Re-assessing "success"

While we were in Florida, I had the opportunity to read a book called Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome.  I picked it up off my sister-in-law's bookshelf (and took it home, sorry Trish!  I'll send it back.) and devoured it.  The wisdom in it is so TRUE.  Basically it reminds Christians that what the world considers success is not usually lined up with what God considers success.

For example, a pastor with a charismatic quality and a congregation of 2500 would be considered successful by most people's standards...but if he is living an adultrous life or stealing from the tithes, he is an abysmal failure to God.

Stated that simply, it seems perfectly obvious that that is true, but God has pointed out to me this last few months that the "Success Syndrome" is something satan uses to permeate our thinking and cripple us.  He has shown me this with different events at our church that have been small, but completely successful because of the unity and love involved. 

Most prevalently, He has revealed this to me through the class I've been teaching-Childbirth & Beyond.  At first I had 2 moms registered and then another showed up.  I was happy and hopeful that we would get the full 10 I had been praying for since He planted the vision in my mind's eye.  Then, slowly, I watched 2 drop away and though we gained one more, only graduating 2 seemed like a failure.  I was grateful for the 6 lives I was touching, (mom, dad and baby x 2) but I was curious why God would let me "fail" though He had given me the inspiration, the material and the date to start.

After reading the book, I had a new outlook on success, but it's hard to realize how deeply a lie penetrates until you start to unearth it.  It takes a while to dig it all up and to see exactly how stuck there it was, though the sprout seemed so small. 

I started thinking of my girls in a different light.  I always loved and appreciated them and was happy to be serving them, but now I started to think of new ways I could serve them.  Instead of nervously teaching the material that God gave me, that I was not necessarily comfortable with, I would say things more boldly and pray more fervently.  I would make the material personalized to the moms I was speaking with and I would ask personal questions about their lives.  I don't pretend that I am even good at this, but I would say that I have a pretty good relationship with those 2 mommies.

Now I need to back up a little.  Let me tell you the story of Nina, who found my class quite by chance:
Shanna (from Arlington-over an hour away from me) contacted me about my class in the very early planning stages.  She was intrigued and wanted to help.  I involved her in all of the planning process and she donated many items that the class needed.  She wanted to advertise, but she wasn't sure anyone would want to drive from Arlington to us.

Pregnant Nina was in the Arlington mall when she saw Shanna nursing her baby at a bench.  She walked up to Shanna and asked her a couple of questions about nursing.  After Shanna answered her questions, she turned back around to wait on her husband and older son.  Then she had a thought and turned back to Nina.  She said, "you know...you should check out this class being offered called Childbirth & Beyond."  Nina went home and registered right away. 

She lives 30 minutes from our town, herself, so her being there was all a very obvious "God thing" to me.

She was due at the end of October, so toward the end we started corresponding via the internet, since she could not make it to class for the last few sessions.  I talked to her every day the week of her scheduled induction.  She had desired a natural birth, but the date for the induction approached.  Thursday night, knowing she would have to go in on Friday morning, I asked her how she was feeling and if she was ready.  We talked a bit and then I said, "I sure wish I could be there to help you."  And then she confessed that she had really wished I would be there, but didn't want to "overstep her bounds."  I told her that was silly and I would do anything in my power to be there.

So Allan went to work for just a few hours Friday morning, I packed a bag and prepared myself for having to leave her once I had to go to my scheduled shift at Denny's.  After talking it through with Allan and our pastor, I decided that if she was in "hard labor" that I would call in and not leave her.  After all, surely God would not prefer me to be at Denny's waiting tables on a night they never actually need me (they overschedule on Fridays) to being with a laboring woman who needed support.

On the way to the hospital I was a nervous wreck.  I called everyone I usually call for moral support and no one answered the phone.  I finally decided to call my doula from Corbin's birth and she answered and gave me lots of tips and encouragement.  I love how God gave me exactly what I needed-but not until after I had prayed!

