Monday, August 21, 2017

August, Full of New Beginnings

Don't you love that little classic school song?  My mom used to sing it to us the very first morning of school every single year when I was growing up all the way to our senior year of high school!  Of course with family traditions running in my veins, I do the same thing.  The kids look forward to waking up on the first morning of the school year to a chipper,

"School Days, School Days,
Good and Golden Rule Days,
Reading and Writing, Arithmetic....."

Somehow we are already past the halfway point of August and we've managed to start the third week of school!  The kids couldn't have been more excited to start back, and although it was hard to me to give up our relaxing summer schedule and lazy pool days, I was ready to share them with their friends and teachers again!

That first morning was almost magical, because they were so happy and easy to get up and dressed.  Like many kids around the country they were excited to carry their new backpack and lunchbox to school as they entered a brand new grade.  

Everything feels so fresh and shiny new in school the month of August!  From their new teacher to the perfectly prepped classroom and crayons with the papers still on.  The white socks that haven't worn gray and the neatly packed lunches I so eagerly prepared.  (I start off as fresh as the kids do!)  Their bright smiles shined the brightest, reflecting their sheer joy.  You never have to second guess how my girl is feeling, because her face always says it all! 

This is the first year they had not even an ounce of fear or hesitation when I dropped them off for their first day.  There were no tears or lingering in my arms, and while that may seem more bitter than sweet, as an adoptive mama I knew in my heart it was a milestone that they truly feel secure at their school and in our home. 

Thank you Jesus!

The first week of school I received the most beautiful card in the mail.  Look at how exquisite this card is!  And everything about it is so very me!  Only Mom would know to get me a card with lovely antique china on the front and delicate flowers inside and how those details would make my heart skip.  Her words written on the inside were even more beautiful than the card!  God has used her dozens of times over the hand full of years to send me the perfect card or note or text message that only He could know my spirit needed right then.  I love Mom's ministry she has with cards and all the love she's always shown towards me.  I know how blessed I am to have her in my life as my mother.  I see so much of her in me and how I try to build my family and my home.  

She gave me encouragement inside this card that I needed as I was just starting to step into my new position as Worship Pastor alongside my husband this month at our church.  That is something big in my life that I don't think I've shared on here yet!  The Lord called me to worship many years ago, but just this year God brought it into complete fruition more than ever before.  God has really been doing absolutely amazing things in our community and in our church--Christian Fellowship--  over the summer! I don't know where to begin, but it has lead our church to start a brand new, casual mid-day service on Sundays called simply, The Gathering.

"Where two or three gather together in my name,
I will be in the midst of them."
Matthew 18:20

As always at our church, this service is never compromising on the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. It's a service comprised of intimate, modern worship and a Biblical, practical message from our pastor. We are called to instill a real family like atmosphere that will be rich in the love of Jesus and fellowship with others.  Heath and I are the worship leaders of the incredible team for that service.  I could talk on and on how God is bringing His word to pass in all of this!!  

In a matter of a couple days I was helping to launch this new service, leading worship in a new service and with a new team, and sending our kids off to school while praying the Lord's grace floods every one of these situations in where I may fall short.  He did just that!  His love never fails!  That week was exhilarating to see everything come together.  Beautiful, holy things happened with our church and inside my family.  New friendships are being cultivated, new songs are being sung, and God is birthing new and exciting things that are affecting my life in every aspect!  

Today is "Eclipse Day" and we live where we're going to have nearly 100% totality, which is pretty amazing!  I've got my Milky Way candy bars in the fridge getting nice and chilled, and I'm about to view the eclipse with my fashionable glasses (ha!) with my kids at their school.  A big blanket is coming along and a tall thermos of lemon water, and we will get to see the majesty of God displayed in another new way for us this afternoon.  It's pretty exciting!  Let me know if you're also in the path of eclipse totality, and if so put those fun glasses on and enjoy it!  I love a reason to celebrate!

