Enjoying Your Life is a Full Time Job

Ever feel as if you finally have two of your thousand ducks in a row and you rejoice?

Finally! You have accomplished something! Got something right and you enjoy it!

Or look at someone else’s life and think, man they have it all.

Maybe their kids are older and you think, they have it easy now (not true) or they just have a nicer house or more money than you.

Guess what. None of the above ensures joy. None of the riches or ages or stages of kids or nicer houses guarantee joy.

These last six months have thrown me (and my family) some real doozies. I won’t go into all of the details because some of the stories aren’t mine to tell. But think car accidents. Multiple. Health Issues. Loss of housing. Loss of job. Red and blue flashing lights in the driveway. Yep. You can just imagine it all.

All of these circumstances have made me want to crawl into bed and shut down. I won’t.  Ephesians 6 talks about putting on the armor of God and there is that little phrase ‘do all the crisis demands and stand firm’. Not crumple in a heap on the floor. Durn.

Often we think that as soon as this age and stage passes, we can be joyful.

After this crisis is over, I can enjoy my life.

This isn’t the best approach.

Jesus said:

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].- John 10:10

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Jesus came so that we might enjoy our life. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived said that there was nothing better than for us to ‘rejoice and do good’.

Joy is something we must fight for. Enjoying our lives is a full time job. Maybe you can’t enjoy everything, but you can enjoy something.

Here’s some things from my joy list:

  • laughing at some of the ways toddlers say words  (with Amerey and Carly, caught on film and locked in the memory vault).
  • walking with a friend (Lori) even when I walk her legs off and talk her ears off
  • reading an old classic The Robe, because I can even if it is just a few pages before I fall asleep.
  • making lists of outside jobs to do because it’s spring! (Clean out the sandbox).

What’s on your joy list? How are you fighting for joy?

When Resolutions Fail

It’s only ten days into the new year and we planners, those of us who resolve to do all sorts of good things may already be feeling a bit off. I’m a planner. I make goals and lists and I am pretty good at following through. But, that’s not what I want to talk about. Resolution makers (like me) often get a false sense of reality, as if we can control the circumstances just because we wrote something in our planner or tacked a sticky note on the wall. We can’t.

I’m a firm believer in making plans. We can’t be a vague, thoughtless or foolish with our time. But, sometimes our plans don’t work out because of things out of our control. How we respond to things we can’t control matter. Honestly, my track record with reactions isn’t that great. I tend to respond with anxiety and questions. I doubt my call to do whatever it is. Guess what, that’s not a God honoring reaction. God said we would have trials and troubles. Resistance and calamity don’t negate your call. They solidify it. It’s your proof of purchase. It’s your reminder that someone doesn’t want you to complete the mission. That someone is not Jesus or your friend or husband. Jesus said to take heart ❤️, He has overcome the world!Every worthy endeavor has obstacles

Whether your resolution was to be a more organized Mom, workout four times a week or finish a manuscript for a book, there are going to be circumstances that come against you. Some of the circumstances may be God-driven and ordained, such as caring for a sick child or helping a friend or relative. In those instances, we play the people are more important than things card. When we see interruptions as a sign that we shouldn’t pursue fulfilling our resolutions, we’re reading the signs wrong.

Resistance is a sign that we are doing things right. When lifting weights or working out, we count on resistance to make us stronger. Without resistance, we’re just beating the air and not getting any results. The same is true with our resolutions, our God-sized dreams, our desire to make positive changes in our lives. We encounter resistance and it makes us stronger, if we let it, if we don’t just drop the ball and give up.

Instead of letting circumstances deter us, let them ensure us.  Let us see them as a sign that we are on the right path. Every worthy endeavor has obstacles. If your resolve is to be organized in your homeschooling and home and you end up taking your sister’s kids while one of her’s is in the hospital (true story), then don’t beat yourself up because your house is a wreck. Don’t say,  “I quit”. Say, “That was a God-opportunity to do the right thing.” Rest. Recover and start again.

The problem is when we make the resolutions the god and not a desired goal. We can’t control the universe. What we can do is persevere and continue to sow good seeds even when circumstances send a storm our way.

What circumstances have blown your way?

While you’re here, make sure you check out The Whole House Podcast,  Episode 2 is live- Human Trafficking Awareness Day. If you haven’t listened yet, start with our Introductions. Are you ready?

