The crazy journey of our family living this beautiful life for our awesome God!
"...Whatsoever you do, do ALL to the glory of GOD." 1 Cor. 10:31

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When God Says No to Good Things....

Have you ever experienced God telling you "no" or "wait" to something good?  I'm sure you have....most of us have experienced that kind of thing.  I don't mean when He tells you no to that new car you want to buy or the nice house or the vacation or the pay raise or the "good day" or everything else we pray for ourselves and hope to get.  I mean when He says no to things that seem really good...that really seem like something that would be best...and not even just in a selfish way, but in a righteous, Christ-honoring way.

I've been told no to things like that on a few occasions.  I'll never forget how confused and hurt I felt when we found out we are infertile and it was like God was telling us no to something so wonderful, so good, so potentially Christ-honoring.  Sure, having kids can be a selfish thing and not everyone has them with good intentions.  But I wanted to raise my kids to love Him....I wanted to give a home and a family to my children and pass on a godly heritage.  I knew I would commit to do my best to raise them to honor Christ and seek Him in everything.  And it wasn't like those were just "bargaining chips."  I really genuinely wanted to have kids so that I could teach them about my awesome God and raise them to fall in love with Him too.  I couldn't understand how God would tell us "no" to something like that.  And to make it even worse, I would think about all the "unqualified people" who were having kids left and right, with no problem at all.  That might sound like an awful, prideful thing to say, but if you've ever experienced infertility then you've DEFINITELY felt and thought these things and you know exactly what I'm talking about.  The "how can she get pregnant when she isn't even married, she doesn't care for her kids and isn't raising them to love God at all?!"  or "why do they get to have kids when they are raising them in a drug-infested, abusive environment?" "Why can't I have kids and these people can?  I would raise my kids to know you God! They are just abusing and trashing their kids' lives! I'm not asking for something selfish here God....I'm asking for something good, something I could honor you in."  I know...pretty harsh words.  But I don't have a problem admitting that I "went there" and felt and said those things.  It's part of what brought me through to the "other side" of healing and acceptance and pure faith in God.  But the fact that it seemed like God was saying "no" to something that I knew I could honor Him and glorify Him in was so confusing and hard for me to accept.

I was recently told "no" again.  A couple of months ago an opportunity came up for Luke and I to travel to Malawi, Africa with my mom and sister.  It was a bit of a last minute offer, as we would only have 2 months to plan a trip to Africa...but it was exactly what my heart wanted to be doing.  We were going to go and work/help/be at an orphans village (different than an orphanage) in Malawi for a couple of weeks and just do whatever could to be of help but also learn from the ministry there and the way they are doing things.  My heart beats for Africa and orphans so it was exactly what I wanted to be doing. We struggled with finding an answer and making a decision but then suddenly God made the decision for us.  It turned out there wasn't going to be enough room for us and so the director said that we could come on another trip perhaps but this time it would just be my sister and mom going.  I was somewhat relieved that God made the decision for us because I really wrestled with leaving Grahm for a while to go across the world.  But, it was still hard for me to swallow the "no."  I kind of felt upset that God told us flat out, "no."  I mean, it wasn't like we were asking to take a vacation for ourselves, or buy a fancy new car or spoil ourselves.  We were willing and wanting to spend our money on a trip that would be very taxing emotionally and physically but that would be about furthering God's glory.  I don't say that to make us sound awesome, I'm just being honest with the hard things I was feeling.

So why is this coming up again?  Well, my sister and mom are in Malawi right now...the trip we were hoping to go on as well.  They left Monday night and should be there by now.  I'm so happy and so excited for them but it definitely makes me sad wishing I was there with them right now.  It may be stupid, but I actually had a really rough day the day they left.  I was so happy for them but I wanted to cry because I just wished I was getting on that plane with them.  I remember our trip to Congo and my heart and life are still changed from that trip and I'm so excited for them to be experiencing that now but I wished I could be experiencing it with them as well.  However, God has helped me work through this and reminded me of some truths that have made His "no" ok and helped me to be at peace with His answers.

So how do we deal with it when God says No to good things?

Well, first of all, we have to remember that God is sovereign and in control of everything.  He has a purpose and  plan for everything and He knows what's going on.  Nothing is out of His control.
      "Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, Unless the Lord has
    commanded it. It is not from the mouth of the Most High That both good 
     and ill go forth?" Lamentations 3:37-38

Second, we have to believe and trust that God knows best.  He is all-wise, all-knowing and all-powerful.  And since He's knows best, we can trust that all of the purposes and plans that He has in our lives are best.  Even when it doesn't "feel" like it, His plans are the best plans for our lives and will result in the most glory for Him and the most joy for us.
       “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” 
declares the Lord “As the heavens are higher than the
earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than 
     your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9

Third, God promises that He works all things together for our good.  We have to remember that "good" is not our perceived "good."   We tend to think of our "good" as being comfortable, happy and easy.  But the "good" is us becoming more like Christ and God receiving the glory.  And in that process we will find joy more abundantly than we could imagine.  
         "And we know that [a]God causes all things to work together for good to 
      those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." 
      Romans 8:28

So even when it seems like He is saying no to something that really does seem genuinely "good,"  we have to remember that He knows best, He is in control and He has a better "good" that we don't know about and might not be able to see until we look back over our lives with that "20/20 hindsight."  Trust that His ways are best and seek to glorify Him no matter what spot He has you in.  It would be easy to say, "well, fine, if you're not going to say Yes to this "good" thing then I'm not going to live for you in the path you've chosen for me because I'm not happy with it."  Ugh, it makes me gag just typing that.  But we are called to be faithful no matter what path He has us on.....whether it's what we want or think we should be doing or not.  We must learn to be content with our lot in life and seek to maximize His glory in our lives no matter what we're doing.

