So I’m talking about love again…

I know I’m guilty of going on these “social justice” and “loving better” rants from time to time. I also know that one blog post is not going to seriously alter someone else’s perspective. So, just know that my intention is solely therapeutic. I’m not always great with face to face stuff. I have big feelings. I come from a long line of big feelers. It’s encoded in my DNA. And I need a way to sort through all of it. So I write. It’s what I have. It’s my thing.

The Presidential campaigning has begun along with all the social media snarkiness that comes along with it. I know this is only the beginning, so I’m trying hard to keep resentment from popping up in my heart towards people posting over and over again on social media about their opinions regarding political issues. I do find myself feeling sad about things I read from ALL sides on ALL issues. Mostly because it feels like “being right” trumps being kind or being loving.

What’s the point in being “right” if you have shared your side in a way that is so ugly and so hurtful that you push away the marginalized and broken people who Jesus cares so much about? Sure, you are right. But you are also so wrong. Do you think that your witty internet meme which effectively lumps an entire class of people into the stereotype of lazy and opportunistic (all for the sake of a political agenda) will bring anyone to repentance?

Will your rants about welfare fraud cause reform or convict someone who is abusing the system? Or is there more of a chance that what it will actually do is isolate and put shame in the heart of a brother or sister in Christ who has never abused the system but is in a season where they find themselves using food stamps? Aren’t we doing the one thing that hurts us the most as Christians? The world has taken a few public examples of Christianity and lumped us all into the category of hateful bigots. It hurts. And yet, so many of us turn around and categorize everyone around us and make generalizations that we have no right to make.

YES…there are people abusing the system. But what I have seen with my very own eyes over and over again in my work with Safe Families is that there is a larger group of socially isolated and financially desolate people who are trying to claw their way out of a cycle of poverty. A people who WANT to do better for themselves and don’t have the tools. And here we are with the tools in hand, but we’re too busy lumping them into the category of lazy to show them how to use those tools. We can talk about it, or we can act. Talk is cheap, friends. Besides, wasn’t it Jesus himself who said “If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.” Perhaps when they demand financial assistance, right or wrong, the more radical thing to do would be to give more.

Christians-I think we would see great change if we got busy loving and serving the ones we deem undeserving of grace and let God worry about bringing them to justice and repentance. I think our hearts change when we put specific faces and names and relationships to “user of government assistance” or “illegal immigrant.” I think this world is not our home and instead of putting so much stock in it we should try to shift our perspective and look at people as souls instead of flesh.

I need to confess that YES, my work with Safe Families has sort of turned me into a bleeding heart. I need to confess that I have recently found it easier to give grace to the struggling single mother who doesn’t know Jesus when she makes mistakes than it is for me to extend grace to a fellow Christ follower who lives an upper middle class life. I know that makes me stick out like a sore thumb. I know that there are many of you who honestly love me but could not disagree with me more and sometimes that gets awkward. I know that I find myself more easily angered by the Christian who shows hatefulness to the “least of these” than by the world’s hatefulness towards Christians. I need to work on that because the truth of the matter is that we are all broken, Christian and non Christian. We all need grace. None of us are deserving. And I need to confess this inner battle publicly like I am because you need to know that I don’t have all of this figured out. My flesh is sinful just like yours and I am not always slow to anger. I wish I were.

I feel this urgency. We need to act now. My fellow Christ followers, time is so short. I mean, one day my superhero father was a happily busy guy with a long to do list and plenty of strength to get it all done (with more strength to spare). And then I BLINKED and he had brain cancer and everything has changed. The fragility of this life is real. We aren’t promised tomorrow and I think the knowledge of that should make us long to find more and more ways to love others and to do it every chance we get. I pray that I will better love the people who I can’t relate to. The people who I don’t understand. I pray that I will remember that they were lovingly created by the very same hands that lovingly created me. And I pray that you would love better, too.

Until the next blog…be blessed!

Jordyn’s 5th Birthday Letter

For every birthday, I blog a letter for my kiddos. Eventually, they will all be printed up and put together as a keepsake. I can’t believe I’m already on number 5 for Jordyn!

Jordy-

On August 14th, you will officially be a 5-year-old. This is Mommy and Daddy’s third time celebrating a 5th birthday for one of our children. We know that it means the start of school. We know that it marks a time in which a child rapidly changes from “little kid” to “big kid.” We know from experience that this time period brings lots of learning and independence. We’ve approached these milestones with Layla and Bryson and yet I still feel unprepared.

You were the last heartbeat I watched on ultrasound as my own heart grew with great love. The last kick I felt from inside of the womb, as I rubbed back gently, anxious to see your face. The last baby to come out of my belly and lay quiet skin against mine. You were the last 1-year-old to take shaky first steps across our living room floor as we burst with pride. Jordyn, unless God calls us to adopt again someday- you were the very last terrific two, thrilling three and then fabulous four year old that Mommy and Daddy will ever have the joy of getting to call our own. And now you are the last little one in our home to turn five. You are our baby. That makes every single moment with you so precious. Precious and hard to let go of. It’s hard to let you grow up.

But I’m so excited.

Every day you are changing. Your high-pitched squeaky baby voice has turned into the most adorably raspy child voice. I love to listen to your words. You have your own thoughts and your own ideas. You are dreaming your own dreams. I watch you discover yourself and the world around you and I feel wonder. I can’t believe God chose us to be your Mommy and Daddy. I want you to know that I will never take that responsibility lightly.

No matter what this next year of life brings your way, I am in your corner. Know that now and know that it will never change. For every moment we spend face to face I will spend twice as many behind closed doors praying for you, advocating for you, and spending myself on your behalf. Because I love you. And that’s what love does. I hope we are teaching you what it means to live out love with actions even more than words.

