Saturday, July 4, 2015

Embracing Reality

Penny and I danced for 2 1/2 hours straight- not the romantic side to side swaying of eighth graders, not the arms apart kind of slow dancing, not a slow waltz,  not even your typical wedding dancing- but an all out turn the red lights on it's after midnight Saturday in the club kind of dancing. We bounced up and down and spun circles for so long my calves burned and my arms were on fire.

Beyoncé has nothing on Audrey and Isabel's hair flips. The boys all have moves that totally makes me question what goes on in this house especially knowing their home-schooled and we don't have television! I even watched Charlotte move her arms and fingers in a way that made me question her Cerebral palsy diagnosis.

I looked down at the six week old baby with big bright blue eyes staring intently at me..... And while Pharell with his sick beats jammed in the background,  for a moment everything was perfect.

I now interrupt this blog post six weeks late to share the readers digest version of child number seven.

Penelope Ellen Kolanowski was born at home May 7 at 5:15 AM. She decided to grace us with her presence three weeks early and was a little peanut weighing just over 6 pounds.

The day before she was born a wonderful friend of mine stopped by and helped me put a third coat of Tungoil on our newly installed hardwood floors in the living room. She listened to me pour my heart out about how scared I was to have another baby. I had been feeling pretty crappy and told her to keep praying that this little girl waited until her due date of May 25th because we had so very much to try and get done before then. I chatted on and on about how excited I was to go to my favorite garden center tomorrow and get my flowers and veggies. She even brought me a gift knowing how very much I cherished my garden.

All was normal for the evening, but somewhere around midnight that night my water broke. For a good hour I was in denial that this couldn't possibly be happening three weeks early. I remembered how intense my other two births were so I decided to get in a nice warm bath tub and drink a special glass of wine. And there in the middle of the night I cried intensely and poured my heart out to God. And for one hour it was like Jesus sat right there next to me.

I cried because I knew having a baby with these six kids would be impossible. I knew I only had one set of arms but would now have three children that literally daily needed my arms to get dressed to be fed to be bathed to go to the bathroom- and then four more who would need these arms for hugs and wiping cuts and scrapes, for art projects and dinners prepared- six little people already needed me so much and a new little baby was going to need me at all hours all day.  She would need to eat all the time and be held all the time she would cry all the time..... So I told Jesus I couldn't do it.  I told him after my water broke and just moments literally before she was born into this world.  I told him I was an utter failure. And I sobbed uncontrollably. 

After my confession the first thought that popped into my head was how lucky I was to be sipping on such a delicious wine. I thought about what a good God we had that provided just the right soil conditions with just the right amount of water and sunshine with skilled workers and technology that put this wine all the way from Argentina in a bottle and I sit sipping it. A smile slowly cracked my lips. For a moment everything was perfect.

It is now 10:30 at night and the dance party is over. A husband and six children are in bed. The vacuum cleaner is still running and the words of Frankie are quietly playing over the whooshing of the vacuum. 

For six weeks I've held her. I've barely set her down. She's nursed almost every hour sometimes more. Most days I don't get dressed. I am lucky to get my contacts in. Most days someone has had to either help us with dinner or bring us dinner. I have looked up the definition of sleep and I'm convinced that Webster's dictionary lies.

I do not feel pretty. I feel guilty. I feel guilty because I am not giving my other children the attention they need. There's no more 8 o'clock book reading because little Miss Penny from the hours of five till midnight has decided to practice voice training. In the words of a friend she has altitude sickness and does not want to be set down. I've missed therapy for the kids that go for almost the last six weeks. In addition to me having a hard time with this baby, some of the kids are struggling too. Literally I am mommy number five to some of them and Penelope is a threat. They've had to make sacrifices too. I miss the sunshine. I miss being in my garden. I miss the life that I once complained was so hard. Only twice have I been in the car with Penny somewhere. She fusses and cries and is so discontent. 

I received a text today from someone saying they had a friend who was dealing with postpartum depression and asked if I had dealt with that after any of my kids. 

Depression is real. It hurts and it's hard. It makes you want to hide away from the entire world. I have felt lost and lonely. I have felt like I can't possibly go on one more day- even one more hour. I've wished I could close my eyes and when I open them every thing is different. I've asked myself questions like why don't people understand? Why do I feel like I'm the only one? And then after I asked the questions I have dealt with shame and guilt. Guilt over not being a good mommy. Guilt over not being a good wife. Hours after Penny is still crying I have cried feeling like it's my fault. I've cried feeling like my daughter is the only one that's ever dealt with this- I start listing nieces and nephews and friends kids that to my knowledge are perfect and happy and I feel like they all must be throwing it in my face about what a terrible person I am. I feel like everyone hates me because I can't make it to an event or party or Church. I start to feel like everything has strings attached. I feel so beat down that I am on the brink of tears all the time.

Amidst all of these random stories and ramblings there are three things that I'm holding onto.

1. Embracing reality. This is my life right now. There is all kinds of practical wisdom and advice regarding depression - stuff like diet and nutrition,  getting good sleep, exercise, enhancing your gut bacteria, high omega-3's, having help, having a support group, having people to talk to.... The list could go on and on and while all of that is true, important and valid. These things are things I have done and do and I find myself still struggling.

Embracing reality- well.

I need to learn how to handle these hard times sadness and depression and I need to learn to be in this place and to do so well. Which personally I have felt in this culture is counter intuitive. Somehow I have believed the lie that there is no such thing as being sad in a biblical way or being depressed in a biblical way or being in turmoil in a biblical way. Somehow I have believed that the American way and the biblical way is to put a smile on and act happy all the time. And that couldn't be further from the truth. The Psalms in particular are full of emotions and one emotion in particular being depression. Entire books have been written on just Psalm 42 and depression. John Piper has an absolutely wonderful sermon on the subject that I love and have watched and read over and over again. (see below)

I could share all the ways this has practically helped me, however the point for me to remember is that there is a way to embrace sadness and do so well. That there is a way to embrace pain and to do so well. That there is a way to embrace reality- well.

2. Remembering the little moments.  The dance party and the good wine, those memories I like to reflect on often, and by reflecting on those little snipets of time, that are near perfect, I find I train myself to get in the habit of looking for those little snipets more often. Those two memories are so full of happiness and goodness that they help drown out the struggles. They make the struggles worth it.  Those little moments are really big moments because of how big of a deal they have become to me.

3.  My Identity.  This is the big one.  This is the one for me that I could do all the right things, all the right nutrition, all the right friends, make sure I embrace reality well, and remember the little moments... but... it's the big... but... If I am not secure in where my identity is then nothing else matters.  And, there is only one place that my identity is secure, and that place is in Jesus.

