Ice Cream Messages

Tonight I was searching for God’s answers to some big prayers. As I wrote about our day, I realized this evening’s events are a perfect example of the way I experience God’s answers in my everyday mom moments.

Earlier, my daughter ran inside shrieking. The ice cream truck was driving past our house! Mommy, mommy, mommy. She jumped up and down. “The ice cream truck!”Finding God in the moments of parenthood for ourselves as His children.

Last time we saw him was a night we weren’t planning a big meal, so we chased the converted school bus down the road, but couldn’t catch him to get any ice cream. I had promised we would try again another day.

But here was the darned ice cream truck 15 minutes before a dinner that had literally been in the works for 24 hours. My answer to her sweet, excited little plea was, “not tonight.” Despite all the signs (like wafting hickory scents from the smoker), she couldn’t see the delicious meal that she was seconds away from enjoying.

Instantly pools of disappointment filled her eyes. Her bottom lip quavered. I wanted to hug her and wipe those tears away, but she was so upset that she pushed me back and ran away. I watched her sadly; then I followed her.

She sat in a ball of hurt on the bed, tears making muddy trails down her dusty cheeks. She didn’t understand why I wouldn’t let her have this good thing. Ice cream is good, isn’t it? I listened to her try to rationalize why I would say no. Watching her struggle to understand something so simple for us mommies made me see how my human thinking would struggle to understand God’s answers, too.

I sat waiting for her to calm down and be ready to listen. She was still trying to catch her breath when I pulled her onto my lap, wrapping my arms tightly around her. I brushed her hair away from her face, stroking her grubby cheek gently.

“I know you are disappointed. You can’t have ice cream right before dinner.” In terms she would understand, I explained we had something better for her, something that would really fill her up, make her strong and healthy.

As she sat on my lap, wanting her own way, she was sweaty and dusty and smelly. She was probably covered in chiggers from playing in the trees. I wouldn’t want to hug anyone else in that condition. But she was my hurting child, and I wanted to comfort her more than I wanted to clean her up.

As I wiped away her muddy tears, I told her about the dessert I had planned, how it would be so much better than the ice cream truck treat. She listened to me, let me hold her, and we read together, the sound of my voice comforting her.

After a dinner of fresh BBQ pork, collard greens, corn, and rice with a glass of milk, she got her dessert of ice cream melting over a bed of pound cake covered in homemade strawberry topping with whipped cream. Then I scooped her up and scrubbed her in the tub, fresh and new, after I had fed her and honored my promise.

In one evening God showed me

  • how ‘what I want when I want it’ doesn’t account for the myriad ways I cannot see His plan coming together in His timing,
  • how what He has planned is far better than what I thought I wanted;
  • I see how He pursues us in our hurts and disappointments,
  • how He comforts and loves us even when we’re dirty messes,
  • how He feeds us milk then meat, sometimes giving us dessert blessings, too;
  • then how he lovingly cleans us up, making us new and fresh.
  • and how He answers even just my prayers for encouragement in spades.

I prayerfully sought some encouragement tonight, and God answered me through a sadistic ice cream man who really needs to visit after dinnertime.

Nothing is Wasted

Trusting God that nothing is wasted is sometimes hard.

Sometimes when life is on an easier street, we do a good job feeling like we’ve put it all in His hands, but when the speed bumps start coming and getting bigger and bigger, we start to ask questions. We start wondering “Why me?” or “Why him?” or just “Why?”

And it gets downright disastrous. How can a loving, merciful God let THIS happen? Whatever your THIS might be. I have a lot of “This”es in my life.

Today, I stand in an easier stretch of life than some I’ve had, but harder than others, trying really hard to learn to trust so I have an anchor when things aren’t smooth.

One thing I’ve struggled with is why God didn’t open my eyes sooner, why wasn’t I saved earlier. I was striving to be good all by myself, and falling short, then falling away. I sometimes get so frustrated that I wasted so many years of this too short life being angry, snarky, bitter, negative, and miserable without Jesus.

And I don’t know why, but I know God loves me. He wouldn’t have let me go through something without purpose. This is where I cling to a passage in Romans.

Romans 8:28 ESV “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”The trials preceding this present darkness had purpose in the preparation for this moment. Nothing is Wasted in our lives.

And I cling to the times in my life that I now can see God’s hand in retrospect. The ladies I understand better because I’ve worn their shoes.

