Wednesdays Word by Tim: Vanishing Hope

Well, Jen asked me to do a devotion for our blog. So here goes.

I have been reading 'The Jesus Storybook Bible' to our kids for a while now and it is awesome.  In the old testament stories, it brings all of the stories full circle by pointing to the coming of Christ and where fallen man and is in need of a savior.  You continually see where man's every effort to make his life whole falls short.  This hits home to me in a big way.
   For whatever reason, I have this innate, overwhelming desire to do things I am continually passionate about.  From crazy hobbies, to fun experiences with my family, to projects I do at home and to the career I have.  I want to be invigorated by these things.  I know all of you have heard that as a broken people, we often get caught up in trying to find fulfillment in all of these things other than Christ.  How many times do you tell yourself that once we get to this phase of life, everything will be so much better?  The right career, the next kid, the right circle of friends, having true community, ect....  At the same time, you also may have heard that Jesus is right shape puzzle piece to fill that missing void in your heart.  That this 'hole' goes away  because you invited Jesus in there.  
But here is where I struggle.  Even as a follower of Christ, I still at times feel like I'm not at peace...at all.  Like that void somehow re-emerges itself. I still often times try and fill this hole, despite the fact that Jesus already filled it.  Why is this???  Why do I still feel empty some times.  Perhaps because we are fallen and because we still sin is why life fades and joy leaves, but whats crazy is I think it is like this by design.  I see where life's high peaks turn to valleys only to return to peaks again.  I see where passion for what we do fades and then becomes vibrant again like the coming and going of the seasons.  All of this points to something.  It foreshadows of something to come. He has allowed us to taste it, to almost touch it and to feel it.  He give us experiences in life that if they were to go on forever, we would be in a eternal state of glee. But they fade only to come again on another day.  
         I'm not sure if this is a stretch, but I feel like when that 'feeling' escapes you, it was a taste of things to come.  Times when you truly connect with your kids, when you have times that without question you know God was speaking to you or even the elation over accomplishing a great feat...all this is a taste when we finally will be united with Christ.  
      In Ecclesiastes it says that  "...God has planted eternity in the hearts of men..."  In our heart, we have these times, these gifts that God allows us to have. All of this point towards and resonates with eternity.  Its like God continually gives us appetizers only to say the main course is on its way.  
  And so, in my round the bout way, my point.  Don't ever forget those times.  Don't let the times that you know was a gift to you leave your memory.  Remember them, write them down.  Even in the old testament, God's people repeatedly made alters and monuments so they would always be reminded of what God did for them.  Those times tell you of eternity to come, of a life without fear and emptiness, of a life that someday we will share with our savior in eternity.


Wednesdays Word: The Finisher

We have had a tough couple weeks.

The laundry list of tough items we have been waiting through is lengthy. And ugly.
And right now I feel more inclined to write about how and where God is in the middle of it. Because problems will always exist. Waiting will always exist. But, more importantly, our Savior exists and in those moments when you hear Him.... those are the moments worth writing about.

Yesterday, it was quiet. I have been heavy hearted with just the weight and gravity of answers we do not have yet. I haven't been able to shake it. As I quickly started running through scenarios of answers that I have not received yet (thats a fun game, right? No.) A still, quiet voice inside brought this verse from the cobwebs of my mind to the front and center of my heart.....

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb 12:12

That verse stopped my anxiety in its tracks. Him. He. Jesus. Yes. He is the author of our lives. Not us. Not the world. Not the enemy. He is the one writing our story. And in this same story, He is the one perfecting our faith.

I got stuck on Author..... one that originates or creates. It also means the writer, composer, founder, designer, architect, finisher, and would you know..... Father.
And that he is perfecting our faith. Meaning His fautless plan is happening and being executed
Synonyms for perfector are the best, ultimate, exact, absolute, and just right.

The great news is, our stories are being written. They are not over. We do not decide that.
Jesus is our author. And our perfector. Our finisher.
He gets the final say.

