Monday, January 5, 2015

2014: The Year of Remembering What Blessed Means............

When we are truly blessed our happiness is independent of our circumstances. It is self-contained, meaning that regardless of what is happening to us externally, we can be truly happy internally. We can be genuinely blessed as followers of Jesus Christ living out the way He has called us to...even if the walls fall down, the earth shakes and everything we think is true about our world flips on its head.
(summarized, ripped apart, rewritten and probably remembered wrongly from a devotional  I read on Harvest Ministries - but they are where I first read it so I credit them.)
Last year I learned what it meant first hand to be Blessed.
To be truly happy-
in the hardest places.
of if I got what I wanted
or what was 'right'
or even what 'should' be.
from if I was healthy or sick
tired or rested
cherished or forgotten.
Because it wasn't about what was happening in my world - my circumstances. It was all about my relationship and happiness in Christ.
Not that it was a sudden transition - like lightening - but a slow process more like the March melting of the thickest winter ice - where my hope transferred from a false place of trust ( in man) back to a rock solid foundation in the unshakable, unchanging Christ.
And I moved from the place of constantly focusing on the good and bad of the situation - to the awesome awareness of how truly Blessed I am at all times
Because of the One who is I Am.
And because I am very likely to forget and need the constant reminder....I have added Blessed to my left arm.  Beloved on my right - Blessed on my left - I am hemmed in by truth and hold that amazing peace that surpasses all understanding.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

My One Word For This Season..........

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Matthew 7:7-8

This is the word written on my heart as I face the 'next' things in life....
behind it are
-be bold
-be courageous
 -do not fear
simply trust (in God)
take a deep breath
and ask.

Monday, December 29, 2014

How Can We Help The Qualls?

Saturday morning, the lives of our real-life friends the Qualls of Idaho spun into a new and unexpected place as their vehicle hit an icy patch on the road and the life of their teen daughter ended in a sudden tragic collision.  Many of you know them from Lisa's blog One Thankful Mom or various adoption related connections.

Today - their lives continue.  Dealing with the details of life, planning their precious daughters funeral,  facing and feeling the first layers of grief as they wash through each member of the family and remembering along the way the tiny details that keep each of their individual lives running as well - prescriptions to be picked up, movies to be returned and rent to be paid as the first of January approaches.

The oldest of the Qualls kiddos has spent the last 2.5 years woven into our family here in Minnesota while she works through her medical residency in the cities. This loss feels like family to us -  it makes me want to run to them to do carry part of the burden because I can see that it is overwhelming.

But that just isn't a reasonable idea. Especially since my own 11 kiddos need me here and they are surrounded by a church and community in Idaho that has
the hot-dishes moving and the connections to do everything locally.  So I continue to pray and hold the rope at this end for their oldest daughter. 

And there is a tangible way that I (and you if you want to) can help  -  in the accident the car was totaled  - a stupid detail in the middle of tragedy - but a very real one that gives us the chance to step in and  pick up a piece of the burden for a family that drives their vehicles far longer than the number of years for an average US household. 

There is a go fund me account set up to do just that and so far - after 24 hours of being open - 42% of the goal has been donated.  (Whoot! Wahoo! )  I would love to see that piece- the 'how do we buy a new car' one..... totally off the table and put aside with a big hug from all of us -saying that they are so well loved (by strangers as well as everyday friends) that their energy can go into healing and caring for each other first.

After  I hit post on this - my next task is to make my offering toward that replacement vehicle.  If anyone wants to join me but doesn't want to use go-fund-me I am happy to act as an intermediary through paypal or what ever way you do feel comfortable - just let me know. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

What Was Intended To Tear You Apart......

"What was intended to tear you apart, God intends to set you apart." Genesis 50:20

This was the main theme on day 9 of Unwrapping the Gift  - this years Advent readings and I'm clinging to the unending truth of it as the pounding waves of suffering batter those I love the most.

 Because I know that life will often if not always be hard - and (not but -  AND) God always has a plan, a purpose AND a way through it.

Blessings friends - you are precious and whatever big hard things you are facing today - may you trust wholly in God.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

AVery Real Christmas..............

This week my childhood friend Erin blogged on the pain that comes so often with Christmas.  She challenged us to be real in our suffering and to let the authentic emotion we feel show to others rather than the Hallmark brightness that the social season dictates.

She challenged us to have a 'real' Christmas.
Which made me stop and check my heart.
Because I hate the Hallmark holiday standard.

