The Hard of Hurting

As a parent, it’s hard to watch your children struggle. It’s hard to watch them wade through the heavy, sort through the sad, and grapple with the difficulties of grief. It’s hard to see their tears; it’s heavy to sit with their doubt; and it’s just downright painful to feel the angst of their souls.

It’s hard to walk a road lined with suffering; it’s painful to walk a path of sacrifice; and it aches to walk in a world where hurts still abounds and tears still exist.

Hurt is hard.

And as I’ve watched Caden and Evie navigate this road of loving and letting go, it’s broke my mama-heart in all kinds of gut-wrenching and unexpected ways. And if I’m being honest, I’ve wanted to rescue them from all of it.

I’ve wanted to wave my magic wand and make it all go away. I’ve wanted to lessen it, change it, and even take it away. I want to take those drippy eyes and tender hearts and wrap them in the largest roll of bubble-wrap I can find…refusing to let them feel the burn of heartache and pierce of struggle.

And as I’ve thought about my earthly tendency to rescue my children from the struggle of this planet and the hard of this life, I’ve realized that God has given us a special piece of Him inside of us.  In fact, I would suggest that it’s a God-given, Creator-placed quality that bears the image of His endless love. It’s that part of us that says, “I want your hurt to stop.”

And as I think about that, the Spirit takes my breath away.

Because doesn’t my struggle with my children’s pain mirror the pain of our Heavenly Father?

He didn’t want us to experience hard and hurt; He didn’t intend for us to struggle and weep; He didn’t plan for us to live on a earth when families break, hearts tear, and babies live in a world where they need safe homes.

He didn’t.

And when woman ate of the apple and man broke the command, I can’t help but think that a giant-sized tear fell from the face of their Father.

Children, this wasn’t what I intended. This isn’t what I wanted for you. 

From then on, just like the serpent promised, souls would know of good and evil. And with that evil would come a mixed bag of sadness, suffering, and struggle.

Struggle was never His design.

But because of His great love and because of His deep compassion, our Father saw our struggle and He saw our pain, and He said, “Son, let’s rescue them.”

Friends, if God has placed eternity in our hearts as Ecclesiastes 3:11 states, then I believe He has placed within each and every one of us a desire to rescue the hurting…a longing to stop the pain.

And though that doesn’t remove the pain or change the hard, it gives me a deep sense of thankful gratitude for a Savior that whispers right into the middle of our hurt, “I see you. I love you. And I will come to rescue.”

I can’t take the pain away from my earthly children, and I can’t stop their sadness, but I know the Holy One who can. And as I help them navigate the gravel road, carrying the sacrifice they don’t want to give, I can point them to the RAM IN THE THICKET–the ONE who died for our hard and bled for our hurt.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, [or saying goodbye to foster babies] for the former things have passed away. And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Revelation 21:4

Praise be to Jesus! Praise be to our hope of heaven! Praise be to the One who has conquered the struggle and is coming for our victory!

 

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Fostering: Our Net, Our Tribe, and The Next Step

There was a time in my life when I felt like our lives were filled with more takers than givers, more drainers than fillers. There was a time when we felt like we poured and we gave; we gave and we poured. There was a time when we had to step back, step away, and even step down in various areas of our lives–making room for more reflection, more boundaries, and more opportunities to re-charge. There was a time when we had to do an honest inventory of our capacity, our priorities, and even our relational needs. And to be honest, friends, that time felt like it lasted a LOOOOONNNNNGGGG time. And though there were various contributing factors that shaped that very tiring period of our lives, I can’t say we’re there today.

 

In fact, it hit me (approximately 23 days ago) that I believe the Lord has used this process of fostering to reveal just how big and how wide and how deep the love of our tribe is.

And as I’ve reflected over this reality in recent days, I have been brought to my knees in humble gratitude for the net that lies around, above, and beneath us–a net of people and hearts who have truly supported, sustained, and even caught us when life felt hard and the journey felt heavy.

