Where He Is

Here I am
In the midst of poverty and despair
A mother taken ill, a broken home, and a bucket load of hurt
Here I am
At school and working for my family
wanting to do better
wanting to contribute

Here I am
proud of what we have
Here I am
sure of where my strength comes from
Here I am
grateful for Compassion
Here I am
writing letters to my sponsor
Here I am
sharing life
Here I am
asking for prayers and strength and better grades and healing
Here I am
sharing my dreams and desires with someone far away
Here I am
hoping in Jesus
Here I am
trusting in His plan

Just Keep Pedaling

This past weekend, Sunday, September 23rd, to be exact, I participated and completed my first and quite possibly my last ever Iron Girl Duathlon.  For those of you unfamiliar with the specifics, that is a 2 mile run, a 22 mile bike ride and a 2 mile run to top it all off.  My fellow footie Mom, in the photo above, suggested this race to me when she heard Husband Jared and I enjoyed half marathons.  Being ignorant in the ways of cycling I said yes, registered for the race and begin training. 
Little did I know what I was getting into, until Husband Jared and I drove the cycling course.  There was hill after hill after hill oh and then some more inclines.  So I diligently logged miles and hours on my bike.  A mountain bike no less.  Heavy and with knobby tires.  Come to find out that is not a good combination for a road race.  No sir. 
So, there I was the night before race day.  Feeling rather unprepared, knots in my stomach and definitely lacking the confidence necessary to conquer those hills.  Husband Jared spoke some truth, poured encouragement out and even woke up on race moring to prepare coffee and hard boiled eggs for me.  Time for me to get over myself.  The goal...just finish the race.  Don't worry about the time and just keep pedaling.  Even when you don't want to, even when it's tough, even when your legs are screaming, just keep pedaling. 
And I did.  Carolyn was a huge support.  She had navigated the course two times previously, knew her way around and was such a source of motivation for me.  I might have left out, the race is women only! Oh yeah.  In the case you did not know I am an emotional being.  Seeing a sea of women line up, some alone, some in groups, some cancer survivors, some struggling with MS diagnosis, others celebrating birthdays or weight loss, was overwhleming.  Not only that, but relationally women are amazing.  There were strangers encouraging, fist pumping and hugging all whiel preparing to head out onto the course.  Then there was Carolyn and myself.  Her spurring me on and running the first miles with me all while talking.  Super impressive.  We made it into the transition area and I was feeling strong.  Stronger than when I started.  Until I saw the racks of bikes and once again I felt completely intimidated.  Remembering the mantra, just keep pedaling, I mounted the bike and we began.  Then Carolyn was just a speck of purple, miles in front of me.  Before the race began we had agreed that we would each run our own race so to speak, go at our own pace and not worry about "staying together".  And we did.  She finished a good half hour ahead of me but when I rounded the corner towards the finish line she was right there, cheering me on and smiling.  Awesome.  I must admit, I was a bit jealous of her water and her smile.  Almost there. 
Here's where I stop and reflect for a brief moment about the experience.  I struggled both mentally and physically on the course.  There was one hill, on the second time around that I had to literally talk myself into climbing on the bike and as I was in the midst of it I heard a voice from behind yelling, "get it girl".  Women are beautiful.  Another hill, and a different rider, passing me on the left and shouting encouragement, "almost there", "keep going", "you can do it".  That was the norm, not the exception for this race.  A group of women came along side as we were on the last of a string of hills on the back side of the course.  I must admit that I was cursing in my head when next to me I hear, "jeepers".  Yes, that's right, "jeepers".  Couldn't have said it better myself.  Those hills were hard.  They tested my resolve in more ways than one.  Yet, while riding, I was strangely at peace.  There was conversation between me, myself and God.  Some prayers.  Some questions.  Some blog writing happening while I was riding.  Hence this reflection.  I was so grateful to be amongst competitors that shared womenhood as our common ground.  It was inspiring. 
Well enough of that.  Let's talk finish line.  And breakfast.  Medals and photos.  I crossed the finish line, heard my name called out and found Carolyn waiting for me.  No sooner did I see her and she asked if we were still friends.  Ha.  Of course.  Not that I didn't question my sanity as well as hers throughout the race.  Those last two miles were excruciating.  I could liken my legs to Popeye's calves, each feeling as though they weighed 100 pounds.  It was a long, slow two miles.  I did in fact finish.  Goal accomplished.  Then we refueled doing our best to repace the thousand plus calories that we just burned.  And we laughed and compared the racer's high to childbirth; Painful throughout, yet strangely enough we would do it all again.  Maybe. 

