Friday, May 31, 2013

The Doorbell

I have a love/hate relationship with my doorbell. (and with desserts, and with play dough, and with Spanks, and with shoes, and with exercise equipment...)

It can't help but be a little bit obnoxious, that 'ding dong' sound that echoes through the whole house. No matter what I'm doing, it's rarely convenient to stop long enough to walk down the hall and answer the door.

Sometimes its a surprise visit from a welcomed friend or family member. Or the arrival of something I ordered online. Or girl scouts delivering the cookies I purchased. Or a flower delivery man. Those are the times when I love my doorbell. (Although, if those beloved friends or family members arrive when I'm in my pajamas or the house is trashed, they may be a little less beloved, and if the clothes I ordered online don't fit, I may love myself a little less, and if the girl scout cookies get delivered after I started a diet, I may love all girl scouts a little less, and if the flowers make me get the point)

But, on more than one occasion its been a (gulp) policeman standing on my porch as the ding-dong sounds filled my house. There have been Jehovah's Witnesses, there have been Repo companies, there have been grouchy mail carriers. Once it was our super sweet next door neighbor, and when I opened the door she was standing on the porch holding my two-year-old son's hand, asking me if I knew he was out front. DOORBELL HATRED.

And, as a side note, no matter how happy I am to see anyone or anything, I will ALWAYS hate my doorbell and whoever rang it if they happen to push the button between the hours of 1-4 p.m., when my boys are napping. I strongly urge you never to do that. Strongly.

The worst, though, was the day when the mail man delivered a crate, taped and wrapped, that I had to sign for. Curiously oblivious, I ripped off the tape and bubble wrapping to discover a plainly wrapped package with the return address of "US Embassy, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia."

My sister's ashes, delivered to my door. A package requiring my signature. As if it were any other day, any other ring of that hateful button.

It's really hard to remember that day, that feeling, and still believe that the Lord wastes nothing, not even, especially not, our pain.

But I signed for another package. Today I got a delivery that may never, ever, be topped on the list of wonderful things on the other side of my door.

Today my book arrived, the book I wrote to honor my sister's life and memory. Today I stood outside in my driveway staring at it, crying, with my kids surrounding me and with friends crying and taking pictures.

Today the Lord's promise that He doesn't waste our pain, and He redeems everything, even the ashes, was made evident in my life.

One small girl who's life ended so abruptly, one breathtakingly painful box filled with ashes, one ring of the doorbell that I will never forget.

And then, 25 boxes, 1,000 books, one breathtakingly beautiful life, for everyone to read, for everyone to know about.

The Lord gives. The Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

The irony of my doorbell moments tumbles around inside me as I write. Its wrapped up in the irony of my sister's life. She wasn't tall, or substantial, or outgoing. She wasn't the kind of person who made an entrance in a room. And yet, people who never knew her...KNOW HER.

Because someone small, who in willing to let God use them, can become a spiritual giant- a catalyst to spur us all into walking out the Lord's steps for our lives.

The pain of ashes has become the beauty of redemption. My Beloved Savior took my pain, and gave me His promise that He restores all, in His time, in His way.

I pray that every single time I hear the doorbell ring for the rest of my life, I will remember this truth.

Nothing is wasted.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Moment of Truth...almost

My book is being released on Friday!!!! I can't tell you how excited, and overwhelmed, and thankful, and a little bit sad, I am feeling. My friends have said it seems like the whole process has gone quickly. After all, I finished the rough draft August 1st, 2012, and the finished book is being released May 30th, 2013. But to me it seems time has been dragging its feet these past months, and 'wait' and 'patience' have become my new least favorite words.
But, the wait is almost over!!!! The anticipation is killing me, and because I hate to be alone in my agony, I have decided to share the first few pages with you, in the hopes of having some miserable company!!!
So, without further ado, I give you the prologue of "His Life For Mine."
It was quiet in Joy’s room, which should have been an
indication that something unusual was about to happen. It
was never quiet here. The streets of Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia were always filled with people, filled with life.
And the children’s home, where she lived and served, was
never completely quiet, even in the middle of the night.
How could it be, with 27 children living within the walls?
She loved the hustle and bustle; she loved the crowds and,
most of all, she loved the children.