When I got to the hospital at 12:30pm, Nina was hooked up to pitocin and had just had her water broken.  Nina was doing alright, so I wondered if she had had an epidural already.  She had not, she was laboring on her own, just like she wanted to.  She then introduced me to her husband and her mother-in-law.  Her MIL looked at me and said, "yes, I know you." and I stood there with a panicked feeling rising in my chest, because I had absolutely no idea who this woman was.  She said, "my good friend, Jennifer...you are in the homeschool co-op with her, right?"  I said, "yes..." wondering how on earth Jennifer (the president of the co-op group!) would have associated me with this woman's daughter-in-law.  She said, "She told me about your childbirth class so I could have Nina attend, but when I told Nina about it, she was already enrolled."

Color me FLOORED at this point.  Because, what some people might call a strange coincidence, I see God written all over!  He knew she would need me and I would need her and He made sure to put more than one messenger in her path to get her there.  What if Shanna hadn't turned around and told her about the class?  Then Jennifer would have passed on the message.  What if Jennifer had failed to find value in the class and pass the info on?  Then Shanna would have delivered the message.  Maybe there were even more messengers that I have no idea about.  The very most amazing things about this are 1. She doesn't even live in my town!  Whoda thunk?  And 2. That God allowed me to see that He had carefully planned things this way.  WOW!! 

So I had the express privilege of attending Nina's birth of baby Joshua and helping her and her husband and both sets of grandparents.  I have never, outside of birthing my own children, been a part of something so amazing and awe-inspiring in my entire life.  I finally got home at 3am and was a physical and emotional wreck all Saturday.  After getting some rest on Sat night, I had a God-perspective on the whole situation and was ready to celebrate the graduation of these 2 women from the Childbirth & Beyond class with much gusto.

I cannot explain the feeling I have other than to say that I feel like I now have a grandchild.  I feel as if my very own daughter gave birth and gave me the amazing opportunity to be there.  And after exploring that feeling and being slightly alarmed by it and praying on it, I came to the realization that it says several times in the bible that when we lead someone, we become their spiritual parent.  Hence the feeling!  I really, truly, deeply love Nina and Josh and little Joshua.  I am so grateful for each of their lives and that I am a part of them.

And I had to run up there after church yesterday and get my baby fix.  And I want desperately to go up there again today, but the car broke down again and I have to take the kids Trick-or-Treating tonight (I am honored to do this, as well!  I love making memories with my earthly, physical babies!) so I will just look for any opportunity to get up there sometime this week and I will gladly "overstep my bounds" until they tell me not to anymore ;)  Because God knit us together and made a beautiful tapestry that will always hang on the wall of my heart.

So 2 things...
First, God is so good and His measure of success is so much better than ours.  I could have had 10 girls in that class and never really gotten to know any of them very well.  But instead I had 2 and I know them both intimately and have been invited to one birth and told I would be called at the onset of labor for the next one.  Anyone can see this is a much greater success-to be involved in the changing of a family tree!

And Second, helping a mom bring a new baby into the world is MUCH more fulfilling than any day at Denny's, but hey...not everday can be a birth-day, right? ;P

Love and miss you all!


State Fair of Texas

We actually went to the fair 2 weeks ago, but Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day made all regularly scheduled posting take a back seat.  This is the 2nd time we've gone to the state fair since we've lived here and it was a lot of fun.  The kids got free tickets for being in "private school."  (The state of TX recognizes homeschool as private school) We decided to go on a Wednesday because if you donate 3 canned goods to the North Texas Food Bank (GREAT organization!  Check them out) you get in for $2 instead of $16.  Plus, the fair is not nearly as crowded during the day on a weekday.  Just another homeschooling perk!

A friend came with us and I'm so grateful.  Not only was it more fun with a buddy, it helps SO MUCH to have a 3rd pair of hands with this trio.  Plus, when Allan's leg was tired and the kids wanted to do something he wasn't overly interested in, she helped me and had just as much fun as I did.  I have to say-that in itself will probably bond her to me forever, but it helps that she's a pretty amazing person, too :P ;)

Without further adieu, here is the beloved photo dump:

 They are a bunch of animals!
 Uhm, I don't believe there ever was a more gorgeous little man in an apron!

