Things We Hope For

I have a secret.

My son, Tunes, is back! He’s actually been back for a couple of weeks.

One happy momma, RIGHT HERE!

Not because I can’t let go. Not because I’m being codependent or enabling. Not because, “I told you so.”

But because I love my son, and God is faithful.

He’s grown up so much. He’s not a little boy anymore.

We’ve got some boundaries set up. Not that they’re any different than before, but they’re there.

He will be treated as a grown man, as long as he continues to act like one. He starts acting stupid, well then he’s out.

He will start paying, continue working, and act responsibly.

So far, he’s been doing a great job. I couldn’t be more prouder of him. Well, except when he eats my Italian turkey sausage that I’ve been saving.

But I’m not even mad, because he’s eating. That’s something he was neglecting to do while he’s been out of the house for the past nine months.

I don’t include Subway, as eating if you only do it twice a day, everyday. He has a hook up. Still, he’s resourceful. He made it work. I’m just glad he’s eating real food again.

Last night was the first night he sat down and had dinner with us.

Oh, how I’ve missed him. And when I say missed him, I don’t just mean him physically being in my home.

No, he’s finally broken through whatever has been holding him back.

He’s growing into the person I knew he could be. The one I’ve been dreaming of. The one I’ve been praying for.

When I see Tunes, now, he’s smiling. He’s talking. He’s sitting down, watching TV or interacting with his siblings. He’s loving on the dog he’s never liked. He’s helping his brother with his homework and he’s playing with his sister.

He’s never done these things before. I don’t know what’s been holding him captive, but he’s finally free of it.

It makes my heart sing.

In all honesty, I know it wasn’t his decision to come back. He really didn’t have another option. His room he was staying in was requested back.

He did try to make other arrangements first. They were put on hold, until the end of the month. We shall see.

But until then, I will marvel at the young man he has turned into.

When he left, two months before he graduated high school, and I poured my heart out to God in prayer, I had no idea the plan he had for my son.

But I trusted he had one. I trusted he loved my son, even more than I did.

I didn’t know it, but I knew it. Does that make sense? It’s, faith. Having it is easy, growing it is… well, scary.

My Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for your promises. Thank you for the opportunities to grow my faith, my faith in you.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. – Hebrews 11:1

The Step Mom

I often don’t write about Gamer and Smart, for a couple of reasons. They are my step kids. And even though they say you’re not suppose to look at your step children any differently than your own, you do; well I do. It doesn’t mean I love them any less.

Just differently.

I have a hard time figuring out how I play into their lives. They already have a mom and dad who love them to the moon. But I’m not just a friend either, who just wants them to like me.

I’m somewhere in the middle.

Nothing about being a step, is easy.

One of the sweetest presents our friends gave us as a wedding present was a stack of books about blending families.

I was so grateful, because I didn’t know how we were going to do this stuff. Mike is not from a blended family. I am, but that only happened after I was an adult and didn’t have to grow up in it.

Not only did we suddenly realized none of our friends were from a blended family, but none of them had them either!

How the heck were we going to do this?

Can this even be done?

I’ve heard there’s lots of them out there, but do any of them work? Do any of them last?

Before Mike and I married, our kids got along great. They hung out, they played, they got along just fine.

But imagine our shock to the groans and questions of why, once we announced our engagement.

We were completely blindsided. What had happened? What was going on?

There was arguing, and now fighting. Nothing physical, but what the heck? Were they trying to separate us?

It was during this time were a riff had started.

We were told later, by a professional, that in the beginning they saw themselves as just friends, but as things grew more serious, they had become more like siblings. This was actually appropriate and normal behavior.

Who knew?

I tell you what, it sucked for me. Mike wasn’t loving it either.

We honestly, had no idea what we were getting into. Maybe if we were talking about two or three children, things would be different.

Maybe not.

But blending six from the ages of five to thirteen, who we later found out all but one had mental health issue to deal with as well, really just about took us down. (Butterfly, honey, you’re just a girl. There’s no pill for that.)

Oh my gosh, and once we got married, everything tripled! The tattling, the stealing, accusing, “That’s mine!”, “I didn’t do it!”, the laundry, the mess…it was hard on everyone.

It did not look good. It did not feel good.

But I had hope.

Not because my kids are perfect, or Mike’s kids are perfect, or that either one of us are perfect, but the one who we truly try to model our lives after, is.

Jesus, show me this can work. Guide us. Teach us how to honor you with our marriage and with our children.

