My day with a king

God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change his mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?  Numbers 23:19

Several years ago, I thought my professional life was over. I went through an incredibly difficult trial, and aside from the love and faith in me demonstrated by my family and friends, my future seemed dark. I was jobless. Churchless. Hurting.

I struggled to hope.

In the middle of this, a precious friend reached out to me and told me the Lord had given her a verse for me – and that I should not give up. This was the verse: “Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.” Proverbs 22:29

When she gave me this, part of me thought it was just the encouragement of someone who was “obligated” to believe in me. But she was sure. Confident. She saw in me a gift and a purpose beyond the circumstances that overwhelmed my vision at that time. She believed that God had a purpose.

Today I think that prophesy was fulfilled.

This morning I worked with President Bill Clinton. We of course don’t have kings in our country, but I think a President is about the closest we will get to it in our time.

So in my own way, today I served before a king.

So what’s the moral to this story? Is it just to brag about my cool day? Not really (although I’m not going to lie – it was a pretty fun day for me).

It’s to encourage people in the place where I was, the dark place where hope is hard to find and the future looks dim.

God is faithful.

His Word is true.

He sees in us more than we often see in ourselves, and by His grace He allows people near to us who are close to His heart to see with that same vision.

Today I served before a king. But the really amazing part of today? Today I knew that I was loved by a KING and that I have never been out of His sight – even when I thought I was forgotten.

I will exalt you, my God the KING; I will praise your name for ever and ever.  Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.  Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;  His greatness no one can fathom. Psalm 145


Love and London

My friend Kate is a full-on Anglophile and it is one of the things I adore about her. She loves London, loves English history, and the more I’ve gotten to know her heart through the years, the more I’ve thought she truly belongs in another time.

This week, thanks to God’s blessing and my wonderful boss, I was able to do my first show in London. It’s been a dream of mine to visit Europe, so to get paid to be here is pretty amazing.

And being here – I understand Kate a little better. She completely fits here.

There is kindness and beauty here. Magic. Stepping off the plane and onto the train I felt transported into another era where life was more thoughtful and graceful.

I absolutely love it.

The diversity of people, the courtesy they demonstrate, the amalgamation of different languages and cultures, the history all around us (directly under my hotel window is a portion of the wall built by the romans in the 2nd century) – every part of it makes me slow down and look around in awe.

Being here this week has been a crazy, sweet, unexpected gift from the Lord. The only way it would be better is if my wonderful family and friends were here with me.

Yesterday afternoon I stood on the line that separates east from west at Greenwich observatory, and I was moved by the kindness of the Lord. I walked down the hill from the observatory praying and thanking the Lord for this chance, asking Him to lead us to raise our kids with a global consciousness and a heart for ministry all over the world.

Being here has demonstrated and strengthened my call to “go into all the world.” I am so grateful for the opportunity and for the reminder. London, I have been blessed by you.

I hope to be back soon and often.

The Positive Feedback Loop Of Crazy

One of the reasons I have this little blog is to recount the hilarity and insanity that is parenting my children, so we can all commiserate on how bizarre kids are and hopefully feel slightly more normal as we go about our day raising the future leaders of the planet.

I learned in school about the difference between a positive feedback loop and a negative feedback loop in the body (you may all know this – and if so, feel free to skip to the next paragraph). A negative feedback loop is when, in response to a stimulus that throws a system out of balance, a control center triggers an opposite reaction to return the body to normalcy (think of how a thermostat regulates temperature). A positive feedback loop is when, in response to a stimulus that throws a system out of balance, a control center triggers that exact same stimulus and amplifies the original stimulus. A great example of positive feedback is in response to a wound. The body senses a breach in defenses (open wound) and sends more blood to the area in an attempt to clot and close the breach. Which, if your body can clot the wound, works and closes the wound. If the body cannot – you simply send all of your blood to the breach and wah-lah – you go home to Jesus.

Life with a four year-old is much like this, I’ve determined. At least with my four year-old. Except it’s a positive feedback loop of crazy. She reacts to a stimulus by doing something crazy, and when that doesn’t work, she pours on more and more crazy until she explodes into a flaming ball of truly insane crazy.

