Peru: On Humility, Generosity, and the Things That Change Us

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Hi, friends. :)

So we wrapped up our official time in Lima last night, and everyone is off to the airport (or already gone) except me and Ginger. We’ll leave for Cusco later this afternoon for a few days before heading back to the States. (But not before we go for a snack run because…well, because snacks. See two posts ago.) 😀

It’s a strange sort of quiet this morning as I look around a room that‘s been filled with laughter, love, jokes, and memories…all of those things spanning just seven days that somehow felt like much more. God truly blessed us with a wonderful team, and I love each of these friends so much.

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I got up before 5 a.m. to see most of the team off and also because, selfishly, I wanted one more hug and memory with each of them. And then I climbed back into my bunk bed and tried to go back to sleep, but my mind started wandering and processing all we’ve experienced.

As much as I should sleep because, honestly, there hasn’t been a lot of it lately, I guess I want one more blogging memory, too. 😉

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So the coffee is brewed, I’m drinking out of the mug I’ve been using all week…and I’m hoping that maybe my words this morning might begin to give our time here some justice. Begin, at least.

Lima is an interesting city…it has so many things that other large (read: HUGE) cities do: more restaurants than I could ever visit, the crazy driving that somehow makes sense but doesn’t really at all (ask me about our last taxi ride here sometime), and so many people.

So many people. 

They are what make this place what it is…a beautiful, heartbreaking, amazing city and country with maybe the kindest people I’ve ever met in my life. (And also some of the best food. I promise I didn’t come for the food.) 😉

And all of what we did here centered around people. Whether we were visiting their churches, feeding them (but more often, they fed us), teaching, going to their homes to hear their stories and pray with them, playing with the kids at the park…the people are what make Lima what it is. They are kind, generous, and open…I totally jumped on board with the whole greeting with a kiss thing, I guess because it just shows how accepting they are of others. I love how warm and welcoming they were, from the first moments we entered their churches, homes, lives.

It was instant friendship, and that will stay with me forever.

One of our first mornings here, we split into two groups and had the opportunity to visit the homes of several members of the church in Los Olivos. At the first home, we talked with a new mama while her baby napped. I was amazed, as she shared her story, at how much we have in common, and my heart went out to her as she talked about the struggles I have, too…with life and her past, with parenting, with feeling like she’s enough. The things that are universal with every mama’s heart.

A few mornings later, God set it up so I could be in a home with another mama of three, including a nine year-old girl and a three year-old boy. Again, hearing her stories and pain and joy and faith, sometimes all in the same sentence, reminded me that we’re really not so different from each other. We struggle, but we also have hope because of Jesus.

The last few days have been spent in a different part of Lima, where the challenges seemed a little more tangible. It’s pretty hard to forget walking into someone’s house with the first door being to a bedroom…and then realizing that it’s the whole house. There were beds, the tiniest kitchen area, clothes, a tv, everything this family possessed…all in a space smaller than our family room back home. Plastic stools were lined up, and they stood so we could sit.

We were given their very best. 

It was humbling and it was also life-changing. I thought about the place I come from and how I don’t ever have to think about my next meal or what I’ll do if I need or want something. And yet, the poverty here is real, and it stabs a person in the heart so deeply that it hurts…maybe so we can enter into their pain just a little.

And so we don’t forget.

And beyond those struggles, we heard a father of three talk about a difficult health challenge he’s facing, and we saw his brokenness in worrying about his children. I think there were tears in all of our eyes as we listened, and then he stood there and proclaimed that, despite all of this, his Heavenly Father would take care of them because He’s the best Father, and I can’t get this man’s face or words (even if they were in Spanish) out of my head.

If anyone in the world is justified in losing hope, it would be him…but he knows and believes with all his heart that Jesus is our true hope. 

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And I suppose I could keep writing this morning…I could tell you more stories and talk about the amazing place called Castillo Fuerte (Mighty Fortress) and about the life-changing work being done there and about how the place is so full of love that it makes a person never want to leave. One of the teachers there asked me, when will you return? 

And I told her…I want to. So much. And I meant it with all my heart. This church and school, a tiny space I’d never be able to find without a map, is doing life-changing Jesus work and families are being transformed. I hope and pray I’ll have the chance to go back (and hopefully before another twenty years pass) so I can hug these people again and see the rewards of their faithfulness.

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It’s been a good week. 

It’s been a hard week. 

It’s been a week where the love, grace, and mercy of our Father has been so present. 

There’s so much more to share, and I hope that will happen soon.

For now, it’s time to figure out how to cram everything into my suitcase and still leave room for a few souvenirs for my people. (Including snacks.) 😀

Thank you, all…for your prayers, for your support, for being part of this journey. I’m blessed.

And may I live that way, knowing how blessed I am so I can be as generous as the people I’ve met this week. 

God is good. So. Good.

And I’m so thankful. 

 

Sig

Where Are Their God Moments?

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There are moments in life that stand out to me, times when I have known, without a doubt, that God was painting a masterpiece right in front of my eyes so I’d know He was there.

I could talk about them for days, the ways God has shown up in our lives…about how He’s led us to places far beyond what we could have ever dreamed of, how He brought us to just the right place when our beyond-those-dreams life changed into a different kind of dream. How he gave us unimaginable gifts in the form of kids we thought we might never have, about how He’s provided and given and blessed.

I have no shortage of masterpieces in my life. 

And maybe the first, clear one goes back to this twenty year-old girl who traipsed through jungles with a wide-open heart and let God do whatever He wanted with her life. In between the moments and memories, He pressed deeply into her heart the desire to love the people of Peru and serve them.

I remember that when I returned, I knew this was my call…to return and be in the very place I’m typing this post from tonight, twenty years later. Except it wasn’t.

And over the years, as things and seasons have changed and shifted, the painting I thought He was doing in my life changed palettes and colors. I learned acceptance and obedience as I saw Him rearrange all I’d expected and anticipated.

And yet, still…I can look back at all that and know that it’s beautiful. A masterpiece.

It’s all from Him.

I’ve talked often about how this time in Peru feels like a gift in so many ways. Just landing here, spending time with the people, getting to share the love of Jesus with them, praying over them, receiving every single one of those kisses (and boy are there a lot!) 😀 from the probably-hundreds who have greeted me…those things have been blessings beyond what I could have hoped for.

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We’ve visited people in their homes, prayed with them, played games with kids and taught them lessons, talked with older people at a health clinic, wandered and explored neighborhoods with rugged beauty and heartbreaking poverty that somehow exist in the same space.

Those things and places and people are all part of His masterpieces, too, and I have struggled with that this week. 

I want to write a post to you that tells all about the amazing things we’ve seen God do and how He’s worked…and He has. Oh, my goodness, has He ever.

He really has been working, and it’s been awesome to see.

But today, as I heard another mom share her heartbreaking story and follow it with hope, as we met with a man and his three children in their one room (yes, you read that right) apartment, who is dealing with unimaginable challenges…and then in practically the same breath, we heard this man preach at us about how God is faithful and provides and takes care of his children and is the best Father to us all…I found myself wondering why the redemption in these stories isn’t more tangible. Here were these people in desperate need, clinging to Truth they know and believe with all their hearts…

And why isn’t God showing up for them and providing beyond what they could ever dream? 