 Prettiest girls to ever ride a tractor ;)
 For real, we spent the most time at this exhibit both times we went to the fair.  So cool, the kids get to be "farmers" and feed the animals, collect the items the animals produce and then sell the products for money to spend at the market.  They had a blast!
 These signs made me laugh.  What about Toyota, Tundra or Tacoma makes anyone think of Texas??  But it was born and built here :P
Mandatory to ride the Skyway.  We always use Allan's leg as an excuse...we couldn't possibly walk ALL THE WAY across the fairground AGAIN!  haha.  Everyone loves it and no one knows I'm secretly playing out how the cable breaks and sends us all screaming to the ground where the cage splats or bounces or or or...yeah.  I have issues with heights...but it was fun...

You MUST click on that picture and zoom as close to her face as you can get.  I can't even believe I made that shot, I bought the one from the booth just in case, but here it is.  OMG.  PRICELESS!!  The best part was that when I was pregnant with her, I was working for Dominos driving pizzas and saw that a little carnival was in town, so when I got home that night, I took my tips and dragged Allan down there.  We got in the gate about 20 minutes before it closed and got on the Crazy Mouse.  Now she's all growed up and riding it with her daddy!  (Uhhh, glad to know it didn't jack up her brain too much...)  She wanted to ride it again so bad she paid for her AND his tickets to get on the 2nd time.
She begged and begged to go on that carousel after I insisted she was not tall enough to ride the Crazy Mouse.  So we went and wow, was it worth every ticket!  She was so happy with that horse (who was named Orion) and the whole carousel.  She had a smile a mile wide every second and she clung to me for several minutes after we got off and gave me kisses and told me  how much she loved me over and over again.  Violet is a very loving child, but that was pretty intense, even for her.  Moments like that make the crowds, expense and exhuastion so worth it.  We walked away from the fair knowing that it was a day that will be etched into our children's memories.  This fair experience will cause them to go out and brave the crowds and expense and heat for their own kids.  I could not ask for more. 

There were so many more pictures and memories, but blogger takes forever to upload, so I'm done with it for now.  Hope you enjoyed!  Hope your October is fabulous, too :)


Putting God in a Box...re-starting that thought

I have this tendency to put God in a box.  I think it happens to all of us, based on the way I hear people talk about God, but I don't want to speculate, so I'll just write about my own tendency.

What does that mean?  Putting God in a box?  Well, I think I first learned to put God in a box when I was a kid.  I'm quite sure I was praying for a toy I wanted really badly and someone anchored me back to reality by saying "God doesn't work like that.  He's not a genie."  And that's true.  But my view of God got smaller..."oh, He won't give me what I want, just because I want it."

Then I discovered that life is not fair.  And I had heard all my short life that God is a just God and a righteous God.  So I complained to someone that if God is just, why doesn't He make life fair?  Or at least for people who love Him?  And someone said, "He didn't promise that life would be fair."  And that's also true.  But again, my view of God got smaller.  "oh, so He *could* make things fair, He just won't."

And over the course of many years, I built a box that God fit into.  Some things I learned about God made no sense in view of that box, so I tossed them out.  Some parts of God that I heard about I didn't like, so I tossed those ideas out, too.  Before I knew it, I had this nice little box that said, "If God existed, He would look like this..." based on all the things that seemed right to me.  Ultimately, the things I saw about people and even myself made no sense in view of that boxed-up god, so I just threw the box away.

So when I was 24 and I confessed to God that I didn't understand Him or His gift or His word, but I really, really wanted and needed Him...and He came into my life and transformed it in so many ways...and I was so excited about all the new things I was learning through this relationship with Jesus Christ...I was surprised to find that I hadn't actually thrown that box away, I had just put it under my bed for safe-keeping.

And I've spent the last 5 years unpacking that box, and trying to figure out why I put Him in there or where my logic came from. 

