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It’s the Little Things

This morning something brought to my remembrance the time my parents and I spent in language school. I was 15 when my parents moved us to Guatemala to do missions work. Our first task was to spend three months in language school, totally immersed in the language and the culture. Instead of living in our own home, we lived with a family in the same town where language school was located. This family was to provide us with rooms, food, and an opportunity to be exposed to the Spanish language on a regular basis. They gave me a room on the second floor with a big bed and right next to the bathroom. It was a great room and very comfortable. My parents had a small room on the third floor, which seemed like an add-on, located on the roof, but it was out of the way and private. The family cooked for us, which was a concern for me since I literally have the palate of a five-year old. But there are still times I taste something that reminds me of their homemade bread- it was amazing. I don’t remember much else that we ate, other than pancakes and fresh fruit in the morning. It really was a great experience. I am sure the language school intended for us to hear Spanish spoken day-in and day-out in the home, since they had us living with a Guatemalan family. But what they may not have known is that this family had a separate home behind the one where we lived. The family did not actually live with us. They lived beyond a concrete courtyard of sorts. At night, I would turn my lights off in my room and stare out the window. I would watch the family come and go. I would watch them interact with one another. I would sit at my window for hours. I wasn’t being creepy. It’s just that we did not have a television. There were no phones, no internet. There was nothing to do when I retired to my bedroom in the evening other than read, write, or just sit quietly. I looked out my window a lot.

Language school was fun. We spent four hours a day, five days a week, with our teachers. They were sure to make it a one-on-one experience in which the learner was forced to learn in order to be able to communicate in any way. My teacher was young, maybe in her early twenties. She and I sat alone at a table with nothing but a notebook and a pen. She spoke no English. I spoke no Spanish. In just a matter of weeks, I was speaking Spanish fluently and my teacher and I were taking regular field trips to my favorite bakery, Cenicientas, for brownies.

After a couple months or so of language school, my parents began to question their teachers and their abilities to learn the language. My teacher was hired to come to our new home, thirty minutes away, to teach all three of us. I guess my parents thought my teacher was somehow better than theirs since I was speaking fluently and they were still struggling to understand. The fact that they were trying to learn a new language in their forties, made things quite interesting. The three of us would sit at the dining room table with our language teacher and her trusty notebook and pen. We would sit and learn together and laugh hysterically at the different things my dad would say. One day, he looked out the window, stared at the volcano in the distance, and proudly announced, “Yo leo el volcano.” The translation, “I read the volcano.” But my favorite was when he held up his plastic drinking cup and proclaimed, “Mis vecinos son plasticos.” Translation, “My neighbors are plastic.” We laughed so hard as we sat around that table.

I celebrated my 16th birthday that summer, during our language school days. It wasn’t a glamourous sweet 16 party with all of my friends. It was quiet, just the three of us. But I will never forget that my mom made me a chocolate birthday cake and my parents bought me a jacket that they saw me starting at in the local market. They also managed to buy my favorite brownie from Cenicientas. I will never forget that summer, not because of big things that took place or because of big events, but because of all of the little things. It is the little things that keep coming back to my memory. It is the little things that creep into my mind and bring a smile to my face. Sometimes it really is the little things. =)

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What Are You Waiting For?

Maybe I am the only one who does this, but I often purchase things and then save them and wait for special occasions to use them. The problem is that I have no special occasion in mind. I buy the super cute top and think about how it will look with my favorite jeans. I look at the shirt in my closet and plan to wear it when we go out to dinner or maybe to a social gathering. After all, I would hate to wear it and mess it up, so I will save it for something. But what? I have recently had to tell myself that if I will not wear the outfit during the course of my week, then maybe I do not need it. I feel terrible admitting that I have gotten rid of clothes that I had never worn all because I purchased them and then waited for the right time to wear them. That supposed time never came. I find myself asking myself, what are you waiting for?

