Category Archives: thanksgiving

Créme brûlée 

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My family and I have spent the past year dealing with some of the most difficult situations of our lives.  We have faced loss, betrayal, anger, confusion, and pain.  This past year I think that I have cried more than ever.
I wish I could say that I have spent this time clinging to the Lord and that my faith has grown by leaps and bounds. But that would be dishonest.  I have struggled to turn to him, while wanting desperately to hear his voice for me.  There have been times when I have turned to him and his faithfulness has been a comfort to me.  Other times, I have been distrusting of anyone and everyone.  I feel as if I am living in fight or flight mode.  There have been times when only the head knowledge I have of God has gotten me through the day.  I don’t feel safe.  Some of those in my life who I have gone to for advice my whole life have been the very people who have cast me aside and made themselves unavailable to me. My foundations have been shaken.  I am not sure how to handle this.

I can say that the lessons I learned from the joys and sorrows of last year have come into play.  Never once have I felt the need to ask God why is he allowing this.  On the contrary I have been consistently reminded and held by the knowledge that he wrote every one of our days and his plan for us is better than our own, and infinitely better than our enemy’s plan.  I have questioned his timing, and once again submitted to it.

One of the things that I have been thinking about the past few days is Cremé Brulée.  If you have never had it you should try it.  The beautiful soft silky custard has a extremely thin layer of burned sugar on top that when you crack it, it mixes with the custard adding a delicate crunch throughout.  It is magical! The crust cannot be any thicker or any thinner or it will ruin it.  It reminds me of some things I would like to share.

All the news stories and movies and media we are exposed to on a daily basis can cause us to build up a crust around our hearts.  It makes us numb to reality and crave fantasy.

Going through something like we have gone through makes us hyper sensitive to reality.  So much of the crying I have done is from being exposed to other’s pain.This morning as I read the blog of someone I have known my whole life share a story of loss that I didn’t know before, I sobbed at her pain from thirty years ago. Even stories of people I don’t know, impact me more than they ever have.  It is as if the ability to be numb to anything is gone.  I am raw like sashimi.

Maybe one reason God has allowed me to go through this past year was to bring me to a place where he can teach me to have a thin perfect crust like créme brulée.

One amazing thing that has happened in the past year is that John as become assistant pastor of our church.  As we begin our ministry of leadership, I really believe that the cremé brulé crust is important. I think sometimes God allows us to go through tremendously difficult situations to keep us feeling things that we would otherwise be numb to.  It keeps us looking to him, and keeps us feeling other’s hurt, and joy in ways that we just don’t respond as strongly to otherwise.   Leadership requires more than a passing interest in other’s lives.  We have to be able to feel for them and share in their experiences and allow them to share in ours.  We can’t be so numb that we cannot empathize with others.  We cannot have such a wall around our heart that we don’t let others to share our hearts.

The good, the bad and the ugly serve to be a base for the glory of God to be highlighted in our lives.  Think of a page in a book.  All of the information contained on that page is important.  But if you are studying, it is the highlighted parts that you pay the most attention to.  If you hide everything but what is highlighted, the context is lost.  It is the same in our lives.  It is all the information that is important. Our success, our failure, our pain, our sin, our faith, our experiences, all of it that causes the work of God in our lives to be highlighted.  The highlighted parts are the most important.  The Glory of God and his amazing grace.

I remember my pastor’s wife crying with me when I locked my daughter in the car when she was six months old. It was hot and we were praying the ambulance would get there soon. She was more than just sympathetic she actually felt the distress with me and shared in that experience.  That was over 10 years ago and I will never forget it.   That is the kind of Pastor’s wife I want to be!

Ministry is hard.  It can be rewarding, and it can be painful.  If our crust is like créme brulée, we have the thin shell of faith that still allows the vulnerably that allows us to let things break through to get to the beautiful heart that God has given.  It allows us to share in each other’s lives and find our protection in Him.  That sugar on top cannot be raw, it must be burned to make the crust.  We can go through the fire and God can make us into the perfect balance of delicate crust and soft silky custard, that reveals the Glory of God and makes us relatable to others. The crust is meant to be broken without ruining the desert. We can allow our shell to break while knowing that won’t destroy us! Only God can give us that crust.  Oh Lord take the pain that I am going though from this fire.  Help me not to put up walls but to allow you to work in me so that my crust is what you want it to be!

