"May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace as you trust in him." Romans 15:13

Monday, November 25, 2013

November Adoration - One Who Circumsizes Hearts

Deuteronomy 30:6

"The Lord your God will circumsize your hearts and the hearts of your descendents, so that you may love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live."
When I have too much to do, I do not sleep.  Though I am exhausted and there is NOTHING productive that can be done between 3 and 5 am, I awaken restlessly preparing for the day.
Today was one of those early mornings.
I woke WAY too early.  I tried to lay in bed for about an hour and finally gave up on sleep.
I crept out of bed, folded a load of laundry, started some coffee, paid our personal bills, took a bath, and read the verse above.
I have actually thought about that verse a lot in the past years.
I have thought about how I truly desire for God to circumcize my heart.  To peel away the hard, selfishness and reveal His soft, loving, pure heart beneath.
I have asked Him to do just that.
The next part is something I pray over my children often.  Many nights we end prayer time with a blessing of "May _______________ love You with all of her/his heart, soul, mind, and strength.  And like You Lord, may he/she truly love her/his neighbor as himself."  They are familiar words.  They are qualities that I seek for myself and my children.
So this morning it was the last two words that kicked me in the gut "AND LIVE."
Truly living IS circumsized living.
Truly living is loving the Lord with all of my heart and all of my soul.
More than anything, perhaps, I want to TRULY live.  These song lyrics ran through my head ALL day "I want to live this life unsafe, unsure, but not afraid."
Over and over and over and over, that one phrase played in my head.
It truly speaks for the direction in which I feel God calling me.  I have some big decisions to make in the months to come.  I am wrestling with them.  They are always close to the surface.  I am just not sure what God would have me do.
I am sure I want TO LIVE. 
I want to live my life unsafe, unsure, but not afraid.
OK, so in all honesty, I want to live my life safe and sure but in His will.  I want to know exactly what He has planned before I agree to my part.  I want to read the last chapter and skip ahead to the ending so that I can decide if the path is correct, worth the risk, and one I will enjoy.
But I know with all of my heart that is NOT what He has for me.
He wants me to move forward in FAITH - not by sight.  He wants me to live unsafe, unsure, but not afraid.
My biggest struggle right now is that both of the paths in front of me seem unsafe and unsure.  Plus I am afraid.  The what ifs crowd my discernment and confidence.  Soon, I need to just jump.
Want to join me in praying I jump our of the right side of the plane?
Lord God, I truly want to live.  I want to live as You would have me live - unsafe, unsure, but not afraid.  I know You will be my parachute.  I know you will help me land safely.  I know you will direct me.  You have so many, many times.  Help me to hear You.  Help me to follow You and You alone.  Please specifically confirm your message to me.  Please fill me with confidence in the plan You have for me.  Continue to circumsize my heart, Lord Jesus - that I might love you more fully.  That I might truly love You with all of my heart, all of my soul, all of my mind, and all of my strength.  You are worthy Lord.  You are worthy of my trust, my love, my jump.  You are my everything.
(Also so very thankful today.  Went to the doctor and things look perfectly perfect.  Baby measures exactly as she should 23.5 at 23.5 weeks.  Her heart rate was 156.  My blood pressure was great, weight gain up to 6 lbs.  We are both happy, healthy, and feeling good.  The thought that I am TRULY going to have another baby is almost too amazing to believe.  I find myself shocked over my own reflection all the time.  I get weepy thinking about her arrival.  It is all just the most amazing and wonderous gift.)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

November Crazy!

Didn't forget about my November Adoration goal.

I just have not had time to blog it these last couple of days.

Life is full!  I am tired!  Once in a while, we have no choice but to overcommit.  The good news is that at the end of these crazy, overstuffed days - vacation is coming!

I love that today, God sent me these words.

November Adoration - God Who Gives Power to the Weak

Isaiah 40:29

"He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak."
Lord Jesus, what a fool I would be if I did not adore you!  Thank you for meeting me right where I am.  Thank you for lifting me up, for understanding me, for blessing me with your love, encouragement, and presence.  You are so good to me.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

November Adoration - God Who Raises Me from the Dust

1 Samuel 2:8

"He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
He seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor.
For the foundations of the earth are the Lord's
upon them He has set the world."

Some days do not go quite as planned.  (For those of you that read this carefully, nothing terrible happened today.  It was just one of those days in which minor inconveniences and the expectations of other's stack one upon the other and suddenly the road gets harder to travel than one expected or intended.)

I am thankful for the knowledge that in the midst of those days, in the midst of THIS day, Jesus is Lord.

Thank you Lord Jesus that this world is not my home.  Thank you that in You I am loved, esteemed, treasured, considered, sought out, and forgiven.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Month 5 (25 Weeks) - More Than Half-Way to Baby Girl

While I have never complained about pregnancy, I have also never delighted in it as I have this time.  I am truly loving being pregnant.

Part it is the wisdom that comes with age!  When I was expecting Krissy, I was amazed - but I just wanted to get to the mommy part.  I wanted to rush ahead and meet my baby!  My next 3 pregnancies passed in a blur.  In some ways, being pregnant became more of a routine and less of a miracle.  It became too familiar to truly marvel at.

This time, I do not feel rushed.  I just want to savor every moment.  Each kick is a gift.  Her hiccups make me giggle.  My expanding form is a miracle rather than something to fear.

Brenna loves taking these photos!
She woke up this morning and said, "Mom!  It is the 20th today!  I get to take pictures of the baby!"

Shopping for baby items is so fun.  On one hand, I know what I want.  On the other it is a whole new world. Fpr instance, I have found nothing I like for her room.  It is all either too modern or too traditional or just plain tacky!

And I feel awesome.  Last week the nurse in Fargo asked me how I have been feeling.   I responded with a grin and one simple word, "Awesome!"  She laughed out loud, telling me she does not have a box to check with that explanation of pregnancy.