So it goes that recently I've discovered a new corner I hadn't realized I was still hodling onto.  He has made it so abundantly clear to me, through study, prayer and chit-chatting that He will bring us more children.  He has made it clear that they will be small children (so we're not talking metaphors with building disciples) and that they will not come from me (so no miracle post-vasectomy pregnancy) and that there will be more than one.

He has not made it clear *when* this will take place.  And I find myself thinking, "Lord...I'm completely open to Your will.  I want these babies You have for us."  I wish that was the last of the thought.  Do you know the last of it?  What else would you think if God told you that He'd send you children but didn't say when?

I'll tell you what I think of...I think of Abraham and Sarah.  Sarah who laughed at God because she was old as all get out and He promised her she'd get pregnant and have a baby. 

I think of Jacob, who worked for seven years to get the wife of his dreams only to be tricked into marrying her sister and then told he had to work seven more years for his beloved Rachel.

And then I complete that thought with "if you could just do that in the next 5 years, that would be really awesome.  Because I don't really think I want anymore kids when I'm past that age."

And then He reminds me that I didn't even want Josiah.  PUNCHTOTHEGUT.
And then He reminds me of how He showed me that I could love again and love MORE.  How much I could be stretched.
And then my view of Him stretches again.  And sometimes it hurts, because instead of Him coming out of that box, I realize that He was never in that box to begin with-I was.  And being bent into that box for so very long, when a new part of me is undone, hurts.  Of course it's also freeing and beautiful, but it hurts.

So, maybe we won't get these promised children until I'm in my 50's.  Maybe they'll be our kids' children.  Maybe we'll lose them like we lost Joshua and Josiah.  I pray none of that is true.  But if that's what He has in store for us, we'll walk that path.  Because part of the great thing about Him being bigger than I knew is that He does things I never fathomed that amaze me.  Because every step of paths I don't want to take remind me of just how big He is, and yet He cares for little, tiny, whiny me. 

And little tiny, whiny you.

This post really didn't end up where I thought it would, but I pray that it touches someone.  I'd love to hear about a time you realized you had put God into a box that was too-small.  What happened and how did you learn from it?


Putting God in a Box-Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  I've written a lot about our loss and this journey we've been on since August 5th, 2010. 

So what else could I possibly have to say?  Well first I send many, many hugs and prayers to all the families out there who have lost children, at whatever stage of life they were in.  I know that the road is long and hard and that it will never meet up with the "normal" road again.  I know that you are finding a new normal.  I would also like to say that without Jesus Christ, I probably would have lost my mind completely after losing baby Josiah.  If you would like to know more, please feel free to contact me.  I love to share how Christ continues to play an integral part in my family's healing and how He can play an integral part in yours, too.

Second, I would like to address anyone out there who knows someone who has lost a pregnancy or an infant...Please, I am begging you, CONTACT that person on the 15th.  Tell them that it came to your attention that today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day and that you are thinking of them, praying for them, wondering how they are doing, WHATEVER.  Just acknowledge the loss.  Yes, it is awkward and yes, it is scary and yes, they might cry...but all of those things are better than the alternative of a person walking through grief wondering if anyone in the whole world even notices that their CHILD is no longer in it.  Chances are if you are finding it difficult to approach that person/couple, so is everyone else.  But it's time to stand up and say, "I AM thinking of you, and darnit, your loss matters."  I promise, you will earn a very, very special place in their hearts. 

Oh, and it doesn't matter if they lost the baby this year or 20 years ago.  If the baby was 3 years old at the time they went to heaven or the mother was only 6 weeks pregnant.  It doesn't matter if the person is still visibly aching or if they're mean or if they seem 100% "over it."  Just do it.  You will be glad that you did, and more importantly, they will be touched that you thought of them and that their loss counts to you.

The thing is, loss is a touchy subject but not one of us is exempt from death.  Death is no respector of age.  Someday, somehow, death will touch each one of us.  Each and every life counts.  Each and every life should be celebrated, affirmed and mourned when the time comes.  Real healing will never happen until a person is able to share, discuss, cry, feel validated...when we hide a wound in darkness, it festers and boils.  When it is opened up to the light, it will scab over and heal.  Let's be the light for someone else who is hurting.

