on pregnancy

We will never understand this side of Heaven why so many things happen . . .

and why so many things don’t.

Like pregnancy, for instance.

No doubt this word carries with it a huge gamut of emotions for women.

Some hear the word and they long for it, waiting and praying their time will come.

Others hear it and fear, remembering when it was and then it all too soon was not.

Then there are those who dread, knowing their hands are full and couldn’t imagine adding another to the mix.

Meanwhile, many are confused, wondering why it happens for those who would destroy life and why it doesn’t happen for those who would lay down their life for another.

All of that to say, “pregnancy” is a loaded word, and I am fully aware and very sensitive to the fact.

So, as I sit here typing, finding out just a few days ago that the Lord has placed another life inside my womb . . . (yes, another baby, and yes, that’s right, we just had a baby) . . . my mind cannot help but scroll through the spectrum above and think about how others feel.

Not that I am implying that I think others care that deeply about my life personally.  However, I do know when any woman hears the news of any other woman expecting a baby, their mind immediately links to some kind of tender, deep, personal emotion – good or bad, happy or sad.  And I care about that.

For David and me – in the midst of our head-spinning and heart-spuing, celebrating and rejoicing that God has graciously given us another precious, priceless life, all the while feeling crazy and ridiculous, wondering if we can really handle FIVE children – we are aware (and also unaware) of so many women that are walking a hard road.

One day, for those who are in Christ, we will stand before the throne of God and say, “Ah, yes.  Now I see.  Now it all makes sense.”

But until that day, there is so much pain in this life, mixed with a lot of confusion and a lot of questions.

Yet there is also so much JOY in the Story that God has authored before time began.  Each person is a unique part of that beautiful work, and God is a good, good Father.

All the while, I pray for grace to say that and live like I believe that, no matter where I find myself on any given spectrum.

my FATHER

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Thank you

For All The Happy mEmories shaRed

For All The Hours of Energy pouRed

For All The Heavy Emotions caRried

For All The Humble prayErs pRayed

For All The Humor wE Remember

For All The Heartfelt Encouragement tReasured

For All The Hugs Each moRning

For All The Hot aftErnoons on tennis couRts

For All The Hundreds of milEs tRaveled together

For All The tHousands of milEs you tRavel to see us now

Yes, thank you for being and continuing to be this FATHER (and so much more) to me –

and to the rest of us!

 I love you, Dad

Happy Father’s Day

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praying to pass well

“When the cares of my heart are many, Your consolations cheer my soul.”

[Psalm 94:19]

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“Security is not about where you live, but where you dwell.”

[Kevin Rodgers]

…..

“LORD, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.

Before the mountains were brought forth, 

or ever you had formed the earth and the world, 

from everlasting to everlasting You are God.”

[Psalm 90:1-2]

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“When God moves us out of our comfort zone –

into places that are way bigger than us,

places that are difficult, hard, painful . . .

We are being given a gift.”

[Ann Voskamp]

We find ourselves praying for grace to be ever-aware of this [ofttimes disguised] gift.  Behind all of the uncomfortable, we are being convinced it really is.

. . . . .

It was last Monday (May 30th).  We were sitting around the dinner table with candles lit from the third power outage of the day.

Thankfully this amount has been infrequent as of late.

The girls were singing all 10 verses of “10 little ducks went swimming one day” (actually, I think it’s just 5, but they didn’t hesitate to double!), and they never once let up on their enthusiasm.

Judah – snug in my lap after just finishing his bottle – was working hard to join in with the singing.  He is discovering his voice (which I never want to take for granted), and it is darling.

John David grabbed an extra dinner roll as he excused himself from the table and the performance.

Not too far from the quacking concert, he walked the living room floor, taking big bites of bread and, no doubt, dropping crumbs sure to allure the all-too-frequent but entirely unwelcome visiting ants.  Things are very dry around here now, and critters are fiercely on the hunt for water and food.

He was still wearing his school P.E. uniform from the day – and a cap, of course – along with David’s running shoes that he had discreetly slipped on.

It seems John David’s feet multiplied in size overnight, but I’m relieved to know it’s not quite time for he and David to share sneakers.  But it is crazy how much he has grown since we moved here almost a year ago.

John David’s steps made louder by oversized shoes seemed to be in sync with the ticking of the clock . . . reminding me all too loudly of how quickly time is passing.

This was John David’s last day as an 8-year-old.

