Saturday, March 9, 2019

5 Truths About Storms

My drive to the Panhandle this weekend led me through communities hit hard by Hurricane Michael last October.  In fact, my GPS led me a route I’d never taken before down county roads and through rural towns.  I couldn’t believe the devastation I saw: trees uprooted or snapped in half, debris piled everywhere, twisted metal signs, and blue tarps covered roof after roof.  One of the most striking images I saw was entire wooded areas where all of the trees now stood sideways, forever altered by the 155 mph winds. 

I can’t image what these residents experienced as the category 4 storm pummeled this region hour after hour. I can’t image what the early days of life were in the aftermath of the hurricane. Yet, oddly and unexplainably, life goes on. Five months later, under a gorgeous blue sky, clean-up crews are busy at work everywhere. This community continues to pick up the pieces and rebuild their messy lives.  

As I pondered on what I was observing, a few things stood out to me:
  1. Storms come. They arrive without notice and they terrify us. They reduce us to small and secure spaces. They demand we hunker down and wait them out.  They drive us to our knees in prayer.  Time stops as they rage and hurl fury.  
  2. Storms stop.  They either dissipate or move on.  They are timed events.  They do not last forever, therefore their power – though it may not seem like it – does have limits.  
  3.  Storms leave a mess.  They destroy the norms.  They require we attend to the aftermath, which seems unfair and undeserved, yet it is unescapable.  Clean up can take a long time. 
  4. Storms change the landscape.  I think this may be the hardest part to accept after a storm.  We like our homes, our families, our towns, our nature, our norms to remain intact.  We like straight trees and mended fences.   It’s hard to accept that some things, no matter what you do, will never be as they were before. 
  5. Storms require help.  Post storm, there is a community and professionals to help.  This is the good news, we don’t have to do it alone! There are groups that have the expertise and equipment to deal with the new reality, the debris piles, the fallen roofs.   Sometimes they just show up and sometimes you have to call them, but help is available after a storm. 
Physical storms and their effects mirror storms of life we all face. I’ve been through some category 4 storms in my life, how about you?   No matter if you see the storm coming or if it catches you off guard, the devastation a storm can bring is life altering.  Once the storm and the fear recede, the clean-up process begins.  It can be long and messy.  Somewhere in the middle of the clean-up you being to grieve the change of landscape, the shifts from what you always expected. But the good news here – and therefore the hope that helps to heal – is that you don’t have to do this alone.  There is help!  There are professionals who know the best way to remove the debris, to fix the roofs, and to help you see the beauty in the new landscape.  Don’t get lost in the process.  At some point, the skies will clear, the sun will shine down on your world again and you will find the new path forward.  

Saturday, February 16, 2019

A Relaxed Confidence

A while ago a ministry friend posted this quote on his Facebook page:  

“We need to have the relaxed confidence of a people
who know that God is in charge and that forever is ours. “
~ Levi Lusko

I haven’t been able to get this quote off my mind since I read it.  It’s a solid quote, perfect for Twitter, but is it possible?  Is it really possible to have a “relaxed” confidence in God? 

The past few years have found our family in the middle of a few really hard, painful, and pressured-filled situations driving me to constant prayer.  Many days and nights I bury my face into the floor seeking God’s help for the scary and dark paths we’ve found ourselves walking.  Feeling alone and very lost, many times my prayers and endlessly flowing tears are begging God for relief and resolution.  

Maybe it’s just my personality, or the particular life trails I’ve faced, or maybe it’s a general lack of faith, but I can honestly say I’ve never considered the concept of being so assured in God’s in-chargeness (yea, I made up) that I could and should be relaxed. 


For this type-A, {recovering} perfectionist, first-born, project manager, mama of a large tribe with a one-step-ahead belief system, I’ve always struggled with:

1. being relaxed
2. giving up control

Even as I type out this list of my characteristics I realize how absurd they sound.   Who am I compared to He who created the heavens and the earth?  Questions directly out of the book of Job assault my mind as I place my insignificantness (yes, I did it again) against Yahweh, the Lord who owns it all.  