Example:  I find myself getting stressed out to go to the boys baseball game with Penny.  I start thinking of the crying in the car, and how to handle Isabell and Charlotte and Penny.  I find anxiety creeping in with figuring out breastfeeding her.  And then it happens.  I start to think about the things well meaning people will ask me... "Is she sleeping through the night?"  "Can't you put her down yet?"  I start worrying about the looks people might give me as I nurse her in the bleachers.  I start worrying about what people might say about the bags under my eyes, or my lack of makeup and a hairstyle..... 


Why do these thoughts creep into my mind?  Because I am letting "who I am" be found in things like how nice I look or how happy my baby is... instead of the finished work of Jesus... instead of His perfect life... somehow I get things all mixed up and start thinking it's my life that defines me.  

Galations 2:20 It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me...

My life and what I do or don't do does not define me.  My identity is in Christ's life, who now lives in me.

It's sorta become my mantra right now.  My identity is in Christ.  I am getting ready to get out of the car and go the boys game, I take a deep breath and repeat to myself- my identity is in Christ.  Someone stops over, and I'm a mess, still in my pajamas, bed head, and no makeup, I stop take a deep breath and repeat to myself- my identity is in Christ.  I walk out and look at the pathetic excuse of a garden I have this year, I take a deep breath and repeat to myself- my identity is in Christ.
Things are hard right now. 
I am learning to embrace it-well. (More on that subject later.)
I am remembering and finding the little moments that are near perfect.
My identity is in Christ. So much so that I share a picture of me. No makeup, bags and circles under my eyes, a baby screaming in my ear, a messy canning project in the background, hair not fixed, pjs still on, but its okay.

My identity is in Christ.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ever cleaned up vomit?

Ever cleaned up vomit?

Absolutely disgusting, and messy and stinky, and bits of chunks of stuff and pieces.... vomit is a big giant mess.

I am about to vomit. Vomit a big, stinky, messy pile, full of all kinds of stuff and pieces.  Be warned. It's messy, it's gross, it's embarrassing and shameful, but I am ready to get the gross mess out and cleaned up.

Here goes.

I am not so happy that I spent months and months of my time in the summer with a daughter who hated every part of the recovery process of her hip replacement surgery.

I am not so happy that finances are ALWAYS tight. I've read the Dave Ramsey books (and think they have great advice) but honestly I feel like burning mine. No matter what it can't account for the overwhelming medical needs that come up in this house. The well, the water softener, the septic, the crappy cars with 200K miles, the bonuses that don't pan out, the kids we keep adding, a van door that falls off while driving, a computer that gets hacked and our pictures are held for ransom. We have our debt paid off, we have emergency funds, we have 8 of us in a 1960's ranch that's about 1750sqft, we don't eat out, and still finances are tight.

I am not so happy about the disabilities we deal with. I am tired of learning delays and ADHD, and brain issues, and Cerebral Palsy and Arthrogryposis and hearing loss and vision loss and food issues.

I am tired of 13 therapy appointments every single week.  It leaves no room for anything else.

I am not happy with our house. Ten years ago Kenney and I dreamed a dream about a house and property and a garden. I remember the first property and house we checked out in Lowell.  I am embarrassed when I look at our original plans, but now, ten years later, there seems to be nothing left of the original dreams. We've had 8 or 9 different architects, about 50 revisions, 7 different prints drawn up and now we have arrived at this. No addition. No more square footage. No more loft or second story or pretty ceilings. No extra rooms, just a girls room, a boys room and our room. And to top it all off, most all of the work has to be done by us. (Because we both just have so much extra time on our hands.)

I don't want to deal with another hip replacement surgery for my daughter, the date is set for January 5th, and I'm angry we've got to do it all over again.

I am tired of my only door to the outside looking like this. 

Tired of wiping shoes. Even more tired of the muddy mess the three dogs are. Most tired of our little long-haired white schizophrenic dog...  in the mud then corralling her to wipe her down lest the couch and few pieces of not destroyed furniture become destroyed... yet its futile.

I am not so happy with the cars we drive. A crappy 4-cylinder PT cruiser with 200K miles on it and a 15 passenger rust bucket with no horn, turn signals that do not work below 45 degrees, a side door that fell off and currently can't be open or closed. (Did I mention it was a prison vehicle, so most enjoyable about the van is the cut outs that can still be seen around the windows for the bars and the floor anchors to hold handcuffed prisoners?)

I am tired of people that burn me out.  Tired of hearing words that tear down. Tired of whispers behind my back. Tired of pretend and fake. Tired of people (whom I love) not understanding or caring.

I am tired of tomorrow's. Tired of a life that isn't getting any easier. I don't want to give up my dreams. Kenney and I dreamed dreams of the future. Dreams of our alone time when the kids are all grown up and moved away. Dreams of vacations and a life lived however we choose. Dreams of date nights whenever we wanted, no more scheduling and trying to make it work the 3 or 4 times a year we do now. The harsh reality is we have kids that may forever be in our care. No growing up and moving out.

I am mad Advent had to look like this. Stuff everywhere. Holes in the wall, drywall dust covering everything. No place to put all our decorations out.

Frustrated that Christmas morning was at our kitchen table because the living room was destroyed with construction work. Frustrated the kids didn't get a "magical day" as a matter of fact some of them woke up crabby and some of them cried.

I think its not fair that Kenney gets to go on a guys vacation. A vacation that is exactly one day after we get home from the hospital with Charlotte's surgery. A vacation that couldn't possibly be timed any worse.

I am tired of a hard marriage. Tired of the few (and I mean few, as in two or three) date nights we have get ruined. Tired of laying down at night beyond exhausted. Tired of all conversations being rushed and having to be started, discussed and finished in 2.3 minutes. (Or some child will need to go potty-remember and since they can't all go on their own, and because of physical issues, they can't all hold it very well, and Lord knows we don't want to deal with that mess!) Tired of my husband coming home to such a mess, a mess of a house, messes with the kids, and there I stand when he walks in the front door, looking like I'd just been hit by a truck because I really was hit by a truck called this life. 

Here's the big one- the one that keeps me up at night and makes me cry day after day- the one that makes me sick to think about- the one that I should be happy about, but can't seem to get happy about, the one that I am ashamed and embarrassed to even talk about- the one that feelings crash right on into my mind, without warning, and there I am, having thought the thoughts and felt the feelings, and have no idea what to do with it all. Surprise...Baby #7 is due in May.  

I can't imagine my life getting any harder. I just can't. It is just so very hard already. A baby was NOT part of the plan.

So there you have it.... I just threw up all over the internet. I started writing this all down back in early November, but have been dealing with all these issues for some months now. 

