Searching for Norman Rockwell

Deep down, I think everybody wishes they had the perfect family gathering with everyone in their best clothes and the fancy linens & wedding gift china, all sitting down to a fine feast with all the trimmings. The truth is, nobody’s perfect: the plates might not match and the table cloth most likely has a few stains that just.won’t.come.out. Doesn’t matter. What makes the meal? The people sitting together to enjoy it.

Those of my family that are in town this week will gather at my parent’s house in a few hours and enjoy a fine Thanksgiving feast filled with lots of good food, wine, and conversation.

It’s been a year of changes in my family: marriages, pregnancies, welcoming new family members. Finishing goals, pursuing dreams, entering new career fields. Preparations for children, both biological & through adoption, waiting and waiting and waiting … wondering how.much.longer … and waiting some more.

Through it all, despite our different interests & beliefs, we’re family. We’re a far cry from perfect to be sure. But we’re real. And we all support each other in whatever we’re involved in, however we can. We are here for each other. Not just on the special gathering days when the meals are fancy but also on the tuna sandwich & corn chips days.

Real life. So much better than a painting.

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“As ready as I’ll ever be”

These past few months have been a whirlwind of activity at the Casa …

  • new job
  • Sweet Husband graduated with his Master’s
  • accepted to seminary
  • we’re adopting

Let’s take a moment to absorb that last bullet, shall we?

Sweet Husband and I are going to be parents. Of a sibling group. We promised not to limit God and so however many He gives us, we’ll take and call our own.  We’ve found a group we’d like to be considered for. So we keep praying.

I’ve been asked if I’m ready for this. Is anyone ever ready to be a parent? My consistent response?

“As ready as I’ll ever be.”

I am so impressed with how Sweet Husband is leading us through the process. He’s so ready to be a father and he’s not wanting to wait any longer than is necessary.

My Quiet Times this past month have been all about getting off my keister and sharing my story. My story of how good our God has been to me: of the incredible grace He’s bestowed on me and Sweet Husband, of how much He truly loves us and has choreographed each divine encounter through both my life and this adoption journey.

And so, here I am, reading Sweet Husband’s sent-just-now text:

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He doesn’t know how much these 8 words mean to me … but God does.

Now that is amazing Grace.

Do not be afraid

To all my friends living in fear of the unknown, I hear you.

I feel your pain & anxiety.

I get it.

Because I’m living it.

And I’m asking you to do something with me …
Focus on this: Jesus told his disciples to get in the boat and go on ahead of him.

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. – Matthew 14:22

True, then the storm came and they struggled.

I can apply this to my unknowns, as in, my current circumstance. When I met with my accountability partner in mid-January, I shared with her I believed He was giving me the “green light” to move on, which is something I’d been praying about, wrestling with really, for almost two years. When confirmation came in a form I would have never expected, I knew the time had come.

And yet, change is scary. And I was angry. Really angry. Why? If I was moving forward with His blessing, why the anger, why the hurt? Why.the.struggle?

Because change is scary. Trust is scary.

Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. – Matthew 14:24

But it’s going to be okay. Because he sees me struggling in my storm of the unknown & he’s there in the midst of it with me.

About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. – Matthew 14:25

Jesus was walking on the water. Jesus was with them in the storm and yet … he walked on the water. In it with us but not a part of it.
His words to his disciples then are just as true now …

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” – Matthew 14:27

So … I’m trusting his promise: he’s with me in my circumstance. And we’ll make it to the other side.

Spring Break 2016

I love Spring Break. But not for the reasons I’m sure most people love Spring Break.  I don’t typically sleep any later or make any extravagant travel plans. With the exception of a few days spent out of town on daytrips with Sweet Husband and my Mom, I stay pretty much within the confines of our neighborhood. Okay … within the confines of my house.  It’s an introvert thing.

