Calm Before the Storm

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I know many of you are following the story of the devastating news we received about our unborn baby… I am working through writing out what has taken place.  See the previous blog post for the beginning and more of the details are on the page “Baby’s Story” (see link at the top of the blog)… I will work on getting posts put together in a more orderly and easy-to-read format… for now I’m just pouring out my words because I don’t want to forget any of our baby’s story or how God is unfolding it… Thank you so much for sharing in this journey with us.  We covet your prayers.

Calm Before the Storm

“Let Your steadfast Love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”
Psalm 33:22

God is so faithful to give you what you need – many times even before you need it…. And once again, He was proving His dependability right at the start of our trial.

As soon as closest friends and family members learned of our news, we knew they were in prayer, and we quickly began receiving Scripture references they wanted to share with our tender hearts.

Again and again, I would be given a verse by a friend – and it would be the same verse I’d been led to by the Lord earlier that day… or the same verse another friend had also given to me.

I started writing all these down in my journal, and decided to also jot them down on notecards to read over and over – taking captive the thoughts of my heart and making them bend and mold to God’s Sacred Word.

And as He promised, His calm began to wash over me.

Still, the next morning, as Jeff and I sat in the OBGYN’s room, waiting for him to come with news, I fidgeted nervously.  The previous day, I was convinced he would walk in and tell us our baby had never developed a brain and would not live.  What I desperately WANTED him to say was “I’m sorry, but I’m 99% sure your baby has Downs Syndrome.”  I would have lept off the table and hugged his neck for that one… but I knew that wasn’t going to happen.  I continued to pray for God’s mercy as we waited.

As it turned out, we’d have to wait even longer for answers.  Our OBGYN had only been sent the report from the ultrasound tech – not even the scans for him to look at himself.  Compassionately, he expressed his concern, but left the decision completely up to us whether we wanted to move forward with further testing.  We decided to go ahead with a panorama bloodwork, and also a visit to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist in Houston.

Very quickly, Maria, my Dr.’s phone nurse was hugging my neck and telling me we would hear from Houston very soon for an appointment and I was whisked away for a blood draw.

Finally leaving our OB’s office, I felt a real sense of peace and – for the first time since this nightmare began – hope.  The one thing that I had pleaded with God for up to that morning was that we would be given some hope.  And even though we didn’t have answers, I had a kind of peace and hope that can only come from God suspending your heart up in His hand.

We left the parking garage and Jeff treated me to my favorite Baskin Robbins ice cream and within an hour the specialist in Houston called and scheduled me for Tuesday afternoon, July 30th.

The entire weekend I was blessed with peace.  So many were praying for us and we could certainly feel it.  I was praying through Scripture and the Psalms were a healing balm for me.  And I also began to feel the baby move more than ever before.

One of the verses God have to me that I clung to as Tuesday approached was from II Chronicles chapter 20…

“Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed… for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

This I repeated to myself every time I felt the anxiety begin to well up within me, and Tuesday was upon us before we knew it.

Our Storm

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It’s been so long since I’ve posted here.  Life has a way of the days adding up and speeding forward through seasons… and that’s what it’s done for us – until something devastating stopped us in our tracks.

I’m a little over 20-weeks pregnant and over the past week and a half we discovered and confirmed that our sweet expected Baby’s earthly body has some critical abnormalities which will make it impossible for Baby to live long after birth.

This sudden great testing of our faith is a journey we have just begun, and we will need a lot of support and prayer.  I’ve written more details below, if you are interested in following along with us.  Many hands {folded in prayer} make a light load. 
  With Greatest Thanks, Shannon (& Jeffrey)

 

First Drops of Rain

On Tuesday, July 22, we joyfully set out for our 20 week ultrasound – the kids stayed home with my Mom who was in town (it also happened to be her birthday), expecting to learn soon if the baby was a brother or sister upon our return.

Half an hour later, Jeff and I sat in the waiting room of the clinic, chatting quietly and listening to the upbeat pop music playing on the pandora station over the waiting room speakers.

I kept sipping from my cup of water, having been reminded by the scheduler over the phone, that I needed to have at least 5 cups of water prior to the ultrasound.  So I drank until my bladder ached and finally the technician called us back to the room where I could not-so-gracefully climb up on the table next to the ultrasound machine.

We were seconds away from seeing our 5th baby on the black-and-white screen.  I expected to see within the first minute that this baby was a boy, as I had felt certain the entire pregnancy.  And if I was right, then Jeff owed me a snow-cone on the way home.

Soon our baby’s little image was on display, and we quietly let the technician spend the first few minutes looking and measuring.  The quiet began to bother me, so I started making little comments, “oh, I see some feet”…. “Are we looking at the top of the head there?”  She was kind but short in answering my questions.

As the minutes dragged on, I sensed that something was wrong, especially since she kept looking again and again at our baby’s head.  I knew in my heart something wasn’t right.

Finally she abruptly stopped and told me she was going to let me go empty my bladder and come back.

I silently obeyed.  I knew this wasn’t a good sign.  The ultrasounds for my other four babies had never lasted this long or been so quiet.  Something was wrong.

When I stepped back out of the bathroom, the tech let us know she was going to ask the radiologist to come back and take a look with her while we continued the ultrasound, and with that, she left the room.  I held Jeff’s hand in silence.

