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Day 304: The overcoming Light

Today is day 304.

Which is significant because 304 days is twice as long as 152 days.

And maybe you remember the last time we hit 152 with bonus kids.

One day after school last November, I sat outside my minivan sobbing.  By sobbing I mean while I was on the phone with RRL he asked “are you hyperventilating?”  It was that kind of sobbing.  I was sitting on the sidewalk on top of our double stroller and all 7 children were buckled up in the van and I could not will myself to get in.  The day was simply the culmination of lots of life with hurting kiddos coming to a head and I just couldn’t do it one more second.  Absolutely, 100%, no matter how much I felt like I was supposed to, no matter how much I wanted to, no matter how much I loved all 7 occupants of that van, I COULD.NOT.GET.IN.  In that moment, I felt like I had been swallowed by a cloud of darkness that could not be penetrated.  I could not see an ounce of light in the situation.

In my head I was shouting over and over “GOD HELP ME” but couldn’t bring myself to mutter those words out loud.  I honestly believed it might not be possible to fall any lower.  And then the stroller broke and I crashed DOWN on the sidewalk.  Haha, real funny, God.

Left with no other option, I got up and chose to take one step toward light.  I put the (not completely broken) stroller in the van, took a deep breath, and opened the driver’s door.  AND I GOT IN.

I was still on the phone with RRL and through tears I suggested “Maybe we could talk to someone”.   But I didn’t really mean it. BECAUSE WHO?  How could we ever confess just how hard this was?  How miserably I sometimes failed? We threw out several loved and trusted names- elders and ministers at our church, family, dear friends- all of whom I’m pretty sure would scoop us up and literally carry us if they thought it would help.  But then one name slipped out of my mouth before I could have even come up with it in my brain.  We quickly dismissed them- we know them, but don’t KNOW them.  We certainly can’t TELL them.  Not everything.  What would they think?  Ridiculous.  Talking to someone at all would be ridiculous.

I drove to the library (hello, free and not alone) and sat in the busyness of that place, half-heartedly helping choose books and willing myself to pray.  Suddenly- because that’s how the King of the Universe works- it hit me like a lightning bolt.  Today.  TODAY is EXACTLY day 152.  No!?  It couldn’t be.  REALLY?  Quick double check of math on my phone confirmed.  Yep, day 152.

And last time, 152 was the breaking point for everyone. 

Whether by my (slightly) competitive nature or more likely through a strength I could never derive on my own, I decided something in that moment.  Today day 152 is not going to beat us.  Not any of us.  Today the enemy doesn’t get 152.  I didn’t know where to begin.  I still didn’t WANT to do it.  So, I found the will to pray a simple “help us get to 153,” show us how to do another day in this darkness.  I’ll admit, even in my forced prayer I was more than a little bit skeptical.

You know the little kid who peeks out of one eye during the prayer to see if anyone else is looking?  That’s a little how I felt in those moments of trying to move from prayer back to real life.  Peeking out.  Wondering who had noticed.  Wondering what was happening.

But happen, it certainly did.  Wanna know who called RRL not once but TWICE within 24 hours of that breaking-point-moment?  Yep.  Same “they’d be great, but how could we ever tell them, we don’t even know them” guy. He “randomly” called to ask RRL’s input on helping someone.  RRL dismissed the first call as just that- about helping someone else.  BUT THE GUY HAD THE NERVE TO CALL BACK.  At the end of the second call, he was prompted to say to RRL “You know, my wife and I pray for you guys.  How are you doing?”  Before 24 hours had passed we had a dinner date arranged for the four of us to get together, and just like that we had a catapult right through what had seemed impossible- day 153.

That dinner, ya’ll.  The Lord used it to save a part of us.  They spent several hours listening, sharing their own battle wounds and triumphs, encouraging us and praying for us.  They looked us squarely in the eye and said (my interpretation):

“YOU CAN DO THIS.  It will be harder than hard.  People won’t get it.  YOU won’t get it.  But you can and will do this hard thing.”

And with those words, I felt LIGHT flooding back into places of my heart that I thought were maybe possibly going to be dark forever.

Let me give you a moment to let that sink in.