This vomit has been sitting for awhile, and in these last months I've had some time to clean a bit up, and figure some stuff out. Actually there have been a billion thoughts I've had on all of this vomit. Thoughts on fighting for joy, practical things- like getting good sleep (ha!) and spending more time in God's word. Thoughts on complaining and having a pity party. I've been thinking about the things people say to me, and thinking about words, and how very important what we say matters. I've thought a lot about the heart, my heart in particular.  *Side note- about the best analogy I've ever heard regarding the heart  Paul Tripp shares it here- about taking a cap off of a water bottle, shaking the bottle, then asking, why did water come out of the bottle? and of course the generic response is "because you shook the bottle" but, the real answer is, water came out of the bottle because water was in the bottle.  So all this stress, and problems and issues has just revealed more and more the big issues.... what is inside the bottle (my heart) which is a whole lot of sin.

And through these last five months the Holy Spirit has been alive and nursing me back to health. I read a word today used to describe the Holy Spirit “Remembrancer” - and I love it.  It was coined by Charles Wesley (the great Hymn writer) and it's meaning is one who causes to remember.  Because, after all, the Holy Spirit was there, was there when Jesus died, and He saw it happen, and He is alive in me, and He can help me remember what the cross means.

Slowly, over the last 5 months the Holy Spirit, the great Remembrancer has been alive in me, and whispering truth, truth about what He saw happen on the cross and what the Gospel is, and what it means for me, and slowly He has caused me to remember the Gospel. 

While there is so much more that I could type but in the short amount of time I have I'll never get there, so two things for now that I keep coming back to. People/Relationships and Brokenness and Suffering.

One day, a couple of years ago, Tommy brought home from church a little colored cross with a memory verse on it, from Sunday school. It still sits, taped to the back door in my kitchen.

Romans 5:8 " but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

It's one of the most in-comprehensible verses I have ever read, I still pass by it in amazement.  I find myself asking questions, like "What does this mean for my life?" I would imagine there have been millions of sermons, books written and blogs typed, just on this verse alone, because of the infinite complexity and depth of what just this verse means. One thought of the many on this verse is: Does this verse change how I relate to others?

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to share the life story God has written for me thus far to a group of people. (some would call it a testimony) I shared my story and some others shared theirs too. At the end I stood there, while people chatted with all the other people, and I sat at a table alone. I felt so horrible, so exposed and shameful. You see my story doesn't exactly end on a clean and pretty note, and it's full of some embarrassing disgusting maybe a bit more crazy (for lack of a better term) details. And it seemed most people didn't know what to do with my story.

I thought about this for a long while, and I think days later I remember saying to Kenney, I get it, people don't like messy people.  I- and I would guess most others too- despise brokenness.

I, and all of humanity is trying to clean up our and other people's messes and brokenness.  I want friends with good marriages and clean houses. I want friends who aren't suffering, who aren't going through cancer, who aren't in jail, no single parents, no traumatized kids, no sleepless nights, no problems. If, by chance there is a problem, I would prefer it have been in the past. I love "good" testimonies, but I want the last chapter of the book. I want to know how it all ends. I want all the problems fixed and everything wrapped in pretty shiny paper with a perfect bow on top. Even worse, if I have these people in my life, I find myself doing everything I can to "fix" whatever is wrong. I want to change people..... I almost make it my mission, to change them, rid them of suffering and sin and brokenness and sadness.

As a wonderful friend wrote 10 months after her sweet daughter went to be with Jesus:
(you can click on the text to read her story)

We have to stop trying to push people past their pain and heartache. It's part of who they are now, and you're letting them know they're not good enough anymore…not if they have the nerve to bring their baggage with them. You're basically saying, "I'm good with part of you…the part that doesn't make me uncomfortable…but I don't really want to be around that other part. It makes me too sad. I don't like not knowing what to say, so could you stop talking about your sadness. I'll feel better then."

Oh the truth in that statement that I am so guilty of myself. I remember when we lost our 16 week old little baby.  (I wrote some of those thoughts here.)  I remember how it felt and how some people just didn't know what to say, so they said things that didn't help and things that hurt.

I remember I found myself arguing with God. And these last months I have done the same. Today, as a Christian, I gave myself permission to argue with God. To get some of the "vomit" out. After all, our God is a big, big God, much bigger than my arguments and whining, and He can take it and redeem it and change me and use me.

On a side note....The Psalms are FILLED with it.

Why, Lord, do you reject me
    and hide your face from me?

Listen to my prayer, O God.
    Do not ignore my cry for help!

Please listen and answer me,
    for I am overwhelmed by my troubles.

I am set apart with the dead,
    like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more

Here is the thing- people are suffering. This world is broken and suffering. In the next world, there will be no more suffering, it isn't normal, it isn't part of the perfect world, suffering is because we live in a fallen broken world. 

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”  Revelation 21:4

But, we have a faith that embraces suffering. We have a Jesus who suffered and was tempted in everything and yet He didn't sin. All our pain all our sadness.. ALL. OF. IT was laid on Him. He is a God who knows suffering, and willingly embraced it all. And because He is Emmanuel, God with us, He is right here, embracing my suffering with me. 

The below video is an awesome conversation between some of my favorite pastors on what to say and not say to someone who is suffering. I myself have been guilty of saying so much of what doesn't help. Telling people in the nicest way possible to get over it, to get up and get back to the mandatory happiness Christianity requires. I have compared people's sadness and suffering to others, telling them what they are going through isn't that bad or could be worse. I have experienced how it feels, especially lately, to be treated like this, and I have been on the other end, dishing out my own version of "get over it."


That brings me back to my verse in Romans.  The verse about how Jesus died for me, loved me when I was a broken messy sinner. Do I love others while they are broken messy sinners, or do I require them to first change, first clean up themselves and their sin, and then they are welcome in my presence?

Which brings me to my last thought for the moment.  Friendship.  Through all of this- through my mess, through my whining and complaining, through my hurts and pains, through the times marriage hasn't been easy, through the times parenting hasn't been easy, to the friends who heard me say horrible things to my kids, things because adoption is so very hard, trauma is so very hard, disabilities are so very hard, to the friends I don't return phone calls, and take months to respond to (and some I haven't even responded) I am a mess and they heard me, saw me and didn't turn away.  They didn't wave their high and mighty flag and tell me what a horrible parent I am, they didn't call their friends or family to talk about how I am mean and mistreating my kids. They didn't whisper that my marriage is a mess behind my back. They sat there with me. They called me and loved me. They let me sit at their table and eat bagels and copious amounts of carbs with them while my children ran around and destroyed their house and they listened and embraced me. They didn't try and fix me. They picked apples with me. They brought me a bottle of wine. They prayed for me. They sent me a text or email every now and then and just told me they cared. They called me back when I hung up the phone on them. They emailed me. They came into my house, into my mess and didn't flinch and didn't back off. They loved me. They didn't try and fix it all. The reality of it is they know they can't. They show me Jesus by eating with me, by sitting at my messy table. They put their children on the floor and let them get covered in dog hair, cause Lord knows I haven't vacuumed in forever, and sit with me and listen. 