Several minutes later we began round two of probing my belly and looking at our baby’s head from every possible angle, except we couldn’t seem to get a good look at the face.     Baby was wiggly, but curled up in a comfortable position and it seemed to me that he/she didn’t have much room to move around – was the placenta abnormally large?  I listened as the tech quietly mumbled things to the radiologist – terminology which didn’t make sense to me, but I picked up on phrases such as “is that the left side?”  Answered with “I can’t find structures on either side.”

It seemed to last forever and as I kept my eyes glued to the baby on the screen, a song kept playing over and over in my head, “when you pass through the waters, I will be with you….”

The radiologist began to talk to us in a very quiet voice and again – terminology which made no sense to us.  By the time we were wiping clear jelly off my belly, all we understood was that something was wrong with our baby’s brain development, the amniotic fluid was low, and that our doctor would be calling us to explain more and would be sending us to a specialist.

Even the gender was still a mystery.  I had asked the technician to look one more time, hoping to bring home some good news to the kids, but she was unable to get baby to move his/her little legs out of the way. It was only as we were walking down the hall towards the exit that I realized we didn’t even have a print out picture to show the baby’s brothers and sisters.

I shivered walking out the clinic door and was thankful for the warm sun.  We climbed back into the truck and just sat there for a few minutes.  I was struck with how different this had turned out from what we were expecting just an hour before.

Jeff started the truck and we prayed together.  Then he started to move down the road towards a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant we had talked about going to for a little short date before returning home to the kids.

My mind reeled.  While I thought this couldn’t really be happening, I also thought this didn’t really surprise me that much.  Since the beginning of the pregnancy, I’d had this feeling that this surprise blessing was a gift to be held with open hands.  I had not expected to be expecting again, after all that God has given us, and at my age.  I had been trying to get over baby fever and get ‘okay’ with the idea that my 2-year-old was my last baby afterall.  So when the positive sign showed up on that pregnancy test, I had the feeling from the start that I shouldn’t take this for granted, and that ‘anything could happen.’

Still, as we got out of the truck and I glanced up at Jeff’s reassuring smile as he opened the door for me, I felt like I was floating in a fog – a scene that couldn’t really be my life.

Please don’t let this be real.

The place we walked into was tiny – really no bigger than a single-wide trailer.  Booths and tables were packed in where they would fit.  A cooler of bottled drinks from Mexico stood in the corner, and the kitchen was behind the counter, separated by a tattered curtain.  Some kind of saga was playing out in lighting-speed Spanish on the overhead TV.  This was place was perfect; I was in my happy zone.  Jeff took a phone call from our pastor while I chose a table and slid onto the bench, only to hop up a minute later when a girl standing behind the counter begin asking me what we wanted to eat.

Between bites of the best torta I’ve ever had in my life, and sips of Orange Fanta in a glass bottle, the reality of the situation begin to set in.  The atmosphere of the restaurant was strangely comforting to me, but then I would start crying with no warning, only to be okay a minute later.  We tried to talk to each other, but there was so much to process.  We had already started texting friends and family who were anxiously awaiting our ‘happy announcement’ of boy or girl.  So when the news begin to trickle out to only our closest friends and family that ‘it looks like something is wrong’, our phones were being peppered with reassuring messages of prayer and encouraging words.

These prayers would be pillars to lean on during the storm that was coming.

 To continue reading, click on Baby’s Story at the very top of the blog.

 

 

 

 

Mal’s Challenge

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**Once upon a time, my husband started one of those blog things I’d never heard of and would sit in our little one-bedroom apartment taking much joy in conjuring up witty and insightful posts to share.  That was before the hurricane hit and kids started coming (seemingly by the half-dozen) and the 50-60 hour work weeks began.  He’s back today to share something from the heart.**

Guest Post by Jeffrey Hazleton

Captain Malcom Reynolds with his crew aboard Serenity

Captain Malcom Reynolds with his crew aboard Serenity

One of my favorite movies (and this is a rather vague label, as I have no certain list of favorite movies) is the 2005 film Serenity.  This film is itself a continuation (one blogger called it “a [wonderful] impossible fairytale ending”) of the cancelled television series Firefly.

The premise of both the TV show and the film is a “space cowboy” drama set 500 years in the future, Serenity is the story of the captain and crew of a transport/cargo ship.  Space ship, that is.

Their lives of petty crime are interrupted as they are swept up in a massive conspiracy.  Their government (the Alliance) has dispatched an operative to eliminate the threat that one of their passengers represents – a secret that, if known, might bring about the collapse of the ruling powers.

This operative is relentless in his pursuit and beyond remorse in the atrocities he commits to achieve his objective.  After one such event (he wipes out an entire city just so our heroes have no refuge to run to)  Captain Reynolds and his crew learn the origin of the conspiracy, which they investigate and confirm, to their horror.

In one of the defining points of the series, the movie, and the man himself, the captain tells his crew of his intention to act on behalf of those who have been victimized by the Alliance:

“This report is maybe twelve years old? Parliament buried it, and it remained buried, until River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear. ‘Cause there’s a whole universe of folk who are going to know it too; they’re going to see it.

Somebody has to speak for these people.

You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you’ve all come to the same place, so now I’m asking more of you than I have before — maybe all. [Because] sure as I know anything, I know this: they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten, they’ll swing back to the belief that they can make people … better. And I do not hold to that.

So no more running. I aim to misbehave.”
Video of Mal’s Speech

This is my favorite moment of the movie.  The scene gets me every time.  I feel Mal’s outrage at the injustice and understand his need to speak for and defend those who cannot help themselves.

