Friday, September 27, 2019

An Empty(ing) Nest

Recently, I was talking with a friend who just finished her first year as an official empty nester. In our conversation, I was questioning her about how the year had passed: How did you handle it emotionally? What did you do to fill the time? Were you bored? She explained some of the activities that filled her hours each day, and I nodded along, inserting an "Oh, I would enjoy that" or "I could do that!" as she spoke. Finally, she looked at me quizzically and asked, "Don't you still have kids at home?"

Yes. Yes, I do. My oldest daughter is away for college. But my other college student is local and thus still lives with us; he works fulltime during the day and attends college at night. My oldest son is a senior at the local public school, and my youngest just began high school there as well.

So technically, I am not an empty nester.

However, for the last 20 years, I have had at least one child here at home with me 24/7. Now I don't homeschool.

I most certainly feel like an empty nester this year!

And I dreaded that first day of school - the first day I would sit in my house all by myself, not knowing what to do - for days, weeks even, before it actually happened. And I grieved for what I was losing.

But then the day came.

And it was OK.

The day came, and I began to realize the biggest gift I had been given was sitting right there for me to unwrap. That gift has been almost unlimited time for me to spend getting to know God - studying the Bible and praying. What a difference this has made in the life of someone who always heard about but never experienced a hunger for God's Word, who has never been able to concentrate to pray longer than five minutes.

Now I sit down after everyone has left, in the silence of the house, just me. And before I know it, an hour, two hours, have gone by. This is a time I look forward to, long for, every morning.

And I know this is where God wants me for now. I know this because I have pursued two opportunities for Things to Do, and the people on the other end of both options have not even contacted me.

So I am here for a reason. To learn. To grow.

I am so grateful to my husband for allowing me this time. For not pressuring me to get out there and pound the pavement. For just letting me be for now.

Certainly this is a season because I know God wants me to get out and do something tangible for Him, and He is just getting me ready. And I am ready...whenever that may be. As for now, I relish my empty(ing) nest, the quiet of each morning, and the time I get to spend, just God and me.

Friday, February 22, 2019


I’m stuck. I’ll be 46 in three days, and I don’t know who I am anymore. Not really, anyway. Sometimes it’s a lonely feeling. Other times, rationality slaps me in the face and tells me there are likely – very likely – other middle-aged moms out there who also don’t know what they want to be when they grow up.

I haven’t always lacked career aspirations. I mean, when I was four, no one could tell me I wasn’t going to be a vet someday. Surprisingly, this vet phase lasted until I was 12. That was the year I had Miss Hall for 7th grade English. She sparked in me a love for literature as we tackled an abridged version of Les Miserables, and her preposition song led me to a love of grammar…and the dire need to police it. At the end of the year, we submitted a “novel” for our final project, and just like that, I was hooked on writing.

Mr. Roper solidified my love of English and teaching my junior and senior years, and so in the fall of 1990 when I began college, I declared my major loudly and definitively: English Education. I was going to change the world through Macbeth and gerund phrases. Really, I was. I wanted to teach inner city, and I was going to teach a la Louanne Johnson from Dangerous Minds. Yes, I would transform my own “Gangsta’s Paradise.”

The problem was I was 21 when I secured my first teaching job at Meadowcreek High School. I guess the 21 years weren’t so much the issue as the fact that I looked 12 and didn’t really know at the time how to command the authority I needed to handle the rough and tough halls and classrooms of what many still affectionately call Ghettocreek High School. I didn’t change the world. I didn’t even change five overcrowded classrooms of teenagers. I just prayed for sanity and strength and clung desperately to that prayer for two long years.

It wasn’t hard to get a job in the business world after my teaching stint. Good communication skills go a long way. I thrived in the business environment and enjoyed it. But then I held my first baby in my arms, and though I tried to go back to work, depositing my daughter at my cousin’s daycare every day gutted me.

With my sweet baby in my arms, I bid the office farewell and began the “career” I have enjoyed so much for the last 19 years: Mom. Sure, this path has been varied. I have been Homeschool Mom, Chef Mom, Taxi Mom, Banker Mom, Nurse Mom, Party Planner Mom, Psychologist Mom. And I’ve had a few detours: I taught second grade for a disastrous year, and if there were any direct sales opportunities, I took them or at least considered them seriously. Those also all ended disastrously. Direct Saleswoman I am not. But Mom – especially Homeschool Mom – has been my title, my identity. And it’s not like I’m ever going to stop being Mom; the title will be the same, the role very different. Kind of like taking an ER doctor from Manhattan and plopping him in a country hospital in the middle of Kansas.

