Wednesday, January 4, 2017

God's AMAZING provision ALWAYS!

Good Morning Friends!  I have the most amazing story of God's faithfulness! 

In this broken world it is SO good and SO IMPORTANT to recall the faithfulness of God through the little and BIG moments of life. 

Whether it is recalling…

The times that he walked us through challenging circumstances in each adoption journey…

Or the time he literally moved in my heart to contact a complete stranger, our embryo donor mom, with the strangest question of all… “Would you consider our family for your embryos?” And then came Levi… and some most precious relationships to my heart….

Or the time he literally moved a stranger’s family all the way from Sweden… because He knew it would be the family that we “needed” to help walk along side our broken hearts as we begun to heal after losing our sweet Samuel.

Or the time we arrived at our new home here to find the refrigerator stocked upon our past midnight arrival… Breakfast for 9 coming right up after we woke up exhausted after literally dodging tornadoes in the van and moving truck on the move up to Illinois

Time and time again I can recall His incredible faithfulness to protect and provide for us… and this past fall and Christmas has been no different…


The adoption journey is a stretch for most people… It is costly, both emotionally and financially… 

With each adoption we have opened that door saying, “ Yes Lord, we are willing to open our hearts and home to another precious child to love… Move if it is your will…”  And move He has…  At times I look back and am amazed at the fact that He multiplied our finances to allow us to adopt Hope, Isaiah, and do Levi’s embryo adoption all within 4 years… It should have been impossible on a pastor’s salary… But that is always when God moves…

And moving mountains is exactly what God has been doing behind the scenes as of late.  Let me explain our recent car situation… We have a big van that carries all of us, a small car that gets good gas mileage, and a vintage 1993 jeep that came to us at a steal of a price from church members that were moving.  (Caleb did recently purchase his own car that is up on blocks in the garage providing the perfect bonding opportunity for Greg and him as they work to fix it up)

This past fall, on my way to work I literally phoned a friend asking to borrow their moped… The car I was driving was making me deaf (muffler troubleJ) and almost had me asphyxiated by the time I got to work… It just so happened that our cars were having trouble all at the same time and we only had one working car… And with Greg’s job, me working very part time for FMSC, 2 teens with jobs, a busy houseful… it just wasn’t cutting it on a daily basis while Greg worked to get the cars repaired.  These friends were so very gracious to loan us a car till we had ours up and running again. 

We knew we had to do something because all of the cars were getting high in miles and replacing them all at the same time wouldn’t be feasible for us financially… So Greg began to look at different options for replacing our smaller vehicle… After a few months of looking we did find a good deal on a car with good gas mileage… We were so grateful that now we could have one newer very reliable car.

That brings me to the present… On the 23rd of December Greg, most of the kids and I, and a close friend went down to the city to give a Christmas party for about 30 kids at an inner city school.  We arrived home and right before dinner our head pastor called and asked that we all bundle up and meet him up by the front of church in 10 minutes.

We all got ready and headed up to church across the snowy parking lot… When we got up to church we were greeted by the head pastor’s family, a few more close friends, the church communications director, and a gal that works for a Lutheran Charity organization near by…

The kids were all asking what was up... and I told them I felt like there must be members coming to Christmas carol to us or something...

They had us all lined up by the door…

And up drove a brand new 2017 Ford Transit van…with a huge red bow on it...




There before us was a gift for our family from a very generous donor… a gift from Goda new van

 It has so many things on it that I would never think we would have in a car… It is beyond my wildest dream of what I would think we could ever own…

We were absolutely floored! It took Greg 5 minutes to pick his jaw up off the floor… I was in tears as well as a few of the kids…

I was just totally blown away… How could someone be so very generous?  Why would someone do this?  We are so undeserving of this amazing gift…

And just like that God knocks our socks off with His continued provision for us… And as usual, it isn’t just a van that works, but He goes above and beyond to give us so much more than we thought possible…

I spoke with the donor last week and the wife said, “We have been so blessed!  It is from God, our money is your money.”  And she meant it… She knows that their financial security is a gift from God and they wanted to share with us what really has come from HIM… Wow, it seriously reminds me of the early church where everyone shared what they had with those in need... That doesn't happen that often anymore... and most have a very different view of their own money certainly being their own... I was blown away by their amazing view on their finances, their kindness, and their tremendous generosity to us!!! 

