Yeah, About That Awkward Text Message….

There’s a good chance that at some point you’ve gotten a random, out of the blue, moderately awkward text message, Facebook message, or phone call from me. It might have started something like this: “I know this might seem weird” or: “I’m not very good at this, but……..” or “I know I’m not going to get this right but I guess I think it’s better to say it wrong than say nothing at all” or even this: “I know we haven’t seen much of each other over the years, you know, since you were my KINDERGARTEN TEACHER”. Like I said, awkward.

From there, I likely went on to explain that you’ve been on my mind, on my heart, and that I’m praying for you or grateful for you or glad you’re in my life. Or all of those. You probably wondered why in the world I was reaching out at such a random time in such a weird way.

I guess I feel like I owe you a bit of an explanation.

I don’t feel as if these communications are completely random. It might sound strange and a bit far fetched, but I sincerely believe that I’m being compelled to reach out. A “God nudge”, I like to think of it. Kinda like maybe God is looking out on mankind and thinks, “That gal over there needs to hear a certain truth. That she is loved. She is valued. She is important. She is special. That the work she is doing matters. She is not alone.” And since He can’t just thunder those words down from heaven (I mean, He could, he IS God, but I think He recognizes that a thunder from heaven might be sorta scary), He uses us to do it.

And here’s why I think that. More often than not, when I reach out in a weird, random, awkward way, the response isn’t “you friggin’ weird-o, leave me alone!” but something altogether more tender, like “how did you know I needed to hear that?” or “I really needed that encouragement today!” And since I’m a rather dense gal, I KNOW it wasn’t ME that recognized the need for those words at that time, it was God working through me. And it feels really good to pass along messages of love. And because I think it’s really cool to be used by God in this way, I just keep doing it.

Also, I really love being on the other end of a “God nudge” too.

Three years ago a high school freshman wrote a paper for English class. In it, she talked about me. For whatever reason, she was inspired by some things I’d done in my life. The words she wrote were flattering and kind and encouraging. And for three years she didn’t share them with me. She waited. She waited until she felt the time was right and then she emailed me the paper. Her email was short (and not the least bit awkward) and she explained that she’d been given this assignment years ago and recently came across it and thought I should read it.

What she didn’t know is that I’ve been going through a season of self doubt. I’ve been asking myself questions like “Why am I doing these hard things? Am I really making a difference? Is it worth it?” Yeah, I’ve been a real treat to live with the last few days. I’ve been questioning, wondering, obsessing about why I do what I do. And then, out of nowhere, I get an email from a high school senior who tells me that at a very important time in her life she looked at me as an example. She saw what I was doing and felt like it was important. That it mattered. That I was making a difference.

I cried (and I don’t cry often). I cried happy tears. Tears of reassurance. I thanked God for the reminders that I needed to hear. And I thanked my young friend for reaching out. She too had felt a “God nudge” and although it would have been awfully easy for her to shrug it off or ignore it, she didn’t. She acted on the nudge and spoke words of life to me. At a moment that I REALLY needed to hear them. She didn’t know that I was in a funk, but God did. I think maybe He looked down on mankind and saw me and thought, “Abbie is getting discouraged, she is believing lies, she is questioning the calling I have given her. She needs truth.” And then he picked an unsuspecting teen to speak to me.

So the next time you’re thinking of someone for no apparent reason or a particular situation is weighing heavy on your heart, don’t ignore it. Consider that maybe you’re being “nudged” to reach out. It might feel like random timing or just completely awkward, but take a chance. And the next time you receive a random, awkward text from someone who is just thinking about you, know how loved and valued you are!!!

Sometimes awkward=awesome.

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Confessions of a reluctant sports mom

When I was in labor for the first time I experienced the magic of an epidural. Let me tell you, it was amazing. I was able watch the monitor and I see the little line rise up to indicate I was having a contraction but I couldn’t feel a thing. I was blissfully numb. It wasn’t a bad way to labor. Until it was time to push. I had zero sensation, but the doctor said it was time, so I put my chin down and pretended to know what I was doing. I felt like an actress playing the part of a woman in labor. I asked the nurse, very quietly, if I was doing it right. She assured me I was and a few minutes later my beautiful, squealing baby girl arrived on the scene.

Fast forward 11 years. Summertime. Baseball season. All three (THREE) of my kids are playing summer ball. My husband is in hog heaven. He is a natural athlete, very competitive, and loves the thrill of the game. Me? Meh.

