Thursday, September 17, 2015

Courage Is Contagious

I was thinking the other day about why I created this blog 3 years ago... not for you, not for me but for sweet Malia to remember and have in writing how much she is loved and cared for.  Also, to have a place where we can store memories, pictures and fun times that our family can look back on.  We've now added Ayla to the mix and our family feels complete.  These are the people - Aaron, Malia and Ayla - that I get to do life with and journey through all God has in store for us. I want to get back to documenting our journey so that now Malia and Ayla can look back together and remember all that God has done for us and through our family.

Yesterday we experienced something that felt life changing.  One of those times that in the moment it feels small and you have no idea how it will turn out.  But as you reflect back you realize the significance and impact that moment had on your own heart.  It just makes me wonder about and pray that it has a lasting impact on our daughters... on their hearts, their motives, on the way they see others.  I hope it cultivates a lifetime of compassion and a desire to give more than they receive. This is a long post but I just don't want to forget the little details and I don't want our girls to forget the impact they can have on other's lives.  

We had two of our close friends in town from Montana, Jenny and Joe with their sweet 1 year old daughter Leah.  Someone had suggested that they visit Voodoo Donuts while they were here.  We ventured downtown, found parking and started walking up to the shop.  As we walked in we encountered several people who appeared to be homeless asking for money.  We quickly walked by pulling our children a little closer, acting somewhat oblivious and honestly pretending we didn't hear all the requests.  This isn't something I am proud of but it is a reality some days.  I've got my eye on the prize (donuts!) and with 3 small children in tow it seemed best to keep walking past and not engage.  

Once we got inside Malia locked eyes with THE donut.   It was the neon pink, bubblegum flavored donut with shimmery sprinkles and a piece of bubblegum covering the center.  She doesn't get treats very often but I was suffering from a small case of mommy guilt.  Last weekend while at the Colossae retreat we let her get an ice cream cone. I ordered her my favorite (mint chocolate chip) and she loved it.  It was melting quickly and she was having a hard time keeping up so every once in awhile she would hand me her cone to eat some of the ice cream.  I would then give it back to her and she would continue eating. I got caught up talking with friends and Malia handed me her cone, it was almost gone.  I held it for a couple minutes and without thinking put the entire thing in my mouth and ate the rest... Ooops. Big mistake, apparently she wasn't done eating.  She was so heartbroken, I ate her ice cream cone and I didn't even ask if I could have it, mommy fail.  So I knew this was my chance to make it right.  So a pink bubblegum shimmery donut it was.  She was so excited to eat it.  

We went outside, sat at the picnic tables and started eating our donuts while the girls played around the table a bit.  We were still surrounded by several people asking others for money, another lady was laying down and rocking uncontrollably on the bench next to us, tourists were getting trapped giving one person money and then being hunted down by others who had seen they were willing to give.  We talked and ate and tried to ignore all that was going on around us.  

I happened to get up to move Ayla's stroller and realized a man was standing right in front of me. He was really dirty, his hands were shaking and he just kept mumbling.  He said, "I am so hungry... I am so hungry.  I just got out of the hospital, I didn't get breakfast and I'm so hungry. I just want a donut, I am just so hungry..."  In that moment I actually heard him, his requests were no longer background noise but a real person who was hungry. I couldn't just ignore him, I knew I needed to do something. I went back to the table and looked in the pink Voodoo box for a donut. And there it was... Malia's prized pink donut. My first instinct was to just grab it and give it to the man but flashbacks of the ice cream debacle raced through my head, I didn't want to break her heart again by taking her food.  I didn't know what to do.  I had up to this point tried to shield Malia from what was going on around us but in an instant I thrust her into the middle of it all.  

I got down to eye level with her and said, "Malia, this man is hungry.  Would you be willing to give him half of your pink donut?" She responded, "why is he hungry, mama?".  I said, "he doesn't have any food to eat sweetheart and he is starving."  She quickly said, "yes, mommy I can share my donut."  She headed straight to the box and I helped her pull her prized pink donut apart.  Without missing a beat, my 2 year old daughter walked right over to this trembling, starving man and looked up into his eyes and held out her pink donut.  He reached out his filthy hands and looked down at Malia with weeping eyes.  He said, "she is a kid, how can I take food from her."  Malia would not be deterred.  She stood there looking at the man and motioning for him to take her donut.  He finally reached out grabbed the donut.  He looked up and made eye contact with me and said, "thank you, God bless your family."  

