Words For Wives: Women’s Panel Discussing Sex & Intimacy in Marriage (Video Message)

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Celebrating Sex and Sexuality God’s Way! (Video Message)

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How to combat Shame

Here is the link to my recent sermon/message on overcoming shame…

 

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He’s a Good Good Father

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Here is the message I gave recently at event locally called “Words for Wives.” So thankful to share my heart on seeing God as Heavenly Father.

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“Stretch Marks”

20151028_201425Having kids is hard, growing our family was tough.

With my first kiddo I was young, scared and unsure of anything other than I loved this thing growing in my belly with a fervor I couldn’t put into words.

Carrying my second baby was tough. Not one day passed that I didn’t get sick and I spent the last 3 months in and out of the hospital hooked up to IV’s…man was he worth it though.

My third baby grew deep in my heart and not in my womb. That time seemed like an eternity…14 months of wait and struggle, tears and joy. Is there such a thing as a fourth trimester? In adoption I believe there is!

The first two gave me stretch marks as I awaited their arrival; the third gave me memory marks…dates etched not into my skin but into my head and heart. The day we sent him back to Ethiopia, (after hosting him for a month) the day we heard he was sick in the orphange but couldn’t do anything about it 8, 217 miles away , the day it was “official” but I couldn’t quite yet hold him. The day I sat in a small damp and dusty court house in Addis Abba Ethiopia hoping the judge would say yes.

As I reflect on the marks that each of my children have left on my body, my heart and my mind, I see them differently now. I see them as beauty marks etched into my soul by the one who knew my story all along. These beauty marks are scratches, scratches into a sneak peak of what heaven will look like. Where heaven and earth meet for a moment. 

I would not trade the lines on my tummy for anything, my bulging belly brought me joy unimaginable.  I would not trade the lines around my eyes and mouth for anything, brought to me by many smiles, many years and lots of tears. Tears as they head to college, tears as they head to school in America for the first day, tears as they head to high school and the clock ticks loud in my head…

I stop often to reflect on all the ups and downs and everything in between. I fight daily for the strength to be fully present in the present. I won’t get this day back, this year back, this time back. I may never again have one in fifth grade, this one will never be a sophomore again, I many never again get to have late night talks with one about what med school to apply to…I hold the moments close. I hold the current close as memories flood my mind…med school…what about when you wouldn’t let me brush your hair but only let Daddy do it before preschool. Homecoming dance?…what about when your only stress was where your yellow “feely” blanket was? You want to play what instrument in band? What about when you first came to us and all dogs were “baby doggies” instead of puppies because you didn’t know the English word.

The memories, the marks. The beauty marks that I treasure to the depths of my soul. Scarred by grace and love for which I am beyond grateful.

What marks are left on you and in you that you need to embrace and celebrate? The ones on your skin or the ones on your heart?…

My challenge for myself in 2016 is to continue to lean into the “scars” of life and let the beauty in the markings be my joy.

James 4:14 NLT How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog-it’s here for a little while, then it’s gone.

James 1:2-4 NLT Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

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4 Great Truths I discovered living in Chronic Pain. (Truths we all need to know)

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Chronic pain is well…chronic. Chronic and I are not friends, but we have become neighbors. The last three years have been very rough for me physically. 5 surgeries, fibromyalgia, several autoimmune diseases and other ailments have drastically changed the way I have live. A few of these truths resonate so much for me that I believe they are something we all should do and know, sick or not. These lessons are something that God is pressing on my heart to pursue regardless of my circumstances.

1. Vulnerability is a strength!

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection. ~Brene Brown. Letting people “in”,  in this season has brought a depth to my relationships that I have never know before. I have friends in my life who are truly “family” and family who I am closer to than ever before as I share with them my needs and weaknesses. My vulnerability, weakness and humility has birthed a richness I might not have ever experienced. My hero in regards to vulnerability is Brene Brown, if you don’t know who she is, go find out! Her favorite talk on vulnerability is a much watch, over and over. You can see it here: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability

