A Sprout of Hope

Spring Leafs

I started Ann Voskamp’s Advent study The Greatest Gift last night. The verse is centered around the prophecy about Jesus which says he’s like a new branch growing out of the stump of David.  From what they thought was dead, a Savior was born.

She encourages the reader to look for the small to find God:

Just where you are, look for the small glimpses of God-glory breaking in, breaking out, sprouting, shooting, unfurling, bearing fruit, making a Kingdom, remaking the world. Slow and still. And see the shoot that bears witness to God – the hardly noticed child, the hymn hummed over the sink, the unassuming woman bent at the register, the dog-eared Word of God beckoning from the shelf. Gaze on shoots of glory to grow deep roots in God.

The passage reminded me so much of yesterday’s post—finding hope in the small moments with our family.

Yes, that’s what it feels like—a new branch growing, unfurling, bearing fruit.

And then I got to the devotional section that I filled out during last Advent season.  The first question asks “In what ways do you feel like a lifeless stump, longing for a tender shoot of hope?” I scratched down a few things and then in a one word sentence, simply wrote “Adoption.”

I was discouraged last year about the adoption. I had gotten to the point where you just wonder if you’d heard God wrong or maybe it was time to give up. Maybe God had changed his mind or we’d missed the boat somewhere.  It did feel like a lifeless stump.

And then in the last question, it asks, “Where can you see new life coming in what you may have considered dead?”

My one strand of hope was an adoptive mom I had recently talked to who circumvented social services and had adopted privately.  I wondered if this was our bit of hope, maybe there was another way for us.

Oh, how little did I know!

Not only was the stump not dead, but our new branch was found through DSS—the exact way I thought might be really, really dead.

And now I read those words I wrote last year and think oh my gosh, He did it.  He really, really did it.  Our new branch has burst forth from that lifeless stump. So much hope everywhere!

And in this particular Christmas season, I’m so overtaken with the hope of Christ.  How much the Israelites must have felt like that dead stump too.  A promised Savior not to be found.  And then Mary and an angel and Joseph and a stable and I wonder if some of them thought too He did it!  He really, really did it!

And it makes me think, man, if he can do this, he can do anything!

His power and omnipotence feel more real than it ever has.

So many of us still would still write so many things under the lifeless stump column—things or people we don’t think have any hope .  I still have a few from last Advent season that still feel like a lifeless stump.

But I was so encouraged today. He knows them! Every single one.  He’s working them out in his own time.  It may not turn out how we envisioned, or in our timing, but you do not have an absent Father. When you’re following Him, He leads you down the right path, straight to the sprout He has promised.

Oh, how I am thankful for both of my sprouts this year, my Savior and my son.

A First Thanksgiving

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I’ve hinted at it a bit in the last few posts, but the past few weeks has had some difficult moments.  Some time in October we felt like we’d hit a breaking point and things were on the upswing.  But then, it seems that we began trekking through another difficult time. I heard that this is normal–to rotate through peaks and valleys during transition.

Jacob’s teachers felt like he was “off”,  Jacob and Lexi started butting heads again, even Scott and I weren’t getting along.  Last Monday Lexi “ran away” to our side yard. I had to have a “pep talk” with her, as she calls them.  Once we signed the final adoption papers at the beginning of November and then got our court date, it seems Satan went on the attack again trying to cause strife in our family.

But then this weekend.

This long holiday weekend was exactly what we needed.

On Thursday for Thanksgiving, we ate lunch and dinner with our families in town. I was sitting at dinner and thinking back to one of our first dinners at my parents’ after we got Jacob and realizing how much better I knew him.  I knew which dishes on the table he would eat and which he wouldn’t. I had an idea of how much food he could eat. I could tell how far to push with him and knew when Scott’s banter was too much.  I wasn’t just so entirely grateful that last year he wasn’t at our table and this year he was, but that these 4 months of hard work were paying off.  We know each other so much better now.

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And then, as we were eating, I noticed that Lexi and Jacob were unnecessarily shoulder to shoulder eating their dinner.  In fact, the entire weekend all 3 kids spent the weekend playing nice with each other.

Jacob hasn’t gotten an “X” on his behavior chart in nearly a week. In fact, somewhere on Friday he said, “Why isn’t there anything on any of these days?” He was working so hard this weekend to get more and more checkmarks (we give for sharing, going the extra mile, compliments, etc).

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He told me Friday night while I was putting him to bed that he was excited to go to court (17 days!). I was ecstatic because it’s the first time he’s indicated to me he was happy about it. I mean, I knew it meant a lot to him, but he hasn’t expressed downright excitement about it. He told us he wanted to go to Chuck E. Cheese on the court date to celebrate and he said he was excited to go there too.  I asked him which he was more excited about and he said, “Court.”  Melt my heart!