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When the Photo Shoot (and life) are not Perfect, There is Still Joy!

Ever browse through social media for a few minutes and walk away feeling depleted? Less than perfect? As if everyone is having a great time? Your life doesn’t measure up?

When I scroll through social media posts, I sometimes get infected with the “woe is me” bug. Or I physically feel as if all the anger and unrest settles on my shoulders. I put the phone down and burdened.  How about you?

The Whole House had a photo shoot a few weeks ago. Here’s what you see on our cover and on social media posts:

untitled-17Yep, we’re pretty excited about a book release, 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas, An Advent Devotional for Adoptive/Foster Parents coming out November 1! Also, we are releasing The Whole House Podcast on January 1rst!

Looks at cool and perfect-ish, right?

Here’s a behind the scenes look at what really happened…..

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The photo shoot wasn’t all it seemed on social media. The kids took the frame, the photographer and finally, needed to go in for a snack and nap. The grown-ups wanted a nap too, but we persevered and after getting kiddos to bed (Judah fell asleep sitting up), we recorded a podcast. We recorded with a Mic in the middle of a round table in Amerey’s kitchen, surrounded by lunch and snack remains. We don’t have a professional studio or a picture perfect life.

How do you find joy in an imperfect life?

When the kids don’t cooperate with your plans?

When you have more chores and meltdowns than hours in the day?

When it seems as if everyone else has it all together and you’re not sure what it is?

We long to belong. We yearn for acceptance. What we end up with when we pursue the pseudo perfect life is shame. Shame is a painful emotion that tells us we have fallen short, we are not enough. When we live our lives peering through the lens of shame, we feel depressed, angry and isolated.

How do we avoid the shame based lifestyle?

We acknowledge that OUR now is enough. Where we are and who we are is enough. The circumstances and gifts God has bestowed upon us may be different than our neighbors’. That’s okay. Uniqueness is gift. Accept your now and embrace it.

Comb through the tangle of your day with an eye for joy. No one has perfect circumstances. Maybe your house is full of toddlers or teens. Maybe there is sickness in your family and you spend days sitting in a hospital. Maybe you finally got the baby you longed for and don’t know how you can physically cope with night time feedings and the constant exhaustion. The only way to be thankful is to look for things to be thankful for. Chase joy down. Write them down if you need to.

  • A cup of coffee.
  • A giggle.
  • A sunrise.
  • A backyard photo shoot.

Last, but not least, be vulnerable.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”- Brene Brown

One way to overcome shame is tell your your story. The non fiction version. Not the social media fiction version. The greatest words of empathy are, “me too!”

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!- Emily Dickinson

The Women’s March

The Welfare Rights building was crowded. I stood on the threshold, fresh from the Catholic school around the corner and looked for my mom. There she was, deep in conversation with a woman, her arm around the her shoulders. The woman wept. There seemed to be a lot of tears shed here. Women, afraid, hopeless came for encouragement, support, and direction. Some of them had been abandoned by men and had multiple children to care for. Another raised her sister’s children while she served a jail term. It was the mid-seventies and Mom was a stark white face to the sea of African American faces full of fear and hopelessness. Mom served these woman because she understood where they came from. Her brand of feminism meant woman should be able to feed and clothe their children when a man left or a woman couldn’t take care of her own. I got to know some of these woman in my after school visits. Those who had gotten help stuck like glue to the center, encouraging, wiping tears, giving bear hugs and helping others navigate the world of jobs and paperwork. This was my mom’s brand of feminism. Reaching out to the broken hearted. Meeting physical and emotional needs.

 

We watched and excerpt of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech in church on Sunday. It was refreshing. With tension running high in our country, women marching all over the world, we needed a refresher, not even a week after his day. It can’t just be a day, it needs to be a way of thinking and a way of life. It’s not a day to tweet one of King’s quotes and then forget about it. We can’t heal as a nation until we are willing to step out of our comfort zone, to pray and create bridges instead of walls.

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“And that is something that I must say to my people who stand on the worn threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not he guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not “seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom” by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” -Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream speech

This nation is full of bitterness and hatred. With  President Trump sworn in, riots and women marching. The tension and anger are palatable. What should the Christian’s response be to this be? Not one of self-righteousness or Bible flinging orgies on social media. What would the response of the great Martin Luther King be? He would oppose physical violence and I’m not talking about the protesters. I’m talking about the body of Christ. It is not our job to tell others who are hurting, who are in need, who feel afraid and threatened by the future that they are wrong. Instead we should be asking, as I have always taught my kids, What can I do to help? Or you journalists or writers, pull out your key questions, Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Ask these. Who are these people? What do they fear? When do they think these freedoms will be removed and how? Why do they feel threatened?

