if His eye is on the sparrow

I’m going to be very transparent right now, so please, be patient with me.  During a training this week, I was asked to write down my adaption to stress.  I took that to mean where do I “go” when feeling under stress.  I sat there for a minute, picked up my pen, and jotted down these three words:

Cynicism, Anger, Anxiety

To my own shock, I stared at those words for a while, but quickly picked up my attention to the speaker.  From time to time, these three words kept coming back to me, but I continued to do my best to stay engaged in the training.

Later on that night, my oldest son was outside playing when my husband called him in to get ready for bed.  “Never”, my son said to my husband while in front of the other dads in the neighborhood.  My son continued to disobey and play while my husband calmly (which is true to his nature) coaxed him indoors to get ready for bed.

After my husband talked to him about being disobedient, I decided it was my turn.  I scolded my son for disobeying his father.  To be honest, I lectured him.  I spoke about how being disobedient to one’s father is a sign of disrespect, and we are to not disrespect our fathers.  My son apologized and stated he would try harder and not do it again.  We tucked him in to bed, kissed him goodnight, and went on with the evening.

As I lay in bed thinking about my day and the issue we had with our son, I began to think about those three words that came to mind earlier in the day.

 Cynicism, Anger, Anxiety

I prayed for cleansing of these things.  I asked the Lord to clean my heart of the resentment I have felt towards others in the past few months.  I asked Him to clear my spirit of the anger I sometimes pour out about others, and I prayed fervently for the purging of my anxiety about my future, my children, my spouse, our finances, and our careers.  And then, I drifted off to sleep.

The next morning, I woke up with my prayers still on my mind.  However, my thoughts turned to this:

In the same breath that I told my son how disrespectful he was to his father by being disobedient, I too have been disrespectful to my Heavenly Father by being cynical, angry, and full of anxiety.  In that moment, I was humbled.

Furthermore, I meditated on the fact that anger leads to cynicism, and anxiety comes from both.  I felt the Lord convicting me that if I continue holding on to these three things as a defense mechanism or adaption to stress, then I am convincing myself that the power of these emotions, and the decisions of others are more powerful than my faith in God.

As I progressed with the morning, I began to think about a song that stirred my heart many years ago.

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come, Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,

When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies, I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

After these words left my lips, I felt…I felt cleansed.  I felt the Lord moving in my spirit…

….and just like that, I let it all go.  

I let go of the cynicism I have carried for so many months now.  I exhaled the anger about decisions that I have struggled with, and I released the anxiety about my family’s and my own future.  There are hardly any words to describe the feeling of knowing that a prayer has been answered.  The only way to describe it is that I have felt “lighter” since then, and I have sensed an incredible envelope of love guarding my heart.

I was lead to this Scripture:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

-Matthew 6:25-34

I’ve written this post to encourage you – my fellow believers and non-believers.  I’ve shared this personal experience in hopes that you too may rest for a while.

If His eye is on the sparrow – a small, seemingly insignificant bird, then you can be assured that His eye is on the incredible, lovable, forgivable, unique, and very significant you.

His Timing

photo (50)

“Lord, I don’t understand Your timing, but I trust Your will.”  Right now, these words are ones that have played over and over again in my mind.  With a costly home repair needed, a serious illness of a family member, sickly coughing children, and a young pet that has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, I’ve been a little overwhelmed with the timing of it all.  Not to mention, trying to work a job that involves making important decisions about other people’s families.

While running on the treadmill and “working out” all the things going on right now, I became convicted to the fact that I don’t need to understand His timing.  I don’t even need to understand His will in all of  this.  I just need to trust.  I need to trust that His timing is far greater than mine anyway, and His will in my life and the lives of those around me has greater depth than what I could ever come up with.  I am convinced that my timing would just mess everything up, or perhaps, I would never get anything done or make the immediate decisions that need to be made, if not feeling prompted by the Lord’s timing in all of it.

The photo seen in this post is the front side of a card that my church mailed to me over the weekend.  There’s always seems to be little reminders that arrive at just the right time to confirm His presence when traveling through difficult seasons in one’s life.  The timing of receiving this card is certainly something I don’t need to question.  After all, His timing is perfect.