In this speech, he reveals his philosophical difference with the ruling powers:  They believe they can make a better world by making better people.  He knows this is not the case.  You cannot make a person better.  All the evil the Alliance has done and hurt they have caused grows out of this humanistic philosophy.  And he is determined to put an end to it.

 I am determined to put an end to it.  This thinking that I can effect change in others by some strength of character or force of will or marvelous example of how to conduct oneself in life.

Here’s the point:  I am not commanded to do Jesus’ work, only to follow His example and keep His commands.  And that is why Malcolm Reynolds’ speech resonates so deeply with me.  I cannot make.people.better.  Whether it be my kids, my wife, my friends, my co-workers – whomever – I cannot change their heads or their hearts.  That is God’s job.

My job is to lay down my life, to embrace the death of self in the service of my King.  I am supposed to love God with everything I’ve got – heart, soul, mind, strength – and to love everyone else as much as I love myself.  But what does that look like?

In Matthew 9, Jesus

“went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”         Matthew 9:35-38

Jesus loved these people.  Loved them.  The word translated “had compassion” here means that he was moved in His gut for them.  He was touched to the core with concern for the people.  So what did He do?  He served them.  Did what He could to meet their needs.  Especially their eternal need – for a right relationship with God.  He proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom.

That is what I’m supposed to do.  See people as God sees them.  Broken and lost, in need of the Good Shepherd.  And then respond in compassion – serve them and give them hope – tell them about Jesus and the eternal difference He will make for them and in them.

It’s not my job to change people – to make them better.  No man can do that; only God can.  It is, however, my commission to love and serve everyone my life is connected to, to make disciples, teaching them to know and follow Jesus all the days of their lives.

 

 

 

 

One Word: 2014

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one word 2014

What can you do?

When a shiny new year is about to begin and your ambitions for a fresh start with a fresh word and a pretty new journal – when all that is put on a dusty shelf because you’re greeted instead with a high fever on New Year’s Eve and fitful dreams and the flu rages through all but two of your children and drags it out for two weeks.

What can you do?

When 16 days into your ‘new you’ the alarm goes off and your eyes are burning and you’re buried under a sweaty toddler and you hold your breath to keep from waking her but you get up anyway because you made up your mind that this year you will pray.

What can you do?

When after only two days of the new school semester you’ve lost peace along with your temper with kids who’ve seemingly lost their ever-lovin’ minds more times than you can count?

What can you possibly do?

When you start the day with a vow that you will spend it on your knees but you cannot imagine that you will be literally sent to your knees within the hour?

When one short message at 8:30 in the morning can alter your world, send you reeling.

“please pray… Jonas passed away this morning.”

One hand gripped my phone, the other held tight to the back of the chair as the knees found the laminate.  Shock.  Fog. Not even the sting of tears.  Not yet.  Because first you watch it from afar, like it’s not really happening.  You try to rationalize how the news was misconstrued.  How it didn’t really happen. How he’s not really gone.

Because you just saw him.  He was just there, standing on the stage at church, singing with the children in the Christmas program.  Laughing afterwards with friends. Not ever thinking that in less than a month they’d be mourning for him.

But life is a vapor.  And in an instant, a sixteen year old with a contagious grin and a voracious passion for music and an unending ability to memorize large portions of scripture – is gone.

Jonas

What do you do?  When you’ve lost the shiny new start and your peace and temper, and maybe your resolve, and someone who was precious… What anyone who’s lost something does.

You seek.  Seek the Savior. Seek His presence and peace… seek the arms of the Good Shepherd to carry you over the rocky terrain.

You seek Him not for what He can do for you – not for your best life now.  But just to have Him near.  To hear His voice.  To have Him lead you to the High Places.

In this blessed, broken, messy, beautiful, completely messed up, insane, unfair, glorious, precious life – you seek with all you’ve got for what the will of your King is – and you follow Him in it.

“Only one life will soon be past,
only what’s done for Christ will last.”
- Hudson Taylor

Four Ways to Get Out of the Funk

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Four Ways Funk

So, Christmas is … let me check the calendar… four days away now.   I marvel at how the days of December seem to unravel faster than any month before it, but I really believe it does.  And for some, you know what it is. ‘The most wonderful time of the year’.  And for our family, it is a very meaningful and full season.  We have purposed to Have an Imperfect Christmas-time, and our traditions are a little different than the most, I suppose.  So we kind of put our imperfect hands to the task of making it as low-key, yet meaningful – worshipful – as possible.  Singly-focused Christmastime.

And yet I know.   There are many – so many – who do not feel the joy this season.  Feel burned out, overwhelmed.  Some are worse – heartsick, lonely.  Crushed.

And all along the One who was crushed for us stands by, never leaving our side.

But sometimes we feel as if he’s leading us through the desert, like those maggi following the star to who knows where?

I have felt it.  The parched, emptiness.  The bogged down mire.

But I know a few things that help a worn-down soul.  Help pull one up from the muck… help lift the head and heart, even as the feet are still finding their way out.

1. Just Keep Doing It.
This is the hardest when we feel we are set up to fail – like just accomplishing the minimum of each day is humanly impossible.  Too much for one soul.  Just keep doing it.   – Keep trying to have the quiet time, even when the baby wakes up early too.
- Keep trying to teach that young one, even when he doesn’t get it – again.
- Keep cleaning up those messes, because that’s then we’re most like the One who came to serve, instead of be served.
- Keep working at that thing that has been tasked to you – the only one in the universe who’s been asked to do just that.