Recap:

Day 152= breaking point (again)

Not sure how to keep going

Wonder if a couple we never spend time with (who have adopted kids) would talk to us

Dismiss that idea

Couple “randomly” calls us

Asks how we are doing and invites us to dinner

Reminds us it can be both GOOD AND HARD

Reminds us of light

Today is day 304.

I mean, if that won’t make your head spin and your mouth burst forth with a giant HALLELUJAH- well, then… I’ve got nothin’ for ya.

Today, the fight against darkness is still a struggle.  Each day is filled with opportunities to choose.  But I was reminded that day to believe in a powerful LIGHT.  I’m going to be sharing more over the next few posts about that Light.  A light that finds the smallest crack and penetrates in a way that it shatters the walls built in black around you.  A light that waits for you to turn toward it, but allows even the slightest dart of your eyes in its direction to invite you, to change you.  And sharing a little bit about how I’m choosing to let LIGHT IN, one day at a time.

One of my favorite LIGHT/POWER verses is John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life and that life was the LIGHT OF ALL MANKIND.  THE LIGHT SHINES in the darkness, and the darkness HAS NOT OVERCOME IT!

I’ve never felt the fighting power of that Light more than I did when I made it to day 153.

And today is day 304.

ABL

2011 Recap

As we start 2012, I have a whole post brewin’ about my personal journey in 2011 and impact that has on how I am starting this new year.  But before we move on to that, I want to continue my tradition of doing a year-in-review recap for our family.  I am a little late for this “New Year’s Eve tradition”, but I’m cutting myself some slack.  That is harder for me than it sounds.
2011 was a CRAZY year for us, one we will never forget.  But it has been full of rich blessings, lots of fun, some super sweet family time and lots and lots of laughter.  I am so thankful for 2011!
JANUARY
In January, the highlight was celebrating our sweet Cbug’s third birthday.  He had a “my favorite things” themed party because he could not decide between Thomas, Toy Story and McQueen.  In other January fun: KJ went to a birthday party he was not invited to.
FEBRUARY
In February it snowed. Twice.  The boys loved it.  Lou, not so much.  We celebrated Valentine’s day with our three sweethearts.  And RRL and I got to be part of a local news story when we ran a half marathon “with” my brother who was stationed in Afghanistan.
March
In March, we passed the huge milestone of 10 years from the night I said YES by sharing our engagement story on the blog (part 1 and part 2).  The boys got to play soccer for the first time and enjoyed being on the “Green Slime” team together.  And for the first time we celebrated “Pi Day” at our house with circles galore.  Two highlights for me were a super fun girls’ trip to Florida to celebrate the upcoming marriage of a dear friend.  And getting to cross the finish line of another half marathon, this time between by husband and my Momma (her first 1/2 marathon).

But most of the events of March and the following five months are blurred by the fact that mid-month our two nephews and a niece came to live with us for a while, filling our home with 6 children under the age of 5!

APRIL

During the month of April the shock of our little crew was wearing off and we began settling in to a routine as a party-of-eight.  We even took the whole gang camping one night and also enjoyed an afternoon at the museum with Uncle D, who we were so thankful to be welcoming home from deployment.  Our continued adjustment got a boost with a bit of break by splitting the team up to celebrate Easter.  And just our little team of 5 enjoyed some time at Nonna and Papa J’s house where I also got to be part of one of my best friend’s wedding day.

MAY
At the tail end of April/Beginning of May we were blessed by a weekend away with RRL’s sister and her family, who were visiting from Colombia.  And we celebrated a long awaited event for one member of our family when KJ FINALLY turned FIVE.  We enjoyed celebrating him all day long with festivities he planned, including the cake of his dreams and a super-fun outing with his buddies to Legoland.  We finished up the school year, went to KJ’s preschool graduation and we were also starting to get a bit of a handle on a day-to-day routine in our house full of preschoolers.
JUNE

In June, Princess Lou turned two and we had a small celebration with some friends, some cousins and ELMO! We also celebrated Father’s day, went to Summer Spectacular and shared here about some of our everyday adventures with six kiddos in tow, including a super sweet party at my work for our party-of-eight.