And would you mind praying for my sister and mom while they're gone?  I'm beyond excited for them and this trip!  I know how it can change your life and I'm just overjoyed that they get to experience it.  Please pray for their safety, but most of all pray that they would see God in a new way and be transformed more into His image and that He would plant His love and passion for the "less fortunate" in their lives.  My sister is going to be a senior in high school this coming fall so this trip could definitely be one that opens her eyes to something God might have for her in the future.  I joke with her all the time that she's going to be my sister that moves to Africa like "Kisses From Katie" and then I'm going to join her there with my family!  But really, she's at such a formative age and I'm excited for her to see a whole different world and to see first hand,  God's hand at work.  Oh, and pray for my dear Dad who is at home with the other 2 kids by himself. I have no idea who's cooking....I have a feeling it's a lot of eating out and McDonalds! ha! :)  And pray for what this trip might lead to in the future.  Thank you so much for praying!

Have a beautiful Wednesday!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pure Preciousness

Just had to share this pure preciousness with you all...Grahm giving his baby cousin, Kynlee, kisses.  He was very generous with his kisses.  Love this. :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thankful Thursday

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!" Psalm 107:1

1.  The smell of summer....have you ever just stopped to "smell" summer?   I love the smell of summer...outside actually smells different during summer.  I can smell the heat on the blacktop, the blooms on the flowers and trees filling the air with a sweeter fragrance, the smell of fresh air.  I love stepping outside and just taking a deep breath and soaking it all in.  

2.  Working in the dirt....we planted our garden this first "real" garden!!  I've only ever had room for patio tomato plants so I'm super excited to have a real garden this year.  I felt so earthy, homey, and industrious out there with my hands covered in dirt, planting the seeds and plants that will hopefully bear produce in a few months!  I'll be stoked if even one vegetable grows!

3.  Evening walks....I love ending the day with a peaceful walk after dinner.  It's so relaxing to put Grahm in the stroller and head out with him and Luke and just take a stroll around the neighborhood.  It's so refreshing to take in the warm air, be outside in nature and just enjoy the peace and quiet.  

4.  The way having a toddler makes me slow down life....I stop for things I never would have even noticed before!, weeds, a duck by the pond, a cow in a field, a dog by the neighbors, fresh flowers...we stop and take time to notice all of these things and actually enjoy them because those are the simple things that bring my son pleasure and it's helped me to appreciate slowing down and taking notice of "life." 

5.  15 minute conversations that spill life, love and grace all over me...I have a couple of precious, precious friends who I don't always get to talk to for long periods of time but when we get a minute to chat it's never just surface level nicety's...we delve right into life, spiritual things, heart stuff and real "meat" conversation.  I always leave feeling like I just got a big drink of life-giving water and I'm so thankful for these little conversation "gifts."  

6.  A heart to heart phone call with my dear friend, Megan....she was so sweet to call me this week and actually cry with me over us losing our dog.  We were just catching up and talking plans for a 10 year high school reunion (10 years!! wow!!) and I ended up spilling my heart about some things I was struggling with.  She is such a good person for me to talk to..she always speaks truth over my life and it was just good to chat with her.  She's far away in DC now and I miss her dearly! 

7.  The teens who love on my son....obviously my son is near and dear to my heart and I love him like crazy.  So it is very special when I see the teens in our youth group loving on him and taking care of him.  It warms my heart to see how much they enjoy him and how good they are with him.  I love watching them play with him.  Just a reminder of how thankful I am to be working with our youth group.  

Hope you are all having a good week!  Be generous with hugs and make a point of saying "I love you" often....and say thanks always.  Have a splendid weekend!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Just So I Don't Forget....

For my precious little son...the days fly by so fast and I don't ever want to forget the things that you do that bring me joy....So, Just so I don't forget...

You love an obsession kind of love.  You would pick every rock and pebble up from the road if you could and you definitely try, but they just keep falling out of your hands.

You think it's funny when I call you my buddy.  You copy me and just repeat "budly, budly, budly" and laugh over and over again.

If I had a dollar for every time you said "Dad" I'd be a very rich woman.

Cows are not just cows, you always call them moo-tows.

When our sweet dog Kodiak died you asked about him everyday, over and over again, and every time we go out to the car you still call, "pup, pup" like he might still come out from somewhere.  He was one of your best friends.

You love loud noises and you think it's funny whenever dad does something to make a really loud noise, like bang the silverware on the counter, sneeze at an incredibly loud decibel, start the lawnmower or use the blower.  It gets you all excited and you run around laughing.

You are not much of a fan of sleeping and you hate to slow down and just rest, so much so that you often fall asleep sitting up or standing up in your crib because you won't just lay down and give up.

You call crackers "cockoos" and your little mini giraffe blanket, your lovey, "lubby."  It's the cutest thing ever.  It'll be ok with me if you still say "lubby" when you're 16. :)

Eating your favorite, "Cockoos"

Your favorite song is Happy Birthday, I think because our family sings it loud and crazy!  You stand on the chair and sing it out and go through everyone's names you can think of.  I sense a bit of a class clown/goofball kid in the future.

