Monday, August 26, 2019

Are You Willing?!?

I was having coffee with a mentor and friend that other day and something she said really struck me.  She said that one of the things people have told her that they appreciate about her is that she is willing.  She might not have the skill set for things but she has a willing heart to help, give it a shot and try something to help.  The definition of willingness is, 'the quality or state of being prepared to do something; readiness.'

It says in 1 Peter 3:15,

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 

As someone that has followed Jesus and been surrounded by the Godly people for a good chunk of my life, I have a lot of head knowledge. Perhaps like many other Christians, if I don't allow God to penetrate my heart and mind and truly take a hold of that knowledge, then it is just knowledge...without action.  

Until the past 4 years or so, I have been an extremely busy person.  I was involved in numerous sports, played in orchestra and sang in choir and show choir in high school.  I then continued on in that path in college and as an extrovert, continued that path of busyness into married life as well.  I have always liked the idea of having a schedule of being available like Jesus was...to walk alongside people.  Now looking back, I believe some of the reasons that I kept myself so busy was for selfish reasons.  An extrovert is energized by people and therefore I was likely getting satisfaction in life in spending time with other people and ensuring they liked me.  Not that we don't need human interaction and good, caring relationships in our life, we know God made us to need that but when it replaces our need for God or is our identity, than it is sinful. 

When we had our first child, God started to tear down some of my selfish heart and desires but as I see now it was just the beginning.  Parenting has definitely been the most difficult thing I have ever done.  I have expectations of how things are going to go and most of the time it does not go that way and then you are thinking what the heck and the anger can rise!  It is very draining, day in and day out and yet as I am seeing these past 6 months, if I am willing their is joy!  The greatest thing we can do in our life is to raise up children that know and love God.  It does not matter what amazing honor or promotion we have received at work, how big of house we have, how many boats we own, or what kind of clothing we wear. 

Another reason I believe that being willing has been hard is because of being afraid to fail.  This is also known as pride.  Every single person (including me) created after Adam and Eve struggles with pride, just on different levels.  

In 1 Peter5:5-6 it says:

“God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time."

A humble heart recognizes that everything we have came from God.  Instead of life, we deserve death.  

My prayer going forward this year is to trust God and be willing.  So far, it has been a freeing experience and I am excited to see what God has in store.  I know he is a good, good father.  Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that he would give us 4 amazing children to love and gently lead towards to him.  Are you in this journey of being willing?!?  




Monday, August 12, 2019

A Year In and Struggling to Let Go of that Control...

So....we have lived a year in Waverly and we would say we feel settled.  Do we still miss our friends from the Cedar Rapids/Mount Vernon area, yeah;  are we thankful for our new friends and church in Waverly, for sure!  We are so thankful for Matt's job and schedule for our family's needs and we love our neighborhood, house and our local coffee shop, Duo's.  We really have so much to be thankful for.  I think one of the benefits of moving to Waverly has been to see that even though we moved farther from family, we lean on each other as a couple and depend more on God, which is what he wants us to do anyway.  I also love that since we had to start all over, we were blessed with a schedule of minimal commitments so we can be less busy and choose to use our time wisely!  Heck, I started reading books again which really hasn't happened since college because I was burned out on reading so much then for my classes. :) 

I would say the hardest part of moving has been learning to trust God and that he is in control.  This, however is not new to us but very evident when starting over with everything in a new area.  One of the hardest areas to trust has been when our children are going to school and we want them to do well but school may not come as easy to them as it did for us! I am so thankful for teachers and how they work with students each day.  It exhausts me to be with my kids and I love them so much but I am not a good teacher.  When moving to Waverly, we had to build relationships with the staff at the boys school and they had to build relationships with kids, too.  It was a good reminder to me, even as an extrovert, how hard it is to build all new relationships with people.  We have no past with these people and they don't know our story.  Telling that story can be exhausting but it gets better in time.  

Another area that has really challenged me this past six months has been our 2 year old who has experienced some speech delays. It has been tricky to figure out what exactly was going on.  For awhile I was feeling guilty, because I felt like we must have done something wrong to stifle his development.  As an adoptive parent, my mind likes to take me there sometimes and I can feel extra guilty since the child is not biological.  However, these are lies and not from God!  We are finally making some progress and I have to remind myself that none of this was a surprise to God.  He knows everything and we have to trust his ways and seek His wisdom and not our own.