Where were THEIR God moments, the kind where they could look back and know He was making something beautiful for each of them, too? 

And then it was almost like God decided to smack me over the head in the midst of the tears that were threatening to drip…

…because wasn’t the fact that these people, who were facing such heartbreak and pain, could turn to their faith and proclaim their trust in God and all He’s promised them…wasn’t it enough? 

Watching and hearing and knowing they’re living out their faith…those are the biggest God moments.

We were gathered last night as a team, along with a local pastor and his wife, having dinner…and someone told us to look out the window at the dusk sky.

I’m not sure He painted it for me…but it brought to me the reminder that God is writing each of our stories. He sees the people we’ve seen just as much as He sees me. He is present in this hillside village, just as much as He shows up in my suburban neighborhood back in Illinois.

I can trust the God who is writing my own story to write one for each of His children.

That’s beautiful. That’s a God moment.

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Sig

On Snacks and Language Barriers and Love

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Greetings from Peru!

Before I get going too much into this post, I feel like I need to fess up to something that is totally un-holy and absolutely not why I came back to this incredible country, though you would also absolutely expect this from me:

Oh my goodness. The snacks.

I’m not gonna lie. Snacks are always a winner with me, but there’s something so fun about traveling to a new place and exploring the little corner stores and grocery stores and markets that carry so many fun things. On our first day here we wandered into one during the afternoon so I could find my beloved Inca Kola…and, praise Jesus, they make it sin azucar (without sugar) now, so now I won’t be flying on a permanent sugar high during the twelve days I’m here. 😉

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And, of course, while we were there, I had to take stock of the cookies and crackers, and pretty much stuffed an entire package down while I was wandering a little store in the market.

I really didn’t pop in here to talk about the snacks, as good as they are. But I’ll share some pics of my favorites later. 😉

Peru.

Here I am (we are), and it’s been hard to put it all into words, which is why it’s taken this long to get the first post up. We flew in Saturday night, and I absolutely did tear up when the wheels of the plane hit the runway, just in case you’re wondering. We arrived where we’re staying late and finally crashed after midnight.

It was a short night of sleep before we hit the ground running on Sunday morning. It was a full day…over an hour walking/bus ride to get to church, followed by cooking and serving lunch to the members of the church while Kelley gave a nutrition talk. She’d done a lot of research and spent even more time trying recipes and prepping a menu so we’d have something to work with when we got here. (And she did an amazing job!) :) While she shared with members of the congregation, the rest of us had our first experience of cooking in Peru. We also had some time to chat with people and get to know them. I’ve been digging deep to try to find the Spanish I used to have (and praying that Indonesian doesn’t fly out of my mouth…it has a few times already!) and it’s starting to come back. I’m thankful for that and have mad respect for people who can manage to juggle more than two languages now.

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After we left church, we spent the afternoon near the coast, where we got to explore a little. We shopped a little, snack-hunted a little, gazed at the Pacific, wandered some more, and met up for dinner.

It was a great first day, and we all loved our first opportunity to see the ministry at Los Olivos and to explore a little of the city.

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Monday morning was another early one…we headed back to Los Olivos (lots of walking and time on a bus), and spent the entire day visiting members. We split into two teams and went with either Pastor Walterson or Vicar Elvis and walked/rode the bus/rode a motor taxi what felt like all over town, but really wasn’t even close to that. (Lima is big. I can’t even describe how big.)

I’m honestly still processing the visits…it was truly a great day, and there are stories to tell and things weighing on my heart that remind me to pray for the people we’ve met here.

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One thing I’ve been reminded of as I’ve listened and tried to translate as much as I could…

People are people no matter where you go. There’s always something we can find in common, a way we can connect and laugh and love. Right now my heart feels connected to a new mama we had the chance to visit yesterday morning. She has a baby boy and is going through the same struggles I have and still do…worrying about things, wondering if she’s a good mom, both of us trying to trust that we’re doing our best and not messing up everything. I love that we could connect through those things, even if the language barrier made it more difficult.

In all of it, love transcends language, and I think I’m going to hang on to that one as we go through the next days here.

We’re doing well and are thankful for the opportunity to be in this beautiful place with even more beautiful people.

Thanks for reading and being here.

 

Sig

On Peru: Before We Go

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In my last post I shared with you all that God did something pretty big to open a door for me to return to the country of Peru. For over two decades, it’s been a place that has been hidden in a corner of my heart where I store some of the sweetest memories of my life, memories that have shaped just about every aspect of who I am today. I spent just less than a month there, and during that time, the people captured my heart in a way that’s hard to describe.

I always wanted to go back.

And because God does His own things in His own ways in His own time (which seems to be the theme of my life, um, every single day) He decided now was the time to fling a door open. It wasn’t one I was necessarily looking for, and I think that’s what makes it so sweet. In the busyness of life with a hubby, two kiddos, and several different things that keep me busy, a mission trip wasn’t even on my radar.

And because of that, I feel like God just gave me a huge gift.

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Two months ago I told you all about how I was raising money for the trip by selling coffee mugs, and boy did you all show up in the most amazing ways! I raised nearly ALL of what I needed to cover my plane ticket, just through friends and family, both local and online, buying these sweet little coffee mugs. (Which actually aren’t that little…and I still have a few, so let me know if you want one!)

And in addition to supporting me personally, I can’t get over how our church rallied around us and gave money, gift cards, and TONS of medical supplies, enough to fill four suitcases. Amazing! We are so blessed.

And I’m just so grateful for each of you who have given and prayed and supported, so thank you.

THANK YOU.

There are five people from my church traveling to Peru (along with four others), and last week we met for dinner and kind of a “last, what-are-we-forgetting?” chat. While we were talking, the subject of sharing this journey on a blog came up. I said I’d be happy to use this space for Peru updates in the next couple of weeks.

So that’s what I’m doing, and also…in case you haven’t noticed, you’ll get a little of my wit sprinkled in occasionally, too. 😉

So, if you’re new here, welcome! And if you’re not new here, welcome back! It’s good to have you here.

Our team is comprised of: me (of course), Ginger, Kelley, Doug, and Samantha. Ginger is a nurse and good friend of mine from church, and I’m so excited that she’s part of this team! Kelley (physical therapist), Doug (firefighter and EMT) and Samantha (who has lots of cross cultural and refugee work/experience) are all friends from church, who I’ve known through different capacities…singing on praise team, playing bells, participating in volleyball tournaments. (And they’re also husband/wife and daughter, and I think it’s super cool that they’re doing this as a family.) I think we’re a pretty fun group, and I’m looking forward to the time we’ll have together!

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We’ll also be meeting up with a doctor (Jennifer) and three missionaries from the Dominican Republic (Jamielynn, Erin, and Courtney). I’ll share more about them when I can get some photos and stories in person. :)

A little about what we’ll be doing: our trip to Peru is newer territory for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), and so the word, flexible, has been reiterated to us many times. The word, in general, just goes with missions. Nothing ever goes as planned. EVER. Or, at least it feels that way.

