Dear blog, I’m sorry.

Dear Blog,

I’m not quite sure exactly how it happened, but I quit you. I wrote about Charlie’s 1st birthday last September and up and left the building. Truth be told, it hasn’t been a banner year  or even a nightmare of a year, it’s been a normal year with ups and downs just like always.

I think I doubted us. I doubted that words would work. I didn’t know if I had any more thoughts to share. I wondered if putting myself out on the internet was a good idea. I worried that people judged me.

But the thoughts and words kept coming. And I wrote a lot for myself and did some creative writing (this is an amazing workbook: http://amzn.to/2cBDJVm) and secret writing. I even set goals for myself and tried my hand at some other creative ventures. But blog, you kept creeping into my mind.

So blog, here I am, saying I’m sorry I abandoned you. I hope you’ll forgive me. I’m just a girl, asking a blog to take her back. (Notting Hill reference for anyone else who misses romantic comedies 🙂

I’m back and I can’t wait to see where the words take us.

Always,

Jenn

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To Charlie, on your 1st birthday

My dear Sir Charles,

Even though you were born one year ago today, your birth story begins in the summer of 2013, when I was innocently knee deep in a Bible Study called “Anything” by Jennie Allen. One day one of the discussion questions was: Are you willing to do anything for Jesus? Is there something that you’re holding onto so tightly, that’s keeping you from fully surrendering your life to Christ?

You know when YOU KNOW  your heart’s answer to a question and you immediately try and push it away?! THAT.

I knew what was keeping me from full surrender was the fact that I thought I was in control of my family, and I was controlling not having another baby.

Here was my rational: Sadie and Owen were FINALLY big kids, I don’t like being pregnant, I’ve had two c-sections, breastfeeding is really hard for me, we have one car, I don’t really like babies and I’m OLD.

BUT God. And isn’t that always the way? He worked in your old momma’s heart. I talked with your daddy with tears in my eyes, and a surrendered heart, because Daddy always wanted more kiddos, it was your stubborn momma that held back.

With your brother and your sister, it was very easy to get pregnant. We waited 6 months to get pregnant with you. Those were long months. Months when I questioned if I really wanted to surrender THIS. Months when I wrestled with fully surrendering my life, and our family to the God of the universe. And God kept pressing me to trust Him, with this, and with hands held open, I kept surrendering.

January 2014. The month I found out I was pregnant with you. We were over the moon! But cautious. We have known the heartbreak of miscarriage and so we kept the news of you quiet for a while. You made me feel like death, but I knew you were growing so I ate crackers and laid down every chance I got and waited for it to pass.

I had a great pregnancy with you. I thought for sure I was going to be able to deliver you naturally. Until we found out you were breech. You little stinker! You were cozy as could be with your head up and your feet down. No matter what homeopathic trick I tried, you were unmoveable.

September 15, 2014. Your birth day. You were placed on my chest the second you took your first breath and I was instantly in love with you. You were adorable. And GINORMOUS. 9 pounds 6oz. With surprisingly dark brown hair. And lots of it!

This past year has been an absolute gift. You light up our family like no one else. Everyone clamours to see you and hold you when they get home from school and work. You are sweet and kind and funny. You mimic your brother and sister when they laugh and cough. You give high fives, but are stingy with your kisses. You love to cuddle and dance and be a dare devil. You sleep with your binky and one of your Mimi’s scarves as your lovey. You would eat the whole refrigerator if you were given the chance. I see glimpses of the boy and man you are going to become and I can’t believe that I get to be your momma.

I tell people that you are my God baby. Because only God could’ve changed my heart to open it up to have another baby. I could lay on the floor and weep when I think that I almost missed this, missed YOU, Charlie because I was too caught up in MY plan.

Charlie, you are a gift and blessing. Daddy and I love you more than we can say, and we are so thankful to God, that we get to be your parents. I pray you surrender your life to God at an early age and live your days for Him.

011 252 bens phone august 2015 047 bens phone august 2015 358 bens phone august 2015 795 IMG_0157 IMG_0359

Happy 1st Birthday my sweet boy!

Forever,

Momma

ENJOY THIS TIME. I get it now.

Picture this: Family vacation. Free continental breakfast. Our wild family of five. Wrangling Charlie into a high chair. Sadie and Owen making their own food choices, which OF COURSE means they want to try everything. Ben and I trying to eat our own food, trying to drink as much coffee as possible. It’s messy. There are spills. As parents we are just trying to eat, make as little commotion as possible and get the heck out of Dodge as soon as possible. There isn’t really time to reflect or look around at the other people enjoying their continental breakfast, because we are just trying to get through breakfast with our children’s manners and our sanity in tact.

When a sweet old lady appears at our table, with tears in her eyes, she looks at me, and says, “Enjoy this. It’ll be gone so quickly. Our children are grown and even our grandchildren are grown now.” I smiled and said, “I will” and she went on her way.

She left, but her words, emotions and tears stayed with me.

I don’t know what it feels like to have an empty nest, to have endless hours of time, to have years of memories stored in my mind, that are never going to happen again.