Clothes aren’t the only thing that I buy and then don’t use. I recently bought a book to read and it came with space to journal in. My first thought is that I don’t want to use the space because I don’t want to mess up the book. It’s not because I think that I will actually take the time to resell the book in a yard sale or anything. I just don’t want to mess it up. I have never been one to read for pleasure, I blame this on vision problems that I experienced when I was in elementary school. I have always read my Bible, but only in the last few years have I started to read books by other authors. I love to read about leadership and team building. I love to read books written by amazing pastors who help me to see things in the Bible from different perspectives. I love to read devotionals or books written by women who have walked similar paths that can help me as I live my life. Most of the books I have read have been passed along to friends or family. Maybe that is why I just can’t bring myself to write or take notes in the book. The last book I bought not only had journaling space, but tear-outs for personal reflections and help with prayer time. I struggled as I read the book, not knowing whether to use the pages or save them so I could pass the book to my daughter. The struggle was real, ya’ll. I finally told myself that I would purchase another book for my daughter so that I could feel free to make notes in my own book. What a relief. Guess what? After all that, I still made all of my notes in a separate notebook. Ok, Julie, what are you waiting for?

This morning, I was reminded of how I spent time studying when I was in college. I have always been one of those learners who is visual and auditory, but who also needs to write things out. So when I look back and forth and make notes and references, I understand and remember more. I have spent a lot of time studying through the years. When it was time to really push in and study, I would take notes, make notes and cross reference my notes. I would look for similarities and things that would spark my curiosity. I have had to study for board exams and major tests and have had to analyze facts and probabilities. I have spread papers and books out and opened the pages to things that made me have questions or gave me those “A-ha” moments. Of course, I did all of these doodling notes in notebooks or on photocopies because I never wanted to mess up my textbooks, even the ones I knew I would be keeping. Big surprise, right?

As I was reminiscing about my studying habits, I began to think about how many times I had read the Bible, but would never let myself make notes in it. I never wanted to mess it up. I mean, what if I wrote something that later I wished wasn’t there? I didn’t want to take away from its value. It has the most perfect thin pages and gold or silver shiny edges. I am not sure what changed in me, but I recently bought myself a new Bible. It wasn’t that I didn’t have one. We actually have stacks of them. We have Bibles in varying colors, sizes, and versions. But I couldn’t use those. I bought a new one. I bought a Bible to write in and take notes. I am not sure why I can’t write in the other ones, somehow it just didn’t seem right. I didn’t buy a journaling Bible or one where you color and sketch. I got a parallel Bible, with both the King James Version and the Amplified Version. I like being able to cross reference the different versions, that’s something that I am always mindful to do when I am speaking. I love to see how things are worded and why they are worded that way. I also really enjoy flipping back and forth through the different books or between the Old and New Testaments and see things mirrored or prophesies fulfilled. I love reading the Gospels as I read different portrayals of Jesus and His parables. I find nuggets of information that I maybe I have missed in the last 40+ years of reading the Bible all because I allow myself to use it as a study tool rather than just a book of stories. And it is the strangest thing, I went from someone who would have been disappointed if her pen accidentally marked the page to someone who can’t wait to make marks of some kind. Now I want to see ink on each page, knowing that I have really read it and taken it in. I want to see underlines and asterisks. I want to see notes and reminders and maybe even some stains from tears or wrinkles from times I just held it close to me. I don’t what transpired that changed me from my tendency to want to save it until just the right time or keep it from getting worn or used. I don’t remember any grand epiphany or eye-opening occasion. I think I finally just asked myself- “what are you waiting for?”

So now I ask you, “What are YOU waiting for?” If you haven’t already done so, let me encourage you to open up your Bible, grab a pen and get to work. The Bible is not just a book to read like some relaxing bedtime story. It is something to be picked apart and studied. When there is a verse to be cross referenced, look it up, find out why it is similar or what is different about it. When there are comments in the margins, read them. Investigate. Dig in. Pay attention. Take notes. Think about what you are reading. Pray about what you are reading and ask God to reveal Himself to you through His Word. As kids we learn the Bible verse that says,” Thy Word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against God.” (Psalm 119:11). How do we really hide His word in our heart if we don’t read it, understand it, or memorize it? It is time to get into the Word and press into His presence like we have never done before. Let’s quit putting it off or waiting for the right time. The time is now. Will you do this with me? What are you waiting for?

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Take a Hike!

Recently, our family went on vacation in the Tennessee mountains.  We spent a lot of time just relaxing, but my favorite thing that we did was when we took a hike!  We went to a park where we were told we would see ten waterfalls.  It was a beautiful day, a little cloudy and cool- a perfect day for a hike with the family.  I made sure everyone had a bottle of water and off we went, on an adventure!  We decided to walk the trail, which began and ended at a quaint museum and gift shop.  We started off on a sidewalk and quickly found our way to the first big stop, which overlooked a beautiful man-made waterfall. 