So I share this not at all to boast about this gift, that couldn't be further from my heart... I share rather to encourage your hearts…

Don’t ever underestimate the power of God to do whatever it is that you need him to do… If you feel Him leading you to do something... GO FOR IT!  Take that leap of faith... I know HE will be faithful to you, just as I have seen his faithfulness time and time again.  

Early on January 1st, I was reflecting on all the ways He has taken care of us and all that He is to me… He has taken me from broken hearted and redeemed my shattered life... 

He is my healer, my comfort, my salvation, my rock, my daily provider. 

He will do the same for you…
Save you…
Comfort you…
Heal you…
Be your joy and rock…
And be your PROVIDER!!!

Things certainly don’t always come to pass as we would think or hope that they might.  His ways are certainly not our ways… but His ways are best for sure…

Rest in the promises of His love for you… and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt He wants to take care of you… Never does He leave or forsake us… and so often He will blow us away with the amazing ways that He takes care of us in the best ways possible for us…

His way… 



Thursday, December 15, 2016

One of 2016's most unexpected gifts


I wouldn't have imagined at the beginning of 2016 that I would stumble upon one of the most unexpected blessings of 2016... and that it would be a part time job...  I just didn't really see it coming or expect it be such a gift to my heart...


I have rarely worked outside of our home for the past 19 years... That changed this past year as I accepted a part time pre-school teaching position at our churches school.  I LOVED it and Levi and Isaiah were able to come and be a part of my class...

But lets be honest... my own home is pretty full of little ones, and after getting Kaliyah it just felt right be give up that job...

I picked up a very part time job at Feed My Starving Children... FMSC...
Strangely enough, I pretty much took Louis' job after he moved from the site here in town to FMSC's mobilepack division... Funny thing taking over my son's job...



I am so thankful for my blood family, my church family... and this year the addition of my FMSC family... and that is truly what it is...

We pray together before the evening shifts... We have a common goal in mind, to feed God's kids hungry in body and spirit...

Seriously, every time I share a story of one of the kids we have fed, I can't help but picture my own kids...

Why are we so fortunate and blessed to live here and have all our needs taken care of... I can't imagine watching one of my own kids wither away... all because they don't have enough food to eat...  So hard...




So what is FMSC's answer... our meal packs... at $.22 a meal we are turning hunger into hope and all done by the hands of volunteers... Last year alone they packed 272 million meals!

This past weekend at our Hope Filled Holiday Mobilepack, right in our hometown, we packed over 1.4 million meals... It was amazing to be a part of...

God was moving and the volunteers came out despite the snowstorm that dumped somewhere between 7-12  inches of snow on our city...

Even Isaiah came to help... Turns out... he wasn't much help... But he sure was cute!


Nearly 200 of our St. Peter family came out to help us pack at the last session of the day! It was like my two worlds were colliding... and I loved it!  It is such a gift to serve alongside all of them! 
Here is the St. Peter group after the packing session!  Great looking bunch! 


FMSC is a non profit so it isn't like anyone works there for the big bucks... I am so impressed by the hearts of those I work with...  A big handful of site workers and volunteers came out to the mobilepack and gave of their time to help... They was a huge blessing during clean up as well! 

 They work and serve with us because they believe that when we all work together we can be the change that is so needed... Taking the eyes off of ourselves on onto those who REALLY need the help!

My sweet friend Gina at Hope Filled Holiday... 


The Mobile pack team for Hope Filled Holiday... Woot woot... we got the job done!  And we were all exhausted after 3 very long, but super amazing days!



Where else can you possibly come pack food with the Storm Troopers?


One of my friends from FMSC even took the time to make these amazingly delicious and beautifully decorated cupcakes with the FMSC logo on them for Lou's graduation party a couple of months ago. She is so talented... 



