I am a planner. Not a planner in the super detailed-type-A sort of way, more like life planning, think-through-all-the-possibilities sort of way. I like to think everything through, at times to the point of ridiculousness. After all it is one of my favorite lies to tell myself, if I plan for every possible contingency then maybe I am the one in control? Right. And so it was with that mindset that I have approached my weight loss journey…I thought I had mentally weighed out every possible issue I would be truly challenged with. That was just stupid.
First, I do not need to know the future. A theme seems to be running through my adult life so far and it can be summed up in just one sentence: Do I trust God? Often I will say, "Yes!" and then go back to trying to control things myself…that, dear readers, is NOT trust. And when I recently got the proverbial curve ball thrown at me I could hear God's still small voice ask me yet again, "Do you trust me?" Ever so aware of my lack of strength or my ability to do even do one day on my own, I chose to answer, "Yes." And then I stopped planning…but not before I almost fell back into my familiar pit.
Yes, I was doing great. I was exercising and eating just like I was supposed to… until…
…the reality of the fact that there are certain foods I will NEVER eat again began to sink in and my weight plateaued.
…I struggled to figure out what was next for my professional life.
…both my adult daughters moved back home, and then one moved back out.
…I got into a disagreement with my husband.
…my littles decided to color their bedroom walls.
…I let someone manipulate me into believing I was worthless, yet again.
I could go on. Maybe you can relate to some of those things, maybe you can't. The point is that I was finding myself slipping into that old familiar pit. I was at the edge. And then I forced myself to remember…
…how far I have come. I am not where I want to be, but thank God I am not where I used to be.
…that I can do all things through Christ.
…that it doesn't matter what I do as long as I am doing what God has for me.
…that God is big enough to deal with my kids, and with my big fat feelings.
…that God was the center of my marriage, and I will not give that up.
…that one can always paint walls.
…and that I am NOT worthless.
And then I realized something…
I really am learning how to fight for ME. I really am different…and God is SO not done with me yet. And to think how easy it would have been to just give up, to try to "plan" things out again…to once again choose misery over freedom. And then I had my "ah ha moment", I realized I really am learning how to trust Him. And dear reader, my mind cannot fathom the depth of the power there is in that one statement. No matter what comes, I trust the God of my yesterdays, todays and tomorrows.
For the latest information on my weight loss journey, check out my latest video:
I sat in the doctor's office waiting for what seemed like my 1,000th appointment. I was tired, my body hurt, and I was so sick of being ill. I couldn't remember the last time I had a good night's sleep that lasted for more than a few hours. My body was quite literally attacking itself, and I still had no answers. All the different medications just weren't working, and I quite literally felt like I was falling apart. I felt rather hopeless that today's visit would offer anything new. Probably the same old thing: you just need to lose weight.... Why did they always make it sound so simple? Did they think that somehow over the last 25 years I had missed the fact that I was fat? It just wasn't that simple, and I knew even as I sat there that a diet was just not the cure. If it was, then all those costly programs I had participated in over the years would have worked.
December 2011 [Click the picture to enlarge]
A slender, handsome young nurse called out my name to check me in. Great, I thought to myself, maybe I won't have to get on the scale THIS time. No such chance. "Please step on the scale, Crystal," he requested. I took in a deep breath and stepped on. Every muscle in my face cringed. The number ping ponged around until it landed on THE number. Tears filled my eyes as I stared down. 311 lbs. What? Was that right? How DID I get here? I had promised myself I would NEVER be one of those people; I would never get into the 300's. Yet, there I was. Surely the visit could not get worse then this.
Crystal and I have been married for 8 years. It's hard to believe, isn't it. We've been through a lot of ups and downs over the past few years, but we're still together, and we love each other more now than we ever have.
Rather than spend a lot of money on gifts this year, we both invested time and thought into what we did for one another.
We escaped our house yesterday for a day trip to the Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding. The park consists of a botanical garden and a museum with several fixed and a couple of changing exhibits, and it is adjacent to the Sundial Bridge.
Bidwell Mansion preserves the Victorian home built and owned by John and Annie Bidwell, the founders of Chico. It's a fascinating look into the history of our town, so I added a trip to the Mansion with my daughters to my 101 Things list.
My parents are visiting right now, and they are interested in historical sites like this. So, we thought this would be a good time to take a tour of the mansion. We went yesterday and joined the last tour of the day.
