Monday, December 26, 2016

Best. Present. Ever.

Our twins are TWO years old today. Un-freaking-believable.  I honestly did't let myself think about how we would get to this point, I just tried to open each day like the gift it was meant to be, so I truly am shocked that we are here.  Shocked I tell you.  Anyhow, speaking of gifts, my kids have a present for you.  I'm sure you're exhausted from opening all of those Christmas presents so I'll do the unwrapping.  Just close your eyes - no peeking!

SURPRISE!!! It's a super-size dose of 100% organic love.  It is a gift straight from heaven.  No really, it is.  God loved us first.  The best part is that there is no return policy.  There is nothing you can do to make Him love you any less.  There is also nothing you can do to make Him love you any more.  He loves you because of who He is, that's just how it works.

Kids are really good at giving this kind of love.  So now you can open your eyes and scroll down to see their love in action.

Love is pulling your favorite people under the mistletoe.

Love is adoration and hand holding so that you can explore and discover new things together. 

Love is making yourself small so others can go farther.

So what is love?  Love is being present.  Love is seeing with your heart.  Love is accepting.  Love is helping others.  Love is walking hand-in-hand even if, and especially when, you cannot see what is coming ahead.  Love is never-ending.   Love is from God.  Receive it.  Give it. Repeat often.

Matthew 18:3
And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 

Insprirational Quote:
"Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love." ~ Mother Teresa 

My Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,
It is my prayer that you help us - all of us - truly receive the gifts you have given us.  Thank you for the hardships and thank you for the joy, because without both neither can be fully appreciated.  Thank you for miracles and thank you for infusing us with Your strength.  Please give us the gift of Your eyes so that we may see others around us who need our help.  Give us the courage to make ourselves small so that others may go further.  Keep us close Father, under your protective watch, and guide us so that we may be a blessing to others.  In Jesus' name, Amen. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Walk through the Woods

Friends, yesterday I got lost in the woods two hundred of miles away from my house. On purpose.  It was hard and scary, but it was amazing and freeing.  And the best part was that I had some quality one-on-one time with Jesus.  Just the two of us.

There was a great deal of reluctancy, tears, fear and grief at the start of the day.  There were millions of poisonous spiders everywhere.  (It is possible that there were not actually millions.  It is also possible that not all of them were poisonous.) The strangest thing happened though - they seemed to just come say hello and then when I helped them back onto a stick or leaf or some other place that was not on my person they went back to their business. And I kept on walking.

For hours I walked uphill, down hill, over fallen trees, under the protection of the changing leaves.  I had a map, but let's be honest, without the constant chirping of my phone telling me where to turn I was...lost.  Lost but safe.

There were a lot of tears.  Soooo many tears.  There was also a fair amount of fear, but with each slip in the dirt and with each wildlife greeting the fear seemed less and less significant.

The constant chatter in my mind yelled "Spider! Spider! SPIDER!" or "So this is how I'm going to die.  I wonder how long it will take for someone to find my dead body?" or "Now what have you gotten yourself into Katrina? Honestly, have you no common sense? You will die doing this."

But I didn't die.  

No, I probably shouldn't have climbed on the things I climbed on, at least not alone.  No, I probably shouldn't have worn earth tones in the woods during hunting season.  But I didn't die.  And when I realized that I started to relax just a little.  I started trusting God just a little bit more.  I started looking for the gifts He had put on my path.  The chirping of the birds.  The trees.  The spiders that kept coming to welcome me into their home.  The yoga under the heavens.

I sat for a long time in the bare earth looking up at everything He created.  Fixing my gaze on Him.  To be completely honest, I have lost sight of Him in my daily life.  I have been walking by sight not by faith.  But out in the woods I had to walk by faith not by sight.  And He met me there.  He was always there with me, but I had to slow down and be still to see Him, to feel Him.  I had to give myself the space and the freedom to fully feel my emotions.  To weep. To cleanse my heart.  To fall. To get back up again. To renew my faith.  To walk with Jesus.  I even started to play in a treehouse of all places, and it gave me the tiniest glimpse of what it is like to truly be carefree like a child.  It was just a glimpse, but it planted hope in my heart and I want more.