Everybody has a story. Every person that marched or protested has a story. Their lives are just as valuable as anybody else’s. They have a voice that needs heard. Let us not be the ones who say they have no rights, that they don’t matter.

Abortion is wrong, I believe that wholeheartedly. I state that to be clear on my stance. Not everyone marched for Planned Parenthood. Some marched because they have been sexually abused. Some women are rape survivors. Some were just afraid that their rights would be stripped away. Some have been abused and mistreated by men. Some have had abortions and feel a deep shame. Each women who marched has value. Their soul cry needs to be heard from the White House to the church pulpit.

Loving each other as Christ loved us does not mean we condone the sin, it means we love the person. We celebrated the sanctity of human life on Sunday, all the while choosing  which lives matter. That cannot be so.

“God loves everybody-including those who radically disagree with Him. And He expects His followers to do the same.” -Pastor Wayde Wilson

God is a God of justice. He is not deaf to our cries. We must cry out to him for justice. We must be ‘HIs hands and feet. For the widow. For the orphan. For the abused. The neglected. The brokenhearted. The captives to this present darkness.

“No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”- Martin Luther King Jr.

We Christians don’t need to throw our beliefs at others in order to win them to Christ. We need to hear their heart’s cry. We need to meet them there. If we Christians are persecuted, let it be for righteousness sake, not for yelling matches on social media. Let us stand firm in our convictions and at the same time be ambassadors for Christ.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up and heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the [physical and spiritual] captives and the opening of the prison and of the eyes to those who are bound,

To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord [the year of His favor] [a]and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, … Isaiah 61:1,2

Like my mother in the Welfare rights building, let us preach the Gospel of good tiding to the meek, the poor, the afflicted. Let us, like Christ bind up and heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the physical and spiritual captives.

*More on Christian women and feminism on Friday, join me for Feigned Feminism Friday (it’s back)!

Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor and Three Word Wednesday! Join us!

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What if you had never been born?

*This post is an excerpt from a speech I shared at the Life Choice Banquet on October 15th. I cut this down to fit a rather long post. Please don’t shy away because it is long. It has value. I began the speech with telling our adoption story, you can find our story here.

“Many are familiar with the 1946 Film Classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, wherein the character played by Jimmy Stewart gets a chance to see what life would be like had he never been born.” That is the springboard for this speech. The main point of the film is that each person’s life has an impact on everybody’s else’s life. Had they never been born, there would be gaping holes left by their absence. EVERY UNBORN LIFE IS A SEED OF POTENTIAL PURPOSE.

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Ancient Cultures didn’t value life, but Jesus does.

Jesus stepped out of heaven and into humanity. Word became flesh incarnate into the midst of the Roman Empire where human life was considered cheap. Ancient Romans commonly let newborns die. It was a legal and even applauded avenue for dealing with unwanted children.

In this same culture, Jesus gathered the little children unto himself saying, “Let the little children come unto Me, and do not forbid them.: Matthew 19:14a

“Abortion disappeared in the early Church. Infanticide and abandonment disappeared. The cry went out to bring the children to Church. Foundling homes, orphanages, and nursery homes were started to house the children. These new practices based on this higher view of life, helped to create a foundation in Western civilization for an ethic of human life that persists to this day- although it is currently under severe attack. And it all goes back to Jesus Christ. If He had never been born, we would never have seen this change in the value of human life.”- What if Jesus Had Never Been Born?

Jesus was an unplanned pregnancy .We tend to over romanticize the events around Jesus’ birth as if May were floating in the clouds and everything was perfect. Jesus is perfect, the circumstances of his birth were not. I don’t want to tread on anyone’s theology or doctrine, I just want you to think. Do you think Mary sat around writing in her diary that she wished an angel named Gabriel would appear to her and she would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit? Or  do you think she sang her day dream of being overshadowed by the Most High? I don’t think so. What happened after angel Gabriel visited her? Her betrothed was ready to divorce her. How could she explain the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit? How do you think her family and community responded to her pregnancy. Although we know, the birth of Jesus was foreordained, it was an interruption in Mary’s life plan. It shifted her whole world on its axis propelling her into a purpose that none other has ever or will ever fulfill. Jesus is the interruption that changed all of our lives.