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This red earth 

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I looked up through the windshield of my van to see the hearse facing me in the drizzling rain. How appropriate on this sad occasion. My heart was filled with emotions and I was hit with the reality of life and death. One thing stopped me cold in my tracks (if it is possible when one is in the seated position in the first place) The sight of my father in law, my husband, and son with the family and group of pallbearers carrying the casket to the vehicle that would transport it to its final resting place. His final resting place.
We came to Georgia for my grandfather in law’s funeral. Something like grief always seems to illicit the pondering of life. Grandpa Andersen was one of the most kind, loving, funny, hard working, and talented men I have ever met.  

As we ponder his life, inevitably, we consider the ways his life intersected with our own. One of those ways was his name. My father in law was named after him, as was my husband, and my oldest son. The Four Johns, as we called them have always been close. So much alike in many ways. Each amazing trait passed down from Grandpa,mingling with their own unique abilities and character. I see a little of each one in each other. I have always admired them all.  

The thing that struck me the most this time involves my son. You see your child on a moment by moment basis through out the day, you know them better than anyone else. And yet, they grow up almost with out notice. Most twelve year olds are care free and playful, Johnny is no exception. However he possesses a groundedness, an ability to take things seriously, sometimes in the extreme. We didn’t know when we packed to leave on this trip that Johnny would be a pallbearer. As I watched him help carry his great grandpa to the hearse, it dawned on me how big he actually is. Physically he stands around 5 foot seven, the shoes we bought him the night before were a men’s size twelve. But it was his maturity in the midst of his grief and the strength I saw there that crushed me. It was as if I was seeing a glimpse of the man he will become and in so many ways already is. At the same time seeing a tangible line that made him who he is, both genetically, and learned.  

Some of the learning was done directly through Grandpa. The times he spent in his company observing and soaking in what he saw and heard, and everything Grandpa stood for and taught. Other things he learned indirectly from Grandpa through my father in law and my husband. Everything culminating in that coming-of-age moment. Standing with the strong men and women of his family. Carrying a heavy load like a man, emotionally and physically with the help of others who share in the special legacy left to them by John William Andersen Sr. With heavy hearts we said our final goodbyes to Grandpa Andersen and the red earth of Georgia in which he now rests.  

This is the Day

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I have been drawn to this passage the past week. These verses stuck out to me today.

Eccl. 7:13 Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked? 14 ¶ In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him. 

There are times in our lives where we want God to restore something we had. We even want it sometimes so that it will bring God glory. I often want God to straighten out messes for me. Until today I never thought that sometimes God is the one who has made it crooked? Just because it isn’t straight doesn’t mean it isn’t God. 
The point is to be obedient and to allow God to direct our lives. He has made the good ones as well as the “bad”. 

Lamentations 3:22-23English Standard Version (ESV)

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[a]his mercies never come to an end;23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

The “new mercies every morning” in this verse means that not only is God available to us every day, but he tailors the mercies and strength we need for each day’s specific needs!! Puts Ecc 7:14 into perspective doesn’t it?

This is the Day that the Lord has made we will rejoice and be glad in it!!!

Mommy of four?! Part 4

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She sat down across from me as we prepared to have our meeting.  The auditorium was still a little noisy with several groups of people fellowshiping and preparing to leave, but it was as if the world stood still and it was just the two of us.

I took a deep breath and Jay Jay said “what is going on? You are scaring me”

“I need to tell you something.” I recounted the information I had received about Jalica and I told her how we had been praying since before she left that God would bring her a very specific kind of family.  Jay Jay and her husband fit that description to a tee.  I told her it wouldn’t be easy, that she would have a uphill battle ahead but that God had put them on my heart when I knew Jalicia was ready and waiting for her forever home.  By the end of the meeting we were both in tears and prayed together.  She said they would talk and pray and get back with us.

Two weeks before Christmas Jalicia was placed with Jay Jay and her husband Jason.  We planned to take them dinner their second night together.  I had never been to their house before and I asked for their address to obtain directions.  That’s when I found out that they live around the corner!!! Jalicia and Owen get to grow up together and we now have a new branch of our family. We get to be in Jalicia’s life and she in ours! She calls us aunt and uncle now!! God is so good!!!!

