June 11

On Monday, June 11, we had our mid-pregnancy ultrasound appointment. As I got up on the examining bed, the ultrasound technician asked us to remind him if we’d already been told the guess of the baby’s gender. We said yes, twice we’ve been told we’re having a third son!  He himself had just had a third son only a few weeks prior and acted so sorry for us that we wouldn’t be having a daughter. I was kind of bothered by his reaction because I had genuinely grown quite excited by the idea of three energetic little boys in my life.

He put the wand to my abdomen and almost right away he said, “Hmm, I’m not so sure that’s a boy. Just wait a minute, now.”  I gave Pav a quick funny look, and we sat there in awkward silence for a few moments while the doctor first double checked the baby’s heart and blood flow. Everything looked great. After moving his wand around a bit more, he finally uttered, “It’s a girl.”

And quite frankly, I didn’t believe him at first. I had not entered that room with any hopes of the original 80% sure guess changing; nor had I assumed that the doctor potentially hadn’t had a perfectly clear view of things when he re-confirmed the first guess a month later.  No, I was genuinely content with our third boy, who we had already agreed on a name for and had quietly built a bond with in my thoughts and prayers for over a month already.

So how did I process this news?  There in that examining room, I was oddly hesitant to even look at Pav for his reaction. All I felt welling up within me was… laughter!  The feeling never left the whole entire forty-five minute scan, as every few minutes he’d get a “good peek” again and say something along the lines of, “Yes, definitely a girl.”

I spent the rest of the week sharing the news with several close friends and family.  As I continued to process and share this story, our story, I could see God’s goodness and wisdom weaved throughout this precious gift of a daughter on her way into our lives.

You see, exactly five years ago on that day, June 11, 2013, we were in my first gynecologist’s office, NOT hearing a heartbeat of our little one.  So as these two parts of our stories now intertwine, there are very real feelings of loss mixed in with thanksgiving. While reflecting with Pavlos, we commented how hearing this news of a daughter on the way makes us feel like she’s a whole different child than the one we were beginning to “know” by the name of Eithan.  Eithan: strong, firm, long-living, enduring. For about a month already, this was the name, the beginning of an identity, of a third son I had prayed over and dreamed about.

On top of all that, I had begun to quite seriously consider that I might not ever have a daughter. I was not terribly sad about this thought, but there was one particular dream that would be the hardest to let go of.  It was the dream of giving our daughter the unique name we had been excited about since the very first months of our marriage.

We had been reading the Bible together in Greek when I was still in the early season of building my vocabulary, when I learned a new word that became extra special to me. Somehow, it became a little special secret between us where we would always glance at one another if we heard it mentioned or sang or read. Since we had lost a child five years before in that same season, I had begun to prayerfully link this beautiful girl’s name and identity to that lost life. And I was content. Thankful. Praising God for the gifts that in His wisdom He’d both given and taken away.

For me, in a very personal way, God has flipped the identities of these two precious little ones in my head. And I will dream of a sweet little Eithan, safe, strong, secure, long-living, and enduring in His Creator’s arms. And we are anticipating holding our sweet daughter very soon, with a name and identity meaningfully inspired by both the laughter that bubbled up within me when we heard of HER, and by Hebrews 4:16 – “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

While this story played out in mid-June, we were studying the Wisdom literature with our church family. The message of Job particularly stood out to me as I pondered how God governs His Creation. It leads me to worship, trust and obey our Sovereign, almighty God, and not rely on my own human understanding to correctly interpret everything that happens to me or around me in this life. I appreciate these well made summary videos by The Bible Project that give thoughtful insight as we learn to respond to some of our deepest questions about what is “the good life.” In less than ten minutes you can watch this one about Job in particular, or in under twenty, you can watch all three Wisdom Series videos.