Each time I request something of my child, she has to choose one of three options:

Option A – Comply with the completely reasonable request made by a parent who loves her (i.e. eat a meal, or take pain medication for the surgery you just had, or brush your teeth).

Option B –  Attempt to negotiate/manipulate/delay obedience by placing some absurd condition on obedience (i.e. “Mommy I’ll take ONE bite but then I want a popsicle” (no), or “I’ll only eat if you feed me” (no), or “I’ll only take the purple medicine, and only if I have a glass of water at 65 degrees in my Ariel cup, and am holding my favorite stuffed animal Eeyo while you give it to me” (takes forever and is crazy).

Option C – Melt down in a fit and have a completely disproportional emotional response to the request (i.e. stomping foot, screaming something crazy and dramatic like “I’ll NEVER take medicine, EVER!”, hitting, running out of room, talking back in disrespect). This response always ends in discipline of some sort.

So, all day long as my four year-old is presented with normal life choices, she has three options. Sane, normal, rational people would almost always choose option A. It’s easier, it takes less time, and since she knows somewhere in that head that her mommy loves her, it’s ultimately for her good.

But anyone raising a four year-old knows that sane and rational does not apply to the four year-old brain. So, our life is a series of our strong-willed little four year-old choosing to manipulate and delay obedience (option B), while inching closer to with every denial to a total meltdown fit (option C).

A positive feedback loop of crazy. Crazy added to more crazy until finally, a crazy meltdown.

It somehow never occurs to her in the heat of the moment that the end result of Option C is ALWAYS discipline, and that option C should be avoided. Despite how bright she is, somehow this eludes her. Sometimes 15 – 20 times a day she chooses Option C and after her discipline, each and every time, we discuss that the reason she is getting in trouble is that she chose to throw a fit, and yet somehow, 30 minutes later, she chooses the fit.

This is, as you can imagine, a tiring process. I am a (slight) control freak who wants badly to be a peacemaker, so it’s a constant mental battle for me to determine where to counter the crazy, and with how much force. My instinct (to offset the control freak part of me) is to allow some negotiation and compromise, but what we have recently learned is that this is feeding her choice to constantly negotiate and hold our family hostage by inching closer to a meltdown, so I have had to begin to be more insistent on her doing things without argument the first time. Until we can “reprogram” her to obey the first time, every time, we are in a very tiring process of reestablishing our authority.

This gets harder when the four year-old is sick, tired, or has consumed too much sugar.

So as you can imagine, when we have a child who has had surgery (sick), because she had sleep apnea (which made her perpetually tired), during Halloween week (the annual celebration of all things sugary) – our positive feedback loop of crazy was, well, monumentally CRAZY.

As parents, I know we all feel slightly better when we hear that other homes are in the same crazy condition as our home. It makes us feel (almost) normal. So when my sweet friend Holly shared this little video with me this week, I sighed a sigh of relief. The positive feedback loop of crazy isn’t exclusive to the Wells home. Yay! We’re normal!

So for all the people stuck with us in the positive feedback loop of crazy, I feel your pain, I empathize, and next time I see you, I’ll buy you a well-deserved glass of wine if you are so inclined. We will survive the four year-old drama, friends, and we will be victorious!

Of course, we’ll likely face it all again when they are teenagers (only amped up a couple dozen times) but that’s another blog for another decade.

(I know for a person who is not a parent, or who only parents angelic cherubs straight from the throneroom of Jesus, this may sound ridiculous. You may be thinking “This is a four year-old, how hard can it be?” or “I would not let this child walk all over me.” My answer to that would be a kind and gentle “Bless your heart”).

Beautiful Colorado

So I am a little obsessed with Colorado. Some (my husband) might say I’m extremely obsessed. Growing up, my grandparents loved it and we camped with them in Cripple Creek, and then my parents carried on the tradition and almost every year we spent at least a week up in the Leadville or Breckenridge area riding bikes, hiking, fishing (dad fished – we distracted him and scared the fish away), and loving time together as a family.

