These Tiny Feet

Just over 19 years ago, I met a precious little toddler. She smiled and brightened a room, and had a little pony tail that stuck up and fanned out in … [Continue Reading]

sophiafeet

Baseball, Pumpkins & Not So Perfect Moments

Our weekend was made up of these perfect moments that take your breath away and make you wonder how God could trust you with these precious lives he … [Continue Reading]

B&D_WagonRunning 2014

In the Storm

We're in a Tropical Storm right now here in Florida, with enough rain to make you think to build an ark and enough wind to blow you over.  Except that … [Continue Reading]

florida

Miracle in Ohio

This has been the most exciting week in a long time in the world of missing persons.  Not only did a long time missing loved one come home, but three … [Continue Reading]

Austin

Choosing Joy

A few days ago I wrote half a blog post that I couldn't get finished for some reason.   I was reminded of it this morning, how I'd written about … [Continue Reading]

choosingjoy

Sunrise, Sunset

Up until relatively very few years ago, people believed that everything revolved around the Earth.  The reason that Galileo was not just laughed at, … [Continue Reading]

sunrisesunset

More than Gold

I was asked to join a planning meeting about the women’s conference that our church was going to put on this Spring, and because the timing was SO tight (yes, we’re the crazies who planned a full day conference in about 10 weeks), I just thought of it as another thing adding things to my to-do list. But the topic was announced, and my head was spinning with ideas and takeaways that I wanted the women who gathered to believe. That I wanted to believe.

In the end, it was a day of women of incredible talent and wisdom coming together to share and it was special. For me, the best part was that I’d gotten the courage to ask for a spot in the day to talk from my heart, and I did. I wanted to share it with you too, and on this Good Friday because it’s why Christ died for us. Because, we are worth that much. We started with reading from Psalms 139, because so much about believing our worth is found there.

shirt design 1Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

 

When we believe this, we know that we’re worth more than gold. Because a God who knows us so well, who formed us and planned our days, who guides us with His hand wherever we are, would only do all that if our worth is beyond our understanding. Why else would He care so much?

So to believe those words in Psalms means that we know we are worth more than gold. And most of us do believe those words, right? I’m going to be honest and vulnerable with you, and the first part of that is saying- I believe it in my head, I do. But when it comes to my heart, I question it too often. And maybe you do too. But I tell others how valuable they are, and mean it. So I’m going to hold a magnifying glass up to my own life and a few people I love, because maybe you’ll see some similarities, and maybe it can help you.

My friend who is just 28, mom to a cutie pie 5 year old, newly engaged, in training to be a retail manager. Diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer last year, put into a trial for a new drug since traditional treatments were having no impact, and had new scans this week to confirm the belief that her tumors continue to grow. Does God not value her? Of course he does, and though I struggle with the right words through this for her, I do know that she is precious to Him.

The sweet woman I know who was cooking her son’s 23rd birthday dinner, waiting on him to arrive home from work 15 years ago, who still has no answers on his devastating disappearance. Who is raising her severely autistic grandson in place of her daighter. Who can’t speak about her missing son without being overcome with emotion and believes it means she is weak. I’ve seen her incredible strength and the way she quietly comforts others in similar situations. I know God uses her and values her, even in the midst of her pain.

The itty bitty 16 week old, cute as can be, smiling at everyone she meets, and learning to roll over. Whose biological grandmother overdosed and died, whose biological uncle died as a child of complications from drug related birth defects, whose mom hasn’t yet changed the cycle of brokenness, but is trying. I know God has a plan for her, and even for her mom, who I know he loves.

 

You wouldn’t disagree with me on the fact that they are worth so much, even in their pain and their brokenness. We know that God loves them, that He created them with a purpose, and that He will use them for His glory.I truly believe that.