We made our way back to our car.  The man ended up following us and stopped us again.  He looked right at Malia and said, "thank you for feeding me."  As he walked away we saw Joe and Jenny, our guests from Montana, were stopped by a woman.  She said she had missed the breakfast line at the Union Gospel Mission and was desperate for a cup of coffee.  Without hesitation, Joe said, "I will buy you a cup of coffee" and off they went to the coffee shop together.  

And it struck me - we had all spent a good 30 minutes ignoring the requests, shielding our children, pretending like this was not all happening around us and all of a sudden Joe is walking down the street with this woman to take her to a coffee shop to buy her a drink. Now we are smiling and engaging the people around us regardless of who they are and what life circumstances they are facing.  What changed?  What was different? I think a 2 year old little girl changed everything in that moment.  I think she had courage and it was contagious.  She didn't notice that this man was likely homeless, she wasn't scared that he mumbled and was shaking.  His dirty fingers didn't phase her.  It was simple, she heard that a man was hungry and she fed him.  Isn't that what we are all called to? If you hear that a man is hungry, feed him. 

My prayer for our daughters is that they would always have eyes that see people, not people's circumstances.  That compassion and love would rule our family and that our daughters would always be courageous as they seek to serve others. May I have the courage and faith of my 2 year old daughter to not simply pretend I don't see what is going on around me but to actually do something about it. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

He has a plan...

The past week has stirred my heart in many ways, culminating today with another miscarriage (I know most of you didn't know I was pregnant this time).  Apparently when I am upset and don't know what to do, I write.  So here I am again, exposing my humanness and weakness on this page.

As I started to have the all too familiar signs of a miscarriage this morning I immediately cried out to God just begging that this would not be a repeat of a couple months ago.  I spoke life and victory, I prayed with Malia that God would do a miracle in my body and sustain this pregnancy.  I asked a couple people I trust to pray for me.  With an expectant heart I waited for God to move.

That has been the theme lately.  I know God can literally move mountains, He can heal the sick, I have seen Him first hand change the reality of what the world says to be true.  I have seen it, He is the ultimate miracle worker.  We have victory, power and healing in Him.  So when I found out last week that my best friend Serina has breast cancer for the third time I knew without a shadow of a doubt that God has this covered.  He has her covered.  She will beat cancer, again, through Him and His power.  Or as my friend Jessica's father was wheeled away into the operating room yesterday morning for his second surgery to remove part of a brain tumor, we spoke life.  We begged God on Keith's behalf to heal this amazing man and father.  We speak life, hope, healing, miracles because we know there is power in our words. We know that prayer does have the ability to change reality.  We know that God can heal my body and sustain this pregnancy and He can make Serina and Keith healthy in an instant.

So that brings me to today.  That fateful phone call, your levels have dropped and you are losing the baby.  What do you say?  How do you respond when you know that God has all power and authority to make this right and He didn't?  What am I going to do if God doesn't heal Serina or Keith?  There are literally people around the world praying for these amazing friends to be healed.  And there is no question that God can do it.  So where do we go when our prayers aren't answered?

I think we go back to Him, we draw near to Him.  We allow Him to begin to put the pieces of our broken hearts back together.  We rejoice in Him and His goodness and we thank Him.  Please hear my heart.  This is not me doubting my faith, not even for a second.  I will continue to pray for God to move in miraculous ways, I will continue to speak life and victory.  I will continue to ask for another baby for our family.  My questions are not me questioning.  They are me trying to articulate that I must completely surrender to God's will, that I recognize He is in complete control (not me) and that He has a plan... and His plan is perfect.  It is perfect for my life, it is perfect for Serina's life and it is perfect for Keith's life.  I believe that with every ounce of my being. So, although my heart is broken again, I know that I know that I know that this is for His glory.   It all is.