This net has brought meals; it’s sent gift cards; it’s provided childcare; and it’s provided coffee dates. It’s provided shoulders to cry on, hearts to lean on, and words that have breathed timely truths and kind encouragement. It’s a net that has sent clothes, bought diapers, penned notes, written checks, and delivered unexpected and intentional gifts to all five of us. It’s been a net that’s invited us for meals, taken us out on dates, and sent us packing for overnight get-aways. It’s been a net that has welcomed new, embraced different, and encouraged faithfulness. It’s been a net that has called, texted, e-mailed, prayed, and pursued. It’s been a net that has sent hand-crafted ornaments, bought personalized gifts, and gifted us a family photo shoot. It’s been a net that has asked intentionally and checked in consistently–a net that has supported the weight of our weary and held the pain of our fears. It’s  been a net that has rallied around us, hemmed us in, and gone before us in prayers and petitions. It’s been a net that has allowed space for angry questions, blunt honesty, and panicked break-downs.

This net has been built of our family, our friends, and even those in my Facebook communities. This net has been next door, online, and in the contexts of our church, our work, and our alma mater. This net has been consistent, encouraging, and tender. This net has cheered us on, cried us on, and even drug us on. This net has been our tribe of love, our quilt of consistency, and our home of safety.

This net has been a gift of God’s wild and abundant grace to us–a gift that is undeserved and could never be repaid.

Family and friends (both near and far), we’re grateful for each and every one of you. Because whether you have known it or not, you have been part of creating a grid of woven fibers that have held us, carried us, and probably (at times) rescued us. YOU have been that net; you have been that tribe.

You have loved us so well, so big, and so often in the past 8 months that I have literally struggled to keep up with the thank-you notes–a problem I have never had, nor ever imagined.

Thank you.

Though we expect we will hug and kiss our littlest goodbye, we have no clue what the next month will hold.

But here is what we do know…

  • We have a God who is all-knowing, all-loving, and ever-committed to our good and His glory;
  • We have a net that is strong, supportive, and steadfast; and
  • We are not done fostering.

Though we anticipate taking a small break to grieve and re-group, we are planning (as long as the Lord prepares the way) to open our home and hearts to another little soul who needs a loving home, safe arms, and a net of people who will welcome them, love them, pray for them, and be their tribe.

As I have said before and will say again, there is nothing super-awesome or super-spiritual about us or what we are choosing to do. In fact, it probably sounds like a whole lot of crazy. Trust me, it sounds and feels like a whole lot of crazy to us, too. But if there is one thing the Lord keeps impressing into depths of my sometimes scared soul, it’s the reality that through His strength and only by His grace, we can give up the comfortable and controlled to follow Him down the path of crazy and courageous.

And because we have such a “great cloud of witnesses” (Abraham, Noah, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Ezekiel, Daniel, David, Samuel, Mary, John, Peter, Paul, and a whole net of other believers and fellows saints that have gone before and stand with us today), we can run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

To God be the glory, great things He has done!

 

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A Hard Fostering Update: “Let It Be to Me…”

Last year, on the very first day of the New Year, I wrote a blog post entitled “2017: Open and Out.”

It was hardly a blog post that was easy to write, and I’m not gonna front, I was anxious about what the Lord would require of me in the coming year if I dare utter (let alone pen the words for others to see) and make a commitment to living the year with my hands “open and out.” I was afraid of what He might ask, anxious of what He might require. To be perfectly fair in representing my scared heart, I felt like a child as I wrote that post.

Countless times and in many moments, I have revisited my words written and committed on January 1, 2017.

…………………………….

SO many times I extend my open hands, offering the Lord my time, my resources, my gifts, my energy, my hurts, my hard, my relationships, my conflicts, my empty places, my (insert whatever), but then I close them up. I offer my offering, but then when things get hard, or messy, or down-right scary, I curl up my hands and close them off. I grab for control; I close for safety; and I retreat for comfort. My hands that were open start to close and withdraw.

Too many times I stand before the Lord with open and outstretched hands, only to close them and pull them back later.

