Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Grandma Update #4

This past fall the Tuesday morning Bible study I go to studied 1&2 Thessalonians through Beth Moore's Children of the Day study. Familiar words I had read before jumped off the page with fresh meaning and new life as I studied two small books I'd read before. And these words that Paul penned have wrapped themselves around my heart:

"Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1Thessalonians 5:16-18

It would be easy to read those words and think that's a nice thing to do. Or, that was good for Paul but you don't know my life. You don't know the road I'm walking.  That's just not realistic.  Or even to just think that those three verses are a little fluffy in the midst of the rest of God's word.

But the truth is Paul's journey to the church of Thessalonica had been paved with hardship. The road Paul walked had been paved with beatings, floggings, imprisonment and then being kicked out of Thessalonica- the very place he was writing that letter to. So, in the midst of this road, Paul writes to these brand new Jesus followers to be joyful always, to pray continually and to give thanks in ALL circumstances.

Though the sentences are short the sentiment is rich. Because it's not natural.  It's not the normal response. It's not what just comes out of us.  It's a work of God through us.

I visited my grandma yesterday.  She is dying.  She is in good spirits and has no pain.  

One of the hardest parts of this road is that she is so darn grateful. It makes it even harder to know she will only be with us for a short time because she is such a joy to be around.  Joy and gratitude just pour out of her. She was sitting in her chair in her hospital room yesterday when her doctor came in to see her.  Dr. Seetharaman has been an incredible gift to our family.  He walked up to my grandma and held her hand and rubbed her shoulder. He kissed the top of her head and she leaned into him. She told him she loved him and that he was a gift sent from God. She thanked him for the care he had taken of her.  

The nurse came to help her to the bathroom and my grandma looked in her eyes and talked to her. She joked and made the nurse laugh and when the nurse helped her back in her chair she held her hand a moment longer and thanked her and told her she loved her. 

Then her sock was dirty and she was going to try to get the spot off with the hand sanitizer on her little table. I told her we could get her a new pair. When this sweet girl, Lyssa, the patient care technician, came in with her new socks you would have thought my gram was given a brand new piece of expensive jewelry. She just beamed that she had fresh, new socks to wear. 

And if you based your hospital food reviews off of what she says the hospital cafeteria is rivaling any 5 star restaurant. She is grateful for a hot meal and she gobbles it up.  When you ask her how it was she throws her head back, slumps her shoulders down and opens her mouth with a wide grin.  "Oh, Danielle, it was SO GOOD!  And there were cinnamon apple slices for dessert! The coffee is so good here."  

And what made me sob yesterday was when she said how grateful she was to God for letting her be sick before dying.  She used to ask God to just let her fall asleep and die. "God did it for my sister. He can do it for me."  Oh, Gram.  But yesterday she told me how grateful she is to be sick because now she gets to spend her days saying goodbyes. Friends and family are visiting and she is loving every minute. Me, too.  Me, too.

It was the same with each person who entered her room yesterday. Love and gratitude poured from her lips. "God is good," was spoken at least a dozen times.  And when the social worker came in to tell her that she would get to go to a comfort care home on Christmas Eve (something they said would NEVER happen) she cried tears of joy. The social worker sat beside her and hugged her.  They cried together and my grandmother, again, spoke words of gratitude and love.

Faith changes everything. In the midst of dying, it's a faith in Jesus that frees the heart to sing. Frees the heart to be joyful and give thanks in ALL circumstances.  This road is not easy. But she continues to have joy and gratitude and that points me to Jesus every. single. time.

I don't know what road you are walking right now. If it's an easier road or if it is a road that looks a bit more like the road my family is walking. Maybe it's littered with loss and pain and lots of unknowns. Or maybe right now it's filled with easy news, loved ones beside you and things just falling into place.  Whatever your road, may you, today, be joyful and give thanks.

Giving thanks is a perspective shifter. It doesn't change the road it just changes the way you are looking at the road. It doesn't fix the hardship it just puts it in perspective. 

Today I am grateful that God loved us enough to send His One and Only Son. I'm grateful for Jesus- God with us. I'm grateful for another day with my sweet Gram. I'm grateful for in-laws that love me as their own and for my family in Rochester who graciously have given me the freedom to be completely non-committal with Christmas plans. I'm grateful that Christmas is more than presents and stockings hung (mainly because if that was all it was about I'd be completely failing. No gift is wrapped and our stockings are not hung yet).  And today I am grateful for you.  You read these updates and I know that you are praying for me and for my family. You are choosing to, in a way, walk this road with me. That's not an easy thing. Thank you. 