The thing about these friends is they are plain and simple lovers of Jesus and they get His marvelous gift of grace. They get it. And lest the world think we do, we don't all meet together weekly for bible study. We are not one big group of friends. Some of them I rarely see. Some of them we text often, others it's weeks and months before we get together. Some of them I spend almost every Sunday with, and some of them I will never share a meal with. Some we talk all the time and some I barely talk to. As a matter of fact, I have an email from one of my friends that is now almost 4 months old, and I still haven't responded to her. But when I do, I know she'll embrace me with open arms... she loves me. She loves me with all my mess and baggage and brokenness.

That's what I am taking away from this today. What loving people like Jesus means. I want to love people like that, because I have been loved first by my heavenly Father like that, and second by an amazing amount of brothers and sisters in Christ.

If you knocked on my door today- there is no bow on the package.  It's messy here.  I am tired of taking care of my little girl after her second major surgery. I am angry my husband went on a ski trip in the midst of this. I am in denial about this little munchkin in my womb and I don't want to be tired one more day. I am dreading therapy this next week. But if you knocked on my door today- we would share the most glorious cup of coffee from the most wonderful coffee shop in Bridgeport (if coffee was your thing.) I'd show you a sample of reclaimed lumber from an old tobacco mill that I want to floor the living room with. We'd talk about delicious food and maybe look at some seed catalogs for the garden (if that was your thing.) We'd talk about this gloriously messy life.  We'd share about brokenness and beauty. 

Right now, that is how God is using my brokenness.  To show me good friends and show me how to be a good friend.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

When quiet time comes sitting in the PICU

Some stupid show is on the television, maybe Kathy and Roma? I don't know because I don't have television at home, and I never watch this stuff. The TV is annoying me. A man is asleep in a rocker and snoring. The man is annoying me. The selection of magazines to read suck. The coffee is not strong enough. I forgot one of the books I wanted to read. I am irritated and annoyed, I don't want to talk to the lady next to me. I don't want to be bothered by anyone. All I want is to just be left alone. Go home. Crawl into my bed and sleep a dreamless night, or maybe a couple of dreamless days and nights.

There have been so many thoughts I have wanted to write about, but every time I even thought about putting any of those thoughts on paper, this looming thought jumped out in front. The thought that someone somewhere will see it, think less of me, someone somewhere will confront me with something I wrote down somewhere someplace and I'll be stuck defending myself. This thought that my thoughts on paper might make me un-loveable. I think I have quoted, re-quoted, and probably said this to every living soul I have ever met;

" We can disagree so long as we are not disagreeable."

(I can thank my dad for that quote!)(Love you dad!)

But the truth is, I just assume not say anything, that way no one can disagree with me. Kinda hard to disagree with nothing...and so I just don't feel like writing anything down much anymore. Sometimes I don't feel like being open or vulnerable.

I still don't.

But lack of sleep, no good coffee and four hours into an 8 hour waiting room stay, none of my kids around, no garden to work in, no house to clean, no baseball games, no therapy appointments, well, nothing really to do, and I guess I'll write stuff down.

It just feels like my life, my heart, is so messed up. What a funny thing to say really. Say my heart is messed up. I mean Christians say it all the time... say we are all messed up. I know that is the truth... I know God's word says no one is worthy, and that man's heart is deceitful and beyond cure...but....


That's the crazy thing. I just seem so much more messed up than everyone else. Everything I do, it seems to always have a but. All my "good intentions" all my thoughts, all my ideas, all the things- seemingly "good" things seem to have this "but" attached to them. At the end of the day I find myself thinking about what I have done.  I start running through lists.  Lists about the house, lists about the kids, lists about therapy.  All kinds of lists with all kinds of tasks.  I scan through emails and texts and look at which friends I called or didn't call.  What emails I wrote or didn't write. Lots of days I find myself with not quite enough things crossed off my lists.  I forgot to make the call, I forgot the new exercise, I didn't pack Kenney's lunch, I forgot to take vitamins, the dishwasher didn't get loaded, I didn't read, I didn't get it all done. 

But, here is the crazy thing- on the days where I get everything checked off the list- I still fall short.  When I look at the list and see it all crossed off I still don't feel awesome.  The thought pops in....some friend that I didn't call, some kid I didn't do enough for, maybe I didn't tell my husband I loved him enough... Maybe I did morning devotions, but didn't pray with my husband, I'll even take it further-  I may have crossed off "pack Kenney's lunch" on the list, but truth be told, I did a piss poor job of it.  The man is 210 pounds and I packed carrots, a muffin, an apple and some poor excuse for a salad, AND the entire time I mocked him in my mind "thought why can't he just do this himself, why is he so lazy, why does he get to go to bed, and I have to stay up and sacrifice my time so he can have a lunch, I'll show him, I'll make him want to pack his own lunch after he sees what is in here" the fact remains, that no matter what is on the list, I never ever perfectly complete or satisfy the list.  Not in actions, and surely not in my heart.

A theologian of old said (JC Ryle)  “Even the best things we do have something in them to be pardoned.”

I hung out peeling apples and canning applesauce with a friend.  So we aren't bible study/hangout every weekend/call each other every day kind of friends, but we are non-deodorant wearing/ eating healthy/talking about how awesome Jesus is kind of friends.  We have some common ground that creates some tight bonds.  We talk lots about eating good and canning, and so she asks about canning a lot.  She asks what types of things I can.  I start rattling off some lists.  She asks if I got all my apples done yet, and my response to her is this;

"Still working on it...We pretended we were on HGTV this weekend ha!  Took the fireplace out and the wall down."

Then I proceeded to show pictures of the work we did.

My friends response

"Oh my goodness!! You guys are amazing!!"

I am sitting here days later and slapping myself in the face.  Why do I feel the need to rattle off lists of my accomplishments to her? Why did I segue into a totally irrelevant conversation?  We were talking about apples and I felt the need to talk about remodeling!!! And the sick answer is somewhere in my heart in the places I'd prefer no one to see I want her to like me.  I want her to be my friend.  And even worse, when the words roll off my tongue, I realize what I have done, and I don't know what to do to fix it.  The words "you guys are amazing" - its such a lie.  Its so far from the truth.  I know it.  I know it all to well.

