Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Thriving In Transition



I remember thinking, “When will things get back to normal?” I was a first-time mom, and our new baby boy was barely two weeks old. I can hear you snickering.
My dream of becoming a momma had come true. But for all my years of wishing and praying and even my last nine months of planning, nothing had prepared me for the upheaval of “normal” that was coming with the birth of our first child.
My naive yearning to take my baby and get back to normal was a delusion. Gradually, it was replaced with the sober yet hopeful reality that, after a period of transition, I would find a new normal. If it didn’t kill me first.
Transitions can be like that.
Join me over at God-Sized Dreams for the rest of this post!



Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Girl's Got Her Combat Boots On





Put on the whole armor of God, 
that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
~Ephesians 6:11


"That's my verse," she said. 


It embodied the path she was walking. Choosing. Taking the light into a dark place.


My good friend who had retired from the Air Force gave them to her the day after Em read the verse.


And she has worn the boots into lots of dark places ever since. Playing music with her best friend/husband in bars. Praying with a roomful of models and walking runways. Boldly blasting churchy paradigms and teaching this woman a few new lessons about being salt and light.


You should see how people look at her. This girl with crazy, dread-like curls, dressed however the fancy grabbed her that day, and big, black combat boots. Ready at once to take on the world and kick some butt in its defense.


She's worn those boots into some of her own dimly lit places as well. Fighting for the truth of her own and every woman's beauty as she battled an eating disorder. She's turning that fight into a victory for herself and other girls and women thru her new organization Verity VareĆ©.


The only sister smack between five brothers, God has a purpose for everything. She's tough but knows how to love her family and now her husband with an incredible passion and tenderness.


But even tough can break. And a week ago she broke harder than I've ever seen. My heart broke right along with hers.


Em and Ethan love family and decided to jump right in to having their own. Just a few weeks after their honeymoon the lines showed up on the stick, and they went straight from "newlywed" status to singing their little one songs to sleep in utero.


But a few weeks later she complained of cramps. Then bleeding. And my heart sank as Ethan called to describe what I knew was most likely the beginning of a miscarriage.


I've been in my share of emergency rooms. With an active family and two preemies that spent weeks in the NICU, I've heard hard news, faced scary possibilities, and spent hours in waiting rooms. So when I walked into the ER to meet Em and Ethan, I didn't expect what happened. 


The room was empty. She was still in ultrasound. When I saw her purse and clothes and her delicate lace "wedding" Toms folded neatly in the corner, my heart caught in my throat. And sobs from somewhere deep threatened to explode. 


"No, no, no, no, no!" I half commanded, half pleaded with myself.


"Hold it together. You've done this before!"


But no. Immediately, I knew this was different. I'd been a momma in the ER, but she never had. I'd faced threats of illness, pain, loss, but she hadn't. Not like this. Her own, yes. But not the loss of someone she'd fallen head over heels in love with the moment she first became conscious of their existence.


She was the momma now. And I was initiated into yet another realm of motherhood I never knew existed.


A few minutes later, Ethan and the nurse ushered my daughter into the room. She smiled bravely at me and got back into the bed. I kissed her head, and we both wiped tears.


We cried together for the next four days. I'd hold and comfort her as she wept. Then when she'd leave, I would go to my bed and do the same.


On Friday, I took her to another follow-up appointment. She was stronger, happier, and one of the first things I noticed when I saw her was "Girl's got her combat boots on." 


And I knew she was back in the fight.


We grabbed coffee after her appointment. She talked about her plans . . the one's in process already and those for the future. Peace and enthusiasm colored all her words.


After coffee, I took her to one of my favorite gardens at a local museum. 




















































You should have seen how the little old lady at the info desk checked her out. Wild hair, mini skirt, black tights and those boots. Em smiled sweeter than southern ice tea and tromped away.

She had beauty to discover and battles to fight.

































::

::

::

Every momma eventually learns the pain of loss. Some learn it first. It's been three years since Emily and Ethan had to say goodbye before they got to say hello to their first child. While the ache of that first loss has dulled, I know it remains. 