Thing 2's Birthday Dinner - 14 years and Counting

Well as you read in a previous post Thing 2 is now fourteen.  Per family tradition we celebrated her with a birthday dinner of her choosing, dessert and presents.  She invited a friend over to share in the festivities and let's just say there was not a dull moment, nor a quiet one. I'm sure you catch my drift.  On the menu, homemade lasagna, no veggies please, Caesar salad and garlic bread.   Tiramisu for dessert, no not store bought!  For the record, I do not think that in all fourteen years of her birthday dinners has she ever chosen the same food or the same cake.  Creature of habit she is not.  I have compiled an assortment of photos from our night.  Enjoy, we sure did!
 Main Course
This pretty much defines the evening!

Sweet, homemade card from Thing 3
Apparently Thing 4 thought it necessary to help his big sister
 The grand finale of presents, concert tickets!
Homemade tiramisu, mmm

Thankful Thursday #104

983. dreaming big
984. burden
985. words surrounding me
986. celebrating Thing 2's birthday
987. a friend of hers texting me and saying she hasn't laughed that hard in a long time
988. a full calendar
989. anticipation
990. my camera
991. homemade tiramisu
992. smells of fall

More Compassion

The blog month continues for Compassion International and I must say children are being sponsored everyday.  That is exciting my friends.  I don't like to assume, but I am sure many of you have questions about where the monthly sponsorship fee of $35 actually goes.  There may even be some skeptics out there.  I understand.  I happened upon this post on the Compassion website and thought it worth sharing.  I pray this answers questions for those of you who might be wondering.
And because I was thinking of Oswaldo as I wrote this post I thought I'd post a picture of us together.  Not really together but at least in the same photograph. 
Oswaldo graduating from elementary school,
 shown here with his Mother (in white), and his teacher, and the big goofy faced woman holding the photograph is me!  

Fourteen Years Ago

On this day fourteen years ago you were born.  I labored at home through the night not wanting to wake your Dad and spending some time alone dreaming about you.  We sat together in the rocking chair and wrote a letter to your big sister before we left for the hospital, just me and you, although you were only kicking from the inside.  Here we are in the midst of teenage years and just beginning high school.  Thing 2, I cherish you and the gift you are to this family.  As life would have it you are now kicking from the outside.  And that is good.  You live life to the fullest and the loudest.  For that I am grateful.  You are a bright light to this world around you.  The privilege of being your Mama still has me wander struck.  Thing 2 God has plans for you, plans that were already set in place when He knit you together.  I am so honored to be able to witness those plans unfolding.  Here's to the year ahead, to walking the narrow path, to remaining bold and confident, to listening when the Spirit prompts, to embracing all the wild emotions, to dreaming big, to believing and to being tethered to this six.  I love you Laney Lu, happy birthday.
As I sit here and think about everything you are currently "into" I remember all the years past and the joy you have brought.  For now, you are playing club football once again, loving the high school youth group, you are leading a Bible study for your school group, working on the yearbook, you love being outside, biking, running and you love listening to music, LOUDLY, you are a friend to many and a help to those around you and yes you process outwardly regularly, never afraid to speak your mind, whether in school with teachers or your peer group.  Here's to you at this wonderful moment in your fourteenth year!
 Dress up
Cruising at the park
Bouncing in the exersaucer
 Time for the tonsils to come out
 Polo and you
 Smiling pretty
 Ramo beach, a happy place
Looking up to big sister
Pool time