I love Spring Break because it allows me to be reflective.  And, with everything that has happened in the last several weeks, this has been a good time to a) work through the panic of the unknown; b) allow myself to dream about what I’d like to do since there is a possibility, albeit slight, my seventeen year tenure in the field of education may be ending in a few short weeks; and c) spend wonderfully relaxing and encouraging time in the Word.  Because really … who but God knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, let alone on June 16th (the day after my current school contract … and my job … ends)?

This Spring Break, unlike the sixteen previous Spring Breaks, found me dreaming big, only-possible-with-God dreams. Dreams where making money didn’t make it into the equation. Dreams that begin with … “If nothing is impossible then … ” and continue with “What is my passion?” and  “Where is God calling me to join Him?”  Dreams that consume me so much so that, while I know I need to continue trolling the HR sites of the area school districts for  teaching and administrator jobs … if God is calling me out of education, I know it’s going to be okay. Everything will be okay.

My reality? I’m scared. But I’m also incredibly hopeful.  And I know God is chuckling a little over all this.  You see, I already had a plan in place to retire from education at the 20-year mark.

God simply moved the timetable up a bit.

A Very Heartfelt Thank You

My friend, Sue, writes a sweet blog, Through the Prairie Garden Gate, where she shares insights about reading, writing, and life on the Illinois prairie.   She presented me with this award the other day:

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I am so completely touched and honored! 🙂

I’m supposed to share seven things about myself.

Here goes:

1. Hub & I are walking in our 30th year of marriage.  I have no idea how this is even possible since I definitely do NOT feel old enough to have been married for 30 years.

2. We are not parents to human children but have, over the course of our marriage, been the parents to five pups, hence the name of this blog. 😉

3. I am very excited to be co-hosting an IF:Local Gathering next weekend with my friend and Life group sister, Brenda.  It’s going to be an amazing weekend and I am so looking forward to it!

4. My heart’s desire is to seek and remain in God’s will.  My heart is to serve the neighbors where I live.

5. Did I mention I have some very awesome on-fire-for-Jesus friends?  We are a goofy bunch, and not all my friends know each other.  I dare to even imagine what would happen if we all happened to be under the same roof at the same time.  Mercy!

6. I am an educator.  This is my 16th year in public education.  Even though I’m contemplating retiring from public education when I hit the 20 year mark because I’ll still be young enough to pursue another as-yet-to-be-determined passion, I know I’ll always be a teacher. And a learner.

7. If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you probably know more about me than I can try to share in a brief list of “About Me.”  A friend texted me awhile back and said that I was probably the “most genuine person they know.” Humbling? Definitely!  I appreciated the comment then and still do now because I really do strive to keep things real.

I’m also supposed to nominate 15 bloggers.  Sadly, I don’t know any other bloggers besides Sue.  So Sue, thank you so very much for considering me to be a Very Inspiring Blogger.  I appreciate your kind thoughts and so enjoy our friendship! 🙂

Lovin’ Summer

“So, what did you do on your summer vacation?”  There was a time I didn’t like thIMG_0353is question.  This year, I’m eager to answer!  What did I do?  Well …

My Word for 2014 is Focus; my summer was spent developing my focus.  My focus commitment is 4-fold:

  • God
  • my family
  • what’s important
  • my health

 

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Excerpts from Unglued, Believing God, The Carpenter, AHA, Gods at War, Love Does, & Not a Fan

My heart’s desire is to be Jesus’ hands & feet to those around me.  I’ve been devouring a lot of books this year which focus on being a strong follower (as opposed to a fan) of Jesus.

I’m so thankful for this time in the mornings and evenings to read and marinate in the Word … time without constraints to read and study passages of Scripture and glean truth.  Time to read … just read.

I’m not sure if it’s my desire or if it’s Holy Spirit inspired, but I believe I should be sharing this knowledge instead of hoarding it.

Time to move into the application phase!

How will I do this?  Lead a Bible study? Minister to my neighbors? Head out on a mission trip over Spring Break next year or next summer? All of these, none of these … I have no idea.  What I do know is I am committed to focusing on the important.

Digging into the Word is important.  So is my family.