You love to pray.  You fold your hands and mumble a bunch of gibberish really quickly and then yell, "amen!" and then do it over and over again.  I hope someday you learn what prayer is all about and you still love going to your Heavenly Father often and talking with Him.

You give really good hugs and kisses.  And you're very generous with them....they are usually squeezing-tight hugs around my neck and sloppy wet kisses all over my face but I cherish them so much.  I hope you'll still give your mom a hug, even when you start to become "too cool."

Little buddy, I love being your mom.  I'm so grateful God blessed me with you and I pray daily for His guidance to be the best mom I can be for you.  Thank you for being my son....I'll love you forever and always.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Living in the Moment...lessons from High School Graduation

Our school (the small Christian school that is a ministry of our church...the one my husband and I both graduated from) had it's high school graduation ceremonies tonight.  It's such an exciting time, full of accomplishment, relief, unknowns, change, big decisions and freedom!  A huge phase of your life has finally come to a close....12 years (or in most cases 13-14 years) of your life have revolved around education and it finally culminates in this momentous evening.  Luke and I are close with many of the seniors who were graduating because we are involved with the school and we work in the youth group at church which many of them attend.  It was fun and exciting to watch the teens as they crossed the stage to receive their could see the nervous excitement and anticipation all over their faces.  I remember those feelings and I remember how exciting and fun that stage of life was.  I leaned over to Luke and whispered, "Oh to be in that phase of life again....I think I'd like to go back to that stage.  It was a good one."  And it really was a good's a time when you feel like the world is at your fingertips and you are an open book, ready and waiting for God to write your life's plan out for you to follow.  Your options and possibilities are endless because you aren't really tied down to anything can choose from hundreds of thousands of colleges, hundreds of majors, hundreds of career choices...or you could choose to go abroad for a while, join the military, travel, do some short term missions, pretty much whatever you can think of you can look into pursuing.  You aren't tied to jobs, marriage, parenting, homes or bills don't have too many responsibilities and the possibilities for your future and the path you choose are numerous and exciting.  Sure it is sad as you close the chapter to one phase of your life and it's a bit scary as you are venturing out into unknown territory...hanging on the precipice of "adult-hood."  But for the most part, life seems like a wide open range of exciting possibilities.

I got to thinking about my statement for a little bit though...the whole "I wish I could go back to that time in life" part.  I remember enjoying that time of life but I definitely didn't have the perspective on it that I do now.  I didn't realize that life was pretty easy, carefree, with very few responsibilities and a world of possibilities in front of me.  I enjoyed that time but I'm sure I was eager to get onto the next part of life. I was dating Luke at the time so I was probably anxious to get college over with so we could get married and get on with life.  And then I thought...well, if I wanted to go back to that time in life because of how fun, easy, exciting and simple it seems then I'd have to leave the life I'm in now.  I wouldn't have the amazing husband that I have, the precious son that I mother, the beautiful house that we live in and the freedom/responsibilities of "real adult-hood."  I wouldn't have everything I have right now that I love so much about my life right now.

Isn't it funny how it seems like we're always looking forward to the next "good" part of life or backwards to the good ole' days that we wish we could have back.  So often we get so caught up in living in yesterday or tomorrow that we neglect to live in the here and now.  We become discontent with our present as we long for our past or future.  And the thing is, it doesn't really have a whole lot to do with the stage of life or the circumstances we are in.  It has to do with our hearts.  I may look back now and wish for the good ole' days of high school but at that time I was wishing for the future and the freedom of "real life."  It's that "grass is always greener" syndrome.  We focus so much on what we're unhappy with right now and too much on what we wish we could have or could go back to that it clouds our perception of what we have right in front of us.  And as good as the past or the future may be, it really has nothing to do with that and everything to do with our decision to Not choose contentment in the here and now.  When we live wishing for life to be different, whether it's wanting to go backwards or forwards, we rob ourselves of the joy of the present.  We lose the ability to live in the moment and cherish exactly where we're at.

Life is full of ups and downs...I know that, trust me, I've been there.  But there is always joy to be found exactly where we are.  And that's not just my opinion.  Philippians 4:4 says "Rejoice in the Lord always."  It doesn't say, "have joy when life is going good" or "have joy when you have exactly what you want or you're happy with the way things are going."  It says rejoice always.  So it may be easy to say, "yeah, but I'm in a really dark period of time...a hard, trying phase of life so of course I'm looking forward or backward, wishing for something else."  But the Bible says rejoice matter how dark our days are we can find joy in the Lord.  That's because joy isn't based upon our's based upon our eternal hope and position in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Joy comes from who we are in Christ and that gives us the ability to be content no matter what our circumstances are.  That's exactly what Paul said in Philippians 4....we can learn to be content in whatever circumstances we face.

But did you catch that....Paul said he "learned" to be content.  Learning isn't an automatic takes practice and repetition.  We have to choose to practice contentment and learn to accept whatever phase of life we are in and choose to find joy and peace in our "todays."  We must allow the Lord to teach us how to be content right where He has us.