This kids expression says it ALL when he found out how many kids they fed for a year after their packing session... How precious is that?


All by the grace of God that this food gets packed, shipped out, and these kids get fed!  We believe in the power of prayer and every single box of food is prayed over after it is packed and before it is shipped!



I can't even fully explain it... I love mission work and often dream of just packing up the whole crew and heading to a far off land to serve... (Never would have said that 9 years ago!)  But it is almost like taking the mission field right here in our back yard... 


A friend from work laughed when I told her, coming in to work is like a vacation... Being a mom to 8 kids and all that entails... the cooking, cleaning, teaching, training of little ones can be overwhelming and exhausting... But even though working at FMSC can be very physical, it still fills me up!

I have seen it proven time and time again that God had specific reasons for me to get hired on at FMSC... He is so faithful to put us right where He needs us at the right time.  I am so thankful!  

So here we are... a 45 year old mom of 8 living kids hustling around filling ingredients, moving packed boxes, cleaning sinks and I couldn't be happier to do it! I have made some of the sweetest friendships... I get to interact with so many people that never would be a part of my everyday mom life.  

 There is something about being a part of something so much bigger than you.... all done to care for God's kids and for HIS glory! 





Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Life

Currently Life is full of...

Beautiful tender moments..

Big brothers helping out...

Packing operation Christmas child boxes...


Concerts...

And more concerts... (LANY, need to breathe, and Mat Kearney were AMAZING!!!)

Special thanksgiving tea with sisters and daughters...

Huge bonfires and worship with loved ones...


And tired Black Friday shoppers...

Greg just returned from a week in Haiti and has spent the whole day sick in bed...

Honestly, I am a bit tired from a week alone with the 8 kids amidst traveling, school, and Christmas decorating... But yet, I am so thankful for the full days and the people and things that fill them up!
Every single day is a gift to have the chance to live... 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Another year closer to Heaven...

How do I adequately put into words what it feels like 8 whole years later...
Do I live constantly with this deep heartache I feel right now as I sit quietly alone at Starbucks at nearly 11pm?  Not at all... But am I feeling it now? 
Down to my very core...

But I thank God we don't grieve with out hope... 

I know it may seem odd or depressing to some that my heart still aches over the loss of my precious son 8 years later... 
But I am ok with it... On a daily basis, I barely have time to catch a breath...  So when the hurting hits, it is ok with me... Grieving is healthy and it is a process... 

I have learned it is a process that no one else can judge or tell you how to work through... 

This precious baby boy, my son Samuel, His life had value...
It still does... It ALWAYS will...



It really is hard not to think back to what was happening this time 8 years ago... 10-28-08 (I wrote this a couple of days ago now) 
It was my due date and he was moving like crazy late that night... 

and just like that it would be the last I felt of him...


I don't dwell often on the events that had to occur to bring his body forth... 
But on anniversary days... it is hard for me not to think about it... 

The birth... it was traumatic of course... I will never forget when it was time to push, just crying out that there was no way I could do it... I wasn't ready to really see him, lifeless... 

But the minute all 9 lbs. 2 oz. of him was born there wasn't a dry eye in the room... It was sort of an out of body experience for me... I could hear everyone sniffling... See the tears falling down their faces... Hear the silence from my baby... but  I was just in awe of how absolutely perfect and precious he was... I could not take my eyes off of him...

And so we spent 5 sacred precious hours with him before we handed him over to the nurse... a memory I will never forget... 


(Seriously, could Anna and Samuel be more sweet?)
There were tears... there still are...There was A LOT of passing him around... Not one of the kids hesitated to hold, hug, and kiss him... 

They loved him fully... Something I will cherish and never forget... They were prepared  for this baby boy... They were so excited for him to be born... and I thank God that it was a beautiful time for all of us to spend with Samuel.  How odd... the most difficult time... but yet one of the most beautiful of times...