Man-made waterfall at Old Stone Fort, TN.

It was stunning and you could hear the strength of the water as it all collected and fell; it made an amazing roaring sound.  We took some pictures and stared at it in wonder and then slowly began to wander back onto the path in which we were following.  Just moments later there was a fork in the path.  One way the path was wider and easier to maneuver, the other way was closer to the water and was a little more tedious.  Our group split and some took the easier path and some the harder path. 

The tail of two trails…

After several minutes, it was apparent that although the lower path was a little more difficult to maneuver- it was also much more rewarding.  We all ended up on the smaller path, close to the water. Of course, on our way to join the others, we had to overcome a few…obstacles.  At the bottom of the area where we went down, there was a downed tree.  My little guy was taking too long to climb over it and I didn’t want to wait for him or take the chance of having my own difficulties, so I decided to go around the top of the tree limb.  I turned to go around and took one step and lost my footing.  I literally laid down on my side as the mud under my feet allowed me to almost slide under the limb.  I could not get up because I was laughing so hard.  I managed to get to my feet as my children were coming to my rescue and brushed off the mud from my side.  I had successfully made it down to the lower path. 

They weren’t quick enough to get my picture while I was still on the ground, but that’s the tree!

The views were breathtaking.  The kids were enjoying watching the currents of the river and the rapids that were created with the jagged rocks and mountain edges.  There were also areas where the waters pooled up and were completely calm and quiet.  There were crevices and ledges, and little cliffs to explore.  We were loving every minute of it.  I found myself slowly making my way to the back of our group, not because I am slow or any less agile, but because the kids kept almost running ahead with excitement.  At one point, I found myself almost scaling up the side of a mountain, as I followed the group ahead of me.  My two oldest boys both had to help me as I squeezed through a rocky cavernous ledge and a tree, heading straight up.  Once I got up to the spot where the others were walking, I noticed that the path had all but disappeared.  We were no longer on the path, but were following some tiny trail that actual hikers had made up the side of the mountain.  One of my precious teenagers was leading the way and wasn’t even realizing that we were no longer on a true path.  It was almost just as hard to climb back down, but we made it back to the trail- laughing the whole way.  Within minutes we made it to another fork in the path.  This time the choices were to either go back towards the entrance or to continue on one of several other trail options.  We picked a trail and kept going.  I am pretty sure we picked the hardest and the longest trail.  The name was something about a backbone and the trail color was red- that should have told us something.  It wasn’t any more difficult than that crazy climb up the mountain, but it was lengthy.  It took us close to the river at times and passed more falls and rapids.  We saw a fork in the river and amazing rock formations at the water’s edge.  We went up what seemed to be a never-ending incline and we walked the thin ridge where we could see the river on both sides, most likely why it was called the backbone.  It was truly breathtaking, not just because it was so beautiful but because we were getting winded! What started as a leisurely walk through the woods on a cool day while wearing cute hoodies, ended up being a lengthy, sweaty hike. We came out of the woods looking a mess with our not-so cute hoodies tied around our waists and our empty water bottles in tow. It was as if we had just been stranded and walked for hours in order to survive. Obviously, we made it back to the car, but there was a bit of time that I was thinking- I am getting too old for this!  But I am so glad that I went.  I am so thankful that I walked with the kids next to the water’s edge where we could really see the beauty of God’s creation.  And I am glad that we went the long way where it allowed us to see so much more and come out on the other side feeling determined to finish what we had started.

God’s beautiful creation! Old Stone Fort, TN.

I can’t help but think about how our journey through the mountains can easily mimic our walk with God. Too many times I am scared to follow God’s prompting to take the more challenging path and I try to stick with the safer, easier path.  But when I follow His leading and trust His guidance, He leads me to such beautiful rewards.   And just like my impatience with the fallen tree, I often find myself getting impatient as I wait for God to lead me.  I sometimes will try to find my own way around and end up falling on my face.  There are even times when I start to think that this whole journey seems to be going in a crazy direction and when I stop and analyze the situation, I realize that I am not following God but rather my own desires and made-up schemes.  Now don’t get me wrong, I know that this journey is tough, it can be challenging and hard.  But when I trust in God to carry me through, He always does.  He leads me, He refreshes me, He restores my soul.  I will continue to follow Him, no matter how many forks in the path there may be and no matter how challenging it may become.  I know that it will be totally worth it in the end because I know that He has plans for me, plans that are for my good, plans for a future and a hope in HIM. 