Living in the past or the future steals from our present and prevents us from savoring each and every moment that we are in.  If we would make a choice to stop wishing for tomorrow or stop living in the past then we could focus on exactly where we are and have the ability to find true joy and contentment in our here and now.  It takes practice and it's a choice.  It's a choice to see whatever we are going through, whether big or small, as a divine appointment from the Lord that He has purposed for our good...our joy.  And it's a choice to find the joy in that moment.  And like Ann Voskamp says, joy is really a choice to give thanks for the here and now.  Joy is thanks spilled out over and over and over again.  I can sit here and wish for days gone by, high school days that seemed full of freedom and excitement...or I can look at my little boy's face and give thanks for the sloppy kiss he just gave me and the mess I get to pick up for the 18th time today.

So maybe we could try it....stop wishing for the day when you get the promotion and you are in the "perfect" job and start being thankful for the income God has provided and the doors of opportunity He might have for me right where I am to build relationships and tell others about Him.

Stop wishing for the day when your baby will stop waking in the night or requiring so much constant care and start giving thanks for the precious gift of life you have in your arms.

Stop wishing for the day when that "perfect someone" finally walks into your life and you can "get on" with life and start being thankful for the freedom God has granted you in singleness and look for how you can best maximize this time for the Lord.

Stop wishing you could go back to the "ease" of high school and be thankful for the place God has you right now as you see that responsibility and freedom go hand in hand.

Stop wishing for the day when the kids are out of the house and you have the freedom to do whatever you want and start giving thanks for the lives God has entrusted you with right now and the joy they bring each and everyday.

Don't be blind to the present....make a choice to live fully in each moment and find joy by giving thanks for everything you go through and every "phase" of life you find yourself in.  Savor your today because it will soon be a yesterday that you wish you could have back.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Playroom DIY and More Art Boards

I've been wanting to share this post for a while but just haven't gotten around to it.  We've been working on our playroom for a while and we finally got some really big projects done up there.  I love how it's turning out!  I still have some more to do but it will come in time.  For now I'll share with you what we've accomplished....

The Teepee!....this was supposed to be way easier that it started out! ha!  That is how my DIYs often start off!  I had a pattern to follow but it didn't work right so I ditched that plan and just kinda created my own thing.  I took 6 metal poles and spray painted them tan so they would look like wood (it was way cheaper to use the metal poles).  Then I secured them at the top with heavy duty rubber bands and spread them out in a circle evenly, with a little wider section between 2 of the poles.  I wrapped painter's canvas around the poles and pinned it on and then just cut off the excess fabric.  I used shower curtain rings, attached to the canvas, and then placed the poles through the rings to secure them to the canvas.  I used grommets to attach the canvas at the top and laced them up with twine.  I love how it turned out...I think it will be a fun "fort" as our kid(s) grow!  (sorry for the bad lighting...there's a window right next to it without curtains)

The daunting ABC wall!  I've been collecting letters forever!!  I finally got all the letters of the alphabet collected and decorated Luke oh so kindly hung all 26 of them for me!  I love how it turned out.  If you want to do something like this just check craft stores regularly, the $1 store, the $1 bins at Target, etc.  

Giant World Map....I found this online for like $1...SWEET!  I used a plexi-glass frame so that we can use dry erase marker on it.

Vinyl book tree.....I bought a vinyl tree online and it was actually way easier to put up than I thought...except that every leaf had to be put on one by one!  But I love how it turned out.  Then we used some narrow shelves we had to hang as "branches" and displayed some classic books on them.  One of my favorite projects in the room. :)

Art Center
Luke helped me make this from all scratch.  We bought the white board at The Home Depot and cut it to 4'x4'. Then we framed it with baseboard and Luke made a "shelf" at the bottom to place canisters, etc.  
We nailed 12x12 cork board pieces to the corners and used desktop files to old paper, etc.  And the roll of paper is hung on a towel rod.  

Here is one side of the room...I plan to make a kitchen for this side..but it's got the dollhouse, ABC wall, dress-up area, world map and reading teepee....

And the other side...Art Center, kid's desk and felt board. (The book tree and Giant ruler are on this side as well)

And here's the little guy who loves playing up there!  Yep, he's pretty much the cutest ever. :)

Oh..and I've got a few more boards to share with you.....

Luke 10:27 "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself." In warm reds, oranges and yellows.  This one is done on a longer 12x24 board.  I LOVE how it turned out!

Another "Love" board from 1 Cor. 13 in neutral colors...tans, whites and blacks

"Live every moment, Love Beyond words, Laugh Everyday" in Black and pink on an 11x14 board

As always, just send me a message, an e-mail or a comment on the blog to let me know if you would like to make an order.  You can check out more of my boards here.  Thank you so much to everyone who has purchased a board and helped give an orphan a forever family!  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thankful Thursday

"In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

This is a good week for learning to be thankful, even in the midst of pain....

1. The years we had with our dog, Kodiak....even though he died at too young of an age, I am thankful that we got to have him as our pet for the 7 years that we did have him.  I've already mentioned this, but he was such a good dog and a sweet companion in our lives.  We have so many fond memories with him that we'll never forget.  I'm thankful for the companionship of a dog that loves unconditionally...even though they are just animals they really can teach us lessons about relationships and life.

2.  How Kodiak taught our son to love dogs....Kodiak was so so patient with Grahm.  He never once nipped at him and he was so patient to let Grahm crawl on him and love on him.  Because we had Kodiak, it taught Grahm to love dogs and be comfortable around them.  I'm thankful he isn't afraid of animals because we had such a good dog.