When we experience trials of many kinds, I believe thats how James writes that we can consider it pure joy. Because James knew that Jesus was his author. And our author.

It is a beautiful balance to not just read this verse and believe its true, but literally be in a place where you are dying for Jesus to write the next page. We have lived a life that has been like a cliff hanger. We are always desperate to hear from the Lord. And waiting for his next move.

And one thing I know. He is a finisher. He doesn't stop writing. Today, I pray that no matter what your story is, you would find full confidence in that Jesus is your author. And if you have been trying to write it on your own.... you would hand the pen over. 


Wednesdays Word: Celebrate.

When life brings hard times, I always find a need to celebrate and give thanks. I am often reminded of the scene in the movie, The Grinch, when even after everything the Grinch had taken, the families all came out and joined each other and celebrated. Family is something to celebrate. Life is something to celebrate. Any relationships that can withstand sin, stay together, and grow closer should be celebrated.

Psalm 40:1-3
 I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.

Small triumphs, victories, and good news need to be celebrated. And praised.

Perspective is so crazy because you can take the same life circumstances and give them to 2 different people. One will see it half full. The other will see it half empty. Am I raising my kids to see the glass half full? Or will they get bent out of shape over something very surfacey? And be negative?
Will they grow up believing that things and money are important? Or am I showing them relationships are key and we fight for those.

We have made choices here to celebrate small things. Small things often lead to big things, but sometimes they don't. So finding joy in every triumph I think is crucial to parenting.
We see where we want our children to grow and be, but are we celebrating the steps to get them there? Or are we exasperated with the process?
And then the same for our own life? Am I exasperated with the journey and process to get from point A to point B, or am I living and celebrating each day for the joys we had?

What will our kids know about us one day when they know daddy lost his job? Hopefully, they will know that after 4 years of college he went back and got another degree in HVAC to change careers and get out of the housing industry.
What will our kids know about our rocky road of family planning and miscarriage? Hopefully, that we kept fighting for our family despite the many we lost.
What about when we sold our house and couldn't afford another one right away? Hopefully, that we re-built one instead.

How do you raise a fighter? If they are not put in situations to fight, there won't be any fighting...

I want to be a fighting mother. And a fighting wife. Conflict is not just hardship within your own life, it spreads into your whole family. I have witnessed a lot of conflict in family as I am sure many have. People make some pretty weird choices in their life. I have seen it in myself, aunts, uncles, siblings, parents, cousins, grandparents, and every single relationship you can think of within a family. People make bad choices. People make selfish choices. People make choices that forever damage relationships within a family. And sometimes we are not in control of that.
I want to raise my kids in a way where they will always extend an olive branch. To people who don't deserve it. To people who are hard to love. Aren't those the very relationships that we are tested to the core? Our culture walks away from anything that is hard, requires work, or is messy. We cover the truth. We cut people off. We live in denial that we must be right and everyone is wrong. We justify walking away and ending relationships very quickly. Ultimately, God is mighty to save. (Zeph 3:17)
My kids are just not going to grow up that way. I want them to fight for relationships, for people, for truth, and for standing up for what is right. To celebrate people.

Celebration at a young age, over triumphs big and small, will ultimately arm children with the mindset to fight battles.

Our kids are going to need to be confident in Christ, in their support system, and in confrontation and making it right with people..... if they didn't grow up watching you do that, then why in the world would you expect to raise children like that?  If we are celebrating our victories regularly, it motivates us to keep fighting and taking on challenges. The same with our children. If we can give our kids situations to triumph, they will ultimately learn God is with them and they can do all things through Him.

The only way we can celebrate is to win. The only way we can win is to fight. And the only way we can fight is with the Armor of God.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

If that is our attitude, how do we lose? How does that lose, ever? The way I see it, either way I win. I win with the person or I win because I never gave up hope. And we need some people speaking hope into todays relationships.  I am a firm believer that God can redeem any life.

Am I part of the problem or part of the solution? Which one will you be? I pray my kids, no matter what conflict arises in relationships and in their own lives, will be part of the solution and not the problem. And they will celebrate their victories.