But our plan is to hold a Community Health Fair in two different parts of Lima, Peru. We’ll be touching on several different things…nutrition, hand washing, dental care, eye care…and helping/assisting the people who come to these fairs. I’m taking the lead on dental hygiene, which is honestly not something I ever thought I’d teach. 😉 My lesson involves eating Oreos, though, so I think the kiddos will have a good time.

We’ll all be meeting in Lima on Saturday (tomorrow!) night, and our official work there kicks off on Sunday. (Some have already arrived, and some of us are leaving tomorrow morning.

This past Sunday our church sent us off with a blessing and a prayer. That first picture will probably make me tear up every time I look at it for the rest of my life. We’re so very blessed to be surrounded by the love and prayers of this church family…and I’m just grateful to have this opportunity.

Please pray for us as we go and love the people of Peru. That’s really what it is, isn’t it? Missions is really just love.

Loving people because He first loved us.

I have no doubt in my mind that each person on our team is going for a specific and important reason, and I’m so looking forward to seeing all that God does and the ways He works. Will you pray with us?

Prayers:

–health and safety as we travel to Peru
–for the people we’ll be serving and loving to have open hearts
–for flexibility as some of the details of what we’re doing will be figured out “as we go”

Praises:

–for God’s provision for each of us to be able to go
–that God always goes with us and before us. He is so good!

Thanks, friends! I’m looking forward to sharing more stories soon! :)

Special thanks to our friend, Mike, for the great pictures from Sunday. We appreciate you!

Sig

On Miracles and (Coffee) Mugs

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I remember the day. It was twenty years ago this past June. (Yes, I’m old, but this particular post isn’t about that.) 😉

I stood at the edge of the Amazon River as our team got ready to board a speed boat that would take us back to Iquitos, a city in northern Peru, so we could catch our flight.

I stood there, and I said goodbye.

Wrapped up in more hugs than I could count, that goodbye brought a thousand emotions and even more tears as I watched people, who had become so precious to me in just a few weeks, wave their farewells.

It felt like a forever goodbye.

I couldn’t stop the tears, and I didn’t even try. That morning, the then-20-year-old I was grieved and sobbed over all that came with saying such hard goodbyes…the kind I’d never had to say before.

I didn’t want to go, and I didn’t want to think of life without people who’d found such an important place in my heart.

But the goodbyes were inevitable and had to happen, whether I cried or not. (So of course I let tears fall because I’m me.) 😉

When I first returned to the U.S. after almost a month in Peru, I lived every moment for the opportunity to return. I looked for ways to plan for a life there, I prayed a lot, I pushed on doors. I figured that if God had hollowed out such a deep corner of my heart for this place in the world that surely He was going to send me there.

And yet, weeks and months passed, and life went on. The ache for a life in South America remained, but it was less.

And then a year had gone by. I found myself distracted with a new ministry and student teaching, with college graduation on the horizon. Once in awhile I’d still think of Peru. But, really, the plans had stopped, and the dream I’d once had to return…was dying.

And then a year became years, and I found myself even more distracted by a guy named Tobin, who would become my boyfriend, then my fiancé, and then my husband. (And in the God-thing our relationship was, he had a love for the country of Brazil.) As we carved out the new, married-kind-of-life for ourselves, some days we’d come back to the conversation. I think we always believed we’d go back to South America.

But in the ways that God does His thing and in His sense of humor, He moved different mountains and sent us across an ocean or two instead for half a decade.

Indonesia became a forever part of our lives during the years we called it home, and I can honestly tell you I never once wished we were in Peru instead. There were times when I wondered, but I never questioned.

God’s ways had always been bigger than mine. Why would that change?

And then the Indonesia season flipped and switched to Illinois and motherhood, and we found ourselves creating a different life in an unexpected place. While there was a trip here and there to somewhere exciting, I think we’d both come to an understanding and acceptance, even, that the overseas part of our lives was over. For whatever reason, God hadn’t pressed on us the burden to go again. Yet, anyway.

And over the past decade (almost), I’ve been choosing to love (and I really DO love) the life I have here. I’ve dug deep into motherhood and friendship, community and church, and it’s been wonderful. We’ve had blessing after blessing poured out on us in this place, and I hope we’ve returned some of the blessings we’ve been given to others. We often talk about how God put everything in place, just to bring us to where we are today.

And now that I’m at today, I guess I’ll get to the point, too. 😉

I’ve been sitting on a little bit of a miracle. It isn’t really a secret, but it’s not something I’ve shouted from the rooftops yet, mostly because I’m still wrapping my mind around all of it.

A few months ago, a friend was talking about a mission trip she and her family were going on. It sounded interesting, and being the girl who loves allllll the things that involve culture and adventure, I was ready to do a flying leap right into it all. But I also clearly heard God say, No. Not yet. And so, in a very un-Mel way, I stayed quiet. 😉

A couple months later a similar conversation happened, and this time that friend told me that she kept thinking of me and she thought I should go.

Out of the 195 countries that make up this world, guess where this group was headed?

Yep. Peru.

PERU, y’all.

And even though the flying leap was again tempting, I prayed. I really wasn’t sure this was the right fit or time for me, and so I took it slow. I drug my feet, I prayed, I still didn’t apply for a passport, even though mine (I know…M.I.N.E.) was expired.

But God wouldn’t leave me alone 😉 and it seemed like, at every turn, this trip was supposed to happen.

And so I applied. Interviewed. Prayed some more. And finally committed.

And two months from today, I get to board a plane and return to this place that has been tucked away in a remote corner of my heart for over 20 years.

I’m excited, I’m nervous, it feels surreal. But everyone around me has been so encouraging, and God clearly drew this one out for me. And so, I’m going. At least, I’m planning to.

My hubby, who has been incredibly supportive, challenged me to raise the money for this trip. And I chose to take him up on his challenge in a total Mel way.

And so, I want to tell you another (shorter) story…and confess something, too. 😉

The artist in me is always doodling and drawing. And lately, some of my favorite things have been created during sermons at church. (Which I have confessed to the pastors…because I listen better when I’m drawing anyway.) :) About a month ago, I doodled something in between singing songs for praise team, and I loved it so much that I joked about getting it printed on a mug.

And instead of leaving it as a joke, I actually did it.

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And so, for the first time, my art is on a coffee mug, and I sort of love it. And I’m sort of selling them, too. Or, giving them away for a donation…whatever you prefer to call it. 😉

If you’d like to support my trip (total cost will run around $1,000), I would love that. For anyone who donates $25 or more, I’ll send you one of these as a thank you. (Local friends, I’ll do $20. I just have to factor in shipping.)

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When I look at this mug and the artwork etched onto it, it strikes me as another God-thing. In all the times I’ve doubted and questioned, God has always been able. And He showed that by opening a completely unexpected door for me to be part of something in a place I’ve loved for so long. He didn’t do it in my timing, but He DID do it.

And I’d love for you to be part of it all.

