A Surprise Blessing

Last weekend I went to Dallas for our daughter Jess’ wedding shower.

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The shower was a perfect time to speak blessings and reminisce on all that God has done over the decades from when our church community began.

Linda, mother of the groom, shared when their family came to the church where Jess and Chris eventually met. “I’ll never forget our first day.” She explained that their sons came to church before the rest of the family. “They were spending a lot of time at the church. We were excited that the boys were eager to be at church, but we hadn’t been to that church ourselves. We decided to go as a family and check it out.”

“The place was packed when we arrived. It was difficult finding a place to seat all six of us. We crammed into a section at the back. After the worship Pastor Steve got up to give the message. He paused, looking over the mass of people. Suddenly, he pointed… towards us ‘You there.’”

“We were far at the back and new. Surely he didn’t mean us. Then he said, ‘You –young man in the orange shirt, pointing in our direction.’”

Linda looked around the room full of women, then at Jess. “My son, Chris was the one wearing a bright orange shirt. Everyone else sat down, but Pastor asked Chris to stay standing. You can imagine my thoughts right? ‘Oh no, what has he done?!’”

Pastor Steve addressed Chris declaring that he believed the Lord was going to use him in a powerful and unique way. ‘There’s a high call on your life, son -to serve the nations.’  He encouraged Chris to prepare himself to minister among dignitaries around the world.”

The ladies responded, “Linda! That’s awesome!”

I waited till their happy responses finished, then eagerly thrust my hand in the air, “Wait! There’s more to the story!” I had to tell the other part of the story.

“Ya all, last fall Linda and I met for coffee when I was in town. She shared that story with me not realizing I had been there too, only with an entirely different view of what happened.”

“When she told me of their initial visit I cringed inside. I had forgotten that day up to that point. When she shared, my own recollection flooded my mind as if it just happened.”

“That day, I was up in my special “staff” spot where I took a count of attendees for service planning. The place was packed. We were short on seats and time. It was critical to keep to the timeline so we could move people out, so others could come in for the following service. I was stressed –even ticked, thinking, Why is Pastor Steve going off script for a kid who isn’t even part of the church?!”

“Pathetic, right? Oh, it got worse.”

I shared my unholy thoughts, “Wow God, we come week after week, year after year. We changed countless diapers in the nursery, stayed up endless nights during weekend retreats, camps and all those wacky junior high events. We loved and drudged thru the high school drama and never a special word for our kids who grew up in the church.”

“Then my thoughts went back to the service. What is Pastor Steve thinking?! There was no time in the script for this. It was completely out of his norm. I considered holding up a sign “Timeline!”

The ladies chuckled knowing it would have done no good anyway. I went on, “Later that week Pastor revisited the event saying, ‘I know it was off track, but the impression was just so strong, you know…. like I could feel the Holy Spirit prodding me to speak it. I can’t wait to see what God’s going to do thru that kid.’”

I confessed to our friends, “I secretly coveted that blessing, despite the nagging conviction to ‘rejoice’ for others!”

The ladies laughed, “Wow… See how good God is. He knew your heart.”

“Yeh, he knew my weak and selfish heart… and He still brought Jess and Chris together.”

God is good. At all times: even when we don’t deserve it.

His blessings are constant, whether someone declares it publicly or we have the incredible honor to hear Christ’s rich whispers in quiet places.

I think this verse sums how God’s grace and blessings outreach our wayward ways.

“…the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” Exodus 34:6-7a

As for the bride and groom… surely the good Lord will bless them beyond what we pray or seek. God is good.

ChrisandJess

Top Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

 

Adoption & A Heart for Korea

In our work as Senior Relocation Specialists we meet a variety of some pretty amazing people. Each client impacts us in a different way, revealing something special that causes us to once again fall in love with what we do and the people we serve.

Miss Ellen

When you’re packing up a lifetime of memories for someone’s move, or going through their belongings for an estate sale, you learn a lot about that person. Recently, we did a move and estate sale for Miss Ellen.

We fell in love with Miss Ellen immediately; an accomplished artist, a nurse and a psychologist. She’s 87, but you wouldn’t know it for all her bustling about and tending to countless details with seemingly endless energy and constant smiles. Her home was an orderly explosion of art and color. It was an expression of her.  

Miss Ellen’s home also hosted a great mix of Korean art, furnishings and keepsakes. This intrigued me because my sister, Jenny, is from Korea. Though I’ve never been there, I have an appreciation for the land which brought forth my sister.

Jenny was less than a year when she came to our family. A new child to any family is a gift, but when the child comes from the other side of the world, there is an extraordinary anticipation and a special appreciation. An adopted child and sibling is an exceptional gift.

I was excited sharing a great affection for Korea. “Miss Ellen, my sister is from Korea.”