To Me

graceful for young women

*Another letter, this time inspired by a fellow blogger whom I am linking up with today to share some hindsight if you will. I don't know her personally but her writing has touched a place deep within my soul and she has a new book out as well as a book/study guide for teenage girls, Graceful. You can read her thoughts and see other letters like this one here, Chatting at the Sky. Friends, this is good. And as a mother of three teenage daughters, well two and another close behind, I am in the trenches. Being a teenager is tough. Amen and amen. 
Dear Teenage Me,
I am filled with thoughts about what this letter should look like and if I didn't know how we turned out or what our life looked like now I probably would know exactly what to write.  Somehow, knowing this makes me hesitant to be honest because I wouldn't want to change the outcome.  I would however want to stress a few points to you.  Not only for you now, during your high school years, but maybe selfishly so that the you now, meaning me, isn't still dealing with baggage from then.  Did that all make sense?  Good.  Let's continue.

You are unsure of where you fit in.  Due to the fact that you are a people pleaser to the max this is not healthy.  It will cause much doubt, fear and anxiety.  Many lessons will be learned because of this.  News flash, you will not ever meet everyone's expectations, nor will you be able to ensure their happiness or acceptance of you.  You will however, be loved unconditionally by your family and Heavenly Father.  Remember, the One you accepted at the Crusade for Christ and on the PATH retreat?  Just checking.  Please Him ALONE.  He knows what's inside and you will feel better if you trust your Mom enough to tell her what's going on in that gorgeous head of yours.  Really.  She may seem like the enemy now but she will be a confidant and friend when you become a mother someday. 

Yes, you will be a mother.  Of four.  Those four will love you like no tomorrow.  You will be their everything and it will feel like someone came and ripped your heart right out of your chest every time you look at them.  Still does, even after all these years.  One of these will come sooner than expected and your life's plan may seem derailed.  Try and remember it was never really your plan being played out.  Try to not be afraid to tell the truth.  There is freedom in that place. 

This I cannot stress enough, you are loved sweet girl.  Sixteen is hard.  You will make it.  You will have joy.  You will know real friendship.  You will feel confident.  Everything is made beautiful, even all the ugly stuffed way down deep inside.  He isn't through with you, or me yet.  Thank God for His grace. 

Guess what?  Softball or your grades or all the "good girl" acts do not define you.  Striving will not earn you acceptance.  Trust me.  This one has taken us a long time to learn and if you can start now maybe the mountain won't be so big for us when we're on this side of  it.  None of those things will make you better, will help you gain approval, will win you a seat in heaven, will make boys notice you for the right reasons or force girls to like you.  They won't, that I promise.  Be you.  And don't be afraid to be you even when it's tough, and it will be tough. 

You are amazing.  Your generous, thoughtful heart and empathy will guide your actions.  Let it.  It's His leading, that's how He designed you.  You were not a mistake. 

Lastly, the life you're living has eternal value, live it that way.  You are loved.

Much love,
Yourself, eighteen years into the future!

Thankful Thursday #103

* apparently, me, working on something very important at the Air and Space museum, while waiting for Husband Jared and Thing 4 to complete their flight simulation
973. long bike rides
974. sister chats
975. new - fun job
976. pumpkin everything
977. salted caramel everything
978. feeling challenged
979.  humorous texts from Thing 1
980. speaking something deep within out loud
981. hearing the words from his mouth 
982. an introspective new read on my nightstand

A Little Personal

* I have been struggling to write this letter, which for me turns out to be more of a prayer, for our latest Compassion blogger's assignment.  Seems a bit personal, vulnerable and telling.  So, here goes, laying it all out there in hopes that some waiting children are sponsored in the name of Jesus. 

