I am a 30 something year old mom of five precious boys and two sweet girls. Five of our children are here with us and two are in the arms of Jesus. Our sweet baby girl Hope was diagnosed with Dystrophic Epdermolysis Bullosa and our youngest son came to us through adoption, our youngest daughter through foster care, and I've recently been diagnosed with malignant melanoma the Lord has shown us just how Faithful He is. We will continue to Journey and follow Him where ever He leads. We feel very blessed that God chose us to be the parents of each of our kids, and we look forward to what He has in store for us in foster care!
(Don't be turned off by the LAME Jimmy Buffett referenced title! :) Grab a cup of joe, this is a long one!)
In the past few weeks as I look at my "sweet" boys I have been stunned to see the lack of gratitude they are exhibiting. While at an Easter Egg hunt with my dad I was mortified when my oldest son began to weep because he got a chocolate bunny instead of a WHITE chocolate bunny (yeah, he didn't get that from me) I pulled him aside and reminded him that some children never get a chocolate bunny and that he needed to be thankful for what he was given.
Last week I tried to catch my breath as my Benjamin, balked at his dinner because the macaroni and cheese was shell shaped and not dinosaur shaped. REALLY?! We had a talk about how there are many kids who go to bed hungry most nights and that he should be thankful that there is food on the table, I then wrapped his dinner up and each time he told me he was hungry, I offered to warm up his plate. I was prepared to serve it for breakfast even, but then at about 8 pm, he decided that his belly was finally hungry enough to eat.
I am ashamed to admit that these are just a few of the scenarios like this that played out in our home over the past month. One afternoon, I was so frustrated I was ready to scream, so at naptime (which was an ACT OF GOD in and of itself as naptime is not a regular occurrence here) I found some time with God, and as I searched through his Word for answers I took a look inward and found that perhaps, their attitude that was lacking gratitude came from me.
Having kids is a humbling experience isn't it? I mean I am the one who is constantly whining as we eat our dinner in our too small car about how I hate eating in the car, (though it seems necessary some nights) and that I hate our tiny car. It is just too small for five people! GASP! HELLO!? Should I not just be thankful that we have food for dinner and a car at all? OR How about when Howard gets home to his wife whining that she got NOTHING done in the house all day because the kids were climbing the walls quite literally. YIKES! How about being thankful that I have a home to clean and healthy kids to chase after? If I want my kids to act grateful, perhaps I should be a better model of gratitude myself.
I mean, I would be the first to tell you that we are by no means wealthy. We are a family who lives paycheck to paycheck. We have a tiny home, one working vehicle and most all of our children's clothes are second hand. Bills sometimes get paid late and we have had to humble ourselves and ask for help with the debt we have gathered after the death of our sons.
Howard and I just finished reading Francis Chan's Crazy Love. If you have not read it, you should. Seriously. You should. It has given me the wake up call that my heart was desperately needing. In his book he talks about how filthy rich we all are, how over half of the world's population lives on less that TWO DOLLARS a day! As I read the words of that book, and the scripture that went along with it, and did a personal inventory, I was ashamed. By America's standards, we are by no means wealthy, but in all actuality we are very rich. I began to become convicted as I read about giving. I mean we have always been givers, but I was kind of more the...oh, we are supposed to give ten percent...oh okay, if we have to kind of giver.
This has changed my perspective and gotten me fired up for God again, and it feels GREAT. We are making some big changes in the Bolte household and my complacent heart hasn't felt this jazzed about anything in a LONG time!
In Chan's book he talks about how worried we all are with being self sufficient and independent, how we are all taught that we should save save save and invest so that we never have to depend on anyone in a time of need. He talks about how this is really wrong thinking. We save up for our just in case, but some body's just in case is happening today. I can't help but wonder what would happen if we all actually lived like Acts 2 talks about!
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2 42-47
If everyone was happy to help meet the needs of one another. Chan goes on to say that he wonders what would happen if everyone lived on 46,000 dollars a year (the average income of an American) and gave the rest away. (I know some of you are hitting the socialism panic button) I am not talking about government mandated giving, I am talking about from the heart giving.
Anyway, our family lives on less that 46,000 anyway, but we have decided to make some changes in our household to promote gratitude and to give more. Not giving because we have to, but giving because we WANT to, giving because we are overwhelmed with gratitude with all The Lord has blessed us with.
My grocery budget for each week is 50 dollars. We have decided to cut that by ten dollars and eat beans and rice a little more so that we can pay off our debt just a little faster so that we then will be freed up to give more freely. Howard does have to pay into his retirement and it is mandatory, but for now we have decided to take the little extra we are paying in for our "some day" and invest it each pay period into someone else's need right now.