The only thing I can even complain about at all is that I am really tired!  Sunday morning I skipped church because I was "post flu tired."  That is my own made up description.  But you know how after you have the flu and are so physically exhausted that walking up the stairs requires a breather at the top?  That is how I feel sometimes.  And guess what?  When I feel that tired, I can sleep!  I am a spoiled girl.  When I am totally wiped, someone in this family always takes over and sends me to bed.  I am so blessed.

This pregnancy has also been different for Chad.  He is so indulgent.  He has always been good to me - but indulgent - THAT is new.

One conversation we had this month has been particularly healing to my heart.

Looking back over the last 19 years of our marriage, perhaps the worst marital decision I have made was to tell Chad to leave me alone in the hospital a couple of hours after Krissy was born  so that he could attend a pistol competition.  At the time, he was shooting pistols competitively.  He was BEYOND talented.  He had sponsors and was one of the best shooters in the world.  (for real)  He also LOVED shooting.  I felt intense pressure to not hold him back or get in the way of his goals in any way.

When we found out our first baby was due just days before his favorite tournament of the season, everyone started hoping and praying the baby would come early so that he could go to the shoot.  Phone calls came endlessly as my due date approached.  Everyone wanted to know if the baby was here, so that he would be "free."  It was incredibly stressful for me.  I wanted to please him and everyone else.  I wanted baby to come so that he could go.

In the end, my doctor agreed (for both medical and personal reasons) to induce labor the evening before he needed to leave.  We had Krissy at 2 am.  Chad and his mom left for the pistol shoot by noon the next day.  I told him to go.  He had my blessing.  I take full responsibility.

But being totally alone in the hospital for two days with my first baby was the saddest happy time in my life.  No one visited me.  We were in college and all of our friends were home for the summer.  Our family all came before he left.  From the time he left, until the time my mom arrived a day and a half later to drive Krissy and I home, I was completely totally alone.

It took years for me to get over that.  Though he left with my blessing, I struggled with totally believing that the kids and I were his top priority.  I struggled with feeling like an obligation, dead weight.

Though he felt awful leaving, it took years for him to express that to me.  He felt like he had no right to be sad, since he had made his choice.

Working through all of that took us a long time.  While it was not something that we fought about or struggled with daily, there was an undercurrent of mistrust sometimes.  My wondering if I were really important to him was hard on both of us.

In time total healing has happened though!

And in this pregnancy God has given us the opportunity to come full circle.  You see, our favorite week of the entire year is the week we get to go on a fancy trip (for free!) through Chief Industries.  When Chad sells enough product, his building supplier sends us on a fabulous vacation.  It has been such a blessing.  We have been places we could never afford to go to otherwise.  We have a chance to be alone together and relax once a year.  It is a blessing like non-other we have received.

I have had a post card advertising this year's trip on my bulletin board since the day we returned from the last one.  On crummy weeks, I gaze at it and think that eventually there will be a break.  It is a silly frivolous thing, but it encourages me greatly.

Well. . . that trip is not timed so well this year.  If we were to go, we would fly home when I am 37 weeks pregnant.  I have never been early, so I had been thinking that maybe we should risk it.  It could be a last get away.  It was just too good to miss.

Chad looked deep into my eyes one day recently and said, "Honey, we can't go.  I am OK with that.  You will be 37 weeks pregnant.  I will not risk you having a baby in a Third World hospital in Costa Rica.  Anywhere I am with you is good, babe.  Let's just stay home this year.  It will be OK."

Those words, along with the look in his eyes, were so incredibly healing.  I no longer doubt Chad's love.  I always know that we are his first priority.  I am totally secure in our relationship.  Yet, hearing him tell me: that this baby is not a problem, the timing does not cause him concern, it is all OK - truly set my soul free.

I am sincerely grateful.

The other thing I adore about Chad this pregnancy is that, without being creepy, he really connects with the baby.  He is not a crazy tummy toucher.  He does not sing her crazy songs.  It is all very casual.  (Which I appreciate!)  He just reaches out to carefully feel her growing bump in the sweetest way ever.

The delight of Brenna's month has been feeling her little sister kick.  Though I have placed both Chad and Joshua's hands over the baby's tiny feet while she is kicking, they have not felt a good thump.  Brenna, though, she felt baby girl's kick for sure.  The look of surprise and delight on her face at that moment was priceless.

Joshua has quickly recovered from the "terrible" news that he is having a baby sister, though he wished for a baby brother.  He is totally fine now - but we will always laugh at his initial reaction.  He was so totally sad.  As we walked away from the clinic after the ultrasound he had two things to say.  1. Our family is totally unfair.  There are WAY more girls than boys!  Mommy and Daddy NEED to adopt 2 brothers now!  Chad told him we would do our best!  2. When I asked if he was ready to go back to school, he said in a teary voice, "I think I need a doughnut!"  (Comfort food anyone?!?)  We all laughed and laughed, which did not make him happy!

The sweetest moment of the month came later that very same day.  Joshua went with me when I returned to the doctor's office to hear the ultrasound report.  He seemed to be playing a game on my phone while the PA explained things to me.  I did not think he was listening to her at all. I left the office trying not to be upset.  I was doing everything I could to NOT give it to fear, but to give this tiny one over to her Father.  When I got to the car and called Chad, I cried - but not as much as I wanted to.  I was fairly proud of my self-control. (Sigh.)

Joshua did not ask me much.  He did ask why my voice sounded sad when I was talking to daddy.  I told him that I was a tiny bit worried about the baby - but that I was also trusting God to take good care of her.  He said OK and went back to the game he had been playing.