Some people might say,”Why would God allow all of this to happen (especially at once)?” Sometimes I find myself asking the same thing.  I’m may not know why, but I do know that I am not capable of fully understanding the capacity of our Heavenly Father to work out all of the details.  I also feel Him resonating through out these experiences in life.

During this rather hectic and difficult time, I feel Him stronger than ever.  I hear Him more and more each day.  I yearn even greater to complete the tasks He set me on Earth to do.  I am not walking with my own strength, I’m running with His.

If you are going through some turmoil in your life with illness, family issues, finances, or all of the above at once, I encourage you to prayerfully silence the doubts and naysayers around you, and focus intently to the one true voice that provides peace and strength to make it through.

It Would Be Easy

It would be easy for us to say no to a situation involving a family member that, if all goes through, will distinctly rock our fairly routine family life.  It would be easy for us to say that we are too busy, too poor, too stressed, too hectic, too old, and far too content in our own circumstances to do anything to help.  It would be even easier to say “it’s not our problem”, and walk away living our own life with our own little family.  It would be easiest for us to sit on the sidelines with our own opinions; yet, not be willing to step out in action, in love, and in faith to help.

It would be easy for us to ignore the need, which in turn would ignore the living, breathing lives of those involved.  When we look at the situation at hand though, we know the decision that needs to be made is not the easy one.  Often, the right thing to do is the hardest.  We also know that if the tables were turned, and we were in need of help, we would desperately want the love of family to stand with us.  We also know we have the ability, the means, the love, and the solid rock that is our Lord to carry us through.

It would have been easy for Jesus to say no.  It would have been easier for Him to say He was too busy, too poor, too stressed, too hectic, too old, and far too content in His own circumstances to do anything.  He did not say, “Father, they are not my problem.”  Oh, it would have been especially easy for the Son of God to circumvent the calling on His life in order to avoid hardship.  Because He chose the hard path that led to a bloody and brutal death on a cross, we have been given new life, abundant hope, and eternal grace.

Our life may be changing in the next month or two.  We may have less time, less space, and less money.  We may have to rely on each other for even greater support.  We may have to be even more fervent in prayer, and patient in the progression of things.  We may have to help our little ones understand the opportunity to imprint love onto someone else.  We may lean on the circumstances to help them understand their own stories.

We may face objection, questions, and fear.  We may ask at times why the Lord led us down this path.  We may even face heart-ache.  I can’t help but think, though, that if we didn’t face these things, then our answer would have been far too easy.

New Year’s Road

Taken with my iphone as I rode my bike in a 150 mile ride.

This past year was one full of discovery for me.  Through blogging, I have been reminded that everyone truly has a story to tell.  We are all story-tellers in our own ways.  Art, in its purest form, also speaks volumes of insight and revelations about the world we are living in.  Some speak through poetic ramblings and short-stories.  For others, the lens of a camera captures images that their eyes first took notice of.  Each photograph tells a story.  Writing really has become my therapeutic release, my story-teller, my window to the world, my humbling remembrance of how blessed I am, and an extension of the yearning to live out my faith in Christ.

I continue to learn that  parenting is an art form.  Like most artists, parents don’t just figure it out with one stroke of a brush.  Mistakes are made, and often, we are our own worst critics,  Parenting is also something that love and passion is poured into.  I have yet to meet an artist who is not passionate about his or her masterpieces.  Children are the masterpiece that we are always working on, and for that, I am grateful for “do-overs”, grace, and the simplistic forgiveness of children.

Throughout this year,I have been made keenly aware of the tightrope we all walk when it comes to protecting children in our own backyards, and around the world.  Not to sound cliché, but they really are our greatest resource for the future.  Through this blog, I have been able to express my deepest desires for my children, and for others as well.  I have also been able to connect to the child I once was.

I began this road of writing because I felt I had a story to tell.  I felt I needed to speak of infertility.  I knew there were others out there suffering from the sadness that comes when the desire for children is not fulfilled.  I also felt that my story of barrenness includes the incredible journey that is adoptive parenting.  I may stray from time to time from the topic of infertility with the posts I write, but it is never too far from my thoughts and my heart.  I am deeply compassionate about others who continue to search for answers, and who live daily with the unfulfilled longing for children.  I hope my words will encourage each of them to believe in joyful beginnings and happy endings.