Briefly, she wondered where they were. Was there an
outing she had forgotten about? Were they all, miraculously,
sleeping at the same time in the middle of the day?
Most days, it was loud and wild, even when it was supposed
to be quiet. It was something she had grown up with, something
she had gotten used to and come to love. She hardly
missed the peace and quiet. She didn’t even notice its
absence most days. The noise was familiar.

Today, though, in this moment, a sudden feeling of
peace filled the room. It was something in the air, something
not quite discernible. The feeling caused all of
creation, it seemed, to collectively draw in a breath and
Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed that the door
was open, and she turned toward it. A gasp lodged in her
throat. Light, so bright it was almost blinding, pierced the
room. She blinked, blinked again, and after her eyes had
adjusted, blinked once more. What she was seeing couldn’t
be real, but the sudden racing of her heart told her it
mustn’t be ignored.

There was an angel standing in her doorway. Saying it
out loud would have made her laugh, because it was so
impossible. And, yet, it didn’t really seem that surprising.
After all, there was no sound. The whole world was
holding its breath, waiting for something to happen, and
this must be it. She wasn’t afraid. She couldn’t imagine
what fear felt like, in that moment. The angel was smiling
at her, and, from her place on the bed, she smiled back.

“Hello, Joy,” he said, in a voice that was quiet, like the
room, and, yet, mighty, like thunder. “Will you come with
me? I have things I want to show you.”

Was an angel really asking her to come with him?
Where were they going? When would they be coming

This must be a dream. The city was still holding its
breath, after all, and a city full of people couldn’t, actually,
stop breathing, all at the same time. But even if it was a
dream, she wanted to see what the angel had to show her.

She didn’t need to ask any of her questions.
She stood up, and even that seemed to happen in slow
motion. It felt more like she was swimming than walking,
and it took her a minute to reach the doorway. When she
drew near to the angel’s side, something gave her pause.

She turned back toward the room, uncertain why she hesitated.
Her brow drew together in a split second of confusion,
but she felt a touch on her hand. She turned toward
the angel, and saw him smiling again.
“Will you come with me?”

It was the same question as before, with the same
unimaginable peace and power flowing from his lips. Her
hand was warmed by his touch, and the warmth seemed to
spread through her whole body.

For some reason, as she stood there, tears filled her
eyes. Maybe it was because, in a dream, a person always
cried in unexpected places. Maybe it was because she was
still a little unsure of what was to come. Maybe it was the
overwhelming calm, peace, and love that she could feel
when this messenger from heaven took her hand. She
didn’t know why she wanted to cry, but she did know that
she wanted to be wherever the Lord wanted her. If God
had sent her an angel — an angel who wanted to take her
somewhere — then, there was only one right answer.

She drew in a breath, an act that seemed to take several
heartbeats, and she nodded her head.

“Yes, I will go with you.”

As soon as the words left her mouth, the room around
her faded away, and a small Florida home came into view.
This time she gasped aloud, bracing herself for a journey
unlike anything she could imagine.

Check Facebook and my website ( for more info starting on Friday, May 30th!!!


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Beach Bums

The beach is in my blood.

Maybe its because I was born in Florida and lived the majority of my childhood in South Carolina.

Maybe its because I am partial to suntans.

Maybe its because I love the sticky salt water feeling that my skin gets when I've been pounded by sandy waves all day...nope, its not that one.

Anyway, whatever the reason, I can literally FEEL myself relaxing when the air starts to smell salty, and the palm trees appear, and the dirt becomes sand.

Growing up, we only lived 2 hours from the ocean, and we would travel there at least half a dozen times per summer. Mom would pack a huge cooler full of food and drinks, and we would all pack our towels, and flip flops, and boogie boards, and sunscreen we had no intention of applying...and we'd pile into our van and laugh and talk excitedly about the day ahead.