Have you walked with Jesus recently?  I mean really walked with Him? By faith and not by sight? Try it, you'll be amazed at where your heart ends up. I promise.  XOXOXOXO

If you're looking for some one-on-one time with our Lord out in the world He created I highly recommend The Hermitage in Berger, Missouri.  It is 18.5 acres dedicated to facilitating your connection with Jesus, one person at a time. Photos are on Pinterest.  Email to set up a reservation.

2 Corinthians 5:7
We walk by faith not by sight.

Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

Inspirational Quote:
"Nature is considered to be God's territory.  It is where we feel an awareness of truth and a sense of closeness to that field of energy which created All That Is." ~ Susan Barbara Apollon 

My Prayer:
Thank you Abba.  Thank you for meeting me in that special place in that special way.  I'm sorry I took my eyes off of You, please forgive me.  Please give me the courage and strength to keep my gazed fixed on You so that I may carry the weight of my cross, as Jesus did, uphill on the path toward redemption.   Remind me I'm not alone in any of this.  This is for my good and your glory.  Feed my soul and cleanse my heart so that it may be pure and willing to love others as you have loved me.  Thank you.  I love You and I trust You. Amen.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thy Will Be Done

Friends, it is dark out.  Very, very dark. A friend pointed out to me today that it is always darkest right before dawn but the light is in the smiles and love of those around us.  Her words were like balm on my heart, which is full of tender places right now.

We just received news that our sweet little Baby A, who has overcome so much already, has a steeper hill to climb; we learned that the stroke she survived has left her partially blind in both eyes.  Although her muscles are intact, she is completely missing the left vision fields in both eyes.  It is permanent.  It is irreparable.  It is beautiful.

She is beautiful and she is complete.  I could end there, but there is still so much more to tell.

She is loved by a God who is the dawn to our darkness.  By partially taking away her vision He is preparing our spiritual eyes for a brightness that will cast away all darkness.  A light that is truly permanent across all worlds and all time.  He is coming and therefore I will rejoice in His presence and goodness and light because what He says is righteous and true.

It is always darkest before dawn, but I don't have to be afraid.  I will rejoice in partial vision that Baby A was gifted.  I will rejoice in the bond she shares with her twin and her other siblings.  I will rejoice in the resources that are at our fingertips to help her navigate the world in which we live.  I will rejoice in the light and the love of those around us.  Together we will be the light.  Together we will see clearly in this darkness.

Can I ask you to join me in prayer for her future though? A mother's heart is tethered to her children and I pray that she feels the love I have for her, but more importantly the love our Heavenly Father has wrapped her up in since before she was born.  I pray that she sees in herself the beauty and value and worth that I see in her.  I pray that the she chooses to rejoice in her sufferings and brighten the world around her.  It's dark out there and our world so desperately needs her light.

Luke 22:42
Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.

Philippians 4:4
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

Inspirational Quote:
"Stars cannot shine without the darkness." ~ Unknown

My Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thy will be done.  I will rejoice in Your will and Your magnificent plan for our lives.  Please help us remember that our true home is with you in heaven and what is permanent and irreparable in our world will be lifted from us upon our homecoming.  Please place Your hands on Baby A and open her spiritual eyes so that she may see clearly.  Shine Your love light through all of our brokenness so that we may rejoice in You and glorify You from all places on our journey.  Amen.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

99 Bites of Grilled Cheese

Every day in the Sommer house is a parade.  No, really.  When we go for family walks through the neighborhood we take up one full block; my son with his bike is in the lead, my husband pushing a baby in the stroller is next followed by my 3-year old who pushes her baby stroller and stops to pick up every stick, leaf and sweet gum ball on the way, and I usually bring up the rear with one of the twins in their walking devices.

Today though we were in a REAL parade. With flags and candy and confetti.  The real deal.