Hub and I continue to believe we are called to be parents and are praying about plans to expand our family.  Will we be more than a family of two humans and three dogs next summer?  Again, no idea.  We’ve been waiting for almost 30 years to be parents, so our answer is: we both hope so!  In the meantime …

IMG_1261Hub and I were able to coordinate our schedules and head out of town for a couple trips this summer.  These were places we were able to head to and return from on a tank of gas.  We had a great time together, even when things didn’t go exactly as planned.  The important fact was we were spending time together which is something we’re not really able to do during our “normal” life.

I got to spend time with my family and even managed to squeak out a win over my intelligent & talented niece when we played this:

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To her credit, she did win one game

 

 

I couldn’t resist laughing when she commented, “I can’t believe I’m actually playing this against a TEACHER!”

 

 

Hub & I have lived in this house for over a decade and there are things we’ve dreamed of doing in the home-improvement department for quite a while now.  I decided to surprise him and begin working on one of those projects on the 4th of July.

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“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:4-6 (NIV)

It’s not done but “in progress.”  I still have a few things I’d like to do before I can call the project complete.  And I like it that way for now because it’s a tangible illustration of how I am in His hands.  I was overgrown with lots of mess in my life before God began working on me.  He’s had to cut a lot of dead wood and overgrowth out of me and I can say with confidence He won’t be done pruning and shaping me until I cross that finish line at the end of my life.  My joy is anticipating the moment I’ll hear Him proclaim, “Well done!”

 

 

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Sunflowers in Gruene

Summer vacations for educators aren’t ever complete without the requisite doctor appointments we schedule so we don’t miss time from our students and staff.  I found a field of these outside my doctor’s office on a recent visit.  It was a nice opportunity to take the time and snap some pictures before heading home.

What did I do on my summer vacation?  A little bit of this, a little bit of that.

And a whole lot of focusing on what is important: God, family, faith

The people in my neighborhood

It’s been nice being on Christmas break because it has afforded me time to really focus things I know are important: faith, family, fitness.

I’ve been dwelling a lot on Barry Cramm’s message this week.  (Barry was guest speaker at last Sunday’s worship.)  What I got out of his message was this: I don’t need to bring people to church, I need to bring the church to where I live and work; I should live my life like I’m on mission.

And this got me to thinking about the people in my neighborhood.

– about my next-door neighbor who we watched pack up and move his household after he sold it recently.  We never went over to see if we could help him in any way.  (When we found out this past week the actual reason was his wife had died and the house had gone into foreclosure, we were ashamed.)

– about the man with “Antichrist” tattooed across his back who walks his dogs past my house two or three times each day.  His house is along one of the routes I use when I walk the Barky Boys.  Each time I see him, either walking past my house or when I walk past his, I pray for him.  And I think about that tattoo: Maybe he didn’t realize someone tattooed that across his back.  Maybe it all happened during a night of drinking. Or drugs.  Maybe … (he growls whenever we walk past each other on the street and I’ve said hello to him; he kind of scares me, so my plan is to continue loving him from a distance)

– about the family just a few doors down that moved in 3 or 4 years ago and really seem like good folks

I confess: Hub & I have lived in our home for over 10 years and we don’t know all our neighbors.  With the exception of our neighbors on one side and the family next to them, we really know no one.  I’ve been praying about how to change this.  How do I live my life missionally in my neighborhood when I don’t even know anyone I’ve lived with for over a decade?  Looking past this, what did Jesus do?  What would Jesus do?  He addressed the physical and spiritual needs of the people.  How can I … we … bring the church to our neighborhood; how can I … we … address physical and spiritual needs?  How can we … Hub and I … be the church to our neighbors?

  • say hello to our neighbors when we see them outside
  • plan, organize, and HAVE that neighborhood barbecue my next-door neighbor & I have been talking for years about doing
  • invite neighbors over for coffee & conversation
  • invite the women of the neighborhood to join me in Bible study

My word for this year is “Focus.”  Realizing there will always be urgent issues that require my attention, my goal is to live my life intentionally focusing on the important things that will give glory to God.

Who are the people in your neighborhood?