When’s Your Due Date?

“When’s your due date?”

It’s the most oft asked question of pregnancy.  You answer it every time you call the obstetrician’s office. You answer it every time you stand in line at the grocery store.  You answer it for friends, relative, acquaintances and strangers.

January 31st was my most recent answer.

And yet.  She came on November 18 and I almost left this world on November 19th.

It still seems surreal to be sitting here in my pre-pregnancy jeans, looking across the room at a feisty miracle baby sleeping deep in her swing.  She is unaware of how special she is, of the circumstances of her birth. She just knows that she is here and that she is loved.

It’s been a wild ride.

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At first, there were two.  Two little lives that we loved and longed for.  Nora is on the left and Asher is on the right.  In spite of weeks and weeks of bleeding, those two hung in there.  Little hearts beating with every ultrasound.

I was on bedrest and it was hard but the prize made it worth it.

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But then at twelve weeks, Baby B was gone and we were shrouded in grief but so hopeful for Baby A.  For Nora.

The summer ended, bed rest ended and it seemed like we’d turned a corner.

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At 28 weeks, my water broke and I began what I thought was going to be a marathon of patience and endurance.  I was admitted to the hospital and there I stayed for eight days and that’s when everything changed.

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On November 18, I began to hemorrhage.  I had a panic attack, I was so afraid.  Afraid for Nora, mostly.  I was so worried about how my twenty nine week little girl would do.

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But she did fine.  She had apgars of 8 and 9.  She only needed oxygen by cannula, did not need to be intubated.  She was 2lb. 14oz. of spitfire and determination.

IMG_1337And while she was doing so well, I was doing just as poorly.  My bleeding would not stop.

The family gathered in the waiting room…unsure of what would happen next.  My three oldest were awakened and given the news.
“Mommy has lost a lot of blood and we don’t know if she’ll make it.”

My husband and my sister who are…there aren’t words to describe what these two are to me…rallied the body of Christ.  They texted, they called, they put it on Facebook.  They called the saints to war on my behalf.

Stories of people waking out of nowhere to pray, stories of people praying like never before, stories of friends staying up to contend for hours.

And I came back from the brink.

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After a few days in ICU, I was finally strong enough to see my baby.  To hold her.

IMG_1386What a wonder she was and what a wonder she is.

I went home without her about a week later.

10 Days Old

 

Every day that first week, we came to see her.  I ignored how I was feeling and we went to Norfolk, we did Kangaroo Care, we loved on our tiny miracle.

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Then I started to feel sick again.  Fevers, vomiting, pain.  Back in the hospital I went where I was treated for seven days for, it turns out, a terrible UTI.  It was a hard, hard week.  I still shudder to remember it.  I couldn’t see Nora the first five days because I was too ill.  We were reunited and I wept.  This was such a hard journey.

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Home I went again and for a while, I could only visit Nora every other day.  I was weak and I was afraid of getting sick again.  But, her daddy was there every day.

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Slowly, I began to feel better and have a little more stamina.  And for a while, I took myself to the hospital every day to see my sweet girl.  Those were precious hours, she was growing bigger and stronger.

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And then, it was January 14th and it was time to bring our sweet girl home.  Eight weeks old!  It was bittersweet, saying good bye to the NICU and the nurses and all that place and those people had meant to us.

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But oh how sweet to have her home.  I sat in my wonderful recliner that my beloved friends had gotten me to recover in.  The chair that symbolizes so much of our journey- its presence is a testimony of how people rallied together to help is.  It’s big and soft and comfy like a hug, like the love that’s been poured out on us.  It’s solid and dependable, the perfect place to get well.  I sat in that chair that means so much to me and I held my little daughter and just breathed that moment in.