JULY

For the fourth of July, we got to visit Nonna and Papa J again, and were so excited that Uncle M and Aunt S were there, too!  The kids loved getting to see Cars 2 with some of their favorite people.  We celebrated one of our favorite holidays (Cow Appreciation Day), the five big kids took swimming lessons, and all of the kids got to go bowling for the first time. RRL and I enjoyed an awesome retreat with some new friends and some incredible mentors and I got to go to LA for a quick work trip.  We also had one of the hardest weeks of the summer when all 6 kids and I got strep…and RRL escaped with a yucky stomach bug instead.  I was busy on the blog in July, sharing about our quite imperfect family, the beginning of my journey through Nehemiah and adventures at the grocery store.

August
After 152 days at our house, we said goodbye to our nephews and niece.  If trying to rearrange our routine to include them in our home was difficult, saying goodbye was a million times that but we knew this was only a piece of the story.  While it was time for them to go home and the right thing to happen, it was still sad.  I again leaned on the book of Nehemiah as we started trying to wade through what the months of having them with us would mean for us going forward.  But before they left, I had to share a bit more about life at our house and some tips like Circle Time. our Assembly Line and freezing PB&J sandwiches. In August we also had meet the teacher night where some teachers got to meet my cherubs (cough cough).

September
We started the month with a long anticipated day for Lou, the day she finally got to go to “Skoo” with her “Bruf-uhs” as our kiddos started back at the preschool we love so much.  We were also THRILLED to get to announce that a very sweet gift was on his/her way to us…we found out about baby #4 just a few days after our nephews and niece went home.  As we continued the adjustment back to having only 3 children in our home, I shared a bit more about my Nehemiah journey (and learning how to breathe).  RRL and I celebrated the fact that we completed our financial commitment to Greater Things, something which blessed us richly this whole year.
We also had a fun day at the Apple Orchard (which was technically closed) and enjoyed an awesome holiday camping vacation with some of our favorite people.  The kids and I also enjoyed a fun evening at my company’s “Family day” celebration while RRL was out of town.
October

This month was filled with continuing traditions, like Pumpkin Patch pictures with some of our favorite photographers and having soup and grilled cheese on Halloween.  We also continued a tradition of NOT carving pumpkins when we made pumpkin people. My kids dressed up like characters from Lou’s favorite story, Sleeping Beauty, and we captured one of my favorite pictures EVER of them.  We enjoyed our 10th reunion at the Homecoming of our Alma Mater.  I celebrated my birthday by helping raise money for Teen Lifeline (thanks so much to many of you that participated  in that celebration) and also with a Barbie birthday party (my very first) at our house.

November

RRL started the month by taking the boys at midnight to buy Cars2 on DVD, a super fun memory for all three of them.  We received the proofs from our most recent family photo shoot by Three.  They were INCREDIBLE.  A highlight was our little family get-away (in town) to GWL.  We also counted our blessings on leaves and turkeys all month and we enjoyed family fun during Thanksgiving with RRL’s family at Grammy’s house.  But not until after RRL and I finished our half-marathon that morning, no small feat for me at 18 weeks pregnant but I really did love getting to run it with him!  We found out, at the end of the month, that we were having a BOY! at a super fun gender-reveal party with our family and friends.  I also described some of the emotions of expecting our fourth baby.

December
In December, I finished the journey I started in January, journaling through the book of Nehemiah.  We spent the entire month doing a “Christmas countdown” with lots of fun family activities, putting an ornament on our paper tree each night.  Highlights from those activities included a pink play dough baby Jesus, visiting GWL with friends for story time, Cbug dressed up as the Baby in our nativity scene, Christmas carolling in our living room to stuffed animals, and a Christmas acrostic as our finale to the fun.  The kids had lots of fun at school with their Christmas parties and Christmas show.  Some not-so-fun highlights from the month were that the kids and I were in a car accident (everyone is fine) and I almost lost my diamond from my engagement ring (everything is fine now).  RRL’s family was so blessed with the news that our littlest nephew arrived a few weeks early, but is perfectly healthy and beautiful.  We celebrated our family Christmas a little early and then we headed to Nonna and Papa J’s house for some fun with a house full of aunts, uncles, grandparents and one grand-dog.  So much fun!  While we were there, RRL and I celebrated our 10th anniversary by being tourists in my hometown for the day. And through all of that, we tried to be mindful of the true spirit of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, something we treasure all year.