I can tell our relationship is making progress too because he’s started to connect me with good things.

He found that I had picked out his favorite ice cream in the freezer and I heard him in the kitchen say, “Lexi, Mommy has mint ice cream!” I love that he attributed it to me.  He’s learning that I pay attention and give him good things.

When he was doing his DORE exercises and got a good assessment on that round, he made a point to come in the other room where I was and say, “Mommy, I got all easy on my exercises today.” He was playing cool, but I could tell he was proud of himself and I couldn’t be more happy that he wanted me to be proud of him too.

Sunday afternoon we were walking through some stores in town where it was all girl-stuff.  He said, “This is why I didn’t want to be in this family!” He’s made comments before about not wanting two (annoying) sisters. But then, he quickly corrected himself and said, “I mean, I AM happy to be in this family.”  A few months ago, he would have let the first barb sit there, not caring that our feelings were probably  hurt.

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Sunday night he was leaving after dinner to go play with a neighbor and he came right back inside and said with such wonder, “Mommy, Mr. Rich has his lights up!” We’d been waiting all week for the big light-up. I followed him outside and our neighbor had outdone himself.  I literally almost started crying at Jacob’s childlike wonder at the lights and how they were truly beautiful–and how he came to get me to see them too.

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I suppose I share all those little snippets of our weekend to simply say this first Thanksgiving weekend together couldn’t have gone better. I hope this is yet another turning point.  I’m sure it’s possible once we jump back into routine of school and work that tensions might rise again, but this long weekend was just the respite that we all needed.

I couldn’t be leaving this first Thanksgiving weekend of ours more grateful and ready to jump into the Advent season. I hope you and yours had a good one too.

 

In The Picture, Redeemed

Three years ago in November 2011, I wrote this post, sharing how in 2010, I had longed for a little boy in our family picture. I didn’t know it, but at the time, Jacob was 5 years old.

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I have a secret to tell about this picture, taken last November.  When I first saw this picture I thought about how beautiful the leaves were and how I love the sun streaming through the trees.  I love that my family is all holding hands and that if you look hard enough, you can see a smidge of my big smile.  But I never told anyone all I could think about is how I thought a little boy would fit between me and Lexi. He would even us out, fit perfectly.

And looking back, I love that this picture looks like we’re headed off together on a journey, with God’s warm presence over our path.  We didn’t decide and announce we’d adopt until late January this year but this shows he’s been in the picture for much longer.

 

We have last year’s family picture on a canvas in our living room.  Last year’s picture was also special because I knew God was telling me to enjoy our year. Our family was in a very sweet time and I was so grateful, although I mentioned I felt like we perhaps we had some hard years coming up.

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For whatever reason God decided to let me be a part of this beautiful family and it is such a gift.  We’re far from perfect but we’re healthy.  We’re happy.  We love Jesus.  He is SO good to us.

I don’t know if that means we have some hard years coming up.  Maybe.  But maybe they’ll all be good years.

 

You can imagine that planning this year’s family picture was a big deal for us. When we began talking about family pictures and where it would be, Jacob piped up and pointed at the picture and said, I want our picture in the same place as that one. Thankfully, that’s exactly where we had it planned with the same photographer.

Once again, his desires and our desires meshed. And so with that, I’m sharing a few proofs from our family pictures this year (I’m saving the one I’m using for our Christmas card).

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I can’t think of a better time than Thanksgiving to say that yes, this year has been hard but it also has fulfilled so many longings and we are so, so grateful.

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Although I was so happy with our family of four, I just knew there was a little boy that was supposed to be with us.

 

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And now he is.

God is so good. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. He’s worthy of our praise!

 

Some Thoughts on Ferguson, Unity and Small Battles

Scott and I got in a fight this morning.  Like, I was almost yelling before my eyes even opened for the day. I shoved past him in the bathroom. We were barely polite getting the kids ready for school.  I cried on the way home from taking them. I’m not proud of it, but I feel like you need to know it happens.  We’ve all been there–saying things we don’t mean, holding our silences longer than we should.  It’s marriage and we’re people.

The past few days have had some rough spots with the kids too, both individually and amongst them.  It feels like since we got our court date we’ve been fighting fires, one after another.  We get one kid settled and the other decides to do something. That issue is resolved and then two of them go at each other.

We all have crap individually. Yours may not look like mine but I bet something is going on. And then, if that weren’t enough, we’re all feeling this heaviness as a nation because of Ferguson.

It’s overwhelming isn’t it?  There’s no clear path to the truth or to justice or to peace.