Brenna got home from school and the two of them disappeared into her room to play.  Eventually I went up to check on them   When I did, Brenna asked if anything was wrong.  I explained that the doctor's were a little worried about the baby.  I explained in brief detail some of the things they wanted to check into.  She responded, "I know.  Joshua told me.  He also told me we should pray for her.  So we did."

To my recollection, that is the first time Joshua has done that.  Baby girl, your big brother is choosing to watch out for you even before you are born.  You are a lucky little lady!

The funniest thing Joshua has said this month is in regards to my disappearing belly button.  He loves to check out my bare belly.  He commented recently, "Mom, your belly button looks like it is backfilled!"  (Yep.  He is a contractor's son.  He loves dirt work just like his daddy.)

The name tug of war continues! Naming by committee is not easy!  For now, Krissy calls her littlest sister "Raja."  She says she always will. . . no matter what name we give her!  "Raja" means hope, so I am all for the nickname, in fact I hope her middle name will be Hope!  I am NOT in favor of it being her legal name though, so the name game continues!

I have finally started buying a few things - but we will not start working on turning the storage room into a bedroom for Joshua until after Christmas.  Hopefully we will have him moved into his new room by Valentine's Day.  That gives us a bit over a month for him to get settled and to paint and set up baby's room.  It will be a bit rushed in the end, and I am OK with that.  I really want to enjoy a construction free holiday season!

Savoring and enjoying is my theme right now.  My heart is content.  What a beautiful gift that is.

November Adoration - God Who Calls Me Friend

John 15:15

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business.  Instead, I call you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."

I love everything about this.
 In fact last night, after reading the heading "God Who Calls You Friends,"  I started the day early!  Does is not blow your mind that the God of the Universe would call you a friend?

I treasure friendship.  I am not one to have a lot of really close friends - but those I do have are very dear to me.  It takes a long time for me to REALLY get to know someone.  It takes a long time for me to truly trust someone with ALL of my business.  While making casual acquaintances is fun and exciting, becoming true friends is much more time consuming and rare.  But when someone takes the time to TRULY understand my heart, it is something I treasure.

On the flip side, when people choose to allow me to be their friend, I take that quite seriously.  I feel incredibly honored when shares a confidence.  A phone call or text letting me know what is happening in their life makes my heart sing.

To think that GOD allows me "friend" status is totally, completely incredible.

To think that He reveals Himself to me, allows me to know His business is just unfathomable.

Basking in that thought has made me smile all day!

Redeemer, Savior, Friend!  Being considered Your friend is incredible Lord God.  I really do not have words to describe the gratitude, humility, and joy it generates in my spirit.  Good thing you are my friend because friends just understand things like that.  The knowledge that you confide in me is deeply moving.  You trust me?  You honor me with intimate knowledge of Your plans?  You let me into Your Business?  I am so unworthy. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November Adoration - My Father who Sees in Secret

Matthew 6:6  (I decided to include Matthew 6:5-13)

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go to our room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.  This then is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.  
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors,
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one."

I decided to focus on a passage today, rather than just a verse.  For one thing, I am truly feeling challenged to pray the Lord's Prayer.  Typically that is a ceremonial prayer for me.  But in the last days I am feeling to pray it "for real."  I am also feeling challenged to copy the format in my own personal prayers.  I appreciate how God chooses to reinforce His lessons.  Seeing this again today was good!

The part of this passage that I was instructed to focus on today is highlighted.  "But when you pray, go to our room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

As I read this, the Lord brought to mind a different scripture.  "Wherever two or more are gathered in My name, I will be there."  (my rough paraphrase)

That said, there are many ways to pray.  This is NOT His only teaching on prayer.

What He is whispering in my heart today is all about humility.  It is not so much about where you pray, how many others are there, or the words I say.  It is ALL about a spirit that is willing to listen and yield to Him.  After all, even before I start praying, He knows.  It is I who do not.

Lord Jesus, thank you for listening, even though You know all that I have experienced, think, and feel.  You bless me with Your very presence living inside of me.  You surround me with your love, peace, mercy, and grace.  Create in me a pure heart.  One that is teachable.  One that longs to yield to You.  And You alone.

Monday, November 18, 2013


Sierra Faith turned 14 today.

Though Sierra loves to love on others, she is a bit hesitant when others love on her.  Especially if gifts are involved. . . unless they are from mom and dad that is.  (smile)

Last week she tried to convince me that we should not celebrate her birthday.  Now I always love birthdays, particularly the birthdays of my children - but last week when I was fearing baby girl would never celebrate a birthday, I really, really loved birthdays.  I explained, with a voice full of tears, that the moment Sierra was born and her wet blue self was placed on my chest was one of the most beautiful moments of my life.  Her birth was way too important to me.  Asking me to ignore it was just not OK.

In typical Berra style, she hugged me.

It took until Sunday for her to text me while hunting and say we could have a few people for dinner.
And perhaps Eric (her BFF) could come too?  Please???

(After 2 weekends away from friends, our super social Sierra was going through some serious withdrawal!)
 So Erin joined us!

Grammy and Sharlene stopped after school.

Grandpa Scott came for dinner.

Grandma Donna (who had a meeting during dinner) joined us for dessert.

It was a nice evening.  The house was full, but at the same time it was peaceful and low-key.
 Sierra chose brownies as her "cake."

(Our hunter-girl is looking a little tired!)
 Notice the smirk?

She was carefully blowing out just a few candles in an attempt to torment her father.
After the wimpiest of puffs at the candles, she paused to count how many boyfriends she should have this year.  Needless to say, her daddy tried to finish off those candles on the double!

Think she has his sense of humor?
Me too!