You see, they – my kids, the ones who have been my job, my life for the past 19 years – are starting to leave. Alex, my oldest is in her second semester at college in Florida. Michael will graduate from homeschool this year. Jacob went to public school this year for 11th grade, so next year will end in Pomp and Circumstance for him as well. My “baby” Audrey is finishing up her last year of homeschool and will begin high school at public school next year.

When I think about being at home every day next year for seven hours with only a height challenged Corgi and a grouchy, geriatric cat for company, my heart starts palpitating, and I break out in a sweat. What in the world am I going to do with myself? Eat bon bons and watch soap operas? Honestly? I’m not entirely sure what bon bons are. And I haven’t watched a soap since I was four, and I sat on the couch keeping my grandmother company. Unless you count my Melrose Place phase…
I’ve thrown around the idea of getting a job, but that brings me full circle to the fact that I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

So…I’ve decided to take next year off. Take the 12 months to figure out who I am outside of Mom. Discover my interests, my passions, my talents. Get out there and explore a little, try new things, maybe learn how to be something other than a mediocre cook. (Dare I even admit that 19 years of being Mom never elevated me beyond mediocre cook status?)

Who knows? Maybe by the time my 47th birthday rolls around, I’ll have a renewed identity and a clear path before me.

Or not.

But hopefully I will at least have enjoyed some amazing adventures along the way. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll encourage some other folks to take the journey with me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A Surprise Sister - from the little sister's eyes!

Sunday mornings are easy.  Lionel Richie even said so with his famous lyrics.  Sunday mornings in my world can mean an uplifting sermon at church, cheering on my son at the soccer field, or lounging around in my pajamas with a Cuban coffee and avocado toast.  Easy. 

This one particular Sunday morn … September 23, 2018 for timekeeping’s sake … started off just that way.  I had been out late the night before at a high school reunion.  Still a little bleary eyed, I sat down at the kitchen table with my family and we made gentle chatter, discussing plans to go to soak up the last few rays of southern summer sunshine at the pool.

I rarely have my phone on the table during a meal, but for some reason that time I was breaking my typical dining etiquette.  It lit up just as I was about to take my first bite of breakfast – Message Request from Kathleen Pierce.  Thinking I would be replying to a question about essential oils, or maybe even a reconnection with a classmate from the prior evening, I casually slid the phone over and accepted the request. 

There was a nervous excitement about her words.  There was an apologetic tone for any impending shock.  The note quickly got to the point : I think I may be your sister. 

Wait, what??  Avocado toast suddenly was not a priority.

I kept reading, my eyes growing bigger and my breath starting to quicken.  She began to explain by providing facts and details about her birth, and then adoption at 4 days of age.  She went on to share that she had traced her paternal lineage through, which had then led her to a trail to her mother, thanks to another nonprofit organization.  I read the name of her mother but for some reason my brain would not make sense of it. 

Hmmm, I thought.  That’s weird, that’s MY mother’s name!  But my mother doesn’t have any other children.  #didnotcompute

Even when I read that Kathleen had been given her sister’s name by the organization – NATALIE GREENFIELD, and my Facebook link, I was still processing at the rate of a sleepy 2 year old.  I gathered my phone and all of my breakfast items, like a child hoarding her toys, and announced to my family that I needed to go outside.  They looked at my bizarre behavior and asked repeatedly if I was alright. 

Once I got outside and felt like I could breathe again, I read and re-read the message.  Okay.  It did make sense.  I knew my mother had been married before my father.  And I even knew her first husband’s name, which was the name Kathleen had given as her father’s name.  I knew nothing about a child, though.  My mind was reeling.  It was sinking in.  Could this be true?  Of course.  I touched the icon leading me to her FB page and profile pic.  Oh wow!  Yep.  If I had a sister, that’s what she would look like!  Ok, this was getting real.