But what I find interesting is that in all these cases, we all have this burning desire in us to get to those things.  There’s something innate that’s striving for truth, justice and peace. I happen to believe it’s a God-given desire for Himself.

The Prince of Peace. The Way. The Truth.

And what I remembered today in all of this is we are not each other’s enemies.  I am not Scott’s. My daughter is not my son’s. One race is not the other’s.

Satan is our enemy. He wants us divided–brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, citizens of your city.  Division is what he’s after.  I’m afraid he’s winning in a lot of ways.

I don’t have any sort of control over a lot of it,  but I do have some in my own relationships and in myself.

So I do the hard work of trying to get my kids to get along. Scott and I apologize and we hug. I try to mourn with those the mourn and be slow to anger and slow to speak and find what truth I can and forgive where I need to.

These decisions won’t win the war, but they do win some battles and that’s something.

 If Satan is our enemy and division is his goal, what battles are raging in your life right now and what is God’s path to peace?

 

 

Mockingjay Part 1 Movie Review

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Here’s the short version: Neither my sister nor I were wowed with Mockingjay Part I and do not recommend you spend your money on it in theaters.  For those that have read the book,  I know you will probably see it anyway because your curiosity will kill you and you want to form your own opinion.  Fair enough. But at least watch a matinee and save a little money. Please don’t scramble for a sitter this weekend and brave the crowds.  I’m telling you, it’s just not worth it. If you can wait, I’d recommend waiting until Part 2 comes out and watching the two back to back in theaters if you must watch in a theater. Otherwise, wait for Redbox.

So let me explain why I didn’t like it so much.

About 45 minutes into the movie, I leaned over to my sister Heather and said, “This is so boring.” She agreed.

On the way to the theater, I mused that although Mockingjay was depressing to read, that the action might come across really well on screen.  And it did.  Some of my favorite scenes in the movie were action scenes.  Two in particular.  One was when Katniss goes to visit a hospital in one of the districts.  The Capitol ends up bombing the hospital and Gale and Katniss shoot the planes out of the sky with exploding arrows.  That was awesome.  Seeing Katniss strong and capable is good stuff. The other scene is when everyone is going to the bunkers for the bombings and Prim nearly misses it because she goes back for her cat. Katniss goes after her. Gales goes after Katniss and they almost miss the bunker. Total nail-biter.  Loved it.

What I didn’t love is that most of the movie is political.  A lot of the movie is watching Katniss and her team film political ads for the rebellion.  There’s a lot of “this will be a great opening scene” and “Katniss, look at this camera.”  And then, not only do we watch her film it, then we have to watch everyone watch the ad together.  It was so entirely boring I wanted to poke my eye out with a fork.

When we finally get to the climax of the movie (which is to save Peeta) it was so uninteresting that I looked at Heather and said, Oh, I think this is the whole point of the movie.  It was so unclimatic that I can’t explain to you.  I mean, think about the first two movies. Those climatic scenes were AMAZINGLY CLIMATIC.

And I know this is just Part I of Mockingjay, but if you’re going to break up a movie into FOUR HOURS and make me wait a YEAR in between each one, you better be able to deliver a solid stand-alone Part I that will have enough resolution in it to make it worth my time and money.

Part I just didn’t deliver on that.

And not only was the end not climatic enough for me, the movie ended without a redemptive ending, but a downright DISTURBING ending that left me wtih a grimace on my face when the credits rolled.

IT WAS TERRIBLE.

Now, I’ve talked this out with my friend ohAmanda and she loved the movie.  She admitted she likes movies with sad/depressing endings. I do not.  I need all the happy feelings walking out of the theater.  So, perhaps if you don’t mind a bunch of angst the entire time without a payoff until next November, this movie might be just fine for you.

It just wasn’t for me.

Now, I will say there are many redeemable qualities about the movie I’ll leave you with.

Jennifer Lawrence is downright amazing as always.  She was in a terribly ugly gray jumpsuit without makeup for most of the movie and played the angsty, depressed mockingjay with perfection. For what she was given, she was outstanding.

The special effects were outstanding as well.  Nothing cheesy about all the bombings or shelter or anything else. Cheese wasn’t the problem for sure.

Effie in particular gave a wonderful performance. She was still in character, making do with the jumpsuit and head wraps and no wigs and makeup.  I actually enjoyed her much more this time.

It kind of reminded me of the exact opposite of how I felt about Twilight’s first movie–terrible acting, terrible effects but a great story.  This had the opposite–great acting, great effects but not enough redemptive story for my liking.

As I said, readers of the book will probably go and see it anyway, so if and when you’ve seen it, I’d love your take on it.