Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Lean In

Two weeks ago, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about Arturo.  I was in a panic.  Something wasn't right.  As I lay in the darkness I searched for my Father to give me peace, to bring me understanding as to why I felt the way I did.  In silence, I heard a voice telling me to let him go.  That he would be leaving this Earth soon.  I resisted, I rebelled and told Him no.  I gave all the reasons why he needed to stay.  "My love," He said, "you need to let him come to Me."  I began praying to my little Arturo's spirit.  I don't even know if that's how it works but it's what I did.

"Sweet boy, stop fighting.  Stop struggling.  Stop suffering.  Baby boy it's ok.  Don't be afraid.  Jesus is waiting for you.  He has a place prepared for you."

I stayed up crying for hours.  Not the kind of crying that brings more pain but the kind of crying that brings peace and washes over your fears.  I fell asleep at some point faintly begging my Jesus to let him stay if it was possible.

Two days later I was on my way to the hospital and I felt a pit in my stomach.  I felt nauseous.  I had no idea what I was going to walk into - whether this baby boy I loved would still be with us.  To my surprise he was still there and the doctors said he was doing better.  He didn't have any tubes or wires hooked up to him.  He wasn't uncomfortable or crying.  He was just calm and peaceful.  I fed him a little of his bottle and I walked him over to the hospital window.  It was sunny and there was a warm breeze blowing.  He laid on my chest watching the sway of the trees with the rays of the sun cast on his face.  He fell asleep.

I now know just how good my Father is.  He gave me that day.  He let me see this baby boy pain-free, wire-free, tube-free, peaceful - because that's how he is now.

I have experienced loss before but not like this.  His death would be sad no matter what but the events surrounding his death are not only unjust, but tragic.  I have never felt so helpless in my life.  My mind replays the events every moment I have alone.  How lonely he must have felt.  How confused he must have felt.  How helpless he must have felt.  It's something I don't know I will ever get over - and I hope I never do.

Something important I have learned over the last two years can be summed up in two simple words: lean in.  When it hurts, lean in.  When you are suffering, lean in.  When you don't understand, lean in.  When the pain is unbearable, lean in.  So many times in my life when something has happened that I can't explain and that doesn't make any sense, I just ran from it.  I ran from the sadness and the confusion and the difficulty only to be knocked over by it years later.  I pushed anger and unforgiveness to the back corners of my heart instead of bringing it to the surface and letting myself feel it and be freed of it.

Our Father wrote us love letters in His Scripture preparing us for the trials we will face.  "In this world you will have trouble..." It's inevitable.  We can't avoid pain - it will always find us.  And if we don't prepare ourselves for it and lean into it and let ourselves feel it, one of two things will happen; we will either be knocked over by it when we least expect it or we will harden our hearts to it in order to protect ourselves.  Both scenarios have serious consequences.

For many of us, God has been working tirelessly to give us "hearts of flesh" - a heart like His.  A heart that breaks for this world's injustices.  A heart that longs to be part of His perfect plan for redemption.  That means feeling things the way His heart feels them.  A heart that experiences great joy is also one that knows deep pain.

I've been tempted this week, since losing Arturo, to keep myself busy.  To not talk about him.  To lose myself in distractions.  But God keeps whispering to me, "Lean in..."  Because he is not just God.  He is also a Father who knows deep pain.  A Father who watched His son suffer on a cross for people who didn't even know He was doing it for them.

So instead of busy and instead of avoidance and instead of distractions - I stop in the middle of my bedroom, a worship song blaring, my hands in the air and tears falling.  I talk about him with people who ask how I'm doing.  I scroll through his pictures on my phone.  I imagine him in the arms of Jesus, with a perfectly whole body.

Even when it hurts, I lean in.

(This is the song that will forever remind me of my little Arturo)

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mother's Day: I want it to be all about them

I stood washing dishes today and daydreamed about tomorrow - Mother's Day.  I fully intended on partaking in a day just for myself; avoiding the kitchen like the plague, leaving dirty dishes for Mike to wash, locking myself in my room and binge-watching Netflix.  I smiled briefly thinking about this glorious day all about me.