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And now, here we are.  Her due date.  I feel like we’ve “done it”.  We survived a hard thing.  We are together.  We are well.  She is beautiful.  She is fearfully and wondefully made.  And while I feel a pang of grief for Asher today…and while I still shake my head in dismay at all that has happened…I can’t shake off this grateful heart.  It overwhelms.  I am so thankful to be here with Nora, with Claire, with Lila, with Chase, with Aubrey, with Julia.  I am so glad to be part of John’s every day.  To be part of my sister and her family’s lives.  To still be here with my parents and my inlaws and my cousins and aunts and uncles and all of my sweet friends.  To still be an alive and living piece of the Body of Christ.

Nora and I have a story to tell.  A story of His faithfulness and a story of how He hears our prayers.

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Thank you, Readers.  Thank you Family.  Thank you Friends.  Thank you Strangers.  Thank you to every single one of you who prayed for us.  Thank you to every one who cooked, cleaned, raked, babysat, listened, called, texted, emailed, face booked.  Thank you all.

Thank you, Jesus.

 

 

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Giving With Urgency

My life changed forever when I woke up on November 19th.  Confusion, pain, exhaustion eased into understanding, realization and gratitude.

I almost left this world.  My smallest daughter might have shared her birthday with the anniversary of my death.  She may never have known me.

IMG_9579It took a week or so for all of that to sink in, for me to really understand what had happened.  It was three days before I could go and even see Nora.

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As the days and weeks go by and I get better and better…the realization sinks in deeper.  Gratitude grew with every hospital visit.IMG_1406

I got sick again, I was back in the hospital again.  Another week went by and I couldn’t see Nora, I was homesick and heartsick and discouraged.  But still…grateful.  I was alive.

By the end of that awful, miserable week…Nora and I were reunited.

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And then I was home again and so happy.  The joy I felt in the mundane was unmatched.  My kids running wild did my heart so much good.  I felt more alive every day.

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And now we have our baby at home and she’s been at home for almost two weeks.  I am tired, my body hurts, I get words mixed up and forget things and am still recovering at a snail’s pace.

But I am alive.

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And I feel a sense of urgency to change the world, to be an asset to the world.  Not that I need to pay back God for sparing me.  God doesn’t work like that.  The gifts He gives are without strings.  And I receive them.

But, I almost wasn’t here anymore.   And now I am.  And so I feel this new urgency.

And that urgency was increased when I spoke to my friend Peter at the Good Samaritan Orphan Home yesterday.  The needs of the orphanage are great.  And when I think about how far American dollars go over there and how much money we spend on Starbucks and pizza…how can I not help?

I talk about Peter here but I’ll fill you in here too.

I became aware of Pastor Peter and the Good Samaritan Orphan Home more than a decade ago at Hope community church.  I met and made friends with a family that had two beautiful Indian daughters.  They’d been adopted from the Good Samaritan Orphan Home.  We held a fundraiser to build a well for them.  Many years go by and last summer, I was able to meet with Peter and hear more about what was going on at the orphanage.

They are so in need of sponsors for the 54 children and the 19 widows that live there.

And I urgently want to help the sponsors find their way to their foster children and their foster grandmas.  (Ammas, as Peter calls them.)

Right now, there is a need for a buffalo shed.  The buffalo that lives there and provides the children with milk has had a baby girl buffalo and a shed is needed to house them.  I’m doing a quick fundraiser to get to $400 (or maybe even beyond!) to rescue the buffaloes by January 31st.

Will you help?  Maybe you’re feeling some extra gratitude today?  Give.  And then share with us that you have and what/who you’re giving in honor of.

I’m giving in honor of LIFE, in honor of Nora, in honor of all of those who’ve prayed for me and my family and who’ve loved us through all this.

Here’s where you can give:  Give to the Good Samaritan Orphan Home

 

The Slow Journey

 

When Julia was born, I was just a young girl of nineteen and I had no idea what motherhood even meant.  I knew it would be diapers and crying and sleepless nights…but I didn’t anticipate the wonder.

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I can remember watching Saturday Night Live in our tiny apartment and I would get her out of bed just to let her sleep on my chest.  I loved every second of motherhood in those early days.  She was an easy, laid back baby and I felt love and contentment I’d never, ever known before.  Yes, there were diapers and crying and sleepless nights and I’m sure the passage of time has made me remember it all through rose colored glasses but I knew I’d been given a good gift.