I don’t know what you are facing in your life currently. I don’t know how our story might inform yours in this particular season. But I pray that along with us, you can be praising God for His sovereignty in all that He gives and takes away: big things, little things, people, dreams, expectations, hopes. Through it all, He’s pursuing us with his incredible love and grace, whether or not we’re feeling strong enough to recognize it at any given moment. I pray you’ll have the eyes to see and the ears to hear the Truth: that The Way, and True Life are found in the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Advertisements

I’m Forever Grateful…

Boys

So apparently I kinda sorta began “microblogging” this past spring without even realizing there was such a term… So you can click on the Facebook page widget link here on my webpage to follow my…. well, somewhat more frequently posted “microblog posts” there… Which… quite frankly, is probably already an outdated place to share such posts. Maybe a platform like Instagram is more appropriate. But anyways… siga siga (slowly, slowly…)

I wanted to update this webpage with my most recent post…

p: Honestly, my heart is aching deeply over the past few days… for a long list of reasons. But beyond any one particular event, there is a tragic brokenness attacking each and every human heart. And this truth leads me to desperate groanings… Crescendo Focus? How…?

mf: With truth-powered lyrics and memorable melodies, rising in a crescendo of hope and praise…
His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand…
f: In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil…
And while I am brought to tears by the list of painful, broken, tragic things in this temporal life, I am even more intensely impacted by the overwhelming flood of gratefulness in my heart… for another long list of reasons… Such as the adorably sweet smiles of my “little mates” that are a link in my anchored chain on this journey beyond the temporal to our eternal HOME.
ff: This leads me to weep and sing at fortississimo
fff: You did not wait for me to draw near to You,
but You clothed Yourself in frail humanity.
You did not wait for me to cry out to You,
but You let me hear Your voice calling me.
And I’m forever grateful, Lord, to You.
And I’m forever grateful for the cross.
And I’m forever grateful to You,
that You came to seek and save the lost.

Minesweeper Effect

I feel like my life is a game of minesweeper lately… I click on one thing, and it opens up a whole network of other things to explore and interact with!

Please excuse me while I go play a round or two right now to help me keep fresh the analogy ideas I have in mind for this post, hehe. Be back in a gif… 😉

20x40_Minesweeper

So… minesweeper. Ah yes, this beloved game. It’s all I’ve been able to think about recently as I ponder what’s going on in my head space. It’s like I’ve been infused with this adrenaline shot of excitement and passion for cultivating our family’s lifestyle, and each new idea I “click” uncovers new information, leaving me with an overwhelming number of directions to go exploring.

At first you become super giddy when you click and find that you’ve hit a “sweet spot” that brought to light a whole web of info across the puzzle board, but you must remain calm and analyze what to do with each piece of information one step at a time, or your giddiness will make you click on a bomb or mislabel your discoveries. When you hit a roadblock, you shouldn’t dilly-dally there for long and allow anxiety to build that you’re not making progress. Calmly move to an area that you have enough information to figure it out, and it will often wrap you back around to help you figure out the area you were struggling to solve before.

Sometimes you reach a point where you just really don’t know what will happen if you click. You risk hitting a bomb and ending the game. At this point we could take this analogy in a number of different directions and uncover truth… or hit an unhelpful bomb. Analogies don’t work perfectly for every situation. But for today, this game analogy is pointing me to remember that… life is so fun and abundant when I’m walking with the Lord. I enjoy processing new possibilities and information He brings across my path. I love it when He uncovers more of my passions inside me that He has uniquely created me with that may have been buried for awhile. But I need to remember that it’s okay to slow down a bit and walk carefully as I explore… taking into consideration the way one new block of information affects others. Taking time to delight in one new click at a time and not blazing ahead to just click on them all at once, risking hitting a bomb along the way.

I recently heard a new take on a well-known verse. When Jesus asked us to take His yoke upon us to find rest for our souls, He doesn’t mean we’ll stop working, but we’ll be yoked with Him. Working together in the direction He guides us to go. The work will be easier and lighter as we follow where He leads and He shares in the work or often works in and through us most importantly, to accomplish God’s purposes for God’s glory. Nothing else matters, folks!  This has brought me encouragement these days, and I hope it encourages you as well.