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Family of God

Joel and I are going into our fifth year as adoptive parents and we are still learning so much.  One of the things that we have both realized through this journey is how amazing God’s love is for us.   Of course, we have always known that God loves us, but now we see it through a different lens.  Everything that we go through now, as this new blended family, is seen differently now that we are seeing things from a new perspective.

When I was fifteen, my parents let me bring a two-year-old little girl home from the nutrition center that was in a town several hours from where we lived in Guatemala.  She became my little sister and I loved her (still do) on so many different levels.  I loved her before she was ever legally ours.  I knew nothing but love for her.  Because of the ease of this relationship, I think I assumed that all adoptive relationships would be easy.  

At the age of 42, God rocked my world by allowing us to adopt three siblings.  We already had three biological children, but God blessed us with the opportunity and the means to do it- so we did.  I remember their first visit in our home.  They spent a weekend with us and I knew it would be too expensive and difficult for us to go out to eat, so I cooked every single meal that we ate.  I was exhausted, but in a great way.  The kids were non-stop, circling through the house and pulling out every single toy from its appropriate hiding place.  But what I will truly always remember was overhearing one of the kids say, “I’m not calling her mom, she’s not MY mom.”  It was there very first day in our home and we had not asked them to address us as such, but this child was defending their stance to one of our children and I remember how it made me feel.  For a quick second, I had a thought of concern for their ability to settle in, but I reminded myself that it was the first day and chose not to be concerned.  A mere two hours later, we were watching a movie in the living room.  I was laying on a bean bag in the floor with my new toddler and the child who I overheard just a couple hours earlier, grabbed my hand and said, “I love you, Mom.”  It melted my heart.  I hadn’t asked for them to call me mom.  But this brand-new child of mine was already wrestling with their emotions of who I was to them and who they wanted me to be.

I wish I could say that it has all been easy since that time.  I wish I could tell you that our children are just so grateful to have this opportunity that they do everything that is asked of them with big smiles on their faces.  I wish I could tell you that the relationships all came naturally and we didn’t have to work at it at all.  Nope.  Not even. 

The fact is that there are times that I think how in the world do you not understand what I am telling you or how many times do I have to explain this to you.  I can get so frustrated with their lack of trust and understanding.  I can get so annoyed by their inability to listen and obey.  Here we are adopting them, grafting them into our family to be joint heirs with our other children, and they don’t even get it.  Whoa!  This is where it hits us.  How many times does God feel this same way about me?  How many times does He think how in the world do you not understand?  How many times do I have to explain this to you?  He could so easily get frustrated and annoyed with me because of my distrust and inability to listen and obey.  BUT…He doesn’t.  He loves me anyways, even when I make the same stupid mistakes.  He has chosen me.  He has grafted me in and I am joint heirs with Jesus!  This blows my mind. 

Tonight, I spent time with one of my children discussing their inability to complete their daily tasks.  Our conversation began out of frustration, but I realized the need to discuss our relationship.  I explained to my child that our relationship can’t be one sided in nature, we must both be a part.  If you know me, you know that I did not do just SOME of the talking, but really ALL of it.  But I thought the “conversation” went well.  I rounded out my “speech” with the importance of that same two-way street relationship with God and how He too desires to spend time with us.  I closed with how much I love this child of mine and how much God loves them too.  I reminded them that they are worthy, chosen, a masterpiece.  We hugged and my precious child began to do their daily chores.  Meanwhile, I began to think about how God must feel when one of us feels “less than.”  It must break His heart.  He wants us to feel loved, worthy, chosen.  He wants us to want to spend time with Him.  He wants us to converse with Him.  Oh, how it must hurt his heart when we say all the same silly excuses that my child just told me, “I forgot” or “I was busy” or (the one that frustrates me the most) “I don’t know!” 