…………………………….

So when we got sudden news last week that our littlest soul might be moving (rather soon but not finalized) from our home, I revisited those typed words from the beginning of  the year.

Of course, we always knew this was a possibility. Truly, we have. Sure, we signed up to foster with hopes of adopting but when you foster, you FOSTER! There is no guarantee of anything. You live with a constant awareness that though you love her like she’s yours, you know she’s not. Though you pray over her like she’s yours, you practice “brain surrender,” knowing she’s not. Though you are making family memories, hopefully including her in every single one, you are truly living with your hands and heart…OPEN AND OUT.

But last Friday, I wanted to close those offered hands and recoil those surrendered palms. It didn’t feel good; it didn’t feel fair; and it hurt like crazy.

Rewind to the post from January 1.

…………………………….

I imagine Noah had moments when he wanted to close his hands when the mockers came and the rains were missing. I imagine Abraham wanted to pull back His hands as the knife hovered above his beloved. I imagine that Moses wanted to close those hands as the complainers grumbled and the wilderness wore on. I imagine that David wanted to pull back his hands as Saul hunted and threw his spears. I imagine that Job wanted to close his hands as his children died and his sores wept. I imagine that Paul wanted to pull back his hands as the chains rubbed and the crowd threatened.

And yet…the faithful kept their hands open and out.

They followed the call, and they faithfully persevered even though the winds blew and the waves rocked.

Open and out, their hands remained; steady and committed, they kept their offering on the altar; trusting and faithful, they looked toward the ONE who created their hands…and they kept them open and out. 

In the garden, with outstretched hands and blood-soaked tears, the Lord Himself submitted to the Father’s will, obeying the call and drinking the cup…the greatest offering that EVER WAS and EVER WILL BE.

At the cross, open and out.

…………………………….

Ugh. Why did I write those words? Why did I consent and commit to this goal? Why didn’t I choose something where the outcome felt GOOD and GUARANTEED and where the results were more in my control?!?!

But shortly after we heard the news last Friday, the Lord reminded me of a passage from Luke 1.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God…And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…For nothing will be impossible with God.”And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Once again, in a way that only He can, He WOW’D me with His living Word.

The angel suddenly (out of nowhere) descends upon Mary, and he tells her news that troubles her; she attempts to discern what all of this news means and will mean; she feels afraid; and she even asks the “how question.”

The narrative felt familiar in the deepest parts of my heart.

But then Mary does something that beautifully depicts a life lived with OPEN AND OUT hands.

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Right there, wherever she was when the angel came, she opens her hands, surrenders the news, and embraces the Word of the Lord. In that moment, Mary makes a choice to submit with a trusting spirit. Not because she has all the answers and not because it feels good or makes sense, but simply because she knows her identity and His.

“…I am the servant of the Lord.” 

In that moment, she voluntarily makes herself a bondslave to the work, word, and will of God. Actively, she is tying and binding herself to the Lord…relinquishing her plans and surrendering her feelings.

OPEN AND OUT. 

I don’t know what tomorrow holds, and I have no clue what 2018 will bring for our littlest, our home, or our family, but here is what I do know:

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…For nothing will be impossible with God.”

It is the Lord who will be faithful; it is His power that will overshadow me; and it will be His mighty arm that does the impossible through my extended hands and surrendered heart.

“…let it be to me according to your word.”

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Bottling the Beautiful

I struggled this Thanksgiving.

No, I didn’t struggle with the long travel or the extended visits, and no, it wasn’t packing for 5 people for 7 days, and no, it wasn’t the potato cutting for 31 potato-eating souls, and no, it wasn’t an issue with getting into the thankful spirit, and no, it wasn’t even the balancing of holiday traditions while raising little souls and feeding tiny mouths.

No; it wasn’t any of that.

I struggled this Thanksgiving because I was thinking about the next Thanksgiving.

I struggled as I wondered if those little brown eyes will sparkle in that holiday picture next year and if those little brown arms will rest on mine between the slices of pumpkin, blueberry, and cran-apple pie.