If you’d like a mug (and to support me), you can Venmo me @barefootmel or send a check/cash. (Message or email me for my address.) And then I’ll get that mug sent off to you as soon as possible.

When we lived and worked overseas, asking for money and support was the hardest thing. I don’t love it, even if it’s for a great cause, and while I’ll happily give to others…it’s tough asking for the money. I appreciate your support, however you can give it…whether it’s through giving or through prayer or through both.

And if you do end up with one of these mugs, I hope it’s a sweet reminder that God always sees your heart and the things you hope for most.

Don’t ever doubt His ability to do above and beyond…because He IS able. Always.

Thanks for reading, friends. Thanks for being willing to still show up even if it’s been about ten months since I’ve written anything. And thanks for your prayers and support, too. Love you all!

Sig

A Letter To My Girl: You Are Always Enough

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My sweet Mae,

As I sit here in bed tonight, snuggled under a blanket and thinking about the last week or so, I can’t help but just say it. We’ve had a week. If I actually said that to you, you’d probably reference a few things.

You’d probably start with the fact that, for the first time this school year, you missed a spelling word on a Monday test. And while the rest of us are over here marveling at your mad spelling skills, I saw the look on your face that afternoon when you climbed into the van at pickup line. The tears didn’t take long to pool on your eyelids, and I hadn’t even pulled out of the parking lot before you told me you’d missed not one, but two, words. And then a friend had teased you, and that made it worse. My heart cracked a little for you that day.

As on any given week, you’d probably mention math homework, too. I am open to the very real possibility that just about every third grade parent may agree that math is the bane of our very existence between approximately 3:30-4:00 p.m. during the week. (And having actually taught third grade math in the past, I can verify that it is, indeed, the math itself and not the teachers and/or doers of math that are the bane. Please, feel deeply for your teachers, especially those of the third grade variety.) Nevertheless, it often becomes a tension point as we struggle to figure out, not just the right answer, but how you actually got that answer. Some days not just our hearts, but our words, crack, too. And we have to apologize and forgive and move forward because we love each other more than math.

And then we’d talk about the spelling bee, too, and how you and your best friend are both wonderful spellers…and how, in general, your class is pretty good at spelling. You’d tell me about how much you love E because the two of you are peas in a pod, and I’m so happy that you have each other. But when you told me on Wednesday that the last spot in the school spelling bee was coming down between the two of you, I think my heart did an inner bleed all over the place. What were the chances? And yet, you prayed and we talked and decided to give it to God and trust Him to take care of who should win, and you told me you’d be so happy for your friend if she won even if you’d be a little sad, too. And my heart didn’t break that time, but man, did it explode. And then God worked it out a little more so you could both go. You wouldn’t believe how big the smile on my face is for both of you, even tonight as I tap these words out.

And then you might get quiet and we’d talk about the thing that’s been hard. Really hard. You’d talk about the operetta (the lower grade musical) and how you got your part last week. And it wasn’t what you’d hoped for. And yet we’d prayed and asked God to give you the part you should have, but His answer wasn’t what you wanted.

But you put on your brave face through it, and you decided you’d do your very best with what you were given and cheer for your friends who got bigger parts.

And Mae, I want to tell you something. It’s a lesson that’s good for an eight year old like you, but it’s also a lesson I think every single person needs to hear.

The world is going to tell you that big and important and being seen are the things that matter most. But the world is wrong.

The truth is that there are going to be many days in your life when circumstances will make you feel like you don’t matter as much as others.  But Mae, those things don’t define your worth. Your worth is not decided in the small role you earned in a musical, whether or not you have a solo, if you win the spelling bee or if you’re the first person out. It’s not decided in the number of people who flock around you or if you have just one or two good friends. The kind of house you live in, the clothes you wear, those things don’t define you either.

Your worth was determined so long ago. Two thousand years ago at the cross, Jesus decided YOU were worth it. He wasn’t looking at the accomplishments you would or wouldn’t have, the people who would or wouldn’t like you, whether or not you’d earn the lead role in a school play. He didn’t care, then, if you would create the most beautiful art or sing with the most perfect pitch.

He saw you as a creation of your Heavenly Father, a beautiful one, and that made you worth dying for. That right there is your worth.

The world is, often, going to make you feel like being someone who is kind to others and willing to serve them isn’t enough.

The world demands the spotlight for worth, but Jesus doesn’t.

And I want you to know that and believe it with your whole heart because I’ve seen it so much. I wasn’t the girl who made the A team, got the solos, or earned the big parts. I did make the spelling bee, probably because of all the nights I read every book I could find because reading was all I had. 😉 I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I had those few faithful ones. I spent more time serving than shining, and it didn’t feel like a gift at age 13 or even at 30. It’s starting to feel like one now, though.

There were many days when it was hard to feel like I mattered, but I’m on the other side of it now, and I know, now, that those things matter. I matter. And so do you.

The world will tell you a lot of lies.

But the Bible will tell you the truth.

And the truth, Mae, is this: You are always enough.

You were enough when Jesus shed his blood for you, and you are enough today. As you are. God made you, and He doesn’t make mistakes.

He knew that the girl named Maelie Naomi, who entered the world that summer afternoon almost nine years ago, would light up the lives of the people who filled her days. He knew she would sparkle and add joy and have a creative streak found in the thousands of words she’d write in her free time and in the hundreds of art projects and drawings she’d do. He knew she’d sing a song that didn’t follow the world’s and that occasionally she’d pound it out on the piano, too. He knew she’d find a kindness through His love that she would share with those around her. He knew she’d be a treasure.

And, sweet girl, you are a treasure to so many people.

Mae, the world might not tell you that you matter. But Jesus tells you that you do.

Often, I pray Isaiah 43:1 over myself, and over you.

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

Mae, you are redeemed. His child.

You’ve been called by name.

You are His. His, Mae. HIS child, and there’s more worth in that than you’ll ever find in anything here on this earth.

And you may feel, today, like you don’t matter, but I want to tell you this.

You mean so much to your Father.

God is working on His masterpiece in you, and He’s not finished. Today, you are who you’re supposed to be, and in His time, He’ll make you into who you will be. Who you’ll be might be that person who shines from a stage, or you might shine for Him, instead, behind that stage. You might have a job someday where everyone notices you or you might be that stay at home mama I know you dream of being, the one who faithfully does her thing and tries to do it the best she can while desperately clinging to her mug of caffeine. You may go far and wide to preach Jesus to others or you might stay right in your neighborhood and show Jesus to the neighbors next door. You might write a bestseller (and knowing how you write, I wouldn’t be surprised) or you might be the girl who obediently writes words because God has one person out there who needs to read them.

As long as you stay with Him, walk with Him, and trust Him you’ll never miss out on a thing He has for you.

Tonight you’re going to bed with a bit of a heavy heart and sadness, wondering what went wrong. I don’t have any answers for you, sweet girl, but I do know that I love you…to the moon and back plus infinity…just as you are.

You are enough…for Him and for me, your daddy, Mac, and all those who love you.

I’m so proud of you, and I can’t wait to see what He’ll do with your life.