Colorado has a smell – a delicious pine-scented, rainy, smoke-from-a-campfire smell that some days I wake up and I just need to inhale (like a wonderful and not-unhealthy-at-all addiction :)). And the 70 degree mornings and sweaters in the evening, even in summer, don’t hurt at all.

When Justin married me, he had no idea what he was in for. Seriously. I love that place. He says it is where I want to go on every vacation, and I have no defense against that truth. When my brother and sister-in-law moved there, the love grew. When they had precious twins, it grew exponentially, and when I had kids who adore time with their kids, it exploded into an unmanageable force.

Bekah loving hour 12 of the road trip

Justin and I had a few catastrophic trips to Colorado early in our marriage (we tend to attract natural disasters when we travel there – did I mention that?) and so he has never seen or experienced the Colorado that I love. He’s experienced blizzard Colorado twice and snowed-in with a stomach virus Colorado one lovely Christmas.

This year – we were determined to remedy that, break the curse, and take a summer family vacation. As the date drew near though – Justin’s work schedule seemed to close in while mine opened up, so I asked my sister to join me and off we went, two children under 5 in tow.

(By the way – Justin not being allowed to go ended up being the grace of God when one of his closest friends very unexpectedly passed away the day we left for the trip. We were so grateful Justin was able to attend our friend’s homecoming celebration and say goodbye to the man who was such a light in his life. Even in things like this – God is faithful and He knows what we need.)

So my sister and I piled into a car with entirely too much luggage, determined to make this a memorable experience for the kids like our trips were when we were young.

And I think we achieved memorable. Exhausting, but memorable.

We hiked a small mountain. We went to the amazing YMCA facility in Estes and it was beautiful.  As you can see from the photo, hiking was more strenuous on some than others.

We camped (me and the girls sharing a futon in a tent, which really deserves an entirely separate blog post for the funny parts, but the sweet parts included me hearing Grace sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in the dead of night in her sleep and the multiple times I had to get up and move Bekah back onto the Futon because she had scooted off). I was quite busy that night. We quickly realized that camping with kids is SUPER fun… for the kids. For the adults, it’s a ton of hard work and maybe the most strenuous sleep-over ever, where you don’t really sleep at all. This gives me a new appreciation for my parents and grandparents. They made it look so easy!

Sweet Bek off the futon - onto the pillow I placed after the 2nd time I heard a thud.

We swam, and swam, and swam. Joe and Lori live in the plains just East of the mountains so you can see, from their house and the neighborhood pool, an incredible view of the Rocky Mountains. It was amazing. I cannot imagine living with that as my view every day (although it is my most sincere prayer that someday I would discover that reality for myself. Please Lord!) Brody and Annabelle are absolute fish, swimming underwater and bravely learning more everyday. Grace wanders around the pool in her floaty swimwear, meeting friends and swimming/floating by herself, and Bekah terrifies every adult in sight by thinking she can swim by herself when she cannot, in fact, do anything but sink like a rock.

Aunt Jess being soaked (the kids' favorite game in the pool)

We went to an amusement park and rode bumper cars, go-carts and bumper boats, went down a huge slide, played games, collected tickets for awesome prizes, and had a wonderful time.

We ate like kings, thanks to Joe and Lori’s amazing cooking, and laughed until we hurt.

Spidey-Brody and Spidey-Grace rescuing Princess Annabelle

It was a great trip, very much the Colorado I am obsessed with. Family, fresh air, God’s amazing creation, and not taking anything too seriously. It was everything I love about that incredible place and was good for my soul. Again Colorado was the gift to my heart that the Lord knew I needed.

Now we just have to work on getting Justin Wells up there to experience it… sans natural disaster or traumatic illness. Until then, Colorado and the Colorado Sims family, we love you dearly and are grateful for every second we got to enjoy your company. We will see you again soon, I promise…

The four wonderful kids eating ice cream in Estes Park

Grace & Bekah School Pics

Oh these kill me.  Although the quality in these pics is terrible, the subjects themselves could not be more adorable, in my opinion.  🙂  So I am sorry, family, that these are watermarked – but our budget did not allow for the purchase of these little beauties.  However, they were too cute not to share.