It's been a wonderful month of August full of new beginnings.

Talk to you again soon!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Heart and Home

"Home is where the heart is" and my family holds my heart, so that is certainly true for me! 

I'm having a bit of introspective thinking while watching 'Anne with an "E" ' for the first time on Netflix in a very rare moment this summer of being home by myself!  In all my girly splendor I'm enjoying a divine piece of Reese's cheesecake and a cup of coffee as I write you all.  It was one of those days that I found myself wanting to eat my feelings..... it happens!!

I was thinking about home and thought I would snap a few "moments" in time right now, as-is, around my home.  I haven't shared much of our home in a while and because the home can say a lot about someone, I thought I'd invite you in again! 

So if you're new to my blog I welcome you in my home to let you in on our world a little bit more! 

In my world, there's a trail mix of a life the Lord has given me of mommyhood and homemaking, marriage and ministry, creativity and fun and hard work.  All amazing things but the Lord is at the center and my family is right beside me through it all.  There are moments I have to choose joy in the chaos that's out of my control and this sign is the perfect reminder that I can do that because the joy of the Lord is my strength!

You know, I'm learning so much about the Lord and I have so much yet to learn!  While it feels some days I should be a wise ole owl after what the past decade has brought about, everyday I realize a little more that I'll always be a student learning. I have so much more to learn about the places God has put me. The assignments He has given me in the now.

Learning more about my kids, about raising them in the love and admonition of God. Learning more about my husband and how to love him well.  Because if there's one thing I have learned it's that we're all changing and I've come to expect that.  Where change can scare the pants off me, I remember The One who never changes and I've come to this conclusion:

There is adventure in the growing and the changing together with your one love, your spouse, that's like no other adventure!!! 

Dive in head first together.

That truth has helped my whole outlook of marriage!  We've decided to grow together instead of apart and that's a choice we have made as a couple. A glorious decision that goes back to choosing joy in all things!

As I'm watching the "new" Anne of Green Gable, I see this movie in a totally different perspective than I have ever watched it before.  I've see this movie dozens of times, as it's one of my all-time favorite being a fellow idealist like Anne, but there's something strangely real about it this time that's made it harder for me to watch.

Because we have adopted our children, the dynamic of the underlying story line really hits home.

I can see deeper into the struggle Anne has faced in her orphan past and the flashbacks that occur because of triggers that set them off.  It can be a simple phrase or the cry of a baby that's everyday for most folks but shoots Anne's memories into the place she refuses to live... abandonment and ridicule and despair. 

Outwardly she seems to be a bit of a wild card! She has lots to say, she's a vibrant day dreamer and bosom friend on the one hand and a fiery temper covering up a porcelain hearted girl on the other. The imagination she developed is a perfect disguise to cover the hurt and insecurities she arrives with at Marilla and Mathew's door.

I'm familiar with loss. Everyone in my household has suffered from tragedy, as many people have.  Just as most of my house may look clean it took time and effort and work to get to the point of a clean house.  It doesn't just happen without a little sweat and sacrifice.

It's the same with our children.  We've been told that we have always looked like the picture perfect family from the very beginning.  That we looked happy and content as though we've always been together. The truth is that we've come such a long way as a family, but it wasn't that way in the beginning. It was a process that came with hard work, sacrifice and dedication from everyone in the family, but it didn't happen overnight.   We are not the perfect family, but we are so happy nowand our pictures do reflect the joy in our hearts!

God has been incredible to us by shaping and designing our family by way of His perfect plan!  We have come a long way from a few years ago when we were introduced to each other in a room moments before leaving with two beautiful. precious, scared children that made my heart leap and yet I've never been more afraid in my life. Yes, I was afraid, but I was up for what God called us to!  There was a unique challenge parenting bio children doesn't usually come with and that's the challenge of proving our trust and our love in a daily or hourly basis, but mostly proving our commitment to stay the long haul.  