Eight to ten hours later we would pile back into the van, significantly less chipper, significantly dirtier, and significantly more RED than we started out. We would sit as still as possible in an attempt to keep the sand in our swimsuits from rubbing against our burnt flesh, and Daddy would drive home faster than he drove on the way down (and that's saying something!) because nothing sounded better than getting out of the sandy suits and applying lots and lots of aloe.

Ah, yes, the lovely, fond memories of long days on the beach.

When I grew up and got married (to a man from the landlocked state of Indiana) I was shocked to learn that not everyone feels the way I do about the ocean. My husband HATES the salt water, and the sand, and while I may get a sunburn the first day that turns nice and brown as the week wears on, he turns into a LOBSTER, and then peels for weeks.

The first time we went to the beach after we were married, I was prepared to spend the day, and he told me after TWO HOURS that he was ready to head home.

The worst part is, I fear my children have inherited some of his non-beach blood.

They fuss about the sand in their suits. The boys complain that their trunks are chaffing their thighs. And they are all four blond headed, which means -you guessed it- LOBSTER FEST!!

What is the world coming to when kids would rather play in the pool than the ocean? It's just not right, I tell you!

Although, I am not gonna lie, being able to wash off the sand and the salt in a pool before heading home is a pretty spectacular step up in my life. And being able to walk up the beach to the house we are staying in and grab a snack is a far cry better than dragging a giant, HEAVY cooler through the scorching hot sand.

I spent 4 days at the beach this past week with several members of my family, including my kids and my sister and her kids. We had a wonderful time. Well...mostly.

My sister's kids have apparently inherited the same beach-tolerating attitude. When they all started to fuss about the sand, or the salt, or the chaffing, Sarah and I would look at each other in horror.

"We just got here," one of us would say. "How can we leave before we are sun burnt and starving? And before sand has lodged in our ears and armpits and belly buttons? It can't be a day at the beach without spending a DAY AT THE BEACH."

But, oh how annoying are the cries of miserable, wimpy children.

And so we would spend a few hours on the sand, relaxing and tanning, and then we would haul everyone to the pool.

Can I just say that it is much less subtle when your kid pees in the pool than it is when they pee in the ocean...especially when there are SEVEN children doing it.

And it is much harder to acquire a decent tan when you are constantly monitoring your little ones proximity to the deep end of the pool than when you are checking to see if they are wading in the waves rather than staring at them in terror.

In other words, taking our seven children to the ocean was really fun for my sister and me. Taking them to the pool turned us into stupid-y moms.

At one point all of them were totally naked beside the pool. All of them peed in the pool. And every time one of them asked us for something, we said "You'll have to wait, I have 5 more minutes of tanning on this side."

I'm not really sure how to solve this particular life dilemma. My sister and I did come up with what we considered the perfect solution, until I pitched it to my husband.

"Next time we go to the beach, you guys can take the kids to the pool when they get cranky, and my sister and I will sit ocean-side for the rest of the day. It's a win/win situation." And really, I think it is a valid suggestion. He won't get nearly as burnt, and the kids will get their clean, chlorinated water time in, and I will get to tan on the beach all day. I was pretty excited about sharing this brilliant plan.

The words I could read going through him mind are not repeatable.

Apparently my beach-tolerating husband does NOT tolerate babysitting while I get a tan.

So, plan B is this: Buy the boys surfer trunks that are skin tight and don't chaff. Get a house on the beach, with a pool, and pack lots of sunscreen. Convince myself that a couple hours on the beach is plenty, and that I don't really need a perfectly proportioned tan. Teach all kids to pee discreetly in the pool and NOT announce it to everyone. Make 3 year old learn to swim so I don't have to watch him like a hawk.

Jeez. It sounds a little easier to haul that heavy cooler through the sand and ride home sun burnt and covered in salt.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Cranky Pity Parties

I'm cranky today, and my husband says its never a good idea to blog when I'm cranky. The oh-so-unreliable filter between my brain and my mouth...err...fingers...slips off entirely when I'm channeling Oscar the Grouch.