I watch the other parents at the games. They are PUMPED. They cheer and yell and get thouroughly, genuinely excited watching their kiddos. Me? I’m internally searching the crevices of my brain for appropriate encouraging words. I say things like: “Swing if it’s there. Get ready. Way to watch. Swing at strikes. Watch the ball.” It feels like I’m on a game show called “Let’s State The Obvious!!!”

I’ve become fluent in baseball vocabulary mostly by mimicking my husband but also from faint memories from my childhood of my dad listening to baseball games on the radio on our way home from church. 

I mutter to my husband, “Am I doing it right?” I feel like an actress playing a mom watching her kids play ball. I don’t get it. But they love it and I love them so I’ll just keep playing the part. 

The Rimmatoop

Five years ago today I met my son. He was four years old at the time. Like most kids, he loves to hear the story of how he came into our family. 

His entrance to our world is a different sort of tale than that of our other kids, but it’s sweet and special and one we all recall fondly. Here’s how it goes….

One day, in the middle of July, I got a call at work from Children’s Division. A four year old boy had come into care. His name was Caleb. That was all I knew about my boy when I left work a few minutes early to meet him. 

I first laid eyes on him at a McDonald’s Play Place. He was accompanied by his case worker. He had eyes as brown as chocolate and the cutest, chubbiest cheeks. He didn’t speak. 

I said goodbye to the case worker and loaded Caleb into my car. I peeked into the backseat a million times to see his sweet face. He would smile but the silence hung heavy. I began to talk. About nothing and everything just to fill the quiet. I told him about our home and our other kids. I talked about the cows we drove past. I told him we had chickens at our house. And a pool. 

Then, out of nowhere, he began talking!! I was thrilled, but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. He repeated himself over and over again, growing increasingly frantic. “I need my rimmatoop! My rimmatoop. I NEED MY RIMMATOOP!”

Bless his little heart. I asked him to repeat himself a hundred times. I tried repeating what I was hearing and he assured me I wasn’t understanding him correctly. He was frustrated, I was beside myself. I needed to know what it was that this boy needed. I needed to understand him. 

My cousin is a speech therapist. A brilliant one, in my opinion. I figured if anyone could distinguish his jibberish, it would be her. When we arrived home I texted her: “this kid needs his Rimmatoop. What the heck is a Rimmatoop?! Help!!” 

Time passed. I introduced him to the dog and the chickens. He met the kids and my husband. He discovered some toys and was quickly entertained. He had seemingly forgotten about the Rimmatoop he had so desperately needed. 

A while later I received a short message from my cousin. It simply said: swimming suit?  I asked, “Caleb, do you need your SWIMMING SUIT?” His smile told the answer. Of course that was it. He had begun *needing* it as soon as I mentioned me had a pool. And of course we promptly got him one. 

Our story doesn’t take place in a hospital. No doctors or epidurals. No newborn photos or bitty baby inky footprints. But it’s one of my very most favorite stories to tell. And one of his very most favorites to hear. 

Made To Rejoice And Mourn

Last Friday my dear friend had a biopsy. A CT scan had revealed an abnormality and the “C” word was tossed out. A biopsy was the only way to know for sure, so she scheduled it and set about praying. She maintained a positive attitude and we all prayed fervently along with her. We fretted and worried and didn’t breathe easy until yesterday when we heard the results: NO CANCER!! We are thrilled! God heard our prayers! God is good. 

The very same day, another friend was having a biopsy done. She had an abnormality in her breast and the “C” word was tossed around. A biopsy was the only way to know for sure. So she had scheduled it and had set about praying. She shared beautiful words of strength and faith. Friends and family flooded her with encouragement, prayer chains were initiated. Her results came back: CANCER. We are crushed. But God is still good. He heard our prayers. 

I don’t get it. This side of heaven I will never understand. God’s plans are beyond my comprehension. I can’t reconcile it, can’t figure it out. But I can rejoice with those who rejoice. And I can mourn with those who mourn. And I can trust that He is in complete and total control. Where there is complete trust there is peace that passes understanding!!! 

God is good, all the time. 

All the time, God is good. 
*shared with permission from both of my sweet, strong, faithful friends who happen to be two of the strongest ladies that I know. 😘

Church, what in the actual hell is going on?

