Monday, October 24, 2011

Red-headed Blessings

We celebrated yesterday.  Florida baby #5 took the spotlight and had 24 hours of being the one with unlimited power to call trump.  It's so sweet to have a reason to stop the quest for fairness and unabashedly favor one above all others.  All of them deserve the chance to be the one and only for a bit.  I'm glad birthdays make it happen.

Elena's 8th birthday landed on a Sunday so it began with the "get ready for church" routine.  I woke her up a little more slowly with a few extra kisses and giggles.  Laney and I lingered in front of her closet debating over Sunday morning birthday attire.  She's got a little Fancy Nancy in her that peeks out between her tomboy efforts every now and then.  Fancy Nancy took over yesterday because of the hairstyle

One of Laney's besties had a birthday party on the hair salon.  We raced to the hair salon after a morning of soccer games.  Elena shed the muddy cleats and forgot the jammed finger she suffered during her big save in the goal as she walked into a cloud of glitter and hairspray.  The pretties worked their magic and left her feeling all soft and giggly. 

When Elena woke up the next day, on her birthday, the hairstyle was 12 hours old and needed a trip to hair  Momma's bathroom.  Lucky for me, I had thought ahead before bed the night before and done a little reconnaissance on the how-to's of her chosen hairstyl.  I knew it would be up to me to rebuild it for the birthday girl.  So Sunday morning, after carefully choosing an outfit, we set up in my room with supplies of hairspray, curling iron, bobby pins and sparkly butterfly clips carefully chosen in her favorite school colors.

Fixing up that head full of red hair brought me right back to the wee hours of the morning she was born, when I first saw her little red head.  Her birth was so fun, one of the best dates Scott & I ever had.

Contractions kinda snuck up on me and finally convinced me that they were real and regular by dinnertime.  We took our time, called Aunt Kathy to come hang out with the kids and treated them to a drive thru dinner in a bag from Wendy's.  I remember settling my 4 kids around the dining room table, doleing out ketchup packets and making sure the amount of fries in each container was even....just doing the Mom thing.  It was getting close to bedtime for my babies when Kathy got serious about shooing us out the door.  She said, "Go on!!  You get to go have a baby!!  Go meet this little person!!"  That's when the giddiness started, when I realized that a momentous world-altering event was breaking through our everyday evening routines!

We did linger long enough for Scott to start his wager ledger with the kids.  Florida baby #5 was the first baby to keep it's sex a secret through all the pre-natal ultrasounds.  Only Elena and her Heavenly Father knew what color knit cap would be used in a few hours.  Daddy couldn't resist the urge to make it a game.  Everyone recorded their predictions for gender, weight and time of birth.  We knew we were leaving for the hospital with plenty of time....expected the labor to take a few hours to really gear up and were actually looking forward to those golden moments of anticipation, just the two of us, in the delivery room.

We arrived at the hospital in a momentous cloud of anticipation...and the hospital staff joined us.  Every nurse and tech seemed to do their work in a celebratory mood. We settled in, Scott took wagers on the baby's stats from everyone who entered the room, and soon I started breathing deeper and focusing more.  The epidural did it's thing like a champ and turned the room back into a party.  While we waited for one last hour, we giggled, dreamed and talked to our new baby via video camera.  I love thinking about those sweet moments, all alone the two of us, anticipating one of the best things we've ever done...

Before long, it was time.  That moment is one like no other.  The whole world seems to stop and focus in on a small spot in time and space while the fabric of the world rips open as God delivers an un-deserved, hand-knit, beautiful gift into my arms.  This sparkly diamond moment is why TLC can run birthing stories all day long and women around the world can't stop the tears or tear themselves away from the TV.  Even on TV with people you don't know, it's magical.

Those few golden moments went by in slow motion, the good kind that lets you really soak it in.  And then, my sweet Doctor smiled and announced, "It's a girl!" with all the pomp and circumstance such an announcement deserved.

She was so beautiful....just the right amount of Florida chub, sweet little serious eyes and a halo of red hair.  We held her.  We touched her.  Daddy gave her her first bath and crooned to her in his sing-song Daddy voice.  We fell in love quickly and permanently with Elena Rose Florida.

A few hours later, when the room was quiet and dark, we called the grandparents who were waiting, wide-awake by the phone.  "The baby's here!" we told them that, but nothing else.  Her arrival was worthy of waking up 4 brothers and sisters who had no other reason to be up at 2 am and dressing them for a field trip.

They filed into the room one by one with awe on their faces.  The grandmas squealed when they saw the pink cap and squealed again when the red halo was revealed.  The sisters cutely and cautiously wanted to inspect fingers and toes, in awe of tiny and real. 