What a year!  I can’t help but think that as I wrote this recap for 2010, all 2011 held for us was not even a blip on our radar.  I certainly had no idea we would have 3 additional children in our home for five months of it, and no idea that we would end the year anticipating another baby boy.     AND it makes me all-the-more committed to keeping up with this blog, I had so much fun looking back on the year to do this recap. 
Knowing that, I can honestly say that I cannot WAIT to see what 2012 holds…
and I can’t wait to blog about it!
ABL

“Here I raise my Ebenezer…”

Come, Thou fount of every blessing,Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
While the hope of endless glory
Fills my heart with joy and love,
Teach me ever to adore Thee;
May I still Thy goodness prove.

 

It wasn’t until it had been many mornings in a row that I realized I always woke up singing. Every morning a song of praise, worship, reassurance, promise filled my earliest waking moments.  And as I showered, dressed, packed lunches, prepared for the day the song would often follow me.  Eventually it would fade but the next morning a new would rise.  The songs weren’t just a sweet way to fill the quiet, they were a miraculous replacement for noise.  My first morning thoughts had often been about the complicated details of my life and never moreso than as we navigated bonus-kid-parenting.  what did we need to do? How were we going to do it? Was I going to be able to manage? How was it possible? Worry. Doubt. Planning.Strategy.  Noise.

But then- singing.

Don’t get me wrong- the songs didn’t take away the hard things of the day.  They didn’t always prevent my poor attitude.  Didn’t suddenly make everything ok.  But the songs were first.

Not long after I noticed that I always woke with a song, I was reading through Psalm and came across 42:8.  “By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me”

I remember thanking God for reflecting his care for me through these morning songs, a reminder that he directs my paths.  I thanked Him for giving me a gift of an answer to a prayer I wouldn’t have even ever known to pray. But then.

One morning as I brushed my teeth there was, laced with the song of the morning, a dim flash of a memory.  Years ago, sitting in the youth center at church watching RRL on stage, and praying for a voice to sing and lead worship.  As I remembered, I dropped my toothbrush and stood staring.  I don’t remember why I prayed those words in that moment.  That was 10-15 years ago. But I suddenly knew, it was a prayer for today. Prayed before I could have known to pray it.  And answered.  My singing voice is just as terrible as it was then.  But during that season of morning songs, especially in the days leading up to our adoption, the songs that flowed from my lips were worship.  And they were leading.  They led me into the day and they led my family to worship as I sang. I’d been given exactly what I was prompted to pray for…a voice to lead worship.

After that morning realization I started making notes.  Were there others?  Stepping stone miracles that lead to our family slowly becoming 9, the things I had been grateful for yet not fully appreciated the way the Lord was carrying us before we even know to ask.

SCAN0012Remember when RRL asked me and I said “no”?  That very evening a conversation/prayer time we had with a spiritual giant in our lives, Dr J. Willis, changed the way we viewed difficulties in life and our marriage, even spiritual warfare.  I remember confiding this in a few friends.  One of my nearest and dearest confessed to me, days before our adoption, that when I told her my “no” was an attack from Satan, she’d been a bit skeptical.  Thought it a bit cheesy.  But now, firmly saw the necessity of that preparation.  15 years before.

In 2005 we wanted a baby.  But one didn’t come quickly.  During those days of waiting we prayed together like we never had before.  We prayed for God’s creative design for our family.  We were open to where he would carry us and how he would place children in our hearts and home in a way we wouldn’t have been without that time.  10 years before we knew our team would be 9.

And while we waited for that design, we decided to work hard toward paying off our debt.  It set us on a path to gain complete freedom from debt that then allowed us to do so many things.  But never could we have dreamed how important that freedom would be until it helped us say “yes” to three bonus kids. He did that for us before we knew to ask for financial provision.

Holding handsOn a whim one day I taught KJ and Cbug a little safety chant… ME: “why do we stick together?” THEM (while grabbing each other’s hands in parking lots/grocery stores/etc): “Cuz we are TEAM LEWIS.” “Team” language became a huge part of how we talked to our kids.  We couldn’t have known how desperately they would need to remember to stick together.

Praying for Community.  Man I prayed for community.  It fuels me.  I thought I needed it then, but WOW did we need it the day the 3 came home the first time.  Community became the very vein through which life was pumped during those early days and so many after, in a way we couldn’t have known to pray for.