For years I’ve been fascinated and devastated by the mass exodus of people leaving the church. Statistics show a dramatic decline in Americans who say they attend church regularly and/or identify themselves as Christians. I’ve read blog posts and news articles on the topic. A quick search on the world wide web will net you a plethora of results. Research has been done and studies have been held. People have been polled and numbers have been crunched. In a nutshell, it’s not good.

Preachers and pastors and professors have theories about why this is happening. Some fault church leadership. Others note that church has become “boring”. Hypocrisy is often mentioned as a cause. It’s not that I don’t believe preachers and pastors and professors. I do. But because I live in Missouri (the Show-Me state) I like to do my own digging.

About a year ago I drafted a list of questions about church and asked my friends to answer them. I am not a scientist or a theologian. I am just a girl asking questions. Thirty people sent me their responses. The folks who participated come from various religious backgrounds, live in different parts of the country, are of different sexual orientations, in different seasons of life, and each carry their own church celebrations and hurts.

I’ve read through the responses a number of times over the last several months. I’ve prayed about how to share their words and feelings in an authentic way. I have felt very overwhelmed by the prospect and piled the responses up into a neat stack and placed them in the bottom drawer of my nightstand.

Last weekend my precious, tender hearted 11 year old daughter made the decision to give her life to Christ. She was baptized in a small, simple ceremony surrounded by close friends and family. It was beautiful. It made me dig out those survey responses and read them with renewed purpose.

Guys, my church is GOOD. It is filled with jacked up people who aren’t afraid to admit their faults. They love one another and they love God and they love ME. This church steps up when there is a need, in the church or in the community. I leave a service feeling edified and convicted and like I have really worshipped my Creator. Our church family has prayed for us and fed us and babysat for us and supported us.

I’m not the only one with positive church experiences. Every single person who responded to my survey had at least one positive thing to say about the church. Many of their responses are similar to my own experiences. “A sense of community. Relationships. Support. Opportunities to serve. Feeling included. Acceptance.” Good stuff there. I want my girl to have this as she grows up.

On the other hand, there are just as many negative experiences. Here are a few. “Disagreements over trivial things. Cliques. Lack of commitment. Apathetic attitude. Arguing over traditions. Fakeness. Legalism. Selfishness over selflessness. ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’ attitude. Preaching hate.” I don’t want these to be my daughter’s words in another ten years.

I’m convinced that Satan LOVES the current state of the church. Folks are hurting. In church. Because of church. It’s heart breaking and gut wrenching. I imagine the devil is scheming and planning and stirring up frustrations. He’s celebrating hurt feelings and division. HOW DO WE STOP THE BLEEDING???? How do we create a church culture that our children can grow up in, feeling safe and loved?

I want to have a magic formula. I want there to be an obvious, fool proof method to fix it. A ten step plan. With bullet points. Maybe an acronym (like S.A.V.E or F.I.X). But guys, it’s too big. Too hard for me to figure out. 

Or is it?

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that Satan is rubbing his hands together in smug satisfaction, confident that he has fooled us into believing this problem is too big, too hard. If we assume we can’t do anything to fix it, isn’t Satan winning? 

I believe we CAN do something. 

Here’s the deal. All those people who have been hurt by the church? They were hurt by people, individuals. Folks just like me (and you?) who claim to be Christians but get all twisted up in rules and rights and wrongs. People who think they’re doing the right thing by fighting for good but who might have forgotten that the most important thing is to love. 

So here’s what I’m going to do. Or try really, really hard to do. I’m going to try to treat all the souls I meet the way I want my daughter to be treated. With dignity, with respect, and with love. It sounds simple, because it is. It’s not a program or a plan, it’s not complicated at all. Satan would like me to think that I need to spend hours and weeks and years figuring it out when all I think I really need to do is treat people like I want my daughter to be treated. Like their precious, tender hearts are as important as my own child’s. Because to God, they are. And if I’m to be worthy of the name Christian, they should matter that much to me too. 

Don’t feel overwhelmed like I have felt. Don’t let the enemy convince us it’s too hard. 

Let’s stop the bleeding. 

Let’s cultivate a church culture that will hold our kids up, and embolden them to love fearlessly and be loved completely. 

It starts with us. 

You and me. 

I really think it’s that simple. 

 

Tonsils. Who Needs Them??

Update: The New Kid has to have his tonsils removed. This is new territory for me. #1) I’ve never had a foster kiddo who had to have surgery and #2) I’ve never had a kid that had to have a tonsillectomy. So.