I know what it feels like to have full days, full arms, and full mess. We are in the thick of it. Of small children, the routines, the teaching, the disciplining, the seeming neverending ness of it all.

And I get it. The days are long but the years are short. I can’t believe that I have a 9 year old and a 6 year old. I question where the time has gone, because it certainly has flown by.

But there have been days, and sleepless nights, where the minutes have crept by. Where waiting for bedtime, after a particularly hard day of parenting, seemed light years away.

How do we balance the fullness of right now, with the nostalgia of past? My solution: Stay Present. Be thankful.

Charlie gets the bonus of not only being the treasured baby in our family but because of where he falls in the birth order AND the years between having Owen and Charlie, He gets a more present momma. Sorry Sadie and Owen, just another thing to bring up to your therapist when you’re older. (Acknowledging now that my children will need therapy and that part of that will be because of my presence in their life, is just something I’ve come to grips with:) 

And because he is the baby, after a few years off of infant and toddler life, I am enjoying it so much more this time around. I GET the “enjoy this time” more, simply because I didn’t always enjoy it the first and second time around. That’s real life truth for ya.

Because I’m able to see and appreciate this baby time in ways I haven’t before, it makes me pause and be thankful for the elementary stage of life that Sadie and Owen are in. Not always easy, but such an important stage with its own ups and downs.

So, even though the days are long, I’m trying my best to stay present and be thankful for the little things with all of my kiddos.  Because before I know it,  I’m going to look in the rear view mirror, and that back seat will be empty. 

My spiritual gift is driving

I always wanted to be a singer. Specifically a worship leader. Someone who could play an instrument AND sing at the same time.

Real talk: I can’t keep a beat to save my life. I can play 3 songs on the piano and my voice is best described as “congregational”, meaning, it sounds amazing when I am drowned out in a sea of other people.

But here’s what I’m good at. Driving. I know. Its so mysterious and wild. Its something people hope and pray to be good at. Except no.

Here’s how I got my start. I grew up in a small town. KMart was 15 minutes from my house. The mall was 35 minutes away. I worked at an ice cream stand that was 20 minutes from my house. To get anywhere I had to drive. It wasn’t weird it was just life.

Side note: In  high school, my best friend and I would go to the mall and in an effort to get the most bang for our buck we would split a 6 pack of tacos from taco bell because it was the cheapest thing to eat and then we had the most money possible to spend at the Bon Ton. True Story.

Back to driving.

I went to college 6 hours from home. More driving. My freshman year a bunch of us wanted to go to Boston to see my roommate play basketball at a rival college. I drove someone else’s car and got us through the city and to our destination with no issues. (Never mind the fact that I had never driven in a major city before, and driving someone else’s car,  I wasn’t nervous. There are people I know now, who even though we live a short distance from Providence AND Boston, absolutely refuse to drive in the city.)

I am full of rabbit trails today..

Ben and I have discovered when traveling and faced with many navigational trials that He is a MUCH BETTER navigator/map reader than I am, so He navigates and I drive. Hypothetically there have been times when he’s been driving and I’m looking at the GPS/map and he calmly asks, “which way should I turn?” and I screech out, “I DON’T KNOW, PULL OVER, PULL OVER, I CAN’T TELL WHICH WAY TO GO!!”

Hypothetically those are very special marriage moments.

So, here i am, a driver. here are some examples.

Missions trip to Canada 2009. I think I’m there to spend time working along side our youth group kids renovating a rest home. Nope, I spend most of the trip driving my dear friend Wendylynn to different stores because she is the interior decorator on the project and needs to buy things. She doesn’t even need my opinion on her purchases. She’s one of the artsy people who “sees” things take shape. Even in the stores I was just the “cart driver”. But that trip solidified a friendship with Wendylynn that even today brings me to tears because she is so, so, so dear to my heart.
In our 10 plus years of youth ministry I have driven to every event you can think of with students in the car. I’ve only had one student try and moon the cars behind us. And that was the during the first year. We’ve had sing offs, dance offs, fights, laugh til you pee, and some pretty profound conversations in all those youth ministry car rides. Moments I wouldn’t trade for the world.

I drive my kids to and from school every day. (We live close enough to walk, but that’s a story for another day.) It’s only about a 4 minute drive, but those are some of the most precious minutes of my day. We take turns praying in the morning before drop off and in the afternoon, before the homework and snacks distract them,  I get to hear how their day was and what big or little things stuck out to them.

Driving. Just an normal thing. But it gives me space to listen and love the people in my life.

What’s your gift that you may not consider a gift?

What I didn’t know

“You don’t know, what you don’t know.” This could be the theme of my life. Marriage, Parenting, oh, LIFE in general. And for someone who capitalizes on PREPAREDNESS and ORGANIZATION, not knowing what I don’t know is QUITE THE PROBLEM.

Ben and I went to a ministry training conference last month. It was amazing. We learned so much, gained a ton of resources and in general felt inspired and encouraged in our ministry to students and families.

In being away from home, in an environment full of encouragement and every effort put into intentionally building us up, I realized several things that I DIDN’T KNOW I had been harboring.

