Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Power of a Written Letter

Last week, my family lost one of our dearest friends.  For nearly 20 years (before her illness took away her ability to speak & have mobility), she and my mom shared moments of joy, laughter, stress, sorrow & concern.  My sophomore year of college, I was the concern.  My best friend was battling anorexia, and I was sinking into the muck and mire of depression.  It was the worst year of my life.  And then, one day, I got a letter---a letter that told how much I was being prayed for.  A letter that said she was keeping my mom company during my battle.  A letter that shared a prayer request about her own daughter.  A letter that brought hope.

You know one of the hardest things since "Aunt Paula" died last week?  I vaguely remember throwing that letter out a few years ago. That letter had stayed with me through college, my wedding, becoming a mom, and many moves. But, I was in "clean & purge" mode, and had no idea that in just a few years I wouldn't have the person--and that I would give anything to have a "hard copy" of the love and prayers that radiated from her.  A grown woman wrote a letter to a floundering 19 year old, and the memory of it still sustains and encourages me.

Don't ever underestimate how much a letter can mean to someone.   It is a precious way to build, maintain, and remember friendships.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Refreshing Perspective of a Child

Today's travels included driving on a country road.  The kids and I passed by corn, farm houses, and the occasional dilapidated building.  And on one building, in spray paint, were the following words:

Kaitlin:  "Mom, I don't get it."
Me:  "That saying?  It means without God in our life, we won't have peace in our life.  But, when we have God in our life, even when things aren't easy, we can still experience His peace."

Kaitlin:  "I still don't understand."
Me:  "If we have God in our life-----

Kaitlin:  "Mom, I totally understand the saying.  But I do not understand why a Christian would vandalize a building!!!"

What do you say to that!?  Love my girl!

Monday, May 7, 2012

My Foster Parent 'Faith Walk'

After our third child was born, Mike and I made a decision--if God called us to have any more children, we would adopt.  After several years of prayer, we knew our calling:  foster and adopt a local child.  We have now been licensed foster parents for over two years.  So, how many kids now live in our home?  Three--the same three we've always had.  Here we sit, our family of five, and wonder if we chose the right path. Used the right agency.  Made the right decision.

Billboards screamed "Foster Kids are Our Kids!" The tears welled, my heart ached, but the phone didn't ring.  The goal of being a child's forever family remained nonexistent.

How could God call us to something and not use us?  But, you see, God has used us--for while no one else lives here right now, we have had the opportunity to foster four children.  Temporary placements--not our plan, but each time that was the outcome.  Four lives that forever changed our inward focus on self.  Four lives that very likely will play a role in what vocations my children pursue.  Four lives for whom we continue to pray.  Not one, but four.

When our journey began, I never imagined I could be "strong enough" to be someone's momma for just a brief moment in time.  But, God has stretched me. Used me. Grown me. Changed me.  I guess we followed the right path after all.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Guess Mom was Right After All

I love my mom.  And, when I grow up, I hope I can be like her.  Patient.  Humble.  Genuine.  Joyful.  Selfless.  Steady.  Smart.  Fun.  Involved.  
Above all else, she is quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19). Because of those qualities, I can look back at my life and see the humor my "know-it-all" attitude has added to her life over the years.  Here are a few examples:
When I was in grade school, I wanted my name to be “Jill Smith”.  Nothing misspelled, nothing mispronounced.  Do you know how many ways there are to spell LeAnne?  Leann.  Leeanne.  Lian.  Leanne.  LeAnn.  Leighann.  Leigh Ann.  Lee Anne.  And, whatever way my grandma chose for that year's birthday card.
  • I will never give my child a name that can be spelled more than 1 way.
  • What did I do?  Named my kids Kaitlin, Connor, and Kylie.
And, while I didn’t consider my last name anyone’s “fault”,  I could never figure out why “Ivaska” was so hard for people to spell or pronounce.  
  • I can’t wait to have an easier last name!
  • What did I do?  Married a Klopfenstein.
When I was a senior in high school, I was determined to go to Ithaca and study journalism. 
  • I am going as far away as possible.  I would never go to college around here!
  • What did I do?  Went to University of Iowa--2 hours away.  Completed my last 3 semesters of college at Bradley--and lived at home.
When I was 17, my mom said to me, “What is your future husband going to think about how messy you keep your closet?”
  • My closet will be clean when I’m married.  That has nothing to do with how I keep my closet now.
  • No comment (Although, I really wish I had responded with “I’ll marry someone who doesn’t care about the mess in my closet” because then I'd have gotten it right).
I’m the oldest of 4.  And, with 4 kids in the house, I was called Laurel, Joel, or Mark more than once.
  • I will never call my kids by the wrong name!
  • Sigh.
So, for all the times I erred and my mom's silence--and patience--proved her to be correct, I'm glad she put up with me.  And, I hope I can give my kids the same chance to look back and see that mom was right, after all.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sitting at His Feet (finally!)

Five months ago, a pretty big change happened in my life--I became a Pastor's Wife!  Ok, so maybe the career change was a big thing for my husband, too.  After spending 2 years convinced (and finally ok with) the fact that going back into ministry probably meant moving away, God opened the doors for Mike to join the staff of a local church.  We didn't have to leave our home or our school.  In fact, the new church is so much closer to home that many neighbors and the kids' classmates attend. God continues to shower His blessings upon us as we transition into our new church home.
The biggest change, perhaps, has been in my life.  While I treasured my 'to-do' list at our previous church, my duties were the focus of my morning.  If I made it to our sanctuary, I often arrived late and stepped out early.  I focused so much on our nursery ministry and its workers that I spent very little time making sure I was being fed and growing.  "Balance" was not a focus of my Sunday morning church experience.
It took several weeks at our new church before I truly realized, "It's ok to be sitting in the service! This is where God wants you!"  My guilt has turned to joy as I weekly experience corporate worship and phenomenal teaching. I'm allowing God to lead as I plug in and still make certain I am fed.
God desires my service...yet He treasures my growth. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Prepare for Tomorrow Today

(I wrote this in December for Brenda Garrison's newsletter right before Mike and I went to Disney World where he ran the Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge. Thought I'd post it to my blog as motivation for me to start working out soon!)

I am a great procrastinator.  Even now, I am proud of myself for writing this article early (as in, not writing it the same day it will be published).  For whatever reason, I will think about plans and intentions for days on end...when, suddenly, the moment nears and I find myself rushed, stressed and a little clueless.

Sometimes I pull off amazing feats of wit and wisdom, reveling in the adrenaline rush that comes when I accomplish tasks at the last minute.  I feel smart, successful, and worthy of praise.  
Other times, I miss the mark..and therein lies my regret.  Specifically, this week’s regret:  I’m not running a 1/2 marathon this week.  A 1/2 marathon I signed up for back in March 2011.  A 1/2 marathon at Walt Disney World.  A 1/2 marathon I planned to run alongside my husband.  So, while I am still going to Walt Disney World this week with my husband and getting a neat shirt, I won’t be running.  Injury?  Nope, worse....laziness.  Because you can’t run a 1/2 marathon if you haven’t done any running of any type over the past 9 months.

Long distance dreams require constant discipline to reach our goals.  Whether it’s my walk with Christ or a run with my husband, my long-term desires are not accomplished when I procrastinate.  I cannot grow in my relationship with Christ if I do not spend time daily in the Word.  And I cannot reach a finish line if I don’t get off the couch and step outside, willing to experience all that God has in store for me today.