3.  Community....Life can feel very isolating sometimes, especially when you are a stay at home mom.  But I was reminded of what an awesome community of loved ones we have around us this week as so many people expressed their love for us and sympathies after Kodiak died.  It was so special to hear from so many people that they cared and they were sorry for our loss.  It was a gracious reminder from God of how many wonderful people we have in our lives.

4.  The grace of knowing what happened to Kodiak and being able to bring him home and bury him.  The whole time he was missing I just kept saying, "He exists somewhere, he didn't just disappear into thin air...we just don't know where he is."  Even though it was heartbreaking, I'm thankful the Lord allowed us to know what happened to him and to be able to find him and bring him home to say goodbye.  I'd much rather that than always wondering what happened to him.

5.  Gracious little blessings that are specifically special to our individual know when God does those small things that speak volumes to our hearts in a way they wouldn't to anyone else?  When he shows us in unique ways that He cares?  We took Grahm to the dog pound yesterday to play with the dogs because he loves dogs so much and has been asking about Kodiak daily.  It was so precious to see his face light up with excitement as he ran from pen to pen exclaiming and signing, "dog, dog!"  Then we rounded the corner and there was a dog that looked so much like actually made me choke up and I had to walk away for a minute.  But the employee at the pound let us get the dog out and pet her for a little while and it just felt like a simple, unique way that God was letting us know He cares about even our hurts over small things like our pets.

6.  Our neighborhood....we actually got to meet several of our neighbors this week through losing Kodiak and we have some very sweet people living around us.  The neighbors who found our dog brought us a gift and a card the next day, expressing their sympathies.  We had never met them before this weekend but they were so thoughtful to show us that they cared.  We are still "new" to the neighborhood but I'm excited to continue to get to know the people we live around and hopefully build relationships.

7.  Memories...I know that sometimes memories can be painful and hard to think about, but at the same time they can be so wonderful and bring so much joy.  I'm so thankful that God allows us to remember the special things in our past and that we can still experience joy and happiness when we think back about the sweet memories we have in our lives.  Memories are an awesome blessing from God that help us reflect on the goodness of God in the past....reminding us that He is always good and will always be good.

Hope you all are having a good week!  There is always much to be thankful for...hope you're finding grace and joy in your life today!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lessons From a Dog

We had a little bit of a rough weekend around here.  Ok, rephrase...we had a REALLY rough weekend.  It all started out Friday night when we put our family dog, Kodiak, out back to go to the bathroom.  We often let him out by himself (our yard isn't fenced) and he comes back after he's done his business and done a little exploring.  Well, after a while we remembered that we had put him out and went to call him in but he never responded.  We called for about an hour and then Luke drove around (this was at 1 am) for a long time looking for him with a flashlight.  We couldn't find him anywhere.  It was so uncharacteristic of him so we went to bed assuming that he would be back home in the morning.  Well, morning came and he still wasn't back.  So we canvassed the neighborhood some more and passed out and hung up about 75 fliers with his precious face on them.  It isn't like him to just run away so we knew he either had to be hurt or someone had found him and taken him in.  We just prayed that people would see the fliers and call us or the pound that they had spotted him.

In the middle of all of that, Luke went to a church workday and ended up having a large piece of glass slice open his I got a phone call on Saturday morning letting me know he was headed to the hospital to get stitches.  Although the weekend was headed south quickly, we were optimistic that we would find Kodiak and Luke's injury was thankfully nothing more than 9 stitches across his leg.

Well, then our neighbors showed up Sunday evening after church and I could tell something was wrong as soon as I opened the door.  They proceeded to inform me that they had bad news, they had found Kodiak and he was dead.  Apparently the owners of the bare lot next to us had dug test holes (to check for rock) up towards the back of the lot.  We had no idea the holes were even there because there were no signs and you couldn't see the holes until you got right up next to them.  The holes were really deep and Kodiak had apparently accidentally fallen in in the dark.  If you were out in the dark you wouldn't see the holes until you were in them because they are not obvious at all.  So the poor dog probably didn't even see them and just fell right in, hopefully dying upon impact.  We just hope that he broke his neck and died immediately because the thought of him lying in the hole, suffering, while we were calling out his name is just too awful to think about.

Luke and I went up to the hole and when we found him lying there we both just lost it.  We just stood there and sobbed.  I felt so horrible that he had to die in such a stupid way...I felt like I let him down by allowing such a careless accident to happen.  He wasn't old enough to die yet and he still had so much life in him.  It was just plain awful to see his lifeless body lying at the bottom of this pit.  I didn't think it would be that hard to lose a pet, but as we dug his grave and laid him in it we both just fell to our knees, petted his soft, fluffy hair and sobbed big heaves of tears.  We were heartbroken, and we still are.  It was so hard to take the shovel and cover his body with dirt as we said goodbye for the last time.  We really thought he would come back and to face the reality of him being dead and gone forever is just so so sad.  I keep looking around the corner, expecting him to run up to the back door and be waiting for me and when he isn't there, it still makes me cry.  I even miss seeing the little piles of hair in the corners that I was constantly picking up!  To make it even harder, Grahm LOVED Kodiak.  Every morning when I got Grahm out of his crib, "dog, pup-pup" was the first thing he said (it was the second word and sign that he learned, right after dad).  Since he died, Grahm keeps asking about him and as we head out to the car he calls for "pup-pup" to come, wondering why he isn't coming.  And he used to love it when we got home and Kodiak would run out of the garage and greet us and so as we drive up to our house, he still asks, "dog, pup-pup?" and we gently tell him, "no, pup-pup is gone, he's not coming back sweetheart."

