Marriage & Family

Where Grace Abounds

Wednesday, November 6, 2013
My mother used to read us “One Minute Bedtime Stories”…. it was a collection of short tales.  Most of which had a moral to the story.
“The Boy Who Called Wolf”
“Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch”…and then the one that made no sense to me as a child…..but has become remarkably clear this past week….

Want to find this book again! 🙂

The story goes……a man lived in a house much too small with 5 children, a nagging wife, and a leaky faucet.
On the verge of insanity from the noise and clamor, he sought the counsel of an old wise man about what could be done of all the strife and chaos in his home.

The wise old man kindly instructed him to bring inside from his yard his pig, his chicken and his cow.  

Confused, the young man went home and did as he was told.
For three days, he endured the added noise, mess, pooping creatures, shedding fur and activity in his home before he returned to the old man in complete frustration.  
“Old man” he said, “what have you done?  My house is a disaster, there is no room to lie down and sleep and the noise is deafening”!

The wise old man then instructed him to go home and put his cow, his pig and his chicken back in the yard.

After doing so, the man was amazed at the peace and quiet in his home.  Suddenly this children didn’t seem so loud, his wife seemed more pleasant and the leaky faucet provided a lovely “white noise” to the ambiance of their home.

While (I would like to believe) C has never had a day in his life with a nagging wife 🙂 (ha!), we do in fact have a couple leaks and our apartment often seems busting at the seams with our two-legged-treasures.  At times I feel stir crazy remembering the days I could simply open the back door and usher them out to the wide woods and vast lake to run off (or swim off) some steam.

This week, we’ve been blessed to have a multitude of houseguests, colleagues and family visiting.  In and out our doors.  Many pots of coffee.  Tour-guiding (as its always an excuse to see parts of Bangkok when we have guests).  Wonderful, encouraging fellowship and conversations.  And a bit of furniture rearranging and bed changes.
Its been a full house.  Full hearts.  Full days!

Which is why tonight, Im finding myself a bit at a loss with the eerie peace and quiet that is mine.
You see…I only have 4 children right now.
Only 4!!
(perspective is everything, huh?)

Our guests have departed for the week until they return Friday.  And C on a whim, decided to take Evie and Gigi with him to a conference for 2 nights.  His mom is there as well so its a great way for the little girls to get some time with him in this crazy season of travel….and to play with grandma!
Homework with the big kids with no two-year-old dinner time hissy fits to interrupt concentration.
Really weird!
I don’t think Ive EVER been in my own home without a baby or a toddler in……years!

Dinner with 4 “big kids”.  No one needed me to cut their food.  No bib to put on or dumped bowls of rice to clean off the floor.  Everyone bathed and got themselves ready for bed.  They independently got their own drinks and brushed their own teeth.  No one “needed” me.
I felt naked.  Useless.  Lost.
I was inclined to curl up in the fetal position and rock on the floor.
But settled for something far more dignified to cope with my disorientation…..
I ate nutella.
From the jar.
…with a spoon.

I did some paperwork after dinner and found it remarkably odd to not have my two year old underfoot ripping my print-offs from the printer and smearing the not-yet-dried ink with her eager hands to help.  My youngest at home tonight is a wee 7 years old and Im already feeling a tinge of “empty-nest-syndrome”.

C and I used to joke when the twins were tiny, that we didn’t understand why people stressed about their first baby.  Because certainly, having twins had to be seven times harder than having a singleton, right? 🙂
But then I shift and I look at Michelle Duggar and can. not. imagine!!!
My life is a cakewalk!!

Perspective.  Its all perspective!

When people occasionally say to me, “I don’t know how you do it“, I usually have to laugh and sincerely respond in kind.  More often than not, I don’t think I could “walk a mile in their shoes”.  Because honestly, God calls each of us to shoulder burdens that He alone can give us grace for, which others around us can’t imagine carrying!  I look at the single mom.  The career woman.  The friend patiently waiting for God to bring her a husband.  The mom to special-needs kids.  The “Hannah’s” longing for a child and struggling through infertility.  The wife whose husband has been unfaithful. The moms who have said goodbye to babies far too early.  I look at all of their lives and can’t imagine walking their shoes.
I see you ladies and I salute you!!
Your toils feel like a thankless job at times, I know.
Your steadfastness and virtue go seemingly overlooked too often.
Your weary soul tires in persevering through tiring days and sleepless nights with tear-stained pillows!
But He sees and your faithfulness to what He has called you to and it does not go unnoticed!