Over and over we were tested and like Marilla I made some mistakes along the way.  I questioned in the early months if I could wake up again to start it all over with a 2 and 3 year old who I didn't always understand their personalities or the mixed up patterns of outbursts.  I wondered if I could handle another early morning after a long night with my husband away at work while I managed the children.  Slowly but surely, I was growing deeper in the secret place with the Lord and in turn I began to see my more strength, more patience, more wisdom, more resiliency. Over time. 

I remember how I would rest on the promise the Lord gave me years ago.  "He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyful mother of children."  We knew that God lead us to buy our first house.  I know He lead us to our babies. So I claimed the joyful part, because that's one of the most important parts!  Anyone can be called mother but not every mom finds joy in it, but I held on to that promise and claimed it like my life depended on it... in a way it did, because when you have joy you feel alive!

I trusted God and slowly but surely through His grace and provision our sweet ones began to really trust us!  It was a process (over time) but a miraculous process!  We still have a ways to go, and  I still run to Jesus crying some days throwing my hands up asking "am I doing this right??"  and "I need Your help more than ever!" as they're getting older.  But through it all, He has definitely fulfilled that Biblical promise that I claim all the time!

I run to Jesus with my hurts and with my fears and my struggle and put everything out there with Him!  He is my strong tower!!! He calls us to hard things sometimes and our dependency of getting though and thriving is all in the power of Jesus name!  I cry out to him and I think sometimes how He must tire of my same prayers. Another weary Leslie coming to the cross and needing help or wisdom or comfort, and lots of forgiveness and grace, but that's when I'm reminded of how sweet the Lord is... well, let me quote this movie for a moment to show you what I mean... 

Matthew and Anne are at the train station as she has run away from home out of fear from being abandoned once again because of being falsely accused at home.  She was confused and hurt so she would rather run and live poor and alone than even look Matthew in the eye and get hurt again. Matthew was old and he had traveled a long way to bring her back home. 

"I've come for you." Matthew says from across the train station's waiting room as she's asking for money. 

But Anne was running because she was broken and hurting. She wouldn't even look at him. 

When a bystander asked Anne if that man (Matthew) was bothering her she says yes.

That's when Matthew revealed his heart towards her.  

"She is my daughter."

Anne turned around in near disbelief at those words, as she has never been anyone's "daughter". No one had been proud of her in her whole life.  She drops her small money bag and goes over to him in tears for a hug to resolve it all.  

That scene pierced my soul so very deep and made me cry.  I couldn't help but think how I too have been like Anne at times.  It's my heavenly Father's loving kindness that draws me to Him!

How many times do we want to just run and thought," I'm done. Enough of this! I can do this on my own, because it's the better way.  There's got to be another way. I don't want to do this anymore"

Be it motherhood, ministry, marriage, family, past jobs or in the midst of tragedy.  There have been times I've felt that I was failing and wanted to throw up my hands run away irrationally.  

God pursues me every time and says, "You are my daughter. Come home."

Being His daughter changes everything and hearing it is what all of us at women around the world need to know and need to hear.  

Please listen to me, friend, because this is really good.  The Lord calls you daughter!

"And I will be a father to you and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
2 Corinthians 6:18 

Abide in the home and in the life, our Father has graciously given us.  We can be scared, we can be hurting, we can be broken, but we must run to Him because we belong to Him!  What comfort I find in that!  That's in part how I relate to my children in a deeper way. 

I was an orphan.  He called me daughter. 

I was barren.  He called me Mother.

I was broken.  He calls me Redeemed.  

I know these are scattered thoughts today, but I wanted to share the real me in the place I am now.  I fill my home with things that mean something to me and to my family. As I look around the house I'm reminded of the blessings I'm surrounded by.  And it fills me with, JOY!

What a blessing to have you around my house today and joining my alone time as I sit and think of the goodness of God!  What's been on your heart these days?   I would love to hear.