our road {a promise}

Last month my husband and I went on a trip to another state for six days. It was the very first time we’d both left the kids for more than one night. My husband could have gone on twenty trips without the kids at any point in our marriage because he doesn’t have the insecurities and mama worries that I have had. It took me a bit longer. It took hard work on myself and the building of relationships that we could trust when it comes to care for our kids. It didn’t happen overnight. It took ages. It took a lot of prayers and change and growth and for me, none of it was easy. But it was worth the work. I feel like we are now in a new stage in life. Like we have crossed a road that has always scared me and walk in a place of peace.

The logistics were challenging for this kind of trip. Rather than use respite for our FD9 we asked Hubby’s mom to come and stay at our house for those 5 nights. Two couples from our church, people the kids know and love, came and gave my MIL a rest, took the kids for a walk, did crafts, took the boys to lunch and just teamed up to help care for our six kiddos so that hubby and myself could rest and recharge. It was hard to leave. It was difficult to plan. We had to work hard on the budget to make it happen and I had to let go of trying to control everything and trust God and my friends and family to meet my kiddos needs. Was it perfect? Did it all go super great? no, but it did work. The kids were safe. The team worked together and everyone did so well.

We spent five nights in Seattle and it did not rain once. The sun shone down on us. The water lapped and sparkled along the shores and the snow-caped mountains smiled at us as we drove on freeways, stood on towers and relaxed on waterways. It was splendid. It was refreshing and restful and restorative. We met people like us. Folks who are foster parents and adoptive parents who love Jesus and who struggle and question and persevere. It was so great. At the end we boarded flights and ate great food and enjoyed hot coffee and stout beers and when we landed in our own state we were so surprised to find that it was raining.

Tiny raindrops dotted the cracked windshield of hubby’s old work car as we drove into and over the mountains on our way home. We smiled and laughed that the rain was waiting for us in the desert rather than meeting us in the Pacific North West. We smiled at the thought of all the lovely sunshine that we had enjoyed over the past several days. It felt to my heart like a lesson. Like God had smiled down on us and given us this gift of Sun and rest and peace. Like he was saying that it was not just okay that we take the time for ourselves and for rest, but that we must and that He was pleased with us. I’m not sure where my brain and heart had doubted God’s goodness toward us. Maybe only in that this life is so very hard and we often fail and that terrible feeling that God is disappointed in us and that means that He doesn’t want to give us good gifts. But that is just not true. I know it. I would tell anyone else that it isn’t true for them, but I struggle to believe it for me, for us.

As we started the drive home remembering the blessed days before the clouds moved in, blue-gray and hanging over the mountain tops. The Sun set in a fantastic mix of orange, yellows and red hues behind us. The rain became a little more steady. The end of our day was looking just as beautifully complex as all of our years together. When the sun finally disappeared over the horizon and the darkness closed in around us and the car sped over miles of long straight highway the full moon shone out over us as we went. A large singular light in the skies above us. I remembered God’s chosen people, guided in the dark by fire in the sky. It felt like Father’s gift to us again. The tears burned at the corners of my eyes as I remembered just then what a woman whom I did not know said as we walked out of the church a few days before. She reached out and touched my arm as I passed and when our eyes met she said, “God will give you strength in a time of great need.” The moon looking down through the dark and rain now felt to me like a reminder. It felt like a promise that God would be with us when it was hardest. Things I know, things that I would tell anyone, but such a sweet word to my spirit now as we traveled home.

After more than an hour the moon and its light was swallowed up by the darkness and the clouds were heavy and the rain was hard. Now the roads were narrow and the wind was fierce and my hand gripped the door as we flew across the miles. I was scared. We could not see well through the window and I could feel my husband’s tension build. I have learned that it does not help my husband to ask him to slow down or to be careful. He wasn’t driving that fast but I was filled with fear and as we went I prayed quietly and whispered to myself- God is good and faithful. A reminder that He is trustworthy even when I feel all the terror of my circumstances. The drive through this storm lasted a long time. I fought with myself to hold tight to the truth of who God is even when I felt so much fear. What if we wrecked and the kids were left without us? What if more loss and hurt bled into their lives from all the edges? What if we’d had days full of sunshine and the rest and then the worst would happen an hour or two from home? It had not ever been so clear to me just how fearful for my children I had been. Or how I did not trust in our good God for them. I prayed. I Asked for His forgiveness. On that dark road, our car pelted by rain and wind, I laid them all down and asked Father to keep them and whispered again, God you are good and faithful and I can trust You, no matter what I feel.

It seemed to me, the whole journey, was a picture of the years ahead of us with our children. There will be sunny days and stormy days and days when the darkness and rains last too long but God would always be good and faithful and we can, all of us, trust him.


Blessings~ Tina

Run-ins And Open Hearts

There is a trail that I walk most days. It is not a difficult trail but on it I can see the horizon in all directions, the open skies all around me refreshing whether or not those skies are blue or gray. Nature and open spaces have always made my heart happy and this trail never fails me. I’ve found that a good walk where I can 1. Be alone (which of course does not happen often) 2. Pray out-loud if I want to and 3. Break a sweat REALLY helps me manage stress. It took ages for me to realize that super late nights binge watching Netflix and drinking red wine and eating chocolate from a secret stash doesn’t really help me at all with my stress levels and in fact leaves me tired and unhealthy and so increases my stress. No judgment if that works for you though!