The brothers'disappointment at being outnumbered by girls melted with a warm baby sister filling up their arms.

The Florida family was never the same.  We are so glad and that's why we celebrated yesterday. 

Scott & I took Elena on a special date yesterday afternoon to visit one of her best friends in the world.  She hasn't seen him in about a year.  His name used to be Muscle, but now it's Seamus.  He's an Airedale puppy who was adopted by a sweet, sweet lady who not only loves him but also loves the little girl who took care of  him during his first 8 weeks of life.  He was Laney's special charge out of our first litter of puppies.  He wore the blue ribbon, she named him Muscle and she loved him fiercely. 

The day he went home with his new Momma, Laney cried, but they were happy tears.  She said that the happiness of watching him find a good home was bigger than the sadness of loosing him.  He's stayed large in her heart though, and in typical Laney style, he's been showered with prayers and special letters and artwork through the mail.  We figured a birthday was a perfect reason for a reunion.

Our birthday luncheon was a delicious celebration of the uniqueness Laney brings to our lives.  We enjoyed all of her favorite foods....chicken nuggets, waffle fries, fresh pineapple, Fritos' corn chips, a smorgasbord of pop choices and popsicles and mini sugar donuts for dessert.  As we dunked our nuggets, we showered Elena with one word descriptions of who she is.....artsy, fun, crazy (in a good way), creative, athletic, generous, unique....  That pretty much sums it up.  Our world without Elena would be a little flat and would lack a lot of things that give it color.

Happy Birthday sweet Elena Rose!  I'm so glad you were born and that you are mine!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Juicy Tidbits

Some news is just too juicy to keep to yourself.  Like a grade-school girl with a secret, almost before the news has time to settle in your own mind, you're imagining how fun it will be to tell someone else.  Know that feeling??  I've got it right now....

God's Word was juicy today.  My devotions need to go public.  It was so good I had a hard time forcing myself to finish and hear everything God wanted to say to me before I jumped up to tell you!  I need to share God's amazing-ness before the awe wears off! 

I hope you're familiar with the concept of a mental train because I'm gonna take you for a ride on mine!  I apologize in advance for the jerks and jolts along the way and warn you that when you're on my train, in my brain you need to be ready for unanticipated jumps of the tracks and flights of fancy, so buckle up!

If you've been watching my blog for long, or spending time with me in person during the last year, you've probably heard me talking about the way I'm using my journal with my Bible during my devotions.  I  journal a snapshot of the worries or joys in my heart on my way to the section of John I'm reading in my Bible.  (Yes, I'm STILL in John a year later!  The book is just so rich I'm crawling like a turtle through it!)  Journaling first helps my heart see, in bold black and white, that the compassions of the Lord are new every morning!  His Word is alive and powerful and He sets a fresh table full of His compassions every morning, just for me!  His Word has the ability to meet my specific needs even when I'm just methodically studying through a book and not hunting for my own answers.  God did it again today, let me show you!!

Here's this morning's journal entry:  "My head's racing with what I want to do, I've got a Martha sized list - instead I want to follow Mary's lead about who I want to be instead of what I want to do today.  I want to be the girl who sits at Jesus feet and listens to His Spirit speak.  I want to love my family by serving them.  So speak to me Jesus, move me and let my day and weekend be what you want it to be..."  I continued by listing things for each of my children that I would like God to do something about, ways I think they needed encouragement.

Then, I headed to my Bible.  On my way to John 10, I remembered that Scott had emailed me a link to a verse about a week ago that I had never checked out.  Apparently God wanted me to see it then, because not only did He remind me of it but He put the reference right there in my head!  So I detoured to Lamentations 2:19.  Here's what I found....

Arise, cry out in the night,
   as the watches of the night begin;
pour out your heart like water
   in the presence of the Lord.
Lift up your hands to him
   for the lives of your children,
who faint from hunger
   at every street corner.

Do you see that?  Do you see God answering the thoughts of my heart with His Word??  Couple thoughts came immediately to my mind. 

1.  There had been a glaring omission in my journal list about my children - I only mentioned 6.  This paper pregnancy hasn't done a strong enough job of opening a couple new folders marked "Ethiopian Baby A" and "Ethiopian Baby B" in my brain yet.  I went back to my journal and added this:  "God, also fill the bellies of my little people in Ethiopia today.  Meet their needs for food & water and for soft hands and tender words.  Use someone to love them today."

2.  I realized I had worried aloud to God about my children in my journal, but I hadn't prayed, really.  And I certainly hadn't lifted up my hands to Him for the lives of my children.  I did that, and let me tell you, lifting my hands along with my heart for the lives of my children......!!  I can't even write about it without getting choked up.  Doing this, was doing something for my children that no one else can do.  Momma-prayer is so much better than Momma-worry.