I am not sure what the Lord has in store for the road I will walk in 2013.  Will I be inspired to venture into other areas of writing?  Will there be heartbreak and heart-joy in this next year?  Will some doors open while others shut?  There is no way to tell what is destined to happen, but my faith in the Script-Writer of our lives is greater than the unknowns of the future.

May this New Year’s Road lead you all to delightful discoveries, faith-building experiences, and life-affirming moments that bless your sojourn in the world.

I’ll Play My Drum for You

photo (42)One of my favorite Christmas songs is “The Little Drummer Boy”.  There is something quite simplistic, yet deeply thoughtful (in my opinion) about this tune.  The lyrics tell the story of a boy whose only gift for the newborn King is the rhythmic tapping of his drum.

I remember watching the animated movie when I was younger.  The description of the movie is, “An orphan drummer boy who hated humanity finds his life changed forever when he meets three wise men on route to Bethlehem.” (www.imdb.com)  I would argue that his life changed more when he met the newborn King.  Much like those of us who claim Christ as our Savior, the people along the way certainly influenced our journey, but ultimately, meeting the Lord and reveling in His glory is what changed our lives.

The thought that our Savior was born in a lowly manger surrounded by very few people is quite humbling.  His worth values more than any riches.  He could have been born in the most glorious of places, and could have commanded the Earth to move.  And yet, the song of “The Little Drummer Boy” reminds me of the pureness of children and how their gifts, though small and often hand-made, carry far greater value than the store-bought gifts we often receive.  The words also speak of meeting the Lord where we are at; poor, with not much to offer.

I believe He doesn’t expect us to put out our finest wares for Him.  I believe He wants our gifts to be used and given in humility, kindness, and with sincere generosity.  I believe we are to use what we have been given to the best of our ability, and with the heart of a child.  These gifts of our time, service to others, loving acceptance, and consolation of each other are of value that will never fade.

What “drum” will you play to honor Him?  What will the rhythm of your life sound like?  The sounds may fade, and the act may be just one moment in time, but, the impact on others can be eternal.

Yes, Lord, I’ll play my drum for You.

Raising Royal Kids

My son's version of a kid wearing a crown!
My son’s version of a kid wearing a crown!

Walking by the magazine aisle in the grocery story, I noticed a headline that claimed “Raising a Royal Baby”.  The article was apparently about the expectant royal couple William and Kate.  I thought how interesting, exciting, yet difficult it would be to raise a “royal” child.

All the eyes of the world would be on you.  If your children struggled with behavioral problems or other issues, what kind of attention would that draw?  The initial thought of being someone of royalty sounds quite intriguing, but, to be under the constant scrutiny would be tough.  Parenting is a hard enough job without having the eyes of the world watching your every move.

Tonight would not have been a good “parenting through the lens of the camera” moment for me.  Busy streets, long lines, and two very hyper, and slightly defiant, children pushing every boundary possible in the store, was enough to diminish the “merry-ness” of the last-minute Christmas shopping trip.  Thoughts of “I’m gonna wring their little necks!” ran through my mind all while I was smiling through my pseudo-calm words of “If you continue this behavior, we will have to leave the store.”

Reflecting back on the magazine cover I saw, it hit me that we are all raising royal children.  As a believer in Christ the King, I know my children are His.  This means that I am raising royal children!  What a wonderful, and challenging thought!

The next time I get a little….um….frustrated with my little ones while out and about, I need to remind myself that I am raising children of the King.  Now that should humble and refine me a bit!  That should remind me of the importance of striving to always grow as a parent, to learn more about what works and doesn’t work, and to remember that I too am a child of the King.

The Gift of This Day

photo (36)Following a day that has shaken most of us, my husband and I decided to get the kids out of the house and visit the local nature center. We are trying to keep the news channels off our television, and to shield the little ears in our home from hearing about the tragedy that took place in Connecticut.  To be honest, we both can barely keep it together when thinking about the precious six and seven-year-old boys and girls whose lives were taken.  All of the children who died were born in 2005 and 2006.