And these are the treasure moments –

the singing, the laughing, the baby squeals, the 8-year-old long-legged boy pacing the floor in his Daddy’s shoes, us all around the table together . . .

the moments that make me want to scream, “Freeze!”

So, I don’t want the busy that surrounds us to bombard the beautiful –

or the stress and strain to sweep away the sweetness of these fleeting moments.

I want to drink it all in and savor each second with a thankful heart,

knowing we will pass this way [this place, these people, these children, this season of life] but once . . .

where I found myself today

For me (Katie), Thursday afternoons consist of joining my friend, Laura, and gathering with a group of dear ladies at my language teacher’s church in a nearby village.  We pray and sing (and sometimes dance😉 ), study and discuss God’s Word, learn Bible stories, and then pray that the Holy Spirit will accompany us as we seek to share His love and truth throughout the village.

This week we were learning the story of Jesus calming the storm, and the women had fun incorporating some drama.

But where I found myself today, I felt much like the disciples in the boat . . .

. . . . .

As soon as I see the water ripple, the internal wrestling ignites.

Waves begin to rise around me, forming fear that seems to shadow solid faith and forces me to double over with doubt.

All too quickly I feel vulnerable and helpless.

Every remark in my direction – like wind over an open wound – causes me to cling and cringe, reminding me of how inadequate and incapable I am.

In the moment, it is as if I can do nothing well and nothing right.

But I can cry.

So I do – streams of struggle and words of wanting . . .

Yet, Jesus, You hear.

You are awake, and You are wise.

You listen, and You love.

And You raise Your hands upward and speak powerful words, calming the storm in me before calming the storm around me.  Because only You make it possible for internal peace to precede external calm.

You see that my faith is so small, and You graciously give me the gift of one ounce more as You steadily remind me of Who You Are.

I hear Your words of power, and I see the winds and the waves obey You.

And I know that – by Your grace – I can obey You, too.  And I can trust You – fully and completely.

When my boat shifts and shakes, twists and turns, it is You who turn the pages of this Story You authored before the beginning of time.

I look to You, and I look around.  Everything is calm . . . for a moment.

And when the moment is over, and the ripples repeat and the waves rush,

I pray I find myself remembering that You, again –

with strength in Your hands and power in Your words and kindness in Your character –

will graciously grant another fragment of free faith that will, in turn, give flight to my fears.

Oh, may I never forget each rush of wind that triggers my heart to relish my Redeemer.

And may I embrace the ridiculous reality that this is truly a preferred place to be . . . a place of undeniable dependance on the One who has rescued me.

For when the question is asked, “‘Who is this, that even the wind and the waves obey Him?'” (Mark 4:41), by Your mercy, I will know.

And I will herald Your hard-pressed faithfulness that has never wavered and that has patiently preserved.  Moreover, I will be able to recount with wonder each and every storm that You have stilled in my worn and weary yet revived soul.

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What will your favorite color be?

Or your favorite bedtime story?

What will make you smile with pride?

What will make you run and hide?

What will make you jump for joy?

What will be your favorite toy?

Who will be your closest friend?

And for your sails, what will be the wind?

What will be your life-long dream?

Or your favorite flavor ice cream?

There is so much about you that we don’t know!

As the days pass on, time will show.

We have many things to discover, my son.

Our adventure with you has just begun.

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Pouring T

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From my middle school years on, our family lived in a house on Pleasant Ridge Loop.

And it was Mom that made it home – truly pleasant, a place where we all wanted to be.

The way the house looks now is slightly different from when we lived there.  The outside has been painted, along with the shutters, and there is a new door with a detailed frame above.

But I haven’t been inside the house since we moved, so it all still looks the same in my mind.

There were wooden floors and high ceilings and voices easily traveled throughout.  There was a staircase, and Mom and Dad’s room was at the bottom of it.  At the top of the stairs were three more bedrooms and a balcony that overlooked the living room below.

The rose-colored room on the right was mine.  An assortment of half-filled journals could be found, along with drawing pads and ballet shoes and remnants of little girl-hood coupled with confirming signs of growing up. 

A Jack and Jill bathroom – whose walls continually echoed with pre-bedtime laughter – connected my room to a light blue one that belonged to my little brother.  There was a small basketball goal on the door, a massive Chipper Jones poster on the wall, and quite possibly the largest collection of Nike wristbands in the closet.  Some sort of possibly random but really good music could be found playing, and the ceiling fan was never less than full-blast.