Matt and I have learned so much through our adoption journey and as we continue to raise two adopted children alongside our biological children.  We try to control so many things in our lives even though we really don't have much control over anything.  Adoption so clearly taught us that some things that we might have done differently as far as exposure to certain things with our biological children were not really as big of a deal as we thought.  We are constantly reminded that so many people in this world are hurting and need Jesus!  When things don't go as planned like speech delays, behavior issues at school and melt downs with lots of change in our schedules, it draws us close to God and we come with open arms to receive His wisdom, love and strength.  I challenge you to think about something that you are trying to control and hold so tightly in your hands.  Pray and ask God to start to help you trust Him with it.  Our relationship with God should be freeing and not a burden!

I leave you with this verse meditate on:  Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Struggling To Find That Long Term Perspective.....

Matt and I look at some individuals that we have been blessed to know and continue to know in our lives and see that they have such a great long term perspective on life or as we would say, they are in it for the long haul. :) 

I would say that this is the biggest struggle in every aspect of my life right now.  Everything is so chaotic and my mind, heart and desires are constantly grasping at what I think I want here in the now without being able to really focus on the truth that those thoughts are just temporary and not long term.  Have you ever been in a period or season of your life like that? 

The deep struggle with this type of approach is that sometimes you are motivated to do things and sometimes not.  For example, most days I get up ready to go work out but as the day wains on and I get more tired of picking up toys, socks, changing diapers, feeding children, I become less and less motivated to do much.  In fact, most days I am just waiting for bedtime.  However, since I am such a morning person, I do not want to do much at all when the kids finally go to bed.  The struggle is that I would love to do some of the things I want to do during the day but instead my days are filled with constant needs. 

I know I am right where I need to be....in our home, influencing and caring for the four little blessings and my wonderful husband and yet it truly is an hour by hour, day by day choice to find the joy!  I think back to when we just had our one son and wonder why it was so different?  I think it must be that we added three more children so quickly and also that we have two very young children right now, an almost 2 year old and an almost 5 month old.  However, I don't know any different so that could be off too? 

When I have some quiet moments either at church or some time every so often at home, I read my Bible and it refocuses me on what is truly important.  I know where my hope comes from, but every day it is a struggle to keep that in the forefront of my mind.  Thanks for following along with some of the random thoughts and desires that are going on in my heart and mind right now. 

Constantly thankful for this verse: 

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

Lamentations 3:22-23 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Transitioning to a Party of Six and the Space Between

Matt and I were lamenting tonight about how most days we don't feel in our late 30's and that we are not old enough or equipped to do all of the "adult" things we need to do.  I wonder if our parents feel the same way?!? :)

Doubling our family (from three to six) in just 2 years has not been easy but for sure a blessing.  Eight years ago (before our son Caleb was in the picture), I was crying out to God to bless us with a child.  The desire was so strong for me to have a child even though a few years prior I was not sure I even wanted children.  God had helped me see through good God-fearing friends/family and the Bible that children were indeed a blessing. In addition, raising children would be an opportunity to truly bring up the next generation knowing and loving God.

Parenting for me as been one of the most sacrificial and stretching experiences I have ever gone through in life.  It continues to be a challenge for me as we just added Keely to our family in late December.  In fact, in the past two months there have been many times I have thought, "Do I really have to do this God?"  Four children were never in the cards for me, or at least I thought and yet, God's plans are better than my plans.  Our pastor was recently preaching about what the idea of being fully surrendered to God's plan/will for our lives and praying 'SEND ME,' with no strings attached.

In Isaiah 6:8 it says, "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?  And I said, 'Here am I.  Send Me!"

In a prayer journal that we were doing through our church, it said this about Isaiah 6:8:
What happened in Isaiah's life to make him willingly volunteer to be God's man in any tough situation?

First, his heart was changed by the presence of God.  God engulfed him with His holiness as he worshipped the Lord in the temple (vs. 1-4).  Second, his heart became aware of his sinfulness and his personal need for God's cleansing forgiveness (vs. 5).  Third, his heart was broken by the condition of God's people and their need for God's word (vs. 5).  Finally, his heart was touched by God's cleansing fire (vs. 6-7).
Our pastor then led us to Jonah 1:1-3 which says, "The Word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai:  'Go to the great city of Ninevah and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.  But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish.  He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port.  After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord." 