Relationships can be hard and they take time.  What are we willing to invest in our relationship with God?  Are we willing to be vulnerable and lay it all out on the table?  Are we willing to put the time and effort into getting to know our Heavenly Father and listening to His voice as He speaks to us?  Are we willing to humble ourselves and say thank you God for being patient with my stupid self who keeps making the same mistake over and over?  What an awesome privilege it is to be chosen by God and to be His child.  I pray that I never take it for granted and that I will always take time to work on my relationship with Him.

I grew up listening to the Gaithers, so I can’t help but sing the song in my mind called “Family of God”.  Check out the words to the song below.

FAMILY OF GOD

I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God,
I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I’m part of the family,
The Family of God.

You will notice we say “brother and sister” ’round here,
It’s because we’re a family and these are so near;
When one has a heartache, we all share the tears,
And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.

I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God,
I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I’m part of the family,
The Family of God.

From the door of an orphanage to the house of the King,
No longer an outcast, a new song I sing;
From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong,
I’m not worthy to be here, but praise God I belong!

I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God,
I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His Blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I’m part of the family,
The Family of God!

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Oh, Come Let Us Adore Him!

Christmas has changed a lot for me through the years.  As a child, we opened presents on Christmas Eve so we could wake up early and go to my grandparents’ house for another celebration.  After more presents and at least one large meal, we would jump in the car and drive down to Florida for our third Christmas at the other grandparents’ house.  I don’t remember the presents, but between the three celebrations, I know there were plenty of them. 

After we moved to Florida, it was only a few years before my parents felt God was leading them overseas as missionaries.  I don’t really remember Christmas in Guatemala.  I think my dad and I were stateside during the Holidays as they raised money to adopt my favorite little person who would become my little sister.  I am sure my parents made sure we had presents, even though we were apart.  Somehow it didn’t seem as important any more.  The years to follow involved creative ways to be together and even some years where we weren’t.  One year, my brother and I went to Honduras to spend Christmas with our parents and another year we took our grandmother to lunch at a hole in the wall diner so neither one of us would have to cook.  It varied from year to year, but was never the same as the early years when we all celebrated together and there was more food and presents than any of us needed. 

Many families have very specific Christmas traditions, including things like decorations, Christmas goodies, matching pjs, and even the process of giving and receiving gifts.  But because of my many years of non-traditional Christmas seasons, I have never stressed about traditions.  I have always tried to at least allow the kids to be home on Christmas morning so we could have a big morning of presents and time together.  My husband always makes sure that the kids have hot cocoa to drink while they watch all of their favorite Christmas movies.  The tree is always decorated and the stockings always hung.  And in the center of the room, the manger scene is placed for all to see. 

Some years we take trips instead of exchanging presents.  These Christmases are some of my favorites, not just because I don’t have to stress over buying presents, but because of the memories made while traveling.  The younger kids use their imaginations and explore their surroundings.  The older kids play games and share stories.  Somehow there is always some kind of mild disaster that stresses us out at the time, but makes us laugh like crazy later.  I seriously love going on vacation with my family.  The hours in the car with all the whining, arguing, and obnoxious behaviors is totally worth it because of the fun, laughs, and memories.

Tonight, I am sitting with the kids as they watch the Polar Express and drink their hot cocoa.  I am making mental lists of things that I need to get done before Christmas.  I am thinking about goodies to bake, chores to be done, and how quick Amazon can deliver my stocking stuffers.  As I sit here, staring at the manger scene on the table, I begin to think about the journey that the wise men took thousands of years ago.  It was like the ultimate Christmas vacation.  They traveled a great distance to see Jesus and to worship Him, they even brought Him gifts.  The gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh were not just gifts that they chose haphazardly because they couldn’t think of anything else to give or because it was left over after everyone else received their gifts.  Those gifts all had specific meaning.  Gold was a gift that would have been given to a king or to royalty.  Jesus is the King of Kings.  Frankincense has a smell or aroma that was associated with ceremonial worship of a deity, supreme being, or of a god.  Jesus is the Lord of Lords.  Myrrh is a fragrant spice used as incense and as a perfume or anointing oil.  Myrrh was specifically used in preparing bodies for burial and was used in the temple to prepare for sacrifices.  Jesus was born to be the ultimate sacrifice. 