Shortly after we were married, we started attending a new life group, from our church. As we went around the room and introduced ourselves, we met Ken and Penny; married for over 20 years and have five adult children. They’re grandparents, even!

And after that, through the same group, I met someone who introduced me to someone else who has blended SEVEN!

Since then, even more couples have become our friends, who have blended their own mess.

So I know we’re not alone! This does work! This can be honoring! We will make it!

Now, we’ve only been married for five years. That’s really no test of time, but our kids now get along again. In fact, sometimes feelings get hurt, because now they actually want to stay when it’s their time to go to their other parent’s house.

And where in the past we had to separate and mark what was who’s, they now share rooms.

Oh, and the mischief! I always said if they ever learned how to come together as a team, Mike and I wouldn’t stand a chance. Well, were there.

While, we are FAR from looking like The Brady Bunch, we’re looking much closer to Eight is Enough. Although, they weren’t really a blended family; they just got a new mom.

Which brings me back to Gamer and Smart. They have a mom, so who am I suppose to be? I’m still trying to figure that out.

I’m finding that’s an even slower process.

Immediately after Mike and I got married, Butterfly started calling him daddy. She asked if she could, before the wedding but we always told her she’d have to wait.

Smart called me mom, one time, but then was quickly reminded by his older brother, that he already had a mom and to not call me that.

It took Smart two years before he stopped calling me Miss. Kim and start calling me just Kim.

It’s OK. We’ll get it figured out. Mike is still figuring out where he stands with my boys too.

So, until then, I’ll just keep loving on them as much as they will let me. We’ve got time. And from what God has shown me, I’m not going anywhere.

I’ve seen the fruit of blended families. And it is sweet!

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

Where’s Santa?

It’s incredible how upset people get when I mention, I don’t celebrate Santa.

In all the years, Mike has been decorating our front yard with snowmen and penguins, and Christmas trees and Snoopys, and Star Wars and gingerbread men, not even once has a child asked us, “Where’s Santa?”

But you better believe, that adults do. Not all, but there are quite a few.

Even after explaining my reasoning I get,

“Oh, so you don’t believe in Santa, but you believe in a great big snowman, instead?”

I want to say, “Don’t be dumb.”

But I don’t. I hold my tongue.

Believing in Christ offends people. Not celebrating Santa, during Christmas, offends people too, I suppose.

Who knew?

But I’m not standing out in my front yard, holding signs and yelling through a blow horn that anyone is going to hell for putting a Santa in their front yard.

I’m not.

I’m not condemning anyone who does.

Regrettably, I have several pictures of my kids sitting on some strange man, wearing a red suit’s, lap.

Each one of my kids received at least one present from me, but addressed from Santa, until they were at least 8 years old.

So Santa celebrating went on for a good sixteen years under my roof.

Most of those years, I was a single mom just trying to make ends meet.

God provided for everyone of those years, and yet I gave credit to Santa.

I’m so ashamed now.

So no, I don’t celebrate Santa.

But I do celebrate Christmas with snowmen and penguins, and Christmas trees and Snoopys, and Star Wars and gingerbread men, because they’re fun, and they’re cute and they don’t promise my kids anything, and they don’t take credit for making them happy or giving them anything.

Not everyone has walked in my shoes. Not everyone has experienced the heartache of a Santa, year after year. Not everyone has gone through what I have.

It’s why my relationship with Jesus is a personal one. Everyone’s is personal. Having a relationship with him is a unique one, unlike anyone elses.

So, I’m not asking anyone to change.

I’m just over here celebrating Christmas the way I do. With inflatables and lights, and presents and music, with neighbors and strangers, and with kids and sometimes with those offended adults.

And if I’m lucky, I get to share my relationship with Christ, with someone who asks,

“Where’s Santa?”

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Growing Beyond Lazy

His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? – Matthew 25:26

I know, me personally, when it comes to following Jesus I get lazy. I don’t want to wander too far outside of my comfort zone.

However, when I have taken steps to move in that direction, I have been very happy with my results.

Every time I push myself, in the name of Jesus, I have never been let down. It encourages me to go again, and again, farther and farther, this time.

However, when it comes to my fitness routine, I find myself not only being lazy, but never exerting myself beyond what I think I can do. I work until gets hard. I work until it hurts. I work until I do what I set out to do, but not one more step beyond that.

I know my body can do more than what I push it to do. Just like I know I could do more for Jesus than I do. He not only calls me, he enables me too. Do I always do it? Nope. Because I get lazy.