There is nothing extraordinary about my life friends!  I feel extremely humbled when people make awed references to me being a mom of 6 kids, living overseas as a missionary wife.  Because very frankly, those are the things God has given me grace to do.  There is no badge of honor that Ive done anything to earn.  He’s instilled in me a love for travel and adventure.  The thought of moving to a foreign country is far less frightening to me than the thought of being a full-time working mom…or of having my husband shipped off with the military….or of dealing with a handicap in a child.
You amazing mommas take those things in stride.

My upbringing with 10 brothers and sisters equipped me for life with many small children.  I love hospitality….having people in our home….having our house full of kids and noise and guests.
Do I get overwhelmed?  Absolutely.
But its a role I feel uniquely suited for and equipped through a strength that is not my own.  
At this present moment, God has not equipped me to support a spouse through terminal health issues.
He has not called me to trust Him through a major financial crisis.
He has not prepared me to deal with a chronic relational stress.
But for some of you, that is the road He has asked you to walk.

2 Corinthians 9:8
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound one very good work. 

We’re not so different you and I.
Both grasping for grace….
Friends, I think we each waste a lot of time looking at iconic women around us and feeling like we don’t measure up.  The spiritual supermodel.  The homeschooling mom.  The Pinterest-party Martha Stewarts who install temporary lighting for her child’s 4th birthday that we all secretly despise. 🙂
Do we spend more time feeling inadequate about who we want to be, rather than embracing who God has equipped us to be?  We, every one of us, have situations unique to us that God is beckoning us to fall on His grace for.
Maybe he has not led you to parent six kids….and He’s not led me to minister to a husband burnt out in his job.  But its the same grace we both fall on!
The pedestals have to be taken down.  Calling.  Obedience.  Walking in Grace.  They are there for each of us in beautifully unusual and diverse forms.

Someday, nights like tonight are going to be my “norm”.
There will be a lot more time and a lot less mess.  But grace will be needed for that season as well.
Someday Ill need grace for an empty nest…..and Im sure there will be a lot of Nutella consumed when that sad day arrives.
That same “grace thats brought me safe thus far” will continue to lead me Home.
May His grace abound in each of our lives as we humbly walk the path He’s prepared before us….not looking to the right or the left in comparison…wishing anthothers grace could be ours…but trusting our grace gifts from God, perfectly suited for our individual needs, heartaches, passions and pursuits.

When Heaven Holds A Piece of Your Heart

Monday, October 21, 2013
All this heartache has me thinking….thinking about heaven….thinking about HOME….My dear friend whose husband passed away last week unexpectedly leaving her with three small boys.
…Our precious Yaya’s inconsolable tears over the untimely death of her 10 year old nephew this weekend following his battle with leukemia.
….Another friend, (a “daddy’s girl”) laying her father to rest and moving home to care for her aging mother.
…And our own personal journey of grief as we have mourned the loss of a baby to miscarriage this summer.

We had not shared the news yet with anyone.
For 10 weeks, I was biding my time with cruel morning sickness accentuated by the polluted city smells and Thai street food stalls.  My plan was to wear a cute “Made in Thailand” maternity shirt home when I went back to the States for my sisters wedding to announce our surprise to my family.
But that moment alone in a Thai hospital…..with C out of the country…..the doctor confirmed there was no heartbeat, and my dreams dissolved into tears.

This process of grief.  Of longing and pain and wishing to rewind….or fastforward….or “skip” the chapter that holds so much hurt.
We know that Jesus wept too.

But death doesnt only rear its ugly head in the physical sense.  There is no one exempt. We all deal with grief.  We all encounter disillusionment.  “Death” is a part of our daily lives and relationships.
We die to ideals, to dreams………and at times, to hope.

