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After starting this journey w/ our God in 1986, He continues to teach me and show me more and more of Himself. He often uses other people to do that....

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Easy is not His plan.

I'm back. It has been over a year since I've written. Life has been insane, but in all the busy-ness, I've missed writing. I've missed having time to think about writing.

Last year, I started yet another job. Actually, it seemed to fall out of the sky as I never in a million years imagined I'd actually get the job after applying for it. It seemed like a long shot, but I felt something (Someone?) nudging me to apply, so apply I did. I can't count how many times I've asked God over the past year, "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?" and "WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO????" This job has stretched me in ways I didn't know I could be stretched. Every day is different, full of one crisis and potentially life-changing decision after another. And as I stop to take time to reflect, I am humbled that He would choose me to walk into the chaos that is my job and be allowed to see Him work in ways I can't even really comprehend.

Working in the community mental health field is a window to a population of people who are hurting, downtrodden, exhausted, and often alone. Our staff (myself, 7 social workers, and an office assistant) work with hundreds of people each month, doing our best to get them connected with the services they need to live and function within the community. In the same day, we could see a client die from drug overdose and another gladly discharge from one of our programs after meeting all of her goals. There are so many ups and downs that if you don't take time to get off the roller coaster, you could get pretty motion sick.

I'm away at a women's retreat, trying to regain my balance....find my equilibrium. I've racked my brains over the past year about how to survive in this job that demands so much from me. I've scanned the job announcements to see what else is out there that might be an easier way to make a living. A friend reminded me recently of my own words. I was on the treadmill a couple years ago preparing for my first half-marathon. It was so much work for my tired body and I asked God, "Why does life have to be so hard?" And He reminded me, "Easy is not in my plan. But I'll give you everything you need to do hard." So, my prayer today is that I'll take those words and embrace the "hard" that is my job, so much of my life these days. I want to lean into it with His grace to see amazing things happen in the lives of people who feel hopeless, at the end of their ropes.

Monday, September 12, 2011

September 11th

On September 11, 2001, I was home with my two small boys watching "Zoomboomafoom" while I sat in my glider rocker nursing Josh, who was almost a year old. Mark called from work and told me to turn on CNN, so I did. Kenny (then five years old) and I sat with our eyes glued to the TV for the next 2 hours while Josh lazily napped in my lap, unaware of the unfolding tragedy. My body went stiff and tense when I saw the second building get hit. Later that morning, as the buildings toppled to the ground, I felt numb. I was less than 20 miles away from Ground Zero in suburban New Jersey. There were many people in our church who worked in Manhattan in the financial district. Over the next few months, we would hear many surreal stories from those we knew who witnessed bodies falling in front of them, saw their own cars get crushed, thought they may not make it out of Manhattan alive that day. For the past ten years, each September 11th has been a reminder of the unthinkable. More than once, I made myself go through the countless faces who fell victim to terrorism that day. I made myself look at each one to remember and pray for their families. The day had such heaviness attached to it, and rightly so.

Ten years later, on September 11, 2011, my son Josh made a decision that changed the way I'll see September 11th for the rest of my years on this earth. He decided to get baptized at church to publicly announce that he was a Christ Follower. In counseling, we call this a "corrective emotional experience". As I sat in church and watched him go under the water, I could visualize blackness falling from his skin and newness shining through him as he came up out of the water. He dried off and walked back towards me to pick up his sack of clothes, and I caught his eyes. I saw a renewed sense of peace and calmness and confidence looking back at me. He had a huge study bible in his hands, given to him by our pastor. Off he went to dry off and change and I held onto his bible for him. We sang that night....about Jesus and victory and newness of life. And I couldn't hold back the tears. For all the desolation this day has represented for the past 10 years, today was about redemption for Josh....a day I had prayed for all of his 11 years on earth. I knew that only God could do that in him....make him want to be clean and right with God. It reminded me that God is real and alive and at work in us...even in my two boys. And as dark and grueling as September 11th is for so many, God reminded me there is hope.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Change is Hard

Sometimes I just need to write to make sense out of what's going on inside me. Lately, I've experienced more than a usual amount of fatigue and weariness. Today I've stopped. I stopped planning, organizing, doing my normal "staying busy" thing. I took TWO naps, made some special coffee, and lit a candle or two. I'm taking stock of all that's transpired since we moved to Wisconsin six years ago, especially on the inside. The level of "output" has been tremendous. I found it only went well when I took the time to be connected to the Source. All the counseling, the listening, the tears...I know they add up to something more than I can put into words. I'm so grateful I got to be a part of people healing and moving forward for the past six years. I'm having a hard time making sense out of why God would have me go through all of the training and long hours towards being a licensed therapist to now walk away from it. All I know is I'm really tired. Sadly, I don't have it in me to keep my practice open, but I wish I did. I thought it would be easier to walk away from as tired as I've been, but it's grueling. I'm not sure what that means.