I know there are plenty of people who will say, "he was just a dog, what's the big deal?"  And I understand, but Kodiak was special, as are many pets.  He was such a precious animal to us.  He was our first and only pet and we had him since the first year of our marriage.  He saw us through a lot of life changes and ups and downs.  He was our "baby" when we couldn't have babies of our own.  He was like family and there is definitely a hole in our family now without him.  Dogs offer a special kind of companionship that is hard to explain unless you've experienced it and he was no exception.  He was such a fun, well-behaved, good dog.  Not one of those pets that you secretly hope will run away!  And everyone else loved him as well...our nieces and nephews loved playing with him, the kids in the youth group were always excited to see him and our extended family and friends thought he was pretty special too.  It's been touching to hear how special he was to so many people and how many people have cried tears of sadness over his death.  He will be sorely missed and will never be replaced or forgotten.

So what lessons could I have learned from losing our first pet?  Well...even though he was just our pet there have been a few things I've thought about the past few days....

1.  Life hurts and Heaven will be amazing....I know there are so many other even bigger hurts in life than losing a pet, but this hurt so badly and we cried so hard over him that it made me think, "I can't wait for Heaven, there won't be any tears or sorrow or pain."  We live in a broken, sin-cursed world and there will always be pain and heartache until the day we die.  But part of the purpose in that pain is to cause us to long for Heaven and remind us that we are just passing through...if we are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, then Heaven will be our eternal home and it will be awesome...with no more tears, no more pain and no more sorrow.

2.  Life is fragile and unpredictable....I mentioned this a little while back when our dear friend at church passed away, but I was reminded of it again with Kodiak's passing.  Luke came up to me that evening and cried into my arms, "I don't even remember the last thing I did with him, I didn't even get to say goodbye."  It reminded me again that we need to cherish the moments we have with the ones we love....don't waste the moments you do have on ugly words and hurtful behavior.

3.  God cares about all the details of our lives....Even though Kodiak was an animal, God knew how special he was to us.  He knew how much we cared about him and what a big part of our family he was.  And it just comforted me to know that God cared even about the fact that I hurt so much over losing our pet.  He is in control of all of the details of our lives and He knows we hurt and has purpose in all of our pain.

4.  It is important how you deal with/relate to those around you when you are grieving together....I know we were just losing our dog, but I actually learned a lot about being supportive of each other as Luke and I cried over losing Kodiak...I remember learning these things as we grieved over our infertility together.  We were both so upset over his death and we both handled it very differently.  It made me think about how much more that would be magnified if we were to lose a family member or a close friend.  It made me consciously watch how I was responding/behaving towards Luke and make sure I was giving him the support he needed and the grace to handle the situation. (Kodiak was a little bit more Luke's dog than he was mine and they had a very sweet, very special relationship.  Kodiak spent most days curled up under Luke's feet at his desk while he worked and they were the ones who played together at the end of everyday.  Luke took his passing pretty hard and there is only one other time when I've seen him as upset as he was....the day we found out we couldn't have kids.)  It can be hard to grieve together but it's important to remember to be selfless and loving even in grief.

5.  Dogs are special.  I always knew Kodiak would be missed when he eventually died but I didn't know it would be as sad as it actually is.  Dogs are such special creatures.  I think God created them with a special ability to provide comfort and companionship to us humans.  They love unconditionally....they will always be at the door waiting excitedly for you, no matter how long you've left them alone....they will always be excited to greet you with a kiss no matter how unhappy you are...they can sense when you are upset and often will lay their head on your lap to comfort you (I remember clearly many days when I sobbed over our infertility and every time Kodiak would come over to me and lay his head on my lap and just sit with me until I was done crying.)....they are just special parts of God's creation.

It may seem trivial to some to make such a big deal over losing a pet, but I think God can teach us things in any and every situation.  Our dog will be so greatly missed and there will never be another Kodiak, that's for sure.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thankful Thursday and Guest Post

Got lots to be thankful for this week......but in honor of Mother's Day this week I'm going to focus this Thankful Thursday all on my mom!

1.  My mom's love for raising kids....she is the one who taught me that being a mom is a calling and a REAL job.  It's not just something you do on the side as a fun project.  She taught me about the full-time commitment and value of investing in your children's lives and that it's a wonderfully awesome thing to "just be a mom."

2.  My mom's commitment to be a full-time stay at home mom....She worked for the first few years of raising kids until God showed her the need for her to stay home.  So she quit her job as a nurse and made the decision to stay home full-time to raise her kids and be fully committed to what God had given her.  Having a mom at home full-time, whether you're still a toddler or in high school, is such an awesome blessing and makes such a big impact in a child's life.  I'm thankful for her sacrifices to stay home and give herself to God's calling on her life.

3.  My mom's strength....if you have 8 kids you've gotta be a super-woman!  She taught me how to plug on, push through and stay committed to whatever you're doing, no matter how tired you are or how much you want to give up.