2. Knowing our true worth allows love in and out of our lives.

Independence? That’s middle class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, ever soul of us on earth. ~ George Bernard Shaw      I am worth letting others love on me and my family, if I say otherwise I am being hypocritical. I love to serve and be there for others, it is just a natural part of my gifting…why wouldn’t others be wired the same way or allowed to do the same in return to me. There are seasons where I am the giver and I love it, there are seasons where I need to sit back and allow God to love on me through the people in my life. I empower truth and love when I allow other to be my “Jesus with skin on”. I sit behind a desk all week telling others of their worth in Christ and I need to allow that truth to sink into the depths of my soul. This time has allowed me to do that.  When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.  Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:6-8

3. Constant Communication is vital, with God and others.

During this time of pain and struggle it has been hard to read my bible. There are some days I read and don’t remember much of what I read or it is just too hard to focus. Between the pain or the pain medication study of anything is difficult. God keeps reminding me that He and I communicate in lots of different ways, not just from me reading. He is talking to me in the alpenglow on the mountains, the warm summer breeze that hits my face or the grins on my kids faces. There are many days that I would just pray, just me talking to God, me trying to listen to Him.  There are times when the pain is at it’s worse and I all can do is whisper His name. He shows up in all the ways that I connect with Him, he just desires we communicate constantly no matter the form. It has been precious to receive and understand my Creator this way. I also no matter how hard it is need to constantly update my friends and stay connected. Some times it is a long phone call or an email and other days it is a simple text saying, Pray…its a hard day.

4. Attitude = Gratitude

 To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven. ~Johannes A. Gaertner.  
Gratitude is a BIG deal! For the last several years I have exchanged gratitudes with 2 women ever single day. We text each other 5 things we are grateful for every evening. Some days it is hard to muster up 5 things, some days one thing becomes my five. Sometimes I have ten. No matter what mood I am in or what my circumstances are that day I reflect on what I am grateful for, for what I do have, what I am blessed with. It has literally changed the way I live and my attitude. God continues to bless my socks off all the time regardless of physical pain, living in a constant state of gratitude helps me stay focused on the bigger picture in life. I teach this small act to all the women in my classes. It is always one of their favorite parts about the class. It combines all 4 of my truths as they share gratitudes and pray for each other. A dripping tap soon fills a bucket full until it is overflowing! The same is true of anything in life, and developing appreciation and gratitude is no different.
I hope these simple but valuable truths help you on your journey to be the best you, thanks for allowing me to share.
But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. –C.S. Lewis

 

 

 

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Our first “Gotcha Day” and my poem to Wendem ~

Gotcha Day
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Gotcha Day (sometimes called Gotchya Day, Adoption Day, Family Day, Adoption Anniversary Day) is a day celebrated by American families of adopted children to recognize the day they received the child.[1] The Gotcha Day is the day that the child was placed into the family’s home for adoption, in other words, the day the family Gotcha.[2] It is the most celebrated of adoption related events.[3] In her book, The Joy of Family Rituals, Barbara Bizou wrote, Gotcha Day “is designed to show your adopted child how much you wanted him and that every year you continue to cherish him.”[4]

(1 year later! Wow! When I reflect on the last year so many thoughts and emotions arise. I can’t even type this without crying. Our God is so good to us and we are blessed that He put our family together. Here are a few things that stand out to me, things I have seen, been through and that God has showed me over the last 12 months.)

– Love is a choice.
-Family is in the hearts of those in it, not in the color of our skin.
-When times were tough, it was still meant to be and God was there right with us.
-We would do it all over again, all the months of waiting, every penny, every laugh, every tear.
-Therapeutic parenting is hard but so worth it.
-Adoption isn’t romantic, it’s full of heartaches and trauma which only God and time can heal.
-When we celebrate our family here, there is a birth mother grieving far away.
– Sibling love is absolutely one of the coolest parts of it for Daniel and I, the way the 3 of them love
each other is so awesome.
– Loves grows.
– Emotional sacrifice pays off in big relational dividends.
– It is so much fun to watch all of his “firsts”.
– Language differences can be quite humorous 🙂
– Family, belonging and acceptance is at all of our cores- To pass it on and see it grow is truly
magical.
– Gods plan are always much bigger and way more beautiful than I could ever imagine. –

“Our First Gotcha Day, a poem for my boy”

Love began in that very first picture, in your little tattered shoes.
Knowing you were arriving soon was the most exhilarating news.