But me? Worth more than Gold? I’m not as sure if I’m honest. I’m a mess. Most people only see a fraction of the mess, because like most of you, I put a cleaned up version of myself out there. I love God, truly and wholeheartedly. I serve because of that love. But I am broken. I suffer from anxiety that comes out in odd ways, including obsessive-compulsive behaviors that are strange. I’ve battled eating issues for much of my life, and struggle more than I ever admit with the image in the mirror. I fell in love with a guy that was a mess too, and has a chronic illness that impacts every area of our life, and man does it make him question his worth. Then, after having our first baby boy and settling into life somewhat, managing it all okay it seemed, one of our biggest life changing moments happened. My brother went missing. We’ve now spent almost 8 years without answers on where he is, 8 years of searching and praying for just confirmation of his death. 8 years of telling people, and meaning it, that God knows where he is, and for now that has to be enough. And you’d think I’d be an emotional mess sometimes. But I’m not, because I just don’t deal with it. I talk about it when necessary, participate in events and interviews when it might help. But avoid it as much as possible. We have two boys that keep me so busy that it’s easy to avoid. So I keep plugging along, working full time, volunteering here, sharing our story some, and I keep waiting. Waiting for some resolution on the circumstances in our lives. Because THEN I’ll be able to really share how God worked through it all, how he brought us out on the other side. That’s the moment where I can say that God was doing a big work in our lives. Because until then, I believe it, I know it, but sometimes my heart questions if we’ve been forgotten. I wonder if we did more or prayed more or believed more if just one of these huge things in our lives would have some resolution.

And then, instead of bringing an ending to any part of our story, 3 months ago He brought another middle to struggle through in the form on that tiny baby I mentioned before. For 9 weeks, she’s been with us more than she’s been with her mom, and we don’t know the long term plan. But if I’m going to look her in her eyes as she grows, and tell her how worthy she is, how loved by God she is, despite the circumstances of her life, even when the path isn’t clear, then I have to fully believe it myself about myself.

What God continues to teach me, especially now with Sophia in our lives, is that He’s often working through us in situations we’d never choose to be in, because He values us that much. He believes that we are so worthy, that we can be used. I can speak love and hope into otherwise dark places. Not just because I’ve been there, but because I am there.

Not bringing me out of those places isn’t a sign of being forgotten. He’s there with me. It’s not a sign of not mattering enough to spend a miracle on. It’s just that the miracle probably isn’t in the happy ending. And I’m listening and learning and opening up to sharing more of His light in that darkness. Because I do believe I’m worthy of being used by Him in big ways.

So there are 4 stories, three of people I love, who intertwine with my own. Full of mess, and pain and darkness. And full of being loved by the God who made us. And if He is loving us, and caring for us, then certainly you can also believe- not just in your head, but in your heart, that you too are worthy.

 

And here’s the ENTIRE POINT of all this to me. That when we believe that we’re worth more than Gold, that we act like it. That we serve and give, and use the fires that have shaped us to bring light into the darkness for others. That’s what it’s all about.

 

These Tiny Feet

Just over 19 years ago, I met a precious little toddler. She smiled and brightened a room, and had a little pony tail that stuck up and fanned out in the cutest way. A few years later, I met the man I’d marry, and he’s such a sucker for little kids. He loved her right away too. She was one of our flower girls, helping make our day more special as she twirled around in her skirt, carrying a ball of pink flowers and holding our hands.

It’s not my place to tell you her story. It’s full of love, grace, pain, bad choices, trying again, and falling down. In the past few years, there’s a lot of falling down. But you know how God can make the brightest and most amazing things from these dark places? Yeah, he does it so often. Here’s a sweet and perfect one.

sophiafeet

Don’t you just want to eat those feet up?

We’re getting to. Right now, loving that little flower girl of ours looks like loving her little girl. Consequences are tough. Getting back up again after you’ve fallen is tough. But these little feet, and everyone who loves her is rooting for her. Even though she’s burned some bridges and has a tough road. But lucky us, we’re in a position to be able to help take care (for now) of what she loves most, her 8 week old baby girl.

