Sunday, February 27, 2011

Behind Door #1, #2, and #3

My first thought on doors is actually from a story I read in junior high called "The Lady and the Tiger." A man is faced with an almost impossible decision; he has to choose which door to open without really know what is behind either door. Behind one of the doors is a ferocious tiger; behind the other is a beautiful lady. The author tries to help you figure out what is behind each of the doors, but really the choice is up to you and based how you interpret the clues. At the end of the story you are left hanging, not knowing for sure what was behind the door the man chose to open.

My second thought about doors and trying to guess what is behind them deals with game shows. A contestant is shown three doors, each with a number, and he has to choose which door he wants to open, determining what prize he will win. Sometimes the prize is amazing, say, a brand new car. Other times the prize is pretty lame, like a pile of bricks. For the contestant it's all a game of chance (and "luck" I guess) and he doesn't really have any control over the prize he takes home.

My third (and final) thought about doors is the Christian cliche, "When God closes a door, He opens a window." Thankfully, I haven't had to climb through any windows lately, though a few doors have been closed. In fact, I don't know if we are really supposed to try to squeeze ourselves through windows. I am beginning to learn that it's better just to wait for God to come and show you another door to open. It requires a lot less awkward maneuvering and greatly decreases our chance of injury.

As we dealt with our miscarriage, I certainly felt as though the door labeled "BABY" was slammed in my face, with no warning. It's as though I ran smack into the door and broke my nose in the process.

Then, a few weeks later, I was taken aback by another door being shut quite abruptly. Two families gave me notice that for various reasons (preschool, Grandma, daycare closer to home, etc.) their children would be leaving, and I was left wondering what in the world God was doing, how He would provide for us, what exactly His plans are.

It's so cool to see how God works, to try to imagine how He is busy behind the scenes getting all the little details lined up just right so the story on stage turns out perfectly. I feel as though He has shut certain doors so that I would be able to open others that I would never have even noticed otherwise. Or I might have noticed them, but not really paid attention to them or have tried opening them to see what might be behind them. Recently, God has led me to three such doors, each one with an exciting adventure behind it.

Door #1 is labeled "Day-Care" which is kind of surprising since I thought that door had been shut. Apparently it was for a time, but it certainly wasn't locked. God just brought other people knocking on the door, people I never would have thought to invite myself. Come April, I get to take care of a precious baby boy (who will be 3 months old). His grandma goes to my church and had asked about me watching her grandson before he was born. At the time I didn't have any openings and didn't plan on having any either. My how things change! I was at a DC MOM dinner and was telling a friend about how I had lost 3 of my daycare kiddos. The grandma heard me and was immediately at my side asking if I would have a place for her grandson then. Pretty cool how God made sure we were both at the dinner, and that the grandma was within earshot when I was talking to my friend! The door opened even wider this past week when a teacher who has worked with Lawrence came knocking and asking about daycare for next year. She was actually the music teacher where he taught several years ago and is going to be the new music teacher at his current school next year! Interesting how God keeps crossing people's paths like this. I will be taking care of her little girl 3 days a week, giving Coralyn yet another playmate!

Door #2 is labeled "Baby" but not in the way you might think. Tomorrow evening I will have my first childbirth class. Three expecting moms (and dads), plus 2 friends will be coming to my house every Monday for 12 weeks to learn all about pregnancy, labor and delivery, and lots of other fun birth-related stuff. I am so excited to help these families get ready to meet their precious babies. I am thrilled that God has provided this opportunity for me. Not only do I get to teach about childbirth (something I have become passionate about since Coralyn was born), but I get paid to do it. God is faithful to provide, yet again!