Our son was born in 2006.  He thoroughly enjoys Kindergarten, and is learning so much.  He doesn’t know a stranger and says “hi” to every student and teacher he passes by.  Our walk in to the school building every day has become a ritual of sorts.  I thought about stopping this and letting him off at the door to save time, but after yesterday, I will continue to walk him into the classroom, say hello to his teachers and friends, hug him, tell him that I love him and to have a “blue” day (color card incentive for good choices), and walk back out greeting people along the way.

My husband and I cannot really talk about the school shooting without getting tearful.  The thought of losing a child; especially in such a violent way, is so unbearable.  The lesson that I was reminded of yesterday is not to take any moment for granted and to love our children for the incredible gifts that they are.

photo (40)As the day turned into evening, we baked up a batch of gingerbread cookies for the kids to decorate.  The smell of sugary comfort filled our home while our children gleefully awaited for the cookies to be done.  During this time, I was reminded again of the stark difference between what my day involved and what this day must have been like for the grieving parents, siblings, friends, and grandparents who all lost loved ones, and the sense of security they once had.

I know as the days go on, our family will go about our business of staying busy, gearing up for Christmas, and creating new memories.  I also know that we will get to a place where we can talk about the school shooting without getting tearful.  We will be able to discuss rationally (at least in our home) the pro’s and con’s of gun laws in our country.  I know we will return to a sense of normal.  For today though, I’m choosing to cherish the laughter I hear from the living room, the off-key singing of a boy in a bathtub, and the gift of this day with my children.

Every good and perfect gift is from above… – James 1:17

Letter of Love

photo (33)I’ve known my husband since we were in our early to mid twenties.  We’ve been a couple for about 19 of the 21 years we’ve known each other.  He’s traversed the valley of infertility with me, jumped right in to foster parenting classes, stayed up late at night to feed the babies, and drove our car with extra care while on our way to our adoption hearings.  We’ve basically grown up together in many ways, and parenting continues to grow us.

It was about 4 years ago when we went through a difficult time with employment.  My husband lost a job just a few weeks before our adoption hearing.  I was quite shocked that a company would let someone go right before an adoption, but never-the-less, our adoption happened.  Several months passed by with no potential employment doors opening for my husband.

As Christmas came around, I could tell that he was worried about what to get me.  It didn’t really matter to me anyway as I knew finances were tight, and I had been given the most amazing gift of my sweet boy through adoption.  I was so thankful to be a mother, and to be able to wake up each morning with the knowledge that my life had been drastically and blessedly changed by motherhood.

We really don’t make a big deal out of presents for each other.  Instead, we enjoy giving gifts to others, and that year, we were so excited to see our son’s expression when he woke up.  As the morning progressed, we headed into the hearth room where our stockings are hung by the chimney.

As I reached my hand into my stocking, I felt a piece of paper.  I pulled out a letter (the one pictured above), and had no idea what in the world it was.  As I unfolded it and started reading, I realized it was a love letter.  It was not one of those “I’ve got a crush on you” kind of notes one may get in high school.  No, this was a love letter from a man to a woman.  It was a letter from his heart to mine. It was a letter of one’s humble admission of loving someone else more than that person would ever know.

There I was sitting half-disheveled in my pajama’s with tears rolling down my cheeks clutching a letter.  All of this occurred while my curly-haired 2-year-old squealed with the delights of Christmas morning.  My husband sat there a little embarrassed and a little stoic.  This letter was the best Christmas present I ever received.  From time to time, I pull the letter out and read it as a reminder of how special marriage is, and how lucky I am to have married someone who is one of the most self-less persons that I know.

This morning while thinking about the gift of that letter on Christmas morning, I thought of the love letter that the Lord has written for us.  Scripture really is our love letter from Him.  It is the grounding wisdom of our history, the guide for our every day walk, and the revelation of our future.  It is His promise skillfully described.

The Word brings life, love, and meaning.  The Word transforms us, shapes us, comforts us, and humbles us.  The Word creates for us the ability to stand firm in our faithful knowledge of the Lord, and it confirms to us how incredibly passionate our Heavenly Father loves each of us.

The Word is Love.

The next  time you need to be reminded of how loved you are, open your Bible and read the Lord’s letter of love written for all of us.

Related Article: Letter to my Lord

Waiting on God

photo (32)I prayed today for concrete answers to multiple situations going on in my life of which I’m trying to keep my anxiety level to a minimal.  I asked told the Lord to let today be the day that I got ALL of the answers I needed to hear.  Quite selfish, I know, but I’ve been a little overwhelmed lately with all of the “stuff” going on in life.