Never in my mind have I ever had anything in common with Jonah, until now...Now that God has brought us these four beautiful gifts of children, I am fleeing the Lord.  My mind loves them but my selfish heart is kicking and screaming as I continue to process the sacrifices and unknowns that are ahead in our journey as parents.  The feeling of being so ill-equipped and having to truly depend on God for each hour of each day as we bring these children up to know Him is daunting and so uncomfortable.  I would rather go and talk in front of 500 people at a conference than spend a whole day in my house alone with four children.  Crazy, I know but the unknowns of the day and my lack of control over them is very overwhelming to me in a typical day. 

As each day passes and I see that God is providing the strength and patience to give each child what they need and by me giving the older two more responsibility to help me, I am able to see God's goodness and provision.  Do you have an area of your life that just seems so overwhelming?  Do you doubt that you can do it?  Is it hard for you to truly trust God with it?

Switching gears a little, many of you know I am a highly relational person.  So...on top of adding a new member to our family in the past month, I would now call where we are at in our personal relationships the space between.  What this means is that we have built new relationships with people here in Waverly which we are very thankful for but we don't have a lot of depth in those relationships yet (likely due to our circumstances: changes in our family and the lack of time to socialize as much as when we had no kids or even one kid).  Secondly, we have been gone long enough now from our past home that some people don't seem to think about us as much.  It is natural that some previous relationships will start to fade.  It makes me sad to think about all this and yet I know in God's sovereignty, he knew this would draw me closer to him which is exactly where I should be.

"Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me."  - John 15:4 

    

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Waiting.....is Not Easy and the Peace of Christmas

A favorite book of ours in our household is Waiting is not Easy by Mo Willems.  In fact, if you have not read this book, go grab it for a gift for yourself, your kids and your nieces and nephews.  It tells such a simple and true story about how waiting for us as humans is so hard and yet so worth it. 

As we are waiting for this little girl to arrive and join our family in the next week,  I have been so reminded of how this parallels how God asks us to wait patiently and in anticipation of Jesus Christ's birth during Advent and then the celebration of His birth at Christmas.

Do you know that God created every single person on this earth?  That he desperately loves you and wants to have a relationship with you?  In Psalm 139:13 and 14 it says, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

Today at our worship service at Riverwood Church here in Waverly, I was struck by our sermon that really focused on the truth that God is the only one that can truly give you peace.  One of the names that Jesus is called in Isaiah chapter 9 is Prince of Peace.  The world is constantly trying to find peace but because of sin and evil in the world, there will never be peace in the world until God returns and fully redeems His creation.  When Jesus was born into the world as both fully God and fully man and lived a perfect life here on earth and then killed on a cross and rose again, then we could be made right with God as a sinful human.  This gift of life and peace is so amazing!!  I never truly understood what God's peace was or felt like until my mom passed away from breast cancer.  During the first few months of her being gone, the verse that was the only thing that truly comforted me was Psalm 46:10, "Be Still, and know that I am God....."  In Philippians 4:7 it says, "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  Do you know this peace?

My desire this Christmas is for everyone to read the Bible.  This book is a gift.  God gave it to us as a love letter and the coolest thing is that every time it is read, you gain new knowledge about who God is and how He works.  He is all powerful.  He is always with us.  He is good.  He desires communication with us (prayer)!  

This morning was a wake-up call for me personally.  The past two to three days I have started to be cranky about being pregnant and having to wait for the timing of her arrival.  I was convicted that I was not keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus and what God has in store for me.  His timing is perfect!  Have I not seen that with the creation of our family?  I was also humbled about how I needed to confess that I was trying to do things my way and was too focused on myself.  Each day I have with my boys is precious and especially this time to focus on Jesus' birth at Christmas.

I pray all can experience the joy that Christmas brings with the realization of what a gift Jesus is to everyone.  If you don't know much about this gift or need some prayer, please reach out to me. I would be honored to pray for you and share what God has done in my life and continues to teach me each day. 