One story, not mine, that I think is particularly beautiful (even in the middle of the mess) is that of a dear friend.

She became ‘surprise’ pregnant before her oldest son’s first birthday. Having babies so close was already going to be ‘interesting’, but then during her husband’s deployment, she learned the baby was chromosomally gifted (Down’s Syndrome).

She was alone and struggling with what the diagnosis would mean for her baby and family. She then spent the next two years living in a world of appointments, specialists, therapists, and surgeons. Her whole life became an emergency. She had two children under two with significant needs, all-the-time.

Hard doesn’t begin to touch it. Many days were joyful, but even good days, had challenges so demanding and draining.

I would get tired FOR her because she didn’t have time to be tired. We cried together on the phone many times. This new reality was no joke. She was on her own often due to her husband’s military obligations, struggling to juggle the needs of both boys and herself.

She was worn out, but growing stronger, finding her stride. Then he was diagnosed with a form of leukemia.

And somehow she came out swinging. This battle is ridiculously hard. She has to live two hours away from her oldest son and husband for six 30 day cycles of chemo. Six months of living in the hospital, which has unforeseen expenses, like gas money and $300 a month parking which are not covered by insurance, or more recently a bill for $128,000, that she handled in stride, knowing that God has an answer.

She is watching one son lose his ginger locks to chemo, while her oldest begs her not to leave him again. She has to live in isolation for about a third of each cycle so she doesn’t risk getting a germ that could kill her baby in his immuno-compromised state. I don’t want to sugar coat it; this is a whole new level of suckitude.

BUT – from the outside I can see perhaps what she can’t yet. How unbelievably gorgeous she is.

She had a week to wrap her head around the diagnosis, plan to be gone for most of 8 months, and made binders and care packages. She is still calling me to check on me!! She is witnessing and ministering to her fellow moms on the hospital floor. She is covered in poop and puke daily, but they are having dance parties, shaking it off with Taylor Swift. That is Will’s favorite song, no matter how badly the chemo is making him feel, he can summon dance moves for Taylor.

If you want to see another cute one, Click here to see the Facebook Post by William’s Warriors of his mom, nurses and even the doc getting in on the action. Definitely youtube worthy!

None of this is the easy part, but I can see that the trials preceding this present darkness gave her the tools and strength to handle the cancer and all its fallout. Even as she battles exhaustion, I know that she never could have handled this if she hadn’t run a lifetime of metaphorical marathons for the past two years.

The trials preceding this present darkness had purpose in the preparation for this moment.… Click To Tweet

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

We all love this verse and cling to it in the dark times, but remember verses 4-10? God told them to settle down, build houses, marry, have children, and watch those children get married. The exile was to last 70 years, more than a lifetime for many hearing this message, but they were to have hope that God hadn’t forgotten them, and his plan included the exile.

How do you hang onto hope when the darkness of a loss or a particular struggle might last your entire life?

We have to know that nothing is wasted. Nothing!

A difficult day or a lifetime thorn in our flesh is part of God’s perfect plan for all those who follow him. But His plan stretches into eternity; a lifetime is but a blink. Our perspective of trust has to believe that the ripples of our lives can be used and have purpose beyond us.

I think about my friend, who last night lay with red rimmed eyes, begging for sleep, as her son was wild and miserable at 1 a.m. But woke ready for another dance party. Her witness, her love for her son, her passion and exuberance are reaching people for Christ even as she grows in grace and beauty, even as the Lord smooths out her rough edges.

When I’m broken by life, I can always call her – always. Hours away, I didn’t know what I can do for her, but I started a fundraising page so that she would at least know she is being loved and prayed over by many. Sometimes in the darkness, that quiet love is more powerful than we know.

Friends and strangers came together and raised enough to cover all their expenses. God showed her tangibly He was present even on the cancer ward. He used us to encourage and minister to her.

I wrote this almost a year ago, but even more than in the moment, I can see nothing is wasted. Through this she ministered to many, living Christ in the midst of chaos.

Now, on the other side of cancer, she can see how much God used that difficulty in her life to bring her into the lives of others, to instruct her heart, to refine her for His purposes.

Adoption – The Cost

Adoption costs are part of the journey many avoid discussing. However, few people are truly aware of or prepared for the adoption costs.

Families come to adoption in various ways, after long infertility battles or even as the way to grow their family by choice, or desire to give a family to a child in foster care. This is only our story and experience.