The pity party started early. I rolled out of bed with my muscles screaming at me that I worked TOO hard yesterday. (Apparently yard work uses different muscles than any of my workout videos...Oh, who the heck am I kidding? Those workout videos have been using the muscles it takes me to DUST them for at least a month, and that's it) I shuffled into the kitchen, started the coffee...and then noticed the laundry basket sitting in the hall, reminding me that I had started on that particularly distasteful project but hadn't finished it, and if I put it off any longer, I wouldn't have any jeans to wear.

The gathering of the rest of the laundry inspired further fuming (which was kicked off when I bent down to pick up some random socks, dropped in the floor by a blond little boy, and my back yelled and my legs howled and my arms screeched) followed by teeth grinding and silent ranting at the injustice of my whole entire LIFE. (Don't judge me, this was all pre-7 a.m. and pre-coffee.)

By the time my husband walked by me into the laundry room to snag one of his clean, wrinkle-free dress shirts from the hanger...I had only finished half of my first cup of coffee, and it had yet to calm my morning grouchiness.

"Man, it must be nice to just ALWAYS have clean clothes to wear when you need them, without having to wash them yourself," I muttered. "And food to eat when you're hungry, and a clean toilet to sit your butt on, and a hall to walk down without wading through toys or sticking to the crap spilled on the floor."

He walked past me with an indulgent smile, and wisely retreated to the other end of the house, not to be seen again until enough time had passed for the caffeine to begin soaking into my blood.

But this is a valid point of self-pity/woe-is-me syndrome. No one ever opens their underwear drawer and thinks "I love my mom for always washing my Superhero boxers for me." And no one walks into the kitchen, looking for a drink, and thanks me for washing all the cups for them, or going to the store to buy the juice they are pouring into the clean cups. And no one wonders how there is plenty of toilet paper on the holder, or how their beds magically go from messy to neatly smoothed, or how the pantry is stocked with their favorite kinds of cereal.

And none of my kids, while searching for which cartoon to watch, stop and think "I'm so glad my mom taught me how to read so I can know which show is which."

Motherhood is a largely thankless job.

One thing it will do is BEAT the selfishness out of you, that's for sure.

When I ask the kids to help me clean up a certain mess, one of them will inevitably say "But I am not the one who made this mess," to which I will reply (in carefully measured tones that do not give away the full weight of my desire to SMACK them on top of their blond heads) "Well, do you know how many dishes I wash that I haven't dirtied? Or how many loads of laundry? Or how may toilets? Clean this up because you LOVE me, and want to help me." ("And because if you don't I'm gonna knock you into next week" ...usually the brain-to-mouth filter catches that part...usually)

So, you get it, the day started grumpy. Two cups of coffee later, it was still a bit of a grouch-fest. And the kids are SO READY for summer break that school time was equally grumpy for them and for me. (Because, after coffee, my best defense against being grouchy is TWIZZLERS, and we are out!)

To add insult to injury, I was moving a wooden shelf, and got a REALLY big splinter. It might be the largest splinter I've ever had. I pulled it out, but a sliver of it remained in my thumb, and I had to wait for it to stop bleeding profusely so I could stab a needle into the giant hole and dig out the rest of it.

Holy STUPID, that hurt.

So now I only have nine functional fingers, ZERO fully functioning muscles, 2 loads of laundry that need to be folded, one load that needs to be dried, and two loads still waiting to wash. Supper needs to be cooked, and my workout videos need to be dusted.

Poor, poor, pitiful me.

Except for one thing. Earlier today, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, all four of my children crowded around me and said "Group hug!" And suddenly I was squeezed on all sides by their little arms. And their sweet little heads were resting against my side, and my hip, and my back, and my legs.

And it turns out motherhood isn't so thankless after all.

I'm pretty sure the Lord put them up to that. He knows just the right buttons to push.

There's a verse I walk past on my wall every day, and today I stopped for a second and read it.

"If anyone is thirsty, let him (or her) come to Me and I will give them something to drink." (John 7:37)

So, the laundry will have to wait, and the supper, and the dusting, because I am THIRSTY, and I know where I will get something to drink...its at His feet.