The house is fascinating. It features several items owned by the Bidwells, including an almost rectangular rosewood piano and a life-sized portrait of John Bidwell painted using an amazing vanishing point perspective. The house also had running water on both the first and second floors and a hot water tank which was filled with water from pipes run through the bricks behind the wood-burning stove in the kitchen.
After the tour, we stopped for an obligatory, tourist-like photo in front of the house, and I checked number 17 off my 101 Things list.
We just sent out this letter to a bunch of family and friends, and we wanted to share it here as well.
Greetings from the Coates Clan! We hope that you all had a peace-filled and joyous holiday season. Although a bit unconventional, we have decided to deviate from our “norm” and send out a post-holiday newsletter this year. This would be in large part due to the shifts in our household during the last month or so. (Translation: we are a bit behind.)
However adept we may be with words, there is simply no way to convey all the triumphs and struggles our family has undergone in this last year. A repeated message seems to have been echoed: a message to simply trust God with everything. Through God’s unending patience He has continued to impress onto our callused hearts the truth that He is indeed trustworthy!
After being gone for a bit more than a year, Rachelle has finally returned home to us. She worked hard while away and is looking forward to a bright and glorious future. She will be finishing up her senior year this semester and hopes to attend Sacramento State University in the fall.
Almost eight years ago, when Crystal and I found out we couldn't have kids of our own, we adopted a beagle from the Humane Society and named her Gracie. We called her our co-dependent beagle because she always wanted to be held and petted. She also had an uncanny way of knowing who was upset and coming to give comfort in the way that only a dog can.
A little over a month ago a young woman informed us that she really needed to talk with me. My breath stopped, and my heart seemed to hold still. I felt positive I knew what she wanted.
My mind flashed back to the day when my niece Lauren informed me that her friend found out she was pregnant. A familiar feeling had washed over me. I felt a deep sadness for this yet unborn life and a longing to hold it close, to protect it, to raise it myself. Somehow this was different though. A chill rippled through my spine. This child was supposed to be mine. A panic quickly set in. Who was I to think such thoughts? And yet, a deep desire within me seem to awaken, a desire to be this child's mother. I began to pray for this young woman, for the child within her womb, and I waited. I never spoke of this to anyone but God; He alone was in control. He alone could handle my mixed emotions.
My heart raced a bit faster then normal as my niece and her friend joined me at our home for a lunch date while. I placed sandwiches before each of the girls, neither of them seeming eager to get down to the reason for their visit quite yet. Then I asked. The young woman very calmly explained that she would like to know if we would adopt her child once it was born.
I took a deep breath as I felt all of the color drain out of my face. As ridiculous as it sounds, I wasn't prepared for the wash of emotion I felt in the next few moments. I felt so unworthy. Who was I to be picked to raise a child growing in someone else's womb? Humility seems like far too small a word to describe my reaction. So many thoughts rushed through my mind. How could I agree to a possible heart ache after all we have endured? What does it take for a young woman, any woman to know they are not ready to parent but want their child to have life anyway? How much courage does it take to face this rarely followed path? How could we help her? How could we serve her? How can we love her?
We continued through a necessary dialogue, both of speaking with reservation but at the same time being painfully honest with each other. At the end of our lunch she pulled out the sonogram pictures of this beautiful baby, probably a girl. I held each picture and cried tears of joy mixed with awe as I gazed at a perfect little child. This child who will change so many lives forever and is such an amazing gift is due to arrive in December.
Greg and I have agreed to adopt this child, and we are humbled by and terrified of the journey ahead. We have no idea if this young woman will change her mind or if one of the million other possible things that could prevent us from adopting this child will foil our plans, but we know the One who does know, and we rest in His will. Until then, we will seek to serve this young woman, to love her, and to learn all that God has for us in this journey.
I'm a little bit behind on blogging, so here's a first attempt at catching up.
The best gifts come from the heart, and Ariana took the time to create a special gift for me for Father's Day. She used photos of our time together over the last couple of years to build a wonderful online scrapbook.
Ariana, thank you so much. I'll treasure this gift for years to come!
Monday morning, I packed a leftover beef rib in a bag for lunch. When lunchtime rolled around, I realized that I didn't have a knife with me, so I left it in the refrigerator at work for another day.
Yesterday, I remembered to take a knife to work. I got hungry, so I went to the break room to heat up the rib. I opened the package, and found, to my great surprise, the bones that my daughter had stored in the refrigerator as a treat for our dogs.