I pray that as you continue to figure out who you are as a little individual, that you will see yourself the way God does. That you will see what you are capable of through Him. That you will desire to seek His will and then move forward confidently knowing that He will equip you and we will support you.

This year has given us many reminders that life is uncertain and that love is a gift. I don’t want to waste a second of time or a drop of love that God has given me with you, sweet girl. On your 5th birthday, my heart is so thankful for who you are and for who you are becoming. I love you so much.

Happy Birthday, baby!

Love, Mommy

Jordyn

Because My Husband Reads My Blog…

On this night 8 years ago, Kevin and I sat in our rehearsal dinner hand in hand, too nervous and excited to eat. Twelve years in a faithful relationship and eight years in a happy marriage is something to acknowledge these days. So I’d like to write a letter to my favorite blog follower ever. If you’re not him, feel free to skip all the sentimental gush that is below! If you keep on reading, remember I warned you about the nauseating emotion! I have a huge crush on him, y’all!

Kevin,

We went from 18-year-old kids with butterflies in our stomachs and stars in our eyes to 30-year-olds with school-aged kids of our own in what has seemed like an instant. There are so many memories packed into the years that have flown by. I am so blessed to have been able to make those memories with you. There is no one else in the world I’d rather be doing life with.

This year is a hard year for me to do much in the way of celebrating. You know that. You’ve watched me struggle with juggling the beauty of our life together with the ugliness of having a very sick daddy and a very hurting family. In this season, you’ve watched me grow weary of pain. You’ve watched me wrestle with the fear of losing what I hold dear to me. You have even watched me shake my fists at God in anger. You have seen the ugliest parts of my heart, the parts I wouldn’t dare share with the world. And in all of that ugliness, Kevin, you have looked at me like I’m beautiful. It amazes me. I understand what the Bible says about husbands loving wives the way Christ has loved the church because you do that so well. In your role as a husband, you so incredibly reflect Jesus.

In the darkest of moments, when my heart is hurting so deeply that I can’t remember that God is good, you love me. You place your hand on top of mine and let me rest my weary head on yours. You pray out loud when words fail me and you ask God to come close. You ask that God will help you serve me effectively in this season and those humble words break down my walls. In your love for me, I see God’s love. There is no denying that He is good, no matter the circumstances, because He gave me you. And if the beautiful way that you love me is just a tiny glimpse of the way God loves us, then I can trust in His goodness even when I don’t feel it. When I am too angry to hear Him speak for myself, you speak words of life into me and He speaks through you instead.

In our marriage, I know it is true that God has taken our two separate selves and joined us into one. I know it because, in your fervent prayers, my own spirit begins to submit. I know it because when I cry, I see my own pain in your face. I know it because your confidence in me gives me a boldness that never existed before. I know it because you say that I’ve made you more kind and more diligent and I say you have helped me to lighten up and calm down. I know it because we describe the same tendency of feeling “off” when we are away from one another for too long.

There is so much I love about you, Kevin. I love the way you make me laugh. I love the way you challenge me. I love that after all of these years, you still are so grateful for a cooked meal or clean laundry. You never act entitled to those things. How lucky am I to have a husband who gets excited about matched socks and folded undershirts?! I love our late night chats and our many “date nights” in the living room with popcorn and Netflix. I love that you still text me in the middle of the day to see how I’m doing or to tell me you miss me. I love the father you have become to our children. I love that where I am strong in my ability to nurture them and support them, you are strong in your ability to discipline and direct them. I hope our girls marry men who are just like you. I love that we are “Team Knight” and that when it’s us against the world, there is never any doubt that our bond will hold strong.

I have been reminded, during this time, that none of us are promised tomorrow. That life is short and uncertain. But oh how that has taught me to appreciate the days that I have been given. Precious, precious days with you, the one whom my soul loves. On the eve before our anniversary, I want to say thank you for all that you’ve been and all you have helped me become. I love you so much.

Jes

Back home

Where do I begin? The last 24 hours have felt so strange. After spending the summer with my family in Florida to love and serve and have some quality time, I made it back home to Texas last night. Two months of being away left my house feeling stale, dusty and even unfamiliar. Still, I slept so good and felt so comfortable. But then morning came and I only had my 3 kiddos to be responsible for. There were no sweet babies to bounce, no sister to drink morning coffee with, no parents to run errands for. And it felt empty.

Now-I am not delusional. I know that my parents and sister will go on just fine without the extra set of hands. Appointments will be kept, diapers will be changed, groceries will be bought all while I’m back home in Texas. Dad will keep fighting, Mom will keep caregiving, and my sister will keep working her tail off as a full-time employee and full-time Mommy of twins. But I hate that I’m missing it. I hate that what I’ve come to know and love as home happens to be so far away from them during such a difficult time. I hate that two months came and went so quickly. And I hate that a little part of me resents Texas for making me fall in love with the great state that it is. I know this is where I belong. I just feel a little out of place at the moment. Things don’t feel quite right in Texas with my family in Florida and things don’t feel quite right in Florida with my home being in Texas.

I’m sort of a mess about all of it. While I watched my Dad walk out of radiation for the last time in his life, I attended an appointment with his oncologist with him, I sat with my Mom and sister in some ugly and beautiful moments and did all of those things while (mostly) holding it together with few tears shed over most of the trip, I have found myself crying all day today here at home. The kids have been too busy rediscovering their own rooms and toys to notice much and I am thankful for that.

Now, my Dad has strongly preferred privacy during this season in his life and so that leaves me with very little that I can share over the internet, but here are a couple of happier moments from my time in Tampa:

PicMonkey Collage

So basically-I’m back! And it’s bitter and it’s sweet.

Until the next blog…be blessed!

“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.