Ask my sister and her hubby, who got caught in the middle of our "HGTV" weekend.  Ask them how "amazing" we were!  I told Kenney while we were debating what wall a fireplace should go on "I don't care about anything you have to say." To which he told me "I should have married a different Nelson." 

For. Real.

Messed up.  I told the man I love I didn't care about any words that came out of his mouth, and he told me he should have married my sister!!!!??????

Messed. Up.

And that brings me full circle back to my original point. I am a mess. I know it, my kids know it, my husband knows it and God knows it, but does everyone else really get it?  My "friends".... how many would still be my friend after being stuck in-between myself and Kenney's argument?  How many would stand by my side if they saw me.  The messed up sinner than I am?

As usual, me writing things down always bring me full circle back to the cross. 

John 19:30
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

That statement- "it is finished" if ever there were a tattoo I were going to get I think that would be it. (second to "I am redeemed")(don't worry honey, not getting one... yet....)

The implications of that statement, oh, they bring me to tears.  On a Wednesday evening while I'm eating a butterscotch popsicle and drinking a beer and watching the dogs wrestle and three of the kids playin and pots on the stove cooking- while all of this is going on, I can be moved, brought to tears to know everything I am trying to do for myself-the friends I am trying to make or keep, the kids, the image, the husband, all of it- everything I could say I have lived for, am living for and will live for or try to live for is nothing, compared to knowing Christ.  He FINISHED it all.

I WILL NOT live up to the perfect righteousness that God DEMANDS.  I know my heart.  I know the thoughts I think. I know the horrible pathetic attempts at finding value and worth in this life.  I know how sick my heart is. And yet, He who knew no sin, became sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

I am perfect, spotless, righteous before God.

Because of God's Grace.  Because He died for me.

I get Jesus' record.  NOT MINE.

And he said


I can stop.  I don't have to tell my friend about all my HGTV projects for her to like me, so I can feel loved.  I don't have to pack a lunch for my husband, or be "parent of the year."

I am loved.

He finished it all.

That's it.  There's nothing more to say.

He finished it all.


Friday, January 31, 2014

Now What?

January comes to a cold frozen end, and in enters another cold, snowy frozen month.

2014 is well underway and as usual, life continues to change and progress forward at a frightening speed.

The last three years we've spent doing paperwork, preparing, planning, thinking, traveling, and adding three new kiddos to our family.  I am slowly exhaling, as this year there will be no new kiddos.

It's amazing what running frantically, living life so very close to the edge can do for a person.  It's funny how that level of crazy, becomes normal.  So we have found ourselves this year with a strange "un-normal" feeling.  Now what?

We've spent a month this year, changing diapers, teaching our 6 year old daughter to move her tongue back and forth.  We've made almost 30 dinners and 30 lunches and 30 breakfasts.  I estimate that with three dogs and at least 6 bathroom breaks a day, and not all at the same time, we've taken our dogs out well over 300 times.  Opening and closing the back door 300 times.  We've put on boots and gloves and hats and coats over 300 times.  I've told our cat- who hates being cooped up inside - to get off of our counters surely a million times these last 30 days.  I've cut the food of six children into bit-size pieces- for three meals a day for the last 30 days.  That is 540 plates of food cut into bite size pieces.  We've drilled addition and subtraction flash cards over and over and over.  We've sung the "New Testament Books of the Bible" song so many times the tune is probably permanently ingrained in my head. Played in the snow- which means boots, gloves, snow pants, coats, hats, and scarves times six. Helped brush the kiddos teeth.  Every. Single. Day.  Vacuumed up dog hair.  Every. Single. Day. Therapy, and stretches, and more therapy and more stretches. Every. Single Day. Church on Sunday's, and usually dinner with family.  Packing my hubby's lunch. Paying Bills. And then there is the "other stuff", like weekend trips, baby showers, birthday parties, and friends over for dinner.  Stuff.  Life. Every. Single. Day.

The best way to really describe our lives is utterly mundane.  That really is the best description ever. I re-read the above paragraph.  Nothing jumped out at me.  Nothing screamed exciting.  Nothing made me say "wow" or filled my mind with "ooh's and aah's." 

So when sometime in the middle of January my dad sent me a text with a link to this article by Paul Tripp, all I could do was say Amen!

My life isn't going to end up in history books.  The big important decisions in my life, well they are far and few between. I live in the little moments.  Again, I re-read the paragraph a couple lines up.  It's blatantly obvious. My life is made up of thousands and thousands of mundane, boring, little moments.

So now what?  The question is "Does God rule my little moments?"

Did I joyfully make every meal for this family?  Did I sing "The New Testament Books of the Bible" song  with excitement each time?  What about vacuuming up the dog hair? Getting ready for church on Sunday? What about letting the dogs out?  Brushing my kids teeth?  All the moments that have made up this last month?

Has God used me?  Has he refined me?  Has all the sin that gets trapped in the "normal" places, like an elephant in the room no one talks about, has that sin been exposed? Have I seen God's grace at work in my life?  In my families life?

I can say that "yes" there have been a couple of moments I've smiled, I've laughed, I've made the "right" choice, I've marveled at God's awesome grace.  But, the reality is, there have been many many more than just a couple moments in the last month.  Reality- thousands upon thousands of moments. I need His grace for ALL of these little, mundane moments. 

Transforming Grace.

We read about Emmanuel, God with us, each advent season. Do I realize that He has made me the place where He dwells?  Do I realize that this means He is present and active in all these mundane little moments?

To quote from the article:

"By sovereign grace He places you in daily little moments that are designed to take you beyond your character, wisdom and grace so that you'll seek the help and hope that can only be found in him. In a lifelong process of change, He is undoing you and rebuilding you again- exactly what each one of us needs!"

May I continue to be open to the change that Jesus wants to take place in me, in all the little moments of my daily life.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The End of My Rope

Back a long time ago- well, what seems like a long time ago- when it was just me and Tommy for the most of my days, I decided to babysit my niece (who is the same age as Tommy.)  Two babies and a new mama, there are a whole lot of stories and disclamiers that could come out of that year, but, most basically- I did it.  I watched two babies for the better part of the day. Somewhere in my mind I figured I managed a horribly collicy baby and my sweet niece, and therefore I could conquer the world. I remember Kenney and I still had standards. Dishes were never left in the sink. There were never fingerprints on the windows. We woke up early on Saturday mornings to do laundry and wash our bedroom sheets. Every. Saturday. Morning. (Well, being honest, he woke up and pulled the sheets from under me and I am pretty sure I fought that kicking and screaming- seriously.) We kept lists, and had routines, and planned weekend projects. I distinctly remember being proud. It makes me a bit nauseous now, but I remember thinking it. I was happy, yes, but secretly proud. Money wasn't really tight. I lost my baby weight. We had a clean and managed house. We even had a cat and a puppy. Even little colicy Tommy would take a bottle from Daddy now and then, to give me a break. Even on my worst days it felt like things were in control. Even on those bad days when Tommy didn't stop crying and I was exhausted, I remember the dozens and dozens of people that either gave practical advice or the simple quote... "It will get easier, it will get better."  I really did believe life progressed and got "better."