We don’t know how long she’ll be with us, but we know that like her mom, she’ll be in our lives forever. She’s family.

Pray for these girls that we love, and that we know that God loves and has a plan for. Pray for us to be ready to do whatever is asked of us (we think we are). And if you see us with a sweet baby girl, just be glad you get to see a tiny part of what God is doing through her.

 

Glitter & Good News

It’s the second most magical time of the year! You know, the time when we all have a fresh start. We have clean homes, new calendars, goals and themes for the New Year. We’re getting healthy, keeping our closets organized, and planning our meals.

Except . . . I’m sitting here at the end of the first full week of the year, and there’s glitter on my cheek. Why? Because last night I finally started putting up the Christmas decor, and still today have piles of lights and ornaments and pine needles in my living room floor. And I overslept and skipped the shower, so I keep finding specks of glitter in random places.

Read the rest of this post over at the Orange Leaders Blog!……

I’m SO honored to be guest posting over at Orange, and passionate about what they do. If you’re visiting me for the first time from there, Welcome! Check out some posts and learn some about my wild life, and I’d love to meet you too.

Baseball, Pumpkins & Not So Perfect Moments

Our weekend was made up of these perfect moments that take your breath away and make you wonder how God could trust you with these precious lives he made. That included Ben sipping on his hot chocolate, and then sweetly smiling and telling me how much he loves everyone around him. It included Michael arriving at dewy baseball fields two hours ahead of most anyone else, to quietly and without thanks, prepare for kids to play. And Ben laughing so loud it makes your heart hurt. That included Drew coming in as the pitcher when there were already bases loaded, and working his team out of that jam, cool as a cucumber. And Drew running while pulling his brother in a wagon that also held their prized pumpkins, both laughing heartily. It included Drew happily making a sandwich for Ben. It included both boys cuddled up with me at the end of a night, eventually drifting off together.

These are the moments we love to remember, to take photos of and store away in our hearts and heads forever.

And I could end the post here, with a few photos of these beautiful moments. But I won’t.

Because our weekend was also made up of these ugly moments. Ben telling me that I’m making him crazy, in a very serious tone, and me not responding in love. Ben swinging on a kitchen drawer, sending silverware crashing as the drawer broke. Drew  procrastinating on homework and ending up much too late finishing it. Michael and I not communicating about something simple that led to ugly words. Me losing my cool way too often.

That’s reality. We have this amazingly beautiful life that is full of the sweetest moments, but is also real and full of ugly. And heck, that’s on the good days.

I’ve been praying for a good friend of a friend and their family, as they are just praying for any moments with their son after a horrific accident this weekend. We shouldn’t need tragedies to remind us to just be grateful for whatever moments we have, but as is so often true, in those moments I just forget. I should have taken photos of some of those moments we’d rather forget, because they’re part of this life and part of who we are.

So, here are a few photos from the weekend, but with some honest captions to go with them.

Ben_cheeringat2nd_10-15-14

Excited to play 2nd! Cries when he has to play somewhere else, and sat down in the grass at one point. (though in reality, one ball hit the grass all game, so I kinda got his point!)

Drew_atbat_10-17-14

so mad about the umps erratic strike zone that he threw his helmet

 

B&D_WagonRunning 2014

me too busy trying to capture the moment to really enjoy the moment

Brothers_wagon 2014

I take back anything bad I said- they’re perfect! :)

Jumping Off

I almost always feel like I’m on a spinning carousel, that’s going too fast and making me a bit ill, with it’s fancy horses, bright lights, and tinny music. Every now and then I jump off, but it’s such a short time of being off, that the spinning never feels like it stopped. You know what it’s like, when you were a kid and would roller skate around a rink for hours and afterwards you still felt like walking was foreign, or when you step off a boat and still feel the waves. So I step off and before the spinning feeling stops, it’s time to get back on.

And here’s the thing, I want back on. Those lights! That music! It’s so much fun! Before it makes me dizzy and sick again.