Door #3 is labeled "Children" but again in a different way than you would first assume. Tuesday we will have our first class for foster parenting. We had applied to foster as soon as we returned from Haiti last March but were never available to take the classes. We also thought that our basement windows would not meet code and that our house would not be "suitable" for fostering. We had our windows replaced anyway, just to get them updated and receive a nice tax credit come April. When we found out we were pregnant with baby #2, we thought about putting a wall back up to turn the office/playroom into a bedroom for Coralyn so the baby could have the nursery. We didn't need the second bedroom after we miscarried, but decided to go ahead and plan on putting the wall in so that we would have a bedroom to use for foster kids. Our schedule worked out so that we would be available to take the next series of classes and we signed up. We got our fingerprints taken and our backgrounds checked. Everything was a go. Then the lady at the agency came to meet us and see our house. Surprisingly, she said that our downstairs bedroom would work, without having to do a very expensive remodel of the window! We were so excited. We are still considering putting the wall back up, in case we have a foster child who is pretty young and can't have a bedroom downstairs yet. Whatever the case, we are going to class on Tuesday and in 9 weeks we will be well on our way to becoming foster parents.

I am delighted about all these new opportunities God has given us, all these doors He has opened. I am not sure what lies behind each of these doors, as I have only seen a sneak peak, like looking through the little eye hole. The good news is that God knows exactly what will happen once I walk through each of these doors. And better yet, He is going to be with me, every single step of the way.

Speaking of steps, I should probably work on that Beth Moore Bible study so I am ready for our meeting on Thursday. :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Step by Step

I just started a Bible study with the amazing women at my church. We are going through Beth Moore's Stepping Up, a study on the Pslams of Assent (120-134, in case you are like me and didn't have a clue where they were in the book of Psalms). As the Jewish people made pilgrimages they would sing these 15 Psalms. We are going to taking an in-depth look at them to see what we can learn from them as we ourselves are on a pilgrimage. Several thoughts come to my mind as I think about this concept:

*We are foreigners and aliens here on earth, just passing through, for heaven is our true home.
*We are running a race, one God has prepared for us and will be with us every step of the way.
*To stay on course, we must set our eyes on Jesus.
*When we get tired and weary, God will give us strength, helping us soar on wings like eagles.
*At the end of the race is an amazing prize, one that makes any troubles along the way totally worth our while.

I also thought of a song we often sing at Ponca Bible Camp. Fittingly, it's called "Step by Step."
Step by step You'll lead me and I will follow You all of my days...
O God, You are my God and I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning and learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me and I will follow You all of my days.

More often than not this concept of following after Jesus, hard, with all that is in me, is overwhelming. Not because I doubt God's goodness or His faithfulness. Not because I worry that He will leave me. Not because I fear that His plans aren't good. Rather, it's because I don't know the details. I don't necessarily know where exactly we are going or how we are going to get there or what we will encounter along the way. I only know three things. First, God has said to go. Second, He has promised to be with me, every single step of the way. And finally, God's ways are always best (even if I don't understand them fully now). So I will take these three facts and keep on keeping on, one step at a time.

Lately, my journey has been uphill, or so it seems. But I am reminded that the view from the top of a mountain is usually pretty incredible. And you can see things that you would never be able to see from the ground level. You see things from a different perspective too, as you are able to take in so much more all at once. I love that God knows where I am, what is in my heart, and that this Bible study would speak to me and teach me and help me on my way as I try to figure out what He's doing in my life. In the first video session, Beth Moore said two things that really stuck out to me:

*God has called us upward, to Himself.
*Wherever we are at in life right now, we are not going to stay there. We are just passing through. This is just part of our journey, and it will ultimately get us one step (or maybe a lot of steps) closer to God.

Then, today in my homework, another statement stuck out and encouraged me. "Sometimes we don't know why we're on a certain road with God until miles have made their way to the soles of our feet." Right now I am not sure why God had me take this turn or why He chose this path for me. I just know that He did. And once again I hold to those three things: God has a reason for this, He is with me, and it will all turn out for His glory and my good. In fact, His plans will far exceed even my wildest dreams.

I was reminded of this yet again when I was reading Ruth Myer's 31 Days of Praise. She writes, "Your power is unlimited...absolute...beyond imagining. You are able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or dream of." She goes on, and her words resound so closely with what I have been reading in the Psalms (once again, I love how God connects all these things and seems to be whispering to me over and over again that everything is going to be okay, that He is right He with me and working everything out just perfectly). She says, "You are exalted high above every star and galaxy in the entire cosmos...yet You are also the God of all mankind, the great personally present, personally involved God who loves, rescues, and takes care of all who trust in You." Just this morning I read Psalm 55, "But I will call on God, and the Lord will rescue me...Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall." (vs. 16, 22) Wow! Word for word. Only God can arrange things like that!