Will we be packing her little clothes and carrying her little, wiggly body within our arms?

Will we hear that deep-happy giggle and will we feel those dimpled hands grabbing for our noses, glasses, and dangled earrings?

Will we be passing her around, sharing stories of her growth, and joking about the days when she soaked four bibs in an hour?

Will we be uttering her name and admiring her tightly-wound curls?

Will she still be with us, or will she be gathered around another Thanksgiving table? 

Will we remember her presence as we cut the turkey and sip on champagne?

Will we think about her, miss her, and even mourn her empty space as we serve up the pie and stir our coffee?

Will we remember her little, happy soul on her very 1st Thanksgiving Day?

Will we feel the hole of her presence, grieve the joy of her spirit?

Oh, what will the next Thanksgiving hold? 

And as I thought and reflected in the quietness of my heart this past Thursday, I couldn’t help but think of Mary.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

I truly have no clue what Mary was pondering as the shepherds shared about the angels in the field and the heavenly proclamation they had heard in the presence of their woolly sheep; I truly have no clue. But I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that the Greek word for “treasured” gives us a tiny hint about the thoughts treasured and pondered by this newly-minted mom.

Treasured (syntereo): to preserve a thing from perishing or being lost; to keep in mind lest it be forgotten; to mentally remember and conserve.

And as I read those definitions, and as I thought about Mary, and as I thought about Thanksgiving 2017 and the little girl with brown, creamy skin, I was challenged to “treasure.”

To treasure the happiness of our memories;

To preserve the pictures in my mind;

To conserve those moments in my heart; and

To bottle up all the beauty of all the memories we made this Thanksgiving.

See, we have no clue what is coming down the road for us and our sweet girl, but neither did Mary. 

I wonder if Mary stood at the foot of the cross and reflected upon that moment in the barn with her swaddled baby boy? I wonder as the tears streamed down her face if she thought back to those sweet and tender moments as the shepherds gathered ’round? I wonder if she took all those treasured, preserved, and conserved moments from her bottle of beautiful memories and gently dumped them as balm on her heart-broken soul?

I wonder.

Friends, I don’t know where you are and what you’re facing as you gather around your tables and trees this year, but I pray that as you move into this holiday season, you will bottle up the joy, remember the beautiful, and generously and intentionally conserve the present moments for ALL the moments to come.

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19 Things You’ve Said that I Don’t Want to Forget

Caden and Evie,

Your daddy and I were worried about how you would feel about our decision to foster. We were worried you might feel displaced, resentful, and maybe even jealous. We were concerned that it might be a hard transition, that it might drastically change our family dynamic, and that you’d possibly rebel against the whole idea. We worried you might not “attach,” and we were concerned you’d struggle with new roles and new spaces on our “family couch.” We were concerned that our decision to love might make you feel unloved, confused, and maybe a bit angry. We had concerns about the changes it would bring to our family time, our schedule, and how it would affect the attention you receive. Suffice to say, we had a few concerns about this decision.

And yet…we did it anyway.

We did it because not only did we feel led to open our hearts and home, but we felt nudged to let the Gospel lead our decisions, not our fears and not your comfort. We made a commitment to let go of our need for safe and secure in order to make a commitment to trust and love. We made the choice to walk this road as a family unit in hopes that we would grow, learn, and change as a team. And lastly, we felt confident that as much as a little soul might need a foster daddy and a foster mommy, they might also need a foster brother and a foster sister.

And wow, we’ve been utterly and entirely blown away by your response…by your love…by your relentless sacrifice and flexibility.  There’s so much we could say about your response and how you’ve transitioned and handled it all, but I decided I wanted to keep track of the things you’ve said. Because let’s be honest, your words speak for themselves and they speak better than I could speak on your behalf.

So kids, whether she stays forever or leaves tomorrow, I wanted you to have your own words to serve as a reminder for how much she’s meant to you–a reminder of your deep love for her–and a reminder of the beauty that can grow when you step out in faith.