This world, so full or heartache and pain and injustice.  Its all around us.  Our homes, our marriages, our communities and our jobs.

This fallen world.
So far from Eden!

Im usually the forever optimist.  I love life.  I dont find it challenging to find joy daily in my blessed life full of little people and their little worries.  Innocence is bliss and my 6 children’s’ naive perspective is infectious.  But this week my heart has been heavy.  The rose colored glasses I viewed life through….frankly, Im kinda over it!  Im growing more discontent with what at times has brought me stability.  My settled, comfortable life which once held such luster, is fading and phony.  Im not drinking the Kool Aid anymore.  The protective walls Ive erected have been battered and beaten…..and Im coming to terms with the fleeting nature of life as we know it.

And it leaves me longing.
Longing for heaven.
Longing for home.

I think my perspective on this first began to shift in the early months following Evie’s brush with death. In the weeks after, so full of questions and doubt, we saw other heart-babies like our Evie whom God called home early.  And my heart broke in a way it has never quite recovered from.
Encountering the reality that everything that I held dearest could be taken away from me in an instant…..and watching a Godly grieving mother embrace hope after unspeakable loss and tragedy…..forced me to begin taking a long hard look at the reality that this world indeed is not our home.

These verses have come to mind often as I have been praying for my dear widowed friend Carla this week:

1 Thess 4:13
“We do not grieve as those who have no hope”

“Where, O death is your victory?
Where, O death is your sting?
…He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”
(1 Corinthians 15:55)

Death is inevitable.  And for those of us allowed to linger, that loss is an unbearable burden to bear.  But, we are not without hope.  This spinning world is not our home!  We were made for more.  And eternity beckons.

Im reading Randy Alcorns book Heaven.
Im devouring the biblical outline for the hope that is ours if we are in Christ.  It resonates with the premonition in my heart that we were created for more…and that one day, this will pass, and we will be face to face with our Savior.

Having two babies in heaven now means Im a little less enthralled with this world, and a little more eager for heaven.  When I consider the earthly world my other 6 children are currently living in, it makes me homesick…for heaven.  We’re not really “compatible” here.  There’s something better waiting!  In this is our great hope!
Im brought comfort when the children reference our baby Sophia being in heaven with baby Matthew.
I now have two babies who will never know the pain of this world.  Their reality is what I long for.  But, until that day, heaven holds a piece of my heart and leaves me longing for the day this world fades and all we have seen dimly, we then will see clearly.  Im longing for when He returns to bind up the broken hearts and wipe away every tear.  Come Lord Jesus, come!!

Revelation 21:4
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.  All these things are gone forever”


For anyone feeling led to pray or help Carla at this time, this is the information Ive been given on her needs and how we can help:

Forsaking all Others

Monday, October 14, 2013
“Are you leaving us again?” my eleven year old languished in his most convincing “guilt trip” voice.
The complaint came at the end of sitting with him through 2 hours of tedious homework (I hate algebra just as much as I did 25 years ago!!!)
Gigi was having a meltdown after skipping her nap.
And my kitchen was a disaster from dinner preparation.  Many hands make light work a mess!!
The meltdowns and mess had me counting down the minutes till bedtime.
I was feeling less than ravishing.”Maybe we should just have a date night at home” I texted my husband.
Our plans to go out for a little while after we got the little ones in bed was sounding daunting.  I wasnt sure I was going to survive the “Valley of the Shadow Hour”, much less look presentable to go out.
C knowing we would both just end up collapsing on the couch coaxed me, “no…lets go out”.
By the time we got everyone fed, bathed, medicine dispensed, backs scratched, songs sung, drinks administered and tucked in bed, we were exhausted.
But out we went.
And two hours later, I was glad we had!
How did dating go from fun to…
Dont we all enter marriage envisioning a steady diet of candlelight, long-stemmed roses and infinite time for physical, emotional and spiritual connectivity?
We anticipate anniversaries wining-and-dining at fancy restaurants and Valentines Days spent at a swanky Bed & Breakfast.
Every Saturday we will wake up slow before going to the gym together and then we’ll meet friends for dinner and watch the football game.
Marriage will be bliss.
And our universe will revolve around eachother.
……..Ok. I wasn’t quite that naive.  But my expectations were high.
And then, a baby is born.
Two in our case….followed every 2 years by another.
And very quickly, those fancy anniversary dinners out morphed into wine and cheese at home because babysitters + fine dining = broke parents!
Valentines Day consists of more glitter and paper cut outs than champagne and strawberries.
I dont think we’ve ever stayed in a Bed & Breakfast.
And Saturdays….”sleeping in” means waking up with a toddler crawling in our bed and 3 kids asking for breakfast.  The rest of the day is spent at little-league games, not tailgating with friends!
And before we know it, putting our marriage first becomes….well……easier said than done.
So….should our husbands come first.  At risk of insighting a riot, Im shouting from the rooftop, yes!
I still consider myself a “newlywed” with much to learn, but this is one I feel like we are finally getting.
I do it somedays better than others.  The early years with nursing babies and clingy toddlers are the hardest to set boundaries that give priority to your marriage, but I feel like its certainly a classroom God has had me in.  By default, it would be very easy to get 8 or 12 or 20 years down the road and realize that my kids, not my husband, have been the recipient of the firstfruits of my time and attention.
Dont get me wrong.  We have the most valuable gift in getting to raise our treasured 6 beautiful children.  But that’s what we are doing…we are raising them to launch them into the world as responsible, considerate adults who do not think the world revolves around them.  Im not doing society (or my children’s future spouses) any favor by fostering an entitled attitude.
My husband however… I vowed before God to love and to cherish and to “forsake all others” for him.  Its obvious that applies to other relationships or moral integrity….but do we really think it applies to our children?
The kids were griping (as they always do) when C and I were walking out the door the other night.  “Do you know who mommy and daddy love the most“, he chided.
First God, then each other.  Then you“.
But I honestly don’t think my kids are suffering from insecurity or feeling like 3rd place on daddy’s list.  They feel secure in mommy & daddy’s love and commitment toward eachother.  They see us fight.  They watch us make up.  They observe affection.  They see us kiss.  They know we love each other.  And sometimes they have to wait while we work through that process!  They dont doubt our committment.  I think our society is far more at risk of damaging our kids from stagnate marital relationships than from “neglect” because the marriage has taken too much priority.
Our kids wont always be here.  If the only thing we are doing together is attending ballet recitals and going to school athletic events, there will be nothing left of us when the glue of children walks off to college at 18.  We scrape and we save all our lives for our children’s future.  But what investment are we making for the future of our marriage?  We have the opportunity now to begin making deposits into the kind of relationship that we want to have when we are 50 or 60 or 70.  Adoring retired couples dont often come from young parents who are so strung out that they dont carve out time to work on their marriage in their 30’s and 40’s!
So how do we practically do this?  One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is security and assurance of their parents love.
We are unapologetic about the fact that we have zero tolerance for being interrupted when C and I are having a conversation.  (And this is not something that I have always done well!)
That means he gets the best of my time, of my attention, of my affection.
When I am consistently deferring to the needs of my kids, Im communicating that my priority is my children.
In our efforts as moms raising young children, its a common default to give preference to whatever cries the loudest.
Typically, this wont be your husband.
Sure there are exceptions, but our husbands feel loved when we make an attempt to offer undivided attention and take interest in the thing that interest them.  The requests for a snack or help with homework are valid.  But our kids can learn to wait for a moment!
When we have children, we become experts in whatever it is that they take a fancy too.  I hate snakes.  I do!  But with a son who loves all things creepy, crawly and scaly, its remarkable how much Im learning and love finding for him to foster his interests.  I desire to give the same priority to my marriage.  I dont ever want to stop being a “student” of who my husband is and what makes him “tick”.
Next on our bucket list is to learn a new skill together.  Im willing to pick up a tennis racquet…and with a little more convincing, you think he might take a salsa class with me? 🙂