Em wears combat boots every day now keeping up with their two boys, Elisha and Ezra. Her fighting spirit still comes through in gentle words, tender care, and fierce love. 

Watching her raise her "little bears" is one of the sweetest realms of motherhood I've ever known.































Naked I came from my mother's womb,
naked I'll return to the womb of the earth.
God gives, God takes.
God's name be ever blessed.
~Job 1:21





Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Care Pt. 2 ~ The LOV Foundation in Costa Rica

The fonts and size on this post are all wacky. I've worked on fixing it for too long, and it might make me quit blogging if I don't give up.

Sometimes I wonder if there's something unseen to "technical difficulties." Screwy fonts or not, I believe this story is worth being told.  




We stood at the edge of two hundred miles of dense cloud forest stretching from Costa Rica to Panama. It is a national reservation and home of the Cabecar Indians, Costa Rica's oldest indigenous tribe.



We'd driven two and a half hours from the town of Turrialba where the St. Francis of Emmaus Center is located. The first half of the trip took us through curvy mountains on two lane roads where trucks, vans, and motorcyclists pass each other on blind curves like "chicken-playing pros." As terrifying as that was, it was tame compared to the second half of our journey. An hour plus on dirt and gravel, pot-holed roads had our stomachs bouncing up into our throats.

The experience was novel, which went a long way toward making it less uncomfortable. Colleen's husband Greg loves his Land Rover and was an entertaining guide. He and Colleen had us hysterically laughing our way through the adventure. This wasn't their first rodeo with a group of short-term missionaries.

We stopped for 
lunch in the remote town of Grano de Oro, where the Mitchell's started their ministry in Costa Rica. It is also the site of the "rivers of healing" described in Colleen's book, Who Does He Say You Are.

 












Another bumpy ride took us to elevations so high the foliage became scrub and the air thinned. Finally, we came to the literal end of the road. We gladly peeled our bodies from the bench seats of the Land Rover, stretched our legs and backs and necks, resituated various other body parts, and began to walk down the path where the Cabecars enter and exit the jungle.















A logging company recently exchanged the rights to harvest wood in the reservation for building a road. They're gone now, and Greg told us the road they built won't last more than one rainy season.









Two young boys passed us walking up the dirt road. One carried a bunch of bananas on his back to sell in town. The second laughed and ran up the hill when we said "Hola!" 


Both carried machetes half as long as them. I thought of my own boys and how they would have thrilled to exchange their pocket knives for a machete at ten years old.








After walking a few minutes down the mountain, we remembered our steep uphill return and decided to stop. We took photos that, for all our best efforts, couldn't begin to capture the wondrous site before us and all it represented.



































A Cabecar man approached behind us. Greg greeted him and explained our odd presence. He then pointed to our group and called us "missionarios," a title I felt embarrassingly undeserving of.



I could tell Greg was telling the man about St. Emmaus and the care they provide for indigenous moms. The man asked, "Cuantos cuestan?" How much does it cost?


Greg answered. "Gratis," the Spanish word for free.

"Gratis?"

"Si, gratis."

Greg wrote his phone number on a piece of paper and gave it to the man who smiled and shook Greg's hand enthusiastically.

Then he shook each of our hands. His eyes shown with excitement, as he said "Dios bendiga," God bless you, to each one of us and hurried down the path.

We turned to Greg, and he explained that the man's wife is four months pregnant, and now he will bring her to St. Emmaus when she nears her delivery date. He knows doing so will prevent miles of walking through the mountains and then hours of car travel during labor, as well as the risks of an unattended birth.

She will be literal minutes from the hospital in the loving care of the Mitchell family, an experienced doula (Colleen), and a community of women who have likewise been helped.

I looked down the path for the man but could see only a tiny dot far down the steep mountain.













The LOV Foundation has collaborated with ViBella Jewelry and the St. Francis Emmaus Center to provide sustainable employment through jewelry making for Cabecar mothers and other women at risk.
Here are some ways you can join us in this good work!