A summer full of fun and bonding was something special that we all shared.
Taking you back to the airport and seeing your tears, we knew you also cared.

Fourteen months apart were some of the hardest days of my life.
Waiting to just hug you again was well worth all the strife.

You were not born in my belly son, but deep inside my heart.
Now nothing can break our connection or tear our family apart.

When watching you with your siblings it puts a huge smile on my face.
God knew you needed a forever home and our family was the place.

I love to watch you grow and play each and every day.
Through your ups and downs and adjustments I’m with you every step of the way.

Today is a special day where we get to celebrate and cheer!
For today marks the anniversary that we have been a family for a year!

I love you Wendem Daniel Herzog.

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10 Simple steps to becoming an “Intentional Parent”

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“Intentional Parenting” is a term I began using with friends and family as I discussed my goal of being a good mama. I am sure experts have used it before and I am not the first to write about it. To me it sums up what I want to achieve in my parenting. I don’t want to be a Mom who just makes it or is satisfied with surviving another day. I want to be intentional with my kids in how I love, parent, discipline, instruct, laugh, play and just do life. I want to be intentional in conversation, motive and heart and believe this is the way God designed me to parent. Here are 10 things that I work on to be an “Intentional Parent.” Want to join me in pursuing intentionality in parenting? Come on and let’s journey together.

1. Talk in a soft voice to our kiddos. – I find they listen less when I yell.

2. Stop to tell stories, teach and answer questions in the moment. – Things can wait.

3. Play, laugh and play more. – Things can wait.

4. Pray with your kids. – Not just at bed or meals, as needed.

5. Pray for your kids – No matter how young or old and about the big and little stuff.

6. Teach them about how your family is a Team. – What can they do to help the team daily.

7. Have an amazing marriage. – Love and grow with your spouse constantly, give them an example.

8. Make and allow messes. – Who’s up for making cookies and fingerpainting?

9. Listen more intently. – It might seem trivial to us but to them it’s their world.

10. Have an amazing relationship with God. – Love and grow with your savior constantly, give them an example.

I am just a mom in the midst of it all right along with you striving to do my job as Mom to the fullest to my kiddos ages 8-18. I love sharing an engaging with other women doing the same. This list could have been 100 things but these are some of my current favorites.

Which one do you want to do more of this year? Me, #4. Comment below with yours 🙂

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Annie, my journey to being an adoptive mother.

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Growing up my favorite movie was “Annie”. The story of the feisty little red haired orphan captured my heart from the very first time I saw her. The story never got old and I would opt to watch that movie time and time again versus seeing something new. I can remember the feeling of satisfaction I had in my heart every time as I walked out of the video store clutching that worn out VHS case to my little chest.

In the movie Annie is a spitfire of little girl stuck in an orphanage with what seems like a hopeless situation. Annie has many hurdles to overcome as an orphan, her age, the tyrannical Miss Hannigan who runs the orphanage and even her red hair. Annie’s situation dramatically changes when she is chosen to spend a short time at the home of wealthy industrialist, Oliver Warbucks. She quickly softens his heart and they begin to build a connection that seems unlikely but beautiful. Annie then has to return to the orphange and Warbucks then realizes through many dramatic events that he loves this little girl and he is going to be her family. To summarize, he realizes he can’t live withouther and he adopts her, becomes her father and this fulfills all Annie’s dreams of being a part of a family.

Recently I realized the huge parallel’s between my love of this movie as a child and the way the story unveiled itself in my adult life and the unfolding of my ever growing family. I can see how God laid in me the desire and love for adoption at such a young age. My story began way sooner than the actual summer of 2011 when we hosted little Wendem.

We are no “daddy Warbucks” finanacially but we too went through a very similar process in expanding our hearts and family. Wendem was with us for a short time when we hosted him for a month in the summer of 2011. It didn’t take us long to realize after having him in our home that he was supposed to be a permanent part of our family. (We kind of knew even before that;) So just like in the movie that short visit changed our lives and the trajectory of our family forever.