At the end of the upstairs hallway was the cream room belonging to my older brother, just 18 months older than myself.  A worn, comfy couch sat under a large window in the back of his room, making this place warm and cozy in the summertime but slightly more chilly in the winter.  Here he studied hard and read long and – at one point – could be found sleeping on the floor at night in preparation for the summer he would spend in China.

Three very different children, very secure in the love of our home.  Our parents made sure of it.

Mom would call us downstairs for mealtime, and the high ceilings would carry her voice over the balcony.

We would expectantly gather around the heavy wooden table Mom had bought years prior with money she had earned from a craft show.  The table was nestled into a bay window just off the kitchen that overlooked the long back yard Dad kept so neatly mowed.  There was a railroad track behind our house, but the tall bushes made it discreet until the daily train passed, right on schedule.  We thought we would never get used to that train.  However, as years went by, it was nothing short of a comforting sound of normalcy.

Mom, Dad, and three children pulled up chairs to the table with gratitude.  Before us was hot spaghetti noodles, meaty Prego sauce, buttered and seasoned hot dog buns toasted and transformed, and the sweetest sweet tea in Alabama.

As Mom poured the tea over cups full of ice, she was unaware of all that she was really pouring into her children.

As Dad prayed over the food, his meal-time intercession represented years of bed-side prayers he and Mom had lifted on behalf of their family.

The day was discussed and laughter was shared.  Mom was always intentional to not only make sure bodies were fed but that hearts were fed, too.

At dinner’s end, the children they were working hard to raise pushed back from the table she had worked hard to buy . . . and no one was fully aware that when we rose from the safety of our seats, we would one day find ourselves scattered to various parts of the world.

So, after taking this sentimental stroll – on behalf of my brothers and me – I wanted to make time to honor our mom, Teresa.  Besides “Mom”, she has also been known throughout the years by a few different titles: “Mother Teresa”, “Mama T”, “Sweet T”, or a simple, endearing “T” these days, primarily by her grandchildren.

But we want to specifically thank the Lord that Mom has been “Pouring T” every single day of our lives – pouring love and affirmation, wisdom and discipline, patience and grace.

How we wish we could squeeze you right now, Mom, smack-dab in the middle of a big Pugh pile!

But until the day that becomes reality again, know that we are holding you tight in our hearts and bowing to our knees in gratitude for all of the years of your selfless pouring out.

You have been a channel of grace to your three children, and the Lord knew that we needed YOU – all that you poured into us was exactly what we needed to fill us up and to prepare us for what He has had in store.

We love you, Mom, and we appreciate you – more than you will ever know.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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contentment in the “little while”

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Oh, contentment . . .

you mysterious word.

Even Paul acknowledged the mystery –

he had to learn the secret of being content (Philippians 4).

We are all given the opportunity each day, wherever we find ourselves on this planet, to cling to contentment.

Scripture proclaims that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

But why do I all too often I neglect putting forth the effort and pleading for the grace to unlock this treasure box, to peer into this secret, to dig my hands deep into this gold, and to fully embrace it?

Ah, how rich I would be!

{Father, I beg that you teach me the secret of being content in any and every situation, through You who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).  Not strength to win a game, but strength to be found content wherever I am, whatever my circumstances.}

I recently read these words, and they resonated with me to the core:

“The choice is ours.  It depends on our willingness to see everything in God, receive all from His hand, accept with gratitude the portion and the cup He offers.  Shall I charge Him with a mistake in His measurements or with misjudging the sphere in which I can best learn to trust Him?  Has He misplaced me? . . . The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”  (Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart)

To trust “His measurements”.  To believe at all times that in God’s will I am not misplaced.  To own the reality that God does not make mistakes and that the portion and the cup that He offers me is good.  It is BEST.

“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what is promised.  For, ‘Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay . . .'”  (Hebrews 10:36-37)

No doubt, the coming of the Coming One is sooner than it’s ever been!  And while I am in the “little while”, I deeply desire to be found faithful, obedient, thankful, and content.

Is it possible?

Yes!  Through Him who gives me strength!

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  – Philippians 4:11-13

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Judah, Judah.

What can we say, little buddy?

Well, you officially rolled over yesterday (April 16th) – back to tummy – just in time to celebrate your 4 month mark.  Way to go!