Miss Ellen talked about their life in Seoul. “You know it was a very difficult time and place for the people there.” She spoke of the challenging dynamics of the culture still tending the wounds of the post Korean War.

I figured Miss Ellen’s family was there on military assignment as most of our clients are retired military. When I asked, she explained “Oh no dear, we were missionaries.”

That made sense. Her love for the Korean people was evident through out her home. She went on reflecting on tender memories, “We’d reach out to the military men stationed there hoping to share with them the dynamics nature of Korean culture, different in many ways from American culture.”

“We spent a lot of time loving on the locals, the military and the orphans.” She touched my arm affectionately, “Shelly, in the aftermath of war and cultural dishevel -the orphanages were so full.”

“We’d just go there and love on all those the little ones…”

I began calculating dates. “Miss Ellen, my sister was born in Seoul. When were you there?”

She pulled out a collection of news clippings documenting the cultural issues of their time there. She paused a moment and looked at me before continuing, “We were there from 1968 – 1973. We worked a lot with Holt Adoption International.”

My heartbeat quickened and tears threatened to spill. Miss Ellen just kept talking.

“Holt would match American families to the orphan children. The children were then placed with in care of eommaleul yang-yughadas. We would visit and help them.”  “We held a lot of little ones.”

I knew about Holt and eommaleul yang-yughadas. Holt was the agency that helped our family find Jenny. They told us Jenny would be in the care of an eommaleul yang-yughada until the process was complete. I hadn’t heard that term since I was a child, waiting to meet my new sister.

Our first photo of Jenny

Miss Ellen was there, working closely with those who were orchestrating the adoption of these young Korean children, among who was my then baby sister.

I stood stunned, looking at this sweet, tiny, white haired woman before me. Had Miss Ellen actually held my sister before I did? What a wild and exceptional possibility!

I was floored with appreciation of Miss Ellen and to the eommaleul yang-yughada who first welcomed my sister to her home.

There is really no way to know if Miss Ellen actually held my sister any more than we know the circumstances that brought Jenny to the orphanage.

The important thing is the impact that resulted because of those who put action to caring for one another; especially those in need.

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God and Father is this; to visit orphans and widows in their distress…” James 1:27 NASB

Shelly, our niece Miss E and Jenny

The fruit thereof lasts for a lifetime. I am forever grateful to my parents for realizing one of our family would be born in a far away   land. My sister is special to me because who she is not where she comes from. Yes, her heritage matters to me – a lot; because it’s a part of who she is. She’s strong and beautiful, funny and extremely intelligent. I now see that some of her strength, beauty and unique ways are inherent to the incredible land from which she came.

As we finished caring after Miss Ellen’s estate, I pondered the richness of God’s goodness and providence in sharing this intersection of time and people.

You never know what a day or a “chance encounter” may bring. And often we don’t get to see the full reach of our caring; but sometimes we do.

I hope that one day Jenny and I will visit Korea together. In the meantime, I count myself blessed to have siblings, family, friends and an ever thickened network of people to love and be loved by.

“love one another, even as I have loved you.” –Jesus John 13:34 (NASB)

** Holt Adoption International http://www.holtinternational.org/korea/

 

 

What Does Your Stuff Say About You?

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What does your stuff say about you?

Our possessions do not define who we are, but they can tell a lot about us.

I love working with people because each person has a different story. As a family transition specialist, I meet interesting people. I have to admit, I love going thru their stuff.

You learn a lot about a person by the things they keep.

Take Mr. H.  Mr H

At age 94, Mr. H still walks tall and proud (I’m wearing heels in the pic) . He has his wits about him and he knows what he likes. We’d unpacked photos of him in his early years. He had been a very handsome young man.

Mr. H was concerned about particular items:

His Bible, one of the last things to pack and first to be un-packed. It was well-worn and he wanted it out for easy access.

Mrs. H’s stockings nestled neatly in her shoes. Her cosmetic bag kept on the vanity. Mrs. H had passed the year before, but the shoes on her side of the bed and lipstick and blush near Mr. H’s toothbrush made him feel at home –like she wasn’t really that far away.

Mr. H was insistent that his guns come with him (empty of course – he’s 94) . Still, Mr. H wanted them near. He valued his right possess them.

A model fighter airplane was displayed safely on a high shelf. It was a replica of one he flew as a pilot in the US Air Force decades earlier.

This precious collection didn’t hold significant monetary value, but these “things” were of utmost importance to Mr. H.

I went back a few days after unpacking to see how he’d settled in. I also wanted to ask him about one other of his prized possessions.

The letter (photo) was preserved on a little white board. It intrigued me so I hoped he would share the story behind it.

When we arrived, my husband and I heard big band music streaming thru his door.