And what’s funny about it is that finding out I was pregnant…it had been a shock and a point of stress.  I’d been living the wild life for a while and my mom and some members of our church had gathered together to pray.  The prayer was:  “Whatever it takes, whatever it takes to get her to stop living this wild life and get back to what she knows.”

Within a week, I was telling my mom some pretty crazy news.  She was forty, just like I am today.

I worried.  I worried that I wouldn’t be good at being a mom, that I wouldn’t make my parents proud, that I wouldn’t ever get to do anything that I wanted to do.

And then, this thing I’d been worried about and frightened of happened and I counted it joy.  Because it was.  Julia was.  Mothering her gave me purpose and confidence and made me want to be better and I started the slow journey to being better.

Slow journey.

But that’s how it works.  We don’t just wake up one day fully healed and fully actualized and fully walking upright with Jesus, sinning no more.

I screwed up lots.  I made mistakes lots.  I did the wrong thing, lots.  But my heart was open to Him in a new way and that part has not changed in 20 years.

I had two more babies and while the day to day got more harried and busy and messy, I still loved it all.  I loved my babies, loved motherhood, loved Jesus.  And I kept trying to be better.  Sometimes I did well and sometimes I failed so loud and so hard that my whole world shook.

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And the truth is…that hasn’t changed.  I still fall down, I still fail and I still love my babies.  And God is still faithful.

Because God knows how to love well.  He knows that sometimes He has to let me feel consequences and sometimes He has to offer grace unmerited.  He knows that I will turn my back on Him and act like a selfish brat and sometimes I get too cozy with Poor Me and Discouragement and that whole crowd.  He knows that sometimes I don’t believe I have what it takes and sometimes I believe I can do anything.  He knows that sometimes I’m going to try too hard on my own and sometimes I’m going to try and fix things and that He’s going to need to be there to pick up the pieces.

He knows that sometimes, He’s going to offer me something amazing and I’m going to balk.

And I know that He is never anywhere but right beside me, within me, before me and behind me.

We all know Jeremiah 29:11 and we quote it so much that the words lose their meaning.  But it’s truth.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Not disaster, but good.

And then there’s Romans 8:28, another one we can all quote and know and still not know.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

All things…my failures, my mistakes, my sins…He redeems.

And so I’m thinking on all of that this morning as I’m looking down at my sweet Nora, as I get Lila and Claire ready for the day.  I think of how God has taught me more and more about love with each one of these precious six.  How He has shown His hand on my life and on theirs.  How He is teaching me how safe it is to trust Him and love Him.  How He has shown me what Love looks like.

He has plans for me, plans for good things, for a hope and a future.  And He will work all things together for my good, and He will guide me to His purpose and plans for my life.  Because I am His.

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Here’s What We Came Up With

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I loved reading all of your responses about what Love Does looks like.  Here is what we all came up with.

Caring for others selflessly.
I think mothers all around can relate to this one. Because how many times have we risen in the middle of the night to kiss a forehead, find a paci, give a drink of water? How many times have we held a sick child all day? Changed dirty diapers? Spoon fed a squirmy infant?
But where else does this apply? I look at my sister, and how she’s put the needs of her home and family second to mine. She has shown up every day since November 10th, when my water broke, to care for my house and my kids and even me. I remember my grandmother, “Paw”, who cared for her husband when he was in the end stages of cancer. She just did it, without complaint and with praise on her lips.

Loving your enemies.
This one is hard, but God isn’t joking about it. In Matthew, He tells us, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” And you enemies might not be who you think they are. Enemies are not always dastardly characters who obviously and overtly mean us harm. They can be the unhealthy family member that drives you crazy. They can be the co-worker that gets on your nerves. They can be the PTA mom that you secretly envy. They can be anyone that you don’t have the warm fuzzies for. If someone is seriously on your last nerve…time to start praying blessings over that person.