I remember the Christmas when a Momma was doing her very best to get her 2 year old and 3 year old ready to head home.  Their tiny baby brother- 6 months old- was crying.  I offered to help, and snuggled him to sleep while singing.  I prayed for him that day in a way that seemed so odd to me, compelled to pray for his life and future.  It was such a weird moment that I still remember the details of it.  Now I know something was happening that I couldn’t have known to ask for… a piece of us connected.  The song I sang in that quiet hallway is still the one I rock that baby boy, now my 7-year-old son, to sleep with.

And what about reading Nehemiah, verse by verse, for no reason I knew for sure?  Except that I had prayed, years before, to find a love for studying scripture.  I was sure this was why I had been given Nehemiah.  Because I loved studying it and my prayers had been answered…little did I know how that book would carry me.

20 family circusThe numbers. Thirteen- always my sports number, one I chose because no one else wanted it.  13.1- my favorite distance to run.  Joshua 13- the story of Caleb (our son’s namesake) and Joshua and their devotion to following God when others said “impossible.” And just a little over 13 years post the surgery that has allowed me to live a health-stress-free life was January 13th, 2017. Our adoption day.   Of course Pi.  AND 152… the number of days they lived with us first and then the number of days until that breaking-point when an elder “coincidentally” called us and pulled us right up out of the pit.  oh and btw, 52 just so happens to be the number of days Nehemiah and friends spent completing the wall. Why those gifts?  I believe because He knew i would see him there- in the numbers.

thank-youI get goosebumps when I think about RRL saying “A van.  When a van shows up we will know this is what we are supposed to do.” And then it did- one night a red box showed up and later became our van, a van in which we all RIDE TOGETHER.  Or what about the day we got pictures of our new “family,” the very day the papers were signed.

breaking-up-with-pr2The day I told RRL I needed some time alone.  For my birthday.  I thought I need some time to pray, some time to hike, some time to rest.  We agreed to my birthday.  When we made those plans we had one hundred percent of ZERO idea how significant that very day would be.

 

There were also the prayers we prayed specifically for “unity of spirit”.  For an entire year.  Before 4 parents agreed that 3 kiddos would be forever, officially passed from one set to the other.  The barriers of mental and emotional health that had to be transcended for that to happen.  Y’all, a mountain was literally moved.

These are (some of) the stones that were gathered, one a time, and placed in a monument of sorts.  Together they built our family marker on January 13th, 2017.  The day that marked our Ebenezer.  Our place to look back and say as Samuel in the Bible did, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.” (Be sure to go read I Samuel 7 about an impossible victory over enemies.through which God was glorified.)

Celebrating our adoption day isn’t really about when we “got” them.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to refer to it as a “gotcha” day.  More, it is about remembering how far we’ve been carried.  Looking back just long enough to celebrate the miracle that came to be.  Standing on that place, looking forward and praying for what may lie ahead.

IMG_1425In the year following adoption there have been more stones added to our marker.  Very specific moments etched in our memories when kids began to accept and transition and become.  When brothers and sisters don’t even remember not being.  And when Christmas is miraculously uneventful because everyone feels HOME.

Yet, there is so much about “what is next” that we do not know.  So much that is daunting about the future.  We don’t know where we may live or what the next chapter of our story will be.  We have no guarantees about health or wealth or even what our children will choose when it comes to a faith of their own.  There are a few prayers we are praying that we are heavily relying on intercession right now.  But we have this crazy security.  A firm confidence because of what has clearly been demonstrated in our “thus far He has helped us.”

So this year we celebrated on January 13th with adventures and cupcakes and even attending an adoption party for friends celebrating their own new forever.  We celebrated partly because our God carried us to Nine.  Officially.  But a lot more because the day is our place of remembering AND dreaming.

DD750146-7A56-47EA-9433-FC6EACB967C6

We did this year.  And we will next year.

January 13th is our Ebenezer.

Here I raise my Ebenezer,
Hither by Thy help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Does God care about my 1/2 Marathon?