We are going "simplistic". We have too much "stuff" and we are planning to sell as much as we can and give the money away! We spent the past weekend going through things and really thinking about what is necessary and what is not. We have too much.
We also bought a globe for the kids for Easter and each week we are letting them choose a place on the globe. Howard is a geography teacher, so he then gives them a little lesson on the area they chose and we look up pictures to show them what life is like in that area. Then each night at dinner we pray for that country and are going to try and find a way to send donations to some of these places.
Sunday, on our way to Home Depot for seeds for our garden, we saw a homeless man standing at the side of the road. At first we just kind of looked away like we typically do, and then I felt the Lord prompt me to get out of my comfort zone and DO something. Howard looked at me and knew what I was thinking, so he crossed traffic and pulled over next to the man. I got into my purse and gave the man all the cash I had on me, which wasn't a lot, but enough for food and bus fare for the day perhaps. As I reached my hand out for the man to take the money, he grabbed my hand and got teary. He thanked us and began praising God. As we offered to pray for him and told him we loved him, I began to cry. We pulled away and I felt a JOY in my heart I had been missing for quite some time.
The boys asked why we had pulled over and given the man our money when we didn't have extra money (which they are used to hearing). I explained to them that God was calling us to give more and love everyone. Luke said, what if he just goes and wastes the money anyway, to which I replied, "then that is his choice, God didn't call us to give and judge, just to give freely and with a joyful heart". Luke then said "well, I bet that just made his day mom." and I replied "then we did what we were supposed to do"
I often find myself so bogged down with bills and debt that I forget that we are called to give, even when and especially when it is least comfortable. God wants us to trust HIM for everything. He wants us to pour out what we have onto others and hold nothing back. We are taught that we are not wise if we have not saved up enough to live well when we retire, but I think we are missing the point. God says that it is easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven. We are all rich. In my recent financial worries I have missed the point. I have become stingy with what we DO have and have displayed an embarrassing amount of ungratefulness. MORE than leaving my kids money, I want to leave them with an attitude of gratitude and giving.
We are looking for more ways to increase our giving, we are even debating some pretty radical changes. What do YOU do to increase giving? I would love to hear your ideas!
This post was written shortly after Asher was born and died. I never want to forget where we have come from. I am so thankful for this blog.
"When I cannot FEEL the faith of assurance, I live by the Fact of God's faithfulness." - Matthew Henry
It happens every day... People ask..."So how are you feeling?"
My response... "OK."
REALITY: I am not alright!
What I have come to learn is this...feelings are relative. Often times I wake up in the morning and I just want to pull he covers over my head and stay there all day. I feel like I have been punched in the gut and had the wind knocked right out of me most of the time. Many nights I sit on the couch crying because I feel so desperately alone. It is strange because at the beginning of this journey I thought of these feelings as a sign of a lack of faith. I have come to truly understand that this is not true. Faith and feelings are two completely different things. Feelings are something we feel yet are not necessarily reality. I often times "feel" deserted or alone but I do in fact know that that is not the truth. I know that I serve a God that is ALWAYS here even when I don't "feel" Him. The fact that I KNOW this is faith. Faith is knowing despite how I feel that God is here even though I may not see or feel him I still know and believe with all my heart that He is here. I know that the only thing that never changes in this ever changing fast paced life is our God. He is the same God that Abraham served and the same God Joseph served. It is true that God is the same yesterday, today and forever.
I feel as though I truly am walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death however I know my God is with me. I feel as though I am in the dark but I know that the light is there. It is truly like being in a shadow. We may dwell in a shadow for a period of time but the sun always returns lighting the darkness. Just because you stand under a tree in the shadows does not mean that the sun is not still there.
My days now are filled with extreme ups and downs and if I am being honest I have more downs than ups. My arms still physically ache to hold Asher in them and my heart aches knowing that will never happen this side of Heaven. It is frustrating to know that I want to hold Luke and Ben with my aching arms but due to physical limitations due to my surgery I am still not fully able to do that. I also feel as though I need to sob. Just weep. Also due to the incision I have yet to actually do this. I have cried...I cry a lot...many times a day really, but I have not actually let it all out and that will have to wait until the physical healing can take place. I desperately want time with my husband so we can talk and grieve together but he is back at work. These are just some of my shadowy areas.