"May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word... May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance."  2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, 3:5

Merry Christmas, sweet ones.  


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Truth and Love and Chronic Lateness

I quit facebook last week.  It's true.  Well, it's sort of true. I had to go on to find a recipe I had shared on my wall that I wanted to make for dinner.  And I went on again to see the pictures my in-laws posted of all the snow they got in East Aurora.  And then in a moment of weakness, after being holed up in my house for two days due to the 4+ feet of snow outside, I went back on to see pictures and what was happening outside of my zip code.

And it happened again.  That pit in my stomach. The heat rising in my cheeks. The insecurity creeping over me, whispering unkind words.  You see, I quit facebook because of an article someone posted.  There were several articles over time about many different topics ranging from organic food to clean eating and exercising/fitness.  But this was the one that put me over the edge.

I saw it again today and with it many comments that were not there when I first saw it.  To read the article you can click here.  It was posted by someone I don't know very well.  And it was not posted directly to me. But it hit a chord.  Here's why.  The article is called, "You're not running late, You are just rude and selfish."  Ouch.

I run late. Almost always. Sometimes it's 5 or 10 minutes. Sometimes more. As a kid growing up we were early to everything.  Like 30 minutes early. I found that once I was older I wanted to control something.  Life was chaotic growing up but I could control being late. And so I rebelled against what I grew up with and became that girl.  I was never late to school.  I was never late to my shift jobs. But everything else.

Here's the deal, I no longer like being late. It is a bad habit and it's one I am working on.  Adding 2 kids to the mix hasn't helped make it easier to reform this chronically late girl but I am a work in progress.  And do you know what blesses my heart?  When people show me grace. It makes me want to please them. To be on time. To know although I'm so incredibly flawed I am still cared for. And this may sound so silly, but I don't mind when people are late and I'm on time. I never feel disrespected or that my time doesn't matter. I find it is an incredible opportunity to show them grace. And most times it is needed.

I know. I've showed up to things late, guard up. On the defense. Knowing I've messed up. Knowing I need to apologize. And I have.   And when I've been met with grace, oh it is a balm that soothes my soul.

Giving grace for the chronically late is never wrong. Someone once said, "I'd rather get to Heaven and have shown too much grace than be told I didn't give enough." Yes, your time matters. And that is why choosing grace in that moment is even sweeter. I've been shown much grace and I will continue to choose to give it. And often here is what people don't know when I'm late- that I've changed my outfit 45 times on the verge of tears because I am hating my body and can't stand to look at the girl in the mirror. Because I'm anxious about going somewhere where I fear I won't fit in and everyone will pick apart all of the things I so desperately wish I could hide. Because if I'm late and they are upset their guard will be up and I won't have to let mine down. They can reject me for something within my control vs. all of the things that aren't that they may reject me for and would hurt much more. And sometimes it is because I try to fit in one more thing before I have to leave the house because I continually can't get my act together. And there are times that it's poor planning or because I feel that whatever I have to do is more important than where I am going.

We never know the battle someone has fought to get where they are. So ask. And show grace.

That article and the comments that followed were destructive. Here's why.  Any time we choose to take a stand on something, especially in social media, it can be interpreted as I am right and you are wrong. I am better. You are less. And that is what it did to my heart.

I read the article. I read the comments. And I shrunk back into myself. Defeated. I will never be good enough. The voice of insecurity that plagues me, that God is working on, grew louder. And I felt wrecked. So, I quit facebook.  Because when the voices of women I barely know feed the voice of insecurity I know all too well and becomes louder than The Voice of THE ONLY ONE who should matter, there is a problem.

I know I can't be the only one who has struggled with this. So, I want you to stop and to listen for a moment. You, yes you, have been created in the image of God. And because of sin we are all so incredibly flawed. We choose to turn to things that do not satisfy. We run after shiny, meaningless things and we allow the voices of the world fill our head and our hearts with lies and unkind words.

But there is a voice that we should listen to. It is slow to anger and abounding in love. This voice is the voice of a God who knows all of our flaws, sees our rebellion, our struggles, and our silent cries for more than what we've been choosing to live for.  And God's voice is kind, compassionate and so very mighty. With words God spoke the universe into being. It's that powerful.  And His voice can break through our walls and crumble our insecurity into a million pieces revealing the girl He created in His image. To know Him. To love Him. 