To finish, Myers encourages me with this, "I praise You for Your sovereignty over the broad events of my life and over the details. With You, nothing is accidental, nothing is incidental, and no experience is wasted. You hold in Your own power my breath of life and all my destiny. And every trial that You allow to happen is a platform on which You reveal Yourself, showing Your love and power, both to me and to others looking on. Thank You that I can move into the future nondefensively, with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead, for You hold the future and You will always be with me, even to my old age...and through all eternity."

And with that in mind, I will put one foot in front of the other, following God step by step.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Full Heart

Today starts the first week since December 2009 that I have only had 2 kiddos, Carson (my almost 3 year-old daycare boy) and Coralyn. To make the most of the "freedom" I now have to go someplace, we headed out to the library for Toddler Storytime. We went last week too, actually, and both kiddos loved it. Really the storytime is just for Carson, but Coralyn doesn't seem to get that and just joins right in on the fun. She does pretty well too and follows the actions to the songs and even sat the entire time while the lady read not one, but two, books! She waited in line for her little bear finger puppet, and then again for her shakers, which her returned nicely when she was supposed to. She didn't take any toys from any of other kiddos during play time and she helped put the toys away when the clean up song started playing. (Needless to say, I was proud of my little girl!)

Storytime was great, and I had so much fun watching Carson and Coralyn. If you asked anyone there who saw me, they would probably tell you I had a huge smile on my face and that I thoroughly enjoyed myself. (I'm not gonna lie...I was doing the motions just as enthusiastically as the kiddos.) While they would be right, they have absolutely no idea about the torment of emotions that were bombarding me on the inside. My heart was bouncing back and forth from joy to despair to pride to shame to delight to grief. Before your mind starts running in circles and gets all tangled up as you try to figure out my feelings, I will explain why I was having such a difficult time in the midst of so much fun.

If there had only been the 20+ toddlers and their moms (or dads or grandmas) at Storytime, I would have been just fine. BUT, there wasn't. Not one, not two, but THREE newborns were also there. I guess there were technically there last week too, but they were still snuggled inside their mommies tummies :) I couldn't see their itty bitty fingers or marvel at their tiny mouths or ooh and ahh over their cute outfits. This week, I got to watch these beautiful, precious babes yawn, sleep, squirm, and bobble their little heads. I got to hear those newborn cries and grunts. And my heart was full, in many ways. Every time I see a baby I am once again amazed at how God creates such a small person so intricately and perfectly. Every time I see a pregnant woman I am in awe that another little person is growing inside of her! I am blown away by the things our God can do! Every time I see a baby I am happy for the parents and know how proud they must be of their little one. I am excited for their family as they watch this baby grow and learn new things. But lately, every time I see a baby I get a twinge of jealousy. My joy turns to sadness as I think about the little baby I will never meet, or get to take to Storytime at the library so other moms can ooh and ahh at my precious child. As I watch the moms hold their babies, my arms ache to hold my own newborn. My finger wants to feel my baby's tiny hand grasp it and hold on tight. My lips want to kiss my child on the forehead. My whole body yearns in some way for a baby who will never be. So I did my oohing and ahhing and then tried not to look at the newborns that much. I didn't want to be jealous. I just wanted to be happy for the new moms.

I tried focusing all my attention on Carson and Coralyn, to be thankful for the blessings they are to me, every single day. But, I am just like a kid and my eyes, my mind, wander. I couldn't help but notice that at least 4 other women were pregnant. Some were ready to deliver any day (or so it looked) and some were just starting to show. Again, my heart filled up and then overflowed with emotions very similar to the ones I felt when I saw the new babies. My hand wanted to reach down and touch my belly where my own baby would be growing. I wanted to whisper to my little one that I loved him and couldn't wait to meet him, to bring him to Storytime. I would be around 20 weeks by now, half way through the pregnancy. I would have a good little bump, but instead all I have is a little pouch I don't really want. And so I tried to be happy for these women instead of being jealous of them.