It was so much fun, but also a 2 hour walk round trip.  That's a long journey for little 6-year old Tiger Cub legs.  When we got home he was ravenous and requested a grilled cheese with aged white cheddar and green apple slivers but no chives (he's kind of a foodie).  He was tired but waited.  Then when the food came out it was declared awful and disgusting and the wrong color of cheese and the cheese was too melty and the chives were missing and the apple slivers in the sandwich were too floppy and the bread too crunchy and it was horrible and no good.  Whining turned into yelling and yelling into screaming and screaming into sobbing and sobbing into wallowing on the floor.

He spent the afternoon in his room.

At snack time his lunch was brought back out and chives were available. Now it was cold and equally inedible.

At dinner time his lunch was warmed up and brought back out.  Now it was too hot and equally inedible.

He sat there at the table while everyone else ate their dinner and sulked.  He sat there after the plates were cleared and the dishes were done.  He sat there and cried and cried.

Seven hours after the sandwich was originally served he sat there staring at his plate.  He was going to starve to death, he just knew it.  When it was time for the twins to go to bed he asked if he could say goodbye, you know, since he probably would have faded away before breakfast the next morning.  His bright future was over all because the cheese was too white and melty and the apples too floppy and the bread too crunchy.

He looked so...crushed and defeated over something he selected himself.  Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever chosen something you had to have only to find yourself crushed and defeated when circumstances didn't turn out the way you had hoped? I have.

I recognized the deep sadness in my son and I had to make it stop.  I muttered a little prayer to Jesus under my breath asking what now? I couldn't let him off the hook...but I could help him.  I picked up a tiny little apple sliver from his sandwich and folded it in half making it barely a bite and out of nowhere I started singing "99 bites of grilled cheese to eat, 99 bites of grilled cheese, take a bite now, swallow it down, 98 bites of grilled cheese..."  I hadn't planned to sing, it just happened, and looking back I'm not entirely sure it was even my own idea (#answeredprayers).  Slowly, so slowly he nibbled through the sandwich layer by layer keeping rhythm to the song.  The tears dried up and he laughed saying, "I guess I'm not going to die after all." I just gave him a look like "did you really think I was going to let you starve?"

How many times in our own lives do we come up with absolutely ridiculous ideas about what is around the corner? Quite a bit I'd wager.  We have no idea what our future holds, but our Heavenly Father does.  He knows.  And when our choices leave us with cheese that is too melty and apples that are too floppy and bread that is too crunchy He is always there singing over us, ready to uplift us at His pace...which frequently is one layer at a time.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Share Some Joy

Friends, you don’t need me to tell you that there is a lot going on in the world around us right now.  Sometimes it feels like God is so far away, I mean He would have to be to let all of this happen, right?

Yesterday when I was practicing yoga in my living room one of my daughters, Baby A, showed me that He is very near…if you’re looking for Him.  I was watching her play by herself from Downward Facing Dog when she did something truly amazing that I almost missed. Then she did it again and I had to stop what I was doing to make a memory with her.

I’ll let you watch for yourselves…

For most people this may seem like a baby doing baby things, but this precious little baby had a stroke leaving her with cerebral palsy and more specifically hemipalegia, meaning her brain doesn’t recognize one whole side of her body.  By the Grace of God she is navigating her world. Wanna watch it again now that you know this? Go ahead, I’ll wait…Pretty amazing isn’t it?? I can’t tell you how much joy this brings my heart, and I want to share it with you! Our world needs more joy.  

What brings you joy? Share it!  Looking for pointers on where to find joy in your life? Grab your people, a deck of Go Fish cards and whip up a batch of cast iron skillet smores (recipe here) and joy will find you. I promise.

Psalm 145:18 
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. 
Romans 15:13 
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope from the Holy Spirit.