As cool as it is to think about the gifts the wise men brought, it is even more intriguing to think about the determination behind their travels.  Think about it- when you traveled in Bible times, it was not in a comfortable 15-passenger van or an SUV with reclining seats.  They sat on camels and walked for hours at a time.  It had to be a very difficult journey.  That’s how determined they were to see Jesus.  They went all that way to worship the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  Personally, I think they came with an expectation of great things.  I think they came into that place with an attitude of worship, reverence, respect, affection and love.  They came all that way knowing that they would never be the same.  They came with an energy and an eagerness. 

My mind quickly turns to how the car ride is when my family is on the way to church.  We are on our way to worship, but we are in quite a different state in our little minivan.  We have kids arguing, kids fighting, at least one person on their phone, and there is almost always some type of ultimatum being given in regards to behavior.  We literally live twenty minutes from church and we can barely make it there without someone getting angry about something.  It makes it difficult to be in the right frame of mind when you get there.  

Have you ever wondered what would happen if we went to church with that same expectancy that the wise men had when they went to worship Jesus?  What if we were so determined to be in His presence that we were willing to travel long and far?  What if we were willing to be uncomfortable and even had to really work at getting there?  What if we knew that when we got there, we would never be the same? 

I remember going to special church services in Venezuela and Guatemala.  The people would come to church by the busload.  They were sitting four to a seat and some were even standing in the aisles.  The services were often outside and there weren’t enough chairs for everyone.  But still the people came from long and far.  I remember how they worshiped.  They were all in.  There was nothing holding them back.  They weren’t worried about hitting the right notes when they sang.  They weren’t worried about being in tune or too loud.  They sang at the top of their lungs and it was one of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard.  They came expecting.  They came knowing that they would encounter Jesus and never be the same. 

I know my truck-load of kids will continue to make the ride to church a loud and interesting twenty minutes.  But I want to take the time to put a little more thought into the opportunities that I have to worship Jesus.  I want to think about the gifts that I bring to Him, are they chosen haphazardly out of what’s left over- or am I giving Him my best?  I want to come into His presence expecting and eager to meet Him there.  I want to teach my kids about the privilege that we have to come together and corporately worship and help them understand the importance of being in His presence.  I want to come into His presence and spend time just showing my love and adoration to my Savior.  I want to be just as determined as the wise men were so many years ago when they were purposeful in their giving and in their worship. 

In the many stages of my life, Christmas has been celebrated in so many different ways.  But I pray that I will always take the time to think about the real reason we celebrate Christmas.  I pray that I will always take the time to remind my children about the details surrounding the birth of our Savior.  And I pray that I will always remember the wise men and think about their opportunity to be in the presence of Jesus, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. 

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Let Me Touch Him

07/10/2020

A few days ago, as I was “being still”, God brought to my remembrance the hymn that says, “Oh to be His hands extended, reaching out to the oppressed. Let me touch Him, let me touch Jesus. So that others may know and be blessed.” I sang the hymn over and over and began thinking about our current situation. We, as Christians, have been called to be HIS hands extended. We are called to reach out to the oppressed. The oppressed. I had a rough idea of what that word meant but wasn’t positive. I looked it up and it literally means “subject to harsh and authoritarian treatment.” Wow. There is a lot of that going on right now in our world. The other part of the song says, “Let me touch Him, let me touch Jesus…” So I spent the next couple of days thinking about what it means to touch Him. I immediately thought of the woman who pushed through the crowds to touch Jesus. She was at an exceptionally low point, a point of desperation. She knew the only thing that would change her situation was to have an encounter with Jesus. She purposefully went after Jesus. She pushed and pressed in. And she touched Him. She touched the hem of His garment and was instantly healed. Her life changed because she made a point to touch Him. I have had the vision of this woman in my head as well as this song for several days. Yesterday, I was reminded of the song that says, “Reach out and touch the Lord as He goes by. You’ll find He’s not too busy to hear your heart’s cry. He’s passing by this moment, your needs He’ll supply. Reach out and touch the Lord as He goes by.” Another song confirming the amazing changes that take place when we touch Jesus. This morning, I looked up the word touch in the Bible. In the Old Testament, the word touch was used a lot when going over the basic dos and don’ts of the laws that were in place during those times. In the New Testament, the word touch was mainly used when referencing Jesus touching someone and healing them. The Bible confirms again and again the power in Jesus’ touch. After reading, I began doing some housework. And as I was working, I began singing yet another oldie but goodie- “He touched me. Oh, He touched me. And oh, what joy that floods my soul. Something happened and now I know, He touched me and made me whole.” Mark 6:56 says, “And whithersoever he (Jesus) entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole.” My conclusion, I need to touch Jesus! I need to purposefully go after Him. I need to push and press in. I need to put my opinions and desires to the side and focus on Him. Because if I touch Him, I can be His hands extended and reach out to the oppressed. I can love those around me with an unconditional love that is a direct reflection of my Father’s love. I have added the video of the song that God brought to my mind a few days ago. I love this specific video because I love hearing about when this song was written. May this be our anthem as we move forward. Let’s all push and press in to be in His Holy presence and touch Him so we can touch others!