With that said, will you join me in praying for Serina and Keith?  Pray that it would be God's plan for their lives for both of them to be completely healed and set free from cancer.  Please also pray for their amazing families during this difficult time.  And if you are so inclined, pray that God has the perfect baby for our family in His own time.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A New Chapter

Have you ever had someone tell you that you are crazy to consider making a change in your life?  I have heard that... a lot of times actually.  For some reason, call it faith or stupidity, I love change.  I love when God opens a door and I get to walk through.  As I have gotten older and maybe a little wiser, I am slower to move but I still have a passion for going after what God wants in my life and sometimes that appears to others as quick decisions and life changes.

I have been working at Nike for several years.  It has been such an awesome experience.  The people, the environment, the culture, the product, the food, the fun, the childcare, the benefits, the summer hours, the bonus checks.  I honestly cannot make up a bad thing to say about working for Nike.  It is everything you have heard it is and more.  So I guess it does make sense that people think I am crazy for leaving.

But here are the questions I keep coming back to:
If something is great am I to just assume that God wants me there?
And since I am comfortable should I stop seeking what He wants for my life?

The decision to leave Nike had me face to face with the reality of having to live out what I profess to believe.  I believe that my identity is 100% found in Jesus, that's it.  I have fought for years to break out of the bondage that came from finding my identity elsewhere, specifically work.  I love to work, I love to help people and I have always been praised for working hard.  Over time I began to tie my worth to what I did for a living.  I honestly did not know who I was outside of the work I did.  Keeping up was hard and exhausting, trying to figure out the next best way to make money, get to the top, impress others.  At the end of the day I found myself empty and unable to fill myself anymore from hard work and accomplishments.  The more I looked to myself for answers the more frustrated I got.  So I began the battle to learn who God says I am and the long journey to find my worth and value in Him alone.

Years later, call me "crazy" but I feel at complete peace knowing what a work God has done in me.  I know He is calling me elsewhere and I refuse to allow fear, pride or laziness to keep me from following Him.  I am far from healed from my need to perform but He is working in me, daily.  So as I close this chapter and begin a new I am excited to see how God is going to use me and others for His glory. At the end of the day that is really what all of this is about anyways, right?

  My last day with my awesome friends 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Malia turned 1... almost a month ago!

I can't believe how quickly the past year has flown by. It feels like just yesterday we were bringing this sweet baby into our home. We were essentially strangers who have grown into best friends.  It is no secret that Aaron and I have loved every moment with Malia. Honestly, we have so much fun in our house, laughing and marveling at the silly things that she does. Aaron and I love being parents to this little girl, it is truly an honor.  

We celebrated her birthday several times, because why wouldn't we?  It started out first thing in the morning with a cinnamon roll.  Not the healthiest breakfast but it sure was fun.  She wasn't particularly interested in the roll itself, but she loved the candle. Sugar was standing by to help if needed.     

She then got to go to her first day at Nike Tykes.  She had so much fun playing with friends and eating at the table like a big one year old girl.  

How old are you Malia?

We then went to the Big Boo at Aaron's school.  It is a huge Halloween carnival.  It was fun to meet Aaron's student's and their families.  Malia had a great time dressed up as a Denver Bronco's cheerleader.  Thank you Uncle JR and Aunt Essie for the cute outfit.  

Sunday was the big day, her actual birthday party.  I really didn't want people to have to spend a bunch of money on gifts for Malia.  It really isn't about the gifts anyways, it is about the relationships and time spent with our friends and family.  Based on this we asked each person to bring their favorite new or used children's book as her gift.  We thought it would be fun to Build Malia's Library. We then chose the Very Hungry Caterpillar as the book to decorate around.  It was such a blast!  I wish I had gotten more pictures though.  All that work and fun and I have about 5 pictures of Malia.  Lesson learned, next year we will be more intentional with picture taking.

The food was fun and simple, based on the book
Monday we ate apples
Tuesday we ate pears
Wednesday we ate plums
Thursday we ate strawberries
Friday we ate oranges
Saturday we ate watermelon, cupcakes, salami, swiss cheese and a lollipop

 This was Malia's bookshelf were friends helped build her library.  
At the end of the day she received about 25 books, no repeats and no titles she already had!

It is hard to read but this was a fun poster that talked about Malia's 1st year.  
Highlights include that she loves pancakes, wrestling with dad, cuddling with mom 
and her best friends are Aunt Jesi, Ben, Georgia and Jaidyn.