The truth is God will call us out on the things He wants to change in us. He may use people that know us and care for us to do that. I've yet to have him use random articles on social media to do that. See, there's the difference between God and us. I post things because I want to make a point. I want to take a stand. I want people to know I am right and they are wrong.

courtesy of
God calls us out on things because He cares for us. Because the end goal is always to make us to reflect Jesus. To look more like His Son and less like the world. That is why it is so important that when we take a stand it's a stand worth taking. That it won't be something that in eternity won't matter.

An incredibly wise, sweet woman posted to her facebook wall these words, "When we 

stand before God at the end of our lives He is not going to 

ask us what kind of clothes we wore, the type of food we ate 

(organic or not), or where we lived. He may very well ask, 

however, whom we clothed, fed and invited into our homes."

Truth in grace is often speaking truth and then continuing to walk alongside. That's what is impossible to do via facebook and posting articles. Often it's truth without grace. It's taking a stand and not caring how it makes people feel. I know because I've done it. And I've been on the other end, too.

So, today, I am going to stop and to listen to God's voice. To remember that you and I are worth it to God- worth it enough for him to send His one and only Son to die on the cross to secure a place for you and me in eternity.  That we might have a personal relationship with Jesus. That's a voice of love. That's a voice that is always truthful and always, always loving.

Whether you are chronically late or eat non-organic processed food for every meal, are overweight, don't have your life together, don't drive a great car, have an old house that needs updates, feel like you are failing at your job, as a mom, at whatever, are having trouble paying your bills, or look like you have it all together but life is still hard, there's a voice that will speak love to you today. You are more than all of that. Keep pressing on. And if you need to, like I do, set your clocks 10 minutes ahead :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hudson's Birth Story

Dear Hudson,

I have been feeling quit guilty for not sitting down sooner to write this, but I just looked back at Sully's birth story and I waited six weeks to write his.  Considering I'm chasing your brother all day and taking care of you, my sweet boy, the fact that it's only been seven weeks makes me feel pretty darn good.

My pregnant belly three days before you came into this world
So, Hudson John, this is your story.  I love every part of it.  Not because it was easy. But because it was worth it.

You were due on July 7th and for two months I had been praying that you would come early for three reasons. The first was that Dr. Falkner was worried about how big you would be, despite the fact that I assured her these hips were made for birthing babies.  The second was that I was feeling incredibly miserable.  I felt like my belly just couldn't get any bigger.  My maternity shirts were beginning to not cover my belly and my waddle just got worse every day. And the third reason was that I really wanted your Aunt Kristie to be there for your birth.  I had wanted her to be there when Sully was born, too, but she was out of town.  Her summers are incredibly busy and she was scheduled to start chemo on Wednesday, June 25th.

Saturday, June 21 was a hot and humid day.  I was especially miserable and grouchy.  After dinner I told your dad that we needed to take a walk because I just couldn't sit any more and I needed to get out of the house.  So we walked.  We walked two miles (well, he walked.  I waddled).  I felt better after that.  That night we watched two episodes of our favorite show this summer, Longmire and it was around midnight when we went to bed.  As I laid down that night I had only one thought, I knew exactly what I would wear to church the next day.  I remember thinking that I have no idea what we will do tomorrow but I am sure of what I will wear.

That night around 2:30 am I woke up and I rolled over my water broke.  A huge gush.  I JUMPED out of bed and yelled to your dad that my water broke.  In a sleepy daze he jumped out of bed as I waddled to the bathroom and asked me if I was sure.  I was definitely sure.  It was the strangest feeling.

We called the doctor's office and spoke with the answering service.  The woman was so kind that we talked with and congratulated me.  We chatted for a few minutes and then I anxiously waited for the midwife to call me back.  I got in the shower and just started laughing.  Your dad came in the bathroom and thought I was losing it.  I was giddy!  I stood in that shower laughing while tears streamed down my face at the realization that not only did God hear the cries of my heart but He so graciously answered.  I prayed, and sang and thanked God and my heart burst knowing I would meet you soon.

Standing in that shower I thought I would meet you soon.  I thought that contractions would start and we would hurry to the hospital and that you would be born that day.  But, my little love, you were not ready.

The midwife called back and said if I was comfortable I could labor at home for a while and if nothing happened by 7am to head in.  She said I could sit in the bathtub and labor in there.  So, that is what I did.  I even painted my toe nails.  And I kept waiting for the contractions to start.  But they never did.

It's funny how I went to bed just hours before thinking that for certain I knew one thing- that I would wear the pretty blue dress I wore for our family pictures to church.  I never got to wear that dress and Sunday looked much different than I envisioned.