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So maybe it’s not like riding a bike…

So often we think that because we have done something before, we can easily do it again. After all, our bodies and our minds have a certain muscle memory to perform in the same manner in which we did the previous times. But I am here to tell you that not everything is that easy. Sometimes it’s not just like riding a bike, sometimes you have to start all over and relearn the whole process.

That is what parenting is like when starting over again, and adopting children who are older makes it pretty interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret our decision to adopt children. I love all six of my kids. I love the boys. I love the girls. I love the biological ones. I love the chosen ones. I love them all. But what I assumed was that I knew what I was doing, because I had done it all before. Nope- not so much.

I remember their first night in our home, it was a weekend visit. I remember wondering if the little one was used to being rocked to sleep. I turned all the lights out in the living room and sat on the couch, holding my new baby and singing “Jesus Loves Me.” It was surreal. It was the same song I had sung to all of the babies I had sung to sleep. I cried, not only because I was happy to have another baby to love- but because somewhere out in this big crazy world his bio mom was missing this moment. I felt sad for her, but I was so excited for our family and for our future.

It wasn’t long before our “Brady Bunch” story became a reality and we also “somehow formed a family.” It was busy at first. Not just busy because we had six kids instead of three. It was busy because our new children had to see, touch, and feel everything we owned. Every toy would get pulled out of it’s purposeful hiding place. Every board game was opened and “played”, only to be forced back into the box without all of their pieces. It was like a tornado of toys, games, dirty clothes, and blankets would go through the house on a daily basis. The newness wore off and everyone got into the groove of the everyday Party of 8 life style. But there I was, trying to figure the whole parenting thing out.

The basics of parenting are the same. I know how to feed and clothe them. I know how to help them pick matching clothes and pack their lunches. But there are other things that have not come as easy. I often have to remind myself of priorities and things that are not that important. I had to tell myself that sometimes the dishes can stay in the sink until tomorrow. I had to learn how to use the crock pot and how to plan for the week’s meals in order to have effective grocery visits. Being a mom of six isn’t much different than being a mom of three in most regards.

But there are times it is hard. There are times when your sweet child doesn’t understand why you make the choices that you make. And there are times that you have to be reminded that not all of your children feel the same way when being reprimanded or disciplined. The relationship itself requires more work and more detailed care. I spend time strategizing my next move and planning the appropriate responses. When my oldest was young, I used to question God as to why she was so stubborn and difficult. Years later, I have found myself thanking God for her behavior because I realize everything is ok when I see similar behaviors in my other children. But with each child there is a different way to address the behaviors and a unique plan of action. These are things I am still learning.

One thing I know for sure, it is not the same for every situation. It is not something you can just pick back up and do the same way that you have done it in the past. In this case, it is most certainly not like riding a bike. But I am so thankful that God is with me. He never lets me down. As I try to remember how to pedal this crazy bike of mine, I realize that God is in the front of this tandem (two-man) bike and He is pedaling and steering. If I will just continue to trust Him and keep pedaling- I know He will help me.

The verse that has been on my heart this week can be found in Proverbs 3:5-6. We are probably all familiar with these verses, but have you ever read it from the Amplified Bible? I love this version. “Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him, and He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way].” Trust in and rely on HIM! This is such a good reminder to me tonight. I’m gonna keep trusting and keep pedaling!