Even when you fail.  Just keep doing it.  Because how many greatly successful – greatly influential – people failed numerous time before they got it right?  And were used even in the midst of their failures?

Because the enemy loves to whisper to us that we are a failure.  But soul, God has put His spirit in you, and will cause you to follow Him.  And that will be our greatest accomplishment ever.

2. Let Go
Lose Your Idea of Perfect
Because I promise ‘perfect’ doesn’t look anything like Pinterest.  Or well-crafted snippets of life displayed on social media.  Perfect looks like a bloody mess taking the fall for humanity.  Perfect looks like gentleness and grace when it certainly isn’t merited. And Perfect looks like getting on your knees and taking dirty feet into your own hands.

I get it.  There’s something in me too that wants the beautifully assembled gingerbread houses and well-groomed, cheerful children smiling over their professionally iced thirteen-dozen sugar cookies, which we will disperse to our neighbors while caroling in harmony on Christmas Eve, just as snowflakes begin to fall.

Let it go.

I desperately want the house tidily picked up.  The task completed well.  The one-hour time to myself at daybreak in un-interrupted prayer and Bible study.

Let it go.

Learn to have moments of praise in the midst of the chaos.  Like not long ago, when Chris Tomlin’s ‘Angel Army’ popped up on Pandora and my heart wanted to burst.  Sometimes you have to stand there with eyes closed and heart & hands lifted upward – you have to worship – and let the kids scream and the baby wrap herself around your leg, and the mess be made and the tantrum rage – until that tiny spark of worship is fulfilled.  All played out to the fullest. Those moments in the imperfection are a gift to you – accept them with joy!

3. Do Whatever It Takes
Soul, get your priorities straight.  And I have a suspicion that the most important things are few, and they don’t have anything to do with extra activities or social outings (or media) or finally seeing the bottom of my laundry basket.  I have a hunch that the most important things are maybe the ones we’ve overlooked for so long.  Get alone with the Lord and get your priorities straight (hint: they are His priorities) and then do whatever it takes to keep them first.  Like when I looked myself in the proverbial mirror and realized I will cheerfully get up early to meet a friend or go on vacation, but I make lame excuses for not getting up early to meet with my Savior.

4. Enjoy the Bumpy Ride
Because more every day, I realize the silver-haired ladies who stop me in the grocery store are right – this time of being young and having young – it’s so very fleeting.  Every day I grow more desperate to make the time stop.  I will my eyes to remember their smooth skin and the chubbiness of that hand… I will my ears to remember how he used to say ‘I yike dat’.  Instead of cursing the bumps in the day, climb back to the back row of the bus and remember how fun it is to hit the potholes.

They will remember how you rode the roughest times.

And when you fail at how you handle the roughest rides?  Go back to number one.

 

 

 

Secret Sins and Other News

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Secret Sin

Well, I know, it’s been a while.  I’ve been dealing with life with six kids.  Really, does it need further explanation?  I didn’t think so.  And God has been dealing with me too.  A lot.  When you step away from writing – especially in something as public as blogging – for a while, it’s so hard to jump back in.  Like getting back into the pool for the first swim of the season.  But I’ve got my cup of coffee in my favorite old mug and the kids are downstairs watching Narnia with their Padre.  And I trimmed my nails, so I can stand typing more than 2.5 sentences.  So let’s get into the thick of a new blog post, shall we?  The water is freezing, but let’s go for it….

So, this past weekend, the Hubby and I had a real treat.  We left all our chillin’s with trusted friends (note: the first time I was apart from Olivia overnight since she was conceived – that’s huge, folks)… and we went to Houston for the “Love Worth Fighting For” event with Kirk Cameron and Warren Barfield.  Although Jeff was really looking forward to this mini marriage conference, I endured a tiny bit of teasing about my mega-crush.  Girls from the 80′s, you get it, right?  I mean my grandmother literally gave me a huge Kirk Cameron poster for my bedroom when I was thirteen and told me that was the kind of ‘good Christian guy’ I needed to marry.  That is all kinds of funny, people.  Leave aside the fact that he wasn’t even a Christian until a few years later. Ha!!

Show me that smile... c'mon sing it if you know it...

Show me that smile… c’mon sing it if you know it…

So, we started out our getaway date in classic Hazleton fashion – late.  I woke up with a crushing headache and a sinus infection Friday morning.  Plus there was a bee buzzing around in our bathroom that has the only working tub/shower.  If you know me in real life, then you already know that means I didn’t shower until almost 3pm, when I confirmed that the bee had died of natural causes in the window sill.

After dropping the kids off, we had to drive through two different places for food before actually getting on our way.

The conference started at 7:00… At 6:50, we were camped out in our Sequoia under an overpass, consulting Google Maps on both our phones, trying to find a route around the toll, because - of course – the only cash we had on hand was two dollars we found hiding in the console.  We later breathed a prayer of thanks that the toll was only $1.75.

So whatever the first hour of the event held, we missed it.  The whole weekend was worth what came next, though.  Cameron brought a strong, good word. And I hadn’t heard of Warren Barfield before this event, but I have to say he is definitely on our radar now.  The Holy Spirit was all over what that North Carolina boy had to say.  And sing.  And he’s funny, too.  That counts as extra among Hazletons.