In this post, I’ve changed her name to “sweet girl” to protect her identity, but let’s be honest…that’s one of your very favorite names for her. 

I love you. All three of you. And always will.

-Mommy

  1. “Mommy, if ‘sweet girl’ has to go back to her home, do you promise to take lots of pictures and paste them all over our house?”
  2. “Will we get to keep ‘sweet girl’ for a long time or a short time? I hope it’s a long time.”
  3. “If we have to give ‘sweet girl’ back, I can’t wait to get the next baby and love them.”
  4. “Mommy, I know she’s not my official sister, but she is still a sister in my heart.”
  5. “One time at school I wrote a bad sentence. I said I had only one sister, but then I realized that was not true. I pretty much have two.”
  6. “I think ‘sweet girl’ loves you, Mommy. She always looks at you like she loves you a lot.”
  7. “I hope God decides that she should live here forever.”
  8. “When ‘sweet girl’ grows up, I hope she always remembers me.”
  9. “Do you think we’ll get to see ‘sweet girl’ walk and say her first words? I really hope so.”
  10. “I hope ‘sweet girl’ gets to stay until Christmas because I want her to get presents from under our tree.”
  11. “I can’t imagine how hard that would be if I were ‘sweet girl.’ I can’t imagine how it would feel to not see your other family.”
  12. “If ‘sweet girl’ stays with us forever, I am going to walk her to school on her very first day and hold her hand the whole way.”
  13. “I think we would have a big hole if ‘sweet girl’ leaves, but I also think you wouldn’t be so busy.”
  14. “If I took ‘sweet girl’ to the circus, I could just sit her in the middle of the tent, and she could blow bubbles and spit for everyone.”
  15. “I am not going to my bed until ‘sweet girl’ comes to bed. I don’t sleep without her.”
  16. “I think our family feels better with ‘sweet girl.’ “
  17. “When ‘sweet girl’ is gone, I feel like there is a giant hole.”
  18. “I didn’t think I would like two sisters, but it’s been pretty awesome.”
  19. “Mommy, Evie and I are playing house and caring for our baby. We love having a baby to take care of.”

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“I Couldn’t Do That”

If I had $1 for every time I heard the following four words, I could easily support my Cold Brew addiction. Genuinely, I hear it all the time.

At the park. “Bless you. I couldn’t do that.”

In the grocery store. “Wow! I couldn’t love and give back; I just couldn’t do that.”

In the school pick-up line. “That’s really wonderful, but I couldn’t do that.”

Checking out at Target. “I don’t know how you look at that face and then possibly say ‘goodbye.’ I couldn’t do that.”

Seriously. I hear it all the time.

And I’m always at a loss as to what to say.

Part of me wants to cry and say, “I know. I don’t know how we’ll do it either if we have to do it.” And part of me wants to say, “I get it; it sounds pretty awful, huh?” And then there’s part of me that wants to ask, “How do you know if you can’t do it?”

It’s hard stuff. No doubt about it.

I don’t write from a place of knowledge, and I certainly don’t talk from a place of experience because honestly…we’ve only walked this road for three months, and we’ve yet to “give back” a soul we’re loving now. So truly, I have no clue.

But as I’ve been forced to process through the gamut of emotions and press through the myriad of thoughts that have passed through my head and meandered through my heart, I’ve had to remember the following Truth:

We don’t HAVE to do it; we just HAVE to be willing. 

We just have to be willing to open our hearts and home. We just have to be willing to love and meet the needs today. We just have to be willing to protect and care in the here and now. We just have to put one foot in front of the other, walking in the moment. We just have to be willing to get out of the boat. Because let’s be honest, no one ever walked on water while sitting in a boat.

Remember Peter?

They see a figure that apparently looks a bit like Casper. But when the frightened disciples realize it’s their Teacher, Peter gets hyper-excited and starts thinking the unimaginable.

Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 

Peter is bold; Peter is brash; and  Peter is bravely depending on His Savior. He has seen Jesus make fish tacos for 5,000, remove spots from a leper, and wake a dead girl from her bed; nothing is impossible for this man, right?