I find when it comes to parenting, I am also just as lazy. I expect from my kids, what they have shown me they can do, or should I say what they are willing to do. But they whine and complain and it’s “easier” not to listen to them than to step up as a parent and ignore their excuses and demand their best. Well, because that would require more work on my half too.

But like me, I know they can do so much more.

So how do we teach our children to push on, to overcome, to not give up, to expect more?

I should expect more from them for starters. That would be a good start.

What if we pushed them beyond what they think they are capable of doing?

Would that not build their confidence as my stepping out in faith has built mine?

I want them to one day to be able to push themselves when there is no one else doing it for them.

I want them to continue on, when everyone else says they can’t.

And I want them to work to their potential; not to their comfort level.

I have a bunch of lazy kids. Kids who, like me, look for comfort. But growth doesn’t come from comfort.

It is through the pushing and the stretching and the going beyond what you thought you ever could.

It’s living through the pain and seeing you can still survive.

That’s what I want to teach my kids. That’s what I want to teach me.

Hey Lucy!

Last night I facilitated the start of a new life group.

My husband is so awesome. He did everything I asked him to do.

We had food, and food, and more food. He cooked everything on the BBQ for me. He sliced up the veggies for everyone’s hamburgers, and displayed them very nicely on a platter.

He put together all the gift bags I wanted for everyone to have, that included their Participant’s Guide, a journal, a pencil and a couple pieces of candy.

Everything was set up perfectly. The kids had done their chores and the house looked nice.

By the time our first guest arrived, I was happy. I was satisfied.

But I was still nervous. I was still afraid. After all, even though everything looked and felt great, it would ultimately still be just me standing in front of everyone acting like I had it all together.

For years I was criticized for being who I was. I was meant to feel stupid. I was dumb. I shouldn’t draw any attention to myself because I may say or do something that would embarrass myself or someone else.

Frequently, I would be in “trouble”, for dropping stuff, running into something, or not understand a joke.

I felt shame. I felt less than. I felt I should just be quiet, and let someone else do the talking, because I would just screw it up.

Since becoming a devoted follower of Jesus, things have certainly changed.

I have learned I’m surrounded by people who now laugh with me and not at me. They celebrate me. They accept me who I am and encourage me to share myself with others.

I have a pastor who affectionately calls me Lucy, as in, I Love Lucy. (Yes, he had to explain it to me.)

I have spilled Jesus, during communion. (I was horrified!)

I have nearly knocked things off the walls, trying to walking pasted them, or picking something I have dropped, under them.

I have forgotten to show up to fellowship events I have organized.

And once, while watching a video presenter, I leaned over to tell my pastor I was having trouble finding the speaker on Google. He had to stop church because he had been consumed with laughter, and once he was able to talk, informed me (and the church), we were watching FRANCES Chan, not JACKIE Chan.

Sometimes, I still get scared I’m going to be yelled at or punished because I forget to turn the water off in the backyard when I go to work.

Or for all dings I have under my car because of all the curbs I hit.

Or for buying ravioli, instead of tortellini for tortellini soup.

I know my husband looks over my shoulder as I look in the spice rack for something, and I’m determined I’m am going to take every single one of these spices out, along with each oil and gravy packet until I find what I’m looking for because I’m tired of feeling like a screwup.

Or I’ll leave to specifically get my husband a candy bar at the convenience store and come back with five sodas for all the kids and a water for me.

“It’s OK, Honey.”

It’s not OK. Not for me. I don’t understand why I keep doing stuff like this. I really don’t try to.

But my husband loves me! And he doesn’t think I’m an idiot. He doesn’t punish me for forgetting something, or not understanding something, or losing something. He smiles at me because he knows if he laughs, sometimes, I might cry.

I facilitated a new life group last night. I’ve done it before, but this time the group was different. Instead of it being focused on our strengths, it was focused on our weakness. It was about our fears.

I can’t express the overwhelming feeling of acceptance I had on the first night after sharing how much fear I have in letting people know me, the real me, the Lucille Ball, me.

I don’t have to pretend I can pray.

I don’t have to panic when I read out loud and say Jesus when I meant John.

I don’t have to cry when I run through all the kids’ names before I get to “Tank, get down!”

Because I’m ME, and God made me…me.

He never intended for me to feel shame, or less than.

His plan was never to have me remain quiet, and let someone else do the talking.

I’m not a screwup.

He finds great joy in me.

For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory. – Psalm 149:4.

 “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness.” – Zephaniah 3:17

So I can’t wait for next week to come, so I can screw it all up again!

🙂

Why Are You So Concerned?

I got a special treat tonight.

