Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Maybe Maddie: A Guest Post by Kirsten LaBlanc

Photo by: left-hand (creative commons)
From Denise: Today we close out the "Love Found Me" series with a guest post from my friend, Kirsten LaBlanc. Kirsten and I became friends through an online writing community this summer, and she graciously allowed me to share on her blog after only knowing me a short period of time. (You can read that post here.) 

My heart did not swell that first moment. I felt the amazement of a new life but my heart was numb. I felt blank. Wasn't this supposed to be that moment when a mother feels overwhelming love for her child? As I examined the small fingers and toes, I wondered when or if the moment would come. Why was my heart not filling up with the sweetness and innocence of a very first meeting? She was God's perfection personified. Thick burgundy hair framed a cherub's face. Her breath warm and syrupy. I inhaled her. She studied me trying to decide what kind of mother she been given. Was I kind and loving or cold and stoic? I couldn't answer those questions as I didn't know the answers myself. It was almost as if the child was suddenly ancient and I could sense her deep understanding of the world. All I knew was that my life would never be the same. An excess of hormones and narcotics blocked further clarity.

"What is her name?" asked one of the nurses in the room. The voice led me out of the thick fog.

I glanced at the child's father hoping for a glimmer of recognition. Was this the child we called Maybe Maddie? Maybe, maybe not. I did not know. This baby was unfamiliar to me. I did not know her.

"Are you Maybe Maddie?" I asked my daughter, expecting a flicker of approval but getting a sleepy yawn.

"I believe she is" my husband answered for the child at my breast.

I nodded.

Maybe Maddie. The redhead girl we dreamt would be our daughter was here and on her own time. That was way she would do everything - on her own time. I did not believe the child was ready to come. She was 2 weeks, 6 days early and just barely to term. Her daddy and I firmly believe we know what happened.

Our Maybe Maddie poked too hard and accidentally broke her bubble world. As the warm bath water drained all around her, Maybe Maddie cursed, "Oh crap!" Then she panicked, "Put it back! I didn't mean to! Uh oh! Here I go!" She began her new life.

Every bit of confidence disappeared once I saw that tiny pink squirmy screaming being. “Are they really going to send her home with us?" I asked my husband.

He smiled and then gave a look of worry. “Yes. I think we’re in charge now.” He sat. “It shouldn't be too bad. We just have to keep her alive and love her.”

“Now comes the happiness,” I thought as we came home - a family of three. I waited. I cried. “Where is the happy excitement of a new baby?” I questioned myself, too ashamed to admit the truth.

It didn't help that Maybe Maddie was colicky. Maybe Maddie cried and ate and cried. Finally, she slept. I slept. I ate. I cried. The phone did not ring. No one called to ask what we needed. I asked. No one responded. So, I sat waiting for the joy to find me. After several days, it became apparent that joy wasn't really even looking for us. One morning, I waited on the couch with a wriggly unhappy baby. I called the pediatrician's office at exactly 8:30 am. “Come right away,” said the voice on the phone.

We did.

"She's perfectly healthy." the nurse sat in front of me and studied me. "Oh! Poor Dear." She said, "Motherhood isn't exactly what you expected, is it?"

We left.

When we got home, I bundled up Maybe Maddie and we walked. I looked for joy. Maybe Maddie cried some more. We ate lunch and we got in the car. I drove and drove. Maybe Maddie slept and peace found me. This became our new life. We woke up. We ate breakfast. We bundled up and we walked. When I couldn't take any more crying from Maybe Maddie, we drove and Maybe Maddie slept.

Finally, a break. One day, after our walk, Maybe Maddie made a sound that wasn't screaming. I looked down into the stroller to find a happy smiling plump baby. I cried. I ate. I slept. Maybe Maddie smiled. She laughed and she played. I wish I could say I remember the exact moment I realized my heart was full. My memory has so many blank spots. I didn't know what to call it. Doctors call it Postpartum Depression. My mother said it was the Baby Blues. Maybe Maddie patiently nursed me slowly nourishing me with that magical elixir - her sweet baby breath. As I inhaled, I was filled fill light. The darkness was gone. My
tears dried and I was content. That’s when I knew I had always loved her.

That’s when the joy came.

Love can find us in many different ways. How has love found you?