 This was one of the activity stations for the kids.  
There were crayons and Very Hungry Caterpillar coloring sheets.  

On the wall behind the table is a caterpillar with all Malia's 12 monthly photos.  
I should have gotten a closer picture.  

Let the party begin!

For kids who dared there was also a bounce house in the garage.  
Others chose a more quiet activity of coloring.


Thank you to our friends and family who came to celebrate this day with us. We are truly blessed by each one of you.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Big Sister on hold...

It is with a big lump in my throat and tears in my eyes that we let you, our friends and family, know that we recently had a miscarriage.  I had a good cry session with Aaron and one at work with my boss (in the bathroom of all places!).  I feel at peace knowing God is in complete control.  I am repeatedly reminded of Jeremiah 29:11.  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lordplans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  He has a perfect plan for our family and our future and in that alone I find great hope.  I believe the picture we posted, that Malia is going to be a big sister is still accurate, it just may be a little later than we had planned.  
I went back to my last post, you know the one, 34 is not messing around!  I believe today that God put these four truths on my heart almost 2 months ago for this very reason and this very time.  

1.  I will focus on what I have.  
All day yesterday all I could do was love on Malia.  She is such an amazing gift from God, a true miracle. How blessed am I that God has entrusted this sweet little girl with Aaron and I.  If you have ever been around her you know, there is something special about her.  Today, I choose to focus the beautiful daughter I have right in front of me.   

2. I will be intentional with my time.  
At the same time that I began having symptoms of a miscarriage I got extremely sick.  I was up all night puking and then Malia woke up puking.  It was miserable, I was exhausted and completely run down.  The following day I felt better but there was this voice in my head that said "just keep laying here", "don't get out of bed today", "you have an excuse to be sad and not motivated".  God brought me back to this idea of being intentional with my time.  I still have a daughter and an amazing husband who need me, I have work to do, I have a God to serve.  That day I chose to get out of bed, take a shower, read the word and get to work. 

3. I will live for today.
As I said in my last post I will continue to have a couple priorities each day; thanking God for giving us another day together as a family and just loving on each other.  That's it.  Although I have big dreams of growing our family, I also have big dreams for the 3 of us.  They mostly include a lazy Sunday afternoon cuddling, reading books and laughing hysterically as a family.

4.  I will rejoice in the Lord always.  
He has a plan, I trust Him with everything I am.  I choose joy, contentment and thanksgiving because I know that I know that I know He is with us.  

Now there is one other thing that I really want to address.  Something that made me sad and then made me angry.  I was so fearful to let you know about the miscarriage.  Fearful of man, fearful of judgement, fearful of my friends and family, how crazy is that!  My first thought was that my "friends" or "family" would think I was such a fool for announcing on FaceBook and Instagram that we were pregnant.  After all, it was early, and after all, you never know what might happen, and after all if something did happen then I would have to come back and tell you that as well.  Why didn't I just wait until it was "safe" to say something?  Why didn't I spare myself the pain of having to take down that cute picture of Malia with the Big Sister Pumpkin? Well to my friends and family who told their friends they couldn't believe I posted it, who told their husbands I should have waited, who told my friends they knew this would happen here is my explanation of why we chose to post our announcement.  I hope you understand and will extend me grace and compassion in this area.

To glorify God. Period.
That is it.  What a joyous occasion and a miracle it is to find out you are pregnant.  I want to share in our joys with you, our friends and family.  If you know where I come from and what I have been through you would know what a true redemption story God has made of my life.  You would know that each time He chooses to bless me is another opportunity to show His goodness.  It is true, you never know what might happen, which is all the more reason to speak of the abundant blessings in our lives.  To truly rejoice in the way He loves us. Waiting until it is "safe" is counter-intuitive.  See above, we do not know what tomorrow holds.  A miscarriage can happen at any time, and any time it happens it is a gut-wrenching and heart breaking experience.  But believe it or not, this too glorifies God.  It shows His power, His mercy, His grace on my life.  It shows His love, it shows that He will meet us right when and where we need Him.  It shows He is powerful, He is God, He is in control.  This is all to glorify Him.  My whole story, my whole life, the whole reason why He put me on this earth is to glorify Him.  And I am not great at it, I am a human with flaws who sins and makes mistakes.  But my heart is to be in true relationship with my Father, and I have never felt closer to Him than now.  He is taking the broken pieces of my heart and placing them back together one piece at a time.  If you have the desire I would just ask that you pray for our family and that this difficult time would be used to glorify Him.
As for the cute photo of Malia and the pumpkin, I'm not taking it down, I'm actually reposting it.  It is a reminder, a hope, a promise of what is yet to come.  