Inspirational Quote
Joy is prayer; joy is strength; joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. ~ Mother Teresa

My Prayer
Dear Heavenly Father,Thank you for opening my eyes to the joy around me.  Thank you for strengthening Baby A and helping her scale these mountains with your Grace.  Please continue to pour Your love on your children and help all of us open our eyes to the joy around us each and every day.  Spread your light, our world so deperately needs You. Amen,  

Friday, May 13, 2016

Burdens are for the Birds

Today after school my son was recounting his day and he mentioned that he told his buddies about how, when we went to Disney a few months ago, we got pizza late at night and birds on the roof of our hotel magically spoke to us saying "Mine! Mine! Mine!" #Nemo

It was kind of a random inconsequential thing for him to remember, let alone share with his friends, but to him it was an important life event. What I remember about that day though was an early morning visit to Urgent Care following a sleepless night, 10 hours of travel, heavy suitcases, hungry kids, over priced food, walking in rain against 60 mpr winds, sleeping in a puddle of my child's vomit.  We both had experienced the same day but we held onto different things. I chose to hold on to burden.  He chose to hold onto magical birds.  

All I could think about was how much I wanted to be a kid again. Sometimes adulting is heavy and exhausting and full of hard places.  I want magic...not magic drummed up by commercialism, but the magic of hope and joy and rest that only Jesus can provide because I so desperately need Him in my life.  And, if I had to guess I would say you do, too.  

So, I'm going to take a note out of my son's book and share with all of my buddies (that includes you) all of the really awesome gifts we've been given in the past few months.  I'm going to stand on the figurative rooftop and praise the God that is mine, because life is good and I mean really good! (I'm not saying this just because I happen to be drinking wine right now.)

Since my last post, our TTTS survivor Baby B can now sit up unsupported!  She is even starting to stand for a few minutes at a time without her leg braces!  Best of all, she finally had her cochlear implant surgery and now she can....wait for it....HEAR!!! And she LOVES listening to all of the sounds in our world (maybe not at first, but she does now). Such beautiful gifts, thank You Jesus!!!

Baby A has learned to use both sides of her body to kick and splash in the bath (cutest. thing. ever.)! Baby A has been approved for eye surgery so she can SEE properly out of BOTH EYES!!! And she is WALKING in her reverse-walker!!! Such beautiful gifts, thank You Jesus!!!

My son is reading! And can play "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" on the violin! My 2-year old daughter is counting to 20 (who knew five-teen was a real number?)! And can do the monkey bars and flips on the trapeze by herself. They are both are so so so determined. Such beautiful gifts, thank You Jesus!!!

Okay, now it's your turn. What magical things are happening in your life right now? Shout it from the rooftop! Forget the rest, it is over and done and yesterday - or whatever day it was - is gone so don't let it weigh you down.  Focus on what is awesome and carry that with you throughout today into tomorrow.

Matthew 18:3
And he said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven".

Psalm 86:12
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.

Inspirational Quotes
"It is the childlike mind that finds the kingdom." ~ Charles Fillmore 
"Just keep swimming." ~ Dory, Finding Nemo

My Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father,Thank You for this incredible life, I gladly and humbly accept Your gifts and Your grace. Thank You for being there in all of the moments, the monumental and the simple, holding my hand and leading me ever so gently.  Your gifts have included hard days and easy ones, but Your goodness has been evident in all of them.  Please help me let go of the weight of the past and only carry Your love forward.
Thank You that my son remembers talking birds and nothing less pleasant from our adventure together.  Thank You for that special time with my son and daughter and the moments woven into each and every day with them, they are such treasures.  Watching Baby A walk is so wonderful and heartwarming and my gratitude for Your good works leaves me speechless at times. Father, thank You that Baby B can finally hear, it is such an amazing gift that I probably will always be in awe of, so praise You with all of my heart and soul.    I love You, I trust You and I will follow You wherever you lead. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Heaven on Earth

Friends, we are 7 days away from Baby B's cochlear implant surgery!!! Seven. In seven days a surgeon will be boring a hole through my daughter's skull - God willing, of course.  AHHHHHH!!! I'm cautiously optimistic since this will be our third stab at the surgery over the past four months and I've learned not to get my hopes up too high. I've also learned not to FREAK OUT too much. Kinda. Mostly.