When I replied to Kathleen, I felt guilty that a whole hour had elapsed since I had opened her message.  I knew she was probably anxiously anticipating a response.  I didn’t know what to say, so I sent a short note asking when she wanted to chat.  Immediately, the famous three dots appeared.  She wrote, “now if you are up for it.”  Alrighty then!  Let’s do this! 

I ran upstairs to the deepest, most hidden part of my room, closing all doors behind me along the way, as if I now somehow had a huge secret to shelter.  I put 2 of my favorite essential oils in my diffuser, and put my face over the bellowing vapors.  I desperately wanted to channel a calm and steady vibe.  I could only imagine that she had to be in pure freak out mode!  So I was determined to be the rational one (not my strong suit!).  The phone rang.



You were expecting a more extravagant first greeting for sisters who never knew of each other’s existence? 

We chatted for an hour, trying to piece together timelines, and wading through the surreal fog.  As if this situation wasn’t mind blowing enough, we discovered an incredible criss-crossing of paths.  We were both born in California, 4 years apart.  She was raised primarily in West Africa, while I spent my childhood into my adulthood in Georgia.  After high school, Kathleen came to Georgia to attend college.  We actually ended up living in the same city, ON THE SAME STREET, missing one another by about a year.  #mindblown

I heard my sister’s voice catch when she asked about her….our mother.  “Where is she living now?” 

So – about that.  “She lives with me,” I replied.  Calm and steady vibe, calm and steady vibe.  I was overcome with the emotional realization that Kathleen had not only figured out who her mother was, but was actually talking to someone who was within the same walls.  This was going to be trickiest part, though.  Neither of us was sure how we should approach our mother with this.  Although I am her caretaker, my mother and I do not have the type of relationship where I could just go in and ask her questions about something like……..oh, a secret sister??  And besides that, Kathleen made the great point that our mother should tell me, not the other way around.

(My best friend, Estrella, asked if I thought my mother would be mad if she ever found out that I knew and didn’t tell her.  My reply was ……. “Ummm, well……she knew, and didn’t tell me!”  #thedefenserests)

After a couple of weeks of texting, bonding and brainstorming, my sister came up with the idea of writing our mother a letter.  She made me laugh when she sent me a message saying that she was at the card store, but unfortunately she could not seem to find an “I’m Your Daughter” card (c’mon Hallmark!!  Get with the times!).  We were both nervous when she mailed the aqua colored envelope on a Friday, and even more jittery when it arrived that Monday!  I placed the precious cargo in the spot where I leave my mother’s mail in the kitchen, took a picture of it, and shot a text to Kathleen.  When this spot is empty, she has it!

It took 2 more days for my mother to finally tell me a little about what was unfolding.  She did it in the strangest way possible, but she did it!  Now with that awkwardness aside, we could plan a visit!  Kathleen lives in Connecticut, but she was anxious to get back down to Georgia to meet us!

Her trip was scheduled for the last week of October.  Kathleen would come down for a few days, then drive to Athens, where her adoptive parents still live.  I marked the date October 30 with “Kathleen’s visit” on the giant calendar in my kitchen.  But this was actually a ruse.  My sister and I both agreed that we wanted to meet one another first, without our mother.  So the confidential top secret meeting was happening the night before on the 29th.  I was so looking forward to this monumental occasion!  Our mother busied herself with details of where we would go out to eat, and obsessing over ordering a chocolate cake.  Apparently, chocolate cake is a thing when you find your daughter after 45 years.  Who knew?

Looking across the table at dinner, seeing a resemblance in another person and understanding the feeling of having a sibling…….well, it was priceless.  There was a comfort level between us as we chatted, and I had to resist the urge to tell people around us that we were sisters.  I even secretly hoped that the waiter would ask us. 