You pulled your first really long stretch of sleep on March 10th (a whopping 10 hours, 8:15 pm to 6:15 am) just a few days before you hit 3 months.  We honestly thought it was a fluke!  But you have continued with this awesomeness, and Mommy and Daddy are BEYOND grateful!  (Now, it’s usually 11 hours, but – let’s be honest – not without some squirming and repositioning and sometimes a diaper change.)  We’re still thrilled.

Though you are wearing some 3-6 month clothes, it seems that 6 month onesies and sleepers fit you best . . . and even some 6-9 months!  Wow, you’re growing WAY too fast!  You are taking 5 bottles a day, 5 ounces each, about every 3 hours.  Thankfully, feeding you is a smooth process, and you’re a good burper.  However – for some reason – you feel lots of freedom to spit up when Daddy is holding you.  I don’t think he minds too much; it is honestly kind of humorous.😉

We often use the word “chill” to describe you.  It is true that you are very laid back and easy-going, and – I think it’s okay to say – you’re super sweet!  A snuggle bug that still likes to be swaddled and smiles at your parents and loves attention from your big brother and sisters.

Despite the uncertainties that shadowed your first week of life, our transition to having you has been our easiest baby transition thus far, and we praise the Lord! Especially considering our lives since we found out you were coming . . .

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Speaking of “we found out you were coming”,  TODAY marks the ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY of that wonderfully shocking news!  And had we known that the baby inside was YOU, we would have been doing back flips amidst the jaw-drops, for sure!

We had just begun our orientation in VA, and – because of the plethora crazy vaccines required for different countries around the world – all of the ladies were advised to take pregnancy tests before our first shot clinic.

So, I purchased a test – one of those two-packers with a nice bonus one.

With that extra test, I justified going ahead and taking one the very night I bought them.  I knew I’d have another one left over just before vaccine time.

I felt crazy because we had already learned (and repeated over and over to ourselves) “one transition at a time, please!”  So, there was no way we were “trying” to grow our family at this point.

But it was strange.  I just had a feeling . . .

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I stepped into the bathroom and anticipated what type of lines might be displayed on that piece of plastic.

I remember lying the test down and praying, giving thanks for the three precious children that we already had been given – knowing that not a one of them did we deserve – and trusting God’s goodness and timing and perfect plan.

Then I glanced down at the floor – wanting to look but not wanting to.

And there it was . . .

A PLUS SIGN.

I could not believe it.

I dropped to my knees, overwhelmed and stunned by God’s kindness and unmerited grace packaged in such a sweet surprise!

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It was YOU, Judah Campbell.

And, oh, how the Lord knew we needed you and that you would complete our family in such a precious way.

You are my baby, and I can tell that you will always be that to me.

You are very special, Judah.  You are so loved and wanted and cherished every day.  Though it seems you are growing and changing each minute, those things will never change.

Happy 4 months, dear one, and Happy 1 year since we realized our lives would be blessed forever by a fearfully and wonderfully made, one-of-a-kind gift.

YOU.

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a year of refining winds

This day last year was the first day of the hardest year of our lives.

April 15, 2015 is when we began our time of training to help prepare us for where we find ourselves today.  It was the initial step to what has been quite an emotional journey thus far.

As we look back over our shoulders at the past 366 (leap year!) days, so much has happened.  There is really no way to put it into words.

I actually tried to last night – in a blog post – but it was somehow deleted.

Thankfully, though, the Lord did not waste the time and effort.  I was able to process and articulate some feelings and emotions that I obviously needed to deal with and – obviously – only He needed to hear.

I will document this, however.

April of last year, one afternoon during that orientation, we were given a couple hours to be alone and to find a quiet place.

Below are a few thoughts from my journal and images from my camera that day that I found myself thinking about again.

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Before me stands a tree whose frail branches are securely fixed.

The wind begins to blow – free and fierce – without warning of it’s coming and no word as to how long it will stay.

The branches shiver, shaking up and down, tossed about by this unexpected, invisible force.

But the branches endure.

They are fixed to a source exponentially stronger than themselves – with roots that go down deep into the earth, further than they could ever go on their own.

I watch the branches tremble – leaves blowing, some being stripped away.

And it is beautiful.

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The branches look even more beautiful as they are tossed and blown about and – through it all – as they remain securely affixed to their source of life and security and sustenance.

This tree – their foundation – stands firm, unshaken.