Its weird to discover how clenched your jaw permanently is, or what your automatic pessimistic default always is. Because they have been that way for SO LONG.

Things I DIDN’T KNOW:

-I had A LOT OF doubt.

In watching and knowing the foster care system intimately, I doubted that the heartbreaking cost was worth the investment in a child’s life.

There were several marriages on the brink that I doubted could be saved

People that I doubted would EVER turn from their ways and return to God

I was absolutely PLAGUED by fear and anxiety. Literally the night before we left, I couldn’t sleep because my mind was playing out EVERY SINGLE HORRIBLE THING that I could imagine would happen to my children while I was away.

I had been operating in doubt and fear for so long, I didn’t even notice how they had become my default settings.

And how dependent on MYSELF I was. I was plagued in part because these were situations BEYOND MY CONTROL.

I went to the conference thinking I would learn how to “do ministry EVEN BETTER”,

and God spoke to my old heart and said, “Big Girl, how about I reveal to your some stuff in your heart, and let Me make ministry AWESOME?”

Me: “Fine.” (I’m slow to accept change)

But this is why God IS God and how AMAZING He is:

Not in a BIG HUGE moment (this is what I would prefer, a big sign in the sky, or a letter on my pillow)

but through worship, through testimonies, through preaching, through conversations with Ben, God reminded Me that HE IS STILL WORKING.

And He works through broken people, broken systems and in the worst and dire situations.

Yes, foster care IS hard, but IT DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

Broken marriages on the brink of divorce, God can heal, restore and make new.

God is in the business of drawing people to Himself, and NOT ON MY TIME TABLE, but His. He can soften the hardest of hearts.

And the reminder that fear is the absence of faith.

Deep breath.

That’s still a hard one.

One that I have to repeat over and over when fear tries to wash over me like a tidal wave. I repeat over and over, “fear is the absence of faith, fear is the absence of faith, fear is the absence of faith”.

Faith: complete trust in God. Not complete trust in Jenn Parker.

If He can keep the planets in space, hold the stars in the sky, create something out of nothing, He can handle me and all my hot mess. End of story.

Dear Sadie, on your 9th birthday

Dear Sadie, on your 9th birthday,

Oh my dear girl, I look at you, and the breath leaves my lungs. How did we get here? It seems only yesterday that I was just figuring you out, feeding, diapering, sleeping, your different cries; when you were hungry or tired or if you had a dirty diaper,  And yes, you were the baby who wanted your diaper changed after every little tinkle. True story.

And here I am still trying to figure you out. My little girl who isn’t so little. Who loves to do gymnastics, sketch and draw,  write stories, watch Bill Nye the Science Guy on Youtube, and loves the 1700’s. You are a gem. I want to know every little detail of your life and hold every moment close to my heart, while trying to not appear like the crazy mom I know I am.

sadie outfit

This year marks the halfway mark of your years in our family. You’ve got roughly 468 weeks left with us. Part of me wants to sob in a corner when I think about that ticking clock. But another part of me knows that we get the gift of being intentional with the time we’ve got with you. There are so many things Daddy and I want to show you, teach you, and experience with you.

sadie easter

Please know, that while there are many things we want to show, teach and experience with you, a lot of those lessons come with hard work, patience and determination. Things that you may not be thankful for or grateful for until MANY YEARS LATER. I know that may seem like kind of a bummer, but trust me on this one.  Our goal isn’t that you are always happy, our goal is that one day you will be a young woman of character who loves Jesus and loves people with crazy abandon.

Choochie, you are my best girl. I love you more than I can ever put into words. I am so grateful I get to be your momma. Happy 9th Birthday!

The faith of those who carried us to Jesus when we couldn’t get up….

“Sometimes our healing has less to do with our faith and more to do with the faith of those who carried us to Jesus when we couldn’t get up.” || Melissa Moore

Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that He had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves,“Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Manhas authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Mark 2:2-12

I’m not a Bible scholar or a preacher by a long shot, but this passage really resonates with me. Sometimes when people in our lives are are so beaten down, so low, so broken, it is our joy and honor to carry them to Jesus when they can’t even stand on their own. 

What does that look like? Love. Love that says, we are going to get you healed and whole no matter what.

Those four friends weren’t stopped by a house that was filled to the brim with people, they didn’t give up. They went up. To the roof. With a paralyzed man. No easy task, I’m sure.  And they broke through that roof and lowered their friend through a hole.

They believed without a doubt. Their faith spurred them to do a crazy thing to get their friend to Jesus. 

And it doesn’t say that the paralyzed man had faith. In fact, I bet he was probably VERY DOUBTFUL. And probably afraid. And yet when Jesus sees the faith of the friends, He heals and forgives the man’s sins.

That paralyzed man is one blessed dude to have friends like that. 

I want to be that kind of friend and I desire to have friends like that.  So that when I’m in need of healing they’ll do whatever it takes to get me to Jesus.

Faith, healing and forgiveness. We all desperately need it. Sometimes, it takes a great friend to get us to the place where forgiveness is found, the place where our deepest longings are met, our deepest wounds are healed, our broken pieces are mended and we are made whole. The place where we can reach out and touch the feet of Jesus.