The next morning was the Main Event.  I was more nervous as I prepped breakfast for the 30th than I had been to go out to dinner on the 29th.  I had no idea how our mother would react or handle this very Oprah worthy moment.  But everything went well.  I’ll never forget the funniest comment.  Our mother was sitting at the head of the table, with each of her daughters on either side.  She looked back and forth at us, stoically, then declared, “You do not look like each other.  Because you <points at me> look like a Spanish.”  My father was Cuban, which explains my features, but it was a comical and blunt statement, which has always been true to my mother’s style.  However, I really think Kathleen and I do like alike!  We both have a bit of a Joanna Gaines thing going on, and I’ve decided that Joanna needs to play the role of one of us in the made for TV movie of our story.  😊

The rest of her 2 day “reunion” was fairly lighthearted and fun.  I did not hover over them, as I knew that time alone together was important.  If Kathleen learned anything, it’s that we like to eat around here!  We went to quite a few restaurants, walked around the mall at a seniorly pace with our mother, played with selfies on SnapChat, and of course – had chocolate cake!  Kathleen and I were able to sit and enjoy a glass of wine together one evening while we continued to delve in and get to know one another better. 

Are we alike, or are we different?  Yes and yes!  Just like one would expect, right?  However, examining the whole Nature vs Nurture theory was just fascinating. 

We are both articulate, intelligent women.  We are both mothers – she beat me by 1, since she has 4 children to my 3 (overachiever!).  We have a similar witty sense of humor, dry at times, clever and silly at others.  We both appreciate organization & structure, and can tend to overanalyze things.  We are both active, energetic, friendly ladies……who have both oddly enough been called “intimidating” more than once in life.  We apparently have the same taste in clothing, and accidentally dressed alike one day!  And we look alike, except that I “look like a Spanish”.  😊

I am an avid wine enthusiast, reds by choice.  Kathleen could take the vino or leave it.  I had to pause and decide if we are really related when I learned that one!   I am an artistic, creative person.  She doesn’t consider herself to be, but I think she may be mistaken there.  She is well traveled, especially due to her upbringing.  I am a homebody, probably due to mine.  She is tall.  I am pint sized.  She says tomato.  I say tomate.

An added perk to gaining a sister is that we also gained brothers-in-law, and nieces & nephews!  Kathleen was able to meet and hangout a bit with 2 of my 3 kids (Giselle and Kaden), and with my husband, Rick!  They were all enamored with her.  Even our boxer dog, Zoe, insisted on posing in a photo with Kathleen and our mother.  I absolutely cannot wait to be able to come up to Connecticut and meet the Pierce crew!  That will have to be in the spring, though, since this southern girl does not do cold weather!

When she drove away, I found myself filled with gratitude.  I’ve been asked if I am angry with our mother for keeping such a huge and important secret.  I am not angry, just disappointed that I missed out on growing up with a sister.  I always longed for a sister, and being raised as an only child was lonesome.  But the wine glass is half full here!  We have the rest of our years to bond, and I know that we will develop an incredible sisterhood.  We have already begun to weave this relationship together. 

I have also been plagued by the question of why God sent us in a wild figure 8 towards connecting.  Why were we in such close proximity of one another if that was not to be the time of discovery?  Were we soaking up each other’s energies?  Was it God’s original plan, but then He changed the timeline due to other factors?  I know that there will likely never be answers to these questions, but they are thought provoking, to say the least.

So maybe Sunday mornings are not always easy after all. Maybe they are more for enlightening revelations!   I’m thinking we need to start an annual tradition on the 4th Sunday morning in September – Sister Sunday, maybe?  I’m down for a new holiday!  Whether it’s ever a holiday or not, September 23 will forever hold an incredible space in my heart. 

-Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory. -Dr Suess

To be continued!  😊

-Natalie, “the little sister”

To read the Big Sister's story, click here

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

My Story

September 17. September 23. Two ordinary dates in past years. But not in 2018. I suppose if I am to tell my story, I must also mention February 22, a date already significant since both Mark and I celebrate our birthdays on this day. In 2018, though, it is the day my daughter gifted me an Ancestry DNA kit. Honestly, I had few expectations when I spit into the little tube that was provided, sealed the envelope, and slipped it into the mailbox. And those few expectations were met when the first results I received were limited to 3rd and 4th cousin matches. Oh, I tried to make some sense out of those connections, but with no knowledge of any surnames, it proved a difficult, if not impossible, task. So I abandoned my results, simply satisfied with the additional information the test gave me about my heritage. Having grown up knowing my biological mother was Vietnamese, it was indeed fascinating to discover the other half of my heritage was comprised of English, Welsh, and other northwestern European roots.