A few weeks ago the spinning was too much, and I decided to make one small change for a week. I was going to stay off Facebook.

As I write this, it’s been almost two weeks since I’ve been on Facebook.

The spinning from my interactions on Facebook had been too much and I’d gotten lost in waves of dizziness. Caring too much about what others thought, about what they said and how they hurt me, about if I was liked enough or good enough or whatever enough.  And I jumped off. But mostly I was hiding out, catching my breath and praying that when I got back on I’d be able to keep out of the fray. I decided it was easier, less messy and maybe necessary that I just stay away for good.

But I had these few hours just last night that reminded me of some things…. what it feels like to laugh hysterically, what it feels like to truly listen when someone is pouring out their heart, but mostly the need to create these spaces to do that. So no, Facebook isn’t perfect, but it’s a tool to connect when used right. Not a place to get likes on your photos, or find funny videos, or get your news (I mean seriously, who thinks that’s a reliable source?). It can be so much more when we use it right.

So I’m jumping back on Facebook… as soon as I post this. And I’m trying to do it differently. Spend less time on it, not let it replace true interaction, and make my own music. And I emphasize trying because I know I’ll get dizzy again and struggle with all that again…. because that’s what I do.

See you there.

Needed Some Happy…

I needed some happy and some beauty today as I pull myself out of a funk. So, I thought I’d share it with you, because maybe you too need the reminder that the world is a place full of wonder and beauty.

 

sunrisesunsetSunrise over Fort Lauderdale, Florida

 

537446_10151298533738762_1868271586_nSunset over our house

Abaco Islands, Bahamas

A special beach- Abaco Islands, Bahamas

 

trees_sunSun shining over a search

 

Praying over you my friends. For eyes that are open to beauty and wonder, and for reminder of it when you need them.

 

Showing Up

A few weeks ago marked the annual “worst week” for us, which is the week 7 year ago that started with such joy, and ended with such heartbreak.

7 years ago, a little boy was turning 4 and celebrating with people who loved him, with cake and swimming and toys. The world was perfect that afternoon. One of his favorite gifts was a big green dinosaur that moved and roared, from his Uncle Austin. He was excited most of all to be going on a trip away from mom and dad for the first time, heading to the beach with his beloved Nina.

The trip was cut short, the beach had to wait, as he and his Nina rushed back to help find Austin.

This year, that little boy turned 11 and he celebrated with people who loved him, with cake and swimming and electronics, and a carbon copy 4 year old brother. The world was almost perfect for an afternoon. He slid down roller coaster type water slides, posted photos on his new Instagram account from  his new phone, and stuffed his face with pizza. He was excited about his baseball trip the next weekend, ready to hit the clay.

But before that trip, he helped welcome his Nina back, as she came to help find Austin.

So much the same.

7 years ago, friends and family rallied beside us, determined to help find him. Now, in all honesty, most of those who knew Austin don’t show up anymore. But more people than we ever could have asked for, that never knew Austin, do show up. They showed up in large groups, from all over the Southeast (and a few even further).

And the same story was told over and over. They showed up, because my mom shows up. She showed up and sat with them on the side of the interstate while their son was pulled from the water. She showed up and wouldn’t go home when planned, because they needed her. She showed up and handed out tough love, pushing searchers hard. She showed up and was cut and bruised and swelling and kept going.

There is so much to be said for showing up.

This group stood together, on the side of a busy road and hugged and cried and loved. They showed up. For my mom and for Austin. For Rosemary and her family. For Mark and Bryan and their families. For Josh and his family. For John and his family. For the others represented there that night.

vigil

And then they searched.

For 2 days, in 100 heat index weather, in long pants and long sleeves and boots, with short breaks for water and snacks.

Including my mom.

jester_mom

And we reached the end of this part of the journey. Austin wasn’t brought home. And that creates more questions than answers. It felt like our story of the search for Austin was coming to an end. But instead, it was the end of what we know to do for now.