I venture to guess that I will never forget today. It amazes me how much little children can feel and understand even when they can't comprehend spoken attempts to explain what is happening. Mary and Paul* somehow knew they would be leaving us forever and it only made it so much harder. For over a year they have shared in our lives; they have enriched us and changed us for the better. Now they are gone. The house is much more still now, and a sad longing permeates the air.
Mary woke up early, crying and clingy. Then Paul woke up eager for his next visit to be under way, not understanding he would be leaving for good. Lastly, Emily, who understands far more then should be allowed for a child of only 3 years, came downstairs. Despite my best efforts to keep things light and fun, packing the children's belonging up made them all emotional. Paul and Emily made each other cards, and I finished up a photo book depicting the kids' time with us. Finally, the time came. We loaded everyone into our car to make the all too short drive to Paul and Mary's new home.
Emily sat in the back seat desperately trying to explain to me why the kids could not leave us. I fought back the tears as I unloaded their few bags of clothing and toys. Instinctively, Mary knew that things were changing forever. As soon as Mary realized where we were she began to let out a grief-filled cry that still echoes in my ears. I tried my best to hold back my tears, to comfort her, and to say goodbye. As she held on to me my heart broke as I looked into her precious eyes. I had hoped and tried to minimize her trauma over the last several weeks, but it was all to no avail. All she understood was that she was losing the only mommy she had ever known, and her little heart was breaking. I wanted to stop her grief and hold fast her pain to spare her from all of this, and yet all I could do was hold her close and helplessly whisper my love to her. I set her down and tried to distract her so that I could slip away. She wailed as she teetered quickly after me, arms held high begging. My heart shattered. I could not keep her from grieving, and that made my grief even worse. I again showed her daddy how to hold her and feed her, gave Paul another kiss and hug and walked out of their lives.
One day, probably soon, the phone will ring and there will be a need for yet another child to have a safe and loving home. We will say yes, and a new journey will begin.
Was it all the agony we now feel? Is loving in such a deep way worth all the pain?
Absolutely! Love should cost us everything.
I am different because of Mary and Paul, as are all who got to know them. They are different too. That will never lessen the pain, but it does increase our joy in the truth.
Tennis and Driving: The Day Dad Went Crazy (101 Things #18)
Every dad loses his mind from time to time. Yesterday was one of those days for me.
It was Ariana's day for bonding time with me, and it was a perfect spring day in Chico. We went to the local park for some tennis. The girl almost ran me to death! And we were just casually smacking the ball back and forth. We weren't even playing a real match. Of course, the last time I played tennis was in college, so that shouldn't have been too big a surprise, I suppose.
When I'd had enough tennis and we'd gotten ourselves rehydrated, I decided I still hadn't tortured myself enough. I took Ariana to a deserted parking lot and let her practice driving the Suburban for a few minutes. I'm still around to write this post, so I consider the driving lesson a raging success.
I took Ariana out for a movie over the weekend. The theater was closed because it didn't have any power. I guess that explained the total lack of cars in the parking lot. So much for that idea.
So, we went to the mall after picking up a couple of smoothies at Jamba Juice. The mall was closed too. I should have know that, since it was Easter Sunday.
We ended up walking around downtown after checking out the local skate park.
That leads me to a funny story. I had never seen the skate park before,
but Ariana had been there once with Crystal. I asked her if she knew how to get there, and she replied in the affirmative. She started giving directions, and I started following them.
What were the next words out of her mouth? "Wow. I've never been here before!"
Well, that's good, Ariana! I thought you said you knew how to get to the park.
She did know how to get to the park. We didn't have to turn around or drive in circles. We had just turned a couple of blocks earlier than she thought we were turning. The experience was good for a hearty laugh, though.
Wow, has life ever been crazy over the last few weeks. We've been busy, and we've been travelling. Here are a few news bites from the little bit of our lives.
Our fun month of travel started with a photography conference in Napa, California. On the way home we stopped at the Jelly Belly factory for a tour. I've checked #50 off of my 101 things list.
Since our twins died, we have been looking to move from our foster agency to a Butte county program called Options for Recovery. This program only places foster children between the ages of birth and 5 months who have experienced drug exposure. A combination of bureaucracy, staff changes at the county licensing office, and a few other things delayed us for over a year. I'm happy to report that we are officially Options foster parents as of the end of February.
We got to see Rachelle for the first time since we dropped her off at her residential treatment program last November. She's doing very well, and I have written a short trip report over on the Divine Reflections Photography blog: Visiting Rachelle. From Utah, we went to Colorado to see some old friends of ours. That means that I can cross #56, visit a state or Canadian province I haven't yet been to, off of my 101 things list. I posted some photos from that trip over at Divine Reflections as well: Fish Family Fun.