The one where joy and happiness is defined by what you get, how people treat you and how beautiful the decorations are.

Hate it..... like I'd rather throw up
I'd rather have every one of my 11 kids start throwing up
        and both my cats pee on the living room carpet
                and all of the filings in my teeth replaced....
rather than pretend that Hallmark sets my standard
                for remembering and honoring the birth of Christ.

I'm with Erin - I want to be 100% real - because God knows the details of my life and His heart is broken over the scattered pieces that are slowly coming together in this mess of a season.  I know there is a plan and a purpose in every step of my journey - and I trust that we can celebrate way better than any Hallmark ideal.  For me that means being  honest about the things that hurt- because this is what Christmas is really all about - and why we needed Jesus to come in the first place.

I have to admit - this year the holidays could have been unbearably painful-  gut wrenchingly wrong on so many human levels - if my standard was limited by Hallmark - because some things just are not looking very pretty.

I could have fantasized  it all away
or denied that it was actually that bad.

I could have smiled and been strong in polite silence
trusting other people to leave me alone.

Or  I could choose to be real.

Because its a mess
Big time.
Really...really.....really messy.

But it's also an amazing time of overflowing....overwhelming...unending blessing and contentment.

Which is actually stronger than the sadness.
Bigger than the each pounding wave of reality
Truer than every broken dream and aborted hope.

The reality is that our household holidays were not focused on presents and creating the picture perfect memories for the scrap book.  No - the physical mess in my home this week was created by a mountain of  salvaged food that we loved out to 20 families - and by the total disorder left in the wake of our Christmas Eve Emergency Responder dinner at the precinct.

It was the broken pattern caused by a constant stream of people that we got to love on and share with - each of us being honest and real in the hard places where we walk.

"Thanks for the food...ours was almost gone."
"Thanks for the hug...I was feeling scared, lost and alone."
"Thanks for the reminder ...God is in the hard things, the ugly things, the bitter things."
"I'm glad I'm here."
"I'm not hurts."

God is God.  He calls us to do out outrageous things in His name and to do them with all our hearts.  With tears, grief, joy, praise and everything in between.  He plans more for our holidays than the simple Hallmark standard - he plans to unleash the Truth and let us live it as water to a dry and weary land- when we can be content whatever our situation.

I am thankful that I did not have a Merry Christmas - instead we shared a Very Real Christmas with a whole lot of very real people. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Makings Of A Good Mamma Horror Film.....

It was a scene right out of a mamma horror film.

The moment where you realize that the coffee grounds a child spilled  the day before were the very last ones in the house.

And if  it happens to be day 5 of a high fever/cough-out-your-lungs sort of flu that is circling through the kids and the longest stretch of sleep you have seen was 2 hours - four days ago.

And your developing the cough that comes as a precursor to the debilitating fever.

And there is no-one else to step in and do your 24/7 job.

And a child is caught doing something that endangers everyone...and they don't understand what the big deal is.

These are the elements of what could have been a horror-story  Saturday - simply because they stacked up with the everyday drama and reality of parenting my 11 kids. It could have been just enough to bring this unprepared mama to her ever loving knees in  panic and joy-sucking fear.

Except it didn't  have to.
Unless I let it.
Because I know there is another way to deal with this
(and it doesn't include running away or overindulging in alcohol.)

If I can get my eyes out of the mess around me
and lay down the weight of it all.
to watch diligently for the blessings and mercies that come every morning -

I will see them.

They are there and the promises are true - I have not been forsaken, I am not alone, I am beloved and I am truly blessed.

Even if I don't sleep
Even if I get sick
Even if I have to call 911 for a child's febrile seizures that go on too long or the house is set on fire by a child....

Even if I don't 'feel' them.....they are still true.
But I have to open my eyes and my heart to see them or I will simply curl into a ball of despair.

So I can take my hot cup of Thera Flu with me into the shower  and instead of crying I can laugh.

Because one friend brought groceries in the morning - and another brought a hot meal at noon.

And no 911 calls needed to be made.  But if they did - my cell is working and I know the responders who are likely to show up.

And other friends came and brought gifts to pass through for another family - and a shopping bag full of wine - simply to make me smile.

Laughing and receiving the joy that comes when my heart is not set on this life being exactly what I want - but in trusting that is exactly what He wants it to be.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Once Upon A Time 900 Kids .......

Once upon a time  31 Ugandan Village Cooperatives of 30 widows and single mamas  hearts were woven together  with  Beauty for Ashes Uganda.   These mamas had 900 secondary school age kids who were the treasures of their lives.  But these families were living on $.76 a day which made school almost impossible.