- purchase founder Colleen Mitchell's newly released book, Who Does He Say You Are?

- get involved

purchase products and provide sustainable employment for women 



Find us on social media at #lovcostarica







Saturday, August 20, 2016

Care Pt. 1 ~ The LOV Foundation in Costa Rica



You have not lived today until you have done
something for someone who cannot repay you.
~John Bunyan

At two years old, Kenneth is severely underweight and has cerebral palsy. His mother Saida is due next month with another baby.



They are Cabecar Indians, the most isolated indigenous tribe in Costa Rica. Their home is a two hour drive and a day's walk into the jungle, far from the medical aid a child with cerebral palsy requires.

After Kenneth's birth, he and his mother stayed at the St. Francis Emmaus Center to recover. But when Kenneth's father said to come home, they did. Weeks later Kenneth was dying of malnutrition. They made the journey back to the hospital where they received needed medical care. They stayed at St. Francis and have lived there ever since.







Saida, Kenneth, and the soon-to-be-born baby's future are uncertain to say the least. I think of the challenges my own daughter faces daily with an almost two year old and an infant . . . forget a life threatening disability, mountain jungle, inaccessibility to medical care, and instability of family life. How will they ever manage?

This week the women of our team have taken turns holding Kenneth so Saida can work. 




She is excellent at jewelry making and works with incredible focus. Of course! It's a piece of jewelry to us, but Saida knows her efforts will earn her a fair wage and create life changing opportunities for her family.

Poverty is isolating and constricting (Proverbs 19:4, 7) but through The LOV Foundation's collaboration with the St. Francis Emmaus Center, and ViBella Jewelry, Saida and women like her are being given options for their future and the future of their children. 

Your purchases and support of these organizations directly impact Kenneth and Saida and mothers and children like them. 

Here are some ways you can join us in this good work!

- purchase founder Colleen Mitchell's newly released book, Who Does He Say You Are?

- get involved

purchase products and provide sustainable employment for women 






Find us on social media at #lovcostarica



Thursday, August 18, 2016

Community ~ The LOV Foundation in Costa Rica




The language veiled her words, but tears told her broken story. I understood the words abuse, hunger, and homelessness. All foreign despite my ability to translate. But there were familiar words too. Sorrow. Depression. Fear. Her story was a world apart in many ways, yet ultimately not unlike my own and yours.

In the end, every woman's heart longs for the same love. 






Her moist eyes shined as she talked of  strength and friendship found with Colleen and the other women at the mission. Laughing, she said men don't understand women like women do. How could they? 


A community of women who break and bind, cry and laugh, and live and love in the security and truth of their Father's love is unsurpassed in its power to heal and empower.











It's so easy to complicate it. 

Is the house clean enough? Is the couch new enough? Will they like the food? Is my outfit in style? Does my hair look okay? We can consume ourselves with fears of rejection and have nothing left to share.

How do we get community so wrong? 

When they measure themselves by themselves 
and compare themselves with themselves, 
they lack wisdom and behave like fools. 
~2 Corinthians 10:12

Jesus gives us another model, as He meets us at the point of our need. 

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, 
but in humility count others 
more significant than yourselves. 
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, 
but also to the interests of others. 
Have this mind among yourselves, 
which is yours in Christ Jesus, 
who, though he was in the form of God, 
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 
but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, 
being born in the likeness of men. 
And being found in human form, 
he humbled himself by becoming obedient 
to the point of death, even death on a cross.
~Philippians 2:3-8





There's a freedom hidden in humility that is as rare and precious as gold. It releases us from the tyranny of trying to control the thoughts, opinions, and judgments of others—something totally outside of our realm. 

In this freedom and relinquishing our own interests, we discover community, compassion, and genuine care.






I ask Thee for a thoughtful love,
Through constant watching wise,
To meet the glad with joyful smiles, 
And to wipe the weeping eyes; 
And a heart at leisure from itself,
To soothe and sympathize.
~Anna Laetitia Waring