I took a state job earlier this year, because as hard as we tried, we weren't able to make ends meet on my private practice income. Kind of embarrassing to admit, really, but we started too far behind to begin with. I wasn't doing back flips about taking the state job, but God is clearly providing for us through it. Now in month 9, I can see more and more why God has me there. I know that's a big part of why I'm too tired for private practice. I'm just admitting I'm sad about leaving it behind. It's what I really love to do.

My career re-focus has come out of a need to provide a more stable income and schedule for my family. My boys need me "all there" for at least the next ten years. While leaving private practice behind feels like losing a part of myself, I know there will be more of me to go around at home....and more time to actually be filled up from the Source. I have a feeling I'll get back to it one day. I'm not sure how or when or what it will look like, but I know it will be in His timing.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I am answering this question from Ann Voskamp's blog "A Holy Experience"

During the next three weeks, as we walk with Him, might we consider: The Spiritual Discipline of Time. Might we explore the purpose of time, how to live in time, slow it down and not rush, how to use time as a holy thing. And how do we make time for God and for all things eternal? We look forward to your thoughts, stories, ideas….

When my son, Kenny, was in 6th grade, we bought him his first cell phone. Way too soon, I'm sure, but we gave into the pull of wanting to be in touch wherever, whenever....I digress. The other day, I called his phone (now a big 8th grader) and heard the same voicemail message he made three years go. His voice sounded younger, more elementary-school-like. My first thought was to tell him to change it now that his voice is deeper...then, "No, I hope he leaves it like that for the next twenty years." I want to remember how he sounded. It made me wish I took more pictures, more video footage. The next night, after too many hours of work, I called on my way home thinking I'd get his voicemail and instead got his voice (even better!). I asked if he wanted to do a mall date with me..."YYYYeah!" I scooped him up and spent the next two hours eating Kato's Chicken, laughing at his goofy jokes, and wandering through the mall. My body was weary, but my heart was glad for the time with him. Sometimes, no often, time has to be taken. Those moments don't just happen. I have to be intentional about being fully present in those moments and recognizing the opportunity when it presents itself. As we pulled into the garage at the end of our "date", he said, "Thanks for the time tonight, Mom. That was epic." He didn't thank me for the jeans I bought him or the Kato's Chicken or the cool t-shirt he landed. It was the time that mattered to him most.

One Thousand Gifts

I just started reading "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. It is moving me in ways I didn't expect. I am going to start counting the many gifts in life I'm grateful for as I read this book. Today, I'll start with #1.

1. I am grateful for making it home alive today. Kenny (14) and I were driving home from church in an ice storm. As I was driving along, a car in front of me started sliding from left to right and back again across three lanes of interstate. I felt a calm come over me and give me clarity to keep switching lanes so as not to hit her. I moved far right to get far from her and suddenly she was far right in front of me. I calmly looked behind me to see who was there and adjusted left. Soon I was past her and she was stopped safely on the shoulder with her head in her hands sobbing uncontrollably. I am grateful for so much in those few seconds...for the calm that came over me. For my son who was buckled tight. And for the sobbing woman who was safely parked on the shoulder now after at least three 360 degree spins across the ice. The gift is knowing He was present in those moments. His presence is the greatest gift of all.

holy experience

Friday, February 18, 2011

Red Velvet Cake

With life moving at such a fast pace these days, I am enjoying a night at home with Kenny, my handsome, goofy 14-year old son. What amazes me is that he still wants to hang out with me at 14, but I'm not complaining! Mark and Josh are in Texas on a ministry trip for the weekend. Josh has been sporting his Packers jersey around Dallas all day, and somehow he still managed to make some friends. I love that he and Mark can make some memories together down there. Meanwhile, Kenny and I get some bonding time back at the house. We watched a goofy movie tonight that I won't even name, because it was that stupid. I had more fun watching Kenny laugh at nothing than watching the movie itself. Along with the movie, we had a cake-making project going on. Kenny's been watching "Cake Boss" on Netflix a lot and wanted to try his hand at making his own cake. He chose Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting. It actually tasted amazing, but my kitchen does look like a murder scene. Well worth worth it...