Lets make our generation one of redemption. And celebration.



Updates on us.

The conversations in our house are pretty entertaining. I wonder sometimes how our children have such wild and insane imaginations. Everything is silly. They believe in everything. Santa is very real. Disney is Mickey's home. Batman lives in Gotham City. Spiderman lives in New York. Tinkerbell really does fly and pixie dust is precious. It also resembles anything close to glitter in my house. I laugh and smile and I foster any imagination in our house... I also think it comes straight from my husband. As we are sitting down the other night, this Tim and I's conversation.

Tim: Do you think we ever were around each other and didn't know it before we really met in college?
Jen: Hmmm..
Tim: Like if we were at the same restaurants, vacations, anything? Anything? You think we were?
Jen: Well, I don't see how we could possibly ever know the answer to that
Tim: Sure we can.
Jen: And how is that babe? How do we possibly figure that out?
Tim: I don't know. Probably in Heaven one day there is like a google. Google in heaven. Where you can look up anything. Hoogle, probably, that's what it will be called.
Jen: I'm done. Just done. You're done. And I'm not responding to you.

Keep in mind sarcasm is our greatest tool in marriage. Winning.
It is in these conversations I realize my children have every shred of imagination from Tim. Completely.

Well, Tim is literally wrapping up his final crazy week for the HVAC peak season, wahoo! The summers are his busiest time and he has been slammed. Good though, right? His job is still so perfect for him. It completely taps into his natural gifting of fixing any and everything, the Commercial industry always presents a new challenge and diagnosis for him to beat, and he still really loves it and has no plans to change. I cannot believe where all we have been to be here, but none of that even matters now. That, or maybe I really did loose all my marbles during that time period.
 So, Tim is going to be a stay at home daddy for a week. My annual big work trip is soon in Las Vegas and I cannot wait! Is there really anything better than switching roles with a stay at home mom?
I think not.
 You think you have it all figured out being daddy.... swooning in after work, throwing a few dishes in the sink, patting the kids on the head and kissing them before bed. Well, I can't wait for these 2 crazies to rock his world for 7 days! SEE YA SUCKER!!!!
Ha! I am kidding. Kind of. Tim's work around the house is pretty clear and evident to even people that have never met us, ha! Tim is a huge hands on dad, he obviously fixes, builds, and handles everything, he loves to cook and many nights jumps in and takes over after I've started, and he knows the ins and outs of our day. I love how in-tune he really is or I would never be able to just up and leave town and have him do EVERYTHING. And while some guys bring home flowers, well, Tim decided to build me an office instead. His love language is provision. And mine is logistics.
Have you ever done this all you mamas out there? It's a role recognition and I think sometimes it helps you put things in perspective. What do you really have time for? What's important and what is not?
The other day I listed out the top things I am doing.
They are:
My relationship with God, making time for Him, hearing from him, and trying to live a life of prayer
Teacher-  homeschooling Mackenzie for Preschool, not just academics, but using opportunities as anything teachable
Trying to be a decent family member and friend
Investing in others and church community
Landlord of Nellie Mae. Checking in. Collecting rent. Communicating with renter. Tim does fix anything that goes wrong over there
Bill Payer- Tim knows everything as well, we have budget and spending meetings, but I do all the logistics of paying the bills. Why? Well, this is where my OCD-ness proves I am the better candidate
Employee- #1 Tuesdays for Farmers Market Baskets pick up at our house #2 Cobb Antique Booth owner- just entails me re-finishing furniture and keeping our booth stocked month to month. (Last month we sold out!) #3 Corporate Event Planner- a few times a year I work events, annually I go for a week.
Landscaper- I am not awesome, but with Tim on commercial rooftops all day, I can't handle him coming home to do yard work. I actually love cutting grass. And it totally counts as exercise.
Housecleaner- PRAISE JESUS, just my own. I am touchy about this. Don't ever tell me if you have a house cleaner. I will secretly hate you. Mainly because I cleaned 13 houses a month for a short period in my life. I went through a strike for a while with my own and am just now circling back around to recover and clean my own.
Exerciser - sadly all that entails is my day to day activity plus walking in the mornings
PTA mom- I know, I know..
Car logistics- I keep up with the records, maintenance, all that jazz. Tim can fix anything that breaks
Pet Owner
Meal Taker
Shopper- for food, clothes, building materials, and all things Amazon Prime