Tomorrow they will stand before the judge and take their own oathe and become an official forever family!! I cannot wait to celebrate with them!! 

Mommy of four?! Part 3

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I wrote before about our science co op. It was a long time ago but it is important to note that it was through that co op that my kids began attending the church that our co op met in on Wednesday nights.  

Kaitlyn’s class was called STARS and she had been asking for prayer for our situation and she missed Jalicia and prayed for her all the time.  

A few weeks after Jalicia left I found myself hanging around after the services there, talking with Kaitlyn’s teacher Jay Jay.  It was pretty cool because she had been wanting to talk to me about fostering for a while. She and her husband had been liscnesed to adopt for a long time and were praying for God to give them a family.  I felt like God had given me a friend but I was also very thankful that Kaitlyn had a teacher who cared enough to pray and could understand some of what we were going through. All part of God’s plan to bring healing.

In October we found out that the case would be closing because all of the children were going to be adopted.  They were all in the homes that were going to adopt them. Every thing was set…or so we thought.

I received a frantic call telling me that Jalicia would need to be moved ASAP from the home she was in.  We starting praying that God would intervene.  I spoke with the case worker and told her I had an idea and asked if it was a legitimate option she said yes.

So I made a phone call and set a meeting. Two nights later I was preparing to have yet another life changing conversation. I had to get ready for the possibility of an epic turn of events. I walked into the room my stomach in knots. God please give me what I need and please help me breathe!

Mommy of four?! Part 2

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Over the next few weeks things changed-a lot.  We were attempting to get our bearings and learning the ropes of being a family of six.  

We had good days and bad days.  It soon became clear that little Jalicia needed way more than we could give and we were in way over our heads.  Thankfully though, God wasn’t. 

We began to arrange for services to be put in place to get her and us the help we all desperately needed.  Then we got the news that changed everything.  She was going to be moved from us to another home.  

We were both partially relieved and also devestated.  I knew I wasn’t meant to be her mom but I so wanted to be.  I knew that my little family had been through a war zone and that my children needed some recovery time.  I also worried about Jalicia as she had to start over fresh-again.  I knew we would continue to see her at sibling visits and that I would know how she was doing.  I didn’t know if I could handle knowing that either. What if things didn’t go well? Would I be watching her struggle? Could I handle the outcome? We began praying that God would give her a wonderful new home that it would be a smooth transition and that she would be happy.  

Two weeks later we found out that she had been moved again and again.  It broke my heart so much.  We just prayed and prayed that God would bring her a couple who either had grown children or never had children who would love her and care for her and give her all the attention she needed and deserved and could meet her needs and be her forever family. 

Mommy of four?!

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What a lot of people don’t know is that Owen’s biological sister was placed that night with our friend Amanda specifically for the purpose of giving us a chance to meet her in hopes that we would be able to open our home to her as well.  We wanted to keep as many of the siblings together as we could. 

We decided that we would meet up the next day at target and get to know her a little and we would have until Sunday to make our decision.  

She was five years old and so cute!  Obviously tramatized and mentioned details of the case quite often.  We basically fell in love with her. But we were scared.  Friday was awesome and we took Saturday to think and pray through the details.   But Sunday morning we had decided that it wasn’t something we felt we could do.  It broke my heart getting ready for church knowing I had to tell Amanda no and our desire to keep them together was crushed. 
I walked into the sanctuary and I heard a little voice shout across to me “Mrs Rachel!!!” I looked up to see Jalicia run into my arms and give me the biggest hug.  My heart melted and the resolve to say no went with it. 

That afternoon we took her home with us although we were still hesitant to commit.  I wanted to make sure I could say yes to the possibility of forever and that I was equipped to be her mom.  I didn’t want to get into a situation where we needed out.  It was a big decision. 

That afternoon we were having so much fun in the car talking and laughing.  My heart was getting entangled in this beautiful little girl and I was fighting God on this hard.  

This is the conversation that clenched it.

Me: Jalicia we have been praying for you and your brother for a long time. 

Jalicia: because you wanted us?

As soon as we were stopped I texted John and then Amanda.  The answer was yes!  Suddenly I was a mom of four!! 

That was one year ago today!