Now... as I look at the these pictures, I can hardly believe how little my kids were when they experienced the loss of a brother... They look so small... Yet to handle something so big... 
My sweet family... 

I know we don't own the corner on grief or sorrow... There are many that go through much worse... But heartache is heartache... no matter what the cause...

And Life is life... no matter how tiny... 
And his life mattered then while I was carrying him, holding him still in my arms... and now as I remember the precious gift God gave us in Samuel... 


I remember thinking... That if I lived to 80 I would have to live 40+ years with out him here with me... 

Now I think... Wow... 8 whole years closer to seeing him again... Not a month closer... not a year closer...
8 WHOLE YEARS CLOSER TO HEAVEN!!!! 

I rejoice in that... Truly... 


I know my life here is precious... My family here is precious beyond belief...
But I know HEAVEN will be all that more amazing!

I rejoice that we will all have that time together... forever...


No more goodbyes... ever...


Samuel Mark,  I loved you from the minute I knew you existed... 
And I will love you till we meet again...

I wonder what kind of trouble you and Jojo would be getting into each day...

I often think about when Jesus was calling your name as He welcomed you home... 
samuel... Samuel....SAMUEL... SAMUEL... as you got closer...

And when you will call mine when I go home...
mom...Mom... MOM... MOM... 

Oh the joy that fills my heart as I think of Heaven...


I really don't know how people do it without faith in Jesus...
We have so much to look forward to... 

This life is not the end... It really is just the very tiniest of beginnings to eternity... 

To forever... to eternity... 
To forever praising our savior together...
To thankfulness in my heart for the beautiful gift that you are to our family...
To the grace of God in collecting ALL of our tears...
To no more goodbyes...
To making it 8 years closer to Heaven...
To our amazing creator who fashioned your precious body so perfectly... 
To the compassion He works in our hearts to reach out to love others in loss...
To a mother's great love that only grows deeper with time...

To HEAVEN...




Thursday, October 27, 2016

Beans and rice day three...

I have been struggling a bit as life moves full speed ahead... College applications, fafsa forms, soccer games, work, ministry needs, keeping track of Louis as he travels the nation for FMSC's mobilepack team, homeschooling, laundry, laundry, more laundry:)  

I am constantly trying to keep the priorities in place that we value the most... Our relationships with Jesus, our relationships with each other, and then all of the other things that get thrown in with life as a family of ten!:)



Can anyone else relate to trying to balance it all... Get it all done... Keep what is truly important at the top of the to do list??

Just yesterday we had to make a decision to not participate in a winter activitiy for the sake of limiting the schedule... There was some sadness... Some guilt on my part... but lets be real... With 10 people in the house even when we limit outside activities, the schedule can get out of control... 

So in an effort to keep our hearts and minds in check this holiday season... We started our beans and rice challenge just a few days ago... 

And the expressions on day one say it all...


Gosh I love these hilarious kids!!! I am SO THANKFUL that they are mine!

It has been a couple years since we did this before Thanksgiving... We started it as a way to be able to even in the slightest bit prepare our hearts for Uganda and to try to get a gut check on our over abundance here in America and in our family...

That over abundance affects us in every aspect of life...

We literally are busting at the seems with our "stuff" and need to do a major overhaul in purging... This goes for everything... Jam packed closets, jam packed pantry, jam packed freezer...  I could go on and on...

Truly I am extremely frugal... My dad used to say my mom was frugal and could stretch a buck to $2... But that I could stretch it to $10... But yet when I find a good deal, and with a large family, I buy in bulk... Good on the pocket book, but there still comes a time to clean it all up... 

So we are intending to eat beans and rice for lunch till Thanksgiving... (It will do our  hearts good to realize what many have as maybe their only meal of the day)  we plan to give away what we will save on lunch food to one of our favorite ministries. 

We intend to eat from the freezer, pantry, stockpile of food... Only running out for essentials.  This may require some creativity, but I am determined! 

We intend to purge... Taking a room at a time or closet at a time... And I intend on getting everyone involved!!😳😳 Really... Everyone!😊 

I know this will take longer than just making it to Thanksgiving, but I am hoping and praying that it sets our hearts in a better place before the holidays... 