We banged on the door hoping he’d hear us. Through the trumpet sounds and some other loud noise we heard his holler, “Come on in.”

He was expecting his son, and was surprised to see me and my husband. Mr. H remembered me from the move and welcomed us in.

He was obviously frustrated. He couldn’t get his TV to turn off with his remote. With an aggravated thrust, he pointed it towards the TV that competed with the sounds of the music.

Brad figured it out, while I explained that I’d enjoyed helping him a few days earlier and wanted to see how he was doing. The noise subsided.

He looked at Brad and gave him a quick nod, “Well now that my remote is fixed I’m doing better.”

I couldn’t resist, “Mr. H, I’m curious about your letter.

My letter?” He looked puzzled.

Yeh, the one you have mounted.” I picked it up from a shelf and handed it to him.

He held it, smiled and proudly told the story.

It was written by his father to his mother;

December 2, 1917.

His vision was not so good so we took turns reading it:

Miss Marie –My Dear Friend…

I just wanted to drop you a few lines to tell you that I certainly was glad to get to have the pleasure of being in your company Sunday night, and if you have no objection I would like to call at your house some time to see you

 -providing I don’t leave town pretty soon… Say be sure to be at church next Sunday night will you? Gee girl I think you’re a peach. Sure wish I could take a bite ‘a peach…!!

He was called to duty days after penning this first of many love letters.

Mr. H lit up sharing the story though his eyes looked off beyond the room we sat in.

Dad went and served. Mom waited for him. He fought and he made it back.”

He paused and smiled, looking back at us.

“Well you can figure the rest. They got married and had me!”

His eyes trailed off again, but this time he looked to the black and white photo of Mrs.H.

 “And here I am, and I got me my own peach.”  His eyes welled up.

Mrs. H had passed the year before. But his love for her was fresh. Keepsakes scattered around his apartment reminded him that one day he would be with her again.

In Mr. H, I found an admirable story. He didn’t boast a word, but his “stuff” told the story of his values and allegiance;

God, family, country.

We all have our stories, and often they’re connected to things.

What do your things reveal about you?

What stories have been passed down to you? And what stories are you passing along to others?

More then our stuff, our lives tell a story. We get to fill in the pages.

One way or another we all pass along a story. What is yours?

 

Are You Put To the Test?

WarNinG!  Going into business with your spouse may1440543874313 put your marriage to the test.

After 28 years of marriage, Brad and I sold our house, most of our belongings, bought a franchise business and moved from Texas to Colorado.

We made it thru some really tough challenges in early marriage, so 3 kids and 28 years later we considered ourselves perfectly suited to go into business together. After all, we share the same goals and values. We have fun being together and we were mutually excited to make a difference in the lives of others.

We were worn out before we even began.

I really believed that once we got started everything would begin to fall in place.

Hmmm. Months later…

Here we are in Colorado, a full day’s drive from Texas. The mountains are beautiful and the weather is ridiculously aMAZing. We haven’t weathered winter yet, but so far we love it.

Even so, we don’t have those dear old close friends to drop by, have a cry and get a squeeze of the shoulder reminding us, “God’s got your back –and so do I.”

I may have given up entirely at the beginning if I had known it would be so tough.

Our friends, family and church community were a HUGE part of our lives. They helped shape who we’ve become.

I know they’re still there for us, but…. It is different.

Trying to find a new church home is exhausting. It’s just not home. Home is where the people are who you’ve invested your life in.

Did we make a mistake?

I don’t believe so. There were too many doors that opened and others that closed.

This is the hardest thing I’ve had to do. My marriage has been put to the test far more than any time before.

Brad and I get along great, but we are with each other 24/7.

We’re committed to one another with God at the center continuously pulling us upward together.

But we’re back to relearning the basics; communication, forgiveness, sacrifice, flexibility, forbearance.

We have too.

When we “go home” it’s the same person we’ve been with all day. You can’t say, “You’ll never believe what Brad did at the office today.”

At the end of the day, I need to exert energy to clear my head. A vigorous hike renews my mindset.

Brad prefers to chill and enjoy a break from all the “doing”.  Give him time to sit and rest or watch a favorite show and he’s happy.

While I could run him ragged and he could make me stir crazy, we are learning how to meet each other in the middle.

Communication is essential.

We need it as we uncover issues that got swept away in preoccupations of raising children and separate occupations.

Are we there?  No.

Are we working on it? Daily.  Hourly.

Sometimes the hardest things in life prove to be the things that grow us most.

Whether you’re going in to business with your spouse –moving cross country -facing physical hardship –or taking some leap of faith that feels like a dismal fall; circumstances will put you to the test.

Keep in mind; some seasons are just tough. Life gets messy and it’s not always pretty.

I’d like to wrap up this post with a catchy phrase or a nice quote.