There are over 300 prophecies fulfilled through the birth of Jesus. Could we put a dollar amount on his birth? What if he had never been born? We would not be here promoting life. We would not have salvation or the promise of heaven.

None of us would have a true purpose. We would be like those humanists say, a mass of cells who randomly act according to chemical reactions, not the heart. Jesus Christ had more impact on the life on our planet, or should I say his planet, more than anyone in history. It is because of His impact that we can have impact. It is because He foreordained, before the foundation of the world that each us of be born and adopted as his sons because of His kind intent. Jesus fulfilled a multitude of prophecies and his purposed to rescue humanity from death, hell and the grave and restore us to relationship with the heavenly Father. Because of the life of Jesus, we can choose life and trust that every life has a purpose.

just as [in His love] He chose us in Christ [actually selected us for Himself as His own] before the foundation of the world, so that we would be holy [that is, consecrated, set apart for Him, purpose-driven] and blameless in His sight. In love 5 He predestined and lovingly planned for us to be adopted to Himself as [His own] children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the kind intention and good pleasure of His will— 6 to the praise of His glorious grace and favor, which He so freely bestowed on us in the Beloved [His Son, Jesus Christ].

Here’s a story of another life interrupted.

“You’re pregnant, Sally. Just get up and walk around. Your cervix isn’t closed all the way. You will lose this one, but you can have another one later” Sally had a three year old and an almost newborn at home. Sally was adamant pro-lifer. She was determined not to lose the baby and went home and put her feet up.  The baby was born a month early at a whopping 5 pounds. That baby was me.

Can you put a dollar amount on my life? Has what I accomplished made a difference? Does my life have value? Like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life,  I sometimes doubt my value. During my lowest points, when I have had a bad day, yelled at the kids, cannot accomplish anything on my “to-do’ list, lost everything, I’m sick, fill in the blank, I wonder, would it be better if I had never been born?

I was an unplanned pregnancy. What if I had Never Been Born?

If I apply  It’s a Wonderful Life  philosophy to my existence, I could  list a few things that would not have occurred had my mother walked around and miscarried me. I wouldn’t be standing here promoting life. Three children: Audrey, Amerey and Hunter would not have been born. Four children Damian, Gregory, Ania and Rafal would not have been adopted.  Six grandchildren. I wouldn’t have written a book promoting adoption. We tend to measure life based on accomplishments-curing the common cold, winning Olympic medals, starting a non profit that rescues woman from sex slavery. These are noble endeavors, but let us not miss the many purposes.

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What we often consider interruptions or a derailing of our plan are actually fulfilling a purpose on our path. Interruptions are God’s way of getting our attention. These events that seem to be sidetracks, met with the proper attitude, bring the most reward.

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We often ask God, what is my purpose and if truth be told, he would pull out a bulky book full of your purposes. We may each have unique gifts and talents, but we have an encyclopedia full of purposes. Our lives intersect with others on a daily basis and that one small act that you do in a moment can change someone’s life forever.

Theory of Six Degrees

Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.

What if a person in the chain is lost, not born, don’t you think it throws everything out of whack?

I met Ettica when I was beginning my homeschooling journey and the process of adopting. She and Doug prayed for us and gave us prayer cloths for each child. I hung onto those cloths as if they were life itself. Ettica understood the power of adoption, having an adopted sibling herself. What if Ettica had never been born? Who would have ministered to me at the time? One of the millions of purposes that was given to Ettica was to be in my life at that time. For such a time of this, we often call them interruptions. We have many of those every day.

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Daughter Audrey and I were at IKEA in Pittsburgh with three year old twins, Sam and Theo and baby Lucy ordering our lunch when the alarm sounded and we were told to evacuate the building. We abandoned the stroller and high tailed it out to the van, promising whiny children who expected chicken tenders and fries that we had snacks. We made it to the van and put a few kids in when Audrey shoved a twin in my hand and ran towards the IKEA doors. I looked up to see a mother running with two shoeless children, one slipping out of her arms. Audrey reached her just in time to catch the slipping child. She helped her the distressed mommy to her car and then joined me. That is purpose, people. It’s not always HUGE and it doesn’t make us famous. It means we are connected, we are paying attention, we reach out because we believe in our worth through Christ and because of that, we believe that others matter. Life matters. Every life matters. Every life has potential purpose. EVERYONE.  Life is not measured as one giant achievement, instead it is a great quantity of purposeful moments. It’s the loving friend who supports us in our journey, or the one we meet in the parking lot of IKEA for five minutes.