Seven years ago today, we officially started our adoption journey with our first conversation with an adoption facilitator and our first sticker shock.

I went from excited to defeated in one call, but we had a plan.

We don’t want to think about the costs. It seems vulgar to assign a monetary value to a person.

Discussing #adoptioncosts is hard, but being prepared is priceless if you're planning to adopt. Click To Tweet

But the expenses don’t pay for a baby, they pay for all the necessary parts of funding an agency or court fees, etc. and understanding these expenses can mean having the option to adopt or not having the resources when your heart is ready.

Adoption costs are part of the journey many avoid discussing. Families come to adoption in various ways. This is only our story and experience.

Adoption costs vary depending on the adoption route.

Some are nearly free or just legal fees, which generally run a couple thousand dollars (foster to adopt or private adoption of a family member’s or friend’s child).

Some are less expensive, through state or public agencies or the adoption of a minority or impaired child (mentally, physically, health impairments, etc.) in which the state assists with the costs.

The (potentially) quickest (but costliest) method of adoption is the one we pursued, private agency.

We chose a non-profit agency, but the agency still has employees and maintains several offices across the country with overhead expenses.

Our adoption costs from 2010

Rates change yearly, and some agencies have a sliding scale depending on salary.

Home study – $1500 for the first visit and subsequent two visits post placement. About $250 baby-proofing for the home study.

$ 500 – application fee (one agency had a $150 fee just to get the application)

$6000 – retainer due when accepted as clients

$10,000 – Agency fee due prior to placement. We paid this AT the hospital.

$4,610 – Birth mother living expenses for end of pregnancy (6-9 months)

$1830 – birth mother expenses postpartum (one month to recover)

$1000 – travel expenses for agency (we lived in same state as agency and birth mother, these could have been much higher)

$6320 – anticipated legal costs (ours turned out to be $1850 higher)

Total – $31,760 plus all the little fees and costs here and there.

Attaining certain documents and fingerprinting cost several hundred dollars.  We spent a  $110 on our profile booklet.

We spent another $250 for website advertising of us as a “Waiting Family” plus various hotel/travel living expenses while the baby was in the NICU.

Total adoption costs for us ended up at around $36,000.

Depending on your family’s financial situation, this may not be an overwhelming expense, but as a teacher and soldier, our budget definitely needed some adjusting.

It took years of discipline, of living below our means to save the money. We lived very frugally, eliminated all unnecessary debt and still had to borrow $6000 from my mom.

Saving for an adoption took sacrifice, but so does parenting #AdoptionCosts #PricelessBlessings Click To Tweet

I didn’t buy new underwear for a really long time, much less new shoes.

Sacrifice is definitely part of the parenting equation anyhow!

For my first birthday as a mom, I gave myself a high chair for our daughter. For Christmas I got a vacuum and was SUPER excited.

That’s how you know you’re a grown up.

Saving up on a modest income can be challenging.

My best recommendation is to pay off your cars, even if you have to trade down to eliminate payments. Cut as many unnecessary expenses as possible.

If you are able to wait, then it’s a good to be debt free, have a savings account, before you start saving toward an adoption. Being financially secure when the baby comes is priceless. We used Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.

If necessary, adoption loans exist, and you could pay back a loan using the adoption tax credit from your taxes, which was $13,170 in 2010.

Saving money has never been easier than when I knew the goal was a beautiful baby. Yet, it took quite a bit of dedication and combined commitment as a couple to save the money.

But we can’t put a price tag on our wonderfully precious daughter because somethings are just priceless.

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Master Weaver – trusting God’s plan in the chaos

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I’ve had lots of messy, hurtful times in my life: my husband’s combat tours, gossiping neighbors, financial struggles, marital tensions, infertility, health crises, times that felt like they were breaking me apart.

During those moments that felt like my world was breaking in two, I’ve held tightly to this promise.

Romans 8:28 ESV  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Because sometimes in the middle of it, I couldn’t see how. I’ve sat in the mess holding my heart in my hands wondering how God could possibly being doing any good.

God promises He uses all things for our good, but sometimes, we can't see how. We have to trust our Master Weaver. Click To Tweet

And then I would start to see the hints of God’s hand using those messes, and I pictured the weaving of Persian carpets, some of the most intricate, most beautiful in the world, woven together with absolute precision.