Love you Berra-girl.  You amaze me every day.  Watching your personality continue to unfold is simply amazing.  You are more sure of yourself and sure of your faith this year than last.  You are funnier, more confident, and more competitive.  You are taller, more graceful, and stronger.  You are a better friend, more grounded, and wiser.  I look forward to all that the next year will bring.  I am proud of the woman you are becoming.  I am ever so thankful that God chose me to be your mom.  I love you, my daughter.  You are a precious gift.

November Adoration - God Who Teaches Me How to Pray

Luke 11:1 - 2

"One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.  When He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord teach us how to pray, just as John taught His disciples."
He said to them, "When you pray say:
hallowed be Your name,
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation."

What strikes me about this passage more than what Jesus says is what He does not say.

This prayer never contains a list of things Jesus wants God to do for Him.  It does not contain a list of questions He wants God to answer.  It does not explain to God just how He is feeling.

While I believe that God wants to hear it all.  He desires us to be in constant communication with Him.  However, when I think about my prayers, many times I spend more time telling God all about me, questioning Him, and presenting my requests than I do anything else.

I spend little time praising Him (hallowed be Your name.)

I am growing in my ability to simply pray that I trust His will (Your kingdom come.)

I rarely am satisfied with petitioning Him for my daily bread.  I tend to want a pantry full of food and a whole list of other things I do not NEED to make it through.

While I frequently ask for forgiveness, I spend far less time examining my own heart for unforgiveness toward others.

"And lead us not into temptation."  It does not get a lot more simple or more powerful than that.

I'm feeling convicted.

I think my prayer life, just like the rest of my life, needs to contain more of THEE and less of ME.

Father, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come.  Give us this day our daily bread.  Forgive us our sins. for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.  And lead us not into temptation.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Her BUCK at Last!

Sierra shot her first deer today!

Her ability to be diverse amazes me.  She can dress up like a princess and carry herself like a queen.  She can toss on sweats or running shorts, throw her hair in a messy bun or pony, and work her tail off.  She can lace up hunting boots, toss on a hat, and keep up with the big guys.

Through it all, a couple of things remain the same.  She is always sweet.  She is always talking.  AND she is totally competitive.

Her hunting goal was set high.  She was determined to shoot nothing smaller than a four by four buck.  She had absolutely decided she would shoot a buck the same size as her big brother's first buck.  She had also made bets with several buddies that if they could do it, then she could do it, too.  She is spunky.  She is brave.  She is gutsy.  She is determined.

She and her dad spent A LOT of time hunting.

She had MANY opportunities to shoot does.  One night the does were so close she could hear them chewing.  Yet she REFUSED to shoot a doe.

She missed several bucks.

Her hamstring is still giving her fits.  In fact she is at PT at least twice a week.  She ices it, stretches it, tapes it, and takes ibuprofen.  While the PT does not think all the field walking is making the injury worse, it IS certainly painful.

Let me tell you, if it were me, I would have taken an easy shot at a doe weeks ago.

But NOT Sierra.

On the final walk of the day, today, she confessed to being too tired to walk.  So she and Chad capped.  She assumed that she would not get a shot, but she was too tired and sore to care too much.

She was wrong!

The deer went a different direction than they expected.

Uncle Jim helped her along by trying to scare them toward her with a shot.

She found the deer in her scope and went for it, assuming she would miss.

But she was wrong again!

She hit him right in the kill zone.

She confesses to being terrified that he would still be alive when they walked up to him.  She was begging her dad to finish him off.  He told her she could do it.  It would be OK.  

And it was.  The bick had died immediately.

I wish I could have seen her partying in the field.  Sierra is all emotion and full of celebration.  I'm sure she was a sight to behold.

While I have NO desire to spend multiple days in the freezing cold chasing after deer, I do desire to have the enthusiasm and perseverance of my Berra girl.

Congrats girly!  I am proud of you!

(And of your daddy whom has unending patience with hunters.)

November Adoration - One Who Gives Me Understanding to Know Him

1 John 5:20
"We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true.  And we are in Him who is true - even in His Son Jesus Christ.  He is the true God and Eternal Life."

It is crazy to think that the God of the universe chooses to allow us understanding of Himself.

Not only does He reveal Himself to us, we can be "in" Him.  He allows us to be part of His intimate inner circle.  It is mind bending.

You ARE the one true God.  While I often follow many other false gods as I spend my time and energy pursuing things other than You, deep down I know that only You are true.  I am sorry for my many failures.  I thank you for allowing me understanding of who You are and how You love.  You allow me to be close to You.  What a privilege that is. God of truth.  Creator of all.  Author of every story.   Everlasting God.  Omnipotent Savior.  I worship You.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Party Like a 6 Year Old!

Today Joshua celebrated his 6th Birthday (a bit early) with his friends.  It was the first year that he wanted a "regular" birthday party with friends.  He carefully chose where the party should be held.  He deliberately chose which friends to invite.  He proudly delivered the invitations.  He excitedly woke me up at the crack of dawn today!

The entire experience was perfect.


I am so happy for him!

 Joshua chose to have his party at "The Party Pit."  It is an indoor playground filled with inflatables and a couple of arcade games.  I have a long standing rule, no little boy parties in my house if it's cold outside!  I learned long ago that boys HAVE to move, climb, wrestle, and run.  Finding a fun place to do those things in fall/winter in Bismarck is not easy.  Thankfully JG chose well!
 Joshua's littlest buddy.
I adore this kid!
 Chad took Jamison and Sierra hunting.  Luckily Brenna decided to stay home and help me!  She had fun, AND she was a great helper!
 Joshua and his BF Isaac.
According to the teachers, these two share a brain.  Where one goes, the other follows.
 Good form!

 The only girl that Joshua talks about is Sammy.
She braved a party full of boys.

And yep. . . they chased her a lot.

 This is a picture of confidence.

The sweet teen "hostess" grabbed JG and told him to go into this tent.
Without a blink, he did.
Then she turned on a blower and told him to grab as many papers as he could.
 He laughed and laughed as he grabbed at the flying blizzard of paper.