By 4:30 am after a bath, a pedicure and trying to sleep I decided there was too much to do.  I got up, got dressed, did laundry, put dishes away and packed Sully's overnight bag.  Around 6 am Grandpa came over to watch Sully and by 8 am your dad and I left for the hospital.  We stopped at Tim Horton's and got an iced tea and a breakfast sandwich.  We checked in to the hospital and when the nurse started hooking me up to the monitors she didn't seem to believe me that my water broke.
Eileen, the best labor and delivery nurse!
That was when I learned that you were still very high.  Once the midwife came in (a very sweet and lovely woman named Elaine) she affirmed that my water did break but I was not dilated or thinned out at all and yes, you still were very high.  Enter Pitocin.  The dreaded Pit Drip.

Contractions started.  They progressively got worse. No back labor (woo hoo!).  I used the big exercise ball to labor on (loved it).  Aunt Kristie came because she had two days open and I happened to be in labor during them!  And what seemed like at first would be a Sunday delivery was quickly turning into the realization that you would not be born on Sunday.

I had the sweetest nurse during the day.  Her name is Jaime and she could not have been any cuter. She was pregnant and adorable and did I mention sweet?  I adored her!  She held my hand through the epidural (the epidural that was meant for an elephant because it made me go numb from the neck down) and she even sat by my side while I slept and she filled out paperwork.

The epidural was not the best experience but I'm grateful for the rest I had while I had it (despite the fact that I could feel NOTHING and I couldn't even help turn myself over so I was propped up with pillows).  I got the epidural around 6:30pm.  I slept.  Aunt Kristie slept. Your dad watched the World Cup on his tiny little Ipod.

Around 7pm the nurses switch shifts and do you know who walked in that door?  Eileen.  The same nurse who helped deliver your brother.  Hudson, that was an incredible gift from God.  She is just the best.  God's hand prints were all over this day. Your birthday.  Eileen and I got to talking. We got to sharing about our lives. We got to talking about God and His goodness and His grace and how He redeems all things and makes all things new.  And we got to see the good Lord wrap His arms around Eileen and remind her how much He cares for her.  We invited her to come to The Chapel.  We shared pictures of your brother and Eileen showed us her favorite picture of one of her sons.  Tears welled up in our eyes and our hearts were filled because, Hudson John, as you were getting ready to make your way into this world, God was reminding us that life is best lived for Him.  Life is so much about sharing our story and giving credit to the author.  Yes, this is your birth story, my sweet boy, but there is an Author, and He gets All. The. Glory.

Around 12:05 am it was time to push.  I felt nothing so Eileen coached me through when to push. I am grateful for her beyond words.  Dad held one leg, Eileen the other.  Aunt Kristie spoke sweet and encouraging words, sprinkled with excitement. I was frustrated I couldn't feel anything.  I felt out of control because I couldn't feel anything. How could I be doing any work to help you out when I couldn't feel anything?  But you came.  You came. You made your way and my boy, I'm so in love.

Dr. Smith was on call and delivered you at 12:35 am (turns out He is Emilie's softball coach so Aunt Kristie knew him- small world, right?).  You weighed 7lbs 12oz and were 20 1/4 inches long. Shortly after they put you in my arms I felt incredibly nauseous and had to hand you back.  I got horrible shakes and they had to give me anti-nausea medicine and pile warm blankets on me.  Eileen sat by my side and held my hand.  In that moment I felt scared and I felt loved. Loved by this sweet nurse who took such incredible, tender care of me and loved by God, who so sweetly answered my prayers and was faithful to calm my anxious heart.

Hudson, I don't know what your life will hold.  I don't know the number of days you will walk this Earth.  But I know this- the start to your story has God's hand prints all over it.  The prelude to you entering it is filled with the faithfulness and grace of a very loving, very mighty God who has taken great care to knit you together, to know your innermost being and to orchestrate your story. May you, Hudson John, live out the story He writes. May you be bold in loving, tender with your words, and bring peace wherever your feet walk. May you take leaps of faith knowing and believing that God is who He says He is and that He has the power to do what He has promised and when given opportunity may you give Him every ounce of credit as the Author to your story. May your story be great. Because the Author is great.  And may you walk every step this side of heaven knowing that you, my boy, are loved.
Ready to go home from the hospital!

As I sit and write this I hear your little whimpers upstairs as your dad gets you ready for bed. And I sit here before this computer, tears welling in my eyes, thinking how I can't believe this is my story. I never asked for it.  God graciously wrote it out. I'm walking it. The mom of two boys. The wife of a man who loves me so sweetly, the daughter of a King whose throne endures forever. I don't deserve it and I sure have done nothing to earn it.