Love,
Mama

Photo by Dids from Pexels

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Three Decades: Remembering a Friend

Three Decades final

It’s been one of those days, the kind that I can’t exactly explain with words. But y’all know I’ll try anyway, right? 😉

I suppose that happens with surprise, Polar Vortex vacations that land smack dab in the middle of the time of year we’re not supposed to have a break from school. Kids are home, hubs is home, and we’re only venturing outside for seconds at a time, long enough for the pup to do what he absolutely must. His poor paws.

We tried to sleep in, but the toddler missed the memo, we’re wearing extra layers, and though I talked myself into a shower and brushing my teeth, that’s about it. I spent approximately three seconds on my hair before I twisted my growing-out-pixie-now-really-a bob, into a half knot, the kind reserved for only my family to see, and called it good.

Yay for freezing days off school, the kind where I can hole up in my bed during naptime under the warmest blanket I can find and tap out the words that desperately need to escape my heart. Yay, too, that these kind of days come with SO. NEEDED. extra coffee, cold toes but warm socks, and super messy hair that is somehow acceptable and doesn’t make anyone even look twice. I’ll take it allllllll. 😉

And also, it seems like the blog has been a stranger over the last few years. Instead of splashing out the words as quickly as they come, I almost overthink every letter. I confessed that to my husband this morning…and then I told him I wasn’t going to worry anymore. Ha! 😉 I guess what that actually means is that I’m just going to write, and you can feel free to stay or leave. (But please stay? Thanks.) :)

Today is one of those days for other reasons, too. And those wear a little more deeply on my heart and make the tears brim on my eyelids a little more.

January 30th is today. And though it won’t be today when I share this with you (it’ll most likely be yesterday or even two days ago because I totally sleep on my words these days before I publish them) it’s a date that doesn’t pass without me thinking about a friend.

Today it’s been thirty years. 30. Three decades is a long time.

Thirty years ago, I sat in my 5th grade classroom on a Monday morning, writing out my spelling words and trying not to think about the rumors that had somehow already started circulating between students. There’d been a car accident that morning, a 5th grade friend and his family. His sister was a year younger and a good friend of mine.

In my shaky, shy voice, I’d asked, Is my friend ok?

No one knew, and so I tried not to think about it and focused on doing what the teacher said that morning.

But when the door opened in the middle of spelling and the principal stepped into our room, we all knew something was wrong. He briefly shared the details that yes, there had been an accident and one of our 5th graders had been in it. And then he said, And K passed away.

My friend.

Even decades later, I can still take myself back to that moment, where I sat in my classroom, the jeans I was wearing, how much my hand shook as I continued to work on my writing as if, somehow, that would push it all further away and make the news less real. I remember it all.

I remember the days that followed and then sitting at a funeral two days later, gripping the hand of another girl. We were both so confused and hurt, and we couldn’t stop the tears from slipping down our cheeks as we sat hunched over, unable to even look at the casket before us.

The cemetery was slippery that day, and I remember tapping at the ice with my shoes, trying to break through it as the pastor said a prayer. I remember going home with my parents and how exhausted we all were, and so they ordered a pizza for dinner. But I don’t remember eating it because I’m not sure we were even hungry.

That was grief, at least for a ten year old who didn’t understand loss just yet.

What I knew was that my friend, the one who lived just a few blocks away, would never come over to play again. We’d never meet at the park again or ride bikes or become teenagers together. She’s with Jesus, the pastor had told us, and so I think we all clung to that as we tried to make sense of this small town tragedy that never should have happened.

And I suppose I wrapped my mind around it as best as I could, but the hurt didn’t stop even as the years went on.

Her dad was the janitor at our school, and every time I saw him, I wanted to go up and hug him and tell him, I miss her. I’m sorry. But I suppose being shy won out.

I desperately clung to the one photo I had of her, just a newspaper clipping of the local children’s choir we both sang in, knowing it was all I’d ever have. It’s still packed away in a box somewhere, now yellowed and wrinkled from the hundreds of times I held it in my hands.

I’ve thought about her often over the years. Not every day, but always every January 30th and many, many times in between. I still slip out to where she’s buried at the cemetery just outside of my hometown when I’m back visiting. Sometimes I leave her a flower and sometimes I just talk to her. I’ve thought about the friendship we might have had and I’ve also thought about what I missed and also about what her family missed.

I know they’ve thought of that, too, and ached for her probably every single day…the kind, caring girl who left this world too soon. The years have passed and a lot of memories have faded, but I haven’t forgotten the things that made her who she was, at least through the eyes of a ten (and now forty) year old.

There are things in life that change us forever, and that January morning in 1989 was one of them for me.

Losing my friend taught me, so early, that life is fragile and friends should be treasured. Our friendship wasn’t long enough for there to be things I deeply regret, but there are things I would change. I’d go back and make more memories. I’d go back and run over to the park the last day I saw her here on earth instead of just assuming we’d have tomorrow. I’d tell her that I was so glad she was my friend.

There are a lot of things I’d do…but I can’t.

And so, instead, I give myself a few moments to tear up and think about how, even thirty years later, I can learn from a loss so deep…and do better. Be a better friend, be a kinder person, be a little more like Jesus.

That’s how I can honor the life of someone who still holds a place in my heart so many years later.

And the thing is, I feel like I run to this space most often when things are harder, but the truth is that there’s a lot of good in my days. There are things to celebrate, things to write about, things I want to share, and I hope I’ll come by this space a lot more often so I can tell you about them. :)

I’m crawling out of the depths of parenting a toddler (not really…he’s still a toddler through and through) which really means that I feel like I can think coherently again, that he listens (at least sometimes) to me now, and once in a great while I can reason with him enough to talk him into an orange instead of yet An.Oth.Er. package of foosaks. (Fruit snacks.) 😉 I’m watching my sweet, eight plus year-old girl fly and do her thing, and it’s pretty darn amazing to see, even in the midst of the struggles that come with becoming.

There’s redemption and sweetness with my marriage, too, and while some of those details need to stay quiet, there are some I’d like to share, so I sure hope I’ll make it back here often to do that.

My Father keeps painting His story for me, and I love it.

Life is sweet, even in the midst of a wave of grief and the in-between emotions of missing someone I wish could still be part of my life.

But the journey we’re on is about learning from every twist and turn, crack and crevice, mountain and valley, about taking the sweet with the bitter and the glorious with the heartbreak…knowing, always, where our destination is and shining Him on our way there.

Maybe that’s what I’m taking from the words I wrote today…I’m taking the sweetness of a friendship that ended here on earth too soon and holding on to what she left me with.

May I use those things to love people a little better than I did yesterday.

Thank you, God, for my friend, for weaving our lives together for the season You did. And for today and the thousands that have happened since I hugged her.

You are good. So. Good.

Photo by Anthony from Pexels

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Redemption in a Dog: Our Sammy

Sammy Redemption final(1)

There are days when a writer has to sit down and bleed at her computer…to just open up, spill all the words in their messiest, most imperfect, often-ugly forms, and get out what’s there.

It happens some days and, on most of them, those words stay locked away.