Overwhelm, positive or negative?

2017 has overwhelmed me…

Google says overwhelm means “having a strong emotional effect.” Yes… my “overwhelm meter” has been increasing so far this year. But I can thankfully say that the strong emotions that are overwhelming me are primarily not negative, they’re positive, exciting, life-giving, joy-bringing!!

The first week of the year we were finishing up our month-long stay in Iowa for my brother’s wedding and the holidays. It was such a sweet time, something I had been looking forward to, especially after the birth of our second son in October. I couldn’t wait to introduce him to more of my family and friends on the other side of the ocean. Plus, I could leave our home and pack life up into just a few suitcases. (Oh man, this is a whole new blog post – how I feel in my home… I love it, I’m thankful for it… but I too often can’t “rest” in it because it’s like a constantly unfinished project. Oofta…) I couldn’t wait for the more constant help with the boys since Pavlos wouldn’t be working all day, and we’d be staying with my parents so every night there were extra hands to help keep them occupied.  So all of that to say, there were a few moments that first week of the year when we were preparing to leave my Iowa family again and return to Athens where my overwhelm emotions were far from positive. I was afraid and for some reason lacking confidence in myself for the next season ahead.

But so many good things have happened over the past two months!

I am reading Scripture with a group of people and a set of resources that I think are just top notch and motivating! I am taking care of my physical health with help from my in-laws through accountability in healthy eating and taking care of the boys so I can fit in some exercise. Pavlos and I have delved deep into the conversation of potentially homeschooling our children, and it is rocking my world and rattling all of my “passion sensors.” I am excited to start introducing solid foods to my little boy who watches us googly-eyed as we eat these days. I am slowly easing back into assisting with the worship for our church family. I have a long list of people lined up to invite to our home to share a meal and conversation with. I have so much mental motivation to make improvements in the organization of our home and “stuff!”

I am overwhelmed… I can’t get enough of all of these things… And there is plenty more to share on top of what I already have shared. Especially what joy overwhelms my heart when I can hang out with my little boys and watch them laugh and discover new things. Or have a long conversation with my husband that helps us know and understand one another better, deepening our love and appreciation for each other.

But… there is a problem with this overwhelm right now. Like, I’m on the brink of not sleeping and resting enough! And for the past week or so I can feel the angst welling up in my gut. Not brought on by negative things… brought on by things that excite me, give me joy, that I truly have strength and energy to invest in…. but… I can’t. I can’t focus on them all and do them all well, and accomplish everything I aspire to.  And I need to swing back to protect myself from not losing control. Reign in my aspirations a bit. Keep focusing on one thing at a time. Keep celebrating the joy in each moment. And learn to make the best decisions for each moment that arises and how I should spend those seconds, minutes, hours available to me…

Oh how I want to write more… I want to blog more… I want to process my thoughts more.  I want to edit this post even better as well.  But right now I guess I’m just… thankful. And I’m going to rest in that. And I pray, Good Shepherd, that you would lead me to where I should go. To streams of living water. To rest in green pastures. To follow the path you have for me and my family. Thank you for taking extra special care of me as I am leading my young. (Isaiah 40:11)  Thank you for being my strength when I am weak. Thank you for filling my life with so much joy. And as I feel overwhelmed by your goodness and love towards me, may it overflow to those around me for YOUR glory. That they may know you, the source of my life lived in this abundance of your grace, love, hope, peace… and delight… as you smile over me as I rejoice and giggle in my daily exciting discoveries. 🙂

 