Today is the 6 month anniversary of Wendem coming home for good. I can’t even fathom life without him. He was always in our plans even when we didn’t know it…God did though. In some moments it all feels brand new and other times it feels as though we were always a family of 5. I am so thankful for the last six months and the many days we have had to grow, learn, bond and love as a family.

In the wise words of Miss Annie “The sun’ll come out Tomorrow, so you gotta hang on till tomorrow. Come what may. Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I love ya, Tomorrow. You’re only a day away.”  I am so thankful that all of Wendem’s tomorrows get to happen right here with us… his family.

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Strawberry Picking

One of my favorite memories growing up is strawberry picking with my mom and brother. The three of us would spend countless hours harvesting those succulent little red candies of nature. Okay, maybe they spent countless hours actually harvesting while I spent hours frolicking around the strawberry patch and antagonizing my big brother.

I would steal strawberries out of my brothers bucket as to say, “pay attention to me.” I mean if I annoyed him enough he would have to engage with me right? I would take strawberries and make a sticky red paint in my dirty little hands and then proceed to “draw” on my brothers bare back. There wasn’t much of a canvas as my brother was a little dude, even being seven years older than me I never remember thinking he was big or scary. My brother maybe weighed 98 pounds with a backpack of wet beach towels on his back…his was little. So I would “draw” and “write” on his petite little canvas in strawberry ink until he was so annoyed he had to call Mom. He normally waited for quite awhile before calling in the backup though, he obliged me for longer than he should have. I always remember that about my brother, he was pretty patient with me as the pesky little sister.

Mom would gently distract me away and then I was off on another adventure among the red and green fields. Oh summer, it contained so many possibilities of fun. There is nothing like the feel of the sun beating down on my freckled little face as strawberry juice drips out of the corners of my mouth and landed on my Rainbow Bright T-shirt. I remember those days and how I didn’t have a care in the world and how each new day seemed like it could be the best day of summer break yet.

We always ended up with quite a harvest at the end of the day, not any thanks to me though as my method was a little like this; “one for my bucket, two for me, one for my bucket, three for me.” I took great pride in our “team effort” and bounty though. I loved sitting in the back of the car surrounded by the buckets of berries and the smell of summer. My little hazel eyes would twinkle all the way home as I knew what mama would do with these berries. Jams and jellies and strawberry waffles with whipped cream piled high, yahoo! Did you know you can and should get whip cream refills if you have a bite of waffle that doesn’t have any? Yep, my mama told me…and showed me. Every bite should contain a dollop of whip cream, a bite of of waffle and a few fresh strawberry slices.

I think back to my strawberry picking days and an endless grin comes upon my face. Picking days were days spent with two of my favorite people in the world. Picking days had a purpose, we were working on a common goal of getting as many strawberries as we could. Picking days served another purpose as well, the purpose of togetherness and what I think most important…time. We were cultivating more than strawberries those days, we were cultivating family and memories.

I look at my three children ranging in age from 8 to 18 and strive to set them up with their own “picking” day memories. I want to nurture times of carefree fun and togetherness amongst the crazy busyness of our lives. I want to make time and space for play, teamwork and family time. I want to foster a cultural in my home where we allow for fun and grace filled sibling interactions even if we are working on a common goal, like cleaning the house.

I know it is easy in our list driven, check off this, do that, kind of society to overlook the power of play and fun. It is easier to be more task driven than carefree. I want to strive for a balance in my home where maybe one doesn’t out weigh the other time wise, but heart wise. I want my kids’ memories of our home and family to be more of “strawberry picking” and less of homework or chore nights. When they are contemplating memories as they get older I hope our “picking days” are what permeate in their memories.

Now I am sure we had plenty of chore days and evenings full of homework at my house growing up but those are not the memories that I recall most often. I day dream about fields of red, fishing in Eastern Oregon and backyard croquet games. I first don’t think of vacuuming the stairs or unloading the dishwasher…although I had to do those things. I remember the memories and most importantly how they made me feel. I felt a part of something, felt loved and felt joyful.

I am challenging myself to find and make more of these moments with my children. I am challenging myself to evaluate from time to time how well Daniel and I set the stage in our family for this. Will you join me in my personal parenting challenge for creating more “picking days?”

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