I love that I am your mama. I love that you are my son. I love that you are Sully's brother and that already you resemble him. He loves you.  He wants to hold you every day.  He gives you endless kisses. Such a gift to watch you together even now.  Welcome to our family.  We waited so patiently for you.  I'm so glad you are here.

Love you forever,

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Young Life Basket Auction Talk

I had an incredible opportunity to speak at the Young Life Rochester East Ladies Basket Auction Brunch at Oak Hill Country Club a couple weeks ago.  YL is near and dear to my heart. I was both excited and humbled at the opportunity.  Below is the talk I shared.  If you are looking to invest in an organization check out YL.  If you have middle school or high school aged kids Wyld Life (for middle school kids) or YL (for high school kids) is worth checking out.  For more info click here.

Good morning, Ladies.  It is such a privilege to stand up here and to be able to share with you the story that God has written so far in my life and just how YL fits into it.  I have to confess that when first asked to share my story my excitement level was through the roof.  I love getting to share the work Jesus has done in me, but as this day drew nearer the task began to seem daunting because I started to realize there was just too much to share.  YL is such a part of who I am and how I do life- how could I ever give words to something that is so woven through my heart and runs through my veins?  I will do my best but know that for every one thing I share there are 10 more things I could have shared.

Growing up life was chaotic and messy.  

My mom was a drug addict and my parents were never married.  I never met my dad. 

When I was 3 years old we moved from the city in with my grandparents in Webster.  This added to the chaos of my young life because my grandfather was an alcoholic.  If you can imagine, there was lots of yelling, lots of anger, and always someone leaving. 

My grandmother was and still is my rock.  She has always been more like a mother to me than a grandmother.

Home was chaotic.  But as messy and chaotic as life was it was about to get worse.

When I was 9 years old, in November of 1990, my grandfather’s alcoholism took its toll and he died. 

A year later, in October of 1991 my mom was murdered.  After having been gone from home for 2 months straight, she went out one night to score drugs.  Three teenage boys robbed her, knocked her down on the ground and shot her in the back of the neck.

She lived for 48 days after, paralyzed from the neck down, when she made the decision to be taken off of life support. 

After each loss my grandmother would sit me down and she would tell me the same thing.  God works in mysterious ways and everything happens for a reason. 

As hard as these two losses were for me they didn’t break me and I clung to a belief in a God who was bigger than my hurt.

I clung to that belief until I was 14 years old.  In the summer of 1995 my childhood best friend was murdered.  Maybe it was because it was just too much loss at this point for a girl to take or maybe it was because my friend had never hurt me or abandoned me the way my family had, but I broke.  I stood in Mass one Sunday and I silently screamed that God, either you don’t exist or you’re not good and I want nothing to do with you.

Lost, lonely and broken I walked through middle school and most of my high school years.  Then one spring day a friend invited me to YL camp.  She had invited me earlier that year to Campaigners but when I found out that it had to do with God and that you actually read the Bible I turned down her invitation. 

But camp was a different story.  Camp seemed fun and exciting and the boy I had a crush on my entire junior year was going.  So I signed up.  My expectations going to YL camp at Saranac Lake consisted only of having said crush fall in love with me.

I stepped off the bus on a beautiful, sunny, August day in 1998 and I don’t think that boy talked to me once.  He didn’t sweep me off my feet.  But God did.

I heard about Jesus that week.  I heard how the God of the universe created us and loved us but because of sin, a condition we all have, we are separated from Him. 

Sin is an archery term, it means to miss the mark- anything short of perfection.  Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  And Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death,” death meaning eternal separation from God. That wasn’t hard for me to grasp.  I knew I wasn’t perfect.  I knew from all the hurt I had experienced growing up that people were anything but perfect.  And I knew that I was not living a life that had any kind of relationship with God.

And as I listened that week I heard how it didn’t matter how hard I tried to do good things, be a good person, or make right choices.  I could never fix my sin condition.  I could never earn my way to God.  Earning my way to God would be like trying to jump to the moon.  Maybe I could jump higher than some people but jumping all the way to the moon is impossible. 

But God loved you and He loved me too much to leave us dead in our sin.  He made a way.  He made a way through His son, Jesus.  God sent His one and only Son, Jesus, to be born of a virgin, live a perfect, sinless life, and die on the cross in our place.  Three days later he rose, conquering sin, death and the grave forever.

Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

God made a way because He loves us.  He made a way because we couldn’t get to Him.  He made a way because He thinks we are worth it. He made a way and the way is Jesus.

Every talk I heard, every person I encountered at YL Camp spoke love over me and to me.  Yes, I was broken.  Yes, I was lost.  But we all were.  And we didn’t have to stay that way. 