Actually, I feel like a Boov ("Home" - watch it, love it).  I'd rather run away than deal with what is going to happen.  Since that won't be happening I just eat cake instead. Soooo much cake. Even cake that I don't like.  Even cake that has been sneezed on.  There is no discrimination when it comes to cake.  Also, no serving size.  I don't even need a plate - just the whole thing.  You're probably reading this and thinking, "Wow, that is really unhealthy and kinda gross." I KNOW!  I probably need an intervention, but I'm holding onto the hope that my sugar addiction will loosen it's grip on me after the surgery.  In the mean time I wanted to take some time to share some thoughts about life...

This happened. More than once. In the same week. Ugh.
When I first learned Baby B was profoundly deaf it hit me like a freaking freight train.  I didn't see that one coming and it knocked me right on my caboose. I had to grieve for her hearing loss because of what I thought her future looked like.  Here I am now, what feels like a million years and only a few moments all at the same time, and I am truly [mostly] content with our circumstances.  I don't know what her future looks like now anymore than I did then, but I'm not afraid for her anymore and that has brought me so much peace.

So what's changed? Everything and nothing. That is usually how it goes when God is at work in your life, or at least when you turn and open your heart to His plan over your own - everything changes and yet nothing changes at all.

Baby B's hearing loss is still just as profound today as it was the day she first failed her hearing test.  But I've had the incredible opportunity to watch her grow and care for her.  When she cries I hear her and I comfort her.  When she's hungry I feed her.  When she's tired I rock her to sleep.  When she's happy I smile back at her.  When she's playful I tickle her and play peek-a-boo.  When she snuggles her cheek against mine I hold her and never ever want to let go.

She has no idea she can't hear, but she can absolutely without a doubt feel loved and cherished.

Friends, this deafness has removed any shadow of a doubt I may have had about this seemingly mythical place known as Heaven.  You may be wondering where I'm going with this, but please stay with me as I try to articulate in words what has only really been a feeling up until this point...

Our little Baby B has no idea she is making sounds, but I do; I can hear them and decipher what she needs and care for her in ways she cannot care for herself.  She has no idea how much joy it brings to my heart to hear her make sounds as she explores the way her tongue and mouth work, but I do.  She has no idea I'm talking to her when my lips move telling her how much I love her, but she feels the warmth of my expression and smiles back at me.  She has no idea that there is so much more waiting for her after this cochlear implant - laughter, music even dogs barking.

What if we are all missing a "sense" that is ever present in all of our lives? What if there is so much more waiting for us, too?

Friends, if I can hear all of these things and provide her with what she needs as her mother here on earth, how much more can our Heavenly Father glean from our lives?  Even though we can't hear Him as we hear our friends and family, isn't He still talking to us? Doesn't He hear our prayers and provide for all of our needs?  Can't we still feel His love when we spend time in His presence? Don't we bring joy to His heart by praying to Him and loving one another? (The correct answers are yes, yes, yes and yes.)

Even if the cochlear implant doesn't work this whole experience has been such a gift, a gift I want to share with you (just don't ask me to share my cake or you will get stabbed with a fork). I hope, if anything, that Baby B's deafness opens your eyes and your ears to the wonders going on around you here on earth and also in Heaven, because Heaven is so real I can almost hear the angels singing - can't you?

1 Corinthians 2:9
But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"
John 14:6
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me. 

Inspirational Quote:
"God allows us to experience the low points in life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn no other way." ~ C.S. Lewis

My Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father,Thank you for the peace You have brought me through this experience.  Thank you also for the very human emotions that allow me to go up and down so that I may fully recognize and appreciate Your perfect gift.  Thank you for this opportunity to be a mother to these four unique children, please open my eyes and theirs to see the goodness You have planted inside of each of them.
Father, please, please, please protect my baby girl during surgery and keep any meningitis or other infections at bay.  I pray that this surgery is not too painful for her and that all of the suffering will be worthwhile in the end when she can hear our voices. 
Father, I also pray for my friends and readers, that you open their eyes and ears to the glories of Your Son in Heaven.  Speak so that they can hear You working in their lives.  In Jesus' name, Amen. 

My Heaven on Earth...