I tried really hard.

And failed.

Even now, hours later, my heart feels a void, an emptiness. And the thing I have to realize, and truly believe in the depths of my soul, is that a little baby isn't going to fill that whole. No, only God can do that. How fitting that today is Valentine's Day, a day we celebrate love. Yes, our love for our family and friends. But today, my focus is a little different. Today, I am so thankful for God's love for me. I am in desperate need of His love, and He freely gives it, abundantly, constantly. And as I think of His amazing love for me, my heart is once again full.

Valentine's Day, last year

Coralyn, an hour or so after she was born
I couldn't help but look at pictures of Coralyn as a brand new baby :)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mommy's Little Helper

Coralyn tries really hard to put her own shoes on. She almost has it! ;)

No matter how much I want her to stay my baby girl, Coralyn is growing up. And as she does, she is becoming quite the little helper. She just naturally likes to help, and actually does a good job of it. So often kids try to help and end up making the job much bigger and take longer than it would have if Mom would have done it on her own. At times Coralyn's "helping" ends up being more of a hindrance, but usually I really appreciate her help, and am surprised at how well she does.

A few examples of how Coralyn helps me:
*takes clothes from the washer and puts them in the dryer
*takes clothes from the dryer and puts them in the basket
*takes clothes I have folded and carries them to her room
*opens a drawer and puts the clothes in (granted, it's not always the right drawer, but usually she does get things where they are supposed to go)
*takes the daycare kiddos' dirty diapers (all wrapped up) to the diaper gene, opens the lid, puts the diaper in, and closes the lid
*takes pieces of trash (like paper and such) that I give her (and sometimes all on her own) to the trash can, pushes the button to make the lid come up, puts the trash in, and closes the lid again
*points out dirt or pieces of food that are on the kitchen floor (no matter how many times I sweep, she can still find something to show me)
*hands me her plate when she is done eating
*wipes off her part of the table after she is done eating
*hands me cups, plates, spoons, etc. when we are unloading the dishwasher
*puts her shoes by the door
*puts her coat by the closet and insists that I open the door and hang her coat up
*clean up her toys (although this seems to be much harder for her :) and sometimes she pretends she can't reach a toy when all she has to do is take 1 step and bend down to get it)
*brings me items out of the grocery bags and puts them in the fridge (the bottom shelf tends to get pretty full :)

In addition to being quite the little helper, I am noticing that Coralyn shows compassion, or at least a concern, for others. When we go in to eat a snack or lunch, she always makes sure all the daycare kiddos are coming and if someone has forgotten a cup, she gets it for them. When we are playing and she stops to get a drink, she finds other people's cups and takes them to them just in case they wanted a drink too. I am praying God continues to develop this sense of caring for others and uses it for His glory.

Now, if I can just get her to share her toys willingly and not try to take things from people, or push them out her way. One thing at a time, I guess :)

While I was reflecting on what a wonderful little helper Coralyn is, I got to thinking about my relationship with God. Whenever Coralyn helps me, I praise her and tell her "good job" and "thank you so much for being such a great help" or "you're such a big girl helping Mommy." She smiles so big, it almost melts my heart. But, I don't really need her help, and at times she does slow me down. I can put the groceries up, throw trash away, unload the dishwasher, and wash clothes all by myself. I can do all those things pretty quickly and efficiently too, as I have had lots of opportunities to refine my mad housekeeping skills :) More often than not though, I let her help me. I even ask her if she wants to help me because I secretly enjoy watching her and reflect about how quickly she is growing up (then I get a little sad). I wonder if it's the same way with God. He doesn't need our help, at all. He is quite capable of doing everything on His own. Yet, He lets us help Him. Not only that, He invites us to help Him. He gives us jobs to do and trusts us to do them. He could have done our job a lot faster and a lot better. He may have to follow behind us and tweak things a bit, yet He still praises our work. And He continues to let us help Him, time and time again.