LWFF.REVISED

One of the things that Kirk Cameron shared that really stuck with me was about secret sin.  In the context of marriage, of course, when we think of ‘secret sin’, most likely infidelity of some sort comes to mind.  Betrayal.  Pornography, maybe.

But let’s be honest.  We all have some kind of ‘secret sin’ – the thing (things) we struggle with that no one sees.  We like to keep up a good front on this world wide web… we’re all drawn to the things that look good (ahem, Pinterest) and the bloggers who have the answers… We like our Facebook statuses to read like a scene from a good movie.  But we each have something we’re dealing with.  Because there is just a brokenness in us that won’t be quite right this side of Heaven.

Here’s what I loved that Kirk said: you gotta look at that sin for the ugly, lying, deceitful snake that it is… and then you cut it’s head off.

I love that imagery.

It’s so true, too.  We tend to coddle our sin.  Make excuses.  We call it everything but sin.  We start deceiving ourselves until we no longer realize we’re in bed with the devil.  We gotta wake up and put on our glasses.

It’s not venting – it’s gossip.

It’s not ranting – it’s slander.

It’s not frustration – its anger.

It’s not observation – it’s jealousy.

It’s not stretching the truth – it’s lying.

It’s not admiring – it’s coveting.

It’s not ‘fudging’ – it’s stealing.

It’s not ‘complicated’ – it’s fornication.

I don’t know what yours is.  I’ll tell you what my biggest one is, though.  Anger.

Seething, boiling, under the surface, fermenting, stinking, vile anger. Sin.  I’ve dealt with it as far back as my memory goes.

Maybe you deal with it too?  The kids won’t listen and the baby won’t be put down.  The dog wrecks the flower bed again and the electric company shuts off the power and the bill collectors are calling, and the husband works late again.  The three year old tantrums and the toddler breaks the glass vase.  The casserole burns and the friend’s cancer returns.

Every day it’s a battle I wage. I fight to keep Monster Mom and her harsh words at bay.  And at the end of every day, I am battle weary.  I am beaten.

So what do we do?  We call sin a sin.  We confess it.  We see it for the snake that it is. Then what?

“Wage war on that sin,” Kirk said.  ”It’s waging war on you!”  Isn’t that the truth?  Why are we letting that sin beat us to death?

But here’s the cusp… we are powerless to defeat it.  I can say all day long, “I will not get angry, I will not get angry, I will not get angry…” … “I will not yell at the kids… I will not yell at the kids…”

I bet you’ve tried that with your secret sin too – how’s that working for you?  Yeah, me neither.

Because just like I can’t change my husband (believe me, after 10 years, I know), I also cannot change myself.  I am powerless to change myself.

It all comes to my utter childlike dependence on God.  Daily.  Every moment, actually.  I wage war on that sin and I take all the effort and passion and attention that I pour into that sin and turn my attention to my God and pour it all into Him.  And He fills me up my emptiness.

I have to go to Him daily to give me what I need to wage the war against the sin.  It’s not easy.  But it’s worth fighting for.

I see my children wilt under the acid rain of my harsh words and I know that waging war against this snake is a battle worth fighting.

I turn on the computer and I read about a prominent Christian leader stepping down, and his ministry shuttering it’s doors because of his secret sin.  I’m sure that he too would say it’s a battle worth fighting.

I don’t have all the answers, and I have to be honest –  I’m not sure I’ll ever have full victory in this battle before Jesus returns.  But every day I will get up and choose to cut the head off that boa constrictor.

Now you know my secret. There is victory in confessing our sin to one another – that’s Biblical. You don’t need to tell me your secret, but you can confess it to your spouse, your best friend, your pastor, someone.  I bet that someone has a secret battle they’re waging as well.  We’re in this blessed, broken life together.

I have another secret too, but this one’s not a sin.  A project I’ve been working on… I’ll let you in on it in a few days.

Go wage your battles, warrior friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The event

Child Like

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 “And they were bringing the children to Him that He might touch them,…”

 This is what the hard-working man read to us as he was sprawled out on the off-white carpet, the rest of us gathered ‘round in half-circle, listening… some following along in Mark, tenth chapter.  We’d been camped out for weeks in the book of Mark during family worship each evening, taking it in slow and small and steady.

“…and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it He was indignant…”

 And the hard-working man stopped for a word lesson.  Little mouths repeated syllables and simple definitions were explained.

 Jesus was angry.

“… and said to them ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the Kingdom of God.’”

The Daddy sitting Indian-style looked up at eager faces.  “Now, who was bringing these children to Jesus?”

Voices erupted: “their parents”… “their mamas and their daddies”

“That’s right,” he said. “And why do you think they were doing that?  What did they want Jesus to do?”

There was a thoughtful pause.  Like we had never thought of that before.

 What exactly do we want Jesus to do when we bring our kids to Him?

The blue-eyed girl with glasses spoke up, “they wanted Him to touch them.”

She’d read it herself, right there in her pink Bible.

“Right.”  Her Daddy grinned.  “So when Jesus touched them, how do you think He did it?  Did He touch them like this?”

He motioned for the little blonde boy to come to him, so Carson walked up, eye-to-eye.  And his Daddy poked him on the shoulder.  “Did Jesus touch them like that?”

The room shook a little with giggles.

“Noooo!”

“Well, how then?”