Today is one of those days for me, but those words won’t be locked up. They can’t be. They’ll be shared because they absolutely should be.

This is the day I want to tie up a story that’s been told in pieces over the years…here and there, in different places in our lives to others…and share the entire thing. It will be long, it will be messy, and not everyone will understand.

I get it, but I invite you to stay anyway.

It’s a story that needs to be told, and I’m going to do it in honor of the sweet golden retriever boy who shared our lives and love for over 12 1/2 years. He died just over two weeks ago, and it’s taken me that long to even find words that might attempt to tell about all he was to us. We miss him fiercely and heartbreakingly, but his presence and the ways God grew us through him will always stay with us.

So this. It’s for Sammy.

Sammy smiles final

It started on a Monday night in January of 2006, the kind that was rainy and gloomy and wasn’t stormy, though that would’ve made a great intro. 😉 Indonesian rain and gloom in January is about as close as it gets to winter in the tropics. At any rate, we just needed to get out of the house so we braved the rain on the bike and drove down the hill to the closest Starbucks.

Watching the tropical rain pound the windows from our cozy couch seats, we worked on school…planning, grading, lessons…and occasionally chatted about life. After a few hours, with the mall closing down in just about 20 minutes, we decided to pack up our things and head upstairs to check out the new pet store before we went home.

I don’t remember how it all went down, but I’d like to think it’s as if I semi-remember/imagine. 😉 I stepped off the escalator and locked eyes with a golden retriever puppy. He was panting, he was smiling because goldens smile so darn big and it’s awesome, and I was instantly smitten. I must’ve begged pretty hard to get my hubby to say yes, but within 20 minutes, we’d visited a cash machine, paid for our new family member, purchased a crate, and were on our way home, me and our new boy in a taxi.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our, we’ve-got-two-dogs-now, season of life had begun.

It seems like yesterday. And I have to stop here and let myself cry a little because the time just flies so fast. There are so many memories of that night…tied to dogs, tied to a place, tied to a time in our lives that can only be in our hearts now.

We already had an almost-3-year-old Golden Retriever at the time, Andre, and he was truly our baby. (Eye rolling is permitted here as long as it’s gentle.) I guess when I tell you that, I also remind myself that there’s more to this story than just loving a dog. Now, dogs.

It wasn’t all daisies and rainbows from the beginning, though…rather it was double the poop, double the dog hair all over everything, double the cost, double the crazy. And double the love. He kept us up most of his first night home and for a few more after that, life was always a literal wrestling match between the two dogs, and sometimes we felt like we were going crazy whenever we (or anyone else for that matter) walked through the door. But we smiled and laughed and loved it all…I guess we’re just created to be dog people, and we let them add all the love and crazy that came with them to our lives.

And we continued our lives overseas, too…some days were easy, some days not so much. That’s life in another culture when you have a busy job and ministry. It’s good most days, but that good can mix with hard, too…and we messed up a lot. We chose to love…or try to love…anyway, embracing it all, and we had two sweet, big-hearted furry boys along for the ride to help us feel a little more at home.

It was a sweet life, and there were so many incredible blessings. We wouldn’t trade those. Not for anything. 😀

And then there was the year when we decided that maybe we’d like some human kids, too, and by maybe I meant we absolutely couldn’t wait to be parents and by the time we we realized this, nine months felt like an eternity. I never imagined we’d struggle. But after months and months it became clear that this wasn’t going to be an easy road.

And I guess our dogs became even more precious to us.

Andre&Sammy final

Maybe that’s right and maybe it’s not…but there are no apologies in this story today. I’m just sharing it…all of it, my heart wide open.

When I go back to that season, I remember how heartbreaking it was to see one pregnancy announcement after another. Knowing that there was still no baby for us. There were so many days, for me, of surrender and choosing joy in all of it. The faces of my doggy boys made me happy, made me smile, made me forget my aching heart for a few moments at a time. In a very real sense, they were our kids, at least in that season. They filled a void that not everyone can understand.

And so it hit us hard and out of the blue the September morning of 2007 when my husband walked into my 4th grade classroom. I’d just sent my kids off to music class, and I looked up to see his face. I’ll never forget the look on it.

Sammy’s gone.

Somehow, without anyone seeing, someone had taken our precious boy from our yard. Our housekeeper had been home, but like always, she’d let the dogs run around the yard during the day. We had no clue that anyone would ever dream of taking him. Who does that?!

Apparently there are people who do.

That moment tore my heart out as we raced to figure out a plan, whatever that looked like, in a country where things worked differently and where we couldn’t always communicate well.

We didn’t know what to do, but we had to do something.

We spent days and days blanketing the city of Bandung with flyers, promising that we’d keep the police out of it, that we’d offer a large reward…we just wanted our sweet dog back.

Multiple times a day we’d hop on the bike and drive down to the two places in town known for selling stolen dogs. One, shamelessly set up on a street corner and the other in front of a shopping mall, we’d go and ask them over and over: Have you seen our dog? Please help us. We won’t tell the police. No police. Just a reward. Please help us get him back.

We spent six days living like that, on broken sleep with even more broken hearts while still trying to do our “jobs” at school.

Talk about messy people in a broken place.

During the day, my students…oh, my students. They would pray. They would encourage me with the love they poured on a teacher they’d only known for a couple weeks. One was so bold as to approach me one morning and say, “Mrs. Schroeder, God gave me a vision of Sammy. He’s going to come home.” I weep at her faith, even now.

To top it off, all of this went down during our Spiritual Emphasis Week at school.

While my faith was floundering and shrinking and the devil was having his way in my own life, Jesus was being lifted up. Satan wasn’t going to win, and even if I didn’t feel that…everyone else claimed it for me.

Four days after Sammy was stolen, something happened. I’ve gone back to this day, over and over, for two poignant reasons.

That Sunday afternoon I’d reached a breaking point. My hubby had just hopped on the bike (again) to drive by the two stolen dog markets (again) and I knew in less than an hour he’d be home (again) to tell me Sammy was nowhere to be found…again.

The tears had been constant, but I remember them flowing like they never had before. It hurt too much, physically, to even sit up and so I let myself lie down on the cool tile in our hallway. Face down.

And I wept. Tears-pooling-on-the-floor, wept. At first I wept for myself and my broken heart, but then, even more, I wept and surrendered. God, Sammy’s yours. I love him and I want him back so badly, but if this is Your plan, then he’s Yours. If I could just have him one more day…one more. But, still. He’s yours. Face down, I prayed those words as I pressed my forehead into the floor, as if that would make my prayer holier…or something like that.

And looking back, there was more to that surrender than a dog. I think I was surrendering it all then. My plans, my dreams, my hopes, and yes, my dog…and my future children, too.

And even after I sat up again, I cried more. It was maybe the most paradoxical, soul-crushing-soul-redeeming moment of my life. Yes, the two can co-exist.

A few minutes later my husband returned to get me, and we went down to the second market again. I think we went back there that day because I just needed to be there. I needed to look into the eyes of whoever was working the joint that day and let him know that there were real people and feelings behind this.