My daughter asked if she could borrow my phone to call her brother, Tunes. Not really believing he would answer the phone, I gave it to her anyway.

He came over and had dinner. We talked about his life and work. We talked about his plans for his future and his struggles.

Somehow we turned to our phones and started sharing funny videos and amusing posts from Facebook.

As the night grew later, each one of the kids took their showers and headed off to bed. Mike joined them.

And then there was just the two of us.

For the next two hours he shared with me videos he had found, or posted online; all of which were centered on how corrupt the United States was.

From its education system, to the pharmaceutical companies, to its politicians in office, to the banking industry, America was doomed.

His light demeanor turned dark. He plans on one day, moving to another country.

He doesn’t know which one, but any of them, is better than this one.

Knowing I was about to start something he doesn’t like to talk about, I took a deep breath and pondered if this was the right time. If it was worth jeopardizing the small precious time I got to spend with him.

I started with…

“I know you don’t want to hear it, but…

“Everything, everything you just showed me, everything you just told me about, you can find in Revelation.

Silence.

“You are not telling me anything I don’t already know. There are dark, dark times coming.

“Christians study Revelation and watch for the signs and feel the need to share it with everyone they know, just like you are doing.

“It’s not new. The New Testament says the end of the world will come like labor pains. Fathers will turn against sons, and daughters against mother. (Matthew 24:3-51)

“I wonder though, if you can spend this much time, researching how dark this world is, why can’t you spend as much time investigating what I’ve been telling you about Jesus, to see if it is true?

“Start with the Bible. There is plenty of scientific proof that the Bible is for real.

“There are archeological evidence that back it up.

“There are sources outside of Christianity, that provided historical evidence that support the validity of what it says.

“There are people who have done more than simply thrown their hands up in the air and said, ‘Well I don’t believe it’, and have actually done their research and set out to prove Christianity as a hoax, and have converted because of what they have found.

“If it is so important for you to educate others on the demise of this country, why can’t you spend just a little bit of time researching what I have been telling you?

“There is nothing you can do about it. It does not matter which country you try to run to. The whole world is coming to an end.

“So, you can watch it. You can study it. You can get mad and outraged about it. You can go out and proclaim it to everyone you know about it.

“Or you can look to God, someone who has overcome it.

“You say you don’t understand. You don’t know how there could be a God, but I will tell you His brain is so much bigger than ours. He is supernatural, and just like trying to explain how a car works to an infant, it is impossible for us to understand it in our puny little brains. (John 3:12)

“So he shrunk himself down in the form of Jesus so that he might dumb it down it for us.

“Now I don’t claim to understand it all, but I know he gave us the Bible, which has been evidentially proven as true, and in it says the way to the Father, is through his Son. (John 14:6)

“He sent his son, so that we may spend eternity with him. He gave us a way out of this sick, dark and destructive world. (John 3:16)

“And yes, it sucks living here, especially if you see what is coming; but life here is only temporary. We are only here for a short time.” (James 4:14)

I rolled my ball of yarn out on the kitchen table and I told him to imagine that it didn’t start here and stop there, but actually went on infinitely in that direction and eternity in the other.

I then placed my index finger on one spot of the yarn.

“This is were we are at. Your birth started on this side of my nail and your life here on earth will end here on the other side of it. Everything you experience here is but a breath, and then you live in eternity. (Psalm 144:4)

“So my question to you, is what are you going to do with the education, gifts and skill sets you have, during this short amount of time you have?

“What legacy do you intend to leave?

“The legacy I want to leave to my children, and my grand children and my grand children’s children, is that I loved.

I loved everyone.

I made sleeping mats and hats for the people who live on the street. Probably some of them deserved to live on the street, but I love them anyway.

“I love the needy as well as those who are mean.

“And even though I have a child who doesn’t believe what I believe; I want them to know, as well as you, that I will still listen to you, I will still be there for you, I will still support you, because I will always still love you.

“I want to impact the world that way.

“I want every person I come in contact with, to be better for it.

“But not because of me, but because of Jesus.

“Because he took a single mom with four kids who had nothing and made her something.

“I may not be rich with money, but I am rich with love.

“I have more friends who are family now than I ever did my whole childhood.

“And I want those in my small world to know Him, and what he has done for me. He has transformed me.

“I am fully aware, without being ‘fully’ aware, that life sucks and bad things happen. But my trust is in the one who has overcome this world.

“Why are you so concerned about what is going to happen right here, when you have eternity to worry about?

“Which eternity will you live?

“Because there is a Hell and it’s not under ground. It’s here.” And I let my finger run forward on the yarn.