I wonder if God is like me, and enjoys watching His little girl do things to help Him and reflects about how much she is growing up.

I hope so.

And I pray that just like Coralyn fills my heart with joy, I bring joy to my heavenly Father.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Number Game

I have always enjoyed school and learning, but math was one of my favorite subjects (except geometry, which I despised...sorry, Mr. Unruh). I think I liked math because there was always an answer. It is very straight forward and objective, as opposed to say English Literature which requires interpreting what the author wrote, when he wrote it, what was going on at the time he wrote it, who he wrote it to, and what message he was really trying to communicate to this specific audience. Talk about complicated, but that is just my opinion. Not to say that I'm not grateful for my English classes in high school, I am. I know that I am a much more well-rounded person because of all the thinking and analyzing and contemplating I had to do in Mrs. Z's room (not to mention all the homework that took place in my living room!). But given a choice, I would have rather been with Mr. Busenitz and his chalkboard solving algebra equations any day. (Those of you who are from Berean know exactly what I mean. Those of you who aren't familiar with good ol' Elbing, Kansas, where I went to high school, will just have to take my word for it.)

I still like numbers today. I think it's because I still like to have an answer to every problem. Unfortunately, life seems to be a lot more like English Literature than it does Algebra II, or even Calculus. Much to my dismay, life presents us with situations that don't always have a solution. There is no formula to follow. Calculators don't help. All we are left with is our mind, our heart, and our faith. The last of which is most important.

When I was younger I used to like to make up math problems to solve. The harder and more complex, the better. For old times sake, I thought I would play a little number game. There aren't any solutions to find, really. More just a bunch of numbers to reflect what is happening in my life right now.

3 years, 4 months, 11 days...since I married my best friend
16 months, 3 days...Coralyn's age
1 year, 360 days...since we found out we were pregnant with Coralyn (Valentine's Day, nonetheless)
5 days...until Valentine's Day this year
1 month (or 28 days really, but who's counting)...until my birthday
28 old I will be (man, I am getting old!)

7 days...that we have not had school because of snow and cold temperatures (which means I didn't work either since I only watch teachers' kiddos; which sounds great until I think about the paycheck, or lack of it)
40 days...until Spring!!!!

3 kids...have left daycare recently
1 boy...who is still coming to daycare (I love Carson!)
3 kids...I need to have a full daycare (in addition to Carson)
6 kids...who are possibilities for joining my daycare soon (boy is God good and faithful in providing for us; not only does He answer our prayers but does so abundantly!)

50 days...since our precious baby went to be with Jesus
50 days...I have thought about the child I will never hold, or hug, or kiss, or read to, or play with, or hear laugh, or pray with, or take to school for the first time, or anything else for that matter
50 days...I have wondered why this happened
50 days...I have been extra thankful for my beautiful, healthy daughter who brings me such joy
50 days...I have trusted that God knows what is best and will work this out for His glory and ultimately my good
50 days...I have asked God to help me trust that He knows what is best and will work this out for His glory and ultimately my good
50 days...God has been by my side to give me strength and hope and peace (well, really He's been there for all the days of my life, but I have definitely sensed Him more these last 50)

19 days...since I announced that I would be a shavee in the American Cancer Socitey's "Shave to Save" event
19 days...I have been scared about being bald
19 days...I have felt alive and a deep joy within me, knowing that by shaving my head cancer patients will be able to stay for free at the Hope Lodge and not have to worry about bills for food and lodging but can focus on their treatment and hopefully spend more time with family and friends
14 days...until I meet the other Shavees and some of the people at the Hope Lodge who will benefit from all the money raised for "Shave to Save"
$5, much money I would like to raise for the Hope Lodge by shaving my head
$ much money people have generously given so far
$4, much more money I need to reach my goal
58 days...people can still donate and support me (on May 2 the American Cancer Society counts all the donations given for the "Shave to Save" event)
68 days...until I will be bald (May 12)
68 days...I will enjoy brushing my hair and being able to put it in a pony tail or braid, choosing whether to curl it, straighten it, or just let it be its naturally frizzy self
68 days...until I get to experience the thrill of doing something totally radical and out of my comfort zone for the pure and simple reason that I know others will be encouraged and blessed