Doing for others, even if it costs you.
Sometimes we are busy and sometimes we are distracted and sometimes we don’t have time to make a meal for someone else. We’re up to our eyeballs with our own kids and families and we just don’t have the emotional resources, much less the financial resources to pitch in for another family. I would humbly suggest that really, we do and we can but we don’t want to. We have busy, crowded lives and sometimes no rolls off of the tongue before we really think it through and try to make it happen. Let’s stop saying no so much and just do it. Even if we have to scrape the bottom of the barrel. We have more margin in our lives than we think, but sometimes we’d rather do what we want more than what is needed.

Working towards the greater good, even if it means not getting what you want.
Sometimes, we have to do things we aren’t comfortable with, things we just don’t want to do for the good of our family or friends. I think about my husband and how last year he tutored a homebound student for extra money. He did this every day of the week and it put him getting home around 7:00 or 7:30. He did this for the good of our family, even though it meant he had no time for anything but work, tutoring and a short burst of kid time in the evening. This is part of loving selflessly. Like Jesus loves us.

Remembering your loved ones.
I have a new philosophy since my experiences in November. If you are feeling a particular positive thing or remembering something sweet or even something tragic…share that with the person you’re thinking of. Tell your friends and family that you love them. Send cards, texts, emails and Facebook messages. Say the truth to your friends and family. I remember when a friend of mine passed away and there were so many things I’d never said to her. We weren’t even on great terms when she passed away and this friend of mine was so dear to me. I would do anything to go back in time and be the first one to say I’m sorry, to say I love you and you’re valuable to me. Don’t let the humdrum, day to day rob you of opportunity to love on your people.

Praying.
This is part of how we build love with God. This is part of how we love our family and friends well. This is something that changes the world.

Saying I’m sorry.
Believe it or not, those two words do not cost as much as you think. And they are an investment that gives back ten fold. Being willing to say I’m sorry, regardless of who was at fault or how you feel is a sure sign of loving well. A humble and sincere “I’m sorry” can change everything.

Not needing to be right.
My flesh so resists this one. But it’s true. Even if you are absolutely, positively sure that the other is wrong and you are right…let it go. Lay it down. In the grand scheme of things…does it matter?

Giving generously.
I feel so strongly about this because I’ve seen it bear so much fruit in my life. I think it’s important to God. He reminds us to care for the widow and the orphan. (James 1:27) He instructs us about giving to our church family and how to sow our resources into the kingdom. This is one of those things that God does- as we give, He gives. The more we give, the more He gives. And I believe He takes even our smallest offering and multiplies it. Remember the woman who gave her very last penny? As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4

Doing, not just saying.
This seems so simple, but it isn’t really. Our current culture makes it hard to do and not just say. Think aobut it, ten years ago, if a person was in need, you got in your car and went to them. Now, it’s easy (and often a wonderful blessing) to just check on Facebook and leave your prayers and good thoughts there. Facebook is great for that. It’s also great for keeping in touch on a surface level. But friends still need to do. Don’t just say, “Let me know if you need anything.” Say, “I want to help. What specific thing can I do for you?” Or…just go crazy and DO something. Show up.

Sharing the love of Jesus, without condemnation.
I think some Christians have a harder time with this than others. So quickly, we go to judgement over sins we can’t relate to. So quickly, we speak harshly and without love to those we don’t agree with. This is not the love Jesus has called us to. Our job is to share how He’s changed us, how His love flows through us, how we’re better with Him than without Him. Slamming someone’s life is not how to do that. Let’s share the real Jesus and the Holy Spirit will do the convicting.

Speaking life, letting go of negativity.
I was talking with some friends the other day and one said, “It’s so much easier to vent and complain than it is to share the good things.” And she is right. I can go on and on about something that bothers me, but the good things don’t get nearly as much conversation. In the same vein, it’s easier for me to point out John’s weaknesses (ad nauseam) than to praise his good points (which actually far outweigh the bad). Why do we do this? Why is negativity easier? I went on a negativity fast this time last year and was amazed by how many thoughts I had to take captive, how many words I had to choke back, how many negative emotions I had throughout each day.