“And it is here.” I pointed to my finger sitting on the yarn.

“It is full of pain and regret, and anger and despair.

“Or will you spend eternity with our Father?

“I don’t know if I will be spending my eternity in heaven with him, or I will be spending it here on earth once Jesus returns and brings the New Jerusalem, but I will be spending it with him in one of these two places.”

“Mom.” He showed me his phone and it was nearly 11 pm. “It’s time for me to go home.”

“No. You are home, but I will drive you to where you are living.”

My time to talk was over.

As I got back home, and set my head on my pillow after changing for the night, I texted him, “Love you. Thank you for coming over tonight. You’ve been missed. :)”

He responded, “At least know you raised a son with the same beliefs as you.”

“Look it up. Find the proof you need. Investigate. You are not a dumb kid. You are an educated man. Research and then make your own conclusion. Not one that your mom has given you.”

Good night.

This is My Church

This last week, I had this super epiphany of what my church is!

It has taken me awhile to understand exactly the kind of church I’m going to. Honestly, I still don’t understand it completely, but I’m encouraged by it daily.

It’s an upside down church. We are not measured by the number of our Sunday attendance. In fact, there is nothing glamorous about it. New comers are never wowed because of it. If anything they think it’s kind of weird.

Our Sunday service is in our pastor’s house because we don’t want our tithes to go to our mortgage, but rather to our community.

If anything, our new comers are wowed by what we do. We have life groups that meet throughout the week, we serve and build relationships.

Our church is based on three things. Three things Jesus commands us to do.

Did you know, throughout the whole New Testament Jesus tells us only to do three things?

I’m serious. Go check it out.

He commands us to love God and love others (Mark 12:30-31), and to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19).

That’s it. That’s all. It’s that easy.

No hoops to jump through. No boxes to check off. No T’s that need crossing or I’s that need doting.

Now, there are still things we do because Jesus did them, like baptisms and taking the Lord’s Supper, but other than that it’s pretty simple.

Our pastor is not responsible for our growth in Christ. It is our own responsibility. And then it is also our responsibility to go out and grow others; to disciple. It is not all up to him. It’s up to us.

So what is he responsible for?

Well, growing himself, and growing others, naturally. But he is also the one who empowers us to dare to step beyond our comfort zone.

He enables us with tools to love God and love others.

He keeps us out of the box when we start to cuddle back up inside of it. Often we slide back into the habits of the church traditions we were brought up in, and pushes us to examine what we are doing and why.

Usually, when you think of a pastor, most people generally like them for the most part, without any questions. You have a few preconceived notions of what he is like; holds himself to a higher standard, doesn’t cuss or swear, easy to talk to, compassionate.

While going to a church that breaks with tradition, why wouldn’t it’s pastor do the same?

Generally speaking, people either love or hate him. He’s okay with that. He doesn’t understand why people take him so serious or why people take what he does so personal.

So, the epiphany.

Our mission is to love God and love others and to go and make disciples. Exactly what I stated above.

The epiphany is the click. And I don’t even know if I can describe the click that happened inside my head, but it’s something about understanding how all three things work together.

If I love God and love others and I encourage others to do the same, not once, but over and over and over again; two things are happening.

One, I am growing closer to Christ by my obedience and two, I am discipling. The important part, the part where the click happened to me is in the doing it again and again and again.

I can love God and love others, all day long, everyday, every day of the year. That would allow me to grow closer to God, but it’s not discipling. Discipling is encouraging others to love with me.

Even if it’s different people each time. Even if someone doesn’t love with me next time, it is always and forever, encouraging others to love God and love others.

The fun part. The part I’m responsible for in my church is deciding how I’m going to love God and others and disciple.

Yes, it is an interact church. No spectators. No one sits on the bench. We’re all active players, playing on one team.

I love God by praising him, teaching my children about him, reading his word, praying, sharing my relationship with him to others.

I love others by making hats for a shelter in Flagstaff. I make sleeping mats for the homeless in the valley. I raise funds for pediatric cancer.

But I also love by helping friends organize their classrooms, and help move their houses and sit with them to have a drink at a coffee shop.

And I disciple by inviting my friends to Feed My Starving Children, and to donate to Harvest Compassion Center, and to join my life group and to help with Girls’ Club and…and…and… To love WITH me.

Because my church is about loving God and loving others and discipling. It’s about showing God love by obedience. It’s about loving others by serving and developing relationships. It’s about making disciples by encouraging others to live like Christ…which, here’s the kicker, IS loving God and loving others!