Friends and family, thank you for your love, grace, compassion and kindness during this time.  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

34 is not messing around!

Today I turn 34 years old.  I am almost in disbelief, in my mind I am certain I am still only 23.  My body, my mind, my life tell me otherwise though.  Things are changing, my life is shifting, my body is aching.  Year 33 was good to me, so good.  Welcoming into the world sweet Malia along side my best friend has forever changed me.  She brought into focus who I am meant to be and what I was meant to do.  She also helped to display front and center my selfishness, how up to that point I had lived 33 years of my life for no one other than myself.  She has shown me a tiny glimpse of God's great love, mercy and grace for me.

The last year of my life has been by far the most fulfilling and the most difficult of my life. There have been times when I felt so alone, wanting so badly to have that big family you see in Christmas movies where they become the village that is needed to raise a child.  That just didn't seem to be our reality, our reality was we were in this on our own.  Or so I thought.  God slowing started placing a community of people around us who loved on us and loved on our daughter, this community showed us that we are not alone in these uncharted waters. We had friends and friends' parents offering to watch Malia while we went on dates.  We had my 23 year old sister-in-law who made a point every single day, from the day she was born, to see Malia.  We had neighbors who would come by just to make sure we were ok.  I had girlfriends who would sit and listen for hours about all the changes my body, my marriage and my mind were going through.  I had a friend with 2 of her own children who would watch Malia without question anytime I asked or even better she would go to Happy Hour with little to no notice.  I had amazing bosses who allowed me to only work just 2 days a week.  We had a church who taught us the true meaning of community. We found such love and support over the past year.  For those of you who were a part of loving us and our daughter I sincerely thank you.  This is the greatest and hardest thing I have ever done and I literally don't know if I could have survived this past year without you.

All this reflecting on the past year has me thinking about what 34 will look like.  After a year that felt like such a whirlwind I am in need of some structure and intentionality.  As I started praying God sent me to Ephesians 4:1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge to you live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  That is my guardrail for 34, a life worthy of the calling I have received.  What is my calling?  To love God, to love others and to glorify Him.  That's it.  Here are my thoughts on how this will play out.  I will warn you now, 34 is not messing around!

1. I will focus on what I have.  
Not what I want, not what I think I need, not on the relationships I wish I had.  God has provided me with exactly what I need.  He has placed in my life the friends, family and resources to live the life He has called me to.  34 will invest in those things, 34 will not chase after people who do not make an effort to be in our lives, 34 will give back to the amazing people who have poured into our lives.  34 will be looking for others that God places in our lives to extend His love, grace and mercy. 34 does not desire a larger house, a better car, more things, more money, a different job, more trips (although Cabo does sound nice!), 34 is making a choice to bloom where she is planted.  This isn't to say that God doesn't want big things for Aaron and my life, but I have come to realize the "big things" are not things at all.  They are people, they are relationships, they are family, they are community.  Those are the things 34 desires.  34 is letting go of the past and incredibly hopeful for the future.

2. I will be intentional with my time.  
As much as I love social media and being connected to others, I have found that it often does the exact opposite of connect.  I find myself feeling like there is no reason to reach out to others because it appears that I already know what is happening in their life based on what they post on Faceook or Instagram. We all know this is not true.  You probably never knew how alone I felt at times during the past year, how would you?  I only post pictures of a happy, smiling baby and full of life mama.  That is definitely our reality some days but there are still times I struggle to get out of bed and hopefully take a shower.
Because I want to actually know what is going on in your life I am going to limit my time on social media (literally, 30 minutes a day max and only 10 minutes at a time).  34 is going to use that time instead to get on the floor with my daughter, to read to her, to call a friend, to meet for coffee, to walk our often forgotten about dogs, to really understand what is going on in the lives of those I love.  Time is our most valuable resource, we cannot create any more of it.  I am tired of letting time pass me by, tired of doing things that are not helping me live out what He has called me to do. He has called me to love and I believe He has asked me to use my time for doing just that.  My daughter, my husband, my family, my friends, my community, my church deserve my undivided and non-distracted attention.  34 is  putting the phone down (unless it's to CALL and talk to someone I love), 34 is keeping the TV turned off and 34 is disconnecting in order to truly connect and tune into my life.