All of that said I also see the light. I see that light in Luke and in Ben. I am so thankful to have them. They make me smile which is no easy feat these days. I am thankful for the light of my amazing husband who has put aside his own needs completely to care for our children and me. He truly is a Godly man who I am so blessed to have. We have been lifted up and so loved by our amazing church family and all of our dear friends and new Internet friends :-) The love and light of Christ shines beautifully through everything around us and it daily reminds me that despite my feelings, God is there. He was there yesterday and he will be there tomorrow. Not only is he there but he knows our hurts and has cared for our every need, placing just the right people in our path along the journey. I am more certain than ever that God is ever present. My lousy feelings in no way reflect my faith. They are two entirely separate entities.
I am learning that it is OK to have these feelings as long as my trust in God remains steadfast. I will chose to trust God's Word as opposed to my own feelings. SO, though I am struggling and longing to be with my sons in Heaven I am so thankful for all of the glimpses of light God brings to me in the midst of my darkness.
Isn't it funny how when things are going well, it seems to get easy to try and go it on your own? I often find that when things are going relatively smoothly in my life, that is when I really have to be careful. It is easy to become complacent and forget where your blessings are coming from. I am so thankful things are going pretty well for us right now, but I am really trying to take my relationship with God even deeper, I don't want to waste all he has given us and I want to be sure I become all He wants me to be. For the next few days or weeks or however long it takes I am going to go back through my journey via this blog and when I re-read the posts that remind me of where I came from and what God is teaching me, I am going to repost them. Here is one from two years ago, while I was pregnant with Asher.
Each morning I try to sit down and read a daily devotion from the book "Streams in the Desert". My mother in law gave us the book when Isaac died and it is perfect for me. Often times I don't have a whole lot of time in the morning where I can read a book without pictures. This book has a bible verse and then accompanying wisdom for the day. I have found that it is always amazing how perfect each day's words for me are and though I have read the entire thing as this is actually the third year I have used it, they always hit me differently.
Well, I had lost the book a week or so ago in the craziness of our home and hadn't read it for about a week. We have a couple of other devotionals I had been using but I missed my old favorite. So this morning I was determined to search the chaos of this house in all of those piles of things that we move when we see someone pull in the driveway. At least I do. I found the book in my bedroom which is always the worst room in the house but I sat down to catch up. I was very interested in what wisdom the book had for us the day of our appointment January 15th. God never ceases to amaze me.
I have shared that whenever I pray or search God for answers all I EVER get is "Be still" that's it, oh sure maybe sometimes a full "Be still, and know" or even on occasion "Be still, and know that I am God." When I open the Bible that is where the book opens, Psalm 46. Apparently I have not been quite getting it. So patiently God continues to remind me of what I need to DO. You see, by nature I am a doer. Anyone who knows me probably knows that. When things get tough I want to know what I can DO to improve the situation. If a friend is suffering it makes me feel better to DO something for them, whether make a meal, visit, or send a thoughtful card. I don't do well with being still. In fact I am horrible at it. I am a multi-tasker. After all I am the mom to two small children. I cannot be still long enough to use the bathroom on my own! I AM trying to be still but apparently God is still not content with my efforts. I continually ask Him to show himself to me and all I get is..."Be still."
So this morning as I read the passage from Streams in the Desert, It began with this verse, "That night the Lord appeared to Isaac." Genesis 26:24. Great, I thought, for Isaac. Where was God now. It has taken me a long time to get a grasp on the idea that our God is a living God. He is here just the same as he was in the time of Isaac. I think often we think of God and all of the things he did for all of the people in the Bible and we get so caught up in those things that we forget that he is the same yesterday, today and forever! God is just as much with us as he was with Adam or Abraham.
Well, God came to Isaac the same night Isaac went to Beersheba. That was the night that Isaac reached rest. Isaac had been yearning for God to reveal himself and yet Isaac's mind was too troubled to be able to receive what God had to offer. my devotion read this..."God's voice demands the silence of the soul. Only in the quiet of the spirit could Isaac hear the garments of his God brush by him. His still night became his shining night."
Following those words was the verse from Psalm 46 "Be still, and know" Imagine that! It then went on to say "In the hour of distress, you cannot hear the answer to your prayers. How often has the answer seemed to come much later! The heart heard no reply during the moment of its crying, its thunder, its earthquake, and its fire. But once the crying stopped, once the stillness came, once your hand refrained from knocking on the iron gate, and once concern for other lives broke through the tragedy of your own life, the long awaited reply appeared."
So, I think I have been going about it all wrong...I mean as a mom of a busy four year old and an even busier one year old I seldom have the time to be still. As I sit and type this our home is anything but still. It is quiet time in our house right now so everyone is in his bed resting but quiet they are not. The verse "Be still, and know." it seems has less to do with physically being still and more to do with quieting your heart. I so often tell Howard how much I long to rest, and by this I mean I physically want to lie down and rest, but more importantly I should be taking time to allow my heart to rest. There is more to it than just being still and trying to listen. God is not going to reveal himself fully until I surrender it all fully. I must clear out the doubts and the fears, I must cast out the anger and confusion. It is not something that can be done in a day. I must continue to pray without ceasing and know that there will be days that this task will be much more difficult than others.