I believe that the Lord cares deeply about each of us. 
I believe that he knows the number of our days and how we will spend them.
I believe he knows me far better than I know myself.
Down to the very number of hairs on my head.
I believe he loves me in a way I’ll never fully comprehend, this side of Heaven.
I believe He cares.
But I can’t really say whether I believe He cares that I ran a half marathon in my seventh month of pregnancy.
Surely He has bigger fish to fry.
However, I am more convinced than ever that he can use even 13.1 miles of exercise to reveal Himself.
Because He cares.
For months I’ve worked hard to complete something.  Not something that would break any records or that would be all that noteworthy.  Just a personal goal.  Something I needed in this fourth pregnancy.  Something that I wanted to do JUST FOR ME.
I wanted to run (or at least walk/run) a 1/2 marathon in my third trimester.
It was just something to work toward. Something to be healthy. An excuse to breathe in the sunshine (or the moonlight) several times a week. Often alone, sometimes with fellow-runner-encouragers, but always just to enjoy the miles.
And then February happened.  And February was hard.  It was really hard.  It was busy because, for most of the month, we had 6 small children in our home again (plus one tiny one growing inside of me).  But more than that it was emotionally exhausting.  There were tough decisions that RRL and I had to make, ones no one should have to face.  And therefore, not a lot of sleep. 
Definitely not any running.
So, for the three weeks leading up to my big “goal” I didn’t run a step.  Not one.
And a few days before the race, I’ll admit to being discouraged.
I know it is silly, it was just another run, but for some reason the thought of missing it meant so much more to me at that point. I began to pray “Lord, I don’t know if this race means anything to you.  I honestly don’t.  But, would you please redeem the miles”  I prayed that somehow, though it defied all “training tips”, though I hadn’t exercised in weeks, though I was getting further and further along in pregnancy, that somehow I would feel better this day running than ever.  I think deep down, I was praying that He would give RRL and I the chance to enjoy that 13.1 together.  I was praying that this run would be a marker at the end of another (or continuing) tough time to redeem the times we had to give up time together.  Not because we deserved that or were entitled to that.  Just because it was something we had looked forward to and we were really ready for something to just be FUN.  I didn’t really care if we ran fast.  I just wanted to finish.  To enjoy it.  Together.
And you know what, WE DID!  We finished the 1/2 marathon much faster than I anticipated.  There were some difficult moments, we were definitely sore afterward, but there was so much about it that was just plain FUN!  It wasn’t our fastest 1/2 (by a long shot) but crossing the finish line, holding RRL’s hand, Christopher snug in my belly, was definitely my proudest race finish (by a long shot).  I cried.  And couldn’t help but throw my hands in the air in thanksgiving and praise as we crossed the final threshold. 
(And I loved that moment so much, I’m even willing to show you this quite unattractive picture, belly poking out and all…the closest thing to a “belly shot” you’ll see on this piece of the www).
The even cooler thing, though, is that it wasn’t just fun.  It was healing.  Around the same time, our preacher started a series called “The Race”.  I’ve loved hearing about the parallels he saw from running to our “Race” as Christians.  Especially in this season it was something I could identify with.  And it made this 1/2 marathon finish mean even more to me. 
That said, you should definitely use this link to download “The Race” podcasts ASAP. 
Thanks to RA’s encouragement to examine our life race and this timely personal metaphor, here’s what I’ve learned:
– Sometimes the time for training you have in one season, is to prepare you for a completely different one.  Maybe, just like He used the miles I had put in months before the half marathon, God can take scriptures we’ve memorized, prayers we’ve prayed, relationships we have formed, faith heroes we’ve studied and use them during the seasons that are crazy, those in which we have little time to “train”.  Continued training is important, but He is the source of the energy and strength when its really time to hit the pavement and RUN.
– Sometimes my “running anyway” isn’t for me at all.  Sometimes it is to encourage someone else.  I can’t tell you how many times someone along the race course, noting my bouncing belly and sign on my back indicating our fourth “baby on board”, said something to the effect of “if SHE can finish this, so can I”.  I want to run life that way.  Authentically enough to let people know I’m not perfect, but bravely enough to let them know I’m running anyway.
– Sometimes I need the “us” in Hebrews 12:1 as much as I need the “perseverance”.  And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. -NLT  I wouldn’t have attempted this 13.1 if it weren’t for the encouragement of knowing that RRL was going to stick right by my side for every step.  Even though the pace would be much slower than he was capable of, he had promised to stay with me and I knew he would remind me the whole way of the goal.  He does that in our life race as well.  RRL points me to the goal, which makes the endurance come more easily.  And I love running together.
– And on that note, and maybe more than anything else I learned, I needed a good swift kick in the “my-race-ain’t-so-bad” pants.  As we worked through “The Race” series at church and learned about faith heroes (in the Bible and living among us today), I had to admit I’ve got much to be thankful for when it comes to the particular course that I’ve been set on.  And I’m gonna keep running it.  I might even get really crazy once in a while, throwing my hands in the air with praise and thanksgiving just to say “this is awesome” (even if it means letting some of my “imperfections” hang out a little).
So, I don’t know if God cares about a 1/2 marathon. 
But I know He gave me that 13.1 miles of fun with the guy I love.
And used it to bring me a few steps closer to Himself, as well. 
So.
Thank you, Lord.
Thank you that you’ve used that special day to reveal so much to me.
Thank you for teaching me about this life RACE.
For loving me.
Just because. 
You care.

