“All I know is I’m not home yet, this is not where I belong…”

I’ve been in Florida for the summer and will continue to be here for a while longer. It’s been awesome to be able to be under the same roof as my niece and nephew. To be able to spend face time with my parents and my sister. The short drives I take to drop my dad off at home so he can rest during the week have been drives that I know I will remember forever. This time is so important. I’m trying to treasure as much of it as possible. I know it’s a gift.

This morning I was thinking of the precious gift that this trip is. My Dad will finish his radiation while I’m here. He will ring that bell after his last treatment and never have another. It’s a blessing to be here for that. My niece and nephew are growing while I am here. I’m watching them reach new milestones. It’s a blessing to be here for that. I’ve been able to spend time with my Momma. It’s hard to serve her because she’s always the one serving, but on a couple of occasions I’ve been able to do small things like send her home with food I was cooking or run to the grocery store for her. That has been a blessing, too. It makes me feel useful here in this difficult time. And while this trip is so precious, so needed, such a huge gift, it’s not easy. Here’s the thing about my home in Texas: it’s where I belong. It’s where I find my real rest. It’s where my husband is. My sister and my mom both have the gift of hospitality and have made me feel so welcome. Plus everything is familiar here because this is where I grew up. But it’s not my home. We are out of our routine which has caused all 3 of the kids to go a little crazy. We sleep differently than we would at home, eat differently than we would at home. And although I will be heartbroken when we leave here and it will be the hardest goodbye I’ve ever had to say to Florida, I know there will be peace at home.

I say all of this as a reminder to my fellow Christians. I don’t want to talk about the news. I don’t want to argue about Supreme Court decisions or Church shootings. I just want to offer this one thought to you today…are you feeling uncomfortable? A little unsettled? Out of place? That’s normal. This is not your home. We are unknowingly just feeling homesick for the place we are eventually meant to be…with Jesus. We were made for no more sickness, no more pain, no more tears and it’s okay that we long for that. We’re just homesick. May those stirring feelings move us to action. May we seek intimacy with Christ more than ever before. May we love those around us and serve them like it’s our job. Loving and serving wholeheartedly is the closest we’ll get to heaven on earth. So let’s do it well.

This life is a lot like my time here in Florida: beautiful….a gift. It requires action, and it’s so important. But it’s temporary. Hang in there, friends. This is not your home.

Until the next blog…be blessed!

Bryson’s Superheroes Save the Day!

As many of you know, we are in Florida for the summer to be with family. It is an important season, albeit a difficult one, and there have already been so many treasured moments that I know I will hold on to forever. A not-so-fun part of this trip is that this week my hubby had to return to Texas to get back to work. He is my rock and the one whose shoulder I cry on when I am over being strong so he has been greatly missed from the moment he left.

Yesterday morning Bryson came into the room I’m staying in at my sister’s house. He asked me if I was sleeping their alone since Daddy left. When I told him yes, he told me that was sad. I reminded him that Daddy would be back to get us and that of course it is sad because I’m used to sleeping next to him, but he will be back before we know it and this is temporary. After that Bryson went on about his day and it wasn’t brought up again. I noticed that at the end of the day when we pulled in to my sister’s house for the night that Bryson gathered up all of his superhero toys that he had been keeping in the truck to play with and brought them upstairs. I assumed he wanted them in his room to play with so I didn’t pay it any mind. Later on when I ran up to my room I noticed that all of his toys were neatly lined up against my pillow. I went in his room and asked him about it and he shared that he had been thinking about me being all alone in my room and so he wanted his superhero friends to stay with me so I wouldn’t be by myself. I am so thankful for my sweet boy and his big heart!

Speaking of big hearts, my brother-in-law’s brother surprised us all by setting up a fundraiser for my Daddy to assist with expenses during this time. We have been humbled by God’s provision and nearness during this time. If you’d like to check it out, here is the link: http://www.youcaring.com/pete-ortiz-369044

Thank you all so much for your continued prayers. They have been felt! We continue to take things one day at a time and are finding such peace in the knowledge that God is good no matter what!

The Hard Yes

A year ago today, a tiny little girl with blonde hair and freckles on her nose, looked me in the eyes and said “My Mommy is far away. Are you my new Mommy now?” We had been with Safe Families for close to a year at that point, but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t prepared for those words. They wrecked me. I remember thinking, “What have we gotten ourselves into?” That sweet little girl made so much progress for the couple of weeks we served as her host family. Her grandparents got the respite that they needed so urgently and there story is one of happy endings. I’m so grateful for those. It was worth it to say the hard yes.