The hardest thing about all of this is just living one day at a time. And that is all we can do. None of us really know what tomorrow brings, but we do have today. And certainly today brings sufficient worry for itself. It is when we try to tackle the worries of tomorrow that things become insurmountable. Happy is teaching me so much already about what is truly important. I just need to breathe and take it one moment at a time and for me to be able to experience whatever it is that God is trying to tell me I must be still, I must clear out the junk and find a place where the waters are still and it is there and only there where God will answer. We become so accustomed to background noise that even in our house there is always a TV or radio on. Apparently God is not willing to compete with background noise, and he shouldn't have to. So for today I am praying that I find a way to TRULY Be still and know!
This is a repost from about two years ago. I am finding myself in a place where I am praying daily that the Lord would use this. That he would use our brokenness and heartache to make a difference. That he would use us as He sees fit. I just don't want to waste any of what we have been given.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. - Psalm 119:104-106
As I read this verse this weekend I got to thinking. God provides the light to guide is and lead us, but the verse specifically says, His word is a lamp unto our feet and a light for our paths. It is funny but sometimes I expect God to provide a crystal ball. Lighting my feet and the path they walk on isn't enough sometimes. I want to see the whole picture. I want to know what God wants me to do next. I want to know the plans He has for me and yet no matter how hard I search the plans are never revealed, at least not fully.
He lights our feet and the path upon which they walk, not the path ahead. We may as well just quit trying to get a glimpse of what is to come because he is lighting the here and now and if we are focused on what is ahead we will trip and stumble missing what is here and now.
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. - Isaiah 42:15-17
Now that said, I have had much time to think this weekend and I have been having a really tough time. Friday was an especially tough day. Much of my frustration comes from trying so desperately to find out what is coming next. Planning ahead. I guess though maybe that is not what God is looking for in me. Perhaps, he wants me just to physically and emotionally be in the here and now and not looking so far ahead. It hurts to be in the here and now and I often try to launch myself forward to skip over some of the pain, but he is repeatedly telling me that is not how it works.
He is lighting my feet and path now. I have to trudge through the muck and mire before I can see what is on the other side. There is no way over it and there is no short cut. Often times I feel like I just want to fast forward because the intensity of the pain is so real and so scary. It also seems to make others very uncomfortable. Many well meaning friends and family make futile attempts to "fix" me. Grief and pain like this make others so unsure of what to do to help. If only they would realize that there is nothing that anyone can do to fix it nor should they. I don't want to be fixed and I don't believe God wants that for me either. I have to go through the pain to get to the blessings on the other side. What God does want is for His people to come alongside those who are hurting and just be. It is encouraging just to know we are not alone on this journey. That is why this blog is so healing for me. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of people visit here each day. They may not always comment, but I know they were here. That means something. That means a lot. Those who do comment could never know what that means to me. Even when it is just a simple "I am praying for you". Like I said, I cannot be fixed. I am broken and my pieces will never fit back together the way they once were. That is okay.
For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief. - Ecclesiastes 1:17-18
I have said before that God will use that brokenness. I do believe he will. I guess I just need to stop looking so far ahead for what he is going to do and just be present in the now and what he IS doing at this moment. I cannot look farther than where the light of His lamp falls. That is tough to do, especially as a person who plans, but I am trying to just put my faith in Him and know that where ever he leads is where I need to be. (easier said than done) :-) Thank you all for your encouragement along the way. Every little gesture means so much!
So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. - John 16:21-23
"Hello friends! My mom insisted we take pictures today with my Birthday Lamby. I keep telling her that is boring! I am a mover and a shaker these days. I wanted to go outside and swing. That is my new favorite thing to do these days. Did you know the sun shines in Erie, Pa? I just learned that this week!"
"That Lamb just sits there and I have stuff to do and ladybugs to eat"
"She thought that if she put me in my "cage" I wouldn't be able to get away, I told her she was wrong! This is my, "haha, I am TROUBLE with a capital T look!""
"That big brother of mine makes ALL of us laugh! God knew what he was doing when He gave us that boy...he puts the F in Funny!"
"I decided to just stop for a millisecond and let her have her way. She puts up with a lot from me...it was the least I could do. Here I am, 10 months old with my Birthday Lamby!" PS "Thanks for this pretty dress, Auntie Kate, I love it"
We can hardly believe it but Hope is now 10 months old, seriously, it is not an April Fools joke!