Then Noah came home and I was five months pregnant. We kinda bumbled along those first five months. Audrey was born, and we realized Noah needed some help. Therapy began- Speech Therapy, Occupation Therapy, Developmental Therapy, Physical Therapy, a Behavioral Psychologist, and even a Nutritional Therapist.

The house was full. Somewhere in-between pre and post Noah we moved, we gutted the "new" house out. We traveled to Russia four times. My brother and sister-in law and their new little baby moved in with us. At some point I began babysitting again. Finances changed, our house didn't sell for what we had hoped. The mortgage was high, and the loan we planned on getting to remodel the house in the beginning was used for adoption. Yet, somehow in the midst of all of this we decided to adopt both Isabell and Caleb.  And somehow, we thought special needs, and handicaps and deafness would all be okay too.  So we signed up for more financial "tightness" more people, more stuff, more needs. 

Not even months after we were back with Isabell and Caleb, we planned to go back for Charlotte.  More special needs, Cerebral Palsy to be exact.  We even adopted two more dogs (one who had just delivered puppies) to add to the mix.

There is a whole lot of missing information and pieces in the above paragraphs, but that information isn't the point.

You see, for me loving my little baby boy, colic and all was easy, being a mama wasn't so bad. My little Tommy spent nine months in my womb hearing my voice, listening to my heartbeat. I spoke words of praise, of joy, of delight over him. He was wanted and the two of us grew together. He was born healthy, nearly perfect.  He rolled over and crawled and walked perfectly. He talked perfectly. He ate perfectly. His body did exactly what healthy bodies do. He was loved from the very moment of conception, by both his mommy and his daddy. Sadly, I took the credit for it. I believed it was me. I believed somewhere in my sinful, broken heart that I was what made this little boy giggle and coo and smile at his mama.  As he grew up and began to read and write, and became a mostly well mannered little boy, as he ate all his veggies and asked for more, again, I took the credit, and I believed it was me. I believed I was a good mama.


I cry more than all the past years in my life almost every day. I am a mess. A real, dirty, needy mess. These children, even more specifically the children brought to us by adoption. They ruin me.

Some of my children can not walk at the age of five years old. When I go to the grocery store, I have to park next to a shopping cart corral that has a cart, because there is no way for me to carry both Charlotte and Isabell and hold Caleb and Audrey's hand, and monitor the safety of Tommy and Noah. So if there is no shopping cart, or spot open near a corral- I have to wait, keep driving around, or just leave. I have to get them out of bed in the morning. Carry them to the table, carry them to the living room, carry them downstairs if we all go downstairs, carry them outside if we all want to go out and play.

Some of my children can not use their hands or arms or bodies to get dressed, to brush their teeth, to feed themselves, to hold a cup and drink, to color, to play with their toys, so I feed them, I dress them, I brush their teeth for them, I hold their cup.

Some of my children can not talk. Cannot. Nothing, no words, nothing.  She's almost six years old and all we do is look into each other's eyes, and some days I have no idea what she needs or is trying to tell me. She can barely manipulate her arms, or hands, let alone fingers and so signing isn't much of an option. She can not call out to me in the night and ask for a drink if she is thirsty. She can not say the words every mother longs to hear.... "I love you."

Some of my children are hearing impaired. He can not hear what I am trying to say, he gets confused, he has a hard time talking, of communicating his needs. So I resort to talking loud, almost yelling. I repeat myself over and over, only to be stared at blankly. 

Some of my children have ADHD, SPD and other brain/behavior disorders. Things are confusing. Learning the alphabet is nearly impossible, even thought at five we sing the song every day over and over. They break down, throw tantrums, screaming lying on the floor, all because I politely asked don't touch. They can't sit still, they can't focus. They can't stop pulling at their sleeves or picking at their cuts and scrapes. They cry because someone touched them one minute and the next could gash their head open and not even notice. Their brains are confused and in a basic sense don't work the way they are supposed too. Trips in public can be a nightmare. We have to have special diets- no gluten, no food coloring, no preservatives, no cured meats, stay away from genetically modified foods, extra Omega 3's, extra liquids, eat every two hours.

Some of my children are hurt. From the moment they were conceived things were not like it was for Tommy. I do not know that the nine months (if it was even that) they spent in the womb, words of love, of affirmation, or joy were spoken over them. I know for a fact, some were thrown away, literally in a garbage bag left to die. I know some were malnourished, some spent the first year of their life on their backs, in a crib staring at a ceiling. I know some of them physically hurt. Their bodies were literally broken. They've undergone numerous surgeries and spent more time in a hospital than Kenney and I, and most all the adults I know. They've had multiple "mommies." They've had people come and go. The bonds that a mother and a child have... they've had and then lost, and then had and then lost, and lost and lost again, while some... have had nothing. 

Everything I thought I had control over- my son's walking and talking, his health and his happiness- I believed a lie.  The lie made me proud, and proud people don't know how much they desperately need Jesus.

I am sure I said it before... said that I needed Jesus. But it was not my life's heartbeat. It wasn't the constant I heard all day. It was just words, empty, meaningless words. I know I liked to believe that Christianity was about being strong for the Lord. I know I believed that things were getting better. Life was getting better. Things were getting easier.  Somehow I believed that Christianity made me stronger, more powerful, bigger, better, more capable.  I am not quite sure exactly where I was headed, but I've heard it said "Jesus' office is at the end of your rope."  I do know I wasn't at the end of my rope. 

But I am now.

This though, is where is gets good.

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.  Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.  As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. --1 Corinthians 1:26-29

I can not say it any better than this quote:
"The hope of the Christian faith is dependent on God’s display of strength, not ours. God is in the business of destroying our idol of self-sufficiency in order to reveal himself as our sole sufficiency. This is God’s way—he kills in order to make alive; he strips us in order to give us new clothes. He lays us flat on our back so that we’re forced to look up. God’s office of grace is located at the end of our rope. The thing we least want to admit is the one thing that can set us free: the fact that we’re weak. The message of the Gospel will only make sense to those who have run out of options and have come to the relieving realization that they’re not strong. Counter intuitively, our weakness is our greatest strength.- Tullian Tchividjian

I have been brought to my knees- better yet the floor, flat on my face, poor and needy, crying tears of desperation. I know every single moment of every single day, I CANNOT do this. I can't. I'm lost. I'm so very helpless. I need so desperately Jesus.