5 and 1/2 hours...until Relate Group tonight
5 and 1/2 hours...until I get to study God's Word with some of the most amazing people on the planet
12 people...(if everyone is healthy) who will come over tonight and make Wednesday the best day of the week simply because it's the day I get to spend time with dear friends who let me be real and honest as we all try to follow hard after Jesus and help each other figure out how to do just that
6 women...who have become dear, dear friends and encouraged me so much
6 men...who have helped Lawrence become an even better man
12 people...who God has used to help bring us closer to Him than ever before

1 hour, 20 minutes...(if I am "lucky") until Coralyn wakes up from her nap

And on that note, I had better get off the computer and get some work done while I can!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sweet Sixteen

As of yesterday Coralyn is 16 months old! She's as sweet as ever, and adventurous too. I think she might even be a little too smart for her own good. She figured out how to use the grocery cart to climb up onto the couch by herself. Resourceful little girl! ;) She's quite the imitator too, which is both funny and scary as she mimics everything she sees Lawrence, me, and the daycare kiddos do.
Lawrence's new nickname for Coralyn is "Ladybug." He'll ask her, "Are you my ladybug?" And she will nod her head and smile really big. She is into giving him hugs now as well. Another favorite lately is coming up to us while we are reading our Bibles and sitting with us in the chair. Or sometimes she will go get a book to read too. Seeing Coralyn and Lawrence all curled up on the couch makes my heart swell, with joy, pride, and thankfulness. I am so blessed to have such an amazing girl, and a wonderful Daddy for her to boot!

Cuddle time after taking a bath

What these boxes are for toys? Coralyn having fun with Carson.

Coralyn put Carson to work. He did a great job pulling her around in the laundry basket.

Playing Wii bowling with Daddy. She had a remote and thought she was playing right along.

Making Daddy look pretty with Play Dough.

Friday, February 4, 2011

By the Book

I love to read, but don't always have much time to sit down and read a book. I'm "lucky" if I can sit down and read my Bible for a few minutes before Coralyn wakes up each morning. Lately, though, with all these snow days and less daycare kiddos to try to coordinate nap schedules, I have been able to read my Bible, along with several other books. And the really cool thing is that God has used these various books and their authors to speak to me right where I am at in life.

Of course He has used His the Bible to teach me, encourage me, and challenge me. I expect that. It is His Word after all. But when the other books reiterate what God has been telling me in the Bible, I know I had better pay attention. I know God means business and that what He has to say must be important.

The thing I appreciate most, though, is that God doesn't seem to be lecturing me, but rather whispering in my ear and assuring me everything is going to be okay. Instead of feeling like I am a little child being scolded, I imagine myself sitting down and sharing a cup of coffee with my Best Friend or curling up in my Daddy's lap while He wraps His strong arms around me. I also picture myself on a long, difficult hike with an experienced Guide who keeps on telling me, "You can do it. I'm right here with you." When I listen to His voice I don't think so much about my hurting feet or my aching lungs; I can look around and enjoy the beauty surrounding me, not to mention the company of my Guide, who just happens to be my Maker and the Creator of the entire universe.

I could keep my conversations with God a secret, but yesterday I read in Psalm 34 (verse 3), "Come, let us tell of the Lord's greatness; let us exalt His name together." So I figure by sharing what God has been teaching me, you will see how awesome He is, how faithful and good He is, and how much He loves us.

Recently I finished a devotional book with each day's entry being a prayer of praise to God. Rather than put it away, I decided to read through it again. So this morning I am back to Day 1.
My heart rejoices in You, Lord, for You are my strong shelter in times of trouble and danger and stress... Perfect. I need a strong shelter right about now. I am feeling a little stressed.

my hiding place to whom I may continually resort... Glad to know I can keep coming back to God, time and time again.

my Father who lovingly provides for me... Exactly what I need to remember: God has always provided for me and will continue to do so, forever. He knows my needs and will meet them; He has always taken care of me and isn't going to stop now.

my Shepherd who guides and protects me... Nice, because I could sure use some direction and guidance right about now.

my Champion who upholds my cause as His child and defends my highest Bridegroom who delights in God who is mighty to save, who rests in His love for me and rejoices over me with singing, with shouts of joy. You are my inheritance, my share in life, the One who satisfies my longing and fills my hungry soul with goodness. What a timely reminder that only God can fill that empty feeling I have, that only He can truly satisfy me.