This month's Birthday Lamby pictures proved to be a much greater task that previously. Hope is now FULLY mobile and well, Birthday Lamby is NOT so she left Lamby in the dust! :)
Here is what Hope is up to these days:
She "cralks"...kind of a half walk/half crawl. She gets in the "downward dog" pose and walks on hands and feet! It is HI-larious! Video to come (as soon as I figure out how to do that)
She says "Bye Bye" and waves
She nods "yes"
She says "mama" and "dada"
She still prefers mama! :)
She is INTO EVERYTHING!
She says "uh-oh" as she drops EVERY last thing from her high chair tray
She plays "pat-a-cake"
She has two teeth. the bottom front left, and the top front right!
She still prefers nursing to all other forms of nourishment, but not if anything else is going on as she is curious about everything.
She is terrified of cats, dogs, and plants.
She weighs 16 1/2 pounds
She is wearing 6-9 month clothes and a few 12 month things that were handed down to us.
She LOVES music, especially Beyonce's All the Single Ladies...it is so funny!
As I sit here tonight and type this post I can barely believe all of this myself. two years ago I was still in the thickest part of grief, unsure that we would ever have another baby. One year ago, we were waiting on pins and needles for our baby girl after several "scares" during her pregnancy, and ten months ago our sweet Hope Amelia was born. The next day we were thrown into another kind of grief when we found out she had EpidermolyisBullosa and we were not sure what her future would hold. Weeks later we found out that she in fact had Dystrophic EB, the deepest layer of the skin was involved. We prepared ourselves for a lifetime of bandages.
Six weeks later the blisters she had at birth healed and we no longer had to wrap her feet or ankles. We have never again had to bandage a part of our girl. She has defied every odd. She wears normal clothes, diapers and shoes, she even wears scratchy, yet amazingly beautiful tutus. She crawls and crawlks with NO damage to her skin thus far. She squeals with delight and throws fits like every baby her age. She knows only love and has taught us so much about gratitude. We have no idea what tomorrow holds, but for today, she is thriving and bandage free and we are brought to tears at the thought that God has brought us this far. When people ask about her EB and how she is doing, God is my only answer. It is all Him. We just wake up every day, count our blessings, pray and enjoy our kids! We are learning gratitude on a whole new level.
And as grateful as I am that she is doing beyond well, I am also sometimes guilty of feeling very guilty that we were cut this break. There are so many kids out there with EB that deserve the same break and yet they and their families live day in and day out with a kind of pain we cannot even fathom. Tonight as I tucked Hope in to bed, I said a prayer for those families. I pray so often for a cure for EB. It is a HORRIBLE disorder. I don't know if Hope will ever have "issues" with hers, but I know that I am blessed. I don't know why, I know we do not deserve this blessing anymore than anyone else, but we are on our face grateful that Hope is doing so great.
I guess what I am saying is thank you all for your prayers for our girl. I have to believe that God heard. I do not pretend to know why despite prayers for other EB babies, they are not as healthy as Hope. I am not God, but I trust He knows what he is doing, as you continue to pray for Hope and for our family, please also keep other EB families in your prayers, hopefully one day there will be a cure for this debilitating and often deadly disorder.
DISCLAIMER: I do realize that these pictures prove that her mattress needs to be lowered. I hadn't worried about it because she doesn't really sleep in there yet and we are returning the crib, as it is the replacement for our recalled one and I cannot stand the color! It also only has two mattress levels...this one and SOOO low it is tough to reach her. We are hoping to take care of this this weekend. We are VERY safety conscious and assure you all that we will not put our girl in harms way. Thanks for your concern for her safety! :)
Go ahead and mention my child, The one that died, you know. Don't worry about hurting me further. The depth of my pain doesn't show. Don't worry about making me cry. I'm already crying inside. Help me to heal by releasing The tears that I try to hide. I'm hurt when you just keep silent, Pretending she didn't exist. I'd rather you mention my child, Knowing that she has been missed. You asked me how I was doing. I say "pretty good" or "fine". But healing is something ongoing I feel it will take a lifetime. ~ Elizabeth Dent ~
"When I Lay My Isaac Down" - Carol Kent "The One Year Book of Hope" - Nancy Guthrie "Holding on to Hope" - Nancy Guthrie "Empty Cradle Broken Heart" - Deborah Davis "Waiting With Gabriel" - Amy Kuebelbeck "Streams in the Desert" - LB Cowman "It Takes a Parent" - Betsy Hart "I'll Hold You in Heaven" - Jack Hayford "Crazy Love" Francis Chan "Radical" David Platt