ABL

Who is Counting?

 152- The number of days

Our nephews and niece went back to live with their parents today.  They left as unexpectedly as they came.  They lived with us for 152 days.  There are too many emotions involved right now and I’m simply too raw to be able to clearly communicate what this means to our family.  So I have to go back to what I know…as an accountant, I love all things numbers.  But I don’t think I’m the only one that counted these days.  We believe that the Lord knew EXACTLY how many days AB, CB and baby B would live with us.  In fact, he has numbers for ALL of our days.  We are just grateful that for 152 of those, we had them as part of our days. 
There are lots of numbers, though, that we don’t know.
I’m glad we didn’t count…
the number of diapers we changed
the number of trips to the doctor/clinic
the number of potty breaks that interrupted our meals
the number of times we didn’t get to sleep through the night
the number of days that didn’t go the way we planned
the number of cartons of yogurt consumed
the number of lunches packed

the number of loads of laundry

the number of doses of antibiotics administered

the number of broken toys we repaired (or trashed)
the number of times we said “please don’t whine”

the number of times we said “please keep your hands to yourself”

the number of meals we ate cold
the number of times we swept the kitchen floor

the number of responsibilities, outside of our home, that we just plum forgot

But we didn’t count any of those things.  While it might have made for a nice record, it really doesn’t matter.  Those numbers wouldn’t reflect our purpose.

I wish we had counted…
the number of boo-boos we got to kiss
the number of “I love yous” we heard
the number of late nights RRL and I spent talking about God’s hand in the day
the number of boxes of diapers that others delivered
the number of meals we didn’t have to cook
the number of times someone else went to the grocery store
the number of people that have showed interest in our story
the number or prayers prayed on our behalf
the number of prayers we uttered on their behalf
the number of encouraging texts, emails, cards in the mail
the number of new songs, verses, and bible stories learned
the number of quizzical looks in the grocery store
the number of times our kids proudly introduced their cousins
the number of ways the Lord surprised us
the number of times we saw the kids hold hands
the number of times we got to celebrate a new milestone 
the number of times we found the girls snuggled in bed together
the number of games of hide and seek

the number of stories read during “circle time”

the number of times we circled the table to tell our favorite part of the day
the number of times we got to say “I’m so glad I get to do this with you”
the number of times we were shown AMAZING grace
I wish we had taken time to count some of those things because the numbers would be staggering.  We have truly been overwhelmed by our community and by the way God amazingly sustained us.
While I will never be able to tell you many of the specifics of those statistics, I do know that our Team of Five will never be the same.  Five months ago, three little lives stepped into our home and into our hearts.  We did our best during that time to blend into one family.  And we’ll never be the same because of it.  I’m glad we didn’t count the hard times, or the times we wished we had acted differently.  We didn’t count because it really doesn’t matter.  We didn’t count because it never was about us or our “stats.”  We know that the year 2011 will always be remembered as the year that for a while, we were a party-of-eight.  More importantly, though, this will be a time that we will all look back and remember that we had a front row seat to something we could not have orchestrated.  We got to stand in AWE as the ONE true God worked mightily on our behalf, right before our eyes.  We have learned to believe in miracles, and to watch for them in everyday real-life happenings.  They don’t look like you would expect.  That’s what makes them miraculous.  And, oh my, the benefits from that blessing of perspective are COUNTLESS!
ABL
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