Elbows and Knees

One of the many reasons I began this blog was because of my awful memory and the precious reality of my little loves.  So I determined to write some of these things for my review later, for their eventual reading pleasure, and for my family.  So with that in mind – here’s another little blog about my tiny people.

Nighttime with my girls is an adventure.  The bedtime ritual is hilarious and exhausting and oh so specific for Grace (we literally have exact phrases we must say in a proper order or it all falls apart).  Once they are fed, bathed, dressed, teeth brushed, prayers prayed, water fetched, and finally quiet,  Justin and I typically collapse on the sofa completely spent.

And I confess, I am one of those moms who waivers on how much I allow our kids into our bed.  When we were childless, this is one of those things I arrogantly stated – “We will never be those people with kids between us in bed.”  But the reality is much more lax, and it started when Grace was so sick as an infant.  We try to never let our kids, no matter how sick or insistent, begin the night in our bed.  They, and we, just sleep better in their own space.  And we try to move them to their bed if they wake up in the night.  But some mornings, like this morning, that ideal flies out of the window and I’m stuck between the elbows and knees of two children.

Each of our girls sleeps in a certain way.  Grace sucks her right thumb while her left arm is wrapped around Eeyo’s neck and her hand scratches his left eye.  For real.  We actually have to patch the eye with band aids because it is worn down to the stuffing.  So as long as she has him, she can sleep almost anywhere.  We kept a childproof doorknob on the inside of her door until she was potty trained (at 3) because she is a night-wanderer.

One night I woke up and she was silently standing in the corner of our room watching me.  Hair in her face. Silent.  Nightgown on.  Straight out of a Stephen King novel.

Another night I woke up and Justin was sitting on the edge of our bed.  I knew this because he was flooded in light from our hallway.  It was 3:20 am.  I asked him what was going on.  He told me that he was working up the courage to walk around and check out the house – all he knew was every light was on.  We went out of our room together and literally, every light was on and Grace was sitting at the kitchen table quietly eating cereal out of a box.

So for obvious reasons we kept her corralled in her room until we were forced by her miniscule bladder to remove the childproof doorknob.

Rebekah is a snuggle-bug.  Even as a tiny baby she would scoot up to her bumper and sleep with her face and body pressed against the bumper (which increased this momma’s prayer life).  When she joins us in bed, she will scoot over until she is attached to us like a leech – her little arms and legs even tucked underneath.  Hilarious but absolutely not conducive to parental sleep (we are terrified to roll over her).  She sucks the two middle fingers of her left hand and we have loved that little sucking noise since she was an infant.  She is still stuck in a baby bed, and we are eternally grateful for that thing, so at this point we’re not sure if she will join her sister in nightly wandering or stay put.

They are both loud sleepers (which Justin says comes from me but I’m not so sure about that) and both radiate heat like my oven in mid-summer.  Most of the time, when Grace speaks up from right beside my head or Bekah cries loud enough for me to hear, I am so asleep that putting them in our bed just seems the easiest solution to get back to sleep as soon as possible.  But the reality is that sleeping with them in our bed is only really sleeping for the two of them (and Justin – who could sleep through a war).  I always end up hearing every movement, forced half-off the bed, sweating, with a sore back and circles under my eyes the next morning.

But there are moments, like early this morning, when I wake up to Bekah’s face right above mine – big brown eyes staring.  When my eyes opened she laughed and threw herself backwards onto her back, kicking her feet up in the air, then rolling directly into Justin’s side.  It was hysterical.  Or Grace, after pretending to sleep for minutes, will peek an eye open and say “Rebekah – be still – we’re sleeping!” in her most authoritative tone.

And in those moments, I love my kids with everything that is in me.  And I have to acknowledge that there will come a day where I will miss the elbows and knees in my bed.  So I snuggle close and give kisses and we begin a stealth campaign to wake daddy up so he’ll make us breakfast.