Please check out this prayer:

Merry Christmas!!    

    

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Moving, Adoption and Community

With our move and being less busy, I have had a lot more time on my hands to think.  In many ways, this "slower" season of our life as far as commitments go has been nice because I have actually gotten some habits established in our home that I have always wanted to.  For example, introduce Fridays as pizza nights, actually do meal planning and try to be more intentional about making our home a welcoming haven with decorations and visible scripture on our walls to memorize. 

However, one of the things that I have learned about a move is that it can also feel very lonely.  Why is it so exhausting to get to know a person?  Why does it take so long to go deep with people?  Not really recognizing that after we had spent 13 years in one area, that even though we sort of new a little bit about our new surroundings from spending college there, we were still starting over from scratch with relationship building.  As someone that has a strong faith in God and values the need to find a church to get connected to as soon as possible after moving, I wonder how those that don't have a community survive through moves?  Our church here has been where we have connected the most and most easily.  I love how the body of Christ immediately unifies you!

Another piece of our move that caught me off guard is just how much I miss the area we lived in before. Since it is only 1.5 hours away and we get back there every so often, when I am there, my heart just aches and longs to be back there!  I know this will get better with time and I think it is mostly a comfort thing because I have enjoyed so many great experiences with friends etc. at places! 

Trust = safety.  The move has also given me a good reminder of what kids that have experienced trauma of any kind (example: adoption) experience as they go into any situation that is new or change.  Learning to trust when you have gone through many experiences where they did not have anyone to trust or someone was not trustworthy, can really make you hesitate to go down that path again.  Learning people's story, journey and not just judging their actions, behavior or choices is what we are called to do.   

November is National Adoption Month and so I have been thinking about how thankful I am for my two boys that we have that are adopted as well as their birth mom.  However, this awareness still is bittersweet at times because the journey of adoption is ever changing and sometimes rewarding and sometimes very hard!  One of the reasons I wonder if God gave us this little girl that is on the way is to help me remember how great a gift and sacrifice it is to carry a child for 9 months and then choose to place them in a home where you are entrusting them to another family's care.  It is so humbling and truly something so hard for us to fathom.  This is when I stop and thank God that he is sovereign and in control.  He moves mountains and knows how many hairs are on our head.  So...I know without a doubt that He placed our two adopted boys in our home, not because of anything Matt and I did.  What questions do you have about adoption?  We are an open book and are always open to share our journey.     

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Townsley Family....And then there were 6!

Yes....it is true!  God has chosen to grow our family once again...this time biologically!  As most of you know, we have struggled with infertility off and on for the past 9 years.  We always said, we would be open to another child naturally if God blessed us again after the adoption of our 2nd and 3rd sons.  So...here we are...7 years later with a baby on the way. I am due in late December and we are excited!

I have to say, when we found out, I was excited, nervous, worried and not sure I can really swing this mom of 4 kids gig.  Truthfully, I can't, but I do know that God's plans are best and what he wants from me is daily dependence on Him.  For several years early in our marriage, there were times I even wondered if I wanted children.  As I processed through the realization of all the things I would miss and the truth that children are truly a blessing from the Lord, we started down the journey of building a family.

Parenting has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life and there are many days that I struggle on a minute by minute basis to choose to love my children and point them to Jesus.  Being a parent is self-sacrificing in so many ways.  I am constantly asking for God to give me wisdom and understanding with our children as they make me angry and frustrated when they seem to make such unwise choices that cause them pain or more work for Matt and I.  However, the reality is, Matt and I are the only ones that have the opportunity to love, serve and show our kids that we are all sinners in need of our Savior Jesus.

So...with all that, we are excited to welcome another blessing into the Townsley family.  Are we all praying for a girl??!......maybe. :)

Just like us all here on this earth, God is never finished with changing, growing and refining us to be more like his son Jesus until we leave this earth.  Parenting and having another child is where God wants me to be right now so that I can fully depend and trust Him even more during this time in our lives.

We covet your prayers for our family.  Adoption is a beautiful thing but brings a lot of different dynamics into a family.  Pray that we would be intentional on loving both our biological and adoptive children equally and understanding their needs.  Pray for unity in our family and that we would always show Grace to our children, just as God has shown us grace.