I praise You for Your love and Your wisdom. You are too wise to ever make a mistake, too loving to ever do anything unkind. Yes, that's right. That means that our miscarriage wasn't mistake. Even more, it wasn't unkind. Somehow, it the best thing for us. Somehow... It also means that 3 of my daycare kiddos leaving at the same time isn't a mistake, something that slipped by God's radar on accident. Somehow it is the best thing for us. Somehow...

You act on my behalf, accomplishing what concerns me and fulfills Your purpose for me as I call on You. Oh, that's right. It's not about my plans; it's about God's purposes, which are always way better than my wildest dreams anyway. After all, He is the One who can do immeasurably beyond all we ask or imagine!

Thank You that You love me deeply and tenderly. You are compassionate and gracious, full of lovingkindness, ready to forgive, patiently considerate, and generous beyond imagining. You desire my love and rejoice to do good things for me. Wow, God likes to do nice things for me. It's like He wants me to be at peace, to be filled with joy.

You delight to give me the desires of my heart as I delight myself in You. Not only does God want to do good things for me, but He wants to bring my dreams to fruition. He wants to answer my prayers. The thing I have to keep in mind is that He does that as my plans and hopes and desires line up with His perfect will for my life.

How precious is Your love to me, O God! More than ever before, I sense God's presence. I know that I am in His company, and am at peace because of that. No matter what happens, I feel steady on my Rock, safe in my Fortress. Never before has my relationship with God meant so much, been so precious to me.

I sing for joy as I take refuge in the shadow of Your wings! There's no place I would rather be.

Pretty cool, huh? Coincidence, I think not! God is so good. He knows exactly where I am at; He knows my thoughts, my emotions. He meets me right there. He doesn't pass on by, but joins me on my journey. Plus, He offers to carry all my bags for me! In exchange for all my baggage, He gives me comfort, hope, peace, joy. Quite the trade. If you ask me, I definitely got the better end of the deal!

And it gets even better. I am also reading Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. Jeanne Hewitt lent me the book because she thought I would be able to relate to Shauna, who wrote this book after having a miscarriage of her own. Boy was Jeanne right! In the opening pages Shauna writes:

Bittersweet is the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands. Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity. Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, earthy.

This collection is an ode to all things bittersweet, to life at the edges, a love letter to what change can do in us. This is what I've come to believe about change: it's good, in the way that childbirth is good, and heartbreak is good, and failure is good. By that I mean that it's incredibly painful, exponentially more so if you fight it, and also that it has the potential to open you open up, to open life up, to deliver you right into the palm of God's hand, which is where you wanted to be all along, except that you were too busy pushing and pulling your life into exactly what you thought it should be.

What is she talking about? I mean, I am never trying to figure things out, get things lined up perfectly, know all the details, put all the pieces together, write things down on the calendar, or get my life just the way I think it should be. Oh wait, yes I am. All. The. Time.

Not only can I relate to Shauna there, but I was also challenged by what she said a few chapters later as she used the metaphor of learning to swim to describe how we respond to change:

If you dig in and fight the changes, they will smash you to bits. They'll hold you under, drag you across the rough sand, scare and confuse you. But if you can find it within yourself, in the wildest of seasons, just for a moment, to trust in the goodness of God, who made it all and holds it all together, you'll find yourself drawn along to a whole new place, and there's nothing truly sweeter. Unclench your fists, unlock your knees and also the door to your heart, take a deep breath, and begin to swim. Begin to let the waves do their work in you.

I will end with a few verses from the Book itself. How fitting that David wrote in Psalm 34:4-6,

"I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me,
freeing me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
I cried out to the Lord in my suffering, and He heard me.
He set me free from all my fears."