My need for Jesus- it's my greatest strength.  I didn't think really that I needed Jesus, like I need Jesus now. 

It's a beautiful thing.

Being broken and having Jesus.

I didn't see my own dirty hands before, but now I see them every day. I can hold my daughters broken hands in mine, and I can see the dirt and the mess of my own hands, and I can have joy, because Jesus washed me white as snow. 

I didn't see the mess my life had become before, but now I see it every day.  Dishes piled up, shoes on my counters, unopened mail, a lunch still to be packed, and groceries still to put away. But Jesus, he cleans up messes, and he takes the weight of having to perform to have worth and value, he takes that and squashes it, and loves me in spite of the messes at the end of the day.

November is National Adoption Month and Thanksgiving.

No more an appropriate time to be thankful for adoption. God used adoption in my life to break me. Jesus heals broken people.  I am a healed, redeemed, white as snow daughter of a Heavenly Father.  I have never experienced such a joy as this and I am so very thankful.  I am thankful to be at the end of my rope, because this is where I have Jesus, and there is no better place to be.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Seasons Change

I've got a cozy blanket wrapped around my shoulders and my beat up zebra print slippers have made their debut this year.  I left the windows open last night and this morning the house is 65 degrees.  The sounds of crickets, beetles, and locust are only a faint sound in the distance, no longer the loud boasting symphony of the past few months.  The dogs don't quite stay out as long in the morning.  Kenney hits his snooze button a little bit more these days. 

It's a fair assessment to say Summer is on it's way out and Fall is here.

Amazingly thought each new season for me is bittersweet. 

The garden, with it's messy rows and warm-sun kissed tomatoes, the beaches and pools and water toys, the local fair, sweet corn straight from our own garden this year, charcoal grills, staying up late- because it's not dark enough to go to bed, margaritas and mojitos, sweat dripping from the brows of my kids after running down the hill pulling their siblings in a wagon behind them. I could go on and on about summer, I love the summer.

The electric bill, the boys stinky clothes, no running the oven (cause there is no exhaust fan and this house gets HOT) the un-predictability of the garden, it seems there is always too little or way, way, way too much
(too many days this summer were spent with tables filling my kitchen with work to be done) fruit flies, I really could go on and on about summer, I dis-like the summer.

But Fall, seems to be just the same...
Crisp mornings, apple cider, pumpkin patches, a double tall pumpkin-spice latte, sweatshirts and sweaters, watching the kids create leaf piles, earlier bedtimes, roasts and baked casseroles, the glorious display of leaves changing colors, thanksgiving-oh wonderful brined turkey and all the fixin's-oh how I love thanksgiving! Campfires, no cutting the grass, I could go on and on about fall.   I love the fall.

The kids have school (and I am their teacher-praying for myself right now) leaf clean up, schedules and routines are enforced, lazy days seem over, the smell of campfire smoke the next day on the kids clothes, kitchen cooking is way more clean up than grilling, the days get darker, the garden is over, no more fresh watermelon, blueberries, cantaloupe, juicy peaches, fresh picked greens, sweet tomatoes with a dash of salt, oh the fruits of summer that fall doesn't have.... I could go on and on about fall, I do dis-like the fall.

That's Life. (insert awesome Frank Sinatra song here)

What an (insert the sarcasm) epiphany!  But that's the crazy part for me.  I know life changes, it changes every single day.  I know friends come and go, jobs change, houses change, kids grow up and life moves and creaks and groans and some changes are hard and some are easy some I fight and kick and scream and others I welcome. 

I'm standing on the edge of changes.  We have to put one of our dogs down on Monday, I've become a home-schooling mama with six kids, my last sibling is getting married this very weekend, my sister is having her first baby, and I am kicking and screaming and fighting these changes just the same as a monumental three-year old temper tantrum melt down!

Somewhere deep in the recesses of my sinful heart I'm thinking this isn't how I thought it would be.  I would get married, once the kids were back in school, I'd work part time, and things (including all friendships, family and pets) would stay the same... sure I knew life would "change".... but it would change according to what worked best for me.  Bad things that weren't working out, well, of course they could change, but the good stuff- no thanks, no change, they were supposed to stay the same.

I was going to be a "cool" mom (oh just typing that statement makes me roll my eyes and die a little at my pre-mama ignorance) I was going to stay up on fashion, get my nails done not too much, but just enough to make my husband think I was still young and vibrant, I'd run three times a week, early in the morning, and of course with my dogs.  I'd have a cool part time job.  Maybe work at the gym, or volunteer for a great non-profit.  I'd decorate the house (pinterest would be my best friend) Meals would be gourmet and chef quality, I'd bake treats and goodies for the kids.  I'd take the kids fun places and not make them only listen to oldies radio or Christian music.  What a joke- really- WHAT A JOKE!!!!  Stay up on fashion??? If my sisters old college sorority T-shirts count then maybe I'd be good, but until the cover of Vogue shows up with the model in a dress made from an old T-shirt, I am pretty sure that fashion is out.  Nails done???  Trying to plan a time that works to just squeeze that in for my sisters wedding is a nightmare, pretty sure - it ain't happening throughout the year.  Running with the dogs?  If chasing them down the trail or out of the pond to get the rabbit out of their mouth counts, then maybe I'm good...but otherwise....

So I am feeling a bit bitter and angry. I went to a shower on Sunday and saw some of the other ladies.  They had their nails done.  Some had part time jobs, one of them had a baby and even ran a 5K that morning!!  Discontentment sets in really easy at the edge of comparison.

My littlest sister- the one who had all the time in the world- still in college, no real job.  She could come and visit whenever, she could be the "cool" aunt.  I could go do things with her and live my younger free life vicariously though her.  Things were easier when she was single, aunt Mary (for me at least) No really hard topics to talk about, no kids, no job, no marriage.  No additional person to put into the equation of getting together.  I could call her say "hey Mary, what are you doing this weekend, and she could say nothing lets get together" but now she has to say "let me check with my hubby."  Even more complicated now though is this- we are both married- and we are going to "do" our marriages differently, I am sure, and we'll disagree on how to handle things and say things and do things, and we'll each think our way is the right way, before I was married and she wasn't- of course things were different, and it was okay, cause they were!

So I am feeling anxiety and sadness.  I do not know how things are going to work out.  I do not know if we'll ever see eye to eye again.  I do no know if we'll share the same friendship anymore. Fear of the unknown- it's crippling.