Kirsten is a writer, mommy and a woman trying to have it all or as much of it as possible. She is currently working on a book about her grandparents’ oral history. Kirsten blogs at exploring motherhood, faith and her quest to shave her head for children’s cancer research. When 
Kirsten isn't writing, she loves to cook, read and she spends entirely too much time chasing her 3 year 
old daughter.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday Strikes Again

Monday + Head Cold = BAD DAY

After a fantastic weekend at the Justice Conference in Philadelphia, it was hard to go back to work today. Let's face it, I love my job, but I would LOVE IT if God would provide some way or another for me to do outreach stuff 24/7. It's my heart & soul. Until then, I'll carry on and be the best, most kindest receptionist/administrative assistant to the best boss(es) in the world. ;)

Not to mention this pesky little head cold that managed to find me this weekend. (Thank God you can't see me right now. I have tissues jammed in my nose to catch all the snot trying to escape.)

On the bright side, today was a beautiful sunny day outside. I thoroughly enjoyed the bright blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds.

And did I mention what a wonderful weekend I had in Philly? It was jam-packed full of social justice goodness, networking with some new friends and awesome organizations, and getting to know my friend Kelly A LOT better.

Speaking of the conference, there's so much to unpack from what I heard this weekend. There's so much I need to process and wrap my head around, and things I would eventually like to share with you. For today, I want to leave you with this one thought - the theme that ran through the weekend:

Just because we can't fix the world doesn't mean we can't change it. 
-Ken Wystma

P.S. I was on cold meds when I wrote this post, just in case it makes no sense to you. ;)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wrecked No More: A Guest Post by Andrea Ward

Photo by: Idodds

From Denise: The "Love Found Me" series continues today with a guest post from my friend, Andrea Ward. Andrea and I became friends through an online writing community, and I'm honored to have her share on the blog today.

It was 1994 and I was not happy with life. I was too shy to make new friends and WAY to shy to talk to boys. I was lonely and didn't know what to do about it. I felt out of place and out of sync with everything around me. I felt guilty for things beyond my control. I felt misunderstood by others. I felt unknown to myself. I felt unlovable and obsessed over the relationships I didn't have.

I had many conversations in my head, but few out loud. At home, I stayed in my room. At school, I had two close friends. I talked to no one else because I felt no one else cared. I made sure that no one else knew. I wrote poetry trying to express my pain.

I blamed myself and I blamed others. It was not pretty. It was an ugly year full of pain. Not one part of the downward spiral or grabbing the survival line was pretty. However there was one moment of light. One honest prayer that broke through all my pain and anger. I prayed part of "Don't take the Girl" by Tim McGraw, "Take the very breath you gave me."

He didn't take my breath, but then and there He started taking my heart and my life. The very next day my parents discovered the depth of my pain and we talked. We really talked. A few months later there was a cute boy who grabbed my attention. A friend of mine invited me to the same youth group he attended. Of course I went. And I found a group that loved me. I found adults that listened to me. I had found a home for my heart. In October 1995, I found the lover of my soul and a love that would never fail me.

He found me as a lonely painful girl and loved me until I blossomed into the daughter he always knew I could be.

Love found me a wreck and loved me into a new creation. 

In what ways did love find you a wreck and transform your life? Share with us in the comments!

Andrea Ward is a blogger, writer, wife, mother, teacher, and youth leader. She loves good food, good books and good conversation. A cup of great coffee will make her day great and if it that said cup is fair trade, she’s through the roof! She blogs Jesus, You, and Me and you can find her on Twitter.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Not So Manic Monday

Ah, Monday.

We meet again.

Thanks for giving me a break today. From the start, you were slow and sure. There was nothing crazy about you.

Thank you.

Every now and again a girl just needs a break from the mania. A day just to be enjoyed and treasured.

And today was a joy.

Work was slow.

My evening peaceful.

The highlight was talking to my "lil sis." This kid is amazing & doesn't even know what a gift she truly is.

As I lay my head down to rest, my heart is full. There is much to be thankful for in my life.

How was your day? What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Love Found Me: A Guest Post by Tim Gallen

Photo by: findingthenow

From Denise: The "Love Found Me" series continues with a post from my friend, Tim Gallen. I had the opportunity to connect with Tim for the first time last year and have gotten to know him through an online writing community. He is a talented writer, especially where fiction is concerned, and I'm honored to have him as my guest this week! 

When I was born, I spent my first few days of life in intensive care. As my parents always tell it, something was wrong, but after several days they never figured out what it was. 

Nearly 30 years later - and despite what others might consider to be off about me - I’m confident the condition that went undiagnosed was a misplaced heart.

You see, my heart’s never really been under my left breast. Rather, I entered the world with my heart on my sleeve.

No wonder I’m a lifelong hopeless romantic.

Until I met her, I dwelled a goodly amount of time on finding the love of my life.