I decided that week that if God loved me and thought I was worth it then I wanted a relationship with Him. 

And so began the impact YL had on me.  As a 17 year old girl YL spoke the truth of who Jesus is and then walked beside me to show me His love.  YL helped to make Jesus real for me.  

And this broken girl began to find healing, peace, joy and comfort. 

When I talk about the impact of YL please know all that encompasses- YL is a wonderful organization but it is made up of people.  So as I talk about the impact of YL it is the people, my leaders, Christine and Rick, Kelly, Kristie and Chad, John and Laura who are imprinted on me.  It is my friends that piled into club and campaigners week after week as we grew together in our faith walk- Christine, Jill, Dan, James, Becky, Chris, Amanda and Courtney.  It’s the girls who would pile into my car week after week when I was on YL staff- Brandi, Melissa, Sam, Ani, Bethany, Erin and Katelynn.  YL is about relationships.  These are the relationships that have molded my heart.  These are the relationships I treasure.

Kristie & me at my baby shower
The impact that YL has had on me stretches far beyond my last year of high school.  It impacted me as a high school kid, as a young woman and even now as a wife and mom, YL is still impacting me.

As a high school kid YL provided a place for me to meet and grow in my relationship with Jesus.  Every Friday morning of my senior year of high school you would find me sitting around with a group of my peers at 6:15 in the morning singing songs and opening our Bibles, soaking in whatever lesson our leaders had planned that day. 

YL provided a safe place for me to have fun but to also learn how to share who Jesus was to my friends who didn’t go to camp and to my friends who, like me months before, didn’t know there was a God who loved them.  So, every Tuesday night you would find me huddled in some kid’s basement, singing loud songs, laughing like crazy and sitting on the floor listening to a 10 minute talk about who Jesus is. 

As a high school kid YL put adult leaders in my life who modeled for me what it looked like to live a life surrendered to Jesus and what it looked like to love people well.  My leaders loved me and they accepted me.  My YL leader, Christine, even took me to tour colleges which is something my grandmother never would have been able to do with me. 

As a young woman in college I carried with me the foundation that YL had built of what it looked like to love others and to share Jesus with them.  I took with me the importance of spending daily time with God and investing in the people He put in my life. 

After graduating college I went on to work for YL for 2 years as an intern in Hamburg, NY.  It was here that I reconnected with two YL leaders from my senior year of high school.  Kristie and Chad Rush moved to Buffalo the same time that I went on YL staff.  Kristie and I connected again.  They opened their home to me while I worked for YL and I moved into their basement.  Weekly, Kristie and I would get together and do a Bible study.  She mentored me and challenged me the way she had so many high school girls before.  She did life with me the way only a YL leader really knows how.  And the impact YL had on her was now impacting me and what she poured into me I was pouring out into the girls I was working with. 

Rick Rogan officiating our wedding
It was the years working for YL that I would hear Rick Rogan talk about loving kids well and that God’s love is bold.  He would challenge us to ask hard questions and speak hard truths.

I would find myself sitting in my car with one of my high school girls in her driveway and as she would pour out her heart and share what she was really thinking and feeling and what was really going on, the things high school girls don’t always tell their moms, their friends or facebook, Rick’s words would crash through my mind.  I would find myself asking the questions heavy with the weight of eternity.  What did you think about what so & so shared at club tonight?  Who do you think Jesus is?  If God loves you and wants a relationship with you and Jesus made a way all you have to do is accept it, how do you feel about that?

As I left YL and went on to work a lot of other jobs from Starbucks to a construction company I would carry with me the impact of those who had poured into me.  

That ministry is wherever you are and that loving others for Jesus is intentional.  

I viewed my co-workers as my ministry and approached them the only way I knew how at this point- with love, with honesty, and with the desire to share with them the incredible truth that Jesus loves them.

As a wife and mom I have seen the impact YL had on me.  I didn’t have a father figure growing up.  I hadn’t seen a healthy marriage modeled to me. But then I was a part of YL.  And I watched my leaders.  I listened as Rick shared stories about his wife and his kids.  I spent a month on work crew and watched how the staff there treated their spouses and spoke kindly to them.  I was a sponge and I soaked in all I could.  I lived in Kristie and Chad’s basement and I saw how they loved each other, not perfectly (perfection is never the goal) but well.  I saw how love never walked away.  And I saw them parent their two kids- how they loved them, poured into them, how family was the priority and Jesus was woven into everything.