My sister is having a baby.  Last summer we got together almost every week, Kenney and I and she and her husband.  We would try the new beer at Three Floyds on a Friday night after the kids were in bed and sit on our deck and chat.  The warm summer air, the frothy beer, the wildlife at night, We'd laugh and talk about funny you-tube videos, we'd talk about real stuff, marriage, money, dying to ourselves, the sermon last Sunday.  We had real and meaningful fellowship, the kind the bible talks about, the kind of friendship, where anything can be put on the table, and where we share it and work through it together.  We laugh and cry and commune together.  She is one of the few people I can leave all my kids with.  She helps me cook and make dinners, she helps with the kids, she can run errands for me, mostly- she has the ability to work around our schedule.  Those late summer nights, and babysitting, and errand running, and help with the kids worked because it was just her and her husband, no crying baby with an early bedtime, no tired mamma up every two hours to nurse a baby.

So I am feeling lonely. Feeling maybe a little bit less loved.  Feeling like things are going to be just a bit harder. (I did this summer's canning season without her- the smell of salsa made her want to puke- I missed her, and her help.) I know babies change things. I know things will be different.  I liked the way it was, and I don't want that to go away.  It worked, the pattern was good, the relationship was fine just the way it was!

From all these thoughts, just putting them on paper, getting them out in the open, exposing them- it makes me breath a little easier this morning.  Mostly though, there are three things I need to learn/remember.

1.  Feelings are normal.  I believe it's been said that the Psalms alone have at least 23 different emotions described in the verses.  We were created to have emotions and feelings.  Pain, Anger, Peace, Grief, Broken-heartedness and Delight- all real emotions, felt by real people. Pretending the emotions don't exist isn't helpful... something alone the lines of honesty is the best policy...

2.  The first thing that I think of, and I think most would think of after reading my words, after seeing my emotions spilled on a page- don't be selfish.  Count your blessings.  Change isn't always bad.  As it seems my life verse- Philippians 2:3 "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself."  Clearly, if I applied this verse my thinking would/should change.  Really, if my kids acted like I was acting, I'd probably lecture them, so I've been lecturing myself. 

Laura, you have so much.  School will be okay.  You have all you need in Jesus.  He will equip you.  You have friends that homeschool.  You know others who homeschool.  You are working yourself up into a panic.  Get yourself a simple schedule and good routine, and things will be okay.  Start small- baby steps- look at the progress you've made!  Tommy is reading wonderfully and the others are picking up on it too!  As far as your littlest sister Laura, you are being selfish.  You love your husband right?  Wouldn't you want your sister to enjoy the same blessings of being married as you?  Life isn't about you.  She'll get married and things may be different but you'll enjoy new experiences together and share in new blessings.  Your other sister Laura, seriously Laura???  You really are that selfish??  You really think her goal in life is to serve you?  You're really upset because she won't be around as much to cater to you??  Pathetic!! You should be ashamed of yourself!  You are going to have a new niece or nephew!!!  Think of how awesome that will be.  You and your sister can share and talk about mommy-hood together.  You'll have a new joy, and a new dynamic to your relationship that you should cherish!

Number one and number two seem to be the places I've been bouncing around for almost six weeks now.  I'm not moving past it.  The lecturing isn't seeming to "do" anything.  My schedule and routine isn't accomplishing anything, the feelings aren't going away, and I still feel crappy!  I just end up feeling ashamed of myself and my feelings and thoughts, and I make a goal for myself, for the next day, to wake up, do my devotions, try harder, think better thoughts, write more things down in my thankful journal.... but I just seem to be getting more upset. 

3.  Number one and number two are both true.  My lecture to myself is true.  Sometimes I need that.  Sometimes I need the "law."  I need to be brought to my knees, I need to be reminded of my sin, my sinful thoughts, my selfish nature, but, the law was never intended to change me.  That's the job of the gospel.

Only the Spirit of God, Christ himself can change me, my thoughts, my sinful heart.  So I spend some time focusing on some of Christ's attributes. 

His unfailing love.  Psalm 52:8 "I trust in God's unfailing love forever and ever." 
He's always there. Romans 8:39 "Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." 
He's the same, and doesn't change. Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday; today; and tomorrow." 

These are all verses I've heard a million times, but have I meditated on them?  Thought about what they really means? 
Jesus isn't going to one day find someone HE loves more than me. 
He isn't going to spend less time with me. 
He isn't going to be unavailable because I'm not a priority in HIS life anymore. 
He's not going to be busy. 
He's not going to be too tired. 
He isn't going to be too far away to visit. 
He doesn't have to go home early even thought I want Him to stay because He has other things to do.  Anytime I need something from him, boom- HE'S there- help with school, help with the kids, help with my messy house, help running errands- HE'S there for every single thing I need. 
If I call Him, I won't get a busy signal or his voice mail. 
He'll return my emails immediately. 
If I need a shoulder to cry on, He will always be there. 

And that's what I needed.  It's a good thing that life changes, because it makes Christ's un-changing love that much more awesome.  Sweet is sweeter when you've tasted sour first.  It's okay that things in this world change.  Christ hold's me in the palm of His hand and I can't be plucked from it.  What a glorious feeling.  I was looking for love in the wrong places.  Just like the joy and pain in the changing of the seasons -my life and my relationships will change, maybe for the better, maybe some not.... but it's okay because the friendship I need, the time, the stability, the always available, always on time, never tired friend has me as His own daughter and that will never ever ever change.  It's HIS love, HIS grace that changes me.  It gives me joy and peace.  No goals or lectures, no amount of trying harder is going to give me what I need. 

I need daily to be dazzled, enamored, enthralled, and reminded of Christ's unfailing love.  That's what I need.   Because I need a little soul in my life- Arethra perfectly reminded me today of that:

        What a Friend we have in Jesus,
        all our sins and griefs to bear!
        What a privilege to carry
        everything to God in prayer!
        O what peace we often forfeit,
        O what needless pain we bear,

        All because we do not carry
        everything to God in prayer.

       Have we trials and temptations?
       Is there trouble anywhere?
      We should never be discouraged;
      take it to the Lord in prayer.
      Can we find a friend so faithful
      who will all our sorrows share?

So I can watch my sister walk down the aisle on Saturday and smile and be happy, because I have everything I need in Christ already.
So I can wake up on Monday morning and do school with the kids and smile and be okay, because I have everything I need in Christ already.
So I can watch the birth of my sisters first baby, and I can watch the dynamic of her family and our relationship change, and be at peace, because I have everything I need in Christ already.
Oh What a friend I have in Jesus!