And so life marched on. Another homeschool year finished well, my daughter graduated, summer began and ended, I dropped my first child off at college, and a new school year began. Amidst homework, soccer games, and Mom Taxi duty, there it was: September 17. Just an ordinary day. I sat down to check my email and mindlessly began deleting junk mail. Out of habit, I started to click Delete on an email from, which I assumed was simply like the almost daily emails I receive from them: Only $59 for an Ancestry kit. (Why do I need ANOTHER Ancestry kit??) Hurry before this promotion ends! But then I saw “You have a first cousin match” in the subject line. First cousin? I know how to make sense of a first cousin! Heart pounding, I clicked the message and read the first words among many that I would exchange with my new cousin, Julie.

My existence was a surprise to Julie, and while she recovered from the shock, I did some sleuthing. I’m not saying my family labeled my activities over the next 10 hours or so obsessive…but I’m not denying it either. I googled, stalked Facebook profiles, and searched White Pages and Ancestry. My oldest daughter may or may not have called me creepy on a couple of occasions, but my research (that sounds so much better than stalking, doesn’t it?) paid off. It really didn’t take me long to identify my father James Hall, his ex-wife, their two daughters and son (my half-sisters and half-brother), and another half-brother with the most recent wife. I also discovered that, sadly, my father passed away in 1996.

All the while I continued to grow my relationship with my cousin through emails, texts, and phone calls. We really connected, and she was kind enough to regale me with tales of the Hall family. And that was enough for me, honestly – at least for the moment, though I do hope to connect with my father’s family at some point. As for my mother, I sincerely believed I would never uncover details about her; I don't know why, but I assumed she returned to Vietnam following my birth and adoption. But on a whim, I googled “California adoption records,” and this search led me to Find My Family, an adoption registry that connects birth families who register with adoptees who register. I had seen this registry before but did not have enough information to register. Now I had a paternal name. So I registered but still had zero expectations that anything would come of it.

I think it was Thursday I registered with Find My Family, and because of my low expectations, I didn’t give the site a second thought. That Saturday night as I settled into bed for the night, I checked my email. It was about 11:30. And there it was: an email from Judy at Find My Family. 

The email said, “I think your mom’s name is Tu Ngo.” 

“Natalie: your possible sister?” WHAT? I have a name for my mother? And I have a SISTER??

“Do you have more information?” My heart dropped. No. I registered with all the information I had…which was so much more information than I had ever possessed in all 45 years of my life. I did have a birth certificate number, though, so I gave that to her, then went to bed only to lie there all night plotting my strategy on how I was going to find my mother.

At some point during the night – or early morning hours – I fell asleep, only to awaken at 6:00. September 23. Again, I expected no updates, but my heart still thumped wildly against my chest as I opened my email. And there it was: another email from Judy. 

This email stated, “Tu [IS] your mother.” 

“Natalie [IS] your sister, and this is [Natalie's] possible Facebook profile [linked].” (Apparently other people are as adept at Facebook stalking as I am.) 

Judy also attached information about the brief marriage of my father James and mother Tu as well as Tu’s naturalization information. I studied that last bit of information with great curiosity because it noted that she was granted naturalization in Atlanta. How did my birth mother end up in Georgia where I spent so much of my adult life? I would learn the answer to this question later that day.

I went to church on that Sunday, wondering all along what I should do. I had found a phone number on White Pages for my mother. Should I call her? Was she even still alive? Would I give her a heart attack if she was alive? With Alex at college and Mark out of town, I texted them for their advice. They said I should call. Once I got home from church, heart pounding out of my chest, I dialed my mother’s phone number. The number was disconnected. Now what should I do? I texted Mark and Alex. We finally collectively decided I should Facebook message my sister, so I sat down and drafted a message in Word, and before I could rethink it a gazillion times, I copied and pasted it into a Facebook message and clicked Send. 

And then I sat there and waited. 

And looked at the computer screen. 

And waited.

Alex, I texted, what does it mean when there is a checkmark surrounded by an empty circle by my message? She said it meant my message had been delivered.

Are you sure? I thought the circle was supposed to be filled in. What if she didn’t get it? She assured me she would.

And I waited some more. And stared at the computer screen some more.

She accepted my message request!!!! I texted to Mark and Alex.

Oh my goodness! There are dots. She’s writing!