I’ve been married almost 6 years now to a man who is much quieter and more even keel than I could ever dream of being.  We have a 19 month old little boy, Sullivan and another little boy on the way.  We met in college, and while I worked for YL he volunteered with Wyld Life.  Rick Rogan officiated our wedding and Kristie and Chad Rush have become our family.  We often talk about if God will move us out of the city of Buffalo at some point and how great it would be to live in a town where there is YL so our kids can be part of an organization that means so much to us. 
Sully's dedication

16 years after I stepped foot off of that bus at Saranac Lake there is no doubt in my mind that I was stepping onto sacred ground.  

16 years later and YL still matters.  It’s woven into my life and into how I do life. 

So, why does this matter for you?  Let me give you 3 reasons.

1)      It matters because way back when, 16 years ago, I couldn’t afford to go to camp.  My grandma and I didn’t have extra money.  So, it was sweet people, like you beautiful ladies here this morning, who gave of their money in order that I might go to camp.  I remember weeding gardens for a couple hours to earn money toward my trip.  I know they gave me far more than my weeding earned me. And if I knew then what I know now I would have weeded 1,000 gardens that summer. 

Sometimes I wonder if when I get to heaven I will get to meet the sweet people that donated money to my camp trip.  I would love to hug them and to thank them.  I wonder if they have any idea the impact their dollars had on my life.

2)      It matters because the impact YL has goes beyond camp.  It goes beyond high school kids.  It’s bigger than me and it’s bigger than you. It matters because the work of YL is kingdom work.  It’s eternal.  And it’s a really neat thing when we can come along side God and His work, open ourselves to live generously, and partner with Him.  My kids will grow up knowing that God created them, that He loves them and that Jesus wants to be their friend forever because 16 years ago some leaders and staff thought I was worth it enough to share the incredible love of Jesus with me at YL Camp.  That’s what we get to be a part of.  My kids’ story will look so much different than mine because of Jesus.  And Jesus used YL to do that.

3)      It matters because if you are a parent, then you know this truth; there is nothing that makes your heart beam more then when someone loves your kid.  If you want to win me over, love my little boy.  I’ve thought how this, too, is God’s heart.  Want to make God’s heart smile?  Love His Son.  Love His children.

 Do you know what these YL leaders do, some paid and most volunteer?  They love your kids.  

They pray for them, they think about them, they figure out how to challenge them, how to encourage them and no matter what your kid is walking through or dealing with YL leaders come along side and do life with your kids.  Invest in these leaders.  I don’t know what that looks like for you- maybe it’s donating money but maybe it goes beyond that.  Maybe it’s having your local volunteer leader over for dinner because they are in college and what college kid couldn’t use a hot, home cooked meal.  Maybe it’s giving them a gas card because a synonym for YL leader is also chauffer.  Maybe its writing them a note and letting them know that you appreciate them and that the work they are doing matters. 

YL is in the business of loving kids and sharing Jesus.  The work is hard.  The impact is eternal.  And we can all be a part of it.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Dear Sullivan (17 Months)

My Dear, Sweet Sullivan,

Here I sit at this computer, having just put you down for a nap.  "Night, Night," as we have begun to call it to help you understand the concept.  And I hear you "talking" up there.  You are most likely playing with the three, no, I think it's four as of today, stuffed animals in your crib.  And my heart is smiling.

It's been a while since I've written you but it's more because we are busy doing life together not at all because there is a lack of anything in my heart that I want to pour out to you.  Trust me, sweet boy, on that one.

Today I just want to tell you what a blast I had at the play museum with you.  I love watching you run and discover and watch other little kids.  The world is still so new and so fresh and so exciting to you.  I love that.

Here are a few things I'd like to tell you:

1) You are going to be a big brother!  I know you don't grasp that yet.  But you touch my belly and I say "baby".  You are a little obsessed these days with belly buttons so I find myself saying, "baby," a lot.  I think you will be an awesome big brother.  You already have this sweet, happy (most of the time) disposition.  This kid will be incredibly blessed to have you looking out for him/her (we find out this week if it will be a boy or girl!).

2)  You already have a tender heart towards animals.  Especially dogs.  You love dogs.  All dogs.  Even the dogs who aren't particularly fond of you.  You kiss Cole about 1,000 times a day.  You get that from me.  As you grow and you desire to shoot a deer, that will be from your father, but your love of all things cute and furry is from me.  And I think you think Cole is your older brother.  Sometimes you two act like siblings.  You roughhouse.  You try to hit him.  And I've caught you a few times biting him.  When I scold you, you lean over and kiss him.  Is that your way of saying you're sorry?