Our laptop died just after we got back from Napa. Fortunately, I was able to save the data from the old hard drive. Then the computer that Ariana uses for homework and that Crystal and I had been using for emergency photo editing decided that it would die just after we got back from our Utah and Colorado trip. We scrambled to buy a new laptop so we could keep working. That brought Ariana's computer back to life somehow. I almost have the new computer set up, and now I have the formidable task of organizing all of the pictures from the last few weeks.
Today I got to have some precious one on one time with my daughter. She sat in my lap, we snuggled, and she talked.
I told her how much I love her, and she said, "Yes mom! Big yaya!" (Translation: big love)
I smiled and said she was right. Then I asked her who could love her more.
"Jesus!" She replied.
Again, I smiled as she gave me her most precious grin. Then she got serious and said, "Jesus love me, huh mom?" I said yes. Then she said, "Jesus would no bite me, huh Mom? Jesus no bite, huh?"
I had to laugh at her sweet, child reasoning. I assured her that I did not believe that Jesus would ever bite her. She smiled and waved her head back and forth with pleasure.
It took me a while to think about how significant her statement was. Not too long ago Emily had a real problem with biting, especially her larger foster brother. We explained to her that if you love someone you do not bite them. Obviously, she made the connection. She realized that if Jesus does love her, then he would never bite her.
How right she is! How I thank God for the reminder. No matter how things may hurt us in this life, Jesus never will. Thank God that Jesus doesn't bite! :)
Crystal and I went on our weekly date last night. We didn't have a lot of money in the budget this week for our date, so we had to get creative. We started off by having dinner at Taco Bell followed by a milkshake at Carl's Jr.
After our meal and dessert, we went on a gift card shopping spree. We had small amounts of money left on several gift cards totaling a little over $16 and about $2 in change in our pockets. We made it a challenge to see how much we could buy using only that money. We went to Toys 'R' Us, Wal-Mart, and Linens 'N' Things. Here's what we got for $2 cash out of pocket:
Bag of Dove Christmas chocolates
2 Hot Wheels cars
Package of 2 erasable kid's highlighters
Ream of paper for our home office
4 giant coloring books
24-pack of Crayons
King-sized Snickers bar
Believe it or not, we had a blast. The challenge and creativity required for this date made it one of the best we remember in quite a while!
It has been a rough week for me. My heart has been heavy as I think about my oldest daughter and pray earnestly for her. Surrendering her to another was difficult enough. Now praying and hoping that she will see the truth? Well, that is even harder somehow. As the others sleep peacefully through the night unaware of the ravings of this wounded warrior, I pray as I have never prayed before. Clenching my fists, I raise them to God and cry out for his mercy. I cannot lose another child!
I plead for Rachelle. I plead for her soul, for her sight, for her healing. I plead to the one who can do all things, and I know it is He who gives me the will to pray. I cry for the daughter of my dreams that is among the walking dead. I cry for all that she has missed, all the pain she has embodied. I cry for her losses and ours. I cry, and in the midst of my sorrow I sense the sorrow of my Lord. I want to do something, anything, that will help her. I want to run and hold her close, to wash her in my tears and caress her with my words of love. I want to do something.
Then I remember it is not about me. I have done all of those things, and now I fight this unseen war on my knees as I never have before. I will never give up or back down. I will for all of my life carry her before the throne.
I must remember that she was never really mine. She has always been God's.
Here's some proof that children don't need to have expensive stuff to be happy. I took my foster son to Upper Bidwell Park during our father-child bonding time yesterday. We spent about 45 minutes throwing rocks into the creek and walking around looking at the trees and such. He had a blast. My cost? $0.
Update: He was still asking me if we were going to throw rocks in the creek a month after we took this little excursion. Wow!
Many people have asked why I am a foster parent, why I have gone through so much and worked so hard to be a mom. I finally realized how to explain my answer to that question. Most people become parents because of what it will do for them: how exciting it will be to have a child, someone to love them, someone to care for, and the list goes on. I think I started there. I wanted to become a mommy for all of those sweet reasons; I wanted to experience those moments for me.
It was somewhere between the infertility, foster parenting, and the death of my twin daughters that part of me died. It took all of that for me to truly die to my desires for what parenting should look like and even my desire to be a parent. Somewhere along that line God began to teach me that being a parent isn't about me and my desires. It is about God working through me to help another person grow, to teach them the truth, to lift them up to my heavenly Father. It is about allowing God to use my children to change me. I learned how truly limited I am, and I started to learn a bit about truly trusting God and His will. I thought I trusted God, but I came to realize that what I had once considered trust was not truly trust at all.