Living a life of worship and gratitude.
Well, you knew gratitude would make it into this post. Living a life of worship and gratitude? How do we do it? By being thankful every day. By giving as though our resources are His and not ours. By giving our spouses the love and respect that God has asked us to give, no matter what the circumstances. By training up our children in the way they should go. By being good stewards of our things and of our people. By singing praises when we feel like crying. By getting out of bed and whispering thanks, even when we’re too tired to breathe. By joining in and being a part of the body of Christ…serving others, loving others, giving our lives away for the cause of Christ.

I am in love with this list.  I want to write and write and write on each point because there is so much there.   I hope you’ll share your thoughts on what we’ve come up with and tell me what things you’re doing to increase your love!

Love Does

I’ve been thinking about love a lot lately.

On Monday, we brought home our baby girl and love just oozes from her and fills our home.

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On Wednesday, we celebrated our wedding anniversary and John’s love for me is a blessing I can’t describe.

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All week, I’ve been reading the book Love Does and it’s changing me much the way One Thousand Gifts did last year.

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I keep going back to this, from Matthew 22:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

I’ve been mulling this verse over, pondering it in my mind and in my heart because we have been loved so well during the past few months.  We know an awful lot of people who believe that Love Does.  

And I really want to ask you guys, my beloved readers:  “What does that look like?”

Will you think on it?  Will you share how you feel and what you come up with?  What does LOVE as a verb look like?  You can share here and you can reply to each other in comments and I think it would be amazing to see all the things that God has laid on our hearts.

What would it mean if we lived like this:  Love Does.

Don’t be shy, tell me what you think in the comments or on Facebook and I’ll write a follow up on all of our thoughts.

Seasoned With Grace

She prayed, “…that your words with be seasoned with grace.”  She who has prayed me through many a crisis, who cried at my bedside on November 19, who has spoken truth in love when needed and who has stood by me through more than a dozen years.

That my words would be seasoned with grace.

And the words leapt out of her mouth and straight into my heart and for a while I couldn’t hear her or the other faithful friend who has stood strong beside me through so many journeys, our cord of three strands so strong.  They prayed for me.  But all I could hear was those words.

Seasoned with grace.  That my words be seasoned with grace.  

My sister and I have been talking about how your words come straight from the heart and you can’t just take the good words and pat yourself on the back.  You have to own them all.  The good, the bad and the ugly.

Luke 6:45 says:  For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

So, is my heart full of impatience?  Is my heart full of irritation and frustration?  Is my heart full of bitterness?

Sometimes my speech would say so.  And I’ve been praying and asking God what my focus this year should be…since last year was thankfulness, gratitude.

I think maybe it still is gratitude because I still feel so passionately about it and because I am still getting so much good out of the practice.  It’s a lifelong thing, I think, that I will ever be focused on.

But God has reminded me about praying for my enemies more than once and that has to do with the depths of my heart and the words of my mouth.  And now this….

That my words be seasoned with grace.

My heart is full of gratitude, love, grace and the joy of the Lord.  I want those things to be the things that will come through in my speech, not the lesser things.  

So, today I ask Him who can do all things…”Help me, Lord.”  Help my speech and my words be kind and thought out.  That I would think before speaking and that my words would bring life and love.  

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Resolutions?

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My facebook prompt this morning said, “What’s your New Year’s resolution?” and I drew a blank.

Yes, I’ve begun the “Bible in One Year” plan, just as I have every year.  (I’ve read Genesis and Matthew a jillion times by now.)  I’ve begun a new devotional book.  (It’s the One Thousand Gifts devotional and I love it already.)

But other than that…I can’t come up with a New Year’s resolution.  And I’m not going to.

I made some resolutions when I woke up on November 19th.  I resolved to be better.  A better lover of Jesus, a better wife, a better mother, a better sister, a better daughter, a better friend, a better part of the body of Christ.  I want to pray without ceasing, I want to love BIG and love WELL, I want to forgive easily, look for joy in all circumstances and be a blessing to those I’ve been blessed with.

It’s a change of life, not a resolution.