So could it be that our lives should resemble these branches?  That an onlooker would marvel at the beauty of watching our frailty shaking from external circumstances, unexpected winds of refinement, and though – weathered and worn – we sway against opposing forces that we are given no warning of, we remain firmly affixed to the Source of true Life and Security and Sustenance.  The Anchor, the Rock, the Strong Tree that does not bend nor break beneath fierce wind, that is exponentially stronger than ourselves.

Christ – our foundation – stands firm, unshaken.

And like sap flowing from the roots to branches of a tree, so faith flows freely from the Abundant Giver to our frail, prone-to-snap hearts.

Sap flow within a tree is ignited when it faces external pressure or when it has been “wounded”.  It is a gift from it’s Creator, like a healing balm, that provides the tree with nutrients and minerals to keep it alive and thriving.

So it is with faith.

The faith flow begins – a gift from our Father that keeps us alive through the winds and wounds and uncertainties and pressures that would threaten to break us, to cause us to shrivel and die.

And through all of it, God extends to us this gift of faith to believe Him, to relinquish rights and worry and to surrender to His control.  Then He offers the invitation to rest – to abide securely in His unwavering trustworthiness, His enduring faithfulness, and His precious promise that He will never let us go.

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Celebrating & Remembering

Our family traveled from Malawi to Zambia the Thursday before Easter. We drove across the boarder and made the long trek for a big upcoming meeting with our cluster of missionaries. We decided to travel a bit early in order to tack on some vacation time before business.

We visited a church on Easter Sunday with some of our IMB friends in Zambia. It was lovely and worshipful and an overall good morning.

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As I sat in a room full of warm faces (and warm bodies), feeling happy and welcome . . . I still felt very far away from what is familiar – especially on this holiday.

Our family was dressed in outfits made from cloth purchased at the market in Malawi. But despite this small attempt to feel more a part of things here, I can still find myself feeling so distant – so new and uncertain.

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Rays of sun shone through windows at the front of the church, and the light gleamed in our section of seats for a time.

The Lord graciously drew my heart back to the Cross, the glorious reason why we celebrate this day in the first place and the sole reason I was sitting on this particular bench this Easter morning.

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I felt the Lord’s presence so close – as close as at any other time or place in my life.

And memories of some of those random, sweet times and places flashed across my mind:

Like that summer at music camp. I remember walking into the bookstore next to the snack shop and feeling God reach down and wrap me up in the joy and assurance of His presence. I felt so deeply grateful to belong to Him.

Or that particular day in high school. I remember entering the bathroom, opening the stall with patches of graffiti on the walls, and feeling His peace overwhelm me. “It is Well with My Soul” filled up my heart as I prepared to reenter the noise and drama of the hallway between classes.

I believe God brought these two particular moments across my mind this morning to remind me that He carried me then, securely under His wings, and He will carry me now.

I was able to reflect on God’s faithfulness up to this point and to pray for grace to always believe that He will indeed meet me wherever I am – wherever He has called me – and fulfill in me my purpose for living . . . to know Him, to enjoy Him, and to make Him known!

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Lusaka, Zambia

. . . . .

And remembering years past . . .

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Alberta Baptist Church : Tuscaloosa, AL : our last Sunday before moving to Africa

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Crossroads Church : Columbia, SC

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2013

Crossroads Church : Columbia, SC : Karis’ first Easter

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2012

Lake Gaston Baptist Church : Littleton, NC : ending first trimester sickness with Baby Karis

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Lake Gaston Baptist Church : Littleton, NC

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Circlewood Baptist Church : Tuscaloosa, AL : Claire’s first Easter

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Circlewood Baptist Church : Tuscaloosa, AL : Baby Claire on the way!

 

 . . . . .

“Remembering frames up gratitude.

Gratitude lays out the planks of trust. I can walk the planks – from known to unknown – and know; He holds.

I can walk unafraid.

Remembering is an act of thanksgiving . . . this turn of the heart over time’s shoulder to see all the long way His arms have carried.

In memory, the shape of God’s yesterday-heart emerges and assures of God’s now-heart and reassures of His sure beat tomorrow. And for the first time I see why the Israelites are covenanted with God to be a people who remember with thanks. It is thanksgiving that shapes a theology of trust . . .

Isn’t this what ultimately Jesus asks of us in the Last Supper? One of the very last directives He offers to His disciples, the one of supreme import but one I too often neglect – to remember. Do this in remembrance of Me.

Remember and give thanks.

Because remembering with thanks is what causes us to trust – to really believe.”

– Ann Voskamp