So why do I continue to parent? It's because for the first time in my life I am truly submitted to the will of God. I feel God's pleasure as I pour myself out as an offering to His children. I work in a darkness few will understand in their spiritual lives, and I am called to fight for those who can't fight for themselves. I fall, cry, and feel weak and unable. That's perfect because then God can finally work. I have nothing more to give, so He gives it all. I am nothing more then a willing vessel. And I understand this may all seem trite but it is absolutely true: I serve these kids because of the intimacy with God that I receive for doing so.
7:01 I roll out of bed to attend to the screaming baby and remember I really have to use the bathroom.
7:02 Emily greets me while I am sitting on the potty. She explains that she needs to use it right then as well.
7:03 William and Emily are asking for "celeal" and Sesame Street as I am grabbing Bethany.
7:04 I am wishing I could go back to bed while the incessant chirping of Emily and William remind me that I can sleep when I die.
7:05 I realize that Bethany soaked through her diaper. I remember why I didn't like to wet myself as a kid.
7:06 I change Bethany as she and William and Emily are screaming for their breakfast. I threaten to go back to bed if they don't quiet down. Bethany decides she wasn't done going potty and that I needed a whole different type of shower.
7:07 I strip down to my underwear, grab cereal for the toddlers, get a bottle for the baby, and call for Ariana.
7:15 I have now called Ariana downstairs three times, and I start up the stairs. I arrive in her room just in time for her to come to her door. It takes her exactly 1 second to notice that I am not wearing my clothes, and she shrieks. I threaten to start dancing with her while I am in my underwear if she doesn't go and keep an eye on the kids while they eat. She immediately runs down the stairs.
7:18 I jump in the shower for a quick wash.
7:19 Emily has opened the shower door and is asking for a shower too. The water has already gotten her wet. I explain that she just got one, and I shut the door and call for Ariana again.
7:20 Ariana calls for Emily, and Emily tells me I am a mean mommy.
7:25 I finish my shower in time to hear William screaming as he walks up the stairs. I momentarily wonder if I really have to leave my bedroom.
7:28 I go downstairs, clean up breakfast, and head back upstairs to get the kids dressed.
7:30 I am ready for nap time, and then I remember that everyone has only been awake for 25 minutes. I start to dress Bethany but am interrupted when William takes a toy from Emily, and Emily smacks William. I tell Emily to go to time out while the baby crawls away. I grab the baby and quickly put an outfit on her. I place myself strategically at the door so that no one can escape. Then I hurriedly start to dress William who completely refuses to dress himself. I began my daily explanation of, "Yes, I will let you leave the house naked in the cold if you don't pull up your pants." He begins to scream. Emily explains to me that he indeed has a penis, which makes him a boy, and that she has a vagina, which makes her a girl. Bethany starts to laugh and begins to put the dog's tail in her mouth. I am wondering what I was thinking when I wanted to be a mom.
7:45 All the children are dressed. Emily announces that she is a good girl and needs a treat. William is still screaming about putting on his clothes, and Bethany is still determined to eat the dog.
7:50 Everyone is loaded in the car. William is still screaming about not having all of his clothes on. Emily is telling him he made a bad choice. Ariana is still not awake. We take Greg to work because the second car is broken.
8:10 Greg gets out of the car. Emily and William call out "Ow ow dada, you a hottie!" (All right. This is my fault. I did say this a couple times, but come on...) The college students walking by make a mental note to stock up on their birth control.
8:25 We arrive back home, Ariana and I unload the children, and everyone files into the house.
8:26 I turn on the TV to my favorite show. The kids are mesmerized by Elmo and the stupid yellow bird. I know I have exactly 33 minutes to take a deep breath and get a stiff drink.
9:00 I turn off the TV. I read 3 different stories, and then I read their favorite story 5 different times. I remind William to please call them "socks" and not "cocks" for the millionth time or so. Emily wants a snack, and William wants a movie and a snack. I explain that snack time is not until 10:30, and then I realize they can't tell time.
9:45 I play games, edit pictures, take phone calls, and change diapers.
10:30 It's snack time, which should be a wonderful time of eating. I dole out the apple slices and string cheese. I attend to Bethany and explain that the KIX are not to be thrown at mommy. Emily and William have decided that string cheese does indeed make great table art. I thank them for letting me know that they are done with snack. William and Emily begin to cry. Emily informs me that I did not make a good choice.