But the thing is, the harder I tried the farther I got from finding love. Not that I tried that hard, mind you. I was no smooth operator when it came to the ladies. I am shy, odd, nerdy, and not always good at small talk. But I tried, with limited success.

But it wasn’t until I essentially gave up looking that the woman I had been hoping for fell into my lap. Or, more accurately, my inbox.

Love found me surfing the Internet. And I've never been happier.

Have you ever seen one of those eHarmony commercials where the man and woman take turns talking about the other? That could be the story of my life. My wife and I met on eHarmony.

We connected over my passion for dental hygiene.

One of the questions on eHarmony’s profile asks to name three things you are passionate about. Honestly, I don’t remember the first two, other than that they were serious things. But for the third one, I wrote that I was passionate about brushing my teeth.

When my wife and I first connected via the dating site, she mentioned that answer had made her laugh.

I've been making her laugh ever since.

This may sound horrible of me, but I don’t recall what specific item from Nicole’s profile or answers entangled me. I think it was more a combination of everything. She entangled me with everything that is her - her passion, love, character, beauty, and faith. Since our first connection, I have found it easy to be myself with her.

Isn't that what love is all about? We spend inordinate amounts of energy to reflect an aura of perfection. We do our best to ensure the world only sees our best face.

But love strips away all the pretentious masks we insist on wearing. Love leaves us naked and vulnerable. Yet, instead of scorn or disdain, love sees us for all we are and embraces and cherishes us anyway.

I am not perfect. Like everyone else, I have flaws and foibles. I make mistakes. But my wife loves me anyway.

Love found me online. And I am so grateful.

How did love find you? Share your story in the comments!

Tim Gallen is a writer on a journey of recovery, rediscovery and irreverence. Follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook. He blogs, though not quite daily, at the daily gallen.

Monday, February 11, 2013

How to Respond to Manic Mondays

Hello Monday.

From the moment the office opened, it was a crazy day.

The phones rang non-stop.

The waiting room flooded with customers.

The work seemed never-ending.

And it was such a beautiful day!

Wait. What?

How can a crazy-busy Monday be beautiful?

This morning as I was readying myself for the day, I was reminded of a phrase I heard frequently as my days as a missionary - "walk in the opposite spirit." Most of the time this was said in terms of how to respond to others. But today I applied it the spirit of the day. 

What do I mean?

Mondays suck.

It's like Monday constantly has a bad attitude.

And it's my choice how I'm going to respond to it.

Do I respond with the same bad attitude?

Or do I walk in the opposite spirit?

Today I chose the latter. I chose to have a good attitude. 

My beautiful day included a gorgeous spring-like day, some one-on-one time with my mama, and breakfast for dinner with my husband.

How did you respond to this manic Monday?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Q & A with Tosca Lee

A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to ask New York Times Bestselling author Tosca Lee a few questions about her latest novel, Iscariot, which released on Tuesday, February 5th. Iscariot is a fascinating look at the story of Judas, arguably the most reviled man in Biblical history. Tosca is the author of Havah and Demon, and the co-author of Forbidden, Mortal, and Sovereign (written with Ted Dekker). 

Me: What drew you to Judas's story?

Tosca: My editor friend Jeff Gerke (who published Demon and Havah) suggested it. And I ran in the other direction for about a year. What finally got me was the encouragement of friends - most notably Robert Liparulo - and the fact that I finally admitted I was obsessed with the story.

Me: How do you see yourself in Judas?

Tosca: This story is largely about love vs. the law and about the agendas we have for God. Things that I've gone round and round about most of my life. Ultimately, though, this story is really about the inexplicable and uncontainable person of Jesus.

Me: In Matthew 26:50, Jesus tells Judas, "Do what you came for, friend?" What do you think of Jesus' response to his near betrayal?

Tosca: That he knew it was coming. That perhaps, he even had compassion for Judas, knowing that a day would come when he had wished he had never been born.

Me: What was the hardest part of writing Iscariot?

Tosca: The research. It took a year and a half. It was ginormous. And then writing it. And then editing it. The entire project was a long labor.

Me: What, if anything, do you want the readers to take away from Judas's story?

Tosca: Of course I want them to ask the question if they would have done the same, but what I really want is for them to slip into the skin of someone close to Jesus and experience him, as I did.

Many thanks to Tosca for giving me the opportunity to do the Q & A!!!