I don’t have one today.

The best I have to offer is the best I have to offer: Jesus.

No matter what; -Jesus.

Just look to Jesus.

You can’t go wrong when you turn to Him.

Your situation may not change right away (probably won’t). It could even get tougher!

But your eyes will see the only thing you really need to see to give you the perspective you need –in any season. Jesus.

 

 

Mother’s Day -or any day

What will you do for your mom this Mother’s Day?DSC_0149 - Copy

I remember an especially dark season of my life over 20 years ago when Mother’s day came and went several times without calling or even sending so much as a card to my mom.

I wanted nothing to do with my past or the people I perceived responsible for much of the darkness associated with it.  I severed ties with my mom, cutting off all communication with her.

Breaking ties doesn’t necessarily fix problems.  After exhausting attempts trying to fix myself, I always came up short.  I came to a point of desperation and turned to Jesus.

Bit by bit my life began to change as I learned to turn each area of my life over to Christ.  My perspective became God and others focused.   I went from accusing and resenting to caring and forgiving.

Anger and disappoint gave way to hope.  Though it didn’t happen overnight, and often it was humbling and difficult, my relationships began to change.

Over the course of several years, my relationship with mom was restored and took on a new identity that was good and healthy.  Not only did we get beyond the pain of the past, but now I enjoy the present together with my mom.  Mom lives with us; not because she has too, but because we’ve welcomed her into our family.

You may not want to have your mom live in the same house with you, but check your heart and ask; is there a welcome place for your mother in your life?

People never regret saying things that are kind and full of grace, but we all regret if there comes a day and it’s too late.  Your mom won’t always be there.

Time is priceless and words can be powerful; use them wisely.  Live without regrets.

“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise —  

“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 

Ephesians 6:2-3 (NIV)

Who are you running with?

If life is a marathon and you consider yourself IN the race, then who are you running with?

The first time I entered a race with someone as a team, it was with my son Jake when he was only two.  He cried the whole 50 yards of the Diaper Dash.  Years later we called him Crazy Legs for his quick sprint speed, but that first race was not at all what I had planned it would be.colorrun4

Like life, every race turns out different than we envision from the training perspective.  Regardless of how a race turns out, the best part is who you are in the race with.

In the last couple years, we try to get in annual family race in.   For the first one, a group of friends joined us in the Muddy Buddy.   We slopped thru mud bogs, climbed rope walls and flung ourselves over slippery barrels.

Fortunately the mom who lost her shoes and pants in the mud bog wore a pair of shorts underneath.

These races are really important to me.  They shift my drive from getting my best time “ever” to taking time to be together having fun with people.  In these races it’s not about speed time, it’s about time spent together.   colorrun1

Last year, my daughters and I ran half mile of the Annual Allen Rudolph Run and walked the remainder as we walked and talked.  We laughed our way to the back of the race and ended better off for slowing down enough to really enjoy time together.

This year my husband and his buddy, James  were the last of our group to start in the  Fort Worth Graffiti Run.  Somehow they managed to find their way to the end of the race finishing well ahead of the rest of us.  They were cutting up the whole time and took pics of everyone in our crew who legitimately crossed the finish line.  They knew the best way to spend their time.

Be sure to take time to get in the race with the ones you love.

On Moms

Mother’s day I reflected back to an especially dark season of my life over 20 years ago.  Mother’s day came and went several times without sending so much as a card or making a call to my mom.

Having grown up like many others, with messed up families, I wanted nothing to do with my past or the people I perceived responsible for much of the darkness.  I severed ties with my mom, cutting off all communication with her.
Breaking ties doesn’t necessarily fix problems.  My husband and I exhausted one attempt after another in trying to fix ourselves.  Whatever we tried, we always came up short.
We got to a point of desperation and decided to give God a try as a last resort.
Bit by bit our lives began to change.  Our perspective became God and others focused.   We went from hating and accusing to caring and forgiving.
Anger and disappoint gave way to hope.
Life change didn’t happen overnight.  Often it was humbling and difficult.  Over the course of several years, my relationship with my mom was restored and took on a new identity of health and goodness.
Not only did we get beyond the pain of the past, but today, we enjoy the present together with my mom.  She is single and she lives with us; not because she has too, but because we’ve welcomed her into our family.
You may not want to have your mom live in the same house with you, but check your heart and ask yourself; is there a welcome place for your mother in your life?
What’s your relationship like?  She won’t always be there.
People never regret saying things that are kind and full of grace, but we all regret if there comes a day and it’s too late.
You know the best way to reach out to your mom.  Take the time to think about it.  It doesn’t have to be costly or complicated.   When it’s from your heart, she’ll know it.
“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise —  
“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 
                                                                                                   Ephesians 6:2-3 (NIV)