 

 

He Even Answers The Silly Prayers

This is a long story – but I have done my best to condense.

Every January, I get to produce a very large event in New York City.  This past year, about six weeks before the event, I was told that President Barack Obama had been invited to speak and that it was a distinct possibility he would accept the invitation.

So for several weeks, as we prepared for the event, I prayed and daydreamed about what I would say if I was granted 5 seconds, or 30 seconds, with arguably the most influential man in the world.

As the event neared, and the door remained open for him to come, my excitement rose, but with 48 hours remaining before the event, we were informed that he could not attend.

So fast forward to this week… I was catching a flight to DC for another event.  Because of an error in booking, I had to take a connecting flight out of Atlanta and was massively delayed because of a freak thunderstorm.  It was very frustrating, but during that delay, I got to know the person in the seat next to me.

She was a beautiful woman in her early 30s, very polished and polite, who had jumped on my plane in a last-ditch attempt to reach DC that night.  We talked about faith (she was reading a Christian book), and laughed at our shared entrapment in a tin can during a violent storm.  About 2 hours into our delay, when we had established a great rapport, I asked her what she did for a living.  She already had asked about me and knew I was from Dallas and that my husband was in ministry.  To answer my question, she very sheepishly told me she worked for the President’s Administration.

I smiled to encourage her and told her that I pray for our President and how proud I am of what they are doing to serve our country.  She seemed relieved and said she was very thankful to hear I supported them in prayer.

She opened up and told me about how she got the job, about prayer meetings they hold to pray for the President and Mrs. Obama, about the difficulty and excitement of the job.  It was amazing to hear her heart for serving our country and how she came to work there.

I told her about my thwarted possibility of meeting the President in January and laughed about how I had prayed about what I would say given the chance.

She asked me what I came up with.  I told her I had decided I would tell him I was proud he was our President, and that I loved his family, and that as a Believer in Christ I was praying for him.

She told me that she was good friends with the leader of the President’s Faith-Based Initiative and that she wanted to tell him that she had met a Christian from Dallas who supported them and prayed for them.  She then asked me if there was any advice I could give them to reach more people like me.

I almost teared up – what a question!  I told her that my personal issue – my heartbeat – is for the orphan.  About how God is moving people across the church to adopt and care for the orphan in a mighty movement to be Jesus to an entire generation of children who deserve all the love in the world.  I told her how the Adoption Tax Credit was a huge benefit to people like us wanting to reach out, and that I feared in all of these budget cuts that the credit would be allowed to expire, or be reduced or even cut out altogether.  I told her that in my personal opinion,  if they could advocate for that, working with church leaders, that together we could partner to care for “the least of these” and Christians would be able to be Jesus to thousands of kids.

She nodded and very seriously told me she would pass that idea on.  As we neared DC, I told her how glad I was to meet her and how I enjoyed talking to her.  I committed to pray for her and she sincerely thanked me.  The Lord really allowed us to connect and I felt like I was leaving a friend.

That night, as I reached my hotel room, I continued to think about my time with her.  I Googled her name and found out, to my great surprise, that she is a VERY senior staff member in the Commerce Department.  There are articles written about her  all over the internet.  I was not just chatting up an intern – as I assumed.  I was allowed, I believe by God, almost 6 hours to express my heart to a leader in our nation and a person very close to our President.

That night I laughed as I began to pray.  I have so little faith and the Lord continuously surprises me.  I had prayed for 5 or 30 seconds with the President, where I’d be nervous and watched by Secret Service, and instead He gave me six hours with a senior member of the President’s staff, where I was totally relaxed and unaware, during a crazy thunderstorm that had trapped us both on the same plane.

I got to advocate for the orphan, and I hope I was able to represent Christ well.

I know many of you disagree with our President, as do I on some major issues.  And I know many of you, given the chance, would have said something very different.  But I am so grateful for the chance I got to speak my heart to my friend.  I believe it was an answer to prayer, and I pray the Lord would use it for His great glory.