11:00 It's time to run a few errands. I am not sure what state of insanity I enter during this time, but the details are blocked out due to post traumatic stress disorder.
12:30 I prepare a nice healthy lunch, which is never what they desire. Emily informs me again that she needs a treat, and William decides that his lunch can be eaten in only 3 bites! I clean them up, and I excitedly announce it is my favorite time of the day, nap time.
Tonight I will not sleep, I cannot sleep. I sit wondering how I will move forward regardless of the pain. I sit thinking of more that I might have done, and if I did would it have made any difference at all? Faced with the knowledge that there is nothing more you can do to help your own child, you must let go, and yet how can you? How can you let go knowing they will continue to hurt themselves and others? How can you acknowledge your powerlessness over the situation and over the evil that is so prevalent? The battle is not in the flesh alone and yet it is my very flesh that is so weak. My body aches with the hurt. I have given all that I am to a child who may never understand the point. I wasn't there to protect her when she was little, I didn't knit her together or hold her life in my hands and yet I feel this need to demand and decide her fate. I want her to be whole, I want to be able to fix all the problems and hold her tight... I want what I cannot have. I long for a power I don't even understand. So how do I let her go? How do I say good-bye to a child I fought so hard to keep? I am told I should be content in knowing the good that I have done. What good? What good have I accomplished that can make this hurt any less? How do I comfort my husband when I have no words? How do I tell our story, her story and help people understand that her life, her soul is on the line? How do I hold everything together and keep giving, what have I left to give?
And yet, a still small voice whispers in my sorrow. It is calm and bold. "Be still and know that I am God," it says. Does that bring me comfort? Yes, because all I am certain of right now are my own limitations. I know I don't have the answers, strength or courage. I know that I know very little and need God desperately. I know that I must trust him even in the midst of this. How do I know? Because every fiber of my being desperately feels that need, I need God. I can't do this on my own. Am I just weak? YES! Horribly so. And yet I am grateful for my weakness for the first time in my life. It is then that I feel the very presence of my maker, and I still and I am thankful that HE is God.
That is what the counselor said to me about our teenage daughters recently. And I think he is right. Of course, I have been in over my head since I left the birth canal...
So, what is the point of this musing? To be real! I am so tired of fake people, with fake smiles, living fake lives, like things are always "okay" or "great" when that is crap! The truth is that sometimes we are in over our heads. Sometimes it is hard to take the next breath. Sometimes it is hard to trust. Sometimes it is hard to smile. People ask me regularly how I can do all that I do when it seems impossible to them.
The answer is simple.
I am selfish, I think.
I want to know that I matter -- that my life matters -- and so I pour myself out (that which is left after all of the battles within) to those who could never repay me. I know the cost full well; it is everything! A life of comfort and ease, where everything is okay, is no longer my ambition. I wanted a life that was full of seeing the wonders and works of God. What I did not know is that God would say yes and I would be the "thing" that would need changed the most.
Every moment is another opportunity to be broken and to die to yourself. A little over a year ago I laid on what seemed to be my death bed, feeling my life slip away. My choice to not terminate the only pregnancy I will likely ever know was costing me my own life. I watched the medical personnel scramble about attending to me with my family crying and praying, and I watched the heartbeat monitor get turned off so that the alarm would no longer sound. I watched and thought, "I feel peace and grace like I have never known." I had to smile. I was in over my head and I found that God's grace is sufficiently sweet no matter what the situation or cost. I smiled because through God's grace I had given all of me, and it was worth the cost. I understood just a little better why God feels that we are worth the cost to give all of himself to us in his Son.
So each person I have the opportunity to serve and love I do it without reservation and with a reckless abandon because they are worth the cost! And I pray that when I stand before God with tears in my eyes I can say "I was in over my head, and there I found you, God." I have learned to be grateful for the times when I am in over my head, because then I am changed and I am clear on my desperate need for God alone.
I am in over my head, and it kills me daily. I mess up more then I do things right. I am one of the most broken, sinful people I know, and yet God is willing to use the "screw ups" in the world like me. His grace is sufficient.
To all my friends and family that read this, know that I love you dearly.
We spent the 2002 Christmas holidays with my family in North Carolina. My parents were in the process of building their house at the time, so we were crammed into the tiny little two bedroom house that they were renting. That didn't ruin our Christmas spirit. This page contains vignettes of our trip and a lot of photos instead of a comprehensive story.