Crescendo Focus – I’m a Mama

pp – I’m a Mama – I deal with… pp
My son can draw circles! I love watching Theodore display one of the trillions of new things he’s cementing in that developing brain of his. It was weird for me witnessing the transition of him changing from my baby to “the big boy,” “the big brother,” now that Matthew has officially joined our family. I want to cherish these moments as their Mama. I want to rejoice when they discover something new. I want to encourage them when they accomplish a new skill… my son can draw circles! And not just any circles. He can draw wheels for the wagon of the train that we draw on the paper for him… I’m proud and thankful for my sweet boy. And I love watching him be a concerned and loving big brother for his baby brother, Matthew. 🙂  And I love watching Matthew already learning new things too! I mean this kid smiled genuinely hugely at me a couple days before he was 4 weeks old! And ever since he has been responding to smiles by opening that adorable mouth of his as wide as he can with eyes and a whole face bright and full of glee. Wow… this little one. So precious. I’m so thankful God has given them to me and that I have a front row seat watching them develop and grow.

mf – Christ is “my forte”
I’m more and more aware that I need Christ to be working in my life, developing my character, so that I will keep growing and developing, discovering new aspects of what it means to bear good fruit for God’s glory. I’ve had my share of failures, and I’m thankful I live surrounded by people who give me grace. I pray I will give this same abundance of grace to my sons as I watch them learning and growing. And at the same time, I want to know when and how to discipline and instruct them appropriately so that they don’t grow in wrong directions. I need this in my own life… and I hope I’ll be open to this instruction, and find people who I can call on to truly hold me accountable and teach me more by word and example. I am much more of who I am supposed to be when I dress myself with Christ-like compassion… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Oh yes, I need these things… more and more and more of this.

f – Living Out Loud in the context of my family in Christ
I see the wider community I have been given in Christ, and I long to learn and grow from the example of the others, as “parents” in my life. And yet, I’m also a parent to younger generations behind me, not just my sons that have been given to me to influence on a more daily basis. Lord, give me the eyes to see those around me you have called me to be a part of their story, helping shape their life’s story – their growing and developing into more Christ-likeness as well.

ffForever Focus
This life is a journey of growing and developing, learning new things, and strengthening our character. As a Mama I have a front row seat watching my 2.5 year old and 2 month old grow right now. I am thankful to have Christ in my life, influencing my own growth and development towards the good fruit He gives me the impetus to bear. I am thankful that I am not an island, but I have been given an extensive network in the Body of Christ of relationships that are both parenting me and being parented by me. May I not take lightly my responsibility within such a special community. And most important of all, God my Father is calling us all onward towards a completely redeemed forever with Him. The trials of this life are bearable, and the joys of this life simply cannot compare when I ponder the future we are promised in Christ. Thank you Lord, for saving my soul. Thank you Lord, for making me whole. Thank you Lord, for giving to me, Thy great salvation so rich and free…

The Gathering of God’s People

So I read this article today… The Missing Elements of Modern Worship

And posted this Facebook post about it…

Reading this article uprooted a lot of emotions from within me today…I started typing a wall post that became way too long, so I’ll move my extra thoughts to a blog post…

Mostly I just ask you to join me in praying that the gatherings of God’s people will be thoughtfully and wisely crafted by leaders prayerfully in tune with the Spirit’s urgings and including only those “elements of worship” that are most beneficial in building up the Body of Christ, drawing us closer to knowing Him more fully, and therefore compelling us to be more useful tools for God’s Kingdom building purposes!.
With tears or longing… Amen, my Lord – Let it be so…

And here are my “extra thoughts” that didn’t need to be left as a massive wall post:

I am so rarely satisfied with the gathering of God’s people in worship anymore…

I’m longing for something more… More to me is not bigger and flashier, it’s often smaller and simpler, and includes the things mentioned in the article.