We intend to focus on the gifts we have and not on what we don't have... 

I am all about simplifying, savoring the moments (even more needed as these kids get bigger and more involved), and treasuring each precious person in our lives... But sometimes the clutter can distract, overwhelm, and really take away from our happiness and the beauty set right before us...








Anyone else need to hit the reset button on life before the holidays? 

Join us in getting rid of the non essentials and instead on focusing and cherishing the beautiful precious things around you!!  To God be the glory!



Wednesday, October 19, 2016

That familiar chill in the air...

October for me is hard... there is no other way to slice it...

Is it as hard as it was 7 years ago?  NO WAY!

But it is still hard...

Truth be told... when we had the first chill in the air this year, it was the first time in the last 7 years that I didn't feel like I had been punched in the gut... As wonderful as that is...
Yes for the past 7 years every time I felt that first fall chill my breath was taken away...

Whoosh... fall... cool... cold... sorrow... loneliness... despair... emptiness... shattered heart... it all came back...

But this year was different, praise God... I just took in that first fall crisp air and marveled that it felt OK... it actually felt totally good... Wow... my heart is thankful for the whole process of healing that has taken place and continues to take place in my heart...

But even since then... the tears have come...
First when I caught Jojo looking at Samuel's photo album tears in his eyes as he snuck upstairs not wanting anyone to see... (You can bet I followed after him...:)

More as midwives came up in History and they asked all about their births and Samuel's hard birth...
Jojo then 3 1/2 and Anna was then almost 6 (we held Samuel's memorial service on Anna's 6th birthday... They see it much differently now and have a much deeper understanding of all that is missing from life as we miss Samuel.  They know the fun of their little siblings and know he would have been their partner in crime... especially for Jojo... That hurts my heart for him more than I would ever admit to him:(

Then tonight as Louis and I drove downtown together for a really special night...  more tears from both of us as he asked all about the details of Samuel's death... Being stuck in Chicago traffic left lots of time for recalling details he never knew as an 11 year old but now sees very differently as a 19 year old young man...

It is hard recalling the nurses cold words as she stuck her head in the crack of the door that Samuel didn't have any cardiac activity... WHAT???  Her coldness and lack of compassion left me honestly wondering if she really said what she had just said?

It was hard sharing with Louis the noises that emerged from me in the darkness of night as I labored to bring a stillborn son into this world...

It was even hard sharing through tears what sweet nurses God gave me when he was actually born... Only in the bible belt do nurses put their hands on you and pray boldly for the Holy Spirit to bring comfort...

So even now... these conversations come up... more so this year on a more adult level with the older kids than ever before... I think they are seeing Samuel through different eyes, maybe me through different eyes and the whole situation differently.


Wow... what a gift that beautiful little guy was... despite the pain and sorrow it still brings to my heart... He was worth every single second and every single tear!

Truth is... We still miss him...
It still hurts... some days more than others...
We will never forget him...
We will always honor him...
He is forever loved...

And we are so very thankful for the amazing healing restoring power of our gracious God... I literally thought my heart would be shattered into a million pieces forever... But like I have said before... the Lord has planted those shattered pieces and grown a new, different, but still wonderful and beautiful life!


If you are hurting today...
Be encouraged... It is 100% OK to be right where you are... I firmly believe that we need to feel what we need to feel... We can't just blow off grief... It is a process that needs working through... But it won't hurt like it hurts right now forever...

Continually give the Lord your pain and sorrow... Some days he takes it from you and lifts that burden and fills you with peace... Other days, I felt he left it right where it was, where it needed going through, feeling, and processing all of it (in light of HIS faithfulness to walk right beside us in it) to be able to eventually heal in a healthy way...

We love big... we hurt big... and God heals big... You can't really rush the process or skip over any part of it...

My heart is with yours if you are hurting tonight... I would love to pray for you if you need prayer... It would be my privilege... and May you feel the strong arms of our Savior holding you close tonight...