This little quote has challenged me in a big way. It’s calling me to a new understanding of the Father’s sovereignty and love. I do know he is in charge and that he is forever ours, but now I need to learn how to relax in this confidence.  Relaxing removes the fear, worry, stress, and anxiety that strips away at our confidence.  In the middle of the mess and the unknowns of tomorrow, I not only need to know he’s got it handled, but I can relax into that assuredness (sorry, I’m done).    

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Launching Lydia

January 2019
For 10 years I waited and prayed for a child to fill my empty arms.  I often felt like Hannah in the Bible who wept bitterly in the temple while she begged God for a child. Like Hannah, I waited impatiently through the years, never quite content with the blessings I had been given during my waiting season.  Like Hannah, I also made vows to the Lord. 

Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and
 cried and cried—inconsolably. 
Then she made a vow:
Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
If you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain,
If you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me
By giving me a son,
I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you.
I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.
1 Sam 1:10-11 (MSG)

When the day came that I was finally pregnant, I knew (figuratively) the child I carried was my Samuel.  Although her name was Lydia, make no mistake this was my Samuel.  The Precious Moments print that hung above her changing table was of Hannah taking Samuel to the temple.  I told my little “Samuel” this story all the time before she was even old enough to understand.  I knew the narrative must be written firmly upon her heart and mine.  

As parents we understand that our children are gifts from God to us for a season, but they are not ours. We are stewarding these treasures until such a time they can stand strong and be launched – like arrows, designed to hit a mark.  In that analogy, we are the keepers of the arrows.  It’s interesting though, because we must be faithful to train so that we launch them well.  Anyone who’s ever pulled back a bow knows it takes great strength, skill and practice to send an arrow into flight.  These things don’t just happen on their own. Parents and children must partner together in many ways for a successful launch.  

Lydia has been mine for a season, but it is now time to give her to the Lord.  We’ve had several practice rounds to prepare us these past few years: mission trips to Haiti, college in St. Louis, internship in Guatemala. But the echo in her heart pulls her to a prolonged season in Guatemala. Like Hannah, I willingly let my Samuel go.  We’ve always known in some form this was our path. I worship for the beautiful time we’ve shared and I will worship in the launching process. My beautiful, educated, and called one is now being sent to a land intrinsically tied into our lineage.  I couldn’t have written the story better if I tried.  It’s time to watch my Lydia soar. 
My traveler in training - 3 yrs old

Haiti bound - 2014

Moving into her dorm freshman year at Lindenwood University, St. Louis, MO 2015

Guatemala bound, summer internship 2017

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

relentLESS in 2019

As the year changes, so does my One Word 365.  Instead of making resolutions, I’m joining a global community of participants who are anchoring the year on a single point of reflection.  Each year I’ve embraced this practice I see deeper into my life journey and gained a new perspective of how one year prepares me for the next.  My words have been building a narrative that has guided me through a cross-country move, a mid-life career change, and all the highs and lows of raising my tribe. 

Choose Joy  Illuminate Truth  Flourish Relentless

My word for 2019 is relentless.  I’ve heard it whispered in my heart for a few months now, like a challenge.  I’ve been afraid of the word, afraid of the negative connotations, afraid it’s too big for me.  But, one thing I learned in 2018 is I’m sick of living afraid.  I’m learning to be ok with never giving up on those things that matter the most, no matter the cost, no matter what people think.  I want, no I need the fortitude to persevere and to not be afraid in this journey of life.

So, relentless - I choose you.  All the challenging, rough, and unyielding aspects of you.  Through my eyes of faith, I embrace you.  Through my eyes of humanity, I find strength in you. 

I choose to be strong, fear not and relent-LESS in 2019. 

Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be
thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with you. Joshua 1:9

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Annual Christmas Letter 2018

December 2018

Dear Family & Friends, 

          For any given day the best we get to see is but a glimpse of our life story.  It’s only in hindsight that we gain a perspective that allows us to see the bigger picture and maybe gain some understanding as to how all the moments fall into the unveiling of the whole. During the Christmas season, I often think about how Mary must have felt as she carried her secret, heavy load.  How did she reconcile the mystery of God growing and living within her while living in the culture of shame and rejection that must have followed her life, even with Joseph by her side?  How did she really feel when it was time to give birth to her first baby without the generations of woman who should’ve been present in that moment to assist?  She must have felt alone and been confused about birthing the King of Glory on a bed of hay.  From her perspective of the situation, likely none of those present moments made any sense. 
Yet, in hindsight we know that God was framing a different story, a bigger story, through this moment in time.  He was fulfilling and foretelling in a way only reserved for the Most High. In fact, the Father knew the most fitting place for the Lamb of God to arrive was in a manger. The heavens opened and declared the unprecedented glory of this night to shepherds who were sent to worship and watch over the new lamb. Can you even imagine how Mary was able to reframe any lingering confusion about the night of Jesus’ birth when years later John declares over her son, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:20).  I can just envision Mary, standing on the edge of the Jordan River as John made this revealing proclamation thinking to herself, “well now, that explains the manger and the shepherds!” In that moment, just as she responded long ago when the Angel Gabriel first appeared to tell her the good news about her coming son, Mary worshipped.  
        Without the elements of awestruck glory that Mary experienced, all of our lives similarly unveil before us one moment at a time.  Some are fully understood when they happen, while other events can only be understood in hindsight. Learning to worship and wonder while living out daily reality is the challenge before us all. 2018 carried these types of moments for our family, it was a year filled both with wonder and with worship that started almost immediately as the calendar rolled over.  Suddenly and unexpectedly, we found a home that was the perfect fit for our large family.  Before we could even get used to writing 2018, we were packing up and moving again for the 3rdtime in 3 years. 

Tim is truly the hardest working man I know, although he’s completely done with the moving thing! He will simply do whatever it takes to make a way for our family.  He loves his job with ABC Supply and is steadily building a strong business throughout Florida.  Since the very beginning, he has always been a hands-on parent with our children. If they have a need, he is there, always putting the kid’s needs above his own. The man who gave up his sailboat to pay for infertility treatments years ago is now the man who sails on the vast waters around Sarasota with his children.  For this mystery revealed, we worship.   

Lydia is now 21 years old and as you will see on the back of our Christmas card, a recent college graduate.  She graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor of Social Work as a summa cum laude with a 3.99 GPA no less!  After much prayer and contemplation, she has decided to postpone her master’s degree and take a gap year. On January 13thshe will leave to spend a good portion of 2019 in Guatemala where she will work in a school, focus on her Spanish, and do some missions work. What a journey from an 8 year old adamantly opposed to our Guatemalan adoptions to the professional giving her life to serve that same land.  For this mystery revealed, we worship. 

Michael turned 17 years old last month and is currently wrapping up his first semester of classes at Palm Beach State College. The path for this son took an unexpected direction this past year; but, while unexpected to us, we know Michael is on the path designed uniquely for him by our heavenly Father. For a good portion of this past year he has been living a few hours from us in the Palm Beach area to focus on his health.  We are delighted to report that he is recovering, getting stronger and finding his God more each and every day. He earned his GED last spring while only 16 years old. He often speaks in recovery circles to those many years older than himself. As we wonder about this mystery yet revealed, we worship. 

Isabelle is also 17 years old and is enjoying her junior year of high school where she continues her art studies.  She just wrapped up her second season in color guard, which successfully ended with a first place win in state for their division. Being part of this team has been an incredibly meaningful experience for her.  She is employed part-time at Publix and just got her driver’s license a few weeks ago.  The highlight of this past year, dare I say her entire life, was her special 16thbirthday trip to Comic-Con in San Diego in July. The photo of her posing with Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker himself) went viral when Hamill admitted he was behind the mask in a picture posed with Izzy.  When this mystery revealed, we shouted! 

