
He's with you all the way.
He'll finish what he started.
This work He's started in you now,
He's faithful to complete it.
A promise sealed when He cried out,
"It is finished."
He'll finish what He started.
No matter what you've done,
Grace comes like a flood.
There's hope to carry on.
He'll finish what he started.
No matter what you face,
His mercy will not change.
He's with you all the way.
He'll finish what he started.

Monday, March 31, 2014

30 Day Drawing Challenge

For the month of March, Katie and I promised each other to follow a drawing challenge we found on Pinterest.IMG_0552

I bought a notebook that we used for our blank space, and we each drew something on one page each day. At the beginning, Jackson joined in too. But he lost interest after a few days.

Day 1: YourselfIMG_0554IMG_0558IMG_0556

Day 2: Your favorite animalIMG_0560IMG_0564IMG_0562

Day 3: Your favorite foodIMG_0566IMG_0570IMG_0568

Day 4: Your favorite placesIMG_0576IMG_0574IMG_0572

Day 5: Your best friendsIMG_0578

Day 6: Your favorite bookIMG_0548

It was truly a challenge for me to think creatively and illustrate my thoughts on a page. I won’t show every page from our book, but it’s something I will cherish and keep even when Katie is a grown woman.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Happy 7th Birthday

IMG_1058Dear Jackson,

Oh, my boy! What a difference a year makes. The person who is writing this letter today is in a wholly different mindset than the mother who wrote this letter last year. And, of course, so is the recipient!

In the last few months, your demeanor has undergone a transformation. Somehow, in some way, the things Daddy and I have been drilling in to your head for six years seem to be penetrating somewhat. It’s like a light was switched on, and you are grasping cause and effect in a much deeper sense. You have learned that giving an attitude to your parents results in getting an attitude back. You’ve experimented with that, and it seems you have found (finally!) that everyone is much more agreeable when we start with pleasant instead of grumps. Hallelujah! It finally makes sense for you!

Grasping this one life basic has paid big dividends for our entire family. Since the calendar turned to 2014, I’ve noticed an increased willingness on your part to help without being asked, to go out of your way when you see someone else struggling or having a bad moment, and to take responsibility for yourself. For example, Toy Jail finally makes sense to you. (Clean it up before bed, or you have to do a job the next day to get whatever item was “arrested” out of jail.)

As a mother, I’ve prayed countless times that I would see changes like this in you. And although I know we haven’t “arrived” yet (When does a parent ever “arrive,” anyway?), I can see glimmers of the man you will one day become. Small changes have brought big hope!

While some change has been encouraging and refreshing, other things have stayed the same – and I’m grateful for that, too. You are an incredibly smart kid. (Of course, in my humble opinion!) I mean, look at your classwork I saw at school today!IMG_1062a

And you are still the same sweet-hearted, emotionally open little boy you’ve always been. As a parent, I’ve learned to figure out the currency that matters most to each of my kids and to use that currency as a motivator. While physical currency (money) is a decent motivator for you, the biggest motivator is people. You LOVE people, and being alone is one of the worst punishments you can imagine.

Just last week, we had friends over for dinner – adult friends! To you, it didn’t matter that they weren’t coming to “play” with you. You were thrilled to have people over at all, and you woke up that morning chattering happily about our friends who were coming to dinner. As their arrival time got closer that evening, you set about getting the house ready for them. You asked me if you could put out trays for them to rest their snacks on. You took all the pillows off the couch and made a soft spot on the floor for our friends to sit. (Never mind that they are past the age of floor-sitting, and never mind that I had spent the previous 30 minutes cleaning up the living room and placing those same pillows in certain spots on the couch!) And then you took up a sentinel post by the front window, watching for their arrival. Every two minutes, you came to find me and tell me they had not arrived yet. But the instant they pulled into our driveway, you became a one-man welcome wagon and rushed out to usher our friends into the house. Having people in your life makes you feel like king of the castle, and your soul lights up with glowing joy.

You care about people, sweet boy. You love well. You write letters and draw pictures for people you love. Those pictures are usually dragons or crazy winged bats, but you love to give these pictures away. You’ve also started caring for people by praying for them. Last week, I made you a set of rocks we are calling Prayer Pebbles. I picked seven pebbles for you on our walk, and wrote six names on them for you. Five of the six names are people you love, and the sixth is the name of someone you struggle to love almost every day. It’s a boy on your bus, who is a borderline bully to everyone around him. You and I talked about him and you asked me to write his name on a rock for you. Yesterday you pulled his rock out of the Prayer Pebble container and bowed your head and prayed for the boy you wish would be your friend. My heart melted! [For the record, the seventh rock was left blank so you can pray for whatever person you choose on the day you pull that rock from the container.]IMG_1037

I got a text from our neighbor this morning, wishing you a happy birthday. She told me about a conversation she had with you the other night. Here’s a screen shot of it:IMG_1075a

This epitomizes you at this very moment in time, Jackson. You are so excited to start baseball (your first team!) next week. You get to hang with your buddy this weekend. And you look forward to your future with zealous anticipation, unafraid and jumping in with abandon. I feel the same about your future, too: the best is yet to be, Jackson! I am so glad I get to be your mommy and sit beside you for this crazy ride.

I love you, deeply and dearly!

Mommy

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