And then there it was: a reply from my sister. Although it’s her tale to tell, I know she was, to say the least, caught by surprise. Our mother had never told her about me, so the news sent her reeling a bit, but she still asked me when I would like to chat by phone. I, of course, replied, “Now!” In retrospect, I feel badly, realizing that for me, this had been 45 years in the making, whereas for her, my Facebook message a mere 60 minutes ago changed her life in an instant. But what a wonderful sister to meet my immediate demands and proceed with a phone call!

We chatted that first day, September 23, for over an hour and kept in close touch through texts and other phone calls in the days that followed. We both decided that it was not Natalie’s place to tell our mother about my contact, and we felt it would be best for me to write her a personal letter. Since our mother lives with Natalie, I was kept closely informed about the letter and therefore knew the day it arrived and was delivered to my mother. I wondered what would happen. Would she write? call? ignore it? My answer came the next day with a phone call. It was very nice talking to my mother. She thanked me profusely for finding her. I told her we would meet soon. As my trip to meet them drew near, my mother showed her nurturing side by calling me on two occasions to remind me to bring a sweater because the weather in Atlanta had turned chilly!

The day of my trip finally came and, as any of my friends on social media know, the Big Meet took place on October 30th. Actually, I have a confession to make: my sister and I met alone on the night of October 29th, so we could have some time, just the two of us. It was so extraordinary, yet so comfortable, meeting Natalie that first time. As we had kept in touch throughout the month of October, it was obvious we clicked and that we had a lot in common. “That nature vs. nurture is pretty fascinating,” we mentioned on a number of occasions as we uncovered bit by bit how alike we are. 

On October 30th, I got to spend some one-on-one time with my mother to get to know her a bit as well. We chatted, went to lunch, strolled through the mall, and ate chocolate cake together!

What a blessing to meet and connect with my mother and sister! But there is more: I also got a brother-in-law, a niece, and two nephews in the new deal! Although I only had a day, it was such a pleasure getting to know my brother-in-law, niece, and one of my nephews. I can’t wait to meet the other nephew in a future visit. It’s all so crazy. I have brothers-in-law, nieces, and nephews by marriage, but none that aren’t the in-laws. Now I have my very own relatives! 

What’s even weirder is looking into my sister’s face and seeing myself. Because I never shared a resemblance with my parents, seeing myself in my own children has been fascinating for me. But now to see myself in two adults – my mother and sister – and have people tell us we look alike, well, that is so…intriguing? satisfying? As with much of this whole experience, I don’t always have the right words – or even words at all – to define the experience or what I’m feeling. I do know that I feel nothing but hope, anticipation, and joy in thinking about the future and growing my relationship with my new family.

Before I close this part of my story – which really is just the beginning – I would be remiss if I didn’t share some of the amazing geographical coincidences in our journey. Both Natalie and I were born in California, and both of us left California while still babies: Natalie went with our mother and her father to Idaho; I left with my adoptive parents to Canada, Switzerland, and finally Cote d’Ivoire. After two years in Idaho, Natalie and her family moved to Georgia to join one of our mother’s sisters who lived in the area. Georgia, then, is where Natalie grew up and still lives. I of course moved to Georgia to finish college in 1992, married Mark there, and we were there until we moved to Connecticut in 2010. Tracing the way our paths traversed and nearly collided on multiple occasions between 1992-2010 is nothing short of crazy. My mother and sister both owned houses across the street from each other and a quarter mile from an apartment complex where Mark and I lived with roommates right before we married. Additionally, Natalie lived in the same apartment complex as Mark. Although we were never in these same places at the same time, the time lapses are short, and in our discussions, we have recollected many times where we frequented the same shops, drove the same streets, and journeyed the same paths.

Over the last month, I have repeatedly questioned: Why did God allow our lives to cross so specifically, yet didn’t allow us to connect? The only answer I know and accept is that it is all in His timing. Whatever the past, whatever could have been, is irrelevant because the present is now, and we can make the most of all that is ahead of us. Best of all, no matter the timeline, I found my mother and little sister! My SISTER! I still can’t believe it! All my life I wished for a sister, so Natalie is truly a gift! While I couldn’t be a big sister to her all my life, I’m all about being there for her now. And as the September 23rds pass by in future years, I know we will continue to be a blessing to each other.