3)  Today I witnessed your first experience with a bratty kid.  I know there have probably been ones before this.  But this one I saw.  This little girl was being a brat.  She wouldn't let you play with anything at the play museum in the area where she was.  She ripped a paintbrush out of your hand.  It didn't phase you.  When she then tried to take the plastic pipe away you wound up like you were going to hit her (and you probably were).  I yelled your name and you put down the pipe. Then, just like you do with the dog, you leaned in to kiss her.

She ran to her mom and told her three times how, "That little boy," hit her on the head.  Oh, you know the mama bear in me started to wake.  I kept my cool and a sweet grandmother who witnessed everything piped up and said she was a witness that it did not happen.  The mom dismissed everything and I just rolled my eyes.

Someday, Sullivan, you'll be old enough to know when kids are being mean.  Hear this, I have prayed since you were just months old that God would work in you and through you and that you would be the type of kid who loves people well, even the hard to love ones.  I pray that Jesus' voice would be louder than any other voice you hear.  Because Jesus' voice is always one of love. I pray that you would stand firm in who Jesus says you are because there will be many mean kids throughout your life.  There will be many things that will want to define you or label you.  Never let those voices define you.  You are so much more.

You are my sweet, strong, brave, capable, thoughtful, compassionate, joy-filled, full of life kid.  You keep your eyes on Jesus and your feet following Him.  And should you ever feel alone, unloved or a little lost, Dad and I are here to remind you just where you've been, who you are and Whose you are.

With all of my heart,
Your Mama

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Babies Ruin So Much

I read a blog the other day entitled, "Babies Ruin Bodies," and it moved me.  It could be the pregnancy hormones but I wept.  It was just beautiful.  You can read it here.  And tonight as I couldn't sleep because of horrible sinus pain I found myself doing dishes, listening to worship music, praying for a dear friend and thinking about how babies ruin so much more than our bodies.

Babies ruin plans.  It's true.  And by babies I also mean toddlers.  Just this weekend I made plans to take Sully to Explore & More Children's Museum.  It was the only thing I planned.  I was looking forward to it.  Then he got sick.  Yucky sick.  More than just a runny nose sick.  Plan ruined.

Then there was the time Ryan and I had finally made plans to have a date night.  And the kid got sick.  Like 104 fever sick.  Plans ruined.  Yes, babies ruin plans.

They also ruin neatly organized cupboards.  I am not gifted organizationally.  More organized than some but definitely wouldn't win any awards, so when I organize something, take the time and really do it, it feels good and I feel proud.  Like the time I organized my tupperware cupboard.  It was beautiful.  Neatly stacked in piles by shape and size.  Lids stacked in a basket.

My toddler clearly had no regard or appreciation for my work.  Can you believe it?  Within minutes it was destroyed and he was happy.

Babies ruin sleep.  This is a well known fact.  Whether you nurse or bottle feed, whether you sleep train or don't.  Babies ruin sleep.  Then they become toddlers and mine sleeps pretty well.  But every once in a while he has an off night.  And it's funny how one off night can throw off days.  Days.  Babies ruin sleep.

They also ruin good, solid conversation.  Have you ever had a conversation with a mom with her baby/toddler in tow?  Before I had kids I would walk away feeling like I had ADD.  Now that I'm a mom I realize what an amazing thing it is that mom's can talk at all while their kids are around.  We mama's adapt!  Babies ruin uninterrupted conversation.  Babies ruin coffee dates.

Babies also ruin Christmas trees, neatly placed mangers under the tree, boxes of tissues left within reach and any sort of toy that has multiple pieces.

And then you have a moment like I had with my Sully the other day.  When I was rocking him before a nap, he pulled his little head off my shoulder, looked me straight in the eye, leaned in and kissed my cheek.  He smiled, kissed my other cheek, then pulled his little body up with all his might and he kissed my forehead and then my nose. He put his head back on my shoulder and I melted.

Puddle on the ground, people.  Yes, babies ruin lots of things.  But when you have one you start to wonder what your purpose was before that little person was in your life.  You start to realize you'll take slobbery kisses from a toddler over an organized drawer or cupboard any day.  Sometimes those moments are few and far between and sometimes they happen one after another and I know that I feel incredibly blessed and incredibly humble.

God entrusted this little life to me.  To me.  And one day when these babies of ours are grown there will be time for beautiful, neatly stacked tupperware and perfectly decorated Christmas trees and mangers that have all the people and animals they are supposed to.

So, if you have a little one, take a moment today to know that this is a season.  Enjoy it.  Let's shift our perspective from seeing what has been ruined to seeing the gift before us- a little life to love, to mold, to nurture and to encourage.