Isn’t that beautiful?

My dear Heavenly Father,
You ARE awesome!
Amen

Finding God in My Backyard

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It was two and a half years ago, that I decided to tackle our backyard.

It was a mess. We were lucky in that the one dog we had, only went to the bathroom on the sides of the house. It led to easy clean up and she left my focal point alone.

The grass.

However, since it was late spring, and I was planting seeds, instead of laying sod, and didn’t have a sprinkler system, everyone thought I was waisting my time.

After a few hot weeks of watering my dirt, I thought so too.

I gave up.

I’m thinking it was probably the end of September, or maybe the start of October when it started to happen. After a few sprinkles from scattered showers, my seeds started to grow! Like everywhere!

I was so excited. So encouraged. I started watering the dirt again, every morning.

I would turn the water on as soon as I got up. Then after I jumped out of the shower I would put on the rubber sandals I had stolen from my son, and move the sprinkler to the other half of the yard.

The tricky part was remembering to turn the water off, after I was ready for work.

Slowly, but surly I noticed more and more blades of grass starting to pop up.

IT WAS AWESOME!

I started to feel confident.

I was so excited the botanical gardens were having a sale. I bought two ice plants. They were beautiful.

I bought two grapevines, too. Knowing they would need to mature for a couple of years before they would produce any fruit, I took great care in deciding where exactly I should place them.

I started to make big plans for draping our cinder block wall so it wouldn’t radiate heat.

Someone donated a couple of railroad ties to mark out a small garden. I had planted a few vegetables from seeds, along with a few herbs.

And for a long time, I felt like my sixth grade science teacher was a scam. She insisted, if you just put a couple seeds in the ground, with water and sunlight then BAM! You would have a plant.

Well guess what?

It doesn’t work like that here in Arizona.

At the time, I had an intern with me from Indiana. Yeah, she would tell me if you accidentally over fill your bird feeder you would get all kinds of stuff growing.

She laughed at my frustration.

Our dirt is clay. There is absolutely no nutrients in it. And it is rock hard. You have to make or buy soil. It doesn’t come with your house. No. No it doesn’t.

Then there is the heat. It sucks everything dry, so not only do you have to worry about how much water you’re giving everything, you also need to worry about shade and keeping things cool.

And those pretty flowers that bloom everywhere all over the world? Yeah, not here. Nope. So you’re kind of limited on what you can grow.

Absolutely everything is against growing here in the desert. Everything.

Well, now I’m buying books, looking online, talking to my ARIZONA gardening friends, joining dessert gardening groups, all in the hopes of growing something, anything.

I have to tell you, no one was more excited to see something green sprout out of the ground THAT WASN’T A WEED!

I had lettuce and cucumbers and it was so super cool to watch those watermelons get bigger and bigger and bigger.

And then one day…we got another dog.

A big dog. A big friendly dog. A big friendly, lovable, goofy dog.

I first noticed the giant patch of grass that had a slight yellow tint to it. I asked my gardening friend to come over and take a look at it.

He said I was crazy. He didn’t see any yellow.

Oh, I could. I knew my grass. I was out there watering it every morning. I cut and edged it every weekend. There was a huge yellow spot appearing on my soft, luscious, deep green lawn.

Asking around about it, the popular explanation was THE DOG. Seriously, I knew the dog went to the bathroom on it, but he’s not a dinosaur.

Then one of my ice plants wasn’t doing so well. What the heck? I gave it more food. I gave it more water. I gave it less water. Nothing was helping my poor beautiful plant that was losing more and more of its blossoms.

And then, there it was.

The day I caught my dog, our big, friendly, lovable, goofy dog taking a nap on my ice plant!

TANK!!!

Within weeks of the kids going back to school, he had gotten into and destroyed EVERYTHING, both inside and outside of the house. I will not forget the morning my son walked into the living room, carrying a half eaten, green and yellow watermelon.

“Mom!!! Look what he has done!”

Unbeknownst to me, my son had been secretly plotting to devour this on his own. He checked on it every morning. He would trek out into the backyard every day he would come home from his dad’s. This was his.

We were all devastated.

Everything I had worked for, for a year and a half was gone.

I was disappointed. I was done.

I let it sit for a whole year. I didn’t go back there. I would close the windows so I wouldn’t have to see it.

Just thinking about it upset me.

So, here we are now. It’s September again. We still have the same big, friendly, lovable, goofy dog. It’s the same month, two years ago, that showed me promises of blades of grass.

It’s getting cooler again.