A precious little boy stole our hearts with his frowns turned smiles, his anger turned joy. We watched his vocabulary explode and his affection grow. And every sign of progress was the most beautiful mess because we knew he was thriving in our home but we also knew the environment he would return to. And there are still manic phone calls from his mentally ill mother in the middle of the night and their story is not one of happy endings…at least not yet. But it was still worth it to say the hard yes.

This summer I am entering a season of hard yeses that I’ve never wanted to say. But I will say them. Happy ending or not. I will say yes to the hard things because I am confident that God will comfort broken hearts and give strength to the weak. I will say the hardest yeses ever because I really mean it when I say that God is enough. Just God. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Are you in a season that requires a hard yes? Hold on, friend. A day is coming. He will wipe every tear from our eyes. No more death. No more mourning. No more sorrow. I am saying the hard yes because He is the one who has given me the breath to say it,

Not my will, but Yours be done. Yes.

Until the next blog…be blessed.

Layla’s 7th Birthday Letter

Can you believe we’re on birthday letter number SEVEN?! It’s a month early but we’ll be busy come June so I wanted to get it done!

My dear Layla-

     There are so many things I love about your soon-to-be-seven self. I love your laugh and the way you throw your head back while you do it. I love the way you show affection to your brother and sister. I love your awesome ability to use your words and tell me what you’re thinking and feeling. I love that you insist on a hug and kiss at the end of the night no matter how our day has gone. I love the look on your face when I catch you awake way past your bedtime because you’re reading your Bible….I mean, how could I be mad about that?! I love the way your curly hair gets at the end of the day…wild, big and free…just like you! I love your confidence. I love the way you share your relationship with Jesus with others. I love the way you talk to me about what you’re learning in church and at school.
      Lately Layla, when I look into your eyes, I feel the most intense combination of joy and sadness. Sadness because it’s harder and harder for me to see the baby you once were. Joy because it’s easier and easier for me to see the beautiful woman you will become…I’m so blessed to be your Mommy.
     By nature I am introverted and a rule follower. It takes intentional effort for me to start a conversation and although I love people dearly, I’m not what you would call a people person. But you, my Layla…you couldn’t be more different. And oh the wonder of raising a child who is the direct opposite of everything you’re comfortable with! You have made me grow in so many ways just by being who you are. You are loud and energetic in the very best way. You can talk to anyone…you can carry a conversation seamlessly. In the world of Layla, everyone, from the new student at school to the barista at Starbucks, is a potential new best friend.
     With your boldness, comes a desire to challenge the rules and to forge your own path. And that, my dear, finds you in trouble from time to time. While I’m the one who is doling out the consequences, I’ll let you in on a secret…I’m glad you seek to understand the rules instead of blindly following them. I’m glad you understand standing up for what you believe is right. As you mature, that boldness is going to serve you well. You have come leaps and bounds with respect and obedience at home and we will be consistent in insisting you continue to learn those things, but I think your desire to march to the beat of your own drum is going to make you quite the leader some day, sweet girl.
     Layla, on your 7th birthday I want to tell you that I see who you are and what God is doing in your life and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Being your Mommy is a joyful challenge and I know that whatever the Lord has in store for our family, it will always be an adventure with you as a daughter. I love you higher than the sky and deeper than the sea, Layla Jean! Happy Birthday!
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When Crisis Strikes

Earlier this year there was a women’s conference that I was unable to attend. I remember feeling such a need to watch online. It was difficult and I felt a tiny bit guilty about it because all 3 kiddos were home. I basically banished them to the playroom so I could focus, In retrospect, it needed to happen.

One woman shared a story that has literally played on repeat in my head the last few weeks. She spoke of one day having “that” conversation. You know the one. The one where you discuss what you could NEVER do. Something you just couldn’t handle. I think we’ve probably all had a similar one. I remember before Kevin and I were married saying that I could never move away from my family because we’re so close. And yet somehow here I am, and actually happy to be here. Here happens to be 1,000 miles from my extended family even though I once said I could NEVER.

The woman who shared her story, lost her two sweet boys in a tornado. Here are some of her words:

My husband and I were at a cemetery placing flowers on his grandparents’ grave. He had not been there in 10 years and we drove by it every day. We stopped for the first time. After planting flowers, we noticed there was a grave behind his grandparents of a little boy and a mother. It was not taken care of and the grass was growing everywhere and toy trucks were strewn around. My husband said to me, “Let’s clean it up.” It was a great idea. On our hands and knees, we cleaned this stranger’s grave. I will never forget that time. I looked up at him with tears in my eyes and said, “if anything ever happened to our boys I would die.” My husband agreed and said the same thing. Little did I know that four days later they would be gone. Immediately, God picked me up after crying out and carried me through, and He still is carrying me. -April Smith

I know it is more comfortable to do hard things when we are excited about the journey. When God called us to serve with Safe Families, I was all in. God has given me a heart for the hurting. I love to serve. It is hard but rewarding. We have had so many difficult moments but it has been worth it. We have walked on with determination because we are passionate. This doesn’t make the journey easy-but since it is a journey that I want to travel, that I’m happy to travel, the roadblocks aren’t so overwhelming.