I remember approaching the mass of people huddled around all of the animals, locking eyes with a man working there, and immediately trying in my oh-so-broken Indonesian, covered with tears, to ask him to please find our dog.

That was when a miracle happened. I call it one anyway.

A fully-covered Muslim woman, with only her eyes showing, touched my arm tenderly. What an odd thing to see her there, standing and looking at dogs, something her culture didn’t allow. Ma’am, may I help you please? In perfect English.

I explained to her what was happening. She turned to the man and, in Indonesian, gave him every detail.

I thanked her and then I never saw her again.

But I hold on to that moment to this day and wish with all my heart that I could go back and thank this woman again…because my husband got a phone call two days later from the man we’d spoken to. He knew who had our dog, and he’d arranged for Tobin to meet him at a Dunkin’ Donuts, down by the mall, with cash, so this man could go buy back our dog and return him to us. (Yes, it was exactly like it sounds. Basically paying a ransom. At a Dunkin’ Donuts. In Indonesia. Everyday stuff.)

In just minutes, Tobin had hopped in a school vehicle with one of the drivers and another employee and they were on their way. We were skeptical that this was legit, but it brought a shred of hope. Something we’d prayed for, something to hang on to.

I went back to my kiddos, who had abandoned their recess to stand in a circle and pray. (Golly, this just makes me love them all over again.) And then I went back to teaching…my cell phone sat on my desk, and I shamelessly left the volume turned up, waiting for the phone call that my shaky faith still didn’t believe would come.

But it did. My phone rang and I set a record getting to it.

It’s him, it’s him!!!

That’s all we heard. His cries were loud enough that my entire class heard.

My boy was found.

I’ve never forgotten the emotion of that moment as I told my students to go tell everyone. That’s what they needed to do…what we needed to do. We had to let the people who’d lived this with us, who’d covered us in prayer, who’d supported us though they didn’t understand…that God had answered our prayers.

We’d all knocked down the doors of heaven…and God said, Yes.

He said Yes. And He not only said yes to one more day with our dog…he said yes to 11 YEARS, 1 MONTH and 2 DAYS more. That’s humbling.

I think so often of those days, and while they don’t bring the heartache that they used to anymore, they do remind me of a relentless God. For six days, Tobin and I did everything to wholly pursue getting our dog back. To redeem him and bring him home to us.

And, friends? Our God is the same way.

He moves heaven and earth and relentlessly…WITHOUT. GIVING. UP…pursues those He loves because he WANTS us more than anything.

That makes me weep. He wants to redeem every single one of us.

Sammy & the fam

It’s true that the life we lived with Sammy gave us so many memories. He lived so many things with us besides being stolen and then redeemed…he was there for the everyday joys, heartaches, big transitions, so much love. He lived life with us no matter which hemisphere we resided in, he welcomed Mae and Mac home as babies, let them climb all over him as toddlers, he kept on loving us every day, and he became part of the lives of the people we love so much, too. It’s hard to see that come to an end. It makes me cry today. Every day.

But Sammy leaves us with a lesson that our hearts have held on to for so long…it’s a lesson in the faithfulness of God.

Friends, we serve a God who hears us and knows the cries deep in our hearts. He understands heartache and there are times He allows it, but He never leaves us alone. He brings redemption and that redemption looks so much bigger than we can even imagine.

Tobin and I have talked a lot over the years about what might have happened if Sammy hadn’t come back. It’s not really a place we ever needed to go…but it’s something that would come up as we’d reflect on the miracle…and it really was…of him coming home. Several people told us, gently, that there was no feasible reason Sammy should have been returned to us. And, yet, God allowed it.

We’re so grateful.

Family-101 final

We said a hard goodbye to our sweet boy two weeks ago. My hubby and I both held him as the vet gave him a shot and he went to sleep for the last time. Our hearts broke and the tears felt endless for a few days…and honestly, I’m sitting at my computer bawling. It’s ugly and messy and that’s ok today and tomorrow and in the next days.

But, even as the tears just poured down our faces, we also couldn’t help talking about him as we drove home.

About how God gave us SO. MUCH. MORE. than we deserved in that sweet dog. How the love and the time and the memories were multiplied so much I can’t even do the math…and about how God knew how much we needed him and so He let us keep him longer.

We’re holding on to that right now…and we’re finding ways to remember him. The dog hair on everything feels sacred right now, which is totally stupid. But if you see me and there’s a dog hair on my shirt…just leave it there, yeah? It’s a mark of love.

I will never forget this sweet dog. Our Sammy Boy, who will always occupy a special corner of our hearts and lives and remind us of the faithfulness of our Father in all seasons.

I will always be grateful for what God did in our lives through him.

Goodbye, sweet boy. We will miss you with all our hearts.

Sammy redemption final

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The Dance Between Now and Heartbreak

sammy1

There was a time not so long ago when I’d sit down and the words would pour out. I’d share my heart, my life, and the flavor of coffee creamer I was currently obsessing over with anyone who might listen.

As (slightly) self-indulgent as it sounds, those were good days.

I felt like someone and something in this great, big, bloggy world…and like I might be making a tiny difference when my words were out there, perfectly crafted or imperfectly messy. Either way was ok.

They were my words.

And then the words got fewer and further between and, for awhile, almost completely stopped. There are seasons of life like that, and as the words fell off and away, much like the leaves fall from the mighty oaks in my side yard during October, I entered a season of winter. And like every season, I knew it would pass.

We moved through the pain of heartbreak over a miscarriage, the loss of our sweet first golden, a life-threatening pregnancy gifting us with unimaginable joy and total chaos in the form of a little boy, and marriage difficulties that threatened to tear us apart.

It felt as if winter were lifting just a tad, and then things got hard again. It’s not like I expected them NOT to…life isn’t supposed to be a smooth ride around a predictable, even track.

But the fog was lifting a bit, and there was some clarity. Even joy.

And every day has been a dance since then…not always the good kind, but a dance. I was never a good dancer, and sometimes I can picture myself as a ballerina, but then I laugh over the obvious grace that would not accompany me, were I to be center stage in a tutu. (BAHAHAHA!!!) 😀

K, I needed to publicly laugh that one out. Mad love to all the ballerinas out there…YOU are AH.MAZE.ING.

There’s joy some days…smiles, laughs, and I think to myself, I can do this thing. I can raise this toddler boy and love my daughter well and even be a good wife, the kind who thinks ahead on dinner and stays up on laundry and (GASP) keeps the dining room table clean.

And then there are the days when I’m not those things, and it’s hard. It hurts. And life becomes more difficult. Those difficulties aren’t earth shattering, really. Like I said, they’re life.

But sometimes, life smacks us hard.

There’s this sweet doggie boy, our Sammy, who has shared our lives and our love over the last almost-thirteen-years and has poured so much into our family just by being him, and we know the end is near. We’ve been told there’s a tumor and we’ve got months at best, and in the middle of all the other struggles, I find myself waiting for heartbreak.

And it’s so, so hard. Some days, I really have to remind myself to breathe as I look at his sweet golden face and the joy he has brought us.

I can’t imagine our days without Sammy, and yet we know they’re coming.