I watched with amazement and joy.
Even a year ago, he would have refused.  Especially because he had never seen it done.

Today, he climbed into the machine without a blink and had FUN following unexpected instructions!
 We had lunch - pizza, of course.

 Joshua loves pizza, but he was way too excited to eat.

He begged and begged to have cake and candles.
 He was thrilled to blow out the candles.

But he did not eat even one cupcake!

He was WAY too excited to open gifts!
(I adore normal!!!  Birthdays have been hard, scary, grief has been close to the surface.  Not today!  Thank you Jesus!)

Before we left for the party, I gave the standard pre-party lecture.  "Greet your guests!  Include everyone!  Say thank you even if you do not like a gift!  Make sure to thank each child for coming and say good-bye!"

He got stuck at the "Say thank you even if you do not like the gift."  He could not imagine not liking a gift.

Thankfully he was correct.

He adored each gift.

He was so stinkin' sweet.

It was a wonderful party.

However, after parting like a 6 year old, this momma was tired!  I stumbled back into the house, helped Joshua get all of his new toys out of the packaging, and promptly took a loooong nap!

The entire time I slept, I could hear Joshua and Brenna playing.  They were so sweet together.  My heart was full.

Eventually they climbed into my bed for a cuddle/giggle session.

The greatest of life's joy comes from the simplest of things.

My heart is overflowing this evening.

November Adoration - One Whose Love is Better

Song of Solomon 1:2

"Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth - 
for your love is more delightful than wine."

I may have some intimacy issues or perhaps I am too black and white, because I struggle with how to relate the first sentence with loving God.  I'm working on thinking poetically - but at the moment all it does to my tired brain is weird me out.  (Yep - I'm always honest.)

The second sentence makes me laugh.  "Your love is more delightful than wine."

I really miss wine.  It is truly one of my gripe about pregnancy.  I love most everything about wine.  I love the bottles, the unique sizes, colors, names, and labels.  I love drinking from a pretty glass.  I love sipping something that I can not share with my kids.  To me, having a glass of wine is a trip to the spa. . . relaxing, indulgent, a splurge.  Soaking in the tub or reading my book after a long week with a glass of tea is just NOT the same.

Although I love sipping on a glass of wine, it does not compare to the delight that I receive through my relationship with the Lord.

I may not get the kissing part, but I totally get delighting in the love of the Lord.

If there is ever a time when I close feel to the Lord, it is when I am pregnant.  I absolutely LOVE being pregnant.  I spend more time than you can imagine simply enjoying the movements of this baby.  It is the most incredible thing.  Feeling her grow inside of me, twisting and turning, kicking, and hiccuping causes me to joyfully thank God for His creation hundreds of times each day.

And it is funny how when you are so aware of the miraculous blessings of the Lord in one area of life, they become so much more clear in others as well.  Songs on the radio, the prayers of my children. reading scripture, the sound of the geese flying,  my paycheck, groceries in the fridge, laughter, Scripture, friendship, etc, etc, etc. . . all seem to clearly point me to the Lord.  He is everywhere.  In all things.  He makes all things beautiful.

Always.  Even when I am too busy, too sad, too distracted, too self-absorbed - to notice.

Lord Jesus, I thank You for this beautiful time.  I thank You for the clarity in which I see You and feel You.  I truly delight in You.  You make ALL things beautiful.

Friday, November 15, 2013

November Adoration - Patient God

2 Thessalonians 3:5

"May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance."

So much said in so few words.

"May the Lord direct your heart,"  that is certainly a powerful prayer.  It is exactly what I desire.  When the Lord is directing my heart, I am surely following the path of His choosing.

"Into God's love,"  there is nothing more perfect, more beautiful, more reassuring, more steadfast, more true - than God's love.

"And Christ's perseverance,"  once in a while I think my life is tough.  I get tired, weary, and confused.  I feel persecuted, unfairly judged, condemned.  But when I remember to compare that to what Christ endured, I always discover that I have experienced very little hard.  

I feel divided on praying for my heart to be directed toward Christ's perseverance.  You see, in order to become better equipped to persevere, I must experience hardship.  I do not want to experience hardship.

Not at all.

Yet, I do want to stand up well in times of trouble. . .  I do want to persevere in the image of Christ always.

I wish there were a pain-free solution.  However there is not.  The ONLY solution is to trust God always, good or bad, easy or hard, ugly or beautiful.

Lord Jesus, I trust You.  I trust you to direct my heart.  You will never steer me wrong.  Please direct my heart toward God's love that I may treat others as You do.  I trust you with the whole of my life.  Please help me to persevere in ALL things just as Christ did.  More of you Lord and less of me, that is my true desire.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

He Sees Our Hearts

The really good news today?

Baby girl is just fine.

After our ultrasound on Tuesday, there were a number of things that the doctors were concerned about.  Her kidneys seemed to be enlarged, her heart appeared to be beating irregularly, and there was a band of something in my uterus that they thought may wrap itself around one of her flailing arms or legs and cut off circulation, thus killing the limb.

As the PA explained all of this to me (my OB was in surgery), my mind was reeling.

She was telling me to expect weekly ultrasounds to check on this strand of tissue that she suspected was an amniotic band.  They would closely monitor it.  Over time they would decide if the band were more dangerous or if early delivery was.  I mentally nicknamed it a string of death.

She was not all that concerned about my daughter's kidneys, saying that this was something they see in many ultrasounds.  It is normally nothing.

She was very concerned about her heart.  She told me to carefully monitor movement.  If I thought she had stopped moving, I was to come in right away so they could check for heart tones.

She then told me that all of these things could possibly be ruled out after more testing, but. . .