To read the Little Sister's perspective, click here

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Digging My Own Cistern

I have been receiving Kay Warren's daily video devotions about choosing Joy. In today's video, she discussed Jeremiah 2:13, which says, "'My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water'" (NIV).

She offers this illustration: Imagine you're in the desert. You're hot, tired, and thirsty. Suddenly, you see a kiosk off to the side, and you see Jesus there offering you water. But instead of taking the water and quenching your thirst, you say, "No, I got this" and you start digging your own cistern.

As a person who always likes to be in control, this is such a great verse to ponder.

While this verse is pointing out that the Israelites chose to do it their way rather than God's way what I love about it is that God's way is obviously so much better. God offers a spring of living water while what the Israelites dig are cisterns. When I think of a spring of living water, I think of fresh, flowing, cool water.

When I think of a cistern I have in my mind this cistern that was outside our dorm at boarding school in Africa. It would collect rain water, but then that water would sit there. Algae would grow on the sides of the cistern, and a nice green scum would coat the top. Leaves, grass, and dirt would fall in and rot in the water. The water really didn't smell so fresh either. It was by no means a place where you would want to quench your thirst.

So if  would just stop trying to take control over every situation and give that control to God, look at the wonderful, better plans He has for me.

When Audrey gets sick, instead of worrying and trying to control every aspect of her life in MY attempt to make her better, if I would give that control to God, He will take care of her.

Instead of trying so desperately to control my future, I need to rely on God, and He will show me where He wants me to be 10 years from now, 20 years from now.

When I'm feeling down, instead of complaining or trying to drown my sorrows in chocolate or my favorite TV show, I need to turn to God.

How much better and more joyful would life be if I gave him the reins instead of so foolishly yanking on them myself?

Friday, April 17, 2015


One of my Facebook friends started a thread about faith recently which has elicited some thought provoking - and surprisingly civil - comments from many. I found it interesting that I came to Hebrews 11 in my Bible reading today.

Hebrews 11:1 - "Now FAITH is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (NIV). One commentator I read suggested that "substance" is a much better translation of the original language instead of the word "confidence", but I rather like the word confidence. The word confidence reminds me of the Proverbs 31 woman who goes about her life with confidence. She has faith. She knows that no matter what she will spend eternity with Christ.

I want to live with that confidence because of my faith.

Hebrews 11 goes on to give examples of people in the Bible who truly lived out their faith. Abel was faithful by giving his very best. Being faithful in giving is one of the best things you can do. This is one of the only areas where I feel I have been consistently faithful to God. And I'm not pointing it out to be applauded but only to say that giving to Him what He asks us to give is a step of faith, yes, but it is also a chance to observe His faithfulness.

By faith, Noah in his old age built the ark God told him to build and built it to God's exact specifications. I can't grasp how much faith this would have taken. Imagine being old man in the middle of an arid land that rarely, if ever, saw a drop of rain being asked to build a boat. And not just a little row boat but an enormous ark. I can just imagine it: as Noah started his project people probably gathered around to watch out of curiosity. I wonder if he told them outright what he was doing when they asked him what he was building. If he did, they would have scoffed at him. As the boat began to take shape, I'm sure the ridiculing mounted. After some time passed, though, I bet people just ignored him with a shake of their head: "Looks like our neighborhood crazy man is making progress on his boat."

What would I do if God asked me to do something for him and that something earned me the ridicule of all of my friends and neighbors? And not just ridicule for a day or two but for years? Would I obey?

Abraham trudged up a mountain with his son, all the while knowing he was about to do the unthinkable, yet it was the unthinkable that God had asked him to do. He kept going, one foot in front of the other, in faith.

But God would never ask me to sacrifice one of my children, right? We don't offer sacrifices to God in that manner anymore because of what Christ did on the cross, right?

Mark and I fully committed our children to God. We committed to loving them and caring for them to the best of our abilities, but ultimately our children are in God's hands. Which is the best place to be.

When I worry about my children, though, aren't I disobeying God's command to place our children in to His loving hands?

Abraham was faithful with Isaac. My constant fears that something will happen to my children outside of my plans shows me to be unfaithful.