I’m not really nervous about the surgery itself. A quick google search told me that just over half a million of these procedures are done each year. The doctor who will be performing the procedure seems very qualified. The New Kid will be in and out within 30 minutes. No biggie, right??

What I’m worried about is the week following his surgery. This kid is going to need A LOT of extra care. And although he is hilarious and we are really growing to love him, he is still just a few weeks post “complete-stranger” status. It’s a little intimidating to know that I’ll be responsible for this child as he goes through what will quite possibly be the most excruciating few days of his short little life and we are still just getting to know one another.

This reminds me of a few years ago when my then-foster-child-now-son had a stomach bug. I had a vicious case of the “am I doing it rights?” and second guessed myself in a bad way. Turns out, I was doing just fine all along. Re-reading my own words reminds me that I can do this!!

Prayers and good vibes appreciated for The New Kid. 

1/22/13

No one likes to be sick. It’s the pits. You’re weak and achy and tired. You don’t feel like eating or reading or even really talking. Even worse than being sick though is having a sick kiddo. It’s heartbreaking. You wish you could be sick in their place; somehow take the illness away from them. They’re so fragile. They’re weak and achy and tired. They don’t feel like eating or reading or even really talking. But what seems almost universally soothing to pretty much every sick child is snuggling. That wild, energetic ball of energy who rarely slows down for a quick hug seems to want nothing more than to climb in to your lap, cuddle up under a blanket, and just be. Comfort. I get a guilty satisfaction for being the giver of this comfort. I genuinely don’t want my sweet one to feel bad but I will SOAK THIS UP!!!!! This is a momma’s time to shine: to nurture and care for and to….mother. I mean, I still want MY mom when I’m sick. Which makes me wonder, does our little addition want his mom right now even more than normal? Does his weak, fragile state cause him to recall how her lap felt, how she rubbed his back or touched his face? Did she feed him 7-Up and crackers or popsicles or broth to soothe his sick belly? AM I DOING IT RIGHT?!?! Or does it really matter? Soup or 7-Up, back rub or back scratch…as long as it’s done with love I’ve found that he will gratefully accept my attempts to help and he even seems to be comforted by them. Apparently my lap snuggles just fine.

Minutes Matter

Minutes are weird. Every single one is made the same way. Sixty seconds. No single minute is longer or shorter than another. However, some minutes seem to fly by while others drag on for what seems like forever. 

My goal for the year is to be better at being still. It’s an art form that, frankly, I suck at. I’m a go-er and a do-er. I can multi-task like a boss. I can do a lot of things well. The challenge for me is in being still and quiet. 

Because my family is precious and supports me in my goals (translation: I said, “hey guys, we are doing this new thing, ok?”), we are working on this “be still” thing together. In the evening-time we practice being still. We call it Quiet Time (brilliant, huh?).  

In January, we would be still and quiet for 30 seconds each evening. In February, we increased it to one minute nightly. The plan is to increase it by 30 second intervals each month. No rules during quiet time except, you know, be quiet. You can pray or think about your day or sing a song in your head. 

I know, I know. It sounds cheesy and kind of weird. For the record, it also FEELS cheesy and kind of weird. I’m pretty sure that’s because we aren’t good at it yet. 

You guys, a minute lasts FOREVER. I bet I peek at the timer a dozen times during that minute, convinced that the battery has finally, really died this time. I feel like, in that single minute, I could plan my grocery list, fold a load of clothes, scrub a toilet or two, and paint my toenails. Maybe even solve global hunger. Who knows?? 

Fun fact about me: I am less than punctual. As in ALWAYS late. I generally wake up late and that just sets the tone for the day. I no longer get frazzled by it, it’s just my life. I’ve noticed though, that those pesky minutes seem to zoom by when I’m running late. I run out the door and blink and all of a sudden it’s time for the appointment/job/pick up time. Like, wait. What?! Where the heck did THOSE minutes go???

Whether I’m racing the clock or watching it tick slowly by, I’m learning that the minutes matter. The fast, speedy ones and the slow, crawly ones. Every single one matters. They all mush and glob together and turn into hours and those hours melt into days that turn into weeks and then months and then years. And then you’re sitting there, almost 35 years old, thinking, “crap, I’ve wasted so many minutes.”

I’m trying to make my minutes matter. Being still in some and being calm and kind in others. Being passionate. Being angry when I need to. Just being deliberate and mindful that although minutes seem to be somewhat insignificant, they’re actually what it’s all about. 

Minutes matter. Let’s make them count.