Then God whispered a plan into my friend Brandi's heart.
And set it in motion.

He called out a group of Advocates from far across the world to each represent one village and help meet the physical needs of those precious families.

They did the math....and were terrified at the fact that $38,000 was needed to ensure that those 900 kids were going to school.  So they prayed, and wept and cheered over every single donation.  And they waivered in their confidence because there was only two months to reach that goal...and honestly...they  were all over their heads busy outside of this craziness.

But God....

....had the rest of the plan. Today - December 12th - a month after starting the Join Our Village campaign we are at an amazing $36,000.

That means that 850 of the kids are already covered and only $2,000 more is needed to have them all enrolled in school next term.

I stand amazed.

That God would use us.  This ragged band of cracked and tired hearts which meet late at night on goggle hangout - as the instruments of His love.

His radical,
Tonight I go to bed knowing that the 57 kids from Tubor - my particular village - are headed to school because others  joined the Virtual Village or  stepped into the gap and helped bridge us until our members come forward.

I am trusting that the same God who provided for the 950 will also cover the 50 who are left.

Because every one is precious.

The whisper on my lips tonight is 'thank you God,' for allowing me to love the 900 and trusting me to be a part of their story.

If you feel led to help us bring those last 50 kids into the 'we've got this covered' category follow this link and donate under the one time donations  section.  If you want to have fun you can add 'cheering for the last 50 kids' or something like that to the comments/designate village box so that Brandi can have the joy of matching donations to the villages who have students still unfunded. Honestly - $2000 more feels almost like nothing compared to the $38,000 that we faced to begin with.

Tonight I am waiting expectantly for the rest of the plan to be revealed and doing the crazy happy dance in the meantime.

Unpacking The Holidays And Pulling The Pieces Back Together..........

Unpacking the holiday decorations after Thanksgiving led me to a startling realty. Somehow in the chaos and craziness of the past 5 years a few very basic family holiday traditions had fallen by the wayside and it was way past time to pick them back up.

Like the truth that these ornaments with each of the kids baby pictures on them hadn't even been unpacked since 2009.  And the 3 youngest kids didn't even have one yet?!  Honestly, I was shocked to see that this particular tradition had been shelved because it is one way I have celebrated and marked each child's adoption or birth.

But this year is different.  I have margin and emotional space to unpack them and order the missing ones online though Walmart.   15 minutes at my computer, $30 and a few spare ribbons later made me feel as if we were one healthy step closer to leaving the chaos zone.

Until I went to hang the stockings and realized that Laughter didn't have one of his own.  Seriously?  How?  Felt stockings are one of the few sewing projects besides karate uniforms that I do anymore.  And every child of mine has had one before their first birthday. 

Except...apparently...#11 who was born mid-moving chaos 5years ago.  Wow.  Thankfully I know how to resolve this issue also. Though it is much harder to do it when the kids are old enough to have opinions and ideas that you want to meet.  He set his heart on a space ship and planets and stars - so this is the first stage.  And it's actually my fathers stocking (which I made as a preteen to celebrate his British heritage) flipped over, so its extra special.  (and I have no idea why these photos wont flip so I'm ignoring them.)

The more I unpacked the clearer the picture became - special ornaments that needed a little repair had been stored and ignored in Ziploc bags for years, my stash of clearance wrapping paper had almost run out and the last time I sent out a Christmas card or did a family Christmas photos was 2010.  Not that these are critical parts of life - but they are markers and indictors to me of the cost living in crisis and chaos has had on our family.   These simple truths made me sad and  inspired me to action.  I could feel the effect of these hard, chaotic years wearing on the fibers of my heart and knew that that the time for deep joy, tradition and celebrating had come again. 
Starting with ornaments and stockings.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

"You Are Blessed! You Get To Bless! This is happiness!....

Advent is a season of preparation - in our house its a daily walking through of the promises, the history and all of the reasons that led from Adam and Eves decisions in the garden all the way to Bethlehem and then purposefully on to the cross.

Day 5 of our advent book this season (Wait - I'm doing something new as much as I love Russ Ramses book Behold The Lamb of God it was time for a new pattern and when my friend Lisa from One Thankful Mom sent Ann Voskamp's book Unwrapping The Greatest Gift I was more than a little excited. )  so for those who know me in real life - shift to a new Advent celebration.