But what happens when God calls you on a journey that you don’t want to go on? What if, like April Smith, the next season is one of loss or grief? What if you aren’t passionate about this part of your walk? We are afraid to talk about those seasons, but we need to. Because they come. For all of us. It is my nature to pray against those seasons because I don’t want to be in them. But I am learning that obedience means moving forward no matter the season.

If your current season is one of hard things, I’d like to confess that I’m in that season, too. Not to diminish your struggle, but to walk alongside you and remind you that you aren’t alone. Here are some things that I am learning in this season and I hope they will help you, too.

Gratitude. It’s so important. Every day there is something to be thankful for. Feel that gratitude with your whole heart. Thank God for how richly blessed you already are. I find myself so grateful for my amazing husband, my sweet children, my supportive church. On the worst days, I can still find something to be grateful for. Salvation. A God who knows the end of the story. The promise that one day He will wipe every tear from our eyes and death shall be no more, neither sorrow. Friends-there is always SOMETHING to be thankful for. With gratitude comes joy. And joy in the middle of the storm is that much more rich.

Surrender. This is where we let God be God. Where we recognize that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. This is where we relinquish our grip on the illusion of control. This is where we get to show Him that we mean it when we say we trust Him. This is the beautiful place we can reach where we discover peace in saying “I don’t know how this story ends, I don’t know what each day holds, but I know that You’re going to be enough.” In surrender, there is contentment.

Community. This is a hard one for me. But it might be one of the most important. I can’t tell you the fulfillment I have found in serving the broken. But when I’m broken-my gut instinct is to pull away until I can get myself together. That’s not how God created us to operate. Especially as Christians. We are part of a body. When we hide difficult times and pull away from that body, we do not only ourselves a disservice, but we do the people in our lives a disservice, too. There are lessons in humility for you to learn in your transparency with others. There are lessons in diligence and servant hood for those around you to learn. And when God does come through, no matter how it looks, you won’t be the only one rejoicing. The people who walked every ugly step with you will be able to be rejoice, too. They will come to know God more because you allowed them to share in your struggle. We may be robbing others of their blessing by choosing to walk a hard season in solitude. We aren’t meant to walk alone.

Maybe you aren’t in a season of struggle. Maybe this time in your life is fantastic and everything is going smoothly and you are looking for ways to serve someone else. I have had many family members and friends tell me recently that they struggle with what to do when crisis happens in the life of someone they love. Here are some ideas:

-Pray. And share that you’re praying. If you woke up at a certain time and had on your heart to pray for that person, tell them that you did. You would be surprised at how many times someone has told me that they prayed for me and it was at a moment that I specifically needed it. It was such a precious reminder that God’s got this.

-Take action. Don’t say “Tell me what you need and I’ll do it.” When crisis strikes, it can feel overwhelming to hear many people request that you think of something that they can do to help. It’s so kind, but the person struggling likely won’t take you up on your offer. Think about how you’d like to help and be specific. Say “let me know when I can watch the kids so you can take care of things.” or “I’d like to order dinner for you this week, what day would be best?” Drop off coffee. Send an encouraging card in the mail. Text scripture with no expectation of hearing a response. Take the burden off of the person struggling to figure out what they need and who can do it. Instead, be intentional when you notice a need and fill it if you can. If you can’t, be confident that your prayers will be enough. Because they will!

-Be the friend you’ve always been. Don’t ask for the gory details, but let them know you’re there to listen. It may be a day that they need to talk, or it may be a day where they are longing for some normalcy. Offer them that option.

We’ve all been on both sides of this story-the helper and the one who needs help. The one in the season of pain and the one in the season of prosperity. That’s life. May we learn to embrace the journey in both seasons.

Until the next blog…be blessed!

Wordless What?

Remember when for like 3 solid weeks I stuck to my “Wordless Wednesday” blogs? Sorry, y’all! Sometimes I forget that there are family members who read this blog, too. And my family loves pictures! But this season of our lives happens to be pretty intense so I’m awful at taking pictures “just for fun” right now. I did finally make time to take some pictures of the kids because it’s been way too long. I thought I’d share a couple as my official apology for being less than diligent with my Wordless Wednesdays. So for your viewing pleasure on a Tuesday…

Until the next blog…be blessed!