Dennis is now 12 years old and is in 6th grade.  He is a busy middle schooler, loving life and friends in his new school. He’s learning Spanish and is also in running club this year.  Suddenly, the pre-teen has emerged, with all the newfound concerns about clothing, hair, and keeping his parents from embarrassing him in public. He’s also very involved in his youth group, where he attends several activities each week, including a Thursday morning gathering at his school.  He’s thinking he would like to be a Marine when he grows up.  He’s already planned his first homecoming and how he will surprise me.  For the mystery unfolding, we worship. 

Rebekah is now 11 and is also in the 6thgrade. She left her elementary school in tears last May and was weeks into middle school before fully embracing the transition. That’s pretty much exactly how she started youth group too.  However, she’s now a big fan of both and is finally enjoying this next season of maturity.  Rebekah works very hard on homework, but it pays off with a solid place on the honor roll.  She joined the Green Club at her school and sails regularly with her dad, exploring and keeping watch out for manatees.  She’s now thinking about being a marine biologist when she grows up. For the mystery unfolding, we worship. 

Dawn–my year was filled to the brim with family and work, not to mention that previously mentioned move! I’ve experienced much sweetness and also much sorrow, sometimes in coexisting moments. Rejoicing with one child while weeping with another are hard places to navigate inside a mama’s heart. Yet, God has been so near and so faithful, every time teaching me to worship without seeing the finished, whole picture. After years of waiting for the right time, I started working on a master’s degree this past fall. My heart was filled to overflowing when I led a mission team to Guatemala in September and the year ahead literally starts in El Salvador on January 2nd.  For the mysteries revealed and those yet to unfold, we worship.  

Suddenly the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom God is pleased.”  When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” ~ Luke 1: 13-15 (NLT)

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year
Tim, Dawn, Lydia, Michael, Isabelle, Dennis & Rebekah 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Even the Sparrow

This blog post was written for One More Child Global and can also be accessed here:

During our first day at the Malnutrition Center, one of the nannies handed me a plate of food and asked me to feed one of the youngest boys in the daycare.  He was sitting in a wooden highchair, firmly strapped into place by a long piece of fabric tied around his waist.  This little man had difficulty holding his head up and controlling some of his larger body movement, yet when he saw the spoon filled with food, he responded with an open mouth.  Immediately as he opened his mouth for food, I recalled scripture from Matthew 6:25-34 where Jesus instructs us not to worry about what we will eat:

(25) Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? (26) Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they? (27) Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Here I was feeding this toddler life-giving nutrition, while the Holy Spirit was doing the same thing for me!  The next day I was also asked to feed the same little boy, whose name I learned was Jose.*  Every single time I called him by name, his face responded with such joy and the widest grin spread across his face.  I knew his name!  Again, the Holy Spirit used this little boy in Guatemala to speak to my heart.   Our heavenly Father knows us intimately; He calls us, He knows us by name (Is. 43:1), He loves us, He feeds us, and He cares for our needs.  

As I attended to Jose, I was thinking about the 11 bags filled with provisions that our team delivered to the Malnutrition Center just a few short days ago. We brought down abundant supplies to care for these children.  They didn’t have to ask for clean clothes to wear, hygiene products to care for their tiny bodies, blankets to warm them at night, or craft supplies to entertain them in the afternoon.  Not one single child worried about whether or not the bags were heavy or if they would make it through customs.  They don’t know worry; they only understand loving care.  

(28) And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. (29) Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. (30) If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe and care for you?

Jesus lovingly cares and provides for us.  He doesn’t count, track, or measure – He personally knows us, even the number of hairs on our head. If he sees when a sparrow falls, how much more will he see our need? If He adorns the wildflowers that no one will see, how much more will He care for you and me? We are called by His name, made in His image, intimately known and loved.

May we all be like sweet, little Jose.  May our hearts be filled and smiles flood our faces when our heavenly Father tenderly calls us by name. May we fully understand that when we lay aside our worries and seek first the Kingdom, all of our needs will be met. 