He’s willing, and he’s ready. But then something happens to Peter. Something happens to his faith that causes a good dose of doubt.

But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

He’s walking on H20–bonafide liquid–but then he notices the wind and the waves. All of a sudden, the task that once seemed small, now seems rather daunting and terribly scary. And recognizing his inability to do it, he yells for the Lord.

Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

And what does the Master do? He reaches out a lifeline with His mighty arm, rescues his follower, and then questions his faith.

See, Peter jumped out in faith but when the going got a bit scary and a tad windy, he doubted. In short, he “jumped the ship of faith” and began to sink.

And man, can I relate!

I wouldn’t say it was “easy” to take the step to Foster, but I wouldn’t say it was “super hard” either. We saw a need; we felt a tug; we made some choices; and we got out of the boat…with both eyes on Jesus.

But then you get that little, cuddly soul–the one with the sparkly brown eyes, the soft skin, and the cutest little tongue ever-and you get attached. You get crazy attached. And then you’re told there will be paternity tests. And then you get told there may be a next of kin interested in custody. And all of a sudden, things feel a little scary, a not-so-smart idea, and a lot unstable…like walking on deep waters in the middle of a storm.

We’ve been there. Literally thinking and sometimes even saying something what feels and sounds a whole lot like, “I couldn’t do that.”

And it’s true. We can’t.

We can’t do it on our own; and we can’t do it in our own strength. So we have to do the one and only thing we can do:

Keep our eyes on His and remember His power. 

Because when you have a purpose and your eyes are locked on His, the risk and the discomfort is worth it. And when your eyes are pressed forward and looking above to His mighty arm, your mission is no longer your own, but His.

If our eyes are attached this little soul and to the idea of “forever,” we “couldn’t do it.” But if our eyes are set on Him, “He will do it”…no matter the outcome. He will carry us; He will provide; and He will reach out with exactly what our hearts and souls need to “do it.”

Soul, I don’t know what you’re facing and what you’re fearing you might not be able to do, but I pray you will embrace the idea that “you can’t,” and have faith that “He can.” Because when you’re walking on water, your faith can’t rest in you. It just can’t.

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Roots, Fence Posts, and a Random Rock

I’m not even gonna lie. Love hurts.

In fact, I’ve had moments in the past few days where I’ve lamented through hot, messy tears that love “isn’t fair,” and it feels like a “gamble,” and like “a pile of no guarantees,” and like “a pit in the stomach and a punch in the gut.” And I’m sure I’ve uttered a few other overwhelmed, Eeyore kind of sentiments, but I can’t remember them all and probably shouldn’t.

To be perfectly honest, that drive from the agency to the metro park was a blur–a blur of tears and a blur of emotions.

I can’t share all of the details, and I have no desire to…but suffice to say: Yesterday morning, we were reminded again that we may not get to forever love the little soul we now hold in our arms.

I’m pretty sure the words sounded jumbled as they tumbled from our case worker’s mouth. It sounded like slow-mo, if you ask me.

“There is a possibility that a next of kin is interested in custody.”

I felt the breath leave me.

Sure, we always knew this was a possibility. And sure, we know we signed up for this. And yet…it still hurts. Why? Because the knowing doesn’t prevent the “ouch.”

We’ve loved this soul for exactly two months, and it’s been a fierce kind of love. The kind of love that leaves a hole when it’s removed; the kind of love that makes your heart ache and your arms heavy. The kind of love that can’t hug enough, hold enough, squeeze enough, or take enough pictures. The kind of love that day dreams and prays real long. It’s been that kind of love.

And yet…we always knew this was a possibility.

So as we meandered our way through bumpkin’ roads that resembled more of my Pennsylvania roots than that of the suburban Ohio roads we frequent, I asked God to meet us in the middle of our hurt. I didn’t utter the words out loud, and I didn’t close my eyes; I just prayed them in my heart.