By faith, Moses, though hesitant, chose to obey God and lead the people of Israel out of Egypt rather than staying with his adoptive family, a family who could offer riches and freedom to him.

"He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible" (Hebrews 11:25-26, NIV).

What if, by faith, I lived a life where I consistently chose the right path even if it meant giving up worldly treasures and conveniences? What if I lived a life where I didn't fear what others' opinions would be? What if I lived a life of perseverance without worry?

What if I lived out my faith consistently?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

This is Now

"This is now" (Laura Ingalls from Little House in the Big Woods).

I recently took one of those Facebook quizzes. You know, the quizzes that you probably shouldn't take because by doing so, you're dumping your personal data on to some server on the other side of the country, but sometimes you just can't help it because who doesn't want to know what 80's big hair band you should be in or what sitcom mom you most closely resemble?

So the question on this particular quiz was, "Where do you mostly live: in the past, in the present, or in the future?" I did not have to ponder this question at all. I live mostly in the future. I am a planner. I plan. Everything. I plan school for the day, for the week, for next year. I plan meals. I plan finances. I plan. I plan.

I am also a worrier. If there were trophies for worrying, mine would be on my mantle. And it would be a BIG trophy because I am a champion worrier. And I worry about the future a lot. In fact, a worry that has been on my mind lately is college for the kids. Where will they go? Will I have prepared them enough to get in? Will they score high enough on the SAT? How will we pay for college? With college only three years away, I grant myself some allowance in worrying about it.

But then there is the fact that I worry occasionally a lot about what in the world I am going to do with myself as an empty nester. Since that time is eight years from now, even I roll my eyes at me.

So, yes, I do live in the future. Which isn't healthy.

I've been reading a book by Kay Warren called Choose Joy. I sought this book out because I long to live a life of joy, but joy is often elusive to me. Happiness is not. I find great happiness is many things; I just don't consistently live in joy. Really by its very common definition, I am not by nature a joyful person. I am a glass half empty, expect the worst kind of gal, so joy by its simple definition does not fill me consistently. That is why I was so happy to hear Kay label herself an Eeyore. It's always refreshing when a spiritual leader is honest; the honesty makes them so much more relatable.

I love her more defined idea of joy: "Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things."

And I love that she shows that joy is a choice. I have always just thought that because of my pessimistic nature, perhaps a joyful life will always be out of my grasp. But choices? I can make those.

There are so many things to learn from this book, but I focus today on her admonition: "To experience joy on a daily basis, learn what it means to live in the moment." Not for the moment because living for a moment is unhealthy, but live in the moment.

My eyes are so often directed to the distant horizon that I miss the moment.

Psalm 118:24 says, "This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it."

Not that God didn't make all the days past, and not that He is not the author of all the days forward, but this verse says that this is the day. Today. Rejoice in today. Don't worry about the future. Rejoice in today.

I said I was a planner. And I am. I actually love to plan, especially when it comes to homeschool stuff. The problem is - and I hate to admit this - I am much better at the planning and enjoy the planning more than I do the implementation. The action is always the hardest.

And it's easy for me to choose joy. It's easy for me to choose to live in the moment. It's the putting that choice to action that's difficult. I know what kind of person I want to be. It's the allowing God to mold me into that person part that is hard.

Three - just three - things I want to focus on to learn to choose joy by living in the moment:

1. Be thankful. Instead of complaining about everything, be thankful.

Philippians 2:14: Do everything without grumbling or arguing.

Psalm 31:19: How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.

Psalm 100:4: Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

So instead of complaining about the incessant winds that sweep across this state, I can be thankful the sun is shining.

Instead of complaining that I have to be TaxiMom tonight and drop three off at three different places at three different times and then pick them up the same way with no time to go home in between, I can be thankful that I don't have to cook dinner tonight, that my kids get some time with friends, and that I get to have a night out with my baby girl.

2. Bring joy to others. Even if it's inconvenient for me. Especially if it's inconvenient for me.

Romans 15:2: Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.

3. Say yes more often. I'm usually "too busy" to say yes to the kids. I need to not as my oldest would say.

Ephesians 5:15-16: Be very careful, then how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity...

I've been farsighted for so long, it's difficult to think of becoming more nearsighted, but I don't want to be someone who regrets the past in the future because I didn't live well enough in the present.