So, it is going to be kind of awesome for me to leave for a week. Can you tell I am excited? Love this man. Love that he would not only consider it, but insist for me to go. The great thing about Tim is that he is a smooth sailor. He won't have emotional outbursts under pressure. He quite possibly may do my job better than me. Either way, I love that the kiddos will have daddy being in their day to day.

Since it has been all about David and going to 1st grade, here are some little fun things I never want to forget about Mackenzie.

Mackenzie Conversations:
Mackenzie- Daddy, when I grow up, I am going to be God.
Tim- No
Mackenzie- Well fine, I'll just dress up like him then.
Tim- NO?
Mackenzie- Well fine, I don't know where to get any God shirts anyways.

This morning. Mackenzie comes walking into our bedroom. Straight faced. Stands at the foot of our bed. She announces she has something very important she needed to let us know.
She can fly.
Then, she turns around, and walks out.

I love car conversations. I have been trying to once a week ask the kids about a scenario that could come up with the adoption of a new brother/sister/whatever may come.
We used the most recent situation we are waiting to hear back about, which is a little boy, who I firmly believe may be David's long lost twin. Seriously, imagine another David. So I posed the question:
Me: So kids, what will happen when you get mad at your new brother or sister one day, lets just call it a brother today, what do you think you will do? We will be his new family and there will be a lot of work to help him adjust to living with our family. You guys will have to learn to work it out with him just like you do with each other...
Mackenzie: Mama, if he ever gets sad. Ever. I will tell him, "Its okay. Don't be sad. We are your family now and you are home."

I'm pretty glad that day I was sitting in the drivers seat because the whole way home I had tears down my cheeks. I feel like this road has been destiny for our family. Bigger than that, God's ultimate Family Plan. In James 1:27 to look after orphans in distress...
I can't tell you how gut wrenching it is right now.
One phone call can give us an answer. A new son.
One phone call can also tell us, You weren't the ones...
We are among multiple families that are being decided for this sweet child. 

Waiting on that news. Envisioning this child you haven't met in your life. In your every day. All I have is a photo. A brief summary.
Falling in love with a child you know very little about. Sounds shocking. Yet, I did it many times. I fell in love with many children. Two I got to meet and call my own.
I feel like my loss has prepared me for the roller coaster, heartache, and the unknown of adoption.
Answers. And lack of answers.
Does my preparation make it easier?
In some cases it makes it harder. We have been on the receiving end of more bad news than good.

Would you pray for this child we are waiting to hear back about?
I have given it to the Lord.
My heart is in the best condition it can be while we wait for a new son. Or go back to the list and wait.

How do you guard your heart fully to protect it and fully live for hope and joy that you may gain a son any day? How do you do that?

You don't my friends, you don't. Our hearts are on the line.

Now how about we end this post a little more cheery?

Tim hung some awesome pendant lights in our fun kitchen. This kitchen makes me feel like having a house party every weekend.

My almost 7 year old doing a front flip off the diving board.
New dining room. To the right is where Tim enclosed a new office. Promise to get pics soon.
Our new pet frog, Cornbread. He sits with us every meal and during homework.
Mackenzie starting gymnastics. Doesn't this photo make her look like we are doing olympic training?
My main man climbing to fix Ken Stanton Musics Air Conditioning! Right next door to my Antique Booth~
Also, since school started, we have found and returned 4 dogs to their homes. I don't know why we find strays. So.... if your dog gets loose in downtown Marietta, it will probably come to my house.
Happy Labor Day weekend friends!
We are off to a Family Canoe trip tomorrow morning (:

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