I was suddenly surprised when I felt a strange feeling.  It wasn't guilt or disgust but something rather gentle and loving.  I stopped washing the plate I was holding and stared at the wall in front of me - a little unsure of why my daydreams of alone time and sleeping in were suddenly interrupted by thoughts of waking early to make breakfast for my family and maybe spending the afternoon at a playground.

There is only One who can lovingly redirect a self-indulging plan into one that desires to have a day for me, be nothing about me...I knew this was the work of my Father.  So I listened intently as he spoke directly to my heart.

Many videos are going viral on Facebook right now in preparation for tomorrow.  Mom's all over the United States are claiming their day.  I've clicked on a few of these videos and laughed thinking of how right they are.  Yes, it would be totally awesome to sleep in, like, really sleep in without children banging on my door.  Yes, I would like to spend the day at the spa and remember for a few hours that I am more than just a wife and a mother.  Yes, I would love to lay around all day and watch reruns of Gilmore Girls while eating Reece's Peanut Butter cups, only emerging from my cave to indulge in the food that was prepared for me.  But as I stood there with a plate in my hand and the water running, I remembered just how much I treasure being a mom, and the little ones who made me one.

It is true that in many families, 364 days out of the year are all about the children, while one day a year its supposedly all about us.  But if we really take a look at that, we realize one very important thing; if our children think that our lives are all about them, that is not their fault, it's ours.  If there is anything that the life of Jesus teaches us it's that he never tired of serving others.  Even when he was exhausted and emotionally drained, he found something deep inside of him that allowed him to continue serving.  He didn't do it because it was what he was supposed to do or obligated to do - he did it because he knew serving others, served a bigger purpose.  Exhausted,  emotionally drained but still serving a bigger purpose?  Sound familiar?

My husband and I try very hard to teach our kids that this life is not about us.  It's not about our comfort or our agenda or our wants.  It is completely contrary to what this world tries to teach our kids - do what feels right to you, pursue your desires, get yours.  Sometimes we have glimmering moments where our kids "get it" and we feel like Super Parents but a majority of the time we fail miserably.  Which is why, as I was planning my day all about me I felt so very convicted; if on Mother's Day, a day supposedly celebrating a "job" deemed one of the most selfless any woman can have, I choose to make it all about me instead of all about the three absolutely beautiful creatures that gave me this job, what message am I sending them?  "Thanks for bringing me so much joy, making my life-long dream of becoming a mother come true - now, I don't want to see you for the entire day."  Yeah, sounds like a great plan.

I have learned more, grown more, and changed more since becoming a mother than any other stage in my life.  It has taught me unconditional love.  It has taught me how to dig deep in tough situations.  It has taught me how to find joy in the little things and not sweat the rest.  But above all, it has driven me closer to my Savior.  There is no occupation in this entire world that can bring the highest of highs or the lowest of lows, than parenthood.  And there is no one in this entire world that can bring us to our knees in prayer like our children.

I'm not saying that I hope a spa day or a binge-watching-Netflix-day aren't in my future, but this year, on Mother's Day I want my kids to know that on a day that is supposedly all about me, I want it to be all about them.

Landon Joseph, Nohemi Ruth and Levi Frank - I treasure you.  Thank you for being a huge part of making me the woman I am today.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Hope House T-shirt Fundraiser

So, many of you have asked about how to get your hands on a Hope House t-shirt.  Well, here's your chance!  In one week we will be putting in our first order of Hope House t-shirts.  If you want one, here's what you need to do.

1) Send an email to
2) Subject line: Hope House Shirt
3) In the body of the e-mail, put:
        Your name
        Your address
        Which t-shirt you want
        What size you want (they are unisex)
4) Make a payment via Paypal
    Make a payment by check - make checks payable to The Manna Foundation
    The Manna Foundation
    PO Box99472
    Louisville, KY 40269
    (Write Hope House Shirt in memo line)

Once your payment is received, your t-shirt will be mailed out the week of May 15th!

**We are raising these funds specifically to purchase a ministry truck for Hope House**

Thanks so much for your help!!!
Mike and Goody