Friday, November 10, 2017

Daring to Hope

   I love books.  Our home is overflowing with them. I seem to always have a bookmark tucked between the pages of a classic that I have been reading aloud to my children.  And the pictures books; overflowing shelves of silly and sweet stories that we have memorized but continue to read everyday.  Reference books...every topic and time period.  Our homeschool library has collected them all over the years.  But, even though I am always reading, it is very rare for me to be lost in a book.  A book just for me.

   I recently picked up Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis for my oldest daughter because it was on her biography reading list for this school year.  It has been on my wishlist for a long time and I swept it away as soon as it arrived.

   It is the story of a young woman who left her comfortable American life and travels to Uganda to serve and love the poorest of the poor. She then became the mother to a houseful of African girls and started a ministry to help educate and empower the people of Uganda.

   Her story has pulled at my heart so deeply because I have always dreamed of serving in Africa, but I know my heart would be so torn and I would just want to bring all the children home with me!  Her story is inspiring and I think I talked about it to everyone I saw that week while I was reading it.

   I was so excited to learn that she had continued her story in her new book, Daring to Hope: Finding God's Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful.

   The story opens with a scene from Katie's kitchen.  I had to laugh as she described the scene of children running through as she is washing dishes and the trail of muddy footprints that they leave behind.  Here she stands at her kitchen window, and while her backyard view is African soil and mine is an American farmhouse, I felt such a kindred spirit with her.  She is just a mother trying to do her best.  Trying to show love in the most unlovely places.  She cooks and serves and kisses skinned knees.  She says she lives this ordinary life, though we all see it as so much more.

 Many years have passed between her first and second books, and while I read them only weeks apart, she instantly matured in between the pages.  Her story is not an easy one to write.  She shares the heartache and pain of great losses.  She is honest in her doubt and wrestled with God when her prayers were not answered in the way she had hoped.  And so much of her story is my story even though our lives are half a world apart.

  Her story is a beautiful reminder that God is still with us in the wrestling and that His plans are always for our good even when we don't understand.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Day After Christmas!

It is early.  There is a stillness in this house that was nowhere to be seen yesterday.  There is no anticipation, no excitement, no wonder.  I am sitting here among the remains of a busy and exhausting Christmas: toys jumbled together all over the floor, empty boxes, and torn wrapping paper...and my children are sleeping in.

The day after Christmas always feels like a letdown.  The party is over and it's time to get back to reality.  But what if we didn't let go of Christmas?  What if we held on to the joy just a little bit longer.

Because the giving wasn't about the gifts, it was taking a little bit of ourselves and sacrificing it for another.  And the receiving wasn't about what we got, but humbling ourselves to accept and feel loved.  Because you are loved

And what if we made family time a priority every day; if playing on the floor with our children was always our only plan for the day.  What if every day I could ignore the mess, embrace the chaos, and just be in the moment.

This was our baby's first Christmas, and I wanted to soak in every moment, every reaction, every smile.  What if I treated every day like Christmas and gave them my full attention, cherishing every second.

What if our hearts sought out random acts of kindness all year long.  Would we leave cookies in the mailbox just to make the letter carrier smile?  Would we be a little kinder to the people we pass, smile a little more?  Would we mail out cards just to send encouragement?  Would our churches be filled every week and the poor not forgotten?

And so, today, as I start to clean up the mess and try to find room for all the new things, as I pack away Christmas for another year; I am choosing to not let go of the Spirit of Christmas.  Because it was all about Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us...and He's still with us even in the messy day-after-Christmas.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Simple Christmas

It is 5:30 am and I am sitting here by the light of the Christmas tree enjoying the quiet stillness of a December morning.  The wind is howling outside, but my coffee is hot and my home is filled with gentleness and warmth.

The Christmas season can be so full of excitement and busyness, but I always find a magical peace sitting by the glow of Christmas lights.

I am 39 weeks pregnant.  As my children are counting down the days 'till Christmas, as we prepare our hearts through this Advent season, we are also waiting for our baby boy due on Christmas day.

This has, by far, been our simplest Christmas.  I've given up on my expectations and guilt.  I am only doing what I can do.  We've missed a few traditions, but maybe started some new.

We took off an extra week of schooling and I have used this time to read stories to my kids snuggled up together.  We've cut out paper snowflakes and made ornaments for the tree.  We are baking cookies just for us and watching Christmas movies.

I am just enjoying my children, soaking in their joy and anticipation.  I am learning to rest and quiet my heart.  I've let go of the stress and accepted that this Christmas will be what it will be.

And that, in itself, has been a gift.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

In His Arms

I will never forget our first date.

He nervously asked me to dance.  Neither of us had ever slow danced before and we stood there awkwardly looking at each other.  Our friend, John, yelled out across the room, "Hold her like Jesus would, Scottie!" and flashed his ornery smile.  I miss that smile. John is now among angels and that moment became one of my favorite memories of him.  I don't think he ever knew how much his words would mean to me all these years later.

As we danced, our friendship changed.  He held me in his arms for the first time and yet it felt so familiar.  In his innocent gentleness and quiet strength, I felt so safe and cherished.  It felt like...home.

4 years later in a white pine forest, he asked me to be his wife.  He slipped that ring on my finger, held my hands in his, and prayed over our new life together.  With tears in our eyes we thanked God for giving us this gift of each other. 

6 months passed and I became his bride.  We danced to that same song again on our wedding day.  Holding me in his arms...I was home.  In our 13 years of marriage he has never stopped holding me like Jesus would.  His unconditional love has carried me through the hardest moments.  He has loved me when I least deserved it.  He has loved me in spite of me.  He is my comfort through the tears, my strength through my doubts and fears.  My best friend when I have felt so alone.  My protector, defender, and my biggest supporter.

I have watched him hold each of our babies with the same gentleness and unconditional love.  It makes me fall in love with him all over again each time.  And now we are just weeks away from meeting our 8th child.  I know he will hold me through my labor pains and fears, speaking words of strength and peace. 

I am so humbled that God would bring this man into my life.  My first date, first love, first be each other's one and only is truly a gift.  This little love story of two high school sweethearts has grown into a family of 10.  I can only imagine what God has planned for our family, for our children and the generations to come...and it all started when he asked me to dance.
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