3. I will live for today.
A very close friend's father was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor.  It has been an extremely difficult and heartbreaking time for her entire family and those who love them.  I have been blown away though at the love that this family has for not only each other but for the Lord.  Her father has said repeatedly, "No matter what happens I just want to glorify the Lord.".  Can you imagine?  Not knowing what lies ahead, being fearful for your life and your only request is that this somehow glorifies God.  What perspective, what wisdom and faith this family has.  My friend has said that her mom has just a couple priorities each day; thanking God for giving them another day together and just loving on each other.  That is it, how simple life becomes when we we realize tomorrow isn't promised.  I want my life to become that simple, because really I don't know what tomorrow has in store.  I just have faith that it is all in God's hands.  34 is going to live for today, thanking God that He has given me one more opportunity to wake up next to my best friend, one more kiss from my daughter, one more chance to love on those who love on me, one more day to go out and love on other's who have never experienced His grace and mercy.

4. I will rejoice in the Lord, always.
I am so grateful for this life that God has blessed me with.  He has so abundantly provided that at times I wonder how I could I ever be anything other that joyful.  So 34 is joyful.  34 knows she is not alone, ever.  34 is walking in contentment and thanksgiving.

As I said earlier, 34 is not messing around.  Have a blessed day!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A picture is worth a 1000 words

 Malia is now 6.5 months old.  Where has the time gone?  It seems like just yesterday we brought her home.  We were so nervous and so unaware of what laid ahead.  We have learned so much as a family.  I have truly loved every single moment with this little lady.  I know that sounds ridiculous, every single moment, but that is my true sentiment.  I believe I have an amazing trifecta - an "easy" baby, an incredibly supportive husband and an attitude of gratitude for all that God has provided.  Knowing that I was made for this job, being Malia's mom, has brought such clarity, purpose and focus into my life.  Of course, there have still been struggles and challenges.  Finding time to be a wife, making date night a priority, realizing how selfish and self-centered I have lived my life up to this point, keeping up with anything other than the day to day (including this blog that hasn't been touched for months).  I so am grateful though to have friends and family who understand these struggles and are willing to walk through this crazy life with us.  Thank you! Now, on to the fun stuff!!

The last 3 months have been filled with many firsts for Malia, and apparently a whole of pictures!  I am so looking forward to lifetime of firsts with this girl.   

First plane ride to Dallas, TX
First time meeting Great Grandma, it was love at first sight!

First time being with both Grandma and Great Grandma

First time wearing Jordans

Jordans with a dress and leggings

Four month old baby

First time sleeping in her crib (not looking too happy about it!)

First time eating rice cereal

First time meeting her buddy Harley

First time driving through the Columbia River Gorge

First time at Multnomah Falls

First time at the Chinese Gardens

First time to the Rose Garden for "Queen Malia"

First time taking Floyd to the dog wash

First time swinging at the park

First time meeting her other buddy Fritz

First time at the Tulip festival with her buddy Grace

First time at Silver Falls

First Easter

First time meeting the Easter bunny (she was very excited)

5 month old picture

First time in her play center (thanks Scott and April)

First time sleeping on her belly

First time pic with all her mom's group friends

First time in the yard with Floyd and Sugar

First time sitting up on her own

First time wearing a fun summer dress

6 month pictures

First time on mom and dad's new comforter

First time on the beach at the Santa Monica Pier

First time dipping her toes in the ocean with Dad

First MLB game, go Angels!

First In-N-Out experience

First time swimming

First time in Disneyland

First time at Newport Beach
Made her first Mother's Day card with Dad

First time celebrating her Dad's birthday