Lilly jumped up, “like this!”  She walked on her knees to her brother’s side.   Pressed her cheek right up against his.  Wrapped her arms around him… another sister walked up and put her hand lovingly atop his blonde head.

And my smile snuck up on me.  Yes, that’s it.  Just like that.  So natural.  How did they instinctively know this?

“Yes,” he said. “But Jesus’ disciples didn’t want the kids to bother Jesus.  Maybe they thought He didn’t have time for this, so they tried to stop the children.  They might have told those parents, ‘take your kids away; don’t let them bother the Teacher.’”

There may have been some finger-wagging.

“But what did Jesus say?” he asked.

“Let the children come to me!” said Maggie.

“Yes!”  he said.

“… Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it…”

 He leaned in for the question.  

“What does that mean- receive God’s Kingdom like a child?”

Silence.

They didn’t know.  Do any of us?

“Let me show you,” he said.  “Bring me one of Olivia’s toys.”

A lovie was fetched and he turned his attention to the little one toddling ten feet away from him.  He called out to her, and showed her his little gift.

Honestly, could it have been a more magical moment?  Like she must have seen a little bit of Jesus Himself sitting right there with her Daddy and the rest of us wore eyes of the blind.  When she turned around and looked at him, the giddiest giggle escaped her smiling lips, her face all lit like that…  Instantly she abandoned what had been holding her attention and she ran to him.  

She giggled the whole way.  Mouth wide open grin.  Arms thrown back.  Face to the Heavens.

My heart warmed.

And yearned.

Is this how you want us to come to you God?  Like this?  This is how we should receive all that you give us?  All of it?  With Abandon.

Joy.

Inhibition.

Radiance.

It’s a rare thing when we call one of our children and they come to us like this.

Rarer still that I go to Him like that.

Why have I robbed Him of that?

And when did I stop taking Him seriously when He said stuff like “whoever doesn’t receive the Kingdom this way shall not enter it”?

How many years have I just breezed over that part?

I want His Kingdom, for sure.  Count me in!  Called, chosen, forgiven, right?

Highway to Heaven, Baby.

I believed and received.  I prayed the prayer and got baptized and now my mansion is waiting for me in Heaven.  I’ll walk the streets of gold with Jesus and have a little Heaven on earth, too, because Jesus makes life better, sweeter, right?

All my troubles…. fade away?

Wait, what?

Was this the Kingdom of God or My Kingdom we were talking about?  It got a little fuzzy.

I got all caught up in my little blessed life and my super-awesome worship team and I forgot that Jesus said stuff like, “I’m sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves… and you will be hated by all for my Name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”  (Matthew 10:16, 22)

Say what?  I was kinda thinking I could just have the good life.  Did I temporarily forget Jesus saying something like “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword…” ?(Matthew 10:34)

Maybe while I was enjoying my lattes at my 132 different Bible studies designed just for me and my season of life- maybe that’s when I got comfortable and didn’t think it really pertained to me very much when He said “whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew10:38-39)

When I started out on the journey to “seek first His Kingdom, and all these things shall be added unto you”, was I just seeking God so that I could have the second part – all these things?

Wait.  I know this stage… it rings familiar… these are growing pains I’ve experienced from the other side…

When some of my bigger kids were sweet toddlers they would run to me, cling to me… long to be held by me… reach up their arms to me… in the same way that that sweet baby now presses her face into my knee when I’m standing in a crowd… and she wraps those chubby arms tight around my legs… and then she looks up at me, those eyes piercing, and says determined, “ma ma!”  She knows I will stop whatever I’m doing and pick her up.  It’s her reward for seeking me out and calling my name.

 And that’s all she wants – for me to pick her up, and she rests her head on my shoulder.  Happy.  She has absolutely nothing to offer me.  No work that is handy or useful.  Even her attempts at helping just make more work for me.  She has no real offering of love or devotion.  Not even a promise voiced.

She is utterly dependent on me for everything and all she gives in return is all of herself.  Her laughter, her cries…. her messes, her smiles.  Uninhibited.  And she comes to me only wanting me.

My bigger kids did this too… until they were bigger… and then their want for Mama’s safe arms was slowly replaced by a want for things.  For a toy, a book, an activity.

But I’ll always miss them longing for just me.

Now I’m the child.  And He’s the Father.  And how long has it been since my face pressed in, determined?

How long since I longed?

 “And He took them in His arms, and laying His hands on them, He blessed them.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Only Way to Look is Up

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Recent discovery: the only way to look is up.  Apparently.

Busy times, folks.  Moving is hard work.  At least three times harder than I remember from our last move.  Of course, then we only had two little girls and our life fit inside a two-bedroom apartment.  Apparently we are goldfish, and we grow to accommodate our space… or grossly exceed it, actually.  The main moving day was quite a sight.  Many hands make light work, and those of you who helped us that day were swift and steady, my friends.  But then came the work of unpacking, a job which I feel will be in progress for months to come… and figuring out where things should go- an art at which I am terrible. I still think the piano needs to be on a different wall… maybe… yes… no… I dunno…

Poor Jeff.

I haven’t even begun to hang pictures, and honestly, I really only know where three of them are anyways… We currently have zero curtain rods and I think only ONE set of curtains we had in the old house will work in this house.  People, I don’t even know how many windows we have in this house – maybe we’ll have them all dressed by the time we get the mortgage paid off.

To tell you the truth, these things have been the least of my concerns.