And it’s this kind of dance I’m tripping through right now…the kind that soaks up every single moment because we have to but knowing that things can turn tomorrow, and our hearts will shatter even more.

I hate the in-between.

And I have fought God on it with all of my being some days…yet the other days I find some type of reconciliation and cuddle my Sam a little closer and remind him that, even though he can’t hear me at all, he has been an absolute gift to us, and we love him so much. SO much.

And I’m not even sure why I’m pouring out all of this, mostly-unedited and all-messy, and sharing it today except I think it might be necessary for me as I try to figure out how to say goodbye to a constant in our lives, one who made our lives better and some days just made us smile a bit more through the dark times.

Maybe I don’t have a right to hurt so deeply, especially over a dog. But as any dog owner knows…they’re never just that. There’s a deep ache in the pit of my stomach all the time. I don’t suppose it will go away for awhile, even if there’s full surrender and even if it’s the kind that says, It’s ok, God. It really is.

Because it is.

Ok.

At the end of the day, much like the rest of us, God has always known how long we’d have this doggie boy. He knew…on that heart-wrenching day, eleven years ago (ironically, exactly eleven years ago) when I found myself, face down on the floor, pouring out my heart and begging Him for one more day with my missing dog…He knew He’d give us almost eleven years more instead.

I serve a good Father, and so even as the pit deepens and aches just a bit more and the tears fall hard and steady, streaking my eyeliner, I can cling to His goodness and know that as we face something so sad…He’s there. Has always been and will always be.

It’s the lesson I’ve always come back to when I think of Sammy…that God has shown Himself faithful, and He’ll continue to.

Maybe you’re there today, friend? I don’t know. I just know how much I need that reminder as I stroke my hand through his fur and rub his ear yet another time, hoping and praying we’ll still have tomorrow.

It’s the dance between the now and the heartbreak I know is coming. I guess we call it life?

But I’ll dance it in flip flops and jeans with tear-filled eyes and cling to the Goodness I know is my Father. May you see His goodness today, too, no matter where your circumstances find you. And may you love a little deeper, knowing it’s all a gift.

And a good gift.

Thank you, God, for Sammy and for today.

Sammy2

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3rd and 8: A Prayer for My Girl

3rd and 8 Words final

That morning back in February of 2009, when we went in to find out the gender of our baby, my blood pressure skyrocketed so much that the nurse was worried about me. I had to try to explain to her, in Indonesian no less (and that was never very good), that my blood pressure was Just. Fine. and I was actually, possibly, and just really more nervous than I’d probably been in the HIS.TO.RY. of EV.ER.

Only a few people knew how deeply I longed for a baby girl, and that morning, that wish took over my heart. And, clearly, my bp as well. 😉 I would have loved a boy (and I certainly love the boy I now have with all my being) but there was something about the dream of a daughter…it had been there my whole life.

And so, when she said, It looks like a girl! I did two things. First, I whispered, Hi, Maelie! as the happiest tear slipped down my cheek.

And second, I didn’t believe her.

In fact, it took FOUR (yes, you read that right) ultrasounds, all with the same gender results, for me to believe that we were absolutely having a baby girl.

Really, she was a deep dream come true…one I’m not sure I believed God would give me. But He did…and I’m so incredibly thankful.

She burst into the world over eight years ago, changing us and a lot of others around her, too. She made me a mama and she has multiplied the love in our lives so, so many times over.

We are blessed.

And I don’t always gush over the beginning of a new school year anymore, at least in this space, but last week I sent her off to 3rd grade. And for some reason, my heart is still figuring out what all of that means.

She has just six years before high school and ten before she flits and flies off to spread her wings and chase her dreams. And while some days those years feel like a lot, they aren’t. Not really. Not when we think about how fast the first eight have gone.

Mae 1st Day

This summer has been a turning point for her, and all of us, I suppose. We’ve seen a bigger shift in independence and probably a few more head-butts, too. 😉 She’s making her way just like they’re all supposed to do, and I’ve had to sit back some days, breathe deeply, cringe occasionally, remember to pray, and let her be who she is.

Because who she is? Is beautiful.

Sometimes the age of eight is a challenge, but I caught myself watching her play in the yard the other day and that familiar lump found my throat and I had to take a deep breath to fight back the tears.

It’s true that when we let Him, He makes our children into exactly who they’re supposed to be.

She’s quirky and funny, she’s got a big heart and equally big emotions, and her also-big eyes still melt me every time. She cares about everyone and everything, even bugs (well, certain ones) and some days it can be a struggle to teach her to let go of the things she needs to in order to move forward.

And maybe that’s the lesson she’s teaching me in this season.

A couple months ago she and Mac were playing in the front room, and she saw a turtle out the window, trying to cross the road.  She jumped up and insisted that we run outside and help it before a car ran over it. My hubby obliged, and she followed him, stopping traffic (really) to make sure that her new turtle friend was safe and sound in the neighbors’ hostas before she’d even agree to think about walking back home.

But as she went, she wept. Wailed could potentially be an appropriate descriptor. She didn’t want to say goodbye.

And I’m not gonna lie…I sorta feel like that as we are turning the page to a new chapter. I want to hang on and remember every single thing about my eight year-old, to stop time and freeze us just as we are. It’s sweet, most days anyway, and I know what to expect. I feel like I’m figuring out the Mae I have now. And while I know life doesn’t work like that and that we’ll love 3rd grade just like we’ve loved all the other stages, it’s still bittersweet.

Mae & Mac 1st Day

There will be more growing and changing, and I absolutely believe that God will keep growing her into a girl who’s kind, loving (more than she already is) even if there are bumps along the way. I have faith that He will give her what she needs to follow Him and be a light for Him every single day.

I pray a verse over my family every day, and in my heart, it’s become our family theme. We aren’t perfect, but we are His and doing our best to follow Him on the easy days and the tough ones, in the seasons when the road stretches out in a straight path and in the ones, too, when it winds so much we can’t see much ahead of where our feet are traveling.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience… And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Colossians 3:12, 14 (ESV)

And I guess that’s my prayer for her, too, today…words I want her to hang on to when she doesn’t know what to do, how to be, or who to be either.

May she always know she’s loved, chosen and His. Forever. And may she share that love with everyone else, too.

My Maelie girl,

I probably say this every year, but I can’t believe we’re here. Another year, another stage, many more milestones to come. It truly flies, this time thing, and while I want to hang on to your sweet hand with all I have, more than that, I want to see you fly. And so I’ll release my grip just a tad more in this season and let you do your thing. As you go off to the wonderful world of 3rd grade (which was one of my favorites!) know that we are always loving you, always cheering for you, and always here for you. May you choose, each day, to put on a compassionate heart, kindness, humility, meekness, patience…and above all of those things, LOVE. Love for your Father, love for your family and friends, and love for those who come into your life…because if you show love, it will change people. And God will use it to change you.

We pray that you will seek to follow Him with all you have for all your days.

Go and fly. I’ll be waiting with the biggest hug every day after school. 😉

Love, Mama

Mae & Mom 1st Day

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