After hearing ALL that, I had a few thoughts.  I can not live in fear for the next 18 weeks.  And what good does all this information do me? So, if we do weekly ultrasounds, see the band wrapped tightly around her precious little limb and it is too early to deliver - then what?  If I think she has not moved for a good part of the day, I rush to the clinic or ER and they can not find heart tones - then what?  How is ANY of this helpful, my heart cried!

Following all of their instructions seemed to kick God right out of this pregnancy.  Sure, we need to use medical technology when it is helpful, but only God can heal.  Only God can truly protect any of my kids.  Only God can create life.

I chose to trust God to be God.  I worked HARD at not worrying.  I chose minute by minute to stop my anxious thoughts and hand my baby girl over to her Father.

Today, we drove to Fargo for a more in-depth ultrasound and a consult with a neonatologist.  What he had to say did not mirror the PA much at all.  He explained that an irregular heartbeat in an unborn baby is not unusual OR dangerous.  The vast majority of babies with irregular heartbeats correct themselves by birth or shortly there after.  He did an EKG and an Echo - but saw NOTHING to be alarmed about.  Her heart beat steadily at 142 through out each test.

He could see how the original reading of the ultrasound identified the amniotic band - but in his test it is clear that it is NOT.  Baby has no string of death to fear.

Her kidneys are the tiniest bit enlarged.  He is not very concerned about this, but he has ordered another ultrasound at 32 weeks to make sure we will not need to investigate this more when she is born.

We are more than thankful that things checked out so perfectly.

However, as the appointment evolved, it became clear to me that the REAL concern of the medical staff was that our baby had several possible indicators of Downs Syndrome (prior to today's testing.)  The real reason I was there had nothing to do with her heart or kidneys.  Unbeknownst to me, I was there to rule out Down's Syndrome.  Although the doctor feels there is less than a 1% chance baby girl has Downs, he still offered 3 different tests that would rule it out.  He also suggested we meet with a genetic counselor. . .

The underlying, unasked question. . . would we want this baby, could we accept this baby, if she had Downs Syndrome.

When we arrived back at the car, I just cried - tears of relief, but also tears of grief.  It makes me so sad that the biggest concern was Downs Syndrome.  I was terrified that our baby's heart was so weak it would stop beating and I would never have the joy of holding her, nursing her, watching her grow.  The medical professionals were worried that I would reject an imperfect child when all  I  wanted to know was that I'd be able to love my child in the flesh.  The chasm seemed huge.

Let me clarify, that NO ONE suggested I abort my baby today.  NO ONE pushed me to have tests I do not want to have.  They were simply clear that I have testing options.  (Secondly, if we had learned that our baby had Down's that would have been hard.  It is certainly nothing I would wish for her.  But compared to impending death, Down's doesn't seem nearly so bad.)

Abortion is illegal in ND - but not across the river.  I am among the biggest demographic group to have an abortion.  Did you know that?  Older moms are more likely than teens to have abortions.  If having a baby at 39 in not convenient, no worries, you have enough money and education at 39 to know your options. . . I guess.  The thought makes my tummy hurt.

Do not be fooled, my "fetus" is a baby.  She looks like a teeny tiny newborn.  She has a heartbeat, arms, legs, kidneys, a diaphragm, arms, legs, eyes, etc, etc, etc. . .  I feel her toss and turn and kick.  I can not imagine choosing to snuff out her life.

So today was eye opening.  As my mom said, "We need revival."   How messed up is a society that worries more (or even equally) about Down Syndrome than a beating heart?

So I rest tonight, relieved that baby girl is doing just fine.  Yet me heart is broken for the glimpse I had into a messed up world.

Baby girl, I want only the best for you.  I would never wish any Syndrome on you.  But no matter what. . . I choose you.  I love you.  I am thankful that God chose me to be your momma.  You are a gift, tiny one.  A miracle.  A blessing.  Our tiniest treasure.

Thank you God for amazing, reassuring news today.  You are so good - today when things are bright AND yesterday when they were grey.  It is safe to trust in You. You see our hearts.  You judge our hearts.  You don't see us as the world does.  You value us as Your children.  It is one of my deepest desires that we (the world) would see each other through your eyes.

November Adoration - God Who Prays for Me

The day loomed before me as I lay in bed this morning. Typically I am going through my mental to-do list as I awaken. Today, I simply gave the day to The Lord. Knowing that it is one of those days He will require me to just trust.

And He met me immediately.

Over coffee, I read the passage assigned to me today.

Luke 22:31-32

"Simon, Simon, satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." (Spoken by Jesus)

The thought of Jesus praying for Simon, reminded me that He also intercedes for me. 

Beyond giving our day to The Lord, no matter what is to come, I do not have words.  

Thank you Jesus that you do. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

November Adoration - God Who Looks at the Heart

1 Samuel 16:7

"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
Father God, I am thankful tonight that you look at my heart.  I rest in the knowledge that You know me inside and out, heart and soul, thought and deed.  You know that on this very night I am tired.  Weary to the very core.  You know all the effort that has gone into this very day.  You know the battle I have waged in focusing on You.  I love that although I do not have adequate or elegant words to express my adoration and appreciation of You this evening, You know.  Search my heart, teach my heart, grow my heart, protect my heart. . . all that I might live a life more pleasing to You.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thinkin' Pink!

 Joshua Gebeyehu is not very excited to announce that he will be having a baby sister!

We brought Sierra, Brenna, and Joshua with us to the ultrasound today. (Krissy and Jamison did not want to skip school.) Poor little Joshua was absolutely crushed when he heard the baby is a girl.  He had been so hoping for a baby brother!  I thought he may burst into tears, and he is NOT one to shed many tears!

Thankfully, by late this afternoon, he had recovered.

He gave my belly a gently hug and said, "I love you baby sister." before I left for Bible study tonight.