I don’t know what’s next. Before I even thought about it, we needed to go enjoy some family time and be reminded of all the joy there still is. We cheered on Drew in baseball. We swam in freezing springs. We listened to bullfrogs and crickets and horses. We reconnected with friends and twirled sparklers on a beach in the dark.

We celebrated summer like we didn’t get to 7 years ago.

We won’t ever stop searching. We won’t ever stop yearning for answers. We won’t ever stop aching with miss.

But we’ll keep showing up. For me, that mostly means showing up for my kids. Because they deserve summers full of all the things my brother and I enjoyed.

And I’ll keep hearing his laugh, knowing that we haven’t lost all of him.

IMG_4962

___________________________________________________________

What’s keeping you from showing up in areas you maybe should? For hurting friends, for fast growing kids, for yourself.

Showing up can look like many different things. It can look like a hug, a text, a card. It can look like a freshly mowed yard, a plate of cookies or an afternoon entirely dedicated to them.

Something is coming to mind- somewhere you need to show up.

Show up. Celebrate. Laugh. You won’t get today back.

 

 

 

Things that Matter

I get overwhelmed with this writing thing often. A few years ago, when I started, I didn’t have any real goals but to share my heart and search for Hope with you all. I got lost in trying to find my audience and caring if you showed up and read my words and wondering where this would go and learning how to make a better site and questioning if it mattered and comparing my words to others, my story to others.

I’m not getting anywhere I want to go fast enough. Or maybe at all.

And then I get overwhelmed with all the things I want to say, all the things that need to get done, the feelings of it not mattering anyway, and so I don’t. And that’s why it’s been too long since I’ve shared here. Cause my life and my thoughts and my feelings are messy.

But I’m here.

Because it does matter. Not because I’m of any significant importance- but because we all are, and because the stories of all of us matter. And I want to keep hearing yours.

Oh, and the revelation of the day for me? (And yes, this is one of those that I think God keeps revealing to me over and over and must frustrate Him sometimes.) There is no fast enough, there is no timeline. There is today, and what I can do with that. He’s got plenty of time to use me and love me, and let me do the same for others.

Today I’ll beat myself up a bit less over my time away and release the pressure valve that says I’m not getting “there” fast enough, and just hang out with you here. Because really, there is no “there”- it’s just simply “here now.”

Do you believe any of these crazy lies, like that your voice doesn’t need to be heard? It does my friend, it does.

StoriesthatMatter

 

3 Years & 167 Posts

I just realized that I recently passed the 3 year mark of writing and sharing here.

It was a crazy idea at first, one I toyed with for some time. Who would care to read what I said? Did I have enough to say to bother? Was I brave enough to share?

It turns out that some of you do read and care, I have a lot to say, and no- I’m not that brave and have to push through a lot of fears as I write. But it’s been good. Really good.

I think about shutting it down a lot, or letting it fade into oblivion. But tonight, there’s this kid, sitting beside me working on a speech that he’s to give to his class tomorrow. And he’s sharing about his Uncle. He didn’t have to choose that, and he’s fought through some emotions as he dug into the details and thought through what he wanted to say.

But he wants to tell about Austin, and said it’s okay that it’s hard.

It’s okay for things to be hard.

It’s okay to slow down and take breaks, but eventually I come back. Because it’s hard, but because it’s good. Good to be here, good to share here, good to be with you.

Over time, this has become more about our family, and as Michael’s health has worsened, it’s had a lot more focus there than I thought it would. But the intent is still the same- to share our world and our challenges, to show you where we find Hope, so that no matter what darkness you go through, you can find it too.

Not much has changed, yet quite a lot has in 3 years and 167 posts.

 

3 years & 167 posts

 

A Moment to Remember

We all need more moments like these. Or at least I know I do.

Complete abandon, going down screaming with joy, one hand raised in the air in triumph, with no concern about what’s at the bottom.

Have one of those moments today.

Let’s do it.

Ben_slide