Our boys, Joshua and Josiah, were lost in July 2007 and August 2010.  Each loss affected us differently.  The first loss caused us to clam up.  Many people didn't even know we lost a baby because we became pregnant with Violet so quickly afterward.  The second loss caused us to look out and up, knowing that we couldn't cover that pain with another child due to an untimely vasectomy.  Each loss, though, stitched those who acknowledged and affirmed the lives lost very close to our hearts.  Each loss caused us to find a more condensed purpose and a more rich life in Christ.  Our boys lives matter.  Their deaths matter.  And I'm grateful to each and every person who has walked alongside us after these losses.

I will continue to add to this list as I think of more or am made aware of more, but I would like to send very big hugs and love to:
Gayle W.-pregnancy loss
Melissa E-pregnancy loss
Erin Z-pregnancies lost
Melissa A-pregnancies lost
Karie F-pregnancy loss
Paula W-pregnancy loss
Deb L (my mommy)-pregnancies lost
Jennifer R-pregnancy loss
Amy B-pregnancies lost
Amy Lee B-pregnancies lost
Nicole M-pregnancy loss + infant loss (Yorel Ryan)
Sharie W-pregnancy loss
Stacey G-pregnancy loss
Tasha S-pregnancies lost
Amanda B-pregnancy loss
Marissa N-pregnancy loss
Bonnie G-pregnancy loss
Christina J-infant loss

I know there are many others who have shared their stories of loss with me and if I've left you out, PLEASE let me know and I will add you to this list.  Know that I'm loving you and praying for you today.  <3

Oh, and what did "Putting God in a Box" have to do with this?  I didn't get there because I have to get ready for work, but I will write more about how things are going here in a post coming soon.


Hello October.

October, you know you're my favorite.  You've always been my favorite and all my life I've looked forward to your visit-with the promises of apples, pumpkins, mild weather and fun harvesty activities.  Last year, you kinda let me down.  A lot.  But I forgive you.  And I look forward to making up with you.  Thanks so much for how hard you tried to be your amazing self today.  30 more days, love...30 more days.

Today you pleased us with your cooler weather.  We surely enjoyed driving with the windows down and feeling the cool breeze.  Thanks!  Keep up the good work.
Maybe you didn't have anything to do with it, but I promise I noticed those lower gas prices on this first day of your visit.  Oh, and LOVE the clear, blue skies you brought.
True to form, everyone was celebrating your return...we chose to check out the Fall Fest at Calloway's nursery.  Violet wanted to see all the plants.  Of course, there was plenty of red, orange and yellow on the palette. 
These three are growing in their affinity for you as well. 

They don't seem to get the whole changing of seasons=changing of style/color clothing, but I know they love you anyway.  Your sweet little pie pumpkins made them so happy while they glued macaroni and googly eyes.
You know, something I've grown to really love about you since moving to Texas is that you offer a more pleasant, more forgiving time to plant.  I can almost taste the fresh broccoli, cauliflower...

raspberries and blueberries.
No words needed, right?  You so *get* this, October.  I know you love to regale us with your fine must-get-outside-to-soak-up-the-lovliness days.
I like this season of our lives, October.  I will miss these little bitties-they grow so fast, just like the plants in the garden.  Thanks for sharing it with us.
Oh, and while I've got you on the line...do you think you might bring us some rain?  That "beach" is not really a beach...It should be several feet under water.

So October, you just keep on pulling out your stops, and we'll keep on living up to your name.  Sure, we shouldn't put the pressure on you like that, but I'm facing a bit of a trust issue with you after all you pulled last year.  I do swear, though, the happiness you bring to this house inspires.

I can't tell you how intensely happy it made me to open this box and dig through its contents.  AHHHHHH!!  Next Girls' Night Out will have to be a fall baking party :)