In Jesus, Judas believes he has found “the One” – a miracle-worker.  The promised Messiah and future king of the Jews, destined to overthrow Roman rule.  Galvanized, Judas joins the Nazarene’s followers, ready to enact the change he has waited for all his life.
But Judas’ vision of a nation free from Roman rule is crushed by the inexplicable actions of the Nazarene himself, who will not bow to social or religious convention – who seems in the end even to turn against his own people.  At last, Judas must confront the fact that the master he loves is not the liberator he hoped for but a man pursuing a drastically different agenda.
Iscariot is the story of Judas – from his tumultuous childhood and tenuous entry into a career and family life to culminating events that have marked him as the betrayer of Jesus.  But even more, it is a singular and surprising view into the life of Jesus himself that forces us all to reexamine everything we thought we knew about the most famous – and infamous – religious icons in history.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Has Love Found You?

Photo by: skyler817

"Three things will last forever - faith, hope, and love - and the greatest of these is love." 
1 Corinthians 13:13

There's something about a good love story that we as a society deeply appreciate. We find ourselves telling love stories everywhere - in literature, movies, music, media. We engage in taking sides, rooting for one couple over another in fictional romance novels (Team Jacob or Edward, anyone?). We all have a favorite love song or two. We obsess over the successes and failures of Hollywood's power couples. 

Love stories are everywhere.

A mom longs for a little girl. A sibling for her sweet little boy. With aching heart and bended knee, she prays for her womb to be blessed once again. In the summer of 1977, her prayers are answered as she finally gives birth to her sweet baby girl. 

A young girl misses her daddy, taken away long before his time. Her heart and soul are lonely, longing to be filled with a father's love. Her Sunday school teacher tells her about Jesus, which begins a life-changing journey. One day He reveals to her how great & how vast His love is for her, that He is her Father and she is His daughter.

A young woman meets a young man, kind and caring, with those gorgeous blue eyes and sexy smile. She may not have fallen head over heals in love instantly, but he certainly had her attention. He pursued her over time, gaining her friendship first and stealing her heart later. Theirs is a crazy kind of love, but oh how they love each other!

These love stories are my own.

Love found me long before I was born, birthed out of love in my mother's heart.

And love continues to find me. India surrounded by the bright smiling faces of orphans, capturing my heart the moment I laid eyes on them. Bangladesh as my team was tromping through the muddy fields to reach a small village where they had never heard the Gospel. Love found a whole village that day. small-town Ohio living and loving the people here in small, simple ways.

Love has a way of finding each of us in unique ways. That's why I've invited some of my friends to share their love stories. Each Wednesday in February a new love story will be featured. As they share, I hope you will join the conversation by sharing your own story.

Love found me.

Has love found you?

Monday, February 4, 2013

What A Soul Needs

Today, as most Mondays do, lived up to its name. It was crazy and chaotic. Manic in every sense of the word.

The phone rang off the hook.

Email flooded my inbox.

Customers poured into the waiting area, sometimes two or three at a time.

Yet there was such a peace about today. Not once was I anxious or overwhelmed with my responsibilities or the never-ending pile of things to do.

Towards the end of the day, with maybe only an hour to go, the snow began to fall. Each flake drifted towards the ground, gathering together there to create a thick blanket.

I've noticed something about snow. When it snows a hush falls over the land. It is not loud and boisterous like rain storms. It doesn't just leave a giant mess of wet, muddy puddles. Snowfall is gentle, quiet, peaceful. It leaves a beautiful mark on the world first. Only when it melts does it uncover the messiness. (But let's not talk about that right now!)

Peace is what my soul needs.

And that is what I shall focus on today.

What does your soul need today?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Take Time to Pause

Life is busy. 

We fill our days with work, family, friends, social media, entertainment of all sorts. If we're lucky, we may get a little bit of sleep to energize us to do it all over again the next day. We live in a world that thrives on staying busy and filling the void in our lives with noise. 

Noise that tries to drown out the voice that says "I'm not good enough."

Noise that tries to fill the cracks of a broken heart.

Noise that tries to feed our hungry souls.

We need to stop the noise.

Joseph Iregbu's SELAH offers us a moment to pause, to quiet our souls, and reflect on the grace and hope of God. This 90 day devotional takes the reader on a journey of discovery - of finding out who God really is and what our purpose is in Him. 

This book is not for everyone. It's for believers who are seeking personal growth in their walk with God. It's for those who feel helpless and hopeless due to life's circumstances. It's for folks looking for greater meaning and purpose for their life.

Do you long for quiet moments with Him or want to (re)discover what it is to walk with God? Then SELAH is the book for you!

Though this book is not yet available to purchase, the author has generously offered the first seven days FREE for download. Trust me, you don't want to miss out on this great offer!