Of greater concern:

We spent the first three weeks in our new home with no hot water.  A first-world problem for sure, but hey – trust me, you want the Hazleton clan to bathe.  And to spare all of you who know us in person, we did make ourselves at home in a few friends’ showers at least twice a week.  For all our other hot water needs – a huge pot found a semi permanent place on our new stovetop.  Getting this issue resolved was no small feat.  Suffice it to say I spent hours on the phone each day for about two weeks.

That literally sapped every bit of my mental and physical energy most days.  (Some of you know how I feel about the phone.)

Exactly one week after we had the hot water heater replaced, the upstairs AC unit quit cooling, and when the temperature upstairs was over 80 degrees at 10pm, I gave up squirting my sweating kids with a water spray bottle and we moved everyone downstairs to sleep on the floor in the guest room.  Two days later, it was repaired, and two days after that it was out again.  And now it’s fixed.  Again.  Our AC guy is super nice, but for all our sakes, I hope we don’t see that tall, bearded man again – at least not under these circumstances.

All our mattresses are still on the floor.  Just- don’t ask.  It’s too complicated.

We went a few weeks with too few clothing rods in closets, so most of our clothes were in stacks in big moving boxes and on the floor and draped over chairs.  Okay, maybe most of them are still that way.  Getting ready for church on Sundays is awesome.  Except, not.

A few days after Jeff installed new closet rods, one of our children – who shall remain nameless and wears cute glasses –  pulled an entire rod full of clothes down on herself.  {I may or may not have a memory of doing the same exact thing at her age when I was pretending to be Mary Lou Retton on the uneven bars. But let’s keep that between us, shall we?}

We don’t have a pantry.

Let me re-state that: We don’t have a pantry! And one side of our kitchen has no cabinets or counters – nothing. Blank wall.  (Where we have temporarily pulled in a big, heavy work table). To make matters even trickier, there are only two upper cabinets on the other side of the kitchen, and they are so high up I can only reach the second shelf, even if I’m standing on a step ladder.  You other cabinets way up there above the sink, you’re useless. You’re dead to me.  In fact, there could be a dead body hidden up there and I’d never know.  I mean, sure, if we bring in the 8-foot ladder I can stash a thousand rolls of paper towels if I ever find them for like 4 cents a roll or something – but otherwise?  Useless.  So I’ve really had to improvise and get creative with very limited cabinet and countertop and zero pantry – cooking for a family of eight.  Yeah.

Carson pulled a dresser down – crashed completely to the floor - when he was trying to get clean socks.  And miraculously it did not fall on him or anyone else.  Disclaimer: He is now not allowed to touch the dresser until it gets secured to the wall.

We found out how fast Olivia can climb the stairs.

We found out how easily Carson can climb the outside of the stair rail.

Amidst the chaos, we’re getting to know our new home and all its quirks.  I now know, for instance, which doors in the house have the old glass doorknobs, and which ones have been replaced with newer hardware… I know which doors stick and which ones don’t latch just right… I know that the third stair from the bottom creaks when I’m trying to carry a sleeping toddler up to bed… or quietly walk up to catch who’s being naughty at bedtime.

What? You thought my kids weren’t naughty?  I fall on the floor laughing.

I recognize the noises of the ice maker and no longer think someone is trying to break in the back door.  Not that I freaked out or anything.  Moving on.

I notice the low, barely audible hum when one of the really big boats is coming through the channel and I can tell all the kids to watch out the window.  Truly, I don’t think seeing the boats go by will ever get old.

Our new home is an awesome blessing, make no mistake.  But ya’ll I am ready to be settled.  This mama is tiiiiired.  There is still so much to do and my brain just can’t compute.  It’s on summer vacay.  I look around and don’t know where to even begin.  So I let the kids dig in boxes and find treasures… let Olivia sit on the floor and entertain herself by tearing up newspaper… I stand in the middle of the kitchen and stare into nothing  while I dive into a bag of chocolate chips… until three of the kids hear me crinkle the bag, and in 2 milliseconds their little noses are all up in my business.

There have been days when I’ve thought: Really?  Can’t this one go easy?  When life is in an unsettled season and  so many inconvenient things add up, even the smallest task becomes wearisome.  I seriously was just complaining – out loud – two days ago when I was peeling a dozen eggs at the sink… and peeling boiled eggs is like the lottery, you know?  Sometimes they peel so easily you want to sing Zipity Do Da… “there’s a blue bird on my shoulder…”  But this time every single egg was stubborn and the shell stuck to the egg and came off only in little tiny sharp bits… and then you have peeled a whole dozen stinking eggs and what you end up with is a mass of egg carnage in the sink and a bunch of mangled-looking reject eggs in the bowl.  Good thing I was making egg salad instead of pretty little deviled eggs.  And yes, I’ve tried the trick about putting baking soda in the water – twice – and it didn’t work, people!

Apparently, you can’t believe everything you see on Pinterest.

{And while I’m on that subject, you people who are pinning Christmas ideas right now?  It’s June!  You are wearing me out. Settle down – you know who you are!}

And it’s while I’m standing there, chained to those stubborn boiled eggs, that I think about the one thing about this house that I noticed first of all.  The one thing that I didn’t like from the beginning - the feature that made me write off this house for half a year before I even considered looking at it – was this: Except for the ones in the dining room and living room – all the other windows in our home are high up on the wall.  I stood there at the sink, muttering my complaints and looked up out the window – all I can see out most of the windows in my house is the sky, the clouds, the treetops.

