Monday, April 18, 2011

Wandering in the Wilderness

I have been living in Texas now for 4 years. 4 years! That is crazy to me. It feels like yesterday that Patrick and I left behind our little Yorba Linda townhouse and trekked through the desert to our new home. Yet, the 4 years here has been so full of stuff that it seems like decades that we have been here. Strange how that happens. Much like my dad's death feels like a hundred years ago, but at the same time it feels like I just spoke to him yesterday. These 4 years in some ways have been excruciatingly long. The number 1 place I have felt the drain of time has been in my walk with Christ. Moving here was definitely something that God had planned for us. Neither Patrick nor I have doubted for 1 second that God called us here. The month before we left Patrick was offered the position he had dreamed about. He was offered to work with and under the man he admired more than any other person in the world, for a place that felt like home, and with people that he considered family. He was offered the position that he had left Colorado in the hopes of one day achieving. At the same time, he was offered a position at a company that had treated him unfairly, with people he did not know, in an area that was one of the worst in the country for his department. We prayed and prayed and prayed some more. But it was clear - we were being called to Texas. We were being called out of and away from the people we loved in California, and the ministry we both felt called to. We were nervous and sad as we left behind our biggest hopes for the future, but so excited to see what God was calling us to in Texas. I mean, we had given up our hearts desire, so God must be replacing that with something completely amazing, right? Well... it didn't appear so. After 4 years in Texas we are still wondering why we are here. After 4 years at the same church, we still don't feel like we belong. After 4 years of putting ourselves out there we have no real friends. I have no one I know in Texas that I have ever called to have a conversation with. No one. Now I don't want to sound ungrateful or not take time to show all the good things that have come here - my entire family now lives here (which is the biggest blessing on earth), we bought a house, had 4 babies (2 here, 1 in heaven, and 1 still cooking), and have met some incredible people that we dearly love and admire. But it still feels in many ways like we're just passing through. Perhaps the absolute worst part of all of it is that in the entire time I have lived here I have felt very distant from God. I have prayed, fasted, read my Bible daily, gone to Bible study - done all of the stuff. Yet He seems silent. I feel like I am the only one talking, and He has grown weary of listening. In my head, I know this is totally untrue. I know that He cares for me, and loves me and listens to me, and is for me not against me. I see the ways He has provided for me, even in miraculous ways. I know all of this... in my head. But my heart, well my heart feels abandoned. My heart feels like God lead me out here and left me to fend for myself. I feel lost. I work everyday to try to do the things I feel He has laid on my heart, but I feel like I hit walls at every turn. I know that we have an enemy and that he is real and working to ruin and thwart every thing God is doing in our lives. I know that the world is not my true home and that things here are going to be bad and unfair at times. I know all of that... in my head. Yet my heart looks at my time here and recalls over 6 months of depression that I endured without a single person noticing I was struggling. My heart recalls losing my dad and watching my mom continue to mourn and struggle. My heart recalls laying on a hospital bed crying uncontrollably after losing my child. My heart recalls praying for Isaac to be born alive and then holding his beautiful lifeless body, and watching my sister have her heart torn out as she grieved her child. My heart recalls Patrick losing the job he had due to people lying and cheating, and causing us financial hardship. My heart sees all of the struggle we have every single day with finances, no matter how much we tithe, how many hours Patrick works, or how much I cut back and take on to save money. My heart sees us striving to be obedient and diligent and grateful, yet still not feeling God anywhere in the room. I know that God is real. I know that God is with me. I have met Him face to face. I have felt His hand on my shoulder as I cried, and I have no doubt that He is sovereign and I will continue to praise Him and follow Him even if I never feel Him again. I have never been angry with Him over losing my dad or Sprout or Isaac. I have trusted Him with all of that, and I know that they are in His hands. I don't want to sound like I'm doubting Him or walking away. That is the farthest thing from what I am doing. I am simply trying to convey with words the way my heart feels. I am trying to press in and grow closer to Him, and feel His presence in the midst of the storm. Yet I feel like a person in a dark room, with my hands stretched out trying to grasp for anything and finding nothing. I know He's there. I can hear Him breathing. But right now, I can't find Him. And I know that He has allowed this for a purpose, a good purpose. I know that He is using this time in my own desert to teach me to be patient, and trust Him, and follow Him unconditionally. I know that... in my head. But my heart yearns to feel my daddy turn and hold me tight and stroke my hair and tell me that He is here to chase away the monsters, and that has it all under control.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The BEST News!!

So what is better than expecting another baby? Sharing that experience with people that you love. When I posted that we were expecting our 3rd child, and 2nd son, I mentioned that I would be sharing even more exciting news in the future. Now I am FINALLY able to share the incredible news. Both of my sisters are pregnant! Annette and Alyssa are both now entering their 2nd trimester! YAY!!! All 3 of us are pregnant together! Does it get any better? This fall there will 3 new little babies all born within about a month and a half of each other. What a blessing. So if you think of it, please pray for our very blessed, and fertile, family :)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

It's a Boy!