But in the middle of weaving, it is a bit of a mess. Strings hanging in random directions, lots of white threads, etc. Only the master weaver knows what the finished product will become, while we only see how perfectly the pieces fit together once each part is completed.

Life is the beautiful rug hiding in the mess of our trials and struggles. Trusting the Master Weaver for the beautiful life He is weaving in me.

I can’t always easy to see how the messy parts fit, but they always do.

April 2013, I had an arthroscopic hip surgery that was supposed to “fix” my hip. Instead, my hip was completely destroyed. After a total hip replacement in January 2014, I was recovering nicely, then dislocated my new hip. I had to spend 6 1/2 weeks in an immobilizing brace. Unable to sit up, lay down, drive, shower, dress, live in any easy way in that thing, I was STUCK at home. Frustrated, I couldn’t see how all the injuries, surgeries and setbacks could be part of God’s plan.

I wasn’t able to do anything!

Exactly what God wanted. He wanted me to stop running, figuratively and literally. SIT DOWN. Be still. Wait on ME.

So I spent months just being home, spending time with my daughter, focusing on my relationship with my husband and with God. It became an amazing time of dedicating my life to God and His highest ministry for me, raising my daughter and serving my husband through what I could be, not do.

My perspective on my purpose and my value shifted tremendously.

I can't always see God's plan in the chaos, but I can trust Him through it. Click To Tweet

During the difficult years waiting to be a mother, I cried, I ached, I got bitter before I turned it over to God. But if you gave me a chance to change it, I wouldn’t. God used every minute of the waiting.

He used that time to introduce me to my husband, to move me around the country, meet new people, to become the woman who was ready finally to be a Godly mother, raising my child for Him, not myself.

God gave me the absolute right child for me at the perfect time. He was teaching me to be patient, have wisdom and strength, and definitely, to be selfless in an entirely new way. I couldn’t understand why He wanted me to wait, but He was preparing me to be this tiny tornado’s mother. This child is a force of nature, and I had to wait for her to exist. I couldn’t have known that then and wouldn’t have missed mothering her for the world!

My struggles with infertility and our journey through adoption has allowed me to witness, minister, and support many women in similar situations. What a gift to be able to be a friend and sister in Christ in this way!

I think of all the young mothers I would never have met if I’d been a mother earlier, young women I can walk beside and support now, facing the same challenges, but as a mentor in Christ.

God has used our seemingly random moves in the military, but each was part of God’s plan in many ways.

In Texas, I met some women who truly changed my life, becoming sisters in Christ.  I cannot understate how important they have been to my life. They befriended me, supported me, helped bring me to a deeper walk with God, helped love me out of my shell, changed my life.

Also, our daughter was born there. Her birth mother chose us because she could meet us in person. God didn’t waste even the tiniest ripples of His hand.

Despite our struggles, the tiny ripples of God's hands in my life were never wasted. Click To Tweet

Then, again the army sent us away from all we knew. But it was here that I got to stay home and raise my daughter, play Candy Land instead of grade essays. Here, we found a new friends and an amazing church. Being here has absolutely grown me spiritually.

Right now, my husband and I are dealing with an assignment that is 16-18 hour days, 6-7 days every week. It is daunting for him, for me, for our daddy’s girl who misses him so, but God has been ahead of us, guiding our paths all along.

I can’t see why this might be the right place for our family, but I can trust God that it is. Surviving the storm together binds our hearts together in a way ease never did.

Surviving the storms of life strengthens us in ways that ease never did. Click To Tweet

I can rest knowing that God has a plan for my life.

Jeremiah 29: 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Many quote this verse from Jeremiah, but few put it into context.

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.  .   .   . 10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 

God promises He has a plan, but it includes 70 years of exile.

Christians often cling to Jeremiah 29:11. We like to think it promises easy lives. However, God really promised that He was with them in exile. He had not forgotten them and had planned this for their redemption. He didn’t promise they wouldn’t suffer.

Can you look back at your life and see times the Master Weaver always had a plan? All the pieces in your life that seemed out-of-place but turned out to be part of the design all along. Maybe you’re in that period of difficulty right now and can’t see how all the pieces fit.

God doesn’t waste anything. Every struggle and joy are a part of His plan for your life, unique pieces of you He can use.

Remember, God sees the finished product, and He is making a beautiful and wondrous work of your life.

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

So Master Weaver, sweet Abba Father, my hope is in Your complete plan for my life.

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