Father God,

I sit here tapping away at the keys, praying, hoping, for the  words to flow.  So grateful that most days this feels like a personal conversation between just the two of us.  Me writing, you reading.  Or better yet, knowing what I'm going write before I even do.  These written words have always seemed to flow a bit more naturally for me.  Not stumbling over myself like I do when I'm called to speak out.  Thank you for that.  The song playing as I type has lyrics that remind me this world is not my home, not where I belong.  I believe that Father.  Thank you for the gift of your Son.  Thank you for your extravagant grace.  Thank you for redemption.  Without these I would have a withered soul.  With these gifts I desire to share them with others.  With children.  With those who have not yet heard.  Knowing that you are a big and mighty God I bring Oswaldo and his family before you.  They have heard.  He has heard and all because of the calling you placed on some one's heart for Compassion.  Thank you for leading us to this child.  Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to witness your work in his life.  Thank you for sharing one of yours with our family.  There have been struggles and illnesses and battles in heavenly realms and throughout it all you remain.  Thank you for calling us back and thank you for forgiveness.  I pray above all else Father that your love is steadfast, that your truth is rooted deep in Oswaldo's heart and he knows personally that you are a God who saves.  I pray today that my heart continues to break for what breaks your heart.  That even though it may be harsh, it may make me cringe and it may cause hurt that I look.  I don't want to close my eyes when I have the opportunity to be a ray of hope, a small blip that could be a part of the solution.  Amazed at how you love and never stop, in spite of me.  Your glorious ways are above mine and I stand in awe when I am able to catch a glimpse of that story line here on earth.  Thank you Jesus.  Thank you for your unfailing, redemptive love. 

Your messed up, still learning, grace filled daughter,

Thankful Thursday #102

* Coming 'atcha with a road trip pic, en route to DC via Pittsburgh;
Thanks Mom for this keepsake!
963. COFFEE on early school mornings
964. new colored pens
965. flowers from Husband Jared after I've had a sad day
966. Mentos
967. FB messages from Thing 1
968. all of Thing 2's zest for life
969. Thing 3 with her nose in a book, morning, noon and night
970. when Thing 4 asks me to prepare his toothbrush at night
(no, I don't do that, he's old enough to do it himself but it does make me laugh)
971. brisk morning walks with Polo-Lolo
972. learning how to train for a duathlon

School Time

Our Things are back to school.  One week in and dare I say thriving.  The stories are abundant around the dinner table and the homework, well, let's just say it's not our favorite.  With the start of a new academic year there are always challenges.  Going to bed at a decent time, rising early, dealing with the demands of teachers, parents and structure that was so lacking during our summer holiday.  Yet with all of this there is a certain peace and security in the routine.
 Knowing what to expect. They do not need to worry about their next meal, whether or not they have new shoes for the first day, supplies for each of their classes, snacks in their lunches.  Need I continue?
Here is where I share a different sort of back to school story.  Oswaldo's story.  You know Oswaldo.  He is our adopted child from Nicaragua.  No, he doesn't live with us here in the states, but he does hold a  special place in our hearts and our family.  For over two years now Oswaldo has been part of our dinner conversations.  A part of our prayers and a part of our lives.  Oswaldo has started school as well.  Thanks to Compassion International.  In his most recent letter he shared with us that he would like to achieve better scores in his classes.  He is struggling.  Although his struggles don't stem merely from the school work at hand.  His mother is seriously ill with medical bills and a lack of proper medical care.  The village where he resides is poverty stricken.  He uses his birthday money to buy food for his family and shoes for church.  Sound hopeless?  It might be without the light shone through Compassion.  The light of Jesus.  There are thousands of children who do not share in this hope.  They want to.  And they can.  With the help of people like you and me to come along side these children.  To pray for them, share life with them and help provide for a few basic needs for them.  Oswaldo still will have struggles, our sponsorship doesn't change that.  What it does do is offer an opportunity.  Visit this page, Sponsor a Child.  All I ask of you is to scroll through the pages and if you feel so moved, take one of these as your own.  And if you do, be prepared to share your heart.