In Him also we have [d]received an inheritance [a destiny—we were claimed by God as His own], having been predestined (chosen, appointed beforehand) according to the purpose of Him who works everything in agreement with the counsel and design of His will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ [who first put our confidence in Him as our Lord and Savior] would exist to the praise of His glory.  Ephesians 1:11,12

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He works everything in agreement with the counsel and design of HIS WILL. What we deem mistakes, He deems material to work with. Do you think he thought my children being raised in an orphanage across the ocean in Poland where of no purpose or didn’t have value, or didn’t fit into the design of His WILL. Of course not. He had a plan for them. We have to stop listening to the culture of our day that says life is not valuable or that only certain people matter.

One Solitary Life

He was born in an obscure village

The child of a peasant woman

He grew up in another obscure village

Where he worked in a carpenter shop

Until he was thirty when public opinion turned against him

He never wrote a book

He never held an office

He never went to college

He never visited a big city

He never travelled more than two hundred miles

From the place where he was born

He did none of the things

Usually associated with greatness

He had no credentials but himself

He was only thirty three

His friends ran away

One of them denied him

He was turned over to his enemies

And went through the mockery of a trial

He was nailed to a cross between two thieves

While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing

The only property he had on earth

When he was dead

He was laid in a borrowed grave

Through the pity of a friend

Nineteen centuries have come and gone

And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race

And the leader of mankind’s progress

All the armies that have ever marched

All the navies that have ever sailed

All the parliaments that have ever sat

All the kings that ever reigned put together

Have not affected the life of mankind on earth

As powerfully as that one solitary life

Dr. James Allan Francis © 1926.

How about you? What if You Had Never Been Born?

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Take a minute. Right now. You have a card on your table. Look at it. He who would achieve great things must first be born. That is a powerful statement. You have achieved part one of that statement. You were born. Pat yourself on the back or give your mama a hug.What is your story? What would Dr. James Allan write about you? Take some time, write down a few things that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t been born.Teaching a class? Helping your dying mother? Grieving with someone. Can you put a dollar amount on that? Choosing life for your unborn child?

How do you measure the value of life? How do you know the potential of a newly formed life in the womb? We don’t. God does.

4Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

and before you were born I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”– Jeremiah 1:4,5

God knows our potential before we are born. Before we are formed in the womb, He knows us. Nobody is a mistake.

Each of you were knit together with unique gifts, talents and abilities. When you walk in them, you are part of the body of Christ. Some are hands, some are toes, some of you are the brains of the body.

When an unborn baby is being knit together, we don’t know his/her potential. He/she is a gift, a blessing to us, to the world, either to the birth mother who chooses life or the the adoptive family when life is chosen at the great sacrifice and courage of the birth mother.

Although we can’t put a dollar amount on a life, we can value life enough to put our money into helping a woman to choose life. When a woman sees the positive lines on the pregnancy test and she is unprepared, she feels afraid and alone. Shame will keep these women in all kinds of prison if we let it. Her life has been interrupted. At this point,  we, the body of Christ, should value her life enough to invest in her. We should feel compelled to play Father to the fatherless like our heavenly Father. We should walk in His footsteps and bless what He blesses. He says that life is a blessing. Life is valuable. The world was started with One Holy Family, Adam and Eve. God said, “Be fruitful and multiply”. The fruit of the womb is a blessing. Let us acknowledge that by providing support and education.  Let’s reach into our pockets and support those who can acknowledge that everyone deserves a chance to be born. Everyone has value. Each life has a purpose. We don’t want to one day be asking ourselves, why was the person who needed to fulfill a purpose, write a novel, be a missionary to unreached people, teach the special needs children, run the orphanage, be the social worker or take over Life Choice never born? Where was the friend to support us in our time of need or in the IKEA parking lot?  What if the children who need to accomplish these purposes are never born. Let’s do everything we can here, right now to make it possible for Moms to choose life. We must see the potential in the life in utero and the life of the mother. We should invest our capital in those lives.  Every unborn life is a seed of potential purpose.