(31) So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ (32) For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (33) But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (34) Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. 

*Name changed for confidentiality purposes

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Surrendered Worship

Last spring I was invited to attend a small meet & greet with Chris Tomlin, followed by tickets to his Worship Night in America tour.   I was able to bring one of my daughters as a guest.  What a night it was!   We got to experience backstage, have dinner, snap pictures with Chris and then worship with the packed stadium.  

Yesterday I was selected to attend a small listening party with Lauren Daigle prior to the launch of her new album, Look Up Child.  I was able to bring one of my daughters as a guest.  What a day it was!  We had front row seats, learned about the inspiration behind several of her news songs, snapped pictures with Lauren and left with a cool swag bag.  

Amazing, right?  Wow, Dawn and her girls really got lucky this year and had the chance to meet two amazing artists in 2018! Well, that’s certainly the social media, one-sided perspective of the story. But, the real backstory to both events makes them even more special than the photo ops could possibly communicate. 

As many of you know, in early April our son Michael was admitted to a residential treatment program across the state to deal with some mental health and addiction issues.  It was voluntary admission, but one that we supported as his best next step.  Nonetheless, my heart was bleeding.  Admitting you are not enough for your child is as tough as it gets for a parent. After I left him that first day the tears were flowing so hard I could barely see the road.  I pulled over to get control of my emotions only to look up and see that the road I was driving on was literally called The Purple Heart Highway.  Clearly, God did not miss my bleeding heart. 

I received the invitation to the Chris Tomlin event a few days after saying goodbye to Michael in April. I honestly did not want to go and almost turned the opportunity down.  The last thing I wanted was to be around people I didn’t know or to be dragged into worship – even though I knew that was exactly where I needed to be.  However, my husband encouraged me to go and take Isabelle along.   As Michael’s twin, Izzy really needed a night of worship too.  So, we went heavy-hearted, but ended up having a wonderful time.  As cool as it was to meet Chris, the highlight of the night was being soaked in worship.  It was a turning point in my heart during that season with Michael away and one I knew the Lord had orchestrated for me. 

What almost none of you know, is that in late July our son Michael was readmitted to the same program across the state.  Nowhere where he was before, but still recognizing his need for more professional help, he voluntarily admitted himself again for help with both anxiety and addiction.  Again we supported his decision to get therapeutic help that was outside of our ability.  My heart was once again bleeding; my dreams were out of control; the emptiness left my heart weeping. On this trip home, Lauren Daigle’s new release, You Say, was on repeat for 3 ½ hours straight.  It was simply oxygen to me. I honestly felt she wrote that song just for me.

“I keep fighting voices in my mind that tell me I’m not enough.
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up.
Am I more than the just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know.”

This week I heard an announcement on the JoyFM about a small listening party they were pulling together for Friday afternoon with Lauren Daigle.  Anyone who could make it to Manatee County during that time was instructed to send an email to the station and they would identify 12 people to attend the event. Could it be that Jesus would once again be inviting me into worship the same way as the last time Michael left?  Sure enough, a few hours later I was selected to attend the event. I later learned the 90-second invite was only shared one time on the radio, which just happened to be while I was in my car.  

As a lifelong Christian, this season of life finds me struggling under the heavy burden of suffering. How can we give up our most precious gifts to God, without knowing the outcome, and yet be so carefully and closely loved by the Father?  I can’t wrap my mind around the juxtaposition of these realities. Throughout every battle I’ve faced with my Lord, I’ve learned to “worship my way through it.”  During our 23-year infertility journey I battled to get my children in my arms. Now, I’m learning to lay them freely in arms of Jesus.  Here’s the beauty in the broken surrender: in laying down my treasures I’m being escorted – literally onto a front row – to worship under some of the most gifted psalmist of our generation.  My response can only be one of surrendered worship. 

“The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity”

~Lauren Daigle, You Say