But back to day 5 - the first text on the page is Genesis 12:2 I will bless you......and you will be a blessing to others.  The whole devotion is encouraging and hopeful- but the line that seized my heart was this one on page 33.

You are blessed! You get to bless! This is happiness.

Because it's true.
No matter what else is happening in and around my life I AM BLESSED and I GET TO BLESS.

Oh amazing joy - to truly realize that my happiness is that simple.

My life is jam-packed with blessings and the natural outpouring of the is to overflow that abundance onto others.   From those who live close - within my own 4 walls - to neighbors I honestly have a hard time sharing space with - I am called to spread the blessing over them.

This week I have had the joy of watching our Tubor Village account grow beyond our own abilities to fill it.  I have seen the joy of blessing overflowing through so many hearts who believe that the children and single mamas of this village cooperative in Uganda are worth investing in. As of tonight we are $750 away from having all 57 of the Tubor secondary students enrolled in school for the next semester. 

And I stand in awe.

Because on Monday I thought we were dreaming too big.....Shoot... 900 kids total in our Ugandan cooperatives were counting on us to make their dream of school possible in February..  Us...a ragtag group of advocates and virtual village members that are just stating to get our feet on the ground.

But God is big.
And strong.
And has a plan that is already in place - part of which is that we get to be the hands and feet of his love

What could be better?
Happiness caused by doing exactly what we are supposed to do - blessing others.

Grab it friends - happiness is within our reach. Receive the blessing that comes from loving God and then seize the wonderful reality that you get to go out and bless others.

Peace to you -

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Why Can't I Refill My Kids Generic Concerta?!!

Want to know one sure way to cause a mamma of many FASD/ADHD kiddos a melt on the floor and scream panic attack on the day before Thanksgiving?  Its super easy.

So easy in fact that some of you might have fun trying it out on your friends - since too many of us will be in the same boat this month when we go in to refill our kiddos maintenance ADHD  prescriptions at our regular pharmacy's.

Start by smiling at your friend - and then slowly - and clearly say  'two weeks ago the FDA changed how the main generic extended release Concerta  is defined - it has been downgraded and is now no longer considered an equivalent ADHD medication.'

Smile again.
And Wait.
While this sinks in.
Slowly....because we don't really want to think about what this means.

And be sure to catch them when they fall...because if they need an ER visit for a head injury you get the its really an important step for you.

This is exactly the place I found myself at on Thanksgiving Eve - except I didn't pass out.  But I wanted whimper and find a safe corner to hide in until I had time to process the reality. 

Because I was now...........

-Unable to fill the controlled medication that you are only allowed to fill when 3days remain on the RX. 

-Understanding that the mandatory archaic paper copy of the prescription that is written for generic is not going to help at all....I had to have one written for name brand which I had to get from the psychiatrist who is now out of the office until Monday morning because it's a 4 day weekend.

-Understanding that even if I get that new paper RX  in hand insurance is likely to deny it because there is {WAS} a generic option and I will have to go through the appeal process with the insurance company....and that we only have 3 days of medication left.

-AND that your pharmacy like mine is not prepared for this....and at this point is 'hoping' to get more stock in on their Thursday order so that 'maybe' if everything works like it should we will only be without medication for 4 days.  Unless the order doesn't come in. (oh kill me now!)

- AND that this will be a medication change for every one of the people used to the generic version so the 'find the right dose' game will begin again as soon as you have it in hand.  And each trial requires another trip to the clinic to get that magic paper prescription........

-All during the high stress Christmas season. (fun enough for ADHD/FASD kiddos) and will I pay the uninsured full cost name brand price this month if insurance denies them for more than a week?

Puddle.  Sniff....clutch my wallet....I'm already 3/4 of the way through the process for my 4 kids who are directly affected and just writing about it has sent my blood pressure up again.

Perhaps I shouldn't have suggested pranking your friends with this one.  Unless you are one of 'us' the irony of it all wont make much sense and the perfect cruelty of the timing will likely slip past you.

Maybe a better way to help your friends would be to pour them a glass of wine, seat them in a soft chair and gently start by saying "This may be hard to take....but I want you to know that this is not a huge crisis - only the next crisis - and you have weathered much worse.....and you always wondered if the generic was as good or not.."

Because nothing will be gained if we loose it when the reality hits that the FDA re classified our kids ADHD meds . Because we have to get to it and deal with untangling the mess as soon as possible.

Good luck friends .....and as a trauma-mamma I honestly wish someone had taken the wine approach with me.   That said - happy 2nd day of Advent - from this mom who I eagerly awaiting something better.......