On Tuesday morning we had the first, and possibly last sonogram of our little Tater Tot. He is healthy and active and, well, a HE! Our precious little one is most definitely a boy, and we have the pictures to prove it. He jumped all over the place, trying to hide from the camera. He covered his face with his hands acting shy and even turned and looked directly at the camera and opened his mouth. He was very annoyed at all of the attention. It was such a sweet time for Patrick and I. Is there anything better than witnessing the miracle of life? Here is a tiny precious person jumping around inside of my belly, with a personality and fingers and toes and eyelashes. It's crazy! We saw his brain and his kidneys and his spine and his sweet face. Every part of him is perfect. How can God weave together something so perfect in such a small space? It truly is miraculous, and brings tears to my eyes as I think about it. This wonderful boy is the very creation of God, being knit together as we speak inside of me by the God of the universe. I am so excited to hold him and kiss him and love on him. I can hardly wait to see his precious face. I feel very privileged to be housing this gift, for as long as God allows me.
And in the midst of all the joy, today I was overcome with a longing for my precious Sprout. I believe he was a boy, although it was too soon to tell. I know that he is running and jumping in heaven. And I often envision him sitting on my dad's shoulders, holding hands with my nephew Isaac as they joyfully sing praises to the Lord. I can almost see him in my mind, but not quite. One day I will see him and hold him and smother him with kisses. But today I just miss him and feel the empty place at the table that will never be filled. I am overjoyed at the thought of my little man inside me, and even more excited for the day my entire family can be together praising our Lord.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

No Greater Work on Earth

Are you where you'd thought you'd be 5 years ago? 5 years ago I was a newly engaged young kindergarten teacher who couldn't wait for my life to start. I was in the midst of planning the wedding of my dreams, working hard and trying to figure out what it meant to be a wife. Now, 5 years later, many things have changed. In many ways I am right where I'd thought I'd be - married to my love and staying home with my babies. In other ways I am very surprised that this is where I am. I never thought that I would be living in Texas, or that I'd be living without my dad already, that I would have lost a baby or buried a nephew. I never thought I would struggle with anger or worry this much about money. I never thought that marriage would be such a rollercoaster of emotions, or that babies would be this much work. The world paints a picture through movies, magazines and books that when you find "the right one" everything becomes sunshine and lollipops. The perfect mate would never make me cry, understand all of my needs without being told, and our perfect children would be sweet, loving and disciplined. But I was looking through the lens of someone who knew nothing of life. I had never really had to care for myself before, and definitely never had the entire well-being and training of someone else to consider. My life was my own, and in my selfish worldview everyone was here for my enjoyment, pleasure and benefit. Then I got married. And had kids. Suddenly what I wanted wasn't the most important thing. I was forced to consider others above myself. And you know what? It was hard. And it was wonderful. This life of service to my family has become my ministry. I have learned so much more about myself in this process than any other thing I have done. I have learned of my very sinful nature and great need for grace. I have learned how very weak I am and how very strong my God is. I have learned that the moments when I put the Lord first and foremost, and serve others are the moments I am truly happy. And I have learned that the moments that I think of myself, worry about my comfort and consider myself first that I am miserable. So opposite of what the world preaches, huh? We are told to take time for ourselves, love ourselves, and make sure that we're happy. While those suggestions sound nice, they really point us to a selfish life. We are to make ourselves happy first and then serve others? Where exactly in the Bible is that? Where do you see Jesus telling someone that He'd love to heal them, but He's on His way for some quiet time and He'll catch them later? You don't. Because the life that Jesus modeled for us, and the life that He calls us to is one of service. It is a life in which we are to lay down our lives for our brothers, consider others better than ourselves and follow the Lord regardless of the threat to ourselves. What I see today with so many families is an unwillingness to put someone else first. It seems most people have gotten their marriage counsel from Cosmo rather than the Bible. People expect to "have it all" and all right now. It seems that no one is willing to do the hard work required. People want good children, but don't want to discipline. People want a close family while handing their kids off to daycare providers 12 hours a day, sports practice, and then in front of the TV without really having a conversation with them. Why are we surprised that families are falling apart when no one is willing to make hard choices or make their families a priority? How can a marriage survive when both the husband and the wife are never home, or spend any time together? How can a child feel loved and wanted when shipped off each day to strangers while mom and dad do "more important work?" While I understand that there are times when people have no choice, the overwhelming majority of people who work insane hours and send their kids off to others are simply looking for more money, a nicer car, a bigger house or more toys. This probably sounds like very harsh judgment, but really I am coming from a place of true heartbreak. I watch as people I love make choices based on their emotions and desire to feel "happy" or have a "better life" while tearing apart their families and their lives. I watch as more and more people buy into the lie that what you do for a living is more important than who you love. I watch as dads pass on their responsibility and subsequent joy to others, and while mothers act as though their precious children are nothing more than a giant nuisance. This breaks my heart. I ache for these people who are making choices based on fear of missing something or the lies that a better life lies outside their own 4 walls. I want them to have all the joy and peace that comes from a heart submitted to the Lord and serving others. I want them to reap the benefits of the hard work of living for your family. I'm sorry for the rant, but all too often I have been hearing of people wondering what happened to their families when they walked away from them years before. 5 years ago I was believing the lie that the family that I hoped for and dreamed of would just happen in the right circumstances. Now, by the grace of God, I have learned that I have a big role to play, and a lot of work to do. These relationships won't just happen - they require tender care, the counsel of the Lord, dying to myself and my sinful desire and service. But there is no greater work on earth!