God has given me a huge passion for this. I spent years studying the topic in college, and I have had several opportunities to be involved in “crafting worship”… but I am still so far from satisfied with what I’ve participated in or helped lead. I struggle with feeling guilty that I haven’t offered enough, knowing that there’s so much more buried inside of me wanting to be dug up and poured out for the benefit of the Body…

Instead of wallowing in guilt, I pray that God who has created me and sharpened me as His tool for good use in His Kingdom will continue molding me, and may I trust Him to dust me off and pick me up when He and I are both ready, making me useful still to draw His people closer to Himself!

May I recognize the difference between laziness and wise priority-focused decision making (like uh, working hard in the home in this season with littles!)…

I suppose this discontentment is a positive catalyst that keeps the fire and desire for growth and improvement alive… It takes focus, hard work, and intentionality to implement worthwhile change… and I long for the discipline and determination to help be a part of this for God’s glory in whatever context He places me in. Right now that is my home, my neighborhood, among my circle of friends, and with a growing church plant in an area of downtown Athens…

Help me, God. Help me live for others and not for myself, following Christ’s example of following you obediently. But may I know your voice evermore clearly so that I know what command I am to follow in this season. Trusting you and walking ahead bold and confident that you are with me doing the greater work.

Who’s Voice Am I Listening To?

Today is my due date. (Well, it was when I started typing this, haha. Now it’s my due date +2 – like the timing of my little guy Theodore’s birth)

Waiting is hard. But it’s hardest when I allow the voices of others to take over the peace that I long to be reigning in my heart. The peace that I’m trusting and following my Lord obediently in each decision I’m making.

So many people speak into our lives, and thankfully there is often helpful advice and wisdom that can be gained by listening to the thoughts, opinions, and experiences of     others. But we should never let it supersede the only Voice of Truth in our lives that should take first place.

I’m a people pleaser… I take joy in the joy of others, and I all too often cater to listening to the opinions and ideas of others and then follow their seemingly so well-established convictions, simply because I am assuming it gives them something for me to follow their insight.  (Somehow I think it will show them that I valued them – or trust them – or respect them, and didn’t just throw their efforts or thoughtfulness in sharing with me with a flippant “oh just leave me alone, you have nothing to offer me” attitude).  Of course, this will be more or less true based on the relationship I have with the person offering the advice, but I give this right to the WHOLE range of people in my life, from the newest stranger I first meet (because I actually, oddly enough, struggle to continue thinking of a person as a stranger after a very small amount of time of interacting with them!), to my closest companion and confidant, my husband.

Recently, I’ve finally been coming to realize that for me to lose the confidence of following the ideas and convictions I’ve been given in my own heart and mind (not without the advice of others still, or most importantly my prayer journaling time with my Lord) is a much greater blessing to those around me, especially my family and husband, than it is to simply cave and cater easily.

Again, this does not mean usurping a serious decision made by someone with authority in my life whom I deem important, worthy and appropriate to submit to, but it also doesn’t mean slacking off in finding healthy ways for me to express my own thoughts and concerns – and most importantly, doing the hard work of even searching for what my truly personal ideas even are! I think that is something I struggle most with in all this. Who am I really? Is it okay for me to be me? Is it okay for me to have a different opinion in x, y, z situation? When is a decision truly just a difference of personality and opinion, and when does it inch into sinfulness because I’ve chosen to value a certain sort of thing over another?  These are the questions I still wrestle with.

So with all of these thoughts on the table, I had a few challenging moments in the past week debating between  the “plan” of attempting a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) or not. And how hard to work at following “tips and tricks” advice to “get that baby outta there.” Thankfully, after calming down, verbal processing with some of my closest friends and my Lord and Savior, I was able to come back to that place of peace and confidence and become honest with myself about where my true motivations and ideas were rooted. I pray the Lord keeps me pure from selfishness, yet confident in who He has made me to be, to lead and guide me to His will for MY life for HIS glory!

Och… and as always, I wish I could write, reflect, edit, and think more through all these thoughts… but I must go get ready to check how my little bub is holding up in there while we’re waiting to meet his sweet face on the outside in a matter of just a handful more hours or days… 🙂