Blessings

~Julie

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He’s Still Working on Me

When I was a kid, I had a terrible habit of volunteering myself and my family members for anything that was needed at church. My mom tells a story about how I volunteered to play my harmonica at church one Sunday morning during Sunday School. I had no formal training, but I loved to breathe in and out over and over as I headed from side to side on my discount-store harmonica. After I “played” the harmonica, the church’s organist leaned over to my mom and said, “Oh, how cute, she forgot the notes.” My mom laughed and assured her that I knew no notes! I just loved to sign up for everything. I signed my dad and I up to sing at the Father / Daughter dinner. We sang It’s a Miracle. I still sing the lyrics from time to time, it was quite a catchy little song.

One of my favorite songs as a kid, was the song- “He’s Still Working on Me.” I somehow convinced my mom to sing this with me for a Mother / Daughter event. If you have never heard this old song, I highly recommend it. It has a child-like vibe, but there is actually much depth to the words. Once, when Joel and I were serving as children’s pastors, I volunteered my three children to sing this same song with me at a Harvest Festival church service. My kids sang with me because I didn’t give them a choice, but I am certain they did not enjoy it as much as I did. This “kiddie” song has stayed with me for now over 37 years and I can still sing every word. Isn’t it funny how some things just stick with you?

“In the mirror of His word, reflections that I see, makes me wonder why He never gave up on me! But He loves me as I am and helps me when I pray. Remember He’s the Potter, I’m the clay. He’s still working on me, to make me what I ought to be. It took him just a week to make the moon and the stars, the sun and the Earth and Jupiter and Mars. How loving and patient He must be, cause He’s still workin’ on me.”

Here I am, headed steadily toward my 50’s (ok- so I have a few more years, but it’s the next big one), and God is still working on me. He hasn’t given up on me; though I have given Him reason to time and again. The biggest challenge, for me, is to remember that He is in charge. He is the potter. I am supposed to be the clay. I am supposed to be flexible and yield to His molding and stretching. I am supposed to allow HIM to use me. I will continue to sing this childhood favorite of mine, as it is such a good reminder that God continues to work in and through us. But we do have to submit to Him and allow Him to mold us and make us what He would have us to be.

I really am so thankful that He is still working on me!

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A lot has happened in these last 4 years…

If you are one of the few friends who read my blog- thanks and I am sorry I haven’t written in a while. A lot has happened in these last 4 years. As I am sure you can imagine, our lives changed dramatically when we went from 3 children to 6 children, essentially overnight. Wow, I feel like I have so much to say. I will start with what is on my heart today. In the last 4 years, I have experienced the greatest joy, the most immense confusion, and the deepest heartache of my life. I believe we have all gone through some very trying seasons recently. In the blogs to come, I would love to continue to share about what God has done in my life as a missionary kid and as a mom to the most extraordinary children. And although each blog is just a small story, it is important to remember that it is part of the big story that God has written for my life. I am continually in awe of His attention to detail in my life and how His timing is always perfect. These blogs are in no way about me, but rather about the one who made me and who continues to order my steps. I may not know what tomorrow brings, but I will remain confident as I know He holds my tomorrow. The verse I will leave you with today is this, Philippians 1:6 (AMP), “I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return].”

Be Blessed

Julie

Our First Christmas Together

Here it is, our first Christmas together as a family of 8!!! Amazingly enough, we are ready! The shopping is done, most of the wrapping is finished, and we have just two more items to assemble before the big day! In most ways, this is like any other year. We have made gingerbread houses, cookies and other goodies. The Elf has been moving from one hiding spot to another every day. The countdown calendars have been changing daily as the kids count down to presents! And the presents have been slowly appearing under the tree.

But this year there is a different feeling of excitement in the house. The kids are excited about presents, of course. But the new kiddos have an uncertainty of what to expect. They have asked questions like, “So just how many presents will we get?” They will tell us stories of Christmas’ past and study our reactions to see what we will say. And then there is the littlest one who picked up his present from under the tree and started hugging it and kissing it as if it were the best wrapped present he had ever seen.

Clearly we have no idea how their Christmas mornings have been in the past. There may have been a sea of presents under the tree or just a couple. But one thing we do know, this Christmas they have something that they have not had in the past- the understanding of the true meaning of Christmas. That really is the best gift of all.

Let us always remember that Christmas is not about the presents and the gifts, but about God sending His very own Son into this world to be our Savior. What an incredible thing it would be if we would worry less about the presents under the tree and more about sharing God’s love with others!

Matthew 1:18-23

Merry Christmas to you and your families!

Julie

Party of 8*