Last year, on January 1st, I made a blog entry on a blog I hadn’t done much with.  It began a journey of writing for me that has changed me from the inside out.  On January 2nd, in my blog Caroline and the Puddle, I said, “I want this year to mark a change in my life.”  And it has.  I have learned to find joy in hard things, I’ve learned to count blessings instead of aggravations.  I’ve learned that life is a gift and every minute is a gift and that tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone.  I have fallen more in love with Jesus as I’ve looked for the little gifts He gives me every day.  2012 did mark a change in my life, and it wasn’t because I made a bunch of resolutions.  It’s because I cried out for change and it’s because my heart was soft and open.

As time went by, God put things in my path to help change me.  He led me to teachings and sermons and podcasts that were about being positive, even in adversity, and He led me to the book “1000 Gifts” which has changed my heart forever.

And isn’t it a good thing that it did?

It’s as though I was in boot camp, in training for all that was to come in 2012.

Last night, I lay awake (again) until around 2:30am, marveling at the good things God has given me.  I was able to honestly thank Him for things that seemed awful at the time.

For the hard things that led to the collapse of my table, I said thank you.  Hard things that HURT but now I can see how He redeemed those things, how He’s used them.  For the  two babies I lost, Peter and Asher…I am thankful.  And those words cost to type and to feel because I wanted those two babies.  But they are souls with eternal significance.  And they serve a purpose in heaven…they are gifts and I am thankful for the time I carried them in my womb and for the glimpses God gave me of who they are and for their places in our family and in the kingdom of God.  I miss them both but I will see them again.

For all that happened in November…I am so thankful.  Even for my water breaking in the first place.  If that hadn’t happened…who knows if Nora and I would’ve survived.  My water breaking meant I was in Norfolk with the specialists, right beside CHKD (which she didn’t end up needing).  Did you know that Norfolk Sentara not only has an amazing NICU, but they also have an amazing trauma center…and that is why they had enough blood on hand for me.  Maternal Fetal Medicine, for all that I complained about wait times and lack of bedside manner, they were equipped to handle placenta accreta because they specialize in scary, weird, obscure obstetrical things.  They spotted it the day I was admitted and they figured out how best to handle it.  My water breaking, a scary and hard thing…God used it to save us.  The hardest trial of my life, which I’m still kind of working through, it’s something to be grateful for.

I can be thankful in the hard things.  It means a laying down, a sacrifice of entitlement, bitterness, self pity.  And God knows that the sacrifice costs…He sees that and He honors my obedience in the midst of pain and hard things.  He sees.

And this post isn’t meant to be “Look who evolved and holy I am.” because I’m decidedly not.  Just this moment, I am in a standoff with Claire because she wants to type and I’m trying to blog and I am irritated.  I say to my inner me, “You know, when writing a blog about being thankful, you should probably not feel so annoyed with your two year old, who is a precious gift.”  (That precious gift has now abandoned typing and is yanking things off the Christmas tree.  I’m going to pretend not to notice until I’m done.)  There are times when I feel so annoyed by the petty stuff that I cry real tears and then feel stupid for getting upset about things that don’t even matter. I’m trying to be evolved and holy, but Beloved Ones, all I can do is try.  Wait, not try…all I can do is practice.

Because when we practice something, we get better and better at it.

In a year, I’ve gotten better and better at being thankful.  I’ve gotten better and better at keeping Poor Me and her stupid friends away from my doorstep.  I think I’ve gotten better at Loving Well, but I know I can always grow in it.

And so this year, I’m not going to make any resolutions.  I’m not going to say that I’m going to keep my house clean finally at the age of forty or read the classics to the children at bedtime or start excercising every day or adhere to the Dave Ramsey financial plan 100%.  I’m just not.  Those are all good things and certainly I don’t think resolutions are without value…but for me, now that I’m living a life I almost didn’t get to live…I just want to Love Well.  I want to keep on changing and evolving.

I want to live a life of fullness and gratitude.  I don’t want to miss a thing.

What about you?  What will change your life this year?