And how did I react to the news?
 I went shopping for pink, of course!
 I so adore baby feet.

Every kick is truly a treasure, and this photo makes my heart sigh.
 She was snuggled up into a tiny ball.

I hope she likes to snuggle with her momma in few months, too!
Notice her little hand near her mouth?
Sierra and Joshua hope she loves her thumb, just like they did.

The only thing Joshua commented on after the ultrasound (in a positive way, that is) was seeing his baby's face.  He said, "Mom, did you see her tiny little face?  I can tell she is going to be cute!"

While she does not yet have a name, I am claiming this for myself and this tiny girl as we wait to meet face to face. "May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

Chad and I will head to a specialist on Thursday.  There were a couple of things they saw on this ultrasound that they want to check into a bit more.  I'd be honored if you would hold this tiny one close in your prayers.  I am tempted to worry;  however, worry and fear will not help either of us.  Though we share a body right now, she is God's child.  Only He can ever truly take care of her, and He loves her even more than I do.  So rather than fear, I will choose trust and hope.  I will choose to carefully train my mind and heart to trust and hope in Him who created her, in Him who continues to form her.  I will choose to be thankful for each day and each kick in a deeper, richer, more beautiful way than ever before.  As my sweet friend reminded me tonight, "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in You." Isaiah 26:3.

I am so thankful that even on grey days, God's love shines.
I am thankful that He is the perfect Father.
I am thankful that He is always good, even though His thoughts and ways do not always mirror the desire of my heart.
I am thankful that He has a plan - that He is in control.
I am thankful that He grants perfect peace even during uncertain times.

Thanks for praying with me.  I will explain more fully if there is reason.  For now, I wait expectantly.

Heartland 2013

Jamison and 6 members of his cross-country team had the awesome opportunity of running at the Nike Heartland Regional Cross Country Meet over the weekend.  It was the first major race I have ever been attended.  It was HUGE.  Seven states were represented and 2200 high school students raced.  There was music blaring, an announcer commentating, and instant race results showing up on a computerized board.

Needless to say, it was a very fun environment!

Jamison's coach expects great things from his team.  Though they are not quite at a place where they are competitive at races like this, yet, he is helping them gain experience at big races in preparation for future years.  It is really exciting to me that they had this opportunity.

 Jamison's team is wearing navy speed shorts and blue, red, and white striped jerseys.  Since this meet is not sanctioned by the state of ND, the can not wear their usual uniforms.  These are "throw-backs" once worn at CHS in the 1980s.  The guys loved them.
 JD is in the center of the pack above.
 This race course was totally flat, with the exception of a couple of obstacles.

These BMX-like bumps are called whoop-de-doos (for real).

 It was a series of about 4 steep hills in a row.

 The other obstacle was this series of straw bales placed at the one and two mile marks.

Jamison ran better than he did at state, but not the best he has run this year.
He was not thrilled with his race and not terribly upset either.

Although he does not think it affected his race, he had a terrible migraine headache shortly after his cool down.  The final races of the day were incredible to watch.  In the final race, 5 guys ran neck in neck and together crushed the course record.  It was really exciting.  JD hardly noticed.  He was dozing on the grass and his team mates would wake him up each time they moved to a different spot on the course to watch the race.  Talk about miserable!  Thankfully, after a couple of Advil, a bunch of water and Coke,and a nap he felt better and made it home with out tossing his cookies in the ditch.

Thus ends his Sophomore Cross Country Season.

It was a season of us and down.
A lot was learned.
Much growth happened.

I am already excited for next year!

November Adoration - God Who is Ravished by His Bride

Song of Songs 4:9

"You have stolen my heart, my sister,
my bride;
you have stolen my heart 
with one glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace."

In all honesty, I am not comfortable with today's thoughts.

It is too close for me to be comfortable.

This level of closeness is not how I think of God.  It is too intimate, too cozy, too personal.  It makes me squirm.

It is also challenging me.

Thinking about this verse today has made me realize that I do hold God at arm's length.  I do want to feel madly in-love with God.  I do not want to squirm away when He closes in.  I want to dare to look deep into His eyes with adoration and adoration alone.

Lord God, I do not want to hold You away.  I do not want to simply esteem You.  Honor and respecting You is great.  Trusting You is a thing of beauty.  But loving You with total abandon, that is a new thought.  Ravishing You, makes me uncomfortable.  I am sorry that I do not love and adore You in the way that You desire.  Help me to let go of me and give all to You.

Monday, November 11, 2013

November Adoration - One Who Gives Freely

Romans 8:32

"He who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for all of us -  how will He not also, along with him, graciously give us all things."

I had a most unique morning.  I was home alone last night with Krissy and Jamison.  Chad, Sierra, and Brenna spent the weekend deer hunting. Sunday evening Joshua chose to sleep at Grandma and Grandpa.  So this morning, I was alone with our two oldest kids.  Which meant, we all slept in.  I did not wake up until 8 am!  At that point I got up, brewed a cup of coffee, and climbed back into bed to do some reading.  It was divine.

I have had the privilege of attending a women's Bible study this fall.  It has been such a blessing to me.  It has been a God thing from the very beginning.

Last summer I had considered leading a women's Bible study this fall.  As I considered what resource I should use, one book stood out to me.  It was called Jonah - Navigating a Life Interrupted by Priscilla Shirer.  There was just something about it that beckoned to me.  In the end, there was not much interest in a woman's study, so I scrapped the idea.

Early this fall, I was really struggling.  I ended up searching the websites of other local churches. . . looking for something, though I was not entirely sure what.  I found a local church that was hosting a women's study of the very book, I had felt drawn too over the summer.  So, before I could talk myself out of it, I registered online for the study.  This is very unlike me.  I hate to leave my family in the evening.  It is also unusual for me to go to something without a personal invitation.  I was far from comfortable with the idea - but I was also desperate.  I was in dire need of a place in which I could hear from God, and this felt like it may be the place.