The stuff I’m referring to consists of (1) wanting an answer for something I’ve been working on for years, and feeling so close to getting, and, (2) needing to hear with clarity what the Lord intends to do with a situation involving a family member.  In the middle of these things lies my normally busy life consisting of children, work, and a home to tend to.  If the truth were told, I would eliminate the work part and focus on the home and family; thus, leading me back to wanting answers!

Even as I write this, I’m daydreaming a little about it all.  As the day grew into evening, I did not receive that phone call or that email with an answer.  I did not receive a letter or phone call telling me what the next steps will be regarding a family member.  The Lord did not break through the clouds declaring the answers I am yearning to hear.  However, as the day went on, I started to realize that He has waited on me multiple times throughout my life, and will continue to as long as I am breathing Earthly air.

He’s waited on me to open the Word instead of opening my Facebook page. He’s waited on me to have a heart pursuing Him with the same passion that I have pursued others and things of this world.  He’s waited on me to write that check in full faith the He will use it for good; instead of writing a check for something temporary that I desired.

He’s waited on me to relinquish my fear of the unknown, and let Him lead my life. He’s waited on me to understand infertility as a part of my life story, so that He could unfold the script.  He’s waited on me to give the same amount of grace for the indiscretions of others that He’s given me.  He still waits on me to let His peace be the answer I need until He moves the mountain that seems insurmountable, or opens the door to the next step in my life.

Today I found myself thinking, “I’m just waiting on God for answers.”  In essence, though, the Lord answered my prayer today.  He answered it with the vision of those times where I’m sure He stood quietly waiting.  He answered it with the sobering remembrance of those moments in my life where I refused to listen.  He answered it with the knowledge that I know is true – He is the keeper of my past, the shepherd of my present, and the lantern for my future.

He answered it with, “Be still and know that I am God.”

When Good Things Happen to Bad People

Why does it seem that bad things always happen to good people?  I have often wondered this; even though, I believe the Lord holds all of us His hands, and that suffering is part of the walk here on Earth.

I have been thinking lately of “good” people versus “bad” people.  I can say that I probably have fit, or still fit, in both of these categories at various times in my life. As a believer in Christ, I know that I am not good enough for His redemption.  It is by grace and supreme forgiveness that I am saved.

Being in the field of social work, I hear the awful things that people do to children and see first hand what the years of poor choices have often lead to, but, I also get the “back story” to these people’s lives.  I learn that many of them were abused as children, grew up in extreme poverty, and had absent fathers & mothers.  Many have addictions that plague them starting in their early adolescence and on through adulthood.

I had a client tell me one time, “You’ve treated me better than my own family ever treated me.”  She was 20-years-old, addicted to meth, homeless, uneducated, and just lost her baby to the foster care system.  I was certainly not her friend.  I was the case manager for her and her infant son, and ended up being the one who recommended termination of her parental rights.  However, I was kind to her.  I tried to put myself in her shoes.  It is tragically sad that I treated her better than her family.

I have often thought, “By the grace of God go I”.  Basically, I didn’t grow up in these type of situations and give praise for the Lord’s grace in my life that I’m not living this way now.  There is great heartbreak in our own backyards; yet, so many of us are shielded from the turmoil.

I have had my share of bad things that have happened, but I have also had an incredible amount of good things and good people in my life.  I am left with the thought/question of, “What if good things happened to bad people?”  I mean, what if the world showed more mercy and kindness to those deemed “bad” by society?  What if you and I (you know…the “good” guys) decided to wake up each day with the notion that we are going to make a positive difference in the life of someone who otherwise might be overlooked or looked down upon?

What if goodness and kindness became a habit?

The best thing ever happened to all of us.  Our Lord and Savior chose us.  His love and mercy are incredibly good things that continue to bless us every day.

photo (23)I believe in the power of a redeeming God who loves everyone – “good” or “bad”.  I also believe in His calling for us to love one another.  Maybe it is time for us to show the goodness of His love to others.  I cannot help but hope and believe that if more good things happened to bad people, our world would be a kinder, softer, and more loving place.

What do you think?