Yesterday, I opened my back sliding door and gazed out at the huge mess one would have after letting the dogs use it as their bathroom for the past year, and thought…maybe.

I put on my tennis shoes and grabbed my rake, and I’ll tell you why.

When I was taking care of it two years ago, I learned something. I learned about God. I learned about myself. And I learned about life.

God

I learned it takes a gardener to make something grow. If I leave something alone, it dies. It produces no fruit. And in my case, it can smell pretty bad.

I am grateful for my Gardener. Not only has God never given up on me, but he fights for me. He pulls the weeds that threaten me. He protects me from the heat. He provides every need, to not only grow, but to thrive.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31

I learned frustration when you expect great things to sprout and it doesn’t.

God has made great plans for me. He has equipped me. I am His seed. He knows I am capable of great things, and yet, I know, because of fear; I do not always live up to my potential. How completely frustrating I must make him. This hurts my heart.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. – Philippines 4:13

Myself

I learned it takes nurturing; food, water and sunshine for life to thrive.

If I want to see change, I have to make the change. If I want to see beautiful things grow around me, I need to invest in others. For my children, my husband, for my friends; I need to nurture them. I need to make sure I water relationships, feed into them. Love them with sunshine.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.- 1 Peter 4:8

I learned everything is a process.

My grass did not sprout up over night. It took time. It took a lot of time. There was stuff I had to do, to get anything to grow. Before there was any fruit of my labor, I had to work at it every day. And just like my garden, I am a work process. I have setbacks. I have growth spurts. I am a process. I am not a disappointment.

 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Life

I learned from dirt comes living things.
I have learned, beautiful things can rise from the dust. No matter how broken one may be. How filthy one is. How far into death one has traveled. There is hope. There is peace. There is beauty.

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory. – Isaiah 61:3

So, yes this morning I watered my grass. I know it won’t be easy. I still have forces that battle against me, like the heat and the dog. But I am better prepared.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

God started over once. The second time he sent His Son. A Son he sent for me to imitate, to emulate. So I’d like to learn more about him too.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

I’ve got more work to do. More to learn. And apparently some more grapevines to relocate!

No Worst Case

 ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.  – 2 Kings 20:5

Recently, I was interpreting at an oculoplastics doctor’s office, and he was explaining how tears works.

Apparently there is a gland that is above the upper outer part of your eye, that actually makes the tears. They somehow flow diagonally through your eye and come out the tear duct in your lower inner eye. They also somehow run through the inner sides of your nose too, but it was too complicated for me to remember all that.

I have this friend and like a lot of my friends, she’s a friend who, once upon a time, we were much closer than we are now. Time passes, life happens, things just get busy and directions change.

But I still cherish her greatly.

I met her through church. She taught my kids.

When I say she taught my kids, I don’t just mean at church. Often she has taken my daughter and her friend for the day. They have learned about fashion, food, friendship and fun, but mostly she has taught her about Jesus.

I got a message yesterday that she’s sick and in the hospital. That’s all I got. Thinking that she is too young to have anything really serious going on, I went to visit her with my emotions on low.

I interpret in hospitals from time to time. Nothing really serious has gone on. Somebody has bumped their head, they’re dehydrated, their side hurts and they’re getting their gallbladder removed.

The lady at the front desk walked me around the corner to the Patient Observation unit. First floor. See, they’re just watching her for something. Maybe she ate some bad fish.

Come to find out, it might be a little more serious than food poisoning.

She’s in pain, they found a mass, they’re taking a biopsy.

The girlfriend who gave me the first message, texts me afterwards; she’s seeing a specialist tomorrow, they’ve moved her room.

Things just got serious.

I still don’t know what’s going on with my friend, but it is just like her to teach my daughter about Jesus, even when she’s sick.

I thought it would be best if I talked to my daughter about what I knew about our friend. Just to prepare her for the worst case senecio, which in this case, there is no worst case.

She either gets well and we rejoice in God’s glory, or she doesn’t and she meets her Savior and we rejoice in God’s glory.

We talked about people who are sick and in the hospital and how they are very close to God. After all, it is him who gives them strength to fight and grow strong, or strength to let go and come home.

Death is so dark and it swallowed everyone and everything in its path. So you can see just how powerful God really is, because not only does he give life, he sustains life too.

He doesn’t just give us life, then let us be. No, he stands with us, watching over us, preparing us, teaching us, nurturing us. We are not alone.

And even in our darkest night he sits with us. He hold us. He whispers.

Even though I don’t exactly know what is going on with my friend, it feel very dark, very sad, very consuming, and yet the sun still shines. Light surrounds me and my daughter as we talk about things that scare us.