The study is being held at a large church, so I had decided that I could probably slip in and out each week unnoticed.  Hilariously enough, though the church is large, the study is small.  There would be no anonymity.

Few things about this study have been as I would have expected, yet God has used it and this time in beautiful ways.  He is speaking.  Or perhaps, I am finally listening.  I am not sure which.  Either way, my ears and heart feel more open than they have in a long time.  I am beyond thankful.

Anyway - this morning, I was sipping my coffee, going through my Bible study homework, and praying with absolutely no reason to rush. It was a really special time.  The homework ended with these words, "God is more than just a dream giver.  He is a wildest dream catcher.  He can do beyond that which you can imagine as He uses your obedience as a foundation for what He is building."

It ended with this writing prompt: Conclude today's lesson by considering this and recording your thoughts in the margin.  

I responded with thoughts of all that worries me about following the path onto which I think the Lord may be leading me.  Is it responsible?  What if I am hearing God wrong and end up letting Him down?  Would it cause extra stress for Chad and/or the kids?  Etc. . .

I spent a bit of time in prayer and in silence.  Then I switched gears, deciding to read the verse I was supposed to consider as a part of the November Adoration goal I have set. 

And what a beautiful gift this verse was.  "He who did not spare His own Son for us all - but gave Him up for us all, how will he not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?"

I felt my very soul sigh over this reminder.  Thank you God for speaking in this way, on this very day, at this very time.

It is not about God being some sort of a genie in the bottle and giving us fancy houses and cars and all the other stuff we choose to idolize.  It IS about God giving us all we need to do the things He calls us to do.  It was the exact thing I needed to read today.

Father God, You are willing to always, always give us all we need. No matter the cost.  Thank you for so clearly reminding me of this today.  When I leap for You, you will always catch me.  You have already been preparing the way.  Though the road is sure to be challenging, I will not walk it alone.  My family will be OK.  You have us covered.  Oh how incredibly grateful I am.  You fill me with an indescribable peace, hope and joy.  You are so very good.  Thank you for speaking to my soul today.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

November Adoration - God Who Fights for His People

Joshua 23:3,10

"You yourselves have seen everything the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake; it was the Lord your God who fought for you."
One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fight for you, just as He promised."
It has been a crazy, people filled day.  I have honestly not taken the time to really focus on this verse.
As you think back, how have you seen the Lord fight for you?  My tired mind quickly comes up with a couple of easy answers.  Joshua Gebeyehu becoming my child IS most certainly among the most God-ordained things I can grasp.  I will always be in awe of how God pulled that off.  He most certainly fought for our son, when there was no way our little boy could have asked for His help.  Yet, still, the Lord fought for him.  For this victory, and so many others, I am forever grateful.
Oh my Protector.  My God who fights for me.  I praise You and thank You.  Thank you for the many ways that I have seen you fight for me, my kids, our business.  Thank you even more for the times when You have fought a battle I have been completely unaware of at the time it was fought.  

Saturday, November 9, 2013

November Adoration - God Who Opens the Graves

Ezekiel 37:13

"Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them."

If I had not been raised in a RCA church, I may stand up and shout "Glory, Glory Hallelujah!"  in response to this verse. 

I soooo look forward to the day that graves are open, and we all SEE God.

Once in a while the idea of God is just weird.  Don't you ever feel that way?  Doubts that say, what if this is all just wacko?  What if I am spending my time talking to no one?  What if. . .

Wrong thinking, of course.

Honest - absolutely!

There are moments when I doubt.  There are moments when I wonder.

I love that God understands this.

Even more I love the FACT that some day every eye will see and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Oh, what a day that will be.

Holy Father.  I am so excited to see You someday.  I am so excited for the day when all of this is over, and we all walk side by side.  I am thankful that someday the doubts and struggles, the pain and suffering will ALL be gone forever.  I praise you Lord Jesus for you are Lord.  The work You did saves me from the grave.  That is the most unimaginable and miraculous thought.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Friday, November 8, 2013

November Adoration - Long-Suffering God

2 Peter 3:9

"The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
I like to be in a hurry.  Or at least I must, because I am almost always hurrying!  I have been working hard at slowing down.  Not rushing so much.  Savoring life, rather than pushing through it.  I think often of Ann Voskamp's words, "Life is not an emergency."
Hillariously enough, two of my chindren are incapable of hurrying.  They refuse to be rushed.  We have practiced rushing - I am serious here!  (I do know it is laughable!)  While I have worked hard at not asking them to rush unless it is truly necessary, and at giving them ample time and ample warning before having to leave the house; they have had to practice hurrying.  Because, let's face it, once in a while it IS a necessary skill!
But the Lord. . . he is never slow to keep His promises.  And then Peter adds - "as some would understand slowness."
I so appreciate that add-on.  (Especially from Peter!  I think Peter and I have a few things in common when it comes to being eager and impatient.)
Sometimes in my way of thinking the Lord is ssssslllllllooooooooowwwwwwwww to keep His promises.  I want answers, movement, progress - something, anything!  And He insists I wait.
That is not my favorite.
Because I do not understanf His thoughts and plans.
I love how this verse ends.
He is soooo patient because He wants to give us all ample time to come to Him.  It is His greatest desire for all of us to be His.  He waits and waits and waits, in order to give us time to get it together.
That is a pretty cool reason to wait.
It is also a pretty cool reason to share about Him all. the. time.
Patient, long-suffereing Lord God almighty.  It is so good that You are so patient.  Your timing is always perfect.  Forgive me for the times I question and doubt.  I am so very thankful that You wait for us to come to You.  I am so thankful for second and third and fourth and fiftieth chances.