On another note, my sister (Tammy) and I were in downtown Madison all day. Actually, I've been down there all week for work. We were doing training in the Concourse Hotel and Tammy had the day off, so she brought her lap-top and grad school work and camped out in another part of the hotel while I "trained". We were a block away from the Capitol Building. At lunch, we sat at Noodles and Company on State Street and watched out the window as thousands of college students marched down the street with crazy signs and hats. They descended on the capitol to voice their opposition to Governor Scott Walker's budget proposal, which would limit labor unions in their contract negotiations for state employees. We heard Jesse Jackson was nearby, but we never actually saw him. It was a high energy day. I'm not sure what I think about all of it, but I was very aware that we were sitting in the middle of something pretty historic. From my little chair, I'm just a state worker who didn't have a job 3 months ago who's thankful to be working. If they take more out of my check for health insurance and ask me to contribute to my retirement, I think I can live with that. But that's just me. And I realize the whole issue is much bigger than me.

Thanks again for reading. If you're reading this and you have something we can pray about for you, leave a comment (or send me an e-mail at fourdisciples@frontier.com) and we'll add you to our prayer list. We have family devotions a few times each week and would love to pray for you together.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Amazing Gift

I am posting this story with my sister's permission. I can't wait to share part of her amazing story with you. I wrote this in honor of my nephew's recent birthday. Grab your kleenex!

I only got to meet him once, so far. About 20 minutes old, I breathed in his light chocolate skin. I savored the moment, knowing the next time I saw him he would likely be a grown man.

My sister, his mom, gave him a selfless gift. Young, wounded and needing time to heal, she wanted more for him than she could give him then. I had the privilege of traveling that long road with my sweet sister to a faraway place. With resolute determination, her face set like flint, I watched her push through that week with the kind of strength and dignity that can only come from maternal love.

Her stomach brimming with new life, we boarded the plane with more than a few stares and questioning glances. I became her self-appointed press secretary to shield her from answering unneeded (and often ignorant) questions. Of special note was the large, nosy woman across the aisle who felt it was her job to get to the bottom of the story behind my sister's very large belly. My protective instincts kicked in and I intercepted her questions with the speed of a running back. I digress....

When we arrived in that faraway place, we were greeted by a handsome attorney, who would be my sweet nephew's adoptive father. He shuttled us to a nearby hotel and checked in on us daily (sometimes more) to see how my sister (and his future son) were progressing. He had the eagerness of a new Dad and treated us with respect and kindness.

For more than a few days, my sister and I walked the streets of that faraway place in hopes of bringing on labor. Rain, wind and cold did not stop us from venturing outside our hotel room. If there was daylight and my sister was still “with child”, we walked.

Finally, a blizzard descended on the faraway place. So did labor pains descend upon my sister – in full force. The handsome attorney pulled into our hotel within minutes of our call. Less than an hour later, my sister was in a hospital room in full-blown labor.

A very short doctor entered the room to examine my sister's condition and labor progress. (He needed a stool to stand on to do the pelvic exam!) Without much examining, the good doctor concluded this little bundle of joy would arrive very quickly.

I held my sister's hand and nearly lost my circulation due ot her intense squeezing. As I performed this important task, I regularly glanced “southward” to assess the situation. Each time I did this, my long hair flew into my sister's red face beaded with sweat. This annoyance may have slowed her labor down, but my nephew's abrupt arrival still came within thirty minutes of arriving in the hospital room.

Almost immediately the ADRENALINE level in the room slowed down to a minimum. Peace and relief reigned. The adoptive parents, my sister, myself, our short doctor friend and the nurses – we all had a different role and angle in that holy moment, but we all seemed to agree that it was all about the child. He was safe. He was breathing. He had ten fingers and ten toes. He was perfect. No matter what all the adults in the room were thinking and feeling up until that moment of his birth, that moment belonged to him. He owned it. And rightly so.

After holding him close to her chest for a few precious moments, my sister called his parents over to her bed. It happened to be his adoptive mom's birthday. My sister handed her this most amazing gift of a child and said, “Happy Birthday, Mom.” There were no dry eyes in the room at that point.

From where I stood that day, my sister was the most courageous woman on the planet. While many in her shoes may have chosen a different path, my sister chose to carry her child for more than nine months and do the hardest thing any mom could be asked to do – allow someone else to raise her child. For this reason, she has since then been my greatest hero in life.