He gives us strength, he gives us hope, he fills us with love.

We will not be overcome with grief. We will not be swallowed up.

No, we will pray and we will love. And if we are lucky, we will feel God’s presence as he cradles our friend as she goes through this part of her journey.

So, long story, short…

I think there might be something wrong with my gland that’s in the upper outer corner of eye, that makes tears because my eyes have been dripping all morning, and I can’t seem to get them to stop.

What Did I Just Do?

So I kinda did something behind my husband back. He may kill me.

I had prayed that God might use me greatly for his kingdom, and to use me how he sees fit.

I’ve already been working with the homeless for a while now, but today I heard God tell me, “That’s easy.”

You know what? He’s right. Anyone could help the homeless. It’s not that much of a sacrifice. Buy an extra few cases of water a week. Cut some bags up that other people have donated, to make into mats. How is crocheting sleeping mats and beanie hats any real sacrifice? I love to crochet.

No, I feel God calling me to do something else and honestly I’m scared to death. I know whatever it is, it’s going to stretch me, push me, and nearly send me over the edge.

I LIVE FOR THAT KIND OF STUFF!

I’ve been following Jesus for too long to accept an “easy” mission like homelessness. Or I should say, how I serve the homeless, is easy. I should be dedicating my time to something that is harder and more challenging to me.

Something that requires me to GROW my faith.

And….

I believe working with children; homeless children, may be it.

Me, the one who never wanted kids. Never desired to be a mom. The one who is still raising five of her six kids.

Oh this is not going to go well, I can assure you. My husband and kids are going to freak out!

Today, I spent three and a half hours sitting next to a room, listening to an infant go through what I think were withdraws, and her nurses talking about lowering which drug, over the next couple of days.

It hurt for her to eat. It hurt for her to lay down. The only time she stopped crying was when someone held her, and even then she wasn’t happy.

It hurt my heart. It broke my soul.

After an agonizing feeding that lasted forever, the baby girl threw up. From the sound of it, it was everywhere. Her nurse remained calmed. She spoke gently to her. I was impressed.

It was during her bath, when an alarm when off outside the infants room.

“Oh no.” I heard the nurse panic for the first time. After a few minutes, she called out to me. She asked if I could help her.

Ah…

Not knowing exactly what to say, or what to do, but knowing I wasn’t going to say no, I got up and entered her room.

“Would you mind just standing here to make sure she doesn’t fall out of the tub?”

I immediately thought, oh this could be bad. If something happens to this baby it would be bad for me, it would be bad for the nurse, and it would be bad for this baby.

“Sure.”

Her nurse wasn’t gone long, but it was much longer than what I was anticipating.

I stood about a foot away from the tub. My eyes glued to her as she and the tub faced away from me; too afraid to touch her. I already knew I wasn’t suppose to be there. I could see her little pink arms and legs move as she kicked the water. The top of her head and eyes were covered by a wash cloth.

She was so little. She was so full of life. And she was so alone. God, where is her mother?

I thought to myself, this isn’t easy.

It bothered me I would be leaving soon. It bothered me I would soon escape this child’s pain, and she wouldn’t. It bothered me that I was going to do it anyway.

Recently, I was invited to participate in a 40 day devotional prayer challenge. Yesterday was day one.

Today I read, “Every act of obedience, no matter how small, makes our heavenly Father proud. Every act of faith — even a faith as small as a mustard seed — puts a smile on His face. Every sacrifice, no matter how insignificant it may seem to us, makes a difference.” – Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge

So I ask God to use me. I asked him to show me where he wants me. Then I find myself in this situation today.

After the nurse returned I went back to my chair asking God if there was something I was suppose to do.

For today, I was just suppose to sit there and listen; to listen and become aware.

What am I suppose to do now? I don’t know. I told my husband about my day. He flat out told me we were NOT going to adopt this baby.

Well of course not THIS baby, but I don’t know. There was a reason I was were I was today.

He tells me, “You’re just thinking about Delilah.”

“Who?”

“Delilah, who called into the radio station earlier this week to nominate her mother who raised 10 kids and fostered five of them.”

“OH MY GOSH! HE’S WORKING IN YOUR HEART TOO!”

“No he’s not! This is your crazy idea, not mine.”

“But I completely forgot about Delilah.”

In James 1:27 it says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

After today, I feel he may be calling me in this direction. I don’t know, but whatever it is I know it’s going to grab me with both hands and take me and my whole family with it. And where it goes, grows closer to Him. I can feel it!