As we got out of the car to hike a new metro park, two text messages popped up from two different friends on the face of my black screen.

One read: May today be yet another fence post moment of your story and your trust in Him.

Another read: Praying you will continue to live your lives rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6 

More tears pooled in my eyes as I thanked the Lord for dear friends who encourage with the Truth.

And then I moved on.

Walking the wooded paths, lined with wild, pink lilies, scared deer, and a babbling stream streaked with morning sun, I found myself calmed. Surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation, I had this recurring thought: If I can trust that He made all of THIS, then I can trust that He knows all of THAT. 

Plodding on, through what felt like a Secret Garden of sorts, we stumbled upon butterflies, moss-covered logs, stone overpasses, and this GIANT tree.

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As we drew closer to the tree, I found the following sign:

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Growing since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Over 241 years old. WOW.

I started to think about all the tree had endured in its lifetime.

Obviously, it endured a flood (as noted on the sign post) but what about storms? Lightning strikes? Excavation opportunities? Changes in soil? Bug infestations? Too much sun? Not enough water? Kids obsessed with peeling bark?

As I pondered, I marveled.

ROOTS. 

What incredible roots this tree must have!

And as I looked to very top, where the sun was shining, I was overcome with the way the Creator had provided for this creation over the course of its many, long years.

And just as quickly as that thought came, the content of one of those texts stumbled into my mind.

Praying you will continue to live your lives rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, overflowing with thankfulness.

Rooted. In what? In Him.

Strengthened. How? Though faith.

Overflowing. With what? With thankfulness.

Because we are rooted in Him, we can be strengthened through these faith-building moments. These moments of unknowns, gambles, and no guarantees–these moments that don’t feel fair and certainly not fun. We can be rooted in His character–steadfast, immovable, and faithful to His promises–because He is a good, good Father who cares for His creation through all weathers and all wearying moments. And when we find ourselves rooted in Him and strengthened through faith, we can be thankful.

Thankful? Thankful for what?

Thankful He knows what’s best for this little one. Thankful He knows what’s good for our family. Thankful He knows what will grow us and change us the most. Thankful He knows the future, our fears, and our frustrations. Thankful He is faithful to His people and to His never-broken promises. Thankful for the hard.

Thankful.

And just as quickly as those reassuring thoughts were marinading, the content of the other text barraged my mind.

May today be yet another fence post moment of your story and your trust in Him.

FENCE POSTS. 

What are they for; what is their purpose?

To ground the fence.

They must be sturdy, steady, and straightened correctly. They must be set correctly and spaced appropriately.

Why?

Because if your posts aren’t set correctly, your fence will fall and your posts will rot. And when your posts rot and fall, your fence is not only susceptible to inclement weather, but it’s also vulnerable to all kinds of unwanted animals.

What did she say?

May today be yet another fence post moment of your story and your trust in Him.

And yesterday was.

Another moment and another part of our story–a story that God is writing and a fence that He is building for our good and His glory. A fence that will not fall and will not rot. A fence that can be TRUSTED; a fence that can weather the storms and stand the test of time.

Yes. He is THAT kind of Father.

We may not know what tomorrow holds, or if our arms will be wrapped around this little soul we hold today, but we can know this:

We follow a Father who ROOTS us–a Father who SECURES us–a Father we can TRUST through every event and through every storm. 

And if those text messages, and that tree, and that walk in the woods didn’t grab my soul in a tender, fast way, well…I don’t know what else would. Except this.

As we finished the last leg of our walk, I happened to look down. There, in the middle of a little cove of flowers, lay this rock. It was a painted rock from the “Ohio Rocks” movement–started in Northeast Ohio that has spread all over the state. What’s their purpose? To make people smile as they hide painted rocks for others to find.

Boy, did they fulfill their purpose!

Not sure how this rock got planted in Southwest Ohio or who hid it but looking down at that rock, it was as if Jesus planted it there Himself.

Live and love in the moment, Jessica…for however long or short that may be. Because love will never, ever be taken away. 

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