3.  I am a skeptic sometimes and wonder if I'm twisting things to make them seem to be what they're really not.  Was I doing this by going to find my own Bible passage instead of sticking to the place in John I'm at?  So I didn't stop with the detour, even though it had been rich!  I ended the detour and got back to John 10.

John 10 has been teaching me about how Jesus tenderly cares for me as a good shepherd does for His sheep.  Verse 10 compares His care to the efforts of a thief.  As the thief is coming to steal, kill and destroy my life, my good shepherd is chasing me to protect my life....and not just life, but life to the full.  Fullness and satisfaction have been a recurring theme of growth in my life.  Jesus is my biggest satisfaction, the reason my life is full....but I'm frustratingly slow at living like it at times.  So, the chain reference in the side of my handy-dandy Thompson Chain Reference Bible that read "Satisfaction" caught my attention.

These chains are another reason my study of John has only taken me through only 10 chapters in the course of a year.  I want to understand and have these words and stories I'm reading penetrate my heart.  I've read John a whole lotta times since I first memorized John 3:16 as a child.  It's hard to hear the familiar words as fresh words from God.  Instead they sing through my mind like a beloved fairy tale if I don't wrestle with them and stare at them long and hard.  So, I follow a lot of the chains listed in the side of the passages in John. I take a topic from the verse that snags my soul and let the chain link me to other spots in the Word that speak of the same thing.  It's like picking up a pretty shell, brushing the sand off and holding it up to the sun while you turn it this way and that.

The pages rustled as I turned from page to page and I found my heart being bolstered with thoughts finding satisfaction by seeing the Lord's face as I awake.  I longed for God's river of delights and the abundance His house has to offer.  I was in awe of the benefits of salvation and the way God's work in my life drives out fear and lets me drink great gulps of joy from that well.  When I really sit still and look Him full in the face, God Himself brings me so much more satisfaction and full life than anything else I've ever found.  I'm so in awe of Him, and that He chooses me.

And then, here's where it gets good friends, I came to Isaiah 44:3-5.  Now, before I let you read it, I want you to get the whole experience, so click on the link below and you'll be hearing part of my morning's playlist, the exact song that "happened" to be playing as I read...pajama pants and a lukewarm cup of tea are optional!

3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
   and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
   and my blessing on your descendants.
4 They will spring up like grass in a meadow,
   like poplar trees by flowing streams.
5 Some will say, ‘I belong to the LORD’;
   others will call themselves by the name of Jacob;
still others will write on their hand, ‘The LORD’s,’
   and will take the name Israel.

Please just sit still and let your heart soak this up.  God Himself will reach down with a jug full of the living water of Himself and pour it on your thirsty parts, He will soften up your dry ground with the lush-ness of streams.  Do you feel the refreshment?  And if you don't break out in sobs at this next part, you're not a Momma!  God will pour out, not sprinkle or offer, but pour out His Spirit and blessing on my offspring!  My little babies, that I want so much for, will spring up like beautiful grass that grows unattended in a meadow.  They will be as strong as poplar trees growing in a place of nourishment and right-ness.  I will get to hear some of my beloved babies declare out loud that they are the Lord's.  Others of my sweet children will make a name for themselves that make it obvious that God has chosen them for greatness.  And still others will live a life in which God prevails.

Oh, and did you hear that?  Did you hear the lyrics of the song playing?  "....for here my soul is satisfied, within your presence...."  Coincidence?  I think not!

God brought satisfaction to my soul this morning, and to the journaled needs of my heart through His Word.  He reminded me that He is the source.  My satisfaction is utterly, totally, irrevocably dependant on my connection with Him.  And He did it through His living, active, powerful Word that is sharper than any two-edged sword.
In His sweetness, He also brings my life fullness and satisfaction through the way He works in my children's lives.  Oh, I know He doesn't promise lives free from pain, consequences and detours - for love to be love there has to be a choice.  I know that from the garden of Eden.  But He promises to be at work, to be doing things in my kids' hearts, to be acting on their behalf to draw their hearts, even the little ones, to Himself. He does it in spite of me and for my benefit. That's enough to bring me satisfaction and peace. 

How can He do this for me day after day and yet there are still days that I'm too busy with my Martha list to have a Mary moment?  God's Word, God's heart....aren't they amazing??!!  Writing this certainly wasn't on my list of things that needed to be done today!  But I'm so glad I did it.  I'm so glad I sat at Jesus feet today instead of running off on my own!  It was satisfying to share my plate of goodness with you today!  Can't wait to see what juicy tidbits He's already cooking up to set on the table for me tomorrow!