One day this Fall while I walked that trail I had a run-in with a runner (see what I did there?) that revealed something to myself about fear and growth. On this day I had the preschooler with me, which means that I was pushing the stroller, not my favorite thing but I think it helps my arms get a workout so yeah, there is that so yay. I didn’t know that he was on the trail with me. I had seen two other people out there with me that day.  Mental notes were made: I am not alone, one black shirt there, one gray shirt there. Check and check and I walk on determined to sweat.

The sound that the wheels of the stroller made were the loudest. Tiny stones pushed aside by the turning wheels leaving two lines to show just where we’ve been.
The sound of the toddler and my music from my phone because I guess I took my ear buds into the house? On this day the air is heavy with the promised afternoon rains. I’m praying just above a whisper for the team that we are taking from our church to Asia this Summer ((Yay!!)). I am Praying for myself and for my Husband, for our hearts. I am asking Father for wisdom and courage. 

The four-year old is singing songs from the Trolls movie. The wheels are turning and the stones are being pushed aside. The gray sky hangs all around me. I am focused on my prayers. Then, he flies past me, the runner that I did not know was on the trail with me. His feet beat at the tiny stones hard and the sound startles me as he passes. So much so that I cry out like a frightened old lady,   “Ohhhhhhh!!” This of course startles him (poor fellow) and I hear him, “Oh!!” and after a moment to gather our respective whits we both call out an apology. His, less mortified than mine, I am sure. I’m so embarrassed.

As he runs on his way and I push the stroller ahead of me I continue to pray but I keep an ear open and an eye out for him. I don’t want to be startled again. So I am praying as I walk and listening to my girl sing her songs and ask her questions and feeling the stones move as we go but I am keenly aware of e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e else on the trail now- especially the runner. After another half mile on the trail I know that he is coming back around soon and so I keep looking back. Checking.

The runners second pass goes without a hitch. I was aware of him coming up the trail behind me. The third time he passes the breeze has gone away and the sun is hot on my skin and I have lost myself again in my own thoughts and this pass does give me a little start. Not enough for any embarrassing yelps but Just enough to get me thinking about fear. About how I work hard at knowing what to expect because I struggle with the unknown. I struggle with fear, I always have. I am remembering something that I heard recently though and I am connecting dots on the pretty tiny stones all along my path.

The week before at Bible study Pastor Mike had asked if we were reactionary or proactive in our walk with Christ. Honestly, I think that I am both. Sometimes when the unexpected things fly past me I react and panic and fly off of handles. Other times I am prayerful, strong and full of hope and wisdom. I’m growing, really I am but growth takes time. I am thinking that the unexpected will come by on this trail I walk: as a follower of Christ, as a wife and mom of three bio kids, one adopted wee one and one soon-to-be adopted big kid. I might cry out in fright or I might be ready for it (enough not to freak out). Either way I can keep on walking and make the choice to not let being afraid or embarrassed throw me off the trail.

These days the unexpected things flying past me that make me catch my breath are many. When my oldest tells us about getting bullied or when the son we are just beginning to know struggles. I hear the startling footfall on the stones around me at the thought of leaving my 8 year old at a birthday party without me or taking my first team to Asia. Everyday bringing its own surprises. My careful planning and the unexpected promise to mingle beneath the gray skies all around me.

Here is the thing though. I walk that trail almost everyday (and I really have to fight to get out there) because I know that it is good for me. I need it. It is to take care of my heart and the body, the body that God entrusted to me (and I’ve been total crap at taking care of it most of my life so yeah). I don’t like to sweat. I hate that the older I get the harder it is to do it. I don’t like the feeling of the extra pounds when I try to jog. I don’t enjoy the pain of exercise at all. I do love how I am and feel after. It is good to get my blood pumping and the my body moving. No matter the discomfort and the pain it is good and helps me to manage stress. It is also obedience to care for this body and heart. It is here where the stones start to take another shape…

Hubby and me, we have struggled in isolation for a time. Sometimes it is just how things are when you move city so often. It can be difficult to let people in, to trust people enough to really know you and to take the time to really get to know them. It can become what you do by default. We craved fellowship but we let it fall to the bottom of our list of priorities. Babies, work, moving and starting again – the basics was all we could handle. We clung to each other which was good but we also needed community and we knew that we did.  We prayed for strength and wisdom to change and grow and at some point in life that change came. Something planted, watered, sun and time and growth. Walking with Jesus transforms.

These days we live with open doors. It doesn’t come natural for us but our capacity to love others, to let people in and to live in our community has expanded greatly but it has taken time. Nine years ago it would have been a solid no from me. Let me keep my babies safe here in our little home. Seven years ago it would have given me a stress rash, wait I can’t control the new. Four years ago it would have only been babies, I know how to handle babies, and this year it is ten-year old boys and college students and church people. I’ve thrown my hands up in defeat and danced in the freedom of it. Our hands coming unclenched, hearts softening, minds changing and room was made for others…

Honestly, opening our doors and hearts to others is hard for me. Sometimes I just don’t want to do it because a closed home is less complicated, safer, quieter and easier. I’ve prayed for Father’s heart for ages and man oh man did He deliver. Obeying Father’s call to care for the vulnerable IS to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. An open home (full of Joy a friend said recently) is a surefire way to discover Father’s heart yourself and for the whole world!

The unexpected flying past me on this trail of life (yeah I did that) may frighten me. It may give me a start and make me catch my breath but the unexpected will be found beneath the footfall of obedient feet, willing hands and open hearts and by the grace of our Good Father, I am down. How about you?