Looking Up3

In This House

I want to look out and see my territory, my surroundings, my people.  But the only way to look is up. And in looking up I cannot be distracted, I can only see the Heavens.  And in only looking at the Heavens, I cannot see what surrounds me.

I cannot see what surrounds me.

The one feature of our home that I would have changed is changing my perspective. 

And for the first time in my life, I have a real, tangible idea of what it feels like to “keep your eyes on things above.”

And I make egg salad sandwiches for supper while the AC repairman carries his ladder back out to his van.  I walk on the dining room floor that’s only three-fourths of the way completed – carrying the tray of sandwiches – and sit down at the table with my family.  We eat our simple meal. We munch on little golden tomatoes and chunks of pineapple.  The kids – completely unaware of my wrestling with the eggs – gobble down the sandwiches.  The boats go by and in the midst of this chaotic season, we sit in a peaceful moment.

For now we can’t see all the things that clutter and clang for our attention.  For now, if only for a moment – I can grasp it.  That the only way to look is up.

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills… where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth.”
Psalm 121:1 

Long Awaited

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Many things in my life have been long-awaited.

My husband and children (I’d only been wishin’ and hopin’ since I was about seven)…

Healing.

Our adoption process.

We’ve been married for ten years.  I’m thirty-eight years old.

And for the first time in my life {and Jeff’s life}, we can say… this

Hint: that ‘for sale’ sign is no longer in the yard! 

And Then I Came Back… And an Announcement

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One night a few months ago we came home from a date, put the kids to bed, and Hubby fell asleep on the couch.  And I commenced to writing a blog post about Valentine’s Day.

It’s kind of like I went out for milk one night and then didn’t come back for two months.  Or… something.

That post sat unfinished on my WordPress dashboard for two months.  It’s still not finished, in point of fact.  I didn’t hit a wall of writer’s block, or anything like that.  Just… life.

Like…

We decided to come up with a budget.

And actually stick to it.  (What? Doesn’t everyone wait until year ten of marriage to do this?)

We drudged through the trenches of parenting kids who have taken a while to attach to us.

The baby woke up one day and decided to start pulling up and cruising around and eating solid foods, and feeding some of it to herself.

All in the same week.

Then the baby decided to start walking the week before she turns one.  And then to start climbing on things. In the same week.

The three-year-old waited till the last millisecond and ended up peeing all over the bathroom floor. And- his hair. I didn’t ask; I just started his bath.

We decided to keep sticking to the budget.

We drudged through the trenches of parenting kids who have taken a while to attach to us.

We found ourselves in a season where half of our kids are ending up in and beside our bed every night.  Every.single.night. We have issues.

I became so weary that I took a Facebook (& other media) break for a week and prayed for my kids, my heart, our home, and some mamas and kids close to me.

We took our three-year-old to the ER one Saturday after he got kicked on the trampoline and an hour later started crying (read: screaming uncontrollably) and holding his ribcage.  When he wouldn’t eat the ice cream and cake at the birthday party we were attending, I knew it was serious stuff.  Seven hours, one chest x-ray, one abdominal sonogram, and an ER bill later – he was completely fine.  Mystery pain was chalked up to… gas.

Yep.  That’s my life.

We embarked on another journey I can’t quite share with you yet, but hopefully soon.  It’s been a big event for us and has definitely taken up a lot our attention lately.

We (and by ‘we’ I mean) started actually cooking again.  Because

We decided to come up with a budget. And actually stick to it.

Oh, and I finished a major project I’d been working on – announcement coming at the end of this ridiculously mediocre post.

We put the kids to bed every night and tried to stay awake long enough to have a conversation.  Sometimes it worked.

I prayed to be able to hold my tongue and speak more graciously to my children… and found myself taking lots of deep breaths.

And then yelling things out the backdoor that might have sounded something like “no guns on the trampoline!” or “Stay out of the trash pile!”

In the midst of it all the blog sat silent.  All the veins of my creativity feeding other avenues, she sat untouched.  And I thought she might dry up for good.

I just didn’t have energy for more words.

But then in the last day or so I’ve felt the itching fingers and the thoughts welling up again, looking for an outlet.

And I came back.

I even wrote a haiku earlier today.  And as everyone knows, haikus inevitably lead to incredibly mediocre blog posts.

Ah, it’s good to be back.

Oh, and an announcement for those of you who endured to the end!  In the midst of life – God was gracious and I was finally able to finish a project that was on my heart and mind for quite a while – this.

This is the story of how we started teaching our kids the Bible – in a very real life kind of way.

For those of you who were following my blog during our adoption, an earlier version of this book was made available then for those who purchased it with a donation to our adoption fund.  After we brought Christopher and Lena home, the dynamics of our family life changed.  A lot. And as God brought our family through that transition, we learned and grew in our methods of teaching our kids the Bible.  So I went back to the book and labored over it again.  This is the revised and expanded edition.

My vision for this is to get it into the hands of parents who don’t feel like they have what it takes to teach their kids about the Bible  - those who may not know much about it themselves.  So if you could help me get the word out, I’d be so grateful.

Pssst – if you have an Amazon Prime account you can ‘borrow’ the book for free on your Kindle!  :D

And now I’m putting the computer to bed… we’ll see if Jeff and I can stay awake long enough for a conversation….