4.  My mom's commitment to my dad....I have never once feared that my parents would get a divorce.  My mom has always made it completely clear that their love for each other is unconditional and they are committed to the promise they made to each other and to God until the day they die.  They've had their share of arguments and disagreements but I always knew their motto was to work it and and divorce was and is never an option.  It has set an awesome example for me of the commitment God calls us to in marriage.

5.  My mom's that I've gotten older and become a "real adult" we've developed more than just a mother-daughter relationship....we are friends now.  We can talk for hours at a coffee shop (although that is rare now that I've got a toddler to chase around!) and I can share anything with her.  She talks with me now as an equal, but still with motherly love and we share a relationship that is so precious and valuable to me.

6.  My mom's quirky passions and willingness to go against the flow :).....she is the one who taught me how to cloth diaper because we grew up doing it (and I LOVE using cloth diapers now), she taught me the value of breastfeeding my baby, she teaches me about health because she's always got some crazy health kick she's on....from raw diets to shakes with who knows what in them :), and so many other things...I love her crazy little kicks and passions and that she doesn't care what others think...she's taught me a lot about not caring what others think but doing what I know I love and what is right no matter how much I have to swim against the current.

7.  Everything my mom has sacrificed as a mother....There is no way to count the sacrifice a mother makes...she gives constantly of herself....spends countless hours rocking little ones in the night when she's beyond sleep-deprived, kisses thousands of boo-boos better, gives of her time and her wants over and over again to meet the needs of her children, puts up with the attitudes and terrors of teenagers and so much more!  Motherhood is an act of sacrifice...sacrifice of everything you are and want and need, all for the unspeakable love of another human being.  I'm so so grateful for my mother and everything she has sacrificed to be my mom.
I love you mom!!

My beautiful Mom, with my precious little bundle on the day he was born.  So thankful she is now not only my mom but my son's grandma! 

Be sure to let your mom know how much you love her and how thankful you are for her this week!

Also, so very exciting!....I'm guest posting today over at We are Grafted In in honor of Mother's Day!  I feel so honored to have that privilege.  If you want to check it out just click here.  Thanks to Kelly for asking me to be a part!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Where Was I This Weekend?? Having My World Turned Upside Down....

Alright, so I promised that I would fill you in on where Luke and I jetted off to this last weekend so I'll attempt to do that.  I can tell you where we were but I don't think I can put into words everything we experienced because it was just real heart stuff....heart squeezing, thought provoking, life encouraging stuff.

We kinda sneaked off in obscurity....kind of intentionally and kind of not intentionally.  We had plans several months ago for Luke to get his continuing education in Vegas last week.  But then while I was at the Created for Care retreat I spoke with SEVERAL women who suggested we go to this other conference that is held yearly and everyone raved about it.  So I came home and mentioned it to Luke and the dates happened to be the same time as his work classes, which we already had a sitter lined up for Grahm and we already had plans to take off work during that time.  So we prayed about it and decided to change our plans and head to this conference.  It was in Southern California so I wasn't too bummed about missing Vegas. :)  I figured we could hit the beach to make up for missing the amazing food in Vegas.  Luke wasn't too sure yet but we went ahead and cancelled all of the work plans and signed up for the conference in California.

So what was the conference and why were we going?  Well, our reason was two-fold:  First, we are trying to start a specific orphan care ministry and we've been doing tons of research and making as many contacts as we can to help inform us and lay the groundwork that we need for the ministry.  I was told at C4C that this conference would be PERFECT for information, tools, resources, etc etc etc!  Secondly, the conference also has many seminars focused on adoption...from pre-adoption to post-adoption and everything in between.  The conference is called The Summit and it is put on by the Christian Alliance for Orphans.  The CAFO is a non-profit organization made up of many many reputable Christian agencies, churches and para-church organizations that work together to help support the cause of the orphan and fulfill God's call in James 1:27, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God our Father is to look after widows and orphans in their distress...."  I learned so many amazing things at C4C and I wanted Luke to be able to be on the same page as me so we thought this would be an awesome opportunity for that.

So why didn't we say much about going?  Well, a couple of reasons...we didn't know a whole lot about the conference other than what we had learned about it online and through contacts we had made in our research.  We were going with open minds and open hearts and just looking forward to whatever God would teach us through it.  So why the hesitation?  Well, you know how there are a lot of things in this world that can call themselves "Christian" but they really aren't's just a label they put on themselves to say they believe there is a God but they aren't actually Christ-followers?  Since we hadn't heard of CAFO before or the Summit, we didn't know much about it and we weren't sure if this was that kind of thing or not.  So we were going with discerning hearts and open minds, knowing that God was leading us.  Second, we have become PASSIONATE about the plight of the orphan and about what God's word says we as believers should be doing about it.  There isn't a whole lot of awareness where we live and sometimes we just get the "look" when we tell people about it and so we didn't really want to have to explain everything to people until we had gone, experienced it all and seen what God had for us.

And boy...we do NOT regret going at all!  I knew I was excited to go and would enjoy it but I was thrilled when Luke told me afterwards that he was glad we decided to change our plans and go. :)  We learned so much and were exposed to a whole new world of ministry and people who are doing some amazing things for the Lord.  It was so refreshing to be around so many like-minded people and to meet so many people who were living out a REAL faith with REAL love for God and people.  It can be really easy in our lives to keep things clean, neat and all "church-like" and as long as we are doing what we perceive as the good Christian things...going to church, doing our devos, praying once in a while, serving in a ministry, not sinning too much, wearing the right clothes and listening to the right music...we think we are living out a strong Christian faith, when in reality it's so shallow and not touching a single life for the Lord.  Don't get me wrong...those really are all good things....but we get so caught up in the "checklist" that we stop walking by faith and we refuse neglect to get "messy" for the Lord.  I've just been so impacted by the people I've met at these last 2 conferences and the way I've seen them living out their faith.  They are impacting the world for God and if you met them you would have no doubt about their love for the Lord and their love for others.  Not just because they "talk" about it and say the right Christian things but because they are actually DOING something...they are getting their hands dirty, taking risks and loving for REAL....there is no doubting that their faith is for real because it's impacted every part of who they are and they aren't content wasting their time on themselves and "things" of this world....they're spending all of themselves on something that is so obvious they believe in wholeheartedly.....they aren't staunch and stuck up and prim and proper about their faith....they're life on life, not afraid to get dirty and genuinely being the hands and feet of Christ.  They are an awesome example of what I see Christ doing in the Word while He walked this earth....reaching out to those in matter how ugly their lives are or how much it will hurt Him...caring for them and showing them His love and mercy.

I'm not saying every person at this conference was perfect or that it was the "elite" group of Christians, I'm just saying that I've experienced a faith in many of the people that I haven't seen in a whole lot of people during my life and it was challenging, refreshing, convicting and encouraging!  Many of those people are the real deal and they've got something going that really impacted Luke and I.  I've got so much more to say about what the Lord taught us about real faith through these people, but maybe I'll save that for another post...this one's already getting long!

And it wasn't just the people who were amazing, it was also the content and the material.  We heard some incredible stories...from a man whose mom was raped in the 70's but she chose not to abort the life that resulted from that rape and instead chose to give birth to that baby and give him up for adoption.  Now that man is an Emmy Award winning creative professional and runs an organization that speaks out against abortion as well as works for other social causes and seeks to teach others to find the Truth and meaning in life.  Another woman spoke about her abandonment as a child and when the state foster system was about to shuffle her around, her church spoke up and took her in as family and she found the family she always longed for in the people at her church.  A leading government official from Rwanda spoke about the travesties her country and people have experienced in the last few decades and how God is working to restore her people and with help from the church in America thousands of children orphaned from the war have found love and family and a place to call home.  Siblings spoke about the way adoption has changed their lives forever.  They talked about how God showed them real love and a real, lived-out faith put into practice as their family opened their hearts and their home to give a family to a child who previously had none.  Parents spoke about the real life struggles of adoption and foster care...about how God is taking ugly, broken, tragedy-struck lives (not just the children's, but their's) and turning them into something beautiful.  They talked about how it has been the hardest thing they have ever done but they've learned more about God through it than anything else.  People from around the world spoke about what God is doing in their parts of the world to reach out to the orphan and touch their hearts for eternity.  They prayed for their countries in their native language and even though we couldn't understand what they were saying, you could hear their hearts yearning and loving and trusting in a God who cares and who is Mighty to save.

We learned about the church's responsibility to care for the less fortunate and how God means for His people to be the ones who are reaching out and touching lives for eternity.  And if we really took to heart the words contained in the Bible about loving God with our whole heart and loving others as ourselves, then we would be living lives that the world would take notice of and they would not have a reason to call us hypocrites and they would know what real love is because it would be lived out in our actions.  We were reminded that if we have the Holy Spirit in us then it should be impacting who we are and how we live and love and perhaps we've just become too consumed with our own goals and aspirations and American dream life and forgotten what our purpose on this earth really is.

Whew! And this is just a glimpse of everything we learned and experienced.  I'm so thankful that God led us to the conference and opened our eyes even wider to His heart for the disenfranchised.  We made lots of good contacts...strangers with kindred hearts who promised to pray for us and our church and everything God is doing in our lives.  I could go on and on but this post is already long so I'll stop for now and hopefully share more in some other posts.  For now I am just thankful and changed......

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Radical winner and Quick Life Update

We're back!  We got home yesterday afternoon and we were thrilled to see our little one and be back in our own home again!  I just love coming home to Grahm...there may come a day when this changes but he is still thrilled to see us come home and he gets in such a goofy, crazy mood when we get back from a trip.  He kind of goes spastic and runs all over and then tries to be funny and of course it is funny because we're his parents and so we inevitably laugh at everything he does :).
We had an awesome trip and I can't wait to share about it and tell you all where we were and what we were up to.  That's for another post though!
I just wanted to let you know that I didn't forget about the giveaway...we have a winner......

Christy Lipskoch!  I'll get you the book asap!

As for the rest of you who participated in the drawing...I have something special for you as well so would you please send me a message with your mailing address?

Ok....I know this was quick and lame but it took me 2 days just to get this's been a little crazy and busy getting back into the swing of things since we got home!  I have sooo much to write about...I promise I will just might be a couple days before I can get to it.

Hope your week is going splendidly! news!!  I was asked to share a guest post over at We are Grafted In this week!  The gal from the website asked if I would share my prayer for a birth mom on their site this week in honor of Mother's Day!  I have to admit that was